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By Thérêse Ghembaza – April 2015


The Heracles“Pillars” in ancient authors


  1. The world of ancient geographers :

In the mind of ancient geographers the world was divided into three parts : Europe, Africa inhabited by Ethiopians (black people) and Asia. The whole world was encircled by a sea or river current named Okeanos by Homer. But Egyptians considered Okeanos to be the Nile (Diodorus, I, 12, 6). They called it “wadjwr” the great green. So it was easy for a Greek translator to take the Nile for the sea. (And there is still a great dispute among egyptologists to decide if “wadjwr” meant really the Nile or the Red Sea in Egyptian texts).

  1. The two Heracles

Herodotus (II, 42-44) and Diodorus (III, 74:4) about Heracles said : “There were two people in a more ancient time who were called by the same name: The oldest Heracles who according to the myth was born in Egypt, had submitted by his arms much of the inhabited world and erected the pillar which is in Libya (Africa)”. This Herakles was Kamose and his mother was the Queen of Egypt named Ahhotep “the one who honors Ah” (the Asiatic Moon god), which explains the Greek name Heracles “the glory of Hera” as the glory of his mother (Ah-hotep). While “The second Heracles born of Alcmene was named Alcide at birth (the name of his maternal grandfather), but he got the nickname of his ancestor of Egypt, Heracles, because he accomplished many glorious actions as his ancestor before him” (Diodorus, I, 24:4).


  1. The “columns” with inscriptions in hieroglyphs in the Straits of Ethiopia

Pliny the Elder (N.H. VI, 29) said : “Farther than Adulis (Eritrea), at ten days of navigation, is the harbour of Isis where Troglodytes bring the myrrh… The harbouritself contains two islands named the Doors, one of which contains columns[1] of stone with texts in unknown characters.”

Moreover Straboin his Geography (Book XVI, 4, 5) said : “The straits at Ethiopia, here is a pillar* of Sesostris the Egyptian, on which is inscribed in hieroglyphics an account of his passage.”

And it appears that this legendary Sesostris is the same person as the Egyptian Heracles (Diodorus, Book I, 24).

And Proclus said in his “Commentary on Timaeus” (from Marcellus, who wrote a history of Ethiopian affairs) :“There were seven islands in the Atlantic Sea, sacred to Persephone, and also three others of enormous size, one of which was sacred to Pluto, another to Ammun, and another one between them to Poseidon, the extent of which was a thousand stadia (200 km).”

In the same way Strabo said (Book XVI, 4, 4) :The straits at Deire are contracted to the width of 60 stadia (12 km); not indeed that these are now called the Straits, for ships proceed to a further distance, and find a passage of about 200 stadia (40 km) between the two continents. Six islands contiguous to one another leave a very narrow passage through them for vessels by filling up the interval between the continents. Through these, goods are transported from one continent to the other on rafts ; it is this passage which is called the Straits.” And this is consistent with Plato saying that the sea named Pontos[2] could be easily crossed (Timaeus, 25).

Figure 1 : The Sawabi Islands in Bab el Mandeb Straits


In my mind, the seven islands of Proclus consecrated to Persephone are those of the Sawabi archipelago in the Straits of Bab el Mandeb. Strabo mentioned only six islands because one of the seven ones was bound to the coast forming RasSyan (Fig. 1). And Persephone is the Greek translation for Isis (the spouse of Osiris king of hell).

[1]In greek????? meant stela or pillar, but in latin it was translated by columna : Herodotus, Diodorus and Strabo wrote in Greek, Pliny in Latin. A confusion could result from that : Instead of Heracles’ columns, they were Heracles (Sesostris-Osiris-Kamose)’s stelae… in the Strait of Bab el Mandeb (Not any temple or column has never been found in Gibraltar).

[2] This sea named Pontosin greek and called the Punt by Egyptians was the Red Sea. It was never red, but it took its name from Erythias, the king of Erythia (surely the nickname given by black people to a Caucasian man become with reddish face by the sun).