Abydos

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«A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone (shoham) are there» (Gn 2:10-12).

KEYWORDS:

- Eden

- Nod

- Tubal = Tabal?

- Four rivers

o Pishon

o Gihon

o Tigris

o Euphrates

Havilah = Abydos?

o Gold

o Bdellium, a resin?

o Hebrew Shoham = Greek sardion?

Abydos is a Hellespontine city, in Troas, and fulfils at least two criteria to be compared to Havilah:

  1. There is gold, in the nearby city of Astyra (Hansen & Nielsen 2004: 1006)
  2. There is resin, because bdellium is an aromatic resin, according to some interpreters (Westermann 218). Abydos is close to mount Ida, whose forests provided pitch (Ellis & Evans 2019: 75-79).
  3. Shoham is a precious stone that may correspond to sardion (carnelian) (Harrell & Hoffmeier & Williams 2017: 28), whose name derives from Sardis, the capital of Lydia in antiquity.

SOME EXTRAPOLATIONS

Eden is not clearly identified in Genesis, some interesting details are available though. Havilah: «The land Havilah is mentioned in Gn 10:7, 29; 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7; they are areas in South and North-East Arabia. In Gn 10:7 it is in the land of the Cushites» (Westermann 217). These biblical occurrences of the term seem to forbid any further discussion, because they all speak in favour of a southern, Arabian location. However, there is something special about Havilah in the second chapter of Genesis. «The fact that Havilah is preceded by the definite article in 2:11, and that 25:18 distinguishes that Havilah from any other place with the same name, would indicate the possibility that a number of places had this name» (Hamilton 1990: 169). Independently from latitude, Havilah may be an attribute that only special places in the world deserve, because of their richness. There is a city in north‑eastern Anatolia which was as rich in gold as Havilah. It is Abydos, whose name can be interpreted as a Greek rendition of a Lydian toponym. In fact, the suffix -dos corresponds to Lydian ‑ lis (Kearns 1994: 6, 10), so that Abydos would sound as *Abylis in Lydian. Abydos is a Milesian foundation in Troas (Hansen & Nielsen 2004: 1002-1003) and it could easily correspond to more ancient Hittite/Luwian toponyms such as Hawaliya or Hawiliya (RGTC6/1 105). Both of them might convey the meaning of "richness" through the well-known Indo-European semantic field of pecunia (Benveniste 1969: 47-61, vol. I), that is of wealth coming from cattle. Hawa/i- is the Luwian for "sheep" (Tischler 2010) and then we are allowed to infer that Havilah may derive from hawi + -la, a Luwian adjectival suffix. The Homeric appellative Aphneioi (Il. 2.825), that is "men of wealth" (Leaf 1923: 63-64), is applied to the Lycians of Zeleia. Abydos, famous for the gold mines of Astyra (Talamo 1979: 94-98), may reflect in its name the same abundance of gold attributed to Havilah and both mean "rich, wealthy". According to Strabo (12.1.22) Abydos was a Milesian foundation during the reign of Gyges, supposedly before 644 B.C. (Spalinger 1978), and the same author let us know that after the war of Troy it was inhabited by the Thracians. This report about the Anatolian city nearest to Europe, already mentioned by Homer (Il. 2.499), allows some inferences, and stirs as many questions: "Abydos" was already there before Milesian colonization and were it not a city name, then it may have been the appellative of a territory, according to etymology I have sketched above. Milesians adopted the Lydian definition, "Wealthy", and simply changed the suffix. Which was the name of the area during Thracian domination?