Books, Prehistory, Avebury A Temple of British Druids, Avebury Chapter XIV

Avebury Chapter XIV is in Avebury A Temple of British Druids, With Some Others, Described by William Stukeley.

Part of Cadmus his history, who was a builder of serpentine temples. He was son of Canaan called Agenor. He was a Horite or Hivite, called Kadmonite in scripture. Hivite signifies a serpent. Mount Hermon denominated from his wife, Psal. cxxxiii. 3. "like as the dew of Hermon, which fell on the hill of Sion." Correct it, Sirijon. Another correction in the translation of our bible, "Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts," read merchant. 'Tis a prophecy not attended to, Zech. xiv. 21. The ancient greek fables of sowing serpents' teeth; of Cadmus and his wife being turned into serpents, and the like; are formed from their building serpentine temples. Not to be wondered at so much, when our country-people have the very same reports of Rouldrich stones; of the Weddings, another Druid temple in Somersetshire; of Long Meg and her daughters [Map], another in Cumberland; and most firmly believe, that they were men and women turned into stones. The mythology of the ancients not to be despised, but its original meaning sought for.

NONE more famous in Grecian history than Cadmus, who brought them the use of those letters that conveyed their history to us, and preserved the little knowledge we can chiefly have of profane antiquity. He was son of Agenor, by which word the Greeks chose to pronounce the difficult one of Canaan. Alexander Polyhistor cites out of Eupolemus; "from Saturn (who is Cham) came Belus and Canaan, and Canaan begat the father of the Phœnicians, or Phœnix. Eusebius, pr. ev. 9 has it too. Again, Eusebius, pr. ev. 1. quotes from Sanchoniathon, Cna, (Canaan,) who was styled among the Phœnicians ΧΗΝΑ." So in Stephanas of Byzantium, Phœnicia is called ΧΗΝΑ, and the Phœnicians ΧΗΝΑΙ, which is Canaanites. ΧΗΝΑ, Cna, is Agenor.

Cadmus lived in the time of, or very little after Hercules. Tho' the Parian marble is an invaluable monument, yet 'tis not an infallible one. If the learned Bentley finds it erring about Stesichorus, we must not depend on its æra of Cadmus, who lived a thousand years before that stone was made. Nor is the authority of Eusebius's chronology in this particular, greater. Bochart holds him older than the builder of Tyre; there perhaps he heightens his date a little too much.

To have a proper notion of the history of this great man, bishop Cumberland shews us, that the Horites or Hivites, sons of Canaan, i. e. the colony or people of Cadmus son of Agenor, or Canaan, went out of the land of Canaan about the same time that Misraim or Osiris, son of Cham, went to plant Egypt. They went likewise into Egypt. They lived quietly there for some time, but war arising between the Misraimites and the pastors, they retired back again, probably a little before the expulsion of the pastors. Some went to the north of Canaan, about mount Hermon under Libanus; some remained in the more southern parts, more particularly called Horites, or Avim, or Hivites.

In Gen. xv. 18. when God made his great covenant with Abraham, he tells him, he will give him the land of the Kenites, and Kenizzites, and Kadmonites, and Hittites, and Perizzites, and Rephaims, Amorites, &c. By Kadmonites he means the people of Cadmus son of Canaan. But afterward, in all those places where these nations are recited, they are called Hivites; Cadmus was likewise called Hyas, Hivæus: Hyas or Cadmus, one or both, being honorary names, or names of consecration, as was the mode of that time. The same is to be said of Melchizedec, Abimelech, Pharaoh, and many more. About this time there was likewise Hyas a son of Atlas.

The name of Hermon is probably derived from his wife Hermione, as a compliment to her. And of this mountain is that saying in Psalm cxxxiii. 3. The psalmist draws an elegant comparison of the holy unction of Aaron running from his head to his beard, and so down his garments, "like as the dew of Hermon which falls on the hill of Sion." A difficulty that gave St. Augustin a great deal of trouble; but must needs be an absurd reading, and ought to be corrected Sirion for Sion. Sirion is a lower part of the high ground at the bottom of mount Hermon, as that lies under the elated crest of Libanus. Psal. xxix. 6. "Libanon also, and Sirion, like a young unicorn." A mountain not a little remarkable, since we read, Deut. iii. 9. "which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion, and the Amorites call it Shenir;" Hermon and Sirion being parts of mount Libanon.

Since we are upon criticism, the reader will excuse me in mentioning another of like nature, and not foreign to our purpose. These Horites, Hivites, Avim or Cadmonites, as called from Cadmus, Gen. xv. 19. or Canaanites, as called from his father Canaan, extending themselves upon the Phœnician shore, became traders or merchants in the most eminent degree of all ancient people in the world, and traded as far as Britain; so that the name of Canaanite and merchant became equivalent. Isaiah xxiii. 8. "Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, saith the prophet, the crowning city; whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth."

Hence we observe, 1. The prophet calls it the crowning city, for they sent a golden crown to Alexander the great as a present.

Note 2. The word traffickers, mercatores, is Canaanites in the original. And the like in Jerem. x. 17. "Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabiter of the fortress." 'Tis Canahe in the original.

Note 3. This naturally leads me to mention a noble prophecy, overlooked thro' a too literal translation in our bible, Zech. xiv. 21. "Yea, every pot in Jerusalem, and in Judah, shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein. And in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts." It ought to be translated merchant, as in the vulgate latin and chaldee. For 'tis a prophecy concerning the days of the Messiah; and regards that famous act of his life, when he drove the traders out of the temple.

The Kadmonites got the name of Hivites, as I apprehend, from their ce81lebrity in building temples of the serpentine form. At first they were consecrated to true religion; but too soon all these, and other patriarchal temples in the land of Canaan were polluted to idolatrous purposes; and probably from them the worship of snakes became famous. Now the word Avim, Hevæus in the Syriac, signifies a snake. And from this custom of the Phœnicians making serpentine temples, the notion might arise of the Phœnicians worshipping serpents, as Eusebius observes, pr. ev. I. And from this the Greeks made their fables of Cadmus overcoming a great snake, sowing its teeth, and armed men sprouting up, &c.

On this account it is, that they who represent this exploit of his, describe it as done by a stone of a very extraordinary bulk, Ovid. Met. III. v. 59.

————dextrâque molarem [I would grind on the right]

Sustulit, et magnum magno conamine misit. [He picked it up and sent it with a great effort]

Illius impulsu cùm turribus ardua celsis [At the same time the steep towers were raised by his impulse]

Mœnia mota forent; serpens sine vulnere mansit. [The menaces would be moved; the snake remained unwounded.]

The bulk of the serpent is equally extravagant,

——immensos sinuatur in arcus. [bound in an immense bow.]

——tantoque est corpore, quanto [and it is as much in the body as in the quantity]

Si totum species, geminos qui separat arctos. [If the whole species, the twins that separates the close.]

Ipse modò immensum spiris facientibus orbem [He was the one who made the vast world of spirits]

Cingitur, interdum longâ trabe rectior exit. [It is surrounded, sometimes a long beam comes out straighter.]

This is but a poetical description of the circle and the avenues at Abury.

You have this same action of the heroes represented in some Tyrian coins: Cadmus is throwing a stone at a serpent. That of Gordian III. in Vaillant's colony coins, vol. II. p. 217. Another of Gallienus, p. 350. The author quotes Nonnus's Dionysiacs IV. reciting the history of his breaking a snake's head with a stone. And he thinks those other Tyrian coins belong to this same history, as that p. 136, where a snake is represented as rolled about a great stone.

I. A coin of Gordian III. Vaillant's colon. II. p. 217. which the learned author adjudges to Cadmus. Another of Gallienus, p. 350. Both struck at Tyre.

II. A coin of the city of Tyre in Vaillant's colon. p. 136, 147. The learned author says a stone and serpent is the symbol of Cadmus. The truth is, they regard Cadmus founding serpentine temples.

It was from the city of Sareptha that Europa was carryed off; 'tis in the country of Sidon; and I apprehend, from the name of it, here was originally a serpentine temple. Sareptha is the serpent Ptha. I have an ancient coin of this city, in brass. A palm-tree on one side, a leopard's face on the other, which refers to the wine here famous: of which the learned Reland in Palestina.

Conon, in his narration 37, gives us the origin of the greek fable of Cadmus's men, the Phœnicians, springing out of the ground armed, for before then helmets and shields were unknown. Hence they were called Spartæ.

That these armed men sprung out of the ground upon sowing the serpent's teeth, means our Hivites making a religious procession along the avenue of their serpentine temples on the great festival days, when they sacrificed. We see a like procession of armed men, carved upon the temple of Persepolis in Le Brun's prints. And Ovid calles a Bœotian, one of Cadmus's people, Hyantius, III. v. 147. Strabo vii. writes, they took that name from their king Hyas, which is the same as Hivite. Pliny iv. 7. observes the Bœotians were so called anciently.

In the next book Met. iv. ver. 560. we have an account of Melicerta our Melcarthus and his mother deifyed: and of the Sidonian women their companions, some turned into stones, others into birds, for grieving at their fate. This seems to mean their building temples after some of the modes we have been describing, and that which is to follow Chap. XVI. near the sepulchres of heroes and founders of states; as was the custom of old: what we observed by Silbury-hill and Abury. For these temples were prophylactick, and a sacred protection to the ashes of the defunct. So we read in Virgil by Anchises's tomb, Æneid V.

Tunc vicina astris Erycino in vertice sedes [Then you sit near the stars of Erycine on the top]

Fundatur Veneri Idaliæ; tumuloque sacerdos [It is founded on Friday Idalia; the priest on the tomb]

Ac lucus latè sacer additur Anchisæo. [And the grove was added to be sacred to Anchiseus]

Immediately after Ovid's account of Melicerta, the poet speaks of Cadmus and his wife turned into serpents: which I understand of the like serpentine temple made by their sepulchre. Suidas writes, on Epaminondas's tomb was a shield and a snake carved, to shew he was of Spartan race. We may very well imagine the circle and snake, the cognizance of Cadmus.

After Cadmus's decease, his people built a city called Butua; and near it is a place called Cylices, where Cadmus and Hermione were turned into serpents: and two stone snakes are there set up by the Phœnicians, to their honour: Bochart page 502, where many authors are quoted to prove these particulars. He says, the word Cylices in Phœnician, means tumulos, our barrows. It was a place full of sepulchral tumuli, as Stonehenge and Abury: cups reversed, regarding the form of them. Nonnus in Dionys. writes, that there are two great stones or rocks there, which clap together with a great noise, whence auguries are taken. Tzetzes chiliad. iv. hist. 139, mentions the same thing. I take this to be a main ambre, of which I spoke largely in Stonehenge. Herodot. V. 61. says the Cadmeians being admitted citizens of Athens, built temples there, which had nothing common with the Greek temples; particularly they had a temple of Ceres Achæa and mystical rites. Achæa, I suppose, means a serpentine temple, from the oriental name.

We read just now, that the Sidonian women, the mourners for Melcarthus and his mother, were turned some into stones, others into birds.

Pars volucres factæ, sumptis Ismenides alis. [Part of the birds made, taking the wings of Ismenides.]

I should suppose the internal meaning of this to be, the making an alate temple, of which we are further to speak in chap. xvi.

Antoninus Liberalis in his XXXI. tells a very old story of the first inhabitants of Italy before Hercules's time; a place among the Messapians called the sacred stones: where the nymphs Epimelides had a fane set round with trees, which trees were formerly men. This must be understood as the former.

Thus we see how the ancient Greeks involved every thing in fable, but still all fable has some historical foundation, and that we must endeavour to find, by applying things so properly together, as to strike out the latent truth.

The learned Dr. Bogan in his letter prefixed to Delphi phœniciss. from Æschylus and others, Ικετ. ά. shews, that men were often called snakes by the ancients, in an allegorical way; and as to the report of Cadmus and his wife, of the Sidonian women and others, turned into snakes, or stones, or birds, or trees, in the sense we are explaining them; 'tis no more than what we daily see and hear at this time, in these very Druid temples of our own island, which we are speaking of. The people who live at Chippin-Norton and all the country round our first described temple of Rowldrich; affirm most constantly and as surely believe it, that the stones composing this work are a king, his nobles and commons turned into stones. They quote an ancient proverb for it, concerning that tall stone, called the king stone.

If Long-Compton thou canst see,

Then king of England shall thou be.

And as Mr. Roger Gale (age 50) wrote once to me from the place: "tis the creed of all that country, and whoever dares to contradict it, is looked upon as the most audacious free-thinker."

The very same report remains, at the Druid temple of Stanton-Drew, in Somersetshire, which I shall describe in my next volume. This noble monument is vulgarly called the Weddings; and they say,'tis a company who assisted at a nuptial solemnity, thus petrifyed. In an orchard near the church, is a cove consisting of three stones, like that of the northern circle in Abury, or that of Longstones: this they call the parson, the bride, and bridegroom. Other circles are said to be the company dancing: and a separate parcel of stones standing a little from the rest, are called the fidlers, or the band of musick.

So that vast circle of stones in Cumberland which was a Druid temple, is called long Meg and her daughters [Map], and verily believed to have been human, turned into stones.

Thus we see an exact uniformity between the fables of the antient Greeks, and our present people. The former found these kind of patriarchal temples built by their first heroes and planters; admiring the vastness of the works, they affixed these marvellous stories to them, and retain them as firmly, as our vulgar do the like now. And this is the nature of the ancient mythology; but by finding the end of the clue, we draw it out into useful truths.

These Cadmonites, Avim, Hittites, Hivites, Spartans, Lacedemonians, (who are all one and the same people,) retained a distinct remembrance of their relation to the Jews, even to the days of the Maccabees, as we read 1. Maccab. xii. and in Josephus Ant. xii. 5. Undoubtedly they reckoned themselves of kin to Abraham, if not descended from him; thus I understand it. Joshua mentions chap. xi. the Hivites in the land of Mizpeh under mount Hermon by Libanus. He says further, in the 19th verse, the Gibeonites were a portion of that same people. The Avim or Horites about mount Seir where Esau dwelt, were the same people who were expelled by the Caphthorim, as Moses mentions: on which bishop Cumberland has wrote largely.

We read of the great intercourse there was between Esau's family and these people; for Esau married four of his wives from them, Gen. xxvi. 34. xxxvi. 2. no doubt but they married into his family again. Hence it is that Strabo x. writes, that Cadmus had Arabians in his company. And in xvi. that the inhabitants of Syria (he means properly Phœnicia) are originally derived from the neighbourhood of the Persian gulf.

I doubt not but that there are now upon the face of the earth, many of these serpentine temples remaining in Europe, Asia and Africa. For instance, Strabo xvi. from Posidonius relates, that in a field called Macra by Damascus, was a dead serpent, the length of an acre, so thick that two horsemen could not see each other across him, his mouth so large as a horseman might enter into it; each scale was as big as a shield.

We may hence see the origin of idolatry, soon after these heroes we have recited; and it seems to have begun first in Phœnicia, which Eusebius always puts before Egypt, when speaking of the matter. Demaroon was Jupiter the supreme, Phut they deifyed into his son, Canaan they made the third divine person. But wherever idolatry began, whether in the call of Asia, or the west, it flew too soon into other countries, and they made a Jupiter, a Son, and a Mercury or Neptune who are the same, of their own; 'till with every hero and benefactor to mankind they filled the heaven of the heathens.