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