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Was Daniʾil a King?

September 11, 2008

In the Tale of Aqhat (CAT 1.17-19), Daniʾil’s social status has been hotly debated. He seems quite well to do, but is never explicitly identified as king. Baruch Margalit is adamant that Daniʾil was not a king while Nick Wyatt is just as adamant that he was; and both bring quite good arguments to the fore. However, there might be another way past this impasse.

Daniʾil is identified as both mt rpi and mt hrmny. While numerous and varied translations have been understood for each term, both have been identified with places at one point or another. Hence, Baruch Margalit identified rpi with a town in the Transjordan area around Bashan: Egyptian nw . rpi, that is biblical Ashtaroth or Raphon (1 Mac 5:37) from the Hellenistic period. Likewise, W. F. Albright identified hrmn with Egyptian hrmn/armn (Hermel) in the region of the Orontes.

Now, it should be obvious that both of these suggestions cannot be true. Daniʾil can’t be both from the Orontes valley and the Transjordan. However, most scholars take one or the other of these terms as referring to a geographical name. What interests me is the implication for Daniʾil’s social status if either are a geographical name (GN).

In his extended commentary of Aqhat, Margalit refers to the idiom of “man-of-GN” on page 258 n. 19. There he makes reference to a similar phenomenon in western Akkadian mentioned in CAD A2, p. 57 (available conveniently here). What one finds in the dictionary is that the construction LÚ GN is a way of referring to kings in Amarna and Mari documents (the same can also be seen in NeoAssyrian royal inscriptions as well). In fact, that’s the only way the construction is used at Amarna (the most contemporary archive we have to work with).

Regardless of whether one takes mt rpi or mt hrmny as containing a GN, either lead to the conclusion that Daniʾil is conceived of as a king in the text.

Works Cited:

Albright, W. F. “The Traditional Home of the Syrian Daniel,” BASOR 130 (1953):26- 27.
Margalit, Baruch. The Ugaritic Poem of AQHT: Text, Translation, Commentary. Edited by. ed. Vol. 182, BZAW. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1989.

  1. September 11, 2008 11:07 pm

    Just to cause a little trouble. Is LÚ KURú-ga-ri-t in RS 17.133:2,9 (PRU IV, 118-119) the king of Ugarit? I don’t think so. By my understanding of this ruling/letter, the “man of Ugarit” is later (l.15f) referred to as the GAL LÚMmalahhi ša KURú-ga-ri-t, “the head boatman of Ugarit.” But this tablet is from Hatti, so the example may not really be a good counter example. (Sorry for the strange orthography but I wasn’t sure what your comment software supports.)

  2. September 12, 2008 9:11 am


    Thanks for the comment! Truth be told, I have yet to do the leg work on how scribal use LÚ GN at Ugarit. What struck me was that Margalilt was working so hard to prove that Daniʾil was not a king only to cite a CAD entry that complicated his situation — and he doesn’t even acknowledge the problem this causes!

    I’ve discovering just how useful Amarna letters can be in helping to answer some of the ritual questions at Ugarit. The fact I might be able to shed light on this issue in a literary text is just icing on the cake. Obviously, these texts aren’t a panacea, but they are very useful.

    Regardless, any and all insights into the use of the idiom in Ugaritic Akkadian are welcomed, whether they complicate the issue or not.

  3. ntwrong permalink
    September 14, 2008 11:38 pm

    Although it’s often not given much attention in these learned scholarly discussions by Margalit, de Moor & co, aren’t there three terms in parallel in the texts, not just two (mt rpi, ǵzr, mt hrnmy)? Does that change things?


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