Anthony P. SooHoo

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


František Válek

Title: Life, Society and Politics in Relation to Religion at Ugarit in the Late Bronze Age

University: Charles University, Prague

Supervisor: Dr Dalibor Antalík

Abstract:  Ugarit provides us with ample evidence for the reconstruction of the Late Bronze Age Levantine religion and at the same time with rich materials for reconstruction of other spheres of life. This makes Ugarit an ideal source for my dissertation project that aims to explore how religious ideas and behaviours were interwoven with the ‘practical lifes’ of individuals, society and the city as a polity.

For the sake of limiting vast resources, religion in this thesis is ‘defined’ as ‘ideas and activities related to deities’. Such an approach is of course not without difficulties and the by-product of this thesis is also a reevaluation of the concept of religion when applied to the ancient Near East. Also, a thorough investigation of the conceptions of divinity at Ugarit will be undertaken within the thesis.

Individual studies on the interweaving of religion and life will be carried mostly in the form of individual case-studies exploring different materials. The main objective is to set the explored materials into a wider context of life. These contexts include economic relations, architectural reality of the city, social stratification, international politics, internal organization of the kingdom, historical circumstances, geographical reality, and others.

The study is not aimed to provide a new and complex study of Ugaritic religion, but to study the sphere of religion as an integral part of the reality of life. As such, religion substantially influenced the social reality, and at the same time, the social reality formed the religion. This dialectical relationship is the central focus of the thesis.

Keywords: religion, Ugarit, Ugaritic literature, royal ideology, myth, cult, international relations, Late Bronze Age, deities