Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Lion Horoscope of Mount Nemrud

I already talked in detail about the unique location of Mount Nemrud in Mount Nemrud, as close as you can come to the gods and referred to the Lion Horoscope in my discussion Alexandria was born under a regal star.

Mount Nemrud is a huge funeral monument built for Antiochus I Commagene, at an elevation 7,000 feet in eastern Turkey and must already have been a very special place in the first century BC. The two terraces of this tomb are directed towards the summer and winter solstices, and it has been recently figured out that the colossal (now beheaded) statues on the eastern side faced the Regulus Star on the 23rd of July, i.e. the date of Antiochus’ ascent to the throne as mentioned in the inscriptions on the monument. What’s more, Antiochus explicitly refers to Alexander the Great as his ancestor in the abovementioned inscriptions. 
 
The Lion Horoscope that once adorned the west terrace is absolutely unique. From what I understand it is now locked up inside a grave chamber that itself has not yet been excavated. Meanwhile the wildest stories go around about the significance of this relief.
 [Picture from Nemrud Tourist Information]

The conclusions published on the site of Learning Sites are open for any discussion, to say the least. This is what they say:
  • The site possesses the earliest extant Greek Horoscope in the form of a striding lion -   a reading of its date firmly fixes the site in time, a rarity in archaeological research. 
  • The inscriptions on the back of the ancestor stela provide conclusive evidence, available nowhere else in the ancient world, for the sequence of Seleucid, Macedonian, and Persian rulers back to Alexander the Great and Darius I, making the steles on Nemrud Dagi crucial historical documents.
  • Evidence exists here for demonstrating for the first time that Alexander was called "the Great" already in antiquity.
  • The fusion of Greek and Persian deities and religious rituals at Nemrud Dagi, evident in the sculptural iconography and the inscriptions, provides stunning evidence of the extent to which the Mithraic religion had moved from the Near East toward Europe, marking here in Commagene the crucial crossing from East to West of this popular counterthrust to the emergence of Christianity.
  • The attention Antiochus' craftsmen paid to precise historical details of regalia on the figures depicting rulers hundreds of years earlier than the Hellenistic age is unprecedented. [Read the complete story at the Learning Sites]. 
The relief, measuring 1.7 x 2.4 meters is in itself rather intriguing. It shows a majestic looking male lion covered with nineteen stars (in the shape of eight pointed rays) set in such a way that they closely resemble the constellation of Leo. Above his back three stars are depicted with sixteen points instead of eight and these are recognized as planets, i.e. Mars, Mercury and Jupiter labelled by their Greek names Pyroeis Herakleos, Silboon Apollonos and Phaeton Dios respectively. There is also an upturned crescent of the moon under the lion’s neck symbolizing the New Moon. The star above this moon disk is Regulus, always associated with royalty throughout history from Babylonian, Persian, to Greek and Ptolemaic kings. 
 
It is clear that in many antique cultures the lion was commonly used to symbolize power, magnificence and dominance. It was first popular in the Near East where we find lions on the walls of many palaces (Babylon, Susa, etc.) and on border stones. The lion definitely represented royalty at the times of the Commagene rulers. Also many lions were found in Macedonia and Greece as symbols of royal power, later adopted by the Romans. 

The labelling of Lion Horoscope may however be a far searched one. What we actually have here are three elements: the lion or the constellation Leo (representing royalty, military and political power), an inscription identifying the three planets (Mars, Mercury and Jupiter) and the crescent symbolizing the moon goddess (source of fertility known as Tyche/Commagene). According to one theory the Lion Horoscope was meant to contribute to the self-divination of King Antiochus I, placed at the centre of this relief and depicted as a conquering lion. But then, there are thousand and one other theories losing themselves between astronomy and astrology although with interesting retro-active calculations placing the constellations in the skies of two thousand years ago. 

More details but not necessarily convincing elements can be found in this article by A. Öncü Güney, “An Iconological Study on the Lion Horoscope Relief of Nemrut Dag Hierothesion and on the site of Learning Sites mentioned above.

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