History of African civilizations in

the Nile Valley by Bethwell Ogot, a review.

In my view, this book is not meant for a scholarly audience but beginners in the study of African civilizations. It is quite thin on citations though the gives a selected biography for those who would want to carry out further reading on the subject.

Having said that, we can talk about the few portions of the book I liked.

In chapter 5 on contributions of the Pharaonic Egypt to Human history- cultural contributions he mentions The Dialogue of a pessimist with his soul which I thought is an interesting read and is true today as when it was written. Consider this portion

Spoke to my soul that I might answer what it said:

To whom shall I speak today?

Brothers and sisters are evil and friends today are not worth loving.

Hearts are great with greed and everyone seizes his or her neigh­bor’s goods.

Kindness has passed away and violence is imposed on everyone.

To whom shall I speak today?

People willingly accept evil and goodness is cast to the ground everywhere.

Those who should enrage people by their wrongdoing

make them laugh at their evil deeds.

People plunder and everyone seizes _his or her neighbor’s goods.

To whom shall I speak today?

The one doing wrong is an intimate friend and the brother with whom one used to deal is an enemy.

No one remembers the past and none return the good deed that is done.

Brothers and sisters are evil

and people turn to strangers for righteousness or affection.

To whom shall I speak today?

Faces are empty and all turn their faces from their brothers and sisters.

Chapter 6 where he treats of the Egyptian religious beliefs and the Judeo- Christian heritage. The conclusion one arrives at, though not explicitly stated by the author, is that what is original in the Judeo- Christian religion, if any, is quite minute. That these religions built on the conceptions of the early Egyptians. Parallels abound between what the Egyptians believed and what the followers of the Abrahamic religions believe. He argues that the origins of modern secular must be sought in the beginnings of the Bible’s ancient faith in a radically transcendent god. He writes

Only a religious faith that was radically polemic to the ancient culture of magic and indwelling spirits could have initiated the cultural and psychological and spiritual revolution necessary to cause entire civilizations to reject the gods and spirits men had revered from time immemorial. Only god can overturn the gods for the masses. Without faith in the new god it would have been impossible to dethrone the old gods. Thus secularization is the paradoxical, unintended, long-term consequence of a distinctive kind of religious faith. By privatizing religion, secularization multiplies the number of value systems that can co-exist within a common public realm. Instead of serving as the common inheritance of an entire community, religion becomes a matter of personal choice.

In the next chapter he introduces models that have been employed in the study of ancient Greek philosophy: The Ancient model which acknowledges Egypt as the source/ parent and the Aryan model which seeks to downplay the role of Egypt and thus Africa in Greek civilization.

In chapter 8 where he writes of the transmission of Egyptian philosophy, science, religion and so on by the Greeks and Romans, he mentions Giordano Bruno, he asks could he have been burned at the stake for among other things his belief that Egyptian religion not just as foreshadowing Christianity but as the true religion? Bruno wrote

Do not suppose that the sufficiency of the Chaldaic magic derived from the Kabbalah of the Jews; for the Jews are without doubt the excrement of Egypt, and no one could ever pretend with any degree of probability that the Egyptians borrowed any principle, good or bad, from the Hebrews. Whence we Greeks [by which he seems to mean Gentiles] own Egypt, the grand monarchy of letters and nobility, to be the parent of our fables, metaphors and doctrines.

In the same chapter, there is a quote from Newton’s Principia Mathematica thus

It was the most ancient opinion of those who applied themselves to philosophy, that the fixed stars stood immovable in the highest parts of the world; that under them the planets revolved about the sun; and that the earth, as one of the planets, described an annual course about the Sun … The Egyptians were the earliest observers of the ( heavens and from them, probably, this philosophy was spread abroad. For from them it was, and from the nations about them, that the Greeks, a people more addicted to the study of philology than of nature, derived their first as well as their soundest notions of philosophy; and in the Vestal ceremonies we can recognize the spirit of the Egyptians, who concealed mysteries that were above the capacity of the common herd under the veil of religious rites and hieroglyphic symbols.

This book just like the others I have read on the subject till now, which are few, do not answer my question: Who were the Egyptians and why did Africa turn out black?

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

30 thoughts on “History of African civilizations in

  1. Ubi Dubium says:

    I spent some time looking for an answer to your question, and perhaps this article will help: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_Egypt

    I think that geography had to play into why southern Africans didn’t settle more into Egypt, or why north Africans didn’t move more into the south. At the end of the Neolithic period the once-fertile Sahara region dried up, and became a large barrier to migration. You’d think that the Nile river would be a good north-south highway, but there is a series of six cataracts on the river between Aswan and Khartoum. At each of these, boats would have to be portaged around the rapids, so this really slowed down the movement of goods and people. Navigation on the Nile was easy from Aswan all the way to the Mediterranean, so there was lots of commerce between Egypt and the Levant and Greece. So much more movement and intermixing of people would have been happening in those areas. Several times Egypt was overrun by invaders from the Mideast, but there was only one Nubian dynasty, late in their history.

    There was some shipping along the Red Sea, and down to Ethiopia, but from the Red Sea ports there was a lot of desert to cross to get to the settled area, so I wouldn’t think many people would migrate on that route.


    • makagutu says:

      Sorry I am replying to your comment after such a long time. That link is quite interesting. It seems, from my understanding, that the debate is not settled between those who want to make Egypt African and those who want to make it Mediterranean, Arabic or Asian.


    • makagutu says:

      One more thing I recall in my geography class was that most rivers in Africa are not navigable due to presence of rapids, falls, crocodiles and so on. Must have presented an enormous challenge to our ancestors

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a really interesting read, I’m going to search for it.


  3. shelldigger says:

    I too wonder at times, “to whom shall I speak today” 🙂


    • makagutu says:

      the answer is

      There are no intimate friends

      and the people turn to strangers to tell their troubles.

      But I am no longer a stranger. You can speak to me today


      • shelldigger says:

        I may just do that 🙂

        How ya doing today Mak?


        • makagutu says:

          Today is a good day. There was a slight drizzle in the morning. Right now the sun is shining. Quite hot but manageable. Apart from the idjit somewhere on this thread, no one has crossed me this day. I think I am doing well. Life is good.
          How are you


          • shelldigger says:

            Glad the day is suiting you 🙂

            I must admit I haven’t kept up with the comments on this post, will look.

            I am tired man. Been a long week. But nothing a day or two of laziness won’t cure. 🙂


            • makagutu says:

              There are not many comments, fortunately. When you check them out you will easily understand what I meant.
              A day or two of laziness cures many a tiredness


  4. CORAM DEO says:

    How do I block a “magagutu” from sending his drivel to me?

    On Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 4:12 AM, Random thoughts wrote:

    > makagutu posted: “the Nile Valley by Bethwell Ogot, a review. In my view, > this book is not meant for a scholarly audience but beginners in the study > of African civilizations. It is quite thin on citations though the gives a > selected biography for those who would want to” >


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