Before Moammar Gadhafi, there were the Phoenicians. And the Greeks. The Romans. The first Arabs. They’re a reminder that no civilization — and no leader — is forever.
The Libyan transitional leaders have a lot to deal with once they stop being rebels, and begin shaping a new Libya: Keeping law and order, setting up a rudimentary government, dealing with money — and oil.
But what about Libya’s other wealth? Its archaeological treasures?
They are all over the country.
In the south, in Acacus, rock paintings 12,000 years old cross an entire mountain range.
In the east, the city of Cyrene holds a thousand years of history — Roman general Mark Antony once gave it to Cleopatra.
And along the coast, the splendid ruins of Leptis Magna that were buried for centuries under the sand was said to be one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire.
What will happen to these sites in the days ahead? If you look at history, their fate does not bode well.
“We’re very worried,” said Francesco Bandarin of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO…
Read on here. There is a rather nice slide show too.
On the Bible Places blog:
A headline in the Jerusalem Post catches my eye: “Libya interim rulers set Saturday ultimatum for Sirte.” The first paragraph identifies Sirte as Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown. The name sounds familiar and I turn to Acts 27:17 where it says of the sailors carrying Paul to Rome: “Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.”
Sirte sounds a lot like Syrtis and so I wonder if the city is perhaps along Libya’s northern shore. Google Maps confirms that it is…
I open up the article on “Syrtis” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary and learn that this is the name of two dangerous gulfs off the coast of modern Libya. In that article, Mark J. Olson identifies the Greater Syrtis with the modern Gulf of Sirte:
According to Strabo (2.5.20), the Greater Syrtis covered an area approximately 450–570 miles in circumference, and 170–180 miles in breadth. This is the modern Gulf of Sirte, off the coast of Libya. The Lesser Syrtis is the modern Gulf of Gabes off the coast of Tunisia. The ancient mariners’ fears of running aground while still far out at sea are echoed in Dio Chrysostomus’ warning: “Those who have once sailed into it find egress impossible; for shoals, cross-currents, and long sand-bars extending a great distance out make the sea utterly impassable or troublesome” (Or. 5.8–9)” (6: 286).
I don’t think this helps me understand the passage in Acts better, but it may help me to remember the name of Syrtis. And it does provide a modern connection when teaching students today.
A search on Google reveals that Peter Kirk has observed this connection. He wrote in March, “How appropriate it is that a biblical place of danger has now become a place of danger for Gaddafi.”
In January I recommended Gordon Franz’s article, “Why Were the Sailors Afraid of the Syrtis Sands (Acts 27:17)?”
This screenshot from Google Earth shows Sirte in relation to Crete, Paul’s place of departure. The ship was not destroyed by the sandbars of Syrtis but instead sailed west and was wrecked on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1).
Very sad news coming out of Tripoli:
The historic church of St. George located in Libya, in Tripoli, dating back to 1647 was ransacked. The church is the oldest Orthodox church in North Africa.
The president of the Greek community, Dimitris Anastassiou transferred the news to the Metropolitan of Tripoli Mr. Theophylaktos, who has been in Greece since late June.
“I am feeling heartbroken for what is happening in Libya, this beautiful country which was destroyed and whose people are noted for their hospitality,” stated Metropolitan of Tripoli, who settled in Libya in 1991.
”I was sad to hear the news from Mr. Anastassiou. The thieves stole the shrine of our patron saint which I had brought from Mount Athos. Old Gospels, chalices, cherubim, censers, one of which we had been given by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Those who stole the holy objects contacted the president of the community and asked for money in order to return them. Mr. Anastassiou reported the incident to the police, but as things are at the moment, noone will deal with this matter,” he said.
NATO refused to say Tuesday whether or not it would bomb ancient Roman ruins in Libya if it knew Moammar Gadhafi was hiding military equipment there.
“We will strike military vehicles, military forces, military equipment or military infrastructure that threaten Libyan civilians as necessary,” a NATO official in Naples told CNN, declining to give his name in discussing internal NATO deliberations.
But he said the alliance could not verify rebel claims that Libya’s leader may be hiding rocket launchers at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leptis Magna, a historic Roman city between the capital Tripoli and rebel-held Misrata.
NATO will brief reporters on its mission in Libya Tuesday, a day after a top British military officer admitted that the bombing campaign was straining British resources…
I mentioned his comments here.
Things are coming loose, I think…
An animator uses the mobile game Angry Birds to tell the story of the recent developments in Northern Africa:
Libyans appear determined to safeguard their rich cultural heritage during the popular unrest against leader Muammar Gaddafi, protecting it from the looting seen in neighboring Egypt’s revolution just weeks ago.
Conquered by most of the civilizations that held sway over the Mediterranean, Libya’s rich cultural heritage includes Leptis Magna, a prominent coastal city of the Roman empire, whose ruins are some 130 km (80 miles) east of Tripoli.
The birthplace of emperor Septimius Severus, its amphitheatre, marbled baths, colonnaded streets and a basilica are considered the jewel in the crown of its Roman legacy.
While communication with Libya difficult sketchy amid the uprising against Gaddafi’s four decade rule, two archaeologists who frequently work in the country said cultural artifacts appeared to have been spared the ravages suffered during Egypt’s recent revolt.
“So far there are no records whatsoever of any areas from the cultural heritage of Libya being affected by the troubles,”…
“All seems to be ok. I don’t have particular concerns that museums will in any way be affected by all this,”…
“I’m confident local people will protect (them) and the department of antiquity staff will ensure everything is in order and kept safe.”…
Read the whole piece here.
It must be like hell there…
Talk about living in denial:
Muammar Gaddafi blamed a revolt against his rule on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Thursday, and said the protesters were fueled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs, in a rambling appeal for calm.
Gaddafi, who just two days ago vowed in a televised address to crush the revolt and fight to the last, showed none of the fist-thumping rage of that speech.
This time, he spoke to state television by telephone without appearing in person, and his tone seemed more conciliatory, with much of his country out of government control.
“Their ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe,” said Gaddafi…
Via UN Watch:
The Libyan government is massacring peaceful protesters. Artillery and helicopter gunships were used against crowds. Thugs armed with hammers and swords attacked families in their homes. Women and children were seen jumping off Giuliana Bridge in Benghazi to escape. Many of them were killed by the impact of hitting the water, while others were drowned. Urge the US, the EU and the UN to make Libyan dictator Colonel Qaddafi stop the killing.
What a wicked tyrant!
The Telegraph has a picture gallery of the protest here.