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25. Sanchuniathon’s Account of the Golden Age (§§355-411)

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25. Sanchuniathon’s Account of the Golden Age (§§355-411)

355. [Note: two different forms of the name Thoth, viz. Taautos and Tauthos, appear in the following excerpt of Sanchuniathon, as in the Gaisford and Dindorf editions of Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica (abbreviated to PE infra). These represent two different characters. Taautos is the “First Hermes” of the later Hermetic tradition, and here in Sanchuniathon is the pre-Ouranid Thoth, the reputed author of the Phoenician cosmogony. Tauthos is the “Second Hermes” of later tradition, and, here in Sanchuniathon is the religious mentor of Ouranos’ son, Kronos. Contemporary with the latter in Sanchuniathon’s account, but in an inferior position as secretary of the same Kronos, is Hermes Trismegistos, the “Third Hermes” of the later Hermetic tradition, and grandson of the “Second Hermes.” Hermes Trismegistos is alleged elsewhere (in Peri Theon, Malalas lib. II ed. Dindorf p. 26 line 10ff. = text O 29, text V 10, Chronicon Paschale ed. Dindorf p. 85) to have tutored Sesostris III of the XIIth Dynasty c. 1800 BC.]

356. [EUSEBIUS: PE ed. Dindorf I. ix. 23] Philo then, having divided the whole work of Sanchuniathon into nine books, in the introduction to the first book makes this preface concerning Sanchuniathon, word for word:

357. [PHILO: PE ed. Dindorf I. ix. 24] “These things being so, Sanchuniathon, who was a man of much learning and great curiosity, and desirous of knowing the earliest history of all nations from the creation of the world, searched out with great care the history of Taautos [the First Hermes], knowing that of all men under the sun Taautos was the first who thought of the invention of letters, and began the writing of records: and he laid the foundation, as it were, of his history, by beginning with him, whom the Egyptians called Thouth, and the Alexandrians Thoth, translated by the Greeks into Hermes.”

358. [PE I. ix. 25] After these statements he finds fault with the more recent authors as violently and untruly reducing the legends concerning the gods to allegories and physical explanations and theories; and so he goes on to say:

359. [PE I. ix. 26] “But the most recent of the writers on religion rejected the real events from the beginning, and having invented allegories and myths, and formed a fictitious affinity to the cosmical phenomena, established mysteries, and overlaid them with a cloud of absurdity, so that one cannot easily discern what really occurred: but he having lighted upon the collections of secret writings of the Ammouneans which were discovered in the shrines and of course were not known to all men, applied himself diligently to the study of them all; and when he had completed the investigation, he put aside the original myth and the allegories, and so completed his proposed work; until the priests who followed in later times wished to hide this away again, and to restore the mythical character; from which time mysticism began to rise up, not having previously reached the Greeks.”

360. [PE I. ix. 27] Next to this he says: “These things I have discovered in my anxious desire to know the history of the Phoenicians, and after a thorough investigation of much matter, not that which is found among the Greeks, for that is contradictory, and compiled by some in a contentious spirit rather than with a view to truth.”

361. [PE I. ix. 28] And after other statements: “And the conviction that the facts were as he has described them came to me, on seeing the disagreement among the Greeks: concerning which I have carefully composed three books bearing the title Paradoxical History.”

362. [PE I. ix. 29] And again after other statements he adds: “But with a view to clearness hereafter, and the determination of particulars, it is necessary to state distinctly beforehand that the most ancient of the barbarians, and especially the Phoenicians and Egyptians, from whom the rest of mankind received their traditions, regarded as the greatest gods those who had discovered the necessaries of life, or in some way done good to the nations. Esteeming these as benefactors and authors of many blessings, they worshiped them also as gods after their death, and built shrines, and consecrated pillars and maces after their names: these the Phoenicians held in great reverence, and assigned to them their greatest festivals. Especially they applied the names of their kings to the elements of the cosmos, and to some of those who were regarded as gods. But they knew no other gods than those of nature, sun, and moon, and the rest of the wandering stars, and the elements and things connected with them, so that some of their gods were mortal and some immortal.”

363. [PE I. ix. 30] Philo having explained these points in his preface, next begins his interpretation of Sanchuniathon by setting forth the theology of the Phoenicians as follows:


The Cosmogony of Taautos

364. [PE I. x. 1] “The first principle of the universe he supposes to have been air dark with cloud and wind, or rather a blast of cloudy air, and a turbid chaos dark as Erebos; and these were boundless and for long ages had no limit. But when the wind, says he, became enamoured of its own parents, and a mixture took place, that connexion was called Desire (Pothos). This was the beginning of the creation of all things: but the wind itself had no knowledge of its own creation. From its connexion Mot was produced, [PE I. x. 2] which some say is mud, and others a putrescence of watery compound; and out of this came every germ of creation, and the generation of the universe. So there were certain animals which had no sensation, and out of them grew intelligent animals, and were called “Zophasemin,” that is “observers of heaven;” and they were formed like the shape of an egg. Also Mot burst forth into light, and sun, and moon, and stars, and the great constellations.”

365. [PE I. x. 3] Such was their cosmogony, introducing downright atheism. But let us see next how he states the generation of animals to have arisen. He says, then:

366. [PE I. x. 4] “And when the air burst into light, both the sea and the land became heated, and thence arose winds and clouds, and very great downpours and floods of the waters of heaven. So after they were separated, and removed from their proper place because of the sun’s heat, and all met together again in the air dashing together one against another, thunderings and lightnings were produced, and at the rattle of the thunder the intelligent animals already described woke up, and were scared at the sound, and began to move both on land and sea, male and female.”

367. [PE I. x. 5] Such is their theory of the generation of animals. Next after this the same writer adds and says: “These things were found written in the cosmogony of Taautos, and in his Commentaries, both from conjectures, and from evidences which his intellect discerned, and discovered, and made clear to us.”

368. [PE I. x. 6] Next to this, after mentioning the names of the winds Notos and Boreas and the rest, he continues: “But these were the first who consecrated the productions of the earth, and regarded them as gods, and worshiped them as being the support of life both to themselves, and to those who were to come after them, and to all before them, and they offered to them drink-offerings and libations.”

369. [PE I. x. 7] He adds also: “These were their notions of worship, corresponding to their own weakness, and timidity of soul.”

First Line of Pre-Ouranids

370. Then he says that from the wind Kolpias and his wife Baau (which he translates “Night”) were born Aion and Protogonos, mortal men, so called: and that Aion discovered the food obtained from trees. That their offspring were called Genos and Genea, and inhabited Phoenicia: and that when droughts occurred, they stretched out their hands to heaven towards the sun; for him alone (he says) they regarded as god the lord of heaven, calling him Beelsamen, which is in the Phoenician language “lord of heaven,” and in Greek “Zeus.”

371. [PE I. x. 8] And after this he charges the Greeks with error, saying: “For it is not without cause that we have explained these things in many ways, but in view of the later misinterpretations of the names in the history, which the Greeks in ignorance took in a wrong sense, being deceived by the ambiguity of the translation.”

372. [PE I. x. 9] Afterwards he says: “From Genos, son of Aion and Protogonos, were begotten again mortal children, whose names are Illumination [Phos], Burning [Pur] and Kindling [Phlox]. These, says he, discovered fire from rubbing pieces of wood together, and taught the use of it. And they begat sons of surpassing size and stature, whose names were applied to the mountains which they occupied: so that from them were named mount Kassios, and Libanos, and Antilibanos, and Brathu. From these, he says, were begotten Memroumos and Hupsouranios; and they got their names, he says, from their mothers, as the women in those days had free intercourse with any whom they met.”

373. [PE I. x. 10] Then he says: “Hupsouranios inhabited Tyre, and contrived huts out of reeds and rushes and papyrus: and he became involved in a family conflict with his brother Ousoos, who first invented a covering for the body from skins of wild beasts which he was strong enough to capture. And when furious rains and winds occurred, the trees in Tyre were rubbed against each other and caught fire, and burnt down the wood that was there. And Ousoos took a tree, and, having stripped off the branches, was the first who ventured to embark on the sea; and be consecrated two pillars to fire and wind, and worshiped them, and poured libations of blood upon them from the wild beasts which he took in hunting.

374. [PE I. x. 11] “But when Hupsouranios and Ousoos were dead, those who were left, he says, made maces the objects of a cult in their honor, and year by year worshiped their pillars and kept festivals in their honor. But many years afterwards from the race of Hupsouranios were born Agreus and Halieus, the inventors of hunting and fishing, from whom were named huntsmen and fishermen: and from them were born two brethren, discoverers of iron and the mode of working it; the one of whom, Khousor [var.: Khrusor], practised oratory, and incantations, and divinations: and he was Hephaistos, and invented the hook, and bait, and line, and raft, and was the first of all men to make a voyage: wherefore they reverenced him also as a god after his death. [PE I. x. 12] And he was also called Zeus Meilikhios. And some say that his brothers invented walls of brick.

Second Line Culminating in Ouranos

375. Afterwards there came of their race two youths, one of whom was called Tekhnites (“Skilled in Fashioning”), and the other Geinos Autokhthon (“Originating from the ground with the quality of earth”). These devised the mixing of straw with the clay of bricks, and drying them in the sun, and moreover invented roofs. From them others were born, one of whom was called Agros, and the other Agroueros, or Abrotes (var. Agrotes), he also whose image is much revered, and whose sacred abode is drawn by a pair of oxen; and who among the people of Byblos is named pre-eminently the greatest of the gods.

376. [PE I. x. 13] These two devised the addition to houses of courts, and enclosures, and caves. From them came catchers of wild game (agrotai) and hunters with dogs. They are also called Aletai and Titans. From these were born Amunos and Magos, who inculcated villages and sheepfolds. From them came Misor and Suduk, that is to say “Thoroughly Unraveled” and “Just:” these discovered the use of salt.

377. [PE I. x. 14] “From Misor was born Taautos, who invented the first written alphabet; the Egyptians called him Thouth, the Alexandrians Thoth, and the Greeks Hermes [viz. the First Hermes].

378. “From Suduk came the Dioskouroi, or Kabeiroi, or Korubantes, or Samothraikes: these, he says, first invented a ship. From them have sprung others, who discovered herbs, and the healing of venomous bites, and charms. In their time is born a certain Elioun called “the Most High,” and a female named Berouth, and these dwelt in the neighbourhood of Byblos.

379. [PE I. x. 15] “And from them is born Epigeios or Autokhthon, whom they afterwards called Ouranos (heaven); so that from him also they named the element above us Ouranos because of the excellence of its beauty. And he has a sister born of the aforesaid parents, who was called Ge (earth), and from her, he says, because of her beauty, they called the earth by the same name. And their father, the Most High, died in an encounter with wild beasts, and was deified, and his children offered to him libations and sacrifices.

380. [PE I. x. 16] “And Ouranos, having succeeded to his father’s rule, takes to himself in marriage his sister Ge, and gets by her four sons, Elos who is also Kronos, and Baitulos, and Dagon who is Siton [Bread, Corn], and Atlas. Also by other wives Ouranos begat a numerous progeny; on which account Ge was angry, and from jealousy began to reproach Ouranos, so that they even separated from each other.

The History of Kronos and the Conflict between him and his father Ouranos

381. [PE I. x. 17] “But Ouranos, after he had left her, used to come upon her with violence, whenever he chose, and consort with her, and go away again; he used to try also to destroy his children by her; but Ge repelled him many times, having gathered to herself allies. And when Kronos had advanced to manhood, he, with the counsel and help of Hermes Trismegistos (who was his secretary) [viz. the Third Hermes], repels his father Ouranos, and avenges his mother.

382. [PE I. x. 18] “To Kronos are born children, Persephone and Athena. The former died a virgin: but by the advice of Athena and Hermes Kronos made a sickle and a spear of iron. Then Hermes talked magical words to the allies of Kronos, and inspired them with a desire of fighting against Ouranos on behalf of Ge. And thus Kronos engaged in war, and drove Ouranos from his government, and succeeded to the kingdom. Also there was taken in the battle the beloved concubine of Ouranos, being great with child, whom Kronos grants to Dagon. [PE I. x. 19] And she gives birth, as his, to the child whom she carried by the impregnation of Ouranos, and which she named Demarous.

383. “After this Kronos builds a wall round his own dwelling, and founds the first city in Phoenicia, Byblos.

384. [PE I. x. 20] “Soon after this he became suspicious of his own brother Atlas, and, with the advice of Hermes, threw him into a deep pit and buried him. At about this time the descendants of the Dioskouroi put together rafts and ships, and made voyages; and, being cast ashore near Mount Kassios, consecrated a temple there. And the allies of Elos, who is Kronos, were surnamed Eloim, as these same, who were surnamed after Kronos, would have been called Kronioi.

385. [PE I. x. 21] “And Kronos, having a son Sadidos, dispatched him with his own iron weapon, because he regarded him with suspicion, and robbed him of his soul, by thus becoming the murderer of the child.

386. In like manner he cut off the head of his own daughter [viz. Athena: she was the sole surviving daughter up to this point in the narrative]; so that all the gods were dismayed at the disposition of Kronos.

387. [PE I. x. 22] “But as time went on Ouranos, being in banishment, secretly sends his maiden daughter Astarte with two others her sisters, Rhea and Dione, to slay Kronos by craft. But Kronos caught them, and though they were his sisters, made them his wedded wives.

388. [PE I. x. 23] And when Ouranos knew it, he sent Heimarmene and Hora with other allies on an expedition against Kronos, and these Kronos won over to his side and kept with him.

389. “Further, he says, the god Ouranos devised Baitulia [= “Bethels” or sacred stone pillars], having contrived to put life into stones. And to Kronos there were born of Astarte seven daughters, Titanides or Artemides: [PE I. x. 24] and again to the same there were born of Rhea seven children, of whom Most Youthful was offered up, and his life too, in a sacred ritual; and of Dione females, and of Astarte again two males, Desire (Pothos) and Love (Eros). [PE I. x. 25] And Dagon, after he discovered corn and the plough, was called Zeus Arotrios.

390. “And one of the Titanides united to Suduk, who is named the Just, gives birth to Asklepios.

391. [PE I. x. 26] “In Trans-Euphrates (note) there were also born to Kronos three sons, Kronos of the same name with his father, and Zeus Belos, and Apollo.

[Note: “Trans-Euphrates:” Gk. Peraia = Trans-Euphrates, as well as Trans-Jordan, Routh, Reliquiae Sacrae, 1846, II. 375, note to p. 244 line 17. That it means Mesopotamia here is indicated by the original location of Kronos and his children in Peri Theon in “Assyria” (= Mesopotamia), from which region they migrated westwards to Phoenicia, Africa and the Mediterranean coastlands. Peri Theon draws on traditions similar to Sanchuniathon in its account of Kronos. Elos is said to have been named Kronos (Saturn) after the planet, and planets move in a westerly direction. When Astarte, i.e. the planet Venus, and Kronos, i.e. the planet Saturn, traveled “round the world,” therefore, they traveled westwards, and the land where Elos-Kronos reigned originally, and where he left Adodos-Zeus and Astarte in power when he set off on his travels, was east of his ultimate destination in Thoth’s land, i.e. the “Land of the South,” Egypt, and also east of Phoenicia, since Astarte is said subsequently to have “traveled” there from the kingdom she had been given by Elos-Kronos. Historically, of course, Phoenicia received religious and cultural traditions from Trans-Euphrates, not Trans-Jordan. Lenormant interpreted Peraia here “Trans-Euphrates,” Les Origines de l’Histoire, 1880, p. 544.]

392. Opposed to these [rather than “contemporary with these”] are Pontos, and Tuphon, and Nereus father of Pontos.

393. [PE I. x. 27] “And from Pontos is born Sidon (who from the exceeding sweetness of her voice was the first to invent musical song) and Poseidon. And to Demarous is born Melkarthos [viz. Melqart, text: Melkathros], who is also called Herakles.

394. [PE I. x. 28] “Then again Ouranos makes war against Pontos, and he, having withdrawn, brings conflict to Demarous. And Demarous attacks Pontos, but Pontos puts him to flight; and Demarous vowed an offering to effect his escape.

395. [PE I. x. 29] “And in the thirty-second year of his power and kingdom Elos, that is Kronos, having watched his father Ouranos in an intermediate country, and got him into his hands, cuts off his private parts near some fountains and rivers. There Ouranos was offered up in a sacred ritual: and as he breathed his last, the blood from his wounds dropped into the fountains and into the waters of the rivers, and the spot is pointed out to this day.”

396. [PE I. x. 30] This, then, is the story of Kronos, and such are the glories of the mode of life, so vaunted among the Greeks, of men in the days of Kronos, whom they also affirm to have been the first and “golden race of articulate speaking men,” that blessed happiness of the olden time!

397. Again, the historian adds to this, after other matters: [PE I. x. 31] “But Astarte, the greatest goddess, and Zeus Demarous and Adodos, king of gods, reigned over the country with the consent of Kronos. And Astarte set the head of a bull upon her own head as a mark of royalty; and in traveling round the world she found a star that had fallen from the sky, which she took up and made the object of a cult in the holy island Tyre. [PE I. x. 32] And the Phoenicians say that Astarte is Aphrodite.

398. “Kronos also, in going round the world, gives the kingdom of Attica to his own daughter Athena. [PE I. x. 33] But on the occurrence of a pestilence and mortality Kronos consecrates his only begotten son to his father Ouranos as a fruit-offering wholly burnt by fire, and cuts his private parts completely off, compelling also his armed companions to do the same, along with him. [PE I. x. 34] After a not much different sequence of events, his child by Rhea, named Mouth [Death], once dead, he offers up in a sacred ritual. [Alternative translation: “And after a short space of time, he offers up a different child of his, named Mouth by Rhea, once dead.”] The Phoenicians thus denominate Thanatos [Death] and Plouto [the god of the Underworld]. [PE I. x. 35] And after this Kronos gives the city Byblos to the goddess Baaltis, who is also called Dione, and Berutos to Poseidon and to the Kabeiroi and Agrotai and Halieis, who also consecrated the remains of Pontos at Berutos.

399. [The following sections from Sanchuniathon’s other work, History of the Jews, have been relocated here because of the similarity of the subject-matter.] [PE I. x. 42] The same author, in his History of the Jews, further writes thus concerning Kronos:…. [Introductory section about Tauthos omitted here appears infra. §402, below, >>.] And soon after he says:

400. [PE I. x. 44] “It was a custom of the ancients in great crises of danger for the rulers of a city or nation, in order to avert the common ruin, to give up the most beloved of their children for sacrifice as a ransom to the avenging daemons; and those who were thus given up were sacrificed with mystic rites. Kronos then, whom the Phoenicians call Elos, who was king of the country and subsequently, after his decease, was deified as the star [i.e. planet] Saturn, had by a nymph of the country named Anobret an only begotten son, whom they on this account called Ieoud, the only begotten being still so called among the Phoenicians [Ieoud = Heb. iyd, “only one,” cf. Zechariah 12. 10-12, where iyd, “Only One,” “Firstborn,” and the Canaanite divine name “Hadad-Rimmon” are used as equivalent terms to denote a person who has died and is the object of a mourning rite, the god Hadad (Gk. Zeus) being the son of El or Elos (Gk. Kronos)]; and when very great dangers from war had beset the country, he arrayed his son in royal apparel, and prepared an altar, and sacrificed him.”

401. [The introductory sentence is repeated here to background the next section concerning Tauthos:] ([PE I. x. 42] “The same author [viz. Sanchuniathon], in his History of the Jews, further writes thus …:)

402. [PE I. x. 43] “Tauthos, whom the Egyptians call Thouth [viz. the Second Hermes], excelled in wisdom among the Phoenicians, and was the first to rescue the worship of the gods from the ignorance of the vulgar, and arrange it in the order of intelligent experience. Many generations after him a god Sour and Moubelos-Thouro [the gender of the latter is female], whose name was changed to Eusarthis [other reading: Khousarthis], brought to light the theology of Tauthos which had been hidden and overshadowed, by allegories.”

403. [PE I. x. 36] “But before this the god Tauthos imitated the features of the gods who were his companions, Kronos, and Dagon, and the rest, and gave form to the sacred characters of the letters. He also devised for Kronos as insignia of royalty four eyes in front and behind, but two of them quietly closed, and upon his shoulders four wings, two as spread for flying, and two as folded.

404. [PE I. x. 37] “And the symbol meant that Kronos could see when asleep, and sleep while waking: and similarly in the case of the wings, that he flew while at rest, and was at rest when flying. But to each of the other gods he gave two wings upon the shoulders, as meaning that they accompanied Kronos in his flight. And to Kronos himself again he gave two wings upon his head, one representing the all-ruling mind, and one sensation.

405. [PE I. x. 38] “And when Kronos came into the Land of the South he gave all Egypt to the god Tauthos, that it might be his royal dwelling-place. And these things, he says, were recorded first by Suduk’s seven sons the Kabeiroi, and their eighth [or, own] brother Asklepios, as the god Tauthos commanded them.

406. [PE I. x. 39] “All these stories the child [pais] of Thabion, the first hierophant of all the Phoenicians from the beginning [or, Thabion, who was the very first (reading the variant pamprôtos, instead of pais prôtos) hierophant of all the Phoenicians from the beginning], allegorized and mixed up with the physical and cosmical phenomena, and delivered to the prophets who celebrated the orgies and inaugurated the mysteries: and they, purposing to increase their vain pretensions from every source, handed them on to their successors and to their foreign visitors.

407. Ei Sirios [or, Is Iris, or, Eisirios, or, Isiris, or, Irios, or, Iris] was also one inventor [or, discoverer] of these [mysteries, viz. the mystery] of the three letters, being brother of Khna, who first was renamed Phoinix.

The Adaptation of this Scheme by the Greeks

408. [PE I. x. 40] Then again afterwards he adds: “But the Greeks, surpassing all in genius, appropriated most of the earliest stories, and then variously decked them out with ornaments of tragic phrase, and adorned them in every way, with the purpose of charming by the pleasant fables. Hence Hesiod and the celebrated Cyclic poets framed theogonies of their own, and battles of the giants, and battles of Titans, and castrations; and with these fables, as they traveled about, they conquered and drove out the truth.

409. [PE I. x. 41] “But our ears having grown up in familiarity with their fictions, and being for long ages pre-occupied, guard as a trust the mythology which they received, just as I said at the beginning; and this mythology, being aided by time, has made its hold difficult for us to escape from, so that the truth is thought to be nonsense, and the spurious narrative truth.”

410. [PE I. x. 42] Let these suffice as quotations from the writings of Sanchuniathon, translated by Philo of Byblos, and approved as true by the testimony of Porphyrius [Porphyry] the philosopher.

[Section omitted here appears supra.]

411. [PE I. x. 45] Again see what the same author, in his translation from Sanchuniathon about the Phoenician alphabet, says concerning the reptiles and venomous beasts, which contribute no good service to mankind, but work death and destruction to any in whom they inject their incurable and fatal poison. This also he describes, saying word for word as follows: [here follows the passage reproduced supra §154, above, >>, on the worship of serpents, which is PE I. x. 46-53].