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Oldest Stories

Oldest Stories

By James Bleckley

This show is focused on the history and myth of the Cradle of Civilization, bronze age Mesopotamia, beginning with the dawn of writing. The show will cover the full history of Mesopotamia, from Gilgamesh to Nabonidas, a span of some 2500 years, with myths of heroes and gods, and tales of daily life peppered throughout. New episodes every Wednesday. Online at oldeststories.net.
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OS 67 - Late Bronze Age Warfare

Oldest StoriesFeb 03, 2021

00:00
34:36
OS 126 - Israel's Great Confusion

OS 126 - Israel's Great Confusion

Today we examine no fewer than three types of confusion in ancient Israel. First is the very standard political confusion of unsettled times, as king after king gets assassinated and wars of all sort rage. Next is the standard for biblical scholars confusion of what events can and can not be taken as history, ranging all the way from the extremely plausible wars and assassinations all the way to "One Million Ethiopians". Finally, we look at the most interesting confusion of all, the uncertainty as to what god the Israelites and Judahites were worshipping, and whether or not monotheism was actually a thing at this point in history. We look at kings Abijah/Abijam and Asa down in the south, and Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri up in the north.

Sep 13, 202346:01
OS 125 - Israel's Divided Kingdoms

OS 125 - Israel's Divided Kingdoms

Today we talk about God's opinion of ecumenicism, the historical issues around prophecy, and also the careers of Jeroboam, Rehoboam, as kings of Israel and Judah, the now divided kingdoms. Much of our history at this point is exclusively religious, but there are still things that we can pull out that give indications of how these small kingdoms are doing in the wider context. We finish out with an exciting military invasion, except mostly exciting for the enemies of God, because Shishak, or Shoshenq, of Egypt, may or may not have invaded one or more countries at this time in history.

Aug 30, 202347:56
OS 124 - Israel's Wisdom and Wealth

OS 124 - Israel's Wisdom and Wealth

Today, King Solomon may or may not write a good chunk of scripture, and is definitely the inspiration of a massive collection of fun legends. He is wealthy, though probably not as wealthy as we usually think, and he may have had a ton of wives, though also not as many as claimed. Though isn't that typical, a guy claiming to have bedded far more women then he actually has. He also has more Gods than most tellings like to emphasize, though even scripture can't avoid the scandal of the great Temple Builder falling to polytheism in his older years. So today we have a lot of tales, and a lot of "well, maybe not so much" to temper them all.
Aug 16, 202345:37
OS 123 - Israel's Great High Priest

OS 123 - Israel's Great High Priest

Today we ask the question, how many temples did God authorize, and why did he authorize some but not others. Then we ask, was David a priest of God, and why he could be priest and king when Saul could not. Those two questions take us on a long detour, but it ultimately ends up with David dead and Solomon on the throne, fighting for his life in a fratricidal power struggle. In between these, we have a digression where we look a bit at the history, religion, and religious history of the Samaritans, or at least the claims that the modern Samaritans make and what impact it might have on our dating of Deuteronomy and our understanding of the Jerusalem temple.
Aug 02, 202344:41
OS 122 - Israel's King David

OS 122 - Israel's King David

Today is King David and War. Lots of war. Some diplomacy, which turns into war, some rebellion, which becomes war, some more rebellion, which becomes a double war, and a bunch of war-related logistics scattered all throughout. Also, David commits adultery and murder, but you already knew that story. Perhaps the big surprise today is the General Joab subplot, he is a surprisingly ruthless gut-stabber. Also we get some miracles today, namely a massive plague and a bunch of rampaging murderous giants descended from fallen angels. We get a ton of plot in relatively few chapters today, and it bears interestingly on the wider context of both the Israelite religion, which we look at next time, and the upcoming kings, who we will look at after that.
Jul 19, 202338:15
OS 121 - Israel's Favorite King

OS 121 - Israel's Favorite King

Today the shepherd David becomes King David. This involves violence. Indeed, most of his career is violence, and we take a nice look at some of that violence here today. We also look at his construction efforts and some of his diplomacy, but as usual most of it turns into a bunch of tangents about the meaning of Baal worship in ancient Israel, me wondering why Christians don't practice divination any more, and whether or not David was a good man.
Jul 05, 202343:35
OS 120 - Israel's Habiru King

OS 120 - Israel's Habiru King

David comes in for a bit of criticism today, for probably being a murdering bandit, but these issues are an important part of this story. We look again at the bias in our sources, and we see a pretty big disconnect between what we are told about David and what we are shown him doing. But, of course, the tale of a bandit is usually an exciting one if nothing else, and so we have a pretty action packed episode in between all the musings about the value of human life in the ancient world, the reliability of biased sources, and the balance of piety and violence within king David.
Jun 21, 202332:17
OS 119 - Israel's Young Shepherd

OS 119 - Israel's Young Shepherd

We begin the tale of young David's rise to power, looking at the three origin stories of the young shepherd, warrior, and poet, and then noting that as he began to rise in fame and power, Saul was absolutely not insane to be jealous and worried of him rebelling and usurping the throne. After all, that is exactly what he ends up doing. But in addition to just the narrative of King David's rise, we take a nice long look at some of the historical and archeological issues surrounding this entire period. We contrast the traditional and historical perspectives of this period, and consider what archeological evidence we would need to validate either of them.

Jun 07, 202341:04
OS 118 - Israel's First Failed King

OS 118 - Israel's First Failed King

Today we get some serious military history as we look at the main chunk of King Saul's reign. We deliberately avoid David as much as possible today, because it is far too easy for King Saul to get upstaged in his own chapters by history's favorite king, and so we end up with a surprising amount of often quite detailed military history, and a bunch of interesting details about the time period itself. Finally, we get to see how Saul is super desperate to be a good Yahweh worshipper, and then we read his final eulogy and hear that the bible writers blame his death on failing to pursue God, which seems a bit unfair, but sometimes life is just that way.

May 24, 202338:07
OS 117 - Israel's First King

OS 117 - Israel's First King

Today we properly start the career of King Saul, or at least Saul as he makes his bid for kingship. This story is important as a piece of ancient literature, it is important through the question of whether or not the bible is valid as history, but most of all it is important because this is one of the only windows we get in the entire near east for military history details during the crucial transition from late bronze age chariot warfare to the massed imperial warfare of the iron age. Thanks to both the text itself and its extensive commentary traditions, we can pull out some really interesting details about how armies equipped themselves and the grander picture of how warfare and tactics contributed to ancient kingship that will play into our wider story even past the Israel section.

May 10, 202338:51
OS 116 - Israel's United Monarchy

OS 116 - Israel's United Monarchy

Today we look at the lead up to King Saul, and how Israel made the transition from a collections of tribes to a unified kingship. Why is the Old Testament so ambivalent on the matter of kingship? Most interestingly, there is a universally applicable political lesson here, in what may be history's earliest commentary on the nature and source of effective governance. Also, why do the Israelites cut up animals as messages so often in this period? We look at Gideon, Abimelech, Micah and the Danites, and the Benjaminite war.

Apr 26, 202354:09
OS 115 - The Place of Faith in Biblical History

OS 115 - The Place of Faith in Biblical History

Just to give an overview of this episode to see if you want to listen all the way through, the topics I am going to discuss are: Why do I believe that Israel entered Canaan as outsiders violently invading, when so much of academia believes that these invasions never happened, and that the Isarelite emergence was largely peaceful? Why do I believe that the bible, as we have it today, is a worthwhile historical record, at least worthwhile enough to go over it so extensively on a history podcast? Why has my perspective on the historical tale of the bible not changed even though I began studying as an atheist and am now studying it as a fairly conservative Christian? How can I, personally, continue to have faith in the religion revealed in the Bible when I have vehemently argued that certain fairly important parts of the Old Testament are meant as history, and yet false? Why does God's story so often occur inside gaps of our knowledge, and why does the revealing light of science never reveal God's hand? And finally, what is the meaning of analyzing the various books of the bible through the lense of genre, why does that matter for understanding some biblical problems, and why does that make other problems even worse? Why does history matter at all, particularly Israelite/biblical history?

Apr 26, 202301:02:42
OS 114 - Israel's Judges and Defeats

OS 114 - Israel's Judges and Defeats

The institution of Judges, as described in the book of Judges, is an English translation of the word Shofet, a political position which doesn't really exist in modern times, and as such is often poorly understood even in the study bibles and commentaries that I have read. And yet, there are reasons to think that whether or not the stories themselves within this book are true or not, there really was a class of Shoftim prior to the monarchy. That, plus issues of chronology among the judges, get hashed out a bit. And also we talk about the fact that the bible really doesn't like to talk about Israel getting defeated in times when it is theologically inconvenient, yet was probably getting kicked around like a rented mule around this time.

Apr 12, 202342:22
OS 113 - Israel's Settlements and Philistine Neighbors

OS 113 - Israel's Settlements and Philistine Neighbors

Today we go full archeology on everyone, looking at what makes a settlement more or less likely to be Israelite as opposed to Canaanite or whatever based purely on the archeological record. Also, a brief overview of the entire history of the Philistines, because I introduced them as a brief tangent and ended up telling their entire story all at once. Archeology by itself is just a bunch of broken clay pots, and serious archeology really has a tendency to put me to sleep, especially once they start listing of subvariants of pottery, but understanding the evidentiary foundations is crucial especially in a hotly debated area of history. Even more important is getting a sense of how these evidences map onto various interpretive frameworks to build the idea that we actually do start to see a distinctive and probably Israelite people emerging in the Levant during the bronze age collapse.

Mar 29, 202339:59
OS 112 - Israel's Conquest and Integration in Canaan

OS 112 - Israel's Conquest and Integration in Canaan

When did Joshua conquer Canaan for Israel? Did Joshua even exist, as described in the Book of Joshua? We continue our march through the Old Testament as the people of Israel march through Canaan. We spend some good time discussing the Canaanite genocide in the context of ancient warfare, and the things that are and are not remarkable about it. We look a bit at settlement patterns in archeology and destruction layers and what they mean for the entry or emergence of Israel in the holy land. Also, we talk a bit about the meaning of Herem and the idea of Devoting to Destruction.

Mar 15, 202347:25
OS 111 - Israel's Wandering and Settlement

OS 111 - Israel's Wandering and Settlement

What does it mean that the people of Israel are the biggest whiners in recorded history? It may mean that a lot of the people were not actually on board with the theological mission of the Yahwist religious leaders. It may also mean that we are knee deep in the book of Numbers. My favorite Old Testament story, Balaam son of Beor, gets a mention here, as does some points where the people of Israel may well have left some actual historical evidence. And finally we get to the first actual mention in non-biblical history of the people of Israel, recorded in the Merneptah Stele around 1207 BCE.

Mar 01, 202338:54
OS 110 - Israel and the Hebrews

OS 110 - Israel and the Hebrews

Today we obsess over the word Hebrew and go deep into what it means, who was and was not a Hebrew, whether it was a social or ethnic designation, what that implies about the religious and cultural mission of Israel, and what that might mean for the historicity of the Bible. In a sense, this is kind of a tangent from our wider story, but I think this is one of the really core issues that most people either wonder about, or are ignorant of and should be wondering about. If you really want to skip this, the short version is that there is a theory that the word Hebrew comes from 'Apiru, or Habiru, and while there is quite a lot of back and forth on the topic, I happen to think this is surprisingly likely, for reasons that go way beyond linguistic matters. But we also look at the other possibilities and what I think about them as well.

Feb 15, 202336:15
OS 109 - Israel's Numbers Problem

OS 109 - Israel's Numbers Problem

Today we look at possibly the oldest section of the entire Bible, Exodus chapter 15, the Song of Moses, as well as the issues with the census listed in Numbers and what that might mean for biblical historicity. These are some pivotal chapters today, not so much for the narrative itself but for keying in how we are going to interpret the bible and a whole in historical context. I think one of the most important questions for our own personal understanding of the bible is "How would this look in a movie", because how it plays out in our imagination, in terms of things like how many people there are in the scene, really affects who we can and can not consider plausible later on.

Feb 01, 202335:60
OS 108 - Israel's Formation and the Historical Exodus

OS 108 - Israel's Formation and the Historical Exodus

We begin our big series on the historicity of the bible with Genesis. Unfortunately, nearly the entire book is beyond the purview of history, for reasons we will discuss. But with the tale of the Exodus, we have a narrative which could, in theory, have left some historical evidence to confirm its existence. Unfortunately, we don't actually have any evidence of the exodus narrative. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absense, and the far more interesting question is what we can look at to not refute or affirm, but merely to support or weaken the narrative as presented in the bible.

Jan 18, 202343:01
OS 107 - The Bible as History and Skeptical Views

OS 107 - The Bible as History and Skeptical Views

Here it is, the part of ancient Near Eastern history that excites the most passion and interest. There is no doubt that there were kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and there is no doubt that after they were conquered by the Babylonians there was a class of Judahite priests who assembled the collection of texts we now call the Old Testament, but before that pretty much all bets are off. Today begins what will be a bit of a series on Israel, and we will go over briefly the four main points of view on Israelite history, which I call the Biblical Literalists, the Accomodationists, the Pure Archeologists, and the Radical Skeptics. Then we will look in a very bare bones way at what is the bare minimum we can say about pre-kingdom Israelite history to set the stage for future episodes.

Jan 04, 202335:00
OS 106 - The Fate of Anatolia

OS 106 - The Fate of Anatolia

After the Hittite Empire fell during the bronze age collapse, Anatolia became a Mad Max style wasteland with tribes crossing the hills and fighting for survival. Amidst all this, we have the fateful arrival of the mysterious Sea Peoples, and out of this mess emerged not a whole lot for a long time, but eventually we get the Phrygians in the northwest and the Neo-Hittites in the southeast, as well as a whole host of more peripheral people who will merit more mentions as our story progresses. The Phrygians we will look at briefly, but the Neo-Hittites, who are the same as the Biblical Hittites, are fascinating and poorly understood, and we will emerge from our time with them still fascinated and still not understanding much, but maybe a bit more than we started with.

Dec 21, 202233:13
OS 105 - Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

OS 105 - Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

Animals in ancient Mesopotamia. From sheep, goats, horses, and other domesticated animals to wild beasts like lions, elephants, insects, birds and fish, the ancient world was surrounded by animals. But in our history we are usually so focused with humans that we don't get a chance to focus on the four legged companions of the ancient world. So today we rectify that with an overview of all the animals that the Old Babylonians cared about and a look at how they interacted with each.

Dec 07, 202243:50
OS 104 - Arameans Everywhere

OS 104 - Arameans Everywhere

Today we look at pretty much everything we know about the Mesopotamian dark age following the bronze age collapse, and manage to cover about 120 years of history in about half an hour. After that is a discussion about chronologies and why we know when all these things happened, with a reference to lost time and other alternate chronologies, both legitimate and silly.

Nov 23, 202246:54
OS 103 - The Babylonian Aristotle, Esagil-Kin-Apli

OS 103 - The Babylonian Aristotle, Esagil-Kin-Apli

Today we are going to look at the reign of Adad-Apla-Iddina, the fact that he was hit by some brutal Aramean invasions and that he built a ton of stuff despite the times being pretty awful. But the star of our show today is the first great scientist in human history whose name reached great levels of fame. Esail-Kin-Apli may be forgotten now, but for a thousand years after his own time his name carried the same cachet as Einstein does to a modern lay person. It isn't wholly clear that he existed, or that he wrote the whole corpus with which he is credited, but there is a chance that he really did write the great catalogs of wisdom which constitute the first great body of scientific knowledge under a single known author. The significance of him as an historical figure and what his scientific catalogs looked like are discussed here. This episode is long, because I got a little too excited about the theoretical foundations of Babylonian thought.

Nov 09, 202201:03:43
OS 102 - A Bit More Tiglath-Pileser

OS 102 - A Bit More Tiglath-Pileser

This week, Tiglath-Pileser is going to kill more people, just like last week. But now he is going to branch out into killing animals, too! But when he pauses to catch his breath between killing, he is also going to build up Assyria domestically and fund a bit of an intellectual renaissance. Then he will die and things will get grim again for a while. But that is the rollercoaster of ancient Mesopotamia, it is great.

Oct 26, 202241:47
OS 101 - A Short Assyrian Burst of Activity

OS 101 - A Short Assyrian Burst of Activity

Today we see Assur rise mightily with Tiglath-Pileser I, and we see the seeds of another century of decline sown in the climate change that drives the Aramean invasions. Meanwhile, Babylon has to deal with the same set of problems, but without the same sort of vigorous leadership.

Oct 12, 202239:29
OS 100 - The Babylonian Theodicy

OS 100 - The Babylonian Theodicy

For a Babylonian polytheist, the gods are worshipped with the explicit expectation that divine veneration will avert bad fortune and attract good fortune. Yet as long as there have been people, we have seen that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good fortune finds bad people. Religious explorations of this are called Theodicy, and we have already see a number of Mesopotamian attempts to wrestle with this, back in Episodes 26 and 53. The genre appears to culminate in one of the most impressive technical and philosophical works of ancient Mesopotamia, in the Babylonian Theodicy. Also, after looking at the Theodicy, we compare it to another Babylonian writing from an old man who is simply miserable with life.


For more on this, check out episode 26, where we discussed the Sumerian "A Man and His God" and episode 53 where we discussed the Old Babylonian "Poem of the Righteous Sufferer", both of which are thematic precursors to this and almost certainly were at least indirect references for the author of the Babylonian Theodicy.

Sep 28, 202240:34
OS 99 - The Legend of Nebuchadnezzar

OS 99 - The Legend of Nebuchadnezzar

Nabu-Kudurri-Usur, the first Nebuchadnezzar, rescued the statue of Marduk from Elam after a grueling adventure beset by intense heat, low supplies, and enemies on all sides. And yet, even though this event would be celebrated in later generations, it is unclear if it was highly celebrated in his own lifetime. Today we look at the cult of Marduk, how it may have developed within the city of Babylon, and some more of Nebuchadnezzar's life.

Sep 14, 202239:50
OS 98 - Nabu-Kudurri-Usur

OS 98 - Nabu-Kudurri-Usur

In Babylon rules Nebuchadnezzar the first. He isn't the Nebuchadnezzar that we remember today, but he was certainly the more famous king of that name for most of Babylonian history. His great accomplishment, the retrieval of the stolen statue of Marduk from the Elamites, would inspire poets and leaders until the end of Babylonian history, and even a bit beyond. That one campaign has some exciting detail, but he is more than just that, and today we will look at this first Nebuchadnezzar in extensive detail. 

Aug 31, 202238:01
OS 97 - Ashur-Dan and the Isin Dynasty

OS 97 - Ashur-Dan and the Isin Dynasty

Welcome to the iron age. Though the international system of the late bronze age has collapsed under the weight of countless invaders, the Babylonians and Assyrians in their much diminished empires still have eyes only for each other. For them, no era has really ended, the great struggle between the two Mesopotamian power centers has been ongoing for over a century now, and will continue for centuries more. Though the founding of the Isin dynasty in Babylon is shrouded in the mists of poor documentation, and the long lived Ashur-Dan has few surviving records, there are still things to look at as we kick off Season 2 of the podcast.

Aug 17, 202240:38
An Overview of Bronze Age Mesopotamia

An Overview of Bronze Age Mesopotamia

This is a summary of the bronze age in ancient Mesopotamia, covering the years about 3000 BCE to 1200 BCE. This is a review of about 119 episodes of the oldest stories podcast, covering all of season 1 before we move into season 2, which will cover iron age Mesopotamia and their near eastern neighbors. Notes for this episode online at oldeststories.net

Aug 03, 202246:49
Industry 5 - The Bronze of the Age

Industry 5 - The Bronze of the Age

Today we have a history of metals, mining and metalworking in the bronze age near east. The story telling style of the last few industrial episodes didn't really work out here, so it is more of a bird's eye overview. We cover mostly copper and bronze, but also look at the history and production of gold, silver, and iron. 

Jul 20, 202254:45
Industry 4.5 - Last Century's Fashions (pt 2 of 2)

Industry 4.5 - Last Century's Fashions (pt 2 of 2)

This is part 2 of our look at clothing and how it was manufactured in the bronze age near east. If you haven't yet listened to part 1, The Fabric of Civilization, I recommend that you check out that episode first. In this episode we will look at going from the thread to full on clothing, and what that clothing looked like. For references on weaving and visual aids to what the clothes may have looked like, check out the oldeststories.net post for this episode.

Jul 06, 202237:49
Industry 4 - The Fabric of Civilization (pt 1 of 2)

Industry 4 - The Fabric of Civilization (pt 1 of 2)

Clothing is foundational to civilization. In the bible, it is humanity's first invention. In Mesopotamian philosophy, it is the thing which separates humans from animals. But as we will see today, even the simplest of cloth garments were the result of an extreme amount of work and technical skill, built up over countless generations of mostly women working in already very busy households. This is part 1 of a two part episode, part 2 will be releasing in two weeks.

Jun 29, 202232:59
Shamash, the Sun

Shamash, the Sun

Nowadays we tend to give Shamash, the Mesopotamian sun god, a bit less respect than he is probably due. After all, for modern folk, the category of "sun god" is the height of pagan foolishness. After all, why would anyone worship an object which has been held in common by all humans throughout all of history, whose power is so great that even with modern advanced science we still can't touch it, and which is literally the ultimate source of all life on the planet? But even among sun gods, Shamash takes on a character of his own, becoming more than just a guy carrying a big ball of fire, or maybe just being the big ball of fire, and becoming a stand in for the cosmic order itself, something that was hugely important in the ancient world. Today we look at how he was worshipped, mostly in the words of his actual worshippers.

Jun 15, 202237:55
Passionate Daughter Ishtar

Passionate Daughter Ishtar

Ishtar, the passionate goddess of love and war from ancient Mesopotamia has had a long life, historically speaking, and she continues to be a popular object of fascination for historians and of reverance for pagan revivalists. Today our focus is on Ishtar as she was worshipped in the ancient world. Less here about myth and far more about the ideas that Ishtar worshippers kept in their minds about their goddess. We are going to read a lot of hymns and praise poems, which do lose a bit in the transition from Akkadian into English, but still often have powerful imagery and are interesting as both examples of ancient literature and as windows into ancient religion.

Jun 01, 202243:24
Industry 3 - Liquid Bread

Industry 3 - Liquid Bread

Our tale of daily life continues. The harvest is over, but the work continues, as there are many steps required to transform boring, nutritious grain into delicious, nutritious beer. Online at oldeststories.net

May 18, 202240:48
Industry 2 - The Stuff of Life

Industry 2 - The Stuff of Life

Today we are talking all about the sort of industry that would have occupied most of the attention of most of the people of the ancient world. That is to say, beer making. But to talk about beer, you have to start with grain, and to talk about grain you have to start with a farmer. So today we will look deep into the life of a generic farmer, we will call him Ea-Rabi, and follow him step by step as he gains land, prepares a field, and grows barley, in preparation for next episode, where he turns that barley into bread and beer.

May 04, 202239:54
Industry 1 - The Earthen World

Industry 1 - The Earthen World

Perhaps the defining material of ancient Mesopotamia was dirt. Buildings were made by mud brick, and those buildings were filled by clay pottery of all sorts. Today we are going to look at the people who made these things and how they made them. It will necessarily be a bit of a summary, sort of taking the whole region and period in generic form, since it is quite difficult to nail down too specific of a picture from any one time or place. From the mud collectors to the brick makers to the builders to the ways in which those buildings were used, this episode is a comprehensive overview of the construction industry in bronze age Mesopotamia.

Apr 20, 202239:31
Listener Questions

Listener Questions

A long time ago I asked for listener questions, and also posted a call for questions over on tiktok, and here they are finally getting answered. This is theoretically the hundredth episode special, but depending on how you count it, we are either on episode 97 or on episode 110-ish. It is a grab bag of stuff, all related to the ancient near east. If you still have any questions, check out the contact page over on oldeststories.net and send me a note.

Apr 06, 202248:08
Sumer in Genesis

Sumer in Genesis

Here by popular demand and my own personal interest, an overview of the first eleven chapters of the biblical book of Genesis, alongside the ancient Mesopotamian stories that existed in parallel. The interplay between the two traditions is complicated and fascinating, and all the harder to untangle because both exist in fragments and summaries, but we can still tease out important aspects of the self-identification of Mesopotamians and ancient Hebrews through these comparisons. These comparisons can be examined in multiple ways, both faithful and secular, and provide fascinating lessons of the ancient world however we want to look at them. Our focus today is particularly on the tales of Adam, Cain and Abel, the Great Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the war in heaven. Hatemail and charges of heresy can be sent in through the contact page at oldeststories.net

Mar 23, 202237:01
Canaan 9 - Baal and Mot

Canaan 9 - Baal and Mot

Today we conclude the Baal cycle with the epic final confrontation between Baal Hadad, rightful lord of the Canaanite heavens, and Mot, the deity whose name literally means Death. How can a god fight against death itself? What were the Canaanites smoking when they came up with these stories? What are the theological implications of death facing the prospect of its own death? None of these questions will be answered, and many more questions will go unanswered as we conclude the greatest and strangest epic of the city of Ugarit.

Mar 09, 202234:21
Canaan 8 - The Feast of Baal

Canaan 8 - The Feast of Baal

If anyone is on Tiktok, there is a new oldeststories channel over there where I am posting facts each day. If you are on tiktok go check it out. Today we continue the greatest epic of Canaan, the Baal Cycle, with the Feast of Baal. It is easy to think of this perplexing series of feasting and random, pointless dialogue as an interlude between the two exciting parts of the epic, but the Feast in all its glorious strangeness is perhaps one of the most revealing myths of Canaan for exploring the mindset of ancient peoples. Not that I am going to explore these things, I am pretty much just going to tell you what happens and let you draw your own conclusions. Remember in the early 2000's when "lol, so random" was the height of humor? They really missed out on the Feast of Baal.
Feb 23, 202233:16
Songs 1 - Ancient Akkadian Love Songs

Songs 1 - Ancient Akkadian Love Songs

Valentine's Day Special. This is a bunch of love poetry from the Mesopotamian bronze age, as well as some magical love spells. Translation by Benjamin R Foster in his book "Before the Muses". Some of the original text is damaged, and I have gone in and filled the missing bits with what seems appropriate to make it flow better in audio format. This is mostly reading with very little commentary.

Feb 13, 202225:58
Canaan 7 - The Baal Cycle

Canaan 7 - The Baal Cycle

Today we begin perhaps the most significant of the surviving myths from Canaan, the Baal cycle. In the Baal cycle, we look at Ba'al Hadad, the mighty storm god, as he battles various foes in a great contest over the kingship of heaven. It is a subject we have seen before, but of course the Canaanites do things a bit differently than their neighbors. In this, the first of three major sections, Baal fights against Yamm, the god of rivers and seas. The story is sadly very damaged, but there is still a good bit of interesting things here, even if it does get a bit of the character of a radio show fighting against the static to be heard.

Feb 09, 202228:57
Canaan 6 - Aqhat and Daniel

Canaan 6 - Aqhat and Daniel

Daniel, sometimes called Danel, depending on your translation, is a figure of great wisdom who even gets name dropped in the bible. In this, the main story we have from him, we will see very little of that wisdom on display, as a series of events will occur with very little narrative motivation that will witness a lady grow jealous for no clear reason, every bird in the world ripped apart for no clear reason, and an unsatisfying conclusion. It is going to be a lot of fun. Also, I think I may have had covid while I recorded this, so make sure you wear your mask and and sit at least six feet away from your audio device while listening.

Jan 26, 202236:25
Canaan 5 - The Legend of Kirta

Canaan 5 - The Legend of Kirta

The Legend of Kirta, called Keret in some translations, can be a bit hard to understand, especially for a modern audience used to things like the three act structure and protagonists who fit neatly into any sort of moral categories at all. This is the first of our stories from Ugarit, and we are starting with one that we don't even know if it is meant as tragedy or farce. What all these stories hold in common is that they are deeply strange, stranger even than many of the tales from the Hitties or Mesopotamians, and the many missing sections from the text do nothing to edify us. I will be reading them more or less straight, with a bit less commentary than usual, because just putting the story in front of you should be enough to get you pondering. Online at oldeststories.net

Jan 12, 202241:27
Canaan 4 - Ugarit's Final Century

Canaan 4 - Ugarit's Final Century

The final century of the Canaanite city of Ugarit is by far the most well documented, and sheds light not only on how things were going in the city, but also on what other Canaanite cities likely looked like. We also get a novel and interesting perspective on how the great powers of the late bronze age looked to their many tiny vassals as the bronze age collapsed around them. Online at oldeststories.net

Dec 29, 202143:04
Canaan 3 - The City of Ugarit

Canaan 3 - The City of Ugarit

The Canaan history series continues as we finally look at the city of Ugarit, its rise and significance both in Northern Canaan and in archeology. Ugarit is really fascinating, sitting at the edge of multiple great empires, from the obscure Eblaite empire to the Egyptian, Mitannit and Hittite empires. It is a great window on the Canaanite region and the history of the levant in general.

Dec 15, 202126:39
Canaan 2 - The Amarna Age in Canaan

Canaan 2 - The Amarna Age in Canaan

Our mini series on Canaan continues, as we transition into the period we know most about, the late bronze age. Here, our sources multiply, and we get to dig into the remarkable and extensive Amarna archives, which contain hundreds of letters from the rulers of Canaanite cities to the Pharaoh on a variety of topics. We will look at the history of the late bronze age, and read some of the Amarna letters.

Dec 01, 202134:38