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Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

The Art of ID Stuntmen

Faith vs Reason

Anthropic Principle

Autopsy of the Bible code

Science and Religion

Historical Notes


Serious Notions with a Smile


Letter Serial Correlation

Mark Perakh's Web Site



4) On p. 86, Heifetz writes:

We know next to nothing about the life and times of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon and Ctesius... Nor is there any certainty about when the works of the aforementioned historians were actually written and brought out; and most importantly, it is not known whether they were subsequently edited. For example, we are completely certain that Thucydides' book was never published in his lifetime, as well as that the final part of his book devoted to the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta is the first part of Xenophon's book entitled The Histories (or The Hellenica).

Here Heifetz is simply mudding the waters, and in a completely conscious manner -- it would seem that after capitulating before Thucydides he felt the need to bite back. The fact of the matter is (and this is unprecedented in ancient history) that the biographies of major Greek historians are actually fairly well known, even though we could certainly do with some additional information. This applies above all to Xenophon, for many decades an active participant in the momentous military and political developments of the time, yet it is also true in regard to Thucydides, offspring of royalty, for a while a prominent (though hapless) military leader, banished from Athens for 20 years, a time he devoted to literary and historical writing. Concerning Herodotus, our knowledge is somewhat more meager, yet still quite plentiful. For the sake of comparison, we should ask the following question: What do we actually know even about the greatest Israelite kings or prophets? About Jeroboam and Jehoboam? About Omri, Ezekiel and Hosea? Amos and Isaiah? Zechariah and Joel? What can we say about the discernment and scholarly priorities of Jewish historiographers who decided to gloss over the crucial military decision made by Achav -- to join the coalition that stemmed the Assyrian advance -- and the historical battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE? Or, in a literal parody of Heifetz's approach: Do we know when and where the writings of Jeremiah, the great Jewish historian (traditionally believed to be the author of the Book of Kings, the major Jewish historiographic work) actually saw the light? And yet the presence of later corrections in his works is undeniable...

In order to substantiate my claims, I will provide a summary of the biographies of three preeminent Greek historians. Even if these biographical details had not survived, Heifetz's central thesis would have seemed odd: a historian whose life and main biases are known can very well stay out of the limelight -- after all, he is expected primarily to write others' biographies.

Herodotus, judging by relatively late ancient accounts, was born in 484 BCE. This is to some extent a tentative date, but it is unlikely to be far off the mark. He died between 430 and 425 BCE.

Herodotus was born in the city of Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, the capital of ancient Caria, where Carians lived alongside the Greeks. Some members of Herodotus' family (his father Lyxes and his cousin Panyasis) had typically Carian names. The latter is traditionally believed to have been a great poet. In his youth Herodotus became entangled in a plot against Lygdamis, the tyrant of Halicarnassus. The plot failed, Panyasis died, and Herodotus was exiled. He moved to Samos, where he remained for some time; afterwards he went on a series of extended journeys. In 445 BCE, he once again found himself in Greece, this time in Athens, where he read excerpts from his Histories and received an award for the book. Somewhat later, he took part in the establishment of an pan-Greek (though initially tightly linked to Athens) colony of Thyrii in Southern Italy. According to some accounts, at the end of his life he returned to the warring Athens, where he died.

It should be added that Herodotus is abundantly quoted by Ctesius and Aristotle (who refer to him by name) while textual analysis indicates that Thucydides was familiar with his Histories. Furthermore, Herodotus' work is mentioned in the Chronicle of Lindos, an epigraphic record from 99 BCE. Papyrus fragments, in considerable amounts, of The Histories were discovered in Egypt. Thus the ancients were quite familiar with his work. This fact is going to be of use to us, since Heifetz will try to declare Herodotus to be a fairly late, and furthermore secondary, writer.

About Thucydides we know quite a deal more. He was born around 460 BCE. His father Olorus, who belonged to the noble house of Miltiades, was a direct descendant of the Thracian king Olorus. On his father's side, Thucydides was related to his namesake of Alopecia, the father-in-law of Cimon, who was the famous enemy of Pericles. Thucydides' mother Hegesypele and his grandmother descended from Thracian nobility. He received an excellent education, and his influences included Anaxagoras and the sophists Protagoras and Gorgias. Despite belonging to the House of Cimon, Thucydides shifted his allegiance to Pericles. In 430-429 BCE, he contracted the plague that was sweeping Athens. The Thucydides family wielded considerable influence on the Thracian coast; Thucydides himself leased gold mines in Thrace. In 424 BCE Thucydides was elected strategist and was placed in command of the Athenian forces in Thrace, in the colony Amphipolis, center of the Athenian-controlled territory. There, he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the brilliant Spartan commander Brasidas. In consequence, Thucydides was condemned and exiled from Athens for life. Even the amnesty of 403 BCE passed him by and he was only able to return to Athens in 400 BCE at the initiative of Oenobius. Thucydides died before 396 BCE. His remains, according to Plutarch, were "carried to Attica and laid to rest in the Cimon sepulcher, next to the grave of Cimon's sister Elpinica." Thucydides' brilliant Histories (which he completed but did not finish editing) were published, according to Diogenes Laertius, by Xenophon. At any rate, the work was brought out several years after the writer's death, sometime between 394 and 390 BCE. Its publication had a tremendous impact on its contemporaries, and at least three historians immediately undertook to write a sequel. Unfortunately only one of these sequels -- that by Xenophon -- has survived.

As for Xenophon, we would know a fair deal about him even if he had not been a writer and historian. He was born about 430 BCE in Athens. His youth coincided with the end of the Peloponnesian War and the collapse of Athenian aspirations. One consoling fact is that he had the good fortune to be a disciple of Socrates, who became his idol. In any case, his decidedly pro-Spartan worldview certainly took shape during the last decade of the war, against the background of the terrible defeats suffered by Athens. In 401-400 BCE Xenophon, while still young, participated in the famous expedition to Mesopotamia and then to the southern coast of the Black Sea as part of a force of 13,000 Greek mercenaries. As one of the leaders of that force's heroic retreat, he became an esteemed figure throughout Greece. He tried, in vain, to convince the mercenaries to found a colony near Byzantium. In 399 BCE the Persian governor Tissaphernes launched a war in Asia Minor against the Ionian Greeks in revenge for their supporting Cyrus in his unsuccessful bid for the Persian throne against the victorious Artaxerxes II, while Sparta, the defender of the autonomy of Greek cities and the master of Greece, came to the help of the Ionians. Xenophon's mercenaries (whose expedition was the direct cause of the war) joined the allied Greek army, fighting under several Lacedaemonian commanders, the last of whom was the Spartan king Agesilaus. Because he fought on the side of the Lacedaemonian army the outraged Athenians sentenced Xenophon to exile. Soon afterwards Xenophon left his post of commander and became an advisor to Agesilaus, at whose side he remained for over ten years. Later he would create a literary image of Agesilaus as the ideal hero who single-handedly tries to prevent a Greece-wide crisis and save Sparta. With Agesilaus' army Xenophon took part in the Battle of Coronea, in which the Spartan king defeated the anti-Spartan alliance whose main force were the Athenians, Xenophon's compatriots. In 386 BCE, after the signing of the Peace of Antalcidas, Xenophon left military service and purchased an estate at Scillus, in northwest Peloponnesus. About 370 BCE Athens, having allied itself with Sparta, decided to restore Xenophon's citizenship, yet he never returned to his homeland. His sons served with the Spartan army; one of them, Gryllus, died at the Battle of Mantinea (362 BCE), the same battle in which Epaminondas was killed. [23] Xenophon, having outlived his son, ended his Histories with the battle in which his son perished. Xenophon died at a very ripe age, around 355 BCE.

This is as far as the biographies of the Greek historians are concerned. As for the suspicion that the Greek historical works reached us in an edited form, it appears at once natural and intriguing, coming as it does from the traditional Jewish apologetics tradition that, by its own admission and for reasons of ideology, actively edited and even destroyed its own holy writings. Yet who would have taken it into his head to edit the works of Herodotus and Thucydides, particularly works that were quite familiar to the entire educated ancient world? What could they possibly contain to cause the disapproval of the censors? And when did anyone have a monopoly on those works? To be sure, the texts we know do not match the original texts down to the last letter -- they were copied too many times. Yet they can hardly be said to contain deliberate, calculated distortions.

In any case, the papyrus fragments of these books discovered in Egypt clearly show that the texts at our disposal are essentially identical to the ones from late antiquity. Moreover, the numerous works by later writers form a picture that is quite consistent with the one painted by Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon (incidentally, these writers are in line with one another, as well as with other ancient classics). Nor do we have any shortage of direct quotations from their works. In a word, we have no doubt either that the overall picture painted by Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon is factually and chronologically accurate or that we are reading their own unadulterated texts. [24] This is not to say that their works are free of errors -- on the contrary, there are more than a few. However, what is really instructive is not the presence of these errors, but the fact that we can easily spot and correct them.

5) On p. 87, Heifetz writes:

Chronology is the sore spot of all Greek writers. On this issue, contemporary scholars are unanimous.

Unfortunately, this too is not manipulation but falsification. The Greek historians (naturally, first and foremost Thucydides and those who followed, but we must not overlook the achievements of Herodotus, either) have left us a marvelously accurate native, that is to say Greek, chronology. Above all, this applies to the past that was relatively recent (for Thucydides who, as we know, lived in the fifth century BCE, this means the sixth-fifth centuries); they were very well informed about their era, and that would seem to be all we should expect from them. The minor "contemporary" errors they are guilty of make no difference whatsoever. What is more, Thucydides expended considerable effort to correct the erroneous historical and chronological interpretations that had previously taken hold. In this regard, we cannot make any serious accusations against Greek historians. Then again, if Heifetz is willing and able, let him do so.

On the other hand, their notions about others' histories, above all that of Egypt and the countries of the East, particularly where earlier periods are concerned, were distinctly less accurate. Herodotus, while giving a perfectly reasonable account of the history and chronology of Saite Egypt (the 7th-6th centuries BCE), is clearly out of his depth when he discusses the history of ancient Egypt; in fact, his discussion cannot even be called historical. On the other hand, since Herodotus is definitely not the source we use to learn about the chronology of ancient Egypt, he has not caused any problems in this field of inquiry. Similarly, Herodotus' description of Persia under the Achaemenid dynasty is virtually impeccable, and he gives a fairly good account of the late history of Media and Lydia; at the same time, he either does not know or does not understand the ancient, pre-Persian history of Mesopotamia. Once again, this lack of knowledge does not cause any problems: since when do we judge a historical work by what it does not contain? In fact, who of us can claim omniscience? What makes Herodotus so important to us for the past 24 centuries are his merits rather than his errors. Given more scope, I would have gladly told about the crucial scientific information, hitherto undemanded, that archaeologists discover in his book to this day.

To an even greater extent, the above holds true for later Greek historians. They have left us a history of Greece and its relations with other countries that is not only thoroughly detailed but also fairly well understood. Their mastery of actual chronology is all but perfect, and scholars have long ago authenticated it through the use of modern research tools.

Heifetz's attempt to discredit Greek historiography is solely due to his urgent need to discredit someone as badly as possible. After that he can use the neck of the discredited person to hang his rejection of scientific reconstruction of the history of the Ancient East. However, the Greeks are most at home in their own historical vicinity, supplying excellent and meticulously handled material, refined by their penchant for scientific methodology. Their ignorance of the history of the East that is ancient to them does not discredit them in any way -- it is not their domain. All we have to do is keep this firmly in mind and draw the appropriate conclusions.

To sum up: the most interesting part of the entire story is that even the Greeks' aforementioned unfamiliarity with the history of the ancient East does nothing to rescue Heifetz. True, Herodotus obviously never heard of Nebuchadnezzar, who had died slightly less than a century before Herodotus was born, nor, it would appear, did he know about the Assyrian conquest of Egypt only several decades before the birth of Nebuchadnezzar. Yet where contemporary international politics were concerned -- he was a contemporary of the Persian kings Xerxes and Artaxerxes I -- his knowledge was unparalleled. This should come as no surprise: for Herodotus this was not some esoteric field of knowledge but rather something akin to the theory and practice of international relations. In his time Greece maintained intense military, civil, diplomatic and cultural relations with the Persian Empire, so he did not have to probe deep, merely select the relevant material dealing with his present or with the recent past.

All of this becomes even more evident when we pass from the 5th century to the 4th century BCE, a time of thoroughly modern philosophical and political literature and palpably open political space. Heifetz cannot hide behind Herodotus' ignorance of the history of the ancient East and his chronological errors -- they are all but irrelevant to the issue he has raised.

6) Bypassing several of Heifetz's rash yet marginal statements, let us go directly to the most intriguing one of all. On p. 88 he writes:

There is no question that archaeology is no more than an aid in service of historical literature, recorded and transmitted in an orderly manner; archaeology has no power and influence of its own in the historical sphere. The absolute proof of this is the vast archaeological wealth of the great ancient cultures of the South American continent, which rests there like a dead weight. This wealth does not contribute anything of importance to the study of the history of the peoples to whom these cultures used to belong, for the sole reason that there is no historical literature, whether recorded or transmitted from generation to generation, that can be clearly attributed to these cultures.

In other words, the absence of ancient historical literature written in ancient languages makes it impossible to decipher the ancient archaeological inscriptions, or to derive any meaning from these inscriptions once they have been deciphered, and even then with enormous misgivings and controversy among the researchers. The deciphering and understanding of archaeological inscriptions belonging to a certain era are totally dependent on the historical outlook of the historians and archaeologists studying this era and learning from one another.

It is an indisputable fact that archaeological finds dating from the era in question usually feature the names of the same Persian kings mentioned in both Jewish and Greek historical writings... Every researcher faces the question of their identity... The answer always conforms to the accepted historical reconstruction, which is based entirely on Greek literary historical sources. This reconstruction creates considerable problems and sparks conflicting opinions among the researchers; and yet it never even occurs to any historian and researcher that many of these problems could be easily resolved if the researchers based their inquiry on Jewish historical tradition.

Indeed, the majority (to say the least) of archaeological finds are perfectly compatible with Jewish historical tradition -- as we shall attempt to prove below.

The first thing that strikes the reader in the above passage is the priceless sentence: "...the absence of ancient historical literature... makes it impossible to decipher the ancient archaeological inscriptions, or to derive any meaning from these inscriptions once they have been deciphered." Someone capable of writing this is capable of anything -- even burglary.

This ludicrous assertion actually merits a separate discussion in a totally different vein. It has it all -- from demonstrated contempt for science as such to abject groveling before it in aid of the ideological cause, from total failure to comprehend the object of archaeology to downright readiness and even passionate desire to manipulate it, from substitution of an awkward problem by one that is more manageable... and so on until reaching a direct logical contradiction. In days of old this used to be called women's logic and it could provide Oscar Wilde with scores of aphorisms. Alas, it is in fact the product of all-male creative stagnation, or to put it simply, impotence.

To begin with, Heifetz's argument sounds a death knell for such sciences as modern physics, astronomy, chemistry and biology, which nevertheless have no intention of dying -- on the contrary, they continue to march from one success to another. At the same time the main method they employ is intricate indirect experiment, which only yields results that are quite circumstantial in relation to the problem being studied and which require thorough analysis and interpretation. Compared to the completely justifiable seemingly intellectual chaos that currently pervades experimental natural sciences, archaeology is at once sophisticated empirical straightforwardness (the brilliant direct experiments staged by Faraday) and the childish babble of hermeneutics. The golden age of archaeology, which has finally become a true natural science, is just dawning, for it is only now that archaeology is starting to obtain its first significant, indirect results that equal those of natural sciences in their reliability. For Heifetz, to acknowledge these obvious and quite welcome facts would be suicide, while to ignore them is impossible. And so he begins to deliberate...

Indeed, in the absence of ancient historical literature written in ancient languages, it is impossible to decipher ancient inscriptions... Yet even if they were deciphered, it would be impossible to extract any legible meaning from them... In other words: first of all, I did not take your pot, and anyway, it was cracked to begin with. Amazing: if we have an available and understandable literature in an ancient language, why decipher that language if we know it anyway? Recall, for example, the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Had it not been for ancient Egyptian historical writings, Champollion would have never come anywhere close to them! Or take the Mesopotamian cuneiform writing: Rowlinson, so ardently admired by Heifetz, managed to triumph over it solely thanks to the Acadian and Sumerian chronicles which he had studied back in school! In all honesty, I have not read anything so preposterous since the time of my difficult Soviet childhood. Heifetz has either forgotten, or pretends to have forgotten, that the classical instances of deciphered ancient languages revealed to us hitherto concealed worlds and civilizations whose history had been completely unknown not only to us but also to the ancient Greeks.

Today, however, we are filling in the gap left by the ancients by creating (or recreating) their own chronicles in their stead. When Bossert completed the deciphering of Hittite hieroglyphs after 80 years of painstaking scientific work carried out by several generations of scholars, this was a great linguistic achievement. Similarly, the fact that today we are able to recreate with a high degree of accuracy the complete list of Hittite kings and even to know which one of them conquered Babylon (two centuries ago this conquest could not have been imagined) and when (most probably, in 1595 BCE) testifies to the incredible power of modern science. Against this background, Heifetz's destructive platitudes are not even funny. He essentially reminds us that nothing comes from nothing. We should be thankful to him for that, first and foremost on behalf of South American archeology, whose problem is not so much the lack of Herodotuses on the continent as the fact that in our attempt to study its history we are aliens, immeasurably remote from local cultures, and for that reason our progress is much slower than in the case of the Babylonians and the Hittites. And yet the Mayan inscriptions have been deciphered; what is more, the method employed in deciphering them is no less important than the end result.

Heifetz's real trouble with his "nothing" stems from his being unable to look in the mirror. The ancient Jews have left us but a single book, fascinating and wonderful, yet slightly jumbled and repeatedly revised. Instead of subjecting it to serious scrutiny, Heifetz attempts to pass it off as a paragon of eternal, crystal-clear truth, invalidating along the way anything others might have -- be it material or method. In his view anything beyond the Jewish tradition is "nothing", that is to say the very thing that history cannot be built of, that which does not contain the truth. If need be, Heifetz will challenge the very reading of Egyptian, Assyrian, or even English texts -- but why stop there? He will question the multiplication table -- provided, of course, that it is at variance with his reconstruction. However, if something happens to agree with this reconstruction, he will relent at once. Archaeology is nothing; it carries almost no information, yet all its data are in prefect conformance with Jewish tradition. This immediately calls to mind the classical examples of political demagoguery. Then again, several sentences later Heifetz will have forgotten about the second half of this outlandish hypothesis and will begin to speculate about the unreliable nature of the numerous inscriptions that do not conform to Jewish tradition. No reason to worry -- on the contrary, it is all too natural! Along the way, archaeology in Heifetz's rendition gradually becomes identical to epigraphy -- the study of inscriptions. He either does not know or has forgotten about the astounding wealth of information extracted by archaeologists from mute, non-written evidence. However, we will leave these transformations to his conscience -- what difference does it make? For Heifetz, everything is simple: whatever hasn't been forgotten will be falsified.

I cannot resist the satisfaction of reminding both Heifetz and the reader that in his time Voltaire ridiculed those who were trying to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs, calling them madmen who do whatever strikes their fancy. But this is not the half of it! As late as the third quarter of the 19th century, after the discovery of syllabic polyphony, attempts to decipher Acadian cuneiform writing were seen by skeptics as an anti-scientific outrage perpetuated by wayward scholars, including the same Rawlinson whom Heifetz never tires of quoting. Yet Heifetz has never gotten past that stage! According to him, "the deciphering and understanding of archaeological inscriptions belonging to a certain era are totally dependent on the historical outlook of the historians and archaeologists studying this era and learning from one another." He seems to have forgotten that in the 19th century this very claim was refuted through special linguistic experiments. After the dazzling achievements of applied linguistics, which had evolved into a first-class exact science, the rational and ideologically objective skeptics of more than a century ago repented. Naturally, this does not apply to Heifetz himself.

7) We have already pointed out that in order to refute Heifetz's reconstruction with a clear conscience, there is no need to delve into Persian history; the fact that this reconstruction becomes hopelessly entangled in Greek history is quite sufficient. This does not mean that Heifetz's digressions into Persian history are devoid of interest. On the contrary, they provide heaps of tantalizing material which aptly demonstrate the artificial nature of practically every component of the edifice erected by Heifetz. Since it is impossible to analyze all the pertinent examples, we shall limit ourselves to only one -- but this one is truly excellent. I am referring to the Heifetz's live reconstruction which is not some short-lived and accidental instance, but rather one of the mainstays of his position. Were it not for the literal adherence to the original source, it would be hard to believe that this example was not deliberately invented in order to discredit our author's good name.

Thus, on p. 94 Heifetz writes:

In other words: Cyrus the Great, as described by Greek historians, is a composite image made up of two famous figures of the ancient world bearing the same name. They are Cyrus the grandfather and Cyrus the grandson. The mixture of these personalities is especially pronounced in the works of Herodotus, who collected many accounts in his travels, and did his best to interpret all of them. Ctesius discusses Cyrus the grandfather, while Xenophon refers exclusively to Cyrus Junior.

From Heifetz's meticulously detailed reconstruction, it follows that one of the greatest conquerors of the ancient world, a man who managed to transform Persia from a puny province into a superpower, who turned the destiny of Western Asia and became a model for the all the subsequent Alexanders, Caesars and Napoleons (not to mention Stalin, who held him in the highest regard), one of the few individuals truly appreciated by history -- in a word, that Cyrus the Great never even existed. Not in the sense that the person in question had a different name, or hailed from a different city or family. The claim goes much further: all of his feats, his very military and political background are a fiction. What is more, even the Achaemenid royal dynasty never existed; in the best case, there was a distinguished family that participated in a complex yet short-lived dynastic dealmaking.

In order to drastically compress the history of the Persian Empire, Heifetz pulls out his best trick: he reduces the number of characters in the historical drama, forcing the same actor to play two and sometimes three roles at once. The results are dismaying to say the least: the glorious commander who vanquished the Babylonians and established a new empire is a fictional character. Cyrus was merely a junior partner to the Median king Darius and it was under Darius' wing that he conquered Babylon. What is more, he did not even manage to actually inherit Darius' empire and never ruled it. Instead, he became bogged down in a foolish internecine war and perished trying to win the king's favor. Nor did he perform any particular feats prior to the conquest of Babylon, for he only held the modest post of governor in several provinces in Asia Minor. [25]

In Heifetz's opinion, the Cyrus credited with conquering Babylon was a Persian prince who became actively involved in the Peloponnesian War on the side of Sparta and whose donations were partially responsible for its outcome; the same man was friends with Lysanders and then recruited Xenophon to accompany him on his quest for the crown, which came to a sad end not far from Babylon. Since the prince had very little time to spare, it seems that Babylon was conquered for Cyrus and the mysterious Darius by Greek mercenaries during the same campaign, meaning Xenophon was personally involved in the overthrow of Nabonidus -- a monstrous anachronism. It does, however, explain quite well why Herodotus never mentions Nebuchadnezzar (according to the Jewish reconstruction of history, his immediate contemporary unless he lived [according to Heifetz's other version] during the time of Alexander the Great or even later, creating spectacular new anachronisms): the king petrified Herodotus. [26]

Equally impenetrable is the fate of other conquests imputed to Cyrus. Thus, he could hardy have conquered Ionia and the western part of Asia Minor (which he subsequently ruled). By the same token, he could not have possibly conquered Media, for he soon found himself under the protection of the Median king. In short, there is no evidence for any feats of bravery, not even the usual military and political accomplishments. It is puzzling why Heifetz even allows Cyrus to retain the title of Great -- unless it is out of respect for folklore. It is even more puzzling why this humble failure of a prince became the stuff of legends, one of the most colorful figures of the ancient world, one whose name the great Persian kings to come swore by -- after all, he was not even a real king, but a pathetic impostor at best. It would be futile to look for answers to these questions -- but then again, we are used to exercises in futility by now.

8) None of the ideological falsifiers of ancient history is capable of resisting the charms of Velikovsky, the most gifted, sincere and thorough of the lot. On p. 107 Heifetz, too, succumbs to the Velikovsky syndrome -- and what is significant, needlessly so.

It appears that Cambyses the grandfather participated in the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar during the rule of Pharaoh Khafre [or Khofre], the last Egyptian king from the dynasty of Psammetichus the Great. The image of King Amasis, who succeeded Khafre as ruler of Egypt, is a composite one, made up of the images of Amasis -- the Persian commander subordinate to the high official appointed by Cambyses as ruler of Egypt -- and of Ramses II, the son of Seti, also known as Necho, the son of Psammetichus the Great...

In this fashion Heifetz attempts to lend substance to his assertion that the conquest of Egypt by the Persians (Cambyses), as described by ancient historians, was actually carried out by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar, with the Persians serving as officers in his army at most. In doing so, he has effectively robbed history of the undisputable and meticulously documented Assyrian conquest of Egypt by Asarhaddon (according to scientific chronology it took place in 671 BCE), which lasted for several decades; his shortened chronological outline also suggests that the Assyrians were in Egypt at almost the same time as the Babylonians, and that leaves simply no time for the Saite Dynasty.

Here is another intriguing detail. Heifetz cites and exploits Herodotus' account of the internecine war between the aforementioned Pharaoh Khafre and his victorious successor Amasis, whose very existence is a thorn in Heifetz's side (since Khafre was, as he insists, vanquished by Nebuchadnezzar, he was not even supposed to have an independent Egyptian successor). However, Heifetz leaves out a crucial and, what is important, definitely authentic detail from Herodotus' account: Khafre's army consisted mainly of Greek and Asia Minor mercenaries who were the actual force pitted against the purely Egyptian army of Amasis. This scenario is quite credible if Amasis is an Egyptian. But what if he is a Persian in the service of Nebuchadnezzar, who came to conquer Egypt? How could he then be at the head of an Egyptian army?

The arguments that would hold Heifetz's reconstruction of the conquest of Egypt up to ridicule could go on and on. In this case, however, the history of Egypt's conquest by Cambyses-Nebuchadnezzar, despite all its outlandishness, appears marginal. Far more interesting is another "juncture" introduced by Heifetz -- his identification of Pharaoh Necho with Ramses II. Why did he need it?

Heifetz does not supply a direct answer. Evidently, he could not resist the temptation to join in someone else's greatness. The peerless identification of Necho with Ramses II is by no means belongs to Heifetz, for the exclusive rights to this idea belong to Velikovsky. In fact, it is among Velikovsky's most brilliant inventions. As we know, in his opus Ramses II and His Time Velikovsky, for roughly the same reasons as Heifetz, tried to shorten Egyptian history by some 600 years. Since the two great Egyptian conquerors with Asian appetites -- Ramses II and Necho II -- are separated by about 600 years, by dint of incredible effort Velikovsky fuses them into a single militant personality. This correspondence, for similar reasons, is adopted by yet another "historical reformer" -- Yehoshua Etzion. All three -- Velikovsky, Etzion and Heifetz -- spare no effort in an attempt to prove that Jewish historical tradition is the only one that is true, and true absolutely, true enough to set your watch by whether in Ancient Egypt or in Ancient China. In fact, this was the reason they took up the pen in the first place. However, if the fantastical correspondence of two militant pharaohs -- one from the 13th century BCE, the other from the 7th century BCE -- is at least functionally necessary for Velikovsky and Etzion, Heifetz mentions it in passing only, for no visible reason and with no proof, albeit with considerable gusto. Indeed, why should he be content with the playground of the Persian Empire? What makes him any worse than the classical authority? He is perfectly capable of handling Egypt just as well.

There is no need to shatter this correspondence. The reader can easily do so himself (if for no other reason than the availability of the wonderful Hittite synchronisms, including the Battle of Kadesh) -- or take our word for it this once. We should add that even though generally we try to avoid such "crude" chronological arguments as radiocarbon dating, this time there is no harm in resorting to it as well. Ramses II supplied us with a huge number of dated monuments, including all sorts of organic artifacts. Even if we acknowledge certain objections against radiocarbon dating as reasonable, it can still be relied on to provide a date with an accuracy of 600 or even 300-400 years.

9) On p. 110, Heifetz returns to his idea that the Persian invasion of continental Greece was essentially a Babylonian invasion executed by a Median general at the service of Nebuchadnezzar. We have already discussed the chronological absurdity of this invention and there is no point in rehashing it. Its geographical impossibility, however, is not something we can leave unchallenged. Consider this fact: of all the areas of the future Persian Empire (which is still the Babylonian Empire according to Heifetz) Persia happens to be the most remote from Greece. How, then, do we account for the presence of Median generals and Persian troops at the Greek front, over a thousand kilometers away from home? Could it be that Nebuchadnezzar, viewed by Heifetz as the greatest of all kings, had no other troops? This height of strategic absurdity has a trivial explanation: since the empire was Persian, all of its troops were called Persian and in fact incorporated Persian units. As for the generals, they were certainly Persians.

To be sure, the geographic argument may be considered rather marginal; however, in contrast to the others, it is simplicity itself.

10) On p. 116, Heifetz's creative power reaches new heights. His cherished theory is that in Persian history there was but a single Persian (and not Median) king Darius, the ruler of the empire, a.k.a. Darius I, the son of Hystaspes; it was this Darius who was the last Persian king vanquished by Alexander. Having offered this theory, Heifetz goes on:

Let us produce decisive archaeological evidence to prove that this conclusion is correct. We will subsequently learn that there is abundant proof of this.

In the Behistun inscription Darius, the son of Hystaspes, recounts... the wars and rebellions that occurred after his coronation... One of the rebels... was a Babylonian by the name of Nidin-Bel... who declared himself king of Babylon and actually ruled for about a year...

Now, Prichard's book Ancient Eastern Texts [27] cites numerous pieces of literary archaeological evidence including a list dating from Seleucid dynasty, which names all the kings of Uruk, i.e. Babylon, through generations beginning with Kandalanu who lived during the time of Asshurbanipal, through Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar, to Alexander the Great and from him to Seleucus II. This list features the following sequence of kings: "... whose second name is Nidin-Bel; Darius; Alexander; Philip; Antigonus; Seleucus; etc." This unambiguously proves that Nidin-Bel was succeeded by Darius, who was followed by Alexander. Thus Dairus Codoman is Dairus the son of Hystaspes, as well as Darius the Persian in Jewish historical tradition.

Up until now the most Heifetz has been found guilty of was deliberate manipulations that had little to do with the truth. This time he has been caught in an attempt to fabricate, or if you will, to reshuffle someone else's text -- naturally, all in the name of Jewish tradition.

In order to dispel any ambiguity, we will quote the entire text of Prichard's aforementioned documents -- fortunately, it is quite small (within the square brackets are attempts by prominent Assyriologist A.L. Oppenheim, who had translated the document into English to restore the damaged fragments; Oppenheim's explanations are in the round brackets). [28]

On the obverse side of the document:

21 years: K[anda]lan

1 year: Sin-shum-lishir

and Sin-shar-ishkun

21 years: Nabopolassar

43 [ye]ars: Nebuchadnezzar (II)

2 [ye]ars: Amel-Marduk

[x]+2 years, 8 months: Neriglissar

[...] 3 months: Labashi-Marduk

[x]+15 years: Nabonidus

[9 years: Cy]rus

[8 years: Cambys]es

[36 years: Dari]us

(A gap)

On the reverse side of the document:

[whose] second name (is) Nidin-dB[el]

5 [y]ears: Darius (III)

7 years: Alexander

6 years: Philip

6 years: Antigonus

31 years: Seleucus (I)

22 years: Antiochus (I)

15 years: Antiochus (II)

20 [years]: Seleucus (II)

Let us now take a closer look at the text. To begin with, Heifetz has omitted from the list the duration of the rule of the aforementioned kings. No wonder, for otherwise the reader would have immediately noticed that the Darius Heifetz is after, who follows an unknown person with the second name of Nidin-Bel, ruled for a mere five years (like the real Darius III), and not for 36 years, like Darius I. Not nice.

Yet Heifetz goes much further. First, he chops off the entire beginning of the text, which, aside from the names of Babylonian kings, not only lists the names (albeit semi-obliterated) of the early Persian Achemenide kings (Cyrus, Cambyses and Darius I), but does so in the classical scientific order. Secondly, and most importantly, he totally ignores the fact that the quote he has plucked follows a gap in the document (in fact, a break in the clay tablet); since it starts on the reverse of the document, it is merely the ending, so the full text could have, and probably did contained the names of the remaining Persian kings -- Xerxes, Artaxerxes I and so on. There is no doubt that the Darius named in the quote taken from the reverse side of the clay tablet is not Darius I, since the latter has already been mentioned on the obverse side; moreover, as we have already stated, the Darius that Heifetz is so fond of only ruled for five years. In other words, whichever way you look at it, this is Darius III Codoman. All Heifetz has managed to demonstrate is that the predecessor of the last Darius bore a second, royal Babylonian name of Nidin-Bel. But what is the harm in that? Any Persian king, including Artaxerxes III Ochus, could have had a Babylonian royal name. What is more, had the document really referred to the rebel and impostor Nidin-Bel, the argument concerning the second name would have been irrelevant. After all, if we are to believe the Behistun inscription, this was his first, real name; for his second name, he chose the resounding "Nebuchadnezzar"!

In other words, since Nidin-Bel was the second name of the unknown king, this is probably a case of a king with a regular Persian name who assumed an additional, Babylonian name.[29] Thus the complete version of Prichard's document, which was supposed to serve as "decisive proof" of the veracity of Heifetz's theory, is in perfect accord with the scientific reconstruction of Mesopotamian history, and Heifetz is the only one bothered by it. It is no wonder, therefore, that he quotes it in a somewhat selective manner.

11) Heifetz also supplied us with purely comical passages. On p. 117, he writes:

Darius, the son of Hystaspes mentioned by Herodotus, similarly to all the other Persian kings discussed in his book, is a personality composed of Darius the Persian, the son of Hystaspes, and Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus. All of the events attributed to him in the Behistun inscription (the coming into power after defeating Guamata the Magian with the help of six plotters who had joined him, the conquest and destruction of the defiant Babylon and the suppression of the great Median revolt) should be ascribed entirely to Darius the Persian, the son of Hystaspes. In my opinion, Herodotus gathered the accounts of Darius from the Jewish and non-Jewish residents of Yeb in Egypt during visit there, as he describes in detail in his book. A complete copy of the Behistun inscription in Aramaic translation was discovered on one of the Yeban papyri.

Heifetz is obsessed with the maniacal idea that historical truth (not to say any other kind of truth) is essentially integral to the Jews. That is the reason Herodotus could not have obtained information on Darius I other than from residents of the out-of-the-way Jewish colony of Yeb (the Elephantine Island at Nile's first dam), or at least from their gentile neighbors. True, Herodotus admits having visited the place (even though he does not mention any contacts with Jews, and no wonder -- the residents of this Egyptian backwater were highly unlikely to have mastery of the Greek language) which was inhabited by Jews -- and that answers all the questions. How else would poor Herodotus have heard about the great Persian king? Certainly not while visiting the Persian Empire, or studying contemporary books and records. The only remaining question is who provided Herodotus with other information such as details of Egyptian history of the life of the Scythians? Why, the Jews of course, only Jews that have not yet been unmasked, as opposed to the Jews of Yeb.

At the same time, it appears that the text of the Behistun inscription represented an official Persian document circulated through diplomatic channels. More or less complete copies of the inscription were discovered in a variety of places; its contents were certainly known to Greek historians. During the time of Herodotus -- assuming that he lived, as commonly believed, at the same time as Pericles -- this document was all of fifty years old; moreover, even so considered a classical source since it originated with the greatest Persian king after Cyrus.

But this is all a trifling matter. What is really interesting is that, according to Heifetz (see below), Herodotus did not even live during the Persian era and he outlived Alexander the Great by quite a bit. This insane idea, fraught with fascinating anachronisms, makes incidents such as meeting the Jews of Yeb an impossibility: their colony had ceased to exist as early as the mid-fourth century BCE, during the period of Egypt's temporary independence from foreign masters.

It is hard to imagine that Herodotus carried out archaeological digs at Yeb. It is far more likely that he discovered a copy of the Behistun inscription, if not in Babylon or Memphis, then in Athens. Still, if there is any digging to be done, let us dig to the very bedrock. We then stumble across yet another intriguing detail: Heifetz's assertion that a "complete Aramaic text" was discovered among the Yeban papyri turns out to be a gross exaggeration.[30] Let the reader decide for himself the extent of tragic repercussions this exaggeration may have.

12) Or let us take, for example, the following digression. On p. 127, Heifetz writes:

There are grounds to believe Josephus Flavius' claim that on his deathbed, Darius made his son-in-law Cyrus swear that he would show mercy to Jewish exiles... and allow them to return to their homeland and rebuild the heavenly city of Jerusalem and the Temple therein.

However, after Darius' death the throne passed to his son Ahasuerus, an unstable person easily swayed by his wives and eunuchs, with a propensity for excessive drinking and womanizing... and the fate of Jewish exiles changed for the worse... Ahasuerus halted the work of building the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem. Cyrus the Persian did not try to intervene, for by that time he had been corrupted by the influence of the Greeks -- the enemies of Israel. Cyrus maintained close contacts with the Greeks during his sojourn in the city of Sardis, Lydia, at the palace of Croesus, where he had his quarters.

A remarkable argument, a sort of historical-mythological salad made up of biblical accounts, Flavius, Xenophon and Plutarch -- sources so at odds with one another that quoting them side by side uncritically can only be done for the purpose of comic relief. For example, when Flavius talks about Cyrus, he means the genuine Cyrus the Great. Since, as we recall, Heifetz regards him as a mere prince that ruled his Asia Minor satrapies from Sardis, it is only natural to wonder how he could have possibly allowed -- as described in the Book of Ezra -- the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem, not to mention presenting them with precious vessels kept in Babylon. And so on and so forth. In fact, the very reason Heifetz undertook his work was to eradicate contradictions of this sort -- only the author seems to have totally forgotten his initial intent. However, it was something else that has drawn our attention this time. The attempt to insert Xenophon's hero into the Book of Esther is certainly awe-inspiring, yet what is even more amazing is the stubbornness with which Heifetz looks for anti-Semites in every historical context. Without them, he probably find things pretty dull.

I am afraid that this time Heifetz has gone too far. The Cyrus he refers to in this instance is a Persian prince, the son of Darius II, who took active financial part in the Peloponnesian War on the side of Sparta. The likelihood of his being an anti-Semite is roughly the same as of his being a russophobe. To attribute anti- (or philo-) Semitic tendencies to the Greeks of the period is a sign of veritable paranoia. At that time (ca. 400 BCE, according to scientific dating that cannot be disputed without shifting Thucydides and Xenophon) the Greeks were not yet familiar with the Jews and vice versa. Incidental contacts between individual Greeks and Jews cannot be ruled out, but the two peoples had not yet established any deep mutual contacts, had not drawn any mutual collective portraits and could not have had any interest in one another. In the Greek literature of this and even later periods the Jews do not even get a mention. Even Aristotle appears to have known nothing about them, though there is an apocryphal account of his meeting with a Hellenized Jew in Asia Minor. Similarly, no Greek topics and issues are discussed in relevant biblical books. Neither Ezra, nor Nehemiah nor even Daniel features any Greek characters (even though there are occasional glimpses of Greek words). Thus Heifetz's argument is not only a typical anachronism but a glaring instance of mental stagnation.

Part IV

[23] If we took Heifetz's claims of the identity between the two Mantinean battles seriously, this interesting chronological detail would merit some serious discussion. How could a son of Xenophon, whose father was barely more than ten on the day of the [first] Mantinean battle, die in it? How else can we place Xenophon in relation to the wars fought by his beloved Sparta? Frankly, though, this argument is redundant -- those above are enough.

[24] By the same token, Heifetz could have questioned the authenticity of the text of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Whatever for?

[25] It is unclear, however, whose provinces they were. Heifetz prudently skirts such minor issues. In principle, the provinces must have been Babylonian: Median nationality is ruled out by reasons of politics and geography, for Ectabanes is far too remote from Hellespontus, while Babylon was after all the center of an independent empire -- yet in that case, as shown by the following, the Greeks of Asia Minor mistakenly related to Babylonians as Persians for a long time. The only puzzling question is why did Cyrus pay the Spartans in Persian coin -- the Darics? In fact, in whose honor were these coins named?

[26] The issue of the alleged personal acquaintance between Nebuchadnezzar and Herodotus -- an acquaintance far more instructive than that of Solon and Croesus -- merits separate discussion. For the time being, we will only point out that since Herodotus obviously visited Babylon, as he himself admits, he had to meet someone there. If he did live before the Peloponnesian War, which would be a reasonable assumption, according to Heifetz he should have met Nebuchadnezzar, about whom he knew nothing, in Babylon. If, as Heifetz believes, he lived 100 years later (see above and below), he should have met the Greeks there! In either of these two versions, Herodotus' Asian descriptions are preposterous fiction, and one that is absurd and unconventional at once. Would it not be simpler to suppose that the poor fellow described things exactly as he saw them (especially since both archaeological and objective historical data lend considerable credence to his descriptions) and lived exactly when he saw them? Otherwise we will be forced to invent conspiracy theories in the manner of Anatoly Timofeevich Fomenko: since Herodotus' accounts obviously cannot be a mistake, this only leaves the version of insane falsification -- but by whom and in whose interests? I am afraid this is also the only way to deal with another ludicrous question: how is it that even Xenophon knows nothing about Nebuchadnezar, Nabonidus or the New-Babylonian Empire itself -- which he eliminated with his own hands?

[27] The reference is to the book Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James Prichard, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1955. An interesting distortion of the title, yet a mere trifle compared to what comes next.

[28] I am deeply grateful to Y. Bloch for supplying me with the complete quote from Prichard's book.

[29] Another point: the chances that a royal list of this kind would contain the name of an usurper are slight in the extreme.

[30] Many thanks are once again due to Y. Bloch for his reminder that the fragment of the Behistun inscription found in Yeb contains only lines 50-112 of the original Acadian text (see A.E. Cowley [ed. and tr.], Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century BC, pp. 248-271).