The Anabasis of Alexander/Book II/Chapter XVI

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The Worship of Hercules in Tyre.—The Tyrians Refuse to Admit Alexander.

The reason of this demand was, that in Tyre there existed a temple of Heracles,[1] the most ancient of all those which are mentioned in history. It was not dedicated to the Argive Heracles, the son of Alcmena; for this Heracles was honoured in Tyre many generations before Cadmus set out from Phoenicia and occupied Thebes, and before Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, was born, from whom Dionysus, the son of Zeus, was born. This Dionysus would be third from Cadmus, being a contemporary of Labdacus, son of Polydorus, the son of Cadmus; and the Argive Heracles lived about the time of Oedipus, son of Laius.[2] The Egyptians also worshipped another Heracles, not the one which either the Tyrians or Greeks worship. But Herodotus says that the Egyptians considered Heracles to be one of the twelve gods,[3] just as the Athenians worshipped a different Dionysus, who was the son of Zeus and Core; and the mystic chant called Iacchus was sung to this Dionysus, not to the Theban. So also I think that the Heracles honoured in Tartessus[4] by the Iberians, where are certain pillars named after Heracles, is the Tyrian Heracles; for Tartessus was a colony of the Phœnicians, and the temple to Heracles there was built and the sacrifices offered after the usage of the Phoenicians. Hecataeus the historian[5] says Geryones, against whom the Argive Heracles was despatched by Eurystheus to drive his oxen away and bring them to Mycenae, had nothing to do with the land of the Iberians;[6] nor was Heracles despatched to any island called Erythia[7] outside the Great Sea; but that Geryones was king of the mainland (Epirus) around Ambracia[8] and the Amphilochians, that Heracles drove the oxen from this Epirus, and that this was deemed no mean task. I know that to the present time this part of the mainland is rich in pasture land and rears a very fine breed of oxen; and I do not think it beyond the bounds of probability that the fame of the oxen from Epirus, and the name of the king of Epirus, Geryones, had reached Eurystheus. But I do not think that Eurystheus would know the name of the king of the Iberians, who were the remotest nation in Europe, or whether a fine breed of oxen grazed in their land, unless some one, by introducing Hera into the account, as herself giving these commands to Heracles through Eurystheus, wished, by means of the fable, to disguise the incredibility of the tale.

To this Tyrian Heracles, Alexander said he wished to offer sacrifice. But when this message was brought to Tyre by the ambassadors, the people passed a decree to obey any other command of Alexander, but not to admit into the city any Persian or Macedonian; thinking that under the existing circumstances, this was the most specious answer, and that it would be the safest course for them to pursue in reference to the issue of the war, which was still uncertain.[9] When the answer from Tyre

was brought to Alexander, he sent the ambassadors back in a rage. He then summoned a council of his Companions and the leaders of his army, together with the captains of infantry and cavalry, and spoke as follows:—

  1. The Phoenician god Melkarth (lord of the city), whom the Syrians called Baal (lord), was supposed to be identical with the Grecian Heracles, or Hercules, who was the mythical ancestor of the Macedonian kings. Curtius (iv. 7) tells us that Alexander affirmed he had been ordered by an oracle to sacrifice in Tyre to Heracles. Gesenius informs us that a Maltese inscription identifies the Tyrian Melkarth with Heracles.
  2. Who was the son of Labdacus.
  3. See Herodotus, ii. 43, 44.
  4. The district comprising all the south-west of Spain outside the pillars of Heracles, or Straits of Gibraltar, was called Tartessus, of which the chief city was Tartessus. Here the Phoenicians planted colonies, one of which still remains under the name of Cadiz. The Romans called the district Baetica, from the principal river, the Baetis or Guadalquivir. The Hebrew name for this region is Tarshish, of which Tartessus is the Greek form. Tarshish was the station for the Phoenician trade with the West, which extended as far as Cornwall. The Tyrians fetched from this locality silver, iron, lead, tin, and gold (Isa. xxiii. 1, 6, 10, lxvi. 19; Jer. x. 9; Ezek. xxvii. 12, xxxviii. 13). Martial, Seneca, and Avienus, the first two of whom were Spaniards, understood Tartessus to stand for the south-west of Spain and Portugal. The word Tarshish probably means sea-coast, from the Sanscrit tarischa, the sea. Ovid (Met., xiv. 416); Martial, viii. 28; Silius, xiii. 673.
  5. Of Miletus. Herodotus knew his writings well, but they have not come down to us. See Herod, (ii. 143; v. 36 and 125).
  6. The Iberians were originally called Tibarenes, or Tibari. They dwelt on the east of the Black Sea, and west of Colchis, whence they emigrated to Spain. This nation is called Tubal in the Hebrew Bible; in Isa.', lxvi. 19 the Iberians of western Europe are referred to.
  7. An island near Cadiz, now called Leon. Cf. Hesiod (Theogonia, . 287-294); Herodotus, iv. 8.
  8. Now called Arta.
  9. Arrian omits to mention that the Tyrians pointed out to him that his wish to sacrifice to Hercules might be gratified without entering their city, since at Palaetyrus, on the mainland, separated from Tyre only by a narrow strait, was a temple of that deity more ancient than that in Tyre. See Curtius, iv. 7; Justin, xi. 10. We learn from Arrian, i. 18, that when Alexander offered sacrifice to the Ephesian Diana he marched to the temple with his whole army in battle array. No doubt it was this kind of thing the Tyrians objected to. Alexander actually did the same at Tyre after its capture. (See chapter 24.)