Between City, King, and Empire: Will the Real “Lady of Byblos” Please Stand Up?

In: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions
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  • 1 College of the Holy Cross, Department of Religious Studies, Worcester, MA, USA
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Who was the goddess known anciently as the “Lady of Byblos”? Typically, scholars have tried to answer this question by identifying the goddess’s “true” proper name. By contrast, this article emphasizes the goddess’s primary identification by the city of Byblos as a social-political community in order to analyze the Lady of Byblos’s role in shaping Late Bronze Age Byblos’s political landscape, which included imperial, royal, and collective modes of governance. The goddess’s place in Byblos’s political-religious economy thus serves as a fruitful case study for better conceptualizing through the lens of religion the complex range of potential interactions in the ancient world between centralizing and decentralizing political forces as parts of a single social-political system. In this way, the Lady of Byblos may “stand up” not only as an integral member of Byblos’s social order and religious life, but also as an example of the fundamental role that deities played in shaping ancient political realities.


Who was the goddess known anciently as the “Lady of Byblos”? Typically, scholars have tried to answer this question by identifying the goddess’s “true” proper name. By contrast, this article emphasizes the goddess’s primary identification by the city of Byblos as a social-political community in order to analyze the Lady of Byblos’s role in shaping Late Bronze Age Byblos’s political landscape, which included imperial, royal, and collective modes of governance. The goddess’s place in Byblos’s political-religious economy thus serves as a fruitful case study for better conceptualizing through the lens of religion the complex range of potential interactions in the ancient world between centralizing and decentralizing political forces as parts of a single social-political system. In this way, the Lady of Byblos may “stand up” not only as an integral member of Byblos’s social order and religious life, but also as an example of the fundamental role that deities played in shaping ancient political realities.

1 Will the Real Lady of Byblos Please Stand Up?*

The city of Byblos, located on the eastern Mediterranean shore in modern-day Lebanon, was home in ancient times to a goddess known as the “Lady of Byblos,” sometimes simply called the “Lady.”1 Who was this goddess? Generally, scholars have sought to answer this question by seeking out a proper name for the goddess – a pursuit perhaps more indicative of modern sensibilities regarding personhood and identity than ancient ones.2 However, this approach, which usually assumes that the divine designation Lady of Byblos is a title in lieu of the goddess’s “true name,” glosses over what is ostensibly most important about this divine identity.3 Regardless of whether the appellation Lady of Byblos originated as a title of a more familiar named goddess, or even is to be regarded as a proper name itself – both positions that can be found in the secondary literature – this primary designation for the goddess highlights the deity’s special relationship to the city of Byblos as a collective social-political community.4 In other words, the modern intellectual pursuit of the goddess’s proper name appears to have distracted from the more central issue of the goddess’s place within Byblos’s political-religious landscape.5 By pointing outward toward the city as a collective, the divine identity Lady of Byblos offers a fresh avenue through the lens of religion for considering Byblos’s social-political economy, which included imperial, royal, and collective/collaborative political forces.6 In this way, the Lady of Byblos may “stand up” not only as an integral member of Byblos’s social order and religious life, but also as an example of the fundamental role that deities played in shaping ancient political realities.

In what follows, I begin by exploring the collective dimensions of ancient Byblos’s political life. In the past, scholarly interest in Byblos’s social, economic, and political history has largely focused on the institution of monarchy and/or Egypt’s imperium and commercial interactions with the city. However, the literary evidence indicates that Byblos maintained a vibrant collective political heritage at least through the Late Bronze Age, the period under investigation in this article. Late Bronze Age Byblos warrants special attention due to a confluence of factors: (1) the most abundant written evidence about Byblos’s political-religious culture comes from this era, including a substantial cache of indigenous writings that provide the strongest evidence for Byblos’s long heritage of collective governance; (2) Byblos evidently first came under Egyptian imperial hegemony only in the Late Bronze Age – when the Egyptian New Kingdom was at the height of its power – and eventually regained its political independence in the early Iron Age; and (3) Byblos’s political-religious landscape appears to have shifted in some significant ways during the first millennium, at least as is visible from the extant sources.7 After discussing the broader issue of the interplay of collective and royal power at Byblos in the Late Bronze Age, I then turn to the heart of this study: the Lady of Byblos’s social-political role at Late Bronze Age Byblos. To my knowledge, there have been no systematic studies focusing on the Lady of Byblos’s social-political role at the intersection of city collective, palace, and empire, and certainly none that forefront the issue of collective politics as an analytical lens. As part of this analysis, which concentrates especially on Rīb-Hadda’s correspondence in the Amarna letters, I also treat the larger historical background for Byblos’s and Egypt’s religious interactions in this period, particularly the longstanding ancient Egyptian translation of the Lady of Byblos as the goddess Ḥatḥōr going back to the late third millennium. Finally, I conclude with some reflections on the Lady of Byblos’s potential contributions for understanding society and politics at Late Bronze Age Byblos.

2 Long Live the City! Collective Governance at Late Bronze Age Byblos

The figure of the king and the institution of monarchy have dominated modern analyses of ancient Near Eastern society and politics in general, and ancient Byblos in particular.8 Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the local written evidence pertaining to ancient Byblian politics and religion, coming mostly from the Late Bronze Age as well as the Iron Age, derives from royal auspices. Nevertheless, when one reads against the grain of the texts’ royal interests, there is substantial historical evidence for the importance of a strong Byblian collective political identity and collaborative political tradition, particularly as revealed in Rīb-Hadda’s letters to the Egyptian court in the Amarna letters.9 This evidence correlates with other ancient Near Eastern data indicating that, regardless of scale or size, the social-political ideology of the “city” in origin was fundamentally collective and collaborative in nature, even as cities also eventually came to offer a logical center for the expression of the centralizing political authority of kingship.10

In his recent treatment of the social-political landscape of the Amarna letters, B. Benz, drawing on the earlier work of P. Artzi, uses Late Bronze Age Byblos as one of his primary case studies for corporate urban political traditions in the ancient Levant.11 For instance, EA 136 shows the local Byblian king Rīb-Hadda’s “house,” wife, and the people of Byblos as a collective putting political pressure on the king to defect from Egypt and ally with Aziru, the ruler of Amurru. In this letter to his Egyptian suzerain, Rīb-Hadda reports:

The men of Byblos, my house, and my wife kept saying to me, ‘Go after the son of ʕAbdi-Aširta so that we can make peace between us.’ Now, I refused. I did not heed them (ll. 8–15).12

Instead, Rīb-Hadda traveled south to Beirut, the location of the letter’s composition, in order to make an alliance with ʕAmmu-nīra, the ḫazzanu/local king of the city.13 However, when Rīb-Hadda attempted to return to Byblos, the king’s brother barred his access to the city (ll. 24–36, esp. ll. 33–35; see also EA 138:57–58), and Rīb-Hadda also reports that his “two sons and two wives have been handed over to the rebel (i.e., Rīb-Hadda’s brother) against the king” (ll. 44–46).14

In EA 137 and 138, both written from Beirut as well, Rīb-Hadda provides additional details surrounding his exile from Byblos. In EA 137, Rīb-Hadda informs the Egyptian king that his younger brother had led the city of Byblos to revolt against him. He writes,

Moreover, when I myself went to ʕAmmu-nīra, my younger brother turned Byblos into an enemy in order to give the city to the sons of ʕAbdi-Aširta (ll. 14–19; cf. ll. 57–58).15

According to Rīb-Hadda’s reminisces in EA 138, when the people of Byblos had seen ʕAbdi-Aširta’s son Aziru seize the city of Ṣumur to the north, they rebelled against him. As part of a contentious back-and-forth in which Rīb-Hadda attempted to kill the city’s internal opposition who had “moved against [him]” (ù ti-na-mu-šu UGU-ia; l. 39),16 Rīb-Hadda recounts that collectively “the city said, ‘Abandon him (i.e., the Egyptian king)! Let us ally with Aziru!’” (ll. 44–45).17 However, Rīb-Hadda refused the city’s proposition, instead departing for Beirut to form an alliance with ʕAmmu-nīra. While away in Beirut, Rīb-Hadda recounts that his brother “spoke and swore to the city and they had a discussion, and the lords of the city allied with the sons of ʕAbdi-Ašrati” (ll. 47–50).18 While W. Moran has suggested that the “lords of the city” in this text are “property owners,” Benz observes that the “lords of the city” here represent the collective political authority of the city, since they forge a political alliance with ʕAbdi-Aširta’s sons against Rīb-Hadda’s wishes.19 As evidenced by EA 139 and EA 140, Byblos’s political affairs following Rīb-Hadda’s eventual expulsion from the city evidently came to be represented by a certain ɁIlî-rāpiɁ together with the city of Byblos as a political collective.20 These two letters demonstrate that the collective political body of Byblos, with ɁIlî-rāpiɁ as the city’s appointed spokesman, had the capacity to communicate with the Egyptian Pharaoh after the people of Byblos had apparently deposed the city’s local king, Rīb-Hadda.21 While Artzi referred to this political situation as “joint leadership” reflecting the “re-establishment at Gubla of the ancient city-organization,”22 Benz rightly qualifies Artzi’s claim, observing that these two letters instead signal the ongoing existence at Byblos of two concurrent political strategies – one royal and centralizing, the other collective and decentralizing – that stand in tension within a single social-political system.23

Prior to these events, Rīb-Hadda had expressed his anxieties about the people of Byblos turning against him. In EA 77:35–37, Rīb-Hadda writes to an Egyptian official: “I am afraid of [my] ḫupšū-population, (that) they (might) kill me.”24 In EA 122:38–48, Rīb-Hadda laments:

How many days the city (URU) has been angry with me! The city (URU) is now saying, ‘A deed that has not been done from time immemorial has been done to us!’ Let the king hear the word of his servant and send men, so that the city does not rebel.25

Rīb-Hadda’s fear that the city might revolt – and the eventual realization of this fear – underscores the continuing political force of the city as a collective even after the advent of monarchy at Byblos. At Late Bronze Age Byblos, kingship did not entail absolute power; rather, kingship appears to have stood in some tension with traditional modes of collective city governance as part of a larger political system.26 The political authority of the king and the city’s collaborative political traditions interacted in a dialectical relationship, in which political power was constantly being negotiated and renegotiated. Even after the appearance of kingship at Byblos – perhaps some time in the early to mid-second millennium – the city as a collective body politic continued to maintain and assert its political voice.

3 The Lady of Byblos between City, King, and Empire

While a few scholars have previously discussed Late Bronze Age Byblos’s royal and collaborative political structures and their interactions, there has been very little discussion of the Lady of Byblos’s role in the city’s political economy. Moreover, when scholars have broached the topic, they often have given short shrift to the goddess’s importance for the city’s collective political life, focusing instead on her relationship to Byblos’s monarchy and/or the Egyptian empire.27 In this way, scholarly investigations have tended to gloss over what appears to be most salient about the divine designation Lady of Byblos, namely its emphasis on the goddess’s special relationship to Byblos qua city. However, as the evidence from the Amarna letters demonstrates, Byblos maintained a healthy collaborative political tradition during the Late Bronze Age, one that existed in tandem, and at times in tension, with royal centralizing political authority. For this reason, the goddess’s relationship to Late Bronze Age Byblos’s political economy offers a potentially fruitful case study for better conceptualizing through the lens of religion the complex range of potential interactions in the ancient world between decentralized, collaborative political traditions and royal, centralizing political strategies as two parts of a single social-political system.

To begin, the Lady of Byblos’s political-religious significance can be felt in the opening lines of Rīb-Hadda’s letters, in which the Byblian king regularly includes a salutation to his Egyptian overlords – usually, though not always, the Pharaoh – wishing them the goddess’s protection. In the vast majority of cases, these blessings invoke only the Lady of Byblos.28 For instance, Rīb-Hadda characteristically writes to the Pharaoh in EA 68:4–6: “May the Lady of Byblos give strength to the king, my lord.”29 Elsewhere, the Byblian king invokes the Lady of Byblos alone on behalf of an Egyptian official to give him the Pharaoh’s favor (EA 73:5). In this case, Rīb-Hadda understands the Lady of Byblos to be capable of intervening between the Pharaoh and an Egyptian royal official. Interestingly, Rīb-Hadda on a few occasions invokes the Egyptian god Amun and the Lady of Byblos as a pair (EA 77:3–6; 87:5–7; 95:3–6), in all three cases with the Egyptian god preceding the Lady of Byblos. In these three instances, Rīb-Hadda calls on Amun and the Lady of Byblos together on behalf of Egyptian officials.30 Strikingly, in EA 102:5–7 Rīb-Hadda even goes so far as to identify the Lady of Byblos as the “goddess of the king, my lord” (DINGIR LUGAL BAD-ia). The Byblian king’s explicit identification of the Lady of Byblos as the goddess of the Egyptian king parallels Rīb-Hadda’s similar identification of Amun as the “god of the king, your [lord]” (dA-ma-na DINGIR ša LU[GAL be-li-k]a) in EA 71:4 (cf. EA 86:3). Apparently, Rīb-Hadda understood the Lady of Byblos to stand in a close relationship with the Egyptian king in a way comparable to the Pharaoh’s relationship with Amun.31 Finally, although not formally a salutary blessing formula, Rīb-Hadda reports in EA 83:52–57 that Ummaḫnu, the “maidservant of the Lady of Byblos” (a priestess of the Byblian goddess?), and her husband Milkuru pray(?) to the Lady of Byblos on the Egyptian king’s behalf (see also EA 84:42–44; 85:84–87).32 M. Kilani comments that Ummaḫnu and Milkuru’s prayers for the Pharaoh’s wellbeing perhaps “show that the [goddess’s cult personnel] had, or at least attempted to have, a voice in the city’s international relations,” and that Rīb-Hadda’s mediation both “highlights the centrality of the king in the city’s politics and international relations,” and also “points to the existence of close links between the monarchy and the personnel of the goddess.”33 While Rīb-Hadda’s salutations and his report of Ummaḫnu and Milkuru’s prayers for the Egyptian king do not directly attest to Egyptian recognition of the Lady of Byblos, they do reflect and assert the Byblian king’s expectation that his Egyptian overlords, including the Pharaoh, recognized the reality, significance, and power of the goddess.34 In any case, the purposes for which Rīb-Hadda invokes the Byblian goddess in his salutations indicates that he understands the Lady of Byblos’s influence to transcend the geographical and political limits of the city of Byblos, including mediating – both individually and together with the Egyptian god Amun – between foreign political leaders.

Regarding the convention of blessing formulas in the introductions of Rīb-Hadda’s letters, M. Smith observes that “[s]uch wishes for the king’s welfare are common in the openings of vassals’ letters,” although “[p]erhaps here … the pedestrian nature of the blessings should make us pause, for it is the local deity of the vassal who is invoked to help the overlord.”35 Indeed, I would note that among the Amarna letters written by Egyptian vassals to the Pharaoh or his representatives, only Rīb-Hadda ever invokes his local deity to bless the Egyptian king and his deputies.36 Given the Lady of Byblos’s absence from the opening salutation of KTU3 2.44, a Late Bronze Age letter from a king of Byblos found at Ugarit, Kilani suggests that Rīb-Hadda’s invocation of the Byblian goddess in the Amarna correspondence may therefore be a “conscious attempt to attract the attention of the Egyptian king by reminding him that Byblos was not just a vassal city but also the seat of the ‘Lady’.”37 Additionally, Smith observes that Rīb-Hadda’s pairing of the Lady of Byblos with the Egyptian god Amun in EA 77, 87, and 95 is “the sort of feature seen … in the correspondence among ‘brothers’,” i.e., between polities considered to be political equals.38 Of course, Smith’s important observation should be qualified by the fact that when the goddess appears in combination with Amun, she always follows rather than precedes the Egyptian god, likely indicative of Byblos’s political subordination to Egypt.

3.1 Behind the Scenes: Third- and Second-Millennia Egyptian Evidence for the Lady of Byblos

In all likelihood, Rīb-Hadda’s salutary blessings and direct appeals to the Lady of Byblos should be interpreted in light of the long and exceptional history of friendly religious, economic, and political relations between Byblos and Egypt in the third and second millennia, a history to which Rīb-Hadda often explicitly appeals for rhetorical purposes in his letters.39 For instance, Rīb-Hadda writes to the Pharaoh in EA 88:42–45:

Look, Byblos (is) not like t[hose] (other) cities. Byblos (has been) [my lor]d the king’s loyal city from time immemorial.40

Elsewhere, Rīb-Hadda writes:

Formerly, the [kin]g of Mitanni was hostile toward your forefathers, and your forefathers did not depart from [my] forefather[s] (EA 109:5–8)

– a reference evidently to Byblos’s early involvement in Egypt’s wars in Syria during the Eighteenth Dynasty.41 Whereas in EA 88:42–45 Rīb-Hadda emphasizes the collective city’s loyalty to Egypt’s kings from long ago, EA 109:5–8 appeals to the mutual faithfulness of Egypt’s and Byblos’s royal lines during Egypt’s earlier conflicts with Mitanni.

In EA 117:76–90, Rīb-Hadda again refers to the commitment between Pharaoh’s forefathers and his own, requesting that the Pharaoh send him garrison troops to guard Byblos, “as (was) the custom of your forefathers” (l. 82).42 Rīb-Hadda complains,

[Look, in the days] of [my] forefathers, [they were responsible for the king’s life and the king’s] garris[on, and they had peace. However], as for me, [(there is) fierce] hos[tility against] me. I am [afr]aid of my ḫupšū-population…. Let the city not ally with the ʕapirū! (ll. 85–94).43

As L. Pryke observes, Rīb-Hadda’s complaint to the Egyptian king here appears to be motivated by his fear that the collective city will soon revolt against him and ally with the ʕapirū.44 Rīb-Hadda also makes a similar complaint in EA 122:9–19:

Formerly, in the days of my forefathers, (there were) royal garrison troops with them and they had responsibility for the king’s property

– but now Egypt no longer maintains a royal garrison in Byblos.45 Finally, in EA 126:18–28 Rīb-Hadda claims:

Formerly, silver and life-giving provisions were sent to my forefathers from the palaces, and my lord sent troops to them. However, now I write to my lord for troops, but garrison troops are not [sent] and provisions are [not] given [to m]e.46

In short, most of Rīb-Hadda’s appeals to Byblos and Egypt’s mutual history appear to highlight the relationship between Byblos’s and Egypt’s royal lines, although on one occasion Rīb-Hadda acknowledges Byblos’s political relationship to Egypt independent of Byblos’s monarchy (EA 88:42–45).

Interestingly, ɁIlî-rāpiɁ and the city of Byblos as a collective also appeal rhetorically to the tradition of Byblos and Egypt’s time-honored history of mutuality in EA 139 and EA 140, indicating that the cultural memory of Byblos’s and Egypt’s longstanding history of positive relations was embedded in Byblian society outside of the royal palace. According to EA 139:5–7, ɁIlî-rāpiɁ and Byblos (in that order) call on the Pharaoh not to be silent about Byblos, “your city and the city of [your] forefathers from time immemorial.”47 In EA 140:5–7, Byblos and Ilî-rāpiɁ (in that order) again call upon the Pharaoh not to be silent about Byblos, “his maidservant – a city of the (Egyptian) king from time immemorial.”48 Byblos’s identity as a “city of the (Egyptian) king” also appears to be reflected in EA 139:9, which simply states that “Byblos belongs to the (Egyptian) king, my lord” (cf. also EA 140:16–17).49 In these passages, Byblos’s collective political leadership uses language that highlights the city’s political subordination to Egypt, grounding it in a venerable tradition that stretches back generations. Importantly, these texts do not define Byblos and its age-old relationship to Egypt with reference to Byblos’s tradition of kingship. Rather, these references define Byblos’s history of vassalage and cooperation with Egypt in terms of the city as a social-political community from earliest times, as Rīb-Hadda concedes in EA 88:42–45. Indeed, the very existence of EA 139 and 140 affirms Byblos’s political reality as a collective community (still) capable of engaging in diplomatic relations with the Egyptian royal court, while the contents of these letters further suggest that Egypt’s enduring political relationship with Byblos was built on the city’s collective social-political identity, not the centralizing institution of kingship.

Byblos appears to have been regarded cross-culturally as a religiously important city of high antiquity even in ancient times.50 According to Philo of Byblos, Byblos was the very first city:

Kronos (= the old Levantine god ɁIlu) put a (city-)wall around his own house and founded the first city, Byblos, in Phoenicia.51

Moreover, (Pseudo-)Lucian attests to Byblos’s traditional reputation in Egypt as an important religious center during the Roman period (Syr. d. 6–9).52 Archeological investigations at Byblos, which was occupied already in the Neolithic Period, have uncovered some impressive finds that help provide a material context for such ancient cultural memories about the city’s high antiquity, including the Lady of Byblos’s temple – the largest and most important temple at Byblos dating back to the Early Bronze Age (discussed below).53

A. Espinel’s archaeologically focused work in particular emphasizes the important role that the Lady of Byblos and her temple played in mediating commercial and cultural relations between Byblos and Egypt in the late third millennium.54 Espinel argues that the architecture of the Lady of Byblos’s temple appears to reflect some Egyptian influences beginning in this period, even as the “temple shows, above all, the typical characteristics of the temples of the Syro-Palestinian and Mesopotamian area,” and he catalogs various Old Kingdom Egyptian artifacts recovered during excavations of the temple, including hieroglyphic inscriptions and cartouches, reliefs and other images, stelae, stone cultic vessels, ḫȝt-tables (evidently used for cultic purposes), and other objects.55 Additionally, Espinel points to the appearance of Egyptian prestige goods excavated from a large monumental structure (building XXV = building XI and XXVI), sometimes regarded as a “palace,” located next to the temple of the Lady of Byblos in the late third millennium.56 Espinel interprets the proximity of these Old Kingdom Egyptian prestige objects in this “royal” public structure next to the Lady of Byblos’s temple as evidence that “there was a close link between the palace and the temple in Byblos and that the Egyptians availed themselves diplomatically of this circumstance.”57 However, there currently is little direct evidence for the institution of kingship at Byblos in this early period, and the earliest reference to a local “king” (Egyptian mȝkj = Semitic mlk [malku]?) at Byblos evidently first appears during the Middle Kingdom period in an inscription from Khnumhotep’s tomb at Dashur that refers to a dispute between Byblos and nearby Ullassa.58

In any event, scholars have observed that the Egyptians explicitly equated the goddess Ḥatḥōr early on with the Lady of Byblos (nbt kpn and its variants) – the Egyptian handle representing a calque of the Byblian goddess.59 Beginning with the late third-millennium coffin texts (CT 61) in the First Intermediate Period, the Egyptian designation nbt kpn becomes a well-known name of the Egyptian goddess Ḥatḥōr.60 Moreover, this early Egyptian-Byblian translation of divinity appears at Byblos itself. For instance, the “relief de la maisonette”/“relief Montet,” discovered in the Lady of Byblos’s temple, contains two symmetrical scenes, each of which portrays “the figure of the [Egyptian] king kneeling before a seated goddess with a headdress of horns and sun-disc” – the characteristic iconography of Ḥatḥōr61 – offering nw-jars.62 The relief, which may date to the Egyptian Old Kingdom period (though possibly later), includes a hieroglyphic inscription that reads, “beloved of Ḥatḥōr, Lady of Byblos.”63 Furthermore, certain cultic objects potentially attest to an Egyptian cult to Ḥatḥōr-Lady of Byblos in the Byblian goddess’s temple starting in the late third millennium, including a figurine that includes an inscription equating Ḥatḥōr and the Lady of Byblos.64 Additionally, a limestone stele from the Temple of the Obelisks’ chapel annex, probably dating to the Middle Bronze Age, contains a partial inscription that reads: “… making monuments, build her temple (?) […] Hathor Lady of Byblos….” (jr mnww qd ḥw(t) = s (?) […] ḥwt-ḥr nb(t) kbn).65 Finally, one scarab seal inscription from the Egyptian Thirteenth Dynasty mentions the “city ruler of Byblos” (ḥȝty-ʕ n kpn; traditionally rendered “mayor” or “count”) and explicitly identifies the Egyptian goddess Ḥatḥōr with the Lady of Byblos: “A boon which the King gives (to) Hathor, Lady of Byblos, (for) the mayor of Byblos, kȝ-jn” (ḥtp dj ny-swt ḥwt-ḥrw nb(t) kpn n ḥȝty-ʕ n kpn kȝ-jn).66 In this text, the Egyptian king presents an object to “Ḥatḥōr, Lady of Byblos” on behalf of the Byblian “city ruler” (= local king?). Importantly, this inscription attests to Egyptian recognition of the Lady of Byblos, who here offers an important point of political, religious, and economic mediation between the individual political figures of the Egyptian king and the local “city ruler” of Byblos during the Middle Kingdom period.

Whereas Espinel’s investigation centers on the Old Kingdom period, Kilani’s recent work focuses on the role of the Lady of Byblos and her temple in Late Bronze Age Byblos’s political, religious, and economic interactions with Egypt.67 Politically, Byblos appears to have come under Egyptian hegemony by the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and within the Egyptian imperial system Byblos’s local kings held the title “city ruler of Byblos” (ḥȝty-ʕ n kpn/kȝpy/etc.).68 Egyptian cross-cultural recognition of the Lady of Byblos clearly continued from the Middle Kingdom period into the New Kingdom period, as attested by various early Late Bronze Age Egyptian inscriptions and artifacts that mention Byblos and its goddess in connection with Egyptian royal and official projects.69 For instance, Thutmose III’s stele from the temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal in Nubia (Boston MFA 23.733) mentions his construction of ships during a campaign in Syria-Lebanon:

I caused to be built many ships of ʕš-wood from the hills (or “mountains”) of God’s Land in the neighborhood of the Lady of Byblos.70

As Kilani observes, the passage’s “stress is on the goddess, and the text refers to the city through her.”71 Moreover, the text locates the Lady of Byblos in “the mountains of God’s Land” in the distant north, where in this period Byblos as a sacred and mysterious city was thought to sit on the edge of the world in the Egyptian cosmological imaginary.72 Interestingly, the tomb of Thutmose III’s royal official Senneferi in Thebes contains a secondary biographical inscription in four parts (A–D) on the northwestern and northeastern walls of the main hall that describe in part C an expedition that Senneferi led to Byblos, to the “mountains of God’s Land” (ḫȝst nw tȝ-nṯr) in Northern Lebanon (ḫnty-š), in order to acquire wood for flagpoles, perhaps for the Amun temple at Karnak (Urk IV 7:534.11–535.16).73 According to the text, Senneferi “present[ed] her offerings … in Byblos. They were given to her Horus for her satisfaction” ([rdj~n = j] mȝʿ n = smm kȝpn[y] dj sṯ n Ḥrw = s n st-[jb] = s).74 Unfortunately, the broken text does not name the female deity to whom Senneferi made the (unspecified) offerings before obtaining the wood, but Kilani plausibly proposes the Lady of Byblos in light of the Gebel Barkal Stele’s mention of the goddess.75 Together, the Gebel Barkal Stele and Senneferi’s tomb inscription appear to emphasize Byblos’s religious importance for Egypt in the time of Thutmose III, particularly with respect to the Lady of Byblos and her temple (where any valuable offerings likely would have been deposited).76

The importance of Byblos and its goddess during the reign of Thutmose III also may be evidenced by two block fragments recovered in excavations at Byblos that were inscribed with this Pharaoh’s cartouches and, according to Kilani, appear to have belonged to a shrine or chapel sponsored by the Egyptian king and perhaps used for administrative purposes, including revenue collection.77 Possibly belonging to this same shrine, a fragment of an Egyptian relief contains a damaged inscription that reads: “in the temple of Hathor Lady of [Byblos]” (m ḥwt-nṯr ḥwt-ḥr nbt [kȝp-n-y]).78 First seen on the antiquities market and now located in the British Museum (BM EA 69863), the black granite statue of the seated scribe Djehuti, Thutmose III’s royal overseer in charge of the Northern Levant’s administration (imy-rȝ ḫȝswt mḥt(yw)t), also contains a fragmentary inscription, which identifies it as an offering to a foreign goddess whose country’s name ends in -n and who receives the titles “Lady of the Sky” and “Mistress of the Two Lands” (nb(t) pt ḥnwt tȝwy) – most probably the Lady of Byblos.79 Outside of Byblos from this period, the statue of Minmose – an important royal official under Pharaohs Thutmose III and Amenḥotep II – discovered in the temple of Montu in Medamud contains a biographical account that lists various temples, including that “of Ḥatḥōr, Lady of By[bl]os” (n ḥwt-ḥr nbt kȝ[p]n), the construction of which Minmose is said to have overseen at the command of the Pharaoh (cf. Thutmose III’s chapel at Byblos).80 In this text, not only is the Lady of Byblos equated with Ḥatḥōr, but her temple appears alongside other Egyptian temples, ideologically transforming the Byblian goddess and her temple into that of an Egyptian goddess and shrine.81 Finally, Nbt-kbn (and its variants), without reference to Ḥatḥōr, even appears as an Egyptian female personal name.82 For instance, one stele from the Cairo Museum (no. 34117) dating to the time of Thutmose III mentions Nbt-kbn, a member of the royal court and nurse to Sȝt-Jmn, daughter of Aḥmose.83 As Kilani observes, such names both “confirm that the goddess of Byblos was known and worshipped, or at least respected, in Egypt during the New Kingdom and in particular during the 18th dynasty,” and also show that “interactions between Egypt and Byblos were not only a matter of international politics, kings and gods, but that they also had effects on the everyday lives of ordinary people.”84

From the time of the Nineteenth Dynasty, two fragments (nos. 24 and 25) of a limestone stele belonging to Ramses II found in the area of the Lady of Byblos’s temple – one of which (no. 24) contains a badly broken inscription that apparently commemorates one of Ramses II’s early Syrian military campaigns – show this Pharaoh making offerings to a deity whose figure is lost.85 Like his predecessor Thutmose III, Ramses II also appears to have commissioned his own small chapel or shrine in Byblos sometime after his Syrian campaigns, and Kilani tentatively locates it in or near the temple of the Lady of Byblos, perhaps as the precursor to the later so-called Egyptian Temple built during the Persian period.86 From Egypt, Papyrus Anastasi I (BM EA 10247) contains an early copy of the satirical “Letter of Hori,” which likely dates to the reign of Ramses II (although the copy on the papyrus may come from the reign of Merenptah).87 In one passage dealing with the cities of Lebanon, Hori writes to his fellow scribe Amenemope:

I will tell you of another mysterious city. Byblos is its name; what is it like? And their goddess, what is she like?88

Unfortunately, the exact nuance of the Egyptian word štȝ, “mysterious, hidden,” here remains opaque, although it may refer to the city’s traditional religious associations on the cosmological edge of the world in the “mountains of God’s Land.”89 Notably, the text’s author underscores the city’s traditional religious association with the Lady of Byblos as opposed to its economic or strategic importance to Egypt, providing further evidence of the goddess’s continuing importance in Egypt in the post-Amarna period.90 Furthermore, Turin Statue 3036, a white limestone statue that possibly dates from the reign of Ramses II and perhaps comes from Deir El-Medina, depicts a man holding a Ḥatḥōr-headed staff that contains a partial inscription equating Ḥatḥōr with the Lady of Byblos.91

The goddess’s ongoing religious significance in Egypt evidently continued down into the time of the Twentieth Dynasty, though by the eleventh century Egypt appears to have granted Byblos its political independence. Papyrus BM EA 9997 + 10309 – which contains hieratic incantations (primarily against snakes) that evidently date to the reign of Pharaoh Ramses XI – twice mentions the Lady of Byblos in incantation no. 6 (VIII.5 and VIII.13). The first reference calls on the Lady of Byblos to come quickly (ḏd=j m nbt kȝp[wny …] mj ȝ m-ḥȝt mḥ[?…]), while the second mention invokes the Lady of Byblos (= Ḥatḥōr?) to help Isis (srqt ḥwt[-ḥr] nbt kȝpwn ȝst nb ḥwt).92 Interestingly, the tale of Wenamun, which likely comes from around the same period and tells the story of the protagonist Wenamun’s journey to Byblos to acquire wood for the royal bark, never mentions the Lady of Byblos, and in fact the deity in the text who intercedes with the Byblian king Zakar-baal to meet with Wenamun is the male god Amun (1:38; contrast the Gebel Barkal Stele and Senneferi’s biographical tomb inscription).93

The tradition identifying the Egyptian goddess Ḥatḥōr with the Lady of Byblos appears to have come to an end by the first millennium, although the Lady of Byblos’s first-millennium iconography evidently continued to carry certain features traditional to Ḥatḥōr down into the Persian period.94 For example, several scholars have observed that the Lady of Byblos holds the scepter and wears the horned crown with the sun-disk commonly associated with Ḥatḥōr(-Isis) in the relief on the upper register of the stele upon which KAI 10 (approx. fifth century) was inscribed.95

3.2 City, King, and Empire: The Lady of Byblos’s Social-Political Agency at Late Bronze Age Byblos96

It is in light of Byblos and Egypt’s deep historical and cultural connectedness, particularly the established Egyptian identification of Ḥatḥōr and the Lady of Byblos, that one must interpret Rīb-Hadda’s invocations of the Lady of Byblos as assertions of the goddess’s political significance and power for/in international relations with Egypt.97 Most emphatically, Rīb-Hadda goes so far as to claim in EA 116:63–67 that “the gods, the Sun-god, and the Lady of Byblos, have g[iven you] that [you] should s[i]t on the throne of your father’s house for your land.”98 In this passage, Rīb-Hadda boldly asserts that the Egyptian king partially owes his ancestral throne and dominion over Egypt to the Lady of Byblos!99

On another occasion outside of the blessing formulas, Rīb-Hadda again directly appeals to the Egyptian king’s implicit recognition of the goddess’s importance to the Pharaoh’s political wellbeing. EA 74:54–57 reads:

Now, may (the king) give his servant provisions and provide his servant life, so that I may guard his faithful [city], as well as our La[dy] (and) our gods, f[or you].100

In this text, Rīb-Hadda asserts his obligation to defend the city, the Lady of Byblos, and Byblos’s other gods, on behalf of his Egyptian overlord as leverage to achieve his political goals. Rīb-Hadda considers – indeed, advocates and asserts – that the gods of Byblos, and the Lady (of Byblos) in particular (the only deity explicitly identified), are of value and significance to the Egyptian king and his political interests. Importantly, Rīb-Hadda here qualifies both the Lady (of Byblos) and the other Byblian gods using the first person plural pronominal suffix, signaling that the Lady of Byblos and Byblos’s other gods may be defined by the city as a collective social-political entity.101 Similarly, in EA 109:51–52 Rīb-Hadda swears to the Egyptian king by “our gods and the [Lady o]f Byblos” regarding ʕAbdi-Aširta’s criminal intentions vis-à-vis the Pharaoh.102 The collectivity of the gods of Byblos – again with only the Lady of Byblos explicitly singled out – are qualified by a first person plural pronominal suffix for a second time, defining them by the city as a corporate social-political body. Similar to EA 77:6–15 (discussed below), Rīb-Hadda’s oath in EA 109:51–52 also calls for the Egyptian king to recognize the Lady of Byblos’s reality and authority. While Rīb-Hadda’s correspondence typically highlights his own royal perspective and interests, Rīb-Hadda in EA 74:54–57 and 109:51–52 appears to betray his recognition that the Lady of Byblos and the other gods of Byblos first and foremost represent the collective city, not the palace.

Although the Byblian correspondence generally reflects the concerns, interests, and self-representation of Byblos’s own political leadership, most commonly that of the city’s king Rīb-Hadda, the Amarna letters also may attest to Egyptian recognition of the Lady of Byblos’s significance and power, though not that of the Pharaoh himself. In EA 96:4–6, a high-ranking Egyptian official (LÚ.GAL ÉRIN.[MEŠ]) formulaically invokes Rīb-Hadda’s personal “god” on behalf of the Byblian king and his house.103 The Egyptian general evidently recognizes the religious reality and efficacy of Rīb-Hadda’s deity, presumably the Lady of Byblos (although Rīb-Hadda’s name could also suggest the West Semitic storm-god Haddu). Smith may be correct to explain this explicit Egyptian recognition of Rīb-Hadda’s god by “what might be viewed as a ‘theological’ (or ‘second order’) proposition … given in EA 137: ‘The king, my lord, knows that the gods of Gubla are holy’…. This is not simply a statement of ‘theological’ principle; it is an indicator also that the Egyptian king knows this principle about the gods of his vassal polity.”104 Of course, EA 137’s statement that the “gods of Byblos are holy” (ll. 31–32; note the divine collective’s definition by the city as a community) explicitly testifies only to Rīb-Hadda’s expectation that the Egyptian king recognizes the religious reality and significance of Byblos’s gods; it does not directly attest to Egyptian recognition of this reality and significance, as does EA 96:4–6.105

Rīb-Hadda also implies and asserts Egyptian recognition of the Lady of Byblos in EA 77 following his initial invocation of both Amun and the Lady of Byblos on behalf of the Egyptian official Amanap(p)a. Early on in this letter, Rīb-Hadda calls on the Lady of Byblos alone to verify his claim to Amanap(p)a that neither he nor the goddess’s city possess copper or ivory(?) ([ti-]˹i˺-de dNIN ša uruGub-l[a] šum-ma ˹i˺-šu URUDU.MEŠ ù š[i-i]n4-ni [pí-r]i a-na ia-ši ˹ù˺[URU].KIli˺-šix(ŠE); ll. 6–15), a rhetorical strategy that assumes Amanap(p)a recognizes the Lady of Byblos’s reality and authority (cf. EA 109:51–52).106 Following Rīb-Hadda’s appeal to the Lady of Byblos, the Byblian king goes on to complain of the ʕapirū’s encroachments and requests Egyptian reinforcements (ll. 18–29). Failing Egyptian reinforcements, Rīb-Hadda ultimately requests: “let a ship [take] the men of [Byblos], your men, (and) the go[ds] to [you so I can abandon Byblos]” (ll. 31–35).107 In EA 132:53–55, Rīb-Hadda makes a similar demand for the Egyptian king to send ships to get him and the Lady of Byblos’s property (uš-ši-ra [GIŠ].˹˺.MEŠ ti-ìl-qú mi-im-[ma] [d]NIN ù ia-˹ti˺), and in EA 129:50–51 he asks the Pharaoh to extradite him “together with (my) living god” (qa-du DINGIR.MEŠ ba-al-ṭì).108 Rīb-Hadda’s multiple demands on the Egyptian king to fetch him, the Lady of Byblos, and other Byblian gods further assert the international recognition and importance of Byblos’s deities, particularly the Lady of Byblos. Importantly, even as Rīb-Hadda recognizes in EA 74:55–57 and 109:51–52 that both the Lady of Byblos and Byblos’s other gods are defined first and foremost by the city collective, Rīb-Hadda lays royal claim to the Lady of Byblos in EA 77:31–35 and 132:53–55 (and perhaps also EA 129:50–51), as he is willing to take her away from Byblos with him into exile.

Interestingly, Rīb-Hadda never invokes the Lady of Byblos after he goes into exile. This may suggest that Rīb-Hadda no longer felt that he could legitimately assert his claim to divine support from the goddess once he had been removed from power and had left the immediate confines of the city polity, for which Byblos’s collective political leadership subsequently may have assumed primary responsibility (see EA 139 and 140).109 However, EA 134:4–14 may offer another explanation. In this letter, Rīb-Hadda requests that the Pharaoh send troops to prevent his enemy Aziru from capturing Byblos by force. He writes:

Look, from time immemorial the gods have never gone up from Byblos. Now, Aziru has sen[t] troops t[o sei]ze it (i.e., the city) since the gods have allowed (it), [and] they have [dep]arted, and there are no [troops i]n the city to figh[t the slave,] the evil dog?, [and] they (i.e., the gods) will [no]t return.110

The text’s political theology assumes that Aziru and his forces are able to capture Byblos because the city’s deities have allowed it and “[dep]arted” ([a-ṣ]a-ú) from the city.111 This passage may suggest that during Aziru’s assault on Byblos, he seized and removed the statues of Byblos’s gods.112 In his last surviving letter, Rīb-Hadda reports that after he left Byblos to conclude a pact with Beirut’s king ʕAmmu-nīra against Aziru, Rīb-Hadda’s brother refused to let him reenter Byblos and brought Aziru’s troops into the city. However, the city subsequently expelled Aziru’s forces and reinstalled Rīb-Hadda:

They did not allow me to [en]ter. The rebel against the king (i.e., Rīb-Hadda’s brother) set Aziru’s t[roop]s in the c[enter of the ci]ty. Now, (when) the city saw tha[t] outside [tro]ops were residing in the city they a[gr]ee[d] (to let me) enter the c[ity]…. And they [dr]ove Aziru’s troops out of the city (EA 138:58–70).113

Since Rīb-Hadda does not invoke the Lady of Byblos’s blessing upon the Pharaoh after EA 132 (cf. also the goddess’s absence in Ilî-rāpiɁ and the city’s salutations in EA 139 and 140), it may be that Aziru had already captured the goddess’s statue and removed it from her temple in the city, perhaps when the city expelled his troops as recounted in EA 138:58–70.114 If this reconstruction is correct, then, at least from Rīb-Hadda’s perspective, the efficacy of the Lady of Byblos’s blessing would depend on who possesses the goddess’s statue and/or on her localization in Byblos. Aziru’s capture of the Lady of Byblos’s statue would lay claim to the goddess’s power and the social-political legitimacy that it offered to the one who possessed it. It may be for this very reason that Rīb-Hadda intended – but evidently failed – to take the Lady of Byblos’s statue with him in EA 77:31–35 and 132:54–55.

3.3 Welcome One and All: The Lady of Byblos’s Temple and the Politics of Cityscapes

The importance of the Lady of Byblos to the collective political-religious life of Late Bronze Age Byblos may also be reflected in the large dimensions of her temple and its prominent location in the city.115 Since the Early Bronze Age, the Lady of Byblos’s temple was located at the center of the city along with several other major Byblian sanctuaries that surrounded a freshwater spring and an artificial basin perhaps used as a public square (Dunand’s Lac sacré or “sacred pool”), around which Byblos developed into an urban center.116 Although the general architectural layout of the goddess’s temple is known for the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, early excavations at Byblos unfortunately did not uncover any remains of the Lady of Byblos’s temple dating to the Late Bronze Age (perhaps because of later construction projects in antiquity), though M. Sala suggests that the layout of the goddess’s Middle Bronze Age temple likely continued through the Late Bronze Age and into the Iron Age without major alterations.117 In any case, the historical record and artifacts recovered from the vicinity of the goddess’s temple clearly indicate that the temple was in operation and located in the same place from the Early Bronze Age through the Late Bronze Age (and ultimately down to the Roman period) and played a central role both in the life of the city and in the city’s interactions with Egypt, as evidenced by Egyptian-style artifacts discovered in offering and foundation deposits, friezes with uraei, and other objects.118 While excavations probably have not found the royal palace, it may have been located immediately west of the Lady of Byblos’s temple uphill towards the cliff.119

While several scholars have interpreted the temple’s monumental size and central location primarily in terms of the Byblian monarchy, I propose that the temple’s central location in the city – a location that likely preexisted the emergence of kingship at Byblos – may also highlight the goddess’s importance for the city as a political collective.120 Although scholarly treatments of the politics of cityscapes often focus on centralizing political authorities, the created environment may also focus attention on collective or group identities, collaborative modes of governance, and corporate cognitive codes.121 The substantial historical evidence from Late Bronze Age Byblos for the importance of its collective political identity demands that this aspect of the city’s political life be taken into consideration when analyzing the spatial politics of its cityscape, which in the Late Bronze Age included various residential quarters within the city’s fortification walls.122 For instance, the clustering of important sanctuaries – which, at least during the Middle Bronze Age, “were connected through a concentric path [that] followed the road system of the city” – in Byblos’s old city center around the well and public square may point not only to the importance of Byblos’s early identity as a social-political collective, but also to the importance of religion in constructing and maintaining that identity specifically.123 In this vein, the layout of the Middle Bronze Age temple of the Lady of Byblos, which may very well have continued into the Late Bronze Age, includes an entrance south towards the Lac sacré’s public square.124 Moreover, Sala observes that following Byblos’s destruction at the end of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Bronze Age city’s religious architecture comes to include prominent open-air cult places – including open courtyards in the Lady of Byblos’s temple and some of the other major sanctuaries in the city – that “become the focus of communal religious rituals, in which at times the whole population should be involved…. They were shaped either as open courtyards related to temples, or sacred precincts equipped with chapels, altars and cult installations, where collective religious activities were performed and offerings from the faithful were buried.”125 Finally, the palace’s probable location west of the Lady of Byblos’s temple towards the cliff may ultimately suggest its historically secondary inclusion within Byblos’s cityscape. It may be, then, that the size and location of the Lady of Byblos’s temple point toward Byblos’s collective political identity as much as, if not more so than, the palace’s royal political ideology.

4 The Lady of Byblos Stands Up Again

The scholarly quest to determine the Lady of Byblos’s “true name” has tended to marginalize a deeper exploration of the goddess’s political-religious significance at Late Bronze Age Byblos, and the fact that the most extensive written evidence pertaining to the goddess stems primarily from royal sources also has served to obscure her importance to the city’s collective political life. Nevertheless, the available evidence suggests that the Lady of Byblos’s political-religious significance at Late Bronze Age Byblos remained tied up with the city’s collective social-political heritage – as the very divine designation itself suggests. Indeed, the political-religious value that Rīb-Hadda attributes to the Lady of Byblos throughout his letters is probably best explained by the fact that the goddess traditionally embodied in a special way the city’s ancient collective social-political identity. Rīb-Hadda claims the Lady of Byblos as his own in his political interactions with Egypt’s royal court and its imperial administration precisely because of the importance that the goddess likely already enjoyed within Byblos’s decentralized political-religious heritage, which included the city’s long history of political, religious, and commercial engagement with Egypt. In all likelihood, Egypt’s experience of, and interest in, the Lady of Byblos preceded the emergence of kingship at Byblos, and certainly New Kingdom Egypt’s imperial hegemony over the city and surrounding areas. Recognizing the Lady of Byblos’s central importance to the city’s robust collective identity and longstanding collaborative political culture, as well as the goddess’s significance in earlier Byblian-Egyptian relations not necessarily defined by the city’s monarchy, Rīb-Hadda, perhaps following prior royal precedent, sought to appropriate the goddess’s traditional political-religious authority in an effort to undergird his own royal, centralizing power vis-à-vis both the city’s local decentralized political practice and Egypt’s large-scale imperium. At the intersection of imperial, royal, and collective modes of governance, the Lady of Byblos thus stands up as a central figure in the shaping of Late Bronze Age Byblos’s political reality.


An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research entitled, “A Divine Ambiguity: Will the Real Lady of Byblos Please Stand Up?” (Denver, Colorado, 16 November 2018). In addition to the feedback that I received at ASOR, I would like to thank D. Fleming, M. Smith, R. Thomas, and the anonymous peer reviewers at JANER for their helpful comments on a prior version of this article.


Phoenician: bʕlt gbl; Akkadian: dNIN ša uruGub-la(ki)/uruGu-ub-la (= bēltu ša Gubla), sometimes simply dNIN-nu (= bēletnu, “our Lady”) or dNIN; Egyptian: nbt kbn/kpn/kȝpy/kȝp-n-y, etc. In what follows, all dates are BCE unless otherwise indicated. Throughout this article, I adopt the citation style, abbreviations, and sigla of the SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2014) and/or The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (CAD).


For a useful summary of all the options and the evidence, see especially A.E. Zernecke, “The Lady of the Titles: The Lady of Byblos and the Search for her ‘True Name’,” WO 43 (2013): 226–42, esp. 227–32; cf. also R. Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, PAe 5 (Leiden: Brill, 1967), 5–13; W.A. Maier III., ʾAsherah: Extrabiblical Evidence, HSM 37 (Atlanta: Scholars, 1986), 134–5 and n. 59; C. Bonnet, Astarté: Dossier documentaire et perspectives historiques, Collezione di studi fenici 37 (Rome: Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche, 1996), 19–30; C. Baurain and C. Bonnet, Les Phéniciens: Marins des trois continents, Collection Civilisations (Paris: Armand Colin, 1992), 44; E. Lipiński, “Baalat Gubal,” in Dictionnaire de la civilization phénicienne et punique, ed. E. Lipiński et al. (Turnhout: Brepols, 1992), 56; idem, Dieux et déesses de l’univers phénicien et punique, OLA 64, Studia Phoenicia 14 (Leuven: Peters, 1995), 75; M.S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel, 2nd ed., BRS (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 61–2 and n. 126; M. Woolmer, Ancient Phoenicia: An Introduction, Classical World Series (London: Bristol Classical, 2011), 99. Whereas most scholars identify the Lady of Byblos with a particular named goddess – whether ʕAštartu/Astarte (most common), ɁAṯiratu/Asherah, ʕAnat, Ḥatḥōr(-Isis), Aphrodite, or another ancient Mediterranean goddess – Zernecke argues (“Lady of the Titles,” 227–35) through a close analysis of the writing conventions of the first-millennium Phoenician alphabetic royal inscriptions from Byblos that the designation was viewed by ancient Byblians as a proper name, while still being semantically “transparent” and “motivated.” It is unnecessary for present purposes to recapitulate in full Zernecke’s very helpful overview of this line of scholarly inquiry, which has yet to reach a clear consensus. As Zernecke observes, much of the evidence for the identification of the Lady of Byblos with other ancient Eastern Mediterranean goddesses derives from Egyptian and later Greek sources, and she queries whether all such identifications are not just interpretationes aegyptiacae, graecae, ugariticae, or pan-phoeniciacae. Bracketing this debate, I simply designate the goddess as the Lady of Byblos throughout this article.


For example, Bonnet states (Astarté, 19), “Il apparaît immédiatement que Bʿlt gbl, c’est-à-dire « Dame/Maîtresse de Byblos » est un titre, et non un authentique théonymn.” Additionally, H. Niehr writes (“Die phönizischen Stadtpanthea des Libanon und ihre Beziehung zum Königtum in vorhellenistischer Zeit,” in Götterbilder, Gottesbilder, Weltbilder: Polytheismus und Monotheismus in der Welt der Antike. Band 1: Ägypten, Mesopotamien, Persien, Kleinasien, Syrien, Palästina, ed. R. Kratz and H. Spieckermann, FAT II/17 [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006], 303–24, here p. 308; on the Lady of Byblos, see also pp. 306–7), “die enge Relation zwischen der Göttin und der Stadt Byblos [ist] zu einem Eigennamen geworden, der den ursprünglichen Namen der Göttin völlig verdrängt hat.” Cf. also Niehr, Religionen in Israels Umwelt: Einführung in die nordwestsemitischen Religionen Syrien-Palästinas, NEB Ergänzungensband zum AT 5 (Würzburg: Echter, 1998), 86, 121; Lipiński, Dieux et déesses, 75.


In M. Smith’s recent treatment of what he calls the “grammar of divine manifestation” (Where the Gods Are: Forms of Deities and Divine Spaces in the Biblical World, AYBRL [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016], 71–7, esp. p. 77), he concludes that the locution “lord” (bʕl) or “lady” (bʕlt) + GN in reference to humans often “denotes land ownership or dominion over a place,” and it also may serve as a royal title.


A. Espinel’s treatment of the commercial, political, and cultural role of the temple of the Lady of Byblos as a bridge between Byblos and Egypt in the late third millennium offers one partial exception (“The Role of the Temple of Baʾalat Gebal as Intermediary Between Egypt and Byblos during the Old Kingdom,” SAK 30 [2002]: 103–19). However, note Espinel’s observation (“Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116) that the “function of the temple of Baʾalat Gebal as one of the meeting places in the relations between Egypt and Byblos could be better understood with a knowledge of the socio-political system prevailing in the Lebanese port during the third millennium B.C., as well as the ideological relationship of the goddess to this system.” See also now M. Kilani’s dissertation (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age: Interactions between the Levantine and Egyptian Worlds” [Ph.D. diss., University of Oxford, 2017]), which at points touches on the goddess and her temple as a part of a larger archaeologically oriented project on Byblos in the Late Bronze Age (see esp. pp. 59–65, 103–4, 166–70, 245, 248–52). Note: Kilani’s revised dissertation has now been published as, Byblos in the Late Bronze Age: Interactions between the Levantine and Egyptian Worlds, SAHL 9 (Leiden: Brill, 2019), but its publication appeared too late to be incorporated into this article.


Two important theoretical studies from the field of sociology on the dynamic, multidimensional nature of social power and political authority are A. Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); and M. Mann, The Sources of Social Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).


I intend to examine the Lady of Byblos’s place within Byblos’s political-religious life during the Iron Age in a future study.


In the Amarna corpus, the internal political affairs of Levantine cities under Egyptian imperial hegemony are conducted most often by local rulers, whom the Egyptians designate “city leaders” (Akk. ḫazannū). The ḫazannus – who locally considered themselves to be “kings” (Akk. šarru; see, e.g., EA 88:46; 197:13–14) – reported to Egyptian rābiṣu-officials stationed in the region, whose responsibilities included provisioning Egyptian soldiers, waging military conflicts, administering justice within the Egyptian imperial network, delivering tribute and gifts sent to Egypt, conveying messages to the ḫazannus, etc. (see B.C. Benz, The Land before Kingdom of Israel: A History of the Southern Levant and the People Who Populated It, HACL 7 [Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2016], 31–2). On the relationship between Egypt and its Levantine vassals in the Amarna letters, see C. Zaccagnini, “The Forms of Alliance and Subjugation in the Near East of the Late Bronze Age,” in I trattati nel mondo antico: Forma, ideologia, funzione, ed. L. Canfora, M. Liverani, and C. Zaccagnini, Saggi di storia antica 2 (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2005), 37–79; W. Moran, “Some Reflections on Amarna Politics,” in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield, ed. Z. Zevit, S. Gitin, and M. Sokoloff (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 559–72; W.J. Murnane, “Overseer of the Northern Foreign Countries: Reflections on the Upper Administration of Egypt’s Empire in Western Asia,” in Essays on Ancient Egypt in Honour of Herman Te Velde, ed. J. van Dijk, Egyptological Memoirs 1 (Groningen: Styx, 1997), 251–58; idem, “Imperial Egypt and the Limits of Power,” in Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations, R. Cohen and R. Westbrook (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), 101–11; E.F. Morris, The Architecture of Imperialism: Military Bases and the Evolution of Foreign Policy in Egypt’s New Kingdom, PAe 22 (Leiden: Brill, 2005).


Byblos’s collective political tradition may be attested already in the early second-millennium Egyptian execration texts. Both sets of Egyptian execration texts identify Byblos by its “tribes” or “clans” (wḥytw nt kbn; E 63), rather than by an individual leader or the physical site of the city itself; see A. Ben-Tor, “Do the Execration Texts Reflect an Accurate Picture of the Contemporary Settlement Map of Palestine?,” in Essays on Ancient Israel in Its Near Eastern Context, ed. Y. Amit and N. Naʾaman (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2006), 63–87, here 66; B.C. Benz, “The Varieties of Sociopolitical Experience in the Amarna Age Levant and the Rise of Early Israel” (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 2012), 110 n. 44, 257, 345; Benz, Land before Kingdom, 66 n. 47, 211–2. Cf. Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 165 n. 38. However, Espinel (“Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116) imagines that “[d]uring the Early Bronze Age Byblos may have been ruled by a monarchy similar to the one known during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages,” as evidenced by a cylinder seal inscription found at Byblos dating to either the Egyptian Old or Middle Kingdom period that mentions a “ruler of the foreign country in Byblos” (ḥḳȝ ḫȝst m kbn). See further P. Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte: Quatre campagnes de fouilles à Gebeil, 1921–1922–1923–1924, Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 11 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1928–1929), 62–8 and pl. 39; W.F. Albright, “The Eighteenth Century Princes of Byblos and the Chronology of the Middle Bronze,” BASOR 176 (1964): 38–46; H. Goedicke, “A Cylinder Seal of a Ruler of Byblos of the Third Millennium,” MDAIK 19 (1963): 1–6; idem, “The Cylinder Seal of a Ruler of Byblos Reconsidered,” JARCE 5 (1966): 19–21; idem, “Another Remark about the Byblos Cylinder Seal,” Syria 53 (1976), 191–2; K.A. Kitchen, “Byblos, Egypt, and Mari in the Early Second Millennium BC,” Or 36 (1967): 39–54; O.D. Berlev, “The Title to a Kingdom,” GM 149 (1995): 33–40; R. Flammini, “The ḥȝtyw- ʕ from Byblos in the Early Second Millennium B.C.,” GM 164 (1998): 41–61; K.N. Sowada, Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Old Kingdom: An Archaeological Perspective (Freiburg: Academic; Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2009), 137.

On the Byblian correspondence in the Amarna letters generally, see M. Liverani, “Rib-Adda, giusto sofferante,” AoF 1 (1974): 175–205; translated as “Rib-Hadda, Righteous Sufferer,” in M. Liverani, Myth and Politics in Ancient and Near Eastern Historiography, ed. Z. Bahrani and M. Van De Mieroop (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), 197–24; P. Swiggers, “Byblos dans les lettres d’Amarna: Lumières sur des relations obscures,” in Phoenicia and Its Neighbors: Proceedings of the Colloquium Held on the 9th and 10th of December 1983 at the “Vrije Universiteit Brussel,” in Cooperation with the “Centrum voor Myceense en Archaïsch-Griekse Cultuur,” ed. E. Gubel and E. Lipiński, Studia Phoenicia 3 (Leuven: Peeters, 1985), 45–58; W. Moran, “Rib-Hadda: Job at Byblos?,” in Biblical and Related Studies Presented to Samuel Iwry, ed. A. Kort and S. Morschauser (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1985), 173–81; reprinted in id., Amarna Studies: Collected Writings, ed. J. Huehnergard and S. Izreʾel, HSS 54 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 307–15.


D. Fleming’s study of collaborative politics in the Mari archives identifies the social-political formation of the “city” (Sum. uru; Akk. ālum) as one of the principal locations for traditions of collective governance in the ancient Near East (Democracy’s Ancient Ancestors: Mari and Early Collective Governance [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004]). Fleming writes (Democracy’s Ancient Ancestors, 171): “The Sumerian and the Akkadian words for ‘town’ appear to have been defined above all in political terms as the collective expression of all who lived or gathered there. A town could speak and could act, could negotiate and could fight…. the ‘town’ is finally not a place but a population, the population that has created and uses the physical settlement.” Fleming further observes (Democracy’s Ancient Ancestors, 108; see also pp. 11, 151): “the ālum, and evidently the Sumerian uru as well, appears to be defined above all by its people, especially the people as a corporate whole in action. The defining trait of the ālum and uru is then political, and the institutional face of the town polity is the collective body.” See further M. Van de Mieroop, The Ancient Mesopotamian City (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 10; Benz, Land before Kingdom, 47–80; and cf. A. Seri, Local Power in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (London: Equinox, 2005); J. Lauinger, Following the Man of Yamhad: Settlement and Territory at Old Babylonian Alalah, CHANE 75 (Leiden: Brill, 2015).


Benz, Land before Kingdom, 58–68; P. Artzi, “«Vox Populi» In the El-Amarna Tablets,” RA 58 (1964): 159–66. Cf. also L.M. Pryke, “The King and I: Rib-Addi of Byblos’ Letters to Pharaoh” (Ph.D. diss., University of Sydney, 2010), 143–71, 386–7; idem, “Trade Routes and Fierce Disputes: The Disruption of Trade Routes in the Amarna Letters,” ARAM 27 (2015): 39–44, esp. 42–4; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 280–1.


LÚ.MEŠ uruGub-la ù É-ia ù MUNUS.DAM-ia ti7-iq-bu-na a-na ia-ši-ia a-li-ik-mi EGIR iDUMU ÌR-A-ši-ir-ta ù ni-pu-uš šal-ma be-ri-nu ù i15-ma-i15 a-˹na˺-ku la-a iš-me a-na ša-šu-nu. All translations of ancient texts are the author’s own (and checked against the standard editions), unless otherwise noted. Transliterations of the Amarna letters are slightly modified from A.F. Rainey, The El-Amarna Correspondence: A New Edition of the Cuneiform Letters from the Site of El-Amarna Based on Collations of All Extant Tablets, ed. W.M. Schniedewind and Z. Cochavi-Rainey, 2 vols., HOSNME 110 (Leiden: Brill, 2015), hereafter abbreviated EAC. Note that the most commonly used language to refer to the collective political organization of the inhabitants of a city in the Amarna letters, as at Mari, is meš uruGN or “GN-ites” (see Benz, Land before Kingdom, 50, 77).


Besides the letter’s content, W. Moran (The Amarna Letters [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992], 217 n. 6) observes that the “format (crude paragraphings) and some features of the language … distinguish EA 136 from the letters written at Byblos.”


2 DUMU-ia ù ˹2˺ ˹MUNUS˺.DAM na-ad-nu a-na ar-ni ˹ša˺ ˹LUGAL˺. Cf. also EA 109:56–59, where Rīb-Hadda reports that “all of my cities are hostile toward me (and are) with the sons of ʕAbdi-Aširta, and the city rulers are not falling into line with me” (ka-li URU.MEŠ-ia nuKÚR˺ a-na ˹ia˺-[ši] it-ti DUMU.MEŠ iÌR-A-ši-ir-ta ki-na-na da-nu ù lú.meš˹ḫa˺-˹za˺-nu-tu ˹ú˺-˹ul˺ ˹tar-ṣa it-ti-ia).


ù ti-na-i-ṣú-ni šá-ni-tam a-na-ku-mé-e al-ka-ti a-na ma-ḫar-ri iḪa-mu-ni-ri ù ŠEŠ-ia TUR iš-tu ia-ti i-na-kar5-mi uruGub-laki a-na na-da-ni URU.KI-li a-na DUMU.MEŠ ÌR-iA-ši-ir-ti.


Benz, Land before Kingdom, 62.


ù ˹ti˺-iq-bi URUKI˺ izi˺-bu-šu ni-te-pu-uš-mi a-na iA-zi-ri. On the language of political alliance in the Amarna letters, see Benz, Land before Kingdom, 74.


ù yi-iq-bi ŠEŠ-ia ˹ù˺ ˹yi˺-˹it˺-mi a-na URU.KI ù ti-dáb-bi-bu ù lú.mešBAD‹ -liURU.KI [ti-t]e-pu-šu-mi a-na DUMU.MEŠ iÌR-Aš-ra-[ti]. Rīb-Hadda’s language to describe the political deliberations of the city collective (“they had a discussion”) is somewhat reminiscent of the West Semitic term riḫṣum in the Mari texts (see J.-M. Durand, “Le riḫṣum des Hanéens,” AEM I/1, ARM XXVI [Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1988], 181–92). According to Fleming’s most recent study (Democracy’s Ancient Ancestors, 208–10, here 209), the Mari materials indicate that the term riḫṣum refers “not to the assembly but the talks that ensue” and “applies specially to talks related to interactions between separate groups” – although its use is limited to mobile pastoralist assemblies, not city or town assemblies. Interestingly, Fleming observes that “[p]articipation in the riḫṣum talks may sometimes be quite broad” and could “provide a setting for authorized complaint against senior leaders by individuals of lower rank” (ibid., 209 and 210, respectively). I offer this comparison between Byblos’s public deliberations under oath in EA 138:47–50 and the riḫṣum-talks strictly for heuristic purposes, as the word riḫṣum admittedly is “not related to the collective governance of towns,” at least as evidenced in the Mari materials (ibid., 210). For the political possibilities of the Akkadian verb dabābu, see CAD D dabābu, 8, 11–2.


Moran, Amarna Letters, 175–6 n. 5; Benz, Land before Kingdom, 77–8. Benz writes (Land before Kingdom, 77–78): “Here, the political body of ‘the city’ and ‘the lords of the city’ are equated. In the end, the collective body at Gubla rejected their ḫazannu’s move to form a political alliance with Beirut and formed their own alliance with the sons of ʕAbdi-Aširta.” Cf. EA 102:20–21, where Rīb-Hadda complains that the rābiṣu-official and the “lords of the city” of Ampi have made an alliance with the sons of ʕAbdi-Aširta.


The order in EA 139 is ɁIlî-rāpiɁ and Byblos, while in EA 140 the order is Byblos and ɁIlî-rāpiɁ. Interestingly, Rīb-Hadda reports in EA 138:9–10 that the “men of Byblos” also wrote to him while in exile at Beirut: “Even now, the men of Byblos have written to me….” (ù anu˺-˹ma˺ i-na-an-na ša-ap-ru-mi MEŠ˺ ˹ša˺ ˹URU˺ Gub˹ub˺-la a-na ia-ši; see also l. 122). Cf. also EA 100, a “tablet of the city ʕIrqata” (ṭup-pí uruIr-qa-ta; ll. 1–2) sent to the Pharaoh by the city of ʕIrqata’s “elders” (ši-bu-ti-ši; l. 4), as well as EA 59, a letter to the king of Egypt written by the “sons of Tunip, your servant” (DUMU.MEŠ uruTù-ni-ipki LÚ ÌR-ka-ma; l. 2); see Benz, Land before Kingdom, 69–73; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 180–2. While scholars commonly identify ɁIlî-rāpiɁ as the brother whom Rīb-Hadda claims incited the city to revolt against him (see EA 136:24–36, esp. ll. 33–35; 137:14–25; 138:44–50, 57–58; cf. EA 142:15–24), Rīb-Hadda never identifies his brother by name and there is no explicit evidence to corroborate ɁIlî-rāpiɁ’s alleged identification as the brother of the king of Byblos. Indeed, Ilî-rāpiɁ and Byblos’s city leadership appear to be at odds with Aziru in much the same way as was Rīb-Hadda earlier on. See further Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 193–5.


Benz notes that “[t]he act of communicating with the Egyptian king was a political act. It therefore required some form of political power, legitimate representation, and authority to occur” (Land before Kingdom, 69 [emphasis in the original]).


Artzi, “«Vox Populi»,” 162; cf. also Benz, “Varieties,” 109; Benz, Land before Kingdom, 66.


Benz, “Varieties,” 109; Benz, Land before Kingdom, 65–6. The reality of these two coexisting political traditions can also be perceived in Rīb-Hadda’s different rhetorical appeals to the Egyptian king regarding the loyalty of the Byblian royal line (e.g., EA 118:39–41) versus the loyalty of the city (e.g., EA 74:5–8; 88:42–45; cf. EA 116:55–56); see Benz, “Varieties,” 111; idem, Land before Kingdom, 67–8.


pal-ḫa-ti lú.mešḫu-u[p-ši-ia] ul ti-ma-ḫa-ṣa-na-n[i]. As Benz notes, scholars traditionally translate the Akkadian term ḫupšū as “peasants” or “serfs” (e.g., W.F. Albright, “Canaanite Ḫapši and Hebrew Ḥofšî Again,” JPOS 6 [1926]: 106–8, here 107; idem, “The Amarna Letters from Palestine,” in The Cambridge Ancient History: History of the Middle East and the Aegean Region c. 1380–1000 B.C., ed. I.E.S. Edwards et al., 3rd ed., vol. 2, pt. 2 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975], 98–116, here 110; E.F. Campbell, “The Amarna Letters and the Amarna Period,” BA 23 [1960]: 1–22, here 15; J.A. Knudtzon et al., Die El-Amarna-Tafeln: mit Einleitung und Erläuterungen, 2 vols. [Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1915], passim; M. Liverani, “Farsi Ḫabiru,” VO 2 [1979]: 65–77; Moran, Amarna Letters, passim; M.R. Adamthwaite, Late Hittite Emar: The Chronology, Synchronisms, and Socio-Political Aspects of a Late Bronze Age Fortress Town, ANESSup 8 [Leuven: Peeters, 2001], 247, 249; Pryke, “Trade Routes,” 42–4) – “terms that historically imply economically depressed and politically disempowered rural denizens” (Land before Kingdom, 58–9). However, Benz’s recent treatment of this important term within the Byblian Amarna correspondence argues that the ḫupšū in fact “were an economically viable, urban-centered group who played a significant role in the political scene at Gubla” (Land before Kingdom, 59). Economically, the textual evidence indicates that Byblos’s ḫupšū could sell their children and valuable household property during times of financial distress, possessed houses inside of the city and arable fields outside of it, had silver, and were expected to provide goods and services to the palace (ibid., 58–63; see esp. EA 81; 85; 118; 138). Politically, the term ḫupšū appears to alternate with the political terminology of the “city” (URU; e.g., EA 85:15–19) and the “Byblians”/“men of Byblos” (meš uruGub-la; e.g., EA 85:48–50), and Rīb-Hadda both fears the ḫupšū’s hostility (EA 130:39–43; EA 77:36–37) and that they might desert Byblos (EA 114:20–22; 118:37–39; 125:23–30; 134:16–18; cf. EA 138, esp. ll. 40–42; ibid., 61–8). After a careful review of the evidence, Benz concludes (ibid., 68): “When Rib-Addu wanted to emphasize [the ḫupšū’s] status as dependents who fell under the authority of the palace, he referred to them as ‘my ḫupšu.’ However, when this group represented a political body that was acting in opposition to the palace, as in EA 138:26–39, he referred to them as the Gublites.”


ù ˹ma˺-ni UD.KAM.MEŠ ti-ša-šu URU UGU-i˹a˺ ù al-le-e ta-aq-bu URU ip-šu ša la a-pí-ìš iš-tu da-ri-ti a-pí-ìs a-na ia-ši-nu ù yi-ìš-me šàr-ru a-wa-te ÌR-šu ˹ù˺ yu-wa-ši-ra [L]Ú.MEŠ ú-ul ti-pu-uš [U]RU ar-na.


In this regard, one may compare the cities of Emar, Mari, and even Ugarit in Syria. See D.E. Fleming, “A Limited Kingship: Late Bronze Emar in Ancient Syria,” UF 24 (1992): 59–71; idem, The Installation of Baal’s High Priestess at Emar: A Window on Ancient Syrian Religion, HSS 42 (Atlanta: Scholars, 1992), 99–102, 185, 192, 195–8; idem, Democracy’s Ancient Ancestors; idem, “Kingship of City and Tribe Conjoined: Zimri-Lim at Mari,” in Nomads, Tribes, and the State in the Ancient Near East: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives, ed. J. Szuchman, OIS 5 (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2009), 227–40; A. Tugendhaft, Baal and the Politics of Poetry (London: Routledge, 2018).


For example, note Zernecke’s broad characterization of the Lady of Byblos as “the protective deity of the royal dynasty” (“Lady of the Titles,” 242), as well as Bonnet’s comment that “Die Baʿalat unterhielt mit dem König von Byblos und der königlichen Familie eine bevorzugte Beziehung: Sie wählte den König aus, verlieh ihm seinen Status als König und als Richter, schützte ihn und sicherte Nachkommenschaft und Thronfolge. Mit dem König hatte die Göttin in historischer und irdischer Hinsicht eine ‘Paarbeziehung,’ welche ihren Ursprung in dem göttlichen Paradigma von Baʿalat und Baʿal findet” (C. Bonnet and H. Niehr, Religionen in der Umwelt des Alten Testaments: Phönizier, Punier, Aramäer II, Kohlhammer Studienbücher Theologie 4/2 [Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2010], 51). See also Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 104–19; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 59–65, 103–4, 166–70, 245, 248–52; and cf. Pinnock, “Ebla and Byblos,” 124–6. However, in light of Byblos’s venerable tradition of collective governance, I suggest that the designation Lady of Byblos first highlights the goddess’s special relationship to the city’s corporate social-political identity, and royal claims – both explicit and implicit – of the Lady of Byblos’s divine favor and support for the king perhaps should be seen as royal attempts to coopt the goddess’s political significance to the city polity in the interests of the monarchy. See further below.


Rīb-Hadda invokes the blessings of the Lady of Byblos on the recipient of his letters 33 times: EA 68:4–6; 69:4–8 (on behalf of an Egyptian official); 73:4–8 (on behalf of an Egyptian official); 74:2–4; 75:3–4; 76:3–5; 77:3–6 (in combination with the Egyptian god Amun); 78:3–5; 79:3–5; 81:3–4; 83:3–4; 85:4–5; 87:5–7 (in combination with the Egyptian god Amun); 89:3–4; 92:5–6; 95:3–6 (in combination with the Egyptian god Amun); 102:5–8 (on behalf of an Egyptian official); 105:3–4; 107:4–6; 108:4–5; 109:2–3; 114:3–4; 116:3–5; 117:3–4; 118:6–8; 119:3–5; 121:3–5; 122:4–6; 123:4–7; 124:3–4; 125:5–7; 130:4–8; 132:4–5. See Swiggers, “Byblos dans les lettres d’Amarna,” 51–2; P. Xella, “Pantheon e culto a Biblo: Aspetti e problemi,” in Biblo: Una città e la sua cultura, ed. E. Acquaro et al., Collezione di studi fenici 34 (Rome: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 1994), 195–214, here pp. 200–1; Lipiński, Dieux et déesses, 72; Bonnet, Astarté, 21–2; S.T. Hollis, “Hathor and Isis in Byblos in the Second and First Millennia BCE,” JAEI 1 (2009): 1–8, here 3; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 166–70.


[d]NIN ša uruGu-ub-la ti-id-di-in4 du-na a-na LUGAL be-li-ia.


EA 77:1 and 87:1 both identify the Egyptian official as Amanap(p)a. The name of the Egyptian official is missing in EA 95. Interestingly, in EA 71:4 and EA 86:3 (reconstructed) Rīb-Hadda only invokes Amun – further specified in both cases as “the god of the king” (DINGIR ša LUGAL) – to bestow favor on an Egyptian official.


Kilani (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 170, 172, 250, 280) wonders how Rīb-Hadda’s appeals to the Lady of Byblos vis-à-vis the Egyptian king might have been perceived following Amenḥotep IV/Akhenaten’s religious reforms. He comments (ibid., 280): “Nothing definite is known about Akhenaton’s attitude toward the Lady of Byblos or toward foreign deities in general, but the goddess could not have [had] any prominent role in the Atonist ideology, and it is most unlikely that the reformist Amarna court paid any respect (or made any offering) to Byblos as seat of the Lady of Byblos.” Indeed, “the fact that Rib-Hadda was forced into exile after numerous requests for Egyptian intervention in his support suggests that the Lady of Byblos did not succeed in attracting the attention Rib-Hadda was hoping for” (ibid., 170).


W.L. Moran, “An Unexplained Passage in an Amarna Letter from Byblos,” JNES 8 (1949): 124–5, reprinted in Amarna Studies, 141–2; Moran, Amarna Letters, 154 and n. 9; EAC 1:492–93; EAC 2:1427.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 168 and 169, respectively. Kilani further observes (ibid., 168–9): “Here too, Byblos is exceptional within the Amarna archives: among the surviving letters from all the cities, these are the only ones in which a local religious figure tries to communicate with the Pharaoh.” However, Rīb-Hadda’s report about the Lady of Byblos’s cultic personnel’s prayers for the Pharaoh may also betray the reality of political forces at Byblos outside of the palace, in this case connected to the Lady of Byblos’s temple (cf. ibid., 169). Additionally, note N. Naʾaman’s reconstruction that Ummaḫnu and her husband Milkuru may have traveled to Egypt where they served in the temple of Ḥatḥōr = Lady of Byblos, a further “indication of the close cultic relations at that time between the temples of Baʿalath at Byblos and Egypt” (“On Gods and Scribal Traditions in the Amarna Letters,” UF 22 [1990]: 247–55, here 248); cf. also Bonnet, Astarté, 22; J. Vidal, “Ummahnu, sierva de la Señora de Biblos: Apuntes prosopográficos (1),” AuOr 28 (2010): 85–92. On the relationship between the Egyptian goddess Ḥatḥōr and the Lady of Byblos, see below.


Recognized also by Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 167, 169.


M. Smith, God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 67. Cf. also Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116 n. 81.


Also independently observed by Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 167.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 167, 250.


Smith, God in Translation, 67.


So also Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 167–8, 170–1, 250 (“The aim of these allusions seems to be to attract the attention of his Egyptian interlocutors to the centrality of the Goddess to the city and to the long tradition of Egyptian veneration of her”); cf. Xella, “Pantheon e culto a Biblo,” 197. On Rīb-Hadda’s rhetoric and appeals to earlier Egyptian-Byblian relations, see L.M. Pryke, “The Many Complaints to Pharaoh of Rib-Addi of Byblos,” JAOS 131 (2011): 411–22. Pryke (“Many Complaints,” 421–2) characterizes Rīb-Hadda’s complaints referring to his and/or the Pharaoh’s forefathers as “an almost nostalgic preoccupation with the relationship between Egypt and Byblos from generations before,” the purpose of which “is to create the impression of a long tradition of material support from the king in order to strengthen the case for receiving more.” See further the discussion below.


a-mur uruGub-la la kima˺ URU.KIh⁠̮i.a š[u-nu] uruGub-la URU ki-it-ti LUGAL B[AD-ia] iš-tu da-ri-ti.


pa-na-nu [šà]r kurMita˺-na nu-KÚR a-na a-bu-ti-ka ˹ù˺ la-a yi-na-mu-šuna˺ [a]-bu-tuka˺ iš-tu ˹a˺-b[u-ti-ia]. Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 170–1. Kilani suggests (ibid.) that “if Rib-Hadda was aware of the strategic role played by Byblos in the establishment of the Thutmosid empire, it becomes clear why the apparent lack of interest of the Amarna court in the fate of the city may have seemed to him to be so incomprehensible.”


ki-ma pár-ṣí ša-a a-bu-tika˺.


[a-mur i-na] [UD.]MEŠ a-b[u]-˹ti˺-[ia ba-laṭ šàr-ri UGU-šu-nu] [ù] ma-ṣa-ar[-ti šàr-ri] [it-]ti-šunu˺ ˹ù˺ [šul-mu a-na ša-šu-n]u [ù] a-na-ku nu-k[úr-tu4 GA.KAL a-na] [UG]U-ia ḫu-up-ši-ia a[-pa-l]a-aḫú-ul ti˺-pu-u[š] URU a-na GAZ.MEŠ. Pryke, “Many Complaints,” 421, 422. On the ʕapirū, see D.E. Fleming, “People without Town: The ʿapiru in the Amarna Evidence,” in Language and Nature: Papers Presented to John Huehnergard on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday, ed. R. Hasselbach and N. Pat-el, SAOC 67 (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 2012), 39–49.


Pryke, “Many Complaints,” 420–2.


˹pa˺-na-nu i-na ˹UD˺. K[AMv].˹MEŠ˺ a-bu-tiia˺ .[MEŠ m]a-ṣa-ar-‹ tiLUGAL ˹it˺-˹ti˺-šu-nu ù mi-im-mì LUGAL ˹UGU˺-šu-nu. Pryke notes (“Many Complaints,” 414, 422) that this complaint also appears to have been motivated by fears of internal revolt.


pana˺-nu a-na a-bu-ti-ia yu-ša-ru iš-tu É.GAL.MEŠ KÙ.BABBAR.MEŠ ú mi-im-mu a-na ba-la-ṭì-šu-nuù yu-ši-ru be-li ÉRIN.MEŠ a-na ša-a-šu-nu ù a-nu-ma a-na-ku aš-pu-ru a-na be-li-ia a-na ÉRIN.MEŠ ù ˹ÉRIN˺.˹MEŠ˺ ma-ṣa-ar-tu la-a tu-[ša-ru-na] ù mi-im-mu [la-a-]mi yuda˺-˹nu˺ [a-na i]a-a-ši.


URU-ka ù URU a-bu-t[i-ka] iš-tu da-ri-ti.


la-a yi-qú-lu LUGAL EN-ia i-na uruGub-la GÉME-šu URU šàr-ri iš-tu da-ri-ti.


EA 139:9: uruGu-ub ›-la ana˺ ˹LUGAL˺ EN-ia; EA 140:16–17: 1-en uruGub-la is-sí-la-at šàr-ri.


R.L. Roth, “Gebal,” ABD 2:922–3, here 922.


P.E. 1.10.20. See H.W. Attridge and R.A. Oden, Philo of Byblos: The Phoenician History, CBQMS 9 (Washington: CBA, 1981), 50–1; S. Ribichini, “Le origini della città santa: Biblo nei miti della tradizione classica,” in Acquaro et al., Biblo, 215–30.


Ribichini, “Le origini della città santa,” 215–30; H.W. Attridge and R.A. Oden, The Syrian Goddess (De Dea Syria) Attributed to Lucian, SBLTT 9, Graeco-Roman Series 1 (Missoula: Scholars, 1976), 12–3; J.G. Griffiths, The Origins of Osiris and His Cult, SHR 40 (Leiden: Brill, 1980), 28–34; J.L. Lightfoot, Lucian: On the Syrian Goddess (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 250–53; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 2, 98.


Publication reports and important archaeological analyses of the site for the purposes of this article include: Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte, esp. 45–59 and pls. xxi, xxii; R. Dussaud, “Les quatre campagnes de fouilles de M. Pierre Montet à Byblos,” Syria 11 (1930): 164–87; M. Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. I: 1926–1932, Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 24 (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1939), esp. 79–87; idem, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. II: 1933–1938, Études et documents d’archéologie 3 (Paris: A. Maisonneuve, 1954); M. Dunand and J. Cauvin, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. IV: Les outillages néolithiques de Byblos et du littoral libanais, Études et documents d’archéologie 4 (Paris: A. Maisonneuve, 1968); Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. V: L’architecture, les tombes, le matériel domestique, des origines néolithiques à l’avènement urbain, Études et documents d’archéologie 6 (Paris: A. Maisonneuve, 1973); U. Finkbeiner, “Untersuchungen zur Stratigraphie des Obeliskentempels in Byblos: Versuch einer methodischen Auswertung,” BaM 12 (1981): 13–69; M. Saghieh-Beydoun, Byblos in the Third Millennium B.C.: A Reconstruction of the Stratigraphy and a Study of the Cultural Connections (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1983), esp. 40–51, 55–8, fig. 13, and pls. XXVII; idem, “Byblos Revisited,” BAAL: Bulletin d’archéologie et d’architecture libanaises Hors-Série VI (2009): 29–36; L. Nacouzi, “Byblos au IIe millénaire: Essai de reconstitution architecturale” (MA thesis, Paris–I–Sorbonne, 1985); J.-C. Margueron, “L’urbanisme de Byblos: Certitudes et problèmes,” in Acquaro et al., Biblo, 13–35; P. Leriche, “La méthode de fouille de Maurice Dunand à Byblos. I: M. Dunand et l’archéologie au Proche-Orient au début du XXe siècle,” Topoi 5 (1995): 439–52; J. Lauffray, “La méthode de fouille de M. Dunand à Byblos. II: Introduction à la méthode M. Dunand,” Topoi 5 (1995): 453–68; J. Bretschneider, T. Cunningham, and K. van Lerberghe, “Gibala: The First Two Excavations,” UF 31 (1999): 75–132; F. Pinnock, “Byblos and Ebla in the 3rd Millennium BC: Two Urban Patterns in Comparison,” ROSAPAT 4 (2007): 109–33, esp. 120–7; M. Dunand and J. Lauffray, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. VI: L’urbanisme et l’architecture de l’époque proto-urbaine à l’occupation amorite (de l’Énéolitique à l’âge du Bronze II), BAH 182 (Beirut: Ifpo, 2008); A. Seif, “Les Archives Des Fouilles de Byblos – Le « Fonds Dunand »,” BAAL: Bulletin d’archéologie et d’architecture libanaises 14 (2012): 5–8; M. Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos: Specificity and Levantine Interconnections,” BAAL: Bulletin d’archéologie et d’architecture libanaises Hors-Série X (2015): 31–58; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 7–119, esp. 59–65. Cf. also Roth, “Gebal,” 922–3; S. Hakimian, “Byblos,” in Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C., ed. J. Aruz et al., MMA (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 49–50. Unfortunately, no Late Bronze Age layer of the Lady of Byblos’s temple appears to have survived (see further below).


Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 104–19. On Byblos and its interactions with Old Kingdom Egypt, see further Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte, 36, 61–139; Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. I, 81–5, 112, 133, 258; P.E. Newberry, “Three Old-Kingdom Travelers to Byblos and Pwenet,” JEA 24 (1938): 182–4; H.J. Kantor, “The Early Relations of Egypt with Asia,” JNES 1 (1942): 174–213; S.H. Horn, “Byblos in Ancient Records,” AUSS 1 (1963): 52–61, here 52; W.A. Ward, “The Inscribed Offering of Nefer-seshem-Ra from Byblos,” Bulletin du Musée de Beyrouth 17 (1964): 37–44; O. Tufnell and W.A. Ward, “Relations between Byblos, Egypt and Mesopotamia at the End of the Third Millennium B.C.: A Study of the Montet Jar,” Syria 43 (1966): 165–241; Saghieh-Beydoun, Byblos in the Third Millennium, 45, 104, 121; G.S. Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo e la Baalat Gebal,” in Atti del II congresso internazaionale di studi fenici e punici, Roma, 9–14 novembre 1987, ed. E. Acquaro, vol. 1, Collezione di Studi fenici 30 (Rome: Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche, 1991), 401–6, here 401; Bonnet, Astarté, 21; B.V. Bothmer, Egyptian Art: Selected Writings of Bernard V. Bothmer, ed. M.E. Cody (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 279–87; N.C. Strudwick, Texts from the Pyramid Age, ed. R.J. Leprohon, WAW 16 (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 335, 340; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 64, 154, 167–8.


Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 105–13 (quote from 105); note: one of the ḫȝt-tables may contain a reference to the Lady of Byblos (ibid., 109–10). See also Saghieh-Beydoun, Byblos in the Third Millennium, 120–1; S.J. Wimmer, “Egyptian Temples in Canaan and the Sinai,” in Studies in Egyptology: Presented to Miriam Lichtheim, ed. S. Israelit-Groll, vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Magnes, Hebrew University, 1990), 1065–1106. In Kilani’s study of Byblos in the Late Bronze Age, he notes (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 234; see also p. 289) that “Egyptian-made stone vessels were imported during all of the main historical periods, including the New Kingdom, notably the reign of Ramses II…. The vessels were luxurious and expensive commodities, and they hint at a highly lucrative trade”; see further R. Sparks, “Egyptian Stone Vessels in Syro-Palestine during the Second Millennium B.C. and Their Impact on the Local Stone Vessel Industry,” in Cultural Interaction in the Ancient Near East: Papers Read at a Symposium Held at the University of Melbourne, Department of Classics and Archaeology (29–30 September 1994), ed. G. Bunnens, AbrNSup 5 (Leuven: Peeters, 1996), 51–66; idem, “Egyptian Stone Vessels and the Politics of Exchange (2617–1070 BC),” in Ancient Perspectives on Egypt, ed. R. Matthews and C. Roemer, Encounters with Ancient Egypt (London: UCL, 2003), 39–56. For more on Byblos and Egypt in the New Kingdom period, see below.


Saghieh-Beydoun, Byblos in the Third Millennium, 36–7; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 117; Pinnock, “Ebla and Byblos,” 124–6; Lauffray, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. VI, fig. 150.


Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 117.


See n. 9 above and J. Allen, “The Historical Inscription of Khnumhotep at Dahshur: Preliminary Report,” BASOR 11 (2008): 29–39, esp. 33–4.


Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 5–13, 142; G.S. Matthiae, “Il problema delle influenze egiziane sulla religione fenicia,” in La religione fenicia: Matrici orientali e sviluppi occidental: Atti del Colloquio in Roma (6 marzo 1979), ed. Centro di studio per la civiltà fenicia e punica, StSem 53, Pubblicazioni del Centro di studio per la civiltà fenicia e punica 20 (Rome: Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche, 1981), 61–80, esp. 64–5; idem, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 401; Lipiński, Dieux et déesses, 70–2; P. Bordreuil, “Astarté, la dame de Byblos,” Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 142 (1998): 1153–64; Bonnet, Astarté, 20–2; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 104; Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 1–8; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 2, 248. As Hollis points out (“Hathor and Isis,” 2), Ḥatḥōr’s identification with the Lady of Byblos is secondary, as suggested by Ḥatḥōr’s alternate associations with Dendera in Upper Egypt and Memphis. Moreover, the Lady of Byblos’s temple, founded perhaps as early as the twenty-ninth century, precedes the earliest extant evidence from the Egyptian Second Dynasty for Ḥatḥōr’s existence in Egypt (Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 2; Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 5–13, esp. 11 n. 2; Scandone Matthiae, “problema,” 64–5; idem, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 401–6; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 104 n. 5). Hollis suggests (“Hathor and Isis,” 3) that the Egyptians identified Ḥatḥōr with the Lady of Byblos because of the former’s association with cattle, Ḥatḥōr’s connection to boats and navigation, and her close, protective relationship to the Egyptian king. Stadelmann (Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 10–1; cf. Bonnet, Astarté, 21), in turn, highlights Ḥatḥōr’s connections to raw materials in distant regions, ships, fertility, and perhaps seafaring. Stadelmann further speculates (ibid., 11 n. 2) that the Lady of Byblos’s name was eventually lost following her merger with Ḥatḥōr in the Middle Kingdom period. Cf. Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 118.


Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 10–11; Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 401–2; Lipiński, Dieux et déesses, 72; Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 1–8; Zernecke, “Lady of the Titles,” 228. See also S. Allam, Beiträge zum Hathorkult (bis zum Ende des Mittleren Reiches), MAeS 4 (Berlin: Bruno Hessling, 1963), 132 n. 4; R.O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts: Spells 1–1185 & Indexes, 1 vol. repr. (Oxford: Aris & Phillips, 2004), 56. In CT 61, “Ḥatḥōr, Lady of Byblos” (nbt kbn) is associated with the steering oar of the deceased’s barc.


Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 1, with references to earlier literature.


Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte, 35–8, no. 11, fig. 6, pl. XXVIII; Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 403; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 106–7, fig. 1. Espinel observes (“Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 111) that the nw-jars “seem to have been closely linked to Egyptian religious practices,” as they “usually appear in sculptures and reliefs being carried by kings who are making offerings to the gods.”


P. Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte, 35–8, pl. 28; Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 6 n. 2, 105; Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 403; idem, “Una statuetta del Museo Egizio di Torino con dedica ad Hathor signora di Biblo,” RSF 15 (1987): 115–26, here 123–4; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 106–7; Zernecke, “Lady of the Titles,” 228 n. 8.


Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. I, 18–9, n. 1051, pl. XLIII; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 108–19; Zernecke, “Lady of the Titles,” 228. Cf. also Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 4.


Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. II, 650 and n. 1; P. Montet, “Notes et documents pour servir à l’histoire des relations entre l’Égypte et la Syrie XIII – Quatre nouvelles inscriptions hiéroglyphiques de Byblos,” Kêmi 17 (1964): 61–8, here 66; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 108; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 79–80, 81, 87 (transcription and translation from p. 87). Kilani notes (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 87; see also p. 96) that the stele’s reference to the Lady of Byblos and her temple raises the important issue of the relationship between the goddess’s temple and the Temple of the Obelisks.


G.T. Martin, “A Late Middle Kingdom Prince at Byblos,” in Studies in Honor of William Kelly Simpson, ed. P. Der Manuelian, vol. 2 (Boston: MFA, 1996), 595–9; transcription and translation from Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116 n. 80. Another cylinder seal from the Thirteenth Dynasty mentions a certain Yakīn-Ɂilu in cuneiform, and includes an Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription that reads: “the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sehetepibre, [beloved] of Hathor, Lady [of Byblos?]” (ny-swt bjty s.ḥtp-jb-rʕ [mry] nb(t) [kbn (?)]; transcription and translation from Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116 n. 80); see T.G. Pinches and P.E. Newberry, “A Cylinder-Seal Inscribed in Hieroglyphic and Cuneiform in the Collection of the Earl of Carnarvon,” JEA (1921): 196–9.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 59–65, 103–4, 166–70, 245–6, 248–52. Kilani also observes (ibid., 38, 65–98; see also 103–4, 245–6, 274; cf. Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116–7) that the presence of numerous Middle and Late Bronze Age scarabs and other Egyptian objects found in the Byblian Temple of the Obelisks – including one Middle Bronze Age obelisk containing an Egyptian dedicatory inscription offered by Ibishemu, the “city ruler of Byblos” (ḥȝty-ʿ n kȝpny), to the Egyptian god Heryshaf – points toward the importance of this religious institution in mediating Byblos’s interactions with Egypt in the second millennium as well. For an exhaustive treatment of Egyptian scarabs in the northern Levant from the late third through first millennia, see V. Boschloos, “The Geo-Chronological Distribution of Egyptian Scarab-Shaped Seals in the Northern Levant (Syria and Lebanon) from the Late 3rd Millennium to the Late Iron Age” (Ph.D. diss., Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2011–2012). While Kilani highlights the fact that the Amarna letters portray the Pharaoh trading only with the Byblian king and never with the temple of the Lady of Byblos (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 245–6), this may simply be due to the royal character of Rīb-Hadda’s letters as historical sources.


Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 10; W.A. Ward, “Egypt and the East Mediterranean in the Early Second Millennium B.C.,” Or 30 (1961): 22–45 and 129–55; J.M. Weinstein, “Egyptian Relations with Palestine in the Middle Kingdom,” BASOR 217 (1975): 1–16; Roth, “Gebal,” 922–3; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 117; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 124–5, 152–3, 270–1. This designation perhaps may be compared with the Akkadian term ḫazannu in the Late Bronze Age Amarna correspondence for Egypt’s local vassal kings in Syria-Palestine, including the local king of Byblos, Rīb-Hadda. It should be noted, however, that there is no evidence that Byblos militarily resisted Egypt’s imperial intrusion in the early Late Bronze Age, and the city may have submitted peacefully for political, religious, and/or economic reasons; see Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 142–53, 159–65 (on the evidence from the early topographical lists, which do not mention Byblos), 272.


See Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 401–6; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 114–6 and n. 80; Zernecke, “Lady of the Titles,” 228 and n. 8; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 121–224.


jw rdj~n = j mḏḥ = tw ʿḥʿw ʿšȝw nw ʿš ḥr ḏww nw tȝ-nṯr m-hȝw tȝ nbt kpny. For the text, see K. Sethe and W. Helck, Urkunden der 18. Dynastie, 22 fasc., Urkunden des ägyptischen Altertums IV (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1906–1958), 17:1227–43, here 1232:1–6 (hereafter abbreviated Urk IV). See also G.A. Reisner and M.B. Reisner, “Inscribed Monuments from Gebel Barkal,” ZÄS 69 (1933): 24–39, here 28–9, pl. iv; R.J. Leprohon, Stelae II: The New Kingdom to the Coptic Period, Corpus antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum, Boston MFA 3 (Mainz: Zabern, 1991), 139–43; P. Beylage, Aufbau der königlichen Stelentexte vom Beginn der 18. Dynastie bis zur Amarnazeit, ÄAT 54 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2002), 171–203, 652–71; A. Klug, Königliche Stelen in der Zeit von Ahmose bis Amenophis III, MA 8 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002), 193–208; D.B. Redford, The Wars in Syria and Palestine of Thutmose III, CHANE 16 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 103–19; Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 402; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 115 and n. 75; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 121–30 (transcription and translation from p. 123). Espinel observes (Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 115) that this inscription “is written using an official discourse characterised by its self-sufficiency and by the omission of any kind of reciprocal diplomatic relation which could explain why it does not refer to the ‘payment’ of the cutting of timber entailed in the offerings to Baʾalat.”


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 123; see also 124.


M. Kilani, “Between Geographical Imaginary and Geographical Reality: Byblos and the Limits of the World in the 18th Dynasty,” in Current Research in Egyptology 2015 – Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Symposium, University of Oxford, United Kingdom 15–18 April 2015, ed. C. Alvarez et al. (Oxford: Oxbow, 2016), 74–87; idem, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 252–7.


E. Eichler, “Die Reisen des Sennefri (TT 99),” SAK 26 (1998): 215–28; N. Strudwick, “The Theban Tomb of Senneferi [TT.99]: An Overview of Work Undertaken from 1992 to 1999,” Memnonia 11 (2000): 241–66; idem, “The Tomb of Senneferi at Thebes,” Egyptian Archaeology 18 (2001): 6–9; idem, “Theban Tomb 99 (Senneferi): University of Cambridge Theban Mission 2002,” ASAE 79 (2005): 157–64; idem, ed., The Tomb of Pharaoh’s Chancellor Senneferi at Thebes (TT99), vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxbow, 2016); Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 114; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 133–9, 237. In light of various similarities, including Byblos’s association with the “mountains of God’s Land,” Kilani (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 137) identifies Senneferi’s mission with that mentioned by Thutmose III in the Gebel Barkal Stele.


Transliteration and translation from Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 135 and 136 note f. Kilani discusses the many difficulties involved in translating this passage and offers three alternatives to his preferred translation: (1) “… there. Byblos, which gave them/her her Horus”; (2) “… there, (viz.) Byblos, which (i.e., Byblos) gave them/her to her Horus”; and (3) “… therein, (viz.) Byblos, who (referring to a “her” lost in the lacuna) gave them/her(self?) to her Horus.”


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 136: “The possessor ‘her’ cannot be Byblos, because kȝpny is masculine. The simplest assumption is that these pronouns refer to the Lady of Byblos, the goddess of the city” (see also pp. 137, 155, 237, 274). Cf. Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 114–5.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 138–9; see also 153–5.


Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte, 249 and pl. clii (no. 947); Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. II, pl. clv (no. 13439); Morris, Architecture of Imperialism, 120–1, 139; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 43–5, 126, 154. Kilani argues (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 153) that “[s]uch building activities reinforced the link with Egypt, and brought the temple at least ideologically, within the domain of the Pharaoh, turning it ideologically into an ‘Egyptian’ temple for an ‘Egyptian’ goddess.” See also n. 81 below.


Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, vol. II, pl. clv (no. 11673); Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 48–9 (transcription and translation from p. 48).


See J. Yoyette, “Le général Djehouty et la perception des tributs syriens: Causerie au sujet d’un objet égaré,” BSFE 92 (1981): 33–51; J. Bourriau, “Museum Acquisitions, 1987: Egyptian Antiquities Acquired in 1987 by Museums in the United Kingdom,” JEA 75 (1989): 209–11; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 49–52, 147; see also p. 247, where Kilani queries whether Djehuti may have been based at Byblos. Kilani also notes a limestone statue of a sitting man, possibly a priest, that contains an Egyptian inscription mentioning, “Ḥatḥōr, Lady of …” (ḥwt-ḥr nbt), as further evidence of “the veneration enjoyed by the goddess of Byblos among the Egyptians outside the royal sphere” (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 64; see Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte, 57 no. 32).


Urk IV 18:1442.15–1443.25. See É. Drioton, Rapport sur les fouilles de Médamoud (1926): Les inscriptions (Cairo: Ifao, 1927), 52–6; H.A.J. Kees, Das Priestertum im ägyptischen Staat vom neuen Reich bis zur Spätzeit, PAe 1 (Leiden: Brill, 1953), 33–5; P. Vernus, Athribis: Textes et documents relatifs à la géographie, aux cultes et à l’histoire d’une ville du delta égyptien à l’époque pharaonique, Bibliothèque d’étude 74 (Cairo: Ifao, 1978), 29; H. de Meulenaere, “Le directeur des travaux Minmose,” MDAI 37 (1981): 315–9; P. Der Manuelian, Studies in the Reign of Amenophis II, Hildesheimer ägyptologische Beiträge 26 (Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1987), 164–6; B. Cumming, Egyptian Historical Records of the Later Eighteenth Dynasty, fasc. 2 (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1984), 140, #1443; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 115 and n. 73; Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 402; Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 3; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 104, 130–2, 153.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 153–4, 249. According to Kilani (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 249), “[w]ithin this ideological narrative, the goddess of the city replaced the local ruler as the Egyptian king’s economic partner.” Cf. Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 114 (“[Egyptian] ceremonial donations to the Baʾalat Gebal could not have only been motivated by piety or the Egyptians’ desire for protection in a place far from the Nile Valley. They must also have been one of the instruments by which the Egyptian court wished to obtain political and economic benefits from the authorities in Byblos”); Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 10 (“… hatte Byblos im MR den Status einer ägyptischen Stadt inne, die von einheimischen Fürsten mit den ägyptischen Titeln eines Stadtfürsten verwaltet wurde”).


H. Ranke, Die ägyptischen Personennamen, vol. 1 (Glückstadt: Augustin, 1935), 189; Stadelmann, Syrisch-palästinensische Gottheiten in Ägypten, 11 and n. 3; S.H. Horn, “Byblos in Ancient Records,” AUSS 1 (1963): 52–61; Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 402; Zernecke, “Lady of the Titles,” 228; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 221–4. Such Egyptian personal names first appear in the Middle Kingdom period.


P. Lacau, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire (Nos. 34001–34064): Stèles du Nouvel Empire, vol. 1, pt. 1, Service des antiquités de l’Égypte (Cairo: Ifao, 1909), 169, pl. liii; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 221–2.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 223 and 224, respectively; cf. also p. 248.


Montet, Byblos et l’Égypte, pl. xxxiv (nos. 24 and 25); C. Obsomer, Ramsès II, Grands pharaons (Paris: Pygmalion, 2012), 66–7, 123; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 46–8, 64.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 98–103, with earlier references.


See S. Birch, E. Hawkins, and J. Netherclift, ed., Select Papyri in the Hieratic Character from the Collections of the British Museum: Anastasi Papyri, vol. 2 (London: Nicol, 1842), pls. xxxv–lxii; Sir A.H. Gardiner, Egyptian Hieratic Texts: Literary Texts of the New Kingdom, Series 1 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1911), 1*–34*, 1–40; H.-W. Fischer-Elfert, Die satirische Streitschrift des Papyrus Anastasi I.: Übersetzung und Kommentar, ÄgAbh 44 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1986); idem, Die satirische Streitschrift des Papyrus Anastasi I.: Textzusammenstellung, 2nd rev. ed., Kleine ägyptische Texte (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1992), esp. 261–7; B. Schad, Die Entdeckung des “Briefes” als literarisches Ausdrucksmittel in der Ramessidenzeit, Schriftenreihe Antiquates 34 (Hamburg: Kovač, 2006), 11–62; Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 402; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 200–4, 289.


sḏd=j n=k ky dmj štȝ r-ḏd kȝ-pw-nȝ rn=f sw mj-jḫ tȝy=sn nṯrt ky sp; 20.7–21.2. Transliteration and translation from Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 200–1.


Ibid., 201.


Ibid., 202.


Scandone Matthiae, “Una statuetta,” 115–25; idem, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 402; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 206–7.


C. Leitz, Magical and Medical Papyri of the New Kingdom, HPBM 7 (London: British Museum, 1999), esp. 21, pl. 8; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 204–6 (text from 205).


A. Scheepers, “Le voyage d’Ounamon: Un texte « littéraire » ou « non-littéraire »?,” in Amosiadès: Mélanges offerts au Professeur Claude Vandersleyen par ses anciens étudiants, ed. C. Obsomer and A.-L. Oosthoek (Louvain-la-Neuve: Université catholique de Louvain, 1992), 355–65; J. Baines, “On Wenamun as a Literary Text,” in Literatur und Politik im pharaonischen und ptolemäischen Ägypten: Vorträge der Tagung zum Gedenken an Georges Posener, 5.–10. September 1996 in Leipzig, ed. J. Assmann and E. Blumenthal, Bibliothèque d’étude 127 (Cairo: Ifao, 1999), 209–33; idem, “On the Background of Wenamun in Inscriptional Genres and in Topoi of Obligations among Rulers,” in Texte – Theben – Tonfragmente: Festschrift für Günter Burkard, ed. D. Kessler et al., ÄAT 76 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009), 27–36; B.U. Schipper, “Die Erzählung des Wenamun: Ein Literaturwerk im Spannungsfeld von Politik, Geschichte und Religion” (Ph.D. diss., Universität Hamburg, 2005), esp. 56; Roth, “Gebal,” 922–3; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 117 n. 84; Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 4; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 220–1, 248, 250, 292. For a convenient English translation of the tale of Wenamun, see M. Lichtheim’s in COS 1:89–93.


Scandone Matthiae, “Hathor Signora di Biblo,” 403–4; Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 1–8; Zernecke, “Lady of the Titles,” 228–30.


Bordreuil, “Astarté,” 1156; Lipiński, Dieux et déesses, 72–3; Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 4; Zernecke, “Lady of the Titles,” 228–30; Mullen, Jr., “Baalat,” DDD: 139–40, here 139. See also I. Cornelius, “Astarte,” Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East, ed. J. Eggler and C. Uehlinger, (August 12, 2008), 2 (date of access: June 4, 2019). The Lady of Byblos appears to have been identified with Isis at least as early as the seventh century; see Bonnet, Astarté, 20–2; Hollis, “Hathor and Isis in Byblos,” 1, 4; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 205, 250, 292.


On the notion of divine agency, see B. Pongratz-Leisten and K. Sonik, “Between Cognition and Culture: Theorizing the Materiality of Divine Agency in Cross-Cultural Perspective,” in The Materiality of Divine Agency, ed. B. Pongratz-Leisten and K. Sonik, SANER 8 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015), 3–69.


Hollis (“Hathor and Isis,” 3) makes the important observation that Rīb-Hadda never actually identifies the Lady of Byblos with Ḥatḥōr, although the significance of this absence is open to debate. She suggests several possibilities (“Hathor and Isis,” 3): “Perhaps [Ḥatḥōr’s] role there was so clear that her name was simply omitted; perhaps bʿlt gbl was considered her name at that time; perhaps the open epithet allowed both the recipient and the writer to fill in the name as desired; or perhaps leaving the explicit name out was a diplomatic move.” Note Hollis’s assumption that the designation Lady of Byblos’s is an “open epithet” and not the goddess’s “explicit name.” See also Hollis, “Hathor and Isis,” 5: “In conclusion, Hathor, although clearly not the original Mistress of Byblos (a deity who yet lacks a specific name)….”


na-a[d-nu-ka] DINGIR.MEŠ ù dUTU ù dN[IN] ša uruGub-la ù aš-[b]a[-ta] a-na gišGU.ZA É a-bi-ka a-na KUR-ka.


Also independently observed by Xella, “Pantheon e culto a Biblo,” 201; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 167, 250.


ù ia-di-na ba-la-ṭá ÌR-šu ù yu-˹ba˺-li-iṭ ÌR-šu ù a-na-ṣara˺ [URU] ˹ki˺-it-ti-šu a-di N[IN]-nu DINGIR.MEŠ-nu a[-na ka-ta5].


That the first person plural pronominal suffix “our” refers to Rīb-Hadda and the city of Byblos and not somehow to Rīb-Hadda and the Egyptian king can be seen by the way Rīb-Hadda here contrasts “his (i.e., the Pharaoh’s) [loyal] city” with “our La[dy] (and) our gods,” as well as the following prepositional phrase “f[or you]” (a[-na ka-ta5]), i.e., for the Pharaoh.


[TI.LA] ˹ZI˺-ia ka-li DINGIR.MEŠ-nu ˹ù˺ [dNIN š]a uruGub-la KI ˹TI˺.LA.


DINGER.MEŠnu˺ šu-lum-ka šu-lum É-ka li-iš-al. On the common use of DINGIR.MEŠ as a singular in the Amarna correspondence, see Moran, Amarna Letters, 156 n. 11; Na’aman, “On Gods and Scribal Traditions,” 255.


Smith, God in Translation, 67–8 (italics in original), citing Moran’s translation of EA 137:30–32 (Amarna Letters, 218). See also EAC 1:698–99. One should compare KAI 4, wherein the Byblian king Yeḥīmilk invokes Baʕl-šamēm, the Lady of Byblos, and “the assembly of the holy gods of Byblos” (wpḥrt.Ɂlgbl|qdšm). See Bonnet, Religionen in der Umwelt des Alten Testaments, 79–80.


EA 84:31–35 also suggests Rīb-Hadda’s expectation of the Egyptian king’s recognition of the importance of a Byblian god. Rīb-Hadda writes: “May my lord (i.e., the Egyptian king) send men to take the property of my AN.DA.MU to the king, my lord, so that dog (i.e., ʕAbdi-Aširta) does not take the property of your god” (lu-wa-ši-ra be-li-ia LÚ.MEŠ ú ti-ìl-qú mi-im-mimeš dDA.MU-ia a-na ma-ḫar BAD-ia ù ú-ul ìl-te9-qa mi-im-mameš ˹ša˺ DINGIR.MEŠ-ka). Rīb-Hadda here qualifies the deity whose name is written AN.DA.MU as “my AN.DA.MU,” and he also identifies AN.DA.MU as “your (i.e., the Egyptian king’s) god.” Thus, Rīb-Hadda asserts the Egyptian king’s recognition of this Byblian deity as the Pharaoh’s own. T.N.D. Mettinger (“Amarna Letter No. 84: Damu, Adonis, and ‘The Living God’ at Byblos,” in Sefer Moshe – The Moshe Weinfeld Jubilee Volume: Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, Qumran, and Post-Biblical Judaism, ed. C. Cohen, A. Hurvitz, and S. Paul [Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2004], 361–71) argues that AN.DA.MU is a logographic writing for the god Adon, whose character was similar to the god Damu’s (see also Moran, Amarna Letters, 156 n. 11, and cf. n. 108 below). On Damu, see B. Becking, “Blood,” DDD: 175–6. The god DA.MU was worshiped in southern Mesopotamia, particularly at the cities of Isin and Girsu, down into the Old Babylonian period. Evidently, Damu was a healing deity with the ability to drive away demons, and some texts portray him with the character of a vegetation deity like Tammuz and Adonis (Becking, “Blood,” 175–6). R. Hess (Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007], 93–4), in turn, suggests that AN.DA.MU may be the male counterpart to the Lady of Byblos, and that this god may be the same as the deity bʕl gbl, “Lord of Byblos,” mentioned in KAI 4:3–4 from the tenth century. However, there is significant disagreement among scholars about the proper reading of the deity’s name in KAI 4:3–4. The inscription mentions either the “Lord” or “Lady of Byblos,” depending on whether or not one chooses to emend the text to read bʕltgbl instead of bʕl gbl. Most scholars (including KAI) emend the text to refer to the Lady of Byblos on the basis of other inscriptional evidence (e.g., J.C.L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions, Volume III: Phoenician Inscriptions Including Inscriptions in the Mixed Dialect of Arslan Tash [Oxford: Clarendon, 1982], 19). Similar to Hess, Zernecke (“Lady of the Titles,” 230 n. 19, 235 n. 45) argues to retain the reading bʕl gbl, “Lord of Byblos,” connecting (Pseudo-)Lucian’s association of Byblian Aphrodite and Adonis in De Dea Syria 6 with KAI 4:3–4. Methodologically, I am hesitant to harmonize KAI 4:3–4 (a Phoenician text conventionally situated in the tenth century) with (Pseudo-)Lucian’s loose association of Byblian Aphrodite and Adonis in the second century CE. Moreover, there is little evidence for any “Lord of Byblos” outside of KAI 4, apart perhaps from a difficult reference in KTU3 2.44 (RS 18.134), a very damaged letter probably from the king of Byblos to the king of Ugarit, in which the Byblian king(?) may refer to “Baal of Byblos” (bʕl gbl; l. 8) and “Baal of Ṣapān” (bʕl ṣpn; l. 10), though this is uncertain (cf. Smith, Where the Gods Are, 85; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 213–5).


Kilani further observes (“Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 168, 171; see also p. 235) that Rīb-Hadda’s citation of the Lady of Byblos as a witness in this matter points to the goddess’s importance in Byblos’s economic life.


GIŠ.MÁ LÚ.M[ uruGub-la] ˹˺.MEŠ-ka DIN[GIR.MEŠ ti-ìl-qé] a-di muḫ[-ḫi-ka ù i-te-zi-ib] ˹uru˺[Gub-la].


Rainey translates: “the deities, my life” (EAC 1:668–9), though ba-al-ṭì appears to be singular not plural. Moran, who translates “along with (my) living god,” interprets this reference to the “living god” in light of the reference in EA 84:35 to a Byblian god AN.DA.MU, often thought to be the god Adonis (Amarna Letters, 209, 211 n. 23; see n. 105 above). However, the language of extradition closely parallels that of EA 132:54–55, and so perhaps one should understand the “living god” – if one accepts this translation/interpretation – in EA 129:50–51 as referring to the Lady of Byblos instead of AN.DA.MU (so Naʾaman, “On Gods and Scribal Traditions,” 249). See further Mettinger, “Amarna Letter,” 361–71; idem, The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East, ConBOT 50 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2001), 23–34, 116–54, 175–79, 187–215; E. Frahm, “Review of T.N.D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East,” ZA 93 (2003): 294–300; Naʾaman, “On Gods and Scribal Traditions,” 248–51; S. Ribichini, “Adonis,” DDD: 7–10, here 7; M.S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 118 and 262 n. 129; S. Ackerman, Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in Sixth-Century Judah, HSM 46 (Atlanta: Scholars, 1992), 83. Ackerman equates the deity Damu with the god Dumuzi. On the relationship between Damu and Dumuzi, who were sometimes equated, sometimes distinguished, see further T. Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 27, 63.


Pryke (“King and I,” 58–60) has independently offered a similar suggestion, albeit tentatively. She also gives as a second possibility that Rīb-Hadda might “not give the blessing when in times of trouble or extreme dissatisfaction with the Pharaoh” (ibid.). However, Rīb-Hadda’s many complaints against the Pharaoh and the portrait that he paints of Byblos’s impending doom at the hands of Amurru in his letters that do invoke the goddess may speak against this suggestion.


a-mur iš-tu da-r[i-ti] la-a i-te9-li-y[u] i-na uruGub-la DINGIR.M[] [i]-na-an-na uš-ši[-ir] [i]A-zi-ru ÉRIN.MEŠ a-n[a] [ṣa-]ba-ti-ìš i-nu-ma [n]a-ad-nu DINGIR.MEŠ-nu [ù] [a-ṣ]a-ú ù ia-nu [ÉRIN.MEŠ] [i-]na URU a-na da-k[i] [ÌR L]Ú.UR.RI limni˺ [ù] [ú-u]l ti-tu-ru-na.


In this vein, note Rīb-Hadda’s comment to the Egyptian king in EA 137:30–33: “The king, my lord, knows that the gods of Byblos are holy, and the distress is great, and I (have) committed crimes against the gods” (i-de-mi LUGAL be-li i-nu-ma DINGIR.MEŠ uruGub-la qa-di-šu ù mur-ṣu-ú ma-gal ù ḫi-i15-ṭí ep-ša-ti a-na DINGIR.MEŠ). Are Rīb-Hadda’s crimes the cause of the deities’ departure? On the issue of divine anger and abandonment in the ancient Near East, see D.I. Block, “Divine Abandonment: Ezekiel’s Adaptation of an Ancient Near Eastern Motif,” in The Book of Ezekiel: Theological and Anthropological Perspectives, ed. M.S. Odell and J.T. Strong, SBLSymS 9 (Atlanta: SBL, 2000), 15–42; J.F. Kutsko, Between Heaven and Earth: Divine Presence and Absence in the Book of Ezekiel, BJSUCSD 7 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2001), 103–23; D.E. Grant, Divine Anger in the Hebrew Bible, CBQMS 52 (Washington: CBA, 2014); A. Johandi, “The Motif of Divine Abandonment in Some Mesopotamian Texts Featuring the God Marduk,” in Kings, Gods and People: Establishing Monarchies in the Ancient World, ed. T.R. Kämmerer, M. Kõiv, and V. Sazonov, AOAT 390/4, AAMO 4 (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2016), 135–86.


On the politics of godnapping in the ancient Near East, see S.W. Cole and P. Machinist, Letters from Priests to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, SAA 13 (Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1998), esp. 11–3, 134–53; K.F. Kravitz, “Divine Trophies of War in Assyria and Ancient Israel: Case Studies in Political Theology” (Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University, 1999); B.N. Porter, “Gods’ Statues as a Tool of Assyrian Political Policy: Esarhaddon’s Return of Marduk to Babylon,” in Religious Transformations and Socio-Political Change: Eastern Europe and Latin America, ed. L. Martin, RelSoc 33 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999), 9–24; E.D. Johnson, “Stealing the Enemy’s Gods: An Exploration of the Phenomenon of Godnap in Ancient Western Asia” (Ph.D. diss., University of Birmingham, 2011); H. Schaudig, “Death of Statues and Rebirth of Gods,” in Iconoclasm and Text Destruction in the Ancient Near East and Beyond, ed. N.N. May, OIS 8 (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2012), 123–49; S. Zaia, “State-Sponsored Sacrilege: ‘Godnapping’ and Omission in Neo-Assyrian Inscriptions,” JANEH 2 (2015): 19–54. This interpretation may find additional support in Moran’s translation of the text, which provisionally takes [n]a-ad-nu as a first-person plural, “we gave (up),” with “gods” as its object (Amarna Letters, 215–6 and n. 3).


ú-ul naad˺-nu-ni [i-r]e-ba la-qí ar-˹ni˺ ˹LUGAL˺ L[Ú.ÉRIN.M] iA-zi-ri ša-ka-an a-na l[ìb-bi U]RU.[KI] ù ti-mu-ru URU.K[I] ˹i˺-nu-m[a ÉR]IN.MEŠ ša-nu a-ša-bu a-na URU.KI ù t[i-m]a-ga-r[u] i-re-bi a-na U[RU.]KI…. ù ti-[]-bi-ru ÉRIN.MEŠ iA-zi-˹ri˺ iš-˹tu˺ URU.KI.


The precise contours of Rīb-Hadda’s last days in Byblos are difficult to reconstruct. Evidently, by the time of EA 134, Aziru and the kingdom of Amurru had limited the kingdom of Byblos’s holdings to the city itself, which then placed significant political pressure on Rīb-Hadda to ally with Aziru. See Benz, “Varieties,” 278–9; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 193, 199, 277.


For this and what follows, see Saghieh-Beydoun, Byblos in the Third Millennium, 1–3 and ill. 1, 40–58; Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116; Pinnock, “Byblos and Ebla,” 120–7; Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 31–9, 44–5, 49–50; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 59–65 (with drawings of the temple’s architectural layout during the preceding Early and Middle Bronze Ages and references to previous studies). Regarding the temple’s location in center of the city, cf. Rīb-Hadda’s statement in EA 137:59–62: “May the king, my lord, not be silent toward (his) city. Truly, it has very great (quantities of) silver and gold in its center, (and) the property belonging to the house(s) of its gods is substantial” (ú-ul ia-qú-ul11-mi LUGAL be-li iš-tu URU-liki šum-ma ma-gal ma-ad KÙ.BABBAR KÙ.GI a-na lìb-bi-ši a-na É DINGIR.MEŠ-ši ma-ad mi-im-mu). In this vein, note both Rīb-Hadda’s request in EA 132:54–55 that the Egyptian king fetch him and the Lady of Byblos’s property, and his statement in EA 109:30–32 that he “took from the temple of [the ‘Lady of Byblo]s’” (iš-tu ˹É˺ [dNIN ša uruGub-l]a) in order to ransom twelve of his men. If these statements are to be read in light of each other, perhaps one should see the temple(s) in the center of the city referred to in EA 137:59–62 as that of the Lady of Byblos especially.


Saghieh-Beydoun, Byblos in the Third Millennium, 2, ill. 1, 40–58; Pinnock, “Byblos and Ebla,” 122–3; Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 31–5, 38; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 19–24.


Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 36–9, 44; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 59, 61–2.


Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 44; Bonnet, Religionen in der Umwelt des Alten Testaments, 51; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 61–2, 64.


Pinnock, “Ebla and Byblos,” 124–6; Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 21–2.


Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 36 (“The Baalat Gebal Temple was the main city temple, dedicated to the tutelary god [sic] of the city, strictly connected with the ruling institution and playing a decisive role in the diplomatic and commercial practices with the Egyptian pharaohs; a role which it would maintain until the 1st millennium BC”); Espinel, “Temple of Baʾalat Gebal,” 116–7.


On this issue, see the following anthropologically oriented archaeological studies: C.L. Crumley, “Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies,” in Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies, ed. R. Ehrenreich, C.L. Crumley, and J.E. Levy (Arlington: AAA, 1995), 1–5; Crumley, “Alternative Forms of Social Order,” in Heterarchy, Political Economy, and the Ancient Maya: The Three Rivers Region of the East-Central Yucatán Peninsula, ed. V.L. Scarborough, F. Valdez, and N. Dunning (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003), 136–45; R.E. Blanton et al., “A Dual-Processual Theory for the Evolution of Mesoamerican Civilization,” Curr. Anthropol. 37 (1996): 1–14; R.E. Blanton, “Beyond Centralization: Steps toward a Theory of Egalitarian Behavior in Archaic States,” in Archaic States, ed. G.M. Feinman and J. Marcus, SARASS (Santa Fe: School of American Research, 1998), 135–72, esp. 154–67; S.K. McIntosh, Beyond Chiefdoms: Pathways to Complexity in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); A.T. Smith, The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); A. Porter, Mobile Pastoralism and the Formation of Near Eastern Civilizations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), esp. 40; and cf. Fleming, Democracy’s Ancient Ancestors, 174–80, 236–8; idem, The Legacy of Israel in Judah’s Bible: History, Politics, and the Reinscribing of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 179–201.


Kilani, “Byblos in the Late Bronze Age,” 19–23.


Quote from Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 44; see also Pinnock, “Byblos and Ebla,” 123, 125. Sala observes that the concentric path connecting Byblos’s major sanctuaries may have allowed for large religious processions.


Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 44.


For discussion and examples, see Sala, “Early and Middle Bronze Age Temples at Byblos,” 43–4 (the Enceinte Sacrée), 48–9 (the Champ des Offrandes), 50; the quote comes from p. 43.

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