The Myth of Greek Origins of Knowledge

This is a detailed summary of part 1 of the book “Is Science Western in Origin?” by Professor C. K. Raju. This part concerns the fabrication of the myth of intellectual superiority of the West over the course of centuries in three stages,, starting with the Crusades. In a nutshell, history provides us with many examples of barbarian incursions on advanced Civilizations in decay. In such cases, the barbarians acquire wealth and knowledge from the conquered, and also get to write a revisionist history, which attributes the conquest to superiority of the barbarians. This process, carried out over centuries, has created a myth that all currently valuable knowledge is Western in origin. In this first part, we consider the fabrication of this myth in general and broad terms. The second part details particular special cases of importance: Euclid, Ptolemy, Copernicus and Newton – see http://bit.ly/AZPlag

The East is the East and the West is the West, and never the twain shall meet”. Rudyard Kipling.

Global Colonization of Minds by the West

In early 20th Century European powers controlled about 90% of the planet. It was this conquest and colonization which created the East & the West. Europe’s colonization of the world led to:

  1. decimation or extermination of native peoples,
  2. the extinction of lifestyles, cultural life forms, and the biological, cultural, and social inheritance of colonized societies.
  3. everywhere the colonizers sought to impose upon the colonized their worldview.
  4. The fundamental fact of colonialism and the post-colonial era: every conquest is, in the first instance, a conquest of knowledge.

Even after political freedom from the colonizers, the mechanism for conquest of minds continues to operate without change. The primary vehicle of indoctrinations is Eurocentric Social Science (ESS), now being taught in universities across the globe. Dropping the adjective “Eurocentric” and using the label “science’ creates an unjustified claim to universality. Using Eurocentric models to define “progress”, “development”, “knowledge”, and “economic growth” has:

  1. mired the so-called developing world in ever more acute levels of poverty,
  2. forestalled the possibility of worldviews and lifestyles that do not synchronize with the conception of the “good life” that prevails in the “developed” West.
  3. The entire theory of development assumes countries that are under-developed represent the past of the West, and development means becoming like the West.
  4. Colonialism sought to compel the conquered to jettison their past; globalization seeks to hijack their futures. If the native’s present is the European’s past, the native’s future is the European’s present.

Buried deep within the foundations of ESS is a fabricated history, which has been created to support the racist premise that: “Europeans were uniquely capable of creative, rational, and scientific thought.” Eurocentric History has  been fabricated to conform to this AXIOM.

An illustration of this strategy at work is the so-called “Great Gap” in economic thought. Joseph Schumpeter writes about the History of Economic thought that: “So far as our subject is concerned we may safely leap over 500 years to the epoch of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) whose Summa Theologica is in the history of thought what the south western spire of the Cathedral of Chartres is in the history of architecture.” That is, no advances were made – in economics, or in any other field of knowledge – during the 500 years of ascendancy of the Islamic Civilization. Ironically, Schumpeter is ignorant of the fact that the Cathedral of Chartres is a copy of Islamic architecture. See “Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture shaped Europe” by Diana Darke.  {http://bit.ly/DDs4s}.

Antidote: Global History, putting Europe in its place.

To rectify this problem, we will provide a non-Eurocentric sketch of European history. We start by asking: “How did the Dark Ages of Europe Start?”. Key events which led to the dark ages was the rejection of all non-Christian sources of knowledge:

  1. Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity – 312 AD
  2. Christian Emperors impose homogeneity of thought via book burning edicts. Methodology of thought-control starts in the West.
  3. Christian mob burns Library of Alexandria and murders Hypatia (mathematician & philosopher)
  4. Closure of all philosophical schools by Justinian in 529 AD.

Many illustrations can be give of the low level of knowledge in Christian Europe, especially in comparison with the rich, wealthy, and powerful Islamic Civilization. In particular, knowledge from all available sources was gathered in the House of Wisdom around 9th Century, sometimes called the Islamic Golden Age. There was an explosion in demand for books. Paper-making techniques were imported from China. Libraries proliferated across the Islamic World. By the 10th Century, the Umayyad Caliphate in Cordoba had a library, catalogued in 44 volumes, of over 600,000 tomes.

KEY CONCLUSION from this brief sketch of HISTORY: Until the CRUSADES (1100-1300), Europeans were far behind Islamic Civilization in knowledge. As a result, they considered the Islamic Civilization to be the source of knowledge, and turned to them for books and expertise.

However, the dominant “Great Gap” story claims that knowledge originate with the Greek Civilization, was preserved by Islamic Civilization and then passed on, without significant additions, to the natural inheritors, the Europeans. This “great gap” story is not credible for a large number of reasons. First, the Greek Civilization was primitive and barbaric compared with its Persian and Egyptian neighbors. The pyramids testify to the advanced engineering and mathematical skills of the Egyptians. Similarly, Persian literature and artifacts are substantially more advanced than those of the Greeks from that era. In addition, a large number of substantial advances in knowledge in all fields can be dated to the 500 year “Great Gap”. 

So what accounts for the myth of Greek origins of ALL knowledge? This myth was FABRICATED after the Crusades, to avoid giving any credit to Muslims. WHY? There was an official Church proclamation to avoid borrowing from Islamic sources. When necessary to do so, it was recommended to CHANGE the source! LYING to protect Christian doctrine was official methodology. Mountains of lies were constructed to take credit for all knowledge, and deny any contributions of other civilizations. As an explicit example of this official doctrine, note the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum in effect since 1599. Rules 3 and 4 of the Rules for the Professor of Philosophy stated:

[3] He shall not read without careful selection or bring into class interpreters of Aristotle who are out of harmony with the Christian religion, and he will take care that his students do not become influenced by them.

[4] For this reason he shall not treat of the digressions of Averroës [Ibn Rushd] (and the same judgment holds for others of his kind) in any separate treatise, and if anything good is to be cited from him, let him bring it out without praise and, if possible, let him show that he has taken it from some other source.

LYING, to prevent giving credit to the Islamic Civilization, is officially encouraged.     

Crusades as barbarian incursions

Fabrication of false sources of knowledge started with the Crusades. To understand this better, we need to understand the nature of the Crusades. Regarding Crusades as motived by religion is like regarding Iraq war as being motivated by the desire to bring democracy to Iraq. It does not permit us to make sense of the reality. Europe was poor – in materials and in knowledge – while Islamic Civilization was far more advanced.  Church wealth, power, and knowledge increased with each Crusade – regardless of outcome (win or loss). THIS was the real motive behind the crusades. The story of the crusades starts with the reconquest of Spain, which put an immense wealth of knowledge into the hands of Europeans.  

Proto-Crusades: Reconquest of Spain. The Fitna of Al-Andalus. Conditions for barbarian incursions established after disastrous battle for succession in 1010. The Battle of Aqbat Al-Bakr, beginning of the end. Caliphate of Cordoba broke into several Taifa’s at war with one another.  Toledo had best library in Europe. Came under Christian control in 1085. This time, instead of burning the books, the project to translate the books in the libraries of Toledo was begun. Dark Ages of Europe started with the burning of Library of Alexandria. They ended with translations of millions of books in Library of Toledo. Of course, it took a few centuries to absorb and assimilate this treasure. However, from the beginning, the translators were faced with a problem. How could the Christians give credit for knowledge to the despised and hated Muslims?

In line with strategies long in use in the Catholic Church, free fabrication of history to support Church dogma was widely approved. Thus the story line was created that the Greeks created knowledge. Muslims preserved it, and passed it on to rightful heirs in Europe – the chosen people, the Christians. This permitted use of translations from Islamic Civilization on the pretext that these were replications of Greek works.The “great-gap” strategy of minimizing or nullifying the contributions of Islamic Civilization continues to this day. For example, one can find articles stating that the Muslims made no advances over Galen in medicine, whereas the medical contributions of Muslims are too numerous to list, and Ibn-e-Sina’s textbook on medicine was taught in Europe for three centuries. Similarly, it is said the Harvey discovered the circulation of blood and the functions of the heart, whereas this discovery is due to Al-Nafis four centuries earlier, and translations of his works were available at the time of Harvey. There has been a systematic effort to suppress Islamic contributions, which continues to this day. It will take a lot of effort to undo this myth, constructed over centuries, that all wisdom originates from the Greeks, and was developed by Europeans. It is nonetheless necessary to do so, because this racist myth that non-whites have contributed nothing to world civilization, is responsible for massive amounts of warfare and destruction today. One element of the debunking required is to realize that Greeks were barbarians, living on the periphery of civilization.   

Mathematical Illiteracy of Greeks

To see why Greeks could not have made significant advances in science, it is enough to note that the Roman Numerals (which are a slight advance over Greeks) are hopelessly inefficient for arithmetic. For example, 1788 = MDCCLXXXVIII. For middling numbers like 1788 + 1832, one needs an abacus to keep track of all the different groupings I, V, X, C, D, M – Very large numbers are impossible to handle. Without being able to do elementary calculations, one cannot develop sciences of the calendar, and astronomy. In contrast, the Buddha was asked to name 10^53 by an opponent, to test his knowledge. The construction of the pyramids required advanced mathematics, geometry, and technical engineering skills. Thus, contemporary civilizations were far more advanced. The KEY CONCLUSION is that Greeks/Romans never had use for large numbers, or for complex mathematical operations like multiplications and divisions – these were impossible with the numerical technology they had.  They could not have mathematics/science. Given that there is no possibility of origins of mathematics and technology depending on mathematics in the Greeks, we must look to other sources. Among the plausible potential sources for mathematics, we have the civilizations of Persia, India, and Egypt.

The House of Wisdom, set up in Baghdad around 8th Century by Khalifa Haroun Al-Rashid contained the  translations of Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Mahavira – mathematical texts from India. A central contribution of Indian arithmetic is popularly known as the “0” – this is deep misunderstanding of the real contribution. What the Indians invented was the place value system for representation of numbers. This allows for writing of very large numbers in compact form. It also creates easy algorithms for addition, multiplication, division, and even extraction of roots, none of which are easily possible using Greek/Roman numbers. Arabic texts compiled this knowledge from sources from Persian and Indian in ACCRETIVE translations. That is, instead of literal translations, the author tries to compile and gather all contemporary knowledge; thus materials are updated over time. These Arabic sources were LATER translated into Greek. A key example here is the Pancatantra, which was translated from Arabic into Greek, and is unquestionably Indian in origin.

The Key Conclusion we want to draw here is that Greek texts dated 9th Century or later are translations from Arabic sources, not originals. The myth of Greek origins of knowledge is based on attributions to Greeks, but nearly all Greek sources are 9th Century or later Greek texts. Given the lying to protect Western origins of all knowledge was commonly practiced, this shows how we can take apart the myth of Greek origin of all knowledge.

Pre-Islamic Era: Story of Science

Since the myth of Greek origins has been built up over centuries in pieces, taking it apart requires work on many different fronts. However, a key to doing is to look at actual history, instead of the “textual” evidence – this is because of Christian expertise at fabricating textual evidence to support ideological positions. The whole religion is based on this technique, since it is well known that there are forged books within the Bible, where the author claims to be a disciple of Jesus, when in fact, this is impossible.

In the pre-Islamic era, Roman Emperior Justinian was paying tribute to Persian King Khusrau. Since Justinian had banned philosophy, philosophers fled from Rome to Persian Court. Persian kings were lovers of knowledge and sourced knowledge from all sources. They sourced Astronomy and Mathematics from Indian sources, NOT from Roman/Greek – because Rome/Greece had no knowledge in these areas. 7th Century Christian, Severus Sebokht, acknowledges superiority of Indian astronomy and attributes it to superiority of Indian mathematics.

A key to the myth of Greek origins of knowledge is the Library of Alexandria, which was based in Egypt. This is parallel to the the story of Greek Origin of Arab books, by translating Arab books in the Toledo library, but attributing them to Greek authors. This methodology appropriates to Greeks knowledge gathered from all over the world – Indian, Chinese, and Persian Civilizations, TOGETHER with significant Islamic additions to the corpus. It also creates a Great Gap – somehow, the Greeks were all-wise and thought of everything, while all other civilizations made no advances in knowledge for at least 500, and sometimes a 1000 years. This storyline is inherently implausible.

Hellenic Origin is linked to the library of Alexandria (Egypt). But library of Alexandria consisted of more than half a million books – impossible for small Greek economy to purchase the papyrus required.  State of knowledge in Greece was extremely backwards. Socrates condemned to death for teaching that Moon was just a clod of earth. Denying divinity of Moon was grounds for death. Obviously, astronomy was not possible. Most Greek scholars acquired knowledge from Egypt.

The chronology of the fabricated history shows that Greeks had virtually no science until Alexander. Alexander’s conquest led to import of books from Egypt and Persia into Greece. Library of Alexander was apparently built during reign of Ptolemy I, successor of Alexander. The First Catalog produced during Ptolemy II reign. The obvious CONCLUSION: Library of Alexandria is not of Greek origin. Originates as war booty. Confirmed by other sources that Alexander transported books from Persia to Aristotle. It is not Alexander who spread advanced Greek knowledge to the civilizations he conquered – rather, it was the barbarians who acquire knowledge from the civilizations they conquer. This thesis is spelled out in much greater detail in Black Athena: The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Classical Civilization by Martin Bernal. A review of the book: in one of the most audacious works of scholarship ever written, Martin Bernal challenges the whole basis of our thinking about this question. He argues that Classical civilization has deep roots in Afrosiatic cultures, but that these influences have been systematically suppressed since the eighteenth century – chiefly for racist reasons. Another book pursuing the same theme is  Stolen Legacy: Greek Philosophy is Stolen Egyptian Philosophy. Author George G. M. James argues that the “Greek philosophy” in which nearly all of Western culture has its roots actually originated in ancient Egypt Drawing on careful historical research and a radical rethinking of the conventional narrative of Greek history, James asserts that our celebration of the ancient Greeks as the creators of Western civilization and philosophy is misattributed. In fact, he argues, our praise rightfully belongs to the people of Africa. Furthermore, this massive intellectual and cultural theft has helped lend credence to the damaging notion that the entire continent of Africa has contributed nothing to world civilization.  James explores documented connections between celebrated Greek philosophers and the influence of Egyptian thought, proposing other possible links between northern Africa and Greece as well

Barbarian Incursions: This explanation fits into the general theory that information preferentially flows towards the military conqueror. The idea that military conquerors at the head of vast hordes, like Alexander or Hulegu, spread culture and science is a sorry attempt at glorification aimed at uncritical and gullible people. In both cases, these military conquerors spread destruction, but acquired culture, exactly as happened during the first Crusade. (The Greeks, too, were then on the periphery of the Persian empire, so Alexander’s conquests were just another case of such “barbarian incursions”.)

Web of Deceit: Complex configuration of lies created to avoid attribution of knowledge to non-White sources. Greek knowledge begins with conquest of Alexander, and wholesale copying of Egyptian manuscripts by Aristotle and his students. The number of books attributed to Aristotle far exceed his potential lifetime production. How did vast range of knowledge suddenly become available to Aristotle and his students? It was through the conquest of Alexander. There were several stages in the concoction of racist myth of Greeks who knew everything, while no other human race/civilization contributed anything to knowledge!! This myth has had tragic consequences. Many Western philosophers have confidently asserted that tnly Western Civilization is capable of rational, scientific, thought. See Immanuel Kant: Misogynist & Racist {http://bit.ly/AZKant} for how these White supremacist biases embedded themselves in the foundations of Western intellectual accomplishments. There was a feedback loop between conquest and colonization, and the myths of Western intellectual superiority. The conquests were justified by the myths, and the myths were turned into reality by destroying the intellectual heritage and educational institutions of the colonized.

End of Part 1 of Summary of Part 1 of “Is Science Western in Origin?” by Prof C. K. Raju. Some of the Referenced Books & Articles can be found from: http://bit.ly/AZMyth

One thought on “The Myth of Greek Origins of Knowledge

  1. Thanks again! The depth of my appreciation is immeasurable. I consider this brilliant summary & Raju’s work among the most urgently critical to any real, sustainable advance in the quality of life & civilization. In fact, unless the essentials of this view of the real history of science & knowledge is generally accepted and officially recognized, I’m afraid that this neo-barbaric kleptocratic technopoly (neo-feudalistic Mercantilism on steroids) will become terminal ecocidal dystopia at an ever-accelerating rate. Best of luck, etc. ~ M

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