Dan, The Pioneer of Israel

By Colonel J.C. Gawler, Keeper of the Crown Jewels


Chapter II

Danai of Greece are Dannites of Israel


Reputed Egyptian origin of both  - Chronology agrees – Grecian Danai called Argives – Latham’s opinion – Phoenician connection of both – Argive Danai also called Heraclidae – Lacedaemonians are Argives and Heraclidae – Serpent and Eagle symbols common to both – Egyptian monuments in serpent worship refer to both, by Dr. Brugsch – The Macedonians or their ruling families were Argive Danai – Serpent and Eagle symbols of Alexander the Great and his Generals – Lacedaemonians (i.e., Danai Heraclidae) – Their eagle serpent seal – Acknowledged by Jewish High Priest to be their ”brethren of the stock of Abraham.”


Having now given a general view of our field of operations, as marked by the names attached to rivers and countries, let us see how history and various marks favour the identification of these footprints as belonging to Dannites of Israel as identical with the Danai of Greece.

In history the renowned Danai of Greece are foremost. Danaus, it tells us, came from Egypt; so did Israel. And Jethro’s daughters, speaking of Moses, told their father ”an Egyptian delivered us.” (Exod. 2:19) Strabo, who lived between 40 B.C. and 20 A.D., says (xvi. Ii. 34, 35), ”the Egyptians were the ancestors of the modern Jews.” Apion, and Egyptian priest in the first century B.C., calls the Israelites renegade Egyptians. And thus it serves the purpose of identification well that Danaus of Grecian history should be represented as coming from Egypt. The Danai are mentioned by Homer, Pindar, Euripides, Strabo, and others. When we talk of Homer, and the still earlier times of which he sang, we are apt to think that these are so early that we could have no earlier records; but it will be well to refresh our memories with dates. – The siege of Troy, then, whose heroes on both sides Homer has immortalised, is believed to have taken place about 1193 B.C.; but Deborah and Barak taunted Dan with getting his ships nearly 100 years before that, or 1285 B.C.; and the conquest of the Holy Land by Joshua was a century and a half before that again, or about 1443 B.C.! The various dates assigned to the arrival of Danaus in Argos would place that event at from fourteen years to two hundred later than the conquest of the Holy Land.

According to Euripides and Strabo: ”Danaus having arrived in Argos made a law that those who had borne the name of Pelasgiotoe throughout Greece should be called Danai.” (Strabo v.ii. 4) Compare this with the act of the people of Dan (Judges 18:29). We learn from Strabo and others that this Argos soon spread its name to the Pelonnesus, and afterwards to all Greece, for he says (viii. 6, 5), ”Homer calls the whole of Greece Argos, for he calls all Argives, as he calls them Danai and Achoei.”

”I think,” says Latham (Ethnology of Europe, p. 157), ”that the eponymus of the Argive Danai was no other than that of the Israelite Tribe of Dan, only we are so used to confining ourselves to the soil of Palestine in our consideration of the Israelites, that we treat them as if they were adscripti gleboe, and ignore the share they may have taken in the ordinary history of the world. The sea ports between Tyre and Ascalon, of Dan, Ephraim, and Ashur, must have followed the history of sea ports in general, and not have stood on the coast for nothing. What a light would be thrown on the origin of the name Peloponnesus and the history of the Pelop-id family if a bona fid nation of Pelopes, with unequivocal affinities and contemporary annals, had existed on the coast of Asia! Who would have hesitated to connect the two? Yet with the Danai and the Tribe of Dan this is the case, and no one connects them!”

To revert to Argos, this head of all Greece, the first city of the Danai, it stood with two others, Mycene and Tiryns, the latter of which, standing as it does close to the city of the Danai, might derive its name from Tyre. There is another instance of this kind, the Danaster (Dniester) is sometimes called the Tyras (Herod. Iv. 51; Strabo vii. i. 1), and the people living there are called Tyritae. It is reasonable to infer that, from the intimate home relations of the people of Tyre with the Dannites of Israel, the names of Tyre and Dan were used indiscriminately.

Argos is said by the Greeks to have been the birthplace of Hercules, but Herodotus, who went to some trouble to find out who Hercules really was, made a special voyage to Tyre (ii. 44) and found an older Temple to Hercules.

The origin of the Grecian Hercules, or rather Heracles as it is in Greek, seems to me to have been in the daring adventures and exploits of the semi-traders and buccaneers of Tyre and Dan, out of which they formed an ideal man suitable to that heroic age, and in apparent conformity with the earliest Divine command (Gen. 1:26, 28) to ”subdue” and ”have dominion.” In Hebrew rakal means to trade and Heracleem means traders.[i] Those who went forth from Argos and subdued other parts of Greece are spoken of as Heraclidae, or descendants of Heracles. For a while, apparently in the confusion caused by the Trojan War, they were driven northward out of the Peloponnesus, of which some years after they made a re-conquest, which was called ”the return of the descendants of Hercules.” (see Muller’s History of the Dorians) From these are the Lacedaemonians, whose capital was Sparta. Thus Agamemnon, who was chosen Commander-in-Chief of all the Greeks proceeding to the siege of Troy, was King of Argos and Mycene, and his brother, Menelaus, was King of Sparta, capital of Lacedaemon.

Herodotus (iv. 147) calls Theras regent of Lacedaemon, a Cadmonean and Phoenician. But, with this confused assignment of Egyptian and Phoenician origin, which admirably suits the Israelites, we have this fact prominent, that a people called Danai arrived in Argos and extended their rule over all Greece, and that the Lacedaemonians, whether as Argives or Heraclidae, were the most notable branch from this place. To this point I shall have to refer again.

But again: We will try to identify these Grecian Danai by their symbols. The serpent is held by various Hebrew and Chaldee writers to have been the cognizance of Dan: ”Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path,” said Jacob (Gen. 49:17). The serpent was an emblem of sin as well as of wisdom and subtility (Be ye wise as serpents), and the patriarch may have foreseen that this Tribe would be the first to lapse into idolatry. At any rate, this fact has not escaped Jewish or Gentile writers. As head of three Tribes – i.e., one of the four camps – Dan had also the eagle, one of the four cherubic symbols, and hence the two signs are often combined. ”Ancient learned Jewish authorities unanimously assert that Dan bore scorpio under an eagle.” (Mazzaroth 39) ”Ancient Hebrew and Chaldee authorities say that Dan bore on his standard a crowned serpent or basilisk held in the claws of an eagle.” (Mazzaroth 41)

Of the four evangelists, St. John’s emblem is the eagle, and in many of the representations of him the serpent also is introduced. His mission was chiefly, if not entirely, among the Greeks. St. John’s symbol also sometimes takes form of a dragon, a compound of the serpent with the eagle and lion; for Dan was also called by his father ”a lion’s whelp.”

As regards the employment of these four symbols among the Greeks, I find in Wedgewood’s Book of Remembrance, i. 175: ”Cecrops, the founder and first king of Athens (also said to have come from Egypt, and who founded twelve cities), was said to have been half a man and half a serpent. It is said in another account that the first king of Athens was a dragon, which symbol was borrowed by the Romans from Greece.”

In a coin of Athens, a female figure in a chariot is drawn by two serpents. (Calmet’s Dict. V. Athens, 19)

The oracle at Delphi, being consulted by the people of Argos (Herod. vi. 77), speaks of the Argives as ”the triple-coiled serpent,” referring probably to the three cities of Argos, Mycene, and Tiryns.

We also find the eagle prominent in Greece:

Woolridge, Drawings from Gems, London, 1868. No. 161 is Jupiter Tonans enthroned with sceptre, the eagle at his side on the ground, from an engraved crustal gem.

Calmet’s Dict. V. Ashtaroth 3, Greek coin with an eagle. The celebrated statue of Zeus, sitting enthroned in the Temple at Olympia, held a sceptre tipped with an eagle. (”Saturday Magazine,” 1840, xvi., 51. Lempriere Jupiter, 382)

The eagle was regarded by the Greeks as the minister or attendant of Jupiter, as if the Dannites, who probably introduced the symbol, might have regarded themselves as God’s executive. Jove’s sceptre, the emblem of authority and rule, was, as Dan might have thought befitted himself, tipped with the eagle.

At Baalbec, which was the limit of Joshua’s conquests (Josh. 11:17), and which, if not occupied by Dan, was not far from his northern portion, in the so-called Phoenician Temple. It is described in University History, vol. ii, 266, and in ”Notes of a Clerical Furlough,” Dr. Buchanan, Sunday at Home, 1862, p. 743: ”The Temple appears to have been covered and embellished with eagles. On looking up when under the portalm, you see the bottom of the lintel enriched with a piece of sculpture hardly to be equalled. It is a vast eagle carrying in its claws two serpents entwined about a rod.”[ii]

Alexander the Great, of Macedon, represented himself to be the son of Jupiter in the form of a serpent. Ptolemy (a Hebrew name, better recognized when Bar is prefixed) and Seleucus, Alexander’s generals, were also Make-don-ians, and their medals all bear the eagle.

But we find that the Make-don-ians were Argives. One of their princes (Herod. v. 22) wished to take part in the Olympian games, in which only Greeks could compete. His right was first disputed, but he successfully proved before the judges that the Make-don-ians were Argives.

It is here worthy of notice that Alexander the Great showed great respect for the Jews; and, on being met before Jerusalem by the Jewish high priest in his robes, declared that he had seen in a dream his counterpart, by whom he was directed to undertake the expedition. (Josephus’ Antiq. xi. viii. 5)

Tracing still further the serpent symbol, we find the antiquities of Egypt yielding their testimony to the identity of the Grecian Danai with Israelitish Dan. It is worthy of note that Danaus, who is recorded as landing in Greece from Egypt, was said to be the son of Belus, sometimes spelt Bela, which strongly resembles Bilhah, the name of Jacob’s concubine and mother of Dan. (Gen. 30:4-6)

Now Dr. Brugsch, writing on the Exodus of the Israelites, gives us this information, which I extracted from the Jewish Chronicle of Jan. 21st, 1876. He discovers –

”a city named Pi-tom, with the addition of the Egyptian monuments ”in the district of Succoth,” and that the city is Tanis, or Zoan. The same place is also called Pi-Rameses. Pitom and Rameses, however, are the places where the Israelites were forced to build the treasuries or storehouses for their oppressors.”

Before proceeding, I would remark upon this city, Tanis or Zoan. The Hebrew צ used in the Zoan of the Bible (Psa. 78:12), is convertible into Z, S, D, or T. In the Greek and Latin, for instance, we have Zeus, Deus, and Theos.[iii] So the city may be called Tanis or Doan; and in the Black Sea we have the river Tanais or Don.[iv]

But to continue the quotation:

”As most of the places of this region can only be derived from the Hebrew, just like Succoth, it is clear that in these very regions the land of Gosen must be sought. The name Pi-tom denotes a city of (the god) Tom. Tom, however, add the inscriptions, is also called Ankh, with the surname the Great God. Investigation shows that Ankh denotes ’the Living One,’ and is nothing else than the Egyptian translation of the Hebrew Jehovah or Jahve. As a symbol of this God a serpent was worshipped in Pitom. This reminds us of the brass serpent of Moses, and of its worship, which only Hezekiah abolished.”

I would rather suggest that the serpent, as the cognizance of Dan, was the symbol of that city, one of whose names was Tanis, and eventually became corrupted as the emblem, or similitude, of the God of Dan. But, be this as it may, the locality ascribed to this Israelitish serpent worship in Egypt is the locality from which the Grecian Danai are said to have come.[v]

Taken in connection with the many common affinities and symbols already described, the crowning proof of the Identity of the Dannites of Israel with the Danai of Greece lies in the claim of relationship with the Jews preferred by the Lacedaemonians, the most important branch of the Argive Danai, which claim was duly admitted by the high priest at Jerusalem.

It is recorded in I Maccabees xii., and Josephus’ Antiq. xii. iv. 10, that, about 180 years B.C., the King of the Lacedaemonians sent the following letter to the Jews in Jerusalem:

”Areus, King of the Lacedaemonians, to Onias, the High Priest, sendeth greeting. It is found in writing that the Lacedaemonians and Jews are brethren, and that they are the stock of Abraham. Now, therefore, since this has come to our knowledge, ye shall do well to write unto us of your prosperity.”

They give nu clue or hint as to what the relationship might be, except (recorded by Josephus only) calling attention to the seal: ”The letter is four-square, and the seal is an eagle with a dragon in its claws” – the cognizant, in fact, of Dan. Now the Jews are stated by Josephus to have replied thus:

”We have joyfully received the epistle, and were well pleased with Demoteles and Araeus, although we did not need such a demonstration, because we were well satisfied about it from the sacred writings.” (Josephus xiii. v. 8)

Did the Jews allude to Ezek. 17:19, where Dan is represented in company with Greece trading with Tyre?

[i] ארבז Argoz also, from רבז ragoz, to move, is Hebrew for ”a portable chest,” a name which might well symbolize trade or commerce (so Argosy, a merchant ship). And the reputed mother of Heracles, Alcmene (whose name is sometimes applied to Minerva, goddess of Science), seems likely to be the Hebrew חמיכ chymeh, heat or warmth, as a producing or loosening power, with the particle לא al, as in Arabic, Alchymy. This seems the more probable as this Alcmene was said to be the daughter of Electryon, derived from the Greek word for amber, by rubbing which electric sparks are produced; known certainly to Thales, a so-called Phoenician, circ. 600 B.C. But the Greek word elektron seems derived from the Hebrew רטקketer, to fume, to make to smoke; as a noun, vapour, incense (for which amber, which gives a pungent aromatic smoke, was largely used), also with the particle לא al. The foundation of the whole may be, that at Thebes, in Boeotia, the adopted country of Cadmus the Phoenician, was a college in science, Alcmenem, which the aspiring young Dannites, sons of the enterprising traders or Herakleem of Argos, called their mother.

[ii] The symbol of Marseilles, the ancient so-called Phoenician Massilia, is a figure resembling Britannia. She holds a trident, and wears a breastplate on which is an eagle surrounded by serpents.

[iii] So also: Heb., Tzor; Eng., Tyre; Greek, indifferently, Sor and Turos (see Septuagint Ezek. 27:2, and 28:2); and modern Arabic, Sur.

[iv] The oa in Tzoan, and the suggested Doan, may have been pronounced as in loan, moan, or perhaps a little brodder.

[v] Dr. Schliemann’s collection in the South Kensington Museum of Antiquities, unearthed at Mycene and Argos, is worthy of notice. Models in pottery of some of his metal vases are sold about London. One of these, said to be a flower vase, is of most elegant shape. The handles are the neck, head, and wings of a winged horse, which, it has been conjectured, signifies migration. There are two or three small well-known Egyptian symbols – the owl and the scarabaeus – but the principal figures are cherubic; on one side two human-headed lions and an eagle-headed man; and on the other side two human-headed lions and an ox-headed man. Could these be relics of the Danai? Ethnologists would probably say that these were a portion of the Egyptian mythology. It might be so, but they might also as readily have been borrowed from the Israelites as the worship of Jehovah under the form of a serpent, suggested Dr. Brugsch.



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Dan, The Pioneer of Israel Chap. 1

Dan, The Pioneer of Israel Chap. 3: Dan in the Black Sea

This Chapter 2 in Danish: Dan: Israels Pioner kap. 2: Grćkenlands danaider er danitter fra Israel