"Now a river runs out of Eden to water the garden and from there splits off into four streams. The name of the first is Pishon, the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is goodly, bdellium is there, and lapis lazuli [šoham]" (Gn 2:10-12).


- Eden

- Nod

- Tubal = Tabal?

- Four rivers

o Pishon

o Gihon

o Tigris

o Euphrates

Havilah = Abydos?

o Gold

o Bdellium, a resin?

o Hebrew šoham = Greek sardion?

Abydos is a Hellespontine city, in Troas, and fulfils at least two criteria to be compared to Havilah:

  1. There is gold, in the nearby city of Astyra (Hansen & Nielsen 2004 [1]: 1006)
  2. There is resin; bdellium is an aromatic resin, according to some interpreters (WG 218). Abydos is close to Mt. Ida, whose forests provided pitch (Ellis & Evans 2019 [2]: 75-79).
  3. Alter translates šoham as "laps lazuli", but this precious stone may correspond to sardion (carnelian) (Harrell & Hoffmeier & Williams 2017 [3]: 28), whose name derives from Sardis, the capital of Lydia in antiquity.


Eden is not clearly identified in Genesis; some interesting details are available, though.

Havilah: "The land Havilah is mentioned in Gen 10:7, 29; 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7; they are areas in South and North-East Arabia. In Gen 10:7, it is in the land of the Cushites" (WG 217). These biblical occurrences seem to forbid any further discussion because they all speak in favour of a southern, Arabian location. However, there is something special about Havilah in the second chapter of Genesis. "The fact that Havilah is preceded by the definite article in 2:11, and that 25:18 distinguishes that Havilah from any other place with the same name, would indicate the possibility that a number of places had this name» (Hamilton [4]:1990: 169). Independently from latitude, Havilah may be an attribute that only special places in the world deserve, because of their richness. There is a city in north-eastern Anatolia that was as rich in gold as Havilah. It is Abydos, whose name can be interpreted as a Greek rendition of a Lydian toponym. The suffix -dos corresponds to Lydian ‑lis (Kearns 1994 [5]: 6, 10), so that Abydos would sound as *Abylis in Lydian.

Abydos is a Milesian foundation in Troas (Hansen & Nielsen 2004 [1]: 1002-1003), and it could easily correspond to more ancient Hittite/Luwian toponyms such as Hawaliya or Hawiliya (RGTC6/1 105). Both of them might convey the meaning of "richness" through the well-known Indo-European semantic field of pecunia (Benveniste 1969 [6]: 47-61, vol. I), that is of wealth coming from cattle.

Ḫāwa/ī- is the Luwian for "sheep" (DLL 66), and then we may infer that Havilah derives from hawi + -la, a Luwian adjectival suffix. The Homeric appellative Aphneioi (Il. 2.825), namely "men of wealth" (Leaf 1923 [7]: 63-64), is applied to the Lycians of Zeleia.

Abydos, famous for the gold mines of Astyra (Talamo 1979 [8]: 94-98), may reflect in its name the same abundance of gold attributed to Havilah, and both mean "rich, wealthy." According to Strabo (12.1.22), Abydos was a Milesian foundation during the reign of Gyges, supposedly before 644 B.C. (Spalinger 1978 [9]). The same author let us know that after the war of Troy it was inhabited by the Thracians.

This report about the Anatolian city nearest to Europe, already mentioned by Homer (Il. 2.499), allows some inferences and stirs as many questions: "Abydos" was already there before Milesian colonization, and were it not a city name, then it may have been the appellative of a territory, according to the etymology sketched above. Milesians may have adopted the Lydian definition, *Abylis "Wealthy," and changed the suffix.

Originally Published: April 19, 2021

Last Updated: July 15, 2021

  1. Hansen, M.H. and T.H. Nielsen, Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis. 2004, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Ellis-Evans, A., The Kingdom of Priam: Lesbos and the Troad between Anatolia and the Aegean. 2019, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  3. Harrell, J.E., J.K. Hoffmeier, and K.F. Williams, Hebrew Gemstones in the Old Testament: A Lexical, Geological, and Archaeological Analysis. Bulletin for Biblical Research, 2017. 27(1): p. 1-52.
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  6. Benveniste, É., Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes. 1969, Paris: Éditions de Minuit.
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  8. Talamo, C., La Lidia arcaica. 1979, Bologna: Patron.
  9. Spalinger, A.J., The Date of the Death of Gyges and Its Historical Implications. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1978. 98(4): p. 400-409.