First, with the story of Sampson, this is historically set in time of the Judges (circa 1100bc – Sampson being the last Judge before the rise of King David). The story is thought to have been written down in the mid 500’s bc, although some claim it may have been based on even earlier texts (as opposed to solely from the oral Haggadah). Overall, the Jewish Canon (Old Testament) was not thought to be fully consolidated until around 300bc.
The passage of interest is that, on his way to Timnah, Sampson comes across a young lion and tears it apart with his hands. He visits Timnah and leaves, and then upon returning he notes that a swarm of bees have taken up residence in the carcass of the lion.
Timnah was a Philistine city. The Philistines were thought to be Pelasgians, later known as Ionians. Essentially, they were Greek.
So, Sampson decides to come up with a riddle ‘out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness’. This was in reference to the lion carcass. No one could solve the riddle, but he told it to his lady friend, then went away. When he came back, he found about 30 men had learned the riddle so decided this meant they had slept with his woman, so he killed them all. Ok, so that is that story.
Now we come to the story of Onesilas. According to Herodotus 5:114, he was the Cypriot brother of King Gorgus of Salamis and ousted Gorgus from power when he refused to participate in the Ionian revolt. These events occurred at the time of the Battle of Salamis, circa 480bc. It was a very significant battle in history. Onesilas fought the Persian general Artybius, slew him, but also fell in battle.
The Amathusians, angry that Onesilas’ actions had provoked a siege upon their city, cut off the head of his corpse and spiked it on their city wall. In time, honey bees settled in the head. Now this was seen as terribly significant, because honey and bees were considered sacred (going far back in both Egyptian and Greek history). So they consulted the Oracle, who said a person must be sacrificed each year to Onesilas, as was the usual form of tribute to a hero. At the time of Herodotus’ writing (somewhere between 460 and 430bc) the practice still continued.
What is interesting about both stories is not only bees in a corpse, an association with Greeks, and a number of men being killed in both instances as a result of the incident, but also that the lion is a common motif associated with Kings. Was Onesilas a King? Well, he was certainly a Prince, and for the period that he usurped his brother’s position (which only ended with his death in battle), we can assume he took on the role of King.
There are a lot of interesting correlations like this through history. I quite enjoy pondering on them. Ha! Just noticed another one. The name Onesilas reminded me of Wenceslaus. I thought they sounded similar, perhaps the name Wenceslaus derived from this name? In another interesting correlation, Wenceslaus IV was a Duke of Bohemia who, like Onesilas, ousted the current ruler in order to fight off invading forces, but was assassinated thereafter by his brother. Again, like Onesilas, a cult grew up in his wake. He was posthumously pronounced a saint and Righteous King by the Pope. Sometimes it seems like history repeats itself in strange ways.
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