A Sidonian Theogony


1 Introduction

[… Hesiod, Orpheus …]

  1. Time
  2. Desire and Mist
  3. Air and Breeze
  4. Egg

2 Translation

The Sidonians, according to the same author (=Eudemus of Rhodes), say that before all other things there was Time¹ (gr. Khrónos m.); and they place Desire² (gr. Póthos m.) and Mist³ (gr. Omíkhlē f.) after it.

From the intercourse of Desire and Mist – as two principles⁴ –, Air⁵ (gr. Aḗr m.) and Breeze⁶ (gr. Aúra f.) were born – indicating by ‘Air’ the unmixed element of the Intelligible, and by ‘Breeze’ the vital pattern of the Intelligible moved by it.⁷

From these two, in turn, an Egg⁸ (gr. Ōión n.) was produced – as the intelligible Intellect, I believe.⁹

1: Perhaps a translation of Phoenician ˤulōm. At any rate Mochus of Sidon includes the god ˤUlōm, hellenized as Oulōmós, in his theogony, albeit as the son, not the grandfather, of Air and Aether (=Breeze?).
2: Póthos is a near-synonym of Eros, and it is quite possible that Hesiod’ Eros, one of the first gods in his Theogony, derives from a Phoenician tradition along these lines. Póthos also appears in Philo of Byblos, probably translating the same Phoenician word, whatever it was.
3: Omíkhlē is ‘mist’ or ‘gloom’. The Phoenician word is uncertain, but could be what is translated as ‘Chaos’ in Philo of Byblos, and perhaps even an influence on Hesiod’s Chaos.
4: Arkhaí, a philosophical term added by Damascius, who likes his theogonic accounts to begin with one deity followed by two.
5: In Philo of Byblos, the very first principle is called ‘Air’, in Mochus it is one of the first two beings (together with Aithḗr). Philo may be combining into one what are multiple airy deities in Mochus and the present theogony.
6: Likely equivalent to Aithḗr in Mochus of Sidon.
7: This is purely Damascius’ interpretation, and has nothing to do with the original myth (or with Eudemus).
8: The Egg is also found in Mochus of Sidon, in Philo of Byblos, as well as in Egyptian myths of creation (which likely influenced the Phoenician ones) and Greek theogonies attributed to Orpheus (likely influenced by the Phoenician myths).
9: Again, Neoplatonic editorializing from Damascius, not to be dismissed as uninteresting, but not to be misinterpreted as part of the mythical account itself.