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Relief Map: Syria

Ugarit (today: Ra's Shamra  /رأس شمرة / Raʾs Šamra ) was a since about 2400 BC. Cuneiform testified city-state in the northwest of today's Syria and an important commercial and cultural center during the Bronze Age . In 1928 it was rediscovered by chance at the modern place Ras Shamra near the coast, about 11 km north of Latakia . In 1929, French archaeologists under the direction of Claude Schaeffer began systematic excavations, during which many historically significant finds came to light.

To the kingdom belonged the port of Minet el-Beida two kilometers west of the capital Ugarit and the second residence Ras Ibn Hani five kilometers southwest.


The oldest traces of settlement date back to the 7th millennium BC. And date from the early Neolithic (Neolithic). During the 2nd millennium BC The settlement grew strongly and gained in importance. There was early trade, including with Crete and Egypt , in whose written sources the city is mentioned frequently.

Historical development

The economic boom was towards the end of the Late Bronze Age between around 1450 BC. BC and approx. 1190 BC On the basis of the populated area, the average apartment size and ethnographic data, W. Randall Garr calculated a mean population of 7,635 within the city of Ugarit for the end of the 2nd millennium. According to previous estimates, the urban population was 6,000 to 8,000, out of a total population of 35,000 or 25,000 for the rural population only. The figures from Garr and others are uncertain because the old city limits cannot be precisely determined, there are no finds of smaller settlements and the population was not constant during the period mentioned.

Ships from Egypt, Greece and Asia Minor headed for the city. It was an important transshipment point for goods from the Middle East . There may have been neighborhoods in which foreign traders permanently settled; at least one Mycenaean quarter is assumed by many researchers. The remains of several large palaces testify to the wealth of Ugarit.

Despite his wealth, Ugarit was militarily weak and therefore had to come to terms with the great powers of that time - the Egyptians and the Hittites . King Niqmaddu II married an Egyptian princess in order to strengthen the relationship with the Egyptian pharaohs. Over time, however, they had less and less power and influence in the Syrian world.

When towards the end of the 14th century BC When the Hittites under Šuppiluliuma I conquered northern Syria, Ugarit had to make annual tribute payments. The Ugaritic princes recognized the authority of the Hittite rulers politically and militarily, but were able to maintain a high degree of independence economically and culturally. At the end of the Hittite Empire - shortly before their own destruction - they had to support it militarily.

Destruction of Ugarit

View of the palace ruins, photo from 2005

Between 1194 and 1186 BC The sea ​​peoples attacked Ugarit and the city was destroyed. Cuneiform tablets dating from shortly before the destruction describe attacks on the Syrian territories by sea. Ammurapi , the last ruler of Ugarit, who was still young, had his hands tied because the Ugarite fleet was deployed by the Hittite great king off the south coast of Asia Minor and Ammurapi's guards had been ordered to the Hittite heartland. A request for help to the Hittite viceroy in Karkemish was refused. Ugarit was therefore almost defenseless at the mercy of the enemy. The end came very quickly, as shown by Ugarit's last correspondence, which was still being processed. Some of them were found in the kiln without being shipped. Ugarit was literally razed to the ground by the attackers. Only in the 5th century BC There was again a sparse village settlement in the vicinity.

State and administration


The largest, excavated building in the city to date was the king's palace. It was located in the west of the city, which took up an area of ​​more than 25 hectares, covered an area of ​​approximately 10,000 square meters and consisted of around 100 rooms. The basement was built in stone and is now partially 4 m high. The walls on the upper floors were probably made of clay. The palace was built in several phases. The core building was just 30 × 15 meters with a small inner courtyard. Another wing was later added to the east side. Another courtyard and a portico were built here. Further additions followed in the east and especially in the south, each time with room groups grouped around a courtyard. The finds in the individual parts of the building were extremely rich. Clay tablet archives came to light in various parts. In a room in the east wing, fragments of furniture were found that had long since passed, but whose ivory covers were still intact.

The palace was already admired in antiquity and Ribaddi , king of Byblos , praised it in one of his letters to the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten .


Rb denoted the head of a group of royal servants. So there was an rb mkrm , head of the merchants, rb nqdm , head of sacrificial shepherds , rab šangū , head of priests, and the head of various villages, as well as the head of Ugarit ( rb qrt - probably a kind of mayor). Various military degrees were designated by rb ʿlf (head of a thousand) to head of ten.

Writing culture

See main articles: Ugaritic Script and Ugaritic Religion

Alphabetical font

From the 14th century BC In addition to the Babylonian cuneiform script, alphabetic cuneiform script was also used for texts in the Ugaritic language . The approximately 1500 clay tablets from Ugarit are the oldest evidence of this alphabet to date. In Europe, the alphabet - although derived from the Phoenician alphabet - was only known much later. The decipherment goes back to Hans Bauer, among others, who first presented his results at the Orientalist Congress in Leiden in 1932. However, Charles Virolleaud and Édouard Dhorme also played an important role in the deciphering. They also dealt with the Ugaritic script from 1929 and published interim results early on.

Text certificates

Plaque with a Hurrian hymn around 1400 BC BC, from the Royal Palace of Ugarit

Of great importance are the archives of Ugarit with cuneiform texts in the native Northwest Semitic language, which is called " Ugaritic ", as well as in Akkadian language, which dates back to the 2nd millennium BC. BC served as a national communication and diplomatic language. Most of the texts were of an economic nature, but intergovernmental treaties and state correspondence provide important information on the political situation at the time. The panels also illuminate the religious ideas of this people in legends and epics , myths , prayers , lists of gods and sacrifices of the ceremonial texts and regulations.

There were interrogations of the gods through liver oracles . Several clay models of sheep livers with clues on how to interpret them have been found. Detail are sacrificial ceremonies described for various gods. Funeral ceremonies are described very precisely , during which the ancestors were also summoned. There are also incantation texts against harmful natural forces, illness, sterility, demons , the consequences of drunkenness and snake poisons .

Furthermore, clay tablets with Hurrian hymns were found, which represent the oldest musical notations in the world. These insights into the Ugaritic religion are also significant for the interpretation of the religion of Canaan and Israel . In 2014, Dutch scholars translated a much older version of the story of Adam and Eve from the 13th century BC, which differs significantly from the one in the Old Testament (around 400 BC).

King List

The list of the kings of Ugarit, recorded in cuneiform , begins with the last deceased King Niqmaddu III. and reaches back to Yakaru . The last king Ammurapi had the list drawn up. Because of existing gaps, the exact reigns are mostly uncertain; In addition, 10 kings are missing, which is why the numbering of the king names is not considered certain.

Sequence of the last rulers

The last eight rulers, all of which are reliably attested by written sources, and their approximate reigns are listed:

  1. Ammistamru I. (until 1349)
  2. Niqmaddu II (1349-1315)
  3. Arhalbu (II.) (1315-1313)
  4. Niqmepa (VI.) (1313 BC (9th year of the reign of Muršili II ) - at least 1265 BC (beginning of Hattušili III ))
  5. Ammistamru II. (III.) (From 1265-1240 at the earliest)
  6. Ibiranu (VI.) (1240-1225)
  7. Niqmaddu III. (1225-1215)
  8. Ammurapi (1215– approx. 1194/88)

Rulers who are not mentioned in the king list

  1. Ugaranu
  2. Amqunu
  3. Rap'anu
  4. Lim-il-Malik
  5. Ammu-harrasi
  6. Ammu-samar
  7. Mabu'u



(sorted chronologically)

  • Michael Heltzer: The Rural Community in Ancient Ugarit. Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 1976, ISBN 3-920153-61-8 .
  • Dirk Kinet: Ugarit - History and Culture of a City in the Environment of the Old Testament (= Stuttgart Biblical Studies. Volume 104). Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-460-04041-6 .
  • Oswald Loretz: Ugarit and the Bible. Canaanite Gods and Religion in the Old Testament. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1990, ISBN 3-534-08778-X .
  • Jehad Aboud: The role of the king and his family. Based on the texts of Ugarit (= research on anthropology and the history of religion. Volume 27). Ugarit-Verlag, Münster 1994, ISBN 3-927120-20-0 (Also: Münster, Universität, Dissertation, 1993).
  • Itamar Singer : A political history of Ugarit. In: Wilfred GE Watson, Nicolas Wyatt (ed.): Handbook of Ugaritic Studies (= Handbook of Oriental Studies. Dept. 1: The Near and Middle East. Volume 39). Brill, Leiden et al. 1999, ISBN 90-04-10988-9 , pp. 603-733.
  • Wilfred GE Watson, Nicolas Wyatt (Ed.): Handbook of Ugaritic Studies (= Handbook of Oriental Studies. Dept. 1: The Near and Middle East. Volume 39). Brill, Leiden et al. 1999, ISBN 90-04-10988-9 .
  • Manfred Dietrich, Oswald Loretz: The downfall on January 21, 1192 BC. By Ugarit. In: Ugarit research. International Archeology Yearbook Syria Palestine. Volume 34, 2002, ISSN  0342-2356 , pp. 53-74.
  • Izak Cornelius, Herbert Niehr: Gods and Cults in Ugarit. (Series: Zabern's illustrated books on archeology . ) Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2004, ISBN 3-8053-3281-5 .
  • Marguerite Yon: The City of Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra. Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake IN 2006, ISBN 1-57506-029-9 .
  • Michael Tilly , Wolfgang Zwickel : Religious history of Israel. From prehistoric times to the beginnings of Christianity. 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2015, ISBN 978-3-534-73467-2 , pp. 45–52 (Chapter: "Ugarit and Emar - important environmental texts for the Late Bronze Age and for the Old Testament")

Individual evidence

  1. Charles Virolleaud: Les Inscriptions de Ras Shamra cuneiform. Syria, Vol. 10, 1929, pp. 304-310; Claude FA Schaeffer: The Cuneiform Texts of Ras Shamra-Ugarit. 1939.
  2. ^ W. Randall Garr: Population Estimate of Ancient Ugarit. In: Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. No. 266, May 1987, pp. 32, 40, ISSN  0003-097X
  3. ^ Marguerite Yon: Ugarit: The Urban Habitat The Present State of the Archaeological Picture. In: Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. No. 286, May 1992, pp. 19-34, here p. 20.
  4. Hans Bauer: The alphabet of Ras Shamra. Its decipherment and its shape. With three appendices. Max Niemeyer Verlag, Halle / Saale 1932.
  5. ↑ In detail on this Kevin J. Cathcart: The Decipherment of Ugaritic. in: Wilfred GE Watson, Nicolas Wyatt (Eds.): Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. , Brill, Leiden 1999, pp. 76-80.
  6. syrian tablet fragment shatters long-held beliefs about origin of music
  7. Eva was not to blame: Researchers decipher clay tablets, on May 18, 2014

Coordinates: 35 ° 36 ′ 7 ″  N , 35 ° 46 ′ 57 ″  E

Web links

Commons : Ugarit  - collection of images, videos and audio files