Bellerophon

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I have tried to apply three criteria so far: 1) Genesis’ proto-history contains allusions to historical peoples, shrouded by some well-known mythology in a period identifiable with the second half of the sixth century B.C. and Homeric Lycians comply to this description, because their myth goes back to Iron Age at least. 2) The second criterion is to give a paradigmatic value for Genesis to the Lycian myths in which the fight with a serpentine mythological enemy is involved. Certainly, if the "gestation period" for Genesis was late sixth century, then at that time Homeric epic cycles are a proof that certain themes were already circulating. Leto's mythical fight against Python fulfils this criterion, because she is a mother-goddess that might have provided a mirror for the "the mother of all living" Eve (Gn 3:20). With the due proportions, this parallelism between Eve and Leto comes to rescue the so-called "prophecy" of Gn 3:15 from nonsense. Eve and her seed are bound to fight the snake's seed in a narrative which has allowed the future enemies to talk to each other friendly. Among the Lycian myths which may be consistent with this original pattern of a "talkative monster", we should have a look at what is said about the Lycian warrior Amisodarus (or Isaras, LLES 243, 246; HE 41, 118, 164, 553), who fed the Chimera according to Homer (Il. 16.28). Besides, the Lycian adopted hero, Bellerophon, who slays the Chimera, a serpentiform monster, offspring of Echidna (Hesiod, Theogony 295-308), is available to represent the "seed of the woman" engaged in the mysterious fight described in Gn 3:15. From Bellerephon's myth we might draw inspiration to discover who is the people bound to challenge the celestial sphere in which Cain seems to inhabit. The Gygean Lake, not far from Sardis, the capital of Lydia, was home to Echidna and the birthplace of the Lydian royal lineage (Robert 1982 [1]: 334-352). 3) The third criterion is to check whether the application of a certain mythological framework is motivated by a historical background where to find the underlying ideological reasons. Lydia is the last great Anatolian empire before the arrival of the Persians and also the protagonist of an epoch-making betrayal, according to Herodotus, because Lydians revolt after the conquest, triggering the Persian plan to make a nation of merchants out of a race of warriors. At this point, another work hypothesis can be advanced: the clash between the two brothers Cain and Abel would represent the conflict between two eponymous heroes. The latter ancestor of a nomadic people, the Lycians, who according to Callisthenes conquered Sardis after the invasion of the Cimmerians (ca. 655 B.C.) (FGrHist 124 F 29; Kaletsch 1958 [2]: 26-30, 37-38, 47; Cozzoli 1968 [3]: 71-80, 101; Prandi 1985 [4]: 87; Parker 1995 [5]: 32 and n. 114; Ornaghi 2010 [6]; Lulli 2011 [7]: 24-27; Tokhtas’ev 2011 [8]). The Lycians aspire to the celestial dimension, first with Bellerophon – who challenges the gods riding Pegasus – and then with Sarpedon. Killed in the Trojan War, Zeus wants Thanatos and Hypnos to fly him back to Lycia for a majestic funeral. He belongs with his people to the celestial sphere of the eagles, while the Lydians, because of their marshy and serpentine origins, are bound to the underworld. The Luwian epiclesis of Tarhunt, Piḫassassa/i, from which the name of the fateful horse Pegasus is derived, is attested by the bilingual stele of Isinda, in Lycia and would therefore represent an ideal bridge between the territory of Wilusa in the time of Alaksandu, that of Tarhuntassa under the reign of Muwatalli and the classical Lycia of Xeziga (Hutter 1995 [9]; Raimond 2017 [10]: 45-52). I would say it is difficult to imagine such a library of tablets who could guide a team of scribes when writing Genesis toward the depths of a distant past, but what matters are the leitmotifs, the etiological myths, the stereotypes about nations they could use to appeal to readers’ imagination. Certainly in the Homeric poems we are able to see which kind of fascination Northern Anatolia could exert in the Archaic Age (Graziosi & Haubold 2005 [11]). There is one main objection to this reconstruction: can we rely on a meagre historical attestation about a conflict between Lydians and Lycians to support a longstanding myth of hostility? We know that Bellerophon had to withstand the enmity of the Solymians who killed his son Isander: "But when even Bellerophon came to be hated of all the gods, then verily he wandered alone over the Aleian plain, devouring his own soul, and shunning the paths of men; and Isander his son was slain by Ares, insatiate of battle, as he fought against the glorious Solymi." (Il. 6.200). In these Homeric verses may be found two important records to support my hypothesis: the Lycian hero was famous for his inglorious end in Cilicia (Aleian plain) but was also connected to Lycaonia (Iconium) in later sources. This would agree with what we know about Cain who moves to Nod (Naid=Nata in Lycaonia). Besides, the son of Bellerophon, Isander (LLES 16, 246, 251) dies in the war against the Solymians (Solymi) (LLES 19-20, 190, 227), who have been considered ancestors of the Hebrew people (Niemann & Petersen 1892: 1-10, 26-31, 50-52, 58, 206; Huxley 1964 [12]; Radici Colace 1976 [13]; Syme 1995: 183-192; Kosmetatou 1997 [14]; Talloen & Vanhaverbeke 2004; Gonzales 2005 [15]; de Hoz 2006 [16]; Coulton 2008 [17]; Schürr 2016 [18]; Arroyo-Quirce 2017 [19]). This highly disputed lineage hints at a division between two nations that sometimes are considered the same with different names and in different times: Lycians, Milyans or Solymians.

Originally Published: April 26, 2021

Last Updated: April 27, 2021


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