ANATH (Heb. עֲנָת), a major goddess of the Western Semites (Amorites-Canaanites, Arameans) worshiped over a wide area of the Near East (in Mesopotamia, Syria-Ereẓ Israel, Anatolia, and Egypt). The earliest evidence of a cult devoted to Anath comes from the literary remains of the Amorites at *Mari on the Euphrates near the beginning of the second millennium b.c.e.
The cult of Anath had considerable vogue in Egypt, where it was introduced at least as early as the Hyksos period, since ʿnt is attested as the theophorous element in a few Hyksos names. Some rulers of the New Kingdom were apparently devotees of the goddess. An Egyptian magical papyrus relates the sexual assault of Anath by Seth (Baal), who copulated with her in fire and deflowered her with a chisel. Her character is vividly revealed in the mythological texts of *Ugarit from the middle of the second millennium.
Scholarly speculation has been provoked as to whether the goddess' name is a possible clue to her nature. It has been connected with the root ʿny, from which the meaning "destiny" or "providence" was deduced. The Hebrew ʿet ("time") and Akkadian ettu (< ittu, "sign," "omen") have also been correlated with the supposed sense of "destiny, purpose, active will." Anath has been presumed to be the personification or hypostatization of the will of Baal, but the Ugaritic texts indicate that she had a strong will of her own. In Arabic the root ʿanat is connected with fornication, coercion, belligerency, obstinacy, stubborn zeal, and the like, qualities and activities that comport with the dominant character of the goddess in the Ugaritic myths. The standard name of the goddess in the Ugaritic myths is "Virgin Anath" (btlt ʿnt) and she retains this attribute despite copulation with her consort (though the interpretation of Ugaritic texts as describing Anat's sexual activity has been challenged). She is also called "Girl Anath" (rḥm ʿnt), or simply "Girlish" (rḥmy). She is once called Anath Itn (i.e., Leviathan), presumably by reason of her conquest or collaboration with Baal in the defeat of that monster, and once is also called "Anath Destroyer" (ʿntḥbly). She is occasionally designated simply "Lady" (št).
A few highlights of Anath's activities in the myths may be mentioned: she mourns and buries her dead consort, Baal, and avenges his death by pulverizing his slayer Mot ("Death"). She launches a sudden and unexplained assault on humankind, wading hip deep in blood and gore, piling up the heads and hands of her victims and adorning herself with a necklace of heads and a girdle of hands. She ceases the slaughter as abruptly as she had begun, bathes and performs her toilet, and subsequently receives a message from Baal commending peace and inviting her to hasten to him and hear his secret plans for a splendid shrine on his holy mountain. Anath's warlike character may be reflected in the Hebrew bn ʿnt arrowheads which indicate the association of the surname bn ʿnt with military families. For all her violent ways, however, Anath has occasional gentle moments.
Anath and *Ashtoreth are kept apart in the Ugaritic mythological texts, in which Ashtoreth plays a very minor role. In a text that introduces the gods in order of their rank and mentions the abode of each, however, Anath and Ashtoreth are combined (ʿnt wʾṭtrt) and their common abode (ʾinbb) is elsewhere attributed to Anath. An Egyptian plaque presents a single nude goddess identified by three names – Qudšu, Ashtoreth, Anath – thus attesting the blending of the three major West Semitic goddesses (Quadšu; "Holiness" is a title of *Asherah). Later in Hellenistic-Roman times, Anath and Ashtoreth are probably combined in reverse order in the compound Atargatis. The equation of Anath with Athena is made in a Phoenician-Greek bilingual inscription of the fourth century b.c.e. from Cyprus, in which the Semitic goddess is called "Anath Strength of Life" (ʿnt mʿz ḥym), while the Greek equivalent is Athena Soteira Nike. Anath/Asthoreth/Ishtar is thus the prototype of Athena and the Winged Victory. A number of beautiful and/or armed and/or winged goddesses appear in ancient Oriental iconography, and some of them doubtlessly represent Anath.
Although not explicitly mentioned as a goddess in the Bible, the name Anath is preserved in the place names *Beth-Anath and *Anathoth, and in the personal name *Shamgar the son of Anath. Perhaps due to her martial qualities, the cult of Anath apparently enjoyed a renewed vogue in the fifth century b.c.e. in the Jewish military colony at Elephantine, Egypt, where oaths were sworn on the names ʿnt-Beth-El and ʿnt-yhwh. Some savants sought to eliminate the association of the God of Israel with a goddess – and especially one of such unsavory repute – by construing the element ʿnt as a common noun meaning "providence" or "abode" rather than the name of the goddess, but their efforts have not been wholly convincing.
W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 105 ff., 112 ff.; idem, in: ajsl, 41 (1925), 73–101, 283–5; 43 (1927), 223–6; Barrelet, in: Syria, 32 (1955), 222–60; U. Cassuto, The Goddess Anath (1970); A.W. Eaton, "The Goddess Anat…" (dissertation, Yale, 1964); A.S. Kapelrud, The Violent Goddess (1969); Meyer, in: zdmg, 31 (1877), 716–41; Pope, in: H.W. Haussig (ed.), Woerterbuch der Mythologie, 1 (1965), 235–41; S.E. Loewenstamm and S. Ahituv, in: em, s.v.; R. Stadelmann, Syrisch-palaestinensische Gottheiten in Aegypten (1967), 88 ff.; Pritchard, Texts, 129 ff. add. bibliography: M. Heltzer, in: Al-Haperek (1994), 1–3; P. Day, in: ddd, 336–43 (with extensive bibliography).
[Marvin H. Pope]