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KION OURANOU. The Sky Column on Atlas Mountain

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Chronos
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« on: December 02, 2009, 10:46:01 pm »

PREHISTORIC DACIA

PART 2  –  Ch.XIV

KION OURANOU. The Sky Column on Atlas Mountain

in the country of the Hyperboreans

 

PART 2
   

PREVIOUS

 

XIV. 1. The geographical position of Atlas Mountain according to the heroic legends.

 

Near the simulacrum of Zeus aigiochos from the highest peak of Bucegi Mountain (2508m), between Prahova district and the county of Brasov, rises a gigantic rock column, which dominates the entire south-eastern corner of the Carpathians, and near this column, two other rocky peaks, born from the womb of the earth in the shape of powerful monoliths, rise their tops into the sky. Exactly like the figure of Zeus aigiochos, this column had in prehistoric antiquity a particular religious celebrity with all the Pelasgian tribes which had emigrated from the Carpathians towards Hellada, Asia Minor and Egypt.

This column was considered in the southern legends as the miraculous column of the earth, which supported the starry vault of the sky, or the northern pole of the universe.

 

We will examine firstly the old Hellenic traditions regarding the geographical position of this column and we will present then the legends and the important role which this column had in the ante-Homeric religious beliefs.

According to the old Greek geographical traditions, this legendary column of the sky was located in the extreme parts, or northern, of the known world, on the high and vast mountain called Atlas, in the country of the Hyperboreans.

This Atlas is one of the great figures of the Saturnian times.

As the old historical sources used by Diodorus Siculus said (lib. III. 57. 60), Atlas was Saturn’s brother and both were the sons of Uranus and Gaea. The titan Atlas especially was a powerful and wealthy king who ruled over the people of the Atlantes, who were part of the big family of the Hyperboreans.

It was said about this Atlas that he had flocks of fine sheep, of a reddish golden color (Ibid,lib.IV.27). And the poet Ovid presents this shepherd king from the times of the theogony with the following words: ”Thousands of flocks and cattle herds wander on his plains. His country is not pressed on either side by his neighbors’ boundaries. On his trees leaves grow glowing with gold, the branches of the trees are of gold and of gold also are the fruit that covers them” (Metam. lib. IV. v. 634 seqq).

This Atlas, brother of Saturn, had taken part in the Titans’ war against Jove, from which cause, after the total victory of this new monarch, was condemned  to one of the most difficult labors known in the legendary history of antiquity, namely to support the sky with his head and tireless arms (Hesiod, Theog. v. 517).
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2009, 10:46:57 pm »



The Sky Column (chion ouranou) from ancient Atlas,

in the country of the Hyperboreans, today Omul Peak

in the south-eastern corner of the Carpathians.

View from E-NE

(From a 1899 photograph)

 
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2009, 10:47:38 pm »

The grammarian Apollodorus of Athens, who had lived around 145bc, had written an important work about the traditions and legends of the heroic times, which he had extracted from the cyclic poets, the ancient logographers and historians. In this work of his, of a great value for the history of ante-Homeric times, we find the following geographical data regarding the region over which the titan Atlas had once ruled: Eurystheus, the king of Mycenae, Apollodorus tells us, had asked Hercules to accomplish also an eleventh labor and to bring him the golden apples from the Hesperides. But these apples, writes Apollodorus, were not in Libya (or the lands of Africa), as some say, but at the Atlas Mountain in the country of the Hyperboreans (Bibl. Lib. II. 5. 11).

Jove, on the occasion of his wedding, had presented these apples to Juno, and they were guarded there by an immortal dragon, who had one hundred heads, born from the union of Echidna and Typhon, and this dragon used many and different kinds of voices. Hercules, traveling across Libya, reached the External Sea, from there he crossed with his ship to the facing continent, and went to the Caucasus mountain, where he killed with his arrows the eagle (also born from Echidna and Typhon), who picked at Prometheus’ liver. So he freed Prometheus from his chains, and Prometheus advised him that, once arrived at Atlas, in the country of the Hyperboreans, he was not to go in person for the apples, but to send Atlas to bring them, while he, Hercules, supported on his shoulders, in Atlas’ stead, the pole of the sky (Apollodorus, II. 5. 11; Cicero, De nat. deor. II. 41) [1].

 
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2009, 10:47:59 pm »

[1. The Greek writers had lost very early the exact knowledge about the geographical position of the Atlas mountain. Because of this, some placed it in Mauritania in Africa, others in Italy, and finally some in Arcadia in the Peloponnesus. But no other mountain with the name of Atlas ever existed in any part of the ancient world, except in the country of the Hyperboreans. To the indigenous populations of NW Africa the name Atlas was totally unknown. This name was given to that mountainous range only in the Greek literary writings (Pliny, V. 1.13; Strabo, XVI. 3. 2)].

 

Hercules obeyed Prometheus’ advice, took the pole of the sky on his shoulders in Atlas’ stead, and Atlas went to the gardens of the Hesperides, took three apples and returned to Hercules. (This scene is represented on a bas-relief from the temple of Jove at Olympia). But now Atlas did not want to take back on his shoulders the pole of the sky, saying that he himself will take to Eurystheus the apples, while Hercules will continue to support the sky in his place. Hercules promised firstly to do that, but using a ruse, taught him by Prometheus, he put again the sky on Atlas’ shoulders. Namely, Hercules asked Atlas to support the sky for only a few moments, so that he could put a cushion on his head. Atlas put down the apples and took the sky, while Hercules grabbed the apples and went away.

This is the oldest tradition, and the most accredited at the same time, about the country of the titan Atlas, a king from the country of the pious Hyperboreans.

The Hyperboreans, the inhabitants of a very fertile and blessed country, a pastoral and agricultural people, full of virtues, religious and just, contemporary with the gods of Olympus, who considered themselves born from the glorious race of the titans (Boeckhius, Pindari opera,II.96), were an extended Pelasgian population living at the north of Istru and the Black Sea (Pindar affirmed that the Hyperboreans lived near the sources, or cataracts, of the Istru –Olymp.III.14-17).
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2009, 10:48:12 pm »

Later though, Atlas, this powerful ruler of the people of the Atlantes, was turned into a huge mountain, continuing to support on his head the northern pole or the axis of the sky.

This legend is the following:

Perseus, the mythical hero from Argos, the son of Jove and the nymph Danae, was sent by king Polydectes from the island of Seriphos to bring him the head of Gorgona Medusa, which had the magic power to turn mortals into stone. Perseus arrived to the sources of the river Okeanos (the cataracts of Istru), where the three legendary gorgons lived (Apollodorus, Bibl. II. 4.2.8; Hesiod, Theog. v. 274. 281; Preller, Gr. Myth. II, 1854, p.44), cut Medusa’s head, put it in his bag and went away. He stopped at king Atlas on his way back, in the country of the Hyperboreans, and asked for his hospitality for one night. But Atlas, remembering an old prediction that a son of Jove will steal his golden apples, told him harshly to be off immediately, as otherwise neither his false brave deeds, nor his father Jove, will protect him from his wrath.

Perseus took then out of the bag the ugly head of Medusa and Atlas, big as he was, was instantly transformed into a mountain, his head becoming the top of a high peak (Ovid, Metam. lib. IV. 627 seqq; Pindar, Pyth. X. 50), while his body an immense mountain range [2].

 

[2. A similar legend exists with the Romanian people: that the figure from “Omul” mountain represents a shepherd whom God punished for his lack of piety by changing him into a strong rock (Muller, Siebenburgische Sagen, p.174)].
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2009, 10:48:23 pm »

The fundamental idea in Atlas’ legends is that this shepherd-king of the ancient world supported with his head and arms the pole, or the northern extremity of the axis around which the sky vault rotates. And Atlas mountain is also located in the northern regions of Europe by Ovid (Metam. IV. 130-131), by Hesiod (Theog. v.518, 736) and by Virgil in his Aeneid, these last two works having been written on the basis of the geographical data of the sacred literature.

Mercury (Hermes), Virgil tells us, sent by Jove to Africa with order to Aeneas to leave without delay for Italy, flew over countries and seas, helped by his sandals’ wings. “In this travel of his through the air, Hermes sees the cap and the precipitous slopes of hard Atlas, who supports the sky with his head. His head is crowned with fir trees and always surrounded by black clouds, beaten by winds and rain. His shoulders are covered by masses of snow, and rivers of water rush forth from the old one’s face, while his terrible beard is full of ice” [3].

 

[3. In another poem of his (Georg. III. 349 seqq), Virgil also mentions near the Istru the long shape of the Rhodope mountains range (Carpathians), which arches back around the central axis of the sky.

St. Paulinus in his poem dedicated to the bishop Niceta from Dacia at 398ad, also considers that the Dacians lived under the northern pole].
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2009, 10:48:35 pm »

So far we talked about Atlas as of one of the great personalities of the prehistoric times, as of a powerful king rich in flocks and wealthy in gold, from the country of the Hyperboreans; we also talked about Atlas as an important mountain from the same region, which represented, by name and legends, the ancient titan.

But in Greek antiquity, the name Atlas had another special geographical meaning.

With Herodotus, Atlas is the name of a significant river, which flows from the heights of old Hem (Carpathians) and into the Lower Istru (Herodotus, lib. IV. 49; Gooss, Studien zur Geographie d. Trajanischen Daciens, p.10; Dio Cassius, lib. LXVII. 6), identical with Alutus fluvius of the Romans and with the river Olt of today (Germ. Alt) [4].

 

[4. The name Alutus (Greek ‘Atlas) presents itself as an old Pelasgian word, whose primitive meaning was without doubt “washed gold” and the place where gold is washed (Lat. alluo, to wash). From here derives also the legend that in Atlas’ kingdom even the leaves on the trees were of gold. The term alutatium, with the meaning of gold found on the surface of the earth, was still used in the times of Pliny (H. N. XXXIII. 21. 2) by the gold miners who washed gold in Dalmatia.

The washing of gold from the sands of Olt was in use in the Romanian Country until almost 1848.

Tunusli says (Ist. politica si geografica a Terei romanesci, p.37): “Gold is extracted from the sand of the rivers Olt, Topolog, Arges and Dambovita, by the royal gypsies called rudari”. Sulzer also speaks about the gold found in the river Olt (Geschichte d. transalp. Daciens I. 152-153)].

 
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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2009, 10:48:47 pm »

The name Olt had and still has with the Romanian people the same archaic meaning as both mountain and river at the same time. The important chain of the Southern Carpathians, which once harbored the pastoral Pelasgian tribes – starting from Barsa country to the sources of Motru – bears even today the name of the mountains of Olt and the mountains of the Olteni (Teodorescu, Folk poetry, p.557; Marienescu, Carols, p.133) [5].

 

[5. In folk poems from Banat “the Peak of Olt” is the highest mountain towards Transylvania (Hodos, Folk poetry from Banat, p.127).

Fagaras mountains are also called in Transylvania the mountains of Olt. Apart from the river Olt, there are also in Romania three hills called Olt, in the districts Valcea and Dolj)]

 

Finally, the legendary history of Atlas presents also an archaeological character.

According to old Hellenic traditions, the highest peak of Atlas mountain showed the petrified figure of this powerful representative of the race of the titans.

“As great as Atlas was” writes Ovid (Metam. IV. v. 656 seqq) “he was changed into a mountain. His beard and locks now became forests, his shoulders and arms, extensive hills; what had before been his head, now is the top of the highest mountain; his bones became rocky crags; and then, growing in all directions, he reached an immense size”.

Virgil also mentions Atlas’ head, crowned with fir trees and surrounded by clouds, his shoulders covered by masses of snow, the big face of the old man from which rivers of water rush forth, and his terrible beard full of ice.
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2009, 10:48:59 pm »

This colossal figure turned to stone, described with such realism by Atlas’ legends, still exists today near the column which rises on the top of Omul mountain. It is the grandiose simulacrum of Zeus aigiochos, formed by an entire mountain peak.

And the words of the Roman poet Statius (Thebaid. Lib. XII. V. 650) referred to the same figure, when he talked about Jupiter nubilus from the axis of the Hyperboreans.

These legends of Atlas belong to the second period of prehistory, when the old traditions about the holy places from the north of Istru had been lost in the southern regions, when the miraculous simulacrum of Saturn as Zeus euruopa aigiochos from the mountains of Olt was considered to be the titan Atlas, turned into stone. It is the same monument of the ante-Homeric times, but this time with different names and legends [6].

 

[6. This lack of geographical knowledge regarding the regions from the north of Istru is stated by Herodotus, in the following words: ”northwards from Thrace, what sort of people dwell, nobody can precisely tell. Only that it seems that beyond the Istru there is a deserted and infinite land].

 
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2009, 10:49:14 pm »

We are presented now with the last geographical matter from the history of the legends of the titan Atlas, namely: which is the origin of the name “the Sky Column” of the colossal pyramid from the top of the Omul mountain.

With Eschyl (Prometheus, v. 349), this majestic monument of the Pelasgian world bears the name “the column of the sky and earth”.

And Homer mentions in his Odyssey (I. v. 53-54) “the long columns” on the Atlas mountain, “which separate the sky from the earth”, without saying anything though about their number. But Hesiodus tells us (Theog. v. 521-522) that Atlas supports the sky with his head and tireless arms, and this author also adds that Prometheus had been chained on the middle column.

So, according to the old legends of the Theogony, there were three stone columns on Atlas mountain, out of which one, the highest and strongest, was considered as the principal column. Three columns with particular shapes, which had once represented some sacred symbols, can still be seen on the highest peak of Omul mountain, dominating from above the figure of Zeus aigiochos (from the point of view of its geological formation, the peak called Omul was and still is considered as only one of the peaks of Caraiman mountain – Frunzescu, Dict. top. p. VI).

 
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2009, 10:49:25 pm »

The name “the Sky Column” was doubtless in the beginning only an expression of the sacred geography. It designated not an imaginary miraculous column, which supported the starry vault of the sky, but a real, grandiose column, from the most sacred mountain of the ancient times, called in Greek literature Ouranos, megas ouranos, today Caraiman (Cerus manus), column which had been consecrated to the supreme divinity of the sky.

According to traditions and the positive archaeological data which we have, the first religious monuments which humanity had erected in honor of the celestial divinities, were only simple wooden or stone columns.

So, the gigantic columns of Hercules, so famous once in the ancient world, were, as the scholiast of Dionysius Periegetus tells us (Fragm. Hist. gr., Ed. Didot, III. 640. 16), consecrated firstly to Saturn, the god who represented the great divinity of the immense sky.

And Pausanias, in The description of Greece, mentions that, on the road from Sparta to Arcadia there were seven columns, erected according to the ancient rite, about which it was said that represented the simulacra of the seven planets (lib. III. 20. 9).

Even in the second century b.c., the grammarian Apollodorus of Athens had established, based on older texts, that the majestic Atlas mountain which supported the northern pole of the sky, was not in Libya or NW Africa, but in the country of the Hyperboreans, an extended Pelasgian population from north of Thrace or the Lower Istru.
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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2009, 10:49:43 pm »

The same truth is confirmed today by the names and geographical descriptions, as well as the monuments mentioned in the legends of Atlas.

According to all these different geographical indications of antiquity, the immense Atlas mountain, the pastoral mountain of the Hyperboreans, corresponds to the southern chain of the Carpathians, known in Romanian history under the name of the mountains of Olt.

Especially the apex of old Atlas presents itself as identical in everything with the majestic peak called Omul, from the Bucegi massif, that massif on which there are also the simulacrum of Zeus aigiochos, the cyclopean altars, and the three columns of stone, about the legends of which we shall speak in the following chapters [7].

 

[7. As in antiquity the countless flocks of the titan Atlas had become famous for their golden fleece, similarly was renowned, to our very days, the race of sheep with fine, short and curly fleece from the mountains of Fagaras and Barsa (Fridvalszky, Mineralogia M. Pr. Transilvaniae, 1767, p.6). And also regarding the great flocks and herds which grazed once this group of mountains, Babes writes (Din plaiul Pelesului, p.58-63): “From prehistoric times, on the peaks of the mountains and the highest tops of the Carpathians, were brought to pasture countless flocks of sheep, herds of cattle and horses…There were shepherds who owned hundreds and even thousands of horses, others who had flocks of ten to twenty thousands of sheep…The predominant races of sheep in our country are tsurcana or barsana and tsigaia….Tsigaia sheep are of the type with curly and fine fleece; as for color, tsigaia is white, black, reddish or smoky”. The religious songs from Dobrogea still mention these sheep: ewes with yellowish fleece, with golden fleece, with silken fleece.

 

The peaks of Omul are usually covered in clouds and mists today also, exactly as it was said about old Atlas; and under the cover of the rocks, the snow is permanent (Turcu, Escursiuni, p.20). Atlas was considered in the old legends as the highest mountain of the known world (Ovid, Met. VI. 115; Virgil, Aen. IV. 482).

The same was believed in the 18th century, that the mountains Clabucet, Piatra Craiului and Bucegi were the principal heights of the Dacian Carpathians (Fridvalszky, Mineralogia M. Principatus Transilvaniae, 1767, p.11)].

 http://www.pelasgians.org/website2/14_01.htm
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