Ancient Greek Vase Celebrates the Exaltation of Our Ancestors as Gods
In 2016, Christie’s sold the Greek vase depicted above—a red-figure bell krater used for mixing wine with water—to a buyer in London for $220,000. It dates from 410 BC.
For a mythology buff, what a treasure to have such ancient depictions of the gods Athena, Hermes, Herakles, and Atlas in his or her possession!
But there is far more here than a group of “mythological” figures and, in my opinion, a vase worth far more than a few hundred thousand dollars.
To understand the immense significance and unrealized monetary value of this 2400-year-old vase, we first must understand that these Greek “gods” represent real historical human beings—human ancestors raised to deity status in the post-Flood world.
In Plato’s Dialogue, Euthydemus (at 302d), Sokrates referred to Zeus, Apollo, and Athena as his “lords and ancestors.” Saint Augustine understood as well that the gods were but glorified ancestors ( City of God, VIII. 26). The Greek word for gods is theoi, meaning literally “placers.” The key Greek gods, with the exception of Ares who is the Seth of Genesis, are the ancestors in the way of Cain who put the God-shunning, serpent-welcoming, and mankind-exalting Greek religious system “in place.”
The scene on our featured vase occurs by the serpent-entwined apple tree in the Garden of the Hesperides, the Greek version of Eden [See Garden of Eden Depicted in Ancient Greek Religious Art ]. One of the Hesperides—those nymphs who tended to the serpent and the apples—sits in front of it. She is the only one in the scene who is not a human ancestor.
Greek depictions of the Garden of the Hesperides always include a serpent-entwined apple tree, but rarely a second apple tree as we see here. This second tree represents the “tree of life” from Genesis 3:22 to which these ancestors in the way of Cain now have access. They have become immortal.
In my book, Genesis Characters and Events in Ancient Greek Art , I present detailed evidence for the human identities of Atlas, Athena, Hermes, and Herakles. Here, I am constrained to be more brief.
In the center, Atlas pushes away the heavens, and with them the God of the heavens, preferring the “wisdom” of the ancient serpent. A seated Hesperid is there to tend to the serpent and its apple tree. An armed Athena approaches from our left. Hermes, far right, appears to be standing on a rock. Herakles appears in “the bowl of the sun” figuratively having returned to the ancient paradise with the other “gods” through the Flood, as the fish and waves indicate. (Author provided).
The central figure, Atlas, is from the pre-Flood world. His Genesis name is Lamech, the last king of the Cainites before the Flood (Genesis 4:18-24). In the scene, Lamech/Atlas is pushing away the heavens and with them the God of the heavens. We can see the crescent moon and the stars signifying those heavens.
This pushing away of the heavens allows the serpent to rise up and “enlighten” mankind. Lamech, like the rest of the line of Cain, preferred to live by the words of the serpent who told Eve “Ye shall be as gods.”
In Genesis 3:15, God cursed the serpent, and told it “On your torso shall you go, and soil shall you eat all the days of your lives.” The ancient Greeks welcomed the rising up of the serpent.
Athena’s human name in Genesis is Naamah [See The Hidden Identity of the Woman Glorified as Athena: Her Link to the Pre-Flood World ]. She is the daughter of Lamech/Atlas by his second wife, Zillah and the last person mentioned in the line of Cain (Genesis 4:19-22). Naamah, a Cainite princess, came through the Flood as Ham’s wife. Greek artists depicted their courtship and marriage on vases, calling them Chiron and Chariklo.
Hermes, to our right in the scene, is Naamah’s son, Cush, who abandoned his father, Ham, and his grandfather, Noah, for his mother and the way of Cain. Ancient vases show Cush/Hermes carrying his son Nimrod/Herakles as a baby away from Ham/Chiron to be consecrated in a special ceremony to Naamah/Athena.
Greek vase art reveals that Naamah/Athena protected and nurtured Nimrod/Herakles as a child, raising him in the way of Cain in accord with the serpent’s “enlightenment.”
As for Nimrod, most of us have read of him as “a mighty warrior on the earth” and a “mighty hunter” (Genesis 10:8-9). Herakles is a title or epithet. His real name is Alcaeus meaning “mighty one.”