Friday, July 31, 2015

Meroe on the Orontes


Alice C. Linsley


The ancient capital of the Kushite kingdom was Meroe in modern Sudan. It had a later sister city called Meroe on the Orontes in Turkey.  Meroe ad Orontes was a high place before the establishment of the city of Antioch (Antakya, Hatay) in 307 BC by Antigonus, one of Alexander the Great's generals. Antioch became the most important city, with 500,000 inhabitants in the 2nd Century AD.

Antioch played a great role in the early development of Christianity. The oldest known church was in a cave on the outskirts of the city. It was visited by Pope Paul VI in 1962. Both St. Peter and St. Paul lived at Antioch for many years. The elders of the Antioch church commissioned Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries to the Gentiles of Asia Minor. The early Christians were first called followers of “the Way” and then for the first time they were called “Christians” at Antioch. Acts 11:26 tells us that it was the Cypriot-born Barnabas (Bar-Nabas, son of Nabas/Prophet) who brought Paul before the elders at Antioch. “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”

St. Ignatius was chosen to serve as Bishop of Antioch after St. Evodius, who died around AD 67. Antioch was the birth place of John Chrysostom, who died in 407 A.D.

Nicolas the deacon of the Seven Deacons was a proselyte of Antioch. Christians who dispersed after Stephen's martyrdom preached at Antioch.  From Antioch the church sent charity by the hands of Barnabas and Saul to the brethren at Jerusalem who were suffering during a time of famine.

The pre-Antioch Meroe was built on the precipice of Mt. Silpius in modern Turkey. In ancient times, the Orontes River (the Draco, the Asi) was the chief river of the Levant and had sufficient depth for sail boats to come up the river from the Mediterranean near modern Beirut in Lebanon. This was aided by the north-flowing currents. Thus Meroe, and later Antioch, became port cities. The fortress on the spur of Mount Silpius was named IO, which means “pillared place dedicated to the Creator.” The O was a solar image. The sun was the emblem of the Creator. Heliopolis (Biblical On) was called “Iunu” which means place of pillars because it was constructed with many pillars.

Antioch was built at the bend in the river to the north of the craggy ascent of Mount Silpius, which rose abruptly on the south. The IO fortress was about 300 miles from Jerusalem and about 2185 miles from Meroe in Sudan.

Ancient Meroe overlooked the Orontes River. The settlement pre-dated Antioch by about 1600 years. For the Egyptians, the Orontes marked the northern boundary of Amurru, east of Phoenicia. They found it easy to navigate because, like the Nile River, the Orontes flows from south to north. The river was first known as the Asi. The word asi in Aramaic means east. Asi is found attached to names in the Bible. The priest Elkanah had a son named Am-asi (I Chron. 2:25, 35). An obscure figure in ancient history was Amasi-appa. The word appa means father. The Orontes was also called Draco, because it flows north and that direction is identified by observing the northern polar star at night. When the fortress at Meroe was build, about 4000 years ago, the north pole star was seen near Alpha Draconis in the constellation of Draco. A relatively inconspicuous star in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere, it is significant as having been the north pole star from the 4th to 2nd millennium BC.

It appears that around 2000 B.C. the fortress on Mount Silpius was considered the “Meroe of the East.” It had a shrine dedicated to Anat, a women’s name of Horite origin and first found in the Upper Nile. Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of a priest of On (Heliopolis) on the Nile. The name Anat appears among several ancient Nilotic rulers. Anat-Hor name means "Anat of Horus.” Most Nilotic rulers had Horus names, as Horus was regarded as the protector of righteous rulers. Anat-Har was succeeded by ‘Aper-Anat, which mean “Priest of Anat.” In ancient Egyptian records a ruler named Anat-Har (or Anat-Hor or Anather), was the first ruler of the Sixteenth dynasty of Egypt, who reigned over part of Lower Egypt as a vassal of the Hyksos kings of the 15th Dynasty. The Egyptians called the chiefs of the Upper Nile settlements "Hyk Khase" which appears to be the origin of the term "Hyksos."
Anat-Hor’s scarab or royal seal


It was possible to sail to Antioch from the Mediterranean through the city of Samandağ, founded in 300 BC by Seleucus Nicator, another general of Alexander the Great. It was called “Seleucia Pieria” but it was subject to silting and the port was finally ruined by an earthquake in 586 A.D. Thus the preferred way to Antioch was via Cyprus to Beirut and up the Orontes. Before Abraham's time, this would have taken the traveler near the archaic megalithic shrine of Baalbek. Baalbek was inhabited since 9000 B.C.

The Orontes River has been the site of many famous battles in ancient history. Around 1274 BC, the major Battle of Kadesh was fought here between the Egyptian army of Ramesses II and the Hittite army of Muwatalli II. The river was also the site of the Battle of Karkar (Qarqar) fought in 853 BC, when the Assyrian army, under Shalmaneser III, encountered an allied army of twelve kings led by Hadadezer of Damascus. Hamath on the Orontes fell to Sargon II in 720 B.C. Hebrew (ha’biru) were living in the region of Antioch and Hamath according to Isaiah 11:11:

On that day,
The Lord shall again take it in hand
to reclaim the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria and Egypt,
Pathros, Ethiopia, and Elam,
Shinar, Hamath, and the isles of the sea.



Related reading: Was King Arthur a Horite Ruler?; Does Genesis 10 Describe the Ainu Dispersion?; Stone Work of the Ancient World; Gobekli-Tepe's T-shaped Pillars; The High Places

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