Thursday, June 2, 2011

Smiles and Veils

Remember Melqart from a few posts back yet over one ago?...time flies.

Genesis 3:4-5 "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

Who is Melqart? The Phoenicians called him "lord of the city" of Tyre. He was known to the Greeks as Heracles or Hercules the part-god part-man son of Zeus chief of the Pantheon of gods. It's likely, based on the writings of Josephus, that Melqart was a life-death-rebirth deity. Based on Phoenician temple architecture it seems that Melqart was also associated with the god Baal and goddess Ashtarte.

Votive statues from the Temple of Melqart in Cadiz

"Ba‛al can refer to any god and even to human officials; in some texts it is used as a substitute for Hadad, a god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven." Here we have another parallel to the Greek pantheon in Zeus. "[Zeus'] symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical "cloud-gatherer" also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, such as the scepter." Another parallel with Zeus is Baal's association with the bull and both are considered sky gods and storm gods associated with fertility.

Regarding Ashtarte or Astarte we have another potential connection to Zeus. "There is likewise in Phœnicia a temple of great size owned by the Sidonians. They call it the temple of Astarte. 7 I hold this Astarte to be no other than the moon-goddess. But according to the story of one of the priests this temple is sacred to Europa, the sister of Cadmus. She was the daughter of Agenor, and on her disappearance from Earth the Phœnicians honoured her with a temple and told a sacred legend about her; how that Zeus was enamoured of her for her beauty, and changing his form into that of a bull carried her off into Crete. 8 This legend I heard from other Phœnicians as well; and the coinage current among the Sidonians bears upon it the effigy of Europa sitting upon a bull, none other than Zeus. 9 Thus they do not agree that the temple in question is sacred to Europa."

Europa and the bull. Terracotta group from Athens, 480–460 BC.

The implication that Lucian is making here is that Europa is Astarte. Ugaritic text indirectly implicate Astarte as being the consort of Baal. To me this would make sense because "the Semitic high god Ba'al Hadad was depicted as a human, a ram, or a bull." So what we have here is Europa as Astarte, Zeus as Baal and Heracles as Melqart. We have Baal/Zeus as sky god or storm god causing rain which feeds life or fertilizes mother Earth. All of this should sound strangely familiar to readers of my post Congressional Medal of Semiramis. Also worth mentioning here is the interpretative method Euhemerism, that treats mythological accounts as a reflection of actual historical events shaped by retelling and traditional mores or in other words, turning men into gods.

What makes our trinity of Baal, Ashtarte, and Melqart even more interesting is when we compare them to Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Osiris' soul or ba was often worshipped in and of itself, was depicted as a ram or bull, and was referred to as the Banebdjed. As Banebdjed, Osiris was given epithets such as Lord of the Sky and Life of the (sun god) Ra, since Ra, when he had become identified with Atum, was considered Osiris' ancestor, from whom his regal authority was inherited." Interesting that certain aspects of Osiris were referred to as being a bull or ram and a sky god like Baal and Zeus.

"This aspect of Osiris was referred to as Banebdjedet, which is grammatically feminine (also spelt "Banebded" or "Banebdjed") which literally means The ba of the lord of the djed, which roughly means The soul of the lord of the pillar of stability. The djed, a type of pillar, was usually understood as the backbone of Osiris, and, at the same time, as the Nile, the backbone of Egypt. The Nile, supplying water, and Osiris (strongly connected to the vegetation) who died only to be resurrected represented continuity and therefore stability." Well look at that, we have an association with Osiris and pillar much like Baal and Melqart. There is also a patriarchal association with all of the above gods.

Isis, in the form of a bird, copulates with the deceased Osiris, observed by other romantic.

We have also established that Isis was associated with Ashtarte, Europa, and Aphrodite as mother goddess and mother earth. And we have Melqart and Osiris as life-death-rebirth deities. Another interesting parallel here is in Osiris as god of the underworld. "Because of the scanty evidence scholars vary widely on what kind of a god Melqart was. William F. Albright in Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore, 1953; pp. 81, 196) suggested Melqart was a god of the underworld partly because a god Malku who may be Melqart is sometimes equated with the Mesopotamian god Nergal, a god of the underworld, whose name also means 'King of the City." So why all the parallels? I'm going to suggest that our answer might lay in the title "lord of the city."

Tetradrachm of Alexander the Great as the God Amon; Artist Unknown

There appears to be a strong association between Egyptian, Phoencian, and Grecian pantheons in these three sets of familial triune gods. To me this implicates a common origin which may be explained through apotheosis or the elevation or exaltation of a person to the rank of a god. We've seen the apotheosis of Semiramis and of Egyptian Pharaohs as a convenient way to establish authority in ancient kingdoms. What I'm suggesting is that these mythological similarities may be partially explained as being part of some type of religious-political system that ancient monarchs used to derive authority and thus become the "lord of the city."

And ye shall be as gods...