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What is the origin of the legend of King Solomon's Mines in fiction?

H. Rider Haggard popularized the idea of King Solomon's Mines in his book, and plenty of fiction ran with the idea since then (Chrighton's Congo, The Librarian, etc...)

But he probably didn't invent the idea that there WERE King Solomon's Mines in Africa.

What is the origin of that idea, both in fiction (Was Haggard the first to use them in a work of fiction?) and non-fiction (e.g. were they mentioned in some religious or biographical literature)?

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    I don't have my copy nearby, but I think there's lots of relevant info in Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances Yates. The Temple of Solomon is a well-known trope in the esoteric literature, so a mine or at least a quarry would naturally be associated. Jan 3, 2014 at 3:53

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I hate to give a Wikipedia based answer.. but:

It looks like it might be Haggard's invention, actually; stealing from Wikipedia:

The "King Solomon" of the book's title is the Biblical king renowned both for his wisdom and for his wealth. A number of sites have been suggested as the location of his mines, including the workings at the Timna valley near Eilat. Research published in September 2013 has shown that this site was in use during the 10th century BC as a copper mine possibly by the Edomites,who are believed to be vassals of King Solomon.

Haggard knew Africa well, having traveled deep within the continent as a 19-year-old during the Anglo-Zulu War and the First Boer War, where he had been impressed by South Africa's vast mineral wealth and by the ruins of ancient lost cities being uncovered, such as Great Zimbabwe. His original Allan Quatermain character was based in large part on Frederick Courtney Selous, the famous British white hunter and explorer of Colonial Africa. Selous's real-life experiences provided Haggard with the background and inspiration for this and many later stories.

It looks like the true source of Solomon's wealth is up for speculation, and, that being the case, Haggard used the known mineral wealth of Africa (and his and Selous' experiences there) as a vehicle for his story.

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  • It is a fair assumption, but I don't think that quote proves that nobody before Haggard wrote about similar concept? Jan 3, 2014 at 16:46
  • Well... No, but it is usually assumed they were closer to Israel; see aftau.org/site/News2?id=19081 for more current data -- Basically, I think Haggard took an old idea, and a 'new' place he had been to, and combined the two.. as far as I can tell Africa hadn't been one of the often theorized locations, simply because of distance. He also tweaked the contents; based on the Temple of Solomon, they were most likely COPPER mines.. but Diamond is far more impressive, AND consistent with Africa.
    – K-H-W
    Jan 3, 2014 at 16:48
  • But Africa was long associated with Solomon, because of his romantic dealings. Jan 3, 2014 at 16:53
  • Sure, but the aspect of them being 'diamond' mines wasn't; diamonds as massive wealth are a relatively recent idea.. They were beautiful and such, but not that useful. Copper, on the other hand, was one of the building blocks of culture. (Diamonds are treasure, but Copper is Wealth, you could say.) That being said, by the 1800s when he wrote, copper mines wouldn't have impressed anyone much... But Diamond mines (which WERE in Africa), on the other hand..
    – K-H-W
    Jan 3, 2014 at 16:57
  • Oh! I see what you mean. No, I definitely wasn't fixated on the fact that Haggard's mines were specifically diamond. Just a source of riches. (not copper, but perhaps gold, or spices, or other gems). Jan 3, 2014 at 16:59
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King Solomon mines was the result of an agreement with the Queen of Sheba. Israelite mining expertise for a share of the gold mined.

Reference:

As A Lily Among Thorns – A Story of King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, and the Goddess of Wisdom by Rudy U Martinka http://amazon.com/gp/search?field-author=rudy+martinka&index=books

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    The blurb for the book you've mentioned describes it as "a biblical fiction novel" filled with "conjectures" and "embellishments". Hardly the most reliable of sources, perhaps?
    – Valorum
    Jan 5, 2014 at 20:40

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