The identity of an unknown god described in inscriptions from the ancient city of Palmyra in modern-day Syria has long puzzled scholars. But now a researcher explains that she has cracked the case.
Palmyra has existed for millennia and the city thrived around 2,000 years ago as a trading center serving the Roman Empire with trade routes in Asia, such as the Silk Road.
The anonymous deity is mentioned in numerous Aramaic inscriptions in Palmyra and is appropriately referred to as “he whose name is eternally blessed”, “lord of the universe” and “merciful”. Science in Poland (opens in new tab), a news site run by the Polish government and independent journalists. Many of these inscriptions are around 2,000 years old.
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To solve this puzzle, Aleksandra Kubiak-Schneider, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, compared the inscriptions from Palmyra with inscriptions found everywhere Mesopotamia This date is from the first millennium BC. She discovered that the gods worshiped in Mesopotamia were referred to by names similar to the anonymous god of Palmyra. For example, “Bel-Marduk” – the supreme god of Babylon – was also referred to as “merciful.” The phrase “Lord of the World” — a title similar to “Lord of the Universe” — was sometimes used to refer to Baalshamin, a sky god, Kubiak-Schneider told Science in Poland.
Kubiak-Schneider told Science in Poland that the anonymous “god” mentioned in the Palmyra inscriptions is not a single god, but rather multiple deities, including Bel-Marduk and Baalshamin. She also claims that people did not mention the names of the deities as a sign of respect.
Furthermore, when people wrote the inscriptions invoking divine intervention, they did not always appeal to a specific god, but to any god who answered their prayers. “There was no anonymous god, every god who listened and showed favor to requests deserved eternal praise,” said Kubiak-Schneider.
Live Science contacted scientists not involved in the research to get their perspectives. Responding researchers were reluctant to respond to the suggestion.
Kubiak cutter” is presented [a] Hypothesis to the scientific community who will discuss it and each scholar will decide to accept or reject it [their] Counterarguments in the latter case,” Leonardo Gregoratti, a researcher who has extensively studied the history and archeology of Palmyra and the surrounding region, told Live Science in an email.
One researcher, commenting on the condition that they not be named, agreed that the unnamed deity likely referred to multiple deities, but was concerned that some of the Babylonian texts Kubiak-Schneider studied dated centuries earlier than the inscriptions from Palmyra.
Kubiak-Schneider did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication. Their results were recently published in the e-book (translated from French).Dedications without theonym of Palmyra Blessed be his name for eternity (opens in new tab)(Brill, 2021).
Originally published on Live Science.