|Major cult center||Palmyra, Ta'if|
|Symbol||lion, gazelle, crescent, cubic rock|
Lion of Al-lāt (Palmyrene tradition)|
Dushara (Nabataean tradition)
|Children||Dushara (Nabataean tradition)|
Allat, also spelled Allatu, Alilat, Allāt, and al-Lāt (Arabic: اللات, pronounced [al(i)ˈlaːt(u)]) is a name and title used to refer to multiple goddesses worshipped in the ancient Near East, including the Semitic goddesses Asherah and Athirat. More importantly, it refers to the pre-Islamic Arabian goddess worshipped alongside Manāt and al-‘Uzzá throughout the entire peninsula, including Mecca.
According to Islamic sources, the tribe of Banu Thaqif in Ta'if especially holds reverence to her. Under Greco-Roman influence, her iconography began to show the attributes of Athena, the Greek goddess of war, as well as her Roman equivalent Minerva. In Islamic tradition, her worship ended when her shrine in Ta'if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad.
Etymology and name
There are two possible etymologies of the name al-Lat. The etymology best reflecting the Arab lexicographical tradition derives the name from the verb latta (to mix or knead barley-meal). It has also been associated with the "idol of jealousy" erected in the temple of Jerusalem according to the Book of Ezekiel, which was offered an oblation of barley-meal by the husband who suspected his wife of infidelity. It can be inferred from al-Kalbi's Book of Idols that a similar ritual was practiced in the vicinity of the idol of al-Lat. The second etymology, which is more in line with Semitic traditions in general, takes al-Lat to be the feminine form of Allah.
As a title
The word al-Lat was used as a name and title for multiple pre-Islamic goddesses of Arabia and was used for either a wife of Allah or a daughter depending on the region. It has been hypothesized that Allat is the consort of Allah based on the fact that it is typical of deities in that area of the world to have consorts. It was used as a title for the goddesses Asherah and Athirat. The word is akin to Elat, which was the name of the wife of the Semitic deity El.
Especially in older sources, Allat is an alternative name of the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld, now usually known as Ereshkigal. She was reportedly also venerated in Carthage under the name Allatu.
In Safaitic inscriptions, al-Lat was invoked for solitude and mercy. She was expected to bring well-being, ease and prosperity. Travelers would invoke her for good weather and protection. She was also invoked for vengeance, booty from raids, and infliction of blindness and lameness to anyone who defaces the inscriptions.
Herodotus acknowledged Alilat to be the equivalent of Aphrodite Ourania. According to Herodotus, the ancient Arabians believed in only two gods:
They believe in no other gods except Dionysus and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat.
Al-Lat's worship in South Arabia was not popular. She was not the object of an organized cult, with two amulets (inscribed "Lat" on one, "Latan" on the other) being the only indication that this goddess received worship.
Al-Lat was worshipped the most in northern Arabia. The Qedarites, a northern Arabian tribal confederation, seemed to also worship al-Lat, as evidenced by a silver bowl dedicated by a Qedarite king, with the goddess' name inscribed on it.
The Nabataeans and the people of Hatra also worshipped al-Lat, equating her with the Greek goddesses Athena and Tyche and the Roman goddess Minerva. She is frequently called "the Great Goddess" in Greek in multilingual inscriptions. The Nabataeans regarded al-Lat as the mother of the deities, and her family relations vary; sometimes she is regarded as the consort of Dushara, other times she is regarded as the mother of Dushara. Nabataean inscriptions state her as well as Al-'Uzza as the "brides of Dushara". According to Wellhausen, the Nabataeans believed al-Lat was the mother of Hubal (and hence the mother-in-law of Manāt).
Al-Lat was also venerated in Palmyra, which housed an Arab population, and there her temple had no signs of blood rituals. The practice of casting divination arrows, a common divination method in Arabia, was attested in her temple; an honorific inscription mentioning "a basin of silver for [casting] lots (lḥlq)". By the second-century AD, she began to be portrayed in the style of Athena, and was referred to as "Athena-Allāt", but this assimilation does not extend beyond its iconography. A famous statue that once adorned her temple there was the Lion of Al-lāt, once damaged by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but has been since restored.
In Islamic sources discussing pre-Islamic Arabia, al-Lat is attested as the chief-goddess of the Banu Thaqif tribe. She was said to be venerated in Taif, where she was called ar-Rabbah (The Lady). She reportedly had a shrine there which was decorated with ornaments and treasure of gold and onyx. There, the goddess was venerated in the form of a cubic rock. The area around the shrine was sacred; no trees could be felled, no animal hunted and no human blood can be shed.
Thou hast banished me for fear of lampoon and satire.
No! By Allat and all the sacred baetyls (ansab)
thou shalt not escape.
Am I to worship one lord or a thousand?
If there are as many as you claim,
I renounce al-Lat and al-Uzza, both of them,
as any strong-minded person would.
I will not worship al-Uzza and her two daughters …
I will not worship Hubal, though he was our lord
in the days when I had little sense.
Her custody was in the hands of the Banū Attāb ibn Mālik of the Thaqīf, who had built an edifice over her. The Quraysh, as well as all the Arabs, venerated al-Lāt. They also used to name their children after her, calling them Zayd al-Lāt and Taym al-Lāt. [...] Al-Lāt continued to be venerated until the Thaqīf embraced Islam, when Muhammad dispatched al-Mughīrah ibn-Shu‘bah, who destroyed her and burnt her temple to the ground.
In the Qur'an, she is mentioned along with al-‘Uzzá and Manāt in Sura 53:19–23, a verse that became the subject of the alleged Satanic Verses. The tribe of ʿĀd of Iram of the Pillars is also mentioned in Sura 89:5–8, and archaeological evidence from Iram shows copious inscriptions devoted to her for the protection of a tribe by that name.
According to Islamic tradition, the shrine dedicated to al-Lat in Ta'if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad, during the Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, in the same year as the Battle of Tabuk (which occurred in October 630 AD). The destruction of the idol was a demand by Muhammad before he would allow any reconciliation to take place with the tribes of Ta'if, who were under his siege.
F. V. Winnet saw al-Lat as a lunar deity due to association of a crescent with her in 'Ayn esh-Shallāleh and a Lihyanite inscription mentioning the name of Wadd over the title of 'fkl lt. René Dussaud and Gonzague Ryckmans linked her with Venus while others have thought her to be a solar deity. John F. Healey considers al-Uzza actually might have been an epithet of al-Lat before becoming a separate deity in Meccan pantheon. Redefining Dionysos considers she might have been a god of vegetation or a celestial deity of atmospheric phenomena and a sky deity.
Early Palmyrene depictions of Al-Lat share iconographical traits with Atargatis (when seated) and Astarte (when standing). The Lion of Al-Lat that once adorned her temple depicts a lion and a gazelle, the lion representing her consort, and the gazelle representing Al-Lat's tender and loving traits, as bloodshed was not permitted under Al-Lat's retaliation.
Al-Lat was associated with the Greek goddess Athena (and by extension, the Roman Minerva) in Nabataea, Hatra and Palmyra. It seems that her identification with Athena was only a mere change in iconography, and Al-Lat's character noticeably softened the warlike Athena in places where she was equated with. One Nabataean relief of Athena-Al-Lat depicts the goddess bearing both Athena and Al-Lat's attributes. The relief depicts the goddess in the style of Athena, but having a stylized square face (resembling Nabataean eye-idols) in place of the Gorgoneion.
Al-Lat was closely related with Al-'Uzza, and in some regions of the Nabataean kingdom, both Al-Lat and Al-'Uzza were said to be the same goddess. John F. Healey believes that Al-Lat and Al-'Uzza originated as a single goddess, which parted ways in the pre-Islamic Meccan tradition. Susan Krone suggests that both Allat and Al-'Uzza were uniquely fused in central Arabia.
In popular culture
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Allat.|
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