[The AMAIC considers the Middle East – West comparisons of John R. Salverda as interesting, with some of them we think being very likely. But we do not necessarily agree with all of the following]
The Graeae and the Mountain
by John R. Salverda
As I have intimated previously, the Graeae have probably derived their name from a well known, in ancient times, Arabian People known as the Agraioi, who were Scripturally called the Hagarites. Although this great nation gets downplayed in the Scriptures, it must have at one time encompassed not only the Arabian Ishmaelites, but also the Keturite Midianites and even the Ethiopians and other Sabeans, all under the title of “Hagarite.” It becomes apparent that the Midianites of Mount Sinai were anciently considered as Hagarites, thus Paul, who wrote of an analogy between Mount Sinai and Hagar (at Gal. 4:24-26), had a precedent to do so. “The Hagarites,” known to Pliny (NH. 6,159-161), Strabo (XVI. 4,2), and Ptolemy (5.19.2), who called them, “the Agraioi,” occupied the wilderness of Mount Sinai and were largely of Ethiopian/Egyptian extraction. (From “John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible;” Gal.4:25 – For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia,…. The Syriac version makes Hagar to be a mountain, ‘ “for Mount Hagar is Sinai, which is in Arabia”: and some have been of opinion that Sinai was called Hagar by the Arabians. ‘ Hagar was the name of the chief city of Bahrain, a province of Arabia ‘ the wilderness of Paran, Gen.21:21 ‘ However, it is clear, that Sinai was in Arabia, out of the land of promise, where the law was given, and seems to be mentioned by the apostle with this view, ‘ . It is placed by Jerome in the land of Midian; ‘ Exo.3:1. And according to Philo the Jew, the Midianites, as formerly called, were a very populous nation of the Arabians: and Madian, or Midian, is by Mahomet spoken of as in Arabia; and it may be observed, that they that are called Midianites in Gen 37:36 are said to be Ishmaelites, Gen 39:1.) The Egyptians themselves referred to this people as the “Mitanni” (apparently the same word as the Biblical “Midianite”). They, as descendants of Abraham, believed in only one god, but it would be considered a dangerous heresy to even say such a thing in polytheistic Greece (thus the symbolism instead).
The Graeae are said to have had only one eye, and/or only one tooth between them, they used it alternately and were helpless during the exchange (The ancient mythographers, it appears, had some problem understanding how “two” separate nations could claim the same “one” god). The single eye refers to the single God of monotheism, and likewise the solitary tooth means the one word of god (the Law), thus, just as Perseus took these from the Graeae, at Mount Atlas, so Moses adopted these tenants under the crook of Jethro, priest of Midian, at Mount Sinai, as a prerequisite to freeing his people. The single eye of the Graeaes is not the only place where the Greeks have used this motif. Let us not forget those sun worshipping masons and metallurgists of antiquity, the Cyclopes. Because there is only one Sun, we are perhaps justified in seeing Sun worship as a step toward monotheism, especially as it was used among the Mithraic Persians, who claim themselves to be descendants of Perseus. Ahura Masda being the “one” god of the Zoroastrians, Mithra (sometimes identified with Perseus) himself could not have been originally thought of as a god but only as a type of Persian Moses, a mediator of the contract between God and men, a lord of the covenant (the Midian Baal-Berith). The eye is often a symbol of god, especially among the Egyptians, but also within the Chaldean sphere of influence such as the Assyrians, Hittites and Syrians where the winged eye was a widely used symbol of the deity.
Perseus visits the winged Graeae, the guardians of the Gorgon, at Mount Atlas, this was his first visit to the Mountain, where he learns how to get the magic purse. He returned to Mount Atlas, for his second visit, after he had obtained the head of Medusa. Moses, at the law giving, also makes two visits to his mountain. On his first visit he had a vision at Mount Sinai where he saw, before it’s actual construction, the “pattern” of the Ark of the covenant’s cover with the two golden cherubs bowing over, as if to protect, it. This was done so that Moses could oversee the accurate building of the Ark. Similarly, there was a town in Samos called Deicterion, where there was a “statue” of the three Gorgons. Athena took Perseus on a pre-adventure journey there so that he could learn what the Gorgons looked like, in order for him to be able to distinguish Medusa from her two winged sisters who protected her.
God would oftentimes appear to Moses seated upon the wings of the statue of the two cherubs (this was called the “mercy seat,”) that were sculpted on the cover of the Ark. “The Gorgons … had … wings of gold on which they flew. All who looked at them were turned to stone.” (Apollodorus 2.38-46) If an artistic rendering, or a symbolic description, of these appearances were ever to feature God in the symbol of an eye, then it would serve as the obvious origin to the motif of the winged Graeae having the one eye between them. Although he does receive a set of law tablets on this first visit, he breaks that set, and does not keep them. He obtains the commandments, that he will keep in the Ark, on his second visit.
For more articles by John R. Salverda on the Hebraic Connections of Greek Mythology, see:
“Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends”