Stolen Legacy (or Mythical History?) Did the Greeks Steal Philosophy from the Egyptians?

The message of the book is sensational and revolutionary: “The Greeks were not the authors of Greek philosophy, but the Black people of North Africa, the Egyptians”

Skeptic, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1994, pp 98-103
Reproduced with permission

Since its publication in 1954 Stolen Legacy, by George G. M. James, has been a best-seller among peoples of African descent in this country. James was an African-American teacher of Greek, whose other writings deal explicitly with racial issues. Stolen Legacy also deals with the status of Black people, but in ancient history rather than in modern times. The message of the book is sensational and revolutionary: “The Greeks were not the authors of Greek philosophy, but the Black people of North Africa, the Egyptians” (p. 158). This novel thesis explains “the erroneous world opinion that the African continent has made no contribution to civilization, and that its people are naturally backward;” “the misrepresentation that has become the basis of race prejudice, which has affected all people of color.” Instead, James offers a “New Philosophy of Redemption for Black peoples.”

James’ account of ancient history redirects to the Black people of Africa the praise traditionally given in all Western educational institutions to the Greeks: “The term Greek philosophy, to begin with is a misnomer, for there is no such philosophy in existence” (p. 1). Traditional educational policy, James argues, “has led to the false worship of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, as intellectual gods in all the leading universities of the world. . . ” (p. 159). James urges Black people to stop citing the Greek philosophers “because we know that their philosophy was stolen” from the Black Peoples of Egypt, and demands that they resign from fraternities and sororities and presumably any other institutions that honor ancient Greece (pp. 160-1). The Greeks, James insists, “did not possess the native ability essential to the development of philosophy” (p. 164). What is called “Greek” is in fact Egyptian philosophy, plagiarized from Egyptian sources by Greeks who studied in Egypt with Egyptian priests and who learned from them the philosophy and science of the Egyptian Mystery System.

Anyone who has studied ancient Mediterranean history will realize immediately that these assertions are untrue, both in general and in particular. Anyone who has studied the works of Plato and Aristotle, even in translation, will wonder why their instructors never referred to the Egyptian background of the philosophical works they were studying. Anyone familiar with the history of ancient philosophy will know that the “Egyptian” Mystery System James describes in his book is in fact based on an 18th-century French reconstruction of Neo-Platonic philosophy, which contains a few Egyptian elements, but is fundamentally Greek.

To anyone who is unfamiliar with Egyptian or Greek history, however, or the works of the Greek philosophers, James’ argument seems coherent and plausible, because it appears to be laid out in an informed and scholarly fashion, with copious references to ancient source materials and modern historical studies. Of course the principal reason for the success of the book is that most people who read it want to believe its thesis, that an African people made the original discoveries that led to the development of what has always been known as Western thought.

Another reason for the book’s success is the appeal of its conspiracy theory, which casts the people conspired against into the role of innocent victims. “Had it not been for this drama of Greek philosophy and its actors, the African Continent would have had a different reputation, and would have enjoyed a status of respect among the nations of the world” (p. 5). If it could be shown that ancient Greeks stole or copied without due acknowledgement Egyptian ideas and documents, not only would the Greeks cease to be praised for their accomplishments, but credit for their great discoveries could be given to the people of Egypt, an African country, and the notion that ancient African peoples produced no significant body of scientific and humanistic learning could be finally and decisively discredited.

George Granville Monah James

The methods James uses to establish this erroneous and misleading thesis deserve careful study, because they have been and continue to be influential. Maulana Karenga, Chairman of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach and author of Introduction to Black Studies, praises James’ work as ,”seminal in its conception and presentation at an early stage in the African project of rescuing and reconstructing the Egyptian legacy” (pp. 223-224). Thus, an analysis of James’ work serves as a useful tool in understanding the erroneous methods found in many works of extreme Afrocentricism.

In order to make his case as convincingly as possible James does not proceed in chronological order, as is the practice in conventional histories of philosophy. Instead, he relies first of all on the tried-and-true rhetorical method of beginning with the simplest and most dramatic illustration. This he offers first in a brief summary: the Greeks began to study in Egypt when that country was occupied by the Persians, but the main transfer of information occurred after the invasion of Egypt by Alexander the Great, when Aristotle was able to take books of Egyptian philosophy and science from the library of Alexandria and convert that library into a Greek research center.

The story of Aristotle’s theft is told again later in the book. Here we see how James relies on insistent repetition, another tried-and-true rhetorical technique intended to prove a point. As the Bellman said in Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark: “what I tell you three times is true.” James insists that the Greeks had no interest in philosophy or science; they were an ambitious, envious people who persecuted their philosophers. They were belligerent, but incapable of victory against a major power like Persia. Selective use of repetition also provides a useful – if fraudulent – means of historical documentation, since the same fact can be made to support two different and mutually exclusive claims. James employs a summary of a second-century CE (Common Era) description of a contemporary initiation procession, for example, as evidence both for the education of all Egyptian priests in general and for the science curriculum in what he calls the higher Holy Orders. Finally, to drive his message home, James restates his main arguments once again in an appendix.

But it is James’ method of documentation that shows why Stolen Legacy must be considered a deliberate fraud and not simply the misguided creation of an innocent or ignorant enthusiast like Lewis Carroll’s Bellman.

(1) In most cases James’ citations support only the unexceptionable aspects of his argument. Where exactly the works he cites apply to his discussion is never made clear, since he does not use footnotes, but only lists the sources he has consulted at the end of a section of his argument. At the beginning of his work he mentions three books by established European scholars which “I have found helpful in my present work” (p. 6). But he does not also point out that none of these books gives any support to his central thesis.

(2) Chronology is disregarded whenever convenient, and inconsistencies and other points of view (particularly if traditional or wellestablished) are simply ignored. For example, in his initial chapter James never mentions that (a) the city of Alexandria (as its name suggests) was founded only after Alexander conquered Egypt, and even then remained a Greek city, never fully integrated into the rest of the country (b) the library of Alexandria was built only after Aristotle’s death in 322 BCE (Before Common Era), so that he could not have sacked it, even if he had been in Egypt.

(3) He never discusses the relative reliability of ancient source materials, which can be as biased or tendentious as any modern sources. He gives the same weight to late and derivative source materials as to earlier and original ones.

(4) Silence about a fact is used as an argument for its existence. For example, because ancient accounts of Aristotle’s life say nothing about his having visited Egypt, James assumes that Aristotle and his contemporaries deliberately attempted to suppress all knowledge of his visit, so that no one would know that Egypt was the true source of his so-called original philosophy. “This silence of history at once throws doubt upon the life and achievement of Aristotle” (p. 2).

(5) Once a hypothesis is set out it is soon treated as virtual fact, so that a remote possibility is almost immediately transformed into a distinct actuality. “Aristotle made a library of his own with plundered books, while his school occupied the building and made it a research centre” (p. 5).

(6) Comparisons between Egyptian and Greek texts are always made in summary rather than with explicit quotation. That way the contents can be presented so that they will seem more closely to resemble one another, and the absence of any close verbal parallels will not be noticed.

The Mythistory of the Egyptian Mystery System.

In order to show that Greek philosophy is stolen Egyptian philosophy James needs to establish three key items: (1) there was in existence from earliest times an “Egyptian Mystery System” which could be copied by the Greeks; (2) Greek philosophers studied in Egypt; and (3) Greek philosophers had no original ideas of their own. Although the foundation on which his thesis rests is the notion of the Egyptian Mystery System, it is notable that James nowhere discusses its origins and development. He simply treats the notion of Egyptian Mysteries, temples, and schools as if their existence were an established fact. But in reality, the notion of an Egyptian Mystery System is a relatively modern fiction, based on ancient sources that are distinctively Greek or Greco-Roman, and from the early centuries CE. How these fundamentally Greek practices came to be understood as originally Egyptian is a complicated story, which I can only present here in outline.

The earliest descriptions of academies for Egyptian priests, with large libraries and art galleries, in fact, first occurs not in any ancient text, but in an 18th-century French work of historical fiction, the 1732 novel Séthos by the Abbe Jean Terrasson. Terrasson’s novel was widely read; it had a profound influence on portrayals of Egyptian religion in later literature, such as Mozart’s Magic Flute. In particular, initiation of Terrasson’s hero into the Egyptian priesthood served as the inspiration for Masonic rituals. It is understandable that the Masons in the 18th century, when these rituals were established, regarded them as both ancient and Egyptian, since they had no other means of knowing about Egyptian religion than from Greek and Roman sources and the later European accounts that were based on them. All authentic information about early Egyptian religion was inaccessible to them, because the documents that described it could not be read before 1836*, when the Rosetta stone was discovered and hieroglyphics were finally deciphered.

Like Mozart, James seems to have been inspired by Masonic ritual; he speaks of Egyptian “Grand Lodges, another distinctive feature of the Masonic Order, and cites Masonic literature, such as C. H. Vail’s Ancient Mysteries and Modern Masonry (1909), which retains the notion of Egyptian origins inspired by Terrasson, even though it was published long after it had been established that what they thought of as “Egyptian mysteries” dated not to remote Egyptian antiquity but to Greco-Roman civilization of the early centuries CE. The vision of the Egyptian mysteries put forth by James is in fact distinctive to African-American Masons, who claim descent from ancient Black Egyptians. The African-American Masons believe that Masonry was founded by Africans “along the banks of the Nile.”

Since Egyptian sources were not available to him, Terrasson was compelled to rely for his description of Egypt on Greek and Latin literature. For that reason, the goddess Isis assumes a particular importance in his work, as well as in works derived from it, such as Mozart’s Thamos, King of Egypt or his Magic Flute. But the portrayal of Isis and her cult on which he relies is distinctively Greco-Roman. By the early centuries CE, Isis, although in origin Egyptian, was worshiped by Greeks and Romans throughout the Mediterranean. The process of conversion to her cult is described in Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, a remarkable book dating to the second century CE. Apuleius tells the story of Lucius, a young man who travels in Greece and is turned by a magic potion into a jackass; he is rescued after many adventures by the goddess Isis, who appears to him in a dream. Lucius’ conversion follows the pattern of the journey of discovery and initiation characteristic of Greek hero myths: he undergoes physical metamorphosis; his initiation follows a period of wandering and confusion, and is compared to emerging from darkness into light. In her epiphany at the end of his journey Isis identifies herself with many important Greco-Roman goddesses, Ceres (Demeter), Venus (Aphrodite), and Proserpina (Persephone), to name a few. Lucius then becomes a priest of the goddess, and goes about with a shaved head, like an Egyptian priest.

Terrasson also describes a 12-day initiation into the Mysteries, but this account is primarily derived from Virgil’s description of the hero Aeneas’ visit to the lower world in the Aeneid (1st century BCE) and from Apuleius’ account of his initiation to the Greco-Roman cult of Isis. The initiation culminates in a procession of priests, explicitly based on the procession described by Clement of Alexandria. Like Clement, James does not discuss die date of the ritual, but simply assumes that it was very ancient, and at least as early as the earliest Greek philosophers he describes (some of whom date from the sixth century BCE).

“Mystery cults,” that is, initiation cults, in fact, were not established on Egyptian soil until the third century BCE, with the settlement of Alexandria after Alexander’s invasion. Even then the rites were observed by Greeks living in Egypt, rather than by native Egyptians. An example of such a mystery cult is the celebration of the ritual of Epiphaneia at the temple of Kore in Alexandria, where after an all-night vigil the celebrants descend into a cave with torches and bring up a wooden statue. This cult is cited as an example of an “Egyptian Mystery” by the 32nd degree Mason Reverend Vail. But the origin of the cult is not Egyptian, but Greek, and the Maiden (Kore) of the ritual is Persephone, the Greek goddess of the Underworld.

It is certainly understandable that Terrasson was unable to distinguish Greek rituals from indigenous Egyptian rituals. He could not read any inscriptions or papyri that described ancient Egyptian rites and beliefs, since they were written in Egyptian alphabets, such as hieroglyphics or hieratic script, which no one at the time could read. It would also be unreasonable to suppose that the Masons, who do not pretend to be serious scholars, would have sought to revise their rituals and notions of their own history in the light of the new information about Egypt that became available after hieroglyphics could be read. If James had intended to write a serious academic book (rather than a mythistory), he would have taken recent discoveries about Egypt into consideration.

Instead of concentrating on what is now known about Egyptian myth and ritual, James cited Anacalypsis (or “Revelation”) by Godfrey Higgins. But Higgins died in 1833, several years before the publication of the definitive version of Jean Francois Champollion’s decipherment of hieroglyphics. Higgins argues vigorously against the preliminary studies of hieroglyphics by Champollion and Thomas Young, which later proved to be correct. Higgins claims that the Rosetta Stone, on which Champollion’s decipherment was based, was a forgery. He was, of course, completely wrong. That James cites Higgins rather than a more authoritative and modern source suggests that he was more interested in presenting a particular viewpoint than getting at the truth.

Higgins argued (in vain) that Egyptian writing could never be deciphered because it was a secret system. In Stolen Legacy James likewise insists that no records (in any language) of the Egyptian Mystery System have come down to us because it was secret. Because it would not suit his purpose, James does not mention the other and more obvious explanation for the absence of records, which is of course that no such system ever existed. As we have seen, the rituals that late ancient writers identified as Egyptian are basically Greek, and that these ersatz Egyptian rituals are the models for the impressive “Egyptian” rituals described by the French writer Terrasson, which directly and indirectly served as inspiration for the Masons.

Most ironically, therefore, the “Egyptian Mystery System” described by James is not African, but essentially Greek, and in its details, specifically European! James has in effect accused the Greeks of borrowing from themselves, and said nothing about the real distinctively Egyptian ideas that influenced the Greeks during their long contact with each other. The best evidence for the interchange of ideas between Greece and Egypt, of course, comes from the period after Alexander’s conquest, when Egypt was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty.

We can derive from these later sources appreciative accounts of the character of Egyptian religion, and the learning and asceticism of its priests. A first-century CE temple scribe and Stoic philosopher Chaeremon (who wrote in Greek) found in the Egyptian priest the Stoic ideal of the wise man. Chaeremon describes the priests’ piety and their knowledge of astronomy, arithmetic and geometry; this learning was recorded in sacred books. The Christian writer Clement of Alexandria has preserved a description of a procession of Egyptian priests carrying 42 treatises containing what he calls “all of Egyptian philosophy.” Their subject matter includes hymns, astrology, cosmography, temple construction and provisions, sacrifice, priestly training, and various branches of medicine.

James describes this procession twice in his book, first as the description of Egyptian priestly orders, and then as evidence for the priestly science curriculum. Here, undoubtedly, is one source of James’ notion that there was a corpus of Egyptian philosophy. Even if we ignore the problem of chronology, and assume that the works Clement lists in the second century CE are copies of traditional ancient writings, it is important to note that by “philosophy” Clement meant not what we now call philosophy, but learning in general, and in this particular case a body of knowledge that had little or no connection with anything Greek.

Another possible source of the notion that Greek philosophy derived from Egyptian thought comes from the Egyptians themselves, but only in the early centuries CE, hundreds of years after the deaths of Plato and Aristotle. These writings purport to have been composed at the beginning of time by Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes thrice great), grandson of the god, but in fact they are much influenced by later thought, including Plato, Aristotle, and their followers, and the Hebrew writers known as Gnostics. The writer of one of these treatises has the god Asclepius complain of how hard it is to translate Egyptian, which is direct and onomatopoeic, into the excess verbiage of Greek. But there apparently was no Egyptian language original from which they were derived, and in fact they could not have been composed with out the conceptual vocabulary and rhetoric of Greek philosophy.

There is, finally, a third source of the notion that the Greeks learned from the Egyptians rather than vice versa, and that is the ancient Greeks themselves. Greeks from Herodotus on, who were impressed by the piety and learning of the Egyptian priesthood, reported that their leading philosophers studied in Egypt, among them the legendary Thales and Pythagoras in the sixth century BCE, and Plato and Eudoxus in the fourth century BCE. James, of course, is very impressed by this evidence, but from the point of view of history it is important to note that the fullest account of the visits of Greek philosophers to Egypt is given by Diodorus of Sicily, a Greek writer of the first century BCE.

Greek-Egyptian Connections

Diodorus says that the Egyptian priests of his day relate that various Greek poets and philosophers came to visit Egypt. He cites as evidence for their visits statues, houses, and inscriptions with their names, and offers illustrations of what each admired and transferred from Egypt to their own country. It is clear from Diodorus’ account that for him, as for the Christian writer Clement, the term “philosopher” was considerably less specialized and academic in his day than it has become in ours. In the ancient world, holy men, poets, prophets, mathematicians, and theoretical logicians were all included under the general rubric of philosopher.

The similarities between Greek and Egyptian culture cited by the priests are at best superficial and do not stand up to close examination. For example, the priests observe that the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone were “similar” to the rite of Osiris and Isis, except that the names in each case are different. But while it is certainly true that the myths connected with both cults involve a search by a goddess for a missing relative, there are also many significant differences in detail and outcome which suggest that the myths, despite this one similarity, have no direct connection with one another. Similarly, the priests pointed out that both Egyptian and Greek myths tell of a dwelling place of the dead located beyond a body of water; here perhaps their Egyptian notions may have had some influence on the formation of early Greek myth, but their beliefs about the fate of the soul after death and their burial customs are widely divergent.

It is clear from these and other instances cited by the priests that they were determined to make the most of such resemblances as there were between the religious observances of two cultures. But since they had no information about religious rites as they had been practiced at the times when Pythagoras and Plato visited Egypt, they were compelled to make their deductions on the basis of the rituals practiced in their own times, after several centuries of Greek occupation and influence. As a result, they point out that the Egyptians, like the Greeks, call the ferryman of the dead “Charon” without realizing that the Egyptians got the name from the Greeks in the first place.

The Egyptian priests in Diodorus’ account are even less explicit about the Egyptian influence on what we would now call philosophy. They claim that Lycurgus, Plato, and Solon “transferred many instances of Egyptian practices into their law codes,” but cite no examples. In fact the only recognizable similarities are that both Egyptians and Greeks had laws. On that basis it would be possible to conclude that any earlier civilization “influenced” any later civilization, even if they had little or no opportunity for contact with one another. Using the same methodology, Jews living in Alexandria in the second and first centuries BCE claimed that Plato studied with Moses.

There are also significant problems with some of the priests’ other claims about what Greek philosophers learned in Egypt. According to the priests, Pythagoras took from Egypt his teachings about religion, geometry, number theory, and the transmigration of souls. Although we know that the Greeks based their mathematical theories on the arithmetical calculations of both Babylonians and Egyptians, there is in fact nothing in Egyptian religion that resembles Pythagoras’ theory of the transmigration of souls; if he had to get it from some other religion, and did not simply invent it himself, it would have come from India. The priests also claim that Democritus, Oenopides, and Eudoxus studied astrology in Egypt; but here again the priests seem not to have been aware that astrology was primarily a Greek invention, brought to Egypt after the conquest of Alexander. The Greeks could have learned about astronomy from the builders of the pyramids, but about that the priests were silent.

Although Diodorus’ account of the Greek philosophers’ visits to Egypt tells us virtually nothing about Egyptian philosophy, and makes no convincing claims about the dependence of Greek culture on Egyptian, it does show how eager the Egyptians were to establish such connections, and how willing Greeks like Diodorus were to believe them. For example, the fourth-century CE pagan writer Iamblichus says that Pythagoras and Plato read the writings of Hermes on old stone tablets in hieroglyphics; but of course we now know, as I have said, that these treatises were written in Greek centuries after the deaths of these philosophers, and are themselves dependent upon Plato.

Even in the fifth century BCE Greeks had a profound respect for the antiquity of Egyptian culture. The historian Herodotus was very keen to make any connections that he could. He tried to match up the Greek gods with their Egyptian counterparts. He even went so far as to claim that the names of the Greek gods came from Egypt, but the few examples he produces do not stand up to modern linguistic analysis. He pointed out that Greek myth suggests that parts of Greece were colonized by Egyptians, or at least by Egyptians descended from Greeks who had emigrated there. But such vague and imaginative correspondences, even if they could be confirmed by archaeological discoveries, do not amount to any kind of proof that Greek philosophy was stolen from Egypt. Whatever the Greek philosophers and holy men learned in Egypt, if indeed all of them went there, it was not what we call philosophy.

Since ancient biographers relied on the works of ancient writers as their prime source material, their information is only as reliable as the author himself. In other words, if an ancient author says nothing about his travels or personal life, the information in his biography has been deduced and inferred from his works. Since the works of most of the philosophers mentioned by Diodorus survive only in fragments, it is impossible to know whether the biographical information that we have is based on what they themselves said or on what later writers thought they might have done on the basis of their writings. Foreign travel in particular was used by biographers as a means of explaining why writers included references to foreign customs and geography in their works.

Did the great philosophers whose works still survive ever go to Egypt? None of the accounts of the lives of Socrates or Aristotle say anything about their travels there. Socrates is, in fact, recorded by a close contemporary, Plato, as saying that during his lifetime he never went outside of Athens unless he was on military campaign – which still would have kept him in Greece. Although Plutarch in the second century CE and other late biographers claim that Plato himself studied in Egypt, and even name his teachers, it is worth noting that the earliest biographical information we have about him says nothing about it. Since Plato’s writings show some knowledge of Egyptian customs, religion, and legends, or at least of Greek ideas about Egypt, most classical scholars believe that the story of his sojourn in Egypt was invented by later biographers to explain his interest in Egypt, and to provide physical “proof” of the importance of Egyptian culture that (as we have seen) the Egyptian priests in later antiquity were eager to establish.

James argues that silence about the presence in Egypt of Socrates and Aristotle is proof of a conspiracy by Greeks to conceal from posterity the extent of their debt to Egypt. This is the sort of conspiratorial thinking that drives modern belief systems forward in the face of contradictory evidence where such negative evidence is further proof of the coverup. Presumably the same argument could be made about the failure of Plato’s earliest biographer to speak about his travels there. The other and more obvious conclusion made by scholars is that none of them actually ever went there. If the great Greek philosophers had stolen their ideas from the Egyptians, as James asserts, we would expect James to provide parallel texts showing frequent verbal parallels. As it is, he can only point to some general similarities between Egyptian religious ideas and Greek theories. As James observes, Aristotle wrote a treatise On the Soul, the Egyptians believed in the immortality of the soul. But there the similarity ends. James admits that there is no close resemblance because Aristotle’s theory is only a “very small portion” of the Egyptian “philosophy” of the soul, as described in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. But anyone who looks at a translation of the Book of the Dead can see that it is not a philosophical treatise, but rather a series of ritual prescriptions to ensure the soul’s passage to the next world. Nothing could be more different from Aristotle’s abstract consideration of the nature of the soul.

The Use and Abuse of History

In this paper I have had space only to treat some of the many fraudulent claims made in Stolen Legacy. Many more examples could be produced: for example, James insists that the Greeks did not win their war against Persia in 490 and 480-79 BCE, as has always been thought, but states (without producing evidence of any kind) that the battles of Marathon and Salamis were indecisive. James misrepresents history in this way in order to depict the ancient Greeks as a quarrelsome and chaotic people, incapable of producing philosophy, which (according to James) “requires an environment which is free from disturbance and worries” (p. 24). Such misinformation suggests that Stolen Legacy belongs on the shelf with other hate literature, such as The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, recently brought to public consciousness through Louis Farrakhan’s tirades against Jews and all things Jewish.

It is of course possible to sympathize with James, and with his anger at a society that has paid little tribute to real Aftican achievement. Unfortunately Stolen Legacy not only does not help the Afrocentric cause, it hinders it. The trouble is that Stolen Legacy has been treated not as a mythistory, but as a serious work of scholarship. As such it has had a wide and pernicious influence. One of James’ best-known pupils, Dr. Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan, has lectured at universities throughout the United States about the Greeks’ theft of indigenous African culture, but with new details and references, so that story sounds more credible. For example, in his book Africa: Mother of Western Civilization (1971; reprinted 1988) ben-Jochannan claims not only that Aristotle was educated in Egypt, but that he stole entire libraries from the Egyptian Mysteries System. Aristotle then either put his own name on the works that he had stolen or sent them to his friends. Books he did not like or understand he had destroyed.

According to ben-Jochannan, such “revelations” provide an example of the academic dishonesty of educators who attribute Aristotle’s philosophy to the Greeks. Thus when Classicists or Egyptologists try to point out where James went wrong, he and others who believe in the notion of a Stolen Legacy feel entitled to accuse them of Eurocentrism and even “white racism.” Such charges, even when without foundation, can be damaging in today’s academic world. I have been accused of both for saying that the historical evidence that has come down to us simply does not support the notion that the Greeks “stole” their civilization (or their philosophy) from Egypt, and I expect that this essay will elicit similar reactions. So in conclusion I will state unequivocally that I have the greatest respect for ancient Egypt and its civilization. But I also believe that the ancient Greeks deserve full credit for their own achievements.

* When Champollion’s Egyptian Grammar began to be published.

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