37 Images of Noah in Ancient Greek Art: Part III

HERAKLES/NIMROD THREATENS NEREUS/NOAH, BRINGS HIS RULE TO A HALT, AND PUSHES HIM OUT OF THE WAY

PLUS: WHAT THE REBEL HERAKLES—NIMROD—GILGAMESH IS AFTER, AND WHAT HE FEARS


Now we’re going to take a look at how Greek vase-painters pitted Herakles/Nimrod against Nereus/Noah in various scenes to depict the takeover of Zeus-religion—the Greeks’ contrary, man-centered religious outlook.

In the above scene, Herakles/Nimrod threatens Nereus/Noah with his club. It’s as if Herakles is saying, “Stay out of the way, Noah, or you’ll get some of this.” Note the serpent attached to Herakles’ belt in the back. The desire to get back to the serpent’s enlightenment is literally “behind” what is going on here.

In the above vase-scene, Nereus/Noah is headed somewhere, but Herakles/Nimrod, who leads the rebellion against his rule, surprises him from behind, making him turn his head. Herakles is literally “strong-arming” Nereus/Noah. Herakles grabs the wrist that holds the scepter, because that is what this is about: taking Noah’s authority and putting a stop to his rule.

In this larger view of the same vase-scene, it looks as if Herakles/Nimrod is saying to Noah as he grabs him from behind, “Hey, where do you think you’re going? It’s over for you. I’m in charge now.”

The scene on this black-figure cup expresses the same theme in a different way. Herakles/Nimrod comes from behind Nereus/Noah and brings his momentum to a halt. Notice how Herakles/Nimrod is leaning back and using his feet for brakes. He’s putting a stop to Noah’s rule. Poseidon, a “brother” of Zeus, advances. He will take over—as Nereus/Noah is stopped and pushed out of the picture. Note that Poseidon now has the trident, once an attribute of Nereus/Noah.

Here we see Nereus/Noah depicted as an old man carrying a trident, a symbol usurped by Poseidon, a “brother” of Zeus and son-in-law of Nereus (Poseidon married his daughter, Amphitrite) who replaced Nereus/Noah as Zeus-religion grew.

This polychrome relief from a small altar again carries the message that Herakles/Nimrod is bringing the momentum of Nereus/Noah to a stop. Herakles comes from behind and grabs Noah by his hair, figuratively bringing Noah and his rule to a halt.

In this scene, Herakles ushers an unresisting Nereus/Noah out of the way. Note again the serpent coiled into Herakles’ belt.

In this similar scene by a different artist, Herakles again pushes an unresisting Nereus/Noah out of the way.

In this scene, Herakles pushes Nereus/Noah out of the way, knocking loose the fish he held in his hand as a symbol of his authority as the one who brought humanity through the Flood. Herakles doesn’t care what Noah has done. His only concern is what he himself is going to do now. What does Herakles want? What is he after?

This ancient shield-band panel tells us what Herakles/Nimrod is after. On it, Noah is called “Halios Geron” meaning “The Salt-Sea Old Man.” He has a snake and a flame emanating from his head, telling us what Herakles is demanding to know—where he can find the enlightenment of the serpent.
Herakles could be saying to Noah, "You tell me where to find the enlightenment of the serpent or else!"

According to Greek “myth,” Nereus/Noah told Herakles where he could find the enlightenment of the serpent that the hero so desperately craved. That place, the serpent-entwined tree with its golden apples, symbolizing the serpent’s enlightenment, is depicted on the above vase. This is the ancient paradise called Eden in Genesis and the Garden of the Hesperides in Greek art (See Chapter 18 of TPC). The women represent the peace and pleasure of paradise. From left to right: Hygeia (Health), Chrysothemis (Golden Order), Asterope (Star Face), and Lipara (Shining Skin).

As we look further to the right in the scene, we see that Herakles has made it there. Of course, Herakles didn’t really get back to the ancient garden; it is a figurative artistic statement: the Greeks 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. Zeus-religion celebrates the great change in the post-Flood religious paradigm. Noah and his God are out. The serpent and its enlightenment are back in. Humanity has decided this: man is now the measure of all things.

The eleventh and final tablet (pictured above) of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Mespotamian hero (pictured above), tells the story of a Deluge very similar to the Genesis account of Noah’s Flood. In great fear of death and in search of the meaning of his life, Gilgamesh seeks after the one human believed to be immortal, Utnapishtim, survivor of the world-engulfing Flood. Utnapishtim is the Noah of Genesis and the Nereus of Greek religion. The hero Gilgamesh is the Nimrod of Genesis and the Herakles of Greek religion.
In Genesis 6:9, we read, "Noah is a just man." The ancient Greek poet Hesiod wrote in his Theogony, "And Sea begat Nereus, the eldest of his children, who is true and lies not: and men call him the Old Man because he is trusty and gentle and does not forget the laws of righteousness, but thinks just and kindly thoughts." Utnapishtim (ut nephis tam) in Shemitic/Hebrew means "a living beacon of righteousness."

Greek artists knew of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and they naturally expressed the hero’s fear of death and his demand for knowledge from Noah in terms of his Greek counterpart, Herakles. On the above vase, the hero clings to Nereus/Noah as he looks with dread over his shoulder at the monstrous figure, Kerberos, representing death and Herakles’s fear of it. Nereus/Noah gestures as if he is responding to the plea of Herakles/Nimrod. It appears that the vase-artist is depicting these very words of Gilgamesh from the epic: “Oh woe! What shall I do Utnapishtim? Where shall I go? The snatcher has taken hold of my flesh, in my bedroom, death dwells, and wherever I set my foot, there too is death.”
 

By the time Greek religion became systematized, Herakles/Nimrod/Gilgamesh had figuratively gotten back to the serpent’s enlightenment in the ancient garden, and overcome his great fear of death. On this reconstructed metope from the temple of Zeus at Olympia, we see that Herakles/Nimrod (pictured with his father, Hermes/Cush) now has Kerberos under control. There is no need for Herakles to fear death any longer: he has conquered the world on behalf of his ancestors in the way of Kain, and they have made him an immortal god as a reward for what he has done for them.

The 12 Labors of Herakles on the Temple of Zeus at Olympia chronicle and celebrate mankind's rebellion after the Flood.
CLICK HERE TO SEE THEM ALL RESTORED IN COLOR BY COMPUTER