Religion of a War and Moon God Prophet Volume I of II
By Yoel Natan
Allah (Arabic: aUl) in the crescent of a finial in front of windows with a star-field motif. Al-Aksa Mosque, Temple Mount, Jerusalem.1 Yoel Natan is the author of: The Jewish Trinity, The Jewish Trinity Sourcebook, Baptism & Lutheran Eschatology Web site: www.Yoel.Info Edition 1.0 Copyright © 2006 by Yoel Natan. All Rights Reserved.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. Figure 00-01 (doubles as Figure 12-18). Allah (Arabic: aUl) in crescent in front of Mosque windows with a star field motif. Caption for the source picture is: “The ‘alam (finial [sic]) of the small dome above the entrance to the Aqsa Mosque [at the temple mount]” (Nuseibeh & Grabar. Dome, pp. 175-176). For more information on the association of the name Allah with crescent finials, see the Lahut and Turkish Blessing entries in the Index.
Chapter 02: The Moon-o-theistic Mideast
Critique of the Revisionist View on the Sun- and Moon-gods in Southern Arabia The Revisionist View That Almaqah and Syn Were Sun-gods Rather Than War-andmoon-gods Nearly as long as South Arabia has been studied, scholars believed that the half dozen or so high-gods of southern Arabia were male war-and-moon-gods. Jacques Ryckmans wrote as recently as 2004 that some archeologists now believe that Saba’s Almaqah and Hadramawt’s Syn were both sun-gods instead of moon-gods.1847 This section aims to accurately present and then convincingly refute this Revisionist view. The following table is derived from J. Ryckmans’ “Arabian Religions” article printed by The Encyclopedia Britannica (2004): Ryckmans’ Revisionist View of Sun- and Moon-gods of South Arabia Kingdom Sun-god or goddess Moon-god Syn (or Sayin) is a sun-god and Hadhramaut Hawl national god Wadd is the moon-god Ma’in Not mentioned and national god 'Amm is the moon-god Kataban Not mentioned and national god Almaqah is a sun-god and national Saba Not mentioned god. Shams is a minor sun-goddess Himyar Shams is the national sun-goddess Not mentioned Jean-Francois Breton also holds to the Revisionist view, but in 1999 thought that ‘Amm is Mercury. Breton’s 1999 book Arabia Felix cites a 1989 article written by J. Ryckmans for a French journal that equated ‘Amm with Nabu, the scribal god whose planet is Mercury.1848 In 1992 Ryckmans wrote about ‘Amm: “There is no good reason to consider him a moon god.”1849 J. Ryckmans then disavowed his earlier ideas when he wrote in 2004, “In Kataban the national god ‘Amm, ‘paternal uncle,’ may have been a moon god.”1850 One can see that J. Ryckmans’ views have moved somewhat toward the traditional view over the years. Here are some quotations that sum up the Revisionist view that Almaqah and Syn were sun-gods rather than moon-gods as traditionally thought. J. Ryckmans wrote: Next to ‘Athtar [Venus], who was worshiped throughout South Arabia, each kingdom had its own national god, of whom the nation called itself the “progeny” (wld). In Saba’ the national god was Almaqah (or Ilumquh), a protector of artificial irrigation, lord of the temple of the Sabaean federation of tribes, near the capital Ma'rib. Until recently Almaqah was considered to be a moon-god, under the influence of a now generally rejected conception of a South Arabian pantheon consisting of an exclusive triad: Father Moon, Mother Sun (the word “sun” is feminine in Arabic), and Son Venus. Recent studies underline that the symbols of the bull’s head and the vine motif that are associated with
Ryckmans, Jacques. EB, “Arabian Religions” entry, 2004; also see Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions (2000), pp. 70-71, “Arabian religions.” 1848 Breton. Felix, p. 122 + endnote 8 found on p. 192 which refers to bibliography p. 204. It is possible that Breton confuses ‘Amm with Anbay who Ryckmans elsewhere says is like Nabu (Mercury) (Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 172), but one would need to look at his cited sourced. 1849 Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 172. 1850 Ryckmans, Jacques. EB, “Arabian Religions” entry, 2004.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
him are solar and Dionysiac attributes and are more consistent with a sun god, a male consort of the sun goddess….1851 Joël Donnet wrote: …Almaqah was the main god of the Sabeans, to whom it was proper, even if he had equivalents in the neighboring tribes. Associated with fertility, agriculture and irrigation, it was first represented by a bull, and possibly by an ibex. It [Almaqah] was also often associated with a moon crescent, which led numerous archaeologists—including Abdu Ghaleb and Dr. Yusuf Abdullah, the president of the General Organization of Antiquities, Museums and Houses of Manuscripts—to call it the moon-god, and therefore to name Mahram Bilqis the Moon Temple. But Bill Glanzman disagrees with this vision, as he considers the moon as only one symbol of Almaqah, and certainly not the most important one, according to the numerous inscriptions from the site recovered during the 1950s and the last four years of the AFSM’s fieldwork: ‘So far, the moon isn’t even mentioned in the texts, and we have found only a few examples of the Almaqah’s crescent moon in artwork. We very commonly find the bull (Thawran) associated with Almaqah in the inscriptions.’1852 J. Ryckmans wrote: …the ancient [i.e. 1920s] claim of Ditlef Nielsen to reduce the whole pantheon to a basic triad Moon-father, Sun-mother (sun is feminine in Arabia), and Venus-son, has continued to exert negative influence, in spite of its having been widely contested...1853 A. F. L. Beeston wrote similarly to J. Ryckmans in The Encyclopaedia Of Islam: For the period down to the early 4th century AD, few would now agree with the excessive reductionism of Ditlef Nielsen, who in the 1920s held that all the many deities in the pagan pantheon were nothing more than varying manifestations of an astral triad of sun, moon and Venus-star; yet it is certainly the case that three deities tend to receive more frequent mention than the rest…1854 Dr. Christian Ditlef Nielsen (1874-1949 AD) is credited with presenting the traditional triadic paradigm for South Arabian deities in the 1920s. The peculiar South Arabian astral triad (Father-moon, mother-sun and Venus-son) evidently was not known as late as 1885 when Richard F. Burton wrote: The moon is masculine possibly by connection with the Assyrian Lune-god Sin; but I can find no cause for the Sun (Shams) being feminine.1855 Critique of the Revisionist View That Almaqah and Syn Were Sun-gods Rather Than Moon-gods The Revisionist view summarized above, even if it were true, would not significantly affect the argument that Allah was a moon-god. Why? The Revisionist view states that most of the main high gods in Southern Arabia were moon-gods, but
Ryckmans, Jacques. EB, “Arabian Religions” entry, 2004. Donnet, Joël. “Looking for the Queen of Sheba,” wanadoo.fr, May 2001. 1853 Ryckmans, Jacques. “The Old South Arabian Religion,” quoted in Daum, W. (editor). Yemen: 3000 Years Of Art And Civilization In Arabia Felix. Pinguin-Verlag (Innsbruck) und UmschauVerlag, Frankfurt/Main, p. 107. 1854 Beeston, A. F. L. “Saba” in Bosworth, C. E., E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs & G. Lecomte, The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 1995, v. viii, E. J. Brill, Leiden, pp. 664-665. 1855 Burton. Nights, vol. 4, fn. 388.
Chapter 02: The Moon-o-theistic Mideast
two were sun-gods. Thus the odds are that Allah would be a moon-god, and there is plenty of evidence that says Allah really was a pre-Islamic moon-god. Dr. Christian Ditlef Nielsen (1874-1949 AD) is often credited with noticing the triadic paradigm for South Arabian deities in the 1920s. Jacques Ryckmans and JeanFrancois Breton are two proponents of the Revisionist view of South Arabian deities who are currently active in this field of study. Jacques Ryckmans wrote: …the ancient claim of Ditlef Nielsen to reduce the whole pantheon to a basic triad Moon-father, Sun-mother (sun is feminine in Arabia), and Venus-son, has continued to exert negative influence, in spite of its having been widely contested...1856 A. F. L. Beeston wrote similarly in the Encyclopaedia Of Islam: For the period down to the early 4th century AD, few would now agree with the excessive reductionism of Ditlef Nielsen, who in the 1920s held that all the many deities in the pagan pantheon were nothing more than varying manifestations of an astral triad of sun, moon and Venus-star; yet it is certainly the case that three deities tend to receive more frequent mention than the rest…1857 Notice that in order to knock Nielsen’s triadic theory, Ryckmans and Beeston understandably resort to Argumentum ad Populum, i.e. Nielsen’s theory lost a popularity contest, and Argumentum ad Verecundiam, i.e. Nielsen is not an authority on the subject any longer since his scholarship is dated. Ryckmans and Beeston unwittingly set up straw-man arguments when they suggest that there is no proof that Almaqah and Syn were a moon-god, and there is evidence that does not fit in Nielsen’s theory in regard to Almaqah and Syn. Nielsen, when formulating his theory, could hardly have missed the type of evidence that Ryckmans and other Revisionists cite. The vines would have been impossible to miss, and the fact that Almaqah was associated with the bull was known at least since 1955 when Wendell Phillips wrote: In ancient Sheba, the bull always represented Ilumquh, who was known under other names, one of which was Thor (Bull).1858 The evidence that Ryckmans says shows that Almaqah is a sun-god could also be interpreted in keeping with Nielson’s contention that all the South Arabian moon-god were war-gods, too. A. F. L. Beeston admits as much in the Encyclopaedia Of Islam: Garbini has produced cogent arguments to show that the attributes of ‘lmkh [i.e. Almaqah] are rather those of a warrior-deity like Greek Herakles or a vegetation god like Dionysus [a sun-god].1859 So the evidence that Ryckmans says shows Almaqah is a sun-god could also be interpreted to show that Almaqah is a war-god (notice the “or” in the quote above). Evidently, Ditlef Nielsen interpreted the vines and bulls associated with Almaqah to be war-god and male attributes rather than as solar attributes. Nielsen wrote:
Ryckmans, Jacques. “The Old South Arabian Religion,” quoted in Daum, W. (editor). Yemen: 3000 Years Of Art And Civilization In Arabia Felix. Pinguin-Verlag (Innsbruck) und UmschauVerlag, Frankfurt/Main, p. 107. 1857 Beeston, A. F. L. “Saba” in Bosworth, C. E., E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs & G. Lecomte, The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 1995, v. viii, E. J. Brill, Leiden, pp. 664-665. 1858 Phillips. Sheba, p. 299. 1859 Beeston, A. F. L. “Saba” in Bosworth, C. E., E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs & G. Lecomte, The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 1995, v. viii, E. J. Brill, Leiden, pp. 664-665.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
…the main god, the national god of war…this is in all South Arabian, yes, nearly in all Semitic monuments, a sure identifying mark of the moon-god.1860 The same could be said of Syn’s eagle coin as was said of Almaqah’s bull and vines. Instead of the eagle being interpreted as being solar, Nielsen may have interpreted the eagle as being a moon- and war-god or male attribute. After all, the eagle was the main symbol found on the war standards of Roman legions. Syn’s eagle coin is discussed in detail below. One can see that the Revisionist view of the South Arabian gods has a certain appeal to Westerners in that at least two of the main South Arabian deities, Almaqah and Syn, can be interpreted in the same manner as the preponderance of Mediterranean deities of Antiquity: instead of the high god being a moon-god, he’s a sun-god, and instead of the vine and bull being war-god symbols, they are solar in nature. Ditlef Nielsen’s theory lets South Arabian mythology interpret itself first. This approach is especially appropriate in the case of Almaqah and Syn first because both their cults were thoroughly Mideastern and their origins pre-date the coming of Mediterranean influences to Yemen—probably by several centuries. Second, the use of vine, bull and eagle decorations is not a very strong indicator as to whether a god is solar or lunar, as is discussed in detail in this section. The fact that the inscriptional evidence so far recovered at the Bilqis temple does not mention that Almaqah was a moon-god could be explained through statistics. Since most inscriptions have perished over time leaving only a few hundred intact, the chances are slim that any one of them would mention Almaqah’s astral association. The nature of temple inscriptions is mainly votive and dedicatory, and the astral association of the god would be deemed too obvious to mention in inscriptions. Usually the astral nature of gods is determined from ancient myths, but there is no mythological literature that mentions Almaqah or the other South Arabian gods. It seems the oldest manuscript found in Yemen is from the Islamic era—the Koran. From the fourth century AD to the time of Islam, Judaism and Christianity were on the ascendancy in South Arabia, so some of the temples like Bilqis fell into disuse already then. From the fourth century AD until the present, these temples have been covered and uncovered by blowing sand dunes, often leaving them to the mercy of iconoclasts and salvagers of metal and stone. One ought not expect to find many intact crescent artifacts and lunar inscriptions. Aside from the crescents-and-orb symbols, the uncovered temple inscriptions currently are silent on whether Almaqah and Syn are moon- or sun-gods. This is other evidence, though, some of which is: Archaeologists found “a few examples of the Almaqah’s crescent moon in artwork” (see the Joël Donnet quote above) at the Bilqis temple. One archaeologist wrote of Almaqah’s temple, now called Bilqis: Near the top of the delicate stone shaft was a beautifully carved circular sun with a crescent-moon…for some twenty-five hundred years this graceful pillar had stood guard above the sands near Marib…1861 A Hadramawt temple altar had a crescent-and-orb symbol as well as a Venus altar symbol.1862
Nielsen, 1912, pp. 593-594, as translated in Krause, “Haram–Harimat.” Phillips. Sheba, pp. 226-227.
Chapter 02: The Moon-o-theistic Mideast
There are few, if any, solar disks and rays found in Almaqah’s and Syn’s temples. All this suggests that Almaqah and Syn were moon-gods, not sun-gods. In Ryckmans’ view, Almaqah was a sun-god and Shams was a sun-goddess. In his “Arabian Religions” article for The Encyclopedia Britannica, Ryckmans does not mention who exactly in his view the moon-god at Saba was even though one would suspect the moon-deity would have been mentioned in inscriptions. In Ryckmans’ view, there are two sun deities of note at Saba. The traditional view seems to make better sense in that each slot of the South Arabian sun-moonVenus triad was populated by a notable deity and no slot is doubly occupied: 1) Almaqah as moon-god 2) Shams as sun-goddess and 3) Athtar as Venus. Both Syn and Almaqah fit best in their respective astral triads as moon-gods rather than sun-gods, and each for the same reason: the sun deity position is already taken by a major sun-goddess, and if Syn and Almaqah are sun-gods, that leaves no prominent deity for the moon-god position of the triad. Breton wrote that Sayin was associated with and worshipped along side of ‘Athtar and dhat-Himyam.1863 ‘Athtar is Venus. Simpson wrote that the gender of dhat-Himyam is feminine indicating that she is a goddess. Simpson also wrote that… …Shamsum was most certainly a solar goddess; as Shamsum in Middle Sabaean times [110 BC-300 AD] often replaces the older deities Dhat-Himyam and Dhat-Ba’danum, these may also have been some sort of sun deities.1864 Ryckmans wrote about Dhat-Ba’danum: Among other Sabaean feminine denominations, that of Dhat-Ba’danum, a goddess who received dedications of votive statuettes of horses, was probably a sun goddess since the horse is associated with the solar cult in the Mediterranean culture.1865 Ryckmans said that Hawl was the Hadramawt moon deity, yet apparently nothing is known of Hawl beyond his name. Ryckmans wrote: In Hadramawt, Hawl was probably a moon-god; his name apparently alludes to the lunar cycle.1866 Simpson, however, wrote that hwl (with a dot under the h) as a noun means “magical power,” as a verb hwl means “to avert,” and hwl was a word used on an amulet of the sun goddess Shams.1867 So while Hawl’s etymology might be distantly related to a moon phase, that does not necessarily make Hawl a moon-god. Since the moon-god would have been a major god, Hawl probably was not the moon-god. Thus the Hadramawt astral triad would be: 1) Syn was the moon-god, 2) dhat-Himyam was a sun-goddess who was later replaced by the sun-goddess Shams, and 3) Athtar was Venus. Ryckmans says that a bull—the symbol of both Almaqah and Syn—is “more consistent with a sun god, a male consort of the sun goddess.”1868 Bowen and
Crescent-and-orb (Thompson, Moon, p. 55, plate Lxviii); and Venus altar carving (Thompson, Moon, pp. 50-51, plates xviii and xxi). The Venus-altar carving is illustrated in this Moon-o-theism book in relation to the Dome of the Rock (see the Thumbnail Gallery). 1863 Breton. Felix, p. 122. 1864 Simpson. Sheba, p. 162. 1865 Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 172. 1866 Ryckmans, Jacques. EB, “Arabian Religions” entry, 2004. 1867 Simpson. Sheba, p. 178, catalog item 236. 1868 Ryckmans, Jacques. EB, “Arabian Religions” entry, 2004.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
Albright say that “carved bulls heads” were “ubiquitous” in South Arabia,1869 suggesting that the bull was primarily a lunar symbol in lune-loving South Arabia. A bull and bull’s head (bucranium) were used as moon-god icons due to their curved horns. Whenever bulls are paired with ibexes as on many plaques,1870 the pairing strongly suggests the bull is lunar rather than solar. The same could be said of bulls paired with crescent-and-orbs. A bull’s head artifact from 3rd C BC South Arabia has a crescent-and-orb on its forehead, and between the horns is a pair of ibexes flanking a tree of life that together form a crescent-and-orb motif.1871 Ibex horns sometimes have crescent-and-orbs behind them, too.1872 Bulls as lunar icons probably far outnumber bulls used as solar icons among Semitic peoples, let alone in South Arabia. Moreover, the fierce bulls could be associated with the fact that the South Arabian moon-gods were also war-gods. Almaqah was not only associated with bulls but also with ibexes and goats, which are moon-god animals owing to their curved horns. This suggests that the bulls associated with Almaqah were also considered lunar animals due to their curved horns. Joel Donnet wrote about Almaqah’s association to bulls and ibexes: Almaqah however was the main god worshipped by the Sabeans. Symbolized first by a bull and then by an ibex, he was also associated with a crescent, which led certain archaeologists to call him the moon-god and therefore name Mahram Bilqis ‘the moon temple.’1873 Micha Lindemans wrote about Almaqah’s association to bulls and goats: A moon-god and tutelary god of the South Arabian kingdom of Saba. The members of the tribe of Saba called themselves ‘the children of Almaqah.’ He is symbolized by a cluster of lightning flashes and a weapon which looks similar to the letter S. His symbolical animal is the bull. Almaqah is referred to in some texts as ‘Lord of the horned goats.’1874 Simpson wrote that a temple’s dedicatory inscription at Sirwah read “Almaqah, Master of the Ibex.”1875 Ryckmans says the vine motif was Dionysian. Dionysus was the widely worshipped night-sun. Ryckmans’ surmise reminds one of what the Roman historian Tacitus (~55 AD to ~120 AD) wrote about the Jewish temple: From the fact that their priests used to chant to the music of flutes and cymbals and to wear garlands of ivy, and that a golden vine was found in the temple, some have thought that they worshipped Father Liber [Dionysus, i.e. the Night Sun], the conqueror of the East, though their institutions do not by any means harmonize with the theory; for Liber established a festive and cheerful worship, while the Jewish religion is tasteless and mean [i.e. by gaudy Roman standards].1876
Bowen & Albright. Arabia, p. 225, left column, top. Simpson. Sheba, p. 54, catalog 17; pp. 60-61 + catalog 26; p. 117, catalog 125. 1871 Simpson. Sheba, p. 132, catalog 160, Bronze bull’s head with ibex and tree of life motif. 1872 Ibexes with crescent-and-orbs: Simpson. Sheba, p. 96, catalog 104; p. 139, catalog 180. 1873 Donnet, Joel. “Quest for a Queen,” Frontline, frontlineonnet.com, v.19, issue 3, 2-15 Feb 2002. 1874 Lindemans, Micha F. pantheon.org, 9 Oct 2004, Almaqah entry. 1875 Simpson. Sheba, p. 55. 1876 Tacitus, Histories, 5.3ff, as excerpted from Tacitus, Histories, translated by A. J. Church & W. J. Brodribb, 1888, reprinted in Modern Library, New York, 1942, as quoted in MacMullen & Lane. Sourcebook, p. 162.
Chapter 02: The Moon-o-theistic Mideast
Just as Tacitus dismissed the vine motif as being Dionysian in the case of Yahveh based on the evidence, the same should apply in the case of Almaqah. The use of the vine motif in South Arabia probably differed from elsewhere because the gender, roles and astral association were different than in the Mediterranean world. In Western cultures, the moon was usually a goddess, but in the Mideast the moon was the high god; in the West and Mideast Venus was a goddess, but in South Arabia Venus (Athtar) was generally male. In the West the sun was a high god, but in the Mideast the sun was most often a goddess. With the genders of the sun, moon and Venus often being opposite that in the West, it is not surprising that the standard iconography in the Mideast was different. For instance, in the Mediterranean world vines might be associated with the sun god, not so much because of the astral aspect, but because of male fertility. Since the moon is male in the Mideast and Southern Arabia, vines then become a lunar symbol. In the Mediterranean area and in the Mideast vines were most often carved in a scroll or undulating pattern. An artistic crescent-and-orb was created by curving the vines and using leaves or clusters of grapes for the orb—hence a moon-god symbol. That a scrolled vine is indeed intended as a crescent-and-orb pattern become obvious when a crescent-and-orb alternates between a vine scrolled as just described.1877 The crescent-and-orb vine motif is found throughout the moon-god-loving Mideast including Marib in South Arabia and Petra in northern Arabia.1878 Vine art and the tall-short-tall Allah motifs are illustrated in this Moon-o-theism book, especially in regard to the Dome of the Rock (see the Thumbnail Gallery). That vines were a lunar symbol in South Arabia can be assumed from the fact that vine friezes from Husn al-‘Urr in the Hadramawt, had lunar “ibexes standing behind crossed tendrils.”1879 Other plants besides vines were associated with the moon-god animals such as ibexes and bulls, for instance… …a limestone capital with [an] acanthus leaf decoration beneath which is a crouching ibex flanked by bucrania [plural of bucranium, meaning “ceremonial bull’s head”] panels…was found in the Wadi Harib [but] it is thought to have been brought from Marib.1880 Ibexes and bulls were associated with the moon because of their curved horns. Ibexes were depicted in friezes with crescent-and-orb couplets formed from grape clusters and vines at Marib1881 and at Petra in northwest Arabia.1882 At Petra even a lion is depicted in a scrolled vine.1883 Petra was known for its many decorative crescent winged capitals atop columns and in building facades.1884 This shows Petra’s love of the moon, and suggests that the lion may have been a moon-god symbol. Nowadays people might associate the lion with the sun due to the orange-ish fur, and for the fact that people visit zoos, and wildlife shows are filmed, during daylight.
Simpson. Sheba, p. 97, catalog 109. Nabatean crescent-and-orb grape vines at Petra: Glueck. Dolphins, plate 30 (p. 54), plates 176177 (pp. 388-389). 1879 Doe. Southern, p. 34, picture 4. 1880 Doe. Southern, p. 34, picture 6. 1881 Doe. Southern, p. 36, picture 9. 1882 Ibex in scroll vine at Petra: Glueck. Dolphins, plate 169 (pp. 370-371), plate 170 (p. 372). 1883 Lion in scroll vine at Petra: Glueck. Dolphins, plate 169 (pp. 370-371). 1884 Nabatean crescent-and-orb capitals at Petra: Glueck. Dolphins, plate 173 (p. 385).
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
People in ancient times knew that lions are nocturnal hunters especially on moonlit nights, so naturally they associated the lion with the moon-god: In the Gilgamesh Epic, Gilgamesh prayed to Sin the moon-god for help in fending off lions at night.1885 At Hazor’s moon-god temple, a lion orthostat guarded the entrance.1886 At the moon-god temple in Marib a bronze statue dedicated to Almaqah wears a moon-god approved curved knife under his belt and a lion-skin cape as shown by the four paws.1887 Archaeologists discussing a cherub riding a lion statue found at Timna, capital of Kataban in southwest Yemen, note that this was a popular ancient statue motif that, at least in Timna, would have represented the moon-god controlling the sun. Berta Segall wrote that the cherub riding a lion motif… …outside Arabia, indicates a supremacy of the divinity of the night-sky over that of the sky of the day, is possibly a sign that they meant to emphasize their special loyalty to the Arabian male god of the heavens. In Babylon the moon-god had from very ancient times ‘renewed the royal seed to distant days’ and was therefore the divinity of rulers and the ruling class and, in a wider sense, the ‘life-index’ the index to health and prosperity, of the ruled, as W.F. Albright suggested.1888 In the case of Timna, though, this statue may in fact represent a moon-god controlling a lunar animal, since the lion in the Mideast may have been a lunar animal more than a solar animal. Revisionists cite classical Greek and Roman writers to support their theory in several points. For instance, a Greek historian Theophrastes of Eresos (372-287 BC) wrote that frankincense was collected in a Sabean temple of the sun even though he meant a Hadramawt temple hundreds of miles to the east.1889 Breton says this suggests that the Hadramawt Syn was a sun-god, though Theophrastes’ geography mistake suggests that Theophrastes was just hazarding a guess. Theophrastes made other mistakes such as he thought cinnamon was grown in South Arabia rather than in India.1890 Lastly, Theophrastes could have had in mind the temple of the Hadramawt sun goddess dhat-Himyam. Theophrastes’ information implies that Syn would have been a sun-god if his temple was meant, except that Theophrastes probably just assumed that the Hadramawts’ national god was a sun-god based on Mediterranean mythology. This mistake is similar to how Greek travelers thought the Abyssinian moon-god Mahrem was the god of Mars (Ares)1891 on account of Mahram’s male gender and his preoccupation with war-making. After all, Greek moon-gods were female and were involved in hunting but not warfare.
1885 Anonymous. Gilgamesh, “The Search for Everlasting Life.” Also, Pritchard. Ancient, I:62, middle of Tablet IX. 1886 Yadin, Yigael. Hazor: The Rediscovery Of A Great Citadel Of The Bible. Weidenfield and Nicolson, London & Jerusalem, 1975, pp. 44-47. 1887 Phillips. Sheba, p. 287. 1888 Segal, Berta. “The Lion-riders from Timna,” Bowen & Albright. Arabia, pp. 163-164. 1889 Breton. Felix, p. 122. Theophrastus’ Natural History, 9.4.5. 1890 Breton. Felix, pp. 54, 61. 1891 Nielsen, 1912, pp. 593-594, as translated in Krause, “Haram–Harimat.”
Chapter 02: The Moon-o-theistic Mideast
Coins Show That Almaqah and Syn Were Moon-gods The topic of South Arabian antiquities, including coins, has been demythologized and de-astralized to a greater extent than warranted. This was not always the case. For instance, in 1937 John Walker discussed the moon-god in relation to South Arabian coins, and in 1952 he wrote an article “The Moon-god on Coins of the Hadramawt. Scholars de-emphasize the solar or lunar evidence by leaving a lot left unsaid in the literature, and it is sometimes said that an argument that so-and-so deity is lunar is speculative. Simpson wrote: …the lunar nature of ‘Almaqah and Ta’lab is speculative…[Sayin’s] connection with the moon is merely speculative.1892 The evidence is also said to be ambiguous. For instance, Breton wrote about South Arabia in general: There are bas-reliefs depicting ibexes (sitting or standing), bulls and gazelles, but it is unclear which gods these figures were meant to represent.1893 Inscriptions consecrated to the gods are often accompanied by a small circle which is generally interpreted as an image of planet Venus. These two symbols show up together in a variety of contexts such as engraved plaques, incense altars, and buildings. The image seems to have been essentially a form of talisman to bring good luck and ward off evil, rather than being exclusively related to a specific divinity. Scholars have been so far unable to establish a link between each symbol and a particular deity.1894 Just as bas-reliefs and Venus-and-moon couplets are often left uninterpreted, so also is the case with legends and images on coins. Nowadays, words such as Shahr (moon) and Hilal (crescent), and monograms (e.g. Yanap), are transliterated and generally not translated or interpreted, and there is no hint that such words or their etymology refer to moon-god worship. Untranslated words such as Shahr or Sukr (meaning “bright”) are merely said to be the names of kings, temples, palaces or mints. Even if such words did refer to a king or mint, the fact that the name is etymologically connected to mythology and religion ought to be considered significant enough to mention just as scholars in similar discussions find it helpful to point out that, say, Nebuchadnezzar means “Nabu protects.” Some words could be interpreted as applying to a moon-god or to a king or mint, so it is necessary to set out the case for each interpretation to see which is more plausible. Many South Arabian coins have a crescent-and-orb symbol, or an owl or snake or bull or another moon-god symbol (see illustration below). Few if any have a sunwith-rays symbol as one would expect there to be if any of the high gods were sungods. On a few Katabanian and Sabean coin issues, the obverse has a male bust and the reverse has an owl with an inscription next to the owl that reads: “Shahar Hilal, Ynp!” meaning “Moon Crescent, the Exulted.” Similarly, an issue of Hadramawt eagle coins has a tri-literal inscription Y.Sh.H. standing for “Ynp, Shahar Hilal” meaning “The exulted, Moon Crescent” (all illustrated and discussed below).
Simpson. Sheba, pp. 162…163. Breton, Felix, p. 118. 1894 Breton, Felix, p. 125.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
Figure 02-01. These are symbols often found on South Arabian coins—all of which just happen to be found on this later Sabean bucranium coin issue from the early 2nd to mid3rd century AD. Almaqah’s symbol is found on many Sabean coins.1895 Simpson wrote that the bull with lyreshaped horns with a plume in between is “probably an animal manifestation of ‘Almaqah.”1896 The Bakhkh symbol is of especial interest. It was placed on the obverse of some Sabean coins right next to the bent-ladder symbol of Almaqah.1897 Since the Bakhkh symbol meant “Glory be to Allah,” Almaqah was probably known as Allah already in pre-Islamic times. Egerton Sykes said that Allah “seems to have been preceded by Ilmaqah [aka Almaqah] the moon-god.”1898 See the coins appendix for more on the Bakhkh symbol. Scholars have generally taken the view that the Sahar Hilal mentioned on Sabean coins above the owl refers to a certain Katabanian king (or kings) by that name, and that “the exulted” (YNP) is “the king’s title in Sabaean.”1899 There are a few Sahar Hilals attested in inscriptions and coins: Shahr Hilal (~370 BC), Shahr Hilal Yuhan’im (~300 BC) and Shahr Hilal Yuhagbid (~100-120 BC), but there probably were other Shahr Hilals of which no record has been found. The fact that “Shahr Hilal the exulted” surrounds the upper part of an animal manifestation of a moon-god (the owl) suggests that the phrase “Moon Crescent, the Exulted” refers to the moon-god, or alternatively, to the King Shahr Hilal and his high god. If the legend honored the king exclusively, one would think the legend would have been found not by the owl, but on the obverse by the man’s portrait. The man’s portrait may represent the moon-god Almaqah as suggested by the fact that some later issues of this coin have a crescent-and-orb touching the top of the head. However, there are some issues with the owl on both sides of the coin and the phrase “Moon Crescent, the Exulted,” which more strongly suggests the phrase refers to the moon-god. 1900 That the Sabeans would call their moon-god “the exulted” is in keeping with the religious culture. After the Mekkans had fought the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud in
1895 Coins with Almaqah’s symbols: Doe. Southern, pp. 121-122 and plate 44 (p. 85), 2nd row, Qataban coin 3 (1st C. BCE – 1st C. AD), 3rd row, Sabean coins 2 & 3 (1st C BCE) and 5th row, Sabean coins 1 & 2 (late 1st C AD), etc. 1896 Simpson. Felix, p. 77, coins 69-70 Series with burcranium, early 2nd-mid-3rd centuries AD. 1897 Bucraneum Saba coin series with Bakhka symbol: Simpson. Sheba, p. 77, catalog no. 69, Saba coin series with bucraneum, early 2nd-mid 3rd centuries AD; Doe. Southern, pp. 122 + plate 44, 5th row, Saba coin 1. 1898 Sykes. Mythology, p. 7, Allah entry. 1899 Sylloge. Himyarite-Katabanian coins 1462-1485 (end of 2nd C. BC to 1st C. BC). 1900 Sabean coins with owl on both sides: Doe. Southern, pp. 121, plate 44, 2nd row, coin 1 (2nd C. BC); 3rd row, coin 2 (1st C. BC).
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625 AD, Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb cried out to his god “Hubal, be thou exalted.” Then Muhammad replied “Allah is more exalted and more majestic.”1901 Figure 0202. A rightto-left phrase found on Katabanian and Sabean “old style” owl-onamphora coins is: “Shahar [Moon] Hilal [Crescent], Ynp [be exulted!].”1902 Ynp is written here as a tri-letter monogram.1903 In “new style” issues of this coin (not illustrated here), the inscription is replaced with a pair of monograms on either side of the owl, a bent-ladder symbol of Alumqah is added to the right of the owl’s talons, and some have a crescentand-Venus couplet: 1) at the top margin of the obverse1904 or reverse,1905 or atop of the man’s portrait on the obverse.1906 Indications that the owl represents the Sabean moon-god and high-god are: Almaqah’s bent-ladder symbol (depicted on the above two illustrations) is found on some later issues of the owl-on-amphora coin next to the owl. The fact that the owl coins were the only coin the Sabeans minted from the mid-4th BC to late 1st C BC suggests that the moon-god was the high-god. A later Sabean coin, the bucranium series (2nd-3rd C AD), has a crescentand-orb, further suggesting the moon-god was the Sabean high-god.1907 The crescent by the owl’s back on Sabean coins is not the similar-looking South Arabian letter “r” since this coin is imitative of the Athena-owl Attic tetradrachm that has a crescent in nearly the same position. Also, the “r” is not a denomination mark since these series have an “n” and “g” to denote denomination.1908 1909 The fact that the “Moon Crescent, the Exulted” is on more than one kingdom’s coins suggests that it refers to the moon-god rather than any particular king or king. Sahar Hilal is mentioned on the Katabanian “series with two heads” coins (1st C BCAl Kalbi. Idols, p. 24. Sabean coins with bust on obverse, owl on the reverse: Simpson. Sheba, p. 75, catalog no. 55, Sabeao-Qatabanian coin, late 2nd-1st C. BC; others like it are: Doe. Southern, pp. 121, plate 44, 1st row, coins 1 (5th C BC) & 2 (3rd C. BC); 3rd row, coin 1 (early 2nd C. BC). 1903 The inscriptions and the fact that a symbol on the owl coins is Almaqah’s are found at: Doe. Southern, pp. 121-122 and plate 44 (p. 85), 2nd row, coin 2, Saba (2nd C. BCE); 3rd row, coin 3 (1st C. BCE); Sylloge, plates 50+51, Sabean coins 1460-1461 (end of 2nd C. BCE) and HimyariteKatabanian coins 1462-1485 (end of 2nd C. BCE to 1st C. BCE). 1904 Simpson. Sheba, p. 76, catalog nos. 64+68, Saba coins late 1st C. BC-early 1st C. AD. 1905 Simpson. Sheba, p. 76, catalog no. 59, Saba coin Mid-2nd-late 1st C. BC. 1906 Simpson. Sheba, p. 76, catalog nos. 61-63, Saba coin Mid-2nd-late 1st C. BC. 1907 Simpson. Sheba, pp. 75-77. 1908 Simpson. Sheba, pp. 75-76. 1909 South Arabian alphabet charts are online, or see Phillips. Sheba, p. 42, or start of Sylloge.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
1st C AD), on Katabanian owl-and-amphora coins (mid-2nd C BC), and on Sabean owl-and-amphora coins (late 2nd-1st C BC).1910 John Walker wrote: …both Shahar and Hilal have lunar significance in the South Semitic monuments. The former is a proper name meaning “moon” = Arabic Shahr (month); the latter is the same as the Arabic Hilal (new-moon [i.e. waxing crescent]).1911 Scholars have not considered the possibility that “Moon Crescent, the Exulted” refers to the moon-god, yet there is no other satisfactory solution, as Simpson wrote: The reading and interpretation of the legend have raised many questions and prompted extensive study. Generally it is identified as the name of a Katabanian king, a certain Shahr Hilal, but there is no understandable reason why the Katabanian royal name was written on Sabean coins and in such a [“‘cursive’ rather than formal, but ‘formerly identified as “Aramaic” or “Lihyanite’”] script….In any case, we may suggest that the existence of both series—with Sabaean typological features but with a portrait of a Katabanian ruler on the obverse, and with the name of a Katabanian king on the reverse of Sabaean coins—reflects some form of political subordination or suzerainty of the South Arabian kingdoms when Kataban dominated a large part of southwest Arabia (Hill 1922, 53-55, plates VII, 27-28; VIII, 3-4).1912 Another indication that “Moon Crescent, the Exulted” (Sh.H.Y.) refers to the moon-god is this legend is found on Hadramawt coins, too, but transposed as Y.Sh.H. (The exulted Moon Crescent). Walker came close to the aforementioned solution in 1937 when he wrote about the Syn-eagle coin (as was partly quoted above): If by any chance Y.Sh.H. should stand for Yuhan’im Shahar Hilal it is a noteworthy coincidence that both Shahar and Hilal have lunar significance in the South Semitic monuments.1913 Another solution scholars offer is that Y.Sh.H. stands for the first three consonants of a king’s name: Yashhur’il Yuhar’ish, son of Abiyasa, Mukarrib (i.e. federation leader) of Hadramawt who lived around the time of Christ.1914 Of course, this is conjectural based only on the congruence of three letters of the Syn-eagle coin and not inscriptional evidence where Yashhur’il says he minted new types of coins. That Yashhur’il Yuhar’ish would use the first three letters of his first name on a coin seems unusual since South Arabian coins, including those of the Hadramawt, had the kings’ names spelled out, or his initials or monogram. Note that the solution to Sh.H.Y. being “Moon Crescent, the Exulted” uses initials that are more in keeping with custom. Another indication that Y.Sh.H. probably does not stand for King Yashhur’il Yuhar’ish is that the three series of Hadramawt coinage (eagle, square and bull) have enough similarities that Simpson says they were introduced by, or could be associated with, Yashhur’il.1915 Yashhur’il, however, reigned in the early first
Simpson. Sheba, pp. 74-75, coins 50-55. Walker. New, p. 270. 1912 Simpson. Sheba, p. 75, coins 52-55 Sabaeo-Qatabanian series. 1913 Walker. New, p. 270. 1914 Simpson. Sheba, p. 78. 1915 Simpson. Sheba, pp. 78-79, series with eagle, coins 75-79; square coinage, coin 80; and series with bull, coins 81-82.
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century, but the Series with a Bull coins were not issued until starting in the late first century AD—well after Yuhar’ish’s time!1916 One wonders whether the Syn-eagle coin was re-dated to the early first century merely to tie it to King Yashhur’il Yuhar’ish, since in 1971—perhaps before the Y.Sh.H. equals Yashhur’il theory came into vogue—Doe dated the Syn-eagle coin to the “third or fourth century AD.”1917 Ryckmans and other Revisionist scholars have said that the eagle on Syn-eagle coins is a sun-god symbol just as Nasr, meaning eagle, was a male sun-god in north Arabia and Syria popular among the Arabs. Nasr is mentioned in K 071:023. There was no consensus in the ancient world that the eagle was solar since, for example, the eagle was a symbol of Zeus, but his planet was Jupiter—not the sun. In 1937, Walker related that pre-Islamic amulets show the eagle was a South Arabian moon-god symbol: An amulet in the British Museum has Himyarite (pre-Islamic South Arabian) and Pahlavi (Persian Sassanian-era) scripts and shows an eagle standing on a crescent. Another amulet in the Berlin Museum has an eagle and the words “May ‘Amm make happy.”1918 Ryckmans wrote “In Kataban the national god ‘Amm, ‘paternal uncle,’ may have been a moon god.”1919 Another indication that the Syn-eagle coin was a moon-god coin was that it was preceded by, and is similar to, three issues of Hadramawt lunar-oriented coins: From the mid-4th to 2nd C. BC, the Hadramawt kings issued an imitation Athena-owl and crescent and AEO legend coin. A variant of the above coin minted during the same period has a male head on the obverse and an owl and crescent with the word SKR rather than the pseudo-Greek AOE legend. What this indicates is the Athena-owl coin was updated to reflect the fact that in South Arabia the moon-gods were male. A third coin issued from ~1st C. BC-early 1st C. AD has a radiant male head on the obverse, and a caduceus snake on the reverse.1920 Breton says the serpent was a symbol of the moon-god Wadd popular throughout South Arabia.1921 One can see that the Syn-eagle coin continued the centuries-long pattern (noted above) of coins more closely reflecting South Arabian male moon-god mythology. The Syn-eagle coin has a male head on the obverse with the name Syn. The male head probably represents the moon-god Syn and not a king since a later similar coin issue (illustrated later in this section) has a radiant head with an S standing for Syn. The reverse of the Syn-eagle coin has the legend “Moon Crescent, the exulted” (Sh.H.Y.), as was discussed above. The reverse of the Syn-eagle coin has an eagle standing on a crescent and the word SKR that means bull’s horn and moon crescent. Simpson wrote “Shaqar (SKR),
Simpson. Sheba, pp. 78, series with bull, coins 81-82. Doe. Southern, p. 122. 1918 Walker. New, pp. 271-272. 1919 Ryckmans, Jacques. EB, “Arabian Religions” entry, 2004. 1920 Simpson. Sheba, p. 77, Athena-owl coins 71-72; male head-owl coin 73; radiant head-caduceus coin 74. 1921 Breton. Felix, p. 121.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
the name of the royal residence in Shabwa, denoting, most probably, the royal mint as well.”1922 Walker explained that SKR was an alternate name for Syn: Mr. Beeston, in the above mentioned article [Le Museon, lxiv, 1951, p. 131]…regards it [SKR] as a quality or attribute of the moon-god, and suggests that it goes back to a root meaning ‘to be bright’ [Note: a crescent moon is bright]. This may be the correct derivation, but on the coins it would appear to be a proper name like Sin. In addition to the…coin evidence, there are other indications. The word SKR commonly denotes the roof or the upper part of the building. It [SKR] frequently occurs in the phrase…‘from its foundation to the roof’ [Walker footnote: See K. Conti Rossini, Chrestomathia, p. 252]….we know that the people of those days placed representations of the moon-god on the roofs of their temples and other buildings. A very good illustration of this is seen in fig. 6 [reproduced below] which shows an alabaster slab from the Yemen, now in the Eski Sark Museum, Istanbul, on which appears the outline of the elevation of a Sabaean temple. On the roof of the temple can clearly be seen the bull’s horns of the moon-god projecting from each of the pinnacles. Other pertinent illustrations showing gargoyles or rainwater heads in the shape of bulls’ heads are in C. Rathjens and H. v. Wissmann’s Vorislamische Altertumer, Hamburg, 1932, pp. 55-56. They are from the roof of a temple at Hugga….It is interesting to note that this practice still survives in the Hadramawt at the present day, although its original significance has been forgotten. Freya Stark (Seen in the Hadhramaut, London, 1938, p. 38) gives a photograph of a native house with ibex horns on the roof.1923 Figure 02-03. A Sabean moon-temple with pairs of “bull’s horns of the moongod projecting from each of the pinnacles” in the form of a The crescent.1924 temple is carved into an alabaster slab from Yemen now in the Eski Sark Museum, Istanbul. Note the three arched-door Venus altars halfway up the wall, and the “tall narrow triple recesses which were a common feature on buildings facades during this period.”1925 The slab is broken on the right side so one cannot tell how long the temple was, but judging from the size of the bull horns, the temple must have been about two stories high minus the pinnacles. Breton wrote that in South Arabia: The gutters of a great many civilian and religious buildings were also adorned with bull’s head motifs.1926
Simpson. Sheba, p. 77. Walker. Hadramaut, pp. 625-626…fn. 1 on p. 626. 1924 Walker. Hadramaut, pp. 625-626, figure 6 (see fuller quotation above). 1925 Simpson. Sheba, p. 148. 1926 Breton. Felix, p. 125.
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Ryckmans wrote that “reliefs representing a bucranium and called SHR [accent on S, dot under H] ‘talisman’ were inserted into the façade of buildings.”1927 The word SHR that Ryckmans writes of seems to be closely related to Walker’s word SKR in both meaning and spelling. Ryckmans says SHR also was one of the names of temple priests and administrators but their “functions are not clearly distinguished.”1928 Note that SKR and SHR are fairly close in spelling to the word Shhr (Shahr) meaning crescent. This suggests they all mean crescent, and the priests called SHR would be moon-god priests. The royal palace and mint of the Hadramawt region was a towerhouse complex called SKR (or Shaqar) though it is unclear whether this fact is assumed based on the mint name of coins, or whether there is an inscription to that effect.1929 If it was named SKR, one can surmise that the building got this distinction due to the fact that its roof sported bull horns and was the tallest of the 250 tower-houses in the city of Shabwa.1930 That the Hadramawt mint would be named after a bull-horn crescent would be similar to how the Katabanian mint was, according to Doe, “probably” named Harib.1931 Harib is related to the word Harba, to fight, and all the high gods of South Arabia were war-and-moon gods as Nielsen wrote: …the main god, the national god of war…this is in all South Arabian, yes, nearly in all Semitic monuments, a sure identifying mark of the moon-god.1932 Each Islamic Mosque also has a “fighting” place called a Mihrab because Allah was, and still is, a war- and moon-god. Gibb and Kramers wrote: Mihrab [dot under h] has been derived from [the word] Harba [with dot under h] “spear,” and from South Arabic Mikrab, Ethiopian, Mekrab “temple,” but the etymology is not certain…1933 Above it was discussed how SKR meant bull’s horn or crescent, but one can do a word-picture study of Hadramawt coins to find by the process of elimination the meaning of SKR (see the illustration below). The earliest three series of SKR coins are not illustrated here since they imitate coins from the Mediterranean and do not shed much light on the South Arabian word SKR other than the fact that SKR is lunar-related: The Athena-owl has a crescent but not the word SKR. The male head-owl coin has the word SKR and may or may not have a crescent, but the owl is a moon-god symbol nonetheless. The radiate head-winged caduceus coin has the word SKR and the snake is a South Arabian moon-god symbol.1934 If one looks at the coins below, the only element that is common to all the coins with the word SKR is not a bull or bull’s head, but a bull’s horn (under the eagle). Thus Walker’s word SKR means bull’s horn, and so might Ryckmans’ SHR.
Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 174. Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 173. 1929 Simpson. Sheba, p. 144. 1930 Simpson. Sheba, p. 144. 1931 Doe. Southern, p. 119. 1932 Nielsen, 1912, pp. 593-594, as translated in Krause, “Haram–Harimat.” 1933 Gibb & Kramers. Encyclopedia, p. 343, middle of the left column, Masjid entry. 1934 Simpson. Sheba, p. 77, coins 71-74 are the two owl and radiant head coins of the early series.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
The position of the bull’s horn below the eagle suggests the horn represents a crescent. The position of the first letter (S) of Syn’s name between the bull’s horns on the square coin suggest an orb-and-crescent. Figure 02-04. Hadramawt Syn coins (~1st half of 1st C AD to late 3rd C AD). Note that by the process of elimination, SKR seems to mean “bull’s-horn crescent.” The Syn-eagle coin is sketched from Doe. Southern, plate 44 (p. 85), and the rest are sketched from Walker. Hadramawt and Simpson. Sheba, p. 78. Scholars generally have not noticed the crescent on Syn-eagle coins only because those scholars drew their conclusions and seem to have not revisited all the evidence in a meaningful way since the first few Syn-eagle coins were found even though their condition was poor. Perhaps this is because coins end up in different museums and private collections and go unpublished for decades. In 1937 Walker published five samples, two of which had the bull’s-horn crescent worn off, two had the bull’s horn mostly intact, and one had a bull’s horn that dipped down on the left side which made Walker think it was an undulating line or perhaps Almaqah’s bent-ladder symbol. The reason for the dip on the left side of the horn might have been artistic expression or a meaningless variation common on anything hand-made. Even in the industrial and information age, stamps and coins have unintended variations that make them unique and collectors’ items. Walker took the undulating bull’s horn to be the norm though only one of his samples showed this feature and two show a bull’s-horn crescent. Walker’s 1937 reproduction showed the eagle standing straight up which correctly displays the halfcrescent,1935 but his 1952 composite drawing tilts the eagle rightward (see illustration below) because Walker thought the bull’s horn was an artistic baseline or the bentladder symbol of Almaqah.1936 Walker understandably missed the crescent because of the paucity of samples available to him. Even in 1952, Walker did not have a complete, unworn Syn-eagle coin, but had to provide a composite drawing.1937 Moreover, Walker expected a wellformed full-crescent like those on other South Arabian coins, not a primitive bull’shorn half-crescent. Walker wrote in 1937: …his name Sin occurs on several inscriptions from the Hadramawt. But this is the first recorded instance of his name appearing on coins, although his
Walker. New, plate 33. Walker. Hadramaut, pp. 625-626…fn. 1 on p. 626. 1937 Walker. Hadramaut, p. 623, figure 1.
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crescent-symbol is found frequently on Himyarite and other South Arabian epigraphic and numismatic remains. In view of this fact it is all the more remarkable that his crescent should be absent from the present coins though his name is written in full, unless, of course, we regard the curved line below the eagle on the reverse as being intended for that. But, as will appear below, this is doubtful….Below the eagle an undulating line will be observed…The question arises: Has this any special significance? Or is it simply a base line? The presence of a curved line, presumably a lunar crescent below the eagle on the British Museum gem mentioned above [discussed above in this Revisionist section], suggests that perhaps the present line may have a similar significance. There is, however, just another possibility which suggests itself, namely, that it may represent the well-known curved sign [Almaqah’s bent-ladder symbol] on the already published Himyarite coins.1938 Figure 0205. Syneagle coins (~first half of 1st C AD according to Simpson. Sheba, p. 78). The Syneagle coins are sketched from Doe. Southern, plate 44 (p. 85), Walker. Hadramawt (several pages) and Simpson. Sheba, p. 78. Factors that indicate the eagle on the Syn-eagle coin (illustrated above) is standing on a bull’s-horn crescent include: The word SKR is to the left of the eagle. Walker argued that one of the meanings of SKR was a “bull’s horn of the moon-god projecting from each of the pinnacles” of a Sabean moon-god temple.1939 Birds of prey surely were seen perched on these horns just as is pictured on the Syn-eagle coin. The initials Y.Sh.H. standing for “Ynp, Shahar Hilal” meaning “The exulted, Moon Crescent” are to the right of the eagle (discussed above). The later Hadramawt coins all featured a bull or bull’s head showing that the bull was the main symbol of the moon-god Syn (illustrated above). The earliest examples of the Syn-eagle coins were found between the cities Shihr and Tarim,1940 and Shihr likely is related to “moon” (Shahr). The “r” letter in the word SKR forms a crescent next to the left side of the eagle in the Syn-eagle coin in the same position as the crescent in the coin
Walker. New, pp. 266….278-279. Walker. Hadramaut, pp. 625-626, figure 6 (see fuller quotation above). 1940 Walker. New, pp. 260; also Simpson. Sheba, p. 78.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
that preceded it—the Hadramawt imitation of the Athena-owl on amphora coin. So one lunar coin begets another. The left side of the half-crescent horn does not dip down except on one sample (Walker 1937, coin 1), and that is not as pronounced as Walker’s 1952 drawing would suggest. The left side of the Doe 1971 sample actually curves up to form three-fourths of a crescent. Other South Arabian coins (some are illustrated in this section) have baselines but they are relatively straight and in no way suggest they are a half-crescent, full-crescent or bull’s horn. Artifacts and Dedicatory Plaques Show That Almaqah Was a War-and-moon god (See the “Allah as a War-god” section earlier in this Moon-o-theism book.) Phonetics Suggest that Syn Really Was Sin, the Main Moon-god of the Mideast The Revisionist theory has it that the Hadramawt Syn was not the moon-god Sin, but the sun-god Sayin, a god whom we know little about.1941 The conjectured pronunciation Sayin is based on the original three-letter root, and the vowels used in a transliteration (Sabin) by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD).1942 The likely reason that the Revisionists have started referring to the Hadramawt Syn (or Sin) as Sabin or Sayin is to deny the competing theory a proof that the Hadramawt Syn is the Mesopotamian Sin. Denying the opponent the use of language is known as the scorched-earth propaganda trick. Semitic languages were written only with consonants and without any vowels or vowel pointing until the seventh or eighth centuries. This is why the scholars sometimes insert the vowels of Greek and Latin transliterations into Semitic words. If one wanted to insert vowels into the name Syn, it might be better to borrow those used for the Akkadian Su-en. So instead of Sayin, it would be Suyen. One cannot put much stock in Greek and Roman historians’ transliterations of South Arabian words since they are known to be unreliable. Examples from inaccurate Roman and Greek transliterations from Breton’s book Arabia Felix (1999) include: Pliny: Sabota (Shabwat/Shabwa), p. 65; Gebbanitae (Qatabanites), p. 73. Stabo: Sabata (Shabwat/Shabwa), p. 80; Marsiaba (Maryab/Ma’rib), p. 167. Theophrastus: Kitibaina (Qataban); Mamali (Qarnaw/Ma’in), p. 54.1943 It is easy to imagine that immigrants, travelers or traders brought Su-en or Sin from the Mideast to the Hadramawt, since much of the Arabian language, culture and religion originally came from the Mideast. Moreover, some of the first major consumers of frankincense and myrrh were the moon-god priests of ancient Mesopotamian empires where Sin and other moon-gods loomed large. Breton wrote: …around the eighth or seventh centuries…frankincense arriving in Assyria was referred to by its South Arabian name of Libnay.1944 The fact that Assyrian priests were using the South Arabian name for frankincense already in the eighth century BC increases the likelihood that the Hadramawt Syn is really the Mesopotamian Sin.
Breton. Felix, p. 122. Natural History, bk. 12, sec. 32, para. 63. 1943 The first name is the ancient name and the second is the modern Arabic name as found in The Jawf and the Arabia Felix maps at Breton. Felix, pp. x-xi. 1944 Breton. Felix, p. 115.
Chapter 02: The Moon-o-theistic Mideast
The Greeks and Romans only started using exotic fragrances centuries later when their empires spanned into the Mideast and Egypt. Pliny (23-79 AD) lamented that despite the recently introduced perfumes, the gods were more benevolent back in the days when worshippers “petitioned them with salted spelt.”1945 Spelt was a wheat grown in Europe from the Bronze Age until the advent of modern bread wheat. Some of the main caravansaries were moon-god worshipping centers: Haran, Ur and Tema in northern Arabia. Tema was a center of moon-god worship set up by Babylonian Emperor Nabonidus (556-539 BCE) whose mother was a Sin priestess. Likely, it was only a matter of time before Su-en and Sin morphed into Syn or Suyen or Sayin in the Hadramawt. The pronunciation may not have reflected the spelling exactly if the spelling of Syn ossified. In fact, inscriptions from Aden in southeast Yemen and in Abyssinia—where there may have been immigrants from the Hadramawt—have the spelling SN and probably pronounced Sin.1946 Ryckmans however says that “phonetic objections” indicate that the Hadramawt Syn is not the widely worshipped moon-god Sin. Phonetics aside, one must ask “What are the chances of there being a sun-god named Syn in the Hadramawt and moon-god named Sin (or Su-en) known throughout the Mideast for millennia?” It is recognized that other gods in South Arabia came from the Mesopotamian area despite the slightly different spelling and pronunciation, so why would Syn not be derived from Sin (or Su-en)? For instance: The Makkan Hubal likely was derived from HaBaal meaning “The Baal,” or “The Lord.” The South Arabian sun-god Shams corresponds to Shemesh of Mesopotamia. The South Arabian Venus god 'Athtar corresponds to that of the Mesopotamian Venus goddess Ishtar. The Arabian cosmic god Il and Ilah was the Mesopotamian cosmic god El. The Qataban moon-god Anbay corresponds to the Babylonian god Nabu (note the “n” and “b” consonants in Anbay and Nabu). Nabu was the Mesopotamian god of writing and wisdom who wrote down the words and wisdom of the moon-god Sin. Thus the leap from being a wisdom and scribal god to moon-god was not great. The Arabic culture, language, religion and religious iconography was largely derived from, and remained dependant on, Aramaic culture. For instance, artwork at Marib included the common Mideast cherubs, griffins, sphinxes, bulls, bucrania, crescent-and-orb couplets and trees of life.1947 Sin was first known as Su-en in Mesopotamia but within a few centuries became known as Sin within that same region. One can see the drift in the pronunciation of gods’ names in place names and in compound names, for instance: Sin: Desert of Sin, Desert of Zin, Sennacherib (Sin multiplies brothers), Sanballat (Sin has given life)1948 Nabu: Mt. Nebo, Nebuchadnezzar (May Nabu protect the crown)
Pliny the Elder. Natural History, 12.82; also at 12.93. Aden: Walker. New, p. 265, fn. 8 (Aden); Abyssinia: Walker. New, p. 277. 1947 Doe. Southern, pp. 36-37, pictures 9-13. 1948 NIV Study Bible (2002) note on Neh 02:10: “Sanballat. A Babylonian name meaing ‘Sin (the moon-god) has given life.”
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
So a change in the pronunciation and spelling from Sin (or Su-en) to Syn: 1) across the millennia, 2) across the 1,400 miles from Babylon to Yemen and 3) across the Aramaic-Arabic language barrier would be expected. Some language purists like to say that Arabs are sticklers for pronunciation, and that the vowels and consonants would have remained constant over thousands of years. This is an exaggeration since even if there had been dictionaries and everyone was literate, such precision in pronunciation and spelling would have been a feat nothing short of miraculous. Even the spelling of the city Marib changed over time in inscriptions. Originally it was Maryab (mryb) but by the end of the second century BC, it had changed to Ma’rib.1949 Another South Arabian word that seems to have changed spelling is bucranium (SHR),1950 which in the Hadramawt became SKR.1951 The change in language occurs even when everything is written down and sacralized. For instance, the Koran standardized Arabic, but within 1350 years most Arabic speakers can no longer understand the Koran without training and familiarization. Students of the Koran even travel to Makka and Yemen to hear and learn an Arabic dialect that is closer to that of the Koran. Richard Burton (1821–1890 AD) was not naïve about etymology. He said that a drift in the pronunciation of an Arabic word was an attempt to make it easier to pronounce. He relates that the first letter of the word Sirat—Islam’s Sword Bridge— changed twice in less than thirteen hundred years: from Sin to Sad to Za. Burton wrote in 1885 AD: The word [Sirat] was originally written with Sin [letter] but changed for easier articulation to Sad [letter], one of the four Huruf al-Mutabbakat, ‘the flattened,’ formed by the broadened tongue in contact with the palate. This Sad [letter] also by the figure Ishmam (=conversion) turns slightly to a Za, the intermediate [letter] between Sin and Sad.1952 Thus for Sin (or Su-en) to become Syn for ease of pronunciation, or as a peculiarity in a local dialect, is entirely conceivable. There are other indications that the Hadramawt was directly affected by the Mideast, and thus by implication Syn was Sin. Caton Thompson wrote: The southwest orientation, dissimilar to other recorded temples in southwest Arabia, conforms to the Babylonian ancestral practice of an axis diagonal to the cardinal points. The raised platform style of the building seems derived, probably indirectly, from the same area [i.e. Babylon].1953 A Hadramawt colony in Yemen called Sumhuram near Khor Rory, Dhofar, yielded an inscription using Babylonian letters, and another inscription to Syn, which all suggests that Syn was indeed Sin. Wendell Phillips wrote: Dr. Jamme had deciphered a newly uncovered bronze inscription mentioning the name of the Hadhramaut moon-god Sin and giving for the first time the name…Sumhuram, a long-lost city. Next came a strange inscription on a stone trough, running from left to right, and with peculiar forms of letters found previously only in inscriptions belonging to the Biblical Chaldeans.1954
Breton. Felix, p. 182. Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 174. 1951 Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 173. 1952 Burton. Nights, vol. 4, fn. 318. 1953 Thompson. Moon, p. 57. 1954 Phillips. Sheba, pp. 337-338.
Chapter 02: The Moon-o-theistic Mideast
Also in Saba, Yemen, there are similar indications that the temple to Almaqah was a moon-temple with similarities to those built in Mesopotamia. Ryckmans wrote: The temple of Almaqah in Marib had an unusual shape, that of an ellipse [meaning the main walled room was oval] with a major axis about 345 feet long, with a strong wall about 28 feet high, built of fine limestone ashlars.1955 The curved walls may be in honor of the curved crescent of the moon-god. The ziggurat at Ur was built in honor of the moon-god Sin. Many arches and curved walls are built using the principle of entasis, meaning the walls and columns are curved slightly so they look straight to the human eye. So… …surprisingly, there is not a single straight line in the structure. Each wall, from base to top and horizontally from corner to corner, is a convex curve…1956 A Sometimes Misconstrued Inscription Mentioning Syn and Athar The following Hadramawt inscription excerpt has been misconstrued by some to say that Sin the moon-god was not the high god in the Hadramawt region: ...to Sin, He of ‘Ilum, and to Attar, his father (Pritchard, Ancient, II:238). Simpson seems to have fallen for the misinterpretation of the above inscription when he wrote: In one Hadramatic inscription ‘Athtar is called ‘father’ of the Hadramatic deity Sayin.1957 Simpson takes the Hadramawt inscription to mean that Attar, a Venus-god in Yemen, fathered Sin even though Simpson wrote that Syn was “at the top of the Hadramitic pantheon.”1958 It is unlikely that lowly Attar would father the top god in theogonic myths, especially when another goddess is called “mother of ‘Attar.”1959 Shabbir Ally of Islamic Awareness used the misinterpretation to attack the Allah was a moon-god theory. Ally wrote: Quite revealing! This shows that the moon-god Sin had a father Attar who was also a god. So for these people the moon-god was not the high god. This again disproves [Robert] Morey. Morey kept telling us that the moon-god was the high god among the pagans. Now we know that…he [Sin] also had a father. Allâh of course was never believed to have a father.1960 The reason that this inscription is misunderstood is twofold. South Arabian inscriptions are, as Ryckmans wrote: “…solemn texts drawn up in the third person…”1961 Ryckmans also wrote: In ancient times the ruler might call himself the ‘firstborn’ (bikr) of the god, while the nation was the ‘progeny’ (wld) of its national god.1962 Elsewhere Ryckmans wrote that “The protective formula…‘Wadd is father’ written on amulets or on the walls of buildings…”1963 So “his father” (third person) in the
Ryckmans, Jacques. EB, “Arabian Religions” entry, 2004. “Third dynasty of Ur, 22nd–21st century BC,” EB, 12 May 2002. 1957 Simpson. Felix, p. 163 + fn. 4: “RES 2693” (RES = Repertoire d’epigraphic semitique, 8 vols., Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Paris, 1900-1968). 1958 Simpson. Felix, p. 163. 1959 Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 172. 1960 Ally, Shabbir. “Reply To Robert Morey’s Moon-god Myth & Other Deceptive Attacks On Islam,” Islamic Awareness, Islamic-awareness.org, accessed 1 Nov 2003. 1961 Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 171. 1962 Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 172.
Moon-o-theism by Yoel Natan
above inscription likely should be understood as “my father” (first person), meaning that the royal person who commissioned the inscription was referring to Attar (Venus) as “my father” as was customary for royalty to do at the time in Yemen. Attar (Venus) may have been considered the special protective god of the royal house in Yemen just as Mahram the war-and-moon-god was a “special protective god” of Abyssinian royals.1964 James B. Pritchard gave the correct interpretation of the inscription in question. He capitalized the pronouns referring to deities while leaving the pronouns that pertain to the devotee in lowercase. Note that the capital “He” in the inscription is a grammatical appositive and refers to the god Sin, and the small-letter “his” refers to a mortal king who is claiming divine parentage or ancestry: Saduqdakar Barran, prefect of the property of the king of Hadramawt, son of ‘Ilsarah, dedicated to Sin, He [Sin] of [Pritchard: “the temple of”] ‘Ilum, an offering in bronze of which the weight is true, reddish-brown bronze—and he [the prefect] offered it—, which he [the prefect] promised to Sin as He [Sin] had him [the prefect] [promise] by His [Sin’s] oracle. And Saduqdakar consecrated in submission to Sin, He [Sin] of ‘Ilum, and to ‘Attar, his [the prefect’s] father, and to the goddess of His [Sin’s] temple ‘Ilum, and to the gods and goddesses of the city of Sabwa, his [the prefect’s] person and his understanding and his children and his possessions and the light of his eye and the thought of his heart as homage and submission which may be agreeable.1965 So the devotee happens to be a government prefect and is a member of royalty. The prefect is of royal lineage since ‘Ilsarah is the King of Saba and Dhu-Raydan, as Pritchard noted in his book a few pages earlier when he discussed another inscription.1966 Perhaps this is the same Ilsarah Yahdub who fought off the Roman legion that, according to the Roman historian Strobe, tried to conquer Marib in 24 BC.1967 The inscription also seems to say that Sin is the moon-god ‘Ilum, or it equates the Hadramawt Sin with the Sabean Ilumquh (aka Almaqah). That Sin would be considered Alumqah is entirely possible because: In Syn’s Hadramawt temple at Huraydah one inscription addresses Syn and another inscription addresses Almaqah.1968 Breton wrote: As the influence of Saba spread throughout South Arabia, the cult of Almaqah was imposed upon tribal groups who already had pantheons of their own. The result was a hodge-podge of religious conceptions.1969 Conclusion The recent Revisionist view is wrong. Almaqah and Syn were not sun-gods, but were moon- and war-gods as the traditional view states.
Ryckmans. Anchor, v. 6, p. 172. Nielsen, 1912, pp. 593-594, as translated in Krause, “Haram–Harimat.” 1965 Pritchard. Ancient, II:238. Note: The inscription line numbers and some accent marks have been excluded, while bracketed comments have been added. 1966 Pritchard. Ancient, II:231. 1967 Elahi, Rahmat (the archaeologist). “A Glimpse of Archaeological Sites in Southern Part of the Republic of Yemen,” Yementimes.com, Issue 10, Culture Page, 6–12 Mar 2000, vol. x. 1968 Thompson. Moon, p. 52 + plate LXII: Syn inscription, no 17a, Almaqah inscription no. 17b. 1969 Breton. Felix, p. 117.