The Cycle of Ba’al – Tablet 4

Description

The legend of Ba’al also called the Ba’al cycle was found over the span of six clay tablets and during the first five seasons of excavations following the discovery of the ancient city of Ugarit (In present day Syria) in 1926. The tablets are dated to c. 1500 BCE but are thought to have been a written record of a much older story passed down by oral transmission. (*)

The epic was composed of (2,350 lines in 1,500 poetic verses [Pardee (1997]), engraved with cuneiform Ugaritic script and was written In a style called narrative poetry featuring a number of gods from Canaanite-Phoenician pantheon in which Ba’al the fertility god and his lover Anat play a central role.

The main theme of the story speaks about the struggle between the fertility god Ba’al and the evil powers of chaos, the death of the fertility god and his resurrection yet defeat them over again.

The Baʿal Cycle series of stories are summarized as:

  • Yamwants to rule over the other gods and be the most powerful of all

  • Baʿal Hadad opposes Yam and slays him

  • Baʿal Hadad, with the help of Anathand Athirat, persuades El to allow him a palace

  • Baʿal Hadad commissions Kothar-wa-Khasisto build him a palace.

  • King of the gods and ruler of the world seeks to subjugate Mot

  • Mot kills Baʿal Hadad

  • Anath brutally kills Mot, grinds him up and scatters his ashes

  • Baʿal Hadad returns to Mount Saphon

  • Mot, having recovered from being ground up and scattered, challenges Baʿal Hadad

  • Baʿal Hadad refuses; Mot submits

  • Baʿal Hadad rules again

Tablet four, in most part, recounts the planning and building of Baal’s palace. It describes the employment of both Kawthar and Khasis the builders of the Gods to construct Ba’al’s palace;

“Depart, Kothar-wa-Hasisu. Hurry, build a house.
Hurry, raise a palace. Hurry, build a house.
Hurry, start raising a palace
in the midst of the high places of Sapanu,
the house holding 1,000 fields.
the palace holding 10,000 plots.” (CTA 4 v 50-57)

The texts also describes Ba’al’s call to his lover Anat’s; the text goes

“To me let your feet run,
to me let your legs hurry;
as I have a word of which I would tell you,
a matter of which I would relate to you;
words of wood and whispers of stone, conversations of the heavens with the earth,
the deep with the stars.” (CTA 3 iii 19-25)

Interpretation

The death of Baʿal and the reign of Mot has been regarded as a seasonal myth, marking Baʿal as a vegetation god whose death and rebirth is responsible for the Levant‘s summer drought and autumn rains. However, Oldenburg argues against this, saying it instead represents “a special catastrophe of drought and infertility when the rain does not come in its season”.

  • Site: Ugarit (Ras-Shamra)

  • Date: C 1400-1500 BC

  • Material: Backed clay

  • Item Dimensions:

  • Archaeological Mission: French archaeological mission ( Claude F. A. Schaeffer) 1926 – 1932

  • National Museum Of Aleppo (2011) – Museum Number: Aleppo

  • Index Code: Alp 0187

Excavation Site Location

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