Artapanus of Alexandria

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rgprice
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Artapanus of Alexandria

Post by rgprice »

What to make of the works of Artapanus of Alexandria, who is believed to have written around the end of the 3rd century BCE?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artapanus_of_Alexandria

The traditional view of the works of Artapanus has been that Artapanus was taking liberties with the traditional figures of Jewish history/mythology. Of course there is an assumption that Artapanus was working from the Jewish scriptures. But almost everything Artapanus says about figures like Moses and Abraham conflicts with the Jewish scriptures.

If Judaism and these stories were some well established religion in the 3rd century, then why would Artapanus write such contradictory stories? It would be like someone today writing stories about George Washington in which he is not a plantation owner, doesn't become president, and isn't a general, but instead he goes on wild adventures, plays ticks on the British, the French and the Spanish, and invents flying machines.

But why would anyone today write such a story?

However, what if Artapanus was writing at a time when the Pentateuch had not yet actually been written? There was no "canonical" account of Moses. Moses was, at this point, a figure of recent legendary invention. His "biography" was not yet established.

Or, maybe the Pentateuch had been written, but it had not yet obtained any kind of special position in Jewish society. What if is is the case that the Pentateuch only became established as an authoritative work after the Maccabean revolt? And thus, at the time of Artapanus, there was no established an accepted story of Moses. It seems to me that works like those of Artapanus, and he's not the only one from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, indicate that the story of Moses from the Pentateuch was, at the very least, not considered scared or definitive by the beginning of the 2nd century BCE.
Secret Alias
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Re: Artapanus of Alexandria

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'ARTABANUS in his Jewish History says that the Jews were called Ermiuth, which when interpreted after the Greek language means Judaeans, and that they were called Hebrews from Abraham. And he, they say, came with all his household into Egypt, to Pharethothes the king of the Egyptians, and taught him astrology; and after remaining there twenty years, removed back again into the regions of Syria: but that many of those who had come with him remained in Egypt because of the prosperity of the country.

'In certain anonymous works, however, we found that Abraham traced Lack his origin to the giants, and that they dwelling in Babylonia were destroyed by the gods for their impiety; but that one of them, named Belus, escaped death and settled in Babylon, and lived in a tower which he had built, and which was called Belus from the Belus who built it: and that Abraham having been instructed in the science of astrology came first into Phoenicia, and taught astrology to the Phoenicians, and afterwards passed on into Egypt.'

And again:

[ALEXANDER POLYHISTOR] 26 'Artapanus says, in his book Concerning the Jews, that Joseph was a descendant of Abraham and son of Jacob: and because he surpassed his brethren in understanding and wisdom, they plotted against him. But he became aware of their conspiracy, and besought the neighbouring Arabs to convey him across to Egypt: and they did what he requested; for the kings of the Arabians are offshoots of Israel, being sons of Abraham, and brethren of Isaac. And when he had come to Egypt and been commended to the king, he was made administrator of the whole country. And whereas the Egyptians previously occupied the laud in an irregular way, because the country was not divided, and the weaker were unjustly treated by the stronger, he was the first to divide the land, and mark it out with boundaries, and much that lay waste he rendered fit for tillage, and allotted certain of the arable lands to the priests.

'He was also the inventor of measures, and for these things he was greatly beloved by the Egyptians. He married Aseneth a daughter of the priest of Heliopolis, by whom he begat sons. And afterwards his father and his brethren came to him, bringing much substance, and were set to dwell in Heliopolis and Sais, and the Syrians multiplied in Egypt.

'These he says built both the temple in Athos and that in Ileliopolis, and were called Ermiuth. Soon afterwards Joseph died, as did also the king of Egypt. So Joseph while governor of Egypt stored up the corn of the seven years, which had been immensely productive, and became master of Egypt.'

Next:

'AND Artapanus says, in his book Concerning the Jews, that after the death of Abraham, and of his son Mempsasthenoth, and likewise of the king of Egypt, his son Palmanothes succeeded to the sovereignty.

'This king behaved badly to the Jews; and first he built Kessa, and founded the temple therein, and then built the temple in Heliopolis.

'He begat a daughter Merris, whom he betrothed to a certain Chenephres, king of the regions above Memphis (for there were at that time many kings in Egypt); and she being barren took a supposititious child from one of the Jews, and called him Mouses (Moses): but by the Greeks he was called, when grown to manhood, Musaeus.

'And this Moses, they said, was the teacher of Orpheus; and when grown up he taught mankind many useful things. For he was the inventor of ships, and machines for laying stones, and Egyptian arms, and engines for drawing water and for war, and invented philosophy. Further he divided the State into thirty-six Nomes, and. appointed the god to be worshipped by each Nome, and the sacred writing for the priests, and their gods were cats, and dogs, and ibises: he also apportioned an especial district for the priests.

'All these things he did for the sake of keeping the sovereignty firm and safe for Chenepbres. For previously the multitudes, being under no order, now expelled and now set up kings, often the same persons, but sometimes others.

'For these reasons then Moses was beloved by the multitudes, and being deemed by the priests worthy to be honoured like a god, was named Hermes, because of his interpretation of the Hieroglyphics.

'But when Chenephres perceived the excellence of Moses he envied him, and sought to slay him on some plausible pretext. And so when the Aethiopians invaded Egypt, Chenephres supposed that he had found a convenient opportunity, and sent Moses in command of a force against them, and enrolled the body of husbandmen for him, supposing that through the weakness of his troops he would easily be destroyed by the enemy.

'But Moses with about a hundred thousand of the husbandmen came to the so-called Nome of Hermopolis, and there encamped; and sent generals to pre-occupy the country, who gained remarkable successes in their battles. He adds that the people of Heliopolis say that this war went on for ten years.

'So Moses, because of the greatness of his army, built a city in this place, and therein consecrated the ibis, because this bird kills the animals that are noxious to man. And he called it Hermes' city.

'Thus then the Aethiopians, though they were enemies, became so fond of Moses, that they even learned from him the custom of circumcision: and not they only, but also all the priests.

'But when the war was ended, Chenephres pretended to welcome him, while in reality continuing to plot against him. So he took his troops from him, and sent some to the frontiers of Aethiopia for an advanced guard; and ordered others to demolish the temple in Diospolis which had been built of baked brick, and build another of stone from the quarries of the neighbouring mountain, and appointed Nacheros superintendent of the building.

'And when he was come with Moses to Memphis, he asked him whether there was anything else useful for mankind, and he said the breed of oxen, because by means of them the land is ploughed: and Chenephres having given the name Apis to a bull, commanded the troops to found a temple for him, and bade them bring and bury there the animals which had been consecrated by Moses, because he wished to bury the inventions of Moses in oblivion. 'But when the Egyptians were alienated from him, he bound his friends by an oath not to report to Moses the plot which was being contrived against him, and he appointed the men who were to kill him.

'When however no one would obey him, Chenephres reproached Chanethothes, whom he had especially addressed; and he, on being thus reproached, promised to make the attempt when he found an opportunity.

'And Merris having died about this time, Chenephres professed to give the body to Moses and Chanethothes to carry it over into regions beyond Egypt and bury it, supposing that Moses would be slain by Chanethothes.

'But while they were on the way, one of those who were cognizant of the plot reported it to Moses; and he being on his guard buried Merris himself, and called the river and the city thereby Meroe. And this Merris is honoured by the people of the country not less highly than Isis.

'Then Aaron the brother of Moses, having learned about the plot, advised his brother to flee into Arabia; and he took the advice, and sailed across the Nile from Memphis, intending to escape into Arabia.

'But when Chanethothes was informed of the flight of Moses, he lay in ambush intending to kill him; and when he saw him coming, he drew his sword against him, but Moses was too quick for him, and seized his hand, and drew his sword and slew Chanethothes.

'So he made his escape into Arabia, and lived with Raguel the ruler of the district, having married his daughter. And Raguel wished to make an expedition against the Egyptians in order to restore Moses, and procure the government for his daughter and son-in-law; but Moses prevented it, out of regard for his own nation: and Raguel forbidding him to march against the Arabs, ordered him to plunder Egypt.

'About the same time Chenephres died, having been the very first person attacked by elephantiasis; and he is said to have incurred this misfortune because he ordered the Jews to wear linen garments and not to wear woollen clothing, in order that they might be conspicuous, and be punished by him.

'But Moses prayed to God now at last to put an end to the sufferings of the tribes. And God being propitiated, fire, it is said, suddenly blazed up out of the earth, and went on burning though there was no wood nor any other fuel in the place. And Moses was frightened at the occurrence and took to flight; but a divine voice spake to him, to march against Egypt, and rescue the Jews and lead them into their old country.

'So he took courage and determined to lead a hostile force against the Egyptians: but first he came to his brother Aaron. And when the king of Egypt heard of the arrival of Moses, he called him before him, and asked what he had come for: and he said, Because the Lord of the world commanded him to deliver the Jews.

'And when the king heard this, he shut him up in prison. But when it was night, all the doors of the prison-house opened of their own accord, and of the guards some died, and some were sunk in sleep, and their weapons broken in pieces.

'So Moses passed out and came to the palace; and finding the doors opened he went in, and the guards here also being sunk in sleep he woke up the king. And he being dismayed at what had happened bade Moses tell him the name of the God who sent him, scoffing at him: but Moses bent down and whispered in his ear, and when the king heard it he fell speechless, but was held fast by Moses and came to life again.

'And he wrote the name in a tablet and sealed it up; and one of the priests who made light of what was written in the tablet was seized with a convulsion and died.

'Also the king told him to work some sign for him, and Moses threw down the rod which he held and turned it into a serpent; and when they were all frightened, he seized it by the tail and took it up, and made it a rod again.

'Then he went forth a little, and smote the Nile with the rod, and the river became flooded and deluged the whole of Egypt, and it was from that time its inundation began: and the water became stagnant, and stank, and killed all living things in the river, and the people were perishing of thirst.

'But when these wonders had been wrought, the king said that after a month he would let the people go, if Moses would restore the river to its proper state; and he smote the water again with his rod, and checked the stream.

'When this was done, the king summoned the priests from above Memphis, and said that he would kill them all, and demolish the temples, unless they also would work some wonder. And then they by some witchcraft and incantations made a serpent, and changed the colour of the river.

'And the king, being puffed up with pride at what was done, began to maltreat the Jews with every kind of vengeance and punishment. Then Moses, seeing this, both wrought other signs, and also smote the earth with his rod, and brought up a kind of winged animal to harass the Egyptians, and all their bodies broke out in boils. And as the physicians were unable to heal the sufferers, the Jews thus again gained relief.

'Again Moses by his rod brought up frogs, and besides them locusts and lice. And for this reason the Egyptians dedicate the rod in every temple, and to Isis likewise, because the earth is Isis, and sent up these wonders when smitten by the rod.

'But as the king still persisted in his folly, Moses caused hail and earthquakes by night, so that those who fled from the earthquake were killed by the hail, and those who sought shelter from the hail were destroyed by the earthquakes. And at that time all the houses fell in, and most of the temples.

'At last after having incurred such calamities the king let the Jews go: and they, after borrowing from the Egyptians many drinking-vessels, and no little raiment, and very much other treasure, crossed the rivers on the Arabian side, and after traversing a wide space came on the third day to the Red Sea.

'Now the people of Memphis say, that Moses being acquainted with the country waited for the ebb, and took the people across the sea when dry. But the people of Heliopolis say, that the king hastened after them with a great force, having also with him the consecrated animals, because the Jews were carrying off the property which they had borrowed from the Egyptians.

'There came, however, to Moses a divine voice bidding him to smite the sea with the rod [and that it should divide]: and when Moses heard it, he touched the water with the rod, and so the stream divided, and the force passed over by a dry path.

'But when the Egyptians went in with them and were pursuing them, a fire, it is said, shone out upon them from the front, and the sea overflowed the path again, and the Egyptians were all destroyed by the fire and the flood: but the Jews having escaped this danger spent forty years in the wilderness, God raining down meal for them like millet, similar in colour to snow. And Moses they say was tall and ruddy, with long white hair, and dignified: and he performed these deeds when he was about eighty-nine years old.'
Secret Alias
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Re: Artapanus of Alexandria

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If you don't accept that the Pentateuch account is based on actual history hard to square some of these statements without knowledge of a Bible text:

"they were called Hebrews from Abraham" (cf. Gen 14:13)

"he, they say, came with all his household into Egypt"

"So Joseph while governor of Egypt stored up the corn of the seven years"

I won't go through them all. You can say whatever you want of course. I am not here to argue. It doesn't appear reasonable to suggest that the agreements with the Pentateuch were not because of a pre-existent Pentateuch narrative.
Secret Alias
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Re: Artapanus of Alexandria

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Even this seems to echo the Genesis narrative:

"we found that Abraham traced back his origin to the giants, and that they dwelling in Babylonia were destroyed by the gods for their impiety"

seems to be a sloppy retelling of chapters 6 - 10 in Genesis.
Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar.
The giants are previously described as hagibborim so the idea that Nimrod was a giant I think I remember was floating around in early exegeses of Genesis.

Update: Dante was one such interpreter. The LXX seems to have been influential in this understanding:
The LXX of Gen 10 : 8-9 considered Nimrod to have been a giant and translates ' before Yahweh ' by enantion kyriou tou theou , which Philo ( Quaest . in Gen 2 , 82 ) and subsequent tra- dition interpreted as ' in opposition against God.' One may note a general influence of Greek tradition about the 'giants' revolt against the Olympian gods (Philo, Quaest. "in Gen 2, 82; Conf. 4-5; cf. the anonymous author cited in Praep. Ev. 9.17, 2 - 3; Sib. Or. 1, 307 - 318). https://books.google.com/books?id=yCkRz ... 22&f=false


I think it is safe to conclude that Artapanus 100% certainly had the LXX in front of him when he wrote. But then again, what do I know, right?
rgprice
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Re: Artapanus of Alexandria

Post by rgprice »

Yes, SA, that is possible. But its also possible that it goes the other way around too. Why not that Artapanus came first and that the writers of the Pentateuch derived their stories from him, cleaning up his account and suiting it to their theological agenda? Whereas Artapanus may simply have been writing an imaginative legendary account, the writers of the Pentateuch had specific theological aims in mind.

The problem we face is that there is no definitive evidence of which of these came first. However, it seems odd to me that Artapanus would take an established and holy account and profane it with his musings, while it does make sense that people may start with an existing legendary account and try to clean it up and tailor it to a theological agenda, in much the same way that Plato revised existing Greek mythology in his Timaeus.
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DCHindley
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Re: Artapanus of Alexandria

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Secret Alias wrote: Wed Jul 26, 2023 10:41 am
[ALEXANDER POLYHISTOR] 26 'Artapanus says, in his book Concerning the Jews, that
This sounds like a Source critic's dream: Within these many stories, we can detect *some* resemblance to stories in the Judean holy book Exodus, but if you have read Machiavelli's two works, most of the stories follow patterns that Machiavelli identified as universal military tactics used depending on a variety of conditions. Machiavelli cited examples of these types of tactics not just in the bible, but in Josephus and classical writers.

In essence, I think that Artapanus was, as well as all other ancient "history" writers were, creating a vivid (yet fanciful) recreation of what Jewish origins "must" have looked like, utilizing some common scuttlebutt that "everyone" in his region "knew" about Jews, and filled in the colorful details from a guidebook of military tricks and tactics used as reference. Every one of them will thus be different, making the true recovery of past events essentially impossible except as a murky framework of a few commonalities to accounts in Genesis & Exodus.

I had once planned to take close reads of Machiavelli's books & stated sources, but lost interest when my HDD crashed some years ago. While I had saved my personal idea files (of course) in preparation of transferring the data, I had all of my library of scanned and public domain works lost to me unless I can resurrect that HDD. I just can't get motivated anymore. Pity.
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billd89
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Re: Alexandria

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billd89
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Re: Artapanus of Alexandria

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'ARTABANUS in his Jewish History says that the Jews were called Ermiuth, which when interpreted after the Greek language means Judaeans, and that they were called Hebrews from Abraham.

"Artapanos, in his book 'Concerning the Jews' says that Jews were called 'Hermiouth' {’Eρμιοὺθ}, which is interpreted in Greek as the sound of 'Judaeans'..."

Sounds like of 'interpreters' is much, much more likely.

M. David Litwa, Hermetica II[2022], p.524:
Compare Acts 14:12 (Paul called “Hermes” because he is the chief speaker); Diodorus, Library of History 1.16.2: “He (Hermes) taught the Greeks the art of interpretation (τὰ περὶ τὴν ἑρμενείαν), for which reason he was called 'Hermes'. Artapanus also called all the Jews “Hermiouth” – apparently a name related to Hermes (Holladay, Fragments, pp.205,226*).

* Check citation "Carl R. Halladay, Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors: Volume I: Historians [1983], pp.205,226."


Oh dear. Moses as Hermes. Again.

This is deeply problematic for tradition-bound Jews, and must be disavowed. One rhetorical thrust is seen in Miriam Ben Zeev, "Jewish identities in ancient times: the case of Artapanus" [2019] pp.152-3:
According to Mussies, the association of Moses with Thoth-Mosis, no doubt aided by the similarity of names, would imply that in worshipping Hermes, the Egyptians were in fact paying honor to Moses.13 While in each instance Artapanus records these fusions as attested by others – Egyptian priests amalgamated Moses with Hermes, and Greeks gave Moses the name Mousaeus14 – there is no indication that Artapanus dissociates himself from these identifications.

Ben Zeev [2019] (pp.152-3) wants this offensive name 'Hermiouth' to be purely the invention of that one author (for specious reasons we know not): "Artapanus claims that the Jews were originally called Hermiouth – a term nowhere else attested and presumably a concoction by Artapanus." Perhaps most scandalous to Jewish sensibilities is the very idea that JEWS built foreign temples! "The second fragment has the Jews building pagan temples. In Joseph’s time, Artapanus writes, «these peoples named Hermiouth built both the temple in Athos and the one in Heliopolis»" But isn't that notion a common myth: that Jews built the Pyramids? Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 2.9.1 (21) affirms that belief, in the time of Philo Judaeus. Additionally or perhaps more precsiely, Josephus has another group of Jews, Sethians, as monument builders resident in the Siriad/Sethrum of Egypt (where so many Biblical places are mentioned, Pithom etc.). We may also wonder if names like Ἡρώων πόλις =Heroonopolis preserve a memory of the cult of (Judaic) Builder-God Horon, as at Giza.

If we accept that 'Artapanus of Alexandria' was a Hellenized, Alexandrian-born Jew -- proud and defensive of 'his' Jews (pro-Jewish) -- we have no good reason to assume he fabricated this name for whatever queer rationale. Instead, we will look at simple fact: these are Egyptian Jews, Semites of Egypt, this people of which he speaks had been resident in Egypt many generations or centuries by 150 BC. Their ideological predecessors, by their own name, strongly recall what Philo of Byblos (Semitic Lebanon) tells us, about Tauth coming from Lebanon, that an ancient (Jewish) "priest of Ieud" shared Hermetic texts, etc. In all this, the simplest explanation is that the ’Eρμιοὺθ -- a proto-Jewish caste -- came from Beyrouth or cities of coastal Phoenicia (later, the known Jewish term for the ’Eρμιοὺθ might generalize as the equally "unattested" Philistines, but I suppose the term indicated a narrower class of mantic specialists), a priestly network which operated in Semite communities we call 'the Diaspora'. That "Hierombalus, priest of the god Ieuo" wrote a history for Abi’Baal of Tyre or Berytus as early as c.980 BC is doubtful, but it does appear that Philo of Byblos (c.135 AD) preserves elements of a Semitic myth-history much older than the Torah. (The Torah, then, would be a competing, late-coming, syncretistic history: a highly refined interpretation of divers Levantine Semite folk myths c.272 BC.) Therefore what Philo of Byblos informs, like the phonetic declaration of Artapanus, support a Jewish-Hermetic connection among some elite Phoenician Semites, interpreters of regional myth and religion. By necessity, all this precedes the writing of Exodus, as newer Mosaic characters trace to so many older Thoth-Hermes memes.

’Eρμιοὺθ. Transliterating the Greek electronically, from Henry G. Liddell, Robert Scott's An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon [1900], p.315:
hermēneía, hē, hermēneúō) interpretation, explanation, Plat., Xen.
hermḗneuma, atos, tó, (hermēneúō) an interpretation, explanation, Eur. II. a symbol, monument, Id.
hermēneús, éōs, d, (Hermē̃s, the messenger of the gods), an interpreter, esp. of foreign tongues, a dragoman, Hdt., Xen. II. an interpreter, expounder, Aesch.
hermēneutikós, ń, bv, of or for interpreting, Luc. From hermēneúō, f. sō, (hermēneús) to interpret foreign tongues, Xen. II. to interpret, put into words, give utterance to, Thuc., etc. 2. to explain, Soph., Plat.
Hermē̃s, ou, o, acc. Hermē̃n, dat. Hermē̃ͅ, voc. Hermē̃ : Ep. gen.
Hereúō, Herueíō: -Hermes, the Lat. Mercurius, son of Maia and Zeus; messenger of the gods (diáktoros); giver of good luck erioúnios, akákēta); god of all secret dealings, cunning, and stratagem (dólios); bearing a golden rod (xpusópparis); conductor of defunct spirits (psukhopompós, pompaĩos); tutelary god of all arts, of traffic, markets, roads (Agoraios, Empolaios, hódios, enódios), and of heralds. His bust, mounted on a four-cornered pillar, was used to mark boundaries.

"Hermiouth" were story-telling or myth-making Semites of Egypt: interpreters (in many senses of that word), psychopomps, and heterodox priests of a period before the Torah existed. Nothing prevented these Egypto-Chaldaeans from adopting the later 'Jewish' national myth created at Alexandria, either; their version only disappeared sometime around the Hasmonean Dynasty. So Artapanus, Philo of Byblos and Josephus have preserved relic memories of this alternative past. That Semitic hartom-hierogrammateis caste called 'Hermiouth' was understood to be the immediate predecessors of (Egyptian!) Jews in Alexandria c.200 BC.
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Possible Context for Name 'Hermiouth'

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Ezekiel 30:17 (dated c.587 BC) scorns fellow Semites in Egypt: “The young men of Heliopolis and Bubastis will fall by the sword, and the cities themselves will go into captivity.” In 587 BC, Pharoah Apries's unsuccessful attempt to intervene for the Kingdom of Judah and the abandonment of Jerusalem to the Babylonians (587 BC) explains Judean ire against Egypt. Semitic Heliopolis and Bubastis were key 'ally' towns in the Sethrum/Siriad; Jewish prophecy condemned them for failure, disloyalty. Apries suffered a mutiny of soldiers at the Aswan garrison, confirming how 'Jewish' mercenary loyalty was crucial. The rebellion of Greek mercenaries, however, sealed Apries's fate.

It is important to note that Psamtik I (c.610 BC) venerated Ra-Horakhty (i.e. Horon) and Psammetichus II (c.590) venerated Baboon Thoth*: both deities are syncretized to "Thrice-Great" Hermes sometime before c.175 BC. Accepting the Hermetic premise for Artapanus' term "Hermiouth" we still want to know when these Proto-Jews began to interpret Hermes. Books written by 'Hermes Trismegistus' were certainly known and circulating in the 1st C AD -- cited by astrologer Dorotheus of Sidon, active in Alexandria c.50 AD, and by Philo of Byblos not much later -- yet The Corpus Hermeticum itself (falsely) insists that H3 was older than Ammon or Thoth. Yet Jewish Moses was certainly younger than Egyptian Hermes, to whom he was compared. Therefore, the "Hermiouth" being Hellenized Jews of Egypt and 'Hellenization' necessarily occurring several generations after 650 BC (i.e. the earliest known Greek mass-migration), a proximate date of c.450 BC for the emergence of Judeo-Hermeticism becomes most probable. That is the time (c.425 BC) when Herodotus identified Hermes =Thoth, and that Bubastis (again: a Sethian/Chaldaean town) had a well-established Hermetic temple. "Hermiouth" may simply have been the name adopted to cover the now despised (former) "Philistines": so in translation they became Hellenized Jews of Mediterranean Egypt.

Psammetichus II (c.590 BC) venerating Great-Great Thoth:
Image

* "Thoth, Twice Great" was already worshipped in the time of Shoshenq I, c.940 BCE; Copenhaver [1992] indicates c.650 BC as the oldest written evidence of "Thoth, Twice Great".
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