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The Near Eastern Chaoskampf in the River Battle of Iliad 21 1

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image of Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions

Abstract This essay explores the river battle of Iliad 21 in terms of the Near Eastern mythological motif known as the Chaoskampf, wherein an order-promoting storm deity prevails over a water deity associated with chaos. The first section outlines four notable features of the protean Chaoskampf traditions in ancient Near Eastern literature, from Mesopotamia to the Levant to Anatolia. The second section traces these four features into the Iliad’s river battle and explains their presence by proposing cross-traditional mythopoesis, confluent with other cultural exchanges as established in recent decades. Understanding this part of the Iliad as influenced by West Asian traditions will help to explain why it is Hephaistos, not storm god Zeus, who unleashes his fire upon the menacing river god. The role of Hephaistos is examined against the roles of Ugaritic Kothar-wa-Hasis and Hittite-Hurrian Ea in their respective Chaoskampf myths.

Affiliations: 1: Hawai‘i Pacific University Honolulu, HI 96813


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