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Egypt, Ugarit, the God Ba’al, and the Puzzle of a Royal Rebuff

Morris, Ellen F.

The intercepted conversation that lies at the heart of this essay occurred between the pharaoh Merneptah (1213–1203 BCE)1 and his counterpart on the throne of Ugarit. At the time at which the letter was written, Egypt and Hatti were the
two most important superpowers in the ancient Near East.

It will be argued that the discussion surrounding the gifting (and not gifting) of statues was part and parcel of an on-going renegotiation of the nature of Ugarit’s political relationship with Egypt. Thus, after first reviewing the frayed state of Ugarit’s interactions with its Hittite overlord in and just prior to the reign of Merneptah, the essay will address the multifaceted role statues played in Egypt’s foreign relations.2 Egyptian and Near Eastern statues were anything but inert, and the gift of a statue of a god and/or a divine king could have a whole host of related repercussions. In attempting to interpret Merneptah’s original gift of the Bacal statue, as well as the pharaoh’s reluctance to furnish a statue of himself to go with it, at least four distinct rationales may have come into play, each of which will be discussed separately. The original sender and recipient of this letter, no doubt, had a clear sense of which—or which combination—of these possible factors was to be found lodged between the dense cluster of cuneiform lines. For contemporary scholars, sifting through the mail of long dead strangers, however, a whole host of possibilities must be considered. While a few of these might be justly criticized as speculative, it is the goal of this essay to identify a set of questions and to provoke generative thought about possible answers.

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Also Published In

Title
The Crossroads II, Or There and Back Again. Proceedings of an International Conference on the Relations of Egypt and the Near East in the Bronze Age
Publisher
Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts

More About This Work

Academic Units
Classics and Ancient Studies (Barnard College)
Publisher
Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts
Published Here
June 18, 2018
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