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12. The Divinization of the King — 1. In Classical and Ecclesiastical Sources (§§91-94)

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12. The Divinization of the King — 1. In Classical and Ecclesiastical Sources (§§91-94)

91. The oldest source in the Sibylline Oracles, dating from the end of the second century BC, reflects a belief that the gods worshiped in Greece in the Classical period were originally deified patriarchs and kings of the early post-diluvian period. (For a translation of the relevant section of the Sibylline Oracles, go to §237, below, >>.) The god Ouranos (“Heaven”) and his spouse Gaia (“Earth”) the first of a generational series of gods in the “Theogony” of the Greek poet Hesiod, were, according to the most obvious interpretation of the Oracles, Noah and his wife. Their son Kronos (Saturn), who supplanted Ouranos in the Hesiodic myth, was Shem, the son of Noah; his brother Titan, the eponymous ancestor of the anti-gods or Titans, was Shem’s brother Ham; and Iapetos, the ancestor of the Hellenes or Greeks, was their brother Japheth. Titan (Ham) imposed on Kronos (Shem) conditions which allowed the Titans to kill Kronos’ male children. However, Kronos managed to circumvent the Titans and secrete away three boys, Zeus (Jupiter), Poseidon (Neptune) and Plouto. These three are dated in the Oracles to the generation of the twelve sons of Israel, i.e. c. 1800 BC, and the scheme most probably reflects the traditional identification of Zeus with Ninus (I) of Assyria, whose date in Cephalion is c. 1800 BC.

92. Elements of this scheme were employed around the same time (late 2nd century BC) by a Syrian scholar, Mar Abas Catina, whose work survives only in extracts quoted by the Armenian historian, Moses of Khorene. It is sometimes unclear in Moses’ account what precisely is to be attributed to Mar Abas Catina and what to Moses himself or intervening compilers. However it is implied Mar Abas Catina’s scheme featured three lines of patriarchs descended from the sons of Noah, identified, as in the Sibylline Oracles, with Kronos, Titan and Iapetos (Moses of Khorene, History of the Armenians, lib. I. capp. VI, §916, below, >>, IX, §934ff., below, >>). Mar Abas Catina seems also to have identified Titan (Ham) and his sons with the line of god-kings listed at the beginning of the Egyptian history of Manetho (op. cit. I. cap. VII, §925ff., below, >>). The first three god-kings were Hephaistos (Ptah), Helios (Ra) and Kronos (Geb). Manetho himself admitted these “gods,” and the semi-divine heroes (like “Anubis” and “Apollo”) who succeeded them, were originally kings of Egypt in the most ancient period of its history. The Biblical names were added by Mar Abas Catina or, less probably, by the compilers intervening between him and Moses of Khorene. The Egyptian god-kings and their Biblical identifications are listed in the history of Moses of Khorene as follows:

Hephaistos (= Egyptian Ptah) = Biblical Ham (a.k.a. Titan)

Sun = Helios (= Egyptian Ra) = Biblical Cush son of Ham

K(h)ronos (= Egyptian Geb) = Biblical Nimrod son of Cush

The list as cited terminates at this point.

93. In the pseudo-Clementine Homilies (for a translation of the passage go to §174, below, >>), amidst a complex of traditions dating in its earliest form to around the first half of the third century AD, the Biblical Nimrod is said to have invented fire-worship and finally to have been burnt to ashes by the very fire, or rather fiery demon, he worshiped. He acquired amongst the Greeks the name “Zoroaster” (understood to mean “Lively flow of the star”) as a consequence of this event. Nimrod’s identification with Zoroaster will be explained in a subsequent section. His charred remains were preserved by the fire-worshipers who followed his lead, and these remains were called Ptah in Egypt. Since the fire was believed to transmit earthly dominion to those who worshiped it, the first ruler of the Egyptians was, according to the Homilies, named “Ptah” after the fire. Compare the genealogy of Mar Abas Catina, in which Ptah, the Greek Hephaistos, the first of Manetho’s god-kings of Egypt, is equated with Ham, the ancestor of the Egyptians in the Bible. It is generally thought the Greek name “Aiguptos,” Egypt, actually derives from the Egyptian “Hikuptah,” meaning “dwelling of the soul of Ptah,” which was a name for the important city of Memphis in northern Egypt, near the modern Cairo (attested in the El-Amarna correspondence EA 84. 37 and 139. 8 ed. Moran). Accordingly, Egypt was also known as Hephaistia (the land of Hephaistos) in Byzantine times. (See §140.1, below, >>.) The Hebrews called it simply “the land of Ham.”

94. According to the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions (IV. 29) the Biblical Nimrod, the builder of Nineveh, was called Ninus (Ninos) by the Greeks: Ninus featured prominently in the “Persica” of Ctesias, and was represented by him as the founder of Nineveh. The Latin chronicle named from its description by Scaliger the “Excerpta Barbari” (MS. Paris. 4884. s.VII/VIII, ed. Schoene, Euseb. Chron. I [Berl. 1875], Append. VI, ed. Frick, Chronica Minora, vol. I, Leipzig, 1892), amongst traditions related to those found in a series of Byzantine chronicles beginning with John Malalas, equated Ninus with the Egyptian god Serapis (ed. Schoene p. 196). Serapis was a fusion of the gods Osiris (“Ser-” = Osiris) and Apis (“-apis”), and Apis was the animal “embodiment” of Ptah. So Nimrod = Ptah in the pseudo-Clementine Homilies, Nimrod = Ninus in the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, and Ninus = Serapis, a form of Apis or Ptah, in the Excerpta Barbari. Supposedly the city of Nineveh in Assyria received its name from Ninus. Nineveh means “Abode [neveh] of the Fish [Nin].” The city-name was written in cuneiform script with a combination of two signs: 1) the sign of a fish, and 2) the sign of a shrine (the “abode” of the deity), enclosing the fish. It was pronounced “Nina.” This was a divine name as well as a city name: the goddess Nina was the daughter of the water-god Enki, and the spouse of Nin-dara, Nin-dara being a form of the moon-god Sin. Nina was the patroness of the city Nina near Lagash in the southern marshes of Babylonia, and was the goddess of fishes. The goddess and the city-name were transferred at a later period to Nineveh in the north. The “old” Nina was the city in the southern marshes, the “new” Nina was Nineveh in Assyria. The goddess’ name means “enclosure” in Sumerian and is variously pronounced (Nina, Nin, Nenni, Nigin, Nanshe, Nash, Nazi, etc.), but most commonly Nina and Nanshe. The Sumerian word forming her name can refer, amongst other things, to the “enclosure” or “trapping” of animals and fishes, and is translated into Akkadian, the Semitic dialect of Babylonia, as “Saida” (the “huntress” or the “fisher”). As “Nina” she gave her name to the city Nineveh in Assyria, as “Saida” she gave her name to the city Sidon (Arabic Saida) in Canaan. The name of the goddess represents the concept of “fisher” ideographically by the symbol of the shrine enclosing the fish. No doubt the symbolism was also a pun on the name: Sumerian Nin (Nigin, Nanshe etc.) means “enclosure,” Semitic Nin (Hebrew Nun, Aramaic Nin) means “fish.” As also in this instance the enclosure is a shrine, the fish sign represents the particular deity who was believed to inhabit, or be enclosed in, the shrine of Nina. Since Enki was called “the Fish” (spelled with the same fish-sign as in the shrine, Nunu = Nin, “fish”) and was represented in the stars by the constellation Piscis Austrinus, the “Southern Fish,” which was known likewise by the Babylonians as the “Fish” (Nunu), it is evident this “Abode of the Fish” was really the abode, i.e. city, of Enki, represented mythologically as his daughter. The Greeks said the city was named after Ninos, i.e. after “Nin,” the fish. Sometimes they called the city simply “Ninos;” sometimes they used the fuller form “Ninuas,” i.e. Nineveh, “Abode of the Fish.” We shall find, in due course, that the fish referred to in the city-name, the god Enki or Ea, was called Kronos by the Greeks, and was identified with the Biblical Nimrod, like the Egyptian Kronos (Geb) in Mar Abas Catina. (See §318, below, >>.) Further he was equated with the Canaanite deity Kothar-wa-Hasis, the “Skillful and wise,” and he with the Egyptian Ptah. (See §145, 153, >>, §337, below, >>, §343.1, below, >>.) Thus Nimrod = Ninus (Nun, Nin, the Fish-god) = Enki/Ea = Ptah = Apis = Serapis, as in the Excerpta Barbari. The similarity between the histories of Ninus and Nimrod has been recognized by a number of authorities, e.g. Gerard Mercator already in the Renaissance (Chronologia 1568), and tends to confirm their identification. Nimrod was the first potentate on earth, according to Genesis, so was Ninus, according to Justinus’ epitome of Trogus Pompeius. Nimrod began his reign at the time of the founding of Babel, the primordial Babylon (Eridu), then proceeded out of Southern Mesopotamia into Assyria and built the city of Nineveh. So, according to Ctesias’ Persica, as preserved in the “Library” of Diodorus Siculus, did Ninus rise to power in Southern Mesopotamia, when the city later known as Babylon (the latter-day Babylon near Baghdad) was not in existence, and, after initial military successes, proceeded into Assyria and built Nineveh. Ninus, according to Diodorus’ account, reigned at the very beginning of Assyrian history and was followed by a series of weak and insignificant kings for over 1300 years till the last king of the line, called Sardanapalus (also spelled Sardanapallus).