As you all probably know, Hazael king of Aram Damascus was an very important figure in the Levant in the 2nd half of the 9th cent. BCE. Needless to say, in relationship to Tell es-Safi/Gath he is quite well-known, as over the last 15 years, we have been excavating impressive evidence of his siege and conquest of Gath of the Philistines. This event, mentioned in II Kings 12:18 provides the southernmost, clear evidence of Hazael’s activities. And, this has been discussed quite often on this blog.
Today though, I had a chance to visit a place with another very important piece of evidence relating to Hazael. Yesterday and today, I was in Samos, Greece, and had a chance to visit several of the very interesting sites and museums on this very special island.
I started with a visit to the Hereon, the sanctuary of the Goddess Hera, wife and sister of Zeus, which is located not far from the city of Pythagorio. This is a very special site, with one of the largest temples in the Hellenic world, and remains dating from the Bronze Age through to the Byzantine period. The excavations, which have conducted on the site since 1910 have revealed many fascinating finds, including many offerings brought to the temple from many parts of the ancient world, from Spain and Italy in the west, Egypt in the South, and Syria, the Levant and even Mesopotamia in the east, from various stages of the Iron Age, and the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
Among other things, there is a special find that is relevant to our discussion. It is an bronze frontlet of a horse, which has on it an inscription mentioning Hazael of Aram. This inscription has been discussed in various publications, and in particular in an article by Naveh and Ephal in IEJ (“Hazael’s Booty Inscriptions”, IEJ 39 , pp. 192-200).
This object was brought to the temple as an offering, sometime in the 8th cent. BCE. Although Hazael did not actually place it here, this is the most northwestern piece of evidence relating to Hazael!
This bronze piece is not at the site, but is located in the very nice museum which is in Samos town (Vathy), along with many of the very unique and interesting finds from the Hereon and other sites. Above is a picture that I took of the piece in the museum.
So, I can now say that I have been to both edges of the Hazael universe!
In addition, I visited the Eupalinos Tunnel, which is a km long tunnel dug in the 2nd half of the 6th cent. BCE (by Eupalinos, architect of Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos during this period. The tunnel was built to bring water into the town and is considered one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world. While it is almost twice the length of Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem, it is 175 years later, and what can I say – I think the one in Jerusalem is more impressive!
Finally, Samos is known as the birthplace of Pythagoras – well-known to archaeologists for that nifty theorem which helps us set up our squares…