Eshmun

From Academic Kids

Eshmun (or Eshmoun, less accurately Esmun or Esmoun) was a northwestern Semitic god of healing and the tutelary god of Sidon.

This god was known at least from the Iron Age period at Sidon and was worshipped also in Tyre, Beirut, Cyprus, Sardinia, and in Carthage where the site of Eshmun's temple is now occupied by the chapel of Louis IX of France.

According to Sanchuniathon, Sydyk 'Just', first fathered seven sons equated with the Greek Cabeiri or Dioscuri, no mother named, and then afterwards fathered an eighth son by one of the seven Titanides or Artemides. (See Kotharat). The name Eshmun appears to mean 'the Eighth'.

The Neo-Platonist Damascius also stated (Vita Isidori 302):

The Asclepius in Beirut is neither a Greek or an Egyptian, but some native Phoenician divnity. For to Sadyk were born children who are interpreted as Dioscuri and Cabeiri; and in addition to these was born an eighth son, Esmunus, who is interpreted as Asclepius.

Photius (Bibliotheca Codex 242) summarizes Damascius as saying further that Asclepius of Beirut was a youth who was fond of hunting. He was seen by the goddess AstronoŽ (thought by many scholars to be a version of ‘Ashtart) who so harassed him with amorous pusuit that in desperation he castrated himself and died. AstronoŽ then named the youth Paeon 'Healer', restored him to life from the warmth of her body, and changed him into a god. A village near Beirut named Qabr Shmoun 'Eshmoun's grave' still exists.

A trilingual inscription from the 2nd century BCE from Sardinia (KAI. 66) also identifies Eshmun with Greek Asclepius and Latin Aesculapius.

Pausanias (7.23.7–8) quotes a Sidonian as saying that the Phoenicians claim Apollo as the father of Asclepius, as do the Greeks, but unlike them do not make his mother a mortal woman. The Sidonian then continued with an allegory which explained that Apollo represented the sun whose changing paths imparts to the air its healthiness which is to be understood as Asclepius. This allegory seems likely to be a late invention. Also Apollo is usually equated with the Phoenician plague god Resheph. This might be a variant version of Eshmun's parentage, or Apollo might also be equated with Sadyk, Sadyk might be equated with Resheph.

The name Astresmunim 'herb of Eshmun' was applied by Dioscorides (4.71) to the solanum, which was regarded as having medicinal qualities.

The temple to Eshmun is found 1 km from Sidon on the Bostrenus river, the modern river Awwali. Building was begun at the end of the 6th century BCE during the reign of Eshmunazar II and later additions were made up into the Roman period. It was excavated by Maurice Dunand from 1963 to 1978. Many votive offerings in the form of statues of those healed by the god were found, especially statues of babies and young children.

Also found near the temple near Sidon was a gold plaque of Eshmun and the goddess Hygeia 'Health' showing Eshmun holding a staff in his right hand around which a serpent is entwined. A coin from Beirut from the 3rd century CE shows Eshmun standing between two serpents.

Bterram, a village in Lebanon, possesses a very old underground temple called Eshmunit composed of eight rooms (one big and seven small) all carved in the bedrock and accessible by stairs. It is thought this may be a temple to a spouse of Eshmun.

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