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Ugarit (Ras Shamra)

Ugarit (Hebrew אוּגָרִית): Bronze Age port in northern Syria, destroyed in the early twelfth century BCE, modern Ras Shamra. Cuneiform tablets illustrate the religion of ancient Canaan, i.e., the gods against which the first Jewish prophets polemicized.

History

Religion

Like its language, Ugarite religion can be called "West-Semitic" or "Canaanite". This means that the pantheon and myths of Ugarit may, in some way or another, have been known to the people of ancient Israel and Judah.

For example: the Ba'al mentioned as Canaanite idol in the Bible, is known from Ugarit as well. In lists of deities, Ba'al is usually named immediately after El and Dagan, but we are also lucky to have the nearly complete text of a myth. In this text, Ba'al defeats the seagod Yam in a conflict that probably represents the war between order and chaos. Later, Ba'al builds a palace and wants to succeed El as king of the gods, but he is somehow - temporarily - defeated by Mut, the god of death. However, Ba'al overcomes his opponent, and becomes ruler of the Netherworld himself, where he resides for several months every year.

Fighter, king of the gods, ruler of the Netherworld: Ba'al had several important roles. But he had more functions: he was also believed to reside on Mount Saphon (or Mount Casius, north of Ugarit), was considered to be the judge of the gods, the lord of wind and weather, the controller of rain, storm, thunder, and lightning, and responsible for the annual renewal of vegetation. His divine consort is called Anath.

Writing

This page was created in 2017; last modified on 23 June 2017.