Judith the Simeonite and “Judith the Semienite”

Published April 15, 2016 by amaic

by

Damien F. Mackey

The history books tell of various strong female characters – whether real or not – the accounts of whom seem to have picked up traces of the great Jewish heroine, Judith of Simeon.

One of these, Queen Judith of Semien (NW Abyssinia), reads somewhat like the biblical Judith, now transported in time (AD) and space (Ethiopia).

 

 

 

Judith Types Emerging Throughout ‘History’?

 

Donald Spoto has named a few of these “types” – {but many more names could be added here} – in his book, Joan. The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint (Harper, 2007). Spoto, likening Joan of Arc to an Old Testament woman, has a chapter five in which he calls her “The New Deborah”.

Saint Joan has also been described as a “second Judith”. See my:

 

Judith of Bethulia and Joan of Arc

 

https://www.academia.edu/8815175/Judith_of_Bethulia_and_Joan_of_Arc

 

Both Deborah and Judith were celebrated Old Testament women who had provided military assistance to Israel.

Let us read of what Spoto has to say on the subject, starting with comparisons with some ancient pagan women (pp. 73-74):

 

Joan was not the only woman in history to inspire and to give direction to soldiers. The Greek poet Telesilla was famous for saving the city of Argos from attack by Spartan troops in the fifth century B.C. In first-century Britain, Queen Boudicca [Boadicea] led an uprising against the occupying Roman forces. In the third century Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra (latter-day Syria), declared her independence of the Roman Empire and seized Egypt and much of Asia Minor. Africa had its rebel queen Gwedit, or Yodit, in the tenth century. In the seventh appeared Sikelgaita, a Lombard princess who frequently accompanied her husband, Robert, on his Byzantine military campaigns, in which she fought in full armor, rallying Robert’s troops when they were initially repulsed by the Byzantine army. In the twelfth century Eleanor of Aquitaine took part in the Second Crusade, and in the fourteenth century Joanna, Countess of Montfort, took up arms after her husband died in order to protect the rights of her son, the Duke of Brittany. She organized resistance and dressed in full armor, led a raid of knights that successfully destroyed one of the enemy’s rear camps.

Joan [of Arc] was not a queen, a princess, a noblewoman or a respected poet with public support. She went to her task at enormous physical risk of both her virginity and her life, and at considerable risk of a loss of both reputation and influence. The English, for example, constantly referred to her as the prostitute: to them, she must have been; otherwise, why would she travel with an army of men?

Yet Joan was undeterred by peril or slander, precisely because of her confidence that God was their captain and leader. She often said that if she had been unsure of that, she would not have risked such obvious danger but would have kept to her simple, rural life in Domrémy.

[End of quote]

 

Some of these above-mentioned heroines, or amazons, can probably be identified with the ancient Judith herself – she gradually being transformed from an heroic Old Testament woman into an armour-bearing warrior on horseback, sometimes even suffering capture, torture and death. Judith’s celebrated beauty and/or siege victory I have argued on other occasions was picked up in non-Hebrew ‘history’, or mythologies: e.g. the legendary Helen of Troy is probably based on Judith, at least in part, in relation to her beauty and to a famous siege, rather than to any military noüs on Helen’s part. And, in the “Lindian Chronicle” of the Greco-Persian wars, in a siege of the island of Hellas by admiral Darius, also involving a crucial five-day period, as in the Book of Judith, the goddess Athene takes the place of Judith in the rôle of the heroine, to oversee a successful lifting of the siege.

In the name Iodit (Gwedit) above, the name Judith can, I think, be clearly recognised.

The latter is the same as Queen Judith of Semien (960 AD). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gudit

 

Gudit (Ge’ez: ጉዲት, Judith) is a semi-legendary, non-Christian, Beta Israel queen (flourished c. 960) who laid waste to Axum and its countryside, destroyed churches and monuments, and attempted to exterminate the members of the ruling Axumite dynasty[citation needed]. Her deeds are recorded in the oral tradition and mentioned incidentally in various historical accounts.

Information about Gudit is contradictory and incomplete. Paul B. Henze wrote, “She is said to have killed the emperor, ascended the throne herself, and reigned for 40 years. Accounts of her violent misdeeds are still related among peasants in the north Ethiopian countryside.”[1]

[End of quote]

 

Interesting that Judith the Simeonite has a “Gideon” (or Gedeon) in her ancestry (Judith 8:1): “[Judith] was the daughter of Merari, the granddaughter of Ox and the great-granddaughter of Joseph. Joseph’s ancestors were Oziel, Elkiah, Ananias, Gideon, Raphaim, Ahitub, Elijah, Hilkiah, Eliab, Nathanael, Salamiel, Sarasadai, and Israel” … and the Queen of Semien, Judith, was the daughter of a King Gideon.

That the latter is virtually a complete fable, however, is suspected by Bernard Lewis

http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=314380:

 

Bernard Lewis (1): The Jews of the Dark continent, 1980

The early history of the Jews of the Habashan highlands remains obscure, with their origins remaining more mythical than historical. In this they areas in other respects, they are the mirror image of their supposed Kin across the Red sea. For while copious external records of Byzantine, Persian, old Axumite and Arab sources exist of the large-scale conversion of Yemen to Judaism, and the survival of a large Jewish community at least until the 11th century, no such external records exist for the Jews of Habash, presently by far the numerically and politically dominant branch of this ancient people.

Their own legends insist that Judaism had reached the shores of Ethiopia at the time of the First temple. They further insist that Ethiopia had always been Jewish. In spite of the claims of Habashan nationalists, Byzantine, Persian and Arab sources all clearly indicate that the politically dominant religion of Axum was, for a period of at least six centuries Christianity and that the Tigray cryptochristian minority, far from turning apostate following contact with Portugese Jesuits in the 15th century is in fact the remmanent [sic] of a period of Christian domination which lasted at least until the 10th century.

For the historian, when records fail, speculation must perforce fill the gap. Given our knowledge of the existence of both Jewish and Christian sects in the deserts of Western Arabia and Yemen it is not difficult to speculate that both may have reached the shores of Axum concurrently prior to the council of Nicaea and the de-judaization of hetrodox sects. Possibly, they coexisted side by side for centuries without the baleful conflict which was the lot of both faiths in the Meditaranian [sic]. Indeed, it is possible that they were not even distinct faiths. We must recall that early Christians saw themselves as Jews and practiced all aspects of Jewish law and ritual for the first century of their existence. Neither did Judaism utterly disavow the Christians, rather viewing them much as later communities would view the Sabateans and other messianic movement. The advent While Paul of Tarsus changed the course of Christian evolution but failed to formally de-Judaize all streams of Christianity, with many surviving even after the council of Nicaea.

Might not Habash have offered a different model of coexistence, even after its purpoted conversion to Christianity in the 4th century? If it had, then what occurred? Did Christianity, cut off from contact with Constantinopole following the rise of Islam, wither on the vine enabling a more grassroots based religion to assume dominance? While such a view is tempting, archaeological evidence pointing to the continued centrality of a Christian Axum as an administrative and economic center for several centuries following the purpoted relocation of the capital of the kingdom to Gonder indicates a darker possibility.

The most likely scenario, in my opinion, turns on our knowledge of the Yemenite- Axum-Byzantine conflict of the 6th century. This conflict was clearly seen as a religious, and indeed divinely sanctioned one by Emperor Kaleb, with certain of his inscriptures clearly indicating the a version of “replacement theology” had taken root in his court, forcing individuals and sects straddling both sides of the Christian-Jewish continuom [sic] to pick sides. Is it overly speculative to assume that those cleaving to Judaism within Axum would be subject to suspicion and persecution? It seems to me likely that the formation of an alternative capital by the shores of lake Tana, far from being an organized relocation of the imperial seat, was, in fact, an act of secession and flight by a numerically inferior and marginalized minority (2).

Read in this light, the fabled Saga of King Gideon and Queen Judith recapturing Axum from Muslim invaders and restoring the Zadokan dynasty in the 10th century must be viewed skeptically as an attempt to superimpose on the distant past a more contemporary enemy as part of the process of national myth making. What truly occurred during this time of isolation can only be the guessed at but I would hazard an opinion that the Axum these legendary rulers “liberated” was held by Christians rather than Muslims. ….

[End of quote]

 

What I am finding is that the kingdom of “Axum” (or Aksum) – in legends that seem to transpose BC history into AD time – can play the part of the ancient kingdom of Assyria.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: