37 Images of Noah in Ancient Greek Art: Part IV


Now we’ll take a look at a series of vase-images which show the authority of Noah, in the form of a young half-man/half-fish known as Triton, being wrested from him by Herakles/Nimrod. Triton represents the young Noah at the height of his powers. Herakles always comes up from behind to gain control of Triton. Note the interlocking grip of Herakles’ hands. He is “coming to grips” with the authority of Nereus/Noah. Herakles harms or kills many of his opponents, but never Nereus or Triton (the younger Nereus). Now let’s see this coming to grips with Noah’s authority in context.

This vase-depiction, above, with Herakles and Triton in the center, tells the story of the forced transfer of authority from Nereus/Noah to Poseidon, a "brother" of Zeus. Here, Herakles wrestles with Triton, grabbing him from behind. Notice the interlocking hands of Herakles. He is coming to grips with Noah’s legacy. On the vase, he is wrestling it away from the Old Man of the Sea who stands to the right leaning on his staff with his wife, Doris, disconsolate at the turn of events he will do nothing to prevent. On the left, behind Triton’s tail, stand Poseidon (with trident) and his wife, Amphitrite, a daughter of Nereus and Doris. Poseidon and Amphitrite bend toward the action with their arms upraised, in gestures that indicate their involvement with its outcome.

The above close-up shows that Herakles’ gaze is fixed on Nereus/Noah because the scene is about taking the patriarch’s authority from him. Herakles is wrestling away Nereus’ authority and his association with the power of the sea and giving both to Poseidon, a brother of Zeus. Poseidon becomes god of the sea and its power. Nereus still has a place in Greek history, but as a believer in the Creator God, Yahweh, no place on Mount Olympus.

Above we see another depiction of Herakles wresting (or wrestling) the authority of Nereus/Noah from him. The woman on our left, one of Noah’s daughters or his wife, Doris, gestures with her hands as if to ask Herakles, “Why are you doing this?”

In this close-up, we see Herakles/Nimrod, wearing the lion head, again staring down Nereus/Noah.

Noah appears to the left in this vase-artist’s scene. Noah’s wife, Doris, verbally engages Herakles. She appears to be asking Herakles why he is doing this, why he is seizing the authority of her husband.

On this vase, Herakles, wearing the lion head, stares down Nereus/Noah’s wife, Doris. The lowered head of Noah, standing to the left, suggests that he is an outmaneuvered and disappointed man.

On the above vase, the scene is familiar to us. Wearing his lion head, Herakles wrestles away Triton (the authority of Nereus/Noah) as Nereus and one of his daughters look on. The artist makes a point to obscure part of the face of Nereus/Noah. He is being elbowed out of the way. The belief system of Noah contradicts that of the reemerging way of Kain: the Old Man of the Sea and his God must be pushed aside, obscured, and ignored.
The triumph of Zeus-religion, a form of ancestor-worship exalting the way of Kain, so obscured the knowledge of Noah's God that, by the time the apostle Paul visited Athens, the only reference to Him he could find was a small monument on the hill known as the Areopagus with the inscription, "To The Unknown God" (Acts 17:23).

Above, Herakles usurps the authority of the seated Nereus/Noah.
Critics with a superficial knowledge of Greek art sometimes say that according to the ancient poet, Pindar, Deucalion and Pyrrha were the ones who survived the Flood. Pindar did mention them, but Greek painters and sculpters did not take that tradition seriously, never depicting either of them in their art. The legend of Deucalion and Pyrrha is probably related to their being survivors of a localized flood, perhaps the one caused by the volcanic explosion on the island of Thera (Santorini) in about 1500 BC.

And here is yet another scene of Noah’s authority being wrestled away by Herakles/Nimrod.

Greek vase-painters were masters at portraying movement and gesture. Above, Hermes lectures Nereus. The body language of the figures shows that this is no dialogue; Hermes is doing all the talking. He may be giving Nereus an ultimatum: “Stay out of the way. Don’t interfere with the direction we’re taking.” It even looks as if he could be saying “You’re fired!” There is no doubt that the one with the serpent-scepter will prevail.