Mount Aqraa - Baal-zephon


According to Isaiah 14:13 the mountain Zaphon is the location where the gods assembled. The old Semitic name Ṣapānu was used by the conquering Assyrians in the 8th century BCE and by the Phoenicians. As a prominent peak in the northern part of the Canaanite world, its name was used, for example in Psalm 48, Genesis 13:14 and Deuteronomy 3:27, as a synonym for the direction north. Tzaphon (צפון) is in fact the basic word for "north" in Hebrew, due to the location of the mountain and the relation between the Hebrew and Canaanite languages.

The "Lord of the north", confusingly, could be attested far to the south. Through individuals travelling on errands of diplomacy and trade, the "Lord of Zephon", Ba`al Zephon protected his adherents far and wide: the temple of Baal at Ugarit had a sandstone relief, dedicated by a royal scribe to Ba`al Ṣapān, that had been sent from Egypt. The king of Tyre in 677 called to witness Baal Saphon in his treaty with the king of Assyria Ṣapān is also mentioned as the abode of Ba`al in the Ugaritic Ba`al cycle.

The earliest Hellenic foothold in the Levant, at Al Mina, lies at the beach on its northern flank. Here Euboeans and Cypriotes experienced some of their earliest on-site experience of northwest Semitic cultures, from the early eighth century BCE onwards. "The Hittite name persisted in neo-Hittite culture into the ninth century BC and so when Greeks settled on the north side of Mount Hazzi they continued to call its main peak 'Mount Kasios'", Robin Lane Fox points out, observing that it was the Mount Olympus of the Near East.

The cult of the god of the mountain was transferred, by interpretatio graeca, to Zeus Kasios, the "Zeus of Mount Kasios", similar to Ras Kouroun in the Sinai. Tiles from the Greco-Roman sanctuary at the site, stamped with the god's name, were reused in the Christian monastery that came to occupy the eastern, landward slopes of Kazios.

When kings and emperors climbed Mount Kasios to sacrifice at its peak sanctuary, it was a notable cultural occasion. Seleucus I Nicator sought there the advice of Zeus in locating his foundation, a Seleuceia (one of many) on the coast. Coins struck there as late as the first century BCE still show the city's emblem, the thunderbolt, sometimes placed upon the cushion of a throne. In the winter of 114/15 CE Trajan was spared in a major earthquake that struck Antioch; commemorative coins were struck featuring the shrine of Zeus Kasios, with its pointed roof on pillars, and a representation of its rounded sacred stone, or betyl. Trajan's adoptive son Hadrian accompanied him; he returned in 130 CE to scale the mountain at night, no doubt, Fox remarks, to witness the rising of the sun, visible for several minutes from the peak, while the land below lay still in darkness; it was said later that a thunderbolt at the peak struck the animal he was about to sacrifice. In spring 363 the last pagan emperor, Julian, scaled the mountain, where he had an epiphanic vision of Zeus Kasios, according to his friend and correspondent Libanius.

Greek theophoric names Kassiodora and Kassiodorus, equally a "gift of Kasios", recall a vow of one or both parents made to ensure fertile conception.

Christian hermits were drawn to the mountain; Barlaam challenged its demons by founding a monastery near the treeline on its eastern slopes, and Simeon Stylites the Younger stood for forty years on a pillar near its northern flanks until his death in 592.

Read more about this topic:  Mount Aqraa