Where do Monsters Come From? Tracing the Leviathan from Ugarit to Final Fantasy

Rounding out a busy week for the blog (who would have thought that Aegean stuff in Doctor Who would have been so popular?), I have another article up on Eurogamer. This one’s a bit of a sequel to my one looking at the afterlife of Ba’al and traces the sea monster Leviathan from Ugaritic poem to triple-A video-game.

Leviathan

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-09-30-where-do-monsters-come-from

Advertisements

Under-Appreciated Monsters of the Ancient World #3 – Rabiṣu (The Lurker)

Rabisu_Poster_22x28

Film poster for ‘Resurrection: Rise of the Rabisu’, which I can’t find much information about and definitely doesn’t look rubbish.

For this little-known monster we head out to Bronze Age Mesopotamia. The Rabiṣu appears in a wide assortment of cuneiform texts, but it’s not exactly clear what it is (this amorphousness is pretty characteristic of Mesopotamian demons). Its name seems to come from the verb rabāṣu – to lie down or lurk, and many texts describe it lying in wait to strike unfortunate men who venture across its path, whether it’s hiding in a dark and dank well or has found its way into your own home. Continue reading

The Afterlife of Baʿal

(or, What This Ugaritian Storm-God Looks Like Now Will Astound You!)

1200px-Baal_thunderbolt_Louvre_AO15775

Ba’al on a stele from Ugarit, now in the Louvre

 

Callot 2011 Reconstruction 2

Reconstruction of the Temple of Ba’al on the acropolis of Ugarit. From Callot 2011

 

Ever since excavations began at the Syrian city of Ugarit in 1929, the importance of the god Baʿal has been clear. Among the first Ugaritic texts discovered at the site were mythological tablets recounting the legends of this god; Baʿal’s temple was excavated in prime position on the city’s acropolis, close to that of his father Dagan. While the supreme god El occupied the pinnacle of the Ugaritian pantheon, as more and more ritual and religious documents have been recovered from Ugarit, it’s become unquestionable that the city’s people felt a particular fondness and affinity for Baʿal, the archetypal king who had his palace on Mount Saphon overlooking the city.

But Baʿal was not solely an Ugaritian god and knowledge of him was far from lost with the destruction of the city around 1176 BC. Through the distorting filters of hostile Judaeo-Christian writings and the medieval and later traditions of demonology and the occult which reinterpreted them, Baʿal has enjoyed quite an afterlife which has taken him from Canaanite king and storm-god to lurid demon in the court of Satan. In this incarnation he’s spread through popular culture. It’s a massive amount of cultural baggage to have built up even before those first Ugaritic texts were discovered. Continue reading

Under-Appreciated Monsters of the Ancient World #2 – The Devourers

louvre-stele-quotbaal-foudrequot_0It’s time for another under-appreciated ancient monster from antiquity – or rather multiple monsters – because today we’re looking at the Devourers (ʾaklm), demons from Ugaritian mythology who faced off against Baʿal Hadad, the storm-god and patron deity of the city. Unfortunately no pictures of the Devourers exist, so I’ve had to make do with this image of Baʿal himself, on a stele from Ugarit and now in the Louvre.

Continue reading

Under-Appreciated Monsters of the Ancient World #1 – The Sucker

ktu-1-96

KTU 1.96. From Del Olmo Lete 2010

Everyone knows the Minotaur or the Cyclops, or the various strange creatures of ancient Egypt. In this occasional series I’m going to shine the spotlight on some of the other mythological nasties of antiquity, who are just as cool in their own ways but don’t get nearly enough love.

Today, The Sucker, or ‘Old Big-Eye’.

Continue reading