Watchman's Teaching Letter #74 June 2004
This is my seventy-fourth monthly teaching letter and continues my seventh year of publication. With this lesson we will continue our series on the importance of Yahweh’s Anointed witness, Herodotus.
ARCHAEOLOGY VINDICATES HERODOTUS
During the past six or seven years The Learning Channel (TLC), on television has been showing an archaeological special entitled The Frozen Tombs Of Siberia. My video copy actually shows the graves of the Scythian people, or the Lost Tribes of Israel in their migrations. Not only that, but these Scythian burials fit Herodotus’ description of the Scythian customs in his Book IV very well. To show you how the archaeologists’ spade is vindicating the writings of Herodotus, I will now quote a passage from the book The Celts by Gerhard Herm, pages 105-107. While some of the statements may seem strange, I will make some explanations during and after the quotation:
“Of yet others Herodotus says that they regularly scalped their victims and made towels or garments from the skins. What is more, members of the nearby tribe were said to be magicians, every year changing themselves for a few days into wolves; and the tribe itself was said to be composed of cannibals.
“What we have since learnt of the Scythians is sufficient to absolve Herodotus of the charge of telling horror-stories: there was an element of truth in at least two of his reports. The steppe nomads really did believe that their ancestors had been animals. They therefore carried images of them as totems or coats of arms and crowned their rulers with head-pieces shaped like bears, bulls or other animal heads. A man who thought he was descended from wolves may well have worn the open jaws of the proto-dog on his head and imagined himself to be a kind of werewolf. Besides, as regards Herodotus’s other story, the Scythians and their neighbours were indeed led by shamans (shamana, the Sanskrit word for such priests, means ‘magician’). The third detail he mentions, head-hunting, can be written off as a curiosity only if we ignore that the Scythians are among the progenitors of Celtic culture.” [Note: Hebrew lexicons lack completeness of language, but “shaman” seems to fit the sense of Strong’s #5567, and also #s 8064, 8065, or the group from #s 8080 through 8095.]
“What is certain is that towards 1100 BC the steppe people must have come from the Caspian basin – some even say from Iran – towards the Dnieper. Between 800 and 700 BC they drove the neighbouring Cimmerians along the east bank of the Black Sea into Asia Minor. Then the Scythians took the old road into western Europe. Their vanguards reached Silesia, Lower Lusatia, Hungary and perhaps even Bavaria. In all these regions they must have encountered the Urnfield people, whether peaceably or not we do not know. They seem to have influenced and impressed the indigenous peoples, possibly forcing some of their own chiefs on to them as sovereigns. At least the contact did have positive consequences.” [Note: We must remember the Japhethite (Thracian, Ionian, Mede Tubal & Mesheck), and even some Shemites, surely preceded the true Israelites into the Russian Steppe and parts of Europe accounting for some of the archaeological finds of dates earlier than the deportations of the Israelites. Herm’s dates of 800 and 700 BC are a bit early for the deported Israelites.]
“The Scythians were by no means savages. Archaeologists have shown that they produced highly developed arts and crafts, a firm political structure, accomplished horsemanship and the capacity to build vast kurgans. One of these ‘ancient’ or ‘thick graves’, as Soviet archaeologists call them, was opened at Ordzhonikidze on the lower Dnieper in 1971. It was neither the first found in the Ukraine nor the largest, but it was sufficient to impress its finders.
“An enormous quantity of earth had to be removed to get at the principal grave and an adjacent lesser one. Six horses and three grooms were buried around the former. In the stone chamber itself lay a chief or prince. His subjects had provided him with a golden necklace consisting of two dozen tiny cast animal figures, each one perfectly shaped. In the lesser chamber lay the skeletons of a woman and a boy. The boy held a large bracelet, his clothing covered all over with plaques of gold, the largest of them again in animal shapes. The woman had, among other items, a little lacquered box, a bronze mirror with a silver handle and – which impressed the archaeologists most – a glass receptacle dyed a delicate pink. Of course only splinters remained, but the question as to its origin obviously arose – Iran, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia? Even in classical Greece, glassware was a luxury.
“The Ordzhonikidze find confirmed what had already been known for some time: that the Scythians were inclined to making exquisite ornaments in animal form, decorating weaponry and clothing with golden or bronze deer, ibexes, lions, bulls, that they were horse-lovers and cattle-raisers and that they wore sleeved smocks and trousers. A carpet that has survived, intact, two millennia in the ice of the Altai mountains shows, moreover, that they threw multi-coloured plaids over their shoulders, grew moustaches and combed their hair up straight.
“There are three main conclusions to be drawn: first, that this steppe people had customs similar to those of the original Indo-Europeans, and were thus perhaps related to them; second, that much that seems Celtic in the old Europeans was in reality taken over from the Scythians – as for instance head-hunting and moustaches; finally, that the invaders from the east brought back customs that the descendants of the earlier nomads had gradually forgotten – thus reviving the old inheritance.”
Herm is caught in the mainstream “Indo-European” trap, not realizing that the people of Genesis 10 ARE the one and only original ‘Indo-Europeans.’ I believe that the animals and birds described here were the emblems of the tribes. Sure, the Tribe of Benjamin would dress up like a wolf. And one must remember that our people did carry things to the extreme. While you may take exception to some of this narrative, you will have to admit that Herodotus described the Scythians quite well. So for all of you who are pooh-poohing Herodotus and other Yahweh Anointed witnesses, you’d better do your homework.
I will now quote the involved passage from The History: Herodotus translated by David Grene 4:71-73:
“71. The burial places of their kings are in the country of the Gerrhi, the place up to which the Borysthenes is navigable. At this place, when their king dies, they dig a great fourcornered pit, and, having made it ready, they take up the dead man – having coated his body with wax and cut open his belly and cleaned it and filled it with chopped marsh plants and incense and parsley seed and anise, and sewn it together again – and put him on a wagon, in which they carry him to another nation. These in their turn receive the corpse when it is brought them and do what the Royal Scythians do: they cut off a piece of ear, shave their hair, cut their forearms, tear forehead and nose, and drive arrows through their left hand. Then they convey the corpse of the king on the wagon to another nation of those they rule. Those to whom they have already come follow along. When they have conveyed the corpse around to all the subject nations, they are in the country of the Gerrhi, who live furthest of all whom they rule, and at the place of burial. Afterwards, when they put the dead man in his grave on a bed, they fix spears on either side of the corpse and stretch above them planks of wood and roof these in with plaited rushes; and in the open space that is left in the burial place they bury one of his concubines, after strangling her, and his wine-bearer, cook, groom, valet, and message-bearer. Also his horses, and the firstfruits of everything else, and his golden cups (the Scythians use neither silver nor bronze). Having done this, they rear a huge barrow of earth, showing the greatest zeal and rivalry with one another to make it as big as possible.
“72. When the year has come round in its course, they do something else. Of the king’s remaining servants they take those most suitable for their purposes (and these are native-born Scythians, for the servants of the king are those he bids to serve him; he has no purchased slaves), and they strangle fifty of them and fifty of his most beautiful horses; and they remove their bellies, and clean them out, and fill them with chaff, and stitch them up. Then the half of a wheel is fixed, upside down, on two pieces of wood, and the other half of the wheel on two other posts, and they fix many more in this fashion. They then drive long stakes lengthwise through the horses’ bodies, up to the necks, and mount the horses upon the half-wheels. The half-wheels in front support the horses’ shoulders; those behind, the belly, by the hindquarters. The legs on both sides hang loose. They put bits and reins in the horses’ mouths and stretch these to the front and fasten them from pegs. Each one of the fifty young men who were strangled they mount on a horse. They contrive the mounting of the horsemen by driving an upright stake along the spine, up to the neck; but a part of the stake projects below, so that they can fit it into a hole they make in the stake that goes through the horse lengthwise. They set these, horses and riders, in a circle around the tomb, and, having done so, they ride off themselves.
“73. That is how they bury their kings. But as to the rest of the Scythians, when they die, their nearest relatives carry them around among their friends on wagons. Each friend receives and entertains those who follow the procession and offers a share of all the food to the dead man, the same as to everyone else. For forty days all these people who are not kings are carried round in this way, and then they are buried. When they have buried the dead, the relatives purify themselves as follows: they anoint and wash their heads; as to their bodies, they set up three sticks, leaning them against one another, and stretch, over these, woollen mats; and, having barricaded off this place as best they can, they make a pit in the center of the sticks and the mats and into it throw red-hot stones.”
ANALYSIS OF HERODOTUS’ REMARKS
We must remember that Herodotus relied heavily upon information passed on by word of mouth for many generations. As a result, because of what I call the “communication barrier” (the inability to repeat a story exactly as first told), the account becomes deteriorated by a process of multiple error. It’s somewhat like measuring a distance of fifty feet, but instead of using a fifty foot steel tape measure, one would measure one inch at a time. Each time an inch would be marked off, there would be a slight error, and after doing that 600 times one might be off plus or minus maybe up to three or four inches. Not only that, but people as a whole tend to be natural braggarts to some degree (like the fish that got away). All one need do is observe young children for a while, and how they have a bigger and better widget than anyone else on the block. Therefore, I’m quite certain that a good portion of Herodutus’ personal interviews with various sources were highly exaggerated. So with that in mind, let’s do a little detective work. I reviewed the VCR video tape The Frozen Tombs Of Siberia to see what consistencies and inconsistencies I could find with Herodotus’ report.
Herodotus says, “when their king dies, they dig a great fourcornered pit.” This is exactly what the video shows. The excavations are ten feet or deeper and maybe measure twelve feet wide, and maybe up to 20 feet long. Then a wooden hut with a flat roof is built nearly to the dimensions of this space, all below the surface of the ground. Then within the wooden hut they place a sturdy wooden coffin secured with large bronze nails, although sometimes the coffin was a hollowed out tree trunk.
Then, Herodotus continues, “having coated his body with wax and cut open his belly and cleaned it and filled it with chopped marsh plants and incense and parsley seed and anise, and sewn it together again.” Here again, Herodotus agrees substantially with the video! Moreover, Herodotus speaks of the regalia of the burial of the “Royal Scythian.” Herodotus then says, “they bury one of his concubines, after strangling her, and his wine-bearer, cook, groom, valet, and message-bearer.” Now they did usually kill the king’s horses by hitting them in the head with a pickax, for the video shows the holes in the horses’ heads where that was done. Now there might have been cases where the king and his household, along with his servants, died from some kind of epidemic. Even today in the cemeteries in northwestern Ohio there are whole families who died of cholera, with maybe up to nearly a dozen tombstones in a row. I believe that the story started with the horses, which we have evidence of; but the concubines, wine-bearers, cooks, grooms and valets were likely added by exaggerating storytellers later.
Herodotus then infers to us that the Royal Scythians used only golden cups from which to drink. Most of their ornaments were wooden objects covered with gold leaf. Could that mean the king’s cups also? Herodotus makes the statement “(the Scythians use neither silver nor bronze).” It should be noted that many objects were found in the tombs made of bronze and iron.
Then Herodotus writes, according to his word-of-mouth interviewee, “When the year has come round in its course, they do something else. Of the king’s remaining servants they take those most suitable for their purposes (and these are native-born Scythians, for the servants of the king are those he bids to serve him; he has no purchased slaves), and they strangle fifty of them and fifty of his most beautiful horses ...” I am sure that had such evidence ever been found to this kind of thing of strangling servants, much comment would have been made by the archaeologists conducting these digs. It is my belief that this is just another tall story by someone unable to control his unrealistic imagination. I also have doubts concerning carrying a corpse around for forty days, even in that cold climate. Then it says, “they make a pit in the center of the sticks and the mats and into it throw red-hot stones.” To me this would be a gesture to keep the tomb enclosure comfortably warm for the interred as long as possible. Anyway, for what it’s worth, this is some of my observations concerning Herodotus’ writings. It is obvious to me that Herodotus did a commendable job for what he had to work with!
In the book The World Of The Past (a two volume set) edited by Jacquetta Hawks, in the “Introduction” (just before the chapter ‘About Archaeology’), page 9, substantiates my position concerning Herodotus’ writings as follows:
“While it is true that Herodotus is at his most unreliable when recording what people told him about their past history, the sights which he himself saw have now become for us the material of archaeology. His account of a royal Scythic burial, for example, has been accurately confirmed by modern excavations – providing the best ‘double-take’ of this kind that is ever likely to occur. No wonder, then, that Herodotus is the earliest author to be extensively represented in this anthology. His younger contemporary, Thucydides, deserves a place because in the introduction to his History of the Peloponnesian War he gives a brief prehistory of the Greeks which includes the very first recorded instance of archaeological method being used to reconstruct history ... Yet in general, of course, he wrote history as the heroic exemplar – the kind of history which was to prevail for so long and which lies at the opposite extreme from that arrived at through ‘the common touch’ of archaeology.”
BUT THERE IS MORE
Also for a long time skeptics believed that King Minos of Crete was only a legend. The archaeologists’ spade again made them liars. I will now quote the passage from my The History: Herodotus, translated by David Grene at (I. 173):
“1.173. Those, then, are the customs they practice. The Lycians did come from Crete in ancient times (for all of Crete in those days was possessed by barbarians). There was a rivalry in Crete about the throne between Sarpedon and Minos, Europa’s sons. Minos won out in the struggle; he drove out Sarpedon and his party, and, when these latter were expelled, they came to the land of Milyas in Asia. This was in those days Milyas, which now the Lycians live in; at that time the Milyans were called Solymi ...”
From the book The World Of Herodotus by Aubrey De Sélincourt, pages 38-39:
“Apart from the value and interest of popular tradition for its own sake, it is worth remembering that for the Greek world, at any rate, modern research has in many instances confirmed it. A hundred years ago no scholar believed in the historical reality of the Trojan war, an incident of primary importance in the Greek oral tradition of later times. Schliemann’s work on the site at Hissarlik proved beyond a doubt that the old tale was based solidly upon fact. It was the same with the legendary Minos, and the brilliant civilisation in Crete, revealed to modern eyes so spectacularly by Sir Arthur Evans’ excavations at Cnossos. It may well be that future archaeological research will prove many a statement of Herodotus, which scholars have hitherto taken as guess-work or fairy-tale, to be substantially true: for instance, his statement that the mysterious Etruscans came originally from Lydia.” [Note: Strabo and Tacitus both fully accepted the origin of the Etruscans as being in Lydia.]
For more on this subject, we will go to the book The Greeks by H. D. F. Kitto (a Penguin book) pages 16-17:
“But is there any reason to believe these traditions? A hundred years ago historians said no. Grote wrote, for example, that the legends were invented by the Greeks, out of their inexhaustible fancy, to fill in the blank space of their unknown past. To believe that a King Minos had ever ruled in Crete, or that a Trojan War had ever been fought, would be foolish: equally foolish to deny the possibility. An earlier historian of Greece, Thucydides, treated the traditions quite differently, as historical records – of a certain kind – to be criticized and used in the appropriate way.
“His account of the Trojan War, given in the early chapters of his history, is a fine example of the proper handling of historical material – for it never occurred to Thucydides that he was not dealing with historical material. On Minos the legendary King of Crete he writes:
“Minos is the earliest ruler we know of who possessed a fleet, and controlled most of what are now Greek waters. He ruled the Cyclades, and was the first colonizer of most of them, installing his own sons as governors. In all probability he cleared the sea of pirates, so far as he could, to secure his own revenues.
“Thucydides, like most Greeks, believed in the general truth of the traditions: modern writers disbelieved. But Grote’s admirable history had not passed through mDefaultText1/spanany editions before Schliemann went to Mycenae and Troy and dug up something uncommonly like Homer’s two cities: and subsequently Sir Arthur Evans went to Crete and practically dug up King Minos and his island-empire. It is at least abundantly clear that from early in the third millennium to about 1400 B.C. – a period as long as from the Fall of Rome to the present day – Crete, especially the city of Cnossos, was the centre of a brilliant civilization which gradually spread in all directions over the Aegean world. Since Cnossos was unfortified, its masters must have controlled the seas, just as Thucydides said.”
So it turns out that Herodotus’ and Thucydides’ “guess-work” and “fairy-tales” are more truthful than anticipated! For another version of this story about King Minos we will go to The Life Of Greece by Will Durant, pages 5-6:
“THE REDISCOVERY OF CRETE
“‘There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water; and therein are many men past counting, and ninety cities.’ When Homer sang these lines, perhaps in the ninth century before our era, Greece had almost forgotten, though the poet had not, that the island whose wealth seemed to him even then so great had once been wealthier still; that it had held sway with a powerful fleet over most of the Aegean and part of mainland Greece; and that it had developed, a thousand years before the siege of Troy, one of the most artistic civilizations in history. Probably it was this Aegean culture – as ancient to him as he is to us – that Homer recalled when he spoke of a Golden Age in which men had been more civilized, and life more refined, than in his own disordered time.
“The rediscovery of that lost civilization is one of the major achievements of modern archeology. Here was an island twenty times larger than the largest of the Cyclades, pleasant in climate, varied in the products of its fields and once richly wooded hills, and strategically placed, for trade or war, midway between Phoenicia and Italy, between Egypt and Greece. Aristotle had pointed out how excellent this situation was, and how ‘it had enabled Minos to acquire the empire of the Aegean.’ But the story of Minos, accepted as fact by all classical writers, was rejected as legend by modern scholars; and until sixty years ago (© 1939) it was the custom to suppose, with Grote, that the history of civilization in the Aegean had begun with the Dorian invasion, or the Olympic games. Then in A.D. 1878 a Cretan merchant, appropriately named Minos Kalokairinos, unearthed some strange antiquities on a hillside south of Candia. The great Schliemann, who had but lately resurrected Mycenae and Troy, visited the site in 1886, announced his conviction that it covered the remains of the ancient Cnossus, and opened negotiations with the owner of the land so that excavations might begin at once. But the owner haggled and tried to cheat; and Schliemann, who had been a merchant before becoming an archeologist, withdrew in anger, losing a golden chance to add another civilization to history. A few years later he died.
“In 1893 a British archeologist, Dr. Arthur Evans, bought in Athens a number of milkstones from Greek women who had worn them as amulets. He was curious about the hieroglyphics engraved upon them, which no scholar could read. Tracing the stones to Crete, he secured passage thither, and wandered about the island picking up examples of what he believed to be ancient Cretan writing. In 1895 he purchased a part, and in 1900 the remainder, of the site that Schliemann and the French School at Athens had identified with Cnossus; and in nine weeks of that spring, digging feverishly with one hundred and fifty men, he exhumed the richest treasure of modern historical research – the palace of Minos. Nothing yet known from antiquity could equal the vastness of this complicated structure, to all appearances identical with the almost endless Labyrinth so famous in old Greek tales of Minos, Daedalus, Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur. In these and other ruins, as if to confirm Evans’ intuition, thousands of seals and clay tablets were found, bearing characters like those that had set him upon the trail. The fires that had destroyed the palaces of Cnossus had preserved these tablets, whose undeciphered pictographs and scripts still conceal the early story of the Aegean.
“Students from many countries now hurried to Crete. While Evans was working at Cnossus, a group of resolute Italians – Halbherr, Pernier, Savignoni, Paribeni – unearthed at Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity) a sarcophagus painted with illuminating scenes from Cretan life, and uncovered at Phaestus a palace only less extensive than that of the Cnossus kings. Meanwhile two Americans, Seager and Mrs. Hawes, made discoveries at Vasiliki, Mochlos, and Gournia; the British – Hogarth, Bosanquet, Dawkins, Myres – explored Palaikastro, Psychro, and Zakro; the Cretans themselves became interested, and Xanthoudidis and Hatzidakis dug up ancient residences, grottoes, and tombs at Arkalochori, Tylissus, Koumasa, and Chamaizi. Half the nations of Europe united under the flag of science in the very generation in which their statesmen were preparing for war.” [All dates in this quotation are A.D. unless otherwise stated or obviously B.C.]
HERODOTUS & SCRIPTURE CONNECT AT 2 KINGS 23:29, 34
To explain this we will go to Archæology And The Bible by George A. Barton (©1916), pages 31-32:
“... The Lower Empire is the name given by scholars to the period of the twenty-sixth dynasty, 663-525 B.C. This dynasty was founded by Psammetik I, who became the viceroy of Egypt under Assurbanipal, of Assyria, in 663 B.C. Psammetik was descended from a native Egyptian family of the city of Sais in the western Delta, and a number of his ancestors had been prominent in the history of Egypt during the preceding century. At first he was a vassal of Assyria, but soon troubles in the eastern part of the Assyrian dominions enabled him to make Egypt independent. The Egyptians, finding themselves once more free under a native dynasty, experienced a great revival of national feeling. Everything Egyptian interested them. They looked with particular affection upon the age of the pyramid builders, who lived more than two thousand years before them. They revived old names and old titles, and emulated the art of the olden days. They manifested such vigor and originality withal, that the art of the lower empire rivals that of the best periods of Egyptian history.
“Necho, the son and successor of Psammetichus, endeavored, as Assyria was declining to her fall, to regain an Asiatic empire. Josiah, of Judah, who sought to thwart him, was defeated by Necho and killed at the battle of Megiddo in 608 B.C. (2 Kings 23:29). Necho afterward deposed Jehoahaz and took him captive to Egypt (2 Kings 23:34). Four years later, when Necho made a second campaign into Asia, he was defeated by Nebuchadrezzar at Charchemish on the Euphrates, and compelled to hastily retreat to Egypt, hotly pursued by the Babylonians. Jeremiah, who perhaps caught sight of the rapidly moving armies from the Judæan hills, has given a vivid account of the flight in Jeremiah 46. Jeremiah considered this event so important that he began then to commit his prophecies to writing. (See Jeremiah 36.) After this Necho devoted himself to the internal government of Egypt, though he became the patron of an enterprise for the circumnavigation of Africa, which was carried out by some Phœnicians. (See Herodotus, IV, 42.) Hophra, a later king of this dynasty (588-569 B.C.), in order to gain influence in Asia, tempted King Zedekiah to rebel against Babylon, and thus lured the little state of Judah to its destruction. During the reign of Hophra’s successor, Amosis II, Cyrus the Great founded the Persian empire, and in 525 B.C. Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, overthrew the twenty-sixth dynasty, and made Egypt a Persian province.” [Note: It is quite arrogant of Barton to suppose, and also contrary to Jeremiah’s writing, that the prophet only “began then to commit his prophecies to writing” when he “perhaps caught sight of” the flight of Egyptians from Charchemish with Nebuchadnezzar in pursuit. Barton has no solid ground for such a lame postulation!]
Now let’s read Herodotus 4. 42 from David Grene’s translation The History: Herodotus:
“42. I am surprised, then, at those who have drawn the boundaries and made the divisions of Libya, Asia, and Europe. For the differences between them are great. In length Europe stretches parallel to both of them, and in breadth it seems to me incomparably broader. For Libya is clearly surrounded by the sea except for its boundary with Asia; it was King Necos of Egypt who, first of the men we know, proved this. When he had stopped digging the channel from the Nile into the Arabian Gulf, he sent off Phoenicians in merchantmen, bidding them, on their return journey, sail through the Pillars of Heracles till they came to the northern sea and so come back to Egypt. The Phoenicians set out from the Red Sea and sailed the southern sea. When it came to be autumn, they would put in and sow the land wherever they happened to be in Libya in the course of their sailing and wait the harvest there. Having gathered in their crop, they sailed on again. After two years of sailing, in the third year they rounded the Pillars of Heracles and came back to Egypt. And they declared (what some may believe, though I myself do not) that as they sailed round Libya they had the sun on their right.”
A footnote at the bottom of the page says the following:
[“This is one of the very striking pieces of information left us by Herodotus. There is now little doubt that these Phoenicians, sent by Necos, circumnavigated Africa, rounding the Cape of Good Hope.”]
Herodotus’ connection with Scripture in this era is even stronger than these sources indicate. The war between Necôs (or Necho) and the “Syrians” at “Magdolus” described by him at 2. 159 is actually a confused account of events described at 2 Chron. 35:20-27 (see also Josephus’ Antiquities 10:5:2), where the “Syrians” are Judahites and “Magdolus” is Megiddo. Rawlinson notes this, and also cites 2 Kings 23:29, 24:7, and Jeremiah 46:2 in connection with this chapter.
These examples of Herodotus should demonstrate the significance of his writings. It is a shame that there are so many (even in the Israel Identity Movement) who really don’t comprehend the weightiness of understanding history as well as Scripture. This last instance should really prove just how imperative it is to research both. This subject will be continued in the next lesson.