In ancient times, the man who claimed to take power over a region should prove his abilities in battle with the bearer of this divine power. Thus, to become a warrior-king the man had to defeat an elk; to become a voivode the man had to prostrate a bear; to become a vizier or a councilor the man should catch a leopard. To get the title of Basileus, the claimer should have killed a lion with a certain sacerdotal weapon.
Roman historians mentioned that in antiquity the word “basileus” had the meaning ‘king’. But in Hellenic period Basileus was first of all a hero: the one who by his example showed the right path – path of lion! The man who defeated the lion received the power, force and courage of the king of beasts.
The cult of the lion was respected by Hercules and Hephaestus. The symbol of this cult was the cave lion, and the cult itself was referred to fire. The tradition says that Hephaestus inherited the sacerdotalismof fire which means he became the master of smithery and weaponry. On the other hand, Hercules inherited sun cult and war challenges.
It is known that Hephaestus sacerdotalism was present in Egypt in 3rd millennium B.C. The name of this god – Hephaestus or Ephesus – has no Greek meaning. Their real origins point to Asia Minor region. In Asia Minor, Ephesus had always been the name of the hilt of a cold steel weapon. This underlines the connection of Hephaestus not only with smithery but also with the very weapon. The Ephesus often was decorated with lion symbol (the cultic beast of Hephaestus). Thus, the hilt represented Hephaestus and the blade represented Hercules.
The unique antique sacerdotal weapon to fight against a lion has later divided by its meaning: Hercules became a hero which fights for the fame and Hephaestus the one who forges weapons and still accomplishes peace. It is important to know that both cults – the offensive and the defensive one – are tightly linked and have a common symbol – basileus blade.
The sacred weapon of sacerdotes, who came out for a basileus battle with the cave lion was called – machaira. It features a strongly curved blade resembling a sickle. The inner part of the blade was the cutting one. The length of this sword ranged from 19,70 inches (50 cm) to 23,62 inches (65 cm). The straight sheath was usually constructed from wood and was decorated with golden fittings. The very shape of a machaira reminds a lion claw; whereas its hilt resembles a talon of a totemic cat.
The sacred machaira represented first of all a weapon of ideological power. Its blade indicated to the army the ritual path, saved from enemies’ traps, and protected against many other magical tricks. A king, who was at the same time a sacerdotus, effectuated purifying rituals to keep all troubles and defeats away from the army. At celebrations the king wore a lion skull instead of a helmet. Without the sacerdotus the machaira was only a beautiful weapon. Only together they represented a tremendous power.
One of the most famous king-sacrificer of cave lion cult was Macedonian Alexander Hephaistion. He was considered to inherit the cult of Hephaestus. When the official burial of the sacred machaira occurred in 324 B.C. Alexander the Great has discarded his sacerdotal powers.
The Basileus cult has picked up the thread only in 301 B.C.