Al-Lat is attested in south Arabian
inscriptions as Lat
, but she had more prominence in north Arabia and the Hejaz
, and her cult reached as far as Syria
The writers of the Safaitic
script frequently invoked al-Lat in their inscriptions. She was also worshipped by the Nabataeans
and was associated with al-'Uzza. The presence of her cult was attested in both Palmyra
. Under Greco-Roman
influence, her iconography began to show the attributes of Athena
, the Greek goddess
of war, as well as her Roman equivalent Minerva
Etymology and name
There are two possible etymologies of the name al-Lat.
Medieval Arab lexicographers derived the name from the verb latta
(to mix or knead barley-meal). It has also been associated with the "idol of jealousy" erected in the temple of Jerusalem according to the Book of Ezekiel
, which was offered an oblation of barley-meal by the husband who suspected his wife of infidelity. It can be inferred from al-Kalbi
's Book of Idols
that a similar ritual was practiced in the vicinity of the image of al-Lat.
Another etymology takes al-Lat to be the feminine form of Allah
She may have been known originally as ʿal-ʿilat
, based on Herodotus' attestation of the goddess as Alilat
Al-Lat was used as a title for the goddess Asherah
The word is akin to Elat
, which was the name of the wife of the Semitic deity El
A western Semitic goddess modeled on the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal
was known as Allatum
, and she was recognized in Carthage
According to Herodotus, the ancient Arabians believed in only two gods:
They believe in no other gods except Dionysus
and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt
; and Aphrodite
Al-Lat was widely worshipped in north Arabia, but in south Arabia
she was not popular and was not the object of an organized cult, with two amulets (inscribed "Lat" on one, "Latan" on the other) being the only indication that this goddess received worship in the area.
However, she seems to have been popular among the Arab tribes
She was also attested in eastern Arabia
; the name Taymallat
(a theophoric name invoking the goddess)
was attested as the name of a man from Gerrha
, a city located in the region.
inscriptions, it is probable that she was worshipped as Lat (lt
inscriptions, al-Lat was invoked for solitude and mercy, as well to provide well-being, ease and prosperity.
Travelers would invoke her for good weather and protection.
She was also invoked for vengeance, booty from raids, and infliction of blindness and lameness to anyone who defaces their inscriptions.
, a northern Arabian tribal confederation, seemed to have also worshipped al-Lat, as evidenced by a silver bowl dedicated by a Qedarite king, with the goddess' name inscribed on it.
and the people of Hatra
also worshipped al-Lat, equating her with the Greek goddesses Athena
and the Roman goddess Minerva
She is frequently called "the Great Goddess" in Greek in multilingual inscriptions.
The Nabataeans regarded al-Lat as the mother of the deities, and her family relations vary; sometimes she is regarded as the consort of Dushara
and at other times as the mother of Dushara. Nabataean
inscriptions call her and al-'Uzza
the "brides of Dushara
A temple was built for al-Lat in Iram, by the tribe of 'Ad.
Al-Lat was referred as "the goddess who is in Iram" in a Nabataean
She was also referred to as "the goddess who is in Bosra
Perhaps a local Hijazi form of her attested in Hegra
was "Allat of 'Amnad".
Al-Lat was closely related with al-'Uzza
, and in some regions of the Nabataean kingdom
, both al-Lat and al-'Uzza were said to be the same goddess.
John F. Healey believes that al-Lat and al-'Uzza originated as a single goddess, which parted ways in the pre-Islamic Meccan tradition
Susan Krone suggests that both al-Lat and al-'Uzza
were uniquely fused in central Arabia.
Statue of an enthroned Arabian goddess or idol, probably Al-Lat, from Hatra, Iraq. 2nd to 3rd century CE. Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq
Al-Lat was also venerated in Palmyra
, where she was known as the "Lady of the temple".
According to an inscription, she was brought into the Arab quarter of the city by a member of the Bene Ma'zin
who were probably an Arab tribe.[a]
She had a temple
in the city, which Teixidor believed to be the cultic center of Palmyrene Arab tribes.
The practice of casting divination
arrows, a common divination method in Arabia
, was attested in her temple; an honorific inscription mentioning "a basin of silver for [casting] lots (lḥlq
By the second-century AD, al-Lat in Palmyra began to be portrayed in the style of Athena
, and was referred to as "Athena-Allāt", but this assimilation does not extend beyond her iconography.
The Palmyrene emperor Vaballathus
, whose name is the Latinized form of the theophoric name Wahballāt
("Gift of al-Lat"), began to use Athenodorus
as the Greek form of his name.
In Islamic sources discussing pre-Islamic Arabia
, al-Lat is attested as the chief goddess of the Banu Thaqif
She was said to be venerated in Ta'if
, where she was called ar-Rabba
and she reportedly had a shrine there which was decorated with ornaments and treasure of gold
There, the goddess was venerated in the form of a cubic granite rock.
The area around the shrine was considered sacred; no trees could be felled, no animal could be hunted and no human blood could be shed.
According to al-Kalbi
's Book of Idols
, her shrine was under the guardianship of the Banū Attāb ibn Mālik of the Banu Thaqif
She was also venerated by other Arab tribes
, including the Quraysh
, and their children would be named after the goddess, such as Zayd al-Lat
and Taym al-Lat
Thou hast banished me for fear of lampoon and satire.
No! By Allat and all the sacred baetyls (ansab)
thou shalt not escape.
Relief of the Arabian goddess Al-Lat, Manat, and al-Uzza from Hatra, 2nd century AD. Iraq Museum
Am I to worship one lord or a thousand?
If there are as many as you claim,
I renounce al-Lat and al-Uzza, both of them,
as any strong-minded person would.
I will not worship al-Uzza and her two daughters…
I will not worship Hubal, though he was our lord
in the days when I had little sense.
Al-Lat was also called as a daughter of Allah
along with the other two chief goddesses al-'Uzza
According to the Book of Idols
, the Quraysh
were to chant the following verses as they circumambulate the Kaaba:
By al-Lat and al-'Uzza,
And Manat, the third idol besides.
Verily they are the gharaniq
Whose intercession is to be sought.
The word gharaniq
was translated as "most exalted females" by Faris in his English translation of the Book of Idols
, but he annotates this term in a footnote as "lit. Numidean cranes".
According to Islamic tradition, the shrine dedicated to al-Lat in Ta'if
was demolished on the orders of Muhammad
, during the Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb
, in the same year as the Battle of Tabuk
(which occurred in October 630 AD).
The destruction of the cult image was a demand by Muhammad before he would allow any reconciliation to take place with the tribes of Ta'if, who were under his siege.
According to the Book of Idols
, this occurred after the Banu Thaqif
converted to Islam
, and that her temple was "burnt to the ground".
Quran and Satanic Verses incident
In the Quran
, she is mentioned along with al-‘Uzza
in Quran 53:19–22
which became the subject of the alleged Satanic Verses
an occasion on which the Islamic prophet Muhammad
had mistaken the words of "satanic suggestion" for divine revelation.
Many different versions of the story existed (all traceable to one single narrator Muhammad ibn Ka'b, who was two generations removed from biographer Ibn Ishaq).
In its essential form, the story reports that during Muhammad
's recitation of Surat An-Najm, when he reached the following verses:
Have you thought of al-Lāt and al-‘Uzzá
, the third, the other?
tempted him to utter the following line:
These are the exalted gharāniq, whose intercession is hoped for. (In Arabic تلك الغرانيق العلى وإن شفاعتهن لترتجى.)
Following this, the angel Gabriel
chastised Muhammad for uttering said line, and the verses were abrogated with a new revelation:
Are yours the males and His the females? That were indeed an unfair division!
The majority of Muslim scholars have rejected the historicity of the incident on the basis of the theological doctrine of 'isma
(prophetic infallibility i.e., divine protection of Muhammad from mistakes) and their weak isnads
(chains of transmission).
Due to its defective chain of narration, the tradition of the Satanic Verses never made it into any of the canonical hadith
though reference and exegesis about the Verses appear in early histories, such as al-Tabari
's Tārīkh ar-Rusul wal-Mulūk
and Ibn Ishaq
's Sīrat Rasūl Allāh
by Alfred Guillaume
Various legends about her origins were known in medieval Islamic tradition, including one which linked al-Lat's stone with a man who grinds cereal (al-latt
, "the grinder").
The stone was used as a base for the man (a Jew) to grind cereal for the pilgrims of Mecca
While most versions of this legend place the man at Ta'if, other versions place him at either Mecca or 'Ukaz.
After the man's death, the stone, or the man in the form of a stone, was deified,
according to some legends after the Khuza'a
drove the Jurhum
out of Mecca, while other legends report it was Amr ibn Luhayy who deified the grinder.
Michael Cook noticed the oddity of this story, as it would make al-Lat masculine.
Gerald Hawting believes the various legends that link al-Lat with that of al-latt
, "the grinder", was an attempt to relate al-Lat with Mecca.
He also compared the legends to Isaf and Na'ila
, who according to legend were a man and a woman who fornicated inside the Kaaba
and were petrified.
F. V. Winnet saw al-Lat as a lunar deity due to association of a crescent with her in 'Ayn esh-Shallāleh and a Lihyanite
inscription mentioning the name of Wadd
over the title of 'fkl lt
. René Dussaud
and Gonzague Ryckmans linked her with Venus while others have thought her to be a solar deity.
John F. Healey considers al-Uzza actually might have been an epithet of al-Lat before becoming a separate deity in the Meccan pantheon. Redefining Dionysos
considers she might have been a god of vegetation or a celestial deity of atmospheric phenomena and a sky deity.
According to Wellhausen, the Nabataeans believed al-Lat was the mother of Hubal
(and hence the mother-in-law of Manāt
It has been hypothesized that Allah was the consort of al-Lat, given that it is typical of deities in that area of the world to have consorts.
In Ta'if, al-Lat's primary cult image was a cubic stone,
sometimes described as white in color. Waqidi
's mention of the 'head' (ra's
) of ar-Rabba
may imply that the image was perceived in human or animal form, although Julius Wellhausen
resisted this implication.
The Lion of Al-Lat, representing the goddess and her consort.
depictions of al-Lat share iconographical traits with Atargatis
(when seated) and Astarte
The Lion of Al-Lat
that once adorned her temple depicts a lion and a gazelle, the lion representing her consort,
and the gazelle representing al-Lat's tender and loving traits, as bloodshed was not permitted under penalty of al-Lat's retaliation.
Al-Lat was associated with the Greek goddess Athena
(and by extension, the Roman Minerva
) in Nabataea
It seems that her identification with Athena was only a mere change in iconography,
and al-Lat's character noticeably softened the warlike Athena in places where she was equated with al-Lat.
relief of Athena-al-Lat depicts the goddess bearing both Athena and al-Lat's attributes.
The relief depicts the goddess in the style of Athena, but having a Nabataean religion
in place of the Gorgoneion
Al-Lat can also be identified with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar
, with both of the deities taking part in prosperity, warfare, and later been linked to Aphrodite
. The two's similarities also appeared in their symbols, as both were associated with lions, morning star
Like Al-Lat, Ishtar's origin was of Semitic roots.
Ma'zin is an Arabic word meaning "goat herders".
While Teixidor described the tribe as Arab,
Michał Gawlikowski, head of the Polish archaeological expedition in Palmyra between 1980 and 2011, stated that the tribe is best understood as an alliance of pastoralists from different origins who settled in the city.
- ^ "Tafsir Ibn Kathir - 53:19 - english". quran.com. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
- ^ a b c Fahd, T., "al-Lat", in Bosworth et al. 1986, pp. 692
- ^ a b Corrente, Paola, "Dushara and Allāt alias Dionysos and Aphrodite in Herodotus 3.8", in Bernabé et al. 2013, pp. 265, 266
- ^ Histories I:131
- ^ Histories III:8
- ^ a b Robin, Christian Julien, "South Arabia, Religions in Pre-Islamic", in McAuliffe 2005, pp. 88
- ^ a b c al-Kalbi 2015, p. 14–15.
- ^ Hoyland 2002, p. 25.
- ^ a b c Hoyland 2002, p. 207.
- ^ Hoyland 2002, p. 63.
- ^ Corrente, Paola, "Dushara and Allāt alias Dionysos and Aphrodite in Herodotus 3.8", in Bernabé et al. 2013, pp. 263
- ^ Zayadine and Farès 1998, p. 255-258.
- ^ a b Gawlikowski, Michal, "Palmyra: From a Tribal Federation to a City", in Freyberger, Henning & Hesberg 2003, pp. 9
- ^ Hoyland 2002, p. 156.
- ^ Quran 53:19-22
- ^ a b Ahmed, Shahab (1998). "Ibn Taymiyyah and the Satanic Verses". Studia Islamica. Maisonneuve & Larose. 87 (87): 67–124. doi:10.2307/1595926. JSTOR 1595926.
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- ^ Kanishk Tharoor; Maryam Maruf (2016-03-04). "Museum of Lost Objects: The Lion of al-Lat". BBC News. Retrieved 2020-03-13.
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