„And Yahweh Elohim said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore Yahweh Elohim sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken„, says the biblical Genesis. The story of a primordial garden, where the source of immortality lies, has ignited the minds of people throughout history, especially during the Middle Ages, when Christian fanaticism reached its peak, as evidenced by the Inquisition and the Crusades. The madness of this period began in 1145 when, as reported by the German bishop Otto of Freising in Chronicon, Pope Eugene III received a mysterious letter from a Christian leader in India. The person who delivered the letter to the Pope was Bishop Hugh of Jabala, a city on the Mediterranean coast of Syria. The letter was signed by an unknown person who called himself Prester John, believed to be a descendant of the magi who brought gifts to Jesus, and who founded a powerful Christian kingdom on the other side of the world after defeating the Muslim kings of Persia. He wrote to the Pope that one of the rivers of Eden flowed through his country, India. It is true that no one had heard of Prester John or a powerful Christian kingdom in eastern Asia until that moment. However, when the Mongols attacked the borders of the Muslim empire, defeating Sultan Sanjar in 1141, the news was presented to the Pope as a victory of a Christian king who had attacked the Muslims from the other side of Asia. Therefore, the existence of Prester John and his kingdom was quite plausible for Europeans. Immediately after learning about the existence of the mysterious John and one of the rivers of Paradise, Pope Eugene III requested a new crusade, especially because just a year earlier the Christians had been defeated by Muslims in Edessa. Muslims achieved a new victory in 1146 and the Christian armies, led by Frenchman Louis VII and German Conrad III, set off for Asia Minor a year later on the Pope’s orders. The Turks managed to destroy the Christian armies and everything seemed lost. However, according to the chronicles of the time, Prester John sent a letter in 1165 to the Byzantine Emperor, the Holy Roman Emperor and other kings, aiming to bring his army to the Holy Land. Once again, he claimed the gate of Heaven was located in his kingdom while one of the rivers of Paradise flowed through it. The promised help never came, much to the disappointment of the Christian world. Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, united the Muslim world under his leadership and conquered Jerusalem in 1187, leading to a new crusade led by the King of England, Richard the Lionheart, the King of France, Philip II Augustus, and the Emperor of Germany, Frederick I Barbarossa.
While the fighting against the Muslims continued, the route to India remained closed to Europeans and the belief that the waters of Eden flowed in that country flourished. At the end of the 12th century the Romance of Alexander emerged, a biography of Alexander the Great that spoke of three miraculous fountains; one made the old young again, the second offered immortality and the third resurrected the dead. They were located in different regions, one of them flowing from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in the East), another from the Nile (Egypt) and the third one from the Ganges (India), which for the medieval Europe were the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden. The book claimed that Alexander had discovered the Fountain of Youth, from which 56 of his companions drank. But how could European Christians reach that fountain when the route to India was blocked by Muslims? Popes tried countless times to communicate with Prester John, „the illustrious and magnificent king of India and beloved son of Christ„. In 1245, Pope Innocent IV sent Giovanni da Pian del Carpini through southern Russia to the leader of the Mongols, whom he considered Nestorians (an Orthodox Christian sect) and the Khan as Prester John. In 1254, Armenian Haithon disguised himself and traveled to Mongolia through eastern Turkey. He recorded a pass near the Caspian Sea called the Iron Gates, which led to speculation that the journey was similar to that of Alexander, who was said to have poured molten iron to close a pass. The papal emissaries who were searching for Prester John’s kingdom were accompanied by adventurers such as the Polo brothers Niccolo and Maffeo, Marco Polo (Maffeo’s son) or the German knight Wilhelm von Boldensele. The English knight John Maundeville claimed to have discovered the biblical Paradise in his book The Voyages and Travels of Sir John Maundeville, Knight, which became a true bestseller in medieval Europe.
As the land routes were blocked by enemies, the European Christian kingdoms sought a new route to the miraculous waters of India. In the mid-15th century, kingdom of Portugal attempted to reach India by sea, circumnavigating Africa. In 1445, the Portuguese explorer Dinas Dias reached the mouth of the Senegal River, which it was „said to originate from the Nile, being one of the glorious rivers of the Earth, as it has its source in the terrestrial paradise, the Garden of Eden„. He was followed by other explorers who reached the Cape of Good Hope until in 1499, when Vasco da Gama managed to circumnavigate Africa and reach the much-desired India. However, it was not the Portuguese who won the race. The Italian Christopher Columbus discovered that he could reach India much faster by sailing west, after studying ancient maps and writings. Although his proposal was rejected three times, King of Spain, Ferdinand II of Aragon, and his wife, Isabella I, finally allowed Columbus to set out in search of the Indies to the west. Thus, in October 1492, Columbus arrived in the Bahamas, which he believed to be the islands of the legendary Prester John. Two decades later, King Ferdinand asked adventurer Juan Ponce de Leon to find without delay the waters that offered eternal youth, so he interrogated and even tortured many „Indians” to force them to reveal the location of the miraculous spring. In 1511, some natives confessed to him that on their island there was a spring from which an old man drank and immediately „his manhood had returned, and he could do everything a young man could do. He got married and even had children„. In his report to King Ferdinand, recorded by the Court’s official historian, Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, Ponce de Leon declared that the natives of the Lucayos or Bahamas islands told stories of „an island (…) where there is an eternal spring, whose magical powers consist in the fact that, if someone drinks from it, probably accompanied by a certain diet, he becomes young again„. On 23rd February 1512, King Ferdinand granted the adventurer a patent of discovery, ordering him to find the island. On each of the several hundred islands of the Bahamas, Ponce de Leon’s sailors had to drink from countless streams in search of the miraculous water. Other „Indians” were interrogated, who, through their legends, confirmed the existence of the rejuvenating water. Because the expedition did not achieve the expected success, the Spanish king sent Ponce de Leon on a new search in 1521, this time in Florida. Referring to the purpose of this mission, historian Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas wrote in Historia general de las Indias („General History of the Indies”) that „he set out in search of the Holy Fountain, so renowned among the Indians, and of the river whose waters rejuvenated the elderly„. Instead of eternal youth, Juan Ponce de Leon found death, caused by an arrow. And so, the organized search, based on a royal decree, ended forever. But not the individual search. The best example is alchemy, which experienced a significant boom in the Middle Ages, influenced by Jewish Kabbalah, which was written down in that time.
Were the seekers of eternal youth a group of naive people pursuing the fantasies of fairy tales? They did not consider themselves so. In a Christian Europe, the words of the Bible were not questioned. And the Bible spoke from its first book about a garden watered by four rivers, where a tree that offered immortality grew. In addition, pagan myths supported the existence of such fruits or waters. The Celts, the ancient inhabitants of Ireland, told the story of goddess Iduon guarding some magical apples that the gods ate to become young again. For the ancient Greeks, the Oracle of Delphi predicted to demigod Hercules that „when all this is over, you will become one of the immortals” and his second to last labour was to find the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides, a place at the end of the Earth, far from the mortals’ eyes, just like the biblical Garden of Eden. The Greeks and Romans also left us other myths that speak of ordinary people who received or refused immortality. Tantalus became immortal after stealing the ambrosia and the nectar of the gods. Odysseus refused the immortality offered by nymph Calypso, preferring to return to his wife. The god Apollo anointed the body of Sarpedon so that he would live for several generations. The goddess Aphrodite offered Phaon a magic potion that turned him into a young man „who lit the hearts of all the women of Lesbos„. And Demophon, anointed with ambrosia by Demeter, would have become immortal if his mother had not stoped the procedure. The fisherman Glaucus noticed that a fish he caught came back to life after touching a certain seaweed; taking the seaweed in his mouth, Glaucus jumped into the water in the same spot, and the gods Oceanus and Tethys welcomed him among them, making him a god. The Mesopotamians also mentioned such a seaweed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, with the hero finding it at the bottom of the water in the land of the gods. The Mesopotamians also claimed that god Anu offered immortality to priest Adapa, while Enlil gave it to the survivors of the Deluge. For the Jews, Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven, where they were given immortality. Therefore, how could the seekers of immortality thought there was no grain of truth in all these legends? Especially when the Book of Revelation, the last biblical book, also speaks of „a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” and „In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations„?
The year 1492, when Columbus discovered America, also marked the end of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula, through the surrender of the Moors in Granada. Over eight centuries, Christian and Muslim cultures in the peninsula clearly interacted. The story from the Quran about the fountain of life was known by both sides, while its similarity to Glaucus’ legend represented the proof of truth for the people of those times. In Surah 18, Moses had a dried fish with him; at the „junction of the two rivers” the fish came back to life and jumped into the water and Moses met a mysterious character, a „servant” of god Allah. Also in this surah, Moses is taken first to the west, then to the east, and ultimately to the land where Gog and Magog were planning to do evil against mankind. Moses, called Du-al’karnain („the Two-Horned One”) here, blocked the pass between the mountains with blocks of iron covered with molten lead, creating a barrier that Gog and Magog could not penetrate. In Hebrew and Arabic, the word „karnain” means both „double horns” and „double rays”. In the biblical book of Exodus „it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him” (34:29). Therefore, he could be the Du-al’karnain, considering that the rays in the Bible were often confused with horns due to faulty translations, the best example being Michelangelo’s sculpture in the Roman church of Saint Peter. However, the three journeys and the epithet „the Two-Horned One” were attributed to Alexander the Great in the Middle Ages, who in the 4th century BC conquered a large part of the known world, reaching India. These popular beliefs, which replaced Moses with Alexander, were widespread in Europe and the Near East, based on the writings of the Greek historian Callisthenes of Olynthos, who accompanied Alexander on his expedition. One of the earliest episodes in Greek historian’s writings explains the confusion between the two characters: it seems that Alexander tried to leave Egypt like Moses, parting the waters and crossing the sea on foot. It is assumed that the Macedonian king’s adventures began after the conquest of Egypt, but the texts do not indicate either in which direction Alexander set out, or whether the episodes are arranged chronologically.
Upon reaching a sea, Alexander asked for a wall of molten lead to be built in its midst, rising above the water. After the wall was finished, some prisoners were sent ahead to test it. When they reached the middle of the wall, „the waves of the sea fell upon them and the sea swallowed them up, and they all perished (…) When the Two-Horned One saw this, he was very afraid of the power of the waters” and gave up on that method. But not on the idea of visiting the „darkness” beyond the sea. Alexander made some detours, during which he visited the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, studying „the secrets of the heavens, the stars and the planets„. Leaving his troops behind and taking only a few companions with him, Alexander returned to the Land of Darkness, reaching a mountain called Musas. There he left his companions and went on alone. After 12 days and nights of walking, „he caught sight of the shining aura of an angel” but when he approached, he saw that it was „a burning fire„. Then, Alexander realized that he had reached the mountain that dominated the whole world. „Who are you and why have you come here, mortal?” asked the angel. „How did you manage to penetrate the darkness, for no one has done it before?” Alexander replied that God had guided his steps in that direction and had given him the power to „reach this place, which is Paradise„. After a long discussion about people and Divinity, the angel asked Alexander to leave that place, but the king insisted on learning the secrets of heaven and Earth, asking for something that no one had ever received before. Then „the angel said: ‘I will tell you something that will allow you to live without dying’. The Two-Horned One said: ‘Tell me’. And the angel said: ‘In the land of Arabia, God made a darkness in which he hid the treasure of his knowledge. Also there is a well whose waters are called the waters of life, and whoever drinks from it, even a single drop, will never die’„. The angel attributed other qualities to those waters, such as „the power to fly through the heavens like the angels„. „In which quarter of the Earth is the well?” asked Alexander. „Ask those who are the inheritors of knowledge„, the angel replied, and then offered him a bunch of grapes to feed his people. When the Macedonian king returned to his soldiers, he told them about his close encounter of the third kind and gave each of them a grape berry. Every time he broke one, another one grew in its place, thus managing to feed them all. Alexander the Great asked all the wise men he could find the same question: „Have you learned in your books that God has made a dark place where he has put all knowledge, and in that place there is a well called the Fountain of Life?„. In the Greek version of the text, he had to go to the end of the Earth to find the wise man who knew the answer. The Ethiopian version claims that the wise man, named Matun, was already in the Macedonian army. That place, Matun said, „is near the Sun, when it rises on the right side„. He even led Alexander to that place, also a land of darkness. After a long journey, the Macedonian king sent the wise man ahead to find the way. To see in the dark, he gave him a magic stone that he had received from an old king who had lived among the gods, a stone brought from Eden by Adam. Lost, Matun took out the magic stone, which began to glow when it touched the ground. Thus, the wise man managed to see a well, without realizing that he had just discovered the Fountain of Life. The Ethiopian version of Callisthenes’ text says that Matun „took a dried fish with him, and being very hungry, he took it to the water to wash it and cook it. But when the fish touched the water, it sprang into it and fled. When Matun saw this, he stripped and jumped into the water after it„. Realizing that he had discovered the Water of Life, Matun washed himself and drank, becoming El-Khidr („Forever Young”). Back in the Macedonian camp, he didn’t tell anyone about his discovery. Then, Alexander himself set out in search of the fountain and discovered the stone forgotten by Matun „shining in the darkness and now having two eyes that cast light„. Realizing that he was on the right track, the king quickened his pace, but was stopped by a voice that scolded him for his ambitions and warned him that instead of eternal life, he would soon find death. Frightened, Alexander the Great returned to his people and gave up his search. In another version of the legend, the voice belonged to a bird with a human face, which forced him to turn back when he reached a place „covered in emeralds, sapphires and hyacinths„. In his letter to his mother, Olympias, Alexander spoke of two bird-people who blocked his path. In the Greek version of Callisthenes’ text, Andreas, Alexander’s cook, was the one who washed the dried fish in the fountain „whose waters shone with light„. When the fish touched the water, it came back to life and fled, and the cook, realizing what he had discovered, drank from that water and kept a little in a silver vessel. He did not reveal to anyone what he had discovered. When Alexander (who in this version was accompanied by 360 men) reached a place that shone even though neither the Sun, nor the Moon, nor the stars were visible, his path was blocked by two birds with human features. One of them said to him: „Turn back, for the land you tread belongs only to God. Turn back, unhappy one, for in the Land of the Blessed you cannot set foot!„. Frightened, Alexander and his men turned back, but not before taking some stones and a handful of dust as souvenirs. When they reached the light, after leaving the Land of Eternal Night, they saw that the dust and stones they had taken were gold dust and precious stones. It was only then that Andreas told the story of the fish that had come back to life, avoiding, however, to admit that he had drunk and kept some of the Water of Life. Hearing this, Alexander beat and expelled him from the camp. But Andreas did not want to leave alone, as he had fallen in love with the Macedonian king’s daughter. So he told the girl the secret and gave her the water kept in the silver vessel to drink. When the king found out, he expelled her also. „You have become a godly creature, acquiring immortality” he said, sending her to the Land of the Blessed. And he threw Andreas into the sea with a stone tied to his neck. However, instead of drowning, the cook was transformed into a sea demon. „And so ends the story of the cook and the maiden„, the Greek version of Callisthenes’ text tells us.
The original writings of Callisthenes have disappeared and the Latin texts that circulated in medieval Europe were considered translations of the original ones. In parallel with these writings there were versions in several languages circulating in the Middle East and North Africa, including Ethiopian, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Armenian and Greek. Researchers have concluded that all these texts, written in different periods, have a common source, probably the original writings of Callisthenes. The influence of Christianity is obvious in the story of Alexander; three centuries BC he could not speak of God, since he was a follower of a polytheistic religion in which this concept did not exist. His mother considered him son of god Zeus and Egyptian priests declared him son of Amun. The presence of an angel in the story is the result of the same Christian influence, as is Alexander’s attempt to imitate Moses. Some may consider that the famous conqueror learned about Moses, God and angels from the Jews, but this is impossible. The books of the Old Testament were first translated from Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria, during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309 – 246 BC), several decades after Alexander’s death. Even if the Macedonian king did know about the Jews’ religion after the conquest of Jerusalem, there is not even a hint in his many biographies and letters to support any Jewish influence. Therefore, the legend of Alexander, which circulated in medieval Europe, was undoubtedly modified by the Christians of those times to fit their religious beliefs. It cannot be a text made up entirely by those Christians, because some of the versions of the legend belong to the 2nd century BC, in addition to Alexander’s letters to his mother and his mentor, philosopher Aristotle. Therefore, the Christian influence is limited only to the replacement of pagan gods with God and angels. Regardless of the deities present in the story, the different versions only confirmed the authenticity and antiquity of the legend of Alexander for medieval Europeans. And this, along with the biblical and pagan mythological references, as well as the Prester John’s letters, managed to inflame the desire of popes and kings to discover the secret of immortality. But where were those miraculous waters? Were they in the East, near the Tigris and Euphrates? Or in the Sinai Peninsula bordering Egypt? Or in India, where Alexander ended his expedition? None of these options is plausible because researchers ignore the most important aspect: the official history of Alexander the Great.
History tells us that in 335 BC, before starting his famous campaigns in Greece, Egypt, the Persian Empire and India, Alexander the Great attacked Dacia for unknown reasons. Egyptologist Arthur Weigall wrote about Alexander’s expedition, stating that it „was largely undertaken to be able to assert that he had crossed the great river (i.e. the Danube), which had been like a barrier to the northern adventures of Philip and formed the accepted line between the known world of the Greeks and the unknown north. Alexander himself considered this to be of great importance, because on the shore of the great river he celebrated an impressive religious service, offering sacrifices to Zeus, Heracles and the divinity of the Danube„. After asking the gods to forgive him for the sacrilege of trespassing the land considered sacred by the entire ancient world, Alexander crossed the Danube in the middle of the night with only 5,500 soldiers out of the 30,000 he had with him, a small number compared to the Dacians who were waiting for him on the northern shore (approximately 14,000 people). Although taken by surprise by the Macedonian army, which appeared unexpectedly under the cover of darkness, the Dacians did not get scared and fought fiercely, but were forced to retreat. Alexander pursued them to the Curvature Carpathians and then hastily left the territory of the gods, taking with him the goods that the Dacians had been unable to transport. This expedition of Alexander is one of the great mysteries of history. Why did he attack Dacia when he had revolts to quell in Thrace and Greece, and his plan was to conquer the Persian Empire? Why did he stay in Dacia for such a short time, without obtaining anything (except for a few goods that the Dacians left behind)? And Dacia is not the only enigma in Alexander’s story. Why did he conquer southern Egypt if his goal was to defeat the Persian Empire in the east? Why did he travel arduous roads, sometimes through the desert, to consult the oracle of the god Amun at the Siwa Oasis or that of Apollo at Delphi? Why did he go to Troy immediately after leaving Thrace to get the shield of the demigod Achilles? If he wanted to conquer the world, why did he not try to subdue other great powers, such as Rome or Carthage? And why did he venture all the way to India? The answers are simple, as long as we do not forget his ultimate goal: Alexander did not just want to conquer the world, but also to achieve immortality. It is known that he carried a copy of Homer’s Iliad with him, a work that had Achilles as its central character, Alexander’s idol who also desired immortality. Legends say that the demigod was received among the gods after death and lived on the island of Leuke (now Snake Island) in Dacia, the territory where Alexander began his long campaign. His search for immortality can easily be noticed in the territories he visited – Dacia, Egypt, Babylon, India, Persia – the places where the oldest civilizations of the world, the keepers of the secrets of the gods, lived. Alexander visited oracles both in Egypt and Greece, and wise men like Diogenes not out of a desire to diversify his existence, but to discover the secret of immortality. This desire seems to have been fueled by his mother, Olympias, who made him consider himself not a mere mortal, but a demigod, like Achilles. The Egyptian oracle confirmed this, calling him the son of god Amun. Therefore, it is not surprising that Alexander the Great dedicated his entire life to the search for immortality.
Where did he begin his search? According to history, in Dacia. Why did he choose that place? Because the entire ancient world considered it the land of the gods. Therefore, it was natural for Alexander to begin his search directly at the source, in the place where the gods lived, where Prometheus was crucified, where the titan Atlas holded the sky on his shoulders, where Achilles was taken after his death, the place from which the Argonauts stole the golden fleece and Hercules the golden apples of the Hesperides. Is it possible that the events in the legend of Alexander and the Water of Life took place in Dacia? It is not only possible, but also very likely. In the legend, Alexander went alone to Mount Musas, that dominated the entire human race, guarded by an „angel„, which he crossed through a tunnel, reaching „this place, which is Paradise„. Historians say that Alexander spent a few days on the banks of the Danube before deciding to cross it. Why? No one knows. Alexander reached the south of Moldavia, and the southernmost point of Moldavia is the city of Galati, where there is a tunnel under the Danube. In fact, Galati is known for its complex network of ancient tunnels. It is possible that Alexander crossed the river through that tunnel to Galati, and from there (perhaps through another tunnel) he went to the Omu Peak, considered by the ancients to be the Axis Mundi or the Column of Heaven, the place where heaven and Earth intersected. Near the Omu Peak there is the Sphinx of Bucegi, the famous guardian of the land of the gods, who could be the „angel” who forbade Alexander’s access. In the Hebrew religion, the sphinxes were called cherubim, who later became angels in Christianity. After the „angel” confirmed the existence of a fountain „whose waters are called the waters of life„, the Macedonian king returned to his people. Then, learning the location of the Waters of Life, legend has it that Alexander left with a few soldiers to the Land of Darkness, leaving his army behind. According to historians, he entered Dacia at night, under the cover of darkness, accompanied by a small number of soldiers, while the rest of his army remained on the southern bank of the Danube. The Macedonians reached the Curvature Carpathians, from where they hurriedly returned. It is believed that the Carpathian Mountains are crossed by numerous tunnels that lead to Transylvania, the „otherworld” or the „garden of the gods”, the most likely location of the fountain of the Waters of Life. It is almost certain that at the end of such a tunnel, in a place „covered in emeralds, sapphires and hyacinths„, the Macedonians were met by those „human-faced birds” that blocked their passage. „Turn back, for the land on which you tread belongs only to God. Turn back, unhappy one, for in the Land of the Blessed you cannot set foot!„, one of them told Alexander and the Macedonians fled in terror back to their camp. This haste is also obvious in the chronicles of historians who recounted that, after pursuing the Dacians to the vicinity of the Carpathians, the Macedonians quickly retreated, leaving the country on the same day. If the legend has it that, before fleeing, the Macedonians took a few stones and a handful of dust as souvenirs, which turned out to be gold dust and precious stones, historians claim that, before leaving Dacia, Alexander’s soldiers looted the goods left behind by the Dacians. Therefore, the famous legend that fired up the kings and adventurers of the Middle Ages refers to Alexander the Great’s short campaign in Dacia. Also, the Water of Life, sought after in India, America, Egypt or the Near East, is in the true Garden of the Gods, Transylvania. Frightened by the guardians of the land of the gods, Alexander the Great tried to gain immortality through other means. He visited the priests of the oldest civilizations of the world (Egyptian, Babylonian and Indian), consulted oracles of the gods and wise men such as Diogenes or Aristotle, hoping to find another method of obtaining immortality. However, the long-awaited answer was slow to appear and Alexander’s destiny was to be identical to that of his idol, Achilles, the Macedonian losing his life in his youth, after extraordinary acts of valor that ensured his immortality in the pages of universal history.
It seems that Alexander the Great did not have only one idol, Achilles, but two. His expedition was inspired by that of Gilgamesh, the greatest hero of the Near East, who bears a striking resemblance to the hero of the Trojan War. Gilgamesh and Achilles were two-thirds gods and only one-third mortals, both their mothers being goddesses, while their fathers being sons of demigods. Both heroes discovered that they could become immortals only through their deeds, which would remain forever in mankind’s memory. Both heroes had close friendships that turned into homosexuality (Gilgamesh with Enkidu and Achilles with Patroclus), those partners being considered the heroes’ soulmates. Alexander followed their example, having an identical relationship with Hephaestion, his bodyguard. In all three cases, the partners died before the heroes. Gilgamesh and Achilles had to face formidable opponents, unbeaten until that moment (Humbaba, the guardian of the Cedar Forest, and Hector, the champion of the Trojans). Both were hated by the goddess of love, called Aphrodite in Greece and Ishtar / Inanna in Mesopotamia.
Where does Alexander’s admiration for this Sumerian demigod come from? There are a series of similarities between Gilgamesh, Hercules (the greatest hero of the Greeks) and Samson of the Jews, which suggest the possibility that the same person is being referred to in all three cases. Although he was preparing to become a new Achilles since childhood, Alexander declared himself the descendant of Hercules through his mother, that is of the one called Gilgamesh by the Sumerians. For this reason he tried to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps. Like Gilgamesh, the Macedonian king wandered through a „land of darkness” on the realm of the gods in search of immortality. Gilgamesh lived with his mother in Uruk, where he became king after his father’s death. Alexander, who also became king after his father’s death, lived with his mother until he began his famous campaign. Gilgamesh’s epic says that the hero eventually reached Lebanon; during his campaign against the Persians, Alexander also reached Lebanon, where he besieged the city of Tyre for six months in 332 BC. The siege took place because the locals refused to allow him to bring offerings to the god Melkart, identified by the Greeks with Hercules (i.e. the same Gilgamesh). After Tyre, Alexander went to Palestine, where archaeologists discovered in 2011 a statue of Hercules in the Valley of Jezreel. He then besieged Gaza, the place where Jewish tradition holds that Samson was captured by the Philistines after being betrayed by the prostitute Delilah. According to the Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, Alexander killed Batis, the commander of the fortress of Gaza, and then desecrated his body just like Achilles did to Hector in the Trojan War: he tied him to a cart and dragged him around the city walls. From there, the Macedonian army headed towards Egypt, where the Greeks matched Hercules with one of the local deities. According to Ptolemy Hephaestion, the Egyptians initially called Hercules „Nilus”. According to a tradition, before embarking on a journey, god Osiris entrusted Hercules with the rule of Egypt. From there, Alexander went to Mesopotamia, where Hercules was known as Gilgamesh. After his victory at Gaugamela in 331 BC against the Persians, Alexander proclaimed himself king of Asia. He was received as such not only in Babylon and Susa, as historians indicate, but also in Uruk, the city ruled by Gilgamesh millennia ago. The Uruk Kings List attests to this, in which Alexander (called Aliksaandar) is credited with a seven-year reign. From Mesopotamia, the Macedonians went to India, where the Greeks believed Hercules had also been at some point. In fact, the Greeks matched their demigod with Vajrapani of the Indians, the protector of Buddha. Both Enkidu of Gilgamesh and Hephaestion of Alexander died before the two heroes, succumbing to incurable diseases in the same way. Alexander’s destiny was also identical to that of Gilgamesh until the end, both being struck down by fever at the end of glorious expeditions. The Macedonian king fell while drinking from Hercules’ 12-liter cup. In his case, poisoning was even discussed, as Olympias, his mother, believed. If this hypothesis were true, Alexander’s death would be identical to that of Hercules, who was also poisoned. However, the most obvious similarities between Alexander the Great and his demigod idol are found in the legend of the search for immortality. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero set out for „the Land of Dilmun, the garden of the Sun” or Dacia, just like Alexander. Gilgamesh crossed the Masu mountain through a tunnel that „measures twelve miles of darkness in length, and within it there is no light; darkness reigns supreme inside it„, at the end of which „bushes with gems growing on their branches” grew, and thorns and thistles „were made of hematite stones, rare gems and agates, and there were even pearls from the depths of the sea„. Alexander crossed the Mount Musas (which has a similar name to Masu) through a dark tunnel for 12 days, at the end of which he found a place „covered in emeralds, sapphires and hyacinths„. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, „half-human, half-dragon creatures, the Scorpions, stood guard at the gates of the mountain; their faces were terrifying and their gaze killed men„. Alexander the Great met „birds with human faces” at the end of the tunnel in the Garden of the Gods. These creatures allowed Gilgamesh, who was two-thirds god and one-third mortal, to enter, but chased away Alexander, which solved the problem of the Macedonian’s supposed divine descent. Since only the gods and their children had access to the Garden of the Gods, Alexander was not the son of Zeus, Dionysus or Amun, as was believed, but rather of a mortal, most likely of king Philip II. This mattered less to someone who wanted to consider himself a descendant of the gods, as well as to those who followed him on his long expedition.
If the source of immortality was in Dacia, it should come as no surprise that this aspect is also present in Romanian folklore. The best example is the folktale Youth without Age and Life without Death. The hero, Prince Charming, rode on a winged horse (similar to Pegasus of the Greeks) in search of immortality, leaving his father’s kingdom. After a few days of traveling, he arrived in a land inhabited by frightening creatures like Gheonoaia or Scorpia, where no mortal had ventured before. After crossing a dense forest, the hero and his enchanted horse arrived in the fairies land, where they discovered the much-desired eternal life. They lived there for a long time, until Prince Charming, accidentally ending up in the Valley of Tears, remembered his parents. He returned home, amazed to find that he had been absent for centuries, even though only a few days had passed for him. Although immortality here is not given by any enchanted water, as in other legends, but by a specific place, we can conclude that the action takes place in the same land of the gods in Dacia. It should be noted that the philosopher Constantin Noica said about this folktale that we are „in front of an unexpected gift of our folk culture brought to mankind… We do not know of any other prose work of human genius that has so much substance, from the first to the last thought, and such rigorous expression„.
In a legend from the Buzau Mountains, Emperor Luana healed his subjects using the living and dead waters from the Valley of Springs. The Slanic River passes through that area and locals still use its waters to treat various ailments. Miraculous waters are encountered in many Romanian folktales, whose action takes place in the same Dacian realm. In The Fatherless Strongman, collected by Petre Ispirescu, the hero is cut into pieces by a zmeu (a human-like character with dragon-like traits). A fairy „took each piece one by one, bone by bone, and placed them side by side, each in its proper place. After that, she poured dead water over them. They stuck together, clinging to each other; the skin became like jelly, taking shape. She sprinkled living water over him and he came to life„. In the fairy tale The Lead Strongman, the Iron Strongman kills the Lead Strongman in the same way. The story’s hero is brought back to life by Old Monk, who „washed the white body with a kind of water and immediately the Lead Strongman rose up„. In the story The Emperor Seagull, the hero is chopped and burned in an oven by twelve zmei, and then revived with the help of enchanted water. In Tzugulea, Son of the Uncle and Aunt, the main character, killed by his brothers, is brought back to life by a bear and an eagle with the help of the Living Water. Another Romanian folktale is Piparus Petru and Blooming Florea, where the zmeu, about to be killed, says: „Leave me alone and I will resurrect your two brothers (…) And the zmeu went and dug them up, put their hearts back in place, sprinkled them with living water and they rose up more beautiful than before„. In Ion Creanga’s Story of Harap-Alb, the Glabrous beheades the hero; the Red Emperor’s daughter „quickly puts Harap-Alb’s head back in place, surrounds him three times with the three sweet apple twigs, pours dead water to stop the bleeding and heal the skin, then sprinkles him with living water, and immediately Harap-Alb comes back to life„. From all these stories, two types of miraculous waters emerge: the dead water, which heals or regenerates, and the living water, which brings back to life. The Living Water also has other properties, being able to rejuvenate or heal longing. For example, in The Sticlisoara’s Fountain, the hero is asked to bring water from the fountain because „if a person washed themselves with the water of Lady Sticlisoara, they would become a twelve-year-old child again. As soon as he touched the water, the emperor washed his eyes and became exactly like a twelve-year-old„. This water was so precious that the emperor was willing to offer half of his own kingdom in exchange for it. In The Golden-Handed Strongman, the main character, searching for his brothers who had been turned to stone, encounters an old woman who tests him: „When you come back, bring me both vessels full: the vessel with living water and the bottle with dead water; with living water I can rejuvenate anyone, with dead water I can age anyone„. Here, the miraculous water serves a dual purpose, which the hero uses to awaken his stoned brothers: „He first sprinkled the horses with the water from the vessel and they woke up, shook themselves and began to neigh so loudly that the place shook. When he sprinkled the young men, they first blushed, then woke up as from a numbness„. In Petre Ispirescu’s tale The Fatherless Strongman, the zmeu advises the hero to use Living Water to cure his mother’s longing for her parents and home. „In the land where I come from, people who suffer from this disease do everything they can to bring living water and dead water from the mountains that clash their peaks. This water is the best remedy„, said the zmeu. The image of the mountains as guardians of the place where the Living Water is found also appears in the folktale The Fear of the Zmei. In the Epic of Gilgamesh and in the legend of Alexander the Great, the Living Water was also beyond the mountains, in Transylvania.
The Living Water is also present in Slavic mythology, which considers it the drink of the gods. Those who drink it gain eternal youth and, consequently, immortality. For the Slavic peoples, Living Water sprang from the Enchanted Fountain on Mount Hvangur in Paradise, which was guarded either by the White Serpent and the White Virgins, or by the gods Siva and Jiva. The ancient Greeks replaced the Living Water with ambrosia, a drink reserved exclusively for the gods, „sweeter than honey„, as described by Alexander Mitru in The Legends of Olympus. Those who drank this elixir or tasted divine nectar not only became immortals, but even became gods themselves. The best example is Tantalus, who gained eternal life after stealing ambrosia and nectar of the gods. Demphon, anointed with ambrosia by the goddess Demeter, would have become immortal if his mother had not stopped the procedure. God Apollo anointed Sarpedon’s body (possibly with ambrosia) so that he could live for several generations. Additionally, goddess Aphrodite offered Phaon a magic potion that rejuvenated him, probably also made from ambrosia, which has the same properties as the Water of Life from Romanian folktales. In Indian mythology, the drink of the gods, which offered immortality, was called Soma (a name that comes from the Romanian Somes River). It is said that the Deva gods fought the Asura demons for this elixir, with the gods ultimately winning. Soma apparently had other properties, like the Water of Life from Romanian folklore; god Indra would sometimes drink the divine nectar to gain powers in battle, with Soma helping him grow to giant proportions. It wasn’t just Soma that had these properties; the Indians also incorporated the Water of Life from Dacian folklore into the story of the god Krishna, whose skin became impenetrable after his mother bathed him in the water of a river. The only vulnerable spot of the god was his heel, which had been held during the bath. The Greeks borrowed this myth of Krishna and attributed it to Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War and the idol of Alexander the Great. For them, the demigod had been bathed in the waters of the Styx River (one of the rivers that surrounded the Underworld) by his mother, goddess Thetis, becoming invincible; his only vulnerable spot was his heel, which Paris shot with an arrow at the end of the Trojan War. As the Dacians’ Transylvania was considered „the land beyond”, the Styx River, which offered invincibility, seems to be the same Water of Life sought by Gilgamesh, Alexander the Great and many others after them.
The existence of this miraculous water in Dacian territory is suggested even by the father of history, Herodotus, who wrote that before reaching the Danube, Darius of Persia first subjugated the Getae, who believed themselves to be immortal. Other translations suggest that, in Herodotus’ oppinion, the Getae didn’t believe themselves to be immortal, but became so. The Dacian immortality is found in the teachings of god Zamolxis, referring to the eternal life of the soul, but it may also be related to the miraculous waters in Dacia, which offered longevity, eternal youth, healing and even immortality, abundantly present in Daco-Romanian folklore. Beyond myths, these waters are plentiful on Dacian territory. For example, the springs at Scropoasa and Herculane work miracles for longevity and health, the one on the outskirts of Barlad has proven to be a real therapeutic wonder and those at Comarnic have even attracted the attention of NATO experts due to their purity. Those who drink water from a well at the edge of the Runc village grow taller, while the spring from Sambata de Sus (Upper Saturday in English) is considered a gift from God by those who have been healed from incurable diseases. In 1696, the Wallachian ruler Constantin Brancoveanu and his brothers founded the Sambata de Sus monastery near this spring, its first church being called „The Healing Spring„. Currently, there are approximately 160 spa resorts in Romania that use the healing properties of mineral waters, such as Amara, Borsec, Baile Tusnad, Calimanesti-Caciulata, Covasna, Govora, Slanic-Moldova or Sangeorz-Bai. Among all these, which water has been sought by many generations throughout millennia, the true spring of life?
In the area known as Sapte Izvoare („Seven Springs”) in the Bucegi Mountains, on the Ialomita Valley, there is a water source that has been studied in the laboratory since 1927. At that time, Grigore Marinescu drew attention to the fact that the water in that area is one of the purest in the world. George Murceanu continued the studies starting from 1930, and a French society in 1935. All tests showed that the water from Sapte Izvoare is unique in the world, its values of bacteria as well as nitrates and nitrites pollution being zero. Other studies took place between March 1981 and February 1982, with Romania’s President Nicolae Ceausescu requesting that the area be closed during that time. Engineer Ion Olteanu, one of the researchers of strange phenomena in Bucegi, stated: „The president at the time was informed that this water source has been known for over two thousand years and is located in the initiatory zone of the Dacians, in the Bucegi Massif, that the ancient writings mention a water from which Zamolxis drank before becoming a god, and that there is a symbol of the seven springs on the Dacian shields depicted on Trajan’s Column. Ceausescu was pleased to hear that there was the area of immortality, that is a positive energy point. The files from Sapte Izvoare were reopened after 1990 and recent tests have shown that Ceausescu’s information was not far from reality„. From the fact that bacteria do not survive in this water, we understand that it is the Dead Water from Romanian folklore. Investigations have shown that it springs from a huge underground lake located in a cave, with a flow of about 4,000 liters per second. Researchers have advanced the hypothesis that the purity of the water is due to a geo-magnetic anomaly, although according to popular belief, the spring has this property because it passes over a massive treasure of silver. However, this water springs from the underground of the Omu Peak, the highest energy charged point on the globe, considered by the entire ancient world as the place where Earth and heaven joined together. From this place, all seven Dacian springs (including the one of the Living Water) spring, with healing properties. The energies of the Omu Peak have healed various ailments of visitors over time, some considered medically incurable. Also, the so-called „Mouth of Heaven” is located nearby, a place where the body does not tire but, on the contrary, revitalizes, regardless of physical effort exerted. Therefore, the healing properties of the seven springs are due only to the healing energies of the mountain where Prometheus / Enki was once crucified for the same reason (in Greek legends, the titan’s liver regenerated daily). Thus, the spring of life, hunted by Gilgamesh, Alexander the Great, popes, kings and adventurers, continues to flow undisturbed on the land of the Dacians, constantly watched over by the sharp gaze of the Sphinx of Bucegi, at the command of one of the great gods, Zamolxis.