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The term ṣt in Ugaritic

December 15, 2008

I’ve spent the better part of a day trying to come up with a suitable translation for the term ṣt. The term occurs in the first scene of the ʾAqhatu Epic. For example CAT 1.17 1 3-5 has:

yd (4) [ṣth . <dnil]
[yd ṣth> yʿl . ] w yškb .
yd (5) [mizrth .] p yln .

<Daniʾilu> removed his ṣt
[ went up] and lay down.
He removed [his girded garment], and so spent the night.

However, leaving the term untranslated really bugs me. The Ugaritic term ṣt has found many possible etymologies (see discussion in DUL 793).

J. C. DeMoor (JNES 25[1965], 161) suggests two possibilities, the first of which is Arabic ṣuttiyya with the meaning “stripped garment.” While this is possible, it does not explain the final weak letter. A second possibility put forward by DeMoor is the Phoenician and Hebrew סות, whose meaning is obscure. The word appears in Phoenician in KAI 11. 24:8 (see DNWSI 781 and cf. discussion of סוית on 780). In Hebrew the term appears only in Gen 49:11 (cf. HALOT 749). While both are in the general range of garments, neither is particularly persuasive or descriptive. (The LXX translates *סות in Gen 49:11 as περιβόλαιον “robe, covering.”)

A more helpful etymology is the Akkadian (w)aṣitu (see AHw 1475; CAD A/2 355-6; CDA 435). The term literally means “that which goes out” and when used of garments, would indicate an outer piece of clothing (thus confirming the LXX translation of the word in Gen 49:11).

In regards to the orthography in Ugaritic, the loss of the ʾaleph can be explained by elision. The change of Akk and Ug /ṣ/ to Ph /s/ is attested by Segert (A Grammar of Phoenician and Punic §33.543.2), but I can’t find a similar discussion for Hebrew. (Any one have any source I can grab?)

So, today at least I think Ugaritic ṣt should be translated as “outer garment, robe.”

  1. December 16, 2008 12:21 pm

    I’m not sure that this helps but, if you haven’t looked at it, you might also want to checkout CAD Ṣ, 221 where they cite ša ṣīt kišādi, “a garment with a hole for the neck” in Malku VI 105. They relate it to ṣītu but I’m not altogether sure of how it relates in terms of the meaning.

  2. December 16, 2008 12:30 pm


    Thanks. I wonder why DUL doesn’t list that as a possible cognate.

  3. Adam Couturier permalink
    December 22, 2008 2:16 pm

    Hello Jim,

    Sorry to high-jack this thread, but I didn’t know where else to write this question (and putting in the Hanukkah thread didn’t seem right). When we were chatting at the tail end of the bibliobloggers dinner in Boston, you mentioned a book about ancient Near Eastern erotic iconography. I thought you mentioned that O. Keel was the author, but I wasn’t sure. Do you remember the title and author?


  4. December 22, 2008 2:35 pm

    Yup. The book’s Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God by Othmar Keel. My wife refers to it as my “ancient Near East soft-porn book.”

  5. parkersmood permalink
    December 22, 2008 3:41 pm

    Nice quote. Thanks Jim, I will have to go order that!

  6. parkersmood permalink
    December 22, 2008 5:41 pm

    By the way, will I have to hide it under my mattress?

  7. December 23, 2008 10:08 am

    I’m not sure, Adam. Either mattress or sock drawer is standard, from what I hear.

    Then again, there is the theory that the pillar figurines were actually marital aides. So if you’re married, the book might be a help if the old šà isn’t doing the trick….

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