Herodotus on African and Egyptian Influence

Herodotus, the 5th c. BCE Greek historian, is one of Bernal's sources for Greek admissions that the Egyptians had influenced the development of Greek religion and culture.  On this page we'll link to some of Herodotus' excerpts.  

For a class assignment:  Find other excerpts from Herodotus and provide an analysis and explanation of how and why Herodotus writes about Egypt and Egyptians.  What rhetoric, style and emphasis does he give to Egyptians, both in the present when he visited Egypt and in his discussion of their past?  What are Herodotus' motives and does this affect how he may be writing about Egyptians?

Exhibit 1:  Herodotus - Greek gods came from Egyptians

Herodotus, Book II
Now with regard to mere human matters, the accounts which they gave, and in which all agreed, were the following. The Egyptians, they said, were the first to discover the solar year, and to portion out its course into twelve parts. They obtained this knowledge from the stars. (To my mind they contrive their year much more cleverly than the Greeks, for these last every other year intercalate a whole month, but the Egyptians, dividing the year into twelve months of thirty days each, add every year a space of five days besides, whereby the circuit of the seasons is made to return with uniformity.) The Egyptians, they went on to affirm, first brought into use the names of the twelve gods, which the Greeks adopted from them; and first erected altars, images, and temples to the gods; and also first engraved upon stone the figures of animals. In most of these cases they proved to me that what they said was true.

Exhibit 2:  The Oracle of Dodona established by an Egyptian Priestess 

Herodotus in The Histories, 2.54, relates the following:

But about the oracles in Hellas, and that one which is in Libya, the Egyptians give the following account. The priests of Zeus of Thebes told me that two priestesses had been carried away from Thebes by Phoenicians; one, they said they had heard was taken away and sold inLibya, the other in Hellas; these women, they said, were the first founders of places of divination in the aforesaid countries. [2] When I asked them how it was that they could speak with such certain knowledge, they said in reply that their people had sought diligently for these women, and had never been able to find them, but had learned later the story which they were telling me.
2.58. It would seem, too, that the Egyptians were the first people to establish solemn assemblies, and processions, and services; the Greeks learned all that from them. I consider this proved, because the Egyptian ceremonies are manifestly very ancient, and the Greek are of recent origin. [Perseus Project]
2.59.The Egyptians hold solemn assemblies not once a year, but often. The principal one of these and the most enthusiastically celebrated is that in honor of Artemis at the town of Bubastis1 , and the next is that in honor of Isis at Busiris. [2] This town is in the middle of the Egyptian Delta, and there is in it a very great temple of Isis, who is Demeter in the Greek language. [3] The third greatest festival is at Saïs in honor of Athena; the fourth is the festival of the sun at Heliopolis, the fifth of Leto at Buto, and the sixth of Ares at Papremis. [Source:  Perseus Project
2.62.When they assemble at Saïs on the night of the sacrifice, they keep lamps burning outside around their houses. These lamps are saucers full of salt and oil on which the wick floats, and they burn all night. This is called the Feast of Lamps. [2] Egyptians who do not come to this are mindful on the night of sacrifice to keep their own lamps burning, and so they are alight not only at Saïs but throughout Egypt. A sacred tale is told showing why this night is lit up thus and honored. 
For more on this, see, Julia Lougovaya-Ast, "Myrrhine, the First Priestess of Athena Nike," in Phoenix, Vol. 60, No. 3/4 (Fall - Winter, 2006), pp. 211-225

Exhibit 3:  Herodotus on the Egyptian Colony of Colchis on the Black Sea.

In a passage that is intriguing passage Herodotus describes the settlement of Colchis as an Egyptian colony settled after the campaigns of Sesostris (Senusret) in the 1930s or 1920s BCE into the region of Northern Asia Minor (Bernal, Vol. 2, 228-229)  
2.104.  For it is plain to see that the Colchians are Egyptians; and what I say, I myself noted before I heard it from others. When it occurred to me, I inquired of both peoples; and the Colchians remembered the Egyptians better than the Egyptians remembered the Colchians; [2] the Egyptians said that they considered the Colchians part of Sesostris' army. I myself guessed it, partly because they are dark-skinned and woolly-haired; though that indeed counts for nothing, since other peoples are, too; but my better proof was that the Colchians and Egyptians and Ethiopians are the only nations that have from the first practised circumcision. [3] The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine acknowledge that they learned the custom from the Egyptians, and the Syrians of the valleys of theThermodon and the Parthenius, as well as their neighbors the Macrones, say that they learned it lately from the Colchians. These are the only nations that circumcise, and it is seen that they do just as the Egyptians. [4] But as to the Egyptians and Ethiopians themselves, I cannot say which nation learned it from the other; for it is evidently a very ancient custom. That the others learned it through traffic with Egypt, I consider clearly proved by this: that Phoenicians who traffic with Hellas cease to imitate the Egyptians in this matter and do not circumcise their children.  (Perseus Project text)
2.105.Listen to something else about the Colchians, in which they are like the Egyptians: they and the Egyptians alone work linen and have the same way of working it, a way peculiar to themselves; and they are alike in all their way of life, and in their speech. Linen has two names: the Colchian kind is called by the Greeks Sardonian1 ; that which comes from Egypt is called Egyptian