6

I keep getting references to this deity (they cite the work of Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher "Detailed dictionary of Greek and Roman mythology") in some websites regarding it as the origin of the word Judaism so I was wondering whats the story of this god, a god over what was he, where did it come from, how was he worshipped, what did it do, etc.

One of the websites mentioning this deity: The Word "Jew" and the Scriptures.

  • Based on what I've found so far (thanks to @Mario for running down the Roscher!) it seems clear that Iudaios was a leader, not a deity. "Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighbouring countries." Tacitus, The History 5.2. It's possible that divine Typhon lineage of Hierosolymus and Judas derives from a pre-modern source, but I haven't found anything yet in the Classical literature. – DukeZhou Jun 25 '17 at 1:37
  • @DukeZhou So Judas is originally an Egyptian name and not a Hebrew one? – freethinker36 Jul 23 '17 at 5:44
  • It's a Greek transliteration Ἰούδας (Ioúdas) that comes to mean "Jew/Jewess/Judaea" and is originally derived from the Hebrew יְהוּדָה‏ (y'hudá). I don't know if there is an Egyptian link, but going by the New Testament, the name Judah is used for a son of Jacob and preceeding the time in Egypt. – DukeZhou Jul 24 '17 at 22:19
  • So when you talk about Hierosolymus and Judas you are talking for greek transliterations of a name in another language? And when was the reign of Isis -before the Jews went to Egypt or afterwards? Are Judas and Hierosolymus two jewish characters? – freethinker36 Jul 25 '17 at 0:42
  • I'm not sure of your frame of reference re: "reign of Isis". You can hit me up in chat if you want to explain further. The early Hebrew represent a schism from the polytheistic religions of the region at that time. – DukeZhou Jul 25 '17 at 0:54
10

From page 284 of volume 2, part 1 of the mentioned book:

Snippet from the book

Unfortunately, there's not a lot in there.

A quick and rough translation (sorry in case I missed any unique English name used for these):

Iudaios (Ioudaios), 1) Son of Typhon, brother of Hierosolymos, after which the Jews are named, Plut. Is. et Osir. 31. -- 2) One of the Spartoi, otherwise called Udaios (q. v.) and said to have given Judea its name (Steph. Byz. q. v. Ioudaia); q.v. Meineke spelling him Oudaios. [Höfer]

So I don't think he's actually supposed to be a god (based on this text). I couldn't find any real reference to "Hierosolymos", but this might actually be "Hierosolymus" as well. Not that I'd have any more luck with that, but maybe this could help someone else who's more versed regarding Greek mythology. Also note that there's actually a Wikipedia entry on the alternative spelling "Ioudaios".

  • 2
    Hierosolyma is Jerusalem. I wonder where did this author come up with this story. What is plut. is. et osir. and the number 31? – freethinker36 Jan 10 '17 at 19:40
  • 4
    @freethinker36 It's Plutarch "On Isis and Osiris." It's a late work and probably reflects a common Graeco-Syrian belief in the first/second century CE. – C. M. Weimer Mar 2 '17 at 22:19
  • 1
    Hierosolymus is the Latinised spelling of Hierosolymos, so both are technically correct. Thank you for this very nice translation. The only thing I would change therein is the interpretation of Sparten, which seems to be, actually, "Spartoi" (or "Sparti" if you want to Latinise it) rather than "Spartans." Oudaios (or Latinised Udaeus) was one of the Spartoi, "Sown Ones," who were the armed warriors that grew up spontaneously from the teeth of the Theban dragon which Kadmos [Cadmus] had killed before planting/ sowing these teeth into the ground upon Athena's advice. – Adinkra Jun 24 '17 at 21:20
  • 1
    Here is a lexical entry for hierosolyma on Perseus. The entry list Hiĕrū^-sălem as a neut. form, but Tacitus mentions the Solymi (Trojans.) You can find the Tacitus on Perseus in English and Latin. – DukeZhou Jun 25 '17 at 1:18
  • 1
    Hierosolymus is much more difficult. The only lexical entry I can find is from a French/Latin Lexicon which lists him as "un chef juif". I'm finding "Hierosolymos" in several google books in germanic languages, so it may be a "Germanization" of the Latin. These books seem to be referring to the Tacitus, for instance Assyriens og Algyptens Gamle Historie. – DukeZhou Jun 25 '17 at 1:27
9

I suspect there is some confusion here regarding the word itself, and that the sites mentioning "Iudaios" as a Greek god may be unreliable.

The linked site is certainly unreliable, and the article would not pass scholarly muster for a number of reasons, including suspiciously poor citation of sources.

The etymological analysis presented in the Assembly of Yahweh article is unconvincing as they don't even use the languages of origin. Vowels work differently in ancient Hebrew so word analysis lacking the original Hebrew is not useful. Ancient Greek also has a different set of vowels than English, notably eta/epsilon, omega/omicron, and is furthermore affected by the loss of the digamma which still affects, for instance, how certain verbs are conjugated.)

I couldn't find an English translation of Roscher's Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie in order to get a look at his entry on "Iudaios", which doesn't seem to appear in any other work. What I can tell you is that the field of Classics was quite new when Roscher was writing, and lack of subsequent scholars writing about Iudaios is a pretty good indication there is no basis for Roscher's claim.

3

BRIEF

There is no Greek god called by this name. The character in question, according to the Greco-Roman mythographers, is someone—most likely a regular garden-variety man—who is supposed to have been an early leader {or an ancestor or even the very first} of the Ioudaioi [Iudæi, “Judaeans/Jews”].

Plutarch alludes to a legend which says that this someone was a son of Typhon, and the brother of Hierosolymos. In Greek mythology Typhon was a massive and terrifying many-headed monster who fought against the Olympians.

While interpreting the religion of Egypt for their own purposes, the Greeks associated Typhon with the malevolent Egyptian god Seth. Hierosolymos (Latinised as Hierosolymus) is supposed to have been the founder of Jerusalem.

All this is basically part of the Ancient Greek version of something like a tabloid article made up to defame a certain ethno-religious group.

THE BREAKDOWN

The closest that the specific character in question comes to being a deity, in the Greco-Roman texts in which he is mentioned, is as the son of a god. But first there are at least three levels of confusion needing to be sifted through in order to even arrive at that conclusion.

  1. This information comes from the parody of a Levantine people’s culture using the Greco-Roman reinterpretation of an Ancient Egyptian myth.

  2. In the course of the process of #1, much confusion—some of it seemingly deliberate—of particularly the characters’ names, their origins and meanings, has transpired both in ancient times and, perhaps, in the online “Cascade Assembly” article to which you have linked your Question.

  3. Words and names have a knack for changing across languages, cultures and timespans so that there end up being numerous ways of saying exactly the same thing. At some point the idea develops that these different words/names inherently mean completey different, unrelated things, even though they originally did not.

The Fluidity of Languages

Here’s an example of what I mean by #3. Over the course of the so-called Middle Ages, the Roman Empire fell, sort of in two pieces. First, the Western piece, in Europe, was overtaken by Germanic tribes. Later on the Eastern piece, in Asia, was at war with the Seljuqs, a Turkish dynasty which ruled Persia. Rûm, “Roman,” is what these Turkish Persians called their enemies. Once they had taken over a large part of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Seljuqs considered themselves Romans as well, and their domain is even referred to as the Sultanate of Rûm, and, from Persian Saljūqiyāni Rūm, “Seljukian Rome.”1

In the 1200s AD, in the same era, there was a Persian Sufi poet best known today in English as Rūmī, “Roman” or “from Rûm.”2 What the Cascade Assembly article is suggesting about the word Ἰουδαῖος is sort of like saying that because there was a Sufi theologian and writer named Rūmī, the name therefore is a strictly Islamic term meaning “Sunni mystic poet and theologian.”

In the same way, however, that Rûm and Rūmī are not inherently Muslim designations (the Christian communities from this part of the world also use these terms for themselves), and simply mean “Rome/Roman,” there is nothing inherently “pagan” about Ἰουδαῖος, which is merely the Greek word for “Jew” or “Judaean.”

The term “Roman,” whether in English, Arabic, Turkish or Persian, has been applied to a variety of different groups of people: the Ancient Latins of the city of Rome in Italy; 12th-century AD Iranian Muslims; Greek-speaking Christians in modern Anatolia, etc. In like manner, the term “Ἰουδαῖος/Iudæus/Jew” has been used to mean, variously, a citizen of the ancient Israelite kingdom of Yehudah [Judah]; one of the Zimbabwean Amalemba; an Arabic-speaking member of the “Paradesi” community in India; any adherent of the Torah of Mosheh [Moses] with or without any Hebrew ancestry; and so on and so forth. The inherent meanings of Rūmī and Ἰουδαῖος, nevertheless, are basic and unchanged, in spite of who they are applied to, and at whatever degrees of validity.

Frequently, the form of a name may mutate quite dramatically between languages. English is very confusing in this way because many names in this tongue have first been filtered through several other speech-forms from their original before arriving here. E.g., James is an English version of Yaʿăqoḇ [Jacob], the name of the father of the people of Yisra’el [Israel]. James comes from a French rendition of the Late Latin corruption (Jacomus) of the Old Latin translation (Iacobus) of the Greek translation (Iákōbos) of Yaʿăqoḇ.

Jew has a similar trajectory, coming from the Middle English version (Iewe) of the Old French corruption (Juieu) of the Latin translation (Iudæus) of the Greek rendition (Ioudaios) of the Aramaic version (Y'hūdāi) of Hebrew Yəhūḏāh.

The middle syllables of certain words get eroded3 in Old French, thus we lose the -co- in Jacomus, to get James4, and the -da- in Judaeus, to get Juieu.

The pronunciation of the letter J, which was initially just a fancy way of writing the letter I, also gets emphasised until it becomes a much more solid sound than in its original accentuation.

Strangely, the author of that Cascade Assembly essay seems to be aware of these basic features of language but then insists that Greek Ioudaios and English Jew are somehow mistranslations or “the wrong words for” Yəhūḏāh. To a certain degree, I happen to agree with that assessment.

To translate anything from one language or script to another is essentially to distort its original intent. There is no way to convey the exact shades of meaning in perfect configuration from Hebrew into Greek or from Aramaic into English. By translating anything, you have hopelessly altered it into a different sense, turning it into idioms and expressions that the speaker/writer of the original words/statements/texts never had in mind. Translation is (inadvertently) corruption.

Having said that, however, if that rule were to be applied with 100% rigid strictness then language would be static and translation would never occur in any place or in any way. The problem with the linked article is that it is inconsistent, accepting some translation from some languages as “true” and others, quite arbitrarily, as “untrue.” It even makes up its own “correct” English version of the word in question. Half of the things asserted in the article are correct but mixed in with a lot of misapprehended information, which basically is misleading. This is not a new phenomenon, though, and this kind of confusion, mistranslation and misinformation is something like what happened in ancient times in the mythology that you’re asking about.

1. The 30th Surah (Chapter) of al-Qur’an is entitled Ar-Rūm, Arabic for “The Romans,” and refers to the Eastern Roman Empire. Scholars today like to call it the “Byzantine” Empire, from Byzantion, the previous name of the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). When Constantinople was founded, it was nicknamed “New Rome” and was made into the capital of the Roman Empire, over against the original Rome in Italy itself.

2. This is just a title, however, his personal name being Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad, in much the same way that the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo di ser Piero is better known as da Vinci, “of [the town of] Vinci.”

3. The technical term is “elided”.

4. Jacques, the Modern French version of this name comes from Jacobus (Iacobus), and in this instance it is the -ob- syllable which has been elided.


The Egyptian Story

This Question takes us to the most famous Egyptian myth, in which Geb (the Earth) and Nūt (the Sky) become the parents of two sons, Asaru (or Ūsïrē, whom the Greeks called Osiris) and Seth, and two daughters, Aset and Nebet-het (called Isis and Nephthys, respectively, in Greek).

Asaru married Aset while Seth married Nebet-het. Asaru and Aset became king and queen of Egypt. Everyone loved Asaru except for his own brother Seth, who was jealous of him and killed him, chopping his corpse to pieces and scattering the pieces all over the land.

Aset, with help from Nebet-het, managed to reassemble Asaru’s body, resurrect him and conceive a son by him, who was named Ḥor (or Ḥeru, who is called Horus in Greek). Asaru descended into the Underworld to become the god, ruler and judge of the dead over there while Ḥor went to war against his uncle Seth over which of them would now rule Egypt.

Eventually Ḥor defeated Seth and became the last of the gods to be king of the country. Seth thus came to represent the barren red desert region to the west of the Nile, which, later in the mythology, was also the direction of death and departure from the realm of the living.

Divine War in Greece

In Greek mythology Zeus defeated his own father the Titan Kronos in battle and became the king of the gods. Kronos’ mother Gaia, the Earth, then gave birth to a cosmic-sized monster named Typhon so that he could avenge Kronos.

Typhon had a hundred fire-breathing dragons’ heads in place of his arms, and he quite nearly killed Zeus, but he too was eventually vanquished and he was buried under Mt Aetna in Sicily. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes were supposed to be him rumbling around under the ground, struggling to get free and causing the mountains to spew up molten rock. In a different version he is killed and, like his brother Kronos before him, cast into the deepest pit in the Underworld.

Combos

For some reason, within the rogues' gallery of their own myths, the Greeks found Typhon to be the most compelling counterpart to the Egyptian Seth, so that in their retelling of the story of Asaru and Seth, Asaru is called Osiris but Seth is called Typhon. The details of the story change quite a bit, though, and more details are added, seemingly randomly in some versions.

In 100 AD, a collection of essays by the Greco-Roman writer Plutarch was published, entitled Ethika (and called Moralia in Latin). The first essay in Book 5 of this collection is called Peri Isidos kai Osiridos, “On Isis and Osiris,” which records many details of Ancient Egyptian priestly rites as well as the story of Osiris’ murder and restoration, together with some densely allegorical interpretation of these myths and the characters featured in them.

In the second portion of the essay, Plutarch remarks very briefly about Typhon, Hierosolymos and Ioudaios, at which bit of information he seems to roll his eyes in disbelief, skating quickly over it and on to the next thing. Referencing the conflict between Ḥor (Horus) and Seth (Typhon), the remark is as follows [with my own emphasis].

But those who relate that Typhon's flight from the battle was made on the back of a donkey and lasted for seven days, and that after he had made his escape, he became the father of sons, Hierosolymos and Ioudaios, are manifestly, as the very names show, attempting to drag Jewish traditions into the legend.

William Watson Goodwin’s translation ends the sentence with “they are manifestly attempting, as is shown by the very matter, to wrest into this fable the relations of the Jews.”

The Greek word that Goodwin is translating as “fable” (and which Frank Cole Babbitt renders, in the preceding quote, as “legend”) is mythos. Also in this passage of the Greek text there is not really a word which means “[Jewish] traditions” (as per Babbitt) or “[the] relations [of the Jews]” (going by Goodwin). These English phrases are Babbitt’s and Goodwin’s translations of the single word Ἰουδαϊκὰ (Ioudaïkà), “Judaica,” which word by itself bears a broader semantic range.

THE ROSCHER MATERIAL
Reference 1

That single sentence of Plutarch’s work is what Roscher’s Dictionary which you have mentioned is referencing. Plutarch never expounds on what any of that is all about, as he seems to have no interest in this version of this aition (origin tale), but the duration of the escape to which he alludes is supposed to explain the seven-day week in Hebrew tradition and its emphasis on the Sabbath Day which ends it.

In the Gnosticism of the centuries around Plutarch’s time there were some pretty weird connections drawn between donkeys, Seth-Typhon, and the God of the Hebrews (whose name was translated—or, more accurately, transliterated—into Greek as Iao, and who was further identified with Seth-Typhon). Part of this is supposed to be based on certain passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Torah (the “Instruction” Books), which seem to infer the importance of donkeys. These late Greco-Egyptian Gnostic riffs seem to be the source-pool for Plutarch’s cursory citation of Ioudaios.

Plutarch, however, never says that Ioudaios (or his brother Hierosolymos) is supposed to be a god or that he was worshipped by anyone. This curious yarn is one of many attempts, from around the same period, to link the Ioudaioi/Jews, in terms of Greek mythology, to other peoples like the Thebans, the Cretans and the Trojans. This is achieved almost exclusively through the use of puns made between the word Ioudaios and the names of other characters and places in Greek myth. The aition in Ethika bears negative sentiments towards the Jews while there are numerous others, many of which are more favourably disposed towards them, some of them by writers who are Hellenised Jews or of Greco-Jewish stock or persuasion.

Reference 2: Stephanos Byzantios

Roscher’s Dictionary also cites the Ethnikon of Stephanos Byzantios [better known in English as Stephanus of Byzantium], a 500s AD dictionary of the world's peoples, which traces the Ioudaioi and the Idoumaioi (Idumaeans/ Edomites) to Ioudas (“Judas,” a Greek form of Yəhūḏāh/Judah) and Idoumaia (the Greek name for the region of Edom, called Idumaea by the Romans). The Ethnikon tells us that, according to Alexander Polyhistor, Ioudas and Idoumaia [or rather Idoumaios {Idumaeus}?] were the sons of the powerful legendary Assyrian queen Semiramis (who herself was the daughter of a goddess).

But the portion of the relevant passage of the Ethnikon that is actually cited by the “Iudaios” article in Roscher’s Dictionary is when Stephanus says that another writer, Claudius Iolaus, traces the Ioudaioi to Ούδαίοσ (Oudaios), whom the Romans called Udæus.

This comes from the story of the Canaanite prince Kadmos [Cadmus], whose sister Europa was abducted by Zeus and brought to the island of Crete, eventually giving her name to the European continent. Kadmos ended up in the region of Boiotia [Boeotia] during his search for his sister. Here he killed a dragon which had attacked some of his men and, upon the prompting of the goddess Athena, he planted the dragon’s teeth in the ground.

These teeth then spontaneously sprouted into huge armed men who fought one another to the death until only five of them remained. One of these survivors was named Oudaios. He and the other four remaining Spartoi, “Sown Ones,” became the founders of the five oldest families of Thebes, the city which Kadmos then built upon the same spot. (Ekhion, another of the five, married a daughter of Kadmos.)

When Kadmos’ grandson the wine-god Dionysos [Dionysus] built an army to fight against King Deriades of India, Oudaios was among the god’s forces. (Incidentally other writers, including Aristotle, trace the Jews to Indian philosophers, based on the apparent similarity between Ioudaioi and Indoi, “Indians.”)

The connection between the Jews and the Cretans is supposed to be that Ioudaioi comes from Idaioi, “Idaeans,” the inhabitants of Mt Ida on Crete Island, who had reared Zeus when the king of the gods was a baby. The link between the Jews and the Trojans comes from an ethnic group called the Solymoi (Latinised: Solymi, Anglicised: Solymians) which inhabited a region of Asia Minor in the vicinity of Troy and are supposed to have been descended from Solymos, a son of either Zeus or Ares. In this aition, Hierosolymos, a Greco-Roman version of the name Jerusalem, was built by the Solymoi. (In this instance Hierosolymos could then be translated as “Sacred Solymos” or "Holy Solymian.”)

CONCLUSION

These are just a sampling of the numerous speculative fictions about Jewish origins in ancient Greco-Roman literature. The aforementioned Indians were supposed, according Nonnus’ Dionysiaka, to have been named after Indos [Indus in Latin], an earth-born “champion of warfare with towering limbs”. Dionysiaka 18 seems to be saying that Indos fought on Kronos’ side during the War of the Titans, ending up slain in combat by Zeus. In a footnote to their translation of this passage of Nonnus’ epic, W.H.D. Rouse, H.J. Rose & L.R. Lind say the following [with my emphases and additional notations]:

The giant Indos seems to have been invented for the occasion. Greeks, especially in later times, were very free with such stop-gap ancestors of peoples whose history they did not know, as Italos, king of the Italians, Iudaios [sic]5 and Hierosolymos, leaders of the Jews, and so forth.
Page 82 of Vol. 2

5. Iudaios seems to be the German spelling of Ioudaios, which [with the first “o” included] is a closer transliteration of the Greek Ἰουδαῖος.

POSTSCRIPT

Even though W.H. Roscher serves as general editor of the Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie, somewhat ironically (or at least I think so), this Lexikon’s “Iudaios” article is actually written by someone else: Otto Höfer, one of Roscher’s fellow contributors. The article immediately preceding the “Iudaios” one, on the other hand, is entitled “Iudaea,” and, incidentally, is personally by Roscher himself. Here it is:6

Iudaea article from Roscher Lexikon de Mythologie

This is my [novice's] translation thereto, with some explanatory notes added:

Iudaea/Judaea, the personification of the Jewish land often appears on coins of Vespasianus either in front of a palm tree or in front of a tropaion [victory monument], or on a Lorica [body armour], or between arms, and weeping (Cohen, Imperial Medals2 1 p. 384 ff., No. 224 ff.). Similar representations can be found on the coins of Titus (Cohen, ibid. p. 438 ff., No. 112ff.).

Vespasian denarius Iudæa Capta, “Captive Judaea,” denarius such as described by Roscher

Vespasian[us] was the Roman Emperor who, through his son Titus (who later succeeded him on the throne), violently crushed the Jewish uprising centred at Jerusalem in the early 70s AD. By the end of the conflict the famous Jerusalem Temple and another Jewish temple in Egypt were completely destroyed, as Judaea Province was left devastated.

Vespasian Judaea Capta Sestertius Sestertius of Vespasian with Iudæa Capta

The personification described here is similar to other countries and territories which were personified by the Romans, such as their provinces of Mauretania and Egypt on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Gallia/Germania? at the Hadrianeum
Carole Raddato, in “The Hadrianeum and the Personifications of Provinces” article of her Following Hadrian blog, speculates that this woman is the province of either Gallia [Gaul, now France] or Germania [now Germany and several of its neighbouring countries], from the temple of the deified emperor Hadrian.

There is also some debate about an apparent Roman goddess called Africa, which seems to have arisen from the time of the conqueror Pompey and his depictions of the southern Roman province of Africa as a woman. This, however, might be not much different from the aforementioned misunderstanding about Ioudaios (the “son of Typhon” in Ethika). The confusion here may be similar to saying that there was actually a Roman goddess called Iudæa (a claim which I'm surprised that that "Cascade Assembly" article hasn't yet leapt upon).

6. With thanks to Mario [another StackExchange user] for providing the link to it (in his own Answer to this Question).

  • Holy cheese, this is such an in depth answer to such a simple answer question – bleh Aug 3 '17 at 0:13
  • :D Holy cheese! Haha! Ah... But the Question, though concise, is quite [potentially] multilayered, non? (+ with the link to which it points...) – Adinkra Aug 3 '17 at 6:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.