23 August 2013

My response to former state senator David Fowler's "Bigotry And Intolerance Displayed In Tennessee"

Congratulations, Mr. Fowler, on contriving such a twisted and convoluted misdirection that it is worthy of the speech Shakespeare put into the mouth of Mark Anthony “praising” Brutus and “damning” Caesar.  It is truly impressive to see an American public figure in the 21st century defend by use of the same the reasoning behind the Dred Scott decision (Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857) and mimic the cries of antebellum slave-holding plantation aristocrats for their “rats” (sic, “rights”), not to mention the days when interracial marriages in a state where they were legal were prohibited from being recognized in others, such as Tennessee.

I want to thank you, Mr. Fowler, for reaffirming the need for Tennesseans to feel shame and embarrassment on the world stage displayed by the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in the legislature and the sectarian bigotry over the building of a mosque suffocating the city of Murfreesboro.  In case you haven’t been keeping up with current international events, I suggest that a relocation to the Russian Federation (which recently outlawed “gay propaganda”) might find you in a place more fit to your views.

Marriage was made for man (i.e., humans), Mr. Fowler, not man for marriage.

*****

David Fowler: Bigotry And Intolerance Displayed In Tennessee

Last week I commented on the fact that same-sex marriage advocates face a dilemma – will they actually tell people what they believe marriage is and why they believe it.  But Collegedale, Tennessee, just outside Chattanooga, voted last week to recognize same-sex marriages for certain purposes.  Having now made that bold move, the four city council members who voted for recognition have some explaining to do, and that puts them on the horns of a dilemma.

 Are they going to do the right thing or just admit to the bigotry and intolerance their vote exposed?

The City of Collegedale voted last week to adopt a definition of “domestic partners” that BlueCross BlueShield makes available to its policyholders, if they so choose.  That definition allows an unmarried employee of a business, or in this case, a city, to insure his or her “significant other” and the children for whom the partners are responsible.

The city could have said that any employee cohabitating with another person of the same or opposite sex whose relationship meets the definition of a “domestic partner” could have insurance that would cover the employee’s partner and their children.  All that would be required would be that the two be in a loving and committed relationship. But it did not do so.
Instead, the city chose to recognize only those “domestic partnerships” where a same-sex marriage had been performed in a state like New York or Maryland that makes such marriages valid.

Apart from the fact that the city council members who voted for the resolution violated their oath the state’s constitution1,  which forbids recognition of same-sex marriages, understand what else they did in recognizing only certain loving and committed relationships.  And the best way to understand that is to put their action in the context of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recent opinion in the marriage cases.

In speaking of the fact that the federal government wrongfully recognized only certain “moral and sexual choices” – heterosexual ones, Justice Kennedy said:
The differentiation (between same-sex marriages and natural marriages) demeans the (same-sex) couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify.  And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.  The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.

Now what these four city council members really did becomes more plain.  In choosing to give benefits to same-sex couples that are in a committed, loving relationship and not to give those same benefits to heterosexual couples who may have been cohabitating for years, these council members:

  1. Chose to “demean” unmarried heterosexual couples and their relationship, and
  2. “Humiliate” the children of unmarried heterosexual couples and to make it “even more difficult for [their] children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family.”

Moreover, they “demeaned” those in polygamous relationships of love and commitment by arbitrarily saying that only two people can be in a committed, loving relationship.  And they “humiliated” their children, too.

This is now the dilemma these council members face.  They need to either:
  • extend benefits to all those who are in committed, loving relationships, regardless of number or sex, or
  • admit publicly their own bias and discriminatory attitude toward all cohabitating relationships involving love and commitment that are not recognized by somebody as a marriage.
  •  
You see, these council members want to grant moral equivalence to some relationships outside the bounds of natural, heterosexual marriage, but not others.  And the basis for that supposed equivalence — love and commitment — they are unwilling to apply to everyone fairly and equally. And in not doing so, these four advocates for same-sex marriage on Collegedale’s City Council have put on display for all to see their moral bigotry and intolerance toward all loving and committed relationships.


1 The city’s resolution says that it is not unconstitutionally recognizing same-sex marriage because the resolution “is not meant to confer legal recognition or a right, privilege or responsibility on any particular relationship.”  To say that the resolution gives those who have a same-sex marriage license a legal right to family health insurance, but that the resolution “is not meant to confer legal recognition or a right, privilege or responsibility to any particular relationship” is one of the most illogical, nonsensical, and internally incoherent statements I have ever read in my life.

09 August 2013

The ancient Delbhna of central Ireland

At one time a major power in the center of the island, the Delbhna were broken into several factions and scattered across central Ireland.  The Delbhna were one of the fortuatha descended from older populations dominant in Ireland in pre- and proto- historic times.  Many of these, like the Debhna, were themselves divided into a number of sub-groups, “kingdoms not ruled directly by members of the dominant dynasty of a province” (Francis John Byrne) and/or “people belonging to a different stock from that of the rulers of the territory” (T.F. O’Rahilly)

What makes the Delbhna  interesting to me is (1) the MacConroys of the Delbhna Tir Da Locha are my ancestors and (2) the Delbhna are, according to one legend, descended from Delbaeth mac Ogma of the Tuatha De Danaan, the race of gods driven underground, literally, by the Milesians, the sons of Mil Espain.  Delbaeth mac Ogma is the same as Tuireann, the Irish god of thunder, and Ogma, his father, is/was god of eloquence, inspiration, language, magic, music, physical strength, poets, and writers.

Another legend claims that the Delbhna descended from Suman, son of Lugh Delbath, son of Cas, progenitor of the Dal gCais in Tuadh Mumhan, though this legend, most popular among the Delbhna of Midhe, came late and after the rise of the kings of Thomond to prominence.

Four groups of Delbhna inhabited parts of Connacht:

1. Delbhna Tir Da Locha (of the Land of the Two Lakes), or Delbhna Feadha (of the Heather) or Delbhna Fiodh (of the Woods), were based in the area of Co. Galway between Loch Orbsen (Lough Corrib) and Loch Lurgan (Galway Bay) which is now the barony of Moycullen.  Their kings took the surname MacConraoi, or MacConroy, later Anglicized as McEnry, then as King.  As chiefs of the name they were styled Mac Mheic Con Raoi.

Their eldest cadets in the south probably originated as erenaghs of the abbey of St. Enda at Ballynspiddal, to which was attached at least three daughter churches.  The name of the family was probably O’hEannaidh (or O’Heaney).  Another family in Delbhna Tir Da Locha prior to the 13th century were the McAneaves (Mac Giolla an Naomh, “son of the servant of the Saint”), who later anglicized their name as Forde, probably erenaghs of Cloghmore, founded by St. Colmcille..

The two lochs to which the name of the territory refers are Loch nOirbsean (Loch Corrib) and Loch Lurgan (Galway Bay).  The territory occupied nearly all the land between the two lakes and the River Corrib.  It was roughly coextensive with the later barony of Moycullen, which took in the civil parishes of Kilcummin, Killanin, Moycullen, and Rahoon (67, 61, 107, and 122on the map, respectively).

After their defeat in a war against the forces of Hugh O’Connor and Richard de Burgo, ancestor of the Burkes, in 1236, the O’Flahertys of Moy Seola and their allies the O’Hallorans of Clan Feargail were forced west of the River Galway.  Both families built castles in both Gnomore and Gnobeg, though the O’Flahertys were lord of both.

Given these circumstances, it was probably at this time that the MacConroys relocated to the far western reaches of Connemara and made their  home at Ballymacconry near the later Joyce (and later O’Flaherty) castle of Doon.  They also settled on the northwest coast of Thomond, called Ballyconry.  The O’Heaneys migrated first to the Renvyle Peninsula in the far reaches of Connemara, then moved east across Loch Orbsen into the Claregalway area, where they became loyal vassals of the Burkes.

In his 14th century magnum opus, Seán O Dubhagain, chief ollamh of Ui Maine, wrote of their original territory being divides into Gno Mor and Gno Beag, but this is an anarchronism based on the division of the territory by two branches of the O’Flahertys (see “A Brief Account of the Kingdoms of the O'Flahertys” at http://notesfromtheninthcircle.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-brief-account-of-kingdoms-of.html)

(For more on the MacConroys, see “The MacConroys in Iar Connacht” at http://notesfromtheninthcircle.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-macconroys-in-iar-connacht.html)



2. Delbhna Cuile Fabhair once ruled Maigh Seóla (later the barony of Clare), the area east of Lough Corrib in County Galway, until conquered by the Ui Bruin Seola (the later Muintir Murchada who became the O’Flahertys) in the 8th century.  The chiefs remained in Magh Seola, took the surname O'Fathairtaigh or O’Faherty, and were recognized by their overlords as kings of Delbhna Cuile Fabhair as well as lords of Muintir Fathartaigh and Fiodh Luaraigh, which together made up fourteen townlands in the later parish of Claregalway and from which they were dispossessed in the 13th century by the Anglo-Norman knight John de Cogan, a retainer of Rochard de Burgo.  They and/or their territory are sometimes confused with the O’Fathaigh (O’Faheys) of the district of Pobal Muintir Ui Faithaigh, who were in the kingdom of Ui Maine.

3. Delbhna Nuadat, or Delbhna Ui Maine, were lords of a large section that is now Athlone in Co. Roscommon, situated between the Suck and Shannon Rivers. From the early historic era (5th century CE) they were subject to the Ui Maine sept of Muintir Rodhuibh, later known as the MacGeraghtys.  Their chiefs, who later claimed to be descended from a branch of the O’Connors, took the surname O'Flannagain or O’Flanagan.

4. Delbhna Sith Neannta ruled over the small area now called the townland of Fairymount in the barony of Ballintober South in Co. Roscommon, subject to the Sil Murray.  Their chiefs took the name O'Laoghog or O’Logue.

Four groups of Delbhna inhabited parts of Midhe and Leighin:

5. Delbhna bEthra probably formed a single kingdom with the Delbhna Nuadat until the latter were subjugated by the Ui Maine.  By the late 5th century they had fallen under the control of the southern Uí Néill.  Their chiefs took the surname MacCochluinn or MacCoughlan, ruling what is now the barony of Garrycastle in Co. Offaly

6. Delbhna Mor were located in what is now the barony of Delvin in Co. Westmeath.  In the 8th century their chief was considered the champion of all Ireland.  They were subject to the southern Ui Neill.  Their chiefs took the surname O'Finnallain or O’Fenelon.

7. Delbhna Bheag, or Delbhna Bec, were based in what is now the barony of Demifore in Co. Westmeath.  They were subject to the southern Ui Neill.  Their chiefs took the surname Ua Maoilchallan, or O’Mulholland.

8. Delbhna Teannmhagh, or Delbhna Iarthair Mhidhe, at one time controlled what is now the barony of Rathconrath, also called West Delvin,  in Co. Westmeath.  They were subject to the southern Ui Neill.  Their chiefs took the surname Ua Scolaidhe or O'Scully.

The Book of Rights mentions a “Delbhna of Druim Leith” paying tribute directly to the king of Connacht at Cruachan  (and receiving stipend), but the context isn't clear which of the four groups it means (although it was likely not Delbhna Nuadat).




08 August 2013

Chapulling in Turkey

If the word “chapulling” in the title makes you scratch your head, stay tuned.

Recent events in both Turkey and Egypt graphically demonstrate the truth of the dictum that “tyranny by a majority (or by a large plurality in either case at hand) is no better than tyranny by a few or tyranny by one.” 

Though many others have talked about “tyranny of the majority” in the past (John Adams first, followed by Alexis de Toqueville, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ayn Rand, among others), I may be the first to phrase the matter exactly thus.  Those great minds are, in order, American, French, English, German, and Russian, by the way, if you’re keeping track.

Of course, none of the afore-mentioned worthies had as predecessor the Vulcan philosopher Mr. Spock, who famously said in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.  The alternate younger version says the same thing in this summer’s Star Trek: Into Darkness.  Nor did those illuminati have the example of Ben Martin, who said in The Patriot, “Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away?”

Lest ye think that making a pop culture reference such as quoting a science fiction film, even the words of so iconic a character as the renowned Mr. Spock, trivializes the matter at hand, you should know that no less an institution than the Texas State Supreme Court quoted that very same line in its 2008 decision in Robinson v. Crown Cork & Seal.  It even noted that the source of the quote was from the planet Vulcan.

Another spin on Spock’s famous aphorism, by the way, is that “the needs of the many should outweigh the greed of the few”, which is the implicit cry of the 99% in the Occupy and indignados-indignés movements against the 1% and their infliction of austerity upon the poor and less affluent to pay for the mistakes of the wealthy.

The current situation in Turkey clearly shows what happens when an electoral majority, or rather near-majority (49.83% of the vote in the 2011 general elections) in this case, exercises its power and authority without thought or regard to the wishes of the minority (or minorities) or its effects upon them.  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have justly received accolades and praise for the economic, general welfare, health, and human rights advances they have made since first coming to power in 2002. 

However, as so often happens with humans when flushed with success and praise, especially with those who believe they have God on their side as the members of the AKP (however covertly) do, they have begun to see themselves as infallible.  Thus, critics of any regime policy such as the destruction of Gezi Park become “haters of religion” or “terrorists”, and those who protest the authoritarian direction of the government’s overall standard operating procedure become “mohareb”, or “enemies of God”.

The foundation of the modern Republic of Turkey is the Basilea Rhomain, or Roman Empire, upon which the Turkish republic’s immediate predecessor, the Ottoman Sultanate, was based.  In fact, one of the titles of the Ottoman Sultan was “Caesar of Rome” and his capital was Constantinople, founded as Nova Roma in 330 CE, formerly the seat of the (Greek-speaking but still Roman) empire.

Though their realm became independent under Osman I upon the implosion of the Seljuq Sultanate of Rome in 1299, Ottoman rulers did not carry the title of Sultan until Murad I in 1383 after he conquered the Balkans.  After finally taking Constantinople in 1453, Mehmed II adopted the titles Padishah and Caesar of Rome.  But it wasn’t until 1517, after finishing the conquest of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt where the titular Abbasid successor of the Prophet resided that Selim I took on the title of Caliph of the Islamic world.

When Mustafa Kemal’s nationalists abolished the Sultanate in favor of a republic in 1922, they allowed the former Sultan to carry the titles Caesar of Rome and Caliph of Islam until 1924 when those were abolished.  Constantinople then became known as Istanbul and the capital moved to the more centrally-located Ankara in the middle of Anatolia.

The Republic of Turkey was founded upon the “Six Arrows” of Ataturk, as Kemal, the leader of the nationalists in the Turkish War of Independence against the occupying forces from the Allied powers (from France, United Kingdom, United States, Armenia, Greece, Italy, Georgia) and the Ottoman Sultante after the First World War, became known.  These Six Arrows are:

1.       Republicanism
2.      Populism (power in citizenship)
3.      Secularism (akin to the French concept of laïcité)
4.      Revolutionism (radical modernism)
5.      Nationalism (based on the social contract theory of Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
6.      Statism (regulation of the economy and action in it where needed by the state).

Regarding his principle of secularism, Kemal desired to completely separate government from religion, his goal being to stop religious leaders from interfering in government and to prevent government from interfering in religion.  He based a large part of his ideas on the French concept of laïcité, or rationalist anticlerical laicism, and wanted his government to stand at equal distance from every religion, neither supporting nor persecuting any one religion.

In practice, things have been a little more complex than that, even in the beginning.  For example, while the Sultanate’s office of Sheikh ul-Islam, which governed religious affairs and was second only to the Sultan, was abolished in 1924, in its place was erected the Presidency of Religious Affairs, commonly known as the Diyanet.  However, Secularism has remained one of the Six Arrows of Kemalism, and, therefore, of the official philosophy of the republic.

Preserving the republic’s secularism is one of the excuses given by military putschtists of the four coups d’etat the country’s armed forces have carried out in Turkey since the republic’s beginning in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997.  The last of those was directed against the prime minister from the Welfare Party, the country’s first Islamist party with any success, though not directly against the MP’s (members of Parliament) at the time.

Islamist predecessors of the Welfare Party included the National Order Party, founded 1970 and declared unconstitutional in 1971 and the National Salvation Party, founded in 1972 and dissolved by the military government that came to power in the coup of 1980.  The Welfare Party came into being when the military returned government to civilian hands in 1983 and was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court in 1998.  In its wake, the current president, Abdullah Gul, organized the Virtue Party (Erdogan was imprisoned at the time) composed of both fundamentalist and more liberal Islamists, but it too was declared unconstitutional in 2001.

Later in 2001, the more liberal Islamists around Erdogan and Gul organized the Justice and Development Party (AKP), rebranding themselves as socially conservatives who promoted liberal economics with no politico-religious goals.  While the first two points are accurate, experience has proven during the party’s eleven years in power that the third point is little more than a sham to get around the country’s secularism.

The eleven years since the AKP first came to power in 2002 as the first party in the republic’s history to win enough seats not to have to form a coalition in Parliament have seen a slow but ever-increasing attack by the supposedly non-theocratic AKP against the barriers between the secular nature of public institutions and the ultimate establishment of religion.

Most famously, the AKP passed a law in 2007 allowing female students, teachers, and administrators in universities both public and private to wear headscarves (as visitors have always been able to do).  The law was overturned in 2008 by the republic’s Constitutional Court. 

Since the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011, the AKP has actively supported, with money and advice, the “moderate Islamists” in countries across the region of the organizations fraternally connected to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.  Writers of the English-language Turkish press refer to these as “Ikwanists” after the Arabic word for brotherhood.

A little over a year ago in late spring 2012, the AKP passed an education reform bill that not only increased the number of years of compulsory education for both boys and girls from eight to twelve, but also mandated the study of the Quran in schools.

Most recently, late this past May, the AKP passed a law prohibiting the advertisement of alcoholic beverages and limiting where and when they can be sold and consumed.  Other dominoes in the march of the AKP, particularly that clique around Erdogan, toward what many fear is, toward total Islamicization of their society includes a ban on outdoor seating at cafes and bars during Ramadan.  Wandering AKP supporters have taken up violently harassing people who do not observe Ramadan and couples kissing in public, early reminiscent of the hezbollahi gangs of the early days of Iran's Islamic Republic.

Turks have also witnessed the likewise ever-increasing tendency of MP’s from AKP to behave as if none of the opinions of others matter, much like American Republicans in Congress.  This tendency not to play well with others sometimes finds Erdogan and his acolytes shooting themselves in both feet. 

For example, at the beginning of June the AKP’s MP’s voted down an amendment to a bill in a knee-jerk reaction to its proposal by a rival party, the CHP or Republican People’s Party.  In fact, the provision was one from the AKP’s own program. 

Two days later, the majority of MP’s from the supposedly secular AKP walked out of their ongoing session to attend prayers on the first day of Ramadan, leaving a majority of opposition MP’s able to pass a bill prohibiting their interior department from approving projects.

These had also been worrying tendency of the AKP to imitate its militarist predecessors more and more.  Last year, for example, the Turkish parliament passed and President Gul signed into law a bill doubling detention time without charge for those suspected of espionage and/or acting against the interests of the state, constitution, national defense, or state secrets (in effect, a Turkish version of the NDAA passed by Congress and approved by President Obama).  The law was overturned by the Constitutional Court in the first week of this July, by the way.

In the background of all this have been the two largest investigations and prosecutions of alleged conspirators accused of plotting military coups d’etat in Turkish history. 

The first deals with an alleged shadowy secret organization within the military and allies in business and the press called Ergenekon which has supposedly existed since the 1990’s but only investigated beginning in 2007.  Among the more outlandish of the accusation has been that the Kurdish Communist Party (PKK) has been working secretly with Ergenekon to destabilize the country.  Arrests were made beginning in 2008 but the trial finished just this week (on 5 August), with verdicts being announced under heavy security and court proceedings barred to the press.  Three hundred were convicted, sixteen sentenced to life terms.

The second case regards an alleged coup plot supposedly called Balyoz, or Operation Sledgehammer, which prosecutors charge took place in 2003, though for some reason nothing was done about it until 2010.  The trial of these defendants took place in 2012, with some 330 convictions; the appeal case began being heard this July.

In both cases, the defendants were subjected to lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes without charge, and in both cases the trials were held in “special appointed courts” subsequently outlawed by the AKP members of parliament (perhaps in fear these could one day be used against them) after the two trails had begun.  Tainted evidence, unreliable witnesses, secret testimony, and non-democratic procedures have marked both cases throughout.

Supporters of the AKP contend the accused are all guilty and deserving of the strongest penalties available.  Oppositionists have universally condemned the proceedings, protested the innocence of the accused, and called the AKP vindictive.  More objective commentators in the middle suggest that charges might be true for a few, if any, but that the AKP government is also using both cases as excuses to rid itself of critics and opponents in government, business, and media as well as in the armed forces of the republic and intimidate the rest.

Within a few days of the announcement of its afore-mentioned widespread attack on the un-Islamic consumption of alcohol, the Erdogan government announced that it was replacing the private security forces on all university campuses, public as well as private, with state police forces.  It reminded me of the Basiji of the Islamic Republic of Iran having been first organized to help carry out its Cultural Revolution in its universities.

Only a few days afterward, the city of Istanbul announced it was going to destroy the last green space in what was once Constantine’s City to put up a replica to the undoubtedly Islamist Sultanate which Ataturk (“father of the Turks”) overthrew.


Prime Minister Erdogan has portrayed the Gezi Park protesters as “marauders” with no respect for religion.  He accused them of being “looters”, a term intended as a contemptuous insult which the protestors took for themselves as a badge of honor, giving it new meaning as “rebelling”, reminiscent of the way “going Iranian” came to mean “standing up for your rights” in the summer of 2009.  Its anglicized forms are “chapuller” and “chapulling” (thus my title for this piece; now you know).

After the brutal attack by police which cleared the occupation of Gezi Park and Taksim Square, protestors united with secularist religious observers to hold public iftars (fast-breaking meals) once the holy month of Ramadan (roughly equivalent to Lent) began.  Even these have been raided but continued despite that.  Now that Ramadan has ended (today is Eid al-Fitr), we’ll have to wait and see what form of protest Turkish chapullers adopt next.

In the aftermath of the protests, Erdogan called protestors rodents and praised the shopkeepers reaction to them (like beating some of them to death with baseball bats?).  Shortly after the final brutal suppression of the occupation of Taksim Square in the middle of June, Erdogan reiterated his intention to replace private security in the universities throughout the republic with state police forces, presumably more loyal to AKP and more inclined to go along with the Islamicizing intentions of Erdogan and his acolytes.  He stated that the recent experience of hooligans going around attacking people with baseball bats, machetes, and Molotov cocktails proved the need for this, failing to note that those were his own supporters.

One of the most popular signs born by the neo-Young Turks “chapulling” against the rise of a neo-Ottoman Sultanate this summer have carried messages such as “Keep Religion Out of Politics in Turkey and Everywhere”.  The chapullers see themselves not merely as citizens of the Republic of Turkey but as citizens of the whole world, as can be seen from the signs many held saying “We Are All Sao Paolo” even as Brasilians carried signs reading “We Are All Takhsim”.

The messages the chapullers of Turkey is that theocracy, in any amount, anywhere, is a threat to freedom everywhere.  They would also say that arbitrary populism is not the same thing as actual democracy, nor is the ability to cast a vote in elections for representative government.

Endnote: Though the (East) Roman Empire had been officially Greek-speaking for centuries before the Ottoman finished conquering it (since the accession of Heraclius in 610 CE), its government, its residents, its neighbors, its enemies, and its sometimes allies in the West all considered it Roman.  In much the same way that the Gaelic-speaking Kingdom of Scots originated as the kingdom of the formerly Brythonic-speaking Picts.  No one, east or west, called it anything but Roman while it existed.  “Byzantine Empire” was an appellation conjured by Bavarian historian Hieronymous Wolf for his 1557 work, Corpus Historiae Byzantinae; his home was then part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which was, according to 18th century French philosopher Voltaire, “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire”.  The Roman Empire (Imperium Romanum, Basilea Rhomain) existed from its establishment at the original city of Rome in 27 BCE to the fall of Constantinople (“New Rome”) in 1453, for a total of 1480 years.


07 August 2013

Origins of Samerina (Samaria) and Yehud (Judah)

Around 1115 BCE, the formerly semi-nomadic Arameans established a kingdom based in the city of Damascus from which they dominated the northern Levant until 734 BCE, eventually reaching the Golan area, which gets its name from the later Roman sub-province of Gaulinitis, and the city of Dan.  Their political domination of the Levant and their control of trade in Southwest Asia was such that foreign empires (Assyrian, Babylonian, Iranian) adopted Aramaic as their lingua franca.

In about the year 883 BCE, Omri the Israelite became king of the Canaanite cities of central Palestine.  He built Samaria as his new capital around 878 BCE, along with rebuilding the cities of Gezer, Hazor, and Megiddo.  Annals and records of foreign powers refer to the country as Bit-Humria (Beth Omri), or Land of Omri, suggesting he was its first king.  The city of Samaria included a temple to both Yahweh and Asherah, designated Beth Yahweh (“House of Yahweh”) in inscriptions found at the site, and at least one more dedicated to Baal.

Damascus had become the local regional power, but it was soon challenged by a new player.

From 854-846 BCE, Shalmaneser III, ruler of Assyria, fought a war of conquest against the powers of the Levant, including Hadadezer of Damascus, Ahab the Israelite (son of Omri), Iruleni the Hamathite (from the modern Homs), Aha Gindibui the Arabian, Ba’asa of Ammon, Ahaabbu of  Sir-il-la-a-a, Matinubaal the Arvidite, and Adudnubaal the Shianian.  Hadadezer was clearly the dominant leader and the following commanded bodies of troops roughly equal in size but both half that of Damascus, the others much fewer.  And no power from the south is mentioned in the accounts.

Apparently satisfied with simply receiving tribute for which they probably returned nothing, the Assyrians then left the inhabitants of the Levant alone to fight among themselves.  In 843 BCE, Hazael, king of Damascus, erected a triumphal stele in the northern Galilee city of Dan (on the Golan border, the name Golan deriving from the Roman era Gaulinitis) commemorating his victory over the kings of Israel and of Beth-David (the latter a junior off-shoot of Beth Omri). 

Thirteen years later, in 830 BCE, Hazael destroyed the Philistine city of Gath, clearing a major impediment to settlement of the south by colonists from the burgeoning population of Beth Omri, or Samerina as it was also known, under the leadership of the rival Beth David.

Shortly after this, these Canaanites established a citadel at Tel Arad (10 km west of the modern city of Arad) adjacent to an Early Bronze Age city.  The new citadel included a temple named as a Beth Yahweh with stone monoliths to Yahuweh and Asherah.  It existed until destroyed in 587 BCE by the Chaldeans.

A southern outpost in northern Sinai at a place called Kuntillet Ajrud contained a shrine with pictures of deities and inscriptions to Yahweh, El, Baal, and Asherah.  Built about 800 BCE, it refers to “Yahweh of Samerina and Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and Asherah”.  Teman means ‘south’ in Hebrew, and clearly refers to the junior kingdom founded after the destruction of the Philistine metropolis at Gath.  The name Yehud does not appear in any historical record until after the final conquest by the Chaldeans of Babylonia when it becomes a directly ruled province with a Babylon-appointed governor.

The Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III conquered the Levant and asserted direct rule over Damascus, Phoenicia, Philistia, and Samerina in 740 BCE.  Apparently they saw no reason to bother with Samerina’s tiny impoverished neighbor to the south.

Not until about 736 BCE does settlement by the Canaanites presumably following Beth David reach the vicinity of Jerusalem, when a city is built at Tel Motza 5 km outside the later city of Jerusalem.  It includes a temple designated as a Beth Yahweh.

Around 722 BCE, the Arameans, Samaritans, and Philistines rose against their Assyrian oppressors.  Epic fail aptly describes the outcome for the rebels.  The Philistines were erased as a regional power as were the Arameans, while Samerina was  thoroughly subjugated, its capital Samaria destroyed and the population of the city deported to Nineveh.  Refugees from Samerina flooded into Teman, increasing its numbers.

In the mid-7th century, Egypt threw out its Nubian rulers of the 25th dynasty and set about establishing new guards against encroachment from both Nubia and Assyria. 

Around 650 BCE, Hebrew warriors established a military colony on the island of Elephantine complete with a temple designated as a Beth Yahweh right next to the temple to the Egyptian god Khnum.  At the temple, patrons worshipped Yahweh and his consort Anath alongside Khnum, as well as the gods Bethel, Harambethel, and Asambethel.  There are also Jewish military colonies established near the northeast border towns of Migdol and Tahpanhes-Daphnae, in Pathros, in Noph, and in the capital at Memphis.

Nebuchadnazzar II (aka Lucifer) of the Chaldean Empire conquered Teman, now referred to as Yehud, in 597 BCE, making it a tributary client state after successfully besieging the “city of Yehud” (unnamed), which was conquered but undestroyed.  Eleven years later, 586 BCE, the people of Yehud rebelled and he put down the revolt, destroyed the capital, deported its populace, and appended the former kingdom to Samerina as a sub-province.

In 539 BCE, Iran conquered the Chaldean Empire, and along with it Syria, Phoenicia, Samerina, Yehud, and Philistia.  Cyrus the Great kept Samerina and Yehud in the same arrangement (the latter a sub-province of the former) as part of the 6th satrapy of Abar-Nahra.  Coinage in Yehud from the period has Yahweh on one side and Anath on the other.  In 525 BCE, Iran under Cambyses II conquered Egypt and added it to the satrapy of Abar-Nahra, though he later split it off as its own satrapy. 

The religion of Samerina and Yehud in the beginning of the period appears to have been henotheistic, moving into mononlatrism, and gradually becoming monotheistic under the influence of Zoroastrianism, then in its strictly monotheistic phase, which was imported by the conquerors.  The name of Zoroastrianism’s chief deity, Ahura Mazda, becomes Asara Mazas in Aramaic, or simply Mazas, which in Greek becomes Moses.  Hence, the “Law of Moses”.

Certainly by the mid-5th century, when Samerina constructed a grand temple to Yahweh atop Mount Gerizim next to the city of Shechem, the people of both lands (Samerina and Yehud) were monotheistic.  This change in theology undoubtedly filtered down to the colonies in Egypt, where worshippers at the Beth Yahweh at Elephantine then refused to worship Khnum alongside their tribal god.  That temple was destroyed by Egyptian rioters incited by the priests of Khnum in 411 BCE.  In 407 BCE, the Hebrew colonists sent requests for permission to rebuild to Dalaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat who were joint governors of Samerina and to Bagayavahu, Iranian governor of Yehud.  It was given and the temple rebuilt, only to fall out of use in the early 4th century during the short period of Egyptian independence, 404-343 BCE.

Alexander the Great of Macedon conquered Syria, Palestine, Phoenicia, and Egypt in 332 BCE, establishing in Egypt a new capital, Alexandria.  The city of Alexandria had a large Hebrew section from its very beginning, two of the five districts of the city. 

Around this time, the senior male line to the priesthood in Yehud migrated to Samerina, where they were made high priests in the temple on Mount Gerizim.  The Judeans responded by going matrilineal on them, as historian Flavius Josephus reported later, in order to invalidate what had previously been patrilineal succession. 

Control of Palestina by the Ptolemaic Empire was firmly secured after the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE.  Greek cities and military colonies were established throughout Palestina.  Onias I ben Jaddua founded the Oniad dynasty of the Jerusalem high priesthood the same year.  In 219 BCE, Samerina passed to the Seleucid Empire after its governor, Theodotus of Aetolia, switched his allegiance.  Yehud followed suit in 198 BCE.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus conquered Greater Syria for the Republic of Rome in 63 BCE.  Syria proper became an imperial province while the Hasmonean despots ruling from Jerusalem continued as autonomous clients of Rome until they were deposed in 37 BCE by Herod the Great, who was a reasonably good ruler as for as the people were concerned, even if he had a rather murderous attitude toward his in-laws. 

Upon Herod’s death in 4 BCE, his realm was divided into four parts, but only after a bloody uprising in Galilaea and Iudaea (which included Samaraea and Idumaea) that year which saw two thousand of its leaders crucified following the victory of the Roman legions.  Upon the deposition of Herod’s son Archaelus in 6 CE, Iudaea came under direct Roman rule as an imperial province; Galilaea, it should be noted was already a Roman province though under another son of Herod nicknamed Antipas (his actual name was Antipater).