There are, at least, three versions of reality: 1) that which actually occurred, 2) history as our attempts to most accurately reconstruct that which actually occurred and 3) symbolic or mythological reconstructions which contain historical aspects but are concocted so as to make a point.
For example, who the historical Semiramis was is one issue. However, when discerning the manner whereby her name has been employed through the years we find that understanding the reality of her persona, 1) above, is different from understanding what has been made of her, 3) above.
In other words, who was Semiramis and what does she mean, as a symbol, are different things. Thus, if, say, an occult group makes reference to Semiramis it is important to understand whether that which we know of her as per 2) above is accurate and also that which they mean by employing her name which they make into 3) above.
In this regard, the book Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Jean Bottero, Andre Finet, Bertrand Lafont and Georges Roux makes the following point:
“For Wilhelm Eilers, who saw the warrior Ishtar as a divinity of the mountains (Taurus and Zagros), Semiramis was situated at the confluence of two currents of mythical tradition, one secular (heroes and heroines, in this instance Sammuramat), the other religious (gods and goddesses, in this instance lshtar). She represented an archetype joined, in race memory…”
Thus, many researchers of secret societies, mystery schools, occult groups, magick—by any other names—encounter Semiramis and must deal with whom she really was and what has been made of her. In this regard we can consider another example, and one which many tie directly to Semiramis, which is Mary. There is Mary the historical person written about in the New Testament; a humble human who recognized her need for salvation and birthed the Messiah Jesus and there is the Catholic “Mary” who has been made into a female equivalent to Jesus. For details on these points see: Everything the Bible Says About Mary.
Or consider Jesus whom likewise was a historical person and yet has been made into many fictitious personages as everyone wants a piece of Him and attempt to incorporate Him into their worldview. For many examples of this see: Which Jesus?
That which follows is gleaned from Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia
The book refers to the “extraordinary renown she enjoyed throughout Graeco-Roman antiquity” which was “then, manipulated and unrecognisable, from the Renaissance to the mid-nineteenth century?”
She was then also turned into a character in fiction:
“Gluck and Rossini turned this queen into an operatic heroine, and Crebillon, soon imitated by Voltaire, into a heroine of tragedy; in the wake of Vivaldi, some dozen Italian composers gave her name to several of their works, and in their turn, many painters chose her for their subject. Degas himself, the great Degas, devoted the last of his academic pictures to her, in 1861.”
But who was she, really?
The historical sources are important as we learn that it is “Diodorus of Sicily, a Greek writer of the first century BC, to whom we are indebted for the most complete and detailed history.” Yet, “Diodorus drew on Ctesias who emigrated to Persia around 415 BC.”
However, Ctesias “Prefer[ed] ‘stories’ to history” and “seems to have delved chiefly into oriental popular tradition, from which he probably drew the story of Semiramis.” Specifically, Cresias “drew it from Iranian, and not Babylonian, tradition.”
Furthermore, Ctesias’s text:
“was used as a framework for many Greek and Latin authors until the second century AD. Unfortunately, the writings of Ctesias are lost; we know them only through quotations and the condensed version of them given in the ninth century by Photius, patriarch of Byzantium, in the great work Bibliotheca.”
With all of that in mind, let us consider that which may be reconstructed of Semiramis:
“Semiramis was born at Ascalon, a town founded by the Philistines on the Mediterranean coast of the country to which they gave their name: Palestine. She was the fruit of the guilty love of the goddess Derceto, the patroness of Ascalon, and a handsome anonymous young man ‘who was going to offer her a sacrifice’. Overcome with shame when she gave birth, Derceto killed her lover, abandoned her child ‘in a deserted and rocky place’, then threw herself into the lake near her temple, where she immediately changed into a fish.
By great good fortune, doves nesting nearby watched over the baby, some warming her with their wings, others feeding her with beakfuls of milk, then cheese, stolen from the herdsmen's burs. After a while, the herdsmen discovered this little girl ‘of remarkable beauty’ and entrusted her to the head of the royal sheepfolds, a man called Simma, who brought her up with great care and gave her the name Semiramis - a name which, according to Diodorus, is a slight variation on the word dove ‘in the
language of the Syrians.’”
Now, at this point we must pause in order to note:
“‘Some mythologists’, adds Diodorus, without lending it too much credence, ‘recount that she was changed into a dove and flew off with several of those hirds which had settled on her home.’”
“For a long time classical authors confused Syria proper and Assyria under the name Syria. The word ‘dove’ to which Diodorus alludes is probably the Assyrian summatu, but in no way can ‘Semiramis’ be derived from it.”
The book also states, somewhat generically that Semiramis’ husband was “Ninus - to whom must be added Nimrod and the famous Sardanapalus.” Ninus was the first king of Assyria and Sardanapalus (aka Sardanapallus) was the last. Nimrod is referenced in the Bible as the original monarch who sought to establish what a world order via the Tower of Babel.
Onnes, the Assyrian governor of the whole of Syria, “fell in love with her at once, asked for her hand, married her and took her away to Nineveh, where she bore him two children, Hyapatus and Hydaspus.” He “had set his heart on subjecting Bactriana, a region broadly corresponding to the north of Afghanistan” and “sent for his wife, Semiramis…because she was supremely intelligent and an excellent adviser.”
“Ninus admired the woman's courage, heaped gifts upon her and, of course, fell in love with her. He asked Onnes to hand her over to him, promising his own daughter in exchange. Then, faced with refusal, he threatened to have his eyes put out.
Panicstricken, the unfortunate man hanged himself, and Ninus then married Semiramis, who became queen of Assyria and later had a son by him, named Ninyas.”
At his death, Ninus’ empire was fully under Semiramis who became the “sole sovereign” and thus, she founded Babylon, “She completed her work by raising a temple to Zeus ('whom the Babylonians called Belus').”
At Khaun she built:
“a pleasure palace where she stayed for a long time, leading the dissolute life that Diodorus sums up in a few words: ‘She never wanted to remarry legally, fearing that she would be deprived of her sovereignty; but she chose the handsomest men in her army and, having granted them her favours, caused them to disappear'…she sacrificed her one-night-stand lovers.”
This is a case of like mother like daughter as it we noted above that “the goddess Derceto…killed her lover” who was Semiramis’ father.
In Egypt she visited Amun’s temple, “to question the oracle” and eventually “her son Ninyas plotted against her, as Amun's oracle at Siwah had predicted he would” and so she “yielded the sceptre to him and disappeared mysteriously.”
However, beyond that which we can reconstruct from ancient writers there is that which we can now reconstruct from text, archeology, etc.:
“Can we extract from the legend any information about the period when Semiramis is supposed to have lived? At first glance, two of the four sovereigns mentioned - her husband and son - are fictitious.”
Thus, the question is asked “Where and when was the legend of Semiramis born?”
One archeological clue was uncovered in 1853 AD:
“statues of minor gods situated at the entrance of the Ezida, the temple of the great god Nabfi…bore an inscription saying that a certain Bel-tarsi-iluma, governor of Kalhu, was dedicating it to Nabu ‘for the Life of Adad-nirari, king of Assyria, his master, and for the life of Sammuramat, the lady of the palace, his mistress’, as well as for his own life.”
Sammuramat, obviously much like the transliteration Semiramis, is actually “equivalent of ‘royal spouse’ or ‘queen’” and thus a title and not necessarily a name. Then in 1909 AD “two rows of stelae inscribed” with her name were found. We also find that “in Armenia a legendary sovereign was actually called Samira or Samiran” and that “numerous ancient sites and ruins which, to this day, have names which are very like ‘Semiramis.’”
As for the likenesses:
“Semiramis may be the personification of the greatest female deity in the Assyrian pantheon: Ishtar of
Nineveh…Ishtar was fundamentally the goddess of love, especially carnal love…distinct from the mother-goddess, the progenitress, whom she would eventually supplant.”
Besides being referred to as possessing beauty, Semiramis is also said to have possessed “strongly androgynous aspect[s]” but this seems to be a reference to her character and not her physical makeup. Although in the following correlations between Semiramis and the goddess physical androgyny would certainly be an occult preference as it is seen as the result of perfected alchemy; the joining of male and female in one being.
The androgynous character aspect speaks to her being very much a woman and yet, possessing qualities which are considered male. In this case the references are contextually of Ishtar whom we are told Semiramis “may” have personified. Ishtar was “treacherous and subject to violent rages” as she was “the goddess of war, ‘the valiant one’, ‘the lady of battle and combat’, who marched at the head of armies, flew ‘like a swallow”:
“this eminently masculine aspect of the goddess was chiefly developed by the Semites of the Mesopotamian north, notably the Assyrians…The resemblance between this goddess and our androgynous Semiramis springs immediately to mind.”
Just like Derceto and Semiramis, Ishtar was black widow, in a manner of speaking:
“She had no real husband, but lovers; demi-gods like Dumuzi-T ammuz, or mere mortals, whom she soon scorned and rejected, sending them to the Netherworld or changing them into repulsive animals.”
In depictions, Ishtar is often seen accompanied by “hierodules (sacred prostitutes) who bore her name (ishtaritu).”
“other arguments come to the support of the theory that Semiramis also represented a goddess. Thus, by marrying Semiramis, Ninus closely connected Ishtar with Nineveh; while the ‘gate of Semiramis’ at Babylon, which Herodotus mentions, can only be the famous gate of Ishtar - with its friezes of enameled bricks with alternating dragons (the attributes of Marduk, the great god of the Babylonians) and bulls (attributes of Adad, god of the storm and also of war) - which is preceded by the processional route with friezes of lions, attributes of the goddess.”
And there are other likenesses, this one pertaining to Semiramis’ mother:
“the goddess of Ascalon, Derceto, the mother of Semiramis, is only a local variant of Atargatis or Astarte - names by which in the Graeco-Roman period, in Phoenicia as in Syria-Palestine, lshtar was worshipped, or west-Semitic goddesses very dose to her, such as Athar or Anat.”
Of course, overall, as the book notes:
“However satisfying it may be to liken Semiramis to Sammuramat, Naqla-Zakum and Ishtar, many questions still remain open.”
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