Baal, son of dagan: in search of baal's double paternity.

Author:Ayali-Darshan, Noga

The Ugaritic expression "Baal, son of Dagan" has been the subject of several studies which attempt to resolve the contradiction between the depiction of Baal as El's son on the one hand and the expression "Baal, son of Dagan" (bel bn tign) on the other. Despite the paucity of literary evidence, the majority of scholars have identified Dagan with either El or Baal, consequently attributing a single "real" father to Baal. This paper suggests a new solution in light of the literary traditions preserved in the Hurro-Hittite texts--contemporary with those from Ugarit--and the development of these traditions in the writings of Philo of Byblos (first--second centuries c.E.). Both these texts describe the storm-god as having two fathers: the grain-god (Kumarbi / Dagon) and the veteran god of the pantheon, the god of Heaven (Anu / Ouranus). Given the close relationship among Ugarit, the Hurrians, and the Phoenicians, it is difficult to regard this parallelism as coincidental.

Like all the Ugaritic gods, Baal is customarily regarded as a son of El, the head of the Ugaritic pantheon. (1) His close relationship to El is portrayed in several Ugaritic texts; the most convincing is found in the Baal Cycle--which otherwise actually describes the hostility between El and Baal. Here El's deep grief over Baal's death is depicted in a similar fashion to that of Jacob's mourning of his beloved son Joseph (Gen. 37:33-35): "Thereupon Beneficent El the Benign descends from the throne ... sits on the earth. He pours dirt of mourning on his head ... He raises his voice and cries aloud: 'Baal is dead! What of the peoples?... After Baal I shall descend to Sheol ('ap- bYard.earts).'" (2) This account resumes a few columns later with El's dream of Baal's rejuvenation, his great joy at that idea, and his calling upon Anat to search for him. (3)

While Baal also appears as the son of Dagan in Ugaritic literature, this relationship is purely formulaic, being expressed solely in the fixed phrases "Baal, son of Dagan" (b'l bn dgn) and "Baal, offspring/lineage of Dagan (b'l htk dgn)." (4) In contrast to El and despite his appearance in rituals and sacrificial lists, Dagan is a shadowy figure in Ugaritic epic. (5) Likewise, only two Ugaritic personal names contain his name ('il-Dgn;[A]mmini-Dagan) as a theophoric element. (6) This circumstance indicates that--at least in the second part of the second millennium B.C.E.--Dagan was relatively insignificant in the daily life of the common people.

These facts have prompted some scholars to explain the epithet "Baal, son of Dagan" as reflecting an identification of Dagan and Baal either by virtue of their parallel function as storm-gods (accepting the Arabic etymology of the root d-g-n for the god Dagan) or on the grounds that they "competed" for supremacy over the gods in Syria. (7) According to this theory, no early tradition of any genealogical tie between the two gods existed. However, in the epithet "Baal, son of Dagan," Baal is not equivalent to Dagan--as he is represented in relation to the names hd (Haddu) or dmrn--but is said to be Dagan's son.

Other scholars have suggested that El and Dagan were identified with one another at Ugarit in consequence of the two gods being regarded as heads of a pantheon in different locations--one along the coast, the other in the interior of the country. This assimilation may have occurred either in a period prior to our extant texts or at the time of their composition. At whatever point this process took place, in the end, Baal had become the son of a single god, the head of the pantheon. (8) Though firm traditions from inner Syria and the northwestern Euphrates indicate that Dagan was considered to be the father of the gods--like El at Ugarit (9)--the fact that only Baal and none of the other gods in the Ugaritic pantheon has attained this unique status remains enigmatic.

All of these explanations endeavor to resolve the problem of Baal's two fathers at Ugarit by searching for his one "real" father, either Dagan or El. However, contemporary Hurro-Hittite texts and the development of the same traditions by Philo of Byblos--composed ca. 1500 years after the destruction of Ugarit but based upon much earlier Phoenician tradi-tions--provide us with evidence of a dual parentage for the storm-god: the grain-god and the veteran god of the pantheon. When taken in the context of the close ties among the Ugaritic. Hurrian, and Phoenician cultures, this datum is of great significance. (10) While some scholars have noted the affinity between the Ugaritic texts and one of the traditions mentioned above, either the Hurrian or the Phoenician, none has adduced both simultaneously.


Second-millennium B.C.E. Hurrian and Hurro-Hittite texts--whose origins lie primarily in North Syria--portray the Hurrian storm-god Tessub as the son of two fathers: the gods Kumarbi and Anu. The Hurro-Hittite composition known as the Song of Kumarbi (CTH 344) describes how Kumarbi swallowed Anu's member in the course of hostilities between them, thereby conceiving and giving birth to the storm-god Tessub. (11) A similar tradition also appears in the Hurrian psalm to Tessub of Aleppo, of whom it states: "Anu is your father (attai=vu=(s)=mma dAni=g) ... Kumarbi is your mother (nera=vu=([s])=mnza dKumarve=ne=g) ..." (12) Following Tessub's birth as a result of...

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