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by H. Crosthwaite



THIS chapter is devoted to brief observations and suggestions about a number of activities and aspects of life in the ancient world, in the light of ancient electrical theory and practice.


An object in the sky with two projections was held to resemble a bull, cow, stag, goat, horned snake, or dragon. If the body or tail of a comet was reddish in colour, and was the scene of what appeared to be lightning discharges, mutilation, murder and bloodshed, such as were attributed to, for example, Kronos, Zeus and Athene, this was taken as a hint that the action in the sky should be copied on earth, to ensure victory for the forces of light and of law and order. Errant bodies must be brought low. Animals must be stunned and blood spilt.

Two important features of the horse are the mane, and the hooves. The mane is in Greek chaite, which can also be a lion's mane, or lophia. Lophia is also the dorsal fin of a dolphin. The hooves produce sparks; "ignipedes equi" are fire-footed horses.

Chaite, long, flowing hair, is sensitive to electrical fields. The hair style of some figures in Egyptian art suggests the symbol for radiation, which is seen as part of the utchat. Horses were often employed on the threshing floor, a holy place.

The sensitivity of living creatures of all kinds to electrical fields is noteworthy. The scarab has horns; it is a bull-head in Greek. The Book of the Dead speaks of the Bull Scarab.

The goose, Greek 'chen', was known to the Egyptians as 'chenchenur', the great cackler. At Rome, geese were sacred to Juno; they gave warning of the Gauls' night attack on the Capitol. In the 1939 -1945 war, pheasants in country districts of England gave reliable early warning of the approach of German aircraft.

We have already met the hoopoe with its erectile crest. The ibis was a symbol to the Egyptians of the electrical god, because of its skill at killing snakes, and to the ibis Thoth owes the shape of his head. Thoth armed the gods for their victory over Set.

The ichneumon, or mongoose, was sacred to the Egyptians because of a similar skill, that of finding crocodile eggs, and the mongoose is known for its ability to catch snakes.

The jackal is sab in Egyptian. I suggest that this may be related to the Latin 'sapere', to be wise. Anubis was the jackal-headed god.

Ambitious politicians and military men copied the priestly practice of dressing up in the skins of animals. Just as in Crete and elsewhere there were ceremonies in which experts jumped on bulls, killed bulls, or were killed by bulls in the agon, arena, or labyrinth, so an Homeric hero or Celtic chief would wear a helmet, probably with horns, imitating a wild and powerful animal either on earth, or in the sky, i. e. divine.

The centaur was a creature half man, half horse. Centaurs were archers, and the arrow is often a lightning symbol. The centaur Cheiron was the model schoolmaster and instructor. Pindar refers to him as the Magnesian centaur. We may have here a glimpse of ancient education in electrical theology. Kings were required to understand all aspects of augury; Herodotus mentions especially the Persians in this respect. Crete was not the only place where there was bull fighting. The Taurokathapsia was a bull-fight at a festival in Thessaly, and also at Smyrna. 'Taurelates' was a bull-driver or Thessalian horseman in the Taurokathapsia. 'Taurokathaptes' was a stuffed figure, used to enrage the bull at a fight, tauro-machia. This would be similar in purpose to the Roman pila, which, as well as being a ball, was a stuffed figure for baiting bulls. Aeschylus, Fr. 27, refers to the Edonian rites of Kottyto; the imitators, mimoi, of the bull bellow in a fearsome manner.

ARCHITECTURE The light-tower is in Egyptian 'an, ' 'techen, ' or 'ucha'; in Akkadian 'durr'; cf. Latin turris, Greek pyrgos, and perhaps stele, which is a memorial stone, inscribed slab, or obelisk, Hebrew 'shath. ' When a pillar, Greek kion, was used in the construction of a temple, it was a support of heaven. We have met a description by Pausanias of pillars as planets; it may be relevant that the source of light for the palace at Knossos was a courtyard surrounded by seven columns. (J. D. Pendlebury, A Handbook to the Palace of Minos, p. 50; quoted by Kerenyi, Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, tr. R. Manheim. p. 95).

The capital of a column, in Latin pulvinar, was a cushioned seat for a god. The Hebrew caphtor is the capital of a column, the crown of a candelabrum, the island of Crete, or Cyprus. The Greek kalathos, basket, can also mean the capital of a column.

Temples and shrines were often situated on high ground, and bronze doors and thresholds occur as features of Greek temples and palaces. The Egyptian pylon, or gateway, was sebchet, the opening of fire. The similarity of hept, septem, seven, and Egyptian seb, illustrates the use of a common technical language, such as was used when discussing the seven 'wandering stars' and the seven recesses, Greek muchoi. [1]

Herodotus (II: 44) visited Tyre, where he saw a temple of Herakles. It had two columns, one of gold, and one of emerald, which glowed at night. Theophrastus, in his 'De Lapidibus', on stones, doubts whether such a large object could be of emerald. Green jasper and malachite have been mentioned as possibilities. Smaragdos (Greek) is an emerald.

Herakles was associated with luck. His name was given to the highest throw at dice. One of the names of Baal, as a Babylonian god of fortune, is Gadh (Hebrew spelling).

The Greek 'sema', sign or mark, resembles the Hebrew shem, sign or name. 'Ar' (Etruscan) is fire. I suggest that smaragdos is the sign of the fire of Gadh. There is some support for this in Hebrew. Bareqeth is an emerald or precious stone; baraq is lightning.

When Aeneas is shipwrecked on the coast of Africa, he views Dido's new city of Carthage under construction. He sees huge columns, "scaenis decora alta futuris," lofty ornaments for a future theatre.

In many passages where columns are mentioned, there is a possibility of a link with the poros of Alkman, with Plato's column of light, and with Pindar's "marvelous road to the agon of the Hyperboreans".

Radical proposals about the astronomical significance of electrical phenomena appear in Solaria Binaria, by de Grazia and Milton (Metron Publications, Princeton), and may be relevant when attempting an explanation of such passages.

The Latin 'decus', beauty, adornment, glory, and the verb 'decoro', to adorn, call for study.

"Decus enitet ore," beauty gleams in (or from) his face. "Vitis ut arboribus decori est, ut vitibus uvae," as the vine is an ornament to the trees, as grapes adorn the vine. Trees here are the trees up which the vines were trained. "Larem corona nostrum decorari volo," I want our (statue of) Lar to be decorated with a crown. The adjective 'decorus' means shining. "Phoebus decorus fulgente arcu," Phoebus beautiful with his gleaming bow; Horace 'Carmen Saeculare' 61. Decorus is applied to faces, eyes, temples, heads, swords, helmets, wrestling (gleam of oil);

Zeus is even referred to as decorissimus. Bacchus is "decorus aureo cornu," with golden horn, Horace, 'Odes' 2: 19: 30.

I suggest that we should associate decorus with the appearance of an electrical glow round an object. The Greek prepon means fitting, suitable, like the Latin decorus. Its primary meaning is shining, conspicuous to the senses; e. g. 'Zeus en aitheri prepei', Zeus shines out in the sky.


The Greeks and Romans greatly valued realism. A painting or statue should be as much like the original as possible, and should be suffused with a certain 'charis', charm. Zeuxis, who could deceive a bird by inducing it to swoop down to peck at his painting of a bunch of grapes, was held to be a great artist; his rival Parrhasios, who could deceive Zeuxis, a human judge, by painting an easel and cloth, so that Zeuxis asked him to remove the cloth and let him see the picture, was an even greater artist. In Plato's philosophy, everyday objects copied the eternal, ideal, model. In art, too, the aim was mimesis, imitation.

Much of the decoration on vases, walls, buildings and columns is suggestive of flame-like effects. Perhaps we have here the influence of electrical theology. It is also probable that some ancient art is an attempt to communicate technical information. If Apollo is represented sitting on a tripod cauldron which has wings, the painter may well be telling the viewer that the god is to be thought of as dwelling in the sky. Similarly, wheels can suggest not only land travel, but the movement of heavenly bodies, e. g. the tripods of Hephaestus. Cup and ring designs are thought to be astronomical. Egyptian art is especially rich in representations of technical apparatus, such as the telescopic rods round statues of gods and pharaohs, hennu boats such as Moses would have known, and headgear. The object in the sky described as a seething pot was probably responsible for the design of tripod cauldrons, and possibly some pottery designs as well. The staring eyes seen in some statuettes may be inspired by celestial phenomena, and the owl both looked and sounded divine.

The patron goddess of potters was Athene, and her name may appear in the atanuvium, or athanuvium, an earthen bowl used in sacrificial rites by Roman priests, and may be the same as the Greek attanon.

In Homer, beauty is something external which is poured over a person or thing. Athene pours charis over the head and shoulders of Telemachus, like a smith overlaying silver with gold (Odyssey VI: 235). It is interesting to compare the Hebrew hedher, splendour, ornament, with Greek hedra, seat or throne, and Latin hedera, ivy.

A study of art provides additional evidence for the thesis that there was a common electrical technology throughout the Mediterranean world. Egyptian reliefs showing the electrical arrangements round statues of gods are similar to a 9th century B. C. example from Babylonia.


We saw in Chapter VIII that Greek tragedy developed from the dithyramb. The Hebrew 'shiggayon' is dithyramb. Hebrew 'sheghiah' is transgression; 'shagha' is to wander. The view of the nature of tragedy advanced in Chapter VIII is that it was concerned with averting, by magical means, the transgression of an object in the sky that was guilty of adikia, injustice, and hubris, assuming too exalted a position. Justice, dike (Hebrew tsadiq = just), is the normal way of behaving. Injustice is the state of affairs when someone or something misses the target, or correct path, going too high. In Chapter XVII, we considered the dance at Knossos, and in Chapter VIII, the dance at the court of King Alkinous. At Knossos, two acrobats were darting in and out among the dancers; at the court of King Alkinous the dancing floor is an agon, a place for a contest or fight. When the agon is cleared for dancing (Odyssey VIII: 260 ff. ), Demodocus sings of the love affairs of Ares and Aphrodite.

The Cretans had a dance in honour of Sabazios, or Dionysus, called Sikinnis. It was danced by satyrs.

Mention of Dionysus takes us to Delphi, where goats were seen dancing in a strange way. The Greek words for dancing, skairo, skirtao, orcheomai, choreuo, komazo, enkrouo, all have links with goats or the theatre.

In Aeschylus, Prometheus Vinctus 599, Io enters dancing. Her movements are skirtemata. The Greek schematizo, suggesting attitudes or figures in the dance, may even be related to the Egyptian sekhem, power.

The Salii, Roman priests, performed a dance on the threshold (limen). Salio = leap. They were the guardians of the ancilia, shields. They went in procession through Rome with stamping, solemn leaps, singing songs. "Salios ancilia ferre ac per urbem ire canentes carmina, cum tripudiis solemnique saliatu iussit." (Livy I: 20, describing Numa's instructions).

Dancing before an ark was done by Egyptian monarchs as well as by David, and was part of resurrection technique. It was also associated with the attempt to renew the fertility of the earth. In the 20th century ballet The Rite of Spring, members of a tribe stamp on the earth to waken it from its winter sleep. At Rome there was a priestly college of great antiquity, whose members were called the Arval brothers (arva means fields). They were responsible for the fertility of the fields. Their dance was the Tripodatio, a solemn stamping of the earth. Tripudatio is a dance of a priest round an altar.

The Arval brothers were twelve in number. They made offerings to the Lares of the fields every year. The Karpaia was a Spartan dance in honour of Artemis. At Athens, it was a wanton dance, like the Kordax. The Karpaia was danced in Thessaly. 'Karyatizein' was to dance at a festival of Artemis in Karyae.


Priests wore white robes. The Greek chlaina, a woollen outer garment stained purple, was of double thickness, like the ephod and breastplate of the high priest at Jerusalem which was also of double thickness, possibly in an attempt to shield the wearer from radiation. Egyptian menkh, linen garments, may mean 'resistant to radiation'. Greek meno = 'withstand', ka = radiation. David wore linen when he danced before the ark, II Samuel VI: 14. Vide Pausanias I: 21: 9, for linen breastplates in Apollo's temple at Gryneion.

The Roman trabea was a state robe. Livy tells us that Servius Tullius, in his bid for power, put on a trabea and summoned the lictors. There were three varieties of trabea: all purple for religious use; purple and white, for kings; purple and scarlet, for augurs. The toga was worn with a broad purple stripe by senators; by equites, knights, with a narrow stripe. Children wore a toga praetexta, an outer garment bordered with purple, until they assumed the toga virilis, a grey woollen toga. Men who wished to be elected to office and join the ranks of the magistrates who had imperium wore a white garment, the toga candida, whence the term candidate.

Egyptian priests and Greek gymnasium managers wore phaikades, white shoes. The word phaikas resembles phaikos, explained by Hesychios as being equivalent to phaidros and lampros, words meaning 'bright'.

Hats are seen on Hittite and Etruscan reliefs, and elsewhere, conical in shape. The mitra may have been typical of Mitra, the Persian Aphrodite. We read of "a holy crown upon the mitre," of the high priest, Old Testament, Exodus XXIX: 6. The dunce's hat may be an attempt to obtain electrical, i. e. divine, help A Roman priest's hat had a twist of wool, apiculum, round the apex or point. This was similar to the Greek stemma.

The Greeks and Egyptians attached great importance to hair styles. The elegant curl at the end of the locks of hair on an Egyptian painting or relief, closely resembles the curve of the utchat, like the Greek chaite, hair or mane. The beard looks much the same. Hair standing on end may be an indicator of an electrical field. The Greek 'phobe', locks of hair, is almost the same as 'phobos', fear.

Tassels on the edges of garments remind one of the aegis, which was waved in battle by Zeus and Athene to terrify the enemy. The Etruscan augur is shown wearing a fringed robe in The Etruscans, by Pallottino. The Assyrian king presented a fringed garment to the god Ashur at akitu, the New Year festival. Herodotus (II: 81) mentions an Egyptian robe, the kalasiris, which had fringes. The Egyptian 'secher' is a fringe.


Kronos, or, according to Diodorus, Zeus, assumed a crown after defeating the giant snake Ophioneus.

The exalted tiara and the throne of kingship were first lowered from heaven to the Sumerian king in Eridu. Naram Sin had a horned tiara.

In the Gilgamesh epic, after the flood has devastated the earth, Ishtar raises her necklace of lapis-lazuli and swears never to forget the flood.

We have met the word stephanos, crown, in the context of crowning a bowl of wine, as a wreath of, for example, olive, worn by priests and by victorious athletes, and I have suggested that it is setphanos, Set, the seething pot in the sky. The prophet Amphiaraus is described as having pyrilampea chaiten, fiery hair, stemmati daphnaio, with laurel crown (Christodorus, Description of the Statues in the Public Gymnasium called Zeuxippus, line 259). The tore was worn especially by Gallic chieftains, and the god Apollo is sometimes represented wearing a necklace. Necklaces, frequently of amber beads, may have had an electrical, or even astronomical, significance.


Ambrosia and nectar were for the dwellers in the sky. The story of food descending to earth is not restricted to the Hebrew report of manna feeding the Israelites in the wilderness. It is found in northern myth, too. Food from the sky saved mankind in the fimbulvetr, the great winter.[ 2]

Wine was thought by the Egyptians to be the blood of those who had battled against the gods. In Greece and Rome, it was usual to dilute it with water, and its use in libations means that it could take the place of blood, Etruscan zac, to make the dead rise and stand.

The onion was valued for its health-giving action. It was similar top garlic in that divine power came from it. In Latin it is allium, probably another example of 'el'; or caepa (ka?), Arabic basal. In Greek it is krommuon. Garlic was in Greek skorodon, also gelgis, gelgithos. Hebrew gulgoleth is a skull or head.

The consonants 'skr', occurring in skorodon, are significant because of garlic's association with life.

The eating of meat was done as much for magical reasons as for nourishment, as we have seen in Chapter XVIII when examining the vacl, or sacred feast. The rich and the priests grew fat on a rich diet of sacrificial meat.


The games celebrated in Elis in the Peloponnese (Alis in the Doric dialect), were a religious festival in honour of Olympian Zeus. They may have been instituted in honour of Pelops, son of Tantalus and grandson of Zeus, and reorganised in 776 B. C.. They were held every fourth year, in midsummer. A sacred truce, echecheiria, was proclaimed, so that people might travel safely from all over Greece.

Spectators and competitors met in the alsos, or sacred grove, where there was a stadium with room for 40,000 spectators. The main events were foot races, pentathlon, boxing, and chariot races.

The prize for a winner was a crown, stephanos, of wild olive. At an early date, chariot racing was introduced, at first with four-horse chariots, later with two-horse chariots. The signal for the start of a race was given by the raising and lowering of a bronze eagle and a bronze dolphin.

Pausanias relates that the horses shied at a certain place on the course called Taraxippos, where there was an altar. 'Tarasso' means throw into confusion.

One may compare this with the presence at Rome in the Circus Maximus of an underground altar to Consus, a god of agriculture, earth, and secret plans. The latter suggest Hermes, who was the electrical god par excellence, but ancient authorities equated Consus with Poseidon. At his festival, the Consualia, on the 21st of August, chariot races were held, and horses were crowned with flowers.

The altar was underground, but was uncovered for the festival. At Olympia, as elsewhere in Greece, the gymnasia were places where athletes trained and rubbed oil on themselves; the palaestra was a place where wrestlers trained. In the Circensian games at Rome, founded by Romulus, there was a contest between two parties. One of them was clothed in white, the albati. The Roman poet Juvenal mentions russati, clad in red, and there were greens, too.

Chariot races are often thought to be linked with the death of the queen's consort at the end of the year, at the hands of the young challenger. Robert Graves maintained that many Greek myths describe the replacement of a matriarchal system by a patriarchal one.

King Oenomaus of Elis promised to give his daughter Hippodameia to the man who could defeat him in a chariot race. If the challenger lost, he was killed by Oenomaus with a spear. Pelops, son of Tantalus who served him up in a banquet to the gods, challenged Oenomaus. He bribed Myrtilus, the king's charioteer, to loosen a linchpin. The king crashed and lost, but refused to give up his daughter to Pelops, and threw him into the sea.

Pelops had an ivory shoulder, replacing the flesh eaten in the feast by Demeter.

He was said to have migrated to southern Greece, the 'island of Pelops', from Lydia. His name may mean dark-eyed, dark-faced, or, literally, mud-faced.

In Greek ops is a face, pelos is mud. It is more likely that his name comes from ops, voice, and the Lydian pel. Lydian words sometimes have an initial s which later disappears. Greek spelaion, Latin spelunca, and Lydian pel all mean 'cave'. His name could mean 'voice from the cave'. The Hebrew me'urah, cave, may be the Egyptian meh, full, and ar, electrical fire. (Echidna, half woman and half snake, lived in a cave at the place called Arima.) The presence of an earth goddess would explain Taraxippos and the worship of Consus and Poseidon. Poseidon was the Earthshaker, associated with the sound of horses, galloping hooves, sparks raised as hooves struck the stony ground of Greece with its bits of flint and iron ore, and with the groaning of rocks in an earthquake. His trident is an electrical weapon just as much as the thunderbolt of his brother Zeus, even if it is only half a thunderbolt. The thunderbolt held by Zeus resembles in shape the pattern regularly assumed by iron filings on a sheet of paper when a bar magnet is put underneath. (The patterns of lightning flashes are random.) The study at Samothrace of this behavior of iron particles has been mentioned in Chapter XII.

Probably the chariot race originated in a representation of something unusual happening in the sky. The smash symbolised an encounter between Zeus and a monster. It was, like tragedy, an apotropaic rite, an attempt to save the world from an extra-terrestrial threat. The use of the spear by Oenomaus symbolises lightning. The spear is a lightning symbol, the favourite weapon, Gungnir, of Odin. In Wagner's Parsifal, it is also a healer.

The spina, or low barrier along the race-course, had a seat, pulvinar. In imperial times the emperor sat on this seat on the fala. It would be a good place from which to observe a smash, even to cause one.

The Greek palaestra, where wrestling took place, was holy ground, as was a threshing floor, and the gymnasiarch wore white shoes. Perhaps the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Old Testament Genesis XXXII) should be considered, together with the many Egyptian references to the god of the thigh, which was situated in the sky. At a Greek sacrifice it was usual to offer the god slices from the thighs of the victim. 'Kole' is the thigh-bone and flesh. The Latin poples is the back of the knee, or the thigh. References to the thigh are found in The Book of the Dead, translated by Budge: "Behold him whose face is in the Lord of the Thigh." (c. 130). "Hail, O thou Thigh which dwellest in the northern heaven in the Great Lake, which art seen and which diest not. I have stood over thee when thou didst rise like a god." (c. 98). "He whose face is behind him ..." (ch. 125).

It is just possible that the last passage could be relevant when tracing the origins of the two-headed god Janus.


The Latin 'stupere', to be amazed, may be related to Greek hupnos, sleep, and to the god Set. There are cases in Homer of deities, heroes and humans being immobilised, with electric shock as a possible cause. Epilepsy was the sacred, or Heraklean, disease, and hypnosis was used as an anaesthetic in sanctuaries of Asklepios, and in the Roman army. De Grazia, in God's Fire, suggests electrical treatment as an explanation of the serpent Nechushtan set up by Moses to cure sufferers from snake bite.[ 3] Henbane, fabulonia, may be associated with stories about Dionysus, one of whose names in Etruscan suggests henbane and raving. A play was a fabula, or story, and Dionysiac worship is all about raving.

Apollo is the god of healing, plague, and sudden death. The Greeks feared contact with infected persons, whether the trouble was moral or physical. This is to be expected at a time when there was much electrical activity, lightning, and radiation, whose effects were called leprosy. It was dangerous to be under the same roof or in the same ship as a person who behaved impiously.

The god of medicine was Asklepios, son of Apollo. His symbol was the snake; his healing activity was associated with theatres at Athens and Epidaurus. The snake would be a symbol of electrical power from both sky and earth, and is a link between the two. The curving spine of a human skeleton would suggest a snake, and the snake's habit of renewing its skin could be a resurrection symbol. The Roman house snake was a symbol of the genius of the house.


Musical activity often took the form of imitation of the sounds of electrical activity, e. g. in Egyptian sets of vowels, and the sound produced from an ark; probably also imitation of storm effects, with rattles and other percussion instruments to suggest the sparks and striking of pebbles and meteorites. The Aeolian harp is an instance of what can be done. There is some evidence that a smooth, continuous flow of sound was considered to be more archaic and authentic than staccato sounds separated by big pitch differences, (see Plutarch; Why The Oracle No Longer Answers In Verse, 397 b, quoting Pindar).

It is necessary to bear in mind the technique of the aulos. Generally translated as 'flute', it was really a double-reed instrument, allowing flexibility of pitch from reeds with a long lay.

Cicero writes: "inclinata ululantique voce more Asiatico canere," to sing in the Asiatic manner, with an up-and-down wailing sound. (Orator VIII: 27) One may compare with this: "Cadmus heard the god revealing correct music, not sweet nor voluptuous, nor broken up in tunes."

The lyre generally had four strings, later seven. The number may be connected with the number of 'wandering stars' that they saw in the sky.

The Greek Sirens, whose song lured listeners to their destruction, bear a name resembling the Hebrew 'shir', song.

A lyre player is 'elater luras', a striker or driver of the lyre. 'Elater brontes' is used of a deity who wields the thunderbolt. 'Elauno' is used of driving a chariot.

The Greek Muses were the daughters of Zeus and Memory, an interesting anticipation of Wordsworth's 'emotion recollected in tranquillity'.

A less well known name for them is 'Leibethrides'. Leibo, pour, and libations are concerned with tombs, and it was an important duty to remember the dead. Epic poetry was largely a celebration of the deeds of the great heroes of the past (not necessarily a distant past). Homer's poetry was the Bible of the Greeks, and the Romans acted 'more maiorum', in the way of their fathers.


Early philosophy can hardly be distinguished from religion and science. Greek philosophers tried to find a single reality behind the changing world, and their solutions affected their concepts of behaviour and their ways of understanding and trying to control their surroundings.

At times, the presence of electricity could be detected by the eye, when it lightened or when there was a display in a temple. At other times, a man must be careful what he touched and where he stepped; sudden death was always a possibility when experimenting with a mysterious and powerful force. Xenophanes, a 6th century B. C. thinker, postulated a single god, not anthropomorphic, who always stays in the same place unmoved, and shakes everything, without trouble, with his mind.

Homer's gods live on Olympus, far removed from the hurry-burly of life on earth, though they do have their domestic troubles at times, have to repel attacks by giants, and may get involved in our lives in matters of war and sex. The Egyptian phrase maa kheru is used of a soul which has been weighed in the scales after death, has passed the test, and is allowed to work its way up to join Ra in the sky. The Greek word to describe the gods, the 'blessed gods', is makar. It is used especially of the gods.

Greek writers frequently use the words logo men ..., ergo de ..., in theory on the one hand, in practice on the other... What is the cause of this natural bias towards antithesis? It accords well with the sense of an unseen force with manifestations which were unpredictable.


Kingship is only one aspect of political life in the ancient world, but is the most importat In Sumer, the god Enlil put the holy crown (which appeared after the flood) on the head of the ruler. The exalted tiara and the throne of kingship were lowered from heaven in the city of Eridu. In Babylon, Sargon, in the 8th century B. C., took the hand of Bel, and in 538 B. C. Cambyses, son of Cyrus, took the hand of Bel in the New Year festival.

Sumerian kings were god's vicars at first; they always retained priestly functions. Priest is sanga; cf. Latin sanguis, and Egyptian ankh. A prince in Sumer and Akkad was chosen by Enlil to rule. Later, Enlil was replaced by Marduk, and priests and rulers became two separate classes.

The king of Assyria regarded the god Assur as supreme among gods, therefore on earth he must conquer other kings (vice Roux: Ancient Iraq, passim). Oracles, and election by nobles, were part of the process of making kings. At a coronation the new king was carried on a portable throne. He entered the temple at Ekur, offering oil, silver and an embroidered robe. He was anointed by the high priest, and given the crown of Ashur and the sceptre of Ninlil (Ashur's spouse).

He took part in important festivals, such as New Year (akitu), the eating ritual (takultu) and the bath-house ritual (bit rimki). He could be a scapegoat in times of trouble, and a substitute king might be killed. He consulted baru, priests (seers).

The New Year festival involved humiliation of the king to remind him that he was but a servant of the god. The priest struck him on the cheek. It seems possible that this may have had another purpose, that of giving him a red face like that of an important heavenly body. Hebrew chapher is to turn red.

In the course of the ceremony, a bull was burnt, and two statuettes of evil were decapitated, and their heads burnt. Statues of gods were taken in procession to the bit akitu, where the triumph of the gods over their enemies was enacted. Music and incense accompanied the procession. In classical Athens, one of the archons was entitled King Archon, a survival of the days of monarchy. We have already seen that the prutaneis were charged with the care of the sacred fire. At Rome, too, from 509 B. C., the powers of the king were divided between the curule magistrates, rex sacrorum, priests, Vestals, senate, etc.. If the consuls died in office, an interrex took over until new consuls could be elected. The interrex was originally the regent holding power between the death of a king and the election of a successor.

It was important that a high official should preside at theatrical performances and games. At Athens, one sees the chair of the priest of Dionysus in the theatre; at Rome, the emperor had his pulvinar, or cushioned throne, on the spina at the circus.

The king's great authority on earth sprang from the fact that he was the servant of the gods. Servus in Latin, ser in Egyptian and sar in Hebrew, show the nature of his power. He was especially the servant of the god in his temple, and was responsible for the building and upkeep of temples.

Tullus Hostilius was elected king of Rome by the nobles (Livy I: 22). They were the auctores, enlargers. Here we see the word, derived from augere, to enlarge, that refers to the electrical glow that priests tried to stimulate round the head of a statue, or the person of a king on his throne, making the figure appear greater than that of a mere mortal.

We have already seen, in Chapter I, the significance of light in Etruria and Rome. The Etruscan lauchme, Latin lucumo, or lucmon, is from the root luk and has several meanings. Its basic meaning is an inspired or possessed person. To a Roman this means furor, and insania. It was a title of Etruscan priests and princes.

The Etruscans in Italy did not achieve complete political unity. They had a number of princes, each controlling his own city. "Tuscia duodecim Lucumones habuit, reges quibus unus praeerat." (Servius on Aeneid VIII: 475 ff). Etruria had twelve lucumons, princes, one of whom was superior to the others. The name Lucumo was given by the Romans, as his proper name, to the son of Demaratus of Corinth, who became Tarquinius Priscus, the Old Tarquin, king of Rome.

Lucumo had a wife, Tanaquil, whose name recalls the eagle, aquila, which seized Lucumo's hat, carried it up into the sky, and then restored it to his head.

Lucumo may mean simply an Etruscan. The Roman poet Propertius, IV: 1: 29, has "Prima galentus posuit praetoria Lycmon," an Etruscan wearing a hood first pitched a praetor's camp. Galeritus, wearing a hood, is taken as meaning a peasant, but galerum, a skin helmet, Greek kunee, probably has regal and divine significance.

In the realm of history, the original aim was the establishment, by memory or by written records or monuments, of claims by rulers to divine authority going back as far as possible; hence the equivocal nature of king lists in the copies of Manetho and elsewhere.

In the 5th century B. C., the Greek word historia and the historians Herodotus and Thucydides mark an era of inquiry into the past, but ancient stories were valued for a more important reason than mere curiosity or entertainment. It was felt necessary to be able to commemorate and perform ancient rituals as the best means of securing stability, lest the gods become angry and punish the world with floods like those of Noah, Deukalion, and Ogyges, or scorch the earth as Typhon did. Ancient history is informed by a feeling of past golden ages ending in disaster and a painful rise from the ruins. The course of civilisation was cyclic, and the equilibrium was punctuated by battles in the sky and disasters on a huge scale. If Sophocles could be resurrected today, he might marvel at twentieth century technology, but he would probably see hubris (overweening pride) and ate (blind folly) in modern man's drive for domination.


The war-chariot, Greek satine, harma, Latin currus, essedum, enabled the king, leading his forces in battle, to inspire fear through his resemblance to a god. The horses with their fiery hooves contributed to this picture.

Spears and swords were seen as earthly versions of objects in the sky, symbolising the power of the shock or thunderbolt, as did the net and trident in gladiatorial combats. There were apotropaic devices on shields, such as snakes or rays of light; radiation danger is implied in the Gorgon's head with which Perseus turned enemies to stone. The Twelfth Legion, named Fulminata, had shields that bore a device of Jupiter brandishing a thunderbolt. Some of the shields painted on Greek vases of the Geometric Period have the appearance of the double axe, as do Hittite shields.

The burning of towns by a victorious army may well have been done not only for practical reasons, but also in imitation of the havoc caused by lightning, when a town had incurred the wrath of Zeus, Jupiter, or Marduk. There would be sound strategic reasonings for eliminating a trouble spot, but a commander also saw himself as the agent of Zeus or Jupiter. Scipio Africanus, conqueror of Carthage, was a belli fulrnen, thunderbolt of war.

The helmet had a plume. Bronze armour was sometimes overlaid with tin, Greek kassiteros, Sanskrit kastira (kastira = to shine).

Priests and augurs were consulted before declaring war or giving battle. If the sacred chickens would not eat, an impatient commander who said 'let them drink instead', and threw them overboard, had only himself to blame when defeated in a sea battle (off Drepanum, 249 B. C.).

When war was decided on, the fetial priest went to the territory of the people from whom redress was demanded for an infringement. He put on his head a pilleum, with an apiculum, piece of wool, round the apex. He invoked Jupiter, crossed the frontier, and delivered demands to the first person he met. He then reported to Rome. After thirty-three days he returned, and hurled a spear into enemy territory. The spear had a tip of iron, or was hardened in flame. It was either of blood-red colour, or was dipped in blood, depending on how one translates Livy's account in I: 32. Fetial may be from the Greek phemi speak. Perhaps the priest spoke with the authority of Al or El.

In the realm of law, morality, crime and punishment, the ruling concept was that of dike, the way things go, including in the sky, observing the limits and keeping on the right path. The heavens were the pattern, and must be copied on earth. The keen interest in homosexuality in Greece was probably inspired in part by imaginative observation of close encounters in the sky. Kings, and judges, inflicted such penalties as impalement, stoning, and decapitation.

The lictor's axe, securis, was a lightning symbol, and there are plenty of stories of gods (e. g. Odin), hanging on a tree. These stories should probably be considered in the context of the world tree, perhaps of the poros of Alkman.


I have already suggested that the Etruscan zichne, to write, means the tracks of Set. There is evidence that writing was associated with marks made on stone by lightning.

Exodus XX: 24 refers to God recording his name. In Deuteronomy IX: 10 Moses says that he received two tables of stone written with the finger of God.

I have also suggested that electricity is frequently involved where ancient languages have the sounds of ka, qa, or cha. There are examples of words with such sounds in the context of writing. In Hebrew there are chartom, a scribe or cutter of hieroglyphs; charash, charath, to cut or engrave; chaqaq, to ordain, to engrave, and as a participle, a sceptre; kathabh, to write; qa'aqa, tattoo, mark on the skin. In Egyptian there is chaker, a design. Thoth was the god of writing. Etruscan words include zichne, write, engrave; zichina, cut, bite; cana, to carve. In Hebrew there is sakin, in Arabic sikina, knife. (Cf. Latin scintilla, spark, and Gaelic skean, dagger.) It may be only coincidence that the Latin caelum means both a chisel and the sky. The Greek grapho and Latin scribo may have a link with sacer. Greek stizein means 'to brand', Greek 'hizein' means 'to sit. '

There is a striking coincidence in the fact that certain words in one language have the same meaning in another language when the direction of the writing is reversed. Semitic languages go from right to left, Greek and Latin from left to right, Etruscan now one, now the other. Two key words in ancient religion, 'holy' and 'axe', appear each way. The Hebrew peladhah means iron; Lydian, Greek and Etruscan have labrys, dolabra, falandum. Falandum is the sky, thought to be of iron, from which pieces of iron sometimes fall, e. g. the Palladium, which was probably a lump of meteoric metal or ore. The sounds F and P are closely related (vide Grimm's law). The Arabic balta is an axe, very close to the Latin dolabra, axe, and falandum, sky, when read backwards. The Arabic raqs means dance; read right to left its consonants become sqr, Latin sacer. The Hebrew raqadh is to leap, jump, start, dance, and we have seen the significance of dancing when discussing the goats at Delphi, and David and other monarchs dancing before arks.

It must be emphasized that at the moment this can only be regarded as coincidence and matter for speculation, but further examples may exist, and the matter could have relevance to the problems of Hittite, Achaean, and Etruscan geography in an obscure period of ancient history.

If one looks for a thread of Ariadne in this maze, for a single factor to explain the practices and attitudes of the ancient world which we have been considering, one may find it in the Greek concept of mimesis, imitation in the attempt to control a force which was often invisible, but which had great power to destroy or to save. Attitudes towards the gods changed as Greek and Roman thinkers concentrated, like Socrates, on the political and moral problems of living together at peace in cities, or on solving problems in medicine and agriculture, laying the foundations of the physical sciences, as did Aristotle. The reason for this change may have been in part the gradual fading of electrical fields after a time of disturbance, and intellectual hubris may have played a part.

However, the original stories survived, especially in the works of the Greek dramatists, who taught that hubris, overweening arrogance, would bring blindness and disaster.

Xerxes ordered the waters of the Hellespont to be lashed when his bridge was broken down by a storm. His hubris and impiety were followed by defeat in the straits of Salamis. The god's anger was roused when Salmoneus emulated Jupiter by riding in a chariot like a god running amuck in the sky, rattling brass pots and brandishing torches to imitate thunder and lightning. He was struck by a thunderbolt and hurled into Tartarus.

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