Today, my friend and colleague Sannion is celebrating a local festival having to do with literate activities and their sacred dimesnions. There are many gods and goddesses of literacy that I know of, or with whom I’m involved in some way: Thoth, Seshat, Hermes, Ganesha, Hanuman, Saraswati, Brigid, Ogmios, Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto…the list goes on. Thus, I’m certainly all for this on every level!
However, yesterday and today (and a good bit of time over the last few weeks) has been spent in not only appreciating literature, but in attempting to produce some in the form of devotional poetry. Specifically, I’ve been preparing a number of poems for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina devotional volume Anointed, which is a devotional dedicated to Near Eastern deities, edited by Tess Dawson, author of Whisper of Stone and fellow member of Neos Alexandria.
I just turned in the last of my submissions for this devotional volume a little earlier this afternoon; with any luck, a few of them will go into the final published book. I sent one essay (“Ereshkigal in Graeco-Roman-Egyptian Magical Tradition,” which focuses on the PGM material, but also draws in some other examples, and challenges the findings of the editor of PGM on the exclusive syncretism of Ereshkigal to Hekate) and fifteen poems, the titles of which are:
“Spell of Iao Sabaoth”
“The Appearance of Ereshkigal in Egypt”
“Hercules of Palmyra”
“Three Moons”: I. Praise for Sin; II. Peace of Tanit; III. Prayer to Men
“Tyre and Sidon” [on Melqart and Echmoun, with a little bit of Tanit]
“The Palmyrian Triad” [Ba'al-Shamen, Yarhibol, Aglibol]
(Some of you may note, the first three of these already appeared in The Phillupic Hymns.)
Not only in honor of Sannion’s festival today, but because it would be very niggardly of me to dangle such shiny things before you and not allow you to sample some of them, I shall give you one of the new poems from above below, after a few words about it, interspersed with some images.
The poem “Tyre and Sidon” was what I came up with when I realized that the two main gods of Leptis Magna in Roman Tripolitania were Echmoun and Melqart–the former syncretized with Asklepios (and Antinous!), the latter with Herakles, and they were the two great gods of the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. Along with Tanit (whose ankh-like symbol is shown above), the great goddess of Carthage who was later syncretized to Juno as Juno Caelestis by the Romans, these three were the principal deities of Leptis Magna, and were thus the childhood and ancestral deities of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who came from Leptis Magna. Given the connections of that city to Antinous, Severus’ connections (both conscious and unconscious) to Hadrian, and the interconnections of cult-sites and cities of these various deities, the poem which follows came about.
Tyre and Sidon
Phoenicia has at last conquered Rome—
not with avenging armies,
but with an Emperor from Leptis Magna.
Victory and glory to Septimius Severus,
first son of Leptis Magna, and its gods
the two chief gods of Tyre and Sidon!
Hail to Melqart, the Herakles of Tyre,
who in Cadiz built his bronze pillars
in his preeminent temple of Hispania’s lands;
the mother of Hadrian paid homage there,
and now Septimius Severus, like Hadrian
takes his place as Emperor over all!
Hail to Echmoun, Asklepios of Sidon,
the eighth son of Apollon, the avid hunter,
the pursued self-castrated revived one;
his image, like Apollon and Dionysos combined
with Antinous’ face was in the baths of Leptis,
inspiring Septimius Severus from his youth!
Though Rome salted Carthage to destruction,
the Phoenician gods were not conquered;
they wore new masks but were the same actors.
With Tanit of eternal fame they nurtured
a true son of Phoenicia in African lands,
a child of two fathers and one mother.
The Greeks say Hera was jealous
over Herakles and Apollon and Dionysos;
but Tanit, Melqart and Echmoun are not Greek!
Septimius Severus learned Latin well,
spoke Greek from his earliest youth,
but his blood was the blood of Phoenicia!
Herakles of Tyre and Asklepios of Sidon
and Juno Caelestis of Carthage
combined their efforts when Leptis was built.
From these, the Fruitful God
arose and made his home in Leptis,
quietly waiting, biding his time.
Septimius Severus would rise in victory
over all his contenders, would come to Syria,
and by his reign would bring water to the desert!
Melqart, Echmoun, Phoenicians and Arabians,
Syrians and Chaldeans, and all the region’s gods
would ascend to power and prominence again!
Great are the gods of Tyre and Sidon!
Great are Melqart and great is Echmoun!
Great are all the gods of Phoenicia!
So, there we are for now. I hope everyone is having a wonderful, literary day, and thanks the gods constantly for what we know of the times of our ancestors because of what has been recorded on stone, papyrus, linen, paper, and (increasingly) on silicon and light! Praise to all the gods of literacy, to the gods of Phoenicia and the Near East, and to Antinous!