Title: The god Nergal in the Sumerian-Akkadian texts (2nd-1st millennia BCE) / Le dieu Nergal dans les textes suméro-akkadiens (IIe-Ier millénaires av. J.-C.)
University: Université de Lille
Supervisor: Philippe Abrahami
The purpose of this thesis is to study the deity Nergal in all its aspects. Mainly presented as a warrior god, king of the netherworld, Nergal is also identifiable as a multifaceted deity. Thanks to the diversity of the corpus in Sumerian and Akkadian languages documenting him, such as official texts, practical texts, literary texts and scholarly texts, and thanks to iconographic sources too, it is possible to determine on the one hand his role and function in these sources, to define his personality and to distinguish the Nergal’s place face to pantheons of Ancient Near East on two millennia on the other hand. Based on archaeological data, the problematic of this research deals with different cult places too worshiped to him and the personnel dedicated to the service of this god. This work is also a mean to propose an onomastic and prosopographic study of individuals bearing a name in Nergal. It seeks to measure the popularity of the god Nergal in the individual’s names according to the treated periods and regions and to observe a possible predominance in these names in Nergal in certain socio-professional categories. The aim of this study is thus to propose a synthesis, as complete as possible, of mentions of Nergal in Sumerian-Akkadian textual and iconographic sources of the 2nd and 1st millennium B.C. The interest to study this multifaceted deity, in an expanded spatio-temporal framework is a mean to observe if there are regional and temporal contrasts on the figure of the god Nergal.
Keywords: Nergal, Erra, netherworld, cult, war, epidemic
Title: The Ritual Means of Empowerment of the Mesopotamian Exorcist
University: Yale University
Supervisor: Eckart Frahm
My dissertation examines the ways in which the Mesopotamian “exorcist” (āšipu) constructed his identity and authority in and through ritual performance. Among the various strategies, the project focuses on the āšipu’s self-purification and self-protection, his special attire and attributes, and the special nature and forms of his ritual speech. The project draws mainly on ritual texts of the āšipu from the first millennium BCE. Analyzing the construction of the image of the ideal āšipu will lead to a better understanding of his authority as a religious professional in the context of other Mesopotamian experts as well as in cross-cultural comparison.
Keywords: ritual, religion, scholarship, expert, purity, speech
Title: Violence against the Enemy in Mesopotamian Myth, Ritual, and Historiography
University: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU
Supervisor: Beate Pongratz-Leisten
Evidence for violence is found in all periods of Mesopotamian history. Kingship, which was divine in origin, included the exercise of power and the legitimate use of violence. Mesopotamian violence reflects the culture’s understanding of ontology, order, and justice. Although there is scant archaeological evidence for its actual practice, the worldview that allowed it to flourish can be reconstructed from myth, ritual, and historiography.
Approaching Mesopotamian conceptions of violence through these three modes of discourse, this study explores the behavior through the lens of theory, practice, and presentation. The investigation is guided by the following questions:
• What do the myths say about violence? How is violence imagined and theorized?
• How do the war rituals promote and normalize the practice of violence?
• How and why is violence presented in the narrative(s) of the royal annals and in the visual program of the palace reliefs?
This study moves from offering a general account of Mesopotamian violence directed against the enemy “other,” conceptualized in myths about the divine warrior (i.e., Ninurta, Marduk) and the so-called war rituals, to analyzing the portrayal of a particular act as part of Neo-Assyrian royal propaganda (Ashurbanipal’s beheading of Teumman).
Keywords: Neo-Assyrian, violence, myth, Teumman, war rituals
Title: Conceptualising the Erotic: Metaphor in the Sumerian “Love Songs”
University: University of Oxford
Supervisor: Jacob Dahl
My thesis analyses the metaphor of the Old Babylonian Sumerian “Love Songs”. Using an approach borrowed from cognitive linguistics, I will analyse the corpus using Conceptual Metaphor Theory. The theory mainly states that we understand abstract concepts through mappings from embodied experiences. The extensive metaphor in the Sumerian “Love Songs” give one of the fullest and extended representations of sexual domains of experience from the ancient Mesopotamian world, particularly desire, pleasure, and the erotic. Using modern approaches to metaphor, I hope to create a pragmatic and useful approach to the pervasive but sometimes obscure metaphor in Old Babylonian Sumerian literary texts. By analysing metaphor across the defined parameters of the erotic literary texts known as the Sumerian “Love Songs”, I will display the creativity and interaction that occurs with the creation and comprehension of certain metaphor, and also demonstrate that the analysis of figurative language can be used as tool for accessing culturally constructed domains of experience. The aim is to understand how desire, pleasure, allure, and the gendered human body were conceptualised at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.
Keywords: Old Babylonian, Sumerian literature, metaphor