Graffiti in Dura Europos

Graffiti in Dura Europos

Graffiti in Dura Europos

Who on earth has ever even heard of Azzanathkona? Few of us, I admit, but I did warn you in Part I of “I am Hiya” that she was coming into the picture.

So, here she is left as shown on an altar, seated on her throne and flanked by two guardian lions.  A man presumably the chap who dedicated the altar makes an offering — almost dropping the plate on her head — while a son or servant leads the cow that will be sacrificed.This is the only certain portrayal of the goddess Azzanathkona.  Her image is so utterly rare because no other temple has ever been found dedicated to her.  Scholars think that the goddess originally hailed from the island of Anatha Azzanathkona in the Euphrates river, very far away to the south.

Another theory locates her home in the middle of the vast Nejd desert in Arabia, where a city named Azzanathkona was said to lie south of the Petra-Ctesiphon trade route.  That mysterious place was last spotted by a sergeant in the Long Range Desert Group, the sole survivor of unit lost in the Nejd in 1942: he told of squat round towers emerging from the sand, of his vehicles wheels breaking through the ground into an ossuary, and of an obligatory Biblical plague of scorpions.He was clearly raving. Centre: T. Azzanathkona; E8: Roman garrison HQWherever she came from, her temple left, central circle was one of the oldest in Dura, having been built before 12/13 CE.  While its chapels and shrines were constructed by ethnic Syrians, the goddess was also worshipped by Durenes of Greek extraction, most especially among the women.  Ladies of well-to-do families, both Semitic and Greek,  possessed seats in the front room of the temple the pronaos which were passed down from mother to daughters.  There, they carried out rites from which men were excluded.  By the time the Romans occupied the city 165 CE, Azzanathkona had become identified with Artemis — another goddess who often didnt like men poking their noses in.

Its possible that a more informal portrait of Azzanathkona also exists.  This graffiti left comes from a blocked-up doorway in her temple, so it should date from before the  final phase, when the temple was no longer religiously functional.  It shows a female figure with an elaborate headdress and what looks like a halo around her head dropping incense onto a burning altar.Graffiti of all kinds was as common in the Temple of Azzanathkona as in the synagogue “I am Hiya!”,Part I: almost 100 name and remembrance scribbles have been recorded, many of them also clustered around doors and in sacred spaces.  Pictorial graffiti, however, such as this red-painted image, is very much more common in the Azzanathkona complex.

Continued at Zenobia: Empress of the East: “I AM HIYA!” Part 2.

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