Saturday 4 February 2012

The Founding of Qart-Hadasht

This is the mythical history of Qart-Hadasht, and concerns its first queen, Dudu.

Once, the King of Tyre, Mattan, grew old.  And so he made his son, Prince Pumayyaton; and his daughter, Princess Elishat, his joint heirs.  And then King Mattan grew old and died.

But the Tyrians refused to accept Elishat as their queen.  And so they crowned Pumayyaton as sole king instead.  So Elishat went to the famous temple of Melqart which stood in the city, and there married her uncle Zakarbaal, the high priest of Melqart.  In the Kingdom of Tyre, the high priest had a level of power which rivalled that of the king himself.

This made both Pumayyaton and Zakarbaal (the king and high priest respectively) both very wealthy, as Tyre had founded many colonies across the sea to the west, and traded with many areas, among them:  Senir, Lubnaan, Bashan, Assyria, Kittim, Egypt, Elishah, Sidon, Arvad, Gubla, Persia, Lud, Phut, Serug, Rodanim, Greece, Tarshish, Israel, Judah, Dimashqu, Arabia, and Tubal.  The wealth was numerous and made Tyre a powerful and prosperous kingdom.

However, King Pumayyaton didn't want to share his power with Zakarbaal, and he wanted his gold.  So the king arranged for his men to kill Zakarbaal in the temple.  But Elishat knew that whoever killed her husband must have been after his gold, and so she took it and hid it away.  She then went to see her brother at the royal palace of Tyre.

But her brother lied and told her stories of deception.  Eventually, however, she saw through his lies and escaped his court.  When messengers arrived, she told them to tell the king that she was moving to the palace.  The king was delighted, thinking that Elishat had fallen for his trick and would give him Zakarbaal's gold.  But Elishat was cunning.  She met with some members of the city council, who had also began to suspect the king of playing a part in the murder of the high priest.  She told them to come with her and flee Tyre, for if they were caught suspecting the king of murder, he might have them put to death.  They agreed, and so Elishat told them to prepare a ship in the city harbour.

But Elishat still did not have enough people to come with her and found a colony to the west.  So she devised a plan.  When she saw Pumayyaton's slaves and workers moving her belongings to the palace, she filled several bags full of sand and handed them over.  She then told them to throw the bags into the sea as an offering to Zakarbaal's shade.  When they did so, she told them that these bags were the bags of gold, and that the king was going to execute them for doing this when he found out.  Unless, of course, they agreed to come with her and escape.

With all her men onboard the ship, Elishat gave the order to set sail and leave Tyre.  But as she was leaving, messengers arrived at the palace telling King Pumayyaton what had happened.  In a fit of rage, Pumayyaton ordered his men to send ships after them and bring them back.

The Tyrian ships full of soldiers soon caught up with Elishat's ship, but she had another plan.  She called to the other ships and told them that she would really throw the bags of gold into the sea unless they came with her.  If they returned to Tyre with her, they would be executed anyway for losing the gold.  And so they agreed.

Sailing west, the ship first landed on the island of Kittim.  There, the men took several women from the temple of Baal as their wives.  Then they set sail for the land of Phut in the west.  Arriving in Phut, Elishat approached the local tribes bringing gifts of peace.  She then asked to buy land from them.  Laughing, the people threw her an oxhide and told her she could have all the land the oxhide covered.  But Elishat had another plan.  She told her men to cut the oxhide into very thin strips, and then lay them out one after the other until they formed lines which covered a nearby hill.  When the people returned, they saw what she had done, but they were true to their word and let her build a city atop the hill.

While digging on the hill, the men found the head of an ox and the head of a horse.  This they considered to be a sign from the gods.  The priest of Baal arrived, and told them that they were indeed a sign, promising that the city which would be founded here would be great and powerful, becoming famed throughout the whole world.  Assured, the city was built atop the hill.  This hill became known as the Bozrah, which is where the palace, citadel, and many temples were built.  And this city was named Qart-Hadasht, which means 'New City'.

In time, Qart-Hadasht was fully completed, and the people lived there happily in their new home.  They crowned Elishat as queen, and she ruled over the city and its people.  But she was always unmarried, preferring instead to remain loyal to her first husband, Zakarbaal.  Many suitors from the surrounding Phutite tribes came forth asking for her hand in marriage, but she always refused them, telling them that she would never forget her husband and she would remain faithful forever.

But the king of the Gattulites, a local Phutite tribe, was determined to marry her.  He was called King Jarbu, and his people had lived in Phut for far longer than these foreign Canaanites, and they possessed a far stronger army.  He ordered messengers to arrive at the palace of Queen Elishat, and to tell her that she was to marry him or else he would wage a brutal war on Qart-Hadasht.  The messengers went off, and told the messengers at Elishat's court.  They appeared before her and told her that King Jarbu asked for a Canaanite woman to teach him the ways and culture of her people.  Queen Elishat told them that Canaanites were always prepared to do anything to defend their people and their city.  Then the messengers told her the bitter truth.  Jarbu had demanded to marry her or he would besiege the city.

The queen went off by herself, lost in thought.  She had swore to remain faithful to her first husband, and she never intended to stray from her promise.  But Jarbu was a king, and a powerful one at that.  Qart-Hadasht was still young, and vulnerable to attack.  She knew that she must defend her city from attack, and as a queen it was the duty charged to her by heaven and earth.  She had to choose: betray her husband and marry Jarbu, or allow her city to be destroyed and its people massacred or enslaved.  But crafty Elishat had one last scheme in mind.

When the messengers of Jarbu arrived, she told them that she would not refuse to marry him provided he swore not to attack her city.  Then she went to a high place above the city, and ordered her slaves to stack a large pile of wood on this location.  They found this odd, but did not question her orders.  It took several days for this pile to be built.

When it was finally completed, Elishat waited for the arrival of Jarbu in the city.  When he came, she made him swear not to attack Qart-Hadasht as long as she didn't refuse to marry him.  Then she ascended to the high place.  And there she stood, for all to see her.  She then set the wood alight, and gave burnt offerings to the shade of her husband.  Elishat then swore upon his memory that she would always defend her city, in any way possible.  And she also swore that she would never forget her husband, no matter what.  Then virtuous Elishat took her sword, and fell upon it.  And before she died, she threw herself upon the fire, which became her funeral pyre.

In committing this act, all who stood and watched were moved to tears.  Elishat had remained faithful to her husband, and married no other man.  Qart-Hadasht was saved, as she had not refused to marry Jarbu, and with her dead he would not attack the city.  In time, it would grow to become a powerful and mighty kingdom, founding colonies elsewhere, and claiming the lands of the local tribes as its own.  Jarbu's people, the Gattulites, became allies of the Qart-Hadashtites; and in later days one of Elishat's descendants, the famous general Hannibaal, would have Gattulite infantry in his great army.

From that day forward, Elishat was named Dudu.  And her promise to defend her city continued even after her death, for it is said that she ascended from the pyre into the heavens and became deified as a goddess.  Dudu was always revered as the protector of Qart-Hadasht in times of danger, and among some it was even said that she was an incarnation of the goddess Tanit herself, and from her came a great and noble city.

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