The Landing Place

The greatest Roman temple ruins lie not in Rome, but in the mountains of Lebanon. They encompass a grand temple to Jupiter—the grandest built anywhere in antiquity to honor any one God. Many Roman rulers, over a period of some four centuries, toiled to glorify this remote and alien place and erect its monumental structures. Emperors and generals came to it in search of oracles, to find out their fate. Roman legionnaires sought to be billeted near it; the devout and the curious went to see it with their own eyes: it was one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Daring European travelers, risking life and limb, reported the existence of the ruins since the visit there by Martin Raumgarten in January 1508. In 1751, the traveler Robert Wood, accompanied by the artist James Dawkins, restored some of the place's ancient fame when they described it in words and sketches.

"When we compare the ruins ... with those of many cities we visited in Italy, Greece, Egypt and other parts of Asia, we cannot help thinking them the remains of the boldest plan we ever saw attempted in architecture"—bolder in certain aspects than even the great pyramids of Egypt.

The view upon which Wood and his companion had come was a panorama in which the mountaintop, the temples and the skies blended into one (Fig. 90).

Fig. 90


The site is in the mountains of Lebanon, where they part to form a fertile, flat valley between the "Lebanon" range to the west and the "Anti-Lebanon" range to the east; where two rivers known from antiquity, the Litani and the Orontes, begin to flow into the Mediterranean Sea. The ruins were of imposing Roman temples that were erected upon a vast horizontal platform, artificially created at about 4,000 feet above sea level. The sacred precinct was surrounded by a wall, which served both as a retaining wall to hold the earthworks forming the flat top, as well as a fence to protect and screen off the area. The enclosed squarish area, with some sides almost 2,500 feet long, measured over five million square feet.

Situated so as to command the flanking mountains and the approaches to the valley from north and south, the sacred area had its northwestern corner deliberately cut off—as seen in this contemporary bird's eye view (Fig. 91a).

The right-angled cutout created an oblong area, which extended the platform's unimpeded northern view westward. It was at that specially conceived corner that the vastest-ever temple to Jupiter stood high, with some of the tallest (65 feet) and largest (7.5 feet in diameter) columns known in antiquity. These columns supported an elaborately decorated superstructure ("architrave") 16 feet in height, atop which there was a slanting roof, further raising the temple's pinnacle.

The temple proper was only the westernmost (and oldest) part of a four-part shrine to Jupiter, which the Romans are believed to have started to build soon after they occupied the place in 63 B.C.

Fig. 91


Arranged along a slightly slanted east-west axis (Fig. 91b) were, first, a monumental Gateway ("A"); it comprised a grand staircase and a raised portico supported by twelve columns, in which there were twelve niches to hold the twelve Olympian Gods. The worshippers then entered a forecourt ("B") of an hexagonal design, unique in Roman architecture; and through it continued to a vast altar court ("C"), which was dominated by an altar of monumental proportions: it rose some 60 feet from a base of about 70 by 70 feet.


At the western end of the court stood the God's house proper ("D"). Measuring a colossal 300 by 175 feet, it stood upon a podium which was itself raised some 16 feet above the level of the court—a total of 42 feet above the level of the base platform. It was from that extra height that the tall columns, the architrave and the roof made together a real ancient skyscraper.

From its monumental gateway staircase to its final western wall, the shrine extended for more than 1,000 feet in length. It completely dwarfed a very large temple to its south ("E"), which was dedicated to a male deity, some think Bacchus but probably Mercury; and a small round temple ("F") to the southeast, where Venus was venerated.


A German archaeological team that explored the site and studied its history on orders of Kaiser Wilhelm II, soon after he had visited the place in 1897, was able to reconstruct the layout of the sacred precinct and prepared an artist's rendering of what the ancient complex of temples, stairways, porticoes, gateways, columns, courtyards and altars probably looked like in Roman times (Fig. 92).

Fig. 92


A comparison with the renowned Acropolis of Athens will give one a good idea of the scale of this Lebanese platform and its temples. The Athens complex (Fig. 93) is situated upon a stepped ship-like terrace less than 1,000 feet at its longest and about 400 feet at its widest.


The stunning Parthenon (temple of Athena) which still dominates the once sacred area and the whole plain of Athens is about 230 by 100 feet—even smaller than the temple of Mercury/Bacchus at the Lebanese Site.

Fig. 93


Having visited the ruins, the archaeologist and architect Sir Mortimer Wheeler wrote two decades ago:

"The temples ... owe nothing of their quality to such new-fangled aids as concrete. They stand passively upon the largest known stones in the world, and some of their columns are the tallest from antiquity... . Here we have the last great monument ... of the Hellenic world."

Hellenic world indeed, for there is no reason that any historian or archaeologist could find for this gigantic effort by the Romans, in an out-of-the-way place in an unimportant province, except for the fact that the place was hallowed by the Greeks who had preceded them. The Gods to whom the three temples were dedicated—Jupiter, Venus and Mercury (or Bacchus)—were the Greek Gods Zeus, his sister Aphrodite and his son Hermes (or Dionysus).

The Romans considered the site and its great temple as the ultimate attestations of the almightiness and supremacy of Jupiter. Calling him love (echo of the Hebrew Yehovah?), they inscribed upon the temple and its main statue the divine initials I.O.M.H.—the legend standing for Iove Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus: the Optimal and Maximal Jupiter the Heliopolitan.

The latter title of Jupiter stemmed from the fact that though the great temple was dedicated to the Supreme God, the place itself was considered to have been a resting place of Helios, the Sun God who could traverse the skies in his swift chariot. The belief was transmitted to the Romans by the Greeks, from whom they also adopted the name of the place: Heliopolis. How the Greeks had come to so name the place, no one knows for sure; some suggest that it was so named by Alexander the Great.

Yet Greek veneration of the place must have been older and deeper rooted, for it made the Romans glorify the place with the greatest of monuments, and seek there the oracle's word concerning their fate. How else to explain the fact that, "in terms of sheer acreage, weight of stone, dimensions of the individual blocks, and the amount of carving, this precinct can scarcely have had a rival in the Graeco-Roman world" (John M. Cook, The Greeks in Ionia and the East).

In fact, the place and its association with certain Gods go back to even earlier times. Archaeologists believe that there may have been as many as six temples built on the site before Roman times; and it is certain that whatever shrines the Greeks may have erected there, they—as the Romans after them—were only raising the structures atop earlier foundations, religiously and literally.


Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans), it will be recalled, arrived in Crete from Phoenicia (today's Lebanon), swimming across the Mediterranean Sea after he had abducted the beautiful daughter of the king of Tyre. Aphrodite too came to Greece from western Asia. And the wandering Dionysus, to whom the second temple (or perhaps another) was dedicated, brought the vine and winemaking to Greece from the same lands of western Asia.

Aware of the worship's earlier roots, the Roman historian Macrobius enlightened his countrymen in the following words (Saturnalia I, Chapter 23):

The Assyrians too worship the sun under the name of Jupiter, Zeus
Helioupolites as they call him, with important rites in the city of
Heliopolis... .
That this divinity is at once Jupiter and the Sun is manifest both from
the nature of its ritual and from its outward appearance... .
To prevent any argument from ranging through a whole list of
divinities, I will explain what the Assyrians believe concerning the power
of the sun (God). They have given the name Adad to the God whom they
venerate as highest and greatest... .

The hold the place had over the beliefs and imagination of people throughout the millennia also manifested itself in the history of the place following its Roman veneration. When Macrobius wrote the above, circa A.D. 400, Rome was already Christian and the site was already a target of zealous destruction.


No sooner did Constantine the Great (A.D. 306-337) convert to Christianity, than he stopped all additional work there and instead began the conversion of the place into a Christian shrine. In the year 440, according to one chronicler,

"Theodosius destroyed the temples of the Greeks; he transformed into a Christian church the temple of Heliopolis, that of Ba'al Helios, the great Sun-Baal of the celebrated Trilithon."

Justinian (525-565) apparently carried off some of the pillars of red granite to Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, to build there the church of Hagia Sophia. These efforts to Christianize the place encountered repeated armed opposition by the local populace.

When the Muslims gained the area in the year 637, they converted the Roman temples and Christian churches atop the huge platform into a Muhammedan enclave. Where Zeus and Jupiter had been worshiped, a mosque was built to worship Allah.

Modern scholars have tried to shed more light on the age-long worship at this place by studying the archaeological evidence from neighboring sites. A principal one of these is Palmyra (the biblical Tadmor), an ancient caravan center on the way from Damascus to Mesopotamia. As a result, such scholars as Henry Seyrig (La Triade Heliopolitaine) and Rene Dussaud (Temples et Cultes Heliopolitaine) have concluded that a basic triad had been worshipped throughout the ages. It was headed by the God of the Thunderbolt and included the Warrior Maiden and the Celestial Charioteer.


They and other scholars helped establish the now generally accepted conclusion, that the Roman-Greek triad stemmed from the earlier Semitic beliefs, which in turn were based upon the Sumerian pantheon. The earliest Triad was headed, it appears, by Adad, who was allotted by his father Enlil—the chief God of Sumer—"the mountainlands of the north." The female member of the Triad was Ishtar.


After he visited the area, Alexander the Great struck a coin honoring Ishtar/Astarte and Adad; the coin bears his name in Phoenician-Hebrew script (Fig. 94). The third member of the Triad was the Celestial Charioteer, Shamash—commander of the prehistoric astronauts. The Greeks honored him (as Helios) by erecting a colossal statue atop the main temple (see Fig. 92), showing him driving his chariot.

Fig. 94

To them, its swiftness was denoted by the four horses that pulled it; the authors of the Book of Enoch knew better:

"The chariot of Shamash," it says, "was driven by the wind."

Examining the Roman and Greek traditions and beliefs, we have arrived back at Sumer; we have circled back to Gilgamesh and his Search for Immortality in the Cedar Forest, at the "crossroads of Ishtar." Though in the territory of Adad, he was told, the place was also within the jurisdiction of Shamash. And so we have the original Triad: Adad, Ishtar, Shamash.

Have we come upon the Landing Place?

That the Greeks were aware of the epic adventures of Gilgamesh, few scholars nowadays doubt. In their "investigation of the origins of human knowledge and its transmission through Myth," entitled Hamlet's Mill, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Deschend point out that "Alexander was a true replica of Gilgamesh." But even earlier, in the historic tales of Homer, the heroic Odysseus had already followed similar footsteps. Shipwrecked after traveling to the abode of Hades in the Lower World, his men reached a place where they "ate the cattle of the Sun God" and were therefore killed by Zeus.


Left alive alone, Odysseus wandered about until he reached the "Ogygian island"—the secluded place from pre-Deluge times. There, the Goddess Calypso, "who kept him in a cave and fed him, wanted him to marry her; in which case she intended making him immortal, so that he should never grow old." But Odysseus refused her advances— just as Gilgamesh had turned down Ishtar's offer of love.

Henry Seyrig, who as Director of Antiquities of Syria devoted a lifetime to the study of the vast platform and its meaning, found that the Greeks used to conduct there "rites of mystery, in which Afterlife was represented as human Immortality—an identification with the deity obtained by the ascent (heavenward) of the soul." The Greeks, he concluded, indeed associated this place with Man's efforts to attain Immortality.

Was then this place the very place in the Cedar Mountains to which Gilgamesh had first gone with Enkidu, the Crest of Zaphon of Ba'al?

To give a definite answer, let us look more closely at the physical features of the place. We will find that the Romans and Greeks have built their temples upon a paved platform which existed from much earlier times—a platform constructed of large, thick stone blocks so tightly put together that no one—to this very day—has been able to penetrate it and study the chambers, tunnels, caverns and other substructures that lie hidden beneath it.

That such subterranean structures undoubtedly exist is judged not only from the fact that other Greek temples had secret, subterranean cellars and grottoes beneath their apparent floors. Georg Ebers and Hermann Guthe (Palastina in Bild und Wort, the English version is titled Picturesque Palestine) reported a century ago that the local Arabs entered the ruins "at the southeast corner, through a long vaulted passage like a railway tunnel under the great platform" (Fig. 95).

Fig. 95

"Two of these great vaults run parallel with each other, from east to west, and are connected by a third running at right angles to them from north to south."

As soon as they entered the tunnel, they were caught in total darkness, broken here and there by eerie green lights from puzzling "laced windows." Emerging from the 460-feet-long tunnel, they found themselves under the north wall of the Sun Temple, "which the Arabs call Dar-as-saadi—House of Supreme Blissful-ness."

The German archaeologists also reported that the platform apparently rested upon gigantic vaults; but they concerned themselves with mapping and reconstructing the superstructure. A French archaeological mission, led by Andre Parrot in the 1920s, confirmed the existence of the subterranean maze, but was unable to penetrate its hidden parts. When the platform was pierced from above through its thick stones, evidence was found of structures beneath it.

The temples were erected upon a platform raised to thirty feet, depending on the terrain. It was paved with stones whose size, to judge by the slabs visible at the edges, ranged from a length of twelve feet to thirty feet, a frequent width of nine feet and a thickness of six feet. No one has yet attempted to calculate the quantity of stone hewn, cut, shaped, hauled and imbedded layer upon layer upon this site; it could possibly dwarf the Great Pyramid of Egypt.

Whoever laid this platform originally, paid particular attention to the rectangular northwestern corner, the location of the temple of Jupiter/Zeus. There, the temple's more than 50,000 square feet rested upon a raised podium which was certainly intended to support some extremely heavy weight. Constructed of layer upon layer of huge stones, the Podium rose twenty-six feet above the level of the Court in front of it and forty-two feet above the ground on its exposed northern and western sides.


On the southern side, where six of the temple's columns still stand, one can clearly see (Fig. 96a) the stone layers: interspersed between sizable yet relatively small stones, there are alternating rows of stone blocks measuring up to twenty-one feet in length. One can also see (bottom left) the lower layers of the Podium, protruding as a terrace below the raised temple. There, the stones are even more gigantic.

Fig. 96


More massive by far were the stone blocks in the western side of the Podium. As shown in the schematic drawing of the northwestern corner prepared by the German archaeological team (Fig. 96b), the protruding base and the top layers of the Podium were constructed of "cyclopian" stone blocks some of which measure over thirty-one feet in length, about thirteen feet in height and are twelve feet thick. Each such slab represents thus about 5,000 cubic feet of stone and weighs more than 500 tons.

Large as these stones are—the largest ones in the Great Pyramid of Egypt weigh 200 tons—they were not the largest slabs of granite employed by the ancient master builder in creating the Podium.

The central layer—situated some twenty feet above the base of the Podium—was incredibly made up of even larger stones. Modern surveyors have spoken of them as "giant," "colossal," "huge." Ancient historians named them the Trilithon—the Marvel of the Three Stones. For there, exposed to view in the western side of the Podium, lie side by side three stone blocks, the likes of which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.


Precisely shaped and perfectly fitting, each of the three stones (Fig. 97) measures over sixty feet in length, with sides of fourteen and twelve feet. Each slab thus represents more than 10,000 cubic feet of granite and weighs well over 1,000 tons!

Fig. 97


The stones for the Platform and Podium were quarried locally; Wood and Dawkins include one of these quarries (Fig. 90) in their panoramic sketch, showing some of the large stone blocks strewn around in the ancient quarry. But the gigantic blocks were hewn, cut and shaped at another quarry, situated in the valley some three-quarters of a mile southwest of the sacred precinct. It is there that one comes upon a sight even more incredible than that of the Trilithon.

Partly buried in the ground, there lies yet another one of the colossal granite slabs—left in situ by whoever the grand quarrier was. Fully shaped and perfectly cut, with only a thin line at its base still connecting it to the rocky ground, it is an unbelievable sixty-nine feet long and has a girth of sixteen by fourteen feet. A person climbing upon it (Fig. 98) looks like a fly upon a block of ice.... It weighs, by conservative estimates, more than 1,200 tons.

Fig. 98


Most scholars believe that it was intended to be hauled, as its three sisters were, up to the sacred precinct and perhaps be used to extend the terrace-part of the Podium on the northern side. Ebers and Guthe record a theory that in the row beneath the Trilithon, there are not two smaller slabs but a single stone akin to the one found at the quarry, measuring more than sixty-seven feet in length, but either damaged or otherwise chiseled to give the appearance of two side-by-side stones.

Wherever the leftover colossal stone was intended to be placed, it serves as a mute witness to the immensity and uniqueness of the Platform and Podium nesting in the mountains of Lebanon. The mind-boggling fact is that even nowadays there exists no crane, vehicle or mechanism that can lift such a weight of 1,000-1,200 tons—to say nothing of carrying such an immense object over valley and mountainside, and placing each slab in its precise position, many feet above the ground. There are no traces of any roadway, causeway, ramp or other earthworks that could even remotely suggest the hauling or dragging of these megaliths from the quarry to their uphill site.

Yet in remote days, someone, somehow had achieved the feat... .

But who? Local traditions hold that the place had existed from the days of Adam and his sons, who resided in the area of the Cedar Mountains after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Adam, these legends relate, inhabited the place which is now Damascus, and died not far from there. It was Cain his son who built a refuge upon the Cedar Crest after he had killed Abel.

The Maronite Patriarch of Lebanon related the following tradition:

"The fastness on Mount Lebanon is the most ancient building in the world. Cain, the son of Adam, built it in the year 133 of Creation, during a fit of raving madness. He gave it the name of his son Enoch, and peopled it with giants who were punished for their iniquities by the Flood."

After the Deluge, the place was rebuilt by the biblical Nimrod, in his efforts to scale the heavens. The Tower of Babel, according to these legends, was not in Babylon but upon the great platform in Lebanon.

A seventeenth-century traveler named d'Arvieux wrote in his Memoires (Part II, Chapter 26) that local Jewish inhabitants, as well as Muslim residents, held that an ancient manuscript found at the site revealed that,

"After the Flood, when Nimrod reigned over Lebanon, he sent giants to rebuild the Fortress of Baalbek, which is so named in honor of Ba'al, the God of the Moabites, worshippers of the Sun-God."

The association of the God Ba'al with the place in post-Diluvial days strikes a bell. Indeed, no sooner were the Greeks and Romans gone than the local people abandoned the Hellenistic name Heliopolis and resumed calling the place by its Semitic name. It is the name by which it is still called to this day: Baalbek.

There are differing opinions as to the precise meaning of the name. Many believe that it means "The Valley of Ba'al." But from the spelling and from Talmudic references, we surmise that it has meant "The Weeping of Ba'al."

We can hear again the closing verses of the Ugaritic epic, describing the fall of Ba'al in his struggle with Mot, the discovery of his lifeless body, his entombment by Anat and Shepesh in a grotto upon the Crest of Zaphon:

They came upon Baal, fallen on the ground;
Puissant Baal is dead;
The Prince, Lord of Earth, is perished... .
Anat weeps her fill of weeping;
In the valley she drinks tears like wine.
Loudly she calls unto the Gods' Torch, Shepesh:
"Lift Puissant Baal, I pray,
lift him onto me."
Hearkening, the Gods' Torch Shepesh
Picks up Puissant Baal,
Sets him on Anat's shoulder.
Up to the Fastness of Zaphon she brings him;

Bewails him, entombs him;

Lays him in the hollows of the earth.

All these local legends, which as all legends contain a kernel of age-old recollections of actual events, agree that the place is of extreme antiquity. They ascribe its building to "giants" and connect its construction with the events of the Deluge. They connect it with Ba'al, its function being that of a "Tower of Babel"—a place from which to "scale the heavens."

As we look at the vast Platform, its location and layout, and ponder the purpose of the immense Podium built to sustain massive weights, the depiction on the coin from Byblos (Fig. 89) keeps flashing before our eyes: a great temple, a walled sacred area, a podium of extra-strong construction— and upon it the rocket-like Flying Chamber.

The words and descriptions of the Hidden Place in the Epic of Gilgamesh also keep echoing in our ears. The insurmountable wall, the gate which stuns whoever touches it, the tunnel to the "enclosure from which words of command are issued," the "secret abode of the Anunnaki," the monstrous Guardian with his "radiant beam."

And there is no doubt left in our mind that in Baalbek we have found Ba'al's Crest of Zaphon, the target of the first journey of Gilgamesh.

The designation of Baalbek as "the Crossroads of Ishtar" implies that, as she roamed Earth's skies, she could come and go from that "Landing Place" to other landing places upon Earth. Likewise, the attempt by Ba'al to install upon the Crest of Zaphon "a contraption that launches words, a 'stone that whispers, "' implied the existence elsewhere of similar communication units:

"Heaven with Earth it makes converse, and the seas with the planets."

  • Were there indeed such other places on Earth that could serve as Landing Places for the aircraft of the Gods?

  • Were there, besides upon the Crest of Zaphon, other "stones that whisper"?

The first obvious clue is the very name "Heliopolis," indicating the Greek belief that Baalbek was, somehow, a "City of the sun God" paralleling its namesake city in Egypt. The Old Testament too recognized the existence of a northern Beth-Shemesh ("House of Shamash") and a southern Beth-Shemesh, On, the biblical name for the Egyptian Heliopolis. It was, the prophet Jeremiah said, the place of the "Houses of the Gods of Egypt," the location of Egypt's obelisks.

The northern Beth-Shemesh was in Lebanon, not far from Beth-Anath ("House/Home of Anat"); the prophet Amos identified it as the location of the "palaces of Adad ... the House of the one who saw El." During the reign of Solomon, his domains encompassed large parts of Syria and Lebanon, and the list of places where he had built great structures included Baalat ("The Place of Ba'al") and Tamar ("The Place of Palms"); most scholars identify these places as Baalhek and Palmyra (see map, Fig. 78).

Greek and Roman historians made many references to the links that connected the two Heliopolises. Explaining the Egyptian pantheon of twelve Gods to his countrymen, the Greek historian Herodotus also wrote of an "Immortal whom the Egyptians venerated as Hercules." He traced the origins of the worship of this Immortal to Phoenicia, "hearing that there was a temple of Hercules at that place, very highly venerated." In the temple he saw two pillars.

"One was of pure gold; the other was of emerald, shining with great brilliancy at night."

Such sacred "Sun Pillars"—"Stones of the Gods"—were actually depicted on Phoenician coins following the area's conquest by Alexander (Fig, 99). Herodotus provides us with the additional information that of the two connected stones, one was made of the metal which is the best conductor of electricity (gold); and the other of a precious stone (emerald) as is now used for laser communications, giving off an eerie radiance as it emits a high-powered beam. Was it not like the contraption set up by Ba'al, which the Canaanite text described as "stones of splendor?"

Fig, 99


The Roman historian Macrobius, writing explicitly about the connection between the Phoenician Heliopolis (Baalbek) and its Egyptian counterpart, also mentions a sacred stone; according to him, "an object" venerating the Sun God Zeus Helioupolites was carried by Egyptian priests from the Egyptian Heliopolis to Heliopolis (Baalbek) in the north.

"The object," he added, "is now worshipped with Assyrian rather than Egyptian rites."

Other Roman historians also stressed that the "sacred stones" worshiped by the "Assyrians" and the Egyptians were of a conical shape. Quintus Curtius recorded that such an object was located at the temple of Ammon at the oasis of Siwa.

"The thing which is worshipped there as a God," Quintus Curtius wrote, "has not the shape that artificers have usually applied to the Gods. Rather, its appearance is most like an umbilicus, and it is made of an emerald and gems cemented together."

The information regarding the conical object worshiped at Siwa was quoted by F. L. Griffith in connection with the announcement, in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (1916), of the discovery of a conical "omphalos" at the Nubian "pyramid city" of Napata. This "unique Meroitic monument" (Fig. 100) was found by George A. Reisner of Harvard University at the inner sanctum of the temple of Ammon there—the southernmost temple to this God of Egypt.

Fig. 100


The term omphalos in Greek or umbilicus in Latin means a "navel"—a conical stone which, for reasons that scholars do not understand, was deemed in antiquity to have marked a "center of the Earth.

The temple of Ammon at the oasis of Siwa, it will be recalled, was the location of the oracle which Alexander rushed to consult on his arrival in Egypt. We have the testimony of both Callisthenes, Alexander's historian, and the Roman Quintus Curtius that an omphalos made of precious stones was the very "object" venerated at that oracle site. The Nubian temple of Ammon where Reisner discovered the omphalos stone was at Napata, an ancient capital of the domains of Nubian queens; and we recall the baffling visit of Alexander to Queen Candace, in his continuing quest for Immortality.

Was it mere coincidence that, in his search for the secrets of longevity, the Persian king Cambyses (as Herodotus has reported) sent his men to Nubia, to the temple where the "Table of the Sun" was enshrined? Early in the first millennium B.C. a Nubian queen —the Queen of Sheba —made a long journey to King Solomon in Jerusalem. The legends current at Baalbek relate that he embellished the site in Lebanon in her honor. Did she then undertake the long and hazardous voyage merely to enjoy the wisdom of Solomon, or was her real purpose to consult the oracle at Baalbek—the biblical "House of Shemesh?"

There seem to be more than just coincidences here; and the question that comes to mind is this: if at all these oracle centers an omphalos was enshrined—was the omphalos itself the very source of the oracles?

The construction (or reconstruction) upon the Crest of Zaphon of a launching silo and a landing platform for Ba'al was not the cause of his fatal battle with Mot. Rather, it was his clandestine attempt to set up a "Stone of Splendor." This device could communicate with the heavens as well as with other places on Earth.


But, in addition, it was,

A stone that whispers;

Men its messages will not know,

Earth's multitudes will not comprehend.

As we ponder the apparent dual function of the Stone of Splendor, the secret message of Ba'al to Anat all of a sudden becomes clear: the same device which the Gods used to communicate with each other was also the object from which there emanated the Gods' oracular answers to the kings and heroes!

In a most thorough study on the subject, Wilhelm H. Roscher (Omphalos) showed that the Indo-European term for these oracle stones— navel in English, nabel in German, etc.—stem from the Sanskrit nabh, which meant "emanate forcefully.'' It is no coincidence that in the Semitic languages naboh meant to foretell and nabih meant "prophet." All these identical meanings undoubtedly harken back to the Sumerian, in which NA.BA(R) meant "bright-shiny stone that solves."

A veritable network of such oracle sites emerges as we study ancient writings. Herodotus—who accurately reported (Book II, 29) the existence of the Meroitic oracle of Jupiter-Ammon—added to the links we have so far discussed by stating that the "Phoenicians," who established the oracle at Siwa, also established the oldest oracle center in Greece, the one at Dodona —a mountain site in northwestern Greece (near the present Albanian border).

To that effect, he related a report he had heard when he visited Egypt, whereby,

"two sacred women were once carried off from Thebes (in Egypt) by the Phoenicians ... one of them was sold into Libya (western Egypt) and the other into Greece. These women were the first founders of the oracles in the two countries."

This version, Herodotus wrote, he heard from the Egyptian priests of Thebes. But at Dodona, the version was that "two black doves flew away from the Egyptian Thebes," one alighting at Dodona and the other at Siwa: whereupon an oracle of Jupiter was established at both places, the Greeks calling him Zeus at Dodona and the Egyptians Ammon at Siwa.

The Roman historian Silicus Italicus (first century A.D.), relating that Hannibal consulted the oracle at Siwa regarding his wars against Rome, also credited the flight of the two doves from Thebes with the establishment of the oracles in the Libyan desert (Siwa) and in Greek Chaonia (Dodona). Several centuries later, the Greek poet Nonnos, in his master work Dionysiaca, described the oracle shrines at Siwa and Dodona as twin sites, and held that the two were in voice communication with each other:

Behold the new-found answering voice

of the Libyan Zeus!

The thirsty sands an oracular sent forth

to the dove at Chaonia [= Dodona].

As far as F. L. Griffith was concerned, the discovery of the omphalos in Nubia brought to mind another oracle center in Greece. The conical shape of the Nubian omphalos, he wrote, "was precisely that of the omphalos at the oracle at Delphi."

Delphi, the site of Greece's most famous oracle, was dedicated to Apollo ("He of Stone"); its ruins are still one of Greece's leading tourist attractions. There too, as at Baalbek, the sacred precinct consisted of a platform shaped upon a mountainside, also facing a valley that opens up as a funnel toward the Mediterranean Sea and the lands on its other shores.

Many records establish that an omphalos stone was Delphi's holiest object. It was set into a special base in the inner sanctum of the temple of Apollo, some say next to a golden statue of the God and some say it was enshrined all by itself. In a subterranean chamber, hidden from view by the oracle seekers, the oracle priestess, in trance-like oblivion, answered the questions of kings and heroes by uttering enigmatic answers—answers given by the God but emanating from the omphalos.

The original sacred omphalos had mysteriously disappeared, perhaps during the several sacred wars or foreign invasions which affected the place. But a stone replica thereof, erected perhaps in Roman times outside the temple, was discovered in archaeological excavations and is now on display in the Delphi Museum (Fig. 101).



Along the Sacred Way leading up to the temple, someone, at some unknown time, also set up a simple stone omphalos in an effort to mark the place where oracles were first given at Delphi, before the temple was built.

The coins of Delphi depicted Apollo seated on this omphalos (Fig. 102); and after Phoenicia fell to the Greeks, they likewise depicted Apollo seated upon the "Assyrian" omphalos. But just as frequently, the oracle stones were depicted as twin cones connected to each other via a common base, as in Fig. 99.

How was Delphi chosen as a sacred oracle place, and how did the omphalos stone come to be there? The traditions say that when Zeus wanted to find the center of the Earth, he released eagles from two opposite ends of the world. Flying toward each other, they met at Delphi; whereupon the place was marked by erecting there a navel stone, an omphalos. According to the Greek historian Strabo, images of two such eagles were perched on top of the omphalos at Delphi.

Fig. 102


Depictions of the omphalos have been found in Greek art, showing the two birds atop or at the sides (Fig. 102) of the conical object. Some scholars see in the birds not eagles, but carrier pigeons, which—being able to find their way back to a certain place—might have symbolized the measuring of distances from one Center of Earth to another.

According to Greek legends, Zeus found refuge at Delphi during his aerial battles with Typhon, resting on the platform-like area upon which the temple to Apollo was eventually built. The shrine to Ammon at Siwa contained not only subterranean corridors, mysterious tunnels and secret passages inside the temple's thick walls, but also a restricted area of some 180 by 170 feet, surrounded by a massive wall.


In its midst, there arose a solid stone platform. We find the same structural components, including a raised platform, in all the sites associated with the "stones that whisper." Is one to conclude, then, that as the far larger Baalbek was, they too were both a Landing Place and a Communications Center?

Not surprisingly, we find the twin Sacred Stones, accompanied by the two eagles, also depicted in Egyptian sacred writings (Fig. 103); and many centuries before the Greeks even began to enshrine their oracle centers, an Egyptian Pharaoh depicted an omphalos with the two perched birds in his pyramids.



He was Seti I, who lived in the fourteenth century B.C.; and it was in his depiction of the domain of Seker, the Hidden God, that we have seen the oldest omphalos to date—in Fig. 19. It was the communications means whereby messages—"words"—"were spoken to Seker every day."

In Baalbek, we have found the target of the first journey of Gilgamesh. Having followed the threads connecting the "whispering" Stones of Splendor, we arrived at the Duat.

It was the place where the Pharaohs sought the Stairway to Heaven for an Afterlife. It was, we suggest, the place whereto Gilgamesh, in search of Life, set his course on his second journey.

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