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: The ‘Queens of the Arabs’ During the Neo-Assyrian Period
University: University of Helsinki
Supervisor: Prof. Saana Svärd
During the Neo-Assyrian period (approximately 934-612 BCE, based in modern Iraq) the annals and royal inscriptions of several kings mention women with a curious title: ‘Queen of the Arabs’. These women have been included in previous discussions regarding Assyrian interaction with the ‘Arabs’, but a full investigation into their roles as rulers has been lacking. This is what this dissertation seeks to answer: what were the roles of the ‘Queens of the Arabs’ during the Neo-Assyrian period?
The reason for no prior traditional Assyriological research into these women is due to a very small number of texts. As Assyriology has traditionally been a text-based discipline, a corpus of just twenty-eight texts has not been seen as ‘worthy’ of a full investigation. This dissertation goes beyond the traditional approach, by incorporating gender theory and comparative methodology. A key heuristic tool in this dissertation is Michael Mann’s ‘IEMP’ model of power. This has identified three key areas where we can clealy see the roles of the ‘Queens of the Arabs’: military, economic, and religious roles.
The most important finding was that the process of researching about ‘Arabs’ meant contending with two layers of misinterpretation. The first of which is the misunderstandings of modern scholars allowing modern stereotypes influence how they write about ‘Arabs’. The second is that the ancient sources themselves do not seem to know who or what they refer to when they discuss the ‘Arabs’.
This has resulted in a discussion based on these women as individuals, not as a group. We do not know if they all ruled the same population group, and so they may have all been rulers of different cultures. We see Samsi, Teʾelḫunu, and Adiye in positions of military leadership, and Samsi was potentially even present on the battlefield. Zabibê, Samsi, and Tabūʾa all exhibited the ability to control either resources or access to the networks that transported these resources. And finally, Teʾelḫunu likely had a religious role of some sort as part of her leadership duties, but we do not know what that was. Each of these women are discussed in isolation.
Keywords: queens, Neo-Assyrian period, Assyria, Arabs, gender
Title: Power and Elite Competition in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 745-612 BC.
University: Columbia University
Supervisor: Prof. Marc Van De Mieroop
The Neo-Assyrian Empire in the eighth century was dominated by a small clique of officials holding high offices (often called ‘magnates’) who accumulated power by controlling vast areas of land and holding multiple offices simultaneously. This situation persisted until at least the end of the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III in 727 BC.
My dissertation utilizes tools from the fields of social network analysis and organizational communication to study the changing nature of political power in the late Neo-Assyrian empire. Using an analysis of 3,858 letters which survive from this period, my dissertation argues that Sargon II initiated reforms which fundamentally changed the relationship between the king and his officials. He reduced the status of the high officials by breaking up their provinces while vastly expanding the number of provinces and provincial governors. By leveling the field of Assyrian officialdom, he reduced their status to be equivalent to other provincial governors, centralizing power in the king and royal family while dividing it into smaller pieces among everyone else.
These reforms had unintended consequences. They radically increased competition between officials, structuring the empire in such a way that hundreds of governors, palace officials, and temple officials reported directly to the king and were in competition with each other for status. This in turn created a massive information problem, as officials frequently made allegations against their rivals. The king had no way of ascertaining the truth of these allegations, and kings became increasingly isolated during the seventh century BC as they turned to other means such as court scholars to attempt to circumvent this problem. The end result was a poor information environment which made Assyrian governance less effective and rendered Assyrian kings less able to assert control over their subordinates.
Keywords: Assyria, Neo-Assyrian period, imperialism, imperial organization, organizational communication, social network analysis
Title: Salutations to the Sun. The Kiutu incantation prayers
University: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Supervisor: Prof. Walther Sallaberger
This dissertation offers the first complete critical edition of the Sumerian Kiutu incantation prayers (from ki-dutu-k “place of the sun (god)”), which are attested from the second up to the end of the first Millennium BCE. This work focuses on the definition of the textual typology, its ritual and religious background. Furthermore, this study treats the Kiutus as a part of the broader history of Mesopotamian literature.