Foreigners and Religion at Ugarit
Keywords:Ugarit, Religion, Foreignness, Hurrian religion, Egyptian religion, Hittites, Late Bronze Age, Cultural transfer, Ancient Near Eastern religion, Ancient Syria, Cultural identity
During the Late Bronze Age, Syria was mostly dominated by the larger powers of the ancient Near East—Mitanni (the Hurrians), the Hittite Empire, and Egypt. The ancient city of Ugarit yielded numerous texts and artifacts that attest to the presence of foreigners and their influences on local religious traditions. Textually, the best-preserved influences are those of Hurrian origin, although these were probably promoted thanks to the Hittites, who incorporated many Hurrian deities and cults. Hurrian traditions thus influenced both Ugaritic cults and divine pantheons. Egyptian influences, in contrast, are observable mostly in art and material evidence. Art of Egyptian origin was considered prestigious and because of that was prominently seen in trade and international exchange gifts, but it also entered the religious sphere in the form of cultic statues and ex-voto gifts for deities. Egyptian art was also often imitated by local artists. The same can be said of art from the Mediterranean area. Some evidence suggests that foreigners actively related to local traditions as well. Ritual tablets from Ugarit (namely KTU3 1.40 and its variants) illustrate that there were always frictions in a multicultural/national society. These tablets also indicate that such frictions could have been dealt with through ritual action, and thus emphasize the role religion played. The city of Ugarit is used in this paper to illuminate some processes that can be observed in the whole of ancient Syria. Nevertheless, every site has its own outcome of interactions with other cultures.
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