Male deity of a possibly West Semitic origin with a focus on the Middle and Upper Euphrates, most commonly attested in Mesopotamia in the late 3rd and early 2nd millennia BCE.
In Mesopotamia Dagan is associated with the Middle Euphrates, in particular the cities of Tuttul and Terqa. References to Dagan in some of the Akkadian royal inscriptions have been thought to suggest a military role for this deity, but his appearance in these texts at the time of certain battles may relate more to his association with the western regions in which these conflicts occurred. Dagan appears rarely in Mesopotamian mythology, he is mentioned in connection with the senior deity An in the Old Babylonian (early 2nd millennium BCE) versions of the myth of Anzu, and in the Neo-Assyrian (early 1st millennium BCE) version he makes a speech recounting the deeds of Ninurta (Crowell 2001: 39-40). In other cases Dagan is said to keep with him the seven children of the underworld god Enmešarra, and this netherworld aspect to Dagan is possibly supported by the temple built by Šamši-Adad I (ca. 1808-1776 BCE) at Terqa called the é-kisiga "temple of the funerary offerings" (Black and Green 1998: 56). The lack of wider mythological references, however, makes any discussion of his function difficult.
In the Syro-Mesopotamian areas, Dagan's functions are uncertain (Feliu 2003: 216-217). His association with funerary sacrifices at Mari and Ugarit is still contested (Crowell 2001: 60-61). Mythological attestations of Dagan from Ugarit are few, and this has limited analysis (Crowell 2001: 44-45). A possible etymology of the name Dagan from the West Semitic/Ugaritic root dgn, which can be translated as 'grain', and the Hebrew dāgōn, an archaic word for 'grain' (Black and Green 1998: 56), has tempted some scholars to assume that he played a role in vegetation/fertility, which might be confirmed by his son's, the West Semitic deity Ba'al, role as a vegetation deity (Black and Green 1998: 56). A 4th century AD tradition which places Dagan as a fish deity is erroneous (Black and Green 1998: 56).
There is no evidence for the parents or creation of Dagan. In some traditions the spouse of Dagan was Šalaša, in others Išhara (Black and Green 1998: 56). While Dagan is recorded as the father of the west Semitic deity Ba'al at Ugarit, Ba'al is also known as the son of El, and some scholars, therefore, have suggested a syncretism of Dagan and El (Dietrich 1976: 1.2 I 18-19 and 1.3 IV 48-53). Others have suggested a link in function and syncretism between Dagan and Ba'al - both having the attributes of a 'storm god' or a link to vegetation (Crowell 2001: 64). Pantheons should not be viewed as static or monolithic; the city of Ugarit was cosmopolitan, complex and interactive, and the Ugaritic pantheon necessarily should be understood as highly complex with multiple and competing rituals, myths and comprehensions (Crowell 2001: 63-64).
There is a suggestion of a temple of Dagan and Išhara at Nippur in the Ur III period (Hilgert 1994: 1 and 38), while a dedicatory inscription of the Isin king Ur-dukuga (1830-1828 BCE) mentions a temple of Dagan in Isin in southern Mesopotamia (Crowell 2001: 39). Further west a temple of Dagan dating to the second millennium at Mari is now thought to be that of the deity Itur-Mer, but the temple at Terqa built by Šamši-Adad (1808-1776 BCE) is of Dagan, and another temple to Dagan is believed to have existed at Emar (Crowell 2001: 41-44). Attempts have been made to attribute temples in the Levant to Dagan, but such suggestions are only based on Biblical literature, and the temple at Ugarit once considered to have been associated with Dagan has been reinterpreted as that of El (Crowell 2001: 44-50).
In Mesopotamia the earliest textual references to Dagan come from the Royal Inscriptions of Sargon (2334-2279 BCE) and Naram-Sin (2254-2218 BCE). From this period Dagan also appears as a theophoric element in personal names, e.g., Pu-Dagan, on the Maništušu (2269-2255 BCE) Obelisk (Crowell 2001: 35). In the Ur III period (2112-2004 BCE), the personal name evidence increases across Mesopotamia, and is prevalent in the Middle Euphrates region (Singer 2000: 221; Crowell 2001: 63-64). Dagan was an important deity in this period, he appears in the contemporary god and offering lists, and is commonly attested in the records from Puzriš-Dagan (the administrative hub of the Ur III period located near Nippur) and at Nippur itself (Crowell 2001: 36). In some texts, Dagan appears in close association with Babati, the uncle of Šu-Suen (the fourth Ur III king 2037-2029 BCE), clearly highlighting the importance of this deity to the Ur III ruling family (Hilgert 1994: 36). Moreover, Waetzoldt has suggested that there was a gradual increase over time in the social status of the bearers of names associated with Dagan (Pettinato and Waetzoldt 1985: 254). This importance continues in the early second millennium, with Dagan included in the royal names of the period, and in the praise literature of Iddin-Dagan (1974-54 BCE) and Išme-Dagan (1953-1935 BCE), kings of Isin, both of whom are referred to as the sons of Dagan (ETCSL 188.8.131.52: 18, ETCSL 184.108.40.206: 41).
Dagan's relevance to the middle Euphrates is found throughout the 2nd millennium. The Code of Hammurabi (1792-50 BCE) names him as the protector of the people of Tuttul, and many of the individuals known from this area have names involving the element Dagan (Crowell 2001: 37-39). At Mari in the early second millennium, Dagan appears in a variety of texts, such as in the letters, god and offering lists, and administrative tablets. Yahdun-Lim (ca. 19th century BCE) declares Dagan as the deity who gave him kingship, while Yasmah-Addu (ca. 1795-1776 BCE) describes himself as the "Governor of Dagan" (Crowell 2001: 56).
From later periods of Mesopotamia Dagan is less well attested, but he continues to appear in personal names, god and offering lists, and in connection with An, e.g. Aššurbanipal (668-627 BCE) describes himself as 'beloved of Anu and Dagan', but the latter may have become a fossilised literary phrase (Crowell 2001: 40 and 47). He is still a deity of some consequence, however, for, Dagan makes a speech recounting the deeds of Ninurta in the Neo-Assyrian Mytho of Anzu, and within the temple of Aššur there was a chapel to Dagan built by Shalmanser V (726-722 BCE) (Crowell 2001: 46-47).
Dagan was thought to have been a prominent deity on the eastern Mediterranean coast. The Amarna letters EA 317 and 318 from the middle of the second millennium BCE, which were once thought to provide evidence for the worship of Dagan on the eastern Mediterranean, have been re-evaluated, and are now thought to have originated in eastern Syria (Crowell 2001: 44-50). The prominence of Dagan on the eastern Mediterranean of the first millennium BCE comes mainly from the Hebrew Bible and the Second Temple literature, which associate Dagan (Heb. Dāgōn) with the temples of the Philistines. Recent work, however, has suggested that the role and position of Dagan may not be so definite. While Dagan is mentioned in the pantheon and sacrificial lists from Ugarit (Ras Shamra) and he does occur as a theophoric element in some local personal names, he is not well attested in the Levantine mythological literature.
A statue of Dagan is mentioned in the zukru festival at Emar (Crowell 2001: 44-45).
In syllabic texts the name of Dagan is usually spelled dDa-gan, but other attested spellings include dDa-ga-an. There have been some suggestions that there may have been logographic writings for the name of this deity, e.g. dKUR, and dBE, but the reading of these as Dagan is not certain (Crowell 2001: 32).
Adam Stone, 'Dagan (god)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/dagan/]