Damascus, SANA – The statue of creation myth is considered as one of the most important statues at the Palmyrene Temple of Bel, sometimes also referred to as the “Temple of Baal”, as it embodies the conflict between the good that is represented in God “Bel” and the evil represented in goddess “Tiamat”.
Tiamat is a supremely strong and powerful 5-headed draconic goddess in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The name is taken from Tiamat, a goddess in ancient Mesopotamian mythology. She is the queen and mother of evil dragons and a member of the default pantheon of Dungeons & Dragons gods. Her symbol is a five-headed dragon.
The statue, which forms one of the pillars in the ceiling of the hallway surrounding the sanctuary of the temple, narrates how God Bel came to the presidency of the Palmyrene mythological pantheon.
Archeologist Khalil al-Hariri says that the statue narrates the story of the goddess mother “Tiamat “who used to control the groundwater and springs and muddies them” as the way of salvation from her was through killing her by God Bel in presence of six gods of Palmyra as witnesses to this battle then he sat as head of the Palmyrene mythological pantheon.
A god named Bel was the chief-god of Palmyra in pre-Hellenistic times, being worshipped alongside the gods Aglibol and Yarhibol.
According to al-Hariri, this statue narrates how Bel God shoots Goddess Tiamat in her chest with an arrow and then he divides her into two parts as he creates heaven from one of them and the earth from the other.
Tiamat was embodied in the sculpture in the shape of an octopus with the heads of snakes next to a jar, from which 4 snakes emerge as the jar symbolizes Afqa spring to the west of Palmyra while the snakes symbolize muddling and destroying the ground water by Tiamat.
Al-Hariri pointed out that the sculpture is inspired by Babylonian poem of creation that is known (Enūma eliš), but the maker of sculpture added some religious scenes with a local type which reflect the power of relation between Palmyra and Babel and the clear Babylonian influence on the religious life in Palmyra.
It is noteworthy, that Bel temple is one of the most important temples in the whole east due to its enormity and the intensity of historical connotations which it embodies, as this temple was built on the basis of previous temples, the first of which dates back to the 3rd millennium BC and the 2nd to the 400 BC in Hellenistic period. The current temple was built on a cumulus hill and it dates back to the 1st century AD as it was built by a group of Palmyrene families and it was mainly consecrated to Bel God.
Manar Salameh/ Ruaa al-Jazaeri