All posts for the month April, 2019

In search of a less obscure King Hezekiah of Judah 

Published April 30, 2019 by amaic
Image result for king hezekiah


Damien F. Mackey



‘I’ve never read a King Hezekiah of Judah like that before’.



Such was basically the comment made by professor Rifaat Ebied of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies (University of Sydney), upon having read the draft of my thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



However, as often occurred to me whilst writing that thesis, King Hezekiah, though presumably the focal point of the thesis, remained for the most part a largely obscure figure, unlike some of his contemporaries whom I was able to develop in far more detail.


But, firstly, how did this thesis come about?

Providentially, I would suggest.


In the Year 2000 AD, professor Ebied asked me if I would like to do a doctoral thesis, and he gave me the choice of the era of King Hezekiah of Judah, or the era of King Josiah of Judah.

I, having at that stage absolutely no clear cut ideas about the era of king Josiah, jumped at the chance to write about the era of King Hezekiah. The reason for this was that I had already spent almost two decades trying to ascertain an historical locus for the Book of Judith and had finally come to, what was all along the obvious conclusion, that the Judith drama was all about the destruction of Sennacherib of Assyria’s 185,000-strong army during the reign of Hezekiah.


King Hezekiah of Judah


King Hezekiah, a formidable historical figure, whom his Assyrian opponent King Sennacherib described as “the strong, proud Hezekiah” (Sennacherib’s Bull Inscriptions), and who reigned for almost three decades (2 Kings 18:2), tends to disappear from the scene of conflict after about his 14th year, the year of his sickness.

Yet this was well before the confrontation with the ill-fated army of Sennacherib.


More recently, though, I have managed to enlarge Hezekiah considerably, by identifying him with the similarly good and pious king of Judah, Josiah (prof. Ebied’s two points of reference). For my arguments on this, and for my radical revision of the later kings of Judah, see e.g. my article:


‘Taking aim on’ king Amon – such a wicked king of Judah


This article, if correct, takes us far deeper at least into the reign of King Hezekiah, and it even tells of his violent death at the hands of pharaoh Necho (2 Kings 23:29-30).


King Sennacherib of Assyria


This notorious king of Assyria I had already enlarged in my thesis by multi-identifying him, especially in Volume One, Chapter 6.

His chief alter ego, I had concluded, was the potent Sargon II. I have since written further articles on this fusion of supposedly two Assyrian mega-kings, along the lines of e.g:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib


My other move on Sennacherib at that time involved the necessary (in terms of the revision) folding of Middle Assyro-Babylonian history with Neo Assyro-Babylonian history.

Revised attempts at this so far do not seem to have been very successful.

I thought that I had found the perfect solution with my folding of the mighty Middle Babylonian king, Nebuchednezzar I, conventionally dated to the C12th BC – he, I then declared to have been ‘the Babylonian face’ of Sargon II/Sennacherib.

Such an identification, which seemed to have massive support from the succession of Shutrukid-Elamite kings of the time having names virtually identical to the succession of Elamite kings at the time of Sargon II/Sennacherib (see Table 1 below), had the further advantage of providing Sargon II/Sennacherib with the name, “Nebuchednezzar”, just as the Assyrian king is named in the Book of Judith (“Nebuchadnezzar”).


My more recent collapsing of the late neo-Assyrian era into the early neo-Babylonian era has caused me to drop the identification of Nebuchednezzar I with Sargon II/Sennacherib.


Aligning Neo Babylonia with Book of Daniel. Part One: Shortening the Chaldean Dynasty


Aligning Neo-Babylonia with Book of Daniel. Part Two: Merging late neo-Assyrians with Chaldeans


More appropriately, now, Nebuchednezzar I might be found to have been Nebuchednezzar II.


Fortunately though, with this tightened chronology, the impressive Shutrukid-Elamite parallels that I had established in my thesis might still remain viable.


Having rejected my former folding of Nebuchednezzar I with Sargon II/Sennacherib the question must be asked, ‘At what point does Middle fold with Neo?’

Hopefully, I had identified that very point of fusion in my thesis (see next).


King Merodach-baladan of Babylonia


Here, I shall simply reproduce part of what I wrote about the best point of folding in my thesis (Chapter 7, beginning on p. 180):


So, with what ‘Middle’ Babylonian period are we to merge the ‘Neo’ Babylonian Merodach-baladan [II], in order to show that VLTF [Velikovsky’s Lowering on Timescale by 500 Years] is convincing for this part of the world as well at this particular time?

Actually, there is a perfect opportunity for such a merger with one who is considered – perhaps rightly – to have been one of the last Kassite kings: namely, Merodach-baladan [I] (c. 1173-1161 BC, conventional dates). Now, as I have emphasized in the course of this thesis, identical names do not mean identical persons. However, there is more similarity between Merodach-baladan I and II than just the name I would suggest. For instance:


  • There is the (perhaps suspicious?) difficulty in distinguishing between the building efforts of Merodach-baladan [I] and Merodach-baladan [II]:[1]


Four kudurrus …, taken together with evidence of his building activity in Borsippa … show Merodach-baladan I still master in his own domain. The bricks recording the building of the temple of Eanna in Uruk …, assigned to Merodach-baladan I by the British Museum’s A Guide to the Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities … cannot now be readily located in the Museum for consultation; it is highly probable, however, that these bricks belong to Merodach-baladan II (see Studies Oppenheim, p. 42 …).




  • Wiseman contends that Merodach-baladan I was in fact a king of the Second Isin Dynasty which is thought to have succeeded the Kassites.[2] Brinkman, whilst calling this view “erroneous”, has conceded that:[3] “The beginnings of [the Second Dynasty of Isin] … are relatively obscure”.
  • There is the same approximate length of reign over Babylonia for Merodach-baladan [I] and [II]. Twelve years as king of Babylon for Merodach-baladan II, as we have already discussed. And virtually the same in the case of Merodach-baladan I:[4]

The Kassite Dynasty, then, continued relatively vigorous down through the next two reigns, including that of Merodach-baladan I, the thirty-fourth and third-last king of the dynasty, who reigned some thirteen years …. Up through this time, kudurrus show the king in control of the land in Babylonia.


  • Merodach-baladan I was approximately contemporaneous with the Elamite succession called Whilst there is some doubt as to the actual sequence of events[5]Shutruk-Nahhunte is said to have been the father of Kudur-Nahhunte – the names of three of these kings are identical to those of Sargon II’s/ Sennacherib’s Elamite foes, supposedly about four centuries later.


Now, consider further these striking parallels between the C12th BC and the neo-Assyrian period, to be developed below:


Table 1: Comparison of the C12th BC (conventional) and C8th BC


C12th BC


·         Some time before Nebuchednezzar I, there reigned in Babylon a Merodach-baladan [I].

·         The Elamite kings of this era carried names such as Shutruk-Nahhunte and his son, Kudur-Nahhunte.

·         Nebuchednezzar I fought a hard battle with a ‘Hulteludish’ (Hultelutush-Inshushinak).

C8th BC


·         The Babylonian ruler for king Sargon II’s first twelve years was a Merodach-baladan [II].

·         SargonII/Sennacherib fought against the Elamites, Shutur-Nakhkhunte & Kutir-Nakhkhunte.

·         Sennacherib had trouble also with a ‘Hallushu’ (Halutush-Inshushinak).


Too spectacular I think to be mere coincidence!

[End of quotes]




[1] Brinkman, op. cit, p. 87, footnote (456).

[2] Ibid, footnote (455), with reference to D. J. Wiseman in CAH, vol. ii, part 2, xxxi, p. 39.

[3] Ibid, p. 90.

[4] Ibid, p. 87.

[5] Ibid, p. 109.

Important lapse of ‘many years’ in Tobit, in Acts

Published April 28, 2019 by amaic
Image result for governor felix


Damien F. Mackey



“But after a long time, Salmanasar [Shalamneser] the king being dead,

… Sennacherib his son, who reigned in his place, had a hatred for the children of Israel”.

 Tobit 1:18


“The governor [Felix] then motioned for Paul to speak. Paul said, ‘I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years, so I gladly present my defense before you’.”

 Acts 24:10

This attested lapse of a long time opens up the door for a possible extension of the reign of the conventionally brief Shalmaneser [V], c. 727-722 BC, and for the conventionally brief procurator, Felix, c. 52-60 AD.

The Vulgate Tobit 1:18 employs, in the case of Shalmaneser, the Latin phrase, post multum vero temporis (“after a long time”), and the Greek Acts 24:10 employs, in the case of Felix, the phrase, Ἐκ πολλῶν ἐτῶν (“for many years”).


King Shalmaneser


Whereas the conventional history has Tiglath-pileser III and Shalmaneser V as separate Assyrian kings, my own view, as outlined in my university thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background


is that Shalmaneser was Tiglath-pileser.

In Volume One, Chapter 6, I wrote the following brief section on this, in which I took a lead from the Book of Tobit regarding the neo-Assyrian succession:


Shalmaneser V (c. 726-722 BC, conventional dates)


Looking at the conventional date for the death of Tiglath-pileser III, c. 727 BC, we can see that it coincides with the biblically-estimated date for the first year of king Hezekiah. But, if the former is to be identified with Shalmaneser V, thought to have reigned for five years, then this date would need to be lowered by about those five years (right to the time of the fall of Samaria), bringing Tiglath-pileser III deeper into the reign of Hezekiah.

Now, that Tiglath-pileser III is to be equated with Shalmaneser V would seem to be deducible from a combination of two pieces of evidence from [the Book of Tobit]: namely,


  1. that it was “King Shalmaneser of the Assyrians” who took Tobit’s tribe of Naphtali into captivity (1:1, 2); a deportation generally attributed to Tiglath-pileser III on the basis of 2 Kings 15:29; and
  2. that: “when Shalmaneser died … his son Sennacherib reigned in his place” (1:15).


Unfortunately, very little is known of the reign of this ‘Shalmaneser’ [V] to supplement [the Book of Tobit]. According to Roux, for instance:[1] “The short reign of … Shalmaneser V (726-722 B.C.) is obscure”. And Boutflower has written similarly:[2] “The reign of Shalmaneser V (727-722) is a blank in the Assyrian records”. It seems rather strange, though, that a king who was powerful enough to have enforced a three year siege of Israel’s capital of Samaria (probably the Sha-ma-ra-in of the Babylonian Chronicle), resulting in the successful sack of that city, and to have invaded all Phoenicia and even to have besieged the mighty Tyre for five years,[3] and to have earned a hateful reputation amongst the Sargonids, should end up “a blank” and “obscure” in the Assyrian records.

The name Tiglath-pileser was a throne name, as Sargon appears to have been – that is, a name given to (or taken by) the king on his accession to the throne. In Assyrian cuneiform, his name is Tukulti-apil-ešarra, meaning: “My confidence is the son of Esharra”. This being a throne name would make it likely that the king also had a personal name – just as I have argued above that Sargon II had the personal name of Sennacherib. The personal name of Tiglath-pileser III I believe to have been Shalmaneser.

A problem though with my proposed identification of Shalmaneser V with Tiglath-pileser III is that, according to Boutflower,[4] there has been discovered “a treaty between Esarhaddon and Baal of Tyre, in which Shalmaneser is expressly styled the son of Tiglath-pileser”. Boutflower makes reference here to H. Winckler (in Eberhard Schrader’s Keilinschriften, 3rd Edn. pt. I, p. 62, note 2); Winckler being the Assyriologist, we might recall, who had with Delitzsch spirited Sargon’s name into Eponym Cb6 and whose edition of Sargon’s Annals had disappointed Luckenbill. So far, I have not been able to find any solid evidence for this document.

Boutflower had surmised, on the basis of a flimsy record, that Tiglath-pileser III had died in battle and had been succeeded by Shalmaneser:[5] “That Tiglathpileser died in battle is rendered probable by the entry in the Assyrian Chronicle for the year 727 B.C. [sic]: “Against the city of …. Shalmaneser seated himself on the throne”.” Tiglath-pileser is not even mentioned.

A co-regency between Shalmaneser V and Sargon II can be proposed on the basis that the capture of Samaria is variously attributed to either king. According to my revision, that same co-regency should exist between Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon; and indeed we find that both Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon campaigned on the borders of Egypt; both defeated Hanno the king of Gaza, and established (opened) there a karu “quay”; both received tribute from Queen Tsamsi of Arabia; both had encounters with Merodach-baladan. Further, according to my revision, that proposed co-regency can be extended to accommodate Sennacherib (as Sargon). Perhaps a clear proof is that, whilst Sennacherib claimed that the Medes had not submitted to any of his predecessor kings (see p. 153), both Tiglath-pileser and Sargon claimed to have received tribute from the Medes.

Interestingly, nowhere in Kings, Chronicles, or in any other of the books traditionally called ‘historical’, do we encounter the name ‘Sargon’. Yet we should expect mention of him if his armies really had made an incursion as close to Jerusalem as ‘Ashdod’ (be it in Philistia or Judah). Certainly, Sargon II claimed that Judah (Iaudi), Philistia (Piliste), Edom and Moab, had revolted against him.[6] If the Assyrian king, Sargon II, can have two different names – as is being agued here – then so might his father. So I conclude that 2 Kings, in the space of 2 chapters, gives us three names for the one Assyrian king:


– 15:19: “King Pul of Assyria came against the land …”.

– 15:29: “King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria came and captured …”.

– 17:3: “King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up”.





(iii) [Book of Judith]


The testimony of [Book of Judith] should not be dismissed lightly for it is – as we shall discover in Volume Two – a very ancient document that has been copied frequently.

Now, there is only the one Assyrian king, ‘Nebuchadnezzar’,[7] ruling throughout the entire drama of [Book of Judith], and he has likenesses to ‘both’ Sennacherib and Sargon II. Thus:


  • (As Sennacherib) The incident to which the climax of [the Book of Judith] drama could be referring, if historical, is the defeat of Sennacherib’s army of 185,000; yet
  • (As Sargon II) The Assyrian king in [the Book of Judith] 1 seems to equate well with Sargon, inasmuch as he commences a war against a Chaldean king in his Year 12.


So it might be asked: Was [Book of Judith’s] Assyrian king, Sargon or Sennacherib?

The question of course becomes irrelevant if it is one and the same king.


Figure 4: Sargon II / Sennacherib[8]

Stylistic likeness and even personal likeness in the case of both the king and of the accompanying official


(iv) [Book of Tobit]


[The Book of Tobit], like [the Book of Judith], was a popular and much copied document. The incidents described in [Book of Tobit] are written down as having occurred during the successive reigns of ‘Shalmaneser’, ‘Sennacherib’ and ‘Esarhaddon’. No mention at all there of Sargon, not even as father of Sennacherib. Instead, we read: “But when Shalmaneser died, and his son Sennacherib reigned in his place …” (1:15). Moreover this ‘Shalmaneser’, given as father of Sennacherib, is also – as we saw – referred to as the Assyrian king who had taken into captivity Tobit’s tribe of Naphtali (vv. 1-2); a deed generally attributed to Tiglath-pileser III and conventionally dated about a decade before the reign of Sargon II. This would seem to strengthen my suspicion that Shalmaneser V was actually Tiglath-pileser III, despite Boutflower’s claim of a treaty document specifically styling Shalmaneser as son of Tiglath-pileser III.


A Summarising and Concluding Note


The neo-Assyrian chronology as it currently stands seems to be, like the Sothic chronology of Egypt – though on a far smaller scale – over-extended and thus causing a stretching of contemporaneous reigns, such as those of Merodach baladan II of Babylonia, Mitinti of ‘Ashdod’ and Deioces of Media. There are reasons nonetheless, seemingly based upon solid primary evidence, for believing that the conventional historians have got it right and that their version of the neo-Assyrian succession is basically the correct one. However, much of the primary data is broken and damaged, necessitating heavy bracketting. On at least one significant occasion, the name of a king has been added into a gap based on a preconception. Who is to say that this has not happened more than once? Esarhaddon’s history … is so meagre that recourse must be had to his Display Inscriptions, thereby leaving the door open for “errors” according to Olmstead.

With the compilers of the conventional neo-Assyrian chronology having mistaken one king for two, as I am arguing to have occurred in the case of Sargon II/Sennacherib, and probably also with Tiglath-pileser III/Shalmaneser V, then one ends up with duplicated situations, seemingly unfinished scenarios, and of course anomalous or anachronistic events. Thus, great conquests are claimed for Shalmaneser V whose records are virtually a “blank”. Sargon II is found to have been involved in the affairs of a Cushite king who is well outside Sargon’s chronological range; while Sennacherib is found to be ‘interfering’ in events well within the reign of Sargon II, necessitating a truncation of Sargon’s effective reign in order to allow Sennacherib to step in early, e.g. in 714 BC, “the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah” (2 Kings 18:13; Isaiah 36:1), and in 713 BC (tribute from Azuri of ‘Ashdod’).

[End of quote]



Governor Felix


‘Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists

out into the wilderness some time ago?’


Acts 21:38

Good luck to anyone who is able to convert the Jewish Jesus Christ of the New Testament, whose death occurred early during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate, into a rebel insurgent leading a force of 4000 murderous sicarii (assassins) at Mount Olivet, or into the wilderness, at a point late in the procuratorship of Felix – and an “Egyptian” rebel at that!

Dr. Lena Einhorn of Stockholm, though, has attempted to do just that in her, albeit most intriguing, book, A Shift in Time, How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth about Jesus (2016).



And she does so likewise in her article, “Jesus and the Egyptian Prophet”:


What can happen with the way that ancient history (and dare we say also much of AD history) has been, in many cases, erroneously reconstructed, with the duplicating of eras and rulers, is that a certain biblical situation can appear to emerge far more clearly at a time later than it historically should. A classic example of this is with the surprise finding of historians and biblical commentators that king Nabonidus of Babylon, dated some years after the death of king Nebuchednezzar II of Babylon, is found to match the biblical “Nebuchadnezzar”, of, say, the Book of Daniel, far better than does the historical Nebuchednezzar II.


And Lena Einhorn thinks, similarly, that she has found better parallels with Jesus Christ in the time of the procurator Felix (a contemporary of St. Paul) than at the time of Pontius Pilate – hence her proposed “Shift in Time” of some two decades.


In the case of the Babylonian dynasty, the solution to the seeming displacement is that – at least according to the AMAIC’s scheme of things – some of the Babylonian kings have been duplicated. The reason why king Nabonidus makes such an excellent “Nebuchadnezzar” of the Book of Daniel is because Nabonidus is the historical Nebuchednezzar II, is the “Nebuchadnezzar” of the Book of Daniel. The Book of Daniel informs us, in Chapter 5, famous for the Writing on the Wall, that “Nebuchadnezzar” was succeeded by his son, “Belshazzar”. And that very son is attested in Baruch 1:11: “ … pray for the life of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and of Belshazzar, his son …”.

And it is well known to historians that the son of Nabonidus was also Belshazzar.

But biblical commentators, following an erroneous Babylonian history quite incompatible with the Bible, must feel the need to drop in a corrective note here to Baruch 1:11:


* [1:11] Nebuchadnezzar…Belshazzar, his son: Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, not of Nebuchadnezzar, the destroyer of Jerusalem. Belshazzar was co-regent for a few years while his father was away in Arabia. Later Jewish tradition seems to have simplified the end of the Babylonian empire (cf. Dn 5:12), for three kings came between Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus.


Now, when Dr. Einhorn wrote to me (Damien Mackey), pointing out what she considered to be some seemingly striking parallels between “the Egyptian” (as portrayed by the Jewish historian, Josephus), and Jesus Christ, I suspected that the procurator in either case, Felix (for the Egyptian) and Pontius Pilate (for Jesus Christ) must be duplicates. What I think may bear this out is the fact that St. Paul tells Felix that the latter had judged the nation of Israel for many years (see below) – a situation which would not apply in the conventional ordering of things, but would apply if Pontius Pilate ‘runs into’, is, the same person as Felix.

Anyway, I, having read through a substantial amount of the material that Dr. Einhorn referenced for me on the subject, wrote her this my summary of it all:


Dear Lena,


Many thanks for your interesting contributions which I have enjoyed reading ….

What I got out of it, though, is not what you would have wanted me to get out of it.
Your showing how well Procurator Felix fits the biblical Pontius Pilate was a revelation to me.

St. Paul says to Felix that the latter had been a judge of the nation “for many years” (Acts 24:10), which could not be true of just Felix at that time (about a handful of years only). But it would be perfectly true were Felix to be merged with Pontius Pilate, making for some two decades of overall governorship.

And, regarding the startling likenesses between some aspects of Jesus and “the Egyptian” – though one would be very hard put indeed to make of Jesus, “love thy enemy”, “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword”, “my kingdom is not of this world”, “render to Caesar”, a murderous revolutionary.

What happens is that the influential life of Jesus Christ gets picked up and absorbed into pseudo-historical characters, such as the Buddha (his birth was miraculous, he supposedly walks on water, he has 12 inner apostles and 72 outer ones, etc.), Krishna, Prophet Mohammed, and, most notably, Apollonius of Tyana, whom many regard as being the actual model for the biblical Jesus.

Unfortunately for Apollonius, his association with Nineveh (destroyed in 612 BC and whose location was totally unknown until the C19th AD), renders him an historical absurdity – same with Mohammed and his various associations with Nineveh.

Also Heraclius of Byzantium for the very same reason.

Josephus has obviously merged into the one scenario, two very disparate characters: Jesus Christ and the Egyptian.

Hence some incredibly striking parallels mixed with some impossible differences. ….

[1] Ancient Iraq, p. 310. And S. Smith wrote: “Of the short reign of Shalmaneser V no historical record is extant”. ‘The Supremacy of Assyria’, p. 42.

[2] Op. cit. p. 341.

[3] Ibid, pp. 184-185.

[4] Ibid, pp. 75-76.

[5] Ibid, p. 75.

[6] Luckenbill, op. cit, # 195, p. 105. Again, the Assyrian scribes of Tiglath-pileser III and Sennacherib used “stereotypical military imagery” in regard to, respectively, Rezin of Syria and Hezekiah of Judah, each having been “shut in like a bird in a cage”. S. Irvine, Isaiah, Ahaz, and the Syro-Ephraimitic Crisis, p. 30, including n. 21.

[7] Regarding the use of ‘Nebuchednezzar’ for Sargon/Sennacherib, see Chapter 7 of this thesis.

[8] Taken from C. Archer’s The Assyrian Empire, p. 66 for Sargon II (“Sargon II and an attendant eunuch. Young boys were made eunuchs when given to the king as tribute. In Assyrian art they are always shown as being both beardless and chubby. Drawing of a bas-relief from Khorsabad”); p. 79 for Sennacherib (“Sennacherib accepting the defeat of the vanquished. Engraving of a bas-relief from Nimrud”).

Alexander the Great and Hernán Cortés

Published April 18, 2019 by amaic
Image result for justin d. lyons

Part One (ii):

Justin Lyons’ parallels



Alexander the Great and Hernán Cortés

Ambiguous Legacies of Leadership (2015)

Justin D. Lyons


This is a biographical pairing of two of the greatest conquerors in human history, drawing its inspiration from Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Like Plutarch, the purpose of the pairing is not primarily historical.

While Plutarch covers the history of each of the lives he chronicles, he also emphasizes questions of character and the larger lessons of politics to be derived from the deeds he recounts. The book provides a narrative account both of Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire and Cortés’s conquest of the Aztec Empire while reflecting on the larger questions that emerge from each. The campaign narratives are followed by essays devoted to leadership and command that seek to recover the treasures of the Plutarchian approach shaped by moral and political philosophy. Analysis of leadership style and abilities is joined with assessment of character. Special emphasis is given to the speeches provided in historical sources and meditation on rhetorical successes and failures in maintaining the morale and willing service of their men.


Book review at:

Part Two: Would a C16th AD Spaniard likely have encountered an Aztec empire?


“When Worlds in Collision was published, four Yale University professors had collaborated in preparing a rebuttal in the American Journal of Science, where one of them ridiculed the suggestion that the Mesoamerican civilization appeared to be much older than conventional history allowed. Five years later, the National Geographical Society announced: “Atomic science has proved the ancient civilizations of Mexico to be some 1,000 years older than had been believed.” The Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution declared this to be the most important archeological discovery in recent history”.


James P. Hogan


James P. Hogan wrote this paragraph in his book, Kicking the Sacred Cow: Questioning the Unquestionable and Thinking the Impermissible.


I recently wrote to a Canadian correspondent along the lines that:

My own view is that a Cortes, had he really gone to Meso-America in the 1500’s AD, would have had as much likelihood of encountering a thriving Aztec civilisation as would Napoleon have had of encountering a full-blown Ramesside civilisation when he rode up to the pyramids on his camel around 1800 AD.

Part Three: Cortes a composite character


In this series Hernán Cortés will emerge as a composite character based upon

some great luminaries of the BC past: Moses; Alexander the Great; even Saint Paul.


Matthew Restall introduces his article, “Moses, Caesar, Hero, Anti-hero: The Posthumous Faces of Hernando Cortés” (2016): as follows:


‘There is so much to say about the prowess and invincible courage of Cortés that on this point alone a large book could be written.’ 1 These  words, written by Toribio de Motolinía, one of the first Franciscans in Mexico, were more far-sighted than the friar could have imagined.


When Motolinía penned that prophecy, Hernando Cortés (1485-1547) was still alive, and his secretary-chaplain, Francisco López de Gómara  was soon to begin composing a ‘large book’ on the famous conquistador that would first see print a decade later as The Conquest of Mexico. 2 Using Cortés’s own so-called ‘Letters to the King’ as crucial building material, Gómara laid the foundation for a literary tradition that combined a narrative of the Spanish-Aztec War of 1519-1521, styled as a glorious, predestined Conquest of Mexico, with a life of the conqueror as a hagiography, hero-worshiping and legend-forming. Gómara’s book and Cortés’s Second and  Third Letters were thereby planted as the urtexts, the trunk from which all branches of the traditional Conquest narrative grew. 3


Blooms of intense popularity have periodically blossomed, but the topic’s essential popularity has remained deeply rooted for five centuries. 4


Serious attempts to uproot the legend, or see ‘beyond’ it (to quote the subtitle of one recent biography), are few and far between; almost every book has sought to lionize or demonize, to celebrate the hero or denounce the anti-hero. As the author of that recent biography noted, Cortés was long ago transformed from a man into a myth,


a myth whose aspects have always been disputed by concurrent schools of thought and ideological rivals, in such a way that allowed each one to think of ‘their’ Cortés: demigod or demon, hero or traitor, slaver or protector of the Indians, modern or feudal, a greedy or great lord. 5


To see ‘beyond the legend’, its nature must first be understood. To that end, the discussion that follows traces the posthumous development of Cortés as Caesar, Moses, Hero, and Anti-Hero. The latter pair are two sides to the same coin, for the Anti-Hero image has tended to maintain the Cortés myth rather than undermine or shatter it. I suggest that two mythical Cortesian qualities (identified at the essay’s end) underpin his legend; upending them might lead to a deeper understanding of both the historical Cortés and the era of the Spanish-Aztec War of 1519-1521. ….


Part Four:

Cortes to Mexico ‘like a new Moses to Egypt’




As an historical revisionist I cannot help being suspicious whenever I read of a supposed historical character being described as a ‘second’ or ‘a new’ version of someone earlier.

A ‘second David’, or ‘a new Solomon’, ‘a second Judith’, and so on.

In this case, Hernán Cortés – considered to have been ‘like a new Moses’.



Matthew Restall points out some comparisons between Moses and Cortes in his article, “Moses, Caesar, Hero, Anti-hero: The Posthumous Faces of Hernando Cortés” (2016):




Following the logic of the Cortés legend, political disunity among Mesoamericans has traditionally been read as the conqueror’s achievement,  with the question being whether his ‘divide and rule’ strategy was influenced more by Julius Caesar, Cesare Borgia and Machiavelli, or the Bible. 20 The Christian element (Solana’s ‘mystical crusader’) inevitably gave Cortés the moral edge over any of his possible influences (the Bible aside). Thus beginning with the earliest writings on the Conquest by Franciscans and other ecclesiastics, Cortés was promoted as a pious version of a classical general, better than the ancients because he carried the true faith with him.


‘I do not wish to deride the noble achievements of the Romans,’  wrote Diego Valadés in 1579. ‘Yet one must exalt with the highest praise and with new and illuminating phrases the unprecedented fortitude of Hernando Cortés, and the friars who came to these new worlds.’ Comparing the possessions of the Roman Empire with ‘the parts of the Indies that have come into our hands, ours are infinitely greater.’ But for  Valadés, it was not just a question of size. The Cortesian achievement was a religious one, and thus ‘the sign of how Cortés exercised his power for the good’ was how he and the earliest friars destroyed temples, expelled priests, and prohibited ‘diabolic sacrifices.’ It was thus the nature, as well as the magnitude and speed, of the enterprise that made it ‘the most heroic.’ 21


Valadés, the son of a Spanish conquistador and a Nahua mother from Tlaxcala, was the first mestizo to enter the Order of Saint Francis. 22 His perspective was thus as much colonial Tlaxcalan as it was Franciscan.  Valadés was one of the earliest to articulate the invented tradition that  Tlaxcalans were the very first – at Cortés’s urging – to receive baptism as new Christians in Mexico. Another Tlaxcalan mestizo, Diego Muñoz Camargo, likewise the offspring of a Spanish conquistador and Nahua mother, also contributed to this core element of the Cortés-as-Moses legend. His History of Tlaxcala, completed in 1592, recounted a meeting that supposedly took place in 1520 between Cortés and the four rulers of  Tlaxcala in the middle of the Spanish-Aztec War. At the meeting, Cortés delivered a virtual sermon, confessing that his true mission in Mexico was to bring the true faith. Explaining Christianity and its rituals, he urged the lords to destroy their ‘idols’, receive baptism, and join him in a vengeful campaign of war against Tenochtitlan. The lords then persuaded their subjects, who all gathered for a public mass baptism, at which Cortés and Pedro de Alvarado acted as godfathers. 23


This incident, part of a mythistory that survived into the modern era, 24 was likely a combination of Muñoz’s imagination and Tlaxcalan folk history. 25 But it took root as fact, because it placed both Tlaxcala and Cortés in positive light, promoting one as the voluntary starting point for Christian baptism, and the other as an effective agent of proselytization. This Cortés  was a pacifier, not a violent conquistador, a spiritual conqueror who deployed the word not the sword, inspiring conversion without coercion.


This Franciscan promotion of Cortés as a New World Moses, both during and long after his lifetime, had three roots. First, the twelve founding fathers of Catholicism in Mexico were Franciscans, arriving in 1524 with Cortés’s support. Second, many of the Twelve shared a millenarian vision of their mission; their goal was to convert indigenous Mexicans in order that Christ could return, a holy task made possible by Cortés. 26

Third, the Cortés-Franciscan alliance became cemented by the political schism that divided Spanish Mexico in the 1530s. The Franciscans were forced to compete in Mexico with secular clergy and rival orders, especially the Dominicans, who aligned themselves with the first royal officials sent to govern New Spain, all critical of Cortés; the Franciscans penned narratives that praised him. 27


One such Franciscan was fray Gerónimo de Mendieta. He spent the last quarter of the sixteenth century composing his Historia Eclesiástica Indiana in the Franciscan convent in Tlatelolco, once part of the Aztec capital and in Mendieta’s day a Nahua neighborhood of Mexico City.  Although Mendieta’s history of the evangelization in Mexico was denied publication permission, it reflected opinion of the day and influenced subsequent chronicles and accounts of the Spiritual Conquest.


Mendieta believed that Martin Luther and Cortés were born the same year, and that this was part of God’s plan for the Spaniard. This providential numerology was reinforced by the bloody orgy of human sacrifice that Mendieta thought occurred in Tenochtitlan that same year. God’s remedy for ‘the clamor of so many souls’ and ‘the spilling of so much human blood’ was Cortés, dispatched to Mexico ‘like a new Moses to Egypt.’ 28 ‘Without any doubt,’ wrote the friar, ‘God chose specifically to be his instrument this valiant captain, don Fernando Cortés, through whose agency the door was opened and a road made for the preachers of the Gospel in this new world.’ Mendieta’s nineteenth-century editor printed in the margin: ‘Cortés chosen as a new Moses to free the Indian people.’ Proof of Cortés’s role, divinely appointed since birth, was another meaningful synchronicity with Luther: in the same year that the German heretic ‘began to corrupt the Gospel,’ the Spanish captain began ‘to make it known faithfully and sincerely to people who had never before heard of it.’ 29 No less a ‘confirmation of the divine election of Cortés to a task so noble in spirit’ was the ‘marvelous determination that God put in his heart.’ 30


Down through the centuries, authors writing in multiple languages  wove these threads of Cortés’s religious devotion and the evidence of God’s intervention in the Conquest story. The conquistador guided indigenous people to the light so effectively that ‘the reverence and prostration on their knees that is now shown to priests by the Indians of New Spain was taught to them by don Fernando Cortés, of happy memory’ (as García put it in 1607).

31 In the hands of Protestant authors in later centuries, the Moses leitmotif shifted into something slightly different – ‘religious fanaticism,’ one American historian put it in 1904 – but the core legendary element persisted. Upon assuming command of the expedition to Mexico, Cortés took up his ‘heavenly mission’ with the zeal of ‘a frank, fearless, deluded enthusiast.’ His destiny was ‘to march the apostle of Christianity to overthrow the idols in the halls of Moctezuma, and there to rear the cross of Christ.’ 32 In the less judgmental words of another turn-of-the-century historian, Cortés’s ‘religious sincerity’ was ‘above impeachment.’ Indeed, he  was virtually a saint, ‘a man of unfeigned piety, of the stuff that martyrs are made of, nor did his conviction that he was leading a holy crusade to win lost souls to salvation ever waver.’ 33



Part Five:

Cortes as a Caesar, Julius or Cesare?


“Meanwhile, Cortés was promoted inside and outside the

Spanish world as a model, modern Caesar”.


Matthew Restall


Comparisons of anyone – or any supposed someone – with Julius Caesar are not helped by the fact (that is, if I am right) that ‘Julius Caesar’ and certain other legendary and most famous Roman Republicans (and don’t even start me on the Roman Imperialists) were composite, non-historical characters. See e.g. my article:


Horrible Histories. Retracting Romans

In what follows, Matthew Restall will point to some comparisons between the historically most dubious Cortes and Julius Caesar (and even with Cesare Borgia and others) in his article, “Moses, Caesar, Hero, Anti-hero: The Posthumous Faces of Hernando Cortés” (2016):




The motto chosen by Cortés for his coat of arms was Judicium Domini apprehendit eos, et fortitudo ejus corroboravit bracchium meum (The judgement of the Lord overtook them, and His might strengthened my arm). Taken from an account of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus Flavius Josephus, the line implied that Cortés had besieged and captured a second Jerusalem. 6 The reference reflected Cortés’s own embrace of the exalted notion that his actions in Mexico were divinely guided, that his role was that of a universal crusader. It also reflected the Spanish tendency, commonplace in the early modern centuries, to compare Spain’s imperial achievements to those of the ancient Greeks and Romans. 7


A specific leitmotif developed, within that larger pattern, whereby Cortés was compared to Julius Caesar. Cortés made no such claim, the purpose of his Letters was, after all, to display his undying loyalty to a king  who, as Holy Roman Emperor, was the Caesar of the day. But the clerics and intellectuals who formed the pro-Cortés, anti-Bartolomé de Las Casas faction in Spain during the conquistador’s final years pointed out three supposed similarities: both men were remarkable generals; both were unique literary figures for recording detailed accounts of their greatest campaign (Cortés’s Letters; Caesar’s Gallic Wars); and both had administrative vision, guiding the Mexican and Roman worlds respectively into new eras. Comparisons were not restricted to Julius Caesar – in his ode to Cortés of 1546, for example, Francisco Cervantes de Salazar also compared Cortés to  Alexander the Great and to St. Paul – but, the Caesar reference tended to predominate. 8


Gómara made much hay with the comparison to ancient Rome, featuring Cortés’s coat of arms in the frontispiece to his Conquest of Mexico, and in his larger History of the Indies (see Figure 1). ‘Never has such a display of wealth been discovered in the Indies, nor acquired so quickly,’ enthused Gómara; not only were Cortés’s


many great feats in the wars the greatest [of any Spaniard in the New  World] but he wrote them down in imitation of Polybius, and of Salust when he brought together the Roman histories of Marius and Scipio. 9


Gómara used his giddy comparisons of Cortés to the great generals of ancient Greece and Rome – and to their historians – as buildings blocks for his construction of the exemplary conquistador. By contrast, the other famous conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, was portrayed as illiterate, ignoble, and avaricious. This allowed Gómara to better promote Cortés as the noble, pious model of a literate man-at-arms, and his invasion of Mexico as ‘a good and just war.’ 10 Gómara went a little too far–his criticism of the Conquest of Peru prompted his History to be quickly banned in Spain. But by century’s end there were ten Italian editions, nine in French, and two in English, making it ‘so widely read that it served, almost by default, as the official history of the Spanish New World.’ 11


The Cortés-Caesar leitmotif lasted for centuries.

In his 1610 account of the Spanish conquest campaigns in New Mexico, composed as an epic poem, Gaspar de Villagrá repeatedly invoked Cortés as the paradigmatic conquistador. When, in Villagrá’s telling, Cortés’s efforts to campaign in northwest Mexico were opposed by Viceroy Mendoza of New Spain, the conflict had classical echoes: ‘Greed for power, like love, will permit no rival. Even as Caesar and Pompey clashed over their rival ambitions for  world power, so now Cortés met with opposition.’ 12 Similarly, the splendors and religious devotion of Mexico City were


‘all due to the noble efforts of that famous son who set forth to discover this New World, whose illustrious and glorious deeds, after the years have passed, will surely be seen as no less great and admirable than those of the great Caesar, Pompey, Arthur, Charlemagne, and other valiant men, whom time has raised up.’ 13


The theme was prominent too in Bernal Díaz’s history, as in Antonio de Solís’s–the latter prefaced with the assertion that ‘whoever will consider the Difficulties he overcame, and the Battles he fought and won against an incredible Superiority of Numbers, must own him little inferior to the most celebrated Heroes of Antiquity.’ 14 Solís’s book was a bestseller in multiple languages for well over a century. 15 Meanwhile, Cortés was promoted inside and outside the Spanish world as a model, modern Caesar. For example, in his History of the Conquest of Mexico, By the Celebrated Hernan Cortes (first published in 1759 but seeing dozens of editions into the twentieth century), W. H. Dilworth sought to improve and entertain ‘the BRITISH YOUTH of both Sexes.’ The book claimed to contain ‘A faithful and entertaining Detail of all [Cortés’s] Amazing Victories,’ with a story ‘abounding with strokes of GENERALSHIP, and the most refined Maxims of CIVIL POLICY.’ 16


From Dilworth to Prescott to modern authors (who have devoted entire books comparing Cortés to Caesar or to Alexander) the Spaniard has generally come off well in relation to ancient generals, 7 be the focus on military logistics, governmental vision, or moral justification. For a 1938 Mexican biographer of the conqueror, Julius Caesar was more self-interested than Cortés: the Spaniard was not only glorified, but also sanctified, an ‘epic boxer’ and ‘mystical crusader’ who embodied his age more than his own personal ambitions. 18


Other Latin American intellectuals suggested that Cortés ‘was a Caesar, but more like Caesar Borgia than Julius Caesar’ – meaning Cesare Borgia, the duke made famous by Machiavelli in The Prince – and that Cortés’s ‘political vision’ was so similar to Machiavelli’s that one imagines him reading The Prince. That is an impossible scenario, for the now-classic political treatise was not published until 1532, as literary scholars acknowledge. But some have argued that Machiavelli’s ideas were circulating before his book saw print, allowing Cortés to be ‘the practical Spaniard’ to Machiavelli’s ‘theoretical Italian.’ 19








adulatory, arguing that Cortés and his colleagues were, ‘so far as religion was concerned, simply products of their times.’ But many remained convinced that Cortés’s character and goals were, above all, religious, and that no other