THE LEGEND OF GOG AND MAGOG







Genesis, 10:2-4: The sons of Japeth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai,

and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.

And the sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.

And the sons of Javan: Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.

Ezekiel 18:6: Gomer and all his hordes; the house of Togarmah in the uttermost parts of the north,

and all his hordes; even many peoples with thee.

Ezekiel 37:28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore.

Ezekiel 38:1-4 The word of the LORD came to me:

Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him

and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal;

and I will turn you about, and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you forth, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords . . .

Exekiel 38:15-23 and come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army;

you will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land.

In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

"Thus says the Lord GOD: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them?

But on that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, says the Lord GOD, my wrath will be roused.

For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.

I will summon every kind of terror against Gog, says the Lord GOD; every man's sword will be against his brother.

With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples that are with him, torrential rains and hailstones, fire and brimstone.

So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel 39:1 And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal . . .

Rev 20:6-10 Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison,

and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.

And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,

and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.






These, the first known mentions of the names Gog and Magog, occur in the Bible and are brief, jumbled and vague. Some of the place-names can be tentatively identified: Madai may be Media, and the words Meshech and Tubal seem to appear in Assyrian inscriptions as 'Muschu' and 'Tabal'. Names change and place-names change and the whole matter may be apocryphal anyway. Any place north of the Holy Land may be the land of Gog and Magog; Gog may be a person and Magog a nation; the Magog of the Genesis reference is certainly a person (the descendent of Noah through Japeth) but the Magog of the other references is apparently a nation or tribe. Take your pick.

. . . But, for some reason, 'Gog and Magog' became a nation or nations, with a life of their own, separate from their Biblical source. They passed into the romantic legends of Alexander the Great, which have been rife in Asia since the time of Alexander himself. They appear in the Koran, which has its own version of the Gog and Magog story; from these sources, they spread into common currency and become part of the Old World's travel myths--fables which spread among educated men, during those centuries when most of the earth was still terra incognita.






Here is the first form of the legend. Before about 500 AD, references to Gog and Magog occur many times, in the preserved sermons and letters of St Jerome and other early Christians; whenever Christendom was threatened by invaders, the names of Gog and Magog seem to have been bandied about. There is evidence of a lively debate on just whom was meant by Gog and Magog: when the Scythians threatened, it was the Scythians; when the Huns threatened, it was the Huns; and when the Alans threatened, someone would call the Alans 'Gog and Magog'; so too with the Khazars, the Turks, the Magyars, the Parthians, the Mongols. Marco Polo in the thirteenth century thought that Gog and Magog must be represented by the Mongol horde which had just conquered most of the East . . . And so on, and so on--presumably, just as a present-day demagogue might say: "So-and-so is the Antichrist!" or, perhaps, "America is the Great Satan!" Gog and Magog were the enemy beyond the gate--just waiting to pounce.

This state of affairs continued about the end of the 17th century, at which time the legend of Gog and Magog died away; today it is largely forgotten. And the reason for this? Until the 17th century, Asia for Europeans was terra incognita. The Christians of Europe were certain that the land of Gog and Magog lay somewhere to the northeast; after the 17th century, Europeans began to travel in Asia and write accounts of their experiences . . . and as they explored, they pushed back the location of Gog and Magog's land until at last it was fairly certain there was no Gog and Magog's land; and once that became known, the legend ceased to be told.

And the reason that Europeans did not travel in Asia? Well, the East was vast, and the trade routes across it were guarded by Persian and Arab merchants; the Christians of Rome and Byzantium never got much further than the Holy Land. After the time of the Prophet (in the seventh century) the Islamic revolution swept across all Persia--almost in an eyeblink against the map of the centuries. Christians were not welcome in Muslim lands; the Zoroastrian and Buddhist peoples of Persia fled into India and the Himalayas; the Jews coexisted with the Muslims, basing themselves around Baghdad. In the north, the Islamic armies swept up into the present-day Soviet republics . . . and were turned back by formidable land barriers--deserts, seas, mountains ranges galore, arranged in a de facto wall encircling Persia. These mountains and deserts and seas were not impassable--for caravan travel and small parties on horseback and camelback. But the only portal for armies was the Gate of Gates, through the area between the Black and Caspian seas. This strait was mostly blocked by the Caucasus mountains; today, the remnants of fortifications can be found everywhere in the area; but at two points, the mountain barrier could be easily crossed.

Here, at the Caucasus, the Muslims ran smack into the empire of Khazaria. This nation, largely forgotten by history, seems to have been peopled by nomadic horsemen descended from the Huns, numerous enough and fierce enough to turn back the Muslims and retain their territory; at its height, the Khazar empire stretched from the rivers Volga to the Don and controlled the Caspian (then called the Khazar Sea) and the Caucasus mountains and large stretches of the northern coast of the Black Sea. In or about the time of the Islamic revolution, the people of Khazaria converted to Judaism. And until about 965 AD (after which they vanish from historical accounts) the Jewish Khazars controlled the area around the Caucasus.

Commerce went on . . . but until Marco Polo's time, no Christian merchants crossed Asia and left records for posterity. Not until the Mongols conquered and pacified the area in the thirteenth century do we have any accounts whatsoever of Christian travelers. The East seems to have just been too dangerous for exploration.






This is the second form of the legend: Alexander the Great, while conquering the world, came eventually to the Caucasus Mountains where Prometheus the Titan had been chained long before. Here, the Macedonians discovered the evil hordes of Gog and Magog laying waste to the peaceable tribes around them. The country of these wicked raiders lay beyond two great mountains named Ubera Aquilonias, the Breasts of the North. Alexander, calling upon the power of God, moved the mountains together and forged gates of iron and brass to seal the narrow way. These Caspian Gates were further strengthened with a magic metal called asiceton, which was proof against fire and steel; steel shattered upon asiceton, and whatever fires which touched it were instantaneously quenched. And further, Alexander built a mighty wall spanning the entire Caucasus range, closing off the civilized south from the forces of darkness. This wall became known as the Caucasus Wall. But at the end of time, the gates will open and the wall break down, and Gog and Magog will burst forth to destroy the world.

The Old Testament, of course, came before Alexander the Great. After Alexander's death, though, he was mythologized and became a sort of hero in every part of the world where Macedonian armies had marched. In Asia and parts of India, Alexander myths are still told, more than two thousand years after his time. As late as the turn of the century, everyone who was anyone in Afghanistan claimed descent from Iskender; in the Uzbekistan SSR (which used to be Sogdiana, birthplace of Roxelana) he is considered an Islamic saint; legends attached to other heroes were detached and retold with his name; and so on, and so on. For instance: in the epic of Gilgamesh, circa 2000 BC or earlier, one part of the tale recounts Gilgamesh's dive under the sea in search of the rose of immortality, which he brought to the surface but was cheated of by the serpent; the very same story is told of Alexander to this very day, apparently, and the first version of it I read was an Alexander myth.

Now, the city of Alexandria-the-furthest is situated in Uzbekistan--not far from present-day Khojend, a city which may be found in any atlas. The site is in old Sogdiana, under the eaves of the Alai and Pamir mountain ranges, on an important trade route and at the mouth of the oasis valley of Fergana. And it is the furthermost spot reached by the armies of Alexander. But by the time Alexander founded Alexander-the-furthest (which, incidentally, has been excavated by archeologists) he and his Macedonians had marched up hill and down hill, through mountain ranges galore, across deserts and gorges and parts of Persia unmapped by man . . .

And they were completely lost.

Several mountain ranges back, the natives had told them of a giant eagle legendary in those parts . . . and since all Greeks and Macedonians knew that Prometheus was chained somewhere in the Caucasus mountains, with a giant eagle gnawing at his liver, they leaped to the conclusion that they had crossed the Caucasus. So by their own judgement, they were several hundred miles northwest of their actual location, north of the Black Sea and near the legendary river Tanais. The Tanais was the Don river, which runs southward into the Black Sea, but they had found the Syr Darya which runs westward into the Caspian, and they were convinced it was the Tanais.

Incidentally, the reason historians guess the Macedonians went wrong after hearing eagle stories from their native guides, is that when western explorers reached the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountains, the same "giant-eagle" legend was still being told there.

But this is aside from the main point. And the main point is, the city of Derbent in the Caucasus mountains has laid claim for centuries to being the "real" Alexandria-the-furthest.

Hence, Alexander's Wall was obviously in the Caucasus.

And if Alexander penned up the hordes of Gog and Magog behind a wall and a gate, that wall and that gate would have to be in the Caucasus . . .






From the Syrian "Christian Legend concerning Alexander" (circa about 500 AD?):

(144) An exploit by Alexander, the son of Philip the Macedonian, showing how he went forth to the ends of the world, and made a gate of iron, and shut it in the face of the north wind, that the Hunaye <Huns> might not come forth to spoil the countries: from the manuscripts in the house of the archives of the kings of Alexandria.

(148) And Alexander looked towards the West, and he found a mountain that descends, and its name was 'the great Musas' <probably Mount Ararat in Turkey, which was called Musas and which Gilgamesh supposed climbed; several Gilgamesh legends became Alexander legends, just as the Moses myth of the baby set adrift in a basket to escape a massacre of children became a King-Arthur-and-Mordred myth>; and the troops descended it and came out upon Mount Klaudia, and ate bread there.

(149) Then they went down to the source of the Euphrates, and they found that it came forth from a cave; and they came to Haluras, where the Tigris goes forth like the stream that turns a mill, and they ate bread in Haluras. And they departed from thence and went to the river Kallath; and they descended the mountain which is called Ramath, where there is a watch-tower. And Alexander and his troops stood upon the top of the mountain and saw the four quarters of the heavens. And Alexander said, 'Let us go forth by the way to the north'; and they came to the confines of the north, and entered Armenia and Adarbaijan and Inner Armenia . . . And Alexander passed through all these places; and he went and passed mount Musas and entered a plain which is Bahi-Lebta, and he went and encamped by the gate of a great mountain. Now there was a road across it by which great merchants entered the inner countries, and by it did Alexander encamp.

<He sends heralds out, requesting that three hundred men advanced in years come to meet him. These men tell him that the land belongs to Tubarlak, king of Persia.>

(150) Alexander said to them, "How far does the mountain descend in that direction?' They answered him, 'This mountain extends without a break, passing by the sea of Beth-Katraye, and goes on and comes to an end in outer Persia near India . . .' Alexander said, 'This mountain is higher and more terrible than all the mountains which I have seen.' The old men, natives of the country, said to the king, 'Yea, by your majesty, my lord the king, neither we nor our fathers have been able to march one step upon it, and men do not ascend it either on that side or on this, for it is the boundary which God has sent between us and the nations within it.' Alexander said, 'Who are the nations within this mountain upon which we are looking? . . .' The natives of the country said, 'They are Huns.' He said to them, 'Who are their kings?' The old men said, 'Gog and Magog and Nawal the kings of the sons of Japhet . . .'

<A long list of names follows.>

(153) When Alexander had heard what the old men said, he marvelled greatly at the great sea which surrounded all creation; and Alexander said to his troops, 'Do you desire that we should do something wonderful in this land?' They said to him, 'As thy majesty commands we will do.' The king said, 'Let us make a gate of brass and close up this breach.' His troops said, 'As thy majesty commands we will do.' And Alexander commanded and fetched three thousand smiths, workers in iron, and three thousand men, workers in brass. And they put down brass and iron, and kneaded it as a man kneads when he works clay. Then they brought it and made a gate, the length of which was twelve cubits and its breadth eight cubits. And they made a lower threshold from mountain to mountain, the length of which was twelve cubits; and they hammered it into the rocks of the mountains, and it was fixed in with brass and iron . . .

(154) And king Alexander fetched <an engraver> and inscribed upon the gate: 'The Huns shall go forth and conquer the countries of the Romans and of the Persians, and shall cast arrows . . . and shall return and enter their own land. Also I have written that, at the conclusion of eight hundred and twenty-six years, the Huns shall go forth by the narrow way which goes forth opposite Haloras, whence the Tigris goes forth like the stream which turns a mill, and they shall make the earth tremble by their going forth.

<Details are given of the fall of the gate, which shall herald the end of the world.>

(155) And when the Huns have gone forth, as God has commanded, the kingdoms of the Huns and the Persians and the Arabs, the twenty-four kingdoms that are written in this book, shall come from the ends of the heavens and fall upon one another, and the earth shall melt through the blood and dung of men.






In various other Alexander romances concurrent with this one, the details of the story are embroidered. Alexander is spoken of as a Christian king, a champion of Christendom and also of Judaism - that is, he is a champion of monotheism, of the worship of One True God. He comes to the uttermost north, and there finds the mountains named ubera aquilonis, the Breasts of the North; here he commands the mountains to move, and they move and approach each other miraculously. Then he builds the wall which bars Gog and Magog from civilized lands. The gate in Alexander's Wall is made of brass and iron, over which was poured the mysterious metal called asiceton. Or "Alexander made a gate of iron and shut it in the face of the north wind." In one version, Alexander also plants a bramble that flourishes so, it overtops the mountains and forms an impenetrable barrier - shades of Sleeping Beauty!

The mountains named ubera aquilonis, the Breasts of the North, sound like Mount Elburz in the Caucasus: a tall double peak which looms over the range (according to the accounts of travelers) rather like Mts. Rainer or Hood in Washington. One expert on ancient mythology links the double peaks of Mount Elburz to dioscuri legends, tales of twin heroes which crop up all across Europe: Romulus and Remus, Castor and Pollux, the Thracian 'Twin Riders', etc etc etc . . .

As for the magical metal, asiceton , it sounds like adamant.

After the Syrian Christian Legend, various other apocalyptic versions pop up all over, in many languages, and in manuscripts with the most romantic names: Pseudo-Callisthenes' Historia Alexandri Magni; the Revelations of Pseudo-Methodius; the Syrian Homily by Jacob of Sarug (whose monsters are Agog and Magog); a lost Arabic romance called the History of Dulcarnain; the Sermo de Fine Extremo; an Ethiopian romance, the History of Alexander; the Book of the Bee by Stephanno Orbelian; and something called the Histoire de la Siounie. And the Cosmography of Aethicus Ister, and the Travels of John de Mandeville, and Marco Polo, and so on, and so on . . .

Pseudo-Callisthenes writes of the unclean peoples shut up beyond the gate: "For they ate things polluted and base, dogs, mice, serpents, the flesh of corpses, yea unborn embryos as well as their own dead." This particular detail of the legends could stem from the accounts of Alexander and the Macedonians running up against the Bactrian custom of exposing corpses and also flinging old people to the dogs, plus ceremonially eating the flesh of the dead; the Macedonians were revolted, and put a stop to it.






The third version of the legend is Islamic. It appears in this Koran passage, concerning the deeds of Dhucarnain, the protector of all Muslims:

"Then he continued his way until he came to the place where the sun riseth; and he found it to rise on certain people unto whom we had not given anything wherewith to shelter themselves therefrom. Thus it was; and we comprehended with our knowledge the forces that were with him. And he prosecuted his journey from south to north, until he came between the two mountains, beneath which he found certain people, who could scarce understand what was said. And they said: O Dhu'lkarnein, verily Gog and Magog waste the land; shall we therefore pay thee tribute, on condition that thou build a rampart between us and them? The power wherewith my Lord had strengthened me is better than your tribute; but assist me strenuously, and I will set a strong wall between you and them. Bring me iron in large pieces, until it fill up the space between the two sides of these mountains. And he said to the workmen, blow with your bellows, until it make the iron red hot as fire. And he said further, bring me molten brass, that I may pour upon it. Wherefore, when this wall was finished, Gog and Magog could not scale it, neither could they dig through it. And Dhu'lkarnein said, this is a mercy from my Lord: but when the prediction of my Lord shall come to be fulfilled, he shall reduce the wall to dust; and the prediction of my Lord is true." --Koran, xviii

And this version:

"Ours the realm of Dhu'l-Qarnayn the glorious,

Realm like his was never won by mortal king,

Followed he the Sun to view his setting

When it sank into the sombre ocean-spring;

Up he clomb to see it rise at morning

From within the mansions when the east it fired;

All day long the horizons led him onward,

All night through he watched the stars and never tired.

Then of iron and of liquid metal

He prepared a rampart not to be o'er-passed.

Gog and Magog here he threw in prison

Till on Judgement Day they wake at last."

--Hassan b. Thabit, a late contemporary of Mohammed (?)

The transposition of the Alexander romances into the Koran is supposed to stem from a title given to Alexander: he was known as Alexander Two-horned, that is Alexander Dulkarnain. In one of the romances--the "Greek Romance of Alexander", of Pseudo-Callisthenes--Alexander was refered to as the son of the god Ammon, who had the head of a ram. Alexander is also represented on old coins with ram's horns adorning his forehead.

Moses was also called Two-horned (and this is why Michelangelo's statue of Moses sports two horns like the Devil) but this was a confusion with words; he was spoken of as having a ray of light upon his forehead, but the Arabic term 'rayed' koren also translates as 'horned'. However Alexander Dulkarnain and Moses Dulkarnain both eventually become confused with the angel Dulkarnain, protector of Islam. (Hence, many Muslims revere Alexander as a Muslim saint.)






From Pseudo-Methodius, the Revelations, 'Letter of Alexander to Olympias'

". . . And I found there also many peoples that ate the flesh of human beings and drank the blood of animals (and beasts) like water; for their dead they buried not, but ate. And when I beheld such utterly wicked nations and feared that through such a diet they might pollute the earth ... I besought the Power above and proceeded with force against them, and most of them I put to the sword, and their land I reduced to subjection . . . Two-and-twenty were the kings over them, and I pressed pursuit of them with force until they fortified themselves in two great mountains called the Breasts of the North, which have no other exit or entrance than between those two great mountains, towering in height as they do above the clouds of heaven, and extending like two walls on the right and on the left as far as the Great Sea beneath the Ansos <ie the Arctos, or the Bear Star - as far as the Arctic Ocean?> and the land of darkness. And I thought of all manner of contrivances to prevent them from issuing forth from the great mountains into which they had been driven. Now the entrance between the great mountains measures six-and-forty royal cubits. Again therefore I importuned Providence above and my prayer was heard. For He commanded the two mountains and they rocked and walked about in rivalry with each other a distance of twelve cubits.

And there I constructed gates of brass . . . and the same gates I overspread with asokiton that neither fire nor steel nor any device whatsoever might be able to unbronze the gates; for fire when brought near it goes out, and steel crumbles. And outside of these most terrible gates I set up another structure of stones each having the width of eleven cubits, the height of twenty cubits, and the length of sixty cubits . . . that nothing might avail to master such gates, which I called the Caspian Gates. Two-and-twenty kings I shut in there. And the names of the nations are Magog, Kynekephaloi, Nounoi . . . <in a variant version, Og and Magog with Xaneth himself three-headed, etc . . .>."






And here is a possible source for the idea of the Ubera Aquilonis, the moving mountains named 'The Breasts of the North':

"The valley of Arnon had a defile formed by two mountain ranges running parallel, whereof the one side had a concavity above, opposite to which on the other side breasts projected. A part of the enemies of Israel posted themselves to the pass to bar the way of the Israelites, while the other part concealed itself in the hollows above in order to throw down therefrom stones and arrows upon them. But God had brought this plan to ruin inasmuch as He caused the breasts of the one mountain range to clash into the concavities of the mountain range opposite, so that the enemy concealed therein were crushed to death." Midrasch Rabbah.






Some centuries after the Alexander romances began to circulate, a further development enters this already confusing labyrinth of details: the ten lost tribes of Israel are dragged into the story. Now, there are reasons for this.

1. According to history, the lost tribes were deported beyond the Euphrates, into Media: that is, the region south of the Elburz range of the Caucasus mountains, near the Caspian Sea; during a further deportation about 350 BC, Artaxerxes Ochus found that Jews from the remaining tribes in Israel had joined the Phoenicians in revolt against Persian rule, and accordingly sent some of them to settle on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.

2. Because Alexander's army thought they had traveled as far as the Caucasus mountains, it was the Caucasus mountains which were spoken of as the site of the Caspian Gate. Besides, half the mountain passes in Persia have traditionally been called the Gate of this, the Gate of that; there's an Iron Gate in Afghanistan and another in the Caucasus (this is Derbent, the city called the Iron Gate), a Caspian Gate, and in the Caucasus itself, the Dariel pass is 'the Gate of Gates.' Incidentally there is also an Iron Gate in Bulgaria, not to mention a Gate of Trajan. While busy conquering all Persia, Alexander supposedly chased a fleeing King Darius up through a pass called the Caspian Gate . . . which may be a mountain pass just south of the Caspian Sea; no one now alive knows just where it was. Afterward, the writers of various Alexander romances (none of whom had anything but the vaguest idea of the geography involved) spoke of the Caspian Gate as the Gate of Gates, and then of both as Alexander's Gate.

So, the lost tribes went to the region of the Caspian Sea, and here was Alexander's Gate in the same area; what could be more natural, than to suggest that the lost tribes were shut up behind Alexander's Gate?

3. And besides, there was a kingdom of the Jews north of the Caucasus mountains. It was the kingdom of Khazaria, nomadic people descended from the Huns. Not much is known about the Khazars, but it is known that the kingdom embraced Judaism around the seventh century AD. They were fierce fighters, feared by their neighbors. Contemporary historians, naturally, wrote of them as the race of Gog and Magog.

Hence, the following version, which comes from The Apocalypse of Ezra, something called the Oracula Sibyllina, and the Compendium Theologicae Veritatis of Albertus Magnus: the ten Lost Tribes dwell in a faraway land, but the Messiah will come, and He is the Christ; the Lost Tribes will recognize Him when He comes, and He will lead them out of their prison that they may defeat the Antichrist's hosts, Gog and Magog.

For an example of this version, take this one (by someone called Commodianus): the Messiah is Christ, and it is foretold that the Ten Tribes under His leadership will return from their exile, conquer the Antichrist (who, according to Commodianus, is Nero of Rome) and free Jerusalem.

And the opposite version, which holds that the Lost Tribes are the Antichrist's hosts, Gog and Magog; come the apocalypse they will burst forth from their prison, and sweep down to destroy Christendom.

John de Mandeville, who wrote a really wonderful collection of travel fantasies (his work dates to sometime before the Renaissance) has his particular take on this story. In his account, the evil Jews are penned underneath the Caucasus mountains, buried alive. They might have escaped across the Caspian Sea, but that sea is held by the kingdom of the Amazons and the Jews dare not take ship upon it; indeed, the Jews pay tribute to the Amazons. They have no means of breaking through the Wall which imprisons them. But when they are set free, they mean to become the scourge of Christendom . . . and indeed, they will escape. For someday a fox will burrow a hole through the Wall, and the Jews will see it, wondering, and follow it back to the hole. Then they will know how to dig their way out.

Other flourishes were added to the legend. One was the little detail about the wall of brambles so well-watered that it overtopped the mountains. Another (from one Rabbi Joseph Kimchi) related that Alexander's servants, with fiendish cleverness, built not merely the wall but also men of iron, who rang hammers and axes constantly against the barrier--so that the people inclosed within would be dissuaded from escaping.

An Arabic writer, Omara, tells of the stone eagle mounted upon the wall, which whenever Gog and Magog approached, uttered a scream that could be heard everywhere within eight days' travel; then all those who heard the warning sent up a prayer to God, and the demons were turned aside.

Another version speaks of two trumpets which resounded with the wind, giving the inclosed nations to believe that great armies guarded the wall. (Alexander's Trumpets appear on a number of early maps.) Eventually, the story continues, owls nesting in the trumpets choked them with twigs and silenced them, and the Tartars came forth to conquer India. Thus, to this day, the chiefs of the Tartars wear owl-feathers in their caps, to commemorate their escape.

One Jacob Reineggs, during the late eighteenth century, discovered in the central Caucasus a people called Thiulet, who lived amidst mountains called Ghef or Gogh; the very highest of these mountains, lying to the north of their country, they knew by the name of Moghef or Mugogh. Did these names stem from the original Gog-and-Magog legends, or did the legends stem from the ancestors of these people?

. . . And by devious ways, Gog and Magog became the names of two papier-mache giants owned by the London Guildhall in England, which were for years marched in the city's yearly parade. The original names of these giants seem to have been Corineus and Geomagot .... Here is a quote from a Middle-English metrical version of the Revelations of Methodius:

"For than xall gogmangog nere cum For then shall Gogmagog here cum

Owte of the mownts of calpye. Out of the mountains of Calpye.

That god closyd all & sum. That God closed all and sum.

At Alexandyrs prayere suyrly. At Alexander's prayer surely.

They xall dystroy all crystendome. They shall destroy all Christendom.

They xall cum owt so hydowysly. They shall come out so hideously.

Men all most wax defe & dum. Men all must wax deaf and dumb.

So xall they drede here felony." So shall they dread here felony.

And as for the original Geomagot and Corineus... "The story of "Gogmagog's Leap", traditionally located at Plymouth Hoe, is first told by Geoffrey of Monmouth in about 1136. Geoffrey says that Brutus, the great-grandson of the hero Aeneas, came to Albion with his men, and because of its fruitfulness decided to settle here. He renamed the island Britain (supposed by Geoffrey to derive from 'Brutus') and drove the giants who inhabited it into the mountains of the west. One day when he and his followers were holding a festival at the port where they first landed, a party of giants attacked them. They fought back and killed all the giants except for one named Gogmagog who was twelve cubits high and could wield an uprooted oak as easily as a hazel wand. Him they kept alive to wrestle with Corineus, Duke of Cornwall, who, when Brutus was parcelling out the land of Britain amongst his followers, had chosen for his share the rocky land that came to be named after him, because he loved nothing so much as to wrestle with giants, and there were more of them in Cornwall than elsewhere. When the two opponents came to grips, Gogmagog hugged the duke to him in so tight an embrace that three of his ribs were broken. Corineus was so enraged that he at once rushed to the nearest stretch of shore and hurled Gogmagog off the cliff to his death on the rocks below. The place at which this happened was thereafter known as Gogmagog's Leap." <Apparently there was a chalk figure of a giant cut into Plymouth Hoe at one time which might commemorate the legend or have given rise to it.> "As for Gogmagog, two princes called Gog and Magog appear in the Bible, and there has been much argument as to whether English tradition at first contained two giants descended directly from them; or one giant called by their names rolled together; or a giant who originaly had nothing to do with them at all. Geoffrey actually spells his giant's name Goemagot; the poet Layamon, writing about a hundred and fifty years later, calls him Goemagog, and it may be that an originally independent name has gradually been corrupted to Gogmagog because of the influence of the Bible. So who was Goemagot? We don't know. If Geoffrey got the name wrong, and it did originally have an -og- in it, he might have been the Gaulish/Irish culture god Ogmios, identified by the Celts with Hercules and often depicted with a club." Quote taken from Albion: A Guide To Legendary Britain by Jennifer Westwood.






There were also further Islamic versions of the legend. The Muslim Chronicle of Tabari relates that Schahrbaraz, prince of Armenia, sent a man to seek the site of Dulcarnain's Gate; years passed, and then a ragged traveler returned . . . but the prince did not know him until he exhibited a magnificent ruby and named himself as the explorer long thought lost. He had found the Gate, and the ruby was the proof of it; the jewel had been brought to him by an eagle, which dove for it in the moat below the wall.

And another tale tells of the journey of Sallam the Interpreter, 842-844 AD, who set forth to find the Gate. Sallam crossed the Caucasus, probably through the pass of Dariel, and traveled along the northern shores of the Caspian Sea. Here he found towns in ruins, and was told they had been laid waste by the peoples of Gog and Magog. Further on, he reached a village named Yka in which Dhou'l-Karnain had once encamped with his army. Three days beyond Yka lay a wall with an iron gate, which Sallam knew for Dulcarnain's Gate because of the writing upon it. The key to the gate was a cubit and a half long, hanging from a chain eight cubits in length. (Arab historians writing of Sallam's journey explain that the wall was the Great Wall of China.)






And for a latter-day Gog-and-Magog story, try this one, from the Russian Primary Chronicle:

"I wish at this point to recount a story which I heard four years ago, and which was told me by Gyurata Rogovich of Novgorod: 'I sent my servant,' said he, 'to the Pechera, a people who pay tribute to Novgorod. When he arrived among them, he went on among the Yugra. The latter are an alien people dwelling to the north with the Samoyedes. The Yugra said to my servant, "We have encountered a strange marvel, with which we had not until recently been acquainted. This occurrence took place three years ago. There are certain mountains which slope down to an arm of the sea, and their height reaches to the heavens. Within these mountains are heard great cries and the sound of voices; those within are cutting their way out. In that mountain, a small opening has been pierced through which they converse, but their language is unintelligible. They point, however, at iron objects, and make gestures as if to ask for iron. If given a knife or an axe, they supply furs in return. The road to these mountains is impassable with precipices, snow, and forests. Hence we do not always reach them, and they are also far to the north."

"Then I said to Gyurata, 'These are the peoples shut up by Alexander of Macedon. As Methodius of Patara says of them:

'"He penetrated the eastern countries as far as the sea called the Land of the Sun, and he saw there unclean peoples of the race of Japeth. When he beheld their uncleanness, he marveled. They ate every nauseous thing, such as gnats, flies, cats, and serpents. They did not bury their dead, but ate them along with the fruit of abortions and all sorts of impure beasts. On beholding this, Alexander was afraid lest, as they multiplied they might corrupt the earth. So he drove them to high regions in the regions of the north, and by God's commandment, the mountains enclosed them and were covered with indestructible metal. They cannot be destroyed by fire; for it is the nature of this metal that fire cannot consume it, nor can iron take hold of it. Hereafter, at the end of the world, eight peoples shall come forth from the desert of Yathrib, and these corrupt nations, which dwell in the northern mountains, shall also issue forth at God's command."'"

And finally, after posting this page, I received the following email:

"I just read ... or rather, scanned ... your most informative article, and would like to share with you a bit of data from Afghanistan. I was there 11+ years (1967 - 1978) and was fluent in Dari. One of my areas of interest was folk Islam and I repeatedly heard the story of Juz and Majuz, a tribe of creatures who lived behind a mountain ... had huge ears, one of which they used as a mat to sleep on, and the other as a blanket ... made some daily progress in digging through the mountain, which God undid when they went to sleep at night. If and when they succeed Roz-e-Qeyamat , which I at the time interpreted as Judgement Day. The Arabic word Qeyama does have that meaning and is used in that sense. Its basic meaning is upheaval, revolution, tumult and could be consistent with the concept of Armageddon."

This last is copied without changes, by courtesy of and with many thanks to Martin Clark.





Main source: Alexander's Gate, Gog and Magog, and the Inclosed Nations, by Andrew Runni Anderson, Professor of Latin, Duke University (published in 1932).

Again, with thanks to Martin Clark, and to Antonio Furtado, who also wrote and furnished the source of Alexander's identification as two-horned.





Posted May 10th 1999, reposted July 12 2002, by Sylvia and Lisa

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