Only one account of Lebanons mythical origins has been left to
posterity, and this is the work of Sanchoniatho, a Phoenician historian born either in
Berytus (Beirut) or Tyre on the Lebanese coast just before the Trojan war, c.1200
wrote in his native language, taking his information mostly from city archives and temple
In all he compiled nine books, which were translated into Greek by
Philo, a native of
Byblos on the Levant coast, who lived during the reign of the emperor Hadrian
117-138). Fragments of his translation were fortunately preserved by an early Christian
writer named Eusebius (AD 264-340).44 Some scholars look upon
Sanchoniathos writings as spurious, but others see them as preserving archaic myths
of the earliest Phoenicians.
In his long discourse on the cosmogony of the world and the history of the earliest
inhabitants of Lebanon, Sanchoniatho cites Byblos as Lebanons first city.45
It was founded, he says, by the god Cronus (or Saturn), the son of Ouranus
(Uranus or Coelus, who gave his name to Coele-Syria, ie. Syria), and grandson of Elioun
(Canaanite El) and his wife Beruth (who gave her name to the city-port of Berytus or
Sanchoniatho goes on to say that the demi-gods of Byblos possessed "light and
other more complete ships", implying they were a sea-faring nation. He also states
that chief among these people was Taautus, "who invented the writing of the first
letters; him the Egyptians called Thoor, the Alexandrians Thoyth, and the Greeks
Hermes."46 He was Cronus "secretary", from whom the god
gained advice and assistance on all matters.
A confusing sequence of events are described for this
period, during which time Cronus
is constantly at war with his father Ouranus. There are also marriages, intermarriages and
incestuous relationships which produce a multitude of characters, many of whom act as
symbols for the expansion of this mythical culture around the Levant and into Asia Minor
(modern Turkey). For instance, there is Sidon, the daughter of Pontus, who "by the
excellence of her singing first invented the hymns of odes or praises".47
Like Byblos, Sidon was a Phoenician city-port on the Lebanese coast, while Pontus was an
ancient kingdom situated on the Black Sea in what is today north-eastern
Finally, it is said that having visited "the country of the south" Cronus
"gave all Egypt to the god Taautus, that it might be his kingdom",48
implying that he was its founder.
Sanchoniatho tells us that knowledge of the age of the demi-gods of Byblos was handed
down for generation after generation until it was given into the safe-keeping of "the
son of Thabion... the first Hierophant of all among the Phoenicians".49
He in turn delivered them up to the priests and prophets until they came into the
possession of one Isiris, "the inventor of the three letters, the brother of Chna who
is called the first Phoenician."50
There is much more in Sanchoniathos mythical
history, but the basic message is
that a high culture with sea-faring capabilities established itself at Byblos before
gradually expanding into other parts of the eastern Mediterranean. More curious is his
assertion that the god Taautus, the Phoenician form of the Egyptian Thoth or Tehuti and
the Greek Hermes, was some kind of founder of the Egyptian Pharaonic culture which began
Was Sanchoniathos work simply fable, based on the Phoenicians own maritime
achievements, or might it contain clues concerning an actual high culture that existed in
the Levant during prehistoric times?
Journey to Byblos
Certainly, the implied link between Egypt and Byblos is real
enough. In the legend of
Osiris and Isis, as recorded by the Greek biographer Plutarch (AD 50-120), the evil god
Set tricks Osiris into a wooden coffin which is sealed before being set adrift on the
It is carried by the waves until it finally reaches Byblos, where it comes to rest in the
midst of a tamarisk bush, which immediately grows to become a magnificent tree of great
size. Inside it the coffin containing the body of Osiris remains encased. The king of that
country, on seeing the great tree, has it cut down and made into "a pillar for the
roof of his house".51 Isis learns of what has happened to her husband
and is able to attain entry into the palace as a handmaiden to one of the kings
sons. Each night she takes on the form of a swallow to fly around the
pillar. After a
fashion she convinces the queen to give her the pillar, which is then opened to reveal the
body of Osiris.52
Byblos is the clear name used in Plutarchs
account, but for some reason noted
Egyptologists such as Sir E.A. Wallis-Budge have seen fit to identify this place-name with
a location named Byblos in the Nile Delta, even though Plutarch himself adds that wood
from the pillar, which was afterwards restored by Isis and given to the
to this day, preserved in the temple of Isis, and worshipped by the people of
Byblos".53 In my opinion, setting this story in the Nile Delta makes no
sense whatever, especially as the coffin was said to have been "carried (to
by the sea".54
Lucian, the celebrated Greek writer (AD 120-200), spoke of the Isis-Osiris legend and
connected it specifically with Byblos in Lebanon, adding that "I will tell you why
this story seems credible. Every year a human head floats from Egypt to Byblos". This
"head" apparently took seven days to reach its destination. It never went off
course and came via a "direct route" to Byblos. Lucian claimed that this once
yearly event actually happened when he himself was in Byblos, for as he records "I
myself saw the head in this city".55
What exactly Lucian witnessed, and what was really behind this head tradition is
utterly unfathomable, particularly as Lucian states that the head he saw was made of
"Egyptian papyrus".56 In Christian times a St Kyrillos also
apparently witnessed the event, but said that "what was borne towards him by the wind
looked like a small boat".57 All that can be said with any certainty is
that this peculiar tradition appeared to preserve some kind age-old twinning between Egypt
and Byblos, perhaps during the mythical age of the gods, the Zep Tepi, or First
Time. As has been ably demonstrated by recent works from Hancock, Bauval et al,
this believed mythical age, when gods ruled the earth, appears to have been an actual
stage of human development pre-dating Pharaonic Egypt by many thousands of years.58
Yet how might this new-found knowledge of the relationship between Egypt and Byblos
relate to Baalbek?
Firstly there appears to have been a strong link between Isis-Osiris legend and the
mountains north-west of Baalbek. It was said that Isis took "refuge"
at the point in the story when the king and queen of Byblos discover she is daily
incinerating their child on a blazing fire!) in the lake of Apheca, the ancient name for
Lake Yammouneh some 32km distance from Baalbek, "and thus lived in Lebanon", or
so recorded the Baalbek archaeologist and historian Michel M. Alouf.59
The more obvious answer, however, appears to be an apparent twinning that existed
between Heliopolis in Egypt and Heliopolis in Lebanon. The fifth-century Latin grammarian
Macrobius wrote specifically on this subject in his curious work entitled Saturnalia.
He stated that a "statue" was carried ritually from Heliopolis in Egypt to its
Lebanese name-sake by Egyptian priests. He adds that after its arrival it was worshipped
with Assyrian rather than Egyptian rites.60
Some authors have suggested that this statue was that of the Egyptian
presumably Re, while others say it was a representation of Osiris.61 In
addition to this statue story, there was also a strong tradition, recounted by Macrobius
and others, that the Egyptian priests actually erected a temple at Baalbek dedicated to
the worship of the sun.62 If so, then what special place did this ancient
location, sacred to Baal, hold to the Heliopolitan priesthood in Egypt? Might this
transmission of religious ideas from Egypt to Baalbek have been connected in some way to
the once yearly arrival of an Egyptian head at Byblos, and to Osiris
fateful journey inside a sealed coffin?
Titans and Elohim
Aside from the suggested link with the Egyptian culture, the writings of Sanchoniatho
throw further light on this apparent pre-Phoenician culture existing in the Levant during
prehistoric times. He says that the "auxiliaries" or "allies" of
Cronus, presumably in battle, were the "Eloeim" a misspelling of the term
Elohim, the sons of whom (the bene ha-elohim) were said to have been a divine race
that came unto the Daughters of Man who subsequently gave birth to giant offspring known
as the Nephilim, or so records the Book of Genesis and various uncanonical works of Judaic
Elsewhere I have put forward the hypothesis that the Sons of the Elohim who are
equated with the angelic race known as the Watchers in the apocryphal Book of
well as in recently translated Dead Sea literature were a race of human
Evidence indicates they established a colony in the mountains of Kurdistan in south-east
Turkey sometime after the cessation of the last Ice Age, before going on to influence the
rise of western civilisation. Their progeny, the Nephilim, were
and there is tentative evidence in the writings of Sumer and Akkad to suggest that the
accounts of great battles being fought between mythical kings and demons dressed as
bird-men might well preserve the distorted memories of actual conflicts between mortal
armies and Nephilim-led tribes.64 [See New Dawn nos. 40-42]
Might Cronus who or whatever he represents have employed the services of
the bene ha-elohim in the wars against his father, Ouranus? In Greek mythology the
Nephilim are equated directly with the Titans and gigantes, or giants,
who waged war on the gods of Olympus and, like Cronus, were the offspring of
many ancient writings preserved during the early Christian era, stories concerning the
Nephilim, or gibborim, mighty men, of biblical tradition are confused
with the legends surrounding the Titans and gigantes. All blend together as
and not perhaps without reason. The giants and Titans are said to have helped
mighty hunter construct the fabled Tower of Babel which reached towards
heaven. On its destruction by God, legends speak of how the giant races were dispersed
across the bible lands.65
According to an Arabic manuscript found at Baalbek and quoted by Alouf in his
informative History of Baalbek "after the flood, when Nimrod reigned over
Lebanon, he sent giants to rebuild the fortress of Baalbek, which was so named in honour
of Baal, the god of the Moabites and worshippers of the Sun."66 Local
tradition even asserts that the Tower of Babel was actually located at Baalbek.67
The involvement of Nimrod in this legend is almost certainly a
misnomer, born out of
the belief that only super-humans of myth and fable could ever have built such gigantic
stature, in the same way that either named giants or mythical figures, such as
Merlin or the devil are accredited with the construction or presence of prehistoric
monuments in Britain. Moreover, stories of giants exist right across Asia Minor and the
Middle East, and these are often cited to explain the presence of either cyclopean ruins
(such as the Greek city of Mycenae, the cyclopean walls of which were said to have been
built by the one-eyed cyclops hence the term cyclopean
gigantic natural and man-made features.
On the other hand, the alleged connection between
giants, Titans and Baalbek is quite
another matter. It is feasible that, if the Watchers and Nephilim (and therefore the
Titans and gigantes) are to be seen as a lost race of human beings, any presumed
pre-Phoenician culture in Lebanon could not have failed to have encountered their presence
in the Near East. If so, were alliances forged with them, wars fought alongside
Might the ancient skills and brute strength of these human races of great stature have
been employed in grand engineering projects such as the construction of the Great
Platform? Remember, the Titans were said to have been born of the same loins as
and in alliance with their half-brother, they waged war against their father
family alliances of this type can go wrong, for according to the various ancient writers
on this subject,68 after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the dispersion
of the tribes, a war broke out between Cronus and his brother Titan. An early Christian
writer named Lactantius (AD 250-325) records that Titan, with the help of the rest of the
Titans, imprisoned Cronus and held him safe until his son Jupiter (or
Zeus) was old enough
to take the throne. Does this imply that the Titans deposed Cronus and took control of the
Byblos culture until the coming of Zeus, or Jupiter? What influence might this forgotten
race have brought to bear on the development of Lebanons pre-Phoenician
More importantly, when might any of this have taken place?
Far off in Hell
According to classical mythology, the Titans were eventually defeated by Jupiter and
his fellow Olympian gods and goddesses. As punishment, they were banished to
mythical region of hell enclosed by a brazen wall and shrouded perpetually by a cloud of
darkness. The gigantes, too, were linked with this terrible place, for they are
cited by the first-century Roman writer Caius Julius Hyginus (fl. c.40 BC) as having been
the "sons of Tartarus and Terra (ie. the earth)".69
Although Tartarus has always been seen as a purely mythical
location, there is reason
to link it with a Phoenician city-port and kingdom known as Tartessus (Tarshish in the
Bible) that thrived in the Spanish province of Andalucia during ancient
The evidence is this Gyges, or Gyes, was a son or Coelus
(ie. Ouranus) and a
brother of Cronus; he was also seen both as a gigante and a Titan
how they were originally one and the same race).70 He seems to have been one
of the main figures in the later wars between his titanic brothers and the Olympian gods
under the command of Zeus, and may simply have been Titan under another
Classical writers such as Ovid (43 BC-AD 18) wrote that Gyges was punished by being
banished to the prison of Tartarus. Yet an account of this same story given by a Chaldean
writer named Thallus, states that instead of being banished to Tamrus, Gyges was
"smitten, and fled to Tartessus".71 If this is a genuinely
separate rendition of the same story then it means that Tartarus was another name for
The immense antiquity of Tartessus is not in question. The Greek geographer named
Strabo (60 BC-20 AD) claimed that it possessed "written records" going back a
staggering 7000 years. As a sea-port it is believed to have been situated on a delta of
the Guadalquivir River, even though no trace of it remains today. It is also synonymous
with another ancient sea-port known as Gades, modern Cadiz. E.M. Whishaw in her
important 1930 work Atlantis in Andalucia uses excavated evidence of neolithic and
possibly even palaeolithic sea-ports, sea-walls, cyclopean ruins and hydraulic works
around the towns of Niebla and Huelva on the Andalucian coast to demonstrate the reality
not only of Tartessuss lost kingdom, but also the existence of Platos
A Sea-Faring Nation
Knowledge of the apparent links between Tartessus, the gigantes/Titans and the
mythical Byblos culture is compelling evidence of an as yet unknown sea-faring nation in
the Mediterranean area sometime between 7000-3000 BC, the latter half of this period being
the time-frame when many of the megalithic complexes began appearing in places such as
Malta and Sardinia. Charles Hapgood in his 1979 book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings concluded
that the various composite portolans, such as the Piri Reis map of 1513, show areas of the
globe, including the Mediterranean Sea, as they appeared at least 6000 years
therefore concluded that those who had originally drawn these maps must have belonged to
"one culture", who possessed maritime connections all over the globe and
flourished during this distant age.72 Was he referring here to the mythical
Byblos culture? Might it have been responsible for passing on these ancient maps to
civilisations such as Egypt, c.3100 BC, and Phoenicia, c.2500 BC?
The early dynastic boat burials uncovered at Giza and Abydos have revealed seagoing
vessels with high prows that were never intended to be sailed on the Nile; this is despite
the fact that Egypt had no obvious maritime tradition during this early stage in its
development. Where did this knowledge come from? Was it from the remnants of an earlier
culture, such as the one spoken of by Sanchoniatho as having existed on the Levant coast
in mythical times? Might this sea-faring connection help explain why the wooden coffin
containing the body of Osiris was carried by the sea to Byblos, and why the priests of
Heliopolis in Egypt took such an interest in Baalbek during Ptolemaic
It is a subject that requires much further research before any definite conclusions can
be drawn, but the apparent advanced capabilities of the proposed Byblos culture allows us
to perceive the antiquity of Baalbeks Great Platform in a new light. Did the legends
suggesting that it was constructed by super-human giants during the age of Nimrod preserve
some kind of bastardised memory of its foundation by the Byblos culture under
Cronus or his brothers, the Titans? If so, then who were these mythical individuals and
what ancient engineering skills might their culture have employed in the construction of
cyclopean structures such as the Great Platform?
Stones that Moved
In surviving folklore from both Egypt and Palestine there are tantalising accounts of
how sound, used in association with magic words, was able to lift and move
large stone blocks and statues, or open huge stone doors. I was therefore excited to
discover that, according to Sanchoniatho, Ouranus was supposed to have "devised
Baetulia, contriving stones that moved as having life".73 By
"contriving" the nineteenth-century English translator of Philos original
Greek text seems to have meant designing, devising or
inventing, implying that Ouranus had made stones to move as if they had life
of their own. Was this a veiled reference to some kind of sonic technology utilised by the
proposed Byblos culture? Could this knowledge help explain the methods behind the
transportation and positioning of the 1000-tonne blocks used in Baalbeks Great
Platform? It is certainly a very real possibility.
If we accept for a moment that Baalbeks Great
Platform, and perhaps even the
inner podium that supports the Temple of Jupiter, might well possess a much greater
antiquity than has previously been imagined, then what purpose might the Baalbek structure
Zecharia Sitchin in his 1980 book The Stairway to Heaven proposes that the Great
Platform was a landing site and launch pad for extra-terrestrial vehicles. Perhaps he is
right, but in my opinion its high elevation hints at the fact that it once served as some
kind of platform for the observation of celestial and stellar events. It is a subject I am
currently investigating for a future article.
And just how old is Baalbek?
The French archaeologist Michel Alouf apparently learnt from the Maronite Patriarch of
the Baalbek region, a man named Estfan Doweihi, that: "...the fortress of Baalbek on
Mt. Lebanon is the most ancient building in the world. Cain, the son of
Adam, built it in
the year 133 of the creation, during a fit of raving madness".74
Unfortunately this tells us very little about the sites real age. Yet if we can
accept the existence of a pre-Phoenician culture that not only employed the use of
cyclopean masonry in its building construction, but also possessed sea-going vessels and
flourished in the Mediterranean somewhere between 7000 BC and 3000 BC, then it opens the
door to the possibility that Baalbeks fortress may also date to this
early phase of human history.
Yet the question remains as to why this pre-Phoenician, sea-going nation should have
wished to construct an almighty edifice on an elevated plain between two enormous mountain
ranges. What was the reasoning behind this decision? The site undoubtedly possessed a very
ancient sanctity; however, the architects may well have had more pressing reasons for
placing it where they did. All the indications are that Sanchoniathos Byblos culture
eventually experienced a period of fierce wars that waged between Cronus, or
his titanic brothers under the leadership of Titan or Gyges, and then finally between
Cronus son Jupiter and the rest of the Olympian deities. In a strange way the
fraternal conflict between Cronus and his brothers parallels the biblical struggle between
Cain and Abel, suggesting that the link between Cain and Baalbek might well have some
symbolic significance to the sites early history.75
Is it possible that Baalbeks first city was
constructed, not just as
a religious centre, but also as an impenetrable fortress against attacks by whatever we
see as constituting the gigantes and Titans of mythology? If the Great
and perhaps even the inner podium, really does date to this early period, then might the
fortress theory explain why its architects used such gigantic stones in its
Were they incorporated into the design through a combination of technological capability
and sheer necessity, not through "the interest of appearance" or some ancient
wall-building tradition upheld by the neo-Phoenicians of the Roman era? Such ideas may
even provide some kind of explanation as to why the mother of all stone
blocks, the Stone
of the Pregnant Woman, was left cut and ready for transportation in a nearby
the whole building project have to be abandoned because the site was
over-run, or at least
seriously threatened, by invading forces? Scholars have always accredited the Romans with
having built the Great Platform, with its stupendous Trilithon stones, simply because they
could not conceive of an earlier culture possessing the technological skills needed to
have transported and positioned such enormous weights. The Sphinx-building culture of
Egypt is evidence that such technological skills may well have been available as early as
10,500 BC, while our current knowledge of the Baalbek platform gives us firm grounds to
push back its accepted construction date by at least a thousand years.
Even if the dates suggested for Sanchoniathos Byblos culture are open to
question, I believe the sacred fortress hypothesis brings us a lot closer to unlocking the
mysteries of Baalbek. Both visually and in legend its ruins bear the mark of the
and understanding the sites true place in history can only help us to discover the
reality of this lost cyclopean age of mankind.
1. Ragette, Baalbek, p.33.
2. Ibid., p.114.
3. Alouf, M.M., History of Baalbek, p.98.
4. Ibid., p.39, quoting a story told by Estfan Doweihi, a Maronite
5. Ibid., p.41, quoting an Arab manuscript actually found at
6. Ragette, p.16.
7. Ibid., p.27, cf. Kalayan, 1969.
8. Ibid., p.16.
9. Ibid., p.16, quoting Josephus.
10. Ibid., p.17.
11. Alouf, p.50.
12. Ibid. pp.42-4.
13. Ragette, p.19.
14. See Ibid., p.20 & accompanying pl. on f/p.
15. Ibid., p.30.
16. Ibid., p.27.
17. Ibid., p.30.
18. Ibid., p.31, cf. Kalayan, 1969.
19. Ibid., pp.31-2.
20. Alouf, p.98. The sizes of the blocks from right to left are given as 65
feet 10 inches and 63 feet 2 inches.
21. Ibid., p.98
22. Ibid., p.99
24. Ibid., p.106.
25. Ragette, p.33.
28. Ibid., pp.33-4.
29. Ibid., pp.34.
30. Ibid., p.115
31. Ibid., p.115.
32. Alouf, p.106, quoting Louis Felicien de Saulcy.
33. Ibid., p.115.
34. Ibid., p.115.
35. Ibid., p.33.
36. Ibid., p.119.
37. Ibid., p.116.
39. Ibid., p.94.
40. See Renan, 1864.
41. Ragette, p.94.
42. Ibid., p.94.
44. Cory, p.viii.
45. Sanchoniatho, quoted by Cory., p.9.
46. Ibid., p.7.
47. Ibid., p.11.
48. Ibid., p.14.
49. Ibid., p.14.
5l. Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, p.1.
53. Ibid., p.1, n 3.
54. Ibid., p.1.
55. Herm, The Phoenicians, p.114
58. See Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods, 1995; Bauval &
of Genesis, 1996; Collins, From the Ashes of Angels, 1996.
59. Alouf, p.32
60. Ibid., p.47-8, cf. Macrobius, Saturnalia,
61. Ibid., p.47, cf. Volney, Voyage en Syrie, p.228.
62. Ibid., cf. De Dea Syriae & Macrobius,
63. See, for instance, Gen. 6:1-2,4.
64. See the authors From the Ashes of Angels, Ch.16.
65. See, for instance, the works of Berossus, Eupolemus, Alexander Polyhistor and the
Sibylline Oracles, as quoted by Cory.
66. Alouf, p.41.
67. Ibid., quoting a traveller named dArvieux from his Memoires,
Part IIe, Ch.26, c.1660.
68. See, for instance, Berossus, Alexander Polyhistor and the Sibylline Oracles quoted
69. Lempriere, Classical Dictionary, c.v. Gigantes, p.249.
70. Ibid. & Eupolemus, quoted in Cory, p.53.
71. Thallus, quoted by Cory, p.53
72. Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, p.221.
73. Sanchoniatho, quoted in Cory, p.10.
74. Alouf, p.39.
75. Indeed, local tradition asserts that the region around Baalbek was the stamping
ground of Genesis characters such as Adam and his sons Abel, Cain and
Seth. See Ibid.,
p.39. The reality of such myths is quite another matter, especially as equally strong
traditions associate the pre-Flood events of the Book of Genesis with Turkish and Iraqi
Alouf, Michel M., History of Baalbek, 1890, American
Press, Beirut, 1953
Bauval, R, & G. Hancock, Keeper of Genesis, Wm
Heinemann, London, 1996
Budge, E.A. Wallis, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, 1895, Dover
Collins, A., From the Ashes of Angels, Michael
Joseph, London, 1996
Cory, I.C., Ancient Fragments, 1832, Wizards
Bookshelf, Minneapolis, 1975
Hancock, G., Fingerprints of the Gods, Wm
Heinemann, London, 1995
Herm, Gerhard, The Phoenicians, 1973, Futura,
Kalayan, H., Notes on the Heritage of Baalbek and the Beqaa in Cultural
Resources in Lebanon, Beirut, 1969
Lempriere, J., A Classical Dictionary, Geo.
Routledge, London, 1919
Ragette. F., Baalbek, Chatto & Windus,
Renan, E., Mission de Phenicie, Paris, 1864
Whishaw, E.M., Atlantis in Andalucia, Rider,
Andrew Collins is continuing his investigations into
the Baalbek complex and would like to hear from anyone who shares
his interest in this topics. Please write to PO Box 189, Leighon-Sea,
Essex 559 INF, UK. Also see Andrew's