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Kirtu’s Mountaintop Experience

January 27, 2009

In the beginning of the Story of Kirtu (CAT 1.14-16), the king is bereft of kin and is weeping in fetal ball. The god ʾIlu descend to him and in a dream discusses Kirtu’s plight. Kirtu is called upon to perform a ritual and then go off to war. However, much of this mountaintop experience is still problematic to scholars. One issue is what Kirtu is to do for/with Baʿlu on the tower’s rooftop.

CAT 1.14 ii 9-27

(9) trtḥṣ.wtadm
(10) rḥṣ[. y]dk . amt
(11) uṣb [ʿtk .] ʿd [.]ṯkm
(12) ʿrd [.b ẓl . ḫmt]
(13) qḥ . im[r . b yd]k
(14) imr . d[bḥ . bm]. ymn
(15) lla . kl[atnm]
(16)klt . l[ḥml . ]d nzl
(17) qḥ . ms[rr .] ʿṣr (18 ) dbḥ .
ṣq[ . b g]l . ḥtṯ (19)yn .
b gl . [ḫ]rṣ . nbt
(20) ʿl . l ẓr . m[g]dl
(21) w ʿl . l ẓr mgdl .
rkb (22) ṯkmm . ḥmt .
ša . ydk (23) šmm .
dbḥ . l ṯr (24) abk . il .
šrd . bʿl (25) b dbḥk .
bn .dgn (26)bmṣdk .
wyrd (27) krt lggt .


Wash and rouge yourself;
Wash your hands to the elbow,
Your fingers to the shoulder.
Go down to [the shade of the tent.]
Take a lamb [in your hand,]
A sacrificial lamb in the right hand,
A kid in both hands,
All your best food.
Take a fowl, a sacrificial bird.
Pour wine into a silver cup,
Honey into a cup of gold.
Ascend to the top of the tower;
Yes, ascend to the top of the tower.
Mount the top of the wall.
Raise your hands to heaven.
Sacrifice to the Bull, your father ʾIlu.
Make Baʿlu descend by your sacrifice;
The son of Dagan with your game.
Then Kirtu must descend from the rooftops…

The issue that I’m having with this text is how to understand šrd in line 24. Del Olmo Lete and Sanmartín in A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language and Nick Wyatt in Religious Texts from Ugarit take the word as from the root š-r-d meaning something like “to adore” or “to serve.” This seems a rather safe translation since the whole function of the tower ritual is one that needs more scholarly attention.

However, most scholars take šrd as a C-stem from y-r-d meaning “make descend.” That is to say, Kirtu’s sacrifice is to gain the attention of Baʿlu. This is difficult to justify from the text. Kirtu is ʾIlu’s man, not Baʿlu’s. The latter is nowhere to be seen in the epic, while ʾIlu considers Kirtu both his progeny and his responsibility.

Yet perhaps the most interesting understanding of šrd is Pardee in The Context of Scripture, who appears to take it as a C-stem but translates the line “Bring down Baʿlu with your sacrifice.” Whether his intention or not, I cannot help but see an implication of continued divine presence in this version. Kirtu goes up the tower and brings Baʿlu back down with him. Such an idea is foreign to the story as a whole. Kirtu is not taking Baʿlu along on his journey for a wife—if so, why petition ʾAṯiratu later on?

Probably the safest bet is the first option here. However, translating the line as “Serve Baʿlu with your sacrifice” seems too vanilla for my taste. The real question is why Kirtu needs to sacrifice to Baʿlu at all.  But, that will need to be for another post…

One Comment
  1. Gordon Johnston permalink
    October 16, 2017 1:21 pm

    Hi James,

    Just now came across your 2009 post on the Legend of Kirtu (CAT 1.14-16) in which you discussed the opening scene in which ‘Ilu appears in a dream in response to Kirtu’s lament about not having a son. As you noted, ‘Ilu instructed him to prepare a sacrifice which he was to offer to Baal (ii 9-27). You closed your post with the comment, “The real question is why Kirtu needs to sacrifice to Baʿlu at all. But, that will need to be for another post…” I am asking the same question myself. So i am leaving this reply to ask whether or not you did address this last question in a later post; and if so, please send me the link.

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    Gordon Johnston

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