Persia 30: Pericles and the Amarna Revival

In Athens, Theseus was considered the preeminent hero. His spirit was said to have returned to fight against Persia at the battle of Marathon. His bones were later brought back (at least symbolically) by Cimon to the city, and Cimon came to be recognized as a new Theseus on account of it. The Oedipus plays of Sophocles emphasized the inheritance of Theseus within the House of Laius/Erech-theus (Ea/Enki/Joseph). Also, through the deliberate patronage of Cimon, the plays of Sophocles earned top honors. However, in the time of Cimon, it was Pericles that emerged as leader (and veritable king) over the House of Joseph in Athens.

The name Pericles (peri-kleos) is variously translated as, “far-famed”, “surrounded by glory”, and “exceeding glory”. It has been previously shown that the root –per/pel is associated with the typecasting of upright, wayfaring Joseph/Japheth. The Egyptian name of Biblical Japheth was Peribsen. His Greek name was Peleus. However, the name Pericles also connotes “glory of stone”, and therefore suggests monumental building. The glorious construction of Pericles in Athens and especially upon the Acropolis rivaled that of Shiloh/Solomon (Amenhotep) son of Joseph (Yuya), “ruler and builder” over the tribes of Israel.

Pericles was also identified with the other leading son of Joseph, Moses/Rehoboam (Akhenaten). In Athenian drama, Pericles was often ridiculed for the oblong shape of his head. It was the (“squill”/dolichocephalic) skull of Akhenaten, which the comic poet Cratinus likened in his “Nemesis” to the head of Jove (archetypal Joseph). Under the leadership of Pericles, Athens experienced the return of Akhenaten, and a full-blown Greek-style Amarna Revival in the heady shapes of religion, festival, art, architecture, and theater.

1) Religion

Skepticism, scorn, and even outright denial of the state god Zeus-Ammon was openly expressed in the Age of Pericles. Philosophy of Athens gravitated toward applied/empirical knowledge (Gk. techne), practical wisdom (sophism), atheism, and humanism. Contemporary progressive thinkers included Anaxagoras/Nous (“nothing comes into being or is even destroyed”), Protagorus ("man is the measure of all things”), Prodikos of Ceos (“the ancients thought … everything that benefits the life of men were gods”), Diagoras of Melos (“god does not exist at all”), Daman (categorizer of poetic meter and musical forms), Critias (“man invented fear of the gods”, Democritus (“"either there is no truth or it is concealed from us [in the form of atoms]", Nesiphilos (“cultivator of practical sagacity”), Parmenides ("nothing comes from nothing"), Antiphon of Athens (“by nature we all equally, both barbarians and Greeks, have an entirely similar origin”), and Gorgias (“nothing exists”). Traditional, conservative (elitist) philosophy was also taken to new heights by Socrates and his successors Plato and Aristotle in reaction to the “ungodly” sophists. Athens, like Akhet-aten of old, became both an intensely religious and irreligious place.

2) Festival

The number of festivals held in Athens was double that of any other Greek city. In the sister-city of Athens in Egypt, Akhet-Aten, images had abounded with dancing, singing, frequent celebrations. Nobles exulted as they were being awarded opulent gold collars and other exquisite prizes, and to the delight of festive spectators. All were bathed in the loving and life-giving rays of the Aten, and rejoiced in their liberation from noxious tradition, or so we are led to believe. The Hebrew name of Akhenaten was Abel-Meholah, meaning "Field of Festival". The art and architecture of the experimental new city suggested that a stark desert bluff had been transformed into a meadow of merriment and delirious dancing.

3) Art

A new realism and naturalism emerged in the art of Periclean Athens. Vibrant color appeared for the first time in a Greek temple. It is very much analogous to the sudden break at Akhet-aten with the formulaic statuary and painting of Egypt. Artisans and craftsmen of Athens also began experimenting with perspective, especially in forms viewed from below, and along the lines of monumental statuary of Akhenaten at Akhet-aten.,2933,188511,00.html

4) Architecture

Nothing like the Parthenon had existed before in all Greece. It more closely resembled the sun temples of Akhenaten and Amenhotep III in Egypt.

See photo of Amenhotep III’s sun temple at Luxor,
(double click on photo to enlarge)

5) Theater

In Periclean Athens, there was a particular interest in the history of Akhet-aten (Amarna), which was dramatized by Sophocles in his Oedipus plays, and also by Euripides in the “Phoenician Women” (literally, “Women of the Purple”) and “Seven Against Thebes” (that is, Seven Against the Thebes of Egypt”). Sophocles depicts Oedipus as calling upon Theseus in his dying hour, and also makes Oedipus bemoan his abandonment by his sons. Consistent with this, the eldest son of Pericles did in fact revile his own father, perhaps in emulation of the mock rebellion of Smenkhkare against his father Akhenaten. The second son of Pericles also died young and tragically, even as Tutankhamun the younger son of Akhenaten. However, Pericles had the last laugh on Cimon, who died well before him. The line of super-aggressive Theseus would be claimed by another Athenian, whose name Cleon was an obvious variant of Creon (the true father of Theseus, as pharaoh Aye was the true father of Ipy/Nakhtmin).

Speaking of laughter, comedy was first introduced into the Dionysia Festival after the Persian defeat, and was legally protected in Athenian drama (with a few but significant restrictions). Likewise, at Akhet-aten, it became possible to satirize the ruling elite, as in the mural that lampoons Pharaoh Amenhotep III as an old, droopy tyrant kept upright only by the support of his queen. The Amarna court was also entertained by the staged antics of young prince, prophet, and envoy Tutankhamun/Tutu (Elisha).

There was apparently no equivalent of “the Aten” in Athens. Athena herself was the central object of worship. The west (forward-facing) pediment of the Parthenon tells the story in sculpture of how Athena and Poseidon entered into a competition for supremacy over Athens. Athena offered the superior gift and was granted rule of the city. Poseidon was relegated to guarding the Athenian Empire through its powerful navy. This relationship echoed that of Akhet-aten, which was dominated by Queen Tiye (“Athena”) the mother of Akhenaten and daughter of Yuya (“Joseph/Poseidon”).

The Birthright Belonged NOT to Joseph

In the Amarna period, the “birthright belonged to Joseph”, i.e., to Yuya father not only of Queen Tiye, but also of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. Their challenge was in trying to hold on to it. On the other hand, Pericles was a Joseph without a birthright. He also did not seem to have had many other strong family members to rely upon. In addition to being “the Joseph”, Pericles also assumed the roles of the two prominent “sons of Joseph”. The “Life of Pericles” by Plutarch includes elements from the story of Joseph (Yuya), as well as Shiloh/Solomon (Amenhotep III) and Moses/Rehoboam (Akhenaten). See excerpts from Plutarch below.

Pericles was at the further disadvantage of not having a loyal wife. The wife that he most desired was the one that most frustrated him. She was not of the line of Cyrus II (“Joseph”) but of Darius and Xerxes (“Judah”). Pericles was himself fancied by women, and was according to Plutarch falsely accused of yielding to their advances. Pericles may have loved (platonically or otherwise) many women, but only one woman could have her way with Pericles. Pericles, normally one to choose his battles wisely, was said to have ravaged Ionia upon the urging of Aspasia alone. Aspasia was no ordinary mistress, but the Persian princess Amytis, daughter of Xerxes! Pericles saw in Aspasia/Amytis his best chance of siring a son that might ultimately become Great King. On the other hand, Amytis, like the daughters of so many Great Kings before her, would have wanted sons through multiple royal partners.

Previously, we saw how the Gospel story of the “Demoniac of Gedara” declared Jesus of Nazareth to be a neo-Theseus. It can now be recognized that in another Gospel story, the “Feeding of the 5000” (Luke 9), Jesus was proclaimed as a neo-Pericles. Pericles was renowned for providing those citizens who participated in government with a stipend, and was much criticized for it. According to Thucydides, the democratic assembly in Athens consisted of approximately 5,000 men during the time of Pericles. Of these, groups of 50 men from each of the 10 tribes of Athens were chosen to form the Boule, a body of 500 men.

In the Gospels, Jesus orders the 12 disciples, likened to the elite 12-man council of the Areopagus, to feed the multitude. They protest that there are only 5 loaves (Gk. artos from airo) and 2 fishes (Gk. ichthus). In effect, Pericles had the support of only five members of the Areo-pagus and two members in the House of the Fish-God Joseph/Erichtheus. In Jesus’ time, the Areopagus was called the Sanhedrin, and the House of Joseph was that of Herod the Great. The resistance to the Jesus of the Gospels in Israel was being compared to that of Pericles in Athens.

Note: Luke corrects the similar accounts of Matthew and Mark by commenting that it was “about 5000” (not 4000) that were fed and that the subdivisions were in groups of fifty only.

Pericles was facing an uphill battle, both in building the “Great House” of the Parthenon, and establishing his own everlasting dynasty. Sculptures (metopes) on the four sides of the Parthenon depict the epic upsets of the past:

1) Defeat of the Amazons by Athenians (Amazonomachy: West Side)
2) Defeat of the Centaurs by Lapiths (Centauromachy: South Side)
3) Defeat of the Titans by Olympians (Gigantomachy: East Side)
4) Defeat of the Trojans by Greeks (Ilioupersis/Fall of Troy: North Side)

The tiny and beleaguered House of Joseph, i.e., the royal heirs of Cyrus the Great, found inspiration in these themes, which were repeated elsewhere in the Parthenon and at other locations. Amazons and Trojans were standing in for (symbolizing) the contemporary Persians of Darius and his house. It was the age-old wrestling between a tanist and his brother the high king. There had been many manifestations before, such as the feuding between inter-related kings of Israel and Judah (paralleled by wars between Egyptian and Libyans dynasts).

The reign of Amenhotep III son of Yuya, as we have learned, was not all that peaceful. There had been significant conflict at the beginning of his reign, and the end of his reign was nearly complete chaos. Likewise, conflict in the “reign of Pericles” was most pronounced at the beginning of his tenure as strategos and at the end, and corresponded to the two rebellions of Megabyzus against Xerxes/Artaxerxes. Both disputes were settled amicably. When Megabyzus passed away it was to the deep regret (possibly sincere) of Xerxes, which caused dismay among the courtiers of Xerxes. In Greece, this was mirrored by the respect (xenia) shown by Archidamus for Pericles.

Even though Pericles was a Solomon without a throne, Plutarch grants him with a rule of 40 years, not merely as a king, but essentially as a king of kings. (See excerpts below.) Plutarch places the focus of Pericles on consolidation of an existing empire (like that of Solomon), rather than always on new conquests (like David). Despite the constant danger, he not only found time to build an exquisite temple complex that rivaled that of Solomon, but to repeat (and possibly even excel) the grand voyage commissioned by Solomon/Amenhotep III to the West.

According to Plutarch, nothing compared to the Parthenon in Rome. Perhaps only the later Temple of Jerusalem did in all the ancient world, and this too was built by a neo-Solomon that did not possess the “birthright”, that is, Herod the Great. Like Pericles before him, Herod built his temple quickly but solidly. Both temples received many improvements in the decades that followed. Neither Xerxes nor his successors had the heart to destroy the works of Pericles. However, Herod’s temple was razed to its foundation. (Little remains of Akhenaten’s temple complex either, however it was constructed primarily out of mud-brick rather than stone.)

A scion of Herod the Great became emperor of Rome and the founder of a lasting line of Caesars. Pericles was not so lucky in royal fatherhood. His royal heirs went the way of the “plague ravished House of Joseph”. Like Joseph, Pericles fed the people with the surplus grain of Egypt. Pericles, prided himself as a rational man, but like Solomon in his desperation, consulted Athena (Ishtar/Asherah), erected a statue for Minerva Healer (ala the statues made by Amenhotep III of Sekhmet), and accepted superstitious amulets. It was to no avail.

The sons and sister of Pericles died along with most of his friends and other family members. (During the Amarna Period, more died from assassination and warfare than actual plague, and the same must be suspected concerning Pericles.) Earlier, allies had been summoned to Athens by Pericles, but they refused to send their delegates. At home, the Athenians eventually blamed Pericles for their misery and “knew not Joseph”. Pericles was stripped of his command and fined, yet he held his head high to the bitter end and found himself respected once more.

On-line Text and Commentary From Plutarch’s Life of Pericles and Comparison with Roman Fabius (who fought against Hannibal of Carthage):

Exerpts from Plutarch’s Life of Pericles and Comparison with Roman Fabius (who fought against Hannibal of Carthage):

“Of the noblest birth both on his father’s and mother’s side”

“perfectly formed, only his head was somewhat longish and out of proportion … The poets of Athens called him Schinocephalos, or squill head … Cratinus, in the Chirons, tells us that –

‘Old Chronos once took queen Sedition to wife:
Which two brought to life
That tyrant far-famed [i.e. Pericles/Joseph],
Whom the gods the supreme skull-compeller have named:’

And, in the Nemesis, addresses him –

‘Come, Jove [i.e. Joseph], thou head of Gods’ ”

“Pericles … upright temper and demeanour”, “no man had ever greater opportunities to enrich himself, having had presents offered him from so many kings and princes and allies, yet no man was ever more free from corruption.”, “in the exercise of such immense power, he never had gratified his envy or his passion … a life so pure and unblemished … might well be called Olympian”

“capacity to bear the cross-grained humours of … fellow-citizens and colleagues in office … useful and serviceable …”, “the comedies … let fly many hard words at him”

“calmness in all his movements”, “even tone of voice … which produced the greatest effect on his hearers”

“lofty”, “somewhat over-assuming and pompous”, “never known to have gone to any of his friends to supper”, “reserving himself, like the Salaminian galley, for great occasions”, “showed himself far superior to all others”

“he that saw most of Pericles … was Anaxagoras … called by the name of Nous, that is, mind, or intelligence”

“[Pericles] advanced … not with the rich and few, but with the many and poor, contrary to his natural bent”, “when he set himself against Cimon’s great authority, he did caress the people”, “Pericles … turned to the distribution of the public moneys … against the council of Areopagus”, “many other say … that by him common people … changed from a sober, thrifty people … to lovers of expense, intemperance, and licence, let us examine the cause of this charge by the actual matters of fact .. full of business he was … and the most exact … his children, when they grew to age, were not well pleased … and the women that lived with him were treated with little cost … where everything was … reduced to the greatest exactness; since there was not … anything to spare”.

“the King of Egypt, having sent to the people by way of present, forty thousand bushels of wheat, which were to be shared out among the citizens”

“shamelessly slandered with stories … of receiving … freeborn women that came to see the works. … The comic writers bespattered him with all the ribaldry they could invent, charging him falsely with the wife of Menippus”

“Aspasia, some say, was courted and caressed by Pericles upon account of her knowledge and skill in politics.”

“great reputation for wariness, he would not by his good-will engage in any fight which had much uncertainty or hazard; he did not envy the glory of generals whose rash adventures fortune favored”

“admired and talked of abroad for his sailing around the Peloponnesus … with a hundred galleys”

“the citizens … were eager to interfere again in Egypt, and to disturb … Persia’s maritime dominions … Pericles curbed this passion … and directed their power … to securing .. what they had already got”

“some historians … have given it as a truth that Pericles every year used to send privately the sum of ten talents to Sparta … to keep off the war; not to purchase peace neither, but time, that he … be the better able to carry on war hereafter.”

Combining aspects of Yuya, Amenhotep III, and Akhenaten.
“Pericles … proposed a decree, to summon all the Greeks … to send their dputies to Athens . … Nothing was effected, nor did the cities meet by their deputies, as was desired.”

“Archidamus … endeavoring to bring … matters … to a fair determination … Pericles was the man who mainly opposed it … he was regarded as the sole cause of the war.” “The Megarians … throw the whole matter upon Aspasia and Pericles”

“plague, seized the city, and ate up all the flower and prime of their youth … on account of the war … poured a multitude of people … within the walls … pent up like cattle, to be overrun with infection from one another”, “the sun eclipsed … Pericles miscarried in his design by reason of the sickness”, “the eldest of his lawfully begotten sons, Xanthippus … openly reviled his father”, “Xanthippus died in the plague … Pericles also lost his sister, and the greatest part of his relations and friends … was not even so much as seen to weep … till at last he lost his only remaining legitimate son … requested that the statute concerning base-born children … might be suspended; that so the name and race of his family might not … be wholly lost … they gave him permission to enroll his son … this son afterward after having defeated the Peloponnesians at Arginusae, was, with his fellow generals, put to death by the people … the plague seized Pericles … little and little, wasting.”

“misfortunes had sufficiently punished his former arrogance”

“construction of the public and sacred buildings … which his enemies most looked askance upon”

“treasure … for the war, wantonly lavished … upon our city … as it were some vain woman”

“Pericles’ works … made quickly, to last long … looks to this day [of Plutarch’s time] as if it were just executed.”

“And for the beauty and magnificence of temples and public edifices with which he adorned his country, it must be confessed, that all the ornaments and structures of Rome, to the time of the Caesars, had nothing to compare, either in greatness of design or of expense, with the luster of those which Pericles only erected at Athens.”

"[Pericles] set up a brass statue of Minerva, surnamed Health, in the citadel near the altar”

“he threw his antagonist [Thucydides] out, and broke up the confederacy that had been organised against him. … After this he was no longer … tame and gentle .. he turned … to the austerity of aristocratical and regal rule … urging them forward extremely against their will … a great master … making that use of hopes and fears … made the city of Athens, which was great of itself, as great and rich as can be imagined, and though he himself in power and interest more than equal to many kings and absolute rulers.”

“for forty years together maintained the first place … integrity unspotted”

“Thucydides describes the rule of Pericles as an aristocratical government, that went by the name of a democracy, but was , indeed, the supremacy of a single great man”


Pericles, as the “Glory of Stone” and “Glory of Joseph and Shiloh”

The Hebrew of Joseph’s blessing (Gen 49:24) mirrors that of Judah’s in explaining how Joseph abode (yashab, "married") in Judah, who was the eythan and abbiyr, literally, the "chieftain/co-regent" and "Father of the God/Potiphar." As a result of their covenant, "the shepherd and stone (lit., "ruler and builder") of Israel" was born. This son Shiloh-Solomon (Amenhotep III) called himself the "Shepherd King of Thebes," and he was of course the ancient world’s greatest builder.

Per in Egyptian means "House", as in the later designation, Per-aa/Pharaoh, "Great House". Per is also a variant of Pel, and more specifically, the Greek name for Japheth, Peleus, “muddy”. The union of Peleus and Amphitrite/Thetis daughter of Nereus (representing Poseidon or Noah/Adapa) had been enthusiastically favored by all the gods and goddesses. The root Pel is also found in the name of a later (Middle Kingdom) Joseph type, Peleg (Cf Greek Pelagos, “sea”, connoting “muddy/dark god”; Pelagon, “of the sea”; Pelasgus, “ancient/seafarer”).

The name Japheth (the first post-Flood Joseph/Ptah) has a secondary meaning of "dark". The Indo-European root per also relates very well to the wayfaring, upright Joseph/Japheth typecasting: