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Goddess of war, peace, combat and prosperity
Allat Palmyra RGZM 3369.jpg
Al-Lat with a palm branch and lion from the Ba‘alshamîn temple in Palmyra, first century AD. Damascus, Syria
Major cult center Palmyra, Ta'if, Iram [1]
SymbolLion, gazelle, crescent, cubic rock
Region Arabia
Personal information
Consort Lion of Al-lāt (Palmyrene tradition) [2]
Dushara (Nabataean tradition)
Children Dushara (Nabataean tradition)
Siblings Al-‘Uzzá, Manāt
Greek equivalent Athena
Roman equivalent Minerva
Canaanite equivalent Astarte, Atargatis
Carthaginian equivalent Allatu

Al-Lat (Arabic : اللات, romanized: Al-Lāt, pronounced  [al(i)ˈlaːt(u)] ), also spelled Allat, Allatu and Alilat, is a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess worshipped under various associations throughout the entire peninsula, including Mecca where she was worshipped alongside Manat and al-'Uzza. The word Allat or Elat has been used to refer to various goddesses in the ancient Near East, including the goddess Asherah-Athirat.

The romanization of Arabic writes written and spoken Arabic in the Latin script in one of various systematic ways. Romanized Arabic is used for a number of different purposes, among them transcription of names and titles, cataloging Arabic language works, language education when used in lieu of or alongside the Arabic script, and representation of the language in scientific publications by linguists. These formal systems, which often make use of diacritics and non-standard Latin characters and are used in academic settings or for the benefit of non-speakers, contrast with informal means of written communication used by speakers such as the Latin-based Arabic chat alphabet.

Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia Religions practiced by Arabs before Islam

Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia included indigenous animistic-polytheistic beliefs, as well as Christianity, Judaism, Mandaeism, and Iranian religions of Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and Manichaeism. Arabian polytheism, the dominant form of religion in pre-Islamic Arabia, was based on veneration of deities and spirits. Worship was directed to various gods and goddesses, including Hubal and the goddesses al-Lāt, al-‘Uzzā, and Manāt, at local shrines and temples such as the Kaaba in Mecca. Deities were venerated and invoked through a variety of rituals, including pilgrimages and divination, as well as ritual sacrifice. Different theories have been proposed regarding the role of Allah in Meccan religion. Many of the physical descriptions of the pre-Islamic gods are traced to idols, especially near the Kaaba, which is said to have contained up to 360 of them.

Mecca Saudi Arabian city and capital of the Makkah province

Mecca, also spelled Makkah, is a city in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia. 70 km (43 mi) inland from Jeddah, in a narrow valley 277 m (909 ft) above sea level, 340 kilometres (210 mi) south of Medina, its population in 2012 was 2 million, although visitors more than triple this number every year during the Ḥajj ("Pilgrimage"), held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month of Dhūl-Ḥijjah.


Al-Lat was attested in south Arabian inscriptions as Lat and Latan, but she had more prominence in north Arabia and the Hejaz, and her cult reached as far as Syria. [3] The writers of the Safaitic script frequently invoked al-Lat in their inscriptions. She was also worshipped by the Nabataeans and she was associated with al-'Uzza. The presence of her cult was attested in both Palmyra and Hatra. Under Greco-Roman influence, her iconography began to show the attributes of Athena, the Greek goddess of war, as well as her Roman equivalent Minerva.

Old South Arabian is a group of four closely related extinct languages spoken in the far southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. They were written in the Ancient South Arabian script.

Hejaz Place

The Hejaz is a region in the west of Saudi Arabia. The name of the region is derived from the Arabic root Ḥ-J-Z, meaning "to separate", and it is so called as it separates the land of the Najd in the east from the land of Tihamah in the west. It is also known as the "Western Province". It is bordered on the west by the Red Sea, on the north by Jordan, on the east by the Najd, and on the south by the 'Asir Region. Its largest city is Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, with Mecca and Medina being the fourth and fifth largest cities respectively in Saudi Arabia.

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turkemens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunnis make up the largest religious group in Syria.

According to Islamic sources, the tribe of Banu Thaqif in Ta'if especially held reverence to her. In Islamic tradition, her worship ended when her temple in Ta'if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad.

Banū Thaqīf is an Arab tribe that came originally from the Ta'if area, they are a branch of Qays 'Aylan.

Taif City in Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Ta'if is a city in Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia, at an elevation of 1,879 m (6,165 ft) on the slopes of the Sarawat Mountains. It has a population of 1,200,000 people, is the 5th largest city in Saudi Arabia and the unofficial summer capital. The city is the center of an agricultural area known for its grapes, pomegranate, figs, roses and honey. Taif is well-known as the "City of Roses" and the best summer destination in Saudi Arabia as it enjoys a nice weather during summer.

Islamic culture and Muslim culture refer to cultural practices common to historically Islamic people. The early forms of Muslim culture, from the Rashidun Caliphate to early Umayyad period, were predominantly Arab, Byzantine, Persian and Levantine. With the rapid expansion of the Islamic empires, Muslim culture has influenced and assimilated much from the Persian, Egyptian, Caucasian, Turkic, Mongol, South Asian, Malay, Somali, Berber, Indonesian, and Moro cultures.

Etymology and name

There are two possible etymologies of the name al-Lat. [4] Medieval Arab lexicographers derived the name from the verb latta (to mix or knead barley-meal). It has also been associated with the "idol of jealousy" erected in the temple of Jerusalem according to the Book of Ezekiel, which was offered an oblation of barley-meal by the husband who suspected his wife of infidelity. It can be inferred from al-Kalbi's Book of Idols that a similar ritual was practiced in the vicinity of the image of al-Lat. [4] Another etymology takes al-Lat to be the feminine form of Allah. [4] She may have been known originally as ʿal-ʿilat, based on Herodotus' attestation of the goddess as Alilat. [5]

Book of Ezekiel book of the Bible

The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Tanakh and one of the major prophetic books in the Old Testament, following Isaiah and Jeremiah. According to the book itself, it records six visions of the prophet Ezekiel, exiled in Babylon, during the 22 years from 593 to 571 BC, although it is the product of a long and complex history and does not necessarily preserve the very words of the prophet.

Hisham ibn al-Kalbi, also known as Ibn al-Kalbi was an Arab historian. His full name Abu al-Mundhir Hisham bin Muhammed bin al-Sa'ib bin Bishr al-Kalbi. Born in Kufa, he spent much of his life in Baghdad. Like his father, he collected information about the genealogies and history of the ancient Arabs. According to the Fihrist, he wrote 140 works. His account of the genealogies of the Arabs is continually quoted in the Kitab al-Aghani.

The Book of Idols, written by the Arab scholar Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi (737–819), describes gods and rites of pre-Islamic Arab religions. The text is critical of pre-Islamic Arabian religion and decries the state of religious corruption which the Arabs had supposedly descended to since the founding of the Kaaba. The book was instrumental in identifying shirk with "the idolatry of the pre-Islamic Arabs."

Al-Lat was used as a title for the goddess Asherah or Athirat. [6] The word is akin to Elat, which was the name of the wife of the Semitic deity El. [7] A western Semitic goddess modeled on the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal was known as Allatum, and she was recognized in Carthage as Allatu. [8]

Asherah Goddess of motherhood and fertility

Asherah, in ancient Semitic religion, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ašratu(m) (Ashratum), and in Hittite as Aserdu(s) or Asertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʾAṯiratu (Athirat).

El (deity) Northwest Semitic word meaning "god" or "deity", or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major ancient Near Eastern deities

ʼĒl is a Northwest Semitic word meaning "god" or "deity", or referring to any one of multiple major ancient Near Eastern deities. A rarer form, ʼila, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and in Amorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic archaic biliteral ʼ‑l, meaning "god".

Ereshkigal Ancient Mesopotamian goddess of death and the Underworld

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld in Sumerian mythology. In later East Semitic myths, she was said to rule Irkalla alongside her husband Nergal. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. "Lady of the Great Earth".


Pre-Islamic era

Al-Lat was mentioned as Alilat by the Greek historian Herodotus in his 5th-century BC work Histories , and she was considered the equivalent of Aphrodite (Aphrodite Urania): [9]

Herodotus Ancient Greek historian

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire. He is known for having written the book The Histories, a detailed record of his "inquiry" on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. He is widely considered to have been the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials and then critically arranging them into an historiographic narrative. On account of this, he is often referred to as "The Father of History", a title first conferred on him by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero.

<i>Histories</i> (Herodotus) work by Herodotus

The Histories of Herodotus is considered the founding work of history in Western literature. Written in 440 BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Greece at that time. Although not a fully impartial record, it remains one of the West's most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it established the genre and study of history in the Western world.

Aphrodite is an ancient Greek goddess associated with love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. She is identified with the planet Venus, which is named after the Roman goddess Venus, with whom Aphrodite was extensively syncretized. Aphrodite's major symbols include myrtles, roses, doves, sparrows, and swans.

The Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta , the Arabians Alilat [Greek spelling: Ἀλιλάτ], and the Persians Mithra . [10]

According to Herodotus, the ancient Arabians believed in only two gods:

They believe in no other gods except Dionysus and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt ; and Aphrodite, Alilat. [11]

Al-Lat was widely worshipped in north Arabia, but in south Arabia she was not popular and was not the object of an organized cult, with two amulets (inscribed "Lat" on one, "Latan" on the other) being the only indication that this goddess received worship in the area. [12] However, she seems to have been popular among the Arab tribes bordering Yemen. [12] She was also attested in eastern Arabia; the name Taymallat (a theophoric name invoking the goddess) [13] was attested as the name of a man from Gerrha, a city located in the region. [14]

From Safaitic and Hismaic inscriptions, it is probable that she was worshipped as Lat (lt). [3] In Safaitic inscriptions, al-Lat was invoked for solitude and mercy, as well to provide well-being, ease and prosperity. [15] Travelers would invoke her for good weather and protection. [15] She was also invoked for vengeance, booty from raids, and infliction of blindness and lameness to anyone who defaces their inscriptions. [15]

The Qedarites, a northern Arabian tribal confederation, seemed to have also worshipped al-Lat, as evidenced by a silver bowl dedicated by a Qedarite king, with the goddess' name inscribed on it. [16]

Palmira Museo - GAR - 7-01.jpg
Statue of al-Lat-Athena found in the temple of Al-Lat, Palmyra. Palmyra Archaeological Museum
2nd-century AD statue of al-Lat-Minerva from As-Suwayda, Syria. National Museum of Damascus

The Nabataeans and the people of Hatra also worshipped al-Lat, equating her with the Greek goddesses Athena and Tyche and the Roman goddess Minerva. [17] She is frequently called "the Great Goddess" in Greek in multilingual inscriptions. [17] The Nabataeans regarded al-Lat as the mother of the deities, and her family relations vary; sometimes she is regarded as the consort of Dushara and at other times as the mother of Dushara. [3] Nabataean inscriptions call her and al-'Uzza the "brides of Dushara". [18]

Remains of the temple of al-Lat, Palmyra, Syria Palmyra,Al-Lat T.jpg
Remains of the temple of al-Lat, Palmyra, Syria

She had a temple in Iram, and al-Lat was referred as "the goddess who is in Iram" in a Nabataean inscription. [1] She was also referred to as "the goddess who is in Bosra". [1] Perhaps a local Hijazi form of her attested in Hegra alongside Dushara and Manat was "Allat of 'Amnad". [1]

Al-Lat was closely related with al-'Uzza, and in some regions of the Nabataean kingdom, both al-Lat and al-'Uzza were said to be the same goddess. [3] John F. Healey believes that al-Lat and al-'Uzza originated as a single goddess, which parted ways in the pre-Islamic Meccan tradition. [3] Susan Krone suggests that both al-Lat and al-'Uzza were uniquely fused in central Arabia. [19]

Al-Lat was also venerated in Palmyra, where she was known as the "Lady of the temple". [20] According to an inscription, she was brought into the Arab quarter of the city by a member of the Bene Ma'zin tribe, [21] who were probably an Arab tribe. [22] [lower-alpha 1] She had a temple in the city, which Teixidor believed to be the cultic center of Palmyrene Arab tribes. [20] The practice of casting divination arrows, a common divination method in Arabia, was attested in her temple; an honorific inscription mentioning "a basin of silver for [casting] lots (lḥlq)". [24]

By the second-century AD, al-Lat in Palmyra began to be portrayed in the style of Athena, and was referred to as "Athena-Allāt", but this assimilation does not extend beyond her iconography. [25] The Palmyrene emperor Vaballathus, whose name is the Latinized form of the theophoric name Wahballāt ("Gift of al-Lat"), began to use Athenodorus as the Greek form of his name. [26]

Islamic tradition

In Islamic sources discussing pre-Islamic Arabia, al-Lat is attested as the chief goddess of the Banu Thaqif tribe. [27] She was said to be venerated in Ta'if, where she was called ar-Rabba ("The Lady"), [28] [29] and she reportedly had a shrine there which was decorated with ornaments and treasure of gold and onyx. [30] There, the goddess was venerated in the form of a cubic granite rock. [27] [8] The area around the shrine was considered sacred; no trees could be felled, no animal could be hunted and no human blood could be shed. [31]

According to al-Kalbi's Book of Idols , her shrine was under the guardianship of the Banū Attāb ibn Mālik of the Banu Thaqif. [13] She was also venerated by other Arab tribes, including the Quraysh, and their children would be named after the goddess, such as Zayd al-Lat and Taym al-Lat. [13]

Al-Lat is also mentioned in pre-Islamic Arab poetry, such as in al-Mutalammis' satire of Amr ibn Hind: [32]

Thou hast banished me for fear of lampoon and satire.
No! By Allat and all the sacred baetyls (ansab)
thou shalt not escape.

Al-Lat on a lion, flanked by two female figures, possibly al-'Uzza and Manat. 2nd-century AD relief from Hatra AllatHatra.jpg
Al-Lat on a lion, flanked by two female figures, possibly al-'Uzza and Manat. 2nd-century AD relief from Hatra

A poem by the pre-Islamic monotheist Zayd ibn Amr mentions al-Lat, along with al-'Uzza and Hubal: [33]

Am I to worship one lord or a thousand?
If there are as many as you claim,
I renounce al-Lat and al-Uzza, both of them,
as any strong-minded person would.
I will not worship al-Uzza and her two daughters…
I will not worship Hubal, though he was our lord
in the days when I had little sense.

Al-Lat was also called as a daughter of Allah along with the other two chief goddesses al-'Uzza and Manat. [34] [35] [36] [37] According to the Book of Idols, the Quraysh were to chant the following verses as they circumambulate the Kaaba: [38]

By al-Lat and al-'Uzza,
And Manat, the third idol besides.
Verily they are the gharaniq
Whose intercession is to be sought.

The word gharaniq was translated as "most exalted females" by Faris in his English translation of the Book of Idols, but he annotates this term in a footnote as "lit. Numidean cranes". [38]

According to Islamic tradition, the shrine dedicated to al-Lat in Ta'if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad, during the Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, in the same year as the Battle of Tabuk [30] (which occurred in October 630 AD). [39] The destruction of the cult image was a demand by Muhammad before he would allow any reconciliation to take place with the tribes of Ta'if, who were under his siege. [40] According to the Book of Idols, this occurred after the Banu Thaqif converted to Islam, and that her temple was "burnt to the ground". [32]

Quran and Satanic Verses incident

In the Quran, she is mentioned along with al-‘Uzza and Manat in Sura 53:19–22, [41] which became the subject of the alleged Satanic Verses incident, [42] an occasion on which the Islamic prophet Muhammad had mistaken the words of "satanic suggestion" for divine revelation. [43] Many different versions of the story existed (all traceable to one single narrator Muhammad ibn Ka'b, who was two generations removed from biographer Ibn Ishaq). [42] In its essential form, the story reports that during Muhammad's recitation of Surat An-Najm, when he reached the following verses:

Have you thought of al-Lāt and al-‘Uzzá
and Manāt, the third, the other?

Sura 53, 19–20

Satan tempted him to utter the following line: [42]

These are the exalted gharāniq, whose intercession is hoped for. (In Arabic تلك الغرانيق العلى وإن شفاعتهن لترتجى.)

Following this, the angel Gabriel chastised Muhammad for uttering said line, and the verses were abrogated with a new revelation: [44]

Are yours the males and His the females? That were indeed an unfair division!

Sura 53, 21–22

The majority of Muslim scholars have rejected the historicity of the incident on the basis of the theological doctrine of 'isma (prophetic infallibility i.e., divine protection of Muhammad from mistakes) and their weak isnads (chains of transmission). [43] Due to its defective chain of narration, the tradition of the Satanic Verses never made it into any of the canonical hadith compilations, [45] though reference and exegesis about the Verses appear in early histories, such as al-Tabari's Tārīkh ar-Rusul wal-Mulūk and Ibn Ishaq's Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (as reconstructed by Alfred Guillaume). [42]

The "Grinder" legend

Various legends about her origins were known in medieval Islamic tradition, including one which linked al-Lat's stone with a man who grinds cereal (al-latt, "the grinder"). [46] The stone was used as a base for the man (a Jew) to grind cereal for the pilgrims of Mecca. [47] While most versions of this legend place the man at Ta'if, other versions place him at either Mecca or 'Ukaz. [46] After the man's death, the stone, or the man in the form of a stone, was deified, [47] according to some legends after the Khuza'a drove the Jurhum out of Mecca, while other legends report it was Amr ibn Luhayy who deified the grinder. [46]

Michael Cook noticed the oddity of this story, as it would make al-Lat masculine. [48] Gerald Hawting believes the various legends that link al-Lat with that of al-latt, "the grinder", was an attempt to relate al-Lat with Mecca. [46] He also compared the legends to Isaf and Na'ila, who according to legend were a man and a woman who fornicated inside the Kaaba and were petrified. [47]

Mythological role

F. V. Winnet saw al-Lat as a lunar deity due to association of a crescent with her in 'Ayn esh-Shallāleh and a Lihyanite inscription mentioning the name of Wadd over the title of 'fkl lt. [3] René Dussaud and Gonzague Ryckmans linked her with Venus while others have thought her to be a solar deity. [3] John F. Healey considers al-Uzza actually might have been an epithet of al-Lat before becoming a separate deity in the Meccan pantheon. [3] Redefining Dionysos considers she might have been a god of vegetation or a celestial deity of atmospheric phenomena and a sky deity. [9] According to Wellhausen, the Nabataeans believed al-Lat was the mother of Hubal (and hence the mother-in-law of Manāt). [49]

It has been hypothesized that al-Lat is the consort of Allah based on the fact that it is typical of deities in that area of the world to have consorts. [50]


In Ta'if, al-Lat's primary cult image was a cubic stone, [27] sometimes described as white in color. [51] Waqidi's mention of the 'head' (ra's) of ar-Rabba may imply that the image was perceived in human or animal form, although Julius Wellhausen resisted this implication. [51]

The Lion of Al-Lat, representing the goddess and her consort. Lion in the garden of Palmyra Archeological Museum, 2010-04-21.jpg
The Lion of Al-Lat, representing the goddess and her consort.

Early Palmyrene depictions of al-Lat share iconographical traits with Atargatis (when seated) and Astarte (when standing). [52] The Lion of Al-Lat that once adorned her temple depicts a lion and a gazelle, the lion representing her consort, [2] and the gazelle representing al-Lat's tender and loving traits, as bloodshed was not permitted under penalty of al-Lat's retaliation. [53]

Al-Lat was associated with the Greek goddess Athena (and by extension, the Roman Minerva) in Nabataea, Hatra and Palmyra. [25] [17] It seems that her identification with Athena was only a mere change in iconography, [25] and al-Lat's character noticeably softened the warlike Athena in places where she was equated with. [54] One Nabataean relief of Athena-al-Lat depicts the goddess bearing both Athena and al-Lat's attributes. [54] The relief depicts the goddess in the style of Athena, but having a stylized square face (resembling Nabataean eye-deities)[ clarify ] in place of the Gorgoneion. [54]

Modern relevance

The Lion of Al-Lat statue that adorned her temple in Palmyra was damaged by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2015 but has been since restored. [55] It now stands in the National Museum of Damascus, but it may be returned to Palmyra in the future. [55]

See also


  1. Ma'zin is an Arabic word meaning "goat herders". [23] While Teixidor described the tribe as Arab, [22] Michał Gawlikowski, head of the Polish archaeological expedition in Palmyra between 1980 and 2011, stated that the tribe is best understood as an alliance of pastoralists from different origins who settled in the city. [23]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Healey 2001, p. 111.
  2. 1 2 Butcher 2003, p. 309.
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