Samson and Herakles

Re our post:

Herakles (Nimrod) Threatens Nereus (Noah)


John R. Salverda has commented:



Dear Damien,


Here is a remark on the Noah and Nimrod as Nereus and Herakles post, it was too long for a regular comment:

OK, there may have been some “Nimrod” in Herakles.  There was certainly some Gilgamesh in him. “The story of Heracles was an early variant of the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic which reached Greece by way of Phoenicia. Gilgamesh has Enkidu for his beloved comrade, Heracles has Iolaus. Gilgamesh is undone by his love for the goddess Ishtar, Heracles by his love for Deianeira. Both are of divine parentage. Both harrow Hell. Both kill lions and overcome divine bulls; and when sailing to the Western Isle Heracles, like Gilgamesh, uses his garment for a sail. Heracles finds the magic herb of immortality as Gilgamesh does, and is similarly connected with the progress of the sun around the Zodiac.” (the quote is from Robert Graves “The Greek Myths”). And I’m certainly not opposed to connecting Nereus with Noah.  Many ancient “sea gods” can probably be traced back to Noah.  Including the Philistine god Dagon, a form of Enki.  Which leads me back to the old standby identification with Herakles, Samson.  The Philistine fish god was the famous nemesis of Samson, and this enmity is, in my view, also a very likely origin for the icon of Heracles confronting the Merman.  Furthermore, many of the enemies of Heracles are characterized as the “son of Poseidon” another famous god of the sea and likely candidate for identification with Dagon.

The story of the death of Samson, seems to occur in the Greek myth of Heracles, in more than one place.  Samson, of course, was led a captive to the temple of Dagon where he pushed apart the pillars, killing all who were present.  Heracles has the story of Busiris, a son of Poseidon, who tries to offer him up in a temple Herakles summons up his strength and kills the thousands who were there as attendees. Herodotus tells us – which he himself did not believe possible; “The Greeks tell many tales without due investigation, and among them the following silly fable respecting Hercules:- Hercules, they say, went once to Egypt, and there the inhabitants took him, and putting a chaplet on his head, led him out in solemn procession, intending to offer him as a sacrifice to Zeus. For a while he submitted quietly; but when they led him up to the altar and began the ceremonies, he put forth his strength and slew them all. …  Besides this, how is it in nature possible that Heracles, being one person only and moreover a man (as they assert), should slay many myriads?” (“Histories” Book II, p. 45).  In this story the land of “Egypt” is plausibly a corruption for the land of “Jacob” and Heracles is Samson.

The story of pushing upon the pillars was also known to the Greeks as a story of Hercules; “But since we have mentioned the pillars of Heracles, we deem it to be appropriate to set forth the facts concerning them. When Heracles arrived at the farthest points of the continents of Libya and Europe which lie upon the ocean, he decided to set up these pillars to commemorate his campaign. And since he wished to leave upon the ocean a monument which would be had in everlasting remembrance, he built out both the promontories, they say, to a great distance; consequently, whereas before that time a great space had stood between them, he now narrowed the passage, in order that by making it shallow and narrow he might prevent the great sea-monsters from passing out of the ocean into the inner sea, and that at the same time the fame of their builder might be held in everlasting remembrance by reason of the magnitude of the structures. Some authorities, however, say just the opposite, namely, that the two continents were originally joined and that he cult a passage between them, and that by opening the passage he brought it about that the ocean was mingled with our sea. On this question, however, it will be possible for every man to think as he may please.” (Diodorus Siculus, “Library of History” 4. 18. 4,5).  Notice how Diodorus gives Herakles the motivation of protecting us from sea-monsters (again Dagon?) in his manipulation of the pillars.

For all the images of Heracles vs. Nereus, there is very little story about it. But, of what story there is, I must admit that it is very reminiscent of the story of Gilgamesh; “Herakles took hold of him as he lay sleeping, and bound him fast as Nereus changed himself into all sorts of shapes; he did not let him loose until Nereus told him where the apples and the Hesperides were.” (Apollodorus, The Library 2. 114).  Take note that Herakles like Gilgamesh confronts Nereus as Ut-Napishtim in order to find a way to Hesperidies as Eden.

Now, I do realize that there is a large school of thought that identifies Gilgamesh with Nimrod. However, I am unaware of any legends in which Nimrod confronted Noah.

-John R. Salverda


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