When Greek Was An African Language
Frank M. Snowden, Jr. Annual Lectures
Stanley Burstein, Frank M. Snowden, Jr. Lectures, Howard University, When Greek was an African
Language, http://chs.harvard.edu/publications.sec/online-print-books.ssp/frank-m.-snowden-jr.. Center for
Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC. August, 2006
When Greek was an African Language
I would like to thank the department of Classics and Eta Sigma Phi for the invitation to deliver the third
annual Snowden Lecture and making possible my visit to Howard University and especially for the
opportunity to honor Frank. It seems that I have known Frank for my whole career. I first met him through his
books at the beginning of my career in the early 1970s and in person something over a decade later. Since
then we have done the usual things scholars do: corresponded, met at conferences, and been on programs
together. Throughout those many years I have enjoyed and profited immensely from his work.
When Frank published Blacks in Antiquity in 1970 there was no name for the field of scholarship to which it
belonged. It was a pioneering work in a field that didn't yet exist, the ancient history of the African Diaspora.
Blacks in Antiquity is a masterful work. After more than three decades it remains unchallenged and Frank in
Dante's words is still "the master of those who know." In the time that I have today I could only hope to add a
few footnotes to his account of the place of Africans in Mediterranean society. Instead, I will try to tell a
different but related story, that of the role of Greek and Greek culture in ancient and medieval Nubia.  I
hope Frank finds it interesting. A point on terminology first, however. I will use Nubia and Nubians in this
paper to refer to the Nile valley south of Egypt and its inhabitants, and Kush, Makuria, Alwah, etc. for the
various states in the region. Now for my story.