[The AMAIC considers the Middle East – West comparisons of John R. Salverda as interesting, with some of them we think being very likely. But we do not necessarily agree with all of the following]
Perseus Compared to Moses and the Danites of Jaffa
John R. Salverda
Perseus at the Danite seaport of Joppa
The story of Perseus, like the story of the Exodus includes an episode of extensive wandering over African desert sands. “But Perseus, with the snake-haired monster’s head, that famous spoil, in triumph made his way on rustling pinions through the balmy air and, as he hovered over Libya’s sands, the blood-drops from the Gorgon’s Head dripped down. The spattered desert gave them life as snakes, smooth snakes of many kinds, and so that land still swarms with deadly serpents to this day.” (Ovid’s Metamorphoses 4.770) For when the godlike Perseus, ‘flew over Libya brining the Gorgon’s newly severed head to the king, every drop of dark blood that fell from it to the ground produced a brood of these serpents.” (Argonautica 4.1505) Notice the myth also has miraculously appearing poisonous serpents, and see Numbers 21:6, Moses had a curative serpent stick, while Hermes carried the caduceus. “Nimble knee Perseus, waving his winged feet, held his course near the clouds, a wayfarer pacing through the air ‘Perseus fled with flickering wings’ with Hermes’ wings though Zeus was his father; he sailed a fugitive on swiftest shoes,” (Dionysiaca 24.270) Notice the myth also has wings on which Perseus fled, and see Ex.19:4 where God’s Earthly wife was delivered from her slavery on “eagles wings” (The eagle is the well known bird of Zeus. In fact Lycophron, a little known Greek poet from the 3rd B.C. calls Perseus “the eagle son of the golden Sire.” Alexandra 838 ff). One may wonder why the myth makes the wandering of Perseus out to be an aerial phenomenon, but on the other hand, there was a very famous appearance in the sky associated with the Hebrew Exodus that lead the Israelites on their wanderings, the pillar of cloud and fire. “Thence wafted by the never-constant winds through boundless latitudes, now here now there, as flits a vapor-cloud in dizzy flight, down-looking from the lofty skies on earth, removed far, so compassed he the world. Three times did he behold the frozen Bears, times thrice his gaze was on the Crab’s bent arms. Now shifting to the west, now to the east, how often changed his course'” (Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 617 ff). Two towns are named in the mythic wanderings of Perseus, Joppa in Phoenicia which was well known and was mentioned by many ancient mythographers, and the Egyptian city of Chemmis. It is Herodotus who tells us that Perseus was in the Egyptian city of Chemmis before proceeding to Joppa; “‘they (the Egyptians) said that Perseus ‘had come to Egypt’ to bring from Libya the Gorgon’s head, and had then visited them also and recognized all his kinsfolk,'” (Histories Book 2 Page 91) Herodotus further connects Perseus with specifically, the Nile delta region when he says that it is; “the opinion of the Ionians, who say that only the Delta is Egypt, and that its seaboard reaches from the so-called ‘Watchtower of Perseus’ forty schoeni to the Salters at Pelusium.” (Histories Book 2 Page 15) Perseus then came to Joppa at the end of his wandering.
Perseus at the Danite seaport of Joppa
[Note: The city of “Joppa” is on the coast of Israel. At present it is known as Jaffa (pronounced Yaffa) and adjoins Tel Aviv.
As legend has it, Joppa was founded by Japheth, the son of Noah, just after the flood and was named for him. (The “tent” of Japheth included many Semitic peoples, Danes are considered to be “Japhetic,” so are the Cimmerians the Medes the Persians the Greeks and the Scythians.) It was the well known capital of tribal Dan, the seaport of Jerusalem and Hebron. Solomon had placed a fleet of Ships called “Tarshish” ships at Joppa. A land route was established between Joppa and the Red Sea port of Ezion Geber where Solomon had placed another fleet of Tarshish ships so that goods could be shipped back and forth from India/Ethiopia to the Mediterranean lands and beyond (Tarsus in Cilicia not withstanding, Tarshish is usually thought to be Spain, Tartessos). The city of Joppa was well known to the Greeks of the mythological age. “Red water, in color like blood, is found in the land of the Hebrews near the city of Joppa. The water is close to the sea, and the account which ‘the natives give’ of the spring is that Perseus, after destroying the sea-monster, to which the daughter of Cepheus was exposed, washed off the blood in the spring.”(Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 35. 9)
It is apparent that this episode of the Perseus myth (where he destroyed the sea serpent at Joppa) is not a part of the original, but is a later addition to the story. Just as the city of Joppa could not have been included in the Exodus story of Moses. It must have been a generation or so after the death of Moses, who died before entering the promised land, that the city of Joppa became established as the capital of tribal Dan. It would have been even longer before emigrants from the Danite Joppa would have become established, as the Danaans, in the cities of Mycenaean Greece.
This particular part of the Perseus tale has often, and for good reason, been compared to the story of Heracles at Troy, which is said to have occurred a generation before the Trojan War. Hercules came to Troy as he sailed with the Argonauts. He found the city in utter turmoil, because its King Laomedon had cheated Poseidon. For punishment the god sent a sea monster, to consume his daughter the princess Hesione. She was chained to a rock as the creature approached. Heracles agreed to kill the monster for a reward. Heracles was swallowed by the monster, and after spending three days in the belly of the beast, he managed to cut his way out thus killing it. Heracles never got his reward so he sacked Troy, and took Hesione instead. Thus the story of Heracles at Troy is much like the story of Perseus at Joppa. There is also, because of the death defying three days, an apparent debt owed to the story of Jonah (the Septuagint has “Jonas”). Jonah, it is worth noticing, embarked from Joppa (like Perseus) and also encountered a sea serpent (Cetus, the astronomical name of the “sea serpent” of Perseus means, “whale”) furthermore Jonah, like Heracles, was swallowed by the creature for three days. There is at least one version of the story about Perseus that has him swallowed by Cetus, for Lycophron, even so far back in history as the third century B.C. tells us that the sea monster, in its attempt to devour Andromeda “leapt in quest of food, but carried off in his jaws, instead of a woman, the eagle son of the golden Sire (Perseus) a male with winged sandals who destroyed his liver.” (Alexandra 838 ff)
As we have intimated earlier, a different source contributed this episode, a source that had a more intricate knowledge of astrology, for the characters included in this particular segment of the story, as told by those exiles from the Danite Joppa, have constellations named after them such as Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Cepheus, and the sea serpent. However none of the characters from the previous adventures of Perseus, neither Danae, Polydectes, Acrisius, the Gorgons, the Graeae, nor any of those Danaans who had fled from Aegyptus, seem to have been so honored as to be included in the stellar cast. Of course, Perseus himself is also a constellation but presumably, only in regards to this episode of his story, outlining his exploits at the city of Joppa.
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)
Now, it is not my intention with this article to trace the Achaemenid Kings of Persia to Moses, (I shall make that the subject of a future article) but only to trace the Greek myth of Perseus to the story of Moses. However since serious Greek historians, such as Herodotus, Xenophon, and others, do quite confidently report that the Persian Kings themselves make the claim that they descend from Perseus and Andromeda, I would be remiss if I did not make a few remarks on the subject here. We know, for example, that the cities of the Medes were occupied by the exiled Israelites. (see 2KI 17:6 and 18:11) The Magi were the dominant religious organization, a tribe priests analogous to the Levites among the Israelites, officiating the sacrifices for those Medes and the later Persians. (“Deioces then [709 BC.] united the ‘Medes there are the tribes which here follow, namely, Busai, Paretakenians, Struchates, Arizantians, Budians, Magians” Herodotus Book 1, Page 101. See also Page 132,”‘ without a Magian it is not lawful for them to make sacrifices.”) However, the question arises, as to what the Magi had to do with those exiled Israelites. If these Magi were living in the cities of the Medes with the exiled Israelites, then one wonders indeed, what their relationship to the Levites was.
The Danites had a Levitical priesthood, it was not however, the usual one descended from Aaron, but instead their priesthood was descended from Moses (Perseus) through his grandson Jonathan (Perses). These Priests were known as the priesthood of Micah. (“Micah,” meaning “image” is a plausible transliteration for the term “Magus”) At that very time there was a legendary religious leader named Zoroaster, he was famous for, not originating, but for reorganizing the already existing Magi priesthood into one of the most powerful religious organizations in the world at that time. We are told that Zoroaster was born in the city Rages, (the same city, and at the same time, where the relatives of Tobit the Naphtalite lived Tob. 5:6) according to the Parse tradition in the year 660 BC. (It could have been he who was born to the exiled Virgin Israel nearly 65 years after the fall of Samaria, he was a famous curd eater, and famed for his “Zoroastrian” dualism distinguishing good from evil, compare Isaiah Chap. 7). Zoroaster died in the year 583 BC. at the age of seventy seven. As a major religious leader, he must have been aware of the destruction of the Jewish temple when he was 73, in 587 BC. this act may have prompted him to raise up a “Messiah” to overthrow the, Temple destroying, Babylonians, and to deliver the Jews from their Babylonian captivity.
Zoroaster lived long enough, (eleven years into the reign of Astyages,) to have, as the chief of the Magi, orchestrated the birth of Cyrus. We learn of the role that the Magi played in the birth of Cyrus from Herodotus (“Histories.” Book 1, Pages 107-129)…The name “Zoroaster” is plausibly a sleight corruption from the Hebrew for “Seed of the Woman” (Zeru-ish-shah).
So much for the role of “Perseus” in the Persian culture and beyond, an influence that is certainly worthy of a “Moses.” We may now return to the Greek myth armed with a better understanding of the conflict between the priesthood of the Aaronic Phinehas, and the priesthood of the Mosaic Jonathan.
For more articles by John R. Salverda on the Hebraic Connections of Greek Mythology, see:
“Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends”