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ancient Near East
|Pre-Islamic Arabian deities|
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Baalshamin (Aramaic: ? Ba?al mîn, lit. "Lord of Heaven[s]"), also called Baal Shamem (Phoenician: Ba?l m?m) and Baal Shamaim (Hebrew: Ba?al mayim), was a Northwest Semitic god and a title applied to different gods at different places or times in ancient Middle Eastern inscriptions, especially in Canaan/Phoenicia and Syria. The title was most often applied to Hadad, who is also often titled just Ba'al. Baalshamin was one of the two supreme gods and the sky god of pre-Islamic Palmyra in ancient Syria (Bel being the other supreme god). There his attributes were the eagle and the lightning bolt, and he perhaps formed a triad with the lunar god Aglibol and the sun god Malakbel.
This name was originally a title of Baal Hadad, in the 2nd millennium BC, but came to designate a distinct god circa 1000 BC. The earliest known mention of this god or title is in a treaty of the 14th century BC between Suppiluliumas I, King of the Hittites, and Niqmaddu II, King of Ugarit. Although this could be a reference to Baal Hadad, and again when the name appears in a Phoenician inscription by King Ye?imilk of Byblos, other texts make a distinction between the two.
"May Baal-sameme, Baal-malage, and Baal-saphon raise an evil wind against your ships, to undo their moorings, tear out their mooring pole, may a strong wave sink them in the sea, a violent tide [. . .] against you."
The god Baal-malage is otherwise unexplained. Baal-saphon here and elsewhere seems to be Ba'al Hadad, whose home is on Mount ?aphon in the Ugaritic texts. But interpreters disagree as to whether these are here three separate gods or three aspects of the same god, a god who causes stormy weather on the sea.
Baalshamen is mentioned as an idol among other Aramean gods in mesopotamia by Jacub of serug (451-521 AD):
"He (that is Satan) put Apollo as idol in Antioch and others with him, In Edessa he set Nebo and Bel together with many others, He led astray Harran by Sin, Baalshamin and Bar Nemre[Nusku] By my Lord with his Dogs[Nergal] and the goddess Taratha[Astarte] and Gadlat."
In Sanchuniathon's main mythology the god he calls in Greek 'Uranus'/'Sky' has been thought by some to stand for Ba'al ?amem. Sky is here the actual father of Baal Hadad (although Baal Hadad is born after his mother's marriage to Dagon). As in Greek mythology and Hittite mythology, Sky is castrated by his son, who is in turn destined to be opposed by the thunder god. In Sanchuniathon's story, Sky also battles Sea; Sky finds himself unable to prevail, so he allies himself with Hadad.
"... and that when droughts occurred, they stretched out their hands to heaven towards the sun; for him alone (he says) they regarded as god the lord of heaven, calling him Beelsamen, which is in the Phoenician language 'lord of heaven', and in Greek 'Zeus'."
Writers in Syriac refer to Baalshamin as Zeus Olympios.