Athens and Jerusalem.
Israel Compared to Athens in Greek Mythology

by John R. Salverda

What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?
After even a cursory examination of the two, it is hard to deny that the founding "myths" of Athens share many curious and intricate coincidences with Jewish history and the symbolisms of Jerusalem. For as the founding myth of Athens goes; Cecrops (herein presented as the Athenian version of Moses), lead the Athenians up out of the land of Egypt. He took a colony out of the Egyptian city of Sais, (see the Scholiast on Aristophanes Plutus 773). Diodorus tells us, the Athenians, they say, are colonists from Sais in Egypt, and they undertake to offer proofs of such a relationship; for the Athenians are the only Greeks who call their city  "Asty," a name brought over from the city Asty in Egypt. Furthermore, their body politic had the same classification and division of the people as found in Egypt  (Diodorus Siculus book 1 Chapter I.28.4). Similarly from Plato, as his ancestor Solon was told by the Priests of Egypt, "At the head of the Egyptian Delta, where the river Nile divides, there is a certain district which is called the district of Sais, and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and is the city from which Amasis the king was sprung. And the citizens have a deity who is their foundress: she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, which is asserted by them to be the same whom the Hellenes called Athena. Now, the citizens of this city are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them (Plato Critias). Just as in the story of Moses leading the twelve tribes to the promised land, so the Greek myth of Cecrops has him leading his people to the area of Athens and dividing the land into twelve districts. Strabo tells us that, Cecrops first settled the multitude in twelve cities (Geography 9. 1. 18 - 20). Notice here not only the division into twelve but also Strabo's reference to the multitude that Cecrops was accredited with settling at the colony of Athens (Sais = Zoan = Tanis = Tanit = Athena = Zion). It s not my contention that there were two groups, both sharing the stories of Moses and coming out of Egypt, one going to Jerusalem and the other going to Athens, for it is more probable that colonists from the Land of Israel (not necessarily Judeans) brought the stories of Moses to Athens long after the exodus, and even after Jerusalem had been established for a while. For it is not just the story about coming up out of the land of Egypt that they share.

Another example of how Cecrops was like Moses, can be seen in the writings of Pausanias, who says, "For Cecrops was the first to name Zeus the Supreme god, and refused to sacrifice anything that had life in it, but burnt instead on the altar the national cakes which the Athenians still call pelanoi"  (Description of Greece 8. 2. 2-3). Thus even a kind of monotheism such as that which was advocated by Moses, who was the first to name [the ALMIGHTY] (Ex. 3:14), had its parallel in the Greek myth of Cecrops (however corrupt, he advocated Zeus as the Supreme God). Notice also the bit about the  national cakes in regards to Moses setting up the festival of the unfermented cakes. Just as Moses was the legislator of the Jews so the Greek myths tell us, that it was Cecrops who first gave the people of Athens their laws. Moses also wrote the universal founding story in the book of Genesis, and it is evident that the Athenians were well aware of it, because it is used liberally, as I will demonstrate, in the foundation myths of Athens. Some even say that Cecrops invented writing, another allusion to Moses who is sometimes said to have invented the alphabet.

Cecrops was an anguipede (serpent footed,) this is noteworthy because wayward Jews blasphemously pictured [the ALMIGHTY], the God of Moses, as an anguipede (This is such an outrageous claim that I implore the reader to look it up on his own. Simply search the term on the internet, there are dozens of sites anxious to malign the Jews for this particular idolatrous blasphemy.). Furthermore, don't let the fact that the history of Athens is full of serpents throw you off, for (besides the serpent stick carrying Moses), each of the twelve tribes of Israel had its own leader at the Exodus, and the tribal chief of Judah, was a man named "Nahshon," which is the usual Hebrew word for "serpent." So, while it was Moses who led the tribes up out of Egypt, it was this Nahshon (serpent), who led the specific tribe of Judah, the founders of Jerusalem, at the Exodus. The reason for the serpent symbolism will become a bit more apparent when we cover the dual nature of the Messiah later on in this article.

The Greek myths tell us that it was Cecrops who invented marriage (instituting monogamy), while among the Hebrews it was Moses who outlined the institution of marriage when he compiled the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. The previous creation story, which apparently had Lilith, was presumably not so insistent upon the marriage arrangement that was detailed at Genesis 2:23,24 (And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be as one flesh.). The Greek myths tell us that Cecrops was the first to recognize patriarchal paternity (Egypt was a matrilineal society). While Moses wrote Genesis 3:16 (Unto the woman he said, 'thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee'.) in order to redefine the roles of men and women for the Israelites as opposed to the custom of their previous Egyptian overlords (Athena had accidentally killed Pallas in the Greek myth, much the same as Eve had superseded Lilith in the writings of Moses.). In the previous two points, concerning monogamy and patriarchal paternity, and having brought up the name Lilith, we are presented with an opportunity to explain the Greek character who was originally known as Pallas (of Pallas-Athene fame).

In Assyrian, Ilu (as in the Hebrew term El) means god, while Ilatu means goddess. In Canaanite, Baal means lord, while Baalath means lady, note the feminine suffix (comparable to the English -ette or -ess). In the Canaanite religion El and Baal are sometimes interchangeable, it is therefore a reasonable assumption that Lilith (Elath?) is related to the term Baalath. Accordingly the name Baalath is a tempting theoretical origin for the name of Pallas (a phonetic shibboleth and not another name altogether), thus as intimated earlier, Pallas is a plausible Greek version of the Hebrew character Lilith/Baalath. In the Greek myths Pallas is either an anguipede giant who is killed by Athena and flayed to make her serpentine shield, or alternately, her maiden sister whom she kills accidentally (the differing opinion depended upon your view of feminism, no doubt. Was Lilith an evil monster who was killed on purpose, or an innocent maiden who was killed by accident?). In any case the Athena of Athens adopted the name Pallas-Athene in memory of Pallas. Athene is therefore often referred to simply as Pallas.And, in contrast to Hera's dove, the totem bird of Pallas-Athene is the owl (the Hebrew kos however, the night owl was referred to as Lilith).

Establishing a connection between the two patriarchal monogamists Cecrops and Moses, can give us a bit more source material for understanding the story of Adam and Eve. For apparently there was a previous version of our universal foundation myth, that Moses was tasked to build upon and mitigate. The problem with the earlier story was that it was too feminist. Note the sin of Adam in the Moses version of the Genesis account, harkening unto the voice of thy wife (Gen. 3:17). The Greek myth about the founding of Athens contains more obvious details about the change from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society that are not so apparent in the Genesis account. A case in point is the contest between Poseidon and Athena as to which deity would be supreme in Athens. According to Varro, the choice between worshipping Athena or Poseidon was put to the vote of the people of Attica. They were asked to pick which would be more beneficial to mankind, Athena's olive tree or Poseidon's fountain. In those days, women had an equal vote with men. The men all voted for the god, and all the women voted for the goddess, but since there was one more woman than there were men, Athena won the referendum. Angered, Poseidon sent a great flood. So terrible was his judgment that it was decided to deprive women of the vote and to forbid children to bear their mother's names for the future (Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.9).  Furthermore the day on which the vote took place, the second day of the first Attic month of Boedromion, (on or near the modern August 20th) was henceforth omitted from the calendar (Plut. De fraterno amore 11; Plut. Quaest. Conviv. ix.6.) Apparently it was a big deal transgression with lasting societal consequences to choose the goddess over the god, a type of Athenian original sin committed by the women of Athens (whether Pandora, Persephone, or Eve, it seems like a widespread consensus that the woman always gets the blame).

The Garden of Eden had two trees and a fountain, they are mentioned all together at the same place in the narrative, And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads (Genesis 2:9,10). Many people think that the scriptural creation story was originally two stories rolled into one, but perhaps there were originally three or four (or even more) sources and it was Moses whose task it was to compile them into a single account. The story of Moses includes an outline of his sin for which he was precluded from entering his own Eden,  a land flowing with milk and honey the promised land because he had struck a rock with his staff and produced a fountain. The Greek myth about the founding of Athens contains a very similar motif when it comes to the contest between Poseidon and Athena, the Sea-God standing, striking the rough rock with his tall trident, and the wounded rock gushing sea-brine, his proof to clinch his claim. "Herself (Athena) from the earth struck by her spear, she shows an olive tree," (Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 70 ff). Perhaps this episode in the life of Moses hearkens back to one of the original versions of the creation story, one that was expunged from his compilation that has come down to us in the book of Genesis. In the contest between Poseidon with his miraculous fountain, and Athena, the well known goddess of knowledge (of good and evil?), with her miraculous tree, we have a kind of doublet with the myth of Pallas verses Athena, as to which version of the maiden would supersede. Was it going to be the fountain (of youth?), or the tree (of eternal life)? Apparently it would be the tree. The result of picking the tree was a massive flood. In the book of Genesis Moses tells us that there was a kind of contest between God and the Serpent as to whom mankind would obey. The people were allowed complete freedom of choice, in picking of the tree, mankind decided on the Serpent. God eventually brought the flood. According to Moses, a dove delivers to Noah, the olive branch in spite of the flood. The dove is symbolic of the woman delivering her seed, and in Greek mythology it is the totem bird of Hera (Her Latin name, Juno is the usual Hebrew word for dove.) the parthenogenic mother of Hephaestus, while the branch of the olive tree turns out to be symbolic of the Messiah. Logic propels us to conclude that in the parallel Athenian version of the tale, Athena represented the Serpent, while Poseidon represented God. In the Scriptural book of Genesis, of course, choosing the Serpent was a mistake and a promise was made to correct the error at a later date by means of the Messiah (a promise that was symbolized by the olive branch and as the seed of the Woman).

Now, it is not my intention to equate Athens with Eden, although the temptation is strong to do so ("Athens, a town said to be the first established in the world." So says Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 164), and I would not be averse to the suggestion that the names of the two places have a common ancestor. My point is that the two places share similar stories because the Athenian story tellers were from Israel and were well aware of the stories of Jerusalem and that Cecrops was actually the Athenian version of Moses, the stories that Cecrops told were very similar to the stories that Moses wrote. Specific motifs and themes that we usually associate with the writings of Moses in Genesis and Exodus were carried by Hebrews who migrated to Greece and set up Athens as a local rival to Jerusalem, (as they had done back home at Bethel and Dan) thus they turn up in the Greek myths as the foundation stories of Athens, this is the simplest explanation for the phenomenon. Some may even have been Judeans who had originally come to Thebes in Boeotia with Cadmus and then moved to Athens at a later date. In deed, if the Greeks knew of Moses as Cecrops, and used the Hebrew alphabet, then there is no reason why they should not know something about what Moses wrote, such as the Theogony of Genesis and the story of Eden. After all, they do seem to have known quite a bit about Moses and not only mere generalities, but even down to intricate details of theological doctrine.

The olive tree is the well known symbol of the Jewish nation (Rom. 11:17-26, Midrashim), more particularly the olive branch is the symbol of peace (shalom), and is incorporated into the name of the capital city of the Jews, Jerusalem,  featured herein as the original concept of the Greek city Athens, which is also symbolized by the olive tree in the Greek myths. The symbolism of the olive branch is included in the writings of Moses, delivered by the dove to Noah as the remedy for the flood, some take it as the symbol of the Messiah (anointed with oil, olive oil). (not to mention the, very ancient, Zodiacal character of Virgo who carries the branch) Athena (called Athena-Parthenos, meaning the virgin) was a female personification of the city state of Athens, the virgin citadel of Cecrops  (Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5. 646 ff)... the daughter of Zion,  the daughter of Jerusalem (Isa. 37:22).

For more about Athens and Isreal see:
"Athens and the Hebrews. The Other Lost Israelites
by John R. Salverda.

For more articles by John R. Salverda on the Hebraic Connections of Greek Mythology, see:
"Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends"

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