restricted access Chapter 18: Religious Terminology

From: Black Athena

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[CH. 18] RELIGIOUS TERMINOLOGY 425 CHAPTER 18 RELIGIOUS TERMINOLOGY S ubsequent chapters deal with specific aspects of religion. Chapter 19 is concerned with proper nouns, the names of gods and other mythological figures. Chapter 20 focuses on geographical features. Chapter 21 concentrates on the gods and cults of Sparta and Chapter 22 does the same for Athens. This chapter is restricted to religious terminology under the following headings: sacred structures, personnel, rituals , mourning, paraphernalia, sacrifice, incense, flowers, aura and mysteries. As the Semitic and Egyptian components in this semantic region are approximately equal, they will be treated together, thematically rather than alphabetically. STRUCTURES Before considering the structures, we need to consider the surroundings of the sacred place. The Greek shkov" (H) is an enclosure in general but also a sacred enclosure around a sanctuary, tomb of a hero or olive grove. Chantraine describes the conventional etymology from a hypothetical Indo-European root * twak as “simply an hypothesis.” The Hebrew Sûk or Sôkå means “thorn hedge and the area it encloses.” There are placenames Sôkô and Sôkoh. The difference between the Hebrew /ô/ and the Greek /e\/ can be seen in the treatment of so\vma and se\vma; see Chapter 5.1 Ajulhv (H) means “surroundings, courtyard.” Chantraine finds 426 BLACK ATHENA the Armenian aw-t’ “resting place” and ag-anim “to spend the night.” He is unable to find any remotely comparable word with an /l/ in IndoEuropean . The Canaanite > ûlåm comes from a Semitic root found in the Akkadian ellamu “in front of.” It means “porch” or “altar in front of temple.” The absence of the final -m in aule\ can be explained by adaptation through the accusative aule\n. Indo-Europeanists derive bwmov" (H) “platform or altar” from baíno\ “to walk, go.” They relate it to bh'ma “tribune,” which they claim derives from baino\.2 Semitists, however, have long noticed a striking similarity between bo\mos and the Hebrew båmåh “shrine, high place.”3 They refer to the Ugaritic word bmt that appears to mean “back” and the Akkadian bamatu, which may signify “mountain ridges.”4 John Pairman Brown is skeptical about these supposed cognates and argues that bmt is uncertain and bamatu does not mean “mountain ridges” but “open plains.”5 He, therefore, accepts the Indo-European etymology for bomos and derives båmåh from it. He sees it as having been introduced by the biblical Hivites whose name he identifies with Akhai(w)oi Akhaeans.6 By contrast, his close friend Saul Levin tentatively derives båmåh and, hence, bo\mos from a Semitic root ÷bnh/y “to build” and attacks the IndoEuropeanist view that it is related to be\ma “platform” and derives from baíno\ “to come, go.” He argues that an altar is precisely what one does not step on.7 All in all, it is clear that the two words share a relationship and the likelihood is that it came from the Levant to Greece. The reverse could be true, however, or both could derive from a third language. In such a case, the most likely candidate is Egyptian, in the same way that it provides an origin for the parallel Hebrew and Greek terms lis=kåh and levsch, which among other things meant “place of rest, tomb.”8 The alternation e\/o\ in be\ma and bo\mos also suggests a borrowing from Semitic or Egyptian before and after the Canaanite shift. The only remote possibility of an Egyptian etymology is from bnbn, the stone sacred to the sun and associated with the sacred hill of Atum at the creation of the world.9 However, I have been unable to find any possible etymon for be\ma and bo\mos. The Semitic origin of na\os “temple,” and the Egyptian of the\sauros “sanctum, treasury” have been given above.10 The Afroasiatic root * dud “pot, cauldron” had a Hebrew form dûd and an Aramaic one dûda.11 The meaning of duta– (4) is uncertain. Liddell and Scott write “shrine”; Chantraine says “chapel?” or “well.” The likelihood of the last meaning and a derivation from Semitic is that one of the two places where it is [CH. 18] RELIGIOUS TERMINOLOGY 427 attested is at the Kabeirion at Thebes, with its doubly strong association with Semitic culture.12 In the seventeenth century, Samuel Bochart noted the striking parallel between the Hebrew mEœårå “cave” and the Greek mevgara “sacred...


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