A DIFFERENT STORY. From the beginning.


The royal ‘mace of office’, originally a supremely powerful weapon, has existed in almost unchanged form for millennia. Coherent references and illustrations extend from ca 3800 BC in ancient Egypt, down to the present day in Europe. Historically, it is perhaps best known as ‘the rod’ of Moses and Aaron with which they confronted the Pharaoh in the lead-up to the Exodus story.

The ‘mace’ was typically a golden weapon consisting of a slender shaft about a forearm (cubit) in length, attached to a spherical bulb about the size of an apple.  The weapon was often brandished apparently as a club and the bulbous end was mistakenly designated as the ‘head’. But Persian records make it clear that the spherical ‘apple’ was the ‘butt’ (hind end) of the weapon.

Modern accounts mistakenly interpret the weapon as a simple club … for which it is hopelessly under-engineered, and which is manifestly inconsistent with its expressed function as a supreme weapon ‘of the gods’. Contrariwise, there are abundant explicit records that the mace or ‘rod’ was a weapon of ‘winds’, lightning, flame and fire. The Babylonian ‘lord’ Marduk (Assyrian Ashur) raised his weapon, releasing evil winds and a flaming fire went before him. The Mesopotamian version was called the SHUHADAKU, meaning … ‘supreme strong bright weapon’; while the Egyptian mace of Tutankhamen was called the ‘Giver of Winds’ which shone like the sun. It was the ‘giver of winds’ … naively rendered [in translation] as discharging ‘winds, smoke, fog, vapours, spirits, essence, waves, or even waters.’ (sic). It caused fire, death, sterility in man and beast, leprosy and mysterious poisoning, plagues and desolation that lasted for generations.

1.1 Tuts guard mace

The royal mace of the armed guard of Tutankhamun’s tomb, ca 1323 BC [Cairo Museum]

The original version was not a ‘club’ like a stone on the end of a stick.  It was a hollow gold sphere enclosing a crystal ball (orb or ‘apple’), attached to a hollow gold tubular shaft. When the weapon was discharged it released a narrow beam of ‘wind’ or ‘wave’ of fire with a buzzing sound. That is why the early Egyptian Pharaohs were titled Kings of the ‘reed and the bee’ (nesu bity), because when they discharged the hollow tube (reed) it made a sound like a bee. When Moses raised his arm and ‘opened the waves’ at the armies of the Pharaoh it was not the waters of the Red Sea but the ‘reed waves’ from his rod. He gave every man a ‘rod of their fathers, a rod of their inheritance’, and they went on to annihilate the regional tribes of Palestine … not by the sword, but by the rod of YHWH which went before them as a ‘hornet’ and an all-consuming fire.

The rod survived as a real weapon in the Old World, then in the Christian era it descended into symbolic versions of the mace, the ceremonial sceptre, and the spherical ‘orb of power’.  It became the symbol of supreme power of ‘gods’, royalty and military leaders.


  1. < 3500 BC: Egypt, pre-dynastic period

Carved relief on the Gebel-el-Arak ivory knife handle shows a figure brandishing a typical ‘mace’ weapon. The style and motifs of the complete object suggest Sumerian origin or influence.

1 Knife handle

2. ~3200 BC: Egypt, 1st dynasty

The Narmer palette stone relief shows King Narmer (Menes) brandishing the mace weapon to subdue the natives (obverse); and ditto on the reverse

2 Narmer palette

3. ~ 3000-2000 BC: Egypt, Old Kingdom

3 Old King phars

4.  < 2000 BC: Mesopotamian ‘gods’ 

The Sumerian / Babylonian Marduk (Assyrian Ashur) was a lord of the sun and of water [waves] and magic. He possessed the mhullu, divine wind weapon … a matchless weapon that raised up a ‘flood-storm’ (sic) and sent forth the evil Sevenfold Winds. When he raised the mace in his right hand it set in front of him lightning and a blazing flame.

The Babylonian (Akkadian) Creation Epic, Enuma Elish.  [1]

4 Marduk

The gods presented Marduk with the ‘divine primeval sceptre’ (gidru) described as ‘an irresistible weapon that overwhelms the foe’. [2]

5. The Egyptian Middle Kingdom

  ~1493 – 1479 BC,  Pharaoh Thutmose II, holding the mace

~ 1479-1425 BC, Pharaoh Thutmose III

The ‘Victory Stela’ of Thutmose III at Gebel Barkal records …

‘On the battlefield no one can resist him. He flashes like a star … his attack is like a flame [which] casts down his enemies. His ‘spirit’ casts them down. He is Horus [the sun god] with a powerful arm.

He destroyed cities with fire [which] became a burned place where there are no trees. It was his mace that felled the Asiatics [enemies]. It was Amen-Ra [the sun god] who accomplished it, not the arms of men’. [3]

~1323 BC: Pharaoh Tutankhamun

The guard at the entrance to Tutankhamun’s tomb, armed with the golden mace called ‘Giver of Winds’ which shone like the sun. The mace was engraved ‘Beautiful god, beloved, dazzling of face like Aten [the sun] when it shines’. [4]

5 Thutmose II        6 Tuts guard.jpg


6. ~ 1300-1200 BC: The Hittites, Anatolia (Asia Minor)

The Hittite ‘Storm God’ released ‘fog and smoke’ that caused sterility in man, beasts and crops. A Hittite prayer against ‘evil spirits’ pleaded … ‘What have you done, O Gods, you have let in a plague and the land is dying.’  Conquered cities were burned and became taboo. [5]

~1188 BC Pharaoh Ramses III boasted that he repelled the Hittite invaders who had ‘desolated’ regional Palestine and turned toward Egypt with ‘a flame before them.’ He defeated them with the ‘Great of Magic’ [the serpent]. [6]

When the Hittites invaded Egyptian territory in Syria, the battle caused a ‘plague’ killing the King and Crown Prince. The ‘Sea People’ were armed with ‘advanced weaponry’ which burned cities utterly, rendering them abandoned and uninhabitable. [7]

Below: an inscription of the Hittite “Storm God’ (of lightning and winds) standing on (or emerging from) twin mounts.

7 Hittite storm god

7. ~ 1250 BC: Jordan/Palestine (later Israel)

The Egyptian mace passed into Jordan and Palestine as ‘the rod’ of the Hebrews.

Moses led his followers out of Egypt bearing a golden ‘ark’ of odd stones, attended by priests in gold protective clothing. The ark radiated a ‘cloud’ of ‘strange fire’ that killed Aaron’s sons and afflicted Miriam with bleached white skin of ‘leprosy’.

To the tribal leaders Moses gave to every man a rod of his fathers, of his inheritance, and they went forth to destroy nations. When Moses raised his arm with the rod, Israel prevailed. The rods blossomed and their wrath was upon the multitude causing pestilence, famine, baldness, feeble hands, knees as weak as water, and horror covered them.

Hebrew scribes wrote …. understand this, I sent the hornet before you as a consuming fire, which drove them out … not with the sword, nor the bow … but by an unknown astonishment, a hissing and a perpetual desolation of plagues. [8]

8. Then …

The Assyrians came down like wolves on the fold  …Their warriors bearing weapons of gold

~1110 BC: Nebuchadnezzar I (of Babylon) defeated the Elamites using ‘axes that burned like fire’. [9]     Tilglath Piliser I and Adad Ninari II had a shining weapon ‘from the gods’ called ‘Ruler of Peoples’ … a terrible, merciless weapon of awe-inspiring splendor … a glowing flame, a mighty torch … burning like fire, like an evil downpour, like a gust wind … destroying and devastating. [10]

~870 BC: Ashurnasirpal II defeated the Chaldeans ‘by the terror of my weapons’. [11]

~ 859-824 BC: his son Shalmaneser III wrote of later battles … ‘I defeated them by the splendor of my fierce weapons of Ashur; the strong weapons of Nergal (god of fire) spread thousands of their corpses’. [12]

~720 BC: Sargon II besieged regional Palestine and ‘sacked all Israel, `overpowering them with the terror-inspiring [weapon] of Ashur’. Iamani of Ashod fled in fear of my weapons.  [13]

~701 BC: Sennacherib again campaigned against Palestine, overwhelming the strong cities with the ‘awe inspiring splendor of the Weapon of Ashur’ [capitalized]. [14]

But the Hebrews fought back in-kind, threatening ‘woe to Assyria, how terrible will be the rod of my anger’ … YHWH comes with smoke and a consuming fire.  Smite the Assyrians with a rod in the manner of Egypt. [15]

~597 BC: Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar II sacked Jerusalem and took all the sacrosanct [untouchable] ‘instruments’ of the temple back to Babylon. Later his son, Belshazzar, drank wine over dinner and foolishly opened the ‘golden vessels’ upon which the magic fingers of god wrote [burnt] on the wall. After exposure to the burning finger of ‘god’ Belshazzar died the  very same night. [16]

8 Nusku pedestal   9 Ashurnasipal stele 10 Assyr warriors

L to R: Tukulti-Ninurta I, ca 1243 BC, worshipping at the altar of the fire-god, Nusku : Stela of Ashurnasirpal II, 9th C BC  : Assyrian warriors, 9th century BC

9. The Assyrians were succeeded (eventually) by the Persians.

~490-470 BC: the armies of Darius and Xerxes invaded westward against Ionia (Greece)

The Persians were led by a rank of warriors called the ‘Apple Bearers’, dressed in elaborate golden costumes and armed with ‘spears with butts of golden apples’. They were supported by ‘Magi with stone altars of sacred fire’ (like the Hebrew ark), that no [normal] man could approach.

The Magi wore peculiar white robes, odd hats, and face coverings. They managed the ‘unquenchable fire’ kept in solid stone ‘altars’. [17]

10. ~ 167-160 BC: Palestine

Jewish rebel Judas Maccabeus led guerrilla resistance against the occupation by Macedonian Seleucid armies. With a small band of men armed with a ‘divine gold sword’ and ‘cheered by God’s manifest aid’ he slaughtered thousands of the Seleucid army. A ‘dreadful rider clad in golden armour’ brandished gold weapons and hurled thunderbolts.

Seleucid General Antiochus was struck down by the ‘all seeing lord’ causing an incurable pain in the bowels, his flesh fell off and he developed an intolerable stench from which he died shortly after. General Heliodorus sent a plaintive message back to King Seleucus – ‘there is some divine power about this place’. [18]

Then the real weapons of the old pagan world passed into the ceremonial regalia of royalty and religion – princes and priests. The weapon was lost but its memory was preserved in the new Christian era in the symbolism of the royal ‘orb of power’ and ‘the mace of office’

11. 306 -327 AD: The Roman Empire

Roman Emperor Constantine [the Great] was depicted holding the characteristic mace and orb; and elsewhere in formal pose flourishing the ‘orb of power’ – now Christianised with a cross.

11 Constantine

12. 482-565 AD: Constantinople.

Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinian erected a huge statue of himself on horseback, holding aloft the golden orb of power which became known as the ‘apple of Istanbul’. It became the explicit aim of the Ottoman Turks to ‘seize the apple’, which they did eventually.

12 Justinian

13. Europe, ‘The Holy Roman Empire’ 

Holy Roman Emperors (of Europe), depicted with their golden ‘orb of power’.

   742 – 814: Charlemange, King of the Franks and 1st Holy Roman Emperor.

   1014 – 1024: Henry II

   1209 – 1215: Otto IV

[right] The extant orb and mace of the Holy Roman Empire from 10th C. The orb is known as the ‘Reichsapfel’ – the realm (royal) apple.  The contemporary Swedish version is the ‘Riksapple’ – pomeroy or royal apple.

13 HR Emps

14. The Royal Houses of England

   1276 – 1292: Eleanor, Queen Consort of England. [Charing Cross, London]

   1377 -1399: Richard II [Westminster Abbey]

   1483: Edward V

   1603-23: James I [Winchester Cathedral]

14 Eng royals

15. The Royal Houses of Russia

         1547 – 84: Tsar Ivan the Terrible

         1606 – 10: Tsar Vasili IV

         1613 – 45: Tsar Michael I

15 Russia royals

16. The Royal Houses of Scandinavia

    995-1035: Canute, Denmark/Norway

    1015-30:  Olaf II, Norway

    1397-1436:   Erik VII, Denmark

16 Scandi royals

17. Icons of the Church

From ca 1100: Christ the King in regal pose with the golden orb of power. Winchester Cathedral, UK

From 13th C :  Christ child crowned in regal pose holding the blue crystal orb of power.  L’Eglise St Samson, Dol De Bretagne, France

1509 -10: ‘God the Father’ with the crystal orb of power.  Raphael ‘La Disputa’, Vatican Museum, Rome

~1858 ?: Christ the King with golden mace and orb of power. Anglican church, Beechworth, Australia

17 Church royals

18. The Modern Era

Queens of Europe with the crystal orb of power:

   1558 – 1603: Elizabeth I, England

   1762:  Catherine, Russia

   1837 – 1836: Victoria, England

   1953 – – – -: Elizabeth II, England

18 Queens

The British Crown Jewels include two versions of the mace … as ceremonial sceptres … in both cases based on rather long golden staffs. In one case the ‘head’ is now represented as a fine sculpture of a dove … consciously or unconsciously reflecting the standard Christian iconography for the ‘Holy Spirit’. In the other case, the ‘head’ is represented by the very large Cullinan diamond surmounted by a blue crystal sphere … again unwittingly mimicking the original ‘crystal ball’ that was the source of the ‘holy spirit’.

The ‘orb’ is a hollow golden sphere … as it was originally.

Brit crown jewels

Quaintly, the British Monarch is not appointed by Parliament acting for the people, but is ‘anointed’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury acting as an agent of ‘God’. He bestows the orb with the words, ‘Receive this orb set under the cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.’ Power now lies with the Church.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire

1848 – 1919: Emperor Franz-Joseph, with the mace and orb.

The extant Hungarian crown jewels, dating from the 11th C, on public display in Budapest. The bulb (butt) of the mace is a crystal ball.

19 Franz Jos

2014: Ukraine

In June, 2014 President Poroshenko of Ukraine was pictured  at his inauguration, flourishing the traditional State mace of office [below, left].

The Ukrainian State mace of office is described as a hollow gold tube attached to a golden, jewelled sphere containing ‘the apple’.  It remains remarkably similar to Tutankhamun’s ‘Giver of Winds’ from 3500 years before. [below, right]

21 Peroshenko          20 Maces cf

Historically, the Ukrainian mace (bulava) was awarded to the highest military officer of the Cossacks … … a tradition which survives throughout Europe as the now stylised ‘baton’ awarded to Field Marshalls (below).

19. Evolution of the military ceremonial ‘baton’.

Throughout history the armed services have, perhaps unconsciously, maintained the ancient tradition of awarding a symbolic weapon to the highest-ranking officers … recognised now in the form of the ceremonial ‘baton’ of Field Marshalls.

Historically, the Field Marshalls’ baton retained the traditional style of a short cane [hollow tube] with a bulb [usually metal] at one end, and that characteristic design was maintained in NE Europe … notably in the Ukraine. But in modern times in Western Europe, the bulb has become highly stylised by carving or other ornamentation, or has been lost altogether   … so the modern ‘baton’ is often just a short, ornamented tubular rod.

The period of the Roman Empire (ca 100 BC – 500 AD) marked the transition of the mace from the reality of a supreme weapon to a merely ceremonial symbol. The early Emperors were ‘warrior-kings’ with both military and then political status.

Emperor Maxentius (306-312 AD) carried an old-style mace with a blue-stone sphere mounted on a brass alloy shaft; but Constantine (324-337) initially carried a simple rod and orb, and later a Christianised version surmounted by a cross.

Roman mace

The traditional style mace symbolising a supreme weapon was retained as a symbol of supreme military/political status in NE European States, notably by the Hetman (Supreme Commander) of the Ukrainian/Polish Cossack State in the 1600s.

Cossack hetman

But in Western Europe the traditional weapon symbol was euphemised by the Church … initially into a simple orb, then Christianised with a cross. Military power was usurped by spiritual authority. That evolution is vividly illustrated by Olaf II of Norway (1015-30) … who was portrayed first as a warrior king, then as a ‘saint’, then as a Churchman.

Olaf Norway 1015-30

Moving into the 18-18th centuries the traditional style of the mace as a weapon was lost … replaced by a ceremonial tubular baton, often stylised at one end.

18-19th C batons

In the modern era a hint of the original design was retained as the military bulawa in Poland, deriving from the Cossack tradition; but elsewhere the old supreme weapon became merely an ornamented baton.

20th C batons

The most recent British design iteration, illustrated below, is an ornamented baton with a small sculpture at one end depicting St George slaying the mythological dragon.

Mod Brit batons

Ironically, the mace that was originally a fire-breathing weapon, is now symbolised [unwittingly] as a baton with a fire-breathing dragon at its ‘head’.


Unambiguous literary accounts and illustrations present a continuous historical record of the ancient weapon known as the mace or rod, and of its awesome power displayed over 4000 years of the pre-Christian era. Then, in the Christian era, the mace and its crystal ‘orb of power’ remained faithfully preserved in the symbolic ceremonial regalia of European royalty.

The mace (or rod) was not, originally, a simple mechanical club. Literary records make it clear that it was an unusual golden ‘weapon’ of Kings and military leaders, comprising a tubular shaft attached to a hollow sphere containing a crystal ‘apple’ (later called the ‘orb’).  The spherical bulbous end was the ‘butt’ (hind end), not the head.

Egyptian, Babylonian/Assyrian, Hebrew, Hittite and Persian records all make it explicit that the weapon delivered ‘fire before it’, releasing evil winds (sic), causing death, horrible sickness, plagues, sterility in man and beast and prolonged desolation. Afflicted areas became uninhabited and uninhabitable.  It struck down thousands indiscriminately, even tens of thousands. The effects were recorded as terrible, awe-inspiring, an ‘unknown astonishment’.

It was explicitly not an ordinary club, sword or spear. Tutankhamun’s mace was engraved ‘It was like Aten (the sun) when it shone’; while likewise, Thutmose’s stela proclaimed …  It was Amen-Ra [the sun god] who accomplished it (the victory), not the arms of men’. Hebrew scribes admonished … ‘understand this, they fell not with the sword, nor the bow, but the Lord thy God [YHWH] is he which goeth before thee as a consuming fire … and I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out. He stretched out his glorious right hand [which] didst blow with the wind … they shalt have a great sickness by disease of the bowels, until thy bowels fall out … their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.  I will make the land utterly waste and desolate, no foot of man nor beast shall inhabit it for forty years’. [19]

The extracts presented here are from standard published texts of translations by orthodox literary scholars, mainly in the early 1900s (or before) … translations made by technically innocent scholars from a technically primitive era. Very often they rendered not literal translations but rather interpretations … in language coloured by the heavily religious context of the time. The early 19-20th century scholars saw ‘temples’ dedicated to pagan ‘gods’, with ‘priests’ dressed in ‘elaborate golden vestments’ conducting weird rituals before ‘stone altars of fire’. The definitive collection of the inscriptions and annals of Assyrian/Babylonian Kings published by Luckenbill (1927) provided a commentary describing the accounts as ‘in large measure religious’, containing hymns and prayers … expressing ‘knowledge that was nothing more than highly refined magic’. [20] That was the Establishment view at the time – Babylonian life was mainly religious and based on profane magic.

Notwithstanding these difficulties of 19-20 C translations, the breath of records and consistency of language from multiple sources over a very long period leaves little room for doubt that the mace was an abnormal weapon delivering inexplicable ‘magic’ effects … fire, ‘winds’, waves, death, sickness, plague, sterility and desolation … that we would now recognise as consistent with nuclear radiation. Rather than priests in linen and gold vestments, we might now see technicians in white linen overalls and gold-shield protective clothing.  A succession of Assyrian/Babylonian Kings left inscriptions in which each one boasted of rebuilding the ‘temple’ with walls thicker and stronger than before – not for decoration or devotion, but because it was a ‘sacred’ (isolated) place, the abode of Assur, with the ‘weapon of Assur’ set inside it. It was called the atmānu rašubbu, the radiant [glowing] sanctuary. The ‘temple’ of 19-20th century scholars was not religious in any modern sense, but was a ‘sacred’ (isolated) stronghold for the safekeeping of the terrible weapon of fire and evil winds. [21]

The Old World ‘mace’ passed into Biblical mythology as ‘the rod’. In the lead-up to the Exodus, YHWH ordered Moses and Aaron to perform ‘a wonder’ by casting down their ‘rods’ to become a snake [a hissing venomous being]. But the Pharaoh had his own ‘sorcerers’ also perform ‘magic secrets’ and their ‘rods’ became ‘dragons’ [breathing fire]. And the outcome released ‘plagues’. [22] In Jerome’s original Latin version, he rendered the mysterious ‘wonder’ as virga, literally meaning ‘a twig, stick or staff’ … translated to English as a [wooden] ‘rod’. That was patently inadequate, if not deliberately disingenuous. The alternative meaning of virga is ‘magic wand’, which obviously fits the context but was unpalatable and inadmissible to Christian era scholars.

The ‘magic’ effects and terms were incomprehensible to the early scribes, and still inexplicable (or inadmissible) to 19-20th century scholars. The unavoidable implication that ancient Kings had a portable nuclear weapon of mass destruction is somewhat inconsistent with the orthodox paradigm of history … requiring a re-evaluation. Logically, the recorded ‘winds of fire’ that issued from the mace must have derived from the crystal ‘apple’ orb of power contained in the spherical butt. That knowledge was lost to religion and myth. The Greeks had Prometheus give mankind the fire of the gods, contained in a hollow tube ‘narthex’. But it was the gift of good and evil.

[1]Enuma Elish, in Pritchard (1958), The Ancient Near East Anthology of Texts I , 32

[2] Bramani (2017). The sceptre (gidru) in early Mesopotamian written sources, in KASKAL. Rivista di storia, ambienti e culture del Vicino Oriente Antico. Vol 14

[3] The Victory Stela of Thutmose III at Gebel Barkal, in Maspero (1894), Dawn of Civilisation, or Grimal (1992) History of Ancient Egypt

[4] Carter, The Tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen, 3:3, in De Lubicz, Temple of Man II, 976

[5] Gurney (1990), The Hittites, 110,129,135,151,179

[6] Annals of Ramses III, in Pritchard (1958), The Ancient Near East Anthology of Texts I, 185-6

[7] Wilkinson (2010), Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, 321,350

[8] Numbers 3, 17; Psalm 44; Joshua 24; Jeremiah 19,25,29; Deuteronomy 7,9

[9] Saggs (1988), The Babylonians, 81

[10] Luckenbill (1927), Ancient Records of Assyria & Babylon, 72-260

[11] Saggs (1988), The Babylonians, 86

[12] Monolith Inscriptions I, in Pritchard (1958), The Ancient Near East Anthology of Texts I, 188-191;  also – Luckenbill (1927), Ancient Records of Assyria & Babylon

[13] Annals of Sargon II, in Pritchard (1958), The Ancient Near East Anthology of Texts I, 191

[14] Prism of Sennacherib, in Pritchard (1958), The Ancient Near East Anthology of Texts I, 199

[15] Isaiah 10, 13-14, 30

[16] Daniel 5

[17] Cook (1983), The Persians, 149,154, 225,228

[18] 2nd Book of Macabees, 3:38; 9:5-11; 10:29-31; 11:8-11; 15:15-16, 15:24-27

[19] See (7) and Exodus 15; II Chronicles, 21; Zechariah, 14; Ezekiel, 29

[20] Luckenbill (1927), Ancient Records of Assyria & Babylon

[21] Luckenbill (1927), Ancient Records of Assyria & Babylon

[22] Exodus 7; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 2(13)

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