This research paper contributes to the ongoing debate between African and Western scholars regarding the role played by Ancient African civilization played in the development of modern civilization. As Dr. George James puts it in the book, Stolen Legacy, “the authors of Greek philosophy did not come from the Greeks, but from the North Africans, commonly called the Egyptians, which discredits the honor and praise accorded to Greeks for modern world civilizations (James 87). Arguably, the impression given by Western scholars that Africans made insignificant contribution to civilization, and that they are primitive, unfortunately, has become the basis for negative perception and prejudice against all people of African Origin. This essay, therefore, provides an overview of contribution of Africa to Western civilization. In doing so, this essay will provide a brief overview African history beginning with the ancient Egyptian empire and continues to other African empires that came thereafter. This analysis leads to a conclusion that the modern world owes a lot to ancient African civilizations.
The Egyptian contribution towards the modern civilization cannot be overemphasized. Egypt had a long line of kings known as pharaohs who governed Egypt for the periods between 3000 B.C and 1100 B.C (Lefkowitz 47). The rule by pharaohs featured the presence of governors of the provinces in which the kingdom was divided, ruling of royal court, and commanding army among others. Priests and priestesses attended to their gods and officiated at religious ceremonies, but all worked under pharaohs.
The Greeks brought Egyptian influence and education to the Western world. One notable Greek character who enunciated the Egyptian religion, culture and philosophical teachings was Pythagoras. He played a significant role in introducing Egyptian teaching to the Europeans. His teaching came from three main sources. The first comes from writings by one of his followers named Nicomachus, who illustrated the Pythagoras theory in a form closest to the original teachings by the Pythagorean brotherhood. Second, Pythagorean ideas are evident in the works of great scholars like Plato, whose thoughts were influenced by Pythagoras. Finally, some understanding of the theory comes from other famous writers like Aristotle.
The first people to develop the concept of the right angle, which formed the basis of Pythagorean Theorem, were Egyptians. This concept forms one of the fundamental teachings in the Egyptian mystery school. It reflects the design of Egyptian pyramids, which were built many centuries before the birth of Pythagoras. Western scholars attributed the introduction of this concept and other similar ideas to Pythagoras. These concepts represent the understanding man and the order of nature. The Pythagorean brotherhood believes that the study of Number Theory, which forms the foundation of creation helps in achieving the soul and mediation. According to Lefkowitz (113), the influence of Pythagorean brotherhood dates back to many years. Their teachings influences Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, as well as other thinkers such as Vaughn, Fluid, and Hoyden who based their philosophy, to some extent, on Pythagorean ideas.
The Egyptians also introduced the concept of monotheism, the belief in one God. The pharaoh who introduced monotheism in Egypt was Akhennaten, an Egyptian king and the God of the sun (Wulah 95). Akhennaten was also an artist, a poet, an innovator, instigator of monotheism, visionary, and forerunner of Christ. Some historians believe that he was a good ruler and some of his religious ideas and beliefs have influenced modern world civilization.
Other African kingdoms
The empires of Mali, Ghana, and Songhai were West Africa’s powerful medieval states. Each empire had a well-developed administrative government and economic prosperity. These empires were powerful and had extensive and vital trading links with Europe and North Africa. Ghana become the first empire among the three to rise as regional power in West Africa. Ghana had attained its status as a powerful nation before the Roman Empire left North Africa in the 4th AD (Poe 142). Many European countries were dependent on gold imports before the discovery of America. During this period, Ghana had an advanced civilization characterized by systems of taxation on imports and exports. Ghana placed its success on highly organized trading system.
Mali Empire took control with the decline of Ghana’s power. Mali started extending their Kingdom in the 13th century and pushed towards south and southeastern regions of West Africa. Mali defeated the military forces of Ghana and continued the gold trade. Mali became known throughout Europe and the Mediterranean under the reign of Mansa Musa. As the case with Mali, Songhai Empire emerged with its decline. The king of Songhai, Soni Ali led his army to capture Timbuktu, a city famous for trade routes and learning centers in 1468 (Wulah 314). After the death of Soni Ali, one of the generals, Mohammed used military force to remove his son from the throne. Mohammed created a number of central offices, similar to the contemporary departments to oversee finance, justice, agriculture, and other matters deemed important in the affairs of the state. Timbuktu developed and became a great center of learning in Africa attracting scholars from all over the world.
An overview of the history of the African empires clearly show that Africa and Africans made significant contribution to the modern civilization or what people now call Western Civilization. Among these great empires, African had instituted various systems of government from extended families to regional empires and the Village State. Majority of these systems consisted of those attributes to modern state, such as courts, armies, schools, among others. According to Poe (101), studies on areas inhabited by non-literate people, Africa exhibits the great incidence of complex government structures. Even kingdom of Mexico and Peru could not mobilize resources and concentrate power more effectively that the African empires did, which are more to compare with Europe in the Middle Ages. From the Egyptian mystery schools to the educational centers in Timbuktu, scholars from all over the world came to Africa in search of wisdom and knowledge. Majority of Africans regard religion and art as the foundation of life. In summation, I agree with the assertion that the modern world owes a lot to Ancient African civilization.
Lefkowitz , R. Mary. Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. BasicBooks, 1997. Print.
James, G.M George. Stolen Legacy. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012. Print.
Poe, Richard. Black Spark, White Fire: Did African Explorers Civilize Ancient Europe? Roseville, California: Prima Publishing, 1997. Print.
Wulah, Teah. Aya Africa: A Look at Ancient Africa in Modern Times. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2003. Print.