Ivoire de style phénicien de Nimrud (IXe-VIIe siècle av.n.è.). Musée de Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.

The Face and the Name: goddesses as “interface”

Phoenician style ivory from Nimrud (9-7 century BC). The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq.

In occasion of the workshop “In the footsteps of Claude Calame”, which took place in Paris on November 10th, 2018, Corinne Bonnet proposed a reflection on how onomastic attributes can be used to express an intimate link between a goddess and a god. Why is Astarte called “Name of Baal” in Ugaritic and Phoenician texts? What is the meaning of “Face of Baal”, associated thousands of times with Tanit’s name on the inscribed stelae of the tophet of Carthage? In both cases, these appellations build the representation of powerful, active, performative goddesses, precisely through their intimacy with the god. If Astarte “Name of Baal” shatters the head of the enemy, Tanit “Face of Baal”, always placed before Baal Hammon in the dedications made in the tophet, introduces the worshiper’s request, thanks to her power of intercession. Looking at Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Israel, many clues about the importance of name and face as pathways to some knowledge and to an effective interaction with the gods can be recognised. The face is notably connected to expressiveness; for this reason, for example, Zeus decides the fate of Greeks and Trojans by a simple movement of the eyebrow. The name, on the contrary, says who the god is, how he acts, but also how people can affect him. The face and the name thus play a strategic role in human-god relations. This is why their inclusion in onomastic sequences is extremely significant and needs to be further elaborated, including iconographic devices, which shows gods and goddesses closely connected. The MAP project intends to take up this challenge!

For further information on the workshop in honor of Claude Calame.

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