Baal with Thunderbolt
|Baal with Vegetation Spear|
The stele of Baal with Vegetation Spear
|Height||142 centimetres (56 in)|
|Width||50 centimetres (20 in)|
|Depth||28 centimetres (11 in)|
|Created||c. 15th century BC|
|Period/culture||Late Bronze Age|
|Place||Temple of Baal, Ugarit, Syria|
|Present location||Musée du Louvre, Paris|
Baal with Thunderbolt or the Baal stele is a white limestone bas-relief stele from the ancient kingdom of Ugarit in northwestern Syria. The stele was discovered in 1932, about 20 metres (66 ft) from the Temple of Baal in the acropolis of Ugarit, during excavations directed by French archaeologist Claude F. A. Schaeffer. The stele depicts Baal (or Hadad), the Aramean god of storm and rain, and is considered the most important of the Ugaritic stelae. The stele is on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
The stele, carved into the white limestone, is wider at the base and measures 142 by 50 centimetres (56 in × 20 in). It depicts a large standing male figure representing Baal, and a smaller male figure that is thought to be the king of Ugarit.
The central figure in the stele, Baal, is shown facing to the right and standing on a large pedestal. The pedestal bears carved representations of Baal's spheres of power, the mountains and the sea. Baal is shown with a raised right hand brandishing a club or a battle-mace overhead. His left hand is stretched in front of him and holds a thunderbolt in the shape of a spearhead that extends towards the ground. The shaft is in the form of a plant, likely a cultivated grain that would be nourished by the storm. The bearded god is shown wearing a helmet decorated with bull's horns, from under which his braided hair falls over his back and his right shoulder. Baal is shown clad only in a kilt with striped decorations. The kilt is held by a finely carved wide belt that also holds a curved dagger.
Between the spear and the god a smaller figure is depicted standing on a horned altar. The smaller figure, most probably representing the king of Ugarit, is shown with a bare head and wearing ceremonial dress. The king's arms are clasped together in prayer, and are hidden under a robe trimmed with braid.
The stele is interpreted as showing the king receiving divine protection from the god Baal. Additionally, Baal is shown thrusting a spear of vegetation into the ground from the sky, symbolizing the necessity of the storm for a later harvest. Despite the close relationship between the king and the god depicted in the stele, the difference in size between the two figures is interpreted by historian Mark S. Smith as contrasting the power and glory of Baal with the "relative weakness of the king." Baal's fertility attributes are represented by the horned helmet, and the plant-shaped lightning rod he holds in his hand. According to historian Alberto Green, Baal is portrayed as a "vigorous, young, graceful, athletic deity marching forward."
The stele was discovered in 1932 during excavations at Ugarit directed by French archaeologist, Claude F. A. Schaeffer. While the stele was unearthed about 20 metres (66 ft) from the Temple of Baal on its southern slope, it was probably originally housed inside the temple. Additionally, eight more stelae were recovered from the area, while another 14 were unearthed in the Temple of Dagon and throughout the city.
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- Caquot, André; Sznycer, Maurice (1980). Ugaritic Religion. BRILL. ISBN 9789004062245.
- Yon, Marguerite (2006). The City of Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575060293.
- Schaeffer, Claude F. A. (1933). "Les fouilles de Minet-El-Beida et de Ras-Shamra. Quatrième campagne (printemps 1932) : rapport sommaire" (PDF). Syria (in French). Institut français du Proche-Orient. 14 (2): 93–127. doi:10.3406/syria.1933.3730.
- Smith, Mark S. (2009). The Ugaritic Baal Cycle. BRILL. ISBN 9789004153486.
- Gordon, Cyrus H.; Sarna, Nahum M. (1997). Genesis: World of Myths and Patriarchs. New York University Press. ISBN 9780814726686.
- Green, Alberto Ravinell Whitney (2003). The Storm-God in the Ancient Near East. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575060699.