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Odyssey of the Gods: The History of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Greece

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Overview

Legendary UFO expert Erich von Däniken stirs up another controversy with an imaginative supposition: What if the myths of ancient Greece were attempts to describe events that really happened?

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Odyssey of the Gods: The History of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Greece

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Overview

Legendary UFO expert Erich von Däniken stirs up another controversy with an imaginative supposition: What if the myths of ancient Greece were attempts to describe events that really happened?

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Editorial Reviews

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Erich von Däniken's 1968 Chariots of the Gods put him on the map as "the father of ancient astronauts." Many experts disputed the Swiss author's claims about aliens, but no one could doubt the popularity of his theories: More than sixty million copies of his new age books have sold. Now this never timid writer argues that what we know as Greek myths were actually accounts of real extraterrestrial beings; that Greek "gods" were in fact visitors, not always friendly, from other solar systems. Odyssey of the Gods contains startling new explanations of this pivotal epoch in human history. A radical new view of Zeus and company.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452634159
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/24/2011
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Library - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

William Dufris have extensive experience on stage and screen.

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Odyssey of the Gods

The History of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Greece


By Erich von Däniken, Diana Ghazzawi, Matthew Barton, Christian von Arnim

Career Press

Copyright © 2012 Erich von Däniken
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-5427-1



CHAPTER 1

Adventures of the Starship Enterprise in Long-Gone Millennia

Impure means lead to an impure end.

—Mahatma Gandhi, 1869–1948


A long, long time ago there lived a distant descendant of the gods. No one knows his original name, but the Greeks called him Jason. I'll have to make do with this name since I don't know any other. Now Jason was no ordinary man, for blue blood ran in his veins. His father was King Aison of Iolchos in Thessalia. But, as so often in mythology, Jason had a wicked stepbrother who deprived him of the throne when he was still an infant. Jason's father arranged for his small offspring to be brought up by a centaur. Others say that it was his mother who took him to the centaur, but that is not the important thing here. The centaurs were a curious cross-breed, with a man's head and upper torso and arms, but the body of a horse. A truly astonishing phenomenon. And Jason must have had a rather unusual kind of upbringing!

Jason is connected with an oracle, for anyone who was anything in ancient Greece had something to do with an oracle. The prophecy in this case warned of a man with just one sandal. As the disreputable king, Jason's stepbrother was one day holding a celebratory buffet on the beach, when a tall, beautiful young man came striding along. This was Jason, and he was wearing only one sandal because he had lost the other in the mud of a river. Jason was clothed in a leopard's skin and a leather tunic. The king did not recognize the stranger and asked irritably who he was. Jason, smiling, answered that his foster-father the centaur called him Jason, but that his real name was Diomedes, and he was the son of King Aison.

Jason soon realized with whom he was talking, and quickly demanded the throne back, which was rightfully his. Surprisingly the king agreed, but on one condition—which, he assumed, could not be fulfilled. He said that Jason must free his kingdom from a curse, which had been laid both on him and on the whole country. He must fetch the Golden Fleece that was guarded by a dragon in a faraway place. This dragon never slept. Only when this deed had been accomplished would the king relinquish his kingdom.

Jason agreed, and thus began the most incredible science-fiction story. First, Jason went in search of an extraordinary shipbuilder, who would construct the most amazing ship of all time. This man was called Argos, and scholars disagree about where he came from. What is certain is that Argos must have been an outstanding engineer, for he built Jason a ship unlike any that had ever been seen before. Naturally, Argos had unusual connections, for none other than Athene herself gave him advice, and under her direction a vessel was built from a kind of wood which "never rots." Not content with that, Athene personally contributed an unusual sort of beam and built this in to the ship's bows. It must have been an astonishing piece of wood, for it could speak. Even as the ship left the harbor, the beam shouted out in gladness because the journey was starting, and later it warned the ship's company of many dangers. Argos, the shipbuilder, christened the mighty ship Argo, which in ancient Greek means roughly "fast" or "fleet-footed." The ship's company were thus called "Argonauts," and the whole story is called the Argonautica. (Our astronauts and cosmonauts take their name indirectly from the Greek Argonauts.)

The Argo had room for 50 men, who must all have been specialists in various fields. That is why Jason had sent messages to every royal house in his search for a team of volunteers with particular abilities. And they came, all heroes and offspring of the gods. The list of the original crew is only partially preserved, and scholars say that other names were added by later authors. The crew must have been quite phenomenal, and it included the following people: Melampus, a son of Poseidon; Ancaeus of Tegeg, also a Poseidon offspring; Amphiarus the seer; Lynceus the look-out; Castor of Sparta, a wrestler; lphitus, the brother of the king of Mycenae; Augeias, the son of the king of Phorbas; Echion the herald, a son of Hermes; Euphemus of Tainaron, the swimmer; Heracles of Tiryns, the strongest man; Hylas, the beloved of Heracles; Idmon the Argive, a son of Apollo; Acastus, a son of King Pelias; Calais, the winged son of the Boreas; Nauplius, the sailor; Polydeuces, the prizefighter from Sparta; Phalerus, the archer; Phanus, the Cretan son of Dionysus; Argos, the builder of the Argo; and Jason himself, the leader of the enterprise.

The various authors who described the journey of the Argo more than 2,000 years ago added other names. At different points in Greek history, writers or historians concerned with the Argonauts assumed that this or that famous character must also have been there. The oldest list is in the Pythian Poem IV, recorded by a writer called Pindar (roughly 520–446 BC). This contains only ten names: Heracles, Castor, Polydeuces, Euphemnus, Periclymenus, Orpheus, Echion, and Eurytus (both sons of Hermes, the messenger of the gods), as well as Calais and Zetes. Pindar continually emphasizes that all these heroes were of divine descent.

The best and also most detailed description both of the whole journey and the heroes taking part in it, comes from Apollonius of Rhodes. He lived at some point between the 3rd and 4th centuries BC. Now Apollonius was certainly not the originator of the Argonautica. Various scholars assume that he must have drawn the basic story from much older sources. Apollonius writes in his "First Song" that poets before him had told how Argos, guided by Pallas (Athene), had built the ship. Fragments of the Argonautica can be traced back as far as the 7th century BC. Scholars do not exclude the possibility that the story actually originated in ancient Egypt.

The Argonautica by Apollonius was translated into German in 1779. In quoting from the story, I will mainly draw upon this translation, now over 200 years old. The 1779 translation is not yet imbued with our modernist attitudes, and reflects Apollonius' original flowery style. An excerpt from the list of names, written down roughly 2,400 years ago, goes as follows:

Polyphemus, the Elatid, came from Larissa. Long ago he had stood shoulder to shoulder with the Lapiths, fighting in battle against the wild centaurs ...

Mopsus came too, the Titaresian, who had learned from Apollo to interpret the flight of birds ...

Iphitus and Clytias were also of his party, the sons of wild Eurytus, to whom the god who shoots far had given the bow ...

Alcon had sent his son, although no son now remained in his house ...

Of the heroes who left Argos Idmon was the last. He learned from the god [Apollo] the art of watching the flight of birds, of prophecy and of reading the meaning of the fiery meteors ...

Lynceus came also ... his eyes were unbelievably sharp. If the rumor is true, he could see deep into the earth ...

Afterwards came Euphemus from the walls of Tenaros, the most fleet of foot ... two other sons of Neptune came too....


Whichever list of names is closest to the original, the Argonauts were, at any rate, a hand-picked company of gods' sons, each with his own astonishing gifts and special expertise. This extraordinary group gathered in the harbor of Pagasai on the Magnesia peninsula, to set off with Jason in his quest for the Golden Fleece.

Before the journey began, they held a feast in honor of Zeus, the father of the gods, and then the whole team marched on board, through a crowd of thousands of inquisitive observers. Apollonius describes it as follows:

Thus did the heroes pass through the town and make their way down to the ship.... With them and around them ran a great, foolish mob. The heroes shone like stars in the sky between the clouds ...


The people hailed the brave seafarers and wished them success in all their undertakings and a safe homecoming, while anxious mothers pressed their children to their breasts. The whole town was in uproar until the Argo finally sailed over the horizon and vanished from sight.

And why all this effort? Because of the Golden Fleece. But what is this slightly bizarre object of desire? Most encyclopedias I consulted describe the Golden Fleece as the "fleece of a golden ram." So this whole Argonaut crew is supposed to have set sail because of a fleece? The greatest ship of the time is supposed to have been built, and sons of gods and kings to have freely offered their services, in the quest of a ridiculous bit of fur? And a curse—one that needed such effort to combat—was supposed to hang over the country because of this? And a dragon, who "never sleeps," was meant to guard this lousy fleece day and night. Surely not!

No, definitely not, for the Golden Fleece was a very particular skin with astonishing properties. It could fly!

The legend tells that Prixos, a son of King Athamas, had suffered a great deal because of his wicked stepmother, until his real mother snatched him and his sister away. She placed the children on the back of a winged golden ram, which the god Hermes had once given her, and on this miraculous beast the two flew through the air over land and sea, finally landing in Aia, the capital of Colchis. This was a kingdom at the farthest end of the Black Sea. The king of Colchis is described as a violent tyrant who easily broke his word when it suited him, and who wanted to hang on to this "flying ram." The Golden Fleece was thus nailed firmly to a tree. In addition, the services of a fire-spitting dragon which never slept were enlisted to guard it.

So the Golden Fleece was some kind of flying machine that had once belonged to the god Hermes. It must on no account remain in the hands of a tyrant, who might have misused it for his foul purposes—hence the top-class crew with their various expertise, and the help of the gods' descendants. They all wanted to regain what had been the property of the Olympians.

Hardly had they embarked when the Argonauts elected a leader in democratic manner. Heracles, the strongest of all men, was chosen, but he turned down the job. He declared that this honor belonged to Jason alone, the initiator of the whole expedition. The ship passed swiftly out of Pagasai harbor and rounded the peninsula of Magnesia.

After a few harmless adventures, the crew reached the Capidagi peninsula, which is connected to the mainland by a strip of land. There lived the Dolion people, whose young king Cyzicus asked the Argonauts to tie up in the harbor in the bay of Chytos—somehow forgetting to warn them about the giants with six arms who also lived there. The unsuspecting Argonauts climbed a nearby mountain to get their bearings.

Only Heracles and a few men remained to guard the Argo. The six-armed monsters immediately attacked the ship—unaware, however, of Heracles, who saw them coming and killed a few of them with his arrows before the battle even began. Meanwhile the other Argonauts returned, and thanks to their special talents, butchered the attackers. Apollonius writes of these giants: "Their body has three pairs of sinewy hands, like paws. The first pair hangs on their gnarled shoulders, the second and third pairs nestle at their horrible hips ..."

Giants? Nothing more than the fantasy of a story-teller? In our forefathers' ancient literature, at least, such beings are not uncommon Any Bible reader will remember the fight between David and Goliath. And in Genesis it says: "There were giants in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them...."

Other passages in the Bible which speak of giants are Deuteronomy 3:3-11; Joshua 12:4; 1 Chronicles 20:4-5; Samuel 2 1:16. And in the book of the prophet Enoch there is an extensive description of giants. In Chapter 14 one can read: "Why have you done as the children of earth and brought forth the Sons of giants?"

In the Apocrypha of Baruch we even find numbers: "The Highest brought the flood upon the earth, and did away with all flesh and also the 4,090,000 giants." This is confirmed in the Kebra Negest, the story about the Ethiopian kings:

Those daughters of Cain, however, with whom the angels had done indecent acts, became pregnant, but could not give birth, and died. And of those in their wombs, some died and others came out by splitting the bodies of their mothers ... as they grew older and grew up these became giants.


And in the books containing the "tales of the Jews in ancient times" one can even read about the different races of these giants. There were the "Emites" or "Frightful Ones," then the "Rephaites" or "Gargantuans"; there were the "Giborim" or the "Mighty Ones," the "Samsunites" or the "Sly Ones"; and finally the "Avides" or "Wrong Ones" and the "Nefilim" or "Spoilers." And the book of Eskimos is quite certain on this point: "In those days there lived giants on the earth."

I could carry on quoting such passages, but I would prefer not to repeat material from earlier books. Giants' bones have also been found, although some anthropologists still try to insist that these are the bones of gorillas. In 1936 the German anthropologist Larson Kohl discovered the bones of giant people on the shores of the Elyasi Lake in Central Africa. The German paleontologists Gustav von Königsberg and Franz Weidenreich were astonished to find several giants' bones in Hong Kong chemists' shops in 1941. The discovery was published and scientifically documented in the American Ethnological Society's annual report of 1944.

About 3.5 miles (6 km) from Safita in Syria archaeologists dug up hand axes which could only have been used by people with giant hands. The stone tools which came to light in Ain Fritissa (East Morocco), measuring 12.5 × 8.5 inches (32 × 22 cm), must also have belonged to some hefty people. If they were able to wield such tools, which weigh up to 9.5 pounds (4.3kg), they must have been over 13 feet (4 m) tall. The discoveries of giants' skeletons in Java, South China, and Transvaal (South Africa) are well known from specialist literature. Both Professor Weidenreich and Professor Saurat carefully documented their scientific research into giants. And the former French representative of the Prehistorical Society, Dr. Louis Burkhalter, wrote in the 1950 edition of the Revue du Musee de Beyrouth: "We want to make clear that the existence of giant people [in ancient times] ... must be regarded as a scientifically certain fact."

The Epic of Gilgamesh from Sumeria also tells of giants, as does, at the other end of the world, the Popol Vuh of the Mayans. The Nordic and Germanic myths, too, are peopled by giants. So why would the ancient world have so many stories about beings who never existed?

In the epic world of the Greeks, we hear about giants not only in the Argonautica but also in the later tale of Odysseus, who did battle with them. These powerfully-built figures are supposed to have been the fruit of a sexual union between men and gods. I have good reasons to believe that these same giants were responsible for the huge megalithic constructions which intrigue archaeologists, such as on the small islands of Malta and Gozo. The mighty ruins of a temple there still bear the name "Gigantia" (see Images 1 and 2).

The Argo continued its journey without any more major upsets, except that a sea-god called Glaucos shot up to the surface suddenly like a submarine from the depths. He brought the Argonauts a message from Zeus, for Heracles and his darling Hylas. Then Glaucos dived quickly under and sank down to the depths. Around him the waves frothed in many spiraling circles and poured over the ship.

In Salmydessos, the Argonauts encountered an old king who stank to high heaven, and was also starving. The poor fellow was called Phineus. He possessed the gift of prophecy, and had clearly divulged too many of the gods' plans. The punishment they meted out to him was of a strange kind: whenever Phineus wanted to eat something, two winged creatures swooped down from the clouds and snatched the food away from him. Whatever they didn't snatch they covered in filth so that it stank and was inedible. When the Argonauts arrived the old man hardly had the strength to move. He asked the Argonauts for help and promised to reward them by warning them of approaching dangers. Not of all dangers, though, for Phineus suspected that this was precisely what the gods didn't want. The Argonauts felt sorry for him and prepared for themselves and the stinking king a luxurious feast. Just as the king was about to eat, the flying creatures—Harpies—swooped down from clear skies upon the food. But this time things turned out differently. Two of the Argonauts had the ability to fly, and pursued the fleeing Harpies into the air. The airborne Argonauts soon returned and told the king he now had nothing more to fear from the Harpies. They had been in hot pursuit behind them and would easily have been able to kill them—but the goddess Iris had commanded that they spare them, for they were the "dogs of Zeus."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Odyssey of the Gods by Erich von Däniken, Diana Ghazzawi, Matthew Barton, Christian von Arnim. Copyright © 2012 Erich von Däniken. Excerpted by permission of Career Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface,
Chapter 1: Adventures of the Starship Enterprise in Long-Gone Millennia,
Chapter 2: In the Name of Zeus,
Chapter 3: The Network of the Gods,
Chapter 4: The Trojan Tangle,
Chapter 5: Atlantis: The Millennia-Old Whodunnit,
Chapter 6: Help For Plato,
A Final Word on Atlantis,
A Note to the Reader,
Notes,
Index,
About the Author,

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