Gog and Magog behind Alexander the Great's wall in China

constructing Alexander's wall against Gog and Magog; from 16th-century Falnama

Gog and Magog are apocalyptic figures in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scripture.  Alexander the Great was an ancient Greek leader who conquered much of western Eurasia and northern Africa.  Like Gog and Magog, and Alexander the Great, a great wall in China was well-known about 2200 years ago.  A millennium later, a story existed, with learned support, that Alexander the Great built a wall in China to protect civilization from Gog and Magog. Those story pieces incredibly-credibly fit.

The Book of Ezekiel describes Gog like a Mongol leader.  Early Jewish and Christian references to Gog and Magog variously refer to them as individuals, peoples, and lands.  In the Book of Ezekiel, Gog is from Magog.  Prophesying about 2600 years ago, Ezekiel declared that Gog from Magog will come with many peoples, “out of the remotest parts of the north, … all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army.”  Gog from Magog attacks quiet peoples living in unwalled “waste places” and carries off plunder.  Those people seem like migrants to the great expanses of Eurasia.  Ezekiel prophesies that Gog from Magog will attack the people of Israel.  The people of Israel have walled and gated cities.  However, the decisive defense of Israel in Ezekiel’s prophecy comes from God showing his power to the world.[1]

In stories popular among sedentary peoples of southwestern Eurasia, Alexander the Great walled off savage peoples living somewhere north.  The story appears in the writing of the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus in the first century GC.[2]  Alexander the Great was a world conqueror broadly similar to Genghis Khan.  Alexander the Great, unlike Genghis Khan, was from a sedentary people.  The conflict between sedentary (“civilized”) and nomadic (“savage”) peoples is the underlying structure of the story of Alexander’s wall.  Having Alexander the Great as the protagonist suggests that sedentary peoples considered the threat from nomadic peoples to be world-threatening.  The threat that Alexander walled off was like the apocalyptic threat of Gog and Magog in Jewish and Christian literature.

No later than 630, the stories of Gog and Magog and Alexander’s wall came together among Syrian Christians in northern Mesopotamia.  Legends about Alexander the Great probably became popular soon after his death in 323 BGC.  An Alexander Romance written in Greek is known to have existed from no later than the third century GC.[3]  A Syrian Christian author in 630 wrote a text that described itself thus:

An exploit of Alexander the son of Philip the Macedonian, 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 Huns {variously also called the Scythians} might not come forth to spoil the countries [4]

This text identified the Huns as Gog and Magog.  A Syriac poem written about this time described itself as “Poem on the pious king Alexander and on the gate which he built against Gog and Magog.”[5]  The Islamic conquest of Syria in the mid-seventh century provided additional impetus to Syrian Christian apocalyptic writing.  The Syrian Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, probably composed in the last decade of the seventh century, describes Alexander constructing a wall against Gog and Magog.  The Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius circulated widely and was well-known across western Eurasia from the eight century.  It popularized the story of Alexander the Great walling off Gog and Magog.[6]

By the mid-ninth century, learned men believed that Alexander’s wall against Gog and Magog was in northwestern China.  The influential early-ninth-century Persian astronomer, geographer, and mathematician al-Khwārizmī placed Alexander’s wall in northwestern China.[7]  In 842, Caliph al-Wathiq sent Sallām at-Turjumānī, who was highly proficient in languages, on a mission to determine whether Gog and Magog had broken through Alexander’s wall.  Sallām traveled to Tiflis (Tbilisi) in the Georgian Caucasus and plausibly passed through the Darial Pass.  Some accounts of Alexander’s feats suggested that he had walled off the Darial Pass.  Evidently what Sallām saw in the Caucasus was not compelling.  He headed east, traveling 3200 miles to northwestern China.  Sallām ultimately reported to Caliph al-Wathiq that he found Alexander’s wall in China about 300 miles from Igu (present-day Hami), probably at Yumenguan.  Assuaging the Caliph’s anxiety, Sallām declared that this wall against Gog and Magog was intact.[8]  That comforting report probably depended on identifying Alexander’s wall with what has become known as the Great Wall of China.  Eastern Christian stories of Alexander’s wall indicated that the wall was in the Caucasus.[9]  But a location in China had supporters in the Islamic world.[10]  That location also had the advantage of corresponding to the location of an actual, enduring, great wall.

Possible effects of communication are boundless.  The circulation of claims and stories about Gog and Magog, Alexander building a wall, and a great wall in China coalesced in an official report to Abbasid Caliph al-Wathiq, one of the most powerful and learned ninth-century leaders on earth.  The report, and similar accounts of Alexander’s wall in China, annihilated the 3200-mile-wide space from the Caucasus to northwestern China.  The most amazing communication technology has always been human minds and human networks.

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[image] Bottom half of image, Alexander Builds a Wall against Gog and Magog; from the dispersed Falnama, Iran, Safavid period, mid-1550s to early 1560s.  Held in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, MS 395.  The Qur’an describes a story of Dhū’l-Qarnayn’s wall against Gog and Magog. Dhū’l-Qarnayn (the two-horned one) probably represents Alexander the Great. Dhū’l-Qarnayn met an uncivilized people (people who could scarcely understand his words; Qur’an 18:93) who offered to pay him tribute for building a protective wall.  Dhū’l-Qarnayn refused to accept tribute, but asked the people to help in constructing the wall (Qur’an 18:95).  The creatures working on the wall in the above painting may indicate those uncivilized people. The depiction of two of them as dog-headed seems to reflect descriptions of persons associated with Gog and Magog in the Alexander stories.  See Doufikar-Aerts (2011) pp. 44-46.  The creatures carrying cauldrons is consistent with a reference to molten metal in Qur’an 18:96. The creature on top of the wall has two horns. That depiction creates an additional dimension in the relationship between Dhū’l-Qarnayn and Alexander the Great.

[1] Book of Ezekiel, Chs. 38-39.  Quotes from New Revised Standard Version, Ez. 38:15, 38:12.

[2] Josephus, War of the Jews, Bk. 7, Ch. 7, Sec. 4.  Alexander the Great did not attack Jerusalem and is well-regarded in ancient Jewish literature.

[3] Stoneman (1991) is a recent English translation of texts associated with the Greek Alexander Romance.

[4] Donzel, Schmidt & Ott (2009) p. 18.

[5] Id. p. 22.

[6] Id. p. 26 describes the Syrian Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius.  An account of Alexander walling off unclean nations exists in the γ recension of the Greek Alexander Romance.  The account specifies 22 nations and names 16 nations, led off by “Goth, Magoth, ….”  These were “unclean nations” in the sense of ritual purity and practices considered savage, evil, and disgusting:

They used to eat worms and foul things that were not real food at all — dogs, flies, snakes, aborted foetuses, dead bodies and unformed human embryos; and they ate not only animals but the corpses of humans as well.

Trans. Stoneman (1991) pp. 185-187 (Bk. III, Sec. 26A).

[7] Ducène (2012) p. 107.

[8] Donzel, Schmidt & Ott (2009) Ch. 7, 10-12.  Id. provides an English translation of the text from Ibn Khurradadhbih, and compares other sources. Id. argues with detailed analysis that Sallam actually took the trip from Samarra to western China.  Id., p. 233, gives routes and mileages.  Sallam reportedly traveled from 842-845.  Ducène (2012) maintains that the trip was fictive.  Even if it was fictive, it seems to have been believable.

[9] Eastern Christian sources located Alexander’s Wall at the Caucasian Gates, the Caspian Gates, the Derbent Pass (in present-day Daghestan), and the Darial Pass (on the border of present-day Russian and Georgia).  In these sources, the story includes Alexander praying for two mountains to move together to close off the unclean nations.  Thus the most consistent location in the Eastern Christian sources is the Darial Pass. Islamic tradition located Alexander’s wall similarly.  Donzel, Schmidt & Ott (2009) pp. 51-6, 81.  In Arabic literature Gog and Magog are called Yājūj and Mājūj.

[10] Al-Mas’udi (died 956), Qudama ibn Ja’far (died c. 932), Ibn Hawqal (died 988) and other later thinkers located Alexander’s wall in or near China.  Id. pp. 99-109.


Donzel, E. J. van, Andrea B. Schmidt, and Claudia Ott. 2009. Gog and Magog in early Syriac and Islamic sources: Sallam’s quest for Alexander’s wall.  Leiden: Brill.

Doufikar-Aerts, Faustina.  2011.  “Dogfaces, Snake-tongues, and the Wall against Gog and Magog.” Pp. 37-52 in Asghar A. Seyed-Gohrab, Faustina Doufikar-Aerts and Sen McGlinn (eds.). Embodiments of Evil: Gog and Magog. Interdisciplinary Studies of the ‘Other’ in Literature & Internet Texts. Leiden University Press (apparently a re-issue of Gog and Magog: the clans of chaos in world literature (2007)).

Ducène, Jean-Charles. 2012. Review. Gog and Magog in early Eastern Christian and Islamic sources. Sallam’s quest for Alexander’s Wall. Central Asian Survey.  Vol. 31, Iss. 1.

Stoneman, Richard. 1991. The Greek Alexander romance. London, England: Penguin Books.

18 thoughts on “Gog and Magog behind Alexander the Great's wall in China”

  1. Whereas two centuries ago Chinese complained how Manchu Mongol Magog decimated their civilization, now tartarized by Cultural Revolution, they praise Cengiz Khan and bemoan Opium War. This is why today’s CHinese, except for Taiwan and Signaore, Cannot be trusted.

  2. I have only one little remark and that is Alexander is the Macedonian king *( he was no Greek ,he was in war with city ​​states and he concord them ) the city ​​states at that time have no kings and the Greece as a state came long after that (19th.cent.)As opposed to that Macedonia was a kingdom long before Alexander

    1. Wrong. Alexander the Great was the son of a great king of Macedon that united the Greeks against the Persians. All of the Greek city states gave their blessings, young men for the military and finance for the march to Persia. Alexander was a Macedonian king with geneology back to include Hercules, and other Ancient heroes. Re-read Greek history. Thank you.

    2. You are a moron. Alexander was an ELLINAS GREEK his teacher was Aristotelis who’s teacher was Plato was Teacher was Sokrates The Macedonians were another city state just as Athens and Sparta and Thebes and Troy etc etc…The city state was actually strted by Spartans who moved to the area and established the kingdom. His father Filipos and his Mother Olympiad you cannot get more greek than that! Wake up!

  3. midgal …that is absolutly untrue…Makedonia was a Kingdom yes ..and it was also in war with some city states of the Hellenic Peninsula…but u forgett in ur little explaination that at this time there was no Nations like today …Makedonia is the Heartland of Hellenism ..it was Alexander who unfied the first time all Greek city states and regions…if he wud have been an non Greek …he wudnt had spreed Greek language Greek culturer and Greek belives…there is also a speech of Alexander III of Macedon (Alexandros o Megas) who reffers directly to his Hellenic ancestry ….and also Mount Olympos is located in Makedonia …wud been strange at those days when the Greek world had Mount Olymbos outside of there cultural sphere dont u think?….im pretty sure that u are an Fyromian …its really a shame how u guys absurd history…ur arguments ALL cant stand even a surficial look

  4. Holy quran”the muslim’s holy book
    Has amore detils about gog and magog at cave sura” alkahf”
    Plz read it and U Will find it

  5. In Quran, says the wall was built from iron, or iron structure ..Am not not sure if this could be the wall.. Very possible.. Because Muhammad prophet said they will go to Lake Sea of Galilee.. and they will drink it all.. Adding more pieces to the puzzle.. Most of Jews in Israel came from Russia, Georgia.. around that area, and they kill with no mercy as described and have no manners and they are the ones who’s drinking Galilee lake.. Google all primes ministers in Israel in history and where they all originally came from !! I could be wrong

  6. I wanted to actually say that Alexander the Macedonian was not from nor was a sedentary person: he was an impetuous ambitious tyrannical violent hellenized strong man . The wall he built was against the archaemenid Persians!!!!! Whose emperors were for the most part Judaism followers (Zoroastrianism was actually the teachings of Daniel of the Jewish bible !!!!) and the real sedentary people who fought willingly and bravely when attack against them occurred or when Rebels were causing big havoc in the empire! I believe God and Magog and their locust people were destroyed by the Persians during the years of Cyrus the first archaemenid Persian emperor : in fact, I think he is the one who destroyed them or his forefathers before great archaemenid Persian empire started. Then, Alexander the Macedonian invaded the Persians with the help of plenty Rebels (it think about half the Persians ) and the help of the Medes who had half of Central Asia , including turkey, and Babylonia (from Iraq to whole India ). In fact, from my researches, Macedonia was a Mede colony of the Royal Medes in Europe and Alexander was born there from his father Philip who was an Assyrian who married a noble woman of the Royal Medes of Macedonia . The Greeks were originally a Persian colony of Cyrus’s family members (the Royal Persians) who became allies to Philip and Alexander because of false rumors among them , as well as simply evil among them, and also the many evils being done by vashti as Persia queen when she was still with Xerxes . And Sparta which became a great support of Alexander and Hellenism was also a Persian colony! From the paternal family side of Cyrus in fact! So when Alexander attacked Persia, he had his men be in charge of the many Rebels in east Persia ( East Asia ) to make the Great Wall of china while he would be chasing Xerxes from west to force him to be stuck at the Great Wall . The wall was built by China area because some other walls were already there in various places and the northern Eastern Asia was still faithful to Xerxes : they were the Mongolians and siberians ! Who were for the most part all Persians by birth ( Mongolia and Siberia were tribal names among the eastern Persians, and so was China) and may be the people who under Cyrus destroyed Magog and his group way before Alexander came to build the Great Wall. I am sure there were Giants as very tall people both among the Persians and among Alexander’s men, and so the wall was not necessarily against Giants but really against the Royal Persians and Xerxes .

  7. “God and Magog ” was supposed to be “gog and Magog “. And the reason why I mentioned that the Greeks were originally Royal Persians is that when they found out that Alexander’s father Philip was still alive and working as a noble governor among the provinces of the immediate empire of Persia land, and when they witnessed or found out how wicked and crazy Alexander was even toward his own father ( from historical account remains , it seems that he killed him , but before he died both found out who they were as father and son , but Alexander had no sorrow for killing his own father) . And so the Greeks stopped fighting and would not obey Alexander anymore : they rejoined with their cousin Royal Persians remnants of Xerxes ‘s household. The Macedonians and some Spartans were the ones who really fought against the Persians . When the conquest of Persia was over, Alexander made Greek the official language but it was actually the Royal Persian language and Greek was a minor dialect of it ! Do Greek per say was really the original archaemenid language of the time, the other dialects of Persia including Sparta did not qualify : Alexander was apparently trying to get the Greeks and the Royal Persians remnants to somehow start liking him as their official new ruler of Persia .

  8. Alexander (in Quran : Dzulqornain) is an Egyptian he travel around the world through America and help build the maya Civilization. He end up in China where he became a king. He also the builder of gog and magog wall which the structure consist of a heated iron frame and filled with a layer of heated Copper. The wall is very strong and last till the end of the world. 🙂

  9. QUR’AN CHAPTER 18 Says:83-And They ask you about Dhul Qarnayn.Say:”I shall recite to you something of his story.”84-Verily we established him(Dhul Qarnayn)in the earth,and we gave him the means of everything.85-So he(Dhul Qarnayn) followed a way.86-Until,when he reached the setting place of the sun,he found it setting in a spring of black muddy(or hot) water.And he found near it a people.We(Allah)said(by inspiration):”O Dhul Qarnayn!Either you punish them,or treat them with kindness.”87-He said:As for him (a disbeliever in the oneness of Allah)who does wrong,we shall punish him,and then he will brought back unto his Lord,who will punish him with a terrible torment(Hell).88-“But as for him who believes (in Allah’s Oneness) and works righteousness,he shall have the best reward,(Paradise),and we (Dhul Qarnayn)shall speak unto him mild words (as instructions).” 89-Then he followed another way,90-Until,when he came to the rising place of the sun,he found it rising on a people for whom We(Allah)had provided no shelter against the sun.91-So (it was)!And We knew all about him (Dhul Qarnayn).92-Then he followed (another) way,93-Until,when he reached between two mountains,he found,before (near) them (those mountains),a people who scarcely understood a word.94-They said:”O Dhul Qarnayn!Verily ya’juj and ma’juj (Gog and Magog) are doing great mischief in the land.Shall we then pay you tribute in order that you might erect a barrier between us and them?” 95-He said: “That (wealth,authority and power) in which my Lord had established me is better (than your tribute). So help me with strength (of men),I will erect between you and them a barrier. 96-“Give me pieces (blocks) of iron;”then when he had filled up the gap between the two mountain-cliffs,he said:”Blow;”then when he had made them (red as) fire,he said:”Bring me molten copper to pour over them.” 97-So they [Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog)] could not scale it or dig through it. 98-(Dhul Qarnayn)said:”This is a mercy from my Lord,but when the Promise of my Lord comes,He shall level it down to the ground.And the Promise of my Lord is ever true.” 99-And on that Day[I.e. the Day Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog)will come out],We shall leave them to surge like waves on one another;and the trumpet will be blown,and We shall collect them (the creatures) all together……..

    That is what the QUR’AN Says on Gog and Magog.

  10. You take things too literally. Firstly, there is a qualitative difference between different eras and two qualitative differences are in the faculty of man to perceive non-corporeal things, as well in the earth possessing and radiating to the majority of mankind, reality of a non-corporeal nature. You probably know that before modern times, the whole world more or less divided reality into 3 categories: hylic/corporeal/body, psychic/anima/soul and lastly, the highest: nous/spiritual/spirit. Man being the summation of all things possesses within himself an element that corresponds to each category of reality.

    That said, the armies of gog and magog are not armies of men, but armies belonging to entities in the lower and inferior part of the psychic world. The wall spoken off to keep these entities out of our world is also not a physical wall, but a wall that consists of the 5 immaterial and psychic elements. As time goes on, man however forgets his higher nature and diminishes, becoming enclosed within his body; this means that there is close to no one left that can forge the immaterial wall (or force-field, if you will), that will fend these infra-psychic entities off.
    To read more on such perspectives, I recommend that the author, Douglas, consult the book: “Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times”, by Rene Guenon. It’s free and easily found online.

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