The piece called "Tribune," captures the eye because the ensemble of bas-relief figures that make up its frieze are relatively intact and, though the exhibit tag is coy as to the work's function -- it served as an altar, it seems -- its apparent provenance is as solid as it is antique: the Sanctuary of Eshmun
, the god of healing, Bustan al-Shaykh, near Sidon, ca 350 B.
With his generals gathered around the rubble of the Temple of Eshmun
, where the defeated king had so recently had his thumbs and great toes lopped off, Scipio hailed me as "Brave Oppius," and to a bystander, his words might have rung sincere.
From Lebanon, there are five or six inscriptions on votive items from the temple of Eshmun
near Sidon (R.
More could have been accomplished, as Isserlin does for the Israelites, by attention to archaeological context: those who remember those monumental inscriptions found by Theodor Macridy in 1901 within the podium of the temple to Eshmun
at Bostan esh-Sheikh in the hinterland of Sidon (Macridy 1902) will notice that there is something to say about power and writing in this Phoenician city under Persian domination.
But by the majority of the local population -- especially those who heard Apuleius's speech and those who understood his reference to the mysteries -- the gods were probably conceptualized more in their Punic than in their Roman forms, as Eshmun
and Shadrapa, though again this could never be told from Apuleius's Latin text and his scrupulous avoidance before his judge of any reference to local Punic religious protocols.
Then he turns to a series of insightful and circumspect discussions of the data on the various relevant gods: Ugaritic Baal (chapter 2); Tyrian Melqart (chapter 3); Greek and Byblian Adonis (chapter 4); Sidonian Eshmun
(chapter 5); Egyptian Osiris (chapter 6); and Mesopotamian Dumuzi/Tammuz (chapter 7).
The inscription reads smr mt mn bt h mlk smn "Watch over Amat-Amon, daughter of Himilco [son of] Eshmun
Traditions of the Mesopotamian dog goddess and "chief physician" Gula reached Persian-period Ashkelon via the Phoenician Eshmun
and the Greek Asklepios, a connection made even more intriguing because it crosses the disciplinary border between Classical and ancient Near Eastern studies, a division severely detrimental to a proper understanding of the history and culture of the eastern Mediterranean in the first millennium B.