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Lyre Gods of the Bronze Age Musical Koine

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image of Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions

That the Late Bronze Age cultural koine included a musical dimension is suggested by the Mesopotamian and Hurrian/Ugaritic musical tablets. This paper presents a selective survey and analysis of evidence for a parallel phenomenon, the deification of lyres/harps, which seemingly originated in late third millennium Mesopotamia and spread abroad in the second. Deified lyres are considered as both a ritual reality and an inducement to poetic elaboration by the same poetpriests who used them; much of the textual evidence thus represents remnants of a professional repertoire. At the same time, the motif also commonly centers on kingship, which is explained in terms of the dual office of priest-kingship; as such, there is some involvement of the deified lyre with the ritual of sacred marriage (hieros gamos). Relevant material comes from Ugarit and Cyprus, especially in the figure of Kinyras. In Greek evidence, 'lyre heroes' like Orpheus, Amphion, Cadmus and Linus are seen as late mythological derivatives of the pattern, Archaic survivals of Mycenaean ritual-poetics. Finally, Old Testament evidence for musical prophecy is considered in light of the foregoing.


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