All posts for the month May, 2016

Amenhotep and Amenemope

Published May 30, 2016 by amaic


 Damien F. Mackey



The suggestion may be worth making that Amenhotep son of Hapu could be the same philosophically-minded scribe as the Hebrew Proverbs-influenced sage, Amenemope, for whom (auto)biographical details are almost completely lacking.






According to the following article (, Amenemope [Amen-em-apt] “may have been a contemporary of Amenhotep, son of Hapu”, and, furthermore, the two names may be compatible:


2 The person of Amen-em-apt and his time.

► a poetical name & family for a wise man ?

The sage of our instruction is called Amen-em-apt, son of Kanakht, may have been a contemporary of Amenhotep, son of Hapu. He could also have been a literary figure used by a wise Ramesside scribe. Except for “overseer of fields” (1:13) and “scribe who determined the offerings for all the gods” (1:22), no other of the title cited by our sage are found on the monuments or papyri! His titles seem paraphrases in literary, poetical form.


Let us analyze our sage’s poetical name: Amen-em-apt, son of Kanakht, husband of Tawosre, and father of many children, the youngest being Hor-em-maakher, the recipient of the wisdom teachings of his father, a series of living pictures dealing with the “teaching for life”, enabling everybody to receive the greatest gift of god, namely Maat, justice & truth, nurtured on the Nile over many centuries.


“Amen-em-apt” (“Amun in Karnak”) can be found from the XVIIIth Dynasty to Ptolemaic times (Amenophis or Amenemope). It appears that several wise men of Egypt bore this name: “Amenemopi”, author of some proverbs written on the back of the Budge Papyrus, “Amenhotep, son of Hapu”, a learned scribe and counselor of Amenhotep III, and our “Amen-em-apt, son of Kanakht”.


“Apt” (“ipt”) means “count, calculate, reckon”. The name “Amen-em-apt”, ending with the determinative of “place” (O1), is suggestive of the controller of the measure and recorder of the markers on the borders of the fields mentioned in the prologue.

“Kanakht” or “Strong Bull” is unusual as a name, but a regular part of Pharaoh’s Horus name throughout the New Kingdom. “Tawosre” (“the powerful”) is frequent in the XVIIIth Dynasty and born by a queen of the XIXth, consort of Pharaoh Seti II. In the New Kingdom, “Hor-em-maakher” or “Horus of the Horizon” (Harmachis), was identified with the sphinx at Giza, looking toward the eastern horizon. The name dates as far back as the XIIth Dynasty, and seems to appear in the Saite period as well as in early Ptolemaic documents.

[End of quote]


Whilst the Egyptian names of the parents of Amenemope, Kanakht and Tawosre, differ from those known for the parents of Amenhotep, namely, Hapu and Itu, the latter two may be non-Egyptian names. For Amenhotep, I have tentatively identified as the Jewish king, Asa, whose father was (Greek) Abiu (= Hapu?), in Hebrew, Abijah:


King Asa Like Solomon a Steward for Pharaoh


Earlier in the 18th dynasty, during the reigns of the Thutmoside pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, the wisdom writings (Psalms, Proverbs) and (love) poetry of kings David and Solomon – and indeed various Torah precepts and images as well – had been overflowing into Egypt. See my:


Solomon and Sheba


And it would only be expected, if Amenhotep son of Hapu really were Asa, a descendant of David and Solomon, that such Hebrew influence would continue into the reigns of pharaohs Amenhotep III and IV Akhnaton – whose Sun Hymn, as we saw, famously mirrors Psalm 104.

Now the wisdom writing of Amenemope is famous for its resemblance to the Hebrew Proverbs. But, typically, scholars would give precedence to the non-bliblical writings. For example (


Scholars have long noticed the many similarities between the book of Proverbs, specifically chapters 22:17-24:22, and the Egyptian book The Instruction of Amenemope. While there have been different proposals as to who borrowed from whom, the general consensus seems to be that the Hebrew author(s) borrowed from Amenemope.

This ‘expert’ tendency sorely needs to be turned around!

There is a continuity here, because the instructions of Amenemope are also likened to those of Ptahhotep (biblical Joseph), who well pre-dated the Solomonic era.

Here in the very Solomon-like Proverbs of Amenemope, we may have some of the lost Instructions and precepts of Amenhotep son of Hapu.


Give thine ears, hear what is said, give thy mind to interpret them; to put them in your heart is good.


Bow down thine ear and hear the words of the wise and apply thine heart unto my knowledge (xxii. 17).


Remove not the boundary stone on the boundaries of the fields and displace not the measuring cord, be not covetous of a yard of ploughland and tear not down the widow’s boundary.


Be not covetous of the poor man’s goods and hunger not for his bread.

Set not the balance wrongly, tamper not with the weights, reduce not the portions of the corn measure.


Bring nobody into misfortune before the judges and warp not justice.

Ridicule not the blind man nor be scornful of any dwarf, render not vain the intentions of the lame.


Senenmut and Amenhotep son of Hapu

Published May 25, 2016 by amaic

 Statue of Senenmut and Neferure


 Damien F. Mackey



The career of Amenhotep son of Hapu seems to have been

closely modelled on that of Senenmut.



Amenhotep son of Hapu was a highly influential figure, whose fame reached down even into Ptolemaïc times. Horemheb, for one, may have been stylistically influenced by Amenhotep. For according to W. Smith and W. Simpson (The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt, 1998, p.195): “The large grey granite statue of Horemheb in the pose of a scribe … is related stylistically to those of Amenhotep son of Hapu … Horemheb has the same plump, well-fed body and wears a long wig similar to that of the aged wise man …”.

Who really was this Amenhotep son of Hapu, upon whom there were bestowed “unprecedented” honours, investing him with virtually regal status?


Statuary and Privileges


Joann Fletcher offers us a glimpse of his extraordinary power (Egypt’s Sun King. Amenhotep III, Duncan Baird, 2000, p. 51):


In an unprecedented move, Amenhotep III gave extensive religious powers to his closest official and namesake, Amenhotep son of Hapu, not only placing the scribe’s statuary throughout Amun’s temple, but also granting his servant powers almost equal to his own: inscriptions on the statues state that Amenhotep son of Hapu would intercede with Amun himself on behalf of those who approached. The king’s chosen man, who was not a member of Amun’s clergy, could act as intermediary between the people and the gods on the king’s behalf, bypassing the priesthood altogether.

[End of quote]


In light of what we learned, however, in:


Solomon and Sheba


the powers accorded by pharaoh Amenhotep III to his namesake, the son of Hapu, were not “unprecedented”. All of this – and perhaps even more – had already been bestowed upon Senenmut, the ‘power behind the throne’ of Pharaoh Hatshepsut. I have identified this Senenmut as King Solomon in Egypt.


We read in that article of Senenmut’s quasi-royal honours (compare son of Hapu’s “virtually regal status” above):




Hatshepsut’s Coronation


In about the 7th year of Thutmose III, according to Dorman [52], Hatshepsut had herself crowned king, assum­ing the name Maatkare or Make-ra (‘True is the heart of Ra’). In the present scheme, this would be close to Solomon’s 30th regnal year. From then on, Hatshepsut is referred to as ‘king’, sometimes with the pronoun ‘she’ and sometimes ‘he’, and depicted in the raiment of a king. She is called the daughter of Amon-Ra – but in the picture of her birth a boy is moulded by Khnum, the shaper of human beings (i.e. Amon-Ra) [53].

According to Dorman, Senenmut was present at Hatshep­sut’s coronation and played a major rôle there [54]. On one statue [55] he is given some unique titles, which Berlandini-Grenier [56] identifies with the official responsible for the ritual clothing of the Queen ‘the stolist of Horus in privacy’, ‘keeper of the diadem in adorning the king’ and ‘he who covers the double crown with red linen’. Winlock was startled that Senenmut had held so many unique offices in Egypt, including ‘more intimate ones like those of the great nobles of France who were honored in being allowed to assist in the most intimate details of the royal toilet at the king’s levees’ [57]. The rarity of the stolist titles suggested to Dorman [58] ‘a one-time exercise of Senenmut’s function of stolist and that prosopographical conclusions might be drawn’, i.e., he had participated in Hatshepsut’s coronation.



And, even more startling:


…. of special interest is the astronomical information in tomb 353, particularly the ceiling of Chamber A [75]. Senenmut’s ceiling is the earliest astronomical ceiling known. We are reminded again of Solomon’s encyclopaedic knowledge of astronomy and calendars (Wisdom 7:17-19). The ceiling is divided into two parts by transverse bands of texts, the central section of which contains the names ‘Hatshepsut’ and ‘Senenmut’ [76]. The southern half contains a list of decans derived from coffins of the Middle Kingdom period that had served as ‘a prototype’ for a family of decanal lists that survived until the Ptolemaïc period; whilst ‘The northern half is decorated with the earliest preserved depiction of the northern constellations; four planets (Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn) are also portrayed with them, and the lunar calendar is represented by twelve large circles’. [77]

In tomb 71 at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, · the sarcophagus itself is carved of quartzite in a unique oval form adapted from the royal cartouche shape. Dorman [78] says ‘… the sarcophagus seemed to be yet another proof … of the pretensions Senenmut dares to exhibit, skirting dangerously close to prerogatives considered to be exclusively royal’. Winlock [79] would similarly note that it was ‘significantly designed as almost a replica of royal sarcophagi of the time’,

  • one of the painted scenes features a procession of Aegean (Greek) tribute bearers, the first known representation of these people [80] – the only coherent scene on the north wall of the axial corridor portrays three registers of men dragging sledges that provide shelter for statues of Senenmut, who faces the procession of statues.

Senenmut had presented to Hatshepsut ‘an extraordinary request’ for ‘many statues of every kind of precious hard stone’, to be placed in every temple and shrine of Amon-Ra [81]. His request was granted. Meyer [82] pointed to it as an indication of his power.


[End of quotes]



Amenhotep son of Hapu, likewise, had some most imposing titles



Hereditary prince, count, sole companion, fan-bearer on the king’s right hand, chief of the king’s works even all the great monuments which are brought, of every excellent costly stone; steward of the King’s-daughter of the king’s-wife, Sitamen, who liveth; overseer of the cattle of Amon in the South and North, chief of the prophets of Horus, lord of Athribis, festival leader of Amon. ….

Several inscriptions outline his career and show how he rose through the ranks.

Amenhotep started off as a king’s scribe as mentioned on his statue:


I was appointed to be inferior king’s-scribe; I was introduced into the divine book, I beheld the excellent things of Thoth; I was equipped with their secrets; I opened all their [passages (?)]; one took counsel with me on all their matters.


After distinguishing himself, Amenhotep was promoted to the position of Scribe of Recruits.


… he put all the people subject to me, and the listing of their number under my control, as superior king’s-scribe over recruits. I levied the (military) classes of my lord, my pen reckoned the numbers of millions; I put them in [classes (?)] in the place of their [elders (?)]; the staff of old age as his beloved son. I taxed the houses with the numbers belonging thereto, I divided the troops (of workmen) and their houses, I filled out the subjects with the best of the captivity, which his majesty had captured on the battlefield. I appointed all their troops (Tz.t), I levied ——-. I placed troops at the heads of the way(s) to turn back the foreigners in their places.


Amenhotep mentions being on a campaign to Nubia.


I was the chief at the head of the mighty men, to smite the Nubians [and the Asiatics (?)], the plans of my lord were a refuge behind me; [when I wandered (?)] his command surrounded me; his plans embraced all lands and all foreigners who were by his side. I reckoned up the captives of the victories of his majesty, being in charge of them.


Later he was promoted to “Chief of all works”, thereby overseeing the building program of Pharaoh Amenhotep III

His connections to court finally led to Amenhotep being appointed as Steward to Princess-Queen Sitamen.

[End of quotes]


Official Relationship to Amon


The son of Hapu was, as we read above, “overseer of the cattle of Amon in the South and North … [and] festival leader of Amon”. ….

Now regarding Senenmut, as I wrote in “Solomon and Sheba”:


Historians claim ‘Steward of Amon’ was the most illustri­ous of all Senenmut’s titles. This would be fitting if he were Solomon, and Amon-Ra were the Supreme God, the ‘King of Gods’, as the Egyptians called him. Senenmut was also ‘overseer of the garden of Amon’ (see Appendix A). Like Solomon, a king who also acted as a priest, Senenmut’s chief rôle was religious. He was in charge of things pertaining to Amon and was ‘chief of all the prophets’. Solomon, at the beginning of his co-regency with David, had prayed for wisdom and a discerning mind (I Kings 3:9). On the completion of the Temple, he stood ‘before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, [he] spread forth his hands towards heaven’ (I Kings 8:22). Likewise, Senenmut is depicted in Hatshepsut’s temple with arms up-stretched to heaven, praying to Hathor, the personification of wisdom.


Thomas C. Hamilton has provided this most perceptive comment about Amonism (Amunism) in a revised context (


Amunism and Atenism


Akhenhaten is widely known as the “monotheistic Pharaoh” and his cult of the Aten has absurdly been described as the “first monotheism.” This ignores the abundant evidence that monotheism is the earliest religion of the human race, as was documented in detail by Wilhelm Schmidt in his twelve volume work on the subject, popularly summarized lately by Winfried Corduan. My intent, however, is not to complain about that. Instead, it is to present a revised view of what Atenism was on a revised chronology, largely drawing on the fascinating work of traditional Catholic scholar Damien Mackey.


I have pointed out in the past that the descriptions of Amun in Egyptian literature converge in fascinating ways with the biblical description of God. Amun-Re is a sun-god. The sun, of course, is one of the Lord’s chief symbols in Scripture, and the nations worshiped God as the “God of Heaven.” This is why the phenomenon of original monotheism is called the “sky-god” phenomenon. That a god was associated with the sun does not mean that he had always been identified with the sun. Indeed, I think the “fusion” of Amun and Re was the recovery of a pristine monotheistic religion. Just as Yahweh and El were two titles for one God, so also Amun and Re. Imhotep, whom I have identified with Joseph, served as High Priest of Re at Heliopolis.

[End of quote]


The career of Amenhotep son of Hapu in relation to Egypt reminds me in many ways of that of that other quasi-royal (but supposed commoner), Senenmut, or Senmut, at the time of Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Amenhotep son of Hapu is in fact so close a replica of Senenmut that I would have to think that he had modelled himself greatly on the latter.

Senenmut was to pharaoh Hatshepsut also a Great Steward, and he was to princess Neferure her mentor and steward.

So was Amenhotep son of Hapu to pharaoh Amenhotep III a Great Steward, and he was to princess Sitamun (Sitamen) her mentor and steward.

Again, as Senenmut is considered by scholars to have been a commoner, who, due to his great skills and character, rose up through the ranks to become scribe and architect and steward of Amun, so is exactly the same said about Amenhotep son of Hapu.

Each seemed to be a real ‘power behind the throne’.

Son of Hapu, like Senenmut, is thought not to have (married or to have) had any children.


Prophet Jeremiah and “Savonarola”

Published May 18, 2016 by amaic

Girolamo Savonarola


Part One: And Jewish Abravanel



 Damien F. Mackey


Savonarola bears some uncanny likenesses to the Jewish Abravanel,

both of these also sharing similarities with the ancient Jewish prophet Jeremiah.





Such can be the similarities in these cases that it would almost seem as if the biblical prophet Jeremiah (c. 600 BC) has been ghostly projected to the 1400’s AD in the form of the generic Jeremiah-like Jew, “Don Isaac ben Judah Abravanel”, who in turn can remind one of the Italian, Savonarola (1452-1498 AD).

The prophet Jeremiah appears not to have received a full martyrdom (despite the tradition that he was murdered – stoned to death, or poisoned), though he did suffer beating, imprisonment and near death in a cistern. The sorely-tried Jeremiah did experience many ‘martyrdoms’, however, and The Jerome Biblical Commentary (19:98) actually designates the substantial block of Jeremiah 36:1-45:5, as the “Martyrdom of Jeremiah”.

Savonarola was, for his part “a martyr of preaching”.

The name Girolamo (Savonarola) is just the Italianised version of Jerome, which is like Jeremiah. He, in fact, is often called Jerome Savonarola.

Now, Savonarola is thought to have had a Jewish contemporary, Abravanel, whose name has some similarity to the Italian name of Savonarola. The full name of this very Jeremiah-like Jew was “Don Isaac ben Judah Abravanel”.


A Jeremiah Type

The fiery Renaissance preacher, a Dominican friar, Fra Girolamo, pronouncing doom upon Florence, is a Jeremiah type, ‘coming in the spirit of Jeremiah’.

Commentators have readily noticed this. One has only to read, for instance, Savonarola’s purely Jeremian words (as taken from Jonathan Kirsch’s A History of the End of the World, Harper, 2006, p. 98):


I have sometimes thought, as I came down from the pulpit, that it would be better if I talked no more and preached no more about these things – better to give up and leave it all to God …. But whenever I went up into the pulpit again, I was unable to contain myself. To speak the Lord’s words has been for me a burning fire within my bones and my heart. It was unbearable. I could not speak. I was on fire. I was alight with the spirit of the Lord.


The prophet Jeremiah had sais almost identically (Jeremiah 20:9): “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot’.”

Just as striking are T. Cheyne’s comparisons between Jeremiah and Savonarola, in whom, he writes, “several of the old Hebrew prophets seemed united” (Jeremiah: His Life and Times, Google Books, pp. 203-205, emphasis added):




… I would rather compare Jeremiah with one who was mighty both in words and in deeds (Acts vii. 22), and whom a sympathetic poetess has painted perhaps more truly than her sister-artist in prose.’

Need I mention his name?

“This was he, Savonarola, who, while Peter sank With his whole boat-load, cried courageously, ‘Wake, Christ; wake, Christ!’ Who also by a princely deathbed cried, ‘Loose Florence, or God will not loose thy soul!’ Then fell back the Magnificent and died Beneath the star-look shooting from the cowl, Which turned to wormwood-bitterness the wide Deep sea of his ambitions”.

I admit that Jeremiah had not the hopefulness described in the opening lines; Jerusalem was a less promising field of work than, with all its faults, Florence was in the age of Lorenzo. But do not the closing lines give almost a reflexion of Jeremiah’s attitude towards Jehoiakim [king of Jerusalem]? Savonarola had, I suppose, a richer nature than Jeremiah. In him several of the old Hebrew prophets seemed united. He had the scathing indignation of Amos, and the versatility of Isaiah, as well as the tenderness of Jeremiah. He differs most from the latter in two respects in his emphatic reassertion of the principle of theocratic legislation, and in his ultra-supernaturalistic theory of prophecy, which disturbed the simplicity of his faith in his own inspiration. Again and again, however, in his latter days, his preaching reminds us of Jeremiah’s. “Your sins,” he cries to the Florentines, “make me a prophet. . . . And if ye will not hear my words, I say unto you that I will be the prophet Jeremiah, who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and bewailed it when destroyed.” Like Jeremiah, he had many a sore inward struggle; “an inward fire,” he says, “consumeth my bones (comp. Jer. xx. 9), and compelleth me to speak.” Like Jeremiah, he was no respecter of persons; he fought bravely, and outwardly at least was defeated. Like Jeremiah, he foresaw the end of the struggle. “If you ask me in general” so he said, shortly before he was burned at the stake, in the convent-church of St. Mark’s “as to the issue of this struggle, I reply, Victory. If you ask me in a particular sense, I reply, Death. For the master who wields the hammer, when he has used it, throws it away. So He did with Jeremiah, whom He caused to be stoned at the end of his ministry. But Rome will not put out this fire, and if this be put out, God will light another, and indeed it is already lighted everywhere, only they perceive it not.”

It was winter both in Jeremiah’s time and in Savonarola’s. Which was the more favoured of these two heralds of spring? I think, Jeremiah, because his prophecy of spring was fulfilled, after a brief interval, to his own people. ….

[End of quote]


And indeed there does seem to be a distinct Jewish-Israelitish connection with Savonarola (who some even suspect was Jewish). It is with his Jewish contemporary, Abravanel, who can be somewhat like a ghostly projection of the real Jeremiah. Thus Benzion Netanyahu asks (in Don Isaac Abravanel: Statesman and Philosopher?, Cornell University Press, 5th edition, 1998, as quoted by Mor Altshuler at Wed, January 19, 2011 Shvat 14, 5771. Emphasis added):


How did [Abravanel] this Jewish version of Savonarola, the fundamentalist monk who prophesied the fall of corrupt Rome-Babylonia, come up with the format for a democratic, constitutional Jewish state hundreds of years before one was established? Netanyahu believes he took his cue from the Venetian republic, which had democratic components not often seen in those days. Perhaps throwing off the yoke of this world made it easier for him to offer Europe in general, and the Jews in particular, an improved model of government that would only come into being centuries later. ….


[End of quote]


Netanyahu has even more to say about Savonarola as a veritable mirror-image of Abravanel. According to Todd Endelman (Comparing Jewish Societies, p. 85, n. 36, emphasis added: “Netanyahu notes the parallels between the prophecies of Savonarola and Abravanel. Often the only substantial difference is that one [Savonarola] is referring to the Florentines and Florence, while the other [Abravanel] is referring to the Jews and Jerusalem”.

Abravanel, then, is the prophet to the Jews, whilst Savonarola is a prophet to the Florentines. Hence Abravanel is the more accurate version of Jeremiah than is Savonarola because he, like Jeremiah, was an Israelite preaching to the Jews, and he was not physically martyred; whereas with Savonarola, a Catholic, he preached largely to the Catholics of Florence, with his life terminating in a real martyrdom.

But it is remarkable how closely the names accord: ‘Savonarola’ and ‘Abravanel’ (whose variants are Abrabanel, Abarbanel, Barbonel). He was a “Portuguese Jewish statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator, and financier of Lisbon and Venice” – belonging to a famous family of the time that claimed to trace its roots back to King David of the tribe of Judah.

The name ‘Isaac ben Judah Abravanel’ reads like (to me) a kind of generic Hebrew name, with the latter part, Abravanel, comprising Ab (father) Rabban (priest) and El (God). It may even be some sort of a title, since he is “commonly referred to as The Abarbanel”.

By de-Italianising the name, ‘Savonarola’, converting the ‘v’ to a ‘b’ and the ‘arola’ ending to a more Hebrew ‘arel’, we get Sabonarel, somewhat like Barbonel (Abravanel).

Due to lack of available data on the Jews of this time, a researcher such as Benzion Netanyahu has to attempt to tie together various disparate threads. Altshuler (op. cit.) tells of the difficulties here, where “Netanyahu takes advantage of the fact that he is a biographer, and hence endowed with hindsight”:


…. Jewish historical research is short on biographies despite their importance for understanding the spirit of the times, possibly because shifting attention from a person’s work to his private life was perceived as presumptuous in Jewish tradition. Source material from which one can assemble a solid picture of the lives of great Jews is rare. Benzion Netanyahu grappled with this paucity of Jewish sources by plumbing the archives of the European monarchies under which Abravanel lived, from documents on the Inquisition to the correspondence of Christian scholars. The outcome is a comprehensive, two-part biography divided into sections on Abravanel’s life with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the annihilation of Jewish life in the Iberian Peninsula, and the evolution of Abravanel’s thinking. Combining these elements in one book allows Netanyahu to examine the relationship between the events of the time and Abravanel’s spiritual outlook. The conclusion he comes to is that Abravanel, in the face of this cruel and senseless expulsion, began to despair whether the world would ever operate in a logical and just manner. This despair led him to give up his rationalist approach to history and to base his political theories on messianic theocracy, launching the age of Jewish messianism and heralding European utopianism. Useless fire and brimstone. In the same way that Don Isaac Abravanel was an admirer of Maimonides, but had no qualms about exposing flaws in his thinking, Netanyahu lauds Abravanel’s greatness but is not afraid to point out his weaknesses. As a leader of Spanish Jewry, he failed in his primary mission: alerting the Jews to the fact that expulsion was imminent and that a safe haven should be sought elsewhere, perhaps in the Ottoman Empire, which Abravanel, as a diplomat, knew was more tolerant. Abravanel’s nonchalance proved tragic. ….

[End of quote]


The key phrase in the above is (I think) “the evolution of Abravanel’s thinking”.

Of Jeremiah it could largely be said, as Netanyahu writes of Abravanel, that he, “in the face of this cruel and senseless [he did warn of it, though] expulsion, began to despair whether the world would ever operate in a logical and just manner. This despair led him to give up his rationalist approach to history and to base his political theories on messianic theocracy, launching the age of Jewish messianism and heralding European [read Jewish] utopianism”. This could be considered an ‘evolution’ of Jeremiah’s thinking.

Abravanel also suffered a tri-part loss like the prophet Job (op. cit.):


…. Don Isaac Abravanel was born in 1437 to a wealthy and influential Jewish family in Spain that traced its ancestry back to King David. ….

…. [Abravanel] lost everything he had three times in a row − once when he fled to Portugal after his father converted to Christianity and the family went bankrupt; a second time in 1482, when he was accused of participating in a conspiracy of Portuguese nobles seeking to overthrow Juan II and was forced to take refuge in Spain; and a third time, in 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain.


The prophet Job, too, like Abravanel, had famously suffered three catastrophic losses ‘in a row’ (Job 1:13-19).


…. Thanks to his diplomatic and financial skills, [Abravanel] managed to recover each time. Latin, Portuguese, Castilian and Hebrew − he spoke them all fluently. He was a Jewish scholar, an expert in philosophy, including the works of Aristotle and the Arab philosophers Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina − and knowledgeable in the sciences of his time − magic, medicine and astrology. His biblical exegesis put him on par with Rashi and the Ramban. His ability to spot contradictions in the writings of Maimonides led Rabbi Samuel David Luzzatto (Shadal) to describe him as the conqueror of the Jewish Aristotelians. As the author of a messianist trilogy, the historian Zeev Aescoly called him “the greatest codifier of messianism in his day”. If there was any Jew toward the end of the medieval period and the beginning of the modern period who deserved a royal title, it was Don Isaac Abravanel. ….



But what we also find is that Abravanel’s writings also greatly influenced Christians [certainly the case with the biblical prophet Jeremiah]. Wikipedia again:


…. Christian scholars appreciated the convenience of Abravanel’s commentaries, and often used them when preparing their own exegetical writing. This may have had something to do with Abravanel’s openness towards the Christian religion, since he worked closely with Messianic ideas found within Judaism. Because of this, Abravanel’s works were translated and distributed within the world of Christian scholarship.


His exegetical writings are set against a richly-conceived backdrop of the Jewish historical and sociocultural experience, and it is often implied that his exegesis was sculpted with the purpose of giving hope to the Jews of Spain that the arrival of the Messiah was imminent in their days. This idea distinguished him from many other philosophers of the age, who did not rely as heavily on Messianic concepts. Due to the overall excellence and exhaustiveness of Abrabanel’s exegetical literature, he was looked to as a beacon for later Christian scholarship, which often included the tasks of translating and condensing his works. ….

[End of quote]

Altshuler continues:


…. Many of the Jews of Spain fled to Portugal, falling into a trap: Juan II closed the borders and forced them to convert. Others were herded onto ships bound for the Mediterranean. Plague epidemics broke out on the overcrowded vessels, which were then refused entry to the ports of Italy. Only in Genoa were the passengers allowed to disembark for a short time, on a dock surrounded by water on three sides. “One might have mistaken them for ghosts”, an eyewitness wrote. “So emaciated they were, so funereal, their eyes sunken in their sockets. They could be taken for dead, if not for the fact that they were still able to move”.


Cf. Lamentations 2:10: “The elders of daughter Zion sit on the ground in silence; they have thrown dust on their heads and put on sackcloth; the young girls of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground”.


2:11-12: “Infants and babies faint on the streets of the city. They cry to their mother, ‘Where is bread and wine?’ As they faint like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers’ bosom”.


4:7, 8: “Her princes …. Now their visage is blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as wood”.


[Altshuler]: …. By the summer of 1492, in less than three months, the Jews of Spain, whose cultural achievements had been a beacon to the Jewish world for hundreds of years, were wiped out. ….


Netanyahu tells of Abravanel in words that could, in the main, be re-directed back to Jeremiah, but with one needing to replace all of the modern European history references now with ancient Jewish history and the Chaldeans. Thus the invader from across the Alps, Charles VIII of France takes the place of Nebuchednezzar the Chaldean invading from the north; Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ reminds (as according to Cheyne above) of king Jehoiakim of Jerusalem. Allow me to supply the parallels, of Abravanel, with both Jeremiah and with Savonarola:


…. Jews dwell securely in all the countries of Spain, feasting on delicacies in peace and tranquility.

(Jeremiah 6:14): “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying “Peace, peace”, when there is no peace”.


…. The alarm should have sounded with the onset of the pogroms of 1391, which was followed by waves of forced conversion and reached a peak when the Inquisition was established, 11 years before the final expulsion edict. Despite centuries of oppression, the Jews of Spain dismissed the dangers and became hooked on the illusion that the pogroms were a lightening rod that would divert the hatred toward the converts and away from the Jews. ….

(Jeremiah 7:4): “Do not trust in the deceptive words: “This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord”.


…. It is an intriguing tale about a man who soars high and falls low, who watches helplessly as ships [in Jeremiah’s case, probably carts] laden with Jews sail [roll] off to their deaths, and who hobnobs with princes and dukes in the palaces of Naples and Venice.

Jeremiah mixed with high and low alike.


…. The drama reaches a pinnacle in the final chapters: Abravanel, shattered and depressed by his people’s fate, disgusted with the vanities and temptations of this world, consolidates a pessimistic view of the world as Sodom and Gomorrah, fated to be destroyed in an apocalyptic war.

Cf. Savonarola: “After Charles VIII of France [cf. Nebuchednezzar II the Chaldean] invaded Florence [Jerusalem] in 1494, the ruling Medici were overthrown and Savonarola [like Jeremiah] emerged as the new leader of the city, combining in himself the role of secular leader and priest. He set up a republic in Florence. Characterizing it as a “Christian and religious Republic,” one of its first acts was to make sodomy, previously punishable by fine, into a capital offence. Homosexuality had previously been tolerated in the city, and many homosexuals from the elite now chose to leave Florence. ….

(Jeremiah 23:14): “… the prophets of Jerusalem … all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah”.

(Lamentations 4:6): “For the chastisement of my people has been greater than Sodom”.


…. His belief in the end of history is supported by intricate eschatological calculations proving that sometime between 1501 and 1513, salvation will arrive: An end-of-days war between Christians and Muslims will destroy evil Rome; from beyond the Sambatyon [akin to the Euphrates] River a Jewish army of the Ten Tribes will arise and take revenge on the enemies of Israel; the dead will return to life, and the Messiah, now revealed, will lead the last revolution − the revolution of the Kingdom of Heaven. ….

So did Savonarola foresee a New Jerusalem?: The reward for the self-sacrifice of the Florentines, he promised, would be the elevation of the city of Florence to the stature of the New Jerusalem, a model of Christian purity and the capital of the millennial kingdom.

And Jeremiah?: (Jeremiah 31:31): “The days are surely coming says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and the house of Judah”. (38, 40): “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when the city [of Jerusalem] shall be rebuilt … sacred to the Lord. It shall never again be uprooted or overthrown”


…. This era of geographical exploration and the sense of space conjured up by the New World, which contrasted starkly with the gloomy prospects of the Jews, prompted Abravanel to fantasize about a mythical solution for his persecuted people. In this Jewish theocracy that he predicted would arise at any moment, he envisioned a humane and democratic government in which everyone would have the right to vote; in which the judges would be chosen by the people rather than the king; in which officials would serve the public, not their superiors.

(Jeremiah 33:14-15): “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land”.


One has to ask why God would so favour the city of Florence of all places, so as to make of it a ‘New Jerusalem’. Jerusalem renewed, yes. Or Rome, the eternal city. These two holy cities. But Florence?


Like Jeremiah, Savonarola was a rather reluctant prophet.

He burned to engage in the work of saving souls, yet shrank for some years from entering on the priestly office. This might be ascribed to his sense of its responsibility and of the high qualifications which it demanded. No preparatory studies, no Church ceremonial, neither Pope nor prelate, he boldly averred, could make a man a priest; personal holiness, in his judgment ….

(Jeremiah 1:6): “Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a [Hebrew na’ar, usually translated as] ‘boy’.”.


As a result, Savonarola is always cast as being lambasted for being “ungainly, as well as being a poor orator”. But it was Jeremiah’s actual words that were ridiculed, with his listeners mocking his mantra: ‘Terror on every side’.


Jeremiah also, like Savonarola, had a disdain for both priests and prophets. And so did Abravanel (though supposedly of the Catholic clergy). Thus Netanayahu (Don Isaac Abravanel … p. 323):


An echo of Savonarola’s campaign against official Rome may be heard in the following statement of Abravanel: “All the priests of Rome and her Bishops pursue avarice and bribery and are not concerned with their religion, for the sign of heresy is upon their forehead”. (Salvations, p. 3, 4a).

Now this is again an entirely Jeremian image in relation to Unfaithful Israel (Jeremiah 3:3). “You have the forehead of a whore, you refuse to be ashamed” (the image taken up again later by St. John in Revelation 17:5).

Indeed, Savonarola called the Vatican “…. a house of prostitution where harlots sit upon the throne of Solomon and signal to passersby: whoever can pay enters and does what he wishes”.


But Jeremiah was, like Savonarola, virtually the only good man left, so he had to be chosen. “Search …. If you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth …” (Jeremiah 5:1).

Savonarola is supposed to have claimed: “It is not the cowl that makes the monk – being not only the highest qualification for that office, but one indispensable and essential”.

This qualification he is thought to have possessed in a pre-eminent degree. In no Church has there been many men so holy. Fra Sebastiano da Brescia, a very devout Dominican, who was vicar of the congregation of Lombardy, and for a long time his confessor, declared his belief that Savonarola had never committed – what he calls – a mortal sin, and bears the highest possible testimony to the purity of his life. …. Perhaps his reluctance arose also from the degraded position into which those who filled it had brought the sacred office. So openly abandoned to vice were most of them at that time, that he was in the habit of saying, “If you wish your son to be a wicked man, make him a priest !” ….


Savonarola, like Jeremiah, would suffer greatly for this: “Little did this gentle spirit, lover of peace as of purity, dream, as he entered the gates of the monastery, of a day when he would exclaim with Jeremiah, “Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife, a man of contention to the whole earth!” [a reference to Jeremiah 15:10]. But so it turned out”.

One could do worse than to view, in a Jeremian context, the apocalyptical warnings of Abravanel and Savonarola and their denunciations of the rulers and the clergy.


Early years

Savonarola’s stance against morally corrupt clergy was initially manifested in his poem on the destruction of the world entitled De Ruina Mundi (On the Downfall of the World), written at the age of 20. It was at this stage that he also began to develop his expression of moral conscience, and in 1475 his poem De Ruina Ecclesiae (On the Downfall of the Church) displayed his contempt for the Roman Curia by terming it ‘a false, proud archaic wench’.

Cf. Jeremiah’s references to Jerusalem and Israel as ‘playing the harlot’ (2:20; 3:1, 6, 8).


Finally in 1482 the Order dispatched him to Florence, the ‘city of his destiny’. He made no impression on Florence in the 1480s [supposedly because he was not a good orator], and his departure in 1487 went unnoticed. He returned to Bologna where he became ‘master of studies’.

Savonarola returned to Florence in 1490 at the behest of Count Pico della Mirandola. There he began to preach passionately about the Last Days ….

(Jeremiah 23:20): “The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his mind. In the latter days you will understand it clearly”.


Part Two: Candidate for Sainthood?


Savonarola a most controversial holy man.



Jesuits and Dominicans square off anew over Savonarola


NCR Staff

More than 500 years after being burned at the stake as a heretic, Dominican Friar Girolamo Savonarola — preacher of fiery apocalyptic sermons, de facto ruler of Florence and today a candidate for sainthood — can still stir deep passions.

A public tiff in Italy between members of the Dominicans and the Jesuits over the campaign to canonize Savonarola is the latest proof of his enduring power to divide.

Despite having called the church of his day a “harlot” and a “monster of abomination” — and despite charges of having administered a fundamentalist theocracy in Florence, Italy, analogous to Afghanistan under the Taliban — Savonarola seems a serious candidate for a halo.

Last year [1998] Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli of Florence convened a historical commission in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Savonarola’s death. Italian media accounts suggest the commission is likely to issue a positive report, which could clear the way for an investigation by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

This past summer L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, paid tribute to Savonarola. The paper called him “a tireless preacher for moral reform of civil society.”

But Savonarola still has influential detractors — the most visible of whom happen to be Jesuits, the old rivals of the monk’s Dominican order.

An editorial in the 1999 New Year issue of the influential Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica said that “an indiscriminate revisionist spirit” was at work in the effort to rehabilitate the controversial monk.

He was a “contradictory man who inspired opposing passions,” the magazine said. He was capable of “deceit.” It is “probably impossible to give a definitive opinion” about him, the article concluded — strongly hinting that the requisite certainty of Savonarola’s holiness could not be found.

Jesuits ‘deceived’?

In an interview with an English journalist, Jesuit Fr. Ferdinando Castelli, a writer for La Civiltà Cattolica, was more direct. “He rebelled against ecclesiastical authority,” he said of Savonarola. “We do not believe that he was a religious man worthy of sanctification,” Castelli told London’s Daily Telegraph on Jan. 7.

Meanwhile the Italian newspaper La Stampa quoted a Dominican member of the historical commission in Florence on Jan. 2 as saying that it might be the Jesuits who are “deceived.”

“Savonarola was not a heretic but was burnt for his obstinate fidelity to the gospel,” Fr. Tito Centi said. “He stood against the atrocious agents of Alexander VI, who inflicted every type of persecution on the friar in order to remove him, even unto death.”

“The Jesuits have been anti-Savonarola from the foundations of their order,” Centi said, referring to Ignatius of Loyola’s insistence that Savonarola’s works be burned. Ignatius saw Savonarola as an enemy of the papacy.

The work of the historical commission to date has shown that “the old suspicions of the Jesuits are totally unfounded,” Centi told La Stampa. “These charges repeated over the centuries can be discounted, though they are disagreeable because they come from brothers in the faith.”

Centi’s criticism was echoed by Professor Claudio Leonardi, a Florentine advocate of Savonarola, who also spoke to the Daily Telegraph. “Whoever wrote the [La Civiltà Cattolica] article … has never read the works of Savonarola and was influenced more by subjective considerations than historic reality,” he said.

Such divided opinions reflect the complexities of Savonarola’s life and legacy. From 1494-1498, Savonarola’s followers controlled Florence after they chased out the successor to Lorenzo (de Medici) the Magnificent. During those four years the city was rocked by running clashes between the pro- and anti-Savonarola factions.

Savonarola captured hearts as a preacher. His powerful apocalyptic visions warned that God would soon scour the world and that Florence, God’s chosen city, had better be ready. Contemporaries speak of the spellbinding power of these sermons; Savonarola’s followers were called piagnoni, or weepers, because he so often moved them to tears.

As evidence of his powerful charisma, Savonarola managed to convince the highly humanistic Florentines to surrender their mirrors, dice, cards, cosmetics and nude paintings and burn them all in the Piazza di Signoria in a towering bonfire of the vanities. He also demanded repression of homosexuals. It is these aspects of his reign that have led to comparisons with the Taliban or to Iran under the ayatollahs.

But Savonarola was also an early democrat, pushing for the creation of a citizen’s council that would form city policy.

He was also a friend to the poor. Under Savonarola, the city created a building society that offered loans at rates well below what was demanded by Florence’s private bankers — 5 to 7 percent, as opposed to the 32.5 percent that had been standard practice under the de Medicis. One of the charges that led to Savonarola’s downfall was that he impoverished the city by refusing to ever turn away a beggar.

He also patronized the famous painters of his day. Michelangelo would later say that when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it was the sermons of Savonarola he heard in his mind.

Savanarola was a fierce critic of ecclesiastical corruption, and this is perhaps the most contested aspect of his legacy for those proposing to canonize him. He referred to Alexander VI as a “broken tool,” accusing the pope of practicing simony and of dubious personal morality. He defied the pope by aligning Florence with the French king, Charles, rather than the “Holy Alliance” of Italian city-states championed by Alexander. Toward the end, Savonarola called for a church council that would depose Alexander.

There was never serious question about Savonarola’s doctrine — his chief theological work, The Triumph of the Cross, is widely viewed as orthodox. In 1558, Pope Paul IV — who had served in the court of Alexander VI — said that Savonarola was not a heretic. The question for examiners today is not doctrinal but disciplinary: whether Savonarola defied the authority of the pope in impermissible fashion.

In English the name of Savonarola may be synonymous with religious fanaticism, but many Italians, and Florentines in particular, have a different image.

In an age of corruption, Savonarola represented honest government, making him something of a patron for the current Italian drive to break the grip of cronyism and political patronage that has long dominated their politics.

In a move laden with symbolism, prosecutor Gherardo Colombo took part in a ceremony in Florence on May 23, 1998, marking the anniversary of Savonarola’s death. Colombo is a key figure in Italy’s “clean hands” anti-graft campaign.

Popular with reformers

Savonarola also defended rule by the people against the feudal dynasties and papal politics that for centuries impeded Italian nationalism. As an ecclesial dissenter, Savonarola is popular among today’s Catholics who believe the church could stand some reform.

There are even those who argue that had the Renaissance papacy been a bit more open to Savonarola’s critique, the church might have been spared the agony of the Protestant Reformation.

Whatever the case, Savonarola’s most ardent supporters seem unlikely to be discouraged by anything historical research might uncover. He was a “man of faith who loved Jesus Christ,” according to Dominican Fr. Armando Verde in the International Herald Tribune. Savonarola may have made compromises in the rough-and-tumble of Florentine politics, Verde said, “but on the ethical and spiritual level, absolutely never.”

National Catholic Reporter, January 22, 1999

Such fiery preaching was not uncommon at the time, but a series of circumstances quickly brought Savonarola great success. The first disaster to give credibility to Savonarola’s apocalyptic message was the Medici family’s weakening grip on power owing to the French-Italian wars.

In Jeremiah’s age, the troubles began firstly with the Egyptians and then the Chaldeans.

The flowering of expensive Renaissance art and culture paid for by wealthy Italian families now seemed to mock the growing misery in Italy, creating a backlash of resentment among the people.

The second disaster was the appearance of syphilis (or the “French pox”). Finally, the year 1500 was approaching, which may have brought about a mood of millennialism. In minds of many, the Last Days were impending and Savonarola was the prophet of the day.[1] His parish church in San Marco was crowded to over-flowing during his celebration of Mass and at his sermons. Savonarola was a preacher, not a theologian. He preached that Christian life involved being good and practicing the virtues. He did not seek to create a religious group separate from the Catholic Church. Rather, he wanted to correct the transgressions of worldly popes and secularized members of the Church’s wayward Curia. Lorenzo de Medici, the previous ruler of Florence and patron of many Renaissance artists, was also a former patron of Savonarola. Eventually, Lorenzo and his son Piero de Medici became targets of Savonarola’s preaching.

[End of quote]


Now, continuing on from Part One:


Leader of Florence

In 1497, he and his followers carried out the Bonfire of the Vanities. They sent boys from door to door collecting items associated with moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, lewd pictures, pagan books, immoral sculptures (which he wanted to be replaced by statues of the saints and modest depictions of biblical scenes), gaming tables, chess pieces, lutes and other musical instruments, fine dresses, women’s hats, and the works of immoral and ancient poets, and burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence.[2] Many fine Florentine Renaissance artworks were lost in Savonarola’s notorious bonfires — including paintings by Sandro Botticelli, which he is alleged to have thrown into the fires himself.[3]

Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 6:27-30 (testing with fire):

‘I have made you a tester of metals among my people,

that you may know and test their ways.

They are all stubbornly rebellious,

fgoing about with slanders;

they are bronze and iron;

all of them act corruptly.

The bellows blow fiercely;

the lead is consumed by the fire;

in vain the refining goes on,

for the wicked are not removed.

Rejected silver they are called,

for the Lord has rejected them’.


Florence soon became tired of Savonarola because of the city’s continual political and economic miseries partially derived from Savonarola’s opposition to trading and making money. When a Franciscan preacher challenged him to a trial by fire in the city centre and he declined, his following began to dissipate.

During his Ascension Day sermon on May 4, 1497, bands of youths rioted, and the riot became a revolt: dancing and singing taverns reopened, and men again dared to gamble publicly.


Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 16:8-13:


‘And do not enter a house where there is feasting and sit down to eat and drink. For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Before your eyes and in your days I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in this place. When you tell these people all this and they ask you, ‘Why has the Lord decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?’ then say to them, ‘It is because your ancestors forsook me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. But you have behaved more wickedly than your ancestors. See how all of you are following the stubbornness of your evil hearts instead of obeying me. So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’


Excommunication and execution


On May 13, 1497, the rigorous Father Savonarola was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI, and in 1498, Alexander demanded his arrest and execution.


Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 20:1-3:


Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord. The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, ‘The Lord does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side’.


On April 8, a crowd attacked the Convent of San Marco. A bloody struggle ensued, during which several of Savonarola’s guards and religious supporters were killed. Savonarola surrendered along with Fra Domenico da Pescia and Fra Silvestro, his two closest associates. Savonarola was faced with charges such as heresy, uttering prophecies, sedition, and other crimes, called religious errors by the Borgia pope. During the next few weeks all three were tortured on the rack, the torturers sparing only Savonarola’s right arm in order that he might be able to sign his confession. All three signed confessions, Savonarola doing so sometime prior to May 8. On that day he completed a written meditation on the Miserere mei, Psalm 50, entitled Infelix ego, in which he pleaded with God for mercy for his physical weakness in confessing to crimes he believed he did not commit. On the day of his execution, May 23, 1498, he was still working on another meditation, this one on Psalm 31, entitled Tristitia obsedit me.[4] On the day of his execution he was taken out to the Piazza della Signoria along with Fra Silvestro and Fra Domenico da Pescia. The three were ritually stripped of their clerical vestments, degraded as “heretics and schismatics”, and given over to the secular authorities to be burned. The three were hanged in chains from a single cross and an enormous fire was lit beneath them. They were thereby executed in the same place where the “Bonfire of the Vanities” had been lit, and in the same manner that Savonarola had condemned other criminals himself during his own reign in Florence. Jacopo Nardi, who recorded the incident in his Istorie della città di Firenze, wrote that his executioner lit the flame exclaiming, “The one who wanted to burn me is now himself put to the flames.” Luca Landucci, who was present, wrote in his diary that the burning took several hours, and that the remains were several times broken apart and mixed with brushwood so that not the slightest piece could be later recovered, as the ecclesiastical authorities did not want Savonarola’s followers to have any relics for a future generation of the rigorist preacher they considered a saint. The ashes of the three were afterwards thrown in the Arno beside the Ponte Vecchio.[5]

Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince, also witnessed and wrote about the execution. Subsequently, Florence was governed along more traditional republican lines, until the return of the Medici in 1512. ….


According to J. Kirsch (A History of the End of the World, Harper, 2006, pp. 166-169):


…. So it was that a sermonizer might seek to set his audience afire with terrors [cf. Jeremiah’s mantra: ‘Terror on Every Side’] and yearnings and end up in the flames of his own making. Such was the fate of a man who has been called “a martyr of prophecy,” Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), perhaps the single most famous (or notorious) [167] of the apocalyptic radicals. …. Florence was destined to be the New Jerusalem, or so Savonarola believed and preached, and he saw it as his divine mission to make it so. At a moment in history when Europe was afflicted by “presages, phantoms and astrological conjunctions of dreadful import,” as one contemporary chronicler put it, the Florentines were a ready and willing audience.”


Kirsch now proceeds to liken Savonarola to the author of the Book of Revelation, a book whose obscure “symbols” another author, Larry Richards (The Book of Revelation: will endeavour to interpret from the Book of Jeremiah:


Like the author of Revelation, Savonarola was a self-appointed soldier in a culture war.

The Dominican friar detested what he called “the perversities and the extreme evil of these blind peoples amongst whom virtue is reduced to zero and vice triumphs on every hand”… – that is, the worldly ways of life and art that are seen today as the glory of the Renaissance. And, just as John denounced the pleasures and treasures of Roman [sic] paganism (“Cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet …”) … Savonarola condemned the opulent lives of the Roman Catholic clergy. “You have been to Rome,” he declared. “Well, then, you must know something of the lives of these priests. They have courtesans, squires, horses, dogs. [Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 3:2: “You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness”]. Their houses are filled with carpets, silks, perfumes, servants. Their pride fills the world. Their avarice matches their pride. All they do, they do for money.” …. [Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 48:29: “… exceeding proud … loftiness … and … arrogancy … and … pride, and … haughtiness of … heart”].

Savonarola, again like the author of Revelation, was a gifted and powerful preacher, and his sermons “ignited a fireball of religious panic that heated even the city’s most urbane minds,” according to cultural historian Robin Barnes. …. His public lectures on the book of Revelation were so popular, in fact, that he was forced to move to ever-larger quarters in order to accommodate the crowds. They took to heart his warning that the end of the world was near: “torrents of blood,” “a terrible famine,” and “a fierce pestilence” awaited the sinners. …. And they surely thrilled at the sight of a seer in action: “My reasons for announcing these scourges and calamities are founded on the Word of God,” ranted Savonarola in one of his white-hot sermons. “1 have seen a sign in the heavens. Not a cross this time, but a sword. It’s the Lord’s terrible swift sword which will strike the earth!” [Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 14:12: ‘I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence’].  …. [Jeremiah has many references to the sword of slaughter (2:30; 4:10; 5:12; 9:16; 12:12, etc, etc)].

Above all, Savonarola commanded his congregation to forgo the pleasures of the flesh in anticipation of the Day of Judgment. “Sodomy is Florence’s besetting sin,” declared Savonarola, who complained that “a young boy cannot walk in the streets without of falling into evil hands.”‘ …. But he was no less punishing when it came to the sexual excesses of women, real [168] or imagined. “Big flabby hunks of fat you are with your dyed hair, your high-rouged cheeks and eyelids smeared with charcoal,” he railed. “Your perfumes poison the air of our streets and parks. Not content with being the concubines of laymen and debauching young boys, you are running after priests and monks in order to catch them in your nets and involve them in your filthy intrigues.” [Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 4:30: “What are you doing, you devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and put on jewels of gold? Why highlight your eyes with makeup? You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they want to kill you”].

…. And he laid the same charge against the pope and the clergy: “Come here, you blasphemy of a church!” he sermonized, making good use of the catchphrases of Revelation. “Your lust has made of you a brazenfaced whore. [Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 3:3: “… you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame]. Worse than beasts are you, who have made yourself into an unspeakable monster!” …. ‘ ….

“Tell him,” said he to a deputation who, at the instigation of Lorenzo – determined to silence Savonarola by fair means or foul – came urging him to leave Florence, “Tell him that he is the first man in the city, and I am but a poor friar; nevertheless, it is he who has to go from hence, and I who have to stay; tell him that he should repent of his sins, for God has ordained the punishment of him and his.” So it happened, I may remark, not long afterwards when the house of the Medici fell, and the sceptre departed from their hands.

Cf. Jeremiah 21:1-8: “This is the Word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malchiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, saying, ‘Please inquire of the Lord on our behalf, for King Nebuchedrezzar of Babylon is making war against us …”.

Then Jeremiah said to them: ‘Thus you shall say to Zedekiah: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel; I am going to turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls; and I will bring them together into the center of this city. I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and mighty arm, in anger, in fury, and in great wrath. And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both human beings and animals; they shall die of a great pestilence. Afterward, says the Lord, I will give King Zedekiah of Judah, and his servants, and the people in this city – those who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine – into the hands of King Nebuchedrezzar of Babylon, into the hands of their enemies, into the hands of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword; he shall not pity them, or spare them, or have compassion”.



Vol. 6, Chapter IX (Cont’d) – 76. Girolamo Savonarola


His message was the prophet’s cry, “Who shall abide the day of His coming and who shall stand when He appeareth?”

I could not endure any longer the wickedness of the blinded peoples of Italy. Virtue I saw despised everywhere and vices exalted and held in honor. With great warmth of heart, I made daily a short prayer to God that He might release me from this vale of tears. ‘Make known to me the way,’ I cried, ‘the way in which I should walk for I lift up my soul unto Thee,’ and God in His infinite mercy showed me the way, unworthy as I am of such distinguishing grace.

The clergy he arraigned for their greed of prebends and gold and their devotion to outer ceremonies rather than to the inner life of the soul.


[Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 22:17): “But your eyes and heart are only on your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practising oppression and violence”.


Portraying the insincerity of the clergy, he said: —

In these days, prelates and preachers are chained to the earth by the love of earthly things. The care of souls is no longer their concern. They are content with the receipt of revenue. The preachers preach to please princes and to be praised by them. They have done worse. They have not only destroyed the Church of God. They have built up a new Church after their own pattern. Go to Rome and see! In the mansions of the great prelates there is no concern save for poetry and the oratorical art. Go thither and see! Thou shalt find them all with the books of the humanities in their hands and telling one another that they can guide mens’ souls by means of Virgil, Horace and Cicero … The prelates of former days had fewer gold mitres and chalices and what few they possessed were broken up and given to relieve the needs of the poor. But our prelates, for the sake of obtaining chalices, will rob the poor of their sole means of support.


Jeremiah 22:13, 14, 17: “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbours work for nothing, and does not give them their wages; who says, “I will build myself a spacious house with large upper rooms”, and who cuts out windows for it, panelling it with cedar, and painting it with vermillion … your eyes and heart are only on your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practising oppression and violence”.


The inscription on the heavenly sword well represents the style of Savonarola’s preaching. It was impulsive, pictorial, eruptive, startling, not judicial and instructive. And yet it made a profound impression on men of different classes. Pico della Mirandola the elder has described its marvellous effect upon himself. On one occasion, when he announced as his text Gen_6:17, “Behold I will bring the flood of waters upon the earth,” Pico said he felt a cold shudder course through him, and his hair, as it were, stand on end.


Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 47:2: “See, waters are rising out of the north and shall become an overflowing torrent; they shall overflow the land and all that fills it, the city and those who live in it”.


Savonarola’s confidence in his divine appointment to be the herald of special communications from above found expression not only from the pulpit but was set forth more calmly in two works, the Manual of Revelations, 1495, and a Dialogue concerning Truth and Prophecy, 1497. The latter tract with a number of Savonarola’s sermons were placed on the Index. In the former, the author declared that for a long time he had by divine inspiration foretold future things but, bearing in mind the Saviour’s words, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,” he had practised reserve in such utterances. He expressed his conception of the office committed to him, when he said, “The Lord has put me here and has said to me, ‘I have placed thee as a watchman in the centre of Italy … that thou mayest hear my words and announce them,’” Eze_3:17.


Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 1:18: “And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land”.


The question arises whether Savonarola was a genuine prophet or whether he was self-deluded, mistaking for the heated imaginations of his own religious fervor, direct communications from God. Alexander VI. made Savonarola’s “silly declaration of being a prophet” one of the charges against him.


Cf. e.g. Jeremiah 29:27: ‘So now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah … who plays the prophet for you?”


Prior to any further push for canonisation, it may be worthwhile reviewing Savonarola’s legacy regarding the Church, and the papacy, and his supposed anti-culturalism, such as “paintings by Botticelli and books by Petrarch and Boccaccio were also pitched into the flames …”.

And, indeed, much else.



Seljuk, Zengi, and the neo-Assyrians

Published May 18, 2016 by amaic

seljuk ha


 Damien F. Mackey



Considers the Assyrian-like C12th AD Seljuk ruler, Zengi.



Wikipedia article, “Zengi”: “Imad ad-Din Zengi Imad ad-Din Atabeg Zengi al-Malik al-Mansur, or Zengi (var. Zangi, Zengui, Zenki or Zanki) for short; in Turkish İmadeddin Zengi, in Arabic: عماد الدین زنكي)”.

According to standard history, Zengi was a Seljuk Turk of 1127–1146 AD.


That Zengi, who became ruler of (Assyrian) Mosul, was actually called “Assyrian” is apparent from this same Wikipedia article:


Zengi against Damascus


Zengi became atabeg of Mosul in 1127, and of Aleppo in 1128, uniting the two cities under his personal rule, and was formally invested as their ruler by the Sultan Mahmud II of Great Seljuk. Zengi had supported the young sultan against his rival, the caliph Al-Mustarshid. The Syriac Orthodox patriarch Michael the Great (also known as Michael The Syrian) [1126-1199 A.D.] called him “Hziro Othuroyo/Hzira Athuraya” (literally “swinish Assyrian”). The term “Assyrian” (Othuroyo/Athuraya) in Syriac has homonymous meanings. So in this sentence it meant barbarian and not that he was ethnically Assyrian. Out of an Old Testamental perspective the Assyrians were viewed as barbarians, evil, etc.

[End of quote]


The common Saracen name, ad-Din, seems to be most strongly reminiscent of the common Assyrian one, iddina- (‘given’): e.g. Esarhaddon, the Greek and Biblical form of the Akkadian name, Aššur-ahhe-iddina “Ashur has given a brother to me”.

Imad ad-Din Zengi Zengi was the son of Aq Sunqur al-Hajib, the element Aq Sunqur being somewhat reminiscent, in turn, of Sennacherib (Sin-ahhê-eriba in Akkadian), who was the father of Esarhaddon.

These neo-Assyrian kings, like Zengi, controlled Damascus.


Most interestingly, too, in light of my massive historical query:


Two Supposed Nehemiahs: BC time and AD time


an “Heraclius” appears to get a re-run. Firstly, king Chosroes II (said to have been a Persian king) of c. 600 AD was opposed to the Byzantine emperor Heraclius. Then, incredibly – or is it, anymore? – one named Heraclius (var. Eraclius) emerges in c. 1128-1190/91 AD, now as Patriarch of Jerusalem, at the time of Zengi.

We may also find a striking similarity between the death of Zengi and the gory demise of “Holofernes” in the Book of Judith, where he is beheaded by Judith in his tent, while lying drunk on his bed (12:16-13:8) This is frightfully similar (except for the actual perpetrator of the deed) to Wikipedia’s account of the violent death of Zengi:




Though he continued his attempts to take Damascus in 1145, Zengi was assassinated by a Frankish slave named Yarankash in 1146. The Christian chronicler William of Tyre said that he was killed by a number of his retinue while he lay drunk in his bed. William reports that the news of his death was welcomed with the remarks “What a happy coincidence! A guilty murderer, which the bloody name Sanguinus, has become ensanguined with his own blood”, playing on the similarity between the Latin word for blood (sanguis) and the Latin rendering of Zengi’s name.

[End of quote]


Could “Zengi” indicate, then, not a personal name, but an epithet: “the bloody one”?

The prophet Nahum had similarly referred to the Assyrian city of Nineveh: “Ah! City of bloodshed, utterly deceitful, full of booty …” (Nahum 3:1).

Zengi’s father would suffer the same fate as had his son, to be assassinated – reminiscent of Sennacherib again.

Just as in the case of Zengi, the “Holofernes” of the Book of Judith had recently passed through the territory of Damascus (Judith 2:27), before he, too, was assassinated whilst in a drunken stupor. Obviously the perpetrator of the bloody deed is obscure to history, “a Frankish slave”, “a number of [Zengi’s] retinue”.

In the Book of Judith, the entire “retinue” of Holofernes’ had in fact retired for the night, leaving Judith alone with the drunken Assyrian commander-in-chief (Judith 13:1).

The jubilation of William of Tyre at the death of Zengi “the bloody one”, above, is reminiscent of the joy of the Israelites at Judith’s victory (Judith 13:17-20; 14:7-10, 18-20; 15:8-12), most especially as conveyed in Judith’s “Victory Song” (16:14-17). Moreover, the effects of the slaying of the enemy leader were exactly the same for the invading army as were those recorded in the Book of Judith: namely, panic and flight.

Zengi’s sudden death threw his forces into a panic. His army disintegrated, the treasury was looted, and the crusader princes, made bold by Zengi’s demise, plotted to attack Aleppo and Edessa. Mu’in ad-Din immediately recaptured Baalbek, Hims, and other territories lost to Zengi over the years.

Compare Judith 15:1-7, imagining Israelite leaders taking the place of “the crusader princes”; “Baalbek”, the Book of Judith’s “Bectileth” (2:21); “Aleppo” and “Edessa”, the Book of Judith’s “beyond Damascus and it borders”.

Wikipedia’s account of the character of Zengi could easily recall the tyrannical “Holofernes” (ibid.):


Zengi was courageous, strong in leadership and a very skilled warrior according to all of the Islam chroniclers of his day. The conquest of Edessa being his greatest achievement. These same chroniclers however, also relate Zengi as being a very violent, cruel, and brutal man. Muslims, Byzantines, and Franks all suffered at his hands.


Similarly, Judith will laud the renowned skill of the Assyrian commander-in-Chief, “Holofernes”, including in her words the statement (probably a true one) that he had no military peer: ‘For we have heard of your wisdom and skill, and it is reported throughout the whole world that you alone are the best in the whole kingdom, the most informed and the most astounding in military strategy’.

According to Wikipedia, Zengi was deceitful and vengeful (ibid.):


Unlike Saladin at Jerusalem in 1187, Zengi did not keep his word to protect his captives at Baalbek in 1139. According to Ibn al-‘Adim, “He (Zengi) had sworn to the people of the citadel with strong oaths and on the Qur’an and divorcing (his wives). When they came down from the citadel he betrayed them, flayed its governor and hanged the rest.” (Source: Ibid. Also, Ibn Wasil, Mufarrij al-Kurub, p. 86)

“The atebeg was violent, powerful, awe-inspiring and liable to attack suddenly… When he rode, the troops used to walk behind him as if they were between two threads, out of fear they would trample over crops, and nobody out of fear dared to trample on a single stem (of them) nor march his horse on them… If anyone transgressed, he was crucified. He (Zengi) used to say: ‘It does not happen that there is more than one tyrant (meaning himself) at one time.’” By Ibn al-‘Adim (Source: Ibn al-‘Adim, Zubda, vol. 2, p. 471)

“He (Zengi) was tyrannical and he would strike with indiscriminate recklessness. He was like a leopard in character, like a lion in fury, not renouncing any severity, not knowing any kindness… He was feared for his sudden attacking; shunned for his roughness; aggressive, insolent, death to enemies and citizens.” By Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani (Source: Al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, ed. M.Y. Houtsma (Leiden, 1889), p. 205)

“When he (Zengi) was unhappy with an emir, he would kill him or banish him and leave that individual’s children alive but castrate them. Whenever one of his pages pleased him by his beauty he would treat him in the same way so that the characteristics of youth would last longer in him.” By Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani (Source: The Second Crusade – Scope & Consequences Edited by Jonathan Phillips & Martin Hoch).

[End of quote]


Compare Zengi’s presumed reputation for deception, of going back on his word, with an incident of deception pertaining to Sennacherib:

Isaiah 33:7, where we learn that the “ambassadors of peace”, apparently those who had taken the tribute to Sennacherib, then returned “weeping bitterly”.

And 24:16 (cf. 21:2): “For the treacherous deal treacherously, the treacherous deal very treacherously”. …


Sennacherib, marked as “treacherous” according to C. Boutflower (on Isaiah), received the tribute, but now demands the surrender of the city!




The Muslim chronicler Ibn al-Qalanisi gives Zengi’s full list of titles – reminiscent of the many of the neo-Assyrian kings – as:


The emir, the general, the great, the just, the aid of God, the triumphant, the unique, the pillar of religion, the cornerstone of Islam, ornament of Islam, protector of God’s creatures, associate of the dynasty, auxiliary of doctrine, grandeur of the nation, honour of kings, supporter of sultans, victor over the infidels, rebels, and atheists, commander of the Muslim armies, the victorious king, the king of princes, the sun of the deserving, emir of the two Iraqs and Syria, conqueror of Iran, Bahlawan, Jihan Alp Inassaj Kotlogh Toghrulbeg atabeg Abu Sa’id Zangi Ibn Aq Sunqur, protector of the prince of the faithful.


[End of quote]


The neo-Assyrian kings, too, could boast a multitude of grand titles, including Zengi’s “the sun”. Whilst the latter’s “the two Iraqs” above could remind one of the typical Assyrian claim of “king of Sumer and Accad”. The neo-Assyrian kings’ likening of themselves to the sun – and their megalomania in general – could also remind one of the Lucifer (‘the Day Star’) of Isaiah 14; pride going before a very big fall. In regard to this poem’s historical basis, Boutflower is helpful when favourably recalling Sir Edward Strachey’s “belief that the king of Babylon, against whom the “parable” of Isa. xiv was hurled, was a king of Assyria” – a king of Assyria, that is, who ruled over Babylon. Compare the king of Isaiah 14’s self-deifying boast: ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High’ (vv. 13-14), with e.g. Esarhaddon’s own god-like statement: “I am powerful, I am all powerful, I am a hero, I am gigantic, I am colossal, I am honored, I am magnified, I am without an equal among all kings …”.

Considerable ego-mania on display here.

This might indicate that these verses of Isaiah are no mere poetic exaggeration, but poetically pertain to the boasts of a real king. And they could also answer criticisms of [Judith] 3:8, that the Assyrian kings were not inclined to self-deification.

One might even imagine the Bethulians, staring at the lifeless head of “Holofernes” as it was lifted from Judith’s food bag – or when it was later hanging on the parapet of the city’s wall (14:1, 11), “those who see you will stare at you” (Isaiah 14:16) – and asking themselves, in Isaian terms: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms … who … who …?’. We gather from Isaiah’s poem that all of the king’s glory came to an end in a moment, like the fall of a star from heaven. Moreover, the end was to come on the field of battle (vv. 12-20). A few verses later, Isaiah will nominate this ill-fated invader as an “Assyrian”, who will die on the mountains of Israel (vv. 24, 25):


The Lord of hosts has sworn:

… I will break the Assyrian in my land.

and on my mountains trample

him under foot.


So, too, did the bloody Zengi come crashing down.



Judith 16:17:


‘Woe to the nations that rise up against my people! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment; he will send fire and worms into their flesh; they shall weep in pain forever’.

‘Xerxes’ and Sennacherib

Published May 13, 2016 by amaic

Xerxes I (ca. 486-465 B.C.)


 Damien F. Mackey



The mighty king, Xerxes, favoured by various commentators to represent “Ahasuerus”, the Great King of the Book of Esther, is most likely a composite character, a mix of real Assyrian and Medo-Persian kings. Here, for instance, we consider his likenesses to Sennacherib.





The name ‘Xerxes’ is thought by historians to accord extremely well linguistically with “Ahasuerus”, the name of the Great King of the Book of Esther.

There are several kings “Ahasuerus” in the (Catholic) Bible: in Tobit; in Esther; in Ezra; and in Daniel.


As Cyaxares


The one in Tobit is usually considered to refer to the Cyaxares who conquered Nineveh. See e.g. my:


“Ahasuerus” in Book of Tobit


But before [Tobias] died, he heard of the destruction of Nineveh, which was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus; and before his death he rejoiced over Nineveh. (Tobit 14:15)



“Ahasuerus” in Book of Tobit. Part Two: The Name “Ahasuerus”


in which I discuss the name, “Ahasuerus”.

Cyaxares, again, is probably the “Ahasuerus” mentioned as the father of Darius the Mede in Daniel 9:1: “It was the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians”.


As Cyrus


The “Ahasuerus” in Esther I have identified as Darius the Mede/Cyrus:


“King Ahasuerus” of Book of Esther


and, likewise, the “Ahasuerus” in Ezra:


The Persian Kings in Ezra 4


The names, Xerxes, Ahasuerus, Cyaxares and Cyrus are all fairly compatible.


Comparisons with Sennacherib


Emmet Sweeney has done the work here, providing some striking parallels between the known historical Assyrian king, Sennacherib (C8th BC), and the historically far shakier, ‘Xerxes’.


… In Ramessides, Medes and Persians I outlined detailed reasons for identifying Tiglath-Pileser III with Cyrus, Shalmaneser V with Cambyses, and Sargon II with Darius I. The striking correspondences in the lives of all of these, repeated generation for generation in parallel sequence, made it increasingly unlikely that the identifications could be mistaken. Yet even one striking mismatch could potentially invalidate the whole scheme. I then came to the next “pairing” – Sennacherib with Xerxes. Would these two also show clear-cut and convincing correspondences?

A random search of the internet produces the following for Xerxes and Sennacherib: “Like the Persian Xerxes, he [Sennacherib] was weak and vainglorious, cowardly under reverse, and cruel and boastful in success.” (WebBible Encyclopedia at The writer of these words did not suspect any connection between the two kings, much less that they were the same person. Nevertheless, the similarities between them were so compelling that one apparently brought the other to mind.

The writer’s instincts, I shall argue, did not betray him. The lives and careers of Xerxes and Sennacherib were so similar that were the thesis presented in these pages not proffered, scholars must wonder at the astounding parallels between the two.

One of Xerxes’ first actions as king was an invasion of Egypt, which had thrown off the Persian yoke shortly after Darius’ defeat at the hands of the Greeks. This reconquest of Egypt was said to have taken place in Xerxes’ second year. Similarly, one of the first actions of Sennacherib was a campaign against Egypt and her Palestinian and Syrian allies. This war against Egypt took place in Sennacherib’s third year. The Assyrian inscriptions inform us how Hezekiah of Judah had rebelled and sought the assistance of

the kings of Egypt (and) the bowmen, the chariot (-corps) and the cavalry of the king of Ethiopia (Meluhha), an army beyond counting — and they (actually) had come to their assistance. In the plain of Eltekeh (Al-ta-qu-u), their battle lines were drawn up against me and they sharpened their weapons.… I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them. In the melee of the battle, I personally captured alive the Egyptian charioteers with the(ir) princes and (also) the charioteers of the king of Ethiopia. (J. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950) pp. 287-8).

Hezekiah was besieged, but not captured. Nevertheless, the outcome of this campaign was a complete victory for Sennacherib. Hezekiah sent tribute to the Great King:

Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring glamour of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen (it), had deserted him, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone … all kinds of valuable treasures, his (own) daughters, concubines, male and female musicians. In order to deliver the tribute and to do obeisance as a slave he sent his (personal) messenger.

Hezekiah would scarcely have sent this tribute to Sennacherib had his Egyptian allies not been totally defeated, a circumstance which has made many scholars suspect that he actually entered Egypt after his defeat of its army on the plain of Eltekeh. (See eg. A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria (1923) pp. 308-9). This supposition is supported by the fact that Sennacherib described himself as “King of the Four Quarters,” a term which, as stated above, traditionally implied authority over Magan and Meluhha (Egypt), regarded as the western-most “quarter” or edge of the world. It is also supported by both classical and Hebrew tradition. Thus Herodotus spoke of Sennacherib advancing against Egypt with a mighty army and camping at Pelusium, near the north-eastern frontier (Herodotus, iii, 141), whilst Berossus, who wrote a history of Chaldea, said that Sennacherib had conducted an expedition against “all Asia and Egypt.” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities X, i,4). Jewish tradition goes further and tells of the conquest of Egypt by the king and of his march towards Ethiopia. “Sennacherib was forced to stop his campaign against Hezekiah for a short time, as he had to move hurriedly against Ethiopia. Having conquered this ‘pearl of all countries’ he returned to Judea.” (L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia, 1920) Vol. VI p. 365). Talmudic sources also relate that after conquering Egypt, Sennacherib carried away from there the throne of Solomon. (Ibid. Vol. IV, p. 160)

Sennacherib’s second campaign against Egypt, not recorded in the Assyrian inscriptions, had, as is well-known, a much less favorable outcome for the Great King.

The greatest event of Xerxes’ reign was of course his momentous defeat in Greece. The story of his invasion is recorded in detail by the Greek authors, most particularly by Herodotus, and it is clear that Xerxes’ failure to overcome the Hellenes represented the great watershed in Achaemenid history. From that point on the Persian Empire entered a period of prolonged decline.

Strange then that of all the wars waged by Sennacherib, the only opponents who are said to have come near to defeating him were the Ionian Greeks. In one well-known passage Berossus tells of a fierce battle between Sennacherib and the Ionians of Cilicia. (H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East (London, 1913) p. 487). The Greeks, he says, were routed after a hard-fought hand-to-hand struggle.

The most important event of Xerxes’ latter years was without doubt his defeat of yet another Babylonian rebellion. Although our sources are somewhat vague, it would appear that there were in fact two rebellions in Babylon during the time of Xerxes, the first of which occurred in his second year, and was led by Bel-shimanni, and the second some time later led by Shamash-eriba.

How peculiar then that Sennacherib too should face two major rebellions in Babylon, the first of which came within three years or so of his succession, and was led by Bel-ibni. (C. H. W. Johns, Ancient Babylonia (London, 1913) p. 120). Rebellion number two came some years later and was led by Mushezib-Marduk. This second rebellion, one might guess, was one of the consequences of the Persian defeat in Greece, and there seems little doubt that Mushezib-Marduk of the Assyrian records and monuments is Shamash-eriba of the Persian.

Both Xerxes and Sennacherib were relatively mild in their treatment of the Babylonians after the first rebellion. However, after the second insurrection both kings subjected the city to massive destruction. But the parallels do not end there. Xerxes’ terrible punishment of Babylon was partly in revenge for the Babylonians’ murder of his satrap. (Brian Dicks, The Ancient Persians: How they Lived and Worked (1979) p. 46).

Similarly, Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon after the second insurrection was largely in vengeance for the Babylonians’ kidnap and murder of his brother Ashur-nadin-shum, whom he had made viceroy of the city. (C. H. W. Johns, op cit. pp. 121-2). Xerxes tore down the walls of Babylon, massacred its citizens, destroyed its temples, and seized the sacred golden statue of Bel. (Brian Dicks, op cit). In the same way, Sennacherib razed the city walls and temples, massacred the people, and carried off the sacred statue of Marduk. (C. H. W. Johns, op cit. p. 122). Bel and Marduk were one and the same; and the name was often written Bel-Marduk. In memory of the awful destruction wrought by Sennacherib, the Babylonian Chronicle and the Ptolemaic Canon define the eight years that followed as “kingless.” The city, it is held, suffered no such catastrophe again until the time of Xerxes, supposedly two centuries later.

Xerxes’ despoliation of Babylon is generally believed to have been accompanied by his suppression of the Babylonian gods, and it is assumed that his famous inscription recording the outlawing of the daevas, or foreign gods, in favor of Ahura Mazda, was part of the general response to the second Babylonian uprising:

And among these countries (in rebellion) there was one where, previously, daevas had been worshipped. Afterward, through Ahura Mazda’s favor, I destroyed this sanctuary of daevas and proclaimed. “Let daevas not be worshipped!” There, where daevas had been worshipped before, I worshipped Ahura Mazda.

How peculiar then that Sennacherib too should be accused of outlawing the Babylonian gods, especially Marduk, in favor of Ashur as part of his response to a second Babylonian rebellion? “A political-theological propaganda campaign was launched to explain to the people that what had taken place [the destruction of Babylon and despoliation of Bel-Marduk’s shrine] was in accord with the wish of most of the gods. A story was written in which Marduk, because of a transgression, was captured and brought before a tribunal. Only a part of the commentary to this botched piece of literature is extant.” ( Nevertheless, it is clear that Sennacherib tried to “depose” or even “outlaw” Marduk. Thus we find that, “Even the great poem of the creation of the world, the Enuma elish, was altered: the god Marduk was replaced by the god Ashur.” (Ibid.)


To summarize, then, consider the following:


Made war on Egypt in his third year, and fought a bitter war against the Greeks shortly thereafter. Made war on Egypt in his second year, and fought a bitter war against the Greeks shortly thereafter.
Suppressed two major Babylonian rebellions. The first, in his second year, was led by Bel-Shimanni. The second, years later, was led by Shamash-eriba. Suppressed two major Babylonian rebellions. The first, in his third year, was led by Bel-ibni. The second, years later, was led by Mushezib-Marduk.
The Babylonians were well-treated after the first rebellion, but savagely repressed after the second, when they captured and murdered Sennacherib’s viceroy, his own brother Ashur-nadin-shum. The Babylonians were well-treated after the first rebellion, but savagely repressed after the second, when they captured and murdered Xerxes’ satrap.
After the second rebellion, Sennacherib massacred the inhabitants, razed the city walls and temples, and carried off the golden stature of Marduk. Thereafter the Babylonian gods were suppressed in favour of Ashur, who was made the supreme deity. After the second rebellion, Xerxes massacred the inhabitants, razed the city walls and temples, and carried off the golden stature of Bel-Marduk. Thereafter the Babylonian gods were suppressed in favour of Ahura-Mazda, who was made the supreme deity.


The parallels between Xerxes and Sennacherib are thus among the closest between an Achaemenid and a Neo-Assyrian. Yet even now we are not finished. There is yet one more striking comparison between the two monarchs, a comparison so compelling and so identical in the details that this one alone, even without the others, would be enough to demand an identification.

Xerxes died after a reign of 21 years (compare with Sennacherib’s 22) in dramatic circumstances, murdered in a palace conspiracy apparently involving at least one of his sons. Popular tradition has it that the real murderer of Xerxes was Artabanus, the captain of his guard, and that this man then put the blame on Darius, eldest son of the murdered king. Whatever the truth, it is clear that Artaxerxes, the crown prince, pointed the finger at Darius, who was immediately arrested and executed. (Percy Sykes, A History of Ancient Persia Vol. 1 (London, 1930) pp. 213-4). It is said that Artabanus then plotted to murder Artaxerxes, but that the conspiracy was uncovered by Megabyzus. No sooner had Artabanus been removed than Hystaspes, another elder brother of Artaxerxes, rose in rebellion. The young king then led his forces into Bactria and defeated the rebel in two battles. (Ibid., p. 124)

Of the above information, one feature is most unusual: the eldest son, Darius, who was not the crown prince, was accused of the murder by the crown prince Artaxerxes, who then had him hunted down and killed.

The death of Sennacherib compares very well with that of Xerxes. He too was murdered in a palace conspiracy involving some of his sons. But as with the death of Xerxes, there has always been much rumor and myth, though little solid fact, in evidence. The biblical Book of Kings names Adrammelech and Sharezer, two of Sennacherib’s sons, as the killers (2 Kings 19:37). An inscription of Esarhaddon, the crown prince at the time, clearly puts the blame on his eldest brother, whom he hunted down and killed. Two other brothers are also named in complicity. (A. T. Olmstead, A History of Assyria (1923) p. 338).

In spite of Esarhaddon’s clear statement, there has always been much confusion about the details — so much so that some have even implicated Esarhaddon himself in the deed. In view of such a level of confusion, the detailed discussion of the question by Professor Simo Parpola, in 1980, was sorely needed and long overdue. Employing commendable reasoning, Parpola demonstrated how a little-understood Babylonian text revealed the identity of the culprit, Arad-Ninlil. (R. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, Vol. XI (Chicago, 1911) No. 1091). A sentence of the document reads, “Thy son Arad-Ninlil is going to kill thee.” The latter name should properly, according to Parpola, be read as Arda-Mulissi (identical to Adrammelech of 2 Kings). Motivation for the murder, said Parpola, was not difficult to find. After the capture and probable death at the hands of the Elamites of Sennacherib’s eldest son and heir-designate, Ashur-nadin-sumi, the “second-eldest son, Arda-Mulissi, now has every reason to expect to be the next crown prince; however, he is outmaneuvered from this position in favor of Esarhaddon, another son of Sennacherib. This one is younger than Arda-Mulissi but becomes the favourite son of Sennacherib thanks to his mother Naqia … Eventually, Esarhaddon is officially proclaimed crown prince.” (Prof. Simo Parpola, “Death in Mesopotamia” XXVIeme Rencontre Assyriologique International,e ed. Prof. Bendt Alster, (Akademisk Forlag, 1980)).

We need hardly go beyond that for a motive. It is not clear whether Arda-Mulissi personally delivered the death blow; it seems that one of his captains was responsible.

Of this death then we note the same unusual feature. The king was murdered by or on the orders of his eldest son, who was not however the crown prince. The eldest son was then pursued and executed by a younger son, who was the crown prince. The parallels with the death of Xerxes are precise. In both cases also a second brother is named in complicity, as well as various other conspirators. In both cases too the murder was not actually carried out by the prince but by a fellow conspirator; in the case of Xerxes by Artabanus, commander of the guard, and in the case of Sennacherib by a man named Ashur-aha-iddin — a namesake of Esarhaddon. And this calls attention to yet one more parallel. In both the murder of Xerxes and Sennacherib, the crown prince himself has repeatedly been named as a suspect. Thus the Encyclopedia Britannica has Artaxerxes I placed on the throne by Xerxes’ murderer, Artabanus, (Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol. 1 (15th ed.) p. 598) whilst Parpola refers to the common suspicion that Esarhaddon had a part in his father’s death.

Such striking similarities, when placed along with the multitude of other parallels between the two kings’ lives, leave little doubt that we are on the right track. ….





‘Xerxes’ and Ahasuerus

Published May 13, 2016 by amaic

Meet King Ahasuerus



 Damien F. Mackey



The mighty king, ‘Xerxes’, who I consider to be a conflation of various historical kings, is often the choice of biblical historians for “King Ahasuerus” of the Book of Esther.



It is common to read commentators identifying the “Ahasuerus” of the Book of Esther with Xerxes I, “the Great” (c. 486-465 BC, conventional dates).

For one, Xerxes is thought to have ruled an empire of the likes described in the Book of Esther. Hence, translations of Esther go so far as to substitute the name “Xerxes” for “Ahasuerus” (Esther 1:1-3):


This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.


According to what I have argued in Part One, though, the ‘Xerxes’ of text book ‘history’ was actually a mix of various powerful ancient kings, probably beginning with the C8th BC neo-Assyrian potentate, Sennacherib. The comparisons between these two are striking.

No doubt the reason that ‘Xerxes’ also so closely reflects, in various aspects, King Ahasuerus (var. Artaxerxes) of the Book of Esther, is because ‘he’ is also a reflection of that particular king. The latter I believe to have been Darius the Mede/Cyrus.

Some, though, think that “King Ahasuerus” might be Darius “Hystaspes”, who is thought to have been married to one “Atossa” in which the Hebrew name of Queen Esther, “Hadassah”, is clearly visible.

We read of this suggestion regarding Darius “Hystaspes” at, for instance, where we find a conglomeration of ladies named, supposedly, “Atossa”:


…. Mr. Tyrwhitt in his elaborate endeavor to show that Ahasuerus is Darius Hystaspis, and Esther identical with Atossa, admits that “the name Hadassah or Atossa is applied by certain Greek writers, not only to princesses descended from Darius and his queen Atossa, but to persons of earlier Persian, and even of the Assyrian annals. We have the ‘Atossa, daughter of Ariaspes,’ mentioned by Hellanicus; and in the pedigree of Cappadocian kings given by Diodorus we have an ‘Atossa, wife of Pharnaces,’ who appears to have been father’s sister to the great Cyrus ; also Herodotus’s Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, who married Cambyses, and devolved as part of his goods and chattels to his successor, the pretended Smcrdis” (note p. 183). ….


Xerxes I is commonly thought to have been the eldest son of “Atossa” and Darius “Hystaspes”. “Atossa”, we are told, “lived to see Xerxes invade Greece. Being a direct descendent of Cyrus the Great, Atossa had a great authority within Achamenian royal house and court. Atossa’s special position enabled Xerxes, who was not the eldest son of Darius, to succeed his father”.

All of this, however, needs to be radically re-assessed.

Persian history has been – just like Assyro-Babylonian, Egyptian and Hittite history – greatly overstretched, with kings and eras duplicated/triplicated.

The text books present us with far too many Persian kings, with Egypt experiencing a “first”, and then, suspiciously, a “second” Persian era.

The “Ahasuerus” of the Book of Esther belongs, I believe, right at the beginning of the Medo-Persian era, and not about 50 years later than that.

I have in articles such as, e.g.,


Is the Book of Esther a Real History? Part Two


attempted to re-set the Book of Esther in some sort of realistic biblico-historical context. The following is a sample of what I wrote there:


Who Was “King Ahasuerus”?


At the commencement of my:

Is the Book of Esther a Real History? Part Two


I summed up as follows my reconstruction to that point:


So far I have concluded, based on some compelling Jewish legends, that Haman of the Book of Esther was actually a Jew, not an Amalekite (etc.), and that he was in fact King Jehoiachin. And that the opinion that he was an Agagite, or an Amalekite (Greek: Amali̱kíti̱s) may have arisen from Jehoiachin’s chief epithet, “Captive” (Greek: aichmálo̱tos), of similar phonetics.

With the evil king Jehoiachin as the wicked Haman, then the next logical step – as it had previously seemed to me – was that the exaltation of Jehoiachin by king Evil-Merodach (usually considered to have been the Chaldean son and successor of Nebuchednezzar II), as related in 2 Kings 25:27-28, must resonate with the exaltation of Haman by king “Ahasuerus” (Esther 3:1). And so I had concluded that Evil-Merodach was the long sought for king “Ahasuerus”. Hardly a good fit.

Better to conclude that, whereas Evil-Merodach had exalted Jehoiachin “in the year that he began to reign”, “Ahasuerus” appears to have raised up Haman some time after his wedding, in his 7th year (cf. Esther 2:16 and 3:1).

These are two separate incidents.

Clearly, now, “Ahasuerus” was a successor of Evil-Merodach’s.

[End of quote]


That “Ahasuerus” (var. “Artaxerxes”) must have, in my context, followed very soon after the death of Evil-Merodach would be a matter of biological necessity, for, as I had gone on to note: “The age of Haman now needs to be taken into consideration. Already about 55, as we calculated, in the 1st year of Evil-Merodach, he was probably close to 70 in the 12th year of Ahasuerus (the Esther drama focusses on this king’s 12th year)”.

That Haman was not a young man is apparent from the words of one of the Great King’s edicts (Esther 16:1), telling that Haman “was called our father”.






Cambyses and Julius Caesar

Published May 10, 2016 by amaic

Shaka Zulu vs Julius Caesar. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 4 


 Damien F. Mackey



Common factors here may include ‘divine’ madness; violating the sacred traditions; dreams, signs and visions; and the conquest of Egypt.



‘Sacred’ Illness


As with the peculiar looking pharaoh, Amenhotep IV (Akhnaton), so with Julius Caesar, medical experts may significantly disagree as to the cause of the debilitation, or malformation. The latest conclusion is that Julius Caesar was the victim, not of epilepsy – as is usually thought – but of mini-strokes. Thus:


In the years preceding his assassination by the Roman Senate in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was struck by a host of health problems including dizziness, limb weakness, headaches, depression and sudden falls. For centuries, most historians have accepted ancient writers’ claims that he was epileptic, but a new theory suggests a different diagnosis. After reevaluating Caesar’s symptoms and looking into his family history, a pair of doctors now believes that the famed dictator may have actually been the victim of a series of “mini-strokes” that damaged his health and affected his mental state.

In a paper titled “Has the Diagnosis of a Stroke been overlooked in the Symptoms of Julius Caesar?” doctors Francesco M. Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian of Imperial College London argue that the Roman general may have been afflicted by cerebrovascular disease. Their study, published in the journal “Neurological Sciences,” offers a provocative new take on Caesar’s mysterious illness, which began in the years after his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Roman power structure. Conventional wisdom has long held that he suffered from epilepsy, but Galassi and Ashrafian suggest that his symptoms are more in line with Transient Ischemic Attacks, more commonly known as “mini-strokes.”

“The theory that Caesar was epileptic appears not to have very solid philological foundations,” Dr. Galassi told Discovery News. “If carefully re-examined, the facts appear to suggest a simpler and more logical diagnosis of stroke.”

[End of quote]


The emperor Cambyses, thought to have preceded Julius Caesar by about half a millennium, has been ‘diagnosed’ as having suffered anything from epilepsy to stark raving madness.

…. Cambyses becomes Emperor #1 in the fulfilling of this first prophecy. His is a strange, some say mad, reign, reminding us of Nero and Caligula and mad monarchs of all times. He was sick from birth, with the “sacred sickness” as it is called, epilepsy. Sacred only in that self-styled gods and dictators like Julius Caesar have often experienced its ravages. Known by those who have seen it up close and personal as demonic.

[End of quote]


Cambyses, who has certain traits strikingly like those of King Nabonidus:

Cambyses Mad Yet Great

is thought to have ruled Persia c. 530-522 BC. Now some think that the title, “Caesar”, may actually derive from “Cyaxares”, the Greek version of the Persian name, Uvaxštra.

In modern history, Caesar has been rendered as “Kaiser”, the German word for emperor.


Violating the Sacred


In the above article I quoted from the Nabonidus Chronicle concerning the controversial behaviour of Cambyses when he entered the Esagila temple “in ordinary Elamite attire, fully armed. The priests persuaded him to lay down his arms, but he refused to change his clothes for those prescribed in the ritual. He then received the royal scepter”.

And I referred there to “Oppenheim’s view [that] Cambyses thus deliberately demon­strated “a deep-seated religious conviction” hostile to this alien religion”.


Julius Caesar was, for his part, notorious for his failure to follow the established rubrics.

This was not the first time that Caesar had violated a tribune’s sacrosanctity. After he had first marched on Rome in 49 BC, he forcibly opened the treasury although a tribune had the seal placed on it. After the impeachment of the two obstructive tribunes, Caesar, perhaps unsurprisingly, faced no further opposition from other members of the Tribunician College … [,]


or for ignoring the soothsayers. The classic case of this being, of course, the “Ides of March”.


Dreams, Signs and Visions


And the classic example in this case is the famous sign eliciting Caesar’s, “the die is cast”:

The incident is reported in several ancient sources, but it is Suetonius who, in his Life of Julius Caesar, preserves the Latin version of the famous phrase ‘the die is cast’, alea iacta est, ‘the game is on’ (Suet. Iul. 31–32, transl. J. C. Rolfe):


consecutusque cohortis ad Rubiconem flumen, qui prouinciae eius finis erat, paulum constitit, ac reputans quantum moliretur, conuersus ad proximos: ‘etiam nunc,’inquit, ‘regredi possumus; quod si ponticulum transierimus, omnia armis agenda erunt.’ cunctanti ostentum tale factum est. quidam eximia magnitudine et forma in proximo sedens repente apparuit harundine canens; ad quem audiendum cum praeter pastores plurimi etiam ex stationibus milites concurrissent interque eos et aeneatores, rapta ab uno tuba prosiliuit ad flumen et ingenti spiritu classicum exorsus pertendit ad alteram ripam. tunc Caesar: ‘eatur,’inquit, ‘quo deorum ostenta et inimicorum iniquitas uocat. iacta alea est,’ inquit.


Then, overtaking his cohorts at the river Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, he paused for a while, and realising what a step he was taking, he turned to those about him and said: “Even yet we may draw back; but once cross yon little bridge, and the whole issue is with the sword.”  As he stood in doubt, this sign was given him. On a sudden there appeared hard by a being of wondrous stature and beauty, who sat and played upon a reed; and when not only the shepherds flocked to hear him, but many of the soldiers left their posts, and among them some of the trumpeters, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, rushed to the river, and sounding the war-note with mighty blast, strode to the opposite bank. Then Caesar cried: “Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast,” said he.


A lot has been written about the crossing of the Rubicon and the phrase ‘the die is cast’ (and its Greek origins). Equally, the role of visions, premonitions, dreams, and omens in Caesar’s life (right down to the point of his death) has been well-explored.

Moreover, historians such as Peter Wiseman (in Roman Drama and Roman History) and Gregor Weber (in Kaiser, Träume und Visionen in Prinzipat und Spätantike) have quite rightly pointed out that the introduction of this episode in Suetonius’ report may be testimony to an early dramatisation of this particular historical event for theatrical performance.


Conquest of Egypt


No one doubts that the emperor Cambyses embarked upon a most successful conquest of Egypt and Ethiopia. In the previous “Cambyses” article I gave various evidences (Egyptian, Greek, Jewish) of this, including the testimony of Darius the Persian in the Behistun inscription: “Cambyses went to Egypt.  When Cambyses had departed into Egypt, the people became hostile, and the lie multiplied in the land, even in Persia and Media, and in the other provinces”.

Cambyses is thought to have died upon his returning from Egypt.


And Julius Caesar is said to have been assassinated (44 BC) several years after his return from Egypt (


  • 48 BCE: Caesar followed Pompey to Greece and defeated his forces at Pharsalus. Pompey then fled to Egypt. But the Egyptian king, Ptolemy, arranged for Pompey to stabbed soon after he got off his ship at Alexandria. Caesar arrived soon afterwards and took control of Alexandria. In Alexandria the young queen Cleopatra arranged to meet Caesar in his quarters and an affair developed. ….
  • 47 BCE: From Egypt Caesar led a military expedition to northeastern Anatolia to defeat the son of the Mithradates whom Sulla had defeated a generation ago. He then returned to Rome and was appointed dictator. Some of Caesar’s enemies were organizing in North Africa and took his forces there to confront that potential danger.
  • 46 BCE: Caesar’s forces crushed the opposition in North Africa and he returned to Rome. Later in the year he led another military expedition to Farther Spain to put down a rebellion against his control.
  • 45 BCE: Caesar’s army annihilated the opposition in Farther Spain and he returned to Rome.
  • 44 BCE: On March 15th a cabal of his opponents in the Senate assassinated Caesar with knives they had concealed under their robes. …..




King Solomon and Suleiman

Published May 9, 2016 by amaic

 Europa Universalis IV Artwork 4


 Damien F. Mackey 



King Suleiman I as “a second Solomon”, and “a new Solomon”.




Suleiman the Magnificent,

King of the Ottoman Turks



 Suleiman … is therefore called the second Solomon by many Islamic scholars …”.



King Suleiman ‘the Magnificent’, C16th AD Ottoman emperor, was, according to this source “a new Solomon”.

And, similarly, Suleiman was “the second Solomon”.

A new Solomon is risen


Süleyman I was everything a magnificent ruler should be. He was just, making the right decisions in cases set before him. [Cf. I Kings 3:16-28] He was brave, leading his armies in battle until he had greatly expanded his sultanate. He was wealthy, living in luxury and turning his capital Istanbul into a splendid city. And he was cultured, his court teeming with philosophers and artists, and the Sultan himself mastering several arts, especially that of poetry.

…. Süleyman ascended to the throne in 1520 and stayed there for all of 46 years. During his reign he furthered the work of his forefathers until he had made the empire of the Ottomans into one of the world’s greatest.

The Sultan was named after Solomon, who was described as the perfect ruler in the Quran. Like the legendary king of the Jews, Süleyman was seen as just and wise, and a worthy follower of his namesake. He is therefore called the second Solomon by many Islamic scholars, although he was the first of that name among the Ottomans. Like the Solomon of old, this ruler was surrounded by splendour and mystery, and his time is remembered as the zenith of his people.

[End of quote]


The Problem with Islamic History


In some cases, Islam and its scholars have shown a complete disregard for historical perspective. I had cause to discuss this in my review of Islamic scholar Ahmed Osman’s book, Out of Egypt. The Roots of Christianity Revealed, in:

Osman’s ‘Osmosis’ of Moses


this book being a diabolical historical mish-mash in which the author, Osman, sadly attempts to herd a millennium or more of history into the single 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.

But getting right to the heart of the situation, the historical problems pertaining to the Prophet Mohammed himself are legendary. My own contributions, amongst many, to this subject, are, for example:


Biography of the Prophet Mohammed (Muhammad) Seriously Mangles History


Scholars have long pointed out the historical problems associated with the life of the Prophet Mohammed and the history of Islam, with some going even so far as to cast doubt upon Mohammed’s actual existence. Biblico-historical events, normally separated the one from the other by many centuries, are re-cast as contemporaneous in the Islamic texts. Muslim author, Ahmed Osman, has waxed so bold as to squeeze, into the one Egyptian dynasty, the Eighteenth, persons supposed to span more than one and a half millennia. Now, as I intend to demonstrate in this article, biblico-historical events that occurred during the neo-Assyrian era of the C8th BC, and then later on, in the Persian era, have found their way into the biography of Mohammed supposedly of the C7th AD.




Biography of the Prophet Mohammed (Muhammad) Seriously Mangles History. Part Two: From Birth to Marriage


Added to all this is the highly suspicious factor of a ‘second’ Nehemiah, sacrificing at the site of the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem during a ‘second’ Persian period, all contemporaneous with the Prophet of Islam himself. The whole scenario is most reminiscent of the time of the original (and, I believe, of the only) Nehemiah of Israel.

And so I wrote in an article, now up-dated as:


Two Supposed Nehemiahs: BC time and AD time


This … later Nehemiah “offers a sacrifice on the site of the Temple”, according to Étienne Couvert (La Vérité sur les Manuscripts de la Mer Morte, 2nd ed, Éditions de Chiré, p. 98. My translation). “He even seems to have attempted to restore the Jewish cult of sacrifice”, says Maxine Lenôtre (Mahomet Fondateur de L’Islam, Publications MC, p.111, quoting from S.W. Baron’s, Histoire d’Israël, T. III, p. 187. My translation), who then adds (quoting from the same source): “Without any doubt, a number of Jews saw in these events a repetition of the re-establishment of the Jewish State by Cyrus and Darius [C6th BC kings of ancient Persia] and behaved as the rulers of the city and of the country”.

[End of quote]


So, conceivably, the whole concept of a Persian (or Sassanian) empire at this time, with rulers named Chosroes, again reminiscent of the ancient Cyrus ‘the Great’, may need to be seriously questioned.


Coins and Archaeology


And how to “explain inscriptions on early Islamic coins – the ones that showed Muhammed meeting with a Persian emperor [Chosroes II] who supposedly died a century before”?

Emmet Scott, who asks “Were the Arab Conquests a Myth?”, also points out major anomalies relating to the coinage of this period, and regarding the archaeology of Islam in general, though Scott does not go so far as to suggest that the Sassanian era duplicated the ancient Persian one (


Note the remark [in Encyclopdaedia Iranica]: “The Arab-Sasanian coinages are not imitations,” but were “designed and manufactured by the same people as the late Sasanian issues.” We note also that the date provided on these artefacts is written in Persian script, and it would appear that those who minted the coins, native Persians, did not understand Arabic. We hear that under the Arabs the mints were “evidently allowed to go on as before,” and that there are “a small number of coins indistinguishable from the drahms of the last emperor, Yazdegerd III, dated during his reign but after the Arab capture of the cities of issue. It was only when Yazdegerd died (A.D. 651) [in the time of the Ummayad Caliph Mu’awiya] that some mark of Arab authority was added to the coinage.” (Ibid.) Even more puzzling is the fact that the most common coins during the first decades of Islamic rule were those of Yazdegerd’s predecessor Chosroes II, and many of these too bear the Arabic inscription (written however, as we saw, in the Syriac script) besm Allah. Now, it is just conceivable that invading Arabs might have issued slightly amended coins of the last Sassanian monarch, Yazdegerd III, but why continue to issue money in the name of a previous Sassanian king (Chosroes II), one who, supposedly, had died ten years earlier? This surely stretches credulity.


The Persian-looking Islamic coins are of course believed to date from the time of Umar (d. 664), one of the “Rightly-guided Caliphs” who succeeded Muhammad and supposedly conquered what became the Islamic Empire. Yet it has to be stated that there is no direct archaeological evidence for the existence either of Umar or any of the other “Rightly-guided” Caliphs Abu Bakr, Uthman or Ali. Not a brick, coin, or artifact of any kind bears the name of these men. Archaeologically, their existence is as unattested as Muhammad himself. ….

[End of quote]


But surely what Scott alleges about these early Caliphs, that: “Not a brick, coin, or artifact of any kind bears the name of these men”, cannot be applied to Suleiman the Magnificent himself, evidence of whose building works in, say Jerusalem, are considered to abound and to be easily identifiable. A typical comment would be this: “Jerusalem’s current walls were built under the orders of Suleiman the Magnificent between the years 1537 and 1541. Some portions were built over the ancient walls from 2,000 years ago. The walls were built to prevent invasions from local tribes and to discourage another crusade by Christians from Europe” (

Previously, I have discussed Greek appropriations of earlier ancient Near Eastern culture and civilization. But might Arabic Islam have, in turn, appropriated the earlier Byzantine Greek architecture, and perhaps some of its archaeology? There appears to be plenty written on this subject, e.g.: “The appropriation of Byzantine elements into Islamic architecture”, by Patricia Blessing, “art and architecture of the Muslim World, focusing on trans-cultural interactions in the Middle Ages, the appropriation of Byzantine elements into Islamic architecture, the transfer and authentication of relics in East and West, historical photographs of architecture and urban spaces” ( And, again ( “This page is related to the Byzantine origins of what are claimed to be “Islamic” ideas. This page is limited to showing the Byzantine/Greek basis of Sassanian ideas which were absorbed by the even less original Arabs who replaced the faith of Zoroaster with one more brutal; that of Mohammed”. A rock relief of Chosroes II at Taq-I Bustan “clearly shows the symbol which was to be appropriated by Islam, the crescent moon …”.

As for the archaeology of the walls of the city of Jerusalem itself, relevant to Sultan Suleiman the supposed wall builder there, the exact identification of these various wall levels is highly problematical, as attested by Hershel Shanks, “The Jerusalem Wall That Shouldn’t Be There. Three major excavations fail to explain controversial remains” (


So perhaps art and architecture attributed to the direction of Suleiman the Magnificent might need to be seriously re-assessed for the purposes of authentication.

Words are put into the mouth of a supposed Venetian visitor to the glorious kingdom of Suleiman the Magnificent that immediately remind me of the remarks made by the biblical Queen of Sheba upon her visit to the court of the truly magnificent King Solomon.


Compare (


I know no State which is happier than this one. It is furnished with all God’s gifts. It controls war and peace; it is rich in gold, in people, in ships, and in obedience; no State can be compared with it. May God long preserve the most just of all Emperors.” The Venetian ambassador reports from Istanbul in 1525


with (I Kings 10:6-9):


Then [Sheba] said to the king [Solomon]: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”


And in the article, “How Sultan Süleyman became ‘Kanuni [Lawgiver]’”, we find Suleiman likened to, not only King Solomon, again, but also to King Solomon’s law-giving alter ego, Solon, and to Solomon’s contemporary (revised) Hammurabi:

The first written, complete code of laws is nearly 4,000 years old, from the time of Hammurabi, the king of Babylon (r. 1792 B.C. to 1750 B.C.), although fragments of legal codes from other cities in the Mesopotamian area have been discovered. Hammurabi is still honored today as a lawgiver. In the Bible, it was Moses whom the Jews singled out as a lawgiver and among the ancient Greeks, Draco and Solon. ….


Süleyman oversaw the codification of a new general code of laws. Not only were previous codes of law taken into account, new cases and analogies were added. Fines and punishments were regularized and some of the more severe punishments were mitigated.


The kanunnames are collections of kanuns or statutes that are basically short summaries of decrees issued by the sultan. The decrees in turn were made on the basis of a particular individual, place or event but when issued, these particular details were not included. The publication of such a general kanunname throughout the empire was the responsibility of the nişancı, an official whose duty it was to attach the sultan’s imperial signature on the decrees issued in his name.


The sultan held the judicial power and judges had to follow what he decreed.


What Kanuni Sultan Süleyman did to earn his sobriquet as ‘lawgiver’ has often been compared to the just ruler King Solomon, from the Old Testament.

[End of quote]


For King Solomon as Solon, and as at least a contemporary of Hammurabi, see my:

King Solomon the Philosopher King


Tigranes II ‘the Great’ and ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ of Judith

Published May 4, 2016 by amaic


 Damien F. Mackey



The invasions of the supposed C1st BC Armenian ruler, Tigranes ‘the Great’, have been suggested as providing the basis for the Jewish story of the heroine Judith.



Encyclopaedia Iranica introduces the C1st BC King Tigranes II (Tigran) ‘the Great’ as follows (

TIGRAN II, THE GREAT, king of Armenia (r. 95-55 BCE). Tigran (Tigranes) II was the most distinguished member of the so-called Artašēsid/Artaxiad dynasty, which has now been identified as a branch of the earlier Eruandid dynasty of Iranian origin attested as ruling in Armenia from at least the 5th century B.C.E …. During Tigran’s reign Armenia briefly reached its widest extension in the vacuum of power resulting from the final decline of the Seleucids, the still incomplete consolidation of the Parthian empire, and the absence as yet of Rome’s full commitment to an expansionist policy in the East. Despite considerable information, Tigran’s achievements have been difficult to reconstruct and evaluate, because of the almost exclusively classical sources, whose treatment of him, as the son-in-law and supporter of Rome’s greatest enemy Mithradates VI Eupator (r. 120-63 BCE) of Pontus, is invariably hostile, and the much later and anachronistic account in the Armenian History of Movsēs Xorenac’i.

The beginning of Tigran II’s reign in 95BCE was not auspicious. He apparently succeeded his father Tigran I, of whom nothing is known beyond a few possible copper coins, rather than his uncle, as has sometimes been argued. ….

[End of quote]

Unfortunately, there seems to be a fair amount of obscurity here, “Tigran’s achievements have been difficult to reconstruct and evaluate”, “the much later and anachronistic account …”, “his father Tigran I, of whom nothing is known beyond a few possible copper coins …”.

Yet, the military activities of Tigranes have been proposed as the model for the story of Judith, which can also be thought – again wrongly, I suggest – to have been Maccabean influenced

Book of Judith Not a Maccabean Product

And so we read of the theories of Samuel Rocca and Gabriele Boccaccini on this–history_(subject:

In 2005 Samuel Rocca first suggested that the story of Judith could contains echoes of the crisis generated by the invasion of the Armenian King Tigranes the Great.

The argument was taken up in 2009 by Gabriele Boccaccini who drew attention on the Armenian and Roman sources that seem to confirm the chronological and geographical details provided in the Book of Judith about the military campaign of the new “Nebuchadnezzar,” Tigranes the Great.

[End of quote]

We read further of the striking similarities between the Judith account and Queen Salome against Tigranes in Rocca’s article, “The Book of Judith, Queen Salome Alexandra, and Tigranes of Armenia”:

Tigranes did not stop at Seleucid Syria. The Armenian King was ready to move against Judaea. For the Eastern potentate to face a small kingdom, moreover under the leadership of a woman, would have been nothing more than a promenade! He thus came against Judaea. According to Josephus, the queen and the nation were terrified! It was then that Queen Salome Alexandra opted for a diplomatic solution. She sent ambassadors to Tigranes. It seems that the ambassadors, with the help of many expensive gifts, persuaded Tigranes not to move against Judaea, for the time being at least. Queen Salome Alexandra had then the time to organize an army to face the Armenian despot. But she was not going at war alone. She cleverly bought enough time to allow her Roman ally, Lucullus to move against Tigranes, striking at the Armenian heartland. Thus as soon as Seleucid Ptolemais fell to the Armenian horde, Tigranes received the bad news that Lucullus, pursuing Mithridates was lying waste Armenia. Tigranes had to go home. And after him now there was a professional army of around 40.000, a Hasmonean Army, ready to fight …! In fact in 69 BCE Lucullus invaded Armenia, defeated Tigranes and conquered Tigranocerta his capital. The Hasmonean Queen and her subjects could now breath freely. This important episode makes up the main part of the Book of Judith.

[End of quote]

Returning again to–history_(subject) we read this:

Tigranes the Great is quite a neglected figure in Biblical and Judaic Studies. Only Armenian scholarship has preserved vivid memory of his military campaigns, in which Judea also was subdued. As an example of the way in which the relationship between Tigranes and Queen Alexandra is retold in modern Armenian culture, we may read the passage in Armen’s biography (1940):

“As the king’s forces poured into southern Phoenicia, Jews were alarmed at the proximity of such vast hosts to Judea. Queen Alexandra of Jerusalem, and the Jewish leaders already visioned Armenian cuirassiers riding into the sacred city, and once more the recollection of Babylonian captivity intensified their present panic. The undimmed prestige of Tigranes as a conqueror, who moved peoples, among them Jews from Syria, to populate his native territories, made him appear as a new Nebuchadnezzar, while the prospect of singing the songs of Zion on the banks of Euphrates and Tigris to satisfy the disdainful curiosity of their enslavers terrified them. For “how shall we sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land!” Trembling Jewish ambassadors met Tigranes in Phoenicia, they “interceded with him, and entreated him he would determine nothing that was severe about their queen and nation.”

Tigranes alleviated their fears and assured then of his peaceful intentions toward Judea” (p.150).

[End of quotes]

It reads suspiciously like a pinch from the Hebrew Book of Judith.

Dante ‘resembles Hebrew prophet’

Published May 3, 2016 by amaic

 The Divine Comedy


 Damien F. Mackey



‘The immediate parallelism of Dante’s “old man” is to King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the second book of Daniel. Here, the man is similarly fashioned, with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, a waist of bronze, and legs of iron. However, both the feet in the Biblical passage are of iron mixed with clay, while in Dante one foot is iron and the other is of clay’.



Some Similarities


When reading through the life of Dante Alighieri (dated to C13th-14th’s AD) one may find some likenesses to the Jewish prophet, Daniel (c. 600 BC).

Using for Dante, we find (emphasis in red):


Possibly of nobility, like Daniel (1:3).

[Dante] was the son of Alighiero di Bellincione Alighieri, a notary belonging to an ancient but decadent Guelph family, by his first wife, Bella, who was possibly a daughter of Durante di Scolaio Abati, a Ghibelline noble.


Kingdom [Italian empire] fell and was succeeded by foreign power (Daniel 1:1-2).

A few months after the poet’s birth, the victory of Charles of Anjou over King Manfred at Benevento (26 February, 1266) ended the power of the empire in Italy, placed a French dynasty upon the throne of Naples, and secured the predominance of the Guelphs in Tuscany.


Good Education (Daniel 1:4, 20).

To take any part in public life, it was necessary to be enrolled in one or other of the “Arts” (the guilds in which the burghers and artisans were banded together), and accordingly Dante matriculated in the guild of physicians and apothecaries.


Spoke out on justice matter and hence became famed (Daniel, “Susanna”).

On 6 July, 1295, he spoke in the General Council of the Commune in favour of some modification in the Ordinances of Justice after which his name is frequently found recorded as speaking or voting in the various councils of the republic.


Famous Woman (Susanna again, but also Wisdom).

Already Dante had written his first book, the “Vita Nuova”, or “New Life”, an exquisite medley of lyrical verse and poetic prose, telling the story of his love for Beatrice, whom he had first seen at the end of his ninth year. Beatrice, who was probably the daughter of Folco Portinari, and wife of Simone de’ Bardi, died in June, 1290, and the “Vita Nuova” was completed about the year 1294. Dante’s love for her was purely spiritual and mystical, the amor amicitiae defined by St. Thomas Aquinas: “That which is loved in love of friendship is loved simply and for its own sake”. Its resemblance to the chivalrous worship that the troubadours offered to married women is merely superficial.

The book is dedicated to the Florentine poet, Guido Cavalcanti, whom Dante calls “the first of my friends”, and ends with the promise of writing concerning Beatrice “what has never before been written of any woman“.


Ruling interdict (Daniel 6:9: Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the interdict”.)

At the beginning of 1300 the papal jubilee was proclaimed by Boniface VIII. It is doubtful whether Dante was among the pilgrims who flocked to Rome. Florence was in a disastrous condition, the ruling Guelph party having split into two factions, known as Bianchi and Neri, “Whites” and “Blacks”, which were led by Vieri de’ Cerchi and Corso Donati, respectively. On 7 May Dante was sent on an unimportant embassy to San Gemignano. Shortly after his return he was elected one of the six priors who for two months, together with the gonfaloniere, formed the Signoria, the chief magistracy of the republic. His term of office was from 15 June to 15 August. Together with his colleagues. he confirmed the anti-Papal measures of his predecessors, banished the leaders of both factions, and offered such opposition to the papal legate, Cardinal Matteo d’Acquasparta, that the latter returned to Rome and laid Florence under an interdict.


To be burned at stake (Daniel 3: Blazing Furnace – Three Young Men).

On 1 November Charles of Valois entered Florence with his troops, and restored the Neri to power. Corso Donati and his friends returned in triumph, and were fully revenged on their opponents. Dante was one of the first victims. On a trumped-up charge of hostility to the Church and corrupt practices, he was sentenced (27 January, 1302), together with four others, to a heavy fine and perpetual exclusion from office. On 10 March, together with fifteen others, he was further condemned, as contumacious, to be burned to death, should he ever come into the power of the Commune.


Exile honour. Justice (Daniel was an exile).

A few years before his exile Dante had married Gemma di Manetto Donati, a distant kinswoman of Corso, by whom he had four children.

Dante now withdrew from all active participation in politics. In one of his odes written at this time, the “Canzone of the Three Ladies” (Canz. xx), he finds himself visited in his banishment by Justice and her spiritual children, outcasts even as he, and declares that, since such are his companions in misfortune, he counts his exile an honour.


Writer on Matters Divine (Daniel 5: ‘Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means’).  

His literary work at this epoch centres round his rime, or lyrical poems, more particularly round a series of fourteen canzoni or odes, amatory in form, but partly allegorical and didactic in meaning, a splendid group of poems which connect the “Vita Nuova” with the “Divina Commedia”.


Lover of philosophy (Daniel 1:20: “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom”).

About this time (1306-08) he began the “Convivio”, or “Banquet” in Italian prose, a kind of popularization of Scholastic philosophy in the form of a commentary upon his fourteen odes already mentioned. Only four of the fifteen projected treatises were actually written, an introduction and three commentaries. In allegorical fashion they tell us how Dante became the lover of Philosophy, that mystical lady whose soul is love and whose body is wisdom, she “whose true abode is in the most secret place of the Divine Mind”.


Disappears from scene (Nothing hear of Daniel from early reign of Nebuchednezzar until reign of Belshazzar).

All certain traces of Dante are now lost for some years.


On Monarchy (Daniel 4:27: ‘Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue’).

It was probably in 1309, in anticipation of the emperor’s coming to Italy, that Dante wrote his famous work on the monarchy, “De Monarchiâ”, in three books. Fearing lest he “should one day be convicted of the charge of the buried talent”, and desirous of “keeping vigil for the good of the world”, he proceeds successively to show that such a single supreme temporal monarchy as the empire is necessary for the well-being of the world, that the Roman people acquired universal sovereign sway by Divine right, and that the authority of the emperor is not dependent upon the pope, but descends upon him directly from the fountain of universal authority which is God.

It is therefore the special duty of the emperor to establish freedom and peace “on this threshing floor of mortality”. Mr. Wicksteed (whose translation is quoted) aptly notes that in the, “De Monarchiâ” “we first find in its full maturity the general conception of the nature of man, of government, and of human destiny, which was afterwards transfigured, without being transformed, into the framework of the Sacred Poem”.


Most wicked. (Daniel 4:17: ‘… the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men’.)

Thence, on 31 March, he wrote to the Florentine Government (Epist. vi), “the most wicked Florentines within”, denouncing them in unmeasured language for their opposition to the emperor, and, on 16 April, to Henry (Epist. vii), rebuking him for his delay, urging him to proceed at once against the rebellious city, “this dire plague which is named Florence”.


Bad Decree (Daniel 6:8: ‘Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered–in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians’).

By a decree of 2 September (the reform of Baldo d’Aguglione), Dante is included in the list of those who are permanently excepted from all amnesty and grace by the commune of Florence.


Joined emperor Pisa (Daniel 8:2: ‘In this vision I was at the fortress of Susa …’).

In the spring of 1312 he seems to have gone with the other exiles to join the emperor at Pisa, and it was there that Petrarch, then a child in his eighth year, saw his great predecessor for the only time.


And Jeremiah/Jeremias (Daniel 9:2: ‘I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet …’).

Reverence for his fatherland, Leonardo Bruni tells us, kept Dante from accompanying the imperial army that vainly besieged Florence in September and October; nor do we know what became of him in the disintegration of his party on the emperor’s death in the following August, 1313. A vague tradition makes him take refuge in the convent of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana near Gubbio. It was possibly from thence that, after the death of Clement V, in 1314, he wrote his noble letter to the Italian cardinals (Epist. viii), crying aloud with the voice of Jeremias, urging them to restore the papacy to Rome.



Part Two: Some More Comparisons



We continue with the New Advent life of Dante (emphasis in red):



Condemned to death. Pardoned (Daniel 2:24, also Fiery Furnace incident).

A little later, Dante was at Lucca under the protection of Uguccione della Faggiuola, a Ghibelline soldier who had temporarily made himself lord of that city. Probably in consequence of his association with Uguccione the Florentines renewed the sentence of death against the poet (6 Nov. 1315), his two sons being included in the condemnation. In 1316 several decrees of amnesty were passed, and (although Dante was undoubtedly excluded under a provision of 2 June) some attempt was made to get it extended to him.


Ideal ruler (Daniel 2:36-38, “Head of Gold”)

The poet’s answer was his famous letter to an unnamed Florentine friend (Epist. ix), absolutely refusing to return to his country under shameful conditions. He now went again to Verona, where he found his ideal of knightly manhood realized in Can Grande della Scala, who was ruling a large portion of Eastern Lombardy as imperial vicar, and in whom he doubtless saw a possible future deliverer of Italy. It is a plausible theory, dating from the fifteenth century, that identifies Can Grande with the “Veltro”, or greyhound, the hero whose advent is prophesied at the beginning of the “Inferno”, who is to effectuate the imperial ideals of the “De Monarchiâ”, and succeed where Henry of Luxemburg had failed.


Paradiso and its Explanation (Daniel’s Heavenly Vision, 7:9-10, 13-14 and Interpretation, 15-28).

In 1317 (according to the more probable chronology) Dante settled at Ravenna, at the invitation of Guido Novello da Polenta. Here he completed the “Divina Commedia”. From Ravenna he wrote the striking letter to Can Grande (Epist. x), dedicating the “Paradiso” to him, commenting upon its first canto, and explaining the intention and allegorical meaning of the whole poem.


Laurel crown of Bologna turned down (Daniel 5:17 turns down King Belshazzar’s honours: “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else”).

A letter in verse (1319) from Giovanni del Virgilio, a lecturer in Latin at the University of Bologna, remonstrating with him for treating such lofty themes in the vernacular, inviting him to come and receive the laurel crown in that City, led Dante to compose his first “Eclogue” a delightful poem in pastoral Latin hexameters, full of human kindness and gentle humour. In it Dante expresses his unalterable resolution to receive the laurel from Florence alone, and proposes to win his correspondent to an appreciation of vernacular poetry by the gift of ten cantos of the “Paradiso”.


Divina Commedia relates a vision (Daniel is a man of dreams and visions).

The “Divina Commedia” is an allegory of human life, in the form of a vision of the world beyond the grave, written avowedly with the object of converting a corrupt society to righteousness: “to remove those living in this life from the state of misery, and lead them to the state of felicity“. It is composed of a hundred cantos, written in the measure known as terza rima, with its normally hendecasyllabic lines and closely linked rhymes, which Dante so modified from the popular poetry of his day that it may be regarded as his own invention. He is relating, nearly twenty years after the event, a vision which was granted to him (for his own salvation when leading a sinful life) during the year of jubilee, 1300, in which for seven days (beginning on the morning of Good Friday) he passed through hell, purgatory, and paradise, spoke with the souls in each realm, and heard what the Providence of God had in store for himself and to world. The framework of the poem presents the dual scheme of the “De Monarchiâ” transfigured.


Beasts, Mountain (Daniel 7, Dream of Four Beasts, and 2:34 Mountain).

Virgil, representing human philosophy acting in accordance with the moral and intellectual virtues, guides Dante by the light of natural reason from the dark wood of alienation from God (where the beasts of lust pride, and avarice drive man back from ascending the Mountain of the Lord), through hell and purgatory to the earthly paradise, the state of temporal felicity, when spiritual liberty has been regained by the purgatorial pains.


Sight of God (Daniel’s Heavenly Vision, 7:9-10, 13-14).

Beatrice, representing Divine philosophy illuminated by revelation, leads him thence, up through the nine moving heavens of intellectual preparation, into the true paradise, the spaceless and timeless empyrean, in which the blessedness of eternal life is found in the fruition of the sight of God.


Sun and stars (Daniel 12:3).

There her place is taken by St. Bernard, type of the loving contemplation in which the eternal life of the soul consists, who commends him to the Blessed Virgin, at whose intercession he obtains a foretaste of the Beatific Vision, the poem closing with all powers of knowing and loving fulfilled and consumed in the union of the understanding with the Divine Essence, the will made one with the Divine Will, “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars”.


Victim persecution and injustice, burning with zeal (Daniel 6, Den of Lions).

Himself the victim of persecution and injustice, burning with zeal for the reformation and renovation of the world, Dante’s impartiality is, in the main, sublime. He is the man (to adopt his own phrase) to whom Truth appeals from her immutable throne ….


Lofty mountain (Daniel 2:34), rising out of ocean (Daniel 7:2).

The “Purgatorio”, perhaps the most artistically perfect of the three canticles, owes less to the beauty of the separate episodes. Dante’s conception of purgatory as a lofty mountain, rising out of the ocean in the southern hemisphere, and leading up to the Garden of Eden, the necessary preparation for winning back the earthly paradise, and with it all the prerogatives lost by man at the fall of Adam, seems peculiar to him; nor do we find elsewhere the purifying process carried on beneath the sun and stars, with the beauty of transfigured nature only eclipsed by the splendour of the angelic custodians of the seven terraces.


Beatrice on banks of Lethe (Daniel 8:16 Angel on banks of river Ulai).

The meeting with Beatrice on the banks of Lethe, with Dante’s personal confession of an unworthy past, completes the story of the “Vita Nuova” after the bitter experiences and disillusions of a lifetime.


Works of Dante considered spurious (Many sceptics of Book of Daniel).

The title of father of modern Dante scholarship unquestionably belongs to Karl Witte (1800-83), whose labours set students of the nineteenth century on the right path both in interpretation and in textual research. More recently, mainly through the influence of G.A. Scartazzini (d. 1901), a wave of excessive scepticism swept over the field, by which the traditional events of Dante’s life were regarded as little better than fables and the majority of his letters and even some of his minor works were declared to be spurious.


Hebrew prophet (Daniel was indeed that).

Never, perhaps, has Dante’s fame stood so high as at the present day, when he is universally recognized as ranking with Homer, Æschylus, Sophocles, and Shakespeare, among the few supreme poets of the world. It has been well observed that his inspiration resembles that of the Hebrew prophet more than that of the poet as ordinarily understood.



Part Three:

Dante ‘Becomes’ Nebuchednezzar



Dante’s “inspiration resembles that of the Hebrew prophet more than that of the poet as ordinarily understood”. So we read in Part Two. But it has also been said (see below): “Dante is to Nebuchadnezzar as Beatrice is to Daniel”.





“Why should Dante have cast himself as the tyrannical Babylonian ruler?”





For some incredible likenesses to the Book of Daniel in Dante’s writings it may suffice to quote from the following two intriguing articles:



Robert Hollander (Princeton University) 17 May 2005 Paradiso 4.14: Dante as Nebuchadnezzar?
The following passage, a simile, apparently establishes a four-way typological analogy, three terms of which are disclosed, and one of which is not expressed, but is understood easily and by all who have dealt with this text. At the same time, it has always caused displeasure or avoidance in its readers:


Fé sì Beatrice qual fé Danïello, Nabuccodonosor levando d’ira, che l’avea fatto ingiustamente fello; (Par. 4.13-15)


The cast of characters of this passage also (and obviously) includes the protagonist, even if he is not named in it. And indeed, all readily agree that, in this “equation,” Dante is to Nebuchadnezzar as Beatrice is to Daniel. The problem only begins once we have come that far.

Dante has accustomed his readers to understanding his typological analogies readily. One such that usefully comes to mind with reference to our passage is found farther along in Paradiso, the allusion to the figurally related pair Ananias/Beatrice and its unexpressed but pellucidly clear companion duo, in similar relation, Saul of Tarsus/Dante:


“perché la donna che per questa dia regïon ti conduce, ha ne lo sguardo la virtù ch’ebbe la man d’ Anania .” (Par. 26.10-12)


While not all aspects of this quadripartite relation have proven to be easily assimilated (for instance, what exactly Beatrice’s gaze represents), it is probably fair to say that its basic business has escaped no one: Dante, blinded by the presence of St. John, is assured by him that he will soon regain his sight by the ministrations of Beatrice, who will serve as the new Ananias to his Saul (Acts 9:8-18), blinded on the road to Damascus.

To return to our less well understood simile, we find that it puts into parallel Beatrice (placating Dante’s anxiety) and Daniel (stilling Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath). It thus also necessarily puts into parallel Dante and Nebuchadnezzar, a relation that at first makes no sense at all[1]. The poet has earlier in the Commedia visited this biblical text (found in the second book of the prophet Daniel), the account of the king’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it (see Inf. 14.94-111 for Dante’s version of that dream, embodied in the representation of the veglio di Creta ). Here he fastens on its perhaps strangest aspect: the new king’s desire to kill all the wise men in his kingdom of Babylon who could neither bring his forgotten dream back to mind nor then interpret it � about as untoward a royal prerogative as anyone has ever sought to enjoy. Thus it seems natural to wonder in what way Dante may possibly be conceived of as being similar to the wrathful king of Babylon . The entire commentary tradition observes only a single link: Nebuchadnezzar’s displeasure and Dante’s puzzlement are both finally relieved by (divinely inspired � see Trucchi on these verses [2]) external intervention on the part of Daniel, in the first case, and then of Beatrice. However, saying that is akin to associating Joseph Stalin and Mother Teresa on the nearly meaningless grounds that both were among the most famous people of their time. Why should Dante have cast himself as the tyrannical Babylonian ruler? That is a question that has only stirred the edges of the ponds in the commentaries and has never had a sufficient answer. If we turn to the work of my friend Lino Pertile, we find that he, after correctly noting the verbal playfulness of the tercet (“Fé… fé… l’avea fatto… fello” [we might want to compare Par. 7.10-12: “Io dubitava e dicea ‘Dille, dille! / fra me, ‘dille’ dicea, ‘a la mia donna / che mi diseta con le dolci stille’,” an even more notably–and playfully–overwrought tercet]), characterizes this simile as being “hyperbolic and distracting rather than illuminating.”[3] That is because Pertile, like almost everyone else (and perhaps understandably), believes that “Beatrice might reasonably be compared to Daniel, but the analogy between Dante’s tongue-tying intellectual anxiety and Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath is hardly fitting.”[4] That, this writer must confess, was until very recently his own view of the matter.[5] However, if one looks in the Epistle to Cangrande (77-82), one finds a gloss to Par. 1.4-9 that is entirely germane here. And apparently, in the centuries of discussion of this passage, only G.R. Sarolli, in his entry “Nabuccodonosor” in the Enciclopedia dantesca[6], has noted the striking similarity in the two texts, going on to argue that such similarity serves as a further proof of the authenticity of the epistle.[7] In that passage Dante explains that his forgetting of his experience of the Empyrean (because he was lifted beyond normal human experience and could not retain his vision) has some egregious precursors: St. Paul, three of Jesus’s disciples, Ezekiel (such visionary capacity certified by the testimony of Richard of St. Victor, St. Bernard, and St. Augustine); and then he turns to his own unworthiness to be included in such company (if not hesitating to insist on the fact that he had been the recipient of exactly the same sort of exalted vision): “Si vero in dispositionem elevationis tante propter peccatum loquentis oblatrarent, legant Danielem, ubi et Nabuchodonosor invenient contra peccatores aliqua vidisse divinitus, oblivionique mandasse” [But if on account of the sinfulness of the speaker (Dante himself, we want to remember) they should cry out against his claim to have reached such a height of exaltation, let them read Daniel, where they will find that even Nebuchadnezzar by divine permission beheld certain things as a warning to sinners, and straightway forgot them].[8] Dante, like the Babylonian king, has had a vision that was God-given, only to forget it. And now he is, Nebuchadnezzar-like, distraught; Beatrice, like the Hebrew prophet, restores his calm. It is worth observing that Dante’s way of stating what Daniel accomplished is set forth in negative terms: He helped the king put off the wrath that had made him unjustly cruel; the poet does not say Daniel restored the dream, the loss of which caused the king to become angry with his wise men in the first place. But that is precisely what we are meant to conclude, as the text of the epistle makes still clearer. Thus the typological equation here is not otiose; Dante is the new Nebuchadnezzar in that both of them, if far from being holy men (indeed both were sinners), were nonetheless permitted access to visionary experience of God, only to be unable to retain their visions in memory. The king enters this perhaps unusual history, that of those who, less than morally worthy, forgot the divine revelation charitably extended to them, as the first forgetter; Dante, as the second. This is exactly the sort of spirited, self-conscious playfulness that we expect from this greatest of poets, who doubled as his own commentator. And that commentator, in the Epistle to Cangrande, was not only the first to deal with this passage but the only one to have got it right.[9]

[1] If one also considers Dante’s other typological reference to the book of Daniel (6:22; see Mon. III.i.1), where Dante compares himself to the prophet in the lions’ den, one quickly understands the non-binding nature of any particular identity in his series of self-definitions. See note 5 for his drawing attention to himself as David or as Uzzah, depending on the context in which he is working.

[2] Ernesto Trucchi, comm. to Par. 4.13-15, DDP.

[3] Lino Pertile, “Paradiso IV,” in Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” Introductory Readings III: “Paradiso,” ed. Tibor Wlassics ( Lectura Dantis [virginiana], 16-17, supplement, 1995), p. 50.

[4] Ibid.

[5] But see an earlier study of another figural construction in which Dante is observed connecting himself as antitype to an entirely negative precursor in surprisingly positive terms: Robert Hollander, “Dante as Uzzah? (Purg. X.57 and Epistle XI.9-12),” in Sotto il segno di Dante: Scritti in onore di Francesco Mazzoni, ed. L. Coglievina & D. De Robertis (Florence: Le Lettere, 1999), pp. 143-51. In that instance also the meaning of a passage in the poem is deepened by one in an epistle, if in that case the Latin text may have preceded the vernacular one, as is almost certainly not true in this.

[6] ED IV, 1973, p. 1a.  For an independent and similar argument (without reference to Sarolli’s voce), see Albert Ascoli, “Dante after Dante,” in Dante for the New Millennium, ed. T. Barolini and H.W. Storey (New York: Fordham University Press, 2003), pp. 358-59 & nn.

[7] Sarolli continues, brushing aside the traditional commentator’s explanation, which focuses on the Daniel/Beatrice typology by simply avoiding the Nebuchadnezzar/Dante one, to speculate that what is really at stake is the parallelism Babylonian wise men/Plato, a pairing that simply doesn’t compute. (The wise men are not wrong; Plato is–or at least his ideas, in their raw form, are deeply culpable.)

[8] Epistola XIII.81, ed. E. Pistelli (SDI, 1960); tr. P. Toynbee (both cited from the Princeton Dante Project).

[9] Whatever doubt remains concerning the authenticity of the epistle has been effectively and considerably challenged by a recent study: Luca Azzetta, “Le chiose alla Commedia di Andrea Lancia, l’Epistola a Cangrande e altre questioni dantesche,” L’Alighieri 21 (2003): 5-76.



And we read further at:



An Image of Man

Dante’s Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto XIV, Lines 103-116

What makes a man? According to nursery rhymes the ingredients include snips and snails and puppy dog tails; according to modern times the ingredients are dollars and bills, gold and silver. According to Dante, the image of every man is revealed in the fourteenth canto of the Inferno with the allegory of the “old man” beneath Mount Ida from whom the three mythological rivers spring, and who is made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay. But is this a man, this concoction of various elements? And is this everyman? Dante’s answer would be ‘yes,’ followed by an injunction to ‘look deeper.’

Taking Dante’s command to heart, the immediate parallelism of this “old man” is to King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the second book of Daniel. Here, the man is similarly fashioned, with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, a waist of bronze, and legs of iron. However, both the feet in the Biblical passage are of iron mixed with clay, while in Dante one foot is iron and the other is of clay. Daniel explains the various metals as the succession of empires after the “golden age” of Nebuchadnezzar. In the dream, a stone “cut out by no human hand (Daniel 2:34)” smites the base, cracking every layer of the statue. The image crumbles, blown away by the wind, and the stone becomes a mountain. Dante’s man is likewise fissured, but no reason is given for the disfigurement. Here the golden head remains intact, and no mountain takes the place of the statue in the Inferno, but “from the splay/of that great rift run tears (Canto XIV, ln. 112-113)” which form three of the four mythological rivers: Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon.

The similarity between the two images is striking, and one must assume that Dante expected his Medieval audience to draw such an obvious connection. It remains to the reader to probe the deeper meanings. Biblical scholars have long held that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was not merely a prophecy about the King’s own reign and the empires after him, but a foreshadowing of the Reign of God, as symbolized by the victorious mountain. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Christ has already come through Hell (Canto IV, ln. 52-63) and liberated the righteous – the stone has already cracked the statue and become a mountain. The Reign of God proclaimed by the Gospels and symbolized by the mountain has come to pass. In Dante’s geography, the “great old man stands under the mountain’s mass (Canto XIV, ln. 159).” This mountain may be either Calvary or Purgatory, both “ladders” to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Daniel explains that the feet of the King’s statue that are made of iron mixed with clay represents an ill-made empire that shall be a “divided kingdom” with “some of the firmness of iron…in it,” that is “partly strong and partly brittle,” “mix[ed] with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together (Daniel 2:41-43).” By separating the two substances so that one leg is iron and the other clay, Dante shows a more completely “divided kingdom.” Some scholars have argued that this may represent or prefigure our own modern separation of church and state. Secular critics have made the case that the “right foot…baked of the earthen clay,/…the foot upon which he chiefly stands (Canto XIV, ln. 110-111)” is the Church herself, “weakened and corrupted by temporal concerns and political power struggles (Musa, 77).” This may certainly have been one of Dante’s multilayered meanings, but is not necessarily the only allegory.

The old man is mentioned as Virgil and Dante enter the Burning Sands after the Wood of the Suicides in Hell. These two rings are reserved for those violent against the Self (suicides), God (blasphemers), Nature (Sodomites) and Art (usurers). The iron foot is described in Daniel as that metal that “breaks to pieces and shatters all things…it crushes (Daniel 2:40).” Iron is the element associated with weaponry and war – a violent element appropriate to the circle of the violent. Clay, often used as a symbol for man’s human frailty, may be one answer to the riddle of the right foot. The people in Hell fell because they relied on their own flawed humanity rather than the divine providence or intellect, which the unshattered golden head may symbolize.