(/ˌuːɡəˈriːt, ˌjuː-/; Ugaritic: 𐎜𐎂𐎗𐎚,
ʼUgart; Arabic: أُوغَارِيت Ūġārīt, alternatively
Arabic: أُوجَارِيت Ūǧārīt) was an ancient port city
in northern Syria. Its ruins are often called Ras Shamra after the
headland where they lie.
had close connections to the Hittite
Empire, sent tribute to Egypt at times, and maintained trade and
diplomatic connections with
(then called Alashiya), documented
in the archives recovered from the site and corroborated by Mycenaean
and Cypriot pottery found there. The polity was at its height from c.
1450 BC until its destruction in c. 1200 BC; this destruction was
possibly caused by the mysterious Sea Peoples. The kingdom would be
one of the many destroyed during the
1.1 Origins and the second millennium
2 Language and literature
5 See also
8 External links
Ras Shamra lies on the Mediterranean coast, some 11 kilometres
(7 mi) north of Latakia, near modern Burj al-Qasab.
Origins and the second millennium
A Tomb in the Royal palace's courtyard
Ugarit was important enough to be fortified with a wall
early on, perhaps by 6000 BCE, though the site is thought to have been
Ugarit was important perhaps because it was both a
port and at the entrance of the inland trade route to the Euphrates
Tigris lands. The city reached its heyday between
1800 and 1200 BC, when it ruled a trade-based coastal kingdom, trading
with Egypt, Cyprus, the Aegean, Syria, the Hittites, and much of the
The first written evidence mentioning the city comes from the nearby
city of Ebla, c. 1800 BCE.
Ugarit passed into the sphere of influence
of Egypt, which deeply influenced its art. Evidence of the earliest
Ugaritic contact with Egypt (and the first exact dating of Ugaritic
civilization) comes from a carnelian bead identified with the Middle
Kingdom pharaoh Senusret I, 1971–1926 BC. A stela and a statuette
from the Egyptian pharaohs Senusret III and
Amenemhet III have also
been found. However, it is unclear at what time these monuments were
brought to Ugarit.
Amarna letters from
Ugarit c. 1350 BCE record one
letter each from Ammittamru I, Niqmaddu II, and his queen.[citation
needed] From the 16th to the 13th century BC,
Ugarit remained in
regular contact with Egypt and
Alashiya (Cyprus).
In the second millennium BC, Ugarit's population was Amorite, and the
Ugaritic language probably has a direct Amoritic origin. The
Ugarit may have controlled about 2,000 km2 on
During some of its history it would have been in close proximity to,
if not directly within the Hittite Empire.
Bronze Age collapse
Boar rhyton, Mycenaean ceramic imported to Ugarit, 14th–13th century
Bronze Age king of Ugarit,
Ammurapi (circa 1215 to 1180 BC),
was a contemporary of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma II. The exact
dates of his reign are unknown. However, a letter by the king is
preserved, in which
Ammurapi stresses the seriousness of the crisis
faced by many Near Eastern states from invasion by the advancing Sea
Ammurapi pleads for assistance from the king of Alashiya,
highlighting the desperate situation
My father, behold, the enemy's ships came (here); my cities(?) were
burned, and they did evil things in my country. Does not my father
know that all my troops and chariots(?) are in the Land of Hatti, and
all my ships are in the Land of Lukka? ... Thus, the country is
abandoned to itself. May my father know it: the seven ships of the
enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us.
However, no help arrived, and the city was burned to the ground at the
end of the Bronze Age. By excavating the highest levels of the city's
ruins, archaeologists can study various attributes of Ugaritic
civilization just before their destruction, and compare artifacts with
those of nearby cultures to help establish dates.
contained many caches of cuneiform tablets, actual libraries that
contained a wealth of information. The destruction levels of the ruin
contained Late Helladic IIIB pottery ware, but no LH IIIC (see
Mycenaean period). Therefore, the date of the destruction of
important for the dating of the LH IIIC phase in mainland Greece.
Since an Egyptian sword bearing the name of pharaoh
found in the destruction levels, 1190 BC was taken as the date for the
beginning of the LH IIIC. A cuneiform tablet found in 1986 shows that
Ugarit was destroyed after the death of
Merneptah (1203 BC). It is
generally agreed that
Ugarit had already been destroyed by the 8th
Ramesses III (1178 BC). Recent radiocarbon work indicates a
destruction date between 1192 and 1190 BC.
Ugarit was destroyed before or after Hattusa, the Hittite
capital, is debated. The destruction was followed by a settlement
hiatus. Many other Mediterranean cultures were deeply disordered just
at the same time, apparently by invasions of the mysterious "Sea
First known Ugaritan king, known only from a damaged seal that
mentions "Yaqarum, son of Niqmaddu, king of Ugarit".
Second known Ugaritan king, known only from a damaged seal that
mentions "Yaqarum, son of Niqmaddu, king of Ugarit".
c. 1350 BC
c. 1350–1315 BC
Suppiluliuma I of the Hittites
c. 1315–1313 BC
Contemporary of king
Mursili II of the Hittites
c. 1313–1260 BC
Mursili II of the Hittites; Son of Niqmadu II
c. 1260–1235 BC
Contemporary of Bentisina of Amurru; Son of Niqmepa
c. 1235–1225/20 BC
Addressee of the letter of Piha-walwi
c. 1225/20 – 1215 BC
c. 1200 BC
Chancellor Bay of Egypt. Last known ruler of Ugarit.
Ugarit is destroyed in his reign.
Language and literature
Ras Ibn Hani
Legend of Keret
Baal with Thunderbolt
Ugarit appear to have originated the "
around 1400 BC: 30 letters, corresponding to sounds, were inscribed on
clay tablets; although they are cuneiform in appearance, they bear no
relation to Mesopotamian cuneiform signs. The
Ugaritic Alphabet is the
first alphabet in history. While the letters show little or no formal
similarity, the standard letter order (preserved in the Latin alphabet
as A, B, C, D, etc.) shows strong similarities between the two,
suggesting that the Phoenician and
Ugaritic systems were not wholly
Ugaritic language and
The existence of the
Ugaritic language is attested to in texts from
the 14th through the 12th century BC.
Ugaritic is usually classified
as a Northwest Semitic language and therefore related to Hebrew,
Aramaic, and Phoenician, among others. Its grammatical features are
highly similar to those found in Classical
Arabic and Akkadian. It
possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), three cases for nouns
and adjectives (nominative, accusative, and genitive); three numbers:
(singular, dual, and plural); and verb aspects similar to those found
in other Northwest Semitic languages. The word order in
verb–subject–object, subject-object-verb (VSO)&(SOV);
possessed–possessor (NG) (first element dependent on the function
and second always in genitive case); and noun–adjective (NA) (both
in the same case (i.e. congruent)).
Apart from royal correspondence with neighboring
Bronze Age monarchs,
Ugaritic literature from tablets found in the city's libraries include
mythological texts written in a poetic narrative, letters, legal
documents such as land transfers, a few international treaties, and a
number of administrative lists. Fragments of several poetic works have
been identified: the "Legend of Keret", the "Legend of Danel", the
Ba'al tales that detail Baal-Hadad's conflicts with Yam and Mot, among
The discovery of the
Ugaritic archives in 1929 has been of great
significance to biblical scholarship, as these archives for the first
time provided a detailed description of Canaanite religious beliefs,
during the period directly preceding the
Israelite settlement. These
texts show significant parallels to
Hebrew biblical literature,
particularly in the areas of divine imagery and poetic form. Ugaritic
poetry has many elements later found in
Hebrew poetry: parallelisms,
metres, and rhythms. The discoveries at
Ugarit have led to a new
appraisal of the
Hebrew Bible as literature.
The important textual finds from the site shed a great deal of light
upon the cultic life of the city.
The foundations of the
Bronze Age city
Ugarit were divided into
quarters. In the north-east quarter of the walled enclosure, the
remains of three significant religious buildings were discovered,
including two temples (of the gods
Hadad and Dagon) and a
building referred to as the library or the high priest's house. Within
these structures atop the acropolis numerous invaluable mythological
texts were found. These texts have provided the basis for
understanding of the Canaanite mythological world and religion. The
Baal cycle represents
Baal Hadad's destruction of Yam (the god of
chaos and the sea), demonstrating the relationship of Canaanite
chaoskampf with those of
Mesopotamia and the Aegean: a warrior god
rises up as the hero of the new pantheon to defeat chaos and bring
Baal statuette from Ugarit
After its destruction in the early 12th century BC, Ugarit's location
was forgotten until 1928 when a peasant accidentally opened an old
tomb while ploughing a field. The discovered area was the necropolis
Ugarit located in the nearby seaport of Minet el-Beida. Excavations
have since revealed a city with a prehistory reaching back to c. 6000
The site is a sixty-five foot high mound. Archaeologically,
considered quintessentially Canaanite. A brief investigation of a
looted tomb at the necropolis of
Minet el-Beida was conducted by Léon
Albanèse in 1928, who then examined the main mound of Ras Shamra.
But in the next year scientific excavations of Tell Ras Shamra were
commenced by archaeologist
Claude Schaeffer from the Musée
archéologique in Strasbourg. Work continued under Schaeffer until
1970, with a break from 1940 to 1947 because of World War II.
Remains of the ancient city, some walls and what appears to be a small
The excavations uncovered a royal palace of ninety rooms laid out
around eight enclosed courtyards, and many ambitious private
dwellings. Crowning the hill where the city was built were two main
temples: one to
Baal the "king", son of El, and one to Dagon, the
chthonic god of fertility and wheat. 23 stelae were unearthed: nine
stelae, including the famous
Baal with Thunderbolt, near the Temple of
Baal, four in the Temple of
Dagon and ten more at scattered places
around the city.
On excavation of the site, several deposits of cuneiform clay tablets
were found; all dating from the last phase of Ugarit, around 1200 BC.
These represented a palace library, a temple library and—apparently
unique in the world at the time—two private libraries, one belonging
to a diplomat named Rapanu. The libraries at
diplomatic, legal, economic, administrative, scholastic, literary and
religious texts. Various tablets are written in Sumerian, Hurrian,
Akkadian (the language of diplomacy at this time in the ancient Near
Ugaritic (a previously unknown Northwest Semitic language).
No less than seven different scripts were in use at Ugarit: Egyptian
Luwian hieroglyphs, and Cypro-Minoan, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian,
Ugaritic cuneiform. Unique among the texts in
Ugaritic are the
earliest known abecedaries, lists of letters in alphabetic cuneiform,
where not only the canonical order of Hebrew-Phoenician script is
evidenced, but also the traditional names for letters of the
During excavations in 1958, yet another library of tablets was
uncovered. These were, however, sold on the black market and not
immediately recovered. The "Claremont Ras Shamra Tablets" are now
housed at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, School of
Religion, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California. They
were edited by Loren R. Fisher in 1971.
After 1970, succeeding
Claude Schaeffer were Henri de Contenson,
followed by Jean Margueron, Marguerite Yon, then Yves Calvet and
Bassam Jamous, who since 2005 has held the office of Director General
of Antiquities and Museums.
In 1973, an archive containing around 120 tablets was discovered
during rescue excavations; in 1994 more than 300 further tablets
dating to the end of the
Late Bronze Age
Late Bronze Age were discovered within a
large ashlar masonry building.
Walls in the city of
Ugarit and remains of destroyed buildings.
The most important literary document recovered from
Ugarit is arguably
Baal cycle, describing the basis for the religion and cult of the
Canaanite Baal. There are also among the religious texts the Hurrian
songs, including a noteworthy hymn to the moon goddess Nikkal, the
oldest surviving substantial musical notation in the world. Its music
is a series of 2-toned intervals played upon a 9-string lyre.
These tablets reveal parallels between ancient Canaanite and Israelite
practices; for example, levirate marriage, giving the eldest son a
larger share of the inheritance or redeeming the first-born son were
practices common to the people of Ugarit.
Ancient Near East portal
Cities of the ancient Near East
Short chronology timeline
^ Sometimes written "Ras Shamrah"; Arabic: رأس شمرة,
literally "Cape Fennel"). See .
^ Bahn, Paul (1997). Lost Cities: 50 Discoveries in World Archaeology.
London: Barnes & Noble. pp. 98–99.
^ a b Pardee, Dennis. "Ugaritic", in The Ancient Languages of
Syria-Palestine and Arabia (2008) (pp. 5–6). Roger D. Woodard,
editor. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-68498-6,
ISBN 978-0-521-68498-9 (262 pages).
^ Letter RS 18.147
^ Jean Nougaryol et al. (1968) Ugaritica V: 87–90 no. 24
^ * Kaniewski D, Van Campo E, Van Lerberghe K, Boiy T,
Vansteenhuyse K, et al., "The Sea Peoples, from
Cuneiform Tablets to
Carbon Dating." PLoS ONE 6(6), 2011
^ a b Smith, Mark S. (1994). The
Baal Cycle: Volume I,
Introduction with text, translation and commentary of KTU 1.1-1.2.
p. 90. ISBN 9789004099951.
^  Dennis Pardee, "The
Cuneiform Writing System
in the Context of Other Alphabetic Systems", (in Studies in Ancient
Oriental Civilization, vol. 60, pp. 181–200, Oriental Institute,
^ Stanislav Segert, A basic
Grammar of the
Ugaritic Language: with
selected texts and glossary (1984) 1997.
^ Nick Wyatt. Religious texts from Ugarit, (1998) rev. ed 2002.
^ Gregorio Del Olmo Lete, Canaanite Religion: According to the
Liturgical Texts of Ugarit, 2004.
^ Yon, Marguerite (2006). The City of
Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra.
Singapore: Eisenbrauns. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-57506-029-3.
Retrieved 16 May 2015.
^ Tubb, Jonathan N. (1998), "Canaanites" (British Museum People of the
^ Léon Albanèse, "Note sur Ras Shamra", Syria, vol. 10, pp.16–21,
^ Charles Virolleaud, "Les Inscriptions Cunéiformes de Ras Shamra",
Syria, vol. 10, pp. 304–310, 1929; Claude F. A. Schaeffer, The
Cuneiform Texts of Ras Shamra-Ugarit, 1939
^ Claude F. A. Schaeffer, The
Cuneiform Texts of Ras Shamra-Ugarit:
The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1937, Periodicals Service
Co, 1986, ISBN 3-601-00536-0
Claude F. A. Schaeffer et al., Le Palais Royal D'
Ugarit III: Textes
Accadiens et Hourrites Des Archives Est, Ouest et Centrales, Two
Volumes (Mission De Ras Shamra Tome VI), Imprimerie Nationale, 1955
^ Caubet, Annie. "
Stela Depicting the Storm God Baal". Musée du
Louvre. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
^ Aaron Demsky, 1977. "A Proto-Canaanite Abecedary dating from the
period of the Judges and its implications for the history of the
Alphabet", Tel Aviv 4:47ff.
^ Loren R. Fisher, The Claremont Ras Shamra Tablets, Loyola Press,
1972, ISBN 978-88-7653-248-1
^ Henri de Contenson, Préhistoire de Ras Shamra, Ras Shamra-Ougarit
VIII, 2 volumes, ERC, 1992; Marguerite Yon, The City of
Ugarit at Tell
Ras Shamra, Eisenbrauns, 2004, ISBN 1-57506-029-9 (Translation of
La cité d'
Ugarit sur le Tell de Ras Shamra 1979)
^ See Prof Anne D. Kilmer. 1984. "A Music Tablet from Sippar(?): BM
65217 + 66616". Iraq 46:69–80. This covers all 6 readable tablets up
to that time.
Ugarit Forschungen (Neukirchen-Vluyn). UF-11 (1979) honors Claude
Schaeffer, with about 100 articles in 900 pages. pp 95, ff,
"Comparative Graphemic Analysis of Old Babylonian and Western
Akkadian", ( i.e.
Ugarit and Amarna (letters), three others, Mari,
OB,Royal, OB,non-Royal letters). See above, in text.
Bourdreuil, P. 1991. "Une bibliothèque au sud de la ville : Les
textes de la 34e campagne (1973)". in Ras Shamra-Ougarit, 7 (Paris).
Caquot, André & Sznycer, Maurice.
Ugaritic Religion. Iconography
of Religions, Section XV:
Mesopotamia and the Near East; Fascicle 8;
Institute of Religious Iconography, State University Groningen;
Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1980.
Drews, Robert. 1995. The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and
the Catastrophe ca. 1200 BC (Princeton University Press).
de Moor, Johannes C. The Seasonal Pattern in the
Ugaritic Myth of
Ba'lu, According to the Version of Ilimilku. Alter Orient und Altes
Testament, Band 16. Neukirchen – Vluyn: Verlag Butzon &
Berker Kevelaer, Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsvereins, 1971
Gibson, J.C.L., originally edited by G.R. Driver. Canaanite Myths and
Legends. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, Ltd., 1956, 1977.*K. Lawson and
K. L. Younger Jr, "
Ugarit at Seventy-Five," Eisenbrauns, 2007,
L'Heureux, Conrad E. Rank Among the Canaanite Gods: El, Ba'al, and the
Repha'im. Harvard Semitic Museum, Harvard Semitic Monographs No. 21,
Missoula MT: Scholars Press, 1979.
Meletinskii, E. M., 2000 The Poetics of Myth
Mullen, E. Theodore, Jr. The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council
in Canaanite and Early
Hebrew Literature. Harvard Semitic Museum,
Harvard Semitic Monographs No. 24, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Press, 1980/
Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press Reprint, 1986. (comparison of
Old Testament literature).
Dennis Pardee, Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, (Writings from the Ancient
World), Society of Biblical Literature, 2002, ISBN 1-58983-026-1
William M. Schniedewind, Joel H. Hunt, 2007. A primer on Ugaritic:
language, culture, and literature ISBN 0-521-87933-7 p. 14.
Smith, Mark S. The
Baal Cycle: Volume 1. Introduction with
Text, Translation and Commentary of KTU 1.1–1.2, (Vetus Testamentum
Supplements series, volume 55; Leiden: Brill, 1994).
Baal Cycle: Volume 2. Introduction with Text,
Translation and Commentary of KTU 1.3–1.4, (Vetus Testament
Supplement series, volume 114; Leiden: Brill, 2008). Co-authored with
Smith, Mark S., 2001. Untold Stories. The Bible and
in the Twentieth Century ISBN 1-56563-575-2 Chapter 1:
Tubb, Jonathan N. (1998),
Canaanites (British Museum People of the
Wyatt, Nicolas (1998): Religious texts from Ugarit: the worlds of
Ilimilku and his colleagues, The Biblical Seminar, volume 53.
Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, paperback, 500 pages.
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Le Royaume d'Ougarit (in French)
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