Aqhat

THE STORY OF AQHAT

The Epic of Aqhat

 

17.1  . . . .  10 lines

         Thereupon Daniel, the follower of Rapiu*,        *(rpi, the god Ba‘al)

then the stalwart follower of Harnamy*             *(hrnmy, Ba‘al; 'rain-maker'? Margalit)

made an offering* for the gods to eat,                *(? uzr)

made an offering for the sons of Qudshu* to drink.  *(Athirat, mother of gods)

He took off his cloak, ascended, and lay down,

he took off his loincloth and thus spent the night*.*(incubation? cp. 1 Sam.3?)

One day and a second day. . . .

Finally on the seventh day Ba‘al approached El with his supplication: 

Daniel the follower* of Rapiu is grieving,                      *(mt, 'man')

the stalwart follower* of  Harnamy is groaning ,

because he has no son as his brothers have, no scion as his kinsmen have.

Will you grant him your blessing, Bull El my father,  (Baal actually son of Dagan)

invigorate him, Creator of Creatures,

so that he may have a son in his house, a scion within his palace;

someone to set up the effigy of his ancestral deity,

in the sanctuary the emblem of his family god*;   *(funerary cult, but meanings uncertain)

someone to free his spirit from the earth, to protect his tomb from the dust;

someone to shut the jaws of his maligners, to drive away those who turn against him;

someone to hold his hand when he is drunk, to support him when he is full of wine;

someone to supply* his grain-offering in the house of Ba‘al,  *(or: consume)

and his portion in the house of El;

someone to plaster his roof when it leaks*,                            *('on the day of mud')

to wash his clothes when they are dirty*.                               *('on the day of dirt')

El took a cup in his  hand*, *(to make an oath)

he blessed Daniel the follower of Rapiu,

invigorated the stalwart  follower of  Harnamy:

Let Rapiu's follower Daniel come alive with passion*, *(napsh 'soul')

with desire, Harnamy's stalwart follower.

. . . .

Let him mount his bed. . . .

As he kisses his wife let her conceive,

as he embraces her let her become pregnant, ...

let her be with child; let the wife of Rapiu's follower be pregnant,

so that he may have a son in his house, a scion within his palace.          (repetition)

17.2 . . . . (repetition)

Daniel's face lit up with joy, and his forehead began to shine;

he opened wide his mouth and laughed, he tapped his feet on the footstool.

He lifted up his voice and exclaimed:

Now I may sit down and relax, and my soul can relax in my breast;

a son shall be born to me as my brothers have, a scion as my kinsmen have. . . . Daniel made his way to his house, Daniel betook himself to his palace.

Into his house came the Wise Women*, *(Kotharat; divine midwives)

the swallow-like moon* daughters. *(hll, crescent moon)

Thereupon Daniel the follower of Rapiu, then the stalwart follower of Harnamy,

slaughtered an ox for the Wise Women, gave food to the Wise Women,

drink to the swallow-like moon daughters.(swallows and moon go with fertility and birth)

One day and a second day he gave food to the Wise Women,

drink to the swallow-like moon daughters. . . .

Finally on the seventh day the Wise Women departed from his house,

the swallow-like moon daughters,

well-versed in the delights of the bed of conception,

the joys of the bed of childbirth.

Daniel sat down and counted her months.

                                      (2 columns lost)

 

17.5

Daniel's son, named Aqhat, has now grown to manhood 

Thereupon Daniel the follower of Rapiu,

then the stalwart follower of  Harnamy, raised himself up,

and sat at the entrance of the gate, among the nobles by the threshing-floor;

he judged the cause of the widow, tried the case of the orphan.

On raising his eyes he perceived, at a thousand tracts, ten-thousand spaces,

the coming of Kothar he sighted, and he observed the advance of Khasis.

Indeed he was carrying the bow, he was providing arrows fourfold.

Thereupon Daniel the follower of Rapiu,

then the stalwart follower of Harnamy, called out aloud to his wife:

Listen Lady Danatay, prepare a lamb from the flock*, *(or: younglings)

for the appetite of Kothar-Khasis, for the desire of Heyan the skilled handworker.

Give food and drink to the god*, wait upon and honour him**  *('gods') **('them')

the lord of all Khikuptah* the divine.                 *(Memphis, Egypt, city of Ptah)

The Lady Danatay took heed; she prepared a lamb from the flock,

for the appetite of Kothar-Khasis, for the desire of Heyan the skilled handworker.

After Kothar-Khasis had arrived, he gave the bow into the hand of Daniel,

he placed the arrows* on his knees.                   *(or: bow? another word) for bow?)

Thereupon the Lady Danatay gave food and drink to the god,

she waited upon him and honoured him, the lord of all Khikuptah the divine.

Kothar went off to his pavilion, Heyan went off to his tabernacle.

Thereupon Daniel (gave the bow to Aqhat)...

 

17.6 

        The goddess Anat is eating and drinking at a banquet given by Daniel for Aqhat.

Lifting her eyes she perceived it. . . .

She coveted the bow. . .

her eyes like a  serpent.'s. . . .

Her cup spilled onto the ground;

she lifted up her voice and cried:

Pray listen, brave Aqhat,

ask for silver and I will give it to you, gold and I will bestow it on you;

only give your bow to the Virgin Anat, your arrows to Yabamat Limmim.

But the brave Aqhat replied:

The finest ash trees from Lebanon, the finest sinews from wild oxen,

the finest horns from mountain-goats, tendons from the hocks of a bull,

the finest stalks from great reed-beds, you should give to Kothar-Khasis;

he will make a bow for Anat, arrows for Yabamat Limmim.

And the Virgin Anat answered:

Ask for life, brave Aqhat, ask for life and I will give it to you,

immortality and I will bestow it on you;

I will let you number your years with Baal,

with the sons of El you shall number your months.

As when Baal comes back to life and they feast him,

they feast the living one and give him drink,

the minstrel rhapsodizes and sings over him,

so will I give life to brave Aqhat.

But the brave Aqhat answered:

Do not lie to me, Virgin; your lies are sheer rubbish* to a hero.   *(?)

What does a man get as his fate, as his destiny what does he get?

Glaze will be poured on my head, quicklime* over my skull;   *(or: lime-plaster?)

and the death of all men I shall die, and I shall indeed be dead.

One more thing let me say:

the bow is a weapon of warriors, shall womenfolk hunt with it now?

Anat laughed out loud, but in her heart she conceived a plan.

Attend to me, brave Aqhat, attend to me while I tell you:

if I ever meet you on the path of transgression,

encounter you on the path of presumption,

I will bring you down beneath my own two feet,

you the most seductive and strongest of men.

She stamped her feet and the earth shook.

Then she set her face steadfastly to go to El at the sources of the two oceans; penetrating the mountains of El,

and entering the tabernacle of the King, the Father of Years,

she bowed and fell down at the feet of El,

she prostrated herself and paid him homage.

She denounced the brave Aqhat, . . . the child of Daniel, Rapiu's follower. . . .

And the Virgin Anat answered:

In the building of your mansion,  El,

in the building of your mansion do not rejoice,

do not rejoice in the erecting of your palace,

lest I seize them with my right hand,

demolish them by the might of my long arm,

lest I strike the top of your skull,

making your grey hair run with blood,

the grey hairs of your beard with gore.

So call upon Aqhat, and he will deliver you,

the son of Daniel, and he will rescue you,

from the hand of the Virgin Anat.

And El the Kindly, the Benign replied.

I know, daughter, that you are manly*,                                  *(or gentle)

and there is no contempt like yours among goddesses.

Begone, daughter, your heart is haughty;

you always take what you have in mind,

you carry out what is in your breast;

anyone who hinders you will be cruelly crushed.

She went back to Aqhat and said:

Listen, brave Aqhat,

you are my brother and I am your sister. . . .

                       (2 columns lost)

18.4 . . . .

The Virgin Anat went her way.

Then she set her face steadfastly to go to Yatpan, warrior of the Lady*.

. . . .  (repetition)                               *(shat, Anat; or Shutu, hence Sutean warrior)

She took Yatpan the warrior of the Lady*

she put him like an eagle on her belt, like a hawk on her scabbard.

While Aqhat sat down to eat, the son of Daniel to a meal,

above him eagles were hovering, a flock of hawks looking down.

Among the eagles Anat was hovering, onto Aqhat she releaset him;

he struck him twice on the skull, three times above the ear;

he spilled his blood, like a butcher*, like a slaughterman*, . . . . onto his knees; *(?)

his breath went out like a wind, his spirit came out like spittle,

like a vapour from his nose.

And Anat. . . .

And she wept: Woe to you, that. life for you I would have created,

but for your bow I smote you, for your arrows you are not allve. . . .

19.1  And . . . fell*;  *(Anat? the bow? Anat with the bow on her chest?)

The bow was broken, ... its eight parts were shattered.

The Virgin Anat sat down.

. . . .

Aqhat has been laid low, bitterly I cry . . . .

This is why I smote him: it was for his bow I smote him,

for his arrows I did not let him live;

yet his bow has not been given to me,

 and through his death ... the shoots of summer will wither,

the ears of corn in their husks.

Then it was that Daniel . . . raised himself up

and sat at the entrance of the gate, among the nobles by the threshing floor;

he judged the cause of the widow, tried the case of the orphan.

On raising his eyes he perceived at a thousand tracts, ten thousand spaces,

the coming of Pughat he clearly sighted.

Lifting her eyes she perceived (the greenery) by the threshing floor was dried up, ... had wilted, the blossoms were shrivelled;

eagles* hovered above her father's house, a flock of hawks looked down. *or: vultures

Pughat wept in her heart, she sobbed in her inmost being*. . . . *(in her liver)

Thereupon Daniel prayed that the clouds in the heat of the season,

that the clouds might give early rain,

that in summer the dew might drop upon the grapes:

Shall Baal fail for seven years, for eight the Rider of Clouds,

without dew, without showers, without watering by the two deeps,

without the delight of Baal's voice? . . .

Daniel cried aloud to his daughter:

19.2  Hear me Pughat, carrier of water on your shoulder,

         collector of the dew from the fleece*,   *(left out at night to absorb water? Judges 6:36-38)

         expert in the courses of the stars,

saddle a he-ass, harness a donkey,

attach the reins made of silver, the bridle made of gold.

Pughat obeyed, the carrier of water on her shoulder,

collector of the dew from the fleece, expert in the courses of the stars.

She saddled a he-ass forthwith*, she harnessed a donkey forthwith, *(or weeping)

she lifted up her father forthwith, she seated him on the back of the he-ass,

on the comfortable part of the donkey's back.

Daniel went and toured hls parched land;

a ripening stalk he spied in the parched land, a ripening stalk he spied in the scrub.

He embraced the ripening stalk and kissed it:

Oh may this ripening stalk shoot up in the parched land,

this ripening stalk shoot up in the scrub.

O herb, may the hand of brave Aqhat gather you,

and deposit you inside the granary.

He went and toured his blighted land, he spied an ear of corn in the blighted land,

an ear of corn he spied amongst the shrivelled plants.

He embraced the ear of corn and kissed it:

Oh may this ear of corn shoot up in the blighted land,

this ear of corn shoot up amongst the shrivelled plants.

O herb, may the hand of the hero Aqhat gather you,

and deposit you inside the granary.

His words had just come out of his mouth, his utterance out of his lips,

when lifting her eyes she perceived ... two lads arriving. . . .

They struck each other twice on the skull, three times over the ear.

They bound the locks of their heads, and tears flowed like quarter shekels. . . .

They arrived, lifted up their voices, and cried:

Hear us, Daniel, follower of Rapiu, valiant Aqhat is dead;

the Virgin Anat has caused his breath to go out like a wind,

his spirit to come out like spittle, like a vapour from his nose.

At this his feet started jerking,

his face perspired above him, his loins broke up behind him,

he convulsed the joints of his loins, the muscles of his back.

He lifted up his voice and cried out . . . .

19.3  Lifting his eyes he perceived, saw eagles coming from the setting of the sun*.*(west)

He lifted up his voice and cried:

The wings of the eagles let Baal break, let Baal break the pinions* on them;

let them drop down at my feet. I will rip open their gizzards and look:

if there is fat, if there is bone,* I shall weep and bury him, *(Aqhat's remains)

put him in a hole of the earth-gods.

His words had just come out of his mouth, his utterance out of his lips,

when the wings of the eagles Baal broke, Baal broke the pinions on them,

and they dropped down at his feet.

He ripped open their gizzards and looked: there was no fat, there was no bone.

He lifted up his voice and exclaimed:

The wings of the eagles let Baal remake, let Baal remake the pinions on them; eagles, flee and fly away.

Lifting his eyes he perceived, saw Hirgab the father of the eagles.

He lifted up his voice and exclaimed:

The wings of Hirgab let Baal break, let Baal break the pinions on him;

and let him drop down at my feet. I will rip open his gizzard and look:

if there is fat, if there is bone, I shall weep and bury him,

put him in a hole of the earth-gods.

His words had just come out of his mouth, his utterance out of his lips,

When Hirgab's wings Baal broke, Baal broke the pinions on him;

and he dropped down at his feet.

He ripped open his gizzard and looked: there was no fat, there was no bone.

He lifted up his voice and exclaimed: The wings of Hirgab let Baal remake,

let Baal remake the pinions on him; Hirgab, flee and fly away.

Lifting his eyes he perceived, saw Sumul the mother of the eagles.

He lifted up his voice and exclaimed.

The wings of Sumul let Baal break. let Baal break the pinions* on her; *(or breastbones)

let her drop down at my feet. I will rip open her gizzard and look:

if there is fat, if there is bone, I shall weep and bury him,

I shall put him in a hole of the earth-gods.

His words had just come out of his mouth, his utterance out of his lips,

when Sumul's wings Baal broke,

Baal broke the pinions on her; she dropped down at his feet.

He ripped open her gizzard and looked: there was fat, there was bone.

So he took Aqhat from them;

. . . .

He wept and he buried him, he buried him in a dark cell in a tomb*. *(? knkn)

And he lifted up his voice and cried:

The wings of the eagles let Baal break, let Baal break the pinions on them,

if they fly over my son's grave* and awaken him from his sleep.  *(qbr)

The king cursed Qor-mayim:

Woe to you, Qor-mayim; near you brave Aqhat was smitten.       *(seeking sanctuary)

Be a sojourner* in a god's house perpetually,

be a fugitive now and evermore, now and from age to age. . . .

He moved on to Mararat-tughullal-binar; he lifted up his voice and cried:

Woe to you Mararat-tughullal-binar; near you brave Aqhat was smitten.

May your root not shoot up in the earth,

may your head droop when you are pulled out.

Be a fugitive now and evermore, now and from age to age. . . .

19.4  He moved on to Qart-Abilim, Abilim the city of Prince Yarikh;

he lifted up his voice and cried:

Woe to you, Qart-Abilim, near you brave Aqhat was struck down

May Baal instantly make you blind.

Be a fugitive now and evermore, now and from age to age.

He lowered the end of his staff.  (meaning of words uncertain; he raised it to curse?)

Daniel moved on to his house, to his palace Daniel betook himself.  *(Jer. 9:17)

The weeping women*  entered his house the wailing women entered his palace,

the men who gashed their skin* entered his court; *(1 Kings 18:28; Jeremiah 16:6)

they wept for the valiant Aqhat, shed tears for the child of Daniel, Rapiu's follower;

days passed into months, months into years,

seven years they wept for brave Aqhat,

shed tears for the child of Daniel, Rapiu's follower.

Then in the seventh year Daniel the follower of Rapiu responded,

the hero the follower of the Harnamite spoke again,

he lifted up his voice and cried:

Depart from my house, weeping women, from my palace, wailing women,

from my court, men who gash their skin.

And he presented a sacrifice to the gods,

he sent up his offering to the heavenly beings, Harnamy's incense up to the stars.

. . . .

Then spoke Pughat, who carried water on her shoulder:

My father has presented a sacrifice to the gods,

he has sent up his offering to the heavenly beings,

the Harnamite's offering up to the stars.

Let them bless me that I may go blessed, invigorate me that I may go invigorated,

that I may smite the smiter of my brother, kill the killer of my family's child. 

And Daniel the follower of Rapiu put in:

Let Pughat come alive with passion, carrier of water on her shoulder,

collector of the dew from the fleece, expert in the courses of the stars. . . .

let her smite the smiter of her brother, kill the killer of her family's child. . . .

 

She washed herself, and rouged herself with rouge from a sea shell,

whose source is a thousand tracts away ln the sea.

Underneath she donned a hero's garb,

she put a blade in her sheath, put a sword in her scabbard;

and on top she donned a woman's garb.

At the darkening of Shapash the luminary of the gods,

Pughat arrived at the tents.

Word was brought to Yatpan:

Our mistress has come to your mountain, ...

[Anat]* has come among the tents. *(they think Pughat is Anat)

And Yatpan, the warrior of the Lady, answered:

Receive her and let her give me wine to drink;

let her take the cup from my hand, the goblet from my right hand. 

Receive her and give her wine to drink;

take the cup from my hand, the goblet from my right hand.

. . .

And Yatpan, the warrior of the Lady, spoke:

May our god drink of the wine, El the god who created the mountains.

The hand which smote the hero Aqhat shall smite thousands of the Lady's foes. . . .

 


NOTES

 

The Epic of Aqhat is a story about a man named Daniel (possibly the Daniel mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14 between two other ancient worthies, Noah and Job; but certainly not the seer of the Book of Daniel). Daniel seems to be a king: he lives in a palace, and sits and gives judgement at the city gate.

 

Daniel has no heir; but after many days of interceding with the gods Baal and El, he is granted his heart's desire. A son is born in due course and named Aqhat. When the child becomes a man he receives a precious bow, apparently with a set of arrows, from the god Kothar-Khasis. This bow is coveted by the goddess Anat, but Aqhat refuses to sell it to her. Anat engages a professional soldier (her attendant Yatpan) to kill Aqhat and seize the bow. The death of Aqhat brings the same disastrous consequences to the earth as the death of Baal: drought sets in.

 

Daniel's daughter Pughat (or Paghat) sets out armed with a sword to seek vengeance. Apparently she disguises herself (presumably by means of the supernatural powers attributed to her) as the goddess Anat. At any rate she gains access to Yatpan's tent, and here the text is broken off and we can only guess at the end of the story. Did Pughat slay her enemy Yatpan in the tent, as Jael did to the Canaanite army commander Sisera (Judges 4:17-22; 5:24-27), and as Judith did to the Assyrian army general Holofernes (Judith 13:6-8)? Or did Pughat treat Yatpan as Anat had dealt with Mot in The Epic of Baal (Tablet 6, column 2)? She would have split him with a blade, winnowed him in a sieve, burned him in a fire, ground him in millstones, scattered him in a field, leaving his flesh to be eaten by birds. Considering that in these epics there are set pieces and patterns constantly recurring (there are numerous borrowings from the Baal myth here), this would seem to be a good hypothesis. Then Aqhat would have been resurrected or else Daniel would have been granted another son to reign after him.

 

Surviving fragments, added by de Moor as a fourth tablet, eventually take Daniel back to the same point as at the beginning: Daniel appeals to Baal and El for a son, a scion for his family.

 

The Virgin ‘Anat is an important character in this drama. She seems to be like Artemis, a perpetual virgin, nubile but never leaving puberty by entering into the sphere of motherhood. Her interest in Aqhat's bow apparently shows that she is a huntress, like Artemis and Diana. She is in a state of adolescence, where male and female roles are not yet sharply differentiated. She is a typical tomboy; El hails her as his 'manly' daughter (in both poems, Baal and Aqhat). The young hero Aqhat taunts her, for being a woman who wants to take part in men's pursuits (17.6). Whether Anat was also sexually active is disputable (Peggy L. Day, Anat: Ugarit's "Mistress of Animals", Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 51 (1992) 181-190). She certainly loves Baal, and his dewy daughters, and she is constantly anxious for his welfare; she wages war on his enemies and overwhelms them (the Egyptians, such as Ramesses II., adopted her because of her martial prowess) Is she a second consort of Baal, alongside ‘Athtart, who makes only intermittent appearnces in the Baal myth? Many want to read a sexual encounter into the fractured conversation between Anat and Aqhat. And when she says they are brother and sister, is she making a proposition, or a proposal of marriage? Probably neither. She remains somewhat enigmatic, but retains an endless fascination for us.

 

Edition and Translations

J.C.L. Gibson, Canaanite Myths and Legends (Edinburgh 1978) 103-122, Ugaritic text with English translation .

Baruch Margalit, The Ugaritic Poem of Aqhat: Text, Translation, Commentary (Berlin 1989).

J.C. de Moor, An Anthology of Religious Texts from Ugarit (Leiden 1987) 224-273.

 

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