(Yam) A Semitic God, Yamm was adopted into the Egyptian pantheon as a malevolent God of the sea (that is, the Mediterranean), perhaps to distinguish these aspects of the sea from its fertility, which is particularly embodied by the native Egyptian sea God Wadj-wer, ‘the Great Green’. Egyptians seem to have adapted a Canaanite myth in which Yamm is subdued by Ba’al; in the Egyptian version it is Seth who subdues Yamm by the power of his voice, implying thunder. Astarte, another Levantine deity adopted into the Egyptian pantheon, also figures in the myth, which is however only known from a very fragmentary papyrus and from scattered allusions elsewhere. The myth apparently tells of a time when Yamm possessed sovereignty over the cosmos and exacted tribute even from the other Gods, upon threat of flooding the world. Yamm desires to make Astarte his wife, or perhaps actually does so, but the Gods’ appeal to Seth as their champion results in Yamm’s submission, and perhaps sets the stage for Seth to wed Astarte himself (trans. in Simpson 2003). It is possible that this myth has not been adopted altogether from Canaanite sources, but rather that a native Egyptian myth was remodeled to incorporate elements of a foreign myth with similar themes.

Simpson, W. K., ed. 2003. The Literature of Ancient Egypt. 3d ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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