The Itureans were not Arabs, and the Impact of Biblical Myths on History
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
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../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.
|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
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.
Phoenician Encyclopedia -- Phoenicia, A Bequest Unearthed (Desktop Version)
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