The Itureans were not Arabs, and the Impact of Biblical Myths on History
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The Itureans were vagabond Aramaeans from Syria who spent the early part their history terrorizing the population of the Beka'a valley and Syria, including farmers & traders who transversed the area. They established a tetrarchy that lasted for a short time and disappeared with them for ever.

Scientific discoveries are twisted to prove Biblical myths

It amazes this researcher today how often real history and sometimes archaeology are twisted to fit into what has become accepted lies or common mistakes. Biblical and Koranic sources, as well as other religious books and traditions, are to blame for what people accept as historic truth while there is absolutely no sources, archaeology, reference or evidence for that “history.”

Archaeological excavations east of the Dead Sea uncovered the apocalyptic ashes of Bab edh-Drha and Numeira (and other towns). Many Biblical archaeologists, in the media and in documentaries readily declared them to be the ashes of Sodom and Gomorrah that were destroyed by earthquake, fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24) because of the wrath of God for the “inequities”. Archaeologists dated the destruction to 2300 B.C. while Biblical fundamentalists used the discovery to prove the historicity of Scriptures that is said to have been written by Moses c. 1400 B.C. There is no record to corroborate the the details of the Biblical story but still the events surrounding it were deemed to be true by the same fundamentalists. With that in mind, it is elementary to consider that any minimally intelligent person could write up a story a thousand years after the fact and claim that there were two cities (in this case) whose sinful people were destroyed by God. The moralistic story could have been (actually was) made real by include characters such as Lott and his family who were said to have been saved while the rest of the population were annihilated with an all consuming fire including women, children and innocent infants. Please see Genesis 191 and Biblical Archeology: Sodom and Gomorrah2

Another scientific discovery was twisted, in recent years, to validate another didactic, yet mythical Biblical story. Marine geological and archaeological analysis on the Black Sea floor demonstrate that there was a major deluge around 5600 B.C. that broke through the rocky sills of the Bosphorus forming straights that emptied into the Black Sea. During that time the Black Sea was a freshwater one that had come into being because of melted glaciers after the last ice-age. Over time water levels in the Mediterranean rose and finally formed a major fall that was twice the size of Niagara Falls. It inundated the Black Sea and the lands surrounding it. That happened suddenly and flood waters covered the inhabited cities, towns and villages around the sea. Ancient literature recorded the event and so did the Bible, based on verbal tradition over generations. Some looked at the discovery of the flooding and called it Noah’s Flood or a proof of the authenticity of the Bible story. It is important to note that in the Biblical story all living beings in the world were killed, except for those who were saved in Noah’s Ark. This story, much like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, was written at least 4000 years after the fact and enhanced with characters and a fancy ship that was supposed to have saved a few humans and animals to rejuvenate the earth. Please see Genesis 6-93 and Proof of Noah’s Flood at the Black Sea?4

Other Biblical stories have their patrons, as well. Even the Garden of Eden is believed by some to have existed somewhere in Mesopotamia, Arabia or even underwater in the Persian Gulf but was lost under the sediment of Noah’s Flood. Please see Has the Garden of Eden been located at last?:5

“Smithsonian Magazine, Volume 18. No. 2, May 1987.6 Used with permission of Miss Hamblin's sister and executor, Mary H. Ovrom. December 1, 1997. Note added 8/14/07: The Flood of Noah was likely such a huge world-wide catastrophe that the site of the Garden of Eden may presently be buried under miles of sediments. If the earth originally had one continent, and the continents split apart during or after the Flood, then the location of the Garden in the land of Eden is even more uncertain.”

While the last three myths do not impact history in a major way, yet cause a lot of confusion, a particular couple of Biblical/Koranic stories do. They are the story of Noah and his family tree and the story of Abraham and his family tree. These stories have cause so much impact on the thinking of people's thinking that real history is lost. It is incomprehensible why the average educated yet non-religious person in the West, if asked, would confirm that there was a Semitic race while the term was invented in the 1700’s (see The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII) . Further, he/she would confirm that a Semite is a Jew because of the term anti-Semitism, without having the faintest idea that those called Semitic include Jews, Arabs, Aramaeans, Phoenicians, Assyrians and others who speak similar Semitic languages. Further, many continue to call major branches of the world’s population as Abraham’s descendents of Isaac and Shame. It is interesting that there are no such patriarchs for people in the West, such as a patriarch of the British, French, Spanish, German or Scandinavians, or at least they are unknown to the common person. Please see The Contradictions: My Three Sons7

There is no proof that Noah or Abraham and their children ever existed, besides some believe that Moses himself was a fictional character and that the Exodus happened as a trickle rather than a mass migration. . In fact, Greek and Roman historians, including Josephus, were influenced by the Biblical fiction that classified groups of people by their ancestors, including mythical ancestors like Isaac or Ishmael. Further, Arab historians followed the same track of their Greek and Roman predecessor in grouping people by the same – descendents of Shem, Ham, Isaac or Ishmael.

With the above in mind, how do these Biblical/Koranic stories relate to the Itureans and their origin? The answer lies in trying to establish where do the Itureans come from based on history without Biblical or Koranic fiction. Further, there is a need to establish the relationship of the Itureans on the inhabitants of Lebanon and Syrian right around the Hellenistic and Roman times. Before discussing the Itureans and whether they relate to the Arabs or not, it is important to mention that the definition of an Arab came very late in history by Ibn Khaldoun (1332 - 1406 A.D.). He wrote an Arab is “someone who can trace his or her ancestry to the tribes of Arabian Peninsula”.8 With this in mind, references by historians, that predate Ibn Khaldoun, to Arabs cannot be trusted genealogically. Besides, the definition of an Arab today includes two other prerequisites that they speak Arabic and have the same culture and aspiration which did not apply to the Itureans or Nabateans, for that matter.

Having written this, we find that today many historians refer to the Itureans as Arabs, not to mention Nabateans, Yemenites and others based on their descent from Ishmael son of Abraham who did not exist in the first place.

The name, Itureans

Aturea was the name of the province of Nineveh, Mesopotamia.9 With this in mind and the practice of calling people of the ancient Middle East by the region they come from, it is very likely that the Itureans originally come from the region of Aturea in Nineveh and thus called by their ancestral province. Further, in recent years, Iturea became the name given by the Romans to the district laying between Anti-Lebanon and Damascus

Origin of the Itureans

Recent archaeological work has identified distinctive pottery, now designated 'Iturean', over a wide area stretching from the Beka'a Valley across the Anti-Lebanon, and throughout the district surrounding Banias. The finds are consistent with the theory that the Itureans were Aramaic tribes who had roamed and terrorized the area for centuries.

History of the Itureans

The history of the Itureans is relatively short and insignificant. They appear on the scene for about 250 years and seem to fade away without much to be remembered for, other than their involvement with Judea and their terrorist activities against peaceful farmers and traders in the late Hellenistic and early Roman world.

Inter-Hellenistic fighting between the Ptolemaic side and the Antiochus side resulted in a weakening of the dominance of the Greeks especially after the Battle of Panium 200 B.C... Thereafter, the influence of the powers in Syria diminished with the revolt of the Maccabees among the Jews, the strengthening power of the Nabateans further to the south, and the Aramaic-speaking Itureans centered to the west of Hermon in the east of the Beka'a Valley. Far to the northeast the Parthians were putting on their own pressure, and by the first century B.C. Tigranes, the king of Armenia, dominated much of northern Lebanon.

Map of the Iturean settlements
Iturean terrorist activities started in the region between Damascus and the Anti-Lebanon mountains. Thereafter, they establish a tetrarchy in the Beka'a valley with their capital in Chalcis or Anjar. Their history lasted about 250 years.

Strabo provides a clear early history of the Itureans and their original home when he writes: “The mountainous country (in the rear of the coast) is inhabited by Iturean and ‘Arabs’ [whatever that term means vis-à-vis the definition by Ibn Khaldoun mentioned earlier], all given up to robbery. The inhabitants of the plains are cultivators, and to protect themselves against the mountaineers they have fortified place of natural strength. The inhabitants of Lebanon have also up in the mountains Sonnan and Bonama, below Bostra and the caverns on the sea coast, and the castle of Theoprospon.” For the first time they are here called by name, and that is no other than Sourian [Syrian]. Iturea is also the name given by the Romans to the district laying between Anti-Lebanon and Damascus, and confining on the Trachonites and the Hauran. 10

Strabo clearly refers to two groups of marauders of thieves and highway robbers who terrorized the area that came to be called Syria Seconda and Phoenicia Libanesis in Roman times. One was Iturean and the other “Arab.” For argument's sake, and without relying on other sources that clearly identifies the Itureans as Aramaeans, Strabo’s references to this groups of two peoples makes a statement in distinguishing the Itureans from “Arabs”.

Despite the above clarification, the situation gets more confusing because it is important to stress that other historians assumed the Itureans to be Arabs themselves based on the unfounded claim that they were descendents of Ishmael. They base their nomenclature based on the Biblical and Koranic religious myths where "Jetur" mentioned in Gen. 25:13-15, Chron.1:29-32 and 5:1911 is said to be the forefather of the Itureans. Further, Eupolemus mentioned that the Itureans were one of the tribes conquered by David (Eusebius, Præparatio Evangelica, ix. 30)12 Further, Pliny the Elder mentioned the Itureans in his writings.

In short, the Itureans were group of vagabond Aramaeans from Syria who spent the early part their history terrorizing and the population of the Beka'a valley and Syria, including farmers and traders who transversed the area. Thereafter, they established a tetrarchy that lasted for a very short time and disappeared with them for ever.

Late history of the Itureans and their demise

The Itureans shared with the Judean kings a common interest in weakening the Seleucids. The founder of the Iturean dynasty was Ptolemy, son of Mennaeus (ca. 85-40 B.C.). His capital was Chalcis, possibly modern Anjar south of Heliopolis Baalbeck, in the Beka'a Valley, Lebanon. Earlier the Iturean had lost parts of settlement in northern Galilee to the Jewish king Aristobulus I. Josephus confirms that some of the territory inhabited by Itureans was taken over and united with Judaea, and that its inhabitants converted to Judaism and made to be circumcised. Josephus, in both Antiquities and War13, provides further details of the rise and fall of their principality and confrontation with Hasmoneans, the Herodian dynasty and later with Pompey and the Romans. A Latin inscription on a tombstone found at Heliopolis offers some insight into activities within the region of the Anti-Lebanon the early part 1st century A.D.

Caesar had used them in his African campaign (see De Bello Africo 2014) and inscriptions from tombs of soldiers along with numerous Diplomata attest to their long involvement within the Roman Auziliary Forces.

During the Roman period a widespread cult developed in Heliopolis/Baalbeck devoted to a triad: Jupiter, Aphrodite, and Mercury and/or Zeus, Artemis, and Hermes. Scholars have long debated the origins of the Heliopolitan cult, and no satisfactory explanation has yet been suggested. Since the base of the Heliopolitan cult was in the former Iturean center of Heliopolis, and since the Heliopolitan triad can be associated with the Iturean triad, it is suggested that the origin of the former was in a similar Iturean cult.15

All the Iturean rulers minted coins, but until a decade ago only a few were known. In recent years an unprecedented number of Iturean coins have been documented, providing new insights on the coins themselves and on the Itureans.

With the death of Zenodorus in 20 B.C. the independent Iturean tetrarchy came to an end, and their lands were gradually annexed to Roman provinces.

Were the Itureans forefathers of some Maronites, Syriac, Assyrians, Melkites or other genetic, ethnic or cultural groups?

It is impossible to speculate whether the original Maronites intermarried with the remnants of the Itureans without locating genetic materials on skeletal remains of Itureans and comparing their DNA with some modern Maronites, Syriacs, Assyrians, Melkites or any genetic, ethnic or cultural groups in Lebanon and Syria. Further, considering the span of time between the rise and fall of the Itureans and the rise of the missionary activities of Saint Maron16 in the fifth century in mount Lebanon, it would be hard, if not impossible to find historic reference that relates the two groups. Only a good archaeological find and thorough genetic tests can determine this question.

Sources:

  1. Genesis 19:24
  2. Genesis 6-9
  3. Biblical Archeology: Sodom and Gomorrah http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48931527.html
  4. Proof of Noah’s Flood at the Black Sea?: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/4168.asp
  5. Has the Garden of Eden been located at last?: http://ldolphin.org/eden/
  6. Smithsonian Magazine, Volume 18. No. 2, May 1987
  7. The Contradictions: My Three Sons: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2009/02/02/contradictions-my-three-sons
  8. Ibn Khaldoun
  9. Urquhart, David. The Lebanon (Mount Souria), London 1860.
  10. Strabo, xvi. 2 (753-756
  11. Gen. 25:13-15, Chron. 1:29-32 and 5:19
  12. Eusebius, Præparatio Evangelica, ix. 30 1.
  13. Josephus, Antiquities and War
  14. De Bello Africo 20
  15. Wilson, John F, Caesarea Philippi : Banias, the lost city of Pan Author:, London : I. B. Tauris, 2004.
  16. Saint Maron
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