From Pagan to Modern Times: Afqa

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“…the miserable village which still bears the name of Afqa at the head of the wild, romantic, wooded gorge of the Adonis. The hamlet stands among groves of noble walnut-trees on the brink of the lyn. A little way off the river rushes from a cavern at the foot of a mighty amphitheatre of towering cliffs to plunge in a series of cascades into the awful depths of the glen. The deeper it descends, the ranker and denser grows the vegetation, which, sprouting from the crannies and fissures of the rocks, spreads a green veil over the roaring or murmuring stream in the tremendous chasm below. There is something delicious, almost intoxicating, in the freshness of these tumbling waters, in the sweetness and purity of the mountain air, in the vivid green of the vegetation.”

Sir James Frazer describing the village at Afqa in his 1922 book, The Golden Bough

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The Sarcophagus of King Ahiram

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Funeral rites were one of the major types of religious cultic activity among the Phoenicians. It appears that burial of an intact body was the preferred method for dealing with the dead, though some examples of cremation have also been found. The wealthiest Phoenicians and members of royal families received elaborately decorated stone sarcophagi, which were placed in tombs cut directly out of rock. The bodies were typically given objects from their lives to accompany them: coins, food, cosmetics, toiletries, figurines, and so forth. The inclusion of both ritual and practical objects is often cited as evidence of belief in some sort of afterlife, possibly one in which the deceased could make use of these objects. This may be a case where the funeral rites of Egypt influenced the religious beliefs of the Phoenicians as for a long time.

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The Cultural Migration

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The Cippi of Melqart are a pair of ornamental pillars with engravings found by the Knights of St. John on the Island of Malta in the village of Marsaxlloc, they are considered to be from the 2nd century BCE. It is in this village that the Phoenicians reputedly landed in the 9th CE BC and set up trading posts. In the temple of Tas-Silg, the Cippi were unearthed, one cippus being gifted to Louis XVI by the grand master of the knights of St. John in 1782. This cippus now sits in the Louvre and the other in the National museum of archaeology in Valetta.

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A Tyrian Odyssey

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In Lebanon there is a heritage so rich in history and an influence that pervades through the ancient Mediterranean basin. The mysterious nature of this time makes myth and legend the ancient’s form’s history. The mythological assimilation of ancient Gods and Goddesses creates a weave compounded by time, mystery and interpretation. In this way a beginning can be found in a seed or a stone and the worship of the mythological Astarte, the queen of heaven and her son, Baal.

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