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Jewish Settlers in Arcadia

Oct 25, 2004
Author: David Livingstone

According to the research of the authors of Holy Blood Holy Grail, the dynasty of the Merovingians descended from the Tribe of Benjamin, who had been exiled to Arcadia in Greece. In support of this contention, the authors offer an account in The Book of Judges that refers to a war with the Sons of Belial for having ravished a Jewish maiden. The story to some extent mirrors the cause of the Trojan War, with the rape of Helen. Otherwise, the authors did little to explore further proof. Interestingly however, certain evidence seems to support the entry into Greece of a Jewish people, though not of the Tribe of Benjamin, but of Dan.

Homer’s Iliad tells us that the contingent of Greeks hidden inside the Trojan Horse, and who succeeded in taking the famous city, were Danaans, a people who were regarded by the Greeks as being originally Phoenician. Moreover, ancient sources would suggest that, if these Danaans were Phoenicians, they may have belonged to the Tribe of Dan.

Seafaring, for which the Phoenicians were renowned, is generally not a recognized activity of the ancient Jews, and there are relatively few references to ships and seafaring in the Bible. However, Raphael Patai, in The Children of Noah: Jewish Seafaring in Ancient Times, explains that the limited number of references to seafaring is due to the religious focus of the Bible, which regarded the subject of sea trade as irrelevant. He maintains: “this being the case, we are justified in assuming that, despite the paucity of biblical references, once their control extended to the Mediterranean coastline, the Hebrews engaged in shipping and fishing to no less an extent than the other peoples whose towns and villages bordered the Great Sea.”

1 Kings 9:26-7 states that: “King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-Gebner which is beside Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea in the Land of Edom. And Hiram, a Phoenician, sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of sea, with the servants of Solomon.” In the Song of Deborah, two of the twelve tribes are associated with the sea: “and Dan, why does he sojourn by the ships? Asher dwelt at the shore of the sea, and abides by its bays.” (Judges 5:7.) The Midrash of this passage explains that, in an hour of danger, Dan embarked his boats with all his belongings and fled across the Jordan for safety (Patai. The Children of Noah.)

Important evidence corroborating the role of seafaring in the life of the Jews was discovered in 1982, by an Israeli archaeologist, Nahman Avigad. The item in question was a Hebrew seal depicting a sailing ship that dated from the eighth or seventh century BCE. The curved prow of the ship ends in the shape of an animal, probably a horse, a type of ship known to the Greeks as hippoi, or “horses”. Because the ship had no oars, it could not be the depiction of a warship, but would most likely represent a merchant’s vessel.

In any case, the nations of the Phoenicians and Hebrews intermingled extensively, and Jews were so often committed to the worship of the gods of the Phoenicians, that they would, in effect, have been indistinguishable from each other. Therefore, Herodotus does not mention them, but discusses the “Phoenicians” and the “Syrians” of Palestine who practiced circumcision. (Histories, II: 104.) He further mentioned that, “these people have a tradition that in ancient times they lived on the Persian Gulf, but migrated to the Syrian coast, where they are found today. This part of Syria, together with the country which extends southward to Egypt, is all known as Palestine.” (VII: 89.)

The Phoenicians had become an important trading power in the Mediterranean, by the beginning of first millennium BC, and a passage of The Odyssey by the Greek poet Homer mentions: “Thither came the Phoenicians, mariners renowned, greedy merchant men, with countless gauds in a black ship.” (XV: 415-6.) Also, according to Herodotus:

“These people came originally from the so-called Red Sea; and as soon as they had penetrated to the Mediterranean and settled in the country where they are today, they took to making long trading voyages. Loaded with Egyptian and Assyrian goods, they called at various places along the coast, including Argos, in those days the most important place in the land now called Hellas. (I:1.)

The myths of the Greeks recounted the settling of Arcadia by Phoenicians in the story of Danaus and his daughters. Zeus, they say, loved Io, but out of jealousy, Hera turned her into a heifer and had her chased into Egypt by a gadfly. When in Egypt, Io bore a son named Epaphus, who in turn had a daughter named Lybia. She bore twins to Poseidon, and of these, Agenor went to Phoenicia, and Belus, or Baal, had twins, Egyptus and Danaus.

These twins each had fifty children, Egyptus sons, and Danaus daughters. A marriage was proposed between the two families, but was rejected, and all fled to Argos in Greece, where the Arcadians accepted Danaus as king. The sons of Egyptus pursued their brides across the sea, and Danaus pretended consent to the marriage, but ordered his daughters to kill their husbands on the marriage night and bring him their heads, which he buried separately. Then, Danaus found husbands for his daughters among the Greeks of Argos.

The other great branch descended from Io is traced back to Cadmus, the son of Agenor the king of Tyre. And, ever since late antiquity, writers have seen links between the Egyptian records of the expulsion of the Jews from Egypt and the arrival of Cadmus and Danaus. Heccataeus of Abdera, a Greek historian of the fourth century BC, set out his view that the settlement of Arcadia in the following manner:

“The natives of the land surmised that unless they removed the foreigners their troubles would never be resolved. At once, therefore, the aliens were driven from the country and the most outstanding and active among them branded together and, as some say, were cast ashore in Greece and certain other regions; their teachers were notable men, among them being Danaus and Cadmus. But the greater number were driven into what is now called Judea, which is not far from Egypt and at that time was utterly uninhabited. The colony was headed by a man called Moses.” (Diodorus Siculus. XL: 3.2.)

Actual archeological evidence in support of these accounts is found for the period of the invasion of the Dorians, a people of Danaan descent. Scholars recognize that the invasion of the Dorians may be connected with the controversial Sea Peoples referred to in Egyptian records, who assaulted most of Palestine, Asia Minor and Greece in the twelfth century BC. Their conquests marked the extraordinary collapse of Late Bronze Age culture, an onslaught that would lead to the disappearance of Hatti, the Hittite Kingdom in Asia Minor, and the fall of the New Kingdom in Egypt. An entire network of trade that bound together the Near East and its neighbors, including Cyprus and Greece, simply collapsed.

Some believe the Sea Peoples to have come from Mycenean Greece, and to be associated with the persistent enemies of the Jews, the Philistines, who settled in southern Palestine, or Philistia. Among the people mentioned in association with the Sea Peoples in the ancient records are the Peleset (the Philistines), Tjeker, Shekesh, Denyen, the Sikils, and Weshesh. However, the Philistines were one part of the group called Sea Peoples by the Egyptians, but an earlier contingent fought the Egyptians under in the late thirteenth century BC, and Egyptian records do not list the Philistines among them. More likely, the Philistines are related etymologically to the Pelasgians, the native population of Greece, said to have been displaced by the invading Danaans, usually identified with the Denyen, mentioned in the records of Ramses III.

Scholars also recognize the Denyen Sea Peoples, as one of the twelve tribes of Israelites, the tribe of Dan, or the Danites. As mentioned, the tribe of Dan was one of two tribes, along with the tribe of Asher, whose characteristic mode of trade was seafaring. Furthermore, it has been proven archeologically that the conquests of Palestine by the Israelites, as mentioned in the Bible, took place throughout the thirteenth and twelfth century BC, coinciding with the ravages of the Sea Peoples, though as Stager mentions:

“Archaeologists agree that dramatic cultural change affected not only parts of Canaan but also much of the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC). How much of that change was brought about by the migrations and/or invasions of newcomers to Canaan, and specifically by invading Israelites, is still an open question.” (“Forging an Identity”, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, p. 128.)

Nevertheless, a number of sites counted among the conquests of the Sea Peoples are identical with those said to have been accomplished by the Israelites, among them, Dor, on the coast of Palestine, mentioned in Joshua 12:23, taken by the Sikils in the twelfth century, and Aphek, referred to in Joshua 12:18, although, the Sea Peoples were known to have devastated a broader range of territory than that described in the Bible. However, though such conquests are not recounted in the Bible, the Jews were commanded to conquer all the lands of the Phoenicians, or Canaanites and their affiliate peoples, which included the Hittites, known to have inhabited most of Asia Minor, or modern Turkey and - if the Pelasgians were Philistines - perhaps as far as Greece.

The Trojan War may thus have been a conflict between Danites and Hittites. Archeology has confirmed that Troy vanished altogether by 1100 BC, and remained virtually abandoned for about the next four centuries, until about 700 BC, when it was newly settled by Greeks, and given the Hellenized name of Ilion. With the excavations by Korfmann in the 1990s, a seal was discovered, inscribed on both sides in the hieroglyphic Hittite script, the first securely identifiable example of writing yet to have been unearthed in a prehistoric level at Troy.

The Dorian Invasion was often termed “The Return of the Heraklids”, being a claim of descent from Hercules, as well as to Phoenician ancestors. The daughters of Danaus, as is maintained by Greek myth, all murdered their husbands, except Hypermestra, who spared Lynceus. He became king of Arcadia after Danaus, and was succeeded by his son Abas, whose twin sons, Proitos and Acrisios, contended for the throne. Acrisios finally prevailed, and when an oracle foretold that he would be slain by his daughter Danae’s son, he had her locked away in a dungeon. But Zeus came unto her, and she bore Perseus. Finally, Zeus declared that a son of the Danaan line of Perseus would become ruler of Greece, and laid with Alcmena to conceive Hercules.

The Phoenician origin of Hercules is relatively undisputed, he being regarded as the equivalent of the Canaanite Melqart, another name for Baal. Hercules is a species of dying god, in whose myth we find the descent into the Underworld typical of the Near Eastern gods. Like Baal, Hercules was associated with the sacred twin pillars, the Pillars of Hercules. Much like the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, in the temple of the “Phoenician Hercules”, Herodotus recounts that he saw two pillars: “one was of pure gold; the other was as of emerald which gleamed in the dark with a strange radiance,” and Burkert noted that, “…since Herodotus, the equation of Herakles with the Phoenician god Melqart has been beyond question, which is why the Melqart Pillars in the temple at Gadeira/Cadiz became the Pillars of Hercules.” (Greek Religion, p. 210.)

Moreover, as related by Herodotus, the Persians used to trace the ancestry of Hercules to Perseus, whom they believed to be an “Assyrian.” He maintained:

“… if we trace the ancestry of the Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, we find that the Dorian chieftains are genuine Egyptians. This is the accepted Greek version of the genealogy of the Spartan royal house; the Persians, however, maintain that Perseus was an Assyrian who adopted Greek nationality; his ancestry, therefore, was not Greek; and the forebears of Acrisius were not related to Perseus at all, but were Egyptian, which accords with the Greek version of the story. But there is no need to pursue this subject further. How it happened that Egyptians came to the Peloponnese, and what they did to make themselves kings in that part of Greece, has been chronicled by other writers.” (VI: 54.)

Ultimately, it may have been on this basis that, sometime around 300 BC, Areios, King of Sparta, wrote to Jerusalem: “To Onias High Priest, greeting. A document has come to light which shows that the Spartans and Jews are kinsmen descended alike from Abraham.” (Bernal. Black Athena, p. 110.) Both books of Maccabees of the Apocrypha mention a link between the Spartans and Jews. Maccabees 2 speaks of certain Jews “having embarked to go to the Lacedaemonians (Spartans), in hope of finding protection there because of their kinship.” And, in Maccabees, is written that, “it has been found in writing concerning the Spartans and the Jews that they are brethren and are of the family of Abraham.” (Holy Blood, Holy Grail, p. 27.)

David Livingstone is the author of The Dying God: The Hidden History of Western Civilization. Check out: http://www.thedyinggod.com





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