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.”
In Genesis, Nimrod is the greatest hunter and warrior of the post-Flood world; in Greek religious art, Herakles is the greatest hunter and warrior. Herakles is the Nimrod of Genesis transported to Greek soil. [See Ancient Greek Vase Artists Painted Images of Biblical Figures Noah and Nimrod Over 2,000 Years Ago
So there we are: Lamech/Atlas, Naamah/Athena, Cush/Hermes, and Nimrod/Herakles
Human Genealogy of the Greek Gods
So, what’s the vase scene all about? It is a figurative boast: the artist is depicting an imagined family reunion, celebrating the triumph of the way of Cain in the post-Flood world and the exaltation of the victors as immortals.
- Ancient Greek Vase Artists Painted Images of Biblical Figures Noah and Nimrod Over 2,000 Years Ago
- The Hidden Identity of the Woman Glorified as Athena: Her Link to the Pre-Flood World
- Garden of Eden Depicted in Ancient Greek Religious Art
In these close-ups, a stern-looking Naamah/Athena, fresh from her victory over the line of Seth, and wearing her war helmet and carrying her spear, reports the triumph to her Cainite father, Lamech/Atlas, as he smiles back with pride and pleasure at his daughter’s great achievement. (Author provided).
With one foot on a rock, Cush/Hermes appears to be saluting both Naamah/Athena and Nimrod/Herakles. Cush/Hermes carries his two-headed serpent staff, symbolizing the serpent’s rule in the pre-Flood world, and now in the post-Flood world as well.
Nimrod/Herakles, wearing his lion skin, has paddled his way through the water in the bowl of the sun, suggesting a passage back through time – back through the Flood, something that must happen for this figurative scene to take place. It appears that a wave from the Flood-waters has deposited him, along with a number of fish, in the ancient garden.
Of course, Herakles did not really get back to the ancient garden; it is a figurative artistic statement: the post-Flood world will not live under Noah and his God any longer, but will re-embrace the “enlightenment” of the ancient serpent, and live by the fruit of its tree.
In this scene from about 430 BC, Lamech/Atlas sits enthroned with his scepter, as king of the Cainites in the pre-Flood world. His name appears above his head. Gaia, or Earth, stands to our right of him, showing that he rules the entire earth. Atlantis and the Atlantic Ocean are named for him. (Author provided).
In the related vase-scene above, to our far right, the serpent-entwined apple tree with a tending Hesperid tells us that Lamech/Atlas rules in accord with the serpent’s “enlightenment.”
To our left, we see Cush/Hermes and Nimrod/Herakles approaching the throne of Lamech/Atlas. Herakles has advanced to the throne ahead of his father, Cush/Hermes, because Naamah/Athena has groomed him to become the rightful ruling heir of Lamech/Atlas in the post-Flood world.
Showing off his lion skin and his club as evidence of his prowess, Nimrod/Herakles assures his great-grandfather Lamech/Atlas that he will restore the way of Cain in the post-Flood world.
Nimrod/Herakles is Lamech’s great-grandson through Lamech’s daughter, Naamah/Athena. This vase-scene is about restoring the ruling family of the line of Cain after the Flood. Again, the scene is figurative, not literal. Nimrod/Herakles and Cush/Hermes never knew their ancestor Lamech/Atlas because he drowned in the Flood, and they were born after it. It is revealing that the destroyed civilization of Atlantis, and the Atlantic Ocean that inundated it, are both named after Atlas.
Restored sculpted panels over the main entrance to the temple of Zeus at Olympia, 440 BC. (Author Provided).
The two interrelated 2450-year-old restored sculptures directly over the sacred east entrance to the temple of Zeus at Olympia summarize the boast of Zeus-religion. They explain simply and graphically how Nimrod/Herakles, under the direction of Naamah/Athena, overcame the God-believing sons of Noah, and restored the way of Cain after the Flood.
The one to the left depicts Nimrod/Herakles killing the triple-bodied warrior, Geryon. The shield emblem is a tripod. That was where the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi sat to make her predictions. Thus these two scenes tell us to whom the future belongs.
But what could a triple-bodied man signify? Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Nimrod’s rebellion reached its height during the time of their rule. By killing the triple-bodied Geryon, Nimrod/Herakles is figuratively overcoming the spiritual authority of Noah’s three sons.
The adjacent sculpture tells us whose authority replaced that of Noah’s sons. Athena’s support, combined with great efforts of his own, has enabled Herakles to push away the heavens, and with them, the God of the heavens, just as Lamech/Atlas had done in the pre-Flood world.
Herakles has thus gained access to the golden apples from the serpent’s tree in the Garden of the Hesperides. His great-grandfather, Lamech/Atlas, the last king of the Cainite world before the Flood, offers him the apples, the forbidden fruit once offered by the ancient serpent to the first couple, Adam/Zeus and Eve/Hera in paradise.
Thus, the two vase-scenes and these two sculptures summarize and commemorate the successful rebellion of Nimrod/Herakles inspired by Naamah/Athena, celebrate an end to the interference of Noah’s “oppressive” God with post-Flood humanity, restore the ruling family of the line of Cain, and boast of mankind’s return to the way of Cain and the “enlightenment” of the Genesis serpent.
So is $220,000 enough of a price for 2400-year-old detailed depictions of the Genesis characters Lamech, Naamah, Cush, and Nimrod, and the Greek version of Eden?
Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. is the author of The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble (translated into French and Greek) and Noah in Ancient Greek Art. His latest book is the full-color Genesis Characters and Events in Ancient Greek Art. www.genesisingreekart.com