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ANAT . The maiden Anat (btltʿnt ) is a West Semitic or Canaanite warrior-goddess known for her violent temperament and volatile emotions. Although her name and cult are attested from the late third millennium bce to the fourth century bce, Anat plays a prominent role only in the Late Bronze Age mythological texts from the Syrian city of Ugarit (modern-day Ras Shamra). These poetic narratives, written in an alphabetic cuneiform script, depict Anat as a fierce and impetuous goddess who delights in bloodshed. As a hunter and protector of wild animals, Anat also functions as a "Mistress of Animals" in Canaanite tradition. Anat's primary epithet in Ugaritic sources is btlt (maiden), which identifies her as an adolescent female, a girl of marriageable age. Iconographic representations from Egypt and Syria-Palestine depict the goddess as young and nubile, with small breasts and a thin body. Called "the loveliest of the sisters of Baal," Anat is also a player of the lyre and singer of love songs in Ugaritic narrative. Although female, the adolescent goddess engages in the traditionally masculine pursuits of warfare, hunting, and political intrigue.

Earlier studies often assume that Anat is Baal's consort. More recent studies by Peggy Day and Neal Walls, however, argue that the extant Ugaritic texts never depict her as sexually active. While some scholars have erroneously identified Anat with the cow that mates with and bears an heir for Baal, the Ugaritic narratives clearly distinguish between Anat and Baal's cow. As his devoted sister, Anat actively supports Baal's quest for kingship among the gods. She serves as a diplomatic intermediary in securing the support of El, her elderly father, for the establishment of his royal palace. The warrior Anat boasts of having vanquished many of Baal's foes, including Yamm (the Canaanite primordial sea), the Twisting Serpent, and the Seven-Headed Dragon. Whether or not Anat is the consort of Baal, the maiden goddess maintains her autonomy and independence from male control. She lives in her own palace on her sacred mountain Inbb rather than in the household of her father, brother, or consort. Ugaritic poetry venerates Anat as the "Mistress of Kingship, Mistress of Dominion, and Mistress of the High Heavens." The meaning of her epithet ybmt limm remains uncertain, but it most likely refers to her position within the pantheon's kinship structure.

Anat displays her malevolent aggression in two encounters with El, in which she threatens to drag him from his throne "to the ground like a lamb" for slaughter. She promises to smash his skull and to make his "gray hair run with blood and his gray beard with gore" unless he agrees to her demands. El's response to his belligerent daughter seems more indulgent than fearful, "I know, my daughter, that you are incorrigible, and that among the goddesses there is no rancor like yours." While El apparently denies her request in one text, in the other he yields to her rash demands, "Depart, my daughter; haughty is your heart. Take what is in your mind, carry out [what] is in your breast. Whoever hinders you will be destroyed." El's words are perhaps reflected in an eighth-century Akkadian text that praises Anat, "whose heroism among the goddesses has no equal."

Another famous scene from Ugaritic myth depicts Anat's bloodthirsty nature as she gleefully slaughters armies of human warriors. Delighting in the carnage of battle, Anat "wades in their blood up to her thighs." She adorns herself by placing her enemies' severed heads on a garland around her neck and their severed hands on a belt around her waist before she exultantly wades into the gore of battle a second time. Possibly a description of ritual cannibalism, this grisly scene clearly portrays the murderous quality of Anat's martial enthusiasm.

In contrast with her warlike attributes, Anat is also portrayed in Ugaritic myth as a compassionate goddess who pathetically grieves the death of her brother: "Like the heart of a cow for its calf, like the heart of a ewe for its lamb, such is the heart of Anat for Baal." On hearing of his death, Anat scours the earth in search of her slain brother's corpse, which she then buries with elaborate funerary sacrifices and mourning rites. Anat "gashes her cheeks and her chin" in a heartfelt display of ritual bloodletting. She then humbly entreats Mot, the Ugaritic god of death, to return her brother to her. After her diplomatic efforts have failed, however, Anat reverts to her more characteristic mode and viciously attacks Mot: "She seizes divine Mot; with a blade she splits him, with a sieve she winnows him, with fire she burns him, and with millstones she grinds him." Anat scatters his pulverized remains in a field for the birds to consume. This scene of utter annihilation demonstrates Anat's impulsive ferocity, but it also leads to Baal's restoration as ruler of the earth. Although the text is broken at this point, it is clear that Baal returns to power, bringing his fertilizing rains to the thirsty fields in a renewal of natural fecundity. The maiden Anat's hostile actions are thus crucial to the balance of cosmic power and the continuation of life on the earth in Ugaritic myth.

Anat's passionate disposition takes on a more sinister quality in the Ugaritic epic of Aqhat. In a scene that is perhaps related to Hellenistic accounts of Artemis and the Babylonian account of Ishtar's failed seduction of Gilgamesh, Anat attempts to wrest a divinely crafted bow from the young hero Aqhat. He disdains her offer of gold, silver, and immortality in exchange for the composite bow and insolently informs her that females are not meant to be warriors. Seeking revenge for the insult, Anat eventually has her henchman murder Aqhat. The bow, however, is lost, and Anat tearfully regrets her impulsive actions in killing the young man, an injustice that causes drought and famine in the land. The conclusion to this epic has yet to be recovered.

Anat was introduced into Egypt during the Hyksos period (c. 16501550 bce) and became a patron goddess of the Ramesside era (c. 12951069 bce) as the "Mistress of the Heavens," a martial goddess who gives victory in battle. Aramaic texts from the fifth-century bce Jewish community in Elephantine, Egypt, refer to Anat-Bethel (ʿntbyt˒l) and Anat-Yahu (ʿntyhw ), which some scholars interpret as references to the goddess Anat as the consort of the gods Bethel ("House of God") and Yahweh, respectively. Other scholars translate the word ʿnt as "providence" or "sign" and understand it as the cultic hypostasis of the male deity rather than the appearance of Anat in the syncretistic Jewish literature. Anat-Bethel also appears in the list of divine witnesses to the seventh-century Assyrian treaty between King Baal of Tyre and Esarhaddon. Hellenistic sources sometimes equate Anat with the virgin warrior Athena, as in a fourth-century bce bilingual inscription in Phoenician and Greek from Lapethos on Cyprus. Later traditions often identify Anat with other Canaanite goddesses, such as Astarte and Atargatis-Derketo.

See Also



Cornelius, Izak. "Anat and Qudshu as the 'Mistress of Animals': Aspects of the Iconography of the Canaanite Goddesses." Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici 10 (1993): 2145.

Day, Peggy L. "Anat: Ugarit's 'Mistress of Animals.'" Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51 (1992): 181190.

Day, Peggy L. "Why Is Anat a Warrior and a Hunter?" In The Bible and the Politics of Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Norman K. Gottwalk on His Sixty-fifth Birthday, edited by David Jobling, Peggy L. Day, and Gerald T. Sheppard. Cleveland, 1992.

Day, Peggy L. "Anat." In Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2d ed. Edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, pp. 3643. Leiden, 1999. An excellent overview with bibliography.

Parker, Simon B., ed. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry. Atlanta, 1997. Excellent and accessible English translations of the Ugaritic mythological texts.

Walls, Neal H. The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth. Atlanta, 1992.

Neal H. Walls (2005)