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‘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. …..




Philistines and Persians. Part Three

Published October 21, 2015 by amaic


Velikovsky and those ‘Peleset’.

Part Three: Through Prism of Greek Mythology: Perses


John R. Salverda,

commenting on this series, has written:

Dear Damien,


Your latest article entitled ”Velikovsky and those ‘Peleset’“ deserves serious consideration.  I personally have never doubted Velikovsky’s identification between the Persians and the Peleset. Looking at it, as I do, through the prism of Greek mythology. 


Consider the relationship between the Danaans and the Pelasgians and then compare this to the similar relationship between the Danites and the Philistines. It is clear to me that the Pelasgians were the Philistines. And then add this to the widespread notion, held by the ancient Greeks, who lived in the days of the Persians and learned directly from them, that the Persians were the descendants, and were named after the son of Perseus. 

The son of Perseus was named Perses he was the king of Joppa, the ancient capital and the seaport of the tribe of Dan, and located in the land of the Philistines.  The Greeks have been saying that the Persians originated from Palestine for thousands of years. -John

John has written many fascinating articles from the perspective of, mainly Greek, mythology.

Here is one relevant portion re Perses, son of Perseus, from his

Perseus Compared to Moses and the Danites of Jaffa


The Joppa episode of the Perseus myth has a much more historic flavor, for here we not only learn that the sons of Perseus, after sailing out of Joppa, became the Kings of, and fortified the cities of, Mycenae in Greece, which we will detail a little further on. (A partial list of royal families and heroes that were known to the Greeks to have been descended from Perseus were 1. The royal family of Mycenae, his sons King Alcaeus, King Electryon and King Sthenelus, grandson King Eurystheus, and great granddaughter Queen Clytemnestra 2. The royal family of Elis, his son King Heleius, and grandson King Augeias 3. The royal family of the Taphian Islands, Kings Taphos and Pterelaus 4. The royal family of Messenia, his daughter Queen Gorgophone, and grandsons King Aphareus and King Leucippus, and great-grandsons the heroes Idas and Lynceus 5. The royal family of Sparta, his daughter Queen Gorgophone, grandson King Tyndareus, and great-grandchildren (in fact or putatively) : the Dioskouroi and Queen Helene. 6. The kings of Persia, from his son Perses 7. Heracles, and his descendants, who eventually assumed power in the Peloponnese.) “They [the Persians] were formerly called by the Greeks Cephenes . . . When Perseus son of Danae and Zeus had come to Cepheus son of Belus and married his daughter Andromeda, a son was born to him whom he called Perses, and he left him there; for Cepheus had no male offspring; it was from this Perses that the Persians took their name.” (Herodotus, Histories Book 7 Page 61) “Perseus, the son of Danae ‘ wanting to establish for himself his own kingdom, despised that of the Medes.” (Suidas “Medusa”) “There is a story told in Hellas that before Xerxes set forth on his march against Hellas, he sent a herald to Argos, who said on his coming (so the story goes), ‘Men of Argos, this is the message to you from King Xerxes. Perses our forefather had, as we believe, Perseus son of Danae for his father, and Andromeda daughter of Cepheus for his mother; if that is so, then we are descended from your nation.’ ” (Herodotus, Histories Book 7 Page 150)

[End of quote]

And the ancient philosopher, Plato, identified Achaemenes of the Pasargadae tribe with Perses (


As the eponymous ancestor of the clan, Achaemenes is very often held to be legendary. Achaemenes is generally known as the leader of one of the clans, known to the Greeks as the Pasargadae (although this identification may been due to a confusion with the Persian Imperial capital city Pasargadae begun by Cyrus the Great around 546 BC), that was one of the some ten to fifteen Persian tribes. Persian royal inscriptions such as the Behistun Inscription place him five generations before Darius the Great. Therefore, according to the Inscriptions, Achaemenes may have lived around 700 BC. The inscriptions do label him as a “king”, which may mean that he was the first official king of the Persians.

Apart from Persian royal inscriptions, there are very limited historical sources on Achaemenes; therefore very little, if anything at all, is known for certain about him. It has been proposed that Achaemenes may merely have been a “mythical ancestor of the Persian royal house”. The “Babylonian” Cyrus Cylinder, ascribed to Cyrus the Great, does not mention Achaemenes in an otherwise-detailed genealogy. Some historians hold that perhaps Achaemenes was a retrograde creation of Darius the Great, made in order to legitimize his connection with Cyrus the Great, after Darius rose to the position of Shah (i.e. King) of Persia in 522 BC (by killing the usurper Gaumata, the so-called “False Smerdis”, who had proclaimed himself King upon the death of Darius’ predecessor, Cambyses II; according to Darius, Gaumata was an impostor pretending to be Cambyses II’s younger, deceased brother Bardiya). Darius certainly had much to gain in having an ancestor shared by Cyrus and himself, and may have felt the need for a stronger connection than that provided by his subsequent marriage to Cyrus’ daughter Atossa. An inscription from Pasargadae, also ascribed to Cyrus, does mention Cyrus’ descent from Achaemenes; however, historian Bruce Lincoln has suggested that these inscriptions of Cyrus in Pasargadae were engraved during the reign of Darius in c. 510.

In any case, the Persian royal dynasty from Darius onward revered Achaemenes and credited him as the founder of their dynasty. Very little, however, was remembered about his life or actions. Assuming he existed, Achaemenes was most likely a 7th-century BC warrior-chieftain, or the probable first king, who led the Persians, or a tribe of Persians, as a vassal of the Median Empire. An Assyrian inscription from the time of King Sennacherib in 691 BC, mentions that the Assyrian king almost repelled an attack by Parsuamash and Anzan, with the Medians and others on the city of Halule. Historians contend that if he existed, Achaemenes had to be one of the commanders, leading his Persians with the independent troops of Anshan, during the indecisive Battle of Halule in 691 BC.

Ancient Greek writers provide some legendary information about Achaemenes: they call his tribe the Pasargadae, and say that he was “raised by an eagle”. Plato, when writing about the Persians, identified Achaemenes with Perses, ancestor of the Persians in Greek mythology. According to Plato, Achaemenes/Perses was the son of the Ethiopian queen Andromeda and the Greek hero Perseus, and a grandson of Zeus. Later writers believed that Achaemenes and Perses were different people, and that Perses was an ancestor of the king. ….

Philistines and Persians. Part Two

Published October 20, 2015 by amaic


Velikovsky and those ‘Peleset’

 Part Two: The Pelethites


Damien F. Mackey



The name ‘Peleset’ appears to be especially recognisable in that of the ancient ‘Pelethites’ (I Chronicles 18:17): “Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief officials at the king’s side”.



Dr. John Osgood pointed out the likely connection between the Peleset and the Pelethites of King David’s guard in “The Times of Abraham” (

  1. Further details of the Philistines

Although in this discussion we are concerning ourselves with the days of Abraham, it is pertinent that we also elaborate on the question of the Phiistines at a later period, in order that the overall perspective of these people be understood. Modern archaeological interpretation first allows the Philistines in the days of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty, dated 1182 to 1151 B.C.18

An inscription of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu reports an attack made by the peoples of the sea, among whom are a group called the Peleset. Ramesses claims to have defeated these in a sea battle. The Peleset are said to have settled in the area of the Philistines at approximately this time, and naturally it is assumed that the Philistines therefore first settled in Palestine at this period, and that they originated from the Aegean area as the peoples of the sea.

The Scripture, however, gives no credibility to such an interpretation. Thus, there is a conflict?

It is clear, from what has been said before of the narratives of Abraham and Isaac, that the Philistines were already in Palestine at approximately 1850 B.C., some 700 years before present archaeological interpretation accepts them as there. The Scripture also seems to indicate that they originated from Egypt, and not from the Aegean area. Is there any way to satisfy both the biblical claims, and the artifactual archaeological evidence? I believe there is. But first we must accept the biblical statements at face value and scan the Scriptures for anything that might fit at approximately 1100 to 1000 B.C., and for a people who could in fact be identified with the Peleset ‘of the relief of Ramesses III’ Indeed, we do meet a people, first in 2 Samuel 8:18, and then subsequently in 2 Samuel 15:18 and 27:23, 1 Kings 1:38 and 44, 1 Chronicles 18:17, Ezekiel 25:16, and Zephaniah 2:5. They are called the Pelethites, and they are associated with the Cherethites and also, in at least one passage, the Gittites who were indeed a group of Philistines from the city of Gath.

Now it does not take much to realise that the word ‘Pelethite’ is an even better match with the word ‘Peleset’ in the Egyptian reliefs than is the word ‘Philistine’. So if the Bible allows a group of people by the name of Pelethites who clearly were associated in some way with the Philistine region, and who also were associated with the Cherethites (whom many believe to be the Cretians, who in one text, namely Ezekiel 25:16, are called the remnant of the sea coast), then we have all the conditions necessary to solve an apparent conflict. We have no need to reject the Philistines of Egyptian descent in Palestine at 1850 B.C., and we can accept a second wave of people known as the Pelethites and Cherethites, who settled on the sea coast before the days of Saul and David, who are evidenced by the archaeological record, and who apparently had an Aegean origin. There would still be some difficulty in this revised chronology in associating the initial settlement of the Pelethites and the Cherethites with the same event as recorded by Ramesses III. Rather, they would need to be seen as allies to the other peoples of the sea when they themselves were already settled in a land base in Philistia prior to the days of Ramesses III, but I will leave this to be detailed at another time. Sufficient to conclude here that the Pelethites and Cherethites of Scripture were first able to be identified at approximately 1012 B.C. in the later years of Saul, king of Israel. Contingents from these groups formed part of the guard of David ….

[End of quote]

I also discuss the matter of the early Philistines – long before the time of pharaoh Ramses III – and the evidences of their culture, in my university thesis:

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



(in Volume One, Chapter Two: “The Philistines and their Allies”).

For a contemporary view of Aegean Greeks at the time of King David, one ought to peruse the appropriate reliefs at the time of Senenmut, who was, according to my view, King David’s famous son, Solomon, in Egypt. See my:

Solomon and Sheba

Senenmut also being the same as the supposed great Athenian statesman, sage and lawgiver, Solon (= Solomon), who is said to have travelled to Egypt.

Philistines and Persians

Published October 18, 2015 by amaic


Velikovsky and those ‘Peleset’


 Damien F. Mackey



Even many revisionist scholars consider that Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky made a massive error in his bold attempt to locate the ‘Sea Peoples’ – at the time of the 20th Dynasty pharaoh, Ramses III – as late as the Persian period.

 But was Velikovsky right, nevertheless, in his opinion about the similarity between the Peleset ‘Sea Peoples’ and the Pereset (Persians) mentioned on the Decree of Canopus?



Dr. Velikovsky’s everlasting contribution to ancient history was, in my opinion, to recognise that the highly important Eighteenth Dynasty, which saw the commencement of Egypt’s so-called ‘New Kingdom’, had begun at the same approximate time as the United Kingdom of Israel (kings Saul, David and Solomon). This meant that the conventional estimation of the mid-C16th BC for the beginning of the reign of the first Eighteenth Dynasty ruler, pharaoh Ahmose, must now be lowered by some 500 years, to the mid-C11th BC.

Velikovsky had also recognised that the Sothic based mathematico-astronomical system upon which Egyptian chronology had been erected was an entirely flawed system.

Much of what Velikovsky discovered within his new paradigm has served as a solid foundation for my own historical reconstructions.

Far less successful was he, though, when attempting to ‘squeeze’ the remaining New Kingdom dynasties, Nineteenth and Twentieth, into what was now, by conventional comparison, a greatly reduced chronological space. Velikovsky was, of course, clever enough to engineer a ‘solution’ to such a difficulty. But it unfortunately appears to have been a ‘solution’ as artificial and archaeologically impossible as was the conventional system that he was seeking to overhaul. He, completely disregarding archaeological, geographical and genealogical fact, (i) wrenched the Nineteenth Dynasty right away from the Eighteenth, and (ii) pitched the Twentieth Dynasty down into the Persian era. His expediency of identifying the formerly (conventional) C12th BC Peleset (usually identified as Philistines), belonging to the ‘Sea Peoples’, with the C4th BC Pereset (usually identified as Persians) of the Canopus Decree, was a case of taking revisionism to an unrealistic extreme.


However, as we are going to find, there is good evidence to suggest that pharaoh Ramses III, and hence the ‘Sea Peoples’, did belong to an era significantly later than the C12th BC – but definitely not as late as the C4th BC.

Many of the more able revisionist scholars who had been keenly following Velikovsky’s early revision, particularly his Ages in Chaos, I (1952), and Oedipus and Akhnaton (1960), would fairly smartly reject his Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty efforts, Peoples of the Sea (1977), and Ramses II and his Time (1978). And I, too, felt it necessary in my university thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background


to show the impossibility of Velikovsky’s later reconstructions. Archaeologically, for Velikovsky, these were a disaster. And, genealogically, they left Egyptian officials running into an unrealistically old age.

However, there were also embarrassing problems here for the conventional system. This is apparent from the following section of my thesis in which I also allude to the important findings of Dr. Donovan Courville, who wrote The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, I-II (1971). Thus I wrote (thesis, Volume One, beginning on p. 351):

More Genealogical and Art-Historical Anomalies


On a genealogical note, Courville has made a telling point in regard to what had appeared to be the following severe genealogical problem with the current chronological setting of Ramses III in relation to the early 19th dynasty: ….

The case of Bokenkonsu, the architect under Seti I, presents another anomaly, by current views, which is eliminated by the altered placements …. Bokenkonsu

lived to have his statue carved under Rameses III …. By current views, Bokenkonsu must have lived at least to an age of 118 years … even if the “many years” of the Harris Papyrus are limited to the brief reign of Siptah as proposed by Petrie. The more time that is allotted to this “many years” only makes the necessary age of Bokenkonsu more and more improbable.

Bierbrier had also included treatment of Bokenkonsu and his family amongst his case

studies (“The Bakenkhons Family” ….). And here, once again, we encounter the apparently extreme age of an Egyptian official even when minimal conventional date

estimates are used. There is no stretch at all, though, with my arrangement that has

Ramses III a slightly later contemporary of Seti I.

But what might appear to be a significant difficulty for the conventional chronology becomes a complete impossibility in Velikovsky’s context, as already argued. More positively for Velikovsky, both he … and Courville … had rightly insisted upon a dating much later than that conventionally given for Ramses III on the basis of Greek

writing on the backs of Ramses III’s building tiles. I take here Courville’s very brief account of it, beginning with his quoting of Petrie:

“… A subject of much difficulty in the earlier accounts of the objects was the marking of “Greek letters” on the backs of many of the tiles; but as we know that such signs were used long before the XXth dynasty, they only show that foreigners were employed as workmen in making these tiles”.

About which Courville then commented: …. “The difficulty with this explanation is that it does not explain the use of Greek letters centuries before the Greeks adopted the

alphabet …. Hence the dating of Rameses III in the 11th century is a gross anachronism”. With Ramses III re-located to about the mid C8th BC though – and given also the influx during his reign of ‘Sea Peoples’, likely including Greeks – then the ‘anachronism’ readily dissolves.

Whether or not my own efforts to fit the Twentieth Dynasty into the new scheme of things turns out to be realistic, I believe (naturally) that it is certainly more so than the conventional system. And I give archaeological reasons for this conviction also in my thesis.

Now, based upon the following, I have no doubts whatsoever that my estimation for the era of Ramses III is far more realistic, at least, than was Velikovsky’s:

Velikovsky had brought some surprising evidence in support of his sensational view that Ramses III had actually belonged as late as the Persian period, with his identification of the Peleset arm of the ‘Sea Peoples’ – generally considered to indicate Philistines – as Persians. …. This Velikovsky did through comparisons between the Peleset, as shown on Ramses III’s Medinet Habu reliefs, and depictions of Persians for instance at Persepolis, both revealing a distinctive crown-like headgear. And he also compared Ramses III’s references to the Peleset to the naming of Persians as P-r-s-tt (Pereset) in the C3rd BC Decree of Canopus.

Continuing with the thesis:

My explanation though for this undeniable similarity would be, not that Ramses III had belonged to the classical Persian era, but that the ‘Indo-European’ Persians were related to the waves of immigrants, hence to the Mitannians (who may therefore connect with the Medes), but perhaps to the Philistines in particular. These ‘Indo Europeans’ had, as we read in Chapter 2, gradually progressed from Anatolia in a south-easterly direction. Eventually we find for instance Kurigalzu [II], set up on the throne of Babylon by the ‘Mitannian’ Assuruballit, conquering Elam (Persia) and ruling there for a time…..

So, though Velikovsky had pitched Ramses III and his Peleset (‘Sea Peoples’) opponents eight centuries too late (by conventional estimate), or about four centuries too late (my estimate), he may have been right insofar as he had perceived a visual and ethnic connection between the Peleset and the Pereset (Persians).

  1. Jones would come to light with some telling genealogical evidence against Velikovsky’s radical later New Kingdom revision (‘Some Detailed Evidence from Egypt Against Velikovsky’s Revised Chronology’, SIS Review, vol. vi, nos. 1-3, Glasgow Conference, 1978, p. 29). I told of this in my thesis (p. 353):

Jones has I believe produced some solid genealogical or bureaucratic evidence for why Velikovsky’s late location of Ramses III to the Persian era is impossible. …. The career of the Chief Workman Paneb for instance, according to the Salt Papyrus, “can be traced from the 66th year of Ramesses II to the 6th year of Ramesses III”, Jones has written. …. This, a span in conventional terms of a bit over thirty years (c. 1212-1180 BC), is most reasonable. But Velikovsky’s span for Workman Paneb, with Ramses III located by him to the Persian era, would be biologically impossible. And the same applies to the situation of other workmen (e.g. Neferhotep and Sennedjem) investigated by Jones, following Bierbrier, the connections of which workmen are between the 18th and 19th dynasties that Velikovsky had also well separated. Thus Jones can rightly conclude in this instance: ….

… the earliest members of these two families, Neferhotep and Sennedjem …. link the reign of Horemheb and the XVIIIth Dynasty with the reigns of the XIXth Dynasty, without any intervening years. A similar condition can be observed in the transition from the XIXth to the XXth Dynasty. If an interregnum had occurred then, the workmen first attested under Ramesses II, Merenptah and Seti II would all have been extremely old men by the time they ended their lives in the later years of Ramesses III …. If the hundred years proposed by Dr Velikovsky had taken place, none of them would have been alive at all.

[End of quotes]


Obviously a satisfactory revision has to be fully cohesive – easier said than done, of course. And Velikovsky and Courville, being pioneers, could be excused for many of their mistakes. Still, though Velikovsky may have been wrong in his chronological estimation of the Peleset, he may still have made a useful point about them.