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JOURNAL OF ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN RELIGIONS Aims & Scope The Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions ( JANER) focuses on the religions of the Ancient Near East: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine, and Anatolia, as well as adjacent areas under their cultural influence, from prehistory through the beginning of the common era. JANER defines Ancient Near Eastern civilization broadly as including not only the Biblical, Hellenistic and Roman world but also the impact of Near Eastern religions on the western Mediterranean. JANER is the only peerrefereed journal specifically and exclusively addressing this range of topics, and is intended to provide an international scholarly forum for studies on all aspects of ancient religions. Editor-in-Chief Seth L. Sanders, Trinity College Editorial Board David Frankfurter (University of New Hampshire), John Baines (Oxford University), Brian Schmidt (University of Michigan), Theo P.J. van den Hout (University of Chicago), Jan N. Bremmer (University of Groningen), Christopher Woods (University of Chicago) Advisory Board I. Tzvi Abusch (Brandeis University), Alfonso Archi (Università “La Sapienza,” Rome), Volkert Haas (Freie Universität Berlin), Jack M. Sasson (Vanderbilt University), K. van der Toorn (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Christine Zivie-Coche (Centre Wladimir Golenischeff, Paris) Editorial Address, Instructions for Authors & Open Access All manuscript submissions, editorial correspondences, and books for review should be sent to: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions, Seth L. Sanders, Trinity College, Dept. of Religion, 300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT 06106-3100, e-mail: seth.sanders@ Instructions for Authors can be found on our web site at The Instructions for Authors include details on how to publish on an Open Access basis with Brill Open. Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions (print ISSN 1569-2116, online ISSN 1569-2124) is published twice a year by BRILL Plantijnstraat 2, 2321 JC Leiden, The Netherlands, tel. +31 (0)71 5353500, fax +31 (0)71-5317532.



Instructions for Authors Scope and Coverage The Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions ( JANER) focuses on the religions of the Ancient Near East: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine, and Anatolia, as well as adjacent areas under their cultural influence, from prehistory through the beginning of the common era. JANER defines Ancient Near Eastern civilization broadly as including not only the Biblical, Hellenistic and Roman world but also the impact of Near Eastern religions on the western Mediterranean. JANER is the only peer-refereed journal specifically and exclusively addressing this range of topics, and is intended to provide an international scholarly forum for studies on all aspects of ancient religions. JANER welcomes submissions that introduce new evidence and arguments, revise old understandings, and advance important debates about how people understood and related to otherworldly forces in the Ancient Near East. Articles should begin with a brief discussion of what is at stake and end with a brief assessment of what has been learned, in a style intelligible to scholars who are not specialists in the subject under investigation. Submission Manuscripts should be submitted to the Editor at: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions, SETH L. SANDERS, Trinity College, Dept. of Religion, 300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT 06106-3100, e-mail: [email protected] Format Wide margins of at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) are to be left on all edges of the page. All parts (abstract, body, footnotes, etc.) must be double-spaced and numbered consecutively. Presentation The first page of the manuscript should carry the full title of the article and the name and affiliation of the author, followed by the Abstract. The remaining manuscript should be arranged in the following sequence: Main article (with footnotes), Bibliography or Reading List (if any), Appendices (if any), Figure Captions (if any), Tables (if any), and Figures. Acknowledgements should be addressed as a non-numbered footnote which will appear before the first footnote. Because our peer review process is double-blind, authors should take care to eliminate any clue to their identity from the text of the manuscript, for instance, by making sure citations to their own work are in the third person. For the same reason, authors are advised to hold off on including acknowledgments until they finalize the manuscript for publication. Language Manuscripts will be accepted in English. Transliteration of Hebrew Follow the Encyclopaedia Judaica. Abstracts Abstracts should not exceed 200 words in English and include a concise description of the article’s hypothesis, methods, main sources, and results.

Footnotes Notes should be numbered consecutively throughout the text and follow any punctuation marks, such as a period or comma, within the text. References should be included within the notes (but any Reading List or Bibliography can be presented as the final section of the paper). Take care as to ensure that each footnote reference appears in the appropriate position in the text. Italics Please italicize matter that is intended to be italicized. Special characters Characters that do not appear in the standard Roman alphabet (i.e., accented letters, diacritical marks) should be very plainly identified. Style An author’s priority should be consistency. Spelling (British or American) should be consistent throughout; transliteration of words and proper names in Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, etc., should be consistent throughout. In general, please consult The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2003; also available online at http://www. for guidance. Quotation marks Direct quotations of fewer than twenty-five words should be enclosed in double quotation marks (“ ”) and run on in the text. Double quotation marks should also be used for titles of articles from journals and reference works. Single quotation marks (‘ ’) are used to enclose words and phrases within double quotation marks. Block quotations Larger sections of quoted text (i.e. anything over twenty-five) should be set off from other text by adding a blank line above and below the section and indenting the entire quotation 1.5 inches from the left. These larger sections, or block quotations, are not enclosed in quotation marks. Proofs Authors will receive proofs by e-mail for correction; these should be returned within one week of receipt. Authors’ alterations in excess of 10% of the original composition cost will be charged to authors. Offprints Electronic off prints will be made available upon publication.

© 2010 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints BRILL, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publishers. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by the publisher provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers MA 01923, U.S.A. Fees are subject to change. Printed in the Netherlands (on acid-free paper)

EDITOR’S NOTE This issue of JANER asks: who, and what, was ancient ritual for? To explore this question it ranges across a broad sweep of the ancient Near East and uncovers some surprising new answers. How did the Assyrian emperor create a new cosmic center when he abandoned the ancient capital of his empire at Assur? Brian Brown investigates the layout of Ashurnasirpal II’s new palace at Nimrud and finds that crucial changes were memorial: the palace itself functioned as a monument to the dead, one that rebuilt the connections to Ashurnasirpal’s buried ancestors which his move from Ashur threatened to break. In seeing architecture as a ritual tool, Brown raises intriguing questions about how empires learn from the cultures they conquer and re-create their own pasts. Was there a “women’s religion” in ancient Israel with its own separate rituals? Quite possibly, but as Saul Olyan argues, neither the Bible nor archaeology offer any direct evidence of it. In demonstrating that men were as likely as women to have been interested in goddesses, pillar figurines, and fertility, Olyan points out that these supposedly feminine concerns would have been central to most people in Iron Age Israel. His arguments challenge us to look for new patterns in the gendered practice of religion and remind us that all history is “women’s history.” Was anybody in the ancient Near East gay? For that matter, was anybody straight? A pair of articles by Jared Miller and Ilan Peled reinterpret a pair of long-obscure Hittite rituals as “cures” for passive homosexuality. In doing so they raise provocative questions about how Hittite society defined the gender of its members and policed the boundaries of its body politic. Both rituals attempt to solve a problem understood not as homosexuality in the (recent) Western sense but rather a man’s practice of being penetrated by another man. Yet a sexual norm based on being the active agent of penetration implies that ancient Hittites were no more heterosexual than they were homosexual. Carlo Corti demonstrates that the study of ritual pays dividends for political history: the new Hittite rituals for the land of Zalpuwa, probably connected with the funeral of a king, imply that the © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156853510X507446


editor’s note

territorial reach of the Hittite empire extended into this region for far longer than previously thought. And Tzemah Yoreh provides a searching and appreciative critique of The Saga of King David, the newest work by that great scholar of biblical historiography and advocate of the supplementary hypothesis John Van Seters. Seth L. Sanders Trinity College

KINGSHIP AND ANCESTRAL CULT IN THE NORTHWEST PALACE AT NIMRUD* BRIAN BROWN University of California, Berkeley/250 Barrows Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720 [email protected] Abstract Built in the early 9th century BCE, the Northwest Palace at Nimrud presented a new “imperial” architecture and iconography that was related to Assyrian expansionism at this time. Yet it also contained specific points of contact with the past via the royal Assyrian ancestors. A monument in the throneroom, the “center” of the state, provided the “public” view of this ideology, while one of the palace’s more secluded wings was devoted to the performance of ancestral cult. Through these and other means, rapid and fundamental socio-political change was accompanied by the idea of a logical and direct continuity with the history of Assyria. Keywords: Assyria, ancestral cult, mortuary architecture, kingship, imperialism, Iron Age

Introduction It is difficult to overestimate how radical the Northwest Palace at Nimrud (Fig. 1) was in the history of Assyria. As the centerpiece of a new imperial capital replacing Ashur, the cultural and religious center of Assyria for over a millennium, the palace presented new

* This article was originally written in 2003-04 while a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley. A generous junior fellowship from the Topoi Excellence Cluster funded a one-year stay at the Freie Universität Berlin in 200809, which allowed me to conduct additional research and rework the manuscript. I would like to thank Marian Feldman, Chikako Watanabe, and David Stronach for helpful comments on earlier versions. Irene Winter’s critical comments as peer reviewer helped me to strengthen the article. Any errors are my own responsibility. I would also like to thank Dominik Bonatz and Rainer Czichon for assistance at the Freie Universität. An award from the Stahl Endowment of the University of California-Berkeley in 2005 allowed me to visit the British Museum to study and photograph some of the objects appearing in this article. © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156921210X500495


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directions in the visualization of ideology, city planning, and architectural disposition of space. It became, from the point of view of the ruling class, a microcosm of the Assyrian world (cf. Winter 1983a) and a statement of the direction the ascendant state would take in building an empire. Yet even the most radical movements and changes maintain some connection to the past. In this article, I would like to look at two components of the Northwest Palace that do just this in a very direct way—by drawing upon ancestral connections. The two features are very different: one is an entire wing of the palace, the other a large sculpted relief in the throneroom. I argue, however, that they were created together in an integrated fashion and present two sides of an ideology of royal legitimacy to two different audiences, the larger public, political world, on the one hand, and the ancestors, on the other. I begin by briefly discussing a theoretical approach, Rapoport’s “activity settings” model, that will ground my examination of the materials. Following this, I examine the layout and other features of the architectural unit, the palace’s East Suite. I evaluate previous explanations of the complex’s function before presenting my own. Next, I look at throneroom relief B-23 (as well as its counterpart, B-13) and discuss several interpretations of the parts and whole of the composition. Finally, I explain the correspondences between the reliefs and the architecture and indicate why they should be interpreted together as an expression of the proper practice of kingship through the maintenance of ancestral relations. Theory The primary analytical tool I use to examine the architecture of the East Suite is the “activity settings” theory of Rapoport (1990). This framework analyzes architecture not just in terms of its shape and form, but primarily in terms of its function as a setting for activities. It is concerned with how social behavior is influenced by the total activity environment—architecture and associated installations (such as furniture and decoration) as well as the actions of people. Rapoport’s theories have already been applied to imperial Assyrian architecture, including the Northwest Palace (Russell

kingship and ancestral cult in the northwest palace


1998)1 and the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (McCormick 2002). Two main areas of Rapoport’s theory are relevant here. First, an “activity setting” may be divided into three components: fixed feature, semi-fixed feature, and non-fixed feature elements (Rapoport 1990: 13). Fixed-feature elements pertain to the actual architecture of a building—walls, floors, ceilings, and other permanent, immovable structural parts. These form the basic constraints of a setting. Semi-fixed feature elements are parts of the architectural environment which may be moved or which are not structurally integral. This category includes items such as furniture and decorative elements.2 Non-fixed feature elements are humans and their behavior. Of the three, semi-fixed feature elements influence human behavior the most; non-fixed feature elements are also important but are usually not archaeologically recoverable (Rapoport 1990: 14; Russell 1998: 664).3 Second, an activity setting influences human behavior by means of “cues” (Rapoport 1990: 12). Cues are physical and environmental elements that indicate the type of social behavior that is expected in a certain locale. They may “act as mnemonics—they remind those entering the setting of the situation it defines, of which rules apply and hence of how to act” (Rapoport 1990: 12). Cues provided by decorative objects (and other semi-fixed feature elements) indicate the “expected emotional response and behavior” within a particular area (McCormick 2002: 24). There are a number of issues with applying this theory to most archaeological contexts. The social systems in which ancient buildings functioned are extinct. This precludes direct observation of 1 My own analysis of the East Suite is indebted to Russell’s larger study of the Northwest Palace, although it differs substantially on a number of points. 2 Russell considers objects such as paintings and reliefs as fixed feature elements (1998: 664, 697). However, it is known that reliefs were sometimes taken out of palaces for use in others (cf. Russell 1998: 665; Barnett and Falkner 1962). Most of the reliefs from the West Suite in the Northwest palace are missing, yet the groundplan and lower parts of the walls (i.e., the fixed feature elements) remain. These considerations indicate that reliefs should be considered semi-fixed feature elements, the position I adopt here (cf. McCormick 2002: 19). 3 Microwear analysis does offer possibilities for determining human behavior patterns (Russell [1998: 674, n. 50] mentions the wear patterns on thresholds leading to the East Suite). However, this methodology is not employed for the present study.


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how actors familiar with the environment behaved there. Archaeologists, therefore, usually may only make use of fixed feature and semi-fixed feature elements to make interpretive statements about the types of activities that took place in any particular architectural context. More important, there will be ambiguity in the interpretation of fixed and semi-fixed feature elements. Different activities may (or may not) take place in the same architectural unit or space; similarly, the same activity may (or may not) take place in several discrete areas (Russell 1998: 664; cf. McCormick 2002: 25). Reference to aspects of the larger social system is necessary to reduce the chance of error in interpreting the cues provided by the fixed and semi-fixed feature elements. The East Suite:4 Description Fixed Feature Elements The East Suite (following the architectural grouping and terminology of Russell 1998) is located on the eastern side of Court Y, the palace’s central courtyard (Fig. 2). It comprises 10 rooms or discrete spaces: Rooms G-O and R. Four doorways provide access to the suite: one from Room F of the principal throneroom suite, two from Court Y, and one from Corridor P. The doorways from Room F and Court Y lead directly into Room G, while the doorway from Corridor P opens into Room N, which served as a southern extension of Room G. Room G, therefore, apparently functioned as the suite’s main reception room or entry area from the other areas of the palace. In terms of access and control of circulation, the situation is rather different moving from Room G into the seven interior rooms of the suite. Only one doorway, on the long eastern wall, leads from Room G into Room H, the space from which the rest of the interior area is accessed. There are no other means of access to these seven rooms from the rest of the palace or the outside. Therefore, while access to Room G is relatively open (four entrances) 4 The review of the architecture here is necessarily selective. Major aspects (e.g., access, architectural form) will be covered, while other features (such as building materials and dimensions) generally will not be. Fuller details on the architecture of the East Suite may be found in Layard 1849; Mallowan 1966; Paley 1976; Meuszynski 1981; Paley and Sobolewski 1987; Russell 1998.

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from a variety of entry points (the central courtyard, Passage P, and Room F), access to Room H and beyond is restricted. Inside Room H, four extant doorways lead to the interior rooms. One doorway in the long western wall leads to Room R, while three doorways are located in the long eastern wall. The center one leads to Room K, while the two flanking doorways lead to Rooms I and L. These latter two rooms have an unusual L-shaped layout. Two more rooms, J and M, are accessed from Rooms I and L. Rooms J and M each have a large, deep niche, on the south and north walls respectively. In fact, these two niches appear to have been doors that were blocked up with stone reliefs at some point. Russell (1998: 672 and n. 48) thinks that the slabs blocking these apparent doorways are contemporary with the other reliefs, which is the position I adopt here. Rooms I and L each also had a tall, shallow recess or niche, in the northwest and southwest corners of the main part of the rooms, respectively. In this case, though, it seems that these recesses were built specifically as niches. Of the suite’s architecture, only the lower parts of the walls (to the top of the reliefs) and the floors remained. Therefore, it is impossible to say how high the rooms were, what types of ceilings and roofs were in place, and whether or not there were windows or other forms of lighting. However, a number of small niches (measuring approximately 1m x 1m in size) were found about 1m above the floor at various points in the walls of Rooms H-M, O, and R. These features have been interpreted by Paley (1985: 19-20) and Russell (1998: 671) as ventilation shafts, but I propose another possible function below. The layout of the suite presents several problems. Despite the restriction of access to the wing’s interior, we may question just how tightly the East Suite bound any activities that took place in it. Different components of some activities may take place over several very different areas,5 with the result that a single activity— and therefore archaeological indicators of it—need not be limited to one single space. In addition, the East Suite does not fit into any established pattern of Late Assyrian palatial architecture. Rooms G and H taken together are similar to the so-called “reception 5 One example from a later period is the Late Babylonian New Year’s Festival, parts of which took place in the main palace, the larger urban area, and a structure (the bīt akītu) located outside the city (Black 1981; see also Pongratz-Leisten 1994).


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room/retiring room” pattern (Turner 1970: 181-188; Russell 1998: 672) but, leaving aside for the moment the issue of determining function from a standardized form (cf. McCormick 2002: 25), the “retiring room” in the standard combination usually leads out to a court. In this case, Room H, the area that would be the “retiring room,” does not lead out but rather in. It does not serve the expected function of providing intermediate access from the major “public” room to the main areas of the palace. Furthermore, the fact that access into Room H is so restricted could be taken as prima facie evidence that the group of rooms beyond Room G (H-M and R) should be considered as its own unit or a sub-suite of the larger East Suite. In this view, Room H and the rest of the inner rooms might be a set of areas devoted to several related activities or different aspects of the same activity. If we treat Rooms H-M and R as a sub-unit and look at it in isolation from the rest of the suite (Fig. 3), the most striking feature is its nearly absolute bilateral symmetry. Rooms H and K form a central axis, which is accentuated by the direct alignment of the doorways into the two rooms. Rooms I and J stand on one side of this central axis, while L and M are located on the other. In fact, to extend the analysis, when we note that the only way to access Rooms J and M is through Rooms I and L, respectively, we can describe this symmetry in terms of two nearly identical sub-wings or room groupings (I-J and L-M) flanking the two central components, Rooms H and K. Only Room R, the entrance of which is located at the northern end of Room H’s long western wall, breaks this symmetry. A layout of this type is unique in Late Assyrian palatial architecture. There is no clear analogy from any of the known major Assyrian palaces at Ashur, Nimrud, Khorsabad, or Nineveh (Russell 1998: 672). The closest comparanda from the monumental Assyrian architecture are perhaps provided by temples with double cellae, such as those devoted to Sin-Šamaš (Heinrich 1982: 234-235 and Abb. 323) and Anu-Adad (Andrae 1932: 131, Abb. 54) at Ashur or the Nabu-Tašmetum temple at Nimrud (Mallowan 1966: 232 and Fig. 194). In these examples, there are two cellae laid out in a bilateral symmetrical arrangement, a format that may have been adopted to facilitate the repetition of similar rituals for the two deities. To sum up the fixed feature elements of the East Suite: we have a complex whose outermost room allows reasonably open access from the courtyard and other “public” areas of the palace. However,

kingship and ancestral cult in the northwest palace


access from this room (G) into the main area of the suite (Rooms H and the inner rooms) is restricted, with only one doorway providing entrance and egress. The bilateral symmetry of the inner area of the suite is unique for Late Assyrian palatial architecture, with double-cellae temples providing the closest analogies from the corpus of Assyrian monumental architecture. The presence of this kind of bilateral symmetry may indicate that we are dealing with an architectural space that was used for two separate but similar activities. Semi-Fixed Feature Elements Most of the rooms in the palace were unpaved. In the East Suite, however, seven of the 10 rooms had some kind of paving, either of stone slabs (Rooms J, K, M, O, R) or a combination of stone pavers and baked bricks (Rooms I and L; Russell 1998: 672; Paley and Sobolewski 1987: 3). In the Assyrian architectural tradition, pavements are usually found in areas exposed to the elements (such as courtyards) or where liquids were heavily used (such as bathrooms; Russell 1998: 672). However, in only one room (L) is there evidence for some kind of mechanism to carry water away. In front of the large niche in the southwest corner of that room, Layard found a slab with a hole in the center of it (Layard 1849, vol. 2: 5-6). Below this was a clay pipe, measuring approximately 20cm in diameter by approximately 61cm in length, connected to a drain lined with bitumen. Russell (1998: 672, n. 48) thinks that there also may have been a corresponding pipe and drain in Room I and, in fact, a broken stone slab was found in position on the floor in front of orthostat I-166 (Paley and Sobolewski 1987: 3). In Rooms I and L, in addition to the paving tiles, there were also stone slabs with shallow D-shaped depressions against the north and west walls (Russell 1998: 672; Paley and Sobolewski 1987: 3). There is little information in the way of portable objects or furnishings for the suite. Layard’s focus was not on small finds but rather on the relief and three-dimensional stone sculpture of the palace. However, one room for which Layard did supply information on these kinds of artifacts was Room I (Russell 1998: 672). Here, a number of pieces of iron and copper (which Layard described as parts of armor), several helmets, stone vases, and a glass vase 6

The notation of slab numbers follows Meuszynski 1981.


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were found (Layard 1849 v. 1: 277-279). The vases were inscribed with the name of Sargon II (722-705 BCE). Russell (1998: 672) connects these small finds with Sargon’s later reuse of parts of the palace for storage. By far the most numerous and most important semi-fixed feature elements in the East Suite are the stone reliefs on the surfaces of the rooms’ walls. Reliefs were common throughout the Northwest Palace and were found in about 25 of the 70 excavated rooms (Paley 1985: 12). Every relief was carved with a version of the same inscription, termed the Standard Inscription (SI; see Grayson 1991: 268 f.; Russell 1999 for studies), and some were also sculpted with various subjects, such as battle and hunting narratives, tribute and court processions, and presumably religious/cultic scenes. In the East Suite, every room contained orthostats: Rooms G, H, I, L, and N had decorated and inscribed reliefs, while Rooms J, K, M, O, and R had undecorated inscribed slabs bearing only the SI. Although the individual elements used on the reliefs of the various rooms are similar, the program differs in each.7 In Room N, orthostats are carved with depictions of genies, “stylized trees,”8 and one king; in Room G, a total of 12 depictions of kings, royal attendants, genies, and “stylized trees” are shown; in Room H, 10 depictions of kings9—the only human (non-divine) figures in the room—genies, and “stylized trees” are seen; and in Rooms I and L, genies and “stylized trees” appear on the reliefs. In Room I, all the reliefs are decorated in two registers, with a raised band containing the SI separating them, in contrast to the other sculpted orthostats in the East Suite, which are in one register. Rooms I and L are further distinguished by the presence of rare beardless genies 7 For an in-depth description and analysis of the individual programs of the East Suite rooms, see Russell 1998: 671-697. Diagrams of the arrangement of the decorated reliefs are also available for each room: for Room N—Russell 1998: Fig. 15; Meuszyński 1981: Taf. 16-17; for Room G—Russell 1998: Fig. 13; Meuszyński 1981: Taf. 8-10; for Room H—Russell 1998: Fig. 16; Meuszyński 1981: Taf. 1113; for Room I—Russell 1998: Fig. 17; Paley and Sobolewski 1987: Pl. 1-2; for Room L—Russell 1998: Fig. 18; Meuszyński 1981: Taf.14-16. 8 As Russell (1998: 687) points out, some standard scholarly names for this motif, such as “tree of life” or the supposedly more neutral term “sacred tree,” involve a certain amount of presupposition about its function or meaning. In order to reduce any kind of unjustified assumptions, I will refer to this motif in this paper simply as “stylized tree.” See Giovino 2007 for a recent study. 9 I follow the reconstruction of Meuszynski (1981: Taf. 11-13) and Russell (1998: Fig. 16). Eight representations of kings are secure; two more have not been located but have been postulated (H-13 and H-26).

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on reliefs (one in L, two in I; see Albenda 1996 and below). These unusual orthostats were located in the tall, shallow niches in both rooms. The main elements of the relief programs in all of the East Suite’s rooms are seen to be royal images, genies, and the “stylized tree.” On a basic level, it is possible to describe the programs of each room with sculpted reliefs as follows: Room G (and Room N): Kings appear in the company of courtiers, divine beings and the “stylized tree.” Room H: Kings appear in the company of divine beings, along with the “stylized tree.” Rooms I and L: Only divine beings and the “stylized tree” are depicted.

Thus, in Room G, the chamber that connects the East Suite to the rest of the palace, and by extension the outside world, we see both regular mortal humans and divine beings, with kings appearing in immediate association with the two groups.10 In Room H, there are no ordinary humans, only genies and kings, as well as “stylized trees.” Finally, in the innermost decorated chambers, I and L, only genies and “stylized trees” appear. Not even the king, who enjoyed a privileged intermediary position between the human and divine worlds, is depicted here. In other words, there seems to be a clear progression in the visual program from human to otherworldy subject matter as one goes from the outer part of the East Suite to the inner chambers. Seen in this light, Room G serves as a “boundary area” (Renfrew 1994: 51) between the “public” parts of the palace and the inner East Suite. The representations of the kings are some of the most important individual semi-fixed feature elements in the East Suite. But for various reasons (notably the dispersion of the various reliefs to museums and collections in different parts of the world—see Gadd 1936; Stearns 1961; Weidner 1939; Reade 1965; Reade 1985; Paley 1976; Meuszyński 1975a, b; Meuszyński 1981; Paley and Sobolewski 1987), attention has been focused more on reconstructing the original overall context and positions of the reliefs and the general decorative program, rather than on in-depth analyses of how the 10 In Assyrian ideology, the king was also the high priest of the state god Assur, or at least probably the most important member of the cult (van Driel 1969: 170-179). The king, both by way of this priestly function and the long-standing Mesopotamian and Assyrian ideology of the divinely chosen or ordained leader (Liverani 1979: 301, 310-311), occupied a middle space between the human world and the supernatural realm, although he was not divine himself.


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various reliefs relate to one another in terms of their individual details. This has led to conclusions that have been influenced by evaluations based on large-scale characteristics of the reliefs, such as posture, major equipment/accessories and the like, rather than on any possible variation. One example of such a conclusion is the near-unanimous assumption that the reliefs depicting kings in Rooms G and H all represent “the king,” that is, Aššurnasirpal II, the agent who commissioned them (see, for example, Russell 1998: 692; Paley 1976: 51; Winter 1983a: 15). Is this assumption justified? There are 12 depictions of kings in Room G and 10 in Room H. Why should we assume that these 22 depictions represented one single king, as opposed to, say, two kings, or 10, or 22? The standardized physical appearance of the king in Neo-Assyrian iconography is no help in providing an answer; as Winter (1997: 369-374) points out, portraiture in the Western sense did not exist in the Assyrian cultural sphere, and the diachronically consistent physical depiction of the Assyrian king was one of the prime indications that it was actually an Assyrian king (and not a king from elsewhere or anyone else) being represented. Since there are no reliable means for distinguishing one royal Assyrian depiction from another based solely on physical or portraiture criteria, we must look elsewhere, such as differences in dress and accessories.11 A close examination of kings depicted in Rooms G and H indicates that there are potentially important differences in how the figures are represented. Each of the 12 kingly depictions12 in Room G displays a high degree of conformity in details relating to dress and accessories (see chart in Appendix); in terms of larger equipment, the kings are distinguished by holding either bowls or bows and arrows. There are some other, more minor differences, since a degree 11 Art historical stylistic criteria applied to the analysis of Late Assyrian art (e.g., Madhloom 1970) are useful for differentiating when specific reliefs were carved but not necessarily for differentiating between the individual identities of various kings (thanks to Marian Feldman for this insight). However, as Winter (1997: 372) notes, non-physiognomic attributes of appearance, such as jewelry, may play a signifying role in depiction. I examine this possibility below. 12 For this analysis of the Room G kings, I used the following publications: G3—Barnett 1975, Abb. 8; G-6—Barnett 1975: Abb. 9; G-8—Stearns 1961: Pl. 4; G10—Barnett 1975: Abb. 12; G-11—Stearns 1961: Pl. 5; G-13—Meuszynski 1981: Taf. 8,4; Meuszynski 1975: Abb. 23; G-14—Paley 1976: Fig. 19a; G-16—Paley 1976: Fig. 19c; G-23—Meuszynski 1981: Taf. 9,2; G-25—Barnett 1975: Abb. 16; G-29—Weidner 1939: Abb. 99; G-31—Reade 1972: Pl. 33b.

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of variation is to be expected due to the large scale of the decorative program as well as the fact that a number of artists were clearly involved in this project (Reade 1979: 23).13 But in terms of the attributes (types of attire, accessories, and personal equipment worn on the body)—and not the exact carving style of these features—there is a strong similarity between all of the kings in Room G. The same thing cannot be said for the representations of the 10 kings in Room H.14 There are no two kings with the same ensemble. Major differences in details, in comparison with the consistency shown in Room G, are seen in the personal equipment of the royal figures here. Some diadems have rosettes (H-2 [contra Meuszyński 1981: Taf. 11,1]—Fig. 4 here, H-16, and H-31), while others do not. A wide variety of bowls is seen (for example, H-2: ribbed body with braided rim—Weidner 1939: 118; H-4: ribbed body with plain rim—Fig. 5 here; H-31: plain with diagonally hatched lines on rim—Fig. 6 here; H-33: plain). The king on H-2 wears a singlestrand bead/spacer necklace (Weidner 1939: 118), while the other kings wear two-strand necklaces. The rosette is missing from the band on the right wrist of the king on H-9, the only instance in which this happens. There is substantial variation in the types of dagger sheaths and whetstones each king wears (for example, compare H-2 and H-4, and H-31 and H-33). One king—and only one (H-4)—has the Akkadian maš-šur-PAB-A (= Aššurnasirpal) from the

13 One aspect of the depictions of the kings that is usually not visible in published photographs is the decoration on the garments they are wearing. This decoration, usually comprising apparently mythological and/or cultic scenes (such as the king or a human-headed genie fighting a composite creature), was finely incised. While preparing this article, I had the opportunity to examine two Room G reliefs in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin (G-14, VA 939a and G-16, VA 939c). The exact decoration differs on the garments of the two royal depictions. Further examination of all the royal depictions from the East Suite, along the lines of Canby 1971 and Bartl n.d., might yield interesting results. 14 As noted above, only eight kings from this room have been identified with confidence. Meuszynski (1981: 55-58) has restored two more (H-13 and H-26), a proposal that has been generally accepted among scholars. My analysis is based only upon those reliefs that can be assigned with confidence to Room H. The study was based on the following publications: H-2—Weidner 1939: Abb. 92; H-4—Paley 1976: Pl. 4; H-9—Weidner 1939: Abb. 79 and Paley 1976: Pl. 6; H-16—no adequate illustration has been published to date—general features shown in Meuszynski 1981: Taf. 11, 4; H-19—no adequate illustration has been published to date—general features shown in Meuszynski 1981: Taf. 12, 1; H-29—Meuszynski 1975 and personal study in Berlin; H-31—Weidner 1939: Abb. 96; H-33—Stearns 1961: Pl. 2.


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SI inscribed on his left hand (Fig. 7—I return to this particular observation below). Comparing the depictions of the kings in Room G with those in Room H, we see consistency in the former and a good deal of variation in the latter. These are subtle differences, to be sure, but the types of variation seem to suggest that more is going on in Room H than artistic license or differential interpretation of a general design (as suggested, for example, by Reade 1979: 23; see Cole and Machinist 1998: §34, §61 and §178 and Winter 1997: 367 for references and discussion on competition between artists working for the king). It is clear from the analysis of Room G that Assyrian artisans could achieve a standardized representation of the king when this was desired. I present an extended interpretation of the meaning of these differences below. At this point, however, I simply suggest that we may be dealing with more than one king between the two rooms (cf. Brentjes 1994: 54-55). If we take the consistency of representation of the kings’ clothing and accessories in Room G as indicating that the same individual king (Aššurnasirpal) was being represented, then the fact that we do not see such consistency in Room H makes this interpretation plausible. Going further, I would propose that in Room G, we see the same king portrayed in different acts or at different points in the same activity, while in Room H we see different kings portrayed in the same act. The East Suite: Analysis Previous Interpretations Scholars have reached no consensus on the exact function(s) of the East Suite or even the general type of activity or activities that took place there. Most explanations have focused on certain parts of the complex, especially Room G, and have been based on interpretations of the reliefs or occasionally other semi-fixed feature elements. Relatively few have looked outside of the complex, including other areas within the Northwest Palace. Some scholars have considered the East Suite, in whole or in part, as the scene of feasting (see Russell 1998: 671). Mallowan (1966: 102), Reade (1980: 85), and Paley (1976: 21) all interpreted the complex as having been devoted to this function, based on the reliefs of the kings holding bowls in Room G and especially slab

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G-3, where one is depicted sitting on a chair and attended by servants. Similarly, Stronach (1995: 177) interpreted the activity being depicted as wine drinking as one “expression of royal authority.” Approaching the matter from a different direction, Paley and Sobolewski (1987: 3; Paley 1985: 15) identified Rooms I and L as “bathrooms,” possibly of a religious character (Sobolewski 1994: 260), based on the flooring material. Other interpretations have appealed to ritual uses for the East Suite. Brandes (1970), focusing on the depiction of both bowls and weapons in Room G, proposed that ritual lustration of weapons took place there (Brandes 1970: 153-154; Russell 1998: 683). Russell (1998: 671-697) has carried out perhaps the most detailed study of the East Suite to date, making use of a full range of archaeological, art historical, and textual evidence. For Russell, the weight of the evidence indicates a ritual or cultic significance to the complex. At the beginning of his analysis (1998: 671), he brings up the possibility that the East Suite housed the palace shrines. After examining the evidence and its socio-historical context, Russell (1998: 697) presents a reconstruction of an integrated set of ritual activities that may have taken place in the East Suite. These revolve around purification of the king’s body and equipment and include offerings to the gods and presentation of weapons in Room G, followed by the blessing of arms in Room H, and culminating with bodily purification in Rooms I and L. Richardson’s analysis (1999-2001) also indicates a ritual function in the area, although he focuses on only one part of the East Suite, Room I. Relying heavily on textual sources, Richardson suggests (1999-2001: 145) that the chamber was the site of libations and other ceremonies aimed at the care of Aššurnasirpal’s royal ancestors. His argument is based largely on the identification of the 96 (or possibly 100, according to his suggested reconstruction) “stylized trees” on the reliefs in Room I as the 100 royal predecessors of Aššurnasirpal named in the Assyrian King List (AKL; Richardson 1999-2001: 148).15 While the in-depth analyses of Russell and, especially, Richardson appear to be closest in determining the exact nature of the rituals carried out in the East Suite, their reconstructions nevertheless raise a number of questions. Richardson doesn’t explain why all of the kings in the AKL should be depicted as “stylized trees” twice in 15

A similar idea had been put forward earlier by Brentjes (1994: 59).


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the palace (once in Room I and again in the other rooms containing “stylized trees” in the palace; see his Appendix 2 [1999-2001: 204-208]), nor does he include “stylized trees” from the West Suite and several that should probably be restored in Room F into his totals. Concerning the proposals more generally, the fact that there are two sets of two almost identical rooms is often not directly confronted, but it seems to me that the almost absolute, rigid, and unique “mirror-image” symmetry of the inner part of the complex must be taken into account in any explanation. The East Suite: A Site For Commemorative Rituals? In fact, most of the elements of the East Suite, both architectural and visual, can be connected to funerary and ancestral cult contexts, both those archaeologically known and those appearing in texts. The ancestors and their relationship to the living was an important part of ancient Near Eastern society, and their regular care, known as kispu, was a widespread social practice from at least the Amorite/ Old Babylonian through the Late Babylonian periods (Tsukimoto 1985: 39).16 In ancient Mesopotamia, both a proper burial with certain objects for use or as gifts in the afterlife and post-burial maintenance were thought necessary to avoid malevolent actions by spirits and to be able to enlist their ongoing help (Skaist 1980: 126-127).17 This ritual care of the dead had three major components (Bayliss 1973: 116; Krafeld-Daugherty 1994: 220): kispa kasāpu, which consisted of food offerings (usually bread, flour, and meats; beverages such as beer, wine, and milk are also mentioned; see Tsukimoto 1985: 23-34 for discussion of kispu and linguistic issues); naq mê, water libations; and šuma zakāru, a calling out of the name of the deceased. I want to suggest here that the various material

16 Making offerings to the deceased is a practice that went back at least to the Early Dynastic period (Tsukimoto 1985: 36). The evidence from the Old Babylonian period, especially in relation to the royal ancestor cult, is generally seen as reflecting an “Amorite” influence, particularly in terms of the emphasis on extended genealogies (cf. Bayliss 1973: 122) and apparently tribal or clan names (cf. Finkelstein 1966: 98 f.). In any event, kispu is the Akkadian word used to describe the care of the dead from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 17 For discussions of Mesopotamian beliefs relating to the afterlife and their variations among regions and through time, see, among others, Bayliss 1973; Skaist 1980; Jonker 1995; van der Toorn 1996; Bottéro 2001; Oppenheim 1977; Tsukimoto 1985; Krafeld-Daugherty 1994; Richardson 2001; Black and Green 1992.

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elements of the East Suite created an appropriate space for the performance of such a ritual. The architecture and other fixed feature-elements of the wing, though usually only loosely constraining behavior, here provide some of the best evidence of a “funerary” environment that would have provided space appropriate for rituals relating to care of deceased ancestors. The distinctive L-shape of Rooms I and L is rare in palatial design, but it is well-known in funerary architecture. The form is identical to that of tombs from 12th-century Tell Taban (Numoto 2008: 111-114 and Fig. 5), an independent or autonomous Assyrian principality on the Khabur River in Syria, and from the Royal Cemetery at Ashur—including Aššurnasirpal’s own (Tomb V; Fig. 8 here). Other fixed elements in these two rooms were probably designed to function with more portable features with a “funerary” connotation. In I and L, as mentioned above, there are each two rectangular stone slabs with shallow D-shaped (bathtub-shaped) depressions on the floor against the north and west walls (Paley and Sobolewski 1987: 3; Russell 1998: 672). In the so-called “Queens’ Tombs,” which were discovered under the flooring of several rooms in the southern wing of the Northwest Palace, a number of D- or bathtub-shaped bronze coffins were excavated (Damerji 1998: 11 and Abb. 37; see Curtis 1983 for a technical discussion of this type of coffin). These usually contained bones, apparently from secondary burials (Damerji 1998: 12), as well as burial goods such as jars, bowls, and other types of vessels, diadems, and jewelry. The measurements of the bronze coffins (approximately 1.3m × 0.59m, 1.4m × 0.49m, and 1.47m × 0.68m [Hussein and Suleiman 2002: 116-117]) and the depressions on the stone slabs in Rooms I and L (approximately 1.3m × 0.7m) are close in size, as are their shapes (compare Paley and Sobolewski 1987: 3 and Damerji 1998: 11). These stone slabs may thus have provided a footing or base for bronze coffins, which may have served some symbolic purpose or actually held the remains of individuals for some period of time.18 18 Here we may briefly reevaluate the smaller objects that Layard found in Room I. It is possible, in light of the finds from the “Queens’ Tombs” that the Room I materials may be types of post-burial funerary offerings rather than ordinary items placed in storage. Both stone and glass vessels were found in the various crypts comprising this tomb complex (Damerji 1998: 6, 8). The fact that the inscribed objects date to Sargon II (721-705), who ruled over 150 years after the death of Aššurnasirpal, may reflect a situation similar to that found in Tomb III in the


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In addition, the drain in the niche in Room L (and its presumed counterpart in Room I) can easily be connected to the ancestral cult as well. In funerary contexts, pipes, usually made of clay and called arūtu in Akkadian (CAD A II: 324), were used to deliver libations to the dead. And in fact, Iraqi excavators found a terracotta pipe in direct association with a tomb in Room 49 of the palace’s southern domestic wing; they connected it with kispu rituals (Hussein 2002: 146, 148). Rooms I and L may, therefore, have been areas where offerings of liquids (naq mê ) were performed (as suggested by Richardson 1999-2001: 151-153).19 Next we come to the reliefs, the decorative semi-fixed feature evidence from the East Suite. Initially, I would like to draw attention to the most prominent equipment depicted in the East Suite rooms—the chair on G-3 in Room G and the bowls that most of the kings carry in Rooms G and H. Both chairs and bowls are mentioned in textual sources in conjunction with funerary rites or commemorations of the deceased. Bayliss (1973: 119) argues that references to chairs in Assyrian texts may indicate that some type of meal was offered to the deceased recipients of the kispu and was possibly shared by the people making the offering (cf. van der Toorn 1996: 48-52). Bowls are mentioned in at least one text relating to funerary ritual (from the Old Babylonian period; Tsukimoto 1980: 130) and, in addition, are a virtually omnipresent object in actual burials (for Late Assyrian examples, see, among others, Haller 1954: 104; Damerji 1998: 7; Mallowan 1966: 116; Ibrahim “Queens’ Tombs.” There, the excavators dated the primary occupant’s death to the reign of Shalmaneser III (858-824), based on the presence of inscribed materials in direct association with one of the corpses, and yet objects dating as late as Tiglath-pileser III (744-727) were also found (Damerji 1998: 10). 19 Other fixed feature elements may be mentioned. The small niches found in the walls of Rooms I and L (and those of Rooms H, J, M, O, and R) find counterparts in the walls of both the underground crypts in the “Queens’ Tombs” (see Damerji 1998: Abb. 16, 17, 19, 21, and 33) and the chambers of the royal cemetery at Assur (see Haller 1954: Abb. 186, 188, and 190). The measurements between the three groups of niches are different: those in the rooms of the East Suite measure about 1.1 meters × 1 meter × 0.9 meters (based on measurements taken from Russell 1998: Figs. 11 and 16); those in Tomb V measure 0.36m x 0.36m × 0.36m (Haller 1954: 180); those in Tomb II of the “Queens’ Tombs” measure 0.38m × 0.38m per side (Damerji 1998: 6). Although it may be the case that the niches in the East Suite were used for ventilation, as Paley, Sobolewski, and Russell believe, they may also have been used to hold items related to ancestral cult practice. It is also possible that prime functions of the niches varied from room to room.

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2002: 162-163), apparently as a grave good included at the time of interment.20 But a consideration of the reliefs as a medium and their origin in Assyrian palatial design opens up another avenue of interpretation. Aššurnasirpal II appears to have been the first Assyrian monarch to make use of decorated stone orthostats to decorate interior palace walls and was certainly the first to employ them on a large scale. It is generally believed today that the idea or inspiration for this medium came from cities in the North Syria/Southeast Turkey region (Moortgat 1969: 131; Reade 1979: 17; Winter 1981: 13; Winter 1983a: 15; Amiet 1977: 474; Kuhrt 1995: 486; Collon 1995: 130; Brown 2008; for a viewpoint on Assyria as the source for the concept of the carved orthostat, see Frankfort 1990: 290). Although there is still disagreement over the exact sequence of construction, it seems that carved orthostats began appearing in the area in large quantities by the late 10th century BCE at the latest (RlA 5: 439 ff.; Winter 1983b: 179) and perhaps as early as the later 12th century (Brown 2008); this artistic tradition, in fact, is probably directly descended from the Hittite empire (Bonatz 2001: 65-66; Reade 1979: 17). In the North Syrian sites, however, the orthostats were generally placed outside, on outer palace, street and temple walls or at city gates. So, while Aššurnasirpal’s artists borrowed the idea of the carved relief orthostat from the North Syrian cultural area, it is clear that they also modified it and thus made it conform to (or, more accurately, invented a new) “Assyrian” cultural understanding, in terms of placement, arrangement and function (see Winter 1981: 13 ff.). Since the Assyrians borrowed “technological” ideas (the use of decorated stone orthostats) from this region, there is a possibility that they may have also been influenced by what we might think of as “non-technological” ideas (art, iconography). An examination of the monumental archaeological materials relating to ancestral commemorative activities from the region of North Syria indicates that there is a substantial body of comparanda dating to about the same time as the construction of the Northwest Palace. In fact, many of the motifs of equipment employed in North Syrian ancestral and commemorative monuments are almost identical to those

Such objects included at the time of interment were also considered kispu (Tsukimoto 1985: 107; contra Richardson 1999-2001: 167, n. 94). 20


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appearing on the reliefs in the East Suite (which include a chair, bowls, bows, and swords). One of the most distinctive types of North Syrian commemorative monuments shows a person seated on a chair and holding a bowl or a cup. The main group of these objects was erected beginning at the latest in the late 10th century BCE (Bonatz 2000a: 204) and perhaps earlier. Usually, a table full of food appears in the scenes, which apparently refer to funerary meals (Bonatz 2000a: 191). Various types of monuments were used: stelae and statuary are most common, but reliefs depicting these ceremonies show up as well. The motif of the seated figure with bowl has a long history in northern Syria, with possible antecedents from cultic contexts dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1600 BCE). A number of statues showing seated individuals holding cups and with a tablelike surface for the lap and basins carved with figures seated at a table have been discovered at Ebla (Matthiae et al. 1995: Pl. 290, 291). Several scholars have argued that these were part of an elaborate royal ancestor cult (Matthiae 1979; Bonatz 2000a: 196). One of the earliest fully developed examples from a secure context in the Iron Age North Syria area showing seated individuals and a table of food (possibly an antecedent for the memorial stelae of the late 10th century and later—see Bonatz 2000a: 204 for another example and discussion), comes from the Water Gate at Karkemish (Woolley 1921: Pl. B.30b; Fig. 9a here). This relief (perhaps dating to around the mid-11th century—Brown 2008: 341) depicts what is apparently a seated funerary or commemorative repast: an individual holding a bowl21 sits before a table loaded with food, while two servants holding a fly whisk and a vessel and a musician stand in attendance. This motif reached its fullest and most widespread expression in the 9th and 8th centuries on stelae (the elements of which find close parallels to G-3 from Room G; Fig. 9b) found either in unambiguous funerary contexts or bearing inscriptions of a funerary/memorial character (see, for example, Bonatz 2000b: 21, C46 and Taf. XVII [Zincirli-Sam’al]; Hawkins 1980: Pl. Vc [Neirab, near Aleppo]).22 For a recent find from Zincirli with an explicit funerary function, see Struble and Herrmann 2010. 22 Although there is no table depicted on G-3, an actual table standing in front of the relief would have provided an observer with a total scene almost identical to the North Syrian examples in terms of the major components. This piece of 21

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Bows, swords, and other weapons are also prominent on North Syrian funerary and commemorative monuments. In this case, the artistic practice of the Hittite Empire seems to have been a direct influence on the iconography (Bonatz 2000a: 201, 207). At Zincirli, a large statue of a man standing on lions and wearing a sword (Orthmann 1975: Abb. 342a) was apparently related to ancestral cult practice, based both on iconography (Hawkins 1980: 214) and the presence of “cup marks,” indicating the ability of the object to receive offerings (Bonatz 2000a: 205-206). Fragments from what appear to be similar statues were found at Karkemish (Woolley 1952: Pl. 54b) and Mara (Hawkins 1980: 214). Some literary texts (although from an earlier period in Mesopotamian history) mention weapons of all types included as part of the set of grave goods. In the poem “Death of Ur-Namma” (Ur-Namma A—Black, Cunningham et al. 1998-2006: 1. 88-91; Tsukimoto 1985: 37), the Ur III ruler Ur-Namma is said to have taken “a mace, a large bow with quiver and arrows, [and] an artfully made barbed dagger,” among other items, as offerings to Nergal, the “Enlil of the Netherworld.”23 No fewer than seven attendants in Room G appear with this combination of arms. Finally, I may point out that one royal Hittite funerary ritual calls for effigies of the deceased to be used in the rites; the effigy of the king was to be equipped with bows and arrows (Bonatz 2000a: 201). Thus, while the exact arrangements of the motifs found in Rooms G and H differ in some ways from those seen on North Syrian ancestral and commemorative monuments, all of the elements used in both iconographic sets are very similar. This is not to say that furniture would have been a crucial portable element functioning in conjunction with the reliefs. Assyrian artists and architects seem to have made efforts to achieve this kind of integration between architectural layout or larger spatial organization, decoration, and the human participants within the built environment. Winter (1981: 10; 1983a: 31, n. 44) has argued both that B-13 and B-23 in Room B (the throneroom) served as the “organizing pivots” of the room, orienting visitors as to the movements they were expected to make upon entering the room, and that the king himself, when seated on his throne, became part of the scene depicted on B-23, which was set behind the throne base (see below). In addition, Reade (1995: 227) has suggested that other decorative elements (such as brick inlays and fabric hangings [cf. Russell 1998: 705]) may have worked together with the reliefs to provide a fuller decorative program in some rooms. There is no reason to assume that other types of objects, such as furniture, could not also have been used to complete scenes depicted on the reliefs. 23 For a detailed discussion of rituals and ideologies surrounding royal death in 3rd millennium Mesopotamia, see Cohen 2001 and 2005.


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iconographic elements which denoted “mortuary ritual” in a North Syrian context would necessarily have done the same in an Assyrian one. As Pinnock (1994: 24-25), for example, points out, the widespread “banqueting theme” (as seen on G-3 in the East Suite) was not limited to one ritual or festive moment but rather a range of celebrations and was an iconographic model that could be adapted to different needs in different societies. But the fact that similar motifs appear in a context that is dominated by—indeed, consists almost entirely of—other elements of a funerary or ancestral cult nature indicates that a mortuary significance was intended here as well. Despite the fact that the North Syrian iconographic materials could be considered “foreign” to Assyria, I propose that they were adopted to serve as part of a monumental mortuary cult complex in the new Assyrian capital. Specifically, drawing on Rapoport’s terminology, the reliefs functioned as critical semi-fixed feature elements whose iconography provided “cues” for an appropriate emotional state in the cult chambers which, as shown above, were built according to the same design as actual (Assyrian) tombs. The architecture of the innermost rooms of the East Suite, because of the movement required to fully access them, may have provided a general indication of a funerary situation, giving a participant a sense of leaving the world of the living and entering that of the dead. But the iconography of the reliefs, depicting various kings equipped with funerary items, and other objects (such as the proposed bronze coffins) would have provided the specificity of setting for these kinds of rituals. The adopted, and reworked, motifs may have filled a gap in the Assyrian corpus concerning mortuary/ ancestral iconography. Therefore, combined with the architectural data discussed above, the iconographic evidence strengthens the hypothesis that the East Suite may have served as a major complex in the Northwest Palace devoted to the performance of rituals related to the commemoration and care of the ancestors. Discussion: Sites for Mortuary Rituals The analysis so far indicates that most of the features found within the East Suite may be related to mortuary activities, providing an architectonic setting that both imitated actual tombs and included representations of actual funerary objects. Yet, it is entirely possible, as the Ashur excavators speculated (Haller 1954), that the Assyrian

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kings were buried in Ashur, the traditional religious capital of the Assyrian empire. The apparent sarcophagus of Aššurnasirpal II in the royal cemetery indicates, on the face of it, that this was the case. Is it possible that the East Suite was a cult complex where Aššurnasirpal could have performed kispu for his ancestors away from their tombs? Tsukimoto (1985) has examined the issue of kispu in detail. He believes (Tsukimoto 1985: 109; cf. also Krafeld-Daugherty 1994: 221) that the kispu rituals had to take place at the actual grave of the deceased to whom they were dedicated.24 Tsukimoto cites as support texts VAT 11114 and ADD 1016 (both Late Assyrian), the latter of which reports on the rations destined for the “E2 ki-mah-hi,” or a mausoleum, in Ashur (Tsukimoto 1985: 108-109). But it is unclear what happened when, for example, a family moved away from the location of the burials of recent ancestors to whom kispu would have been necessary. More important, for our purposes, the question remains open as to what happened when an Assyrian king, whose ancestral obligations extended much further back than those of a regular person (Bayliss 1973: 123), moved an entire capital away from the city housing the mausolea of former kings (the same point is also raised by Richardson 1999-2001: 172 f.). While the textual evidence from the Neo-Assyrian period is slim (see Tsukimoto 1985: 110 ff. for discussion and references), it appears that kispu, based on the evidence of the preceding and subsequent periods, may have been carried out away from the site of the burial. The Old Babylonian “Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty” (Finkelstein 1966) contains a passage inviting apparently deceased ancestors “from the rising of the sun to the setting of the sun” to partake in a meal and bless king Ammi aduqa (Bayliss 1973: 122). A roughly contemporaneous text, found at Mari and attributed to the time of Šamši-Adad (Mari 12803 i), describes kispu offered by the Old Assyrian monarch to his royal “ancestors” Sargon of Akkad and Naram-Sin (Krafeld-Daugherty 1994: 229-230), neither of whom was likely to have been buried at Mari or Šubat-Enlil (ŠamšiAdad’s capital; modern Tell Leilan) or, for that matter, to have been his actual “ancestors.” In this case, it seems that the presence of statues of the two Akkadian kings sufficed for kispu to be carried 24 Tsukimoto later softens his opinion (1985: 115), saying that “bei der ‘Totenpflege’ damals [i.e., during the later Late Assyrian period] das Vorhandensein des wirklichen Grabes oder der Leiche wichtig und notwendig war.”


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out. From the Late Babylonian period, the Nabonidus stele from Harran, which details the ancestral cult activities of the Babylonian king’s mother, seems to indicate that offerings to a general group of “royal predecessors” (who therefore may have been buried in many different locations) was permissible (cf. Bayliss 1973: 123-124).25 The argument that Tsukimoto makes to disprove the hypothesis (advanced, for example, by Al Khalesi 1977) that ancestral cult and commemorative rituals need not have taken place at the actual grave of the deceased is unconvincing. The two texts mentioned above (VAT 11114 and ADD 1016) indicating that rations were to be delivered to the tomb itself are his primary evidence. But the only thing that these texts demonstrate is that kispu foods were sometimes delivered to the graves; it says nothing about whether or not there were alternate arrangements. Similarly, Tsukimoto’s citation (1985: 114-115) of both Ashurbanipal’s destruction of the graves of the Elamite kings and the removal of their bones to Assyria and Merodach-Baladan II’s exhumation of his father’s bones and flight from Sennacherib indicate only that an intact grave or burial was necessary for the spirit or ghost to be able to receive offerings. Again, there is no reason to postulate, on the basis of these episodes, that rituals for the care of the dead had to have been carried out at an actual grave. In view of the lack of evidence on this point in the Assyrian textual sources, on the one hand, and the clear indications from non-Assyrian sources, on the other, it seems that opposing scholars (such as Al Khalesi [1977: 81], Bonatz [2000a: 196], van der Toorn [1996: 58-62], and Jonker [1995: 187]) are probably correct in their argument that no connection need be made between the actual place of interment and the cult activities carried out on behalf of the deceased. So a case, based on architecture, imagery, and texts, can be made that the East Suite had a mortuary connection and may have served as the site for the performance of an ancestral cult.26 But we still 25 Aššurbanipal states (K 891) that he reinstated kispu and water libations for “royal predecessors,” without naming the Assyrian royal line or the Sargonid dynasty specifically (cf. Tsukimoto 1985: 110-111; Bayliss 1973: 123 and n. 61). 26 The archaeological and textual evidence from neighboring areas, especially Middle Bronze Age Ebla and Late Bronze Age Ugarit, provide good indications and comparative case studies of the degree of planning and labor that could be invested in specialized ancestral cult structures. At Ebla, the excavators have posited that a large complex comprising three independent, free-standing buildings

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have not answered perhaps the most obvious question about the wing: why the clear, purposeful and rigid symmetry? Why have two separate sub-suites, instead of just one? I believe that the answer to that question can be found on the second feature I shall examine, located not in the East Suite, but in the throneroom. The “Mirror-Image” Reliefs The iconography of B-13 and B-23 from Room B, the palace’s primary throneroom, constitutes another unique aspect of the Northwest Palace. The two reliefs both present an almost perfectly symmetrical composition of two kings, both of whom are usually thought to be Aššurnasirpal, each of whom is attended to by a winged human-headed genius, flanking an example of the “stylized tree.” A winged disc, with a small divine figure inside the disc, floats above the “stylized tree” on the composition’s central axis (Fig. 10). B-23 is in a very good state of preservation and has been published numerous times in high-quality photographs; it will form the basis for the following analysis. B-13, on the other hand, has suffered much damage, and no high-quality photographs of it have been published (see Meuszyński 1981: Taf. 2 for a line drawing; Reade 1965: Plate XXVII for a photograph of the upper left part, depicting the head of a king and genie). This makes a comparative analysis difficult except in the most general details. However, there is at least one major difference between the two reliefs, which I discuss below. The two reliefs bearing this composition occupied privileged positions within the throneroom (Room B), indicating their importance. One was located directly across from the large central doorway leading in from the outer courtyard, the other immediately behind the throne dais on the eastern short wall (see Meuszyński 1981: Plan 2). Furthermore, the composition on these reliefs is set one-third of the way up from the bottom edge, utilizing a “disposition of space” (Winter 1981: 10) that is different from the other reliefs in the room and that thus sets them apart. While the elements of this composition, in particular the “stylized tree,” have a long history in Near Eastern and Mesopotamian (Temple B1, Sanctuary B2, and Palace Q ) was devoted in part to a royal ancestor cult (Matthiae 1979), a suggestion that is plausible in light of a cemetery underlying this area.


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art alone or in association with one another (see Winter 1981: 10; Russell 1998: 687-696 for discussion and references), previous artistic works or monuments never depicted this exact combination of motifs together as a unified whole. B-23 and B-13, therefore, present something of a tour de force within the artistic tradition of Mesopotamia and certainly within that of Assyria: they combine a new and powerful iconographic ensemble with the new medium of carved stone orthostats in one of the most important areas of the (then nascent) Assyrian empire, Aššurnasirpal’s throneroom. But despite the obvious importance and power of the composition, there is no consensus on its meaning(s). Russell (1998: 687-688) has reviewed some of the more recent statements on the issue (see also Ataç forthcoming and references). Although there is a wide range of opinion on what exactly the “mirror-image” composition symbolizes, in general terms most scholars posit an expression of kingship or royal power while regarding the “stylized tree” as the key to interpretation. Both Winter (1981, 1983a, 2003) and Porter (1993) see an expression of the king’s role in maintaining agricultural prosperity, a traditional duty of Mesopotamian monarchs. Albenda (1994), in contrast, thinks that the “stylized tree” is not being tended to, but rather serves as a source of divine power. Parpola (1993, 2000) has offered perhaps the most idiosyncratic interpretations. In his view, the “stylized tree” itself is a complex presentation of the Assyrian pantheon and religious belief system, and is closely bound up with kingship. The “mirror-image” composition as a whole is a metaphor for mankind’s spiritual journey to become the “perfect man” under the aegis of the god Assur, who floats overhead as the winged disc (2000: 30-32). Similarly, Matthiae (1989: 372) explains the scene as representing a “sacred meaning” of kingship; it shows a “cosmic bipolarity” whose axis is centered on the “stylized tree.” The power and order guaranteed by the king are symbolized by the repeated depiction of the royal figures, which represented the “universality of Assyrian kingship” (ibid.). For his part, Russell (1998: 687-696; 707-711), in addition to postulating a symbolic value, takes a “technological” view of the composition (it actually “does” something). Basing his hypothesis on his analysis of the East Suite, where he determined that images of the genies and the “stylized tree” served an apotropaic function against physical and supernatural threats (1998: 691), Russell argues that these two elements served the same function on throneroom

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slabs B-23 and B-13, making these reliefs protective devices. Building on the previous work of Parker Mallowan, Russell argues that the “stylized tree” does not represent an actual palm tree, but rather its products, fronds and offshoots (1998: 692), which are mentioned in Assyrian texts in conjunction with apotropaic rituals. In addition to its protective powers, Russell, citing the work of Brentjes (see below), also suggests that B-23 and B-13 indicate the divine favor and royal legitimacy of the king. There is clearly a wide range of opinion on what exactly the “mirror-image” composition represents. It should be noted, however, that none of these interpretations necessarily excludes any of the others; it is possible that all of them simultaneously would have been acceptable “readings” or explanations to a 9th century Assyrian king or official. Symbols usually have more than one meaning attached to them, and even viewers with a high degree of cultural “competence” (Winter 1981: 30) may have different opinions as to what interpretation is “more correct.” Nevertheless, all of the proposals reviewed here have unresolved problems. Russell (1998: 688-689) focuses on problems linking the “stylized tree,” generally seen as an elaboration on the representation of a palm tree, with the concept of agricultural fertility in Assyria, a region where the plant would not grow so well. The extreme stylization (assuming, that is, that its prototype was the date palm—see Giovino 2007 on this subject; also Seidl and Sallaberger 2005) is another matter. It is clear from the jewelry recovered from the “Queens’ Tombs” at Nimrud (cf. Oates and Oates 2001: cover; Hussein and Suleiman 2000: 247, Pl. 42) that Assyrian artists were capable of rendering a naturalistic palm tree when they wished to do so (and in the same context as the “stylized tree”; Winter 2003: 253). Parpola’s interpretation is based partially on Greek and biblical parallels, sources that are outside of the Assyrian (and entire Mesopotamian) cultural system and that are later than Assyrian materials and thus cannot be relied on with confidence to retroactively explain the composition. Russell’s hypothesis, likewise, is not entirely satisfactory. If the “stylized tree” was intended to represent palm offshoots or fronds, then why were offshoots or fronds (stylized or otherwise) not depicted instead? Furthermore, one sign from the SI is inscribed on the “stylized tree”—GIŠ (= Akkadian i um), the logogram for “tree” (Fig. 11). Considering that 18 lines of the SI are inscribed across relief B-23, and yet only one sign from the inscription is actually


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placed on the “stylized tree,” it seems like this placement is hardly an accident27 and should be taken to indicate that the Assyrians saw this object as a “tree,” whether in a real or symbolic sense. I return to this topic shortly. An interpretation along different lines, however, was offered by Brentjes in 1994. Nearly 150 years after Layard’s discovery of the reliefs, Brentjes was perhaps the first scholar to suggest that the depiction of the two figures actually represented two individuals, not one. Basing his analysis on B-23, he notes (1994: 51-52) numerous differences in outfit and pose between the two kings on the relief: the left arm of the king on the right is wrapped a mantle usually associated with cultic activity, while that of the king on the left is free; the left figure wears an animal-headed armband on his right arm, while the figure on the right wears no armband; the decoration of the robes of the two kings, such as the tassels, is different; and the ribbons extended from the headgear of the two kings differ (the ribbon on the left has long fringes, that on the right does not). I can add here that the two kings also wear different styles of sandals. Brentjes, also noticing the deviations in the depictions of the kings in Rooms G and H, suggests (1994: 54-55) that these differences might be taken to indicate that the Assyrian artists intended to represent more than one king. Based on his reading of the SI, Brentjes proposes that two kings were depicted: Adad-nirari II and Tukulti-Ninurta II, Aššurnasirpal’s grandfather and father, respectively, who are prominently mentioned in the inscription. This representation of his immediate ancestors and royal predecessors would have indicated Aššurnasirpal’s legitimacy, while the winged disc above symbolizes divine protection extended to the ruler (Brentjes 1994: 54-55, 64). Brentjes’ suggestion that the figures are separate people based on these noticeable differences in dress and equipment appears to be key. As I argued above in my analysis of the decorative program of the East Suite, it seems evident that Assyrian artists could achieve a high degree of standardization in representation when this was desired. An earlier monument, a Middle Assyrian altar or socle from the reign of Tukulti-Ninurta I (1233-1197), also supports this 27 Porter (2000) argues for a similar intentionality in the placement of the cuneiform sign for the god Assur on the beard of a captive on an Esarhaddon stele found at Sam’al/Zinjirli; according to her interpretation, it denoted the prisoner as being almost the “property” of the god.

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idea (cf. Winter 1981: Fig. 11). Here, the details of the two figures are identical, with deviations between the two made only to accommodate the difference in posture. Again, if we accept that standardization of dress and equipment indicates that the same individual is being depicted in scenes with multiple similar figures, then differences in these details could be considered to represent different personalities. Other interpretations are possible; for instance, it may be argued that the scene depicts the same king (Aššurnasirpal II), but in two separate roles or at two separate points in time (as advanced, for example, by Schafer [2007: 140]). A consideration of the larger context of B-13, however, makes this less likely. This particular “mirror-image” relief is flanked by two additional depictions of kings (B-12 and B-14),28 each of whom holds a staff and is attended by a courtier. Although the slabs are in a poor state of preservation, there is enough detail remaining to indicate that in these two instances, the kings appear to have received a standardized treatment. Two diagnostic features support this: the earrings worn by both kings are the same style (Madhloom’s “triple-armed” style [1970: 91 and Pl. LXIX, 1 and 2]) and the tassles on the robe of each king are each tied loosely, giving the fringes a lattice-like appearance. We may thus have an extended scene here: the king who commissioned the reliefs and the palace in which they were found (Aššurnasirpal II) witnessing and commemorating his ancestors, who are shown in the company of divine beings. Thus, the differences between the two kings’ outfits on B-23, in addition to the standardized treatment of the kings on slabs B-12 and B-14, undermine the hypothesis that the “mirror-image” relief scene shows the same king twice. The “Mirror Image” Relief and the East Suite The analysis of the “mirror image” reliefs as depicting Aššurnasirpal’s grandfather and father would mean that this object is an outstanding and original example of an ancestral monument, one that honored the king’s immediate ancestors while also stressing royal lineage, continuity, and legitimacy—the major characteristics of 28 For the overall placement of these slabs in the throneroom’s program, see Meuszynski 1981: Taf. 2,1 and 2,2. For B-12, see Kinnier-Wilson 1962: Pl. XXXI (king’s face) and Meuszynski 1975: Fig. 7 (body); for B-14, Stearns 1961: Pl. 15 (king’s face) and Meuszynski 1975: Fig. 5 (body).


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kingship. I want to suggest that this interpretation offers us an opening to further examine the East Suite in view of the overall mortuary character of this complex that I pointed out above. The idea that the two deceased kings appearing on reliefs B-23 and B13 might also have had their own chapels devoted to ancestral cult rites could explain the bilateral symmetry of the East Suite. And, in fact, I would argue that there is a close structural similarity between the inner area of this wing and the relief (Fig. 12). In addition to the almost perfect axial symmetry of each, the two features comprise the same number of major elements arranged in a very similar way. In the East Suite, we see Rooms H and K serving as the central axial components, flanked by Rooms I and J to one side and Rooms L and M to the other. On the “mirrorimage” reliefs, the “stylized tree” and the winged disc29 form the central axis, which is flanked by a pair of kings, who are themselves flanked by genies. The architectural context of the reliefs may also indicate a link between them and the East Suite. As Brentjes notes, the figures in the winged discs on the two slabs are different, one holding a ring (B-23) and the other holding a bow (B-13). In addition, the figures point in two different directions: the figure holding the ring gestures in the direction of the king to the viewer’s right (i.e., south), while the figure holding the bow points to the king on the viewer’s left (i.e., east). Located within this “framing” is the doorway from the throneroom (Room B) to the “retiring room,” Room F, from which one may access the East Suite directly, without passing into the courtyard. This observation may provide support for the ideas, advanced by Russell (1998: 672-675), that the activities which took place in the East Suite were closely related to those that were carried out in the throneroom and that the route from Room B through Room F and into the northernmost door of Room G was a kind of “king’s route.” In addition to their general format and architectonic position, there are other aspects of the “mirror image” reliefs, specifically iconographic components, that tie them closely to the East Suite. I leave fuller discussion of these reliefs and their individual motifs for another time; for now, I would like to focus on two elements, 29 The meaning of this particular motif continues to be debated. In addition to the interpretations mentioned earlier, see also Dalley 1986 and Lambert 1985: 438-439.

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the winged genies and the “stylized tree.” In the first case, we see a relatively direct and straightforward connection to the East Suite, while with the second, the link is much more complex and symbolic. The winged genies are the outermost elements on the “mirror image” reliefs, and when we examine the imagery of the two outermost components of the East Suite, we find exact correspondences— rooms full of them, in fact. Genies (both anthropomorphic, as seen on the “mirror image” slabs, and bird-headed) are shown tending to “stylized trees” in both Rooms I and L (on two-register orthostats in the former and single-register slabs in the latter). In one place in each of the rooms, on the reliefs within the shallow niches (which in the case of Room L contained the clay pipe), the repetitive genie-and-tree patterns are broken by anomalous elements: more genies. But these genies, as mentioned previously, are beardless and most likely female. Albenda (1996) has examined them in detail. Although beardless, their appearance is not the most “feminine” (in terms of the traditional Mesopotamian iconography), which has led to questions about their sex and gender, as eunuchs are also depicted without facial hair. Albenda (1996: 69) points to a number of features that seem to indicate that they are female: a “mature appearance and long dress, the absence of a beard and the ring held in the lower left hand.” Albenda (1996: 74) considers the ring, apparently composed of beads, as a female attribute due to its association with several goddesses, notably Ištar. However, she notes (1996: 74-75) that the presence of daggers may indicate a certain “duality of gender.” Albenda concludes (1996: 75) that these genies may be connected with Ištar due to the gender blurring implied by the daggers and their necklaces of star and rosette ornaments. If the genies are accepted as female, then several pieces of evidence from textual sources suggest that they might be identified as examples of the minor protective deity known as lamassu. In addition to providing protection to individuals, the lamassu, among other duties, escorted worshippers into the presence of the gods in the underworld (RlA 6: 446-455). The lamassu also has a particular association with Ištar and is listed among her messengers (RlA 6: 447). In addition, due to the fact that the lamassu is one half of a minor protective divine duo, whose other member is the male šedu, it sometimes appears as a “dual gender” being (ibid.). According to Russell (1998: 674), the anthropomorphic male genius figures cannot


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be securely correlated with any of the apotropaic figures known from magic texts,30 but in light of my suggestion concerning the identity of the female genies, I propose that they be identified as the lamassu’s counterpart, the šedu.31 In this interpretation, not only would we have both members of the protective “guardian” pair that accompanied a person through their life (RlA 6: 446-455), at least one of whom also has a close connection to the afterlife, but we would also see two neat and satisfying correspondences between the outermost elements of the “mirror image” orthostats and the East Suite: male genies are found in both places, and the male genies appearing on the reliefs find their female counterparts there, too. The more complex and symbolic connections between the “mirror image” relief and the East Suite are provided by the “stylized tree” and Room H. But before examining these, we should return briefly to the links between the motif of the “stylized tree” and the institution of kingship. As seen earlier, many of the explanations of the “mirror image” scene, based on the central role of the “stylized tree” in the composition, appeal (implicitly or explicitly) to one or more aspects or duties of the king (usually as the guarantor of the land’s abundance, and often in conjunction with his important “cultic actor” role). Combining the symbolic with the practical, the “stylized tree” appears to have been a relatively widely employed insignia within the imperial administration. Winter (2000) has discussed the use of “stylized trees” and various scenes employing them on cylinder seals of 9th-7th century Assyria. She notes (2000: 66) that inscribed seals bearing this motif (along with the winged disc) almost invariably belonged to high-ranking officials and that the preciousness of the seals’ materials (such as carnelian, lapis lazuli, and mottled jasper) further indicated their owners’ elite status. Due to the fact that high-ranking officials appear to have multiple seals, Winter suggests (2000: 67) that seals bearing the “Tree/Winged Disc” motif were reserved for business that specifically related to state office. Winter further argues (2000: 79 and n. 38) that the use of the “stylized tree” on seals in administrative contexts constituted a reference to the monumental, hierarchically superior throneroom reliefs, upon which the seal representations 30 The bird-headed genies, on the other hand, can be identified with reasonable confidence as apkallu (Wiggerman 1992: 74; Russell 1998: 674). 31 Reade (1979: 36) had previously suggested that this type of genie was “some form of lamassu.” See also von Soden 1963.

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depended for their meaning. Thus, seals bearing the “stylized tree” motif were used largely, if not exclusively, by high-ranking royal officials in their offices as administrators of the empire (headed by, but not synonymous with, the king), and they derived their meaning and indicated their owners’ authority by reference to the common and, in a sense, originating royal symbol (and not to the king as such). As Winter argues with respect to another so-called “royal seal” type, they may be understood as “ ‘state seals’ associated with the office of kingship . . . and as such, it is not the king, but ‘kingship and authority’ that is being referenced . . .” (2000: 57). Richardson (1999-2001) also sees a close association between the “stylized tree” and kingship. He notes (1999-2001: 159) that only kings are known to have been depicted wearing garments embroidered with the “stylized tree.” Richardson cites (1999-2001: 162) a document from the reign of Sennacherib with a colophon that substitutes Sennacherib’s name with the Sumerograms for “date palm” (GIŠ.GIŠIMMAR; though note the reservations of Giovino 2007 and Seidl and Sallaberger 2005 concerning the equation of the “stylized tree” and the date palm). He also notes (1999-2001: 163) that royal genealogies often make use of the metaphorical term liblibbu (an offshoot of the date palm) to refer to descendants and successors. Richardson concludes (1999-2001: 200, n. 239) by suggesting that the “stylized tree” served as an index that referenced several characteristics of Assyrian kingship, including the extension of protection. Further support for the idea that the “stylized tree” symbolized the institution of (Assyrian) kingship is supplied by a consideration of its placement in important areas, namely the corners of rooms (see Winter 1983a). “Stylized trees” are located in the corners of every room in which they are found; in Rooms B, G, and H, “stylized trees” standing by themselves (without any kind of immediately accompanying figure) are found only in corners.32 Russell (1998: 692) interpreted this situation as showing the “stylized tree’s” apotropaic power, used to defend against evil influences entering through the “liminal” zone of corners. This practice, however, can also illustrate the old Mesopotamian expression of totality, the “four quarters” or “four corners” (Sumerian AN.UB.LIMMU.DA, 32 Russell notes (1998: 689) that corners were the only places where “stylized trees” appeared in the palace of Tiglath-pileser III; Porter (2003) makes the same observation about the palace of Sargon II.


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Akkadian kibrat erbetti ). This expression is also seen in the SI, when Aššurnasirpal describes himself as having “no rival among the princes of the four quarters” and as the “protection of the (four) quarters” (Grayson 1991: 275-276). Winter (1981, 1983a: 23-24) has already argued that the entire decorative program of the throneroom was designed to show Aššurnasirpal’s campaigns in and control over territory in all four directions from Assyria, in parallel to his texts recording the same. The “stylized tree,” symbolizing kingship and placed at the four corners of the throneroom, would also have symbolized the expansion of Assyrian power unto the “four quarters” of the earth. Therefore, whatever other meanings this motif may have had, we may posit that in 1st millennium Assyria (and certainly beyond, as I indicate below), it was closely bound up with the general idea of kingship as an office and institution and served as a symbol of it. And a closer examination of the “stylized tree” on relief B-23 supports this. It is often said that there is no direct textual evidence as to the meaning of this symbol (e.g., Cooper 2000: 340-341), but that is not technically correct. As I noted above, out of the dozens of signs from the 18 lines of text on the monument, only one touches the “stylized tree” itself, and that is the GIŠ sign, placed on its trunk. The straightforward analysis of “tree” offers little to the discussion,33 but a different possible analysis has a bearing both on kingship and royal Mesopotamian ancestors. dGIŠ (GIŠ plus the pre-positional determinative indicating divinity)34 was also one way of writing the name of Gilgamesh (Parpola 1998: 324), the divinized, heroic, quintessential king of 3rd millennium Uruk whose deeds continued to be celebrated well into the 1st millennium. An analysis of his name could thus be “the divine tree” (ibid.).35 Furthermore, Gilgamesh has Though it does serve as a rebuttal to the stringent denial of Seidl and Sallaberger (2005) that this motif can and/or should be considered as a tree. 34 While names of gods are usually preceded by the determinative indicating divinity, this is not always the case. To take an example relevant here, the theophoric elements of both Adad-nirari (10) and Tukulti-Ninurta (MAŠ), as written in the SI, lack determinatives indicating divinity (cf. Grayson 1991: 275, SI lines 1-2). 35 According to Parpola (1998: 324-325), other forms of his name (Akkadian and Sumerian) may also be analyzed to include references to trees or parts thereof: “(who) matched the tree of balance” (dGIŠ.GIN2.MAŠ), “pure/outstanding as the tree” (dGIŠ.GIM.MAŠ), and “offshoot of the ‘Mes’-tree.” Parpola also argues (1998: 324) that the spellings of the name of Gilgamesh in the various versions of the epic portray the hero as an “embodiment of the sacred tree.” But see here the reservations of Cooper (2000: 438, n. 28) concerning Parpola’s analyses. 33

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a connection with the afterlife, serving as one of the judges of the underworld (Abusch 2001: 621), and in fact he appears in preserved funerary texts for Assyrian kings as the recipient of offerings (McGinnis 1987: 3-5; Ebeling 1931: 65).36 I suggest that the inscription of the GIŠ sign on the “stylized tree,” itself so closely related to royalty and the office of the king in the 1st millennium BCE, indicated that it was to be understood as a symbol of Gilgamesh, with this prototypical warrior and builder king serving as a symbol of the larger institution of kingship.37 In other words, what we are dealing with is a symbol of a symbol, both of which are anchored together by a third symbol, namely the one cuneiform signans that could identify them both simultaneously.38 How does this understanding of the “stylized tree,” the central element of the “mirror image” reliefs, contribute to our understanding of Room H, the central space in the East Suite? As demonstrated above, the kings in this space (in strong contrast to those in Room G) all have noticeable differences in personal accoutrement, which is particularly apparent when we compare daggers and bowls. I suggested that these differences in personal effects were indices of differences in identities—meaning that we would have depictions of 10 different kings. But I do not believe that these are simply generic predecessor Assyrian “ancestor” kings; rather, textual evidence, 36 In this connection, I might mention Richardson’s observation (1999-2001: 157) that objects bearing the “stylized tree” motif frequently turn up in funerary contexts (e.g., a vase from Assur, the jewelry from the “Queens’ Tombs” at Nimrud). As Richardson notes, the motif is not funerary or mortuary per se, but if considered in association with Gilgamesh, one of the judges of the underworld, its presence among high-status grave goods becomes clearer. 37 This is not to say that the “stylized tree” was necessarily always seen as a symbol of Gilgamesh. That determination would have to be made on a caseby-case basis in each culture or society in which the motif appeared. However, it is clear that the “stylized tree” was one of the most widespread motifs in the ancient Near East; if we were looking for a literary analogue, it would certainly have to be the Epic of Gilgamesh, parts of which have been found all throughout Mesopotamia and in North Syria, Anatolia, Ugarit, and Palestine—George 1999: xxvi-xxvii; George 2007. 38 Another reference to Gilgamesh in the throneroom has already been suggested, in this case in connection with the reliefs depicting bull hunting. Watanabe (2000: 1155) notes that Aššurnasirpal is shown killing a bull by stabbing a sword into its neck behind the horns while holding one of them, which is the same way that Gilgamesh slays the “Bull of Heaven” in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This association with Gilgamesh is one that is “implied,” according to Watanabe (2000), in the ostensibly straightforward action of the bull hunt, and, for the “competent” viewer, it would have served to identify the king (Aššurnasirpal II) with his heroic royal “predecessor.”


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including from Room H itself, may indicate who these particular kings are. In one version of the Assyrian King List (Gelb 1954; see also Yamada 1994, especially p. 37), there are exactly 10 rulers prior to Aššurnasirpal II. Nine of these apparently ruled in regular circumstances, with regular successions, but the tenth, Šamši-Adad IV, was a usurper. According to Gelb’s translation (1954: 228), “Shamshi-Adad (IV) son of Tukulti-apil-Esharra (I) from Karduniash he came up, Eriba-Adad (II) son of Assur-bel-kala from the throne he deposed, the throne he seized, (and) 4 years he ruled.” The next king after Šamši-Adad IV, the first of the subsequent line to enjoy fully a “legitimate” accession, was also an Aššurnasirpal, the first Assyrian ruler to carry this name. And within Room H, containing 10 of Aššurnasirpal’s royal predecessors, one—and only one—is designated, as I observed above, with an inscription on his body as “Aššurnasirpal” (Fig. 7). Room H, in other words, may provide a visual expression of the concept of palû, “dynasty,” and would be a material analogue of one exact part of the AKL (the section containing Aššurnasirpal’s ten royal and consanguinal predecessors). Literally embodying the ideas behind the king list (descent, continuity, legitimacy and, above all, the royal institution), Room H would thus have served as a chamber that contained “kingship.” Room H, therefore, as the central room in a complex devoted to the royal ancestor cult, would have concretely represented the abstract idea of kingship (supplying 10 icons, which together served as an index of the institution of Assyrian kingship) and equally would have provided a crucial space for its maintenance. Kingship depended upon tradition. Great prestige was attached to royal lineages, as seen in the various “king lists” from ancient Mesopotamia (cf. Finkelstein 1966; Yamada 1994). Activities that appealed to this type of legitimacy and that were designed to translate it into practical beneficial effects—kispu being one outstanding example—would have been crucial components of proper exercise of kingship and could have been seen as metonymic of the entire institution. Conclusion Underlying the preceding analysis is the premise that despite the radical changes in early 9th century Assyrian state and society that the construction of the Northwest Palace represented, Aššurnasirpal

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and the ruling class were at pains to stress continuity with the past. I have argued here that two elements of this expression of continuity were the East Suite and the “mirror image” reliefs from the palace’s throneroom. Rapid and fundamental change was accompanied by the idea and presentation of a logical and, in the case of the East Suite, direct continuity with the history of Assyria. In other words, this ideology of a connection with the past was one of the ways the monumental changes in the nature of the Assyrian state could be accommodated. But the two features, though complementary in terms of their ideology, were very different in terms of their intended audience and function. The “mirror image” reliefs expressed the legitimacy of their creator, Aššurnasirpal, to a potentially wide audience by showing him in close association with his immediate ancestors in the very center of his state, the Assyrian throneroom. They thus contributed to the Assyrian ruler’s public persona, along with imagery on other reliefs there stressing further duties of the king, such as warfare and the hunt. These particular reliefs, in other words, helped facilitate his public performance of the office of kingship. Other elements of the reliefs, in particular the “stylized tree,” contributed to this public performance. While not possible to prove conclusively, I suggest that the “stylized tree” was adopted because it was a long-standing and important motif that was well-known throughout most of the ancient Near East. Russell notes (1998: 693) that “stylized trees” were common elements on Syrian seals as early as the 18th century and later appeared on Kassite, Mittanni, Middle Assyrian and Cypriot seals and sealings (see also Matthiae 1989: 369; Lambert 1985: 438-440). Furthermore, it was an important part of the public monumental repertoire in most of the early Iron Age North Syrian city-states (Brown 2008). In these contexts, the “stylized tree” is often seen in association with animals, both real and mythical, “heroes,” or kings facing gods, as well as anthropomorphic or bird-headed genies (Russell 1998: 693), all of which have a close iconographic relationship to depictions of royalty (for example, in animal hunts). The fact that it did not provide a literal agricultural motif for the Assyrians would not have been a decisive consideration. Instead, it provided a regionally widespread symbol associated with kingship at a time of both Assyrian expansion and a consciousness of this process, as indicated by Aššurnasirpal’s inscriptions. The “stylized tree” as a reworked and major Assyrian


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motif appears at the same time that we see the development of historical narrative in visual form on reliefs, which Winter argues (1983a: 27) was directly related to this expansion and represented an attempt to reach a socially and culturally heterogeneous audience. The “stylized tree” motif was one that would have served a similar function, providing a message that would have been instantly comprehensible to many of the peoples whom the Assyrians were beginning to bring under their sovereignty. Therefore, while the “mirror-image” reliefs appeal to a supernatural world, I do not think that they were as esoteric or incomprehensible as scholars have often assumed. On the contrary, they would have provided an instantly recognizable statement of both conscientious duty to ancestors and legitimate exercise of kingship to anyone (Assyrian or non-Assyrian, royal or non-royal) who entered the throneroom. Marcus’ study (1995) on the employment of landscape imagery in Late Assyrian imperial art offers a useful way of looking at the issue. Marcus argues that natural features and elements of foreign lands were used in Assyrian iconography to express “the ruler’s intimate knowledge of the physical space he wants or claims to dominate” (1995: 199). The fact that the king and the Assyrian army begin appearing more and more frequently in various foreign landscapes “symbolizes the real or wished-for political incorporation of conquered territory” (1995: 200). Yet Assyrian society, while based largely on rural unfree agricultural labor economically, revolved intellectually around urban centers. The city was the center for the ruling class. Thus, while nature scenes may indicate imperial designs on a general, undifferentiated foreign area (cf. Liverani 1979), we should expect something else when an urbanbased elite seek to conquer or absorb other specific political units, namely an appropriation of features specifically and integrally related to targeted elite centers within the general territorial area. If we adjust Marcus’ understanding of “landscape” to include the built landscape, this is exactly what we see in the Northwest Palace. Aššurnasirpal’s artisans, in creating the monumental palace at Nimrud, both directly borrowed elements from the North Syrian cities (decorated orthostats and selected motifs, notably those relating to ancestor cult practice)—which were part of the larger urban, and not just palatial, environment—and retooled other elements (the “stylized tree,” for example) which had been part of the Assyrian tradition, but which were at the same time still “local” North Syrian features. By appropriating all of these elements,

kingship and ancestral cult in the northwest palace


presenting them on a monumental scale and, significantly, confining them within the palace, the rulers of the nascent Assyrian empire were, in addition to the overall territory, announcing their designs on the North Syrian cities, the centers of a rival elite, which could be seen, in the Assyrian perspective, as wrongly controlling or possessing areas which rightfully belonged to the Assyrian state (see Richardson 1999-2001: 146). The “mirror-image” reliefs, by presenting a typical North Syrian practice via a North Syrian medium, would have relayed Aššurnasirpal’s claims to the area in general and its urban centers in particular.39 In contrast to the “mirror image” reliefs, which were more public and which closely linked political goals with duty to the ancestors, the East Suite would have provided an environment for the performance of more private rituals that would guarantee a direct link to Aššurnasirpal’s royal Assyrian predecessors and enlist their help in these undertakings. The offerings of food and drink to their ghosts and the calling out of their names would, in the Assyrian view, provide a real (and not just symbolic) connection to the past. This kind of drawing on the past by the early 1st millennium Assyrian kings has been recognized (see, for example, Liverani 2004; Grayson, cited in Harrak 1987: 277). Indeed, the names of Aššurnasirpal’s father and grandfather, Tukulti-Ninurta and Adadnirari, had previously been used by two of the of the most dynamic Middle Assyrian kings in the 13th century, nearly four centuries earlier, while the namesake of his son, Shalmaneser, was another powerful ruler during this time. Support by the ancestral kings— deceased, but still very much present—for the large-scale changes initiated by Aššurnasirpal II and the ruling class, represented so well by the shift of the Assyrian center from the city of Ashur to Nimrud, would have been seen as of the utmost importance for their success. Finally, I would like to note that Aššurnasirpal was an old man by the time the Northwest Palace was finally dedicated—he was to die less than a decade later. While the monuments I have identified as ancestral in nature were set up to commemorate Aššurnasirpal’s own ancestors, we should keep in mind that he too would “become an ancestor,” and perhaps he had planned for this as well with some of the monuments. Indeed, the king in Room H with the 39 This point was initially suggested by Marian Feldman. See Brown 2008 for fuller discussion.


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name “Aššurnasirpal” inscribed on the royal hand (Fig. 7) could have perhaps signified both his eponymous predecessor and himself after death, when he would have joined the ancestors and begun receiving offerings to placate his soul in the afterlife. This suggestion can give us a deeper understanding of why Aššurnasirpal described the Northwest Palace in its building inscriptions as his “seat of kingship for eternity” (SI, line 19; cf. Grayson 1991: 276). APPENDIX—Comparison of Room G Kings Feature Earrings Sash rope knot Bowls Bows Necklaces Diadems Collar Sandals Hair ribbons


Description All wear the “bullet” type (Madhloom’s Type C—1970: 90 and Pl. LXVIII 5-9, 11-17) All wear knots in the same way; the exact way in which they turn occasionally differs All vessels appearing are plain and undecorated All bows appearing are plain, with no adornment All wear single-strand bead/spacer type All have undecorated diadems All have two tassels at the throat All wear the same style, with two thin straps over the arch of the foot (except G-6, which apparently has no straps All have long ribbons with tassels at the end and a rope-like extension (a counterweight?); the seated king (G-3) and the standing kings facing to the left add a broad ribbon as well All wear bracelets with rosettes on each wrist

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——— (1985). “Texts and Sculptures from the North-West Palace, Nimrud.” Iraq 47: 203-214. ——— (1995). “Khorsabad glazed bricks and their symbolism.” Khorsabad, le palais de Sargon II, roi d’Assyrie. Paris: 225-251. Reallexikon der Assyriologie (RlA) 5. ——— 6. Renfrew, C. (1994). “The archaeology of religion.” The Ancient Mind: Elements of Cognitive Archaeology. Renfrew, C. and E. Zubrow, eds. Cambridge: 47-54. Richardson, S. (1999-2001). “An Assyrian Garden of Ancestors: Room I, Northwest Palace, Kalhu.” State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 13: 145-213. Russell, J. (1998). “The Program of the Palace of Aššurnasirpal II at Nimrud: Issues in the Research and Presentation of Assyrian Art.” American Journal of Archaeology 102: 655-715. ——— (1999). The Writing on the Wall: Studies in the Architectural Context of Late Assyrian Palace Inscriptions. Winona Lake. Schafer, A. (2007). “Assyrian Royal Monuments on the Periphery: Ritual and the Making of Imperial Space.” Ancient Near Eastern Art in Context: Studies in Honor of Irene J. Winter. Cheng, J. and M. Feldman, eds. Leiden: 133-160. Seidl, U. and W. Sallaberger (2005). “Der ‘Heilige Baum’.” AfO 51: 54-74. Skaist, A. (1980). “The Ancestor Cult and Succession in Mesopotamia.” Death in Mesopotamia. Alster, B., ed. RAI 26: 123-128. Sobolewski, R. (1994). “Rekonstruktion des Nordwestpalastes in Ninrud: Bemerkungen zu einigen in situ gefundenen architektonischen Elementen.” Beiträge zur Altorientalischen Archäologie und Altertumskunde. (Festschrift Hrouda). Calmeyer, P., K. Hecker et al., eds. Wiesbaden: 255-264. Stearns, J. (1961). Reliefs from the Palace of Aššurnasirpal II. AfO Beiheft 15. Graz. Stronach, D. (1995). “The Imagery of the Wine Bowl: Wine in Assyria in the Early First Millennium BC.” The Origins and Ancient History of Wine. McGovern, P., S. Fleming, and S. Katz, eds. Luxembourg: 175-179. Struble, Eudora and Virginia Rimmer Herrmann (2010). “An Eternal Feast at Sam al: The New Iron Age Mortuary Stele from Zincirli in Context.” BASOR 356:23-57. Tsukimoto, A. (1980). “Aspekte von kispu(m) als Totenbeigabe.” Death in Mesopotamia. Alster, B., ed. RAI 26: 129-138. ——— (1985). Untersuchungen zur Totenpflege im alten Mesopotamien. AOAT 216. Neukirchen-Vluyn. Turner, G. (1970). “The State Apartments of Late Assyrian Palaces.” Iraq 32: 177-213. van der Toorn, K. (1996). Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel: Continuity and Change in the Forms of Religious Life. Leiden. van Driel, G. (1969). The Cult of Assur. Assen. von Soden, W. (1963). “Die Schutzgenien Lamassu and Schedu in der babylonischassyrischen Literatur.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 3: 148-156. Watanabe, C. H. (2000). “Mythological Associations Implied in the Assyrian Royal Bull Hunt.” Studi sul Vicino Oriente Antico. (Festschrift Cagni). Graziani, S., ed. Naples: 1149-1161. Weidner, E. (1939). Die Reliefs der assyrischen Könige. AfO Beiheft 4. Berlin. Wiggerman, F. (1992). Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. Groningen. Winter, I. (1981). “Royal Rhetoric and the Development of Historical Narrative in Neo-Assyrian Reliefs.” Studies in Visual Communication 7(2): 2-38.

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——— (1983a). “The Program of the Throneroom of Aššurnasirpal II.” Essays on Near Eastern Art and Archaeology in Honor of Charles Kyrle Wilkinson. Harper, P. and H. Pittman, eds. New York: 15-32. ——— (1983b). “Carchemish ša kišad puratti.” Anatolian Studies 33: 177-197. ——— (1997). “Art in Empire: The Royal Image and the Visual Dimensions of Assyrian Ideology.” Assyria 1995. Parpola, S. and R. Whiting, eds. Helsinki: 359-381. ——— (2000). “Le Palais imaginaire: scale and meaning in the iconography of Neo-Assyrian cylinder seals.” Images as media. Uehlinger, C., ed. Fribourg: 51-87. ——— (2003). “Ornament and the ‘Rhetoric of Abundance’ in Assyria.” EretzIsrael 27 (Festschrift Tadmor and Tadmor): 252-264. Woolley, L. (1921). Carchemish II. The Town Defences. London. ——— (1952). Carchemish III. The Excavations in the Inner Town. London. Yamada, S. (1994). “The Editorial History of the Assyrian King List.” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 84: 11-37.


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Figure 1: Plan of the Northwest Palace at Nimrud (from Englund 2003)

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Figure 2: The East Suite of the Northwest Palace (after Paley and Sobolewski 1987)

Figure 3: The inner rooms of the East Suite (after Paley and Sobolewski 1987). Note the slabs with the D-shaped depressions in Rooms I and L


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Figure 4: Slab H-2 from Room H of the East Suite. Bristol City Museum H-795 (from Weidner 1939: Abb. 92)

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Figure 5: Slab H-4 from Room H of the East Suite. Brooklyn Museum 55.155 (from Paley 1976: Pl. 4)


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Figure 6: Slab H-31 from Room H of the East Suite. Los Angeles County Museum of Art 66.4.3 (from Weidner 1939: Abb. 96)

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Figure 7: Close-up of the left hand of the king on H-4. The cuneiform signs are maš-šur-PAB-A (= Aššurnasirpal)

Figure 8a-c: Comparison of Assyrian tombs and the L-shaped rooms from the Northwest Palace (all drawings to scale): (a) 12th century tomb at Tell Taban, Syria (after Numoto 2008); (b) Room I; (c) Assyrian royal cemetery at Assur—note especially Tomb V (Aššurnasirpal’s tomb; after Haller 1954)


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Figure 9a-b: (a) Relief from Water Gate at Karkemish (from Woolley 1921: Pl. B.30b); (b) Reliefs G-2-4 from the Northwest Palace (from Matthiae 1999)

Figure 10: Slab B-23 from Room B (the throneroom) of the Northwest Palace (one of two “mirror-image” compositions from the throneroom). British Museum BM 12.45.31

kingship and ancestral cult in the northwest palace 51


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Figure 11: Close-up of the trunk of the “stylized tree” on B-23. Note the GIŠ sign (author’s photograph)

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Figure 12: Schematic comparison of the East Suite and the “mirror-image” composition

WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW ABOUT WOMEN’S RITES IN THE ISRAELITE FAMILY CONTEXT? SAUL M. OLYAN Department of Religious Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912-1927 [email protected] Abstract What we know about the roles of women in Israelite family religion is a topic in need of reassessment. In this article, the author evaluates a number of common claims which have been made about family religion and gender. These include the idea that goddess worship was especially important to women; that Judean pillar figurines were used primarily or exclusively by women in their ritual activities; that the religious practices of ancient Israelite women overlapped little with those of men; and that birth-related ritual contexts were a special preserve of women. Keywords: family religion, women, gender, Israel, rites

The gender dimensions of Israelite family religion have been a frequent topic of discussion and debate in recent scholarship. Drawing upon biblical texts, epigraphs and a wealth of non-literary material data, scholars have made a variety of claims concerning family religion and gender. Some have argued not only that ancient Israelite families worshiped one or more goddesses, but that such devotion was especially important in the lives of women. There has been much debate about the role of Judean pillar figurines in family life, with more than a few specialists arguing that these objects are cultic, and that they were used primarily or exclusively by women. According to a number of scholars, birth-related rites were a special preserve of women. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the religious practices of ancient Israelite women overlapped little with those of men. It is my purpose here to evaluate several of the arguments mentioned above, in order to begin to reassess what we really know about the gender dimensions of Israelite family religion. The claim that goddess worship was especially important to women in ancient Israel is commonplace in biblical scholarship. © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156921210X500503


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Writing on family religion in Did God Have a Wife?, William Dever recently argued that Israelite “women were acutely aware of and responded to the ‘female aspects of deity’ ”; other statements of Dever’s in the same work suggest that the goddess Asherah would have been particularly appealing to women, whether worshiped in the home or in a sanctuary context: “And if, as in the Arad sanctuary, . . . standing stones were paired, and one of them represented Asherah, women would have resonated particularly with that.”1 Susan Ackerman has also argued that goddess worship had a special place in the lives of Israelite women, both in the domicile and in the sanctuary. For her, this is suggested for the domestic context by the central ritual role of the wives in the Queen of Heaven cult as it is represented in a text such as Jer 7:18, where they are said to knead dough to make cakes for the goddess, in contrast to the men who kindle the fire and the children who gather wood. For the sanctuary context, Ackerman argued that the special place of goddess worship for women is suggested by 2 Kgs 23:7, where women are said to weave bāttîm (“weavings”?) for the asherah, a cult object of the Jerusalem temple.2 Finally, John J. Collins, speaking of goddess worship in a recent survey, concluded that “there is some reason to think that the traditional religious practices of women were especially disrupted by the [Deuteronomistic] reforms.”3 Can the claim that goddess worship was of particular significance for women be supported by the evidence? Though Dever offers little in the way of data or argumentation to support his claims, Ackerman’s argument is worthy of our serious attention. Though she notes that the rites of the Queen of Heaven described in Jeremiah 7 and 44 involve the entire nuclear family in distinct and complementary roles, Ackerman argues nonetheless that the women’s baking of cakes for the Queen of Heaven is the central, “most religiously significant,” ritual act, and therefore, “it is reasonable to see these women as somehow especially involved in the goddess’s worship.”4 Certainly, she points out, Jer 44:19, 25 see it that way. But if baking in the domicile was an activity gendered

Dever 2005: 240. Ackerman 2003: 463-5. On bāttîm, see 458 n. 7. The asherah is understood by Ackerman and many other scholars (including myself) to represent the goddess Asherah. On the asherah cult object, see, e.g., Olyan (1988). 3 Collins 2005: 129. 4 Ackerman 2003: 464. Emphasis in the original. 1 2

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feminine in Israelite communities, as a number of scholars have argued, who else other than the women should we expect to bake such cakes for the Queen of Heaven?5 In other words, if women did all or most of the baking, it’s not convincing to argue that their baking cakes for the Queen of Heaven suggests that they were “especially involved in the goddess’s worship.” After all, women parching grain or baking cakes in the domicile to offer to a male deity would probably not suggest to anyone that male divinities played a particularly significant role in the lives of women; only that women were doing their customary ritual tasks.6 As for the Jeremiah passages representing women as leaders in the Queen of Heaven cult, one could interpret these as part of a larger pattern associating women and “idolatry” in prophetic, Deuteronomistic, and other biblical sources.7 In fact, Jer 44:15 states that the wives had offered incense “to other gods” and not to the Queen of Heaven alone, suggesting a general tendency on the part of the wives to involve themselves in worship that the text casts as illegitimate. Goddess worship appears to have played a role in domestic and local religion, and in the state cult. The evidence for goddess devotion in Israel includes the iconography of seals, cult stands, 5 See, e.g., Dever 2005: 241, on baking as the responsibility of women alone; and Bird 1989: 293, on women’s responsibility to prepare the food in the domicile. Marsman is inclined to see baking bread as a mostly, though not entirely, gendered task in Israel, in contrast to Egypt and Mesopotamia, where both women and men bake (2003: 425, 436, 466). 6 In her discussion of the Queen of Heaven cult, Marsman also downplays the significance of the women’s baking cakes, given that baking is normally a woman’s task: “Both in the wailing over Tammuz and the worship of the Queen of Heaven women played a prominent role. Yet it should be kept in mind that in both cases tasks are described that were generally attributed to women, i.e., mourning and baking bread. As we have seen, the Queen of Heaven was not worshipped by women only . . .” (2003: 609). 7 The association of women and “idolatry” is not consistent in our texts, though it is a noteworthy theme which manifests itself in various ways. As is well known, alien women are frequently associated with “idolatry,” and blamed for causing Israelite men to worship other gods (e.g., Num 25:1-3; Deut 7:3-4; 1 Kgs 11:1-8; 16:31; 2 Kgs 9:22). Israel’s alleged infidelity to Yhwh is described figuratively as the disloyalty of an adulterous wife or the behavior of a “prostitute” in any number of texts (e.g., Hos 2:4-15; 4:13-14; Ezekiel 16, 23). For Israelite women worshiping other gods or engaging in rites that texts cast as alien or illegitimate, see, e.g., Exod 22:17; 1 Samuel 28; 1 Kgs 15:13; 2 Kgs 23:7; Ezek 8:14; Dan 11:37. Bird has pointed out that only two women mentioned in sources representing monarchic and post-monarchic cultic practice—Huldah and the prophetess of Isa 8:3—are “portrayed in approved cultic roles. The rest are viewed as illegitimate” (1987: 404).


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model shrines, and other material remains; epigraphs such as the Kuntillet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom inscriptions; and various biblical texts.8 To affirm the evident importance of female deities in various forms of Israelite religion, however, does not require us to accept claims that women were particularly devoted to goddesses. I am not convinced that goddesses played a greater role in the devotion of women than they did in men’s worship, either at home or in the sanctuary, since there is simply no cogent evidence to support this claim. Epigraphic blessings from Kuntillet Ajrud and Khirbet elQom mentioning the asherah suggest, if anything, the devotion of men rather than women.9 And as Ackerman herself notes, the Deuteronomistic History represents men (kings in particular) as both nemeses and advocates of the asherah and the goddess Asherah in the state cult, and locates the female weavers of 2 Kgs 23:7, who are devotees of Asherah, in the “houses” of the “sanctified ones” (qĕdēšîm; a reference to males? A mixed company?) in the Jerusalem temple complex. One could argue that the “sanctified ones,” who apparently host the weaving women and may well be males rather than a mixed company, are themselves votaries of the goddess Asherah. Thus, 2 Kgs 23:7 can be cited as evidence for the presence of both male and female devotees to Asherah in the Jerusalem temple, as easily as it can be marshaled to suggest a special degree of female devotion.10 Comparative epigraphic evidence from Phoenicia and elsewhere suggests that elite men (at least) were devoted to goddesses as well as to gods, e.g., KAI 10, the inscription of King Yehawmilk of Byblos, who petitions his patroness, the Lady of Byblos, or KAI 13, which mentions that King Tabnit of Sidon was priest of the goddess Ashtart. One might also cite the common invocation of goddesses in first millennium treaties between

8 The iconographic evidence is ably presented and interpreted by Keel and Uehlinger (1998: 126, 147-67). For the biblical and epigraphic evidence generally, see Olyan (1988), among others. 9 See, e.g., the use of masculine singular verbal forms with several names that fit a typically masculine pattern (e.g.,’mryw or yw‘śh) and masculine titles such as ’dny (“my lord”), preceding blessing formulae found among the Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions (e.g., brkt ’tkm lyhwh šmrn wl’šrth). On this material, see, e.g., Merlo 1998: 200-209; Olyan 1988:23-35. 10 The “sanctified ones” (qĕdēšîm) have often been understood by scholars to be male “cult prostitutes,” though this is highly unlikely. For a critique of this position, see, among others, Bird 1997: 37-80.

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male rulers such as that of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon and his vassal Baal of Tyre, or that of the Assyrian monarch Ashurnirari V and Mati’ilu of Arpad.11 Given the evidence for male devotion to goddesses, including Asherah, in Israel and its immediate cultural context, and the lack of data suggesting a clear pattern of privileged female involvement in goddess worship, we might want to reconsider arguments that women played a particularly significant role in goddess devotion. Many scholars associate Judean pillar figurines with goddesses, including Asherah, though a number of specialists reject the notion that these figurines represent a female deity.12 Whether they are understood to represent a goddess or function in some other way (e.g., as votive objects), the pillar figurines are often thought to be primarily or exclusively associated with the ritual activities of women. Carol Meyers, who interprets the figurines as “vehicles of magical practice” rather than divine images, suggests that they are central to women’s domestic life: “It is likely that they have some relation to the female nurturance of infants.”13 Not surprisingly, some advocates of the goddess interpretation also understand the figurines as focal for specifically female religious devotion. Dever is one such example: “Their frequent occurrence in all sorts of household contexts shows that virtually every woman had one (or more).”14 Similarly, Ziony Zevit states: “I postulate that it is Borger 1956: 109, for Esarhaddon’s treaty with Baal of Tyre; Parpola and Watanabe 1988: 12-13, for the treaty of Ashurnirari V and Mati’ilu of Arpad. 12 See, e.g., Dever 2005: 240 for the identification of the pillar figurines as images of Asherah. Keel and Uehlinger also argue for such an identification, albeit with far more care and subtlety (1998: 329-336). See also Kletter, who believes that the Asherah thesis is plausible, though unproved (1996: 77, 80-81). Meyers 1988: 162, and 2005: 27-31 is not convinced, and for good reason, given that the pillar figurines lack any clear markers of divinity. See similarly Lewis 1998: 45, and Moorey 2003: 49, 59-60, 63. An interesting case in favor of the divine status of these figurines has been made by van der Toorn, who argues that they are cheap replicas of divine cult images, and that they are commonplace, found even in tombs, because they possess prophylactic powers. The prevalence of female figurines suggests to him Asherah’s role as a mediatrix (2002: 58-61). Unlike Dever, neither Keel and Uehlinger, nor van der Toorn, argue that the figurines were particularly characteristic of women’s devotion. In fact, Keel and Uehlinger suggest directly that their appeal would have been to both men and women (1998: 332). 13 1988: 162-63; 2005: 29 for “vehicles of magical practice”; 27-28 for the longer quotation. Bird 1991:103, associates the figurines with “women’s world,” but is agnostic concerning their meaning. Moorey associates the Judean pillar figurines with women’s petitions (2003: 55). 14 Dever 2005: 240. See also 241, where Dever agrees with Meyers that their 11


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legitimate to conclude from the gender of the figurines that they represent a cult involving women primarily, though not exclusively.”15 Just as I am skeptical of claims that goddesses played an especially important role in the religious lives of women for lack of evidence, so I have my doubts about arguments that ignore or minimize the possibility that the pillar figurines belonged to and were significant to men as well as to women. Whether they are said to represent a goddess, a votive object, or something else, there is no cogent evidence that the pillar figurines belonged exclusively to women or were important only or even primarily to them.16 Theodore Lewis has suggested in passing that the pillar figurines could have appealed to men as well as women, citing Karel van der Toorn’s observation that men routinely petitioned goddesses.17 Keel and Uehlinger assume such an inclusive appeal.18 I would add that given the common literary topos of the childless patriarch or king petitioning his patron deity for progeny, as in the Kirta and Aqhat epics from Ugarit and Genesis 15, not to mention the patrilineal nature of Israelite society and the consequent importance of a man producing an heir, we should assume a husband’s active concern for his wife’s ability to conceive a child, carry it to term, and bear it successfully, as well as her capacity to lactate so that the child can be nourished.19 We should also keep in mind a man’s potential acts of petitionary intervention in order to secure such a positive outcome. In fact, Gen 25:21, Isaac’s supplication of Yhwh on behalf of his barren wife Rebekah, is a literary representation of just such a petition.20 In short, though it is highly likely that

purpose is reproductive: “The female figurines . . . would almost certainly have had to do with women’s prayers to conceive, bear a child safely, and be able to nurse the baby through infancy.” 15 Zevit 2001: 346 for the quote; 271 for the goddess interpretation. 16 Kletter has pointed out that there is no archeological evidence that the figurines appealed to women in particular (1996: 25). 17 1998: 45, n. 53. Nonetheless, Lewis believes, with Meyers, that these figurines “were most likely used by women,” and represent women’s social and religious life in the household. Lewis cites van der Toorn’s remarks made in a review of U. Winter, Frau und Göttin, in BO 43 (1986): 496, 498. 18 1998: 332. 19 For the topos of the childless patriarch or king, see Kirta and Aqhat (CAT 1.14-16; 1.17-19; Parker 1997: 9-48, 49-80), as well as Gen 15:2-5. Cf. Gen 25:21. 20 Cf. 1 Sam 1:10-11, Hannah’s prayer and vow to Yhwh, a literary representation of a woman’s petition for offspring.

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the pillar figurines are related to the reproductive process in some way, and may well have played a role in supplications related to procreation or nurture, there is no more evidence that these figurines were important to women’s petitions for successful reproduction than there is that they were important to men’s. They may well have been used by both to petition a deity—either female or male—for successful childbirth or nurturance of newborns. Given the lack of a lower body on the figurines, I am inclined to agree with Meyers that the nurturance of infants is probably their focus.21 At all events, the fact that the figurines depict a female is not sufficient evidence to assume that they would have played little or no role in men’s lives. After all, women were responsible for carrying to term, giving birth, and weaning a child. If the figurines were intended to address that process or some aspect of it in some way, it is not at all surprising that they would portray a female. The fact that these female pillar figurines are relatively common, and male figurines such as the horse and rider, relatively rare, in Iron Age Judah, is another datum that may suggest that they were used by both men and women.22 It seems unlikely that women used these figurines for their reproductive petitions but men did not use them for theirs. That many pillar figurines were found in domestic loci, some of which were likely associated with women’s quotidian labor, may well suggest their use by women as Meyers has argued. But the presence of such figurines in tombs may also suggest their use by men.23 Meyers notes that the pillar figurines found in tombs may have had some relationship to the petitioning of ancestors for the benefit of the living.24 I agree with her, though I believe that men could have played the role of petitioner as easily as women, given the place of males in biblical representations of tomb visits,

21 See Lewis 1998: 45, similarly. The reason for the apparent focus on nurturance, as opposed to pregnancy, is not entirely clear. 22 Meyers comes to the opposite conclusion (2005: 30). Kletter states that a “lack of small male figurines does not necessarily imply that the female figurines belonged to women only,” though he does not provide an argument to support this point (1996: 78). Moorey discusses the sporadically attested male terracotta horse and rider figurines, and their relationship to the female pillar figurines, in some depth (2003: 42-43, 48, 50, 58, 61, 63). 23 For Meyers’s position, see 2005: 30-31. On the distribution of pillar figurines, see Kletter 1996: 57-67, and 105, fig. 31. Kletter notes that twelve of twenty whole figurines were found in tombs. 24 2005: 54. See also Moorey 2003: 49.


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consultations with ghosts, and the making of offerings to the dead.25 Perhaps the best argument that can be made that the figurines were used primarily or exclusively by women is if we understand them to represent a female petitioner, as Meyers has suggested.26 Though possible, this interpretation is difficult to argue convincingly, given that nothing about the stance or gestures of the figurines necessarily suggests a supplicant. Neither hands raised to heaven nor physical prostration in petitionary prayer are characteristic of them.27 And even if the figurines were intended to depict a female petitioner, a male supporting a woman’s petition could potentially make use of them, too.28 We simply do not know enough about the ritual dynamics of petition to exclude this possibility. Phyllis Bird has published a number of articles in which she has argued that the religious practices of women and men in ancient Israel were, for the most part, very different: “Women’s religion cannot be equated with goddess worship, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest that women’s religion did represent a significantly differentiated form of religious expression within Yahwism . . . ”29 Assuming gender differentiation as a universal phenomenon in the structuring of social roles, Bird turns to contemporary ethnography for analogues to ancient female religious practice.30 Drawing upon the ethnographic work of anthropologist Susan Sered and others, Bird suggests that tomb visits and individual journeys to local sanctuaries were central to the religious lives of women in ancient Israel, and at most peripheral to men: “Within the total spectrum 25 For men visiting tombs, see 1 Sam 10:2 (Rachel’s tomb!) and Tobit 4:17; for males making offerings to the dead, see Deut 26:14 and Tobit 4:17; for men who consult the dead, both professionally and otherwise, see, e.g., Deut 18:11 (šō’ēl ’ôb wĕyiddĕ‘ōnî wĕdōrēš ’el-hammētîm) and 1 Samuel 28 (Saul, through the female medium of En Dor). 26 2005: 29. Arguing against the goddess interpretation, Meyers states that “it is . . . far more likely that they are votary figures representing human females seeking the aid of a deity—any deity—in pregnancy, birth, and/or lactation.” See, similarly, Moorey 2003: 55, 63. 27 For these gestures of supplication, see, e.g., Exod 9:29, 33; 1 Kgs 8:22, 38, 54; Ezra 9:5; Ps 44:21; Job 11:13. They occur also in artistic representations of petitioners and mourners (e.g., Kuntillet Ajrud, pithos B [Beck 1982: 36-40]; the Ahiram sarcophagus [ANEP 456-57]). 28 On those who support the petitions of others, including family members, by embracing their petitionary mourning behaviors, see Ps 35:13-14 and the discussion in Olyan 2004: 88-89. 29 1991: 107-8. 30 1989: 287; 1991: 98-102.

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of religious observances, individual pilgrimages to shrines and visits to graves appear to play a more important role in women’s religious lives than in men’s.”31 Can this claim be supported by any evidence? We know little about the social dimensions of pilgrimages to local shrines in ancient Israel. The best textual evidence is probably the references to the “sacrifice of the clan” or “annual sacrifice” in 1 Sam 20:6, 29, likely a yearly clan-based ancestor feast at the local shrine occurring at the time of the new moon, as Karel van der Toorn has argued.32 The observance, which apparently included tomb visits, was presided over by a senior male of the clan, as indicated by 1 Sam 20:29, and probably required the participation of all male clan members.33 Unfortunately, we learn nothing of women’s pilgrimage activity— whether in the family or individually—from these passages. And the narrative of Hannah’s individual petition at the Shiloh sanctuary also does not help us, since the context is a pilgrimage of the household to a regional shrine, and not an individual pilgrimage to a local cult place. As for tomb visits, the text once again tells us little, and when such pilgrimages are mentioned directly or indirectly, it is men who are the visitors, not women (e.g., 1 Sam 10:2; Tobit 4:17; and possibly Deut 26:14). Thus, biblical texts suggest that men visited tombs and made offerings to the dead. Women may also have done so, either with the family or individually, in one context or another, but no evidence for this survives.34 In short, against Bird, we do not know whether individual pilgrimages and tomb visits were ever a distinct characteristic of women’s piety in ancient Israel, or even a shared practice with men. Modern ethnographic data, though suggestive, is only that. Women may well have had some distinct religious practices in Israelite communities,

31 1991: 100. It is clear that Bird is speaking of both ancient Israelite women and contemporary Moroccan women in this passage, since she begins the paragraph as follows: “The marabout, or the local sanctuary in Israel, is a place where a woman can go according to her own needs and opportunities.” 32 Van der Toorn 1996: 211-18. 33 ibid., 216, on the evidence suggesting that tomb pilgrimages were a component part of the festival. 34 As an aside, I note that there is some cuneiform evidence suggesting that women could play a role in Mesopotamian ancestor cults, though the male heir was apparently the normal custodian (pāqidu). On this, see, e.g., Bayliss 1973: 118-19, 123-24 and Tsukimoto 1985: 229-33. For the evidence from Emar and Nuzi, see van der Toorn 1994: 38-59.


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but extant evidence does not suggest that individual pilgrimages to sanctuaries and tomb visits were necessarily among them. The final claim I would like to examine in this paper is the contention that birth-related rites were a special preserve of women. Meyers puts it succinctly in her recent book Households and Holiness: “The rituals surrounding pregnancy, labor, and birth, along with those securing fertility before pregnancy and those dealing with post-partum lactation, infant care and circumcision, constitute the religious culture of women more than men.”35 As I have argued earlier in this article, one might challenge the claim that securing fertility or lactation was an entirely, or even mainly, gendered activity, and the same can be said of circumcision, but what of the rites of labor and birth?36 There are biblical and other West Asian texts that suggest that the father was not present at the time of birth. An example is Jer 20:15: “Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, as follows: ‘A son, a male, is born to you,’ causing him to rejoice greatly.” Another is the high god El learning of the birth of his children Dawn and Dusk from messengers.37 At the same time, a number of texts mention various women, including experts such as the midwife, who might be in attendance (Gen 35:17; 38:28; Exodus 1 passim).38 Though it seems as if labor and birth could be social contexts populated in the main by women and controlled by them under normal circumstances, we ought to keep in mind the cuneiform evidence that suggests that a male expert such as an āšipu (an exorcist) could be summoned to intervene should the labor present problems. In addition, there survives an Old Babylonian legal text from Nippur that suggests that men other than the husband could attend a birth in that particular setting. (The men are witnesses reporting in a legal context on what occurred 2005: 17. See also 38-39 on birth rites. The evidence suggesting that circumcision is a ritual act gendered feminine is slim at best, given that every biblical text but one which speaks of circumcision and mentions an agent casts a male as the performer of the rite. The exception is the odd and enigmatic Exod 4:24-26, which may portray Zipporah as the agent of the child’s circumcision rather than Moses for reasons of plot if it is Moses who is under attack by the deity. For Meyers’s discussion of circumcision, see 2005: 43. 37 The text, “The Birth of the Gracious Gods,” is from Ugarit (CAT 1.23:52-53, 59-60; Parker 1997: 212-213; Smith 2006). See also Stol 2000: 206 n. 14 for a Sumerian text mentioning the father’s absence. 38 For cuneiform evidence regarding midwives and nurses, see Stol, ibid., 171-92. For the evidence of midwifery from Hatti, see Beckman 1983: 232-35. 35 36

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in the house at the time of birth.)39 Furthermore, Robert Ritner notes the Egyptian evidence suggesting the presence and activity of male magicians in birth-related domestic contexts, normally spaces gendered feminine.40 Men other than the father in attendance at a birth or summoned in the event of problems might well have been the norm in some Israelite social contexts, though this remains completely unclear since we know so little. Though caution should be the rule when dealing with such poorly evidenced phenomena, I believe that Meyers is probably correct that labor and birth were socio-ritual settings that were largely the province of women, at least under normal circumstances. In any case, the evidence for labor and birth as gendered socio-ritual contexts is stronger than that of supplication for fertility or lactation. So, with respect to women’s rites in the Israelite family context, what do we really know? From my perspective, less than is often assumed. Though many scholars now believe that one or more goddesses were worshiped in Israelite family (and state) religion, it is in no way clear that women demonstrated any more devotion to them than did men. Nor is it at all evident that the pillar figurines, whatever their function, were utilized exclusively or even primarily by women. Bird’s ethnographically-driven argument in favor of specific, distinct female religious practices such as tomb visits and individual pilgrimages to local shrines is unconvincing in my view, given the absence of textual or material evidence to support it, and also given the extant textual evidence that contradicts it. Distinct female ritual practices might well have been commonplace, but unfortunately, surviving evidence does not allow us to reach very many conclusions regarding them. In my view, the best case that can be made for practices and social contexts gendered feminine is to be found in the sphere of pregnancy and birth, where texts from both Israel and its larger cultural context suggest that men were mainly absent or at best, played secondary ritual roles except, perhaps, in unusual circumstances.

39 40

Stol, ibid., 133-4 on the āšipu’s intervention; 174-75 for the Nippur text. 2008: 177.


saul m. olyan Abbreviations


J. B. Pritchard. Editor. The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament. Second Edition with Supplement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969. Bibliotheca Orientalis M. Dietrich et al. Editors. The Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places (KTU: Second, Enlarged Edition). Münster: Ugarit Verlag, 1995. H. Donner and W. Röllig. Editors. Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften. 4th Edition. 3 Volumes. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1979.

Bibliography Ackerman, S. 2003. “At Home with the Goddess.” Pp. 455-68 in Symbiosis, Symbolism, and the Power of the Past: Canaan, Ancient Israel, and Their Neighbors from the Late Bronze Age through Roman Palaestina, ed. W. G. Dever and S. Gittin. Winona Lake, IN.: Eisenbrauns. Bayliss, M. 1973. “The Cult of Dead Kin in Assyria and Babylonia.” Iraq 35: 115-26. Beck, P. 1982. “The Drawings from Horvat Teiman.” Tel Aviv 9: 3-86. Beckman, G. 1983. Hittite Birth Rituals. 2nd rev. ed. Studien zu den BogazköyTexten 29. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Bird, P. 1987. “The Place of Women in the Israelite Cultus.” Pp. 397-419 in Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, ed. P. D. Miller et al. Philadelphia: Fortress. ———. 1989. “Women’s Religion in Ancient Israel,.” Pp. 283-98 in Women’s Earliest Records: From Ancient Egypt and Western Asia, ed. B. Lesko; Brown Judaic Studies 166. Atlanta: Scholars Press. ———. 1991. “Israelite Religion and the Faith of Israel’s Daughters.” Pp. 97-108 in The Bible and the Politics of Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Norman K. Gottwald on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. David Jobling et al. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press. ———. 1997. “The End of the Male Cult Prostitute: A Literary-Historical and Sociological Analysis of Hebrew QADEŠ-QEDEŠIM.” Pp. 37-80 in Congress Volume: Cambridge 1995, ed. J. Emerton. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 66. Leiden: Brill. Borger, R. 1956. Die Inschriften Asarhaddons Königs von Assyrien. BAfO 9. Graz: Im Selbstverlage des Herausgebers. Collins, J. J. 2005. The Bible after Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Dever, W. G. 2005. Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Keel, O. and Uehlinger, C. 1998. Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel. 1992. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Kletter, R. 1996. The Judean Pillar-Figurines and the Archaeology of Asherah. BAR International Series 636. Oxford: Tempvs Reparatvm. Lewis, T. J. 1998. “Divine Images and Aniconism in Ancient Israel.” JAOS 118: 36-53.

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Marsman, H. J. 2003. Women in Ugarit and Israel: Their Social and Religious Position in the Context of the Ancient Near East. Oudtestamentische Studiën 49. Leiden: Brill. Merlo, P. 1998. La dea Ashratum-athiratu-ashera: Un contributo alla storia della religione semitica del Nord. Mursia: Pontificia Università Lateranense. Meyers, C. 1988. Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context. New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 2005. Households and Holiness: The Religious Culture of Israelite Women. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Moorey, P. R. S. 2003. Idols of the People: Miniature Images of Clay in the Ancient Near East. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Olyan, S. M. 1988. Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel. SBLMS 34. Atlanta: Scholars. ———. 2004. Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Parker, S., ed. 1997. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry. Atlanta: Scholars Press. Parpola, S. and Watanabe, K., eds. 1988. Neo-Assyrian Treaties and Loyalty Oaths. SAA 2. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. Ritner, R. 2008. “Household Religion in Ancient Egypt.” Pp. 171-96 in Household and Family Religion in Antiquity: Contextual and Comparative Perspectives, ed. J. Bodel and S. M. Olyan. Oxford: Blackwell. Smith, Mark S. 2006. The Sacrificial Rituals and Myths of the Goodly Gods, KTU/CAT 1.23: Royal Constructions of Opposition, Intersection, Integration and Domination. Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Studies Series 51. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature; Leiden/Boston: Brill. Stol, M. 2000. Birth in Babylonia and the Bible. Cuneiform Monographs 14. Groningen: Styx. Toorn, K. van der. 1994. “Gods and Ancestors in Emar and Nuzi.” ZA 84: 38-59. ——. 1996. Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria & Israel: Continuity and Change in the Forms of Religious Life. Studies in the History and Culture of the Ancient Near East 7. Leiden: Brill. ——. 2002. “Israelite Figurines: A View from the Texts” Pp. 45-62 in Sacred Time, Sacred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, ed. B. Gittlen. Winona Lake, IN.: Eisenbrauns. Tsukimoto, A. 1985. Untersuchungen zur Totenpflege (kispum) im alten Mesopotamien. AOAT 216. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener; Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker. Zevit, Z. 2001. The Religions of Ancient Israel: A Synthesis of Parallactic Approaches. London and New York: Continuum.

EXPELLING THE DEMON OF EFFEMINACY: ANNIWIYANI’S RITUAL AND THE QUESTION OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN HITTITE THOUGHT* ILAN PELED Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, 52900, Israel [email protected] Abstract The ritual of Anniwiyani drew the attention of scholars for more than eighty years, since its earliest publications. As its aim is not self-evident, various speculations and attempts were made during the years in order to try and comprehend it. The conventional explanations focused on the masculine-feminine dichotomy characterizing the ritual, as the background for its performance. The current paper sets forth a new interpretation, according to which the ritual actually aimed at treating a passive homosexual, in order to turn him into the active party in sexual relations. In light of this new perspective, the paper also seeks to assess the broader question of homosexuality in Hittite thought, as evident from several other textual sources. Keywords: Anniwiyani’s Ritual (CTH 393), masculinity, femininity, passive homosexuality, dLAMMA lulimi- (“LAMMA the effeminate”), dLAMMA innarawant(“LAMMA the manly”)

Outline of the Ritual The text commonly known as “Anniwiyani’s ritual” (CTH 393)1 was first published in a preliminary fashion by Edgar H. Sturtevant in 1927, but only eight years later did a full version of it appear that included transliteration, English translation, and philological commentary.2 The tablet itself is a Sammeltafel prescribing two different * Abbreviations used in this paper are in accordance with those appearing in The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Volume P, vii-xxix. 1 Main cuneiform copy: VBoT 24, published by A. Goetze. 2 Sturtevant and Bechtel 1935: 100-126. For an up-to-date edition and analysis of this text, see Bawanypeck 2005: 51-70. © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156921210X500512


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magical rituals attributed to the same authoress, Anniwiyani, and performed in honor of certain tutelary deities (dLAMMA). The current discussion centers on the first of these rituals (VBoT 24 i-iii 3). The main purpose of the ritual is found in the fifth paragraph of the text (VBoT 24 i 25-29), where a young virgin (DUMU. MUNUS šuppeššara-3) is brought to the house where the ceremony takes place and stands at its entrance. The following then occurs (i 28-29): nu DUMU.MUNUS hal-za-a-i pa-ra-a-wa-kán e-hu dLAMMA lu-li-mi-¢eš Ü ¢aÜn-da-wa-kán dLAMMA in-na-ra-u-wa-an-za ú-iz-zi The girl cries out: “Come out, dLAMMA “the effeminate”! d LAMMA “the manly” will come in!”

The meaning of the appellations of these two deities and the significance of this paragraph as a whole are discussed below. First, however, the ritual’s principal phases will be illustrated for the sake of clarity: The opening lines state the purpose of the ritual performance (i 1-3): UM-MA fA-an-ni-ú-i-ia-ni AMA mAr-ma-ti LÚMUŠEN.DÙ ARAD mhu-u-ur-lu-u ma-a-an dLAMMA lu-li-mi-ia-aš SÍSKUR i-ia-mi nu ki-i da-ah-hi Thus Anniwiyani, mother of Armati the Augur, servant of Hūrlū: When I perform the ceremony of dLAMMA “the effeminate”, I take the following: . . .

The text continues by specifying the magical procedures that are conducted throughout the ritual performance: When evening falls (mahhan nekuzi), blue and red strings of wool are wrapped around the patient’s feet, hands and neck, and also around his bed (firstly around its “four legs”: 4 GIŠpatialēš hantezi palši), chariot, bow, and quiver. It is likely that the patient now goes to sleep. As dawn breaks (mān lukatta), all the strings are collected and taken away. The young virgin is then brought to the house entrance, where she calls for the leaving of dLAMMA “the effeminate” and the arrival of dLAMMA “the manly”. 3 Literally: “a pure girl” (see Moyer 1969: 58-59; Taggar-Cohen 2006: 318 n. 836, with references). For the etymology of this term see Oettinger 1986: 123124. For the occurrence of this phrase in the current text see Sturtevant and Bechtel 1935: 119-120; Bawanypeck 2005: 66.

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During the next scene the ceremony participants4 go to a remote and isolated place (“where a plough does not reach”, [nu k]uwapi GIŠ APIN-aš UL āraškizi), where a makeshift gate is constructed. Identical offerings are made at both sides of the gate, and a sacrifice is offered to dLAMMA “the effeminate”. After performing some more ritual practices, they all pass through the gate. The last person to pass through it demolishes the gate and shouts, while the rest of them run off. Once they have left the place, they block the road behind them5 and head back to town. After receiving a favorable bird-omen they enter the town, and everybody washes up. They leave the town again, and then some more rites take place, including the offering of sacrifices, this time in honor of dLAMMA “the manly”. The considerations presented below are meant to suggest that this ritual was conducted in response to the occurrence of homosexual relations, in which the patient was the passive partner in the homoerotic act. Throughout the ritual performance, it is suggested, the denunciation of passive homosexuality is reflected by the attempt to expel the “effeminate” deity, while the invitation of the “manly” deity “to come in” symbolizes the aspiration to restore the patient’s “manliness”, that is, his sexual behavior as the active party. Previous Suggestions for the Ritual Aims Sturtevant’s original suggestion was to regard the “effeminate” deity as responsible for the delivering of female offspring, and conversely, the “manly” deity as responsible for the delivering of males. He thus suggested that the purpose of the whole ritual was to ensure the birth of male descendants. Later, though, Sturtevant backed down from this interpretation (Sturtevant and Bechtel 1935: 118). It was also rejected by Beckman (1983: 19 n. 87), who rejected even the interpretation of the two deities’ appellations 4 The exact identity of the ceremony participants is rather obscure. Bawanypeck (2005: 196 n. 643, 200) considers the participants to be several augurs along with some other people. My own assumption, however, is that the patient’s community (or at least representative members of it) was involved in the procedures of purification; see further below. 5 Considering the fact that this “blockage” is done using wooden pegs, it was most probably a symbolic one.


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as “effeminate” and “manly”, yet without suggesting an alternative. Pringle (1993: 132) claimed that among the Hittites there was no preference whatsoever for begetting male progeny. In any case, it seems that Sturtevant’s original suggestion has failed to gain acceptance. Hoffner (1987: 282) suggested that the aim of Anniwiyani’s ritual was to restore the patient’s manliness. This suggestion is undoubtedly correct, but at the same time it offers only a partial explanation. Hutter (2003: 229) has made a similar suggestion, viewing the two deities as being “addressed . . . in order to help restore sexuality and strength”, and assuming that the ritual generally aims “to provide fertility” (p. 255). The present considerations, if accepted, present a clearer picture regarding what exactly this “manliness”, “sexuality” and “strength” might involve. Private Sins, Public Denunciation As several scholars have already demonstrated, there are numerous similarities between this ritual and Paškuwatti’s (CTH 406),6 even though the ailment from which the patient in Anniwiyani’s ritual suffers is not explicitly mentioned. The parallels that do seem to exist between the two rituals are the use of colored wool strings; the participation of a virgin girl; and the construction of a makeshift gate in order to perform a symbolic act of transition. No less significant are the mutual dating (LH copy of a MH original) and cultural origins (Luwian) of these two texts. In spite of the similarities between the rituals, some differences can be observed as well, the most notable being the sole patient in Paškuwatti’s ritual in contrast with the involvement, it may be suggested, of the whole community in Anniwiyani’s. The participation of the patient’s community members in the latter is quite 6 See among others Hoffner 1987: 281-282, 287; Bawanypeck 2005: 193-194. The customary view held by scholars is that Paškuwatti’s ritual was meant at treating an impotent man and restoring his potency (Hoffner 1987: 287). However, Miller (see elsewhere in this volume) now suggests that Paškuwatti’s ritual was aimed at treating a passive homosexual, naturally having his own considerations, that differ from the ones expressed throughout the current paper concerning Anniwiyani’s ritual. It cannot be ruled out that the Hittites had at their disposal two different magical rituals intended to achieve the same objective, each employing a different set of techniques. As is well known, multiple rites are documented for a large variety of purposes, such as successful birth, protection against a plague, and royal substitute rituals.

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feasible, as the matter of sexual offence and its cleansing was a social one, relevant to the community as a whole. Sexual misconduct is a kind of human behavior that is most likely to be perceived as detrimental to the surrounding society, hence requiring that society’s active involvement in the purifying measures taken. Hoffner demonstrated long ago that a person committing hurkel7 had defiled his entire community. As a result, the performance of purification rites became necessary, and even in the case where the offending individual was banished (as described in the instructions for the province governors, CTH 261),8 his townsfolk were required to wash themselves thereafter (Hoffner 1973: 85, 90). Indeed, supporting evidence for these assumptions could be seen in two purification rites designed to deal with the sexual offences of incest (CTH 445.C) and bestiality (CTH 456.5). In all likelihood, in both these examples the offender’s community was to be purified following the offence (Hoffner 1973: 87, 89).9 It also seems improbable that a person would voluntarily undergo this kind of ceremony, had it not been the result of pressure imposed upon him by his surrounding community. Not only would the patient face the public humiliation involved, but would also bear the expenses of sacrificial animals and ritual paraphernalia, not to mention the fee surely charged by the practitioner. Then as now, nothing was free of charge . . . Masculinity, Femininity, and a New Interpretation One key to understanding the aim of the ritual might be found in etymology, by trying to decipher the two key-deities’ appellations: dLAMMA lulimi- and dLAMMA innarawant-. As we have seen, Sturtevant translated them as “effeminate”10 and “manly”11 respectively (Sturtevant and Bechtel 1935: 118). But the fact that 7 A term denoting abominable acts of negative sexual nature, cf. HED 3: 401402, Haase 1995: 34-38, Hoffner 1997: 224. 8 nam-ma-za URU-aš EGIR-an-da wa-ar-ap-du (KUB 13.2 iii 14), “Furthermore, may the townsfolk wash themselves thereafter!”, see Hoffner 1973: 85 n. 23. 9 In Hoffner’s 1973 article CTH 445.C is identified as fragment 827/z, whereas CTH 456.5 is identified as fragment KUB 41.11. 10 According to HED: “effeminate” (HED 2: 368) or “passive” (HED 5: 114115); According to CHD: “undesirable quality—e.g., impotence, effeminacy, weakness . . .” (CHD L-N: 82). 11 According to HED: “potent” (HED 2: 368; 5: 114).


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these deities are almost completely absent from any other Hittite text makes translating their appellations almost impossible, and Sturtevant‘s tentative translation remains accepted among most scholars to this day.12 The appellation of dLAMMA innarawant- is relatively easy to comprehend, since its etymological origin seems clear enough, as a cognate of the Luwian stem annaru- (adjective) / annari- (noun): “strong, vigorous” (HED 2: 371-372; Bawanypeck 2005: 185). In the ritual of Zarpiya (CTH 757)13 appear certain innarawantdeities. It can be deduced from the references to them that they were attributed vigorous, masculine, and militant qualities (KUB 9.31 i 37-41): . . . e-eš-ha-[nu-wa-an]-ta ku-e-eš ú-e-eš-ša-an-ta [LÚ].MEŠ lu-u-la-hi-ia-[aš-ša-an] hu-up-ru-uš ku-i-e-eš iš-hi-ia-an-ti-iš IŠ-TU GÍR-ia-aš-ša-an [ku-i]-¢e-eš iš-hu-uz-zi-ia--te-eš GIŠ PANHI.A-aš-ša-an ku-i Ü-[e-eš] hu-u-it-ti-ia-an-ta GIŠ GAG.Ú.TAGHI.A-ia [har-ká]n-zi . . . those who are wearing bloo[die]d(-cloths?); those who are clothed with (uncivilized-)mountain-dwellers’ clothing; [those wh]o are girded with daggers; tho[se who ho]ld drawn bows, and arrows.

Understanding the appellative of dLAMMA lulimi-, on the other hand, proves more complicated, as no clear etymology of the word can be offered. Hence, Sturtevant’s original translation was contextual rather than etymological, and his interpretation of this term was based on the opposition with innarawant-. So as the latter meant “manly”, the former was understood as “effeminate”. Two attempts were nonetheless made in order to solve the problem, and translate the elusive term regardless to its appearance in Anniwiyani’s ritual. Haas translated it as “Hirschgott”, “Stag-deity”, based on Akkadian lulīmum and lulimmu (Haas 1994: 450 Anm. 10), whereas Starke hypothesized it is the participle of the Luwian verb *lulii-, “to prosper” (Starke 1979: 255f.; 1990: 456 Anm. 1654). A similar interpretation and etymology (though different semantic considerations) are offered by Puhvel (HED 5: 115, 127-128). Even though the last-mentioned approach is controversial,14 it accords See McMahon 1991: 49-50. For the editio princeps see Schwartz 1938. For an up-to-date translation see Collins 1997: 162-163. 14 See a different opinion in Melchert 1993: 129. 12 13

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well with the Luwian etymology of innarawant-, as well as with other Luwian characteristics of the text, such as the private names appearing in it. It would not be hard to imagine that in the Hittite mind “prosperity” might be connected with “fertility”, and further with “femininity”. Even if in Anniwiyani’s ritual that femininity is perceived negatively, it is reasonable to assume that femininity is not regarded as negative in its essence, but only when inappropriately applied to men. Hence, a passive homosexual could very well have been regarded by the Hittites as “effeminate”, especially with regard to the role he assumes in the sexual act. Admittedly, etymological considerations can be somewhat “hazardous” and inconclusive. The case of the obscure lulimi- is surely a good example of that. But even if leaving etymology aside, this term’s meaning seems well-established by the contrast with innarawant-. As mentioned above, after the symbolic passage through the gate, and once offerings had been made in honor of the “effeminate” deity, a collective ceremonial bathing takes place—just before a new round of sacrifice starts, this time in honor of the “manly” deity. Crossing through the gate and bathing distinguish between two parts of the ritual, and represent the shift from the impure state the community was in, to a new, proper and desired state. The crucial questions are these: Why is the deity related to the problematic state, from which the people wish to be relieved, “effeminate”? And on the other hand, why is the deity related to the desired state, at which the performance of the whole ritual is aimed, “manly”? The answers to these questions hold the key for decoding the whole text and understanding its meaning. Although a sole patient is mentioned at the beginning of the text, it is suggested here that the ritual is a communal purification rite of a sort: purification from “femininity” or “passivity”, and an attempt at gaining “masculinity” or “virility”. According to the present hypothesis, the ritual comprises two structural parts: the acts involving the patient, and those involving his community. Moreover, a clear distinction is made between the rites performed for the “effeminate” deity and those performed for the “manly” one, a distinction marked by the symbolic passing through the gate and the bathing. Hence, the ritual structure should be divided into two parts, on the basis of the object of the ceremonial activities: the first, in


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which the procedures are aimed at the patient, describes the treatment of the problem the ritual aims to solve, while the second, in which the procedures involve the patient’s community members, describes the purification of those who came in contact with that individual, who was the cause of the problem. Passing through the gate symbolizes not only a shift of focus from one deity to another, but also a shift of focus from the individual to his community. The clear sexual nature of the problem suffered by the patient is evident from the appearance of the virgin and her role in the ritual, and by the nature of items to which the colored wool strings are tied during the patient’s “healing process”, i.e. his chariot, bow, and quiver, all symbols of masculinity in Hittite thought.15 As a rule, the objective of each Hittite ritual is stated in its introduction and/or within its colophon; in Anniwiyani’s ritual, on the other hand, there is no explicit mention of homosexuality. The only explanation for the ritual’s purpose is provided at the beginning of the text (VBoT 24 i 2-3): mān dLAMMA lulimiyaš SÍSKUR iyami When I perform the ceremony of dLAMMA “the effeminate” . . .

The appearance of the “effeminate” deity in the paragraph opening the ritual and explaining its purpose can now be understood as subtle wording indicating that the ritual is aimed at dealing with the “problem” of passive homosexuality, represented by this deity. The ritual, then, was meant to restore the “manliness” of a passive homosexual, and thereafter to purify the members of his community from the defilement caused by his forbidden behavior as the receptive part of the sexual act. Sexual Vice and Passive Homosexuality in Hittite Thought Current knowledge of what was considered by the Hittites as sexual vice derives from several genres of written sources: mythological, juridical (the Hittite laws), prescriptive (such as the instructions for the temple officials), and ritual (purification rites) texts. While two sexual vices, bestiality and incest, are clearly condemned in 15 As demonstrated by Hoffner (1966), even though he did not mention Anniwiyani’s ritual in his review of symbols of masculinity and femininity in Hittite magical rituals.

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these sources, reference to homosexuality seems to be completely absent. An explanation for this fact might be found in the possibility that though not tolerable as a normative behavior pattern, passive homosexuality was, nevertheless, not considered by the Hittites as severe as other sexual offences. Therefore, no official law or instruction prohibiting this conduct was ever decreed, leaving only the less formal means of ritual to deal with it. There is evidence for this kind of phenomenon concerning a different type of sexual misconduct: brother-sister relations. Even though the Hittite Law Code nowhere proscribes such conduct, Šuppiluliuma, in his treaty with Huqqana king of Hayaša (CTH 42), explicitly states that in Hatti a person having sexual relations with his sister is put to death. Such relations are also condemned as a severe sin in the Zalpa tale (CTH 3), where it is termed “natta āra”, “not right”, “inappropriate”.16 Most importantly, brothersister relations are considered hurkel in the fragmentary magical ritual colophon CTH 445 (IBoT 2.117 iv 1’-3’ // KBo 12.115 rev. 1’-4’): DUB.1.KAM! QA-TI ma-a-an UN-aš h[(ur-ki-il i-ia-zi)] nu-za DUMU.MUNUS-ŠU NIN[-Š(U AMA-ŠU da-a-i)] nu-za ki-i da[-ah-hi . . .] First tablet, complete. If a person commits hurkel, (as) he takes (=sexually) his daughter, [h]is sister (or) his mother: [ I ] ta[ke] the following: . . .

Here brother-sister sexual relations are defined as “hurkel ”, a term commonly translated as “abomination” and usually ascribed by the Hittites to the worst conduct, violating of the most fundamental taboos existing in their society. The Hittite code of laws included numerous prohibitions on incest and kin-relations; yet brother-sister relations, here severely defined as “hurkel”, was not one of them. The negative attitude the Hittites might indeed have held with regard to passive homosexuality can be seen in the “Siege of Uršu” text (CTH 7),17 where the Hittite king, furious at his commanders’

For a study of this term and its implications see Cohen 2002. For an edition and a discussion of this text see Beckman 1995; Miller 1999: 44-45. 16 17


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lack of ability to conquer an enemy city, upbraids them as follows (KBo 1.11 rev. 13): . . . i-na-an-na ku-la-ú-tam te-pu-uš . . . now you have performed (behavior of ) kulu’u!

The king then repeats this accusation (KBo 1.11 rev. 17-18): . . . ku-li-e-eš-šar MU.IM.MA mTu-ut-ha-li-ia i-pu-uš i-na-an-na at-ta te-pu-uš ku-la-ú-tam Last year18 Tudhaliya performed kuleššar; now you have performed (behavior of ) kulu’u!

From this quotation it is understood that the Hittite term kuleššar is analogous to the Akkadian phrase kula’ūtam epēšum, “behave as kulu’u”.19 The kulu’u was a Mesopotamian cultic official that may have been a eunuch or a homosexual. The term’s exact nature is still open for debate, but it is certain that he was a male fulfilling an effeminate role in the cult of Ištar (CAD A (II): 341; Bottéro 1992: 191; Guinan 1997: 469). Bottéro (1992: 191) even went as far as to claim that the kulu’u (alongside a few other cultic functionaries) was regarded as the passive partner in homosexual love. As both Puhvel (HED 4: 303) and Hoffner (2000: 75) have demonstrated, Hittite kuleššar, deriving from “ku(wa)liya-”, should be interpreted as “be calm(ed), be passive”.20 This may therefore provide implicit evidence suggesting that the allegation of male passivity, equated with passive homosexuality, may constitute an insult, since it is perceived as a demonstration of behavior contrary to what is expected from the manly warrior. As Hoffner (2000: 75) wrote concerning “the male homosexual in the Uršum story”, “If idleness or passivity is the reason for describing a male homosexual’s activity as kuleššar, I would think he was the passive partner”. Another suggestion relating to the attitude toward passive homosexuality in Hatti was made by Puhvel, as part of his interpretation of another ritual text, the ritual of Zuwi (CTH 412).21 In Puhvel’s view (1986: 153-154; HED 3: 401), certain “hurkel-people” For this translation of the phrase MU.IM.MA see Beckman 1995: 30. On this issue see also Otten and von Soden 1968: 24. 20 It should be noted, however, that Beckman and Miller have translated this term in a somewhat different manner: “hesitation” (Beckman 1995: 26), or “procrastination” (Miller 1999: 44, 45). 21 For the editio princeps of this text see Giorgieri 1990. 18 19

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appearing in the text were men blamed for passive homosexuality, a misconduct for which they were sentenced to death. In order to be spared the death penalty, they were required to prove their manliness by overcoming certain animals. Puhvel’s speculation has been rejected by some scholars, mainly because of the lack of supporting evidence (Hutter 2000: 103 n. 30); but in light of the suggestions offered in this paper, it might be worth reconsidering these objections as well. Conclusions The text discussed throughout the current paper, Anniwiyani’s ritual, seems to be most suggestive with regard to the question of Hittite attitudes to (passive-)homosexuality. Several excerpts from other Hittite texts, shown above, might contribute further evidence illuminating this issue. As much as it could be evaluated, the concept of passive homosexuality among the Hittites seems to have borne a different significance than that found within the cultural framework of present-day Western society. Today, when homosexuality is perceived negatively, it is due to it being viewed as an “abnormal” behavior performed by both individuals (that is, both penetrator and penetrated are condemned), while what was conceived as detrimental in the Hittite mind was not necessarily the homoerotic relations per se, but the effeminate behavior of a male person. In other words, the penetrator seems not to have been condemned at all, since he “did what he was supposed to do”. The attitude to homosexuality in the Hittite society has never been fully evaluated, primarily because of the alleged lack of information pertaining to it. It is hoped that the hypothesis presented here may contribute to the research of Hittite sexuality, and allow us a better understanding of this fascinating aspect of their society. Bibliography Bawanypeck, D. 2005. Die Rituale der Auguren (THeth 25). Heidelberg. Beckman, G.M. 1983. Hittite Birth Rituals (StBoT 29). Wiesbaden. ———. 1995. The Siege of Uršu Text (CTH 7) and Old Hittite Historiography. JCS 47: 23-34.


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Bottéro, J. 1992. Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods. Chicago, Illinois. Cohen, Y. 2002. Taboos and Prohibitions in Hittite Society: A Study of the Hittite Expression Natta Ara (‘not permited’) (THeth 24). Heidelberg. Collins, B.J. 1997. Zarpiya’s Ritual. In: Hallo, W.W. (ed.) The Context of Scripture. Vol. I: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World. Leiden: 162-163. Giorgieri, M. 1990. Il rituale di Zuwi (CTH 412) (PhD dissertation, Pavia University). Pavia. Guinan, A.K. 1997. Auguries of Hegemony: The Sex Omens of Mesopotamia. Gender & History 9 (3): 462-479. Güterbock, H.G., Hoffner, H.A. Jr., and van den Hout, Th.P.J. (eds.) 1980-. CHD. Chicago, Illinois. Haas, V. 1994. Geschichte der hethitischen Religion. Leiden. Haase, R. 1995. Beobachtungen zur hethitischen Rechtssatzung: nebst einem bibliographischen Anhang. Leonberg. Hoffner, H.A. Jr. 1966. Symbols of Masculinity and Femininity: Their Use in Ancient Near Eastern Sympathetic Magic Rituals. JBL 85: 326-334. ———. 1973. Incest, Sodomy and Bestiality in the Ancient Near East. In: Hoffner, H.A. Jr. (ed.) Orient and Occident. Essays Presented to Cyrus H. Gordon on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday. Kevelaer: 81-90. ———. 1987. Paškuwatti’s Ritual against Male Impotence. Aula Orientalis 5: 271-287. ———. 1997. The Laws of the Hittites: A Critical Edition. Leiden. ———. 2000. Thoughts on a New Volume of a Hittite Dictionary. JAOS 120(1): 68-75. Hutter, M. 2000. Tiere als Materia Magica im Ritual der Zuwi (CTH 412). In: Arbeitman, Y.L. (ed.) The Asia Minor Connexion: Studies on the Pre-Greek Languages in Memory of Charles Carter. Leuvan: 95-106. ———. 2003. Chapter Six: Aspects of Luwian Religion. In: Melchert, H.C. (ed.) The Luwians (HbOr I/68). Leiden: 211-280. McMahon, G. 1991. The Hittite State Cult of the Tutelary Deities (AS 25). Chicago, Illinois. Melchert, H.C. 1993. Cuneiform Luvian Lexicon (Lexica Anatolica vol. 2). Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Miller, J.L. 1999. The Expeditions of Hattušili I to the Eastern Frontiers: A Study in the Historical Geography and Internal Chronology of the Great King’s Campaigns (M.A. thesis, Tel Aviv University). Tel Aviv. Moyer, J.C. 1969. The Concept of Ritual Purity among the Hittites (PhD dissertation, Brandeis University). Ann Arbor, Michigan. Oettinger, N. 1986. Avestisch harisi- “Frau” syn- und diachron. IF 91: 116-128. Otten, H. and von Soden, W. 1968. Das akkadisch-hethitische Vokabular KBo I 44 + KBo XIII 1 (StBoT 7). Wiesbaden. Peter, H. 2004. Götter auf Erden: Hethitische Rituale aus Sicht historischer Religionsanthropologie (Lund Studies in African and Asian Studies 14). Stockholm. Pringle, J. 1993. Hittite Birth Rituals. In: Cameron, A. and Kuhrt, A. (eds.) Images of Women in Antiquity. London: 128-141. Puhvel, J. 1984-. HED. Berlin. ———. 1986. Who were the Hittite hurkilas pesnes? In: Etter, A. (ed.) o-o-pe-ro-si. Festschrift für Ernst Risch zum 75. Geburtstag. Berlin: 151-155. Schwartz, B. 1938. The Hittite and Luwian Ritual of Zarpiya of Kezzuwatna. JAOS 58(2): 334-353. Starke, F. 1979. Zu den hethitischen und luwischen Verbalabstrakta auf -šha-. ZVS 93: 247-261.

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———. 1990. Untersuchung zur Stammbildung des keilschrift-luwischen Nomens (StBoT 31). Wiesbaden. Sturtevant, E.H. 1927. A Hittite Tablet in the Yale Babylonian Collection. TAPA 58: 5-31. Sturtevant, E.H. and Bechtel, G. 1935. A Hittite Chrestomathy. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Taggar-Cohen, A. 2006. Hittite Priesthood (THeth 26). Heidelberg.

PASKUWATTI’S RITUAL: REMEDY FOR IMPOTENCE OR ANTIDOTE TO HOMOSEXUALITY? JARED L. MILLER Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, D-80539, München, Germany [email protected] Abstract The Hittite composition known as Paskuwatti’s Ritual (CTH 406) has long been understood as a rite designed to help a man to overcome sexual impotence. The present paper, in contrast, attempts to demonstrate that it is more convincingly interpreted as an antidote to homosexual behavior, apparently seeking to cure its patient of his proclivity for passive sexual acquiescence and to replace it with an inclination toward normative male, i.e. penetrative behavior. Keywords: cuneiform, Hittite, ritual, homosexuality, impotence, Paskuwatti

Paskuwatti’s Ritual (CTH 406), one of dozens of Hittite language ritual prescriptions from the cuneiform archives of attusa,1 the capital of the ancient Hittite empire, has long been understood as a ritual designed to help a man to overcome sexual impotence. Goetze (1950) labeled the composition a “Ritual against Impotence” for his translation, while Laroche (1971: 72) similarly referred to it in his catalogue as “contre l’impuissance sexuelle”. Also Hoffner (1987), who provided the first proper edition with full commentary, finally placing the text upon a solid philological basis, dubbed it a “ritual against sexual impotence”.2 His edition serves as the basis for the present discussion. Similarly, Moyer (1983: 27) describes it as a ritual to be enacted “when 1 For current translations of a variety of Hittite ritual texts, see Kümmel (1987), Collins (1997), García Trabazo (2002), Miller (2008); for an online Konkordanz of the ritual texts from attusa, see under CTH, Nos. 390-500. B.J. Collins is currently preparing a comprehensive volume of Hittite ritual texts for the Writings from the Ancient World series of the Society of Biblical Literature. 2 Similarly, e.g. García Trabazo (2002) 447-449; Peter (2004: 197); Mouton (2007: 129); Hutter (2003: 237).

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156921210X500521


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a man is sterile or possesses no desire for women”, comparing it to the similar rites and incantations found in KBo 2.9+ i 25-30 (CTH 716; Ritual and Prayer to Ištar of Nineveh), which he, not entirely without reason, suggests “is designed to destroy the masculinity and military capability of the enemy troops” (ibid. 28).3 The present considerations, in contrast, aim to show that the composition is more convincingly interpreted as an antidote to homosexual behavior,4 apparently seeking to cure its patient of his proclivity for passive sexual acquiescence and to replace it with an inclination toward normative male behavior, i.e. penetrative behavior, without excluding the aspect, noted by Moyer among others, of restoring the patient’s supposedly inadequate masculinity and eradicating his perceived femininity.5 The most suggestive passage from Paskuwatti’s Ritual in this regard is from §4. The ritualist places the feminine symbols spindle and distaff in the patient’s hand, he walks under a gate she has constructed of reeds, the ritualist takes the spindle and distaff away from him, giving him the masculine symbols bow and arrow, whereupon she says 3 He translates the passage, following Hoffner (1966: 331), “Take from (their) men masculinity, prowess, robust health, swords(?), battle-axes, bows, arrows, and dagger(s)! And bring them to Hatti! Place in their hands the spindle and mirror of a woman! Dress them as women! Put on their (heads) the kuressar! And take away from them your favor!” ((i 25)n=asta ANA LÚMEŠ ar a LÚNÍTA-tar tar uilatar (26) addulatar mālla GIŠTUKUL I.A GIŠBAN I.A GIŠGAG.Ú.TAG.GA I.A (27)GÍR dā n=at INA URU atti uda apedas=ma=kan ŠU-i (28)ŠA MUNUS-TI GIŠū lali GIŠ uisann=a dāi (29)nu=uš MUNUSnili wēssiya nu=smas=kan TÚGkuressar sāi (30)nu=smas=kan tuēl assul ar a dā) For discussion of kuressar, “cut of cloth, length (or width) of fabric”; “(woman’s) head-dress”, see HED K, 262ff. 4 Apparently Simone Lamante, Berlin/Firenze, has independently come to similar conclusions (pers. comm.). Moreover, I. Singer, who was kind enough to read a draft of this paper, pointed me to a discussion on Yahoo’s “Ancient Near East 2” discussion group in which Liz Fried of Ann Arbor expresses similar views. She writes (No. 10241; 19 Mar. 2009): “The Hittite Ritual Against Impotence is ‘for a man who has no desire for women’ (ANET p. 349). One phrase says: ‘See! I have taken womanliness away from you and given you back manliness. You have cast off the ways of a woman, now [show] the ways of a man.’ I mentioned once to a gay friend of mine that there was a Hittite incantation against homosexuality and I’ll never forget his immediate reply: ‘Does it work?’ ” 5 Paskuwatti’s Ritual has long been known to show quite a number of lexical, conceptual and typological similarities with Anniwiyani’s Ritual, so that their similarities encompass more than their common objective; and in fact, Ilan Peled presents in this issue an article in which he details his view that Anniwiyani’s Ritual should be understood as a ritual against passive homosexual behavior. Their undeniable similarities thus may render potentially convincing argumentation for either one of them being interpreted as an antidote to homosexual behavior more likely to apply to the other as well.

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to him, “I myself 6 have taken femininity away from you and given masculinity back to you. You have cast off the behavior [of a woman] and you [have taken] up the b[eha]vior of a man.”7 Such a rite, it may be suggested, would seem to make little sense if the ritual aims at restoring the man’s ability “to sustain an erection and consummate the act of intercourse”, as Hoffner (p. 287) supposes. The inability to sustain an erection is hardly a feminine trait to be taken away from the patient. No, the taking away of the patient’s feminine inclinations likely refers to something else. The passage seems considerably more sensible when viewed in light of the possibility that the ritual aims at curbing the patient’s passive homosexual inclination. He is to cast off what is generally viewed in traditional cultures as the expected sexually passive behavior of women, i.e. allowing oneself to be penetrated by a man, and to assume the active or aggressive role of the proper, dominant man, who is supposed to be the penetrator. Hoffner’s (p. 277, 283) translation of and commentary to saklai-, “expected (sexual) behavior”, also “custom; law”, is spot on, but he does not assess the relevance of the term in the context of the rites performed. It would seem odd to refer to a man’s failure to sustain an erection or ejaculate as saklai-, “behavior; custom”. One might expect it to be deemed in the Hittite conceptual world perhaps an “illness” (inan), “curse” ( urtai-), “impurity, contamination, defect” (papratar) or “evil matter” (idalu uttar). The use of the term saklai- is perfectly understandable, however, if it refers to the patient’s habit of engaging in homosexual encounters. One could, of course, conceivably interpret the ritual as Moyer does (see above), as a rite to restore the patient’s masculinity and eradicate his feminine traits,8 and this may very well be part of the intention. The context, however, is quite different from that quoted by Moyer from the Prayer to Ištar of Nineveh (see n. 3), where it is clearly a matter of feminizing and thereby weakening a military threat while transferring the enemy’s masculine military prowess to the soldiers of atti.9 In Paskuwatti’s Ritual the intention seems, to the contrary, judging from the incipit, to aim at remedying the patient’s lack of

6 Following E. Rieken’s (2009) interpretation of kasa and kasma as lexemes of speaker/near and hearer/middle deixis, respectively; cf. GrHL §§24.27-24.30. 7 (i 26) [k]āsa=wa=ta=kkan MUNUS-tar ar a da un (27)nu=wa=tta EGIR-pa LÚ-tar pe un nu=wa=[za MUNUS-as?] (28)saklin ar a namma pessiy[a]t (29)nu=wa=za sarā LÚ-as s[ak]lin [datta]. 8 For recent discussion of this dichotomy, see Hutter (2003: 260f.). 9 Similarly Yakar and Taffet (2007: 783).


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reproductive success and lack of desire for or competence regarding the opposite sex.10 This dominant male behavior, as opposed to passive female behavior, may perhaps also be the intention of the metaphor in §8, where the ritualist entreats Uliliyassi,11 the goddess who is to alleviate the patient’s malady, to “Turn your maidservant over to him, and he will become a yoke”12 (similarly §14). A yoke, of course, is a heavy implement forced upon its object in order to control and dominate it, an attitude that the patient is to henceforth adopt, perhaps as opposed to being the passive partner controlled and dominated himself. Hoffner, in fact, was able to interpret the metaphor in a similar fashion within the traditional conception of the purpose of the ritual, suggesting that “the yoke in Hittite . . . symbolized domination. An impotent husband lost his wife’s respect. And conversely, in order to produce children through his wife, the husband has to dominate; she must bear his yoke” (p. 286). This may perhaps have been an element of the conceptions in the minds of those involved in the ritual, but of course it is not the case that the husband must dominate his wife in order to impregnate her. And while it may be true that an impotent husband runs the risk of losing his wife’s respect, it is not inevitably the case that a man who plays a more passive role toward his wife loses her respect, and even if he does, this must not necessarily impair the couple’s reproductive success. The metaphor of the yoke therefore seems more fitting if one assumes the text to be a remedy for homosexual behavior, and especially for the passive role. A further suggestive passage is found in §5, in which the ritualist continues her incantation, referring to the patient’s apparent failure to find any interest in a virgin girl sent to him for the purpose, saying, “She?13 went down to his? loins,14 but this mortal (is) one of shit, one

10 “Thus (speaks) Paskuwatti, woman of Arzawa, who is, [however], in Parassa: ‘If a man lacks progeny/fecundity ( assatar) or is not a man vis-à-vis a woman’ ” ((i 1)UMMA fPaskuwatti MUNUS URUArzawa eszi=[ma=ss]an (2)INA URUParassa mān LÚ-ni kuedani as[s]atar (3)NU.GÁL nasma=as MUNUS-ni mena anda U[L L]Ú-as). 11 For thoughts on the nature of this deity, see most recently Hutter (2003: 238, with references to further literature). 12 (ii 7) nu=ssi GÉME-KA maniya8) )n=as=za GIŠiyugan kisari. 13 Hoffner (p. 277; similarly Melchert 2003: 283) translates “He went down to her . . .”, which is not impossible, but the subject is likely, though not necessarily, the virgin of the previous, unfortunately largely lost clause, while the change in subject likely comes with “this mortal”. Cf. also CHD Š, 41a. 14 For antaka-, “loins”, see Melchert (2003).

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of piss.”15 This phrase or slur is taken by Hoffner again as a “description of his impotence” (p. 284) and as language intended to make it clear that “the patient’s complaint was that he was unable to sustain an erection and consummate the act of intercourse. His problem then was not infertility (insufficient sperm), but impotence” (p. 287). This interpretation can presumably not be excluded. It is conceivable that such a slur might be used in referring to an impotent man. Perhaps “one of piss” would in this case refer to the man’s inability to accomplish anything with his penis other than urinating. It is not entirely apparent, however, why an impotent man might be “one of shit”. As a slur against a homosexual or homosexual behavior it would seem to make more sense, “one of shit” perhaps referring to one who engages in anal intercourse. Granted, with this interpretation it may be more difficult to come up with an explanation for “one of piss”. One possibility might perhaps be derived from Melchert’s attractive suggestion (2001: 406-408; 2003: 283), according to which the red-white color symbolism found in §4 would refer to sexual union and fertility, red symbolizing feminine blood, white signifying male semen. If this is indeed the case, then shit and piss might represent a contrast with the symbols of reproductive sexuality, i.e. Melchert’s heterosexually productive red and white vis-à-vis a hypothetical homosexually inert brown and yellow. The suggestion, of course, must remain entirely tentative until confirmed or invalidated by further evidence or considerations. A further term that must be discussed in the light of the foregoing considerations is the word assatar in obv. i 2. Hoffner translated “reproductive power”, a meaning the word can certainly denote. As he himself relates (p. 282-283), however, the word has a rather wide semantic range, and it is not unlikely that the meaning chosen by Hoffner and previous researchers may have been influenced by their assumption that the ritual was dealing with male impotence. If one considers what one should translate beginning from the hypothesis that the ritual might be intended to remedy homosexual behavior, one might opt for a translation “progeny” or “family”. The lack of any offspring would, of course, have been one of the major reasons why homosexual behavior might have been taboo. An emphasis on reproduction as an element of blessedness and success is thoroughly

15 (i 34) . . . nu=wa=ssi=kan andakitti=ssi (35)kattanta pait nu=wa kās tantukesnas DUMU-as saknas sie unas.



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attested in the Hittite texts and is naturally a universal cultural constant derived directly from biological necessity. The final passage that might conceivably, but not necessarily, be more readily interpreted in light of the suggested hypothesis is the incubation episode of §15,16 where one reads, “The patient goes to sleep, and whether he sees the goddess bodily (tuēkki=ssi) in a dream, (whether) he goes down to/with her (katti=ssi paizzi) and he sleeps with her, throughout the three days during which [I] entr[eat] the goddess he reports whatever dreams he sees, whether the goddess shows her eyes to him (or) whether the goddess lies down with him”.17 It seems that the dreams predicted to indicate the success of the rites might be thought to reveal whether the man has developed a desire for women, perhaps as opposed to his previously demonstrated desire for a male partner. There seems to be little indication that the dreams are to be interpreted as indicating the patient’s successfully attaining an erection and ejaculation. A patient’s failure to maintain an erection does not by any means indicate that he has no desire for sex with a woman—to the contrary, men with erectile dysfunction often enough have a strong desire for sex, including heterosexual encounters, as amply attested by the financial success of Viagra—so it would perhaps have made little difference if the patient dreamed of a woman or a goddess if his problem was one of impotence.18 If one assumes that the patient had a tendency to be attracted to and seek out male partners, however, the ritualist might have supposed that his dreaming of a sexual encounter with a woman or a goddess should indicate his reform and thus the success of her ritual practices. The indications in the text are not wholly unequivocal; otherwise the hypothesis suggested in this paper surely would have been forwarded long ago. It does seem, however, that a reasonably convincing case can be made for the proposition that a number of passages can be more readily interpreted in light of the assumption that the ritual is intended as an antidote to (especially passive) homosexual behavior 16 For discussion on the dream elements in the ritual see Mouton (2007; 70-74, 129-141 and passim). 17 (iv 1) nu=za BĒL SÍSKUR seszi (2)nu=za=kan mān DINGIR-LU4 zas iya (3)tuēkki=ssi auszi katti=ss[i] (4)paizzi n=as=si katti=ssi seszi (5)kuitman=ma DINGIR-LU4 INA UD.3.KAM=ma mug[āmi] (6)nu=za=kan zas imus kuiēs uskezz[i] (7)n=as memiskezzi mān=si DINGIR-LU4 (8) IGI I.A-wa parā tekkusnuskezz[i] (9)nu=ssi mān DINGIR-LU4 katti=ssi (10)seszi. 18 It may have been the case, of course, that erectile dysfunction would have been associated in the Hittite mind with a lack of desire for a feminine object. Indeed, such errant associations are hardly a foreign element among accepted views regarding sexual mores in any given society.

paskuwatti’s ritual


rather than as traditionally understood, as a remedy for erectile and/ or ejaculatory dysfunction. Bibliography Collins, B.J. 1997. Rituals, in: W.W. Hallo (ed.), The Context of Scripture. Vol. I. Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, Leiden, New York, Köln: 160-177. García Trabazo, J.V. 2002. Textos religiosos hititas. Mitos, plegarias y rituales (Biblioteca de Ciencias Bíblicas y Orientales 6), Madrid. Goetze, A. 1950. Hittite Rituals, Incantations, and Description of Festival, in: J.B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton: 346-361. Hoffner, H.A. Jr. 1966. Symbols of Masculinity and Femininity: Their Use in Ancient Near Eastern Sympathetic Magic Rituals. JBL 85: 326-334. ———. 1987. Paškuwatti’s Ritual against Sexual Impotence (CTH 406). Aula Orientalis 5: 271-287. Hutter, M. 2003. Chapter Six: Aspects of Luwian Religion. In: H.C. Melchert (ed.) The Luwians (HbOr I/68). Leiden: 211-280. Kümmel, H.M. 1987. Rituale in hethitischer Sprache, in: Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments II/2. Religiöse Texte, Gütersloh: 282-292. Laroche, E. 1971. Catalogue des textes hittites. Paris. Melchert, H.C. 2001. A Hittite Fertility Rite? StBoT 45: 404-409. ———. 2003. Hittite antaka- “loins” and an Overlooked Myth about Fire. In: G. Beckman, R. Beal and G. McMahon, eds. Hittite Studies in Honor of Harry A. Hoffner Jr. on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Winona Lake, Ind. Eisenbrauns: 281-287. Miller, J.L. 2008. Rituale. In: B. Janowski, and G. Wilhelm (edd.), Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments, Neue Folge, Band 4: Omina, Orakel, Rituale und Beschwörungen. Gütersloher Verlag. Gütersloh: 206-229. Mouton, A. 2007. Rêves hittites: Contribution à une histoire et une anthropologie du rêve en Anatolie ancienne. (CHANE 28). Leiden-Boston. Moyer, J.C. 1983. Hittite and Israelite Cultic Practices: A Selected Comparison. In: W.W. Hallo, Moyer & L.G. Pardue (edd.), Scripture in Context II. More Essays on the Comparative Method (Winona Lake, Eisenbrauns, 1983), pp. 19-38. Peter, H. 2004. Götter auf Erden: Hethitische Rituale aus Sicht historischer Religionsanthropologie (Lund Studies in African and Asian Studies 14). Stockholm. Rieken, E. 2009. kaša, kašma, kašatta: Drei verkannte deiktische Partikeln des Hethitischen. In: E. Rieken and P. Widmer, eds. Pragmatische Kategorien. Form, Funktion und Diachronie. Akten der Arbeitstagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, Marburg, 24.-26. September 2007, Wiesbaden: 265-273. Yakar, J. and Taffet, A. 2007. The Spiritual Connotations of the Spindle and Spinning: Selected Cases from Ancient Anatolia and Neighboring Lands. In: M. Alparslan, M. Doğan-Alparslan and H. Peker, eds. VITA: Festschrift in Honor of Belkıs Dinçol and Ali Dinçol. Ankara: 781-788.

“BECAUSE FOR A LONG TIME (THE GODS OF ZALPA) HAVE BEEN IGNORED . . . HENCE THESE OFFERINGS IN THIS WAY DO WE DONATE”. NEW CELEBRATIONS IN THE ZALPUWA LAND CARLO CORTI1 Università degli Studi di Firenze, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, Dipartimento di Studi storici e geografici, Via S. Gallo 10, 50129 Firenze, Italy [email protected] Abstract In this contribution a new group of documents, individualized by the writer, is introduced. It is connected to the ancient city of Zalpa on the Black Sea and is entitled “Celebrations in the Zalpuwa Land” (CTH 667): the religious ceremonies described, as well as several participants and the majority of the places mentioned in these tablets, don’t find parallel in Hittite documentation known to us. On the basis of the analyzed elements, it is proposed to assign the colophon of the funerary ritual for the sovereign, IBoT 2.130 to these texts; moreover, it is held that, unlike the scenario that up until now has been reconstructed, the region of Zalpa was recovered once again by the Hittites in the imperial period. Keywords: Hittite Empire, celebrations, Hittite Gods, funerary ritual, political history

The present article is one of a series2 that introduces and anticipates my monograph, dedicated to the textual evidence regarding 1 I wish to thank Prof. G. Wilhelm for allowing me to publish Bo 2076/g and for collating certain texts conserved in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara; Prof. F. Pecchioli Daddi and Prof. T. van den Hout for their useful suggestions and for reading the manuscript. I am also grateful to Dr. R. Akdogˇ an, Drs. Metin and Meltem Alparslan, Prof. J. Miller and Dr. G. Torri for the collation and photographs of some fragments. This last scholar gave me, kindly, useful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. 2 C. Corti “I frammenti minori di CTH 3: ipotesi di interpretazione testuale”, in: S. de Martino—F. Pecchioli Daddi (eds.), Anatolia Antica. Studi in memoria di Fiorella Imparati, Eothen 11, Firenze 2002, 171-180; Id. “Il racconto delle origini: alcune riflessioni sul testo di Zalpa” in: F. Pecchioli Daddi—M. C. Guidotti (eds.), Narrare gli eventi. Atti del Convegno degli egittologi e degli orientalisti italiani in margine alla mostra “La

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156921210X500530


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Zalpa/Zalpuwa on the Black Sea and surrounding territories, which will be published shortly; on this occasion, some issues, regarding religious subjects will be analysed. When addressing the topic related to the region of Zalpa on the Black Sea from a religious and cultural point of view, one must point out that the archive of Hattuša neither conserved nor supplied ample textual documentation as is the case with other holy cities in the northern area, among which, for example, the important center of Nerik.3 In fact, if we exclude a few generic references in various textual typologies,4 the only group of tablets entirely dedicated to officiated celebrations in the “Kingdom of Zalpa” is the CTH 733 “Invocations à des divinités hatties: langue des dieux, langue des hommes”; but, as has been verified for some time now, the invocations are documents of clear old Hittite tradition which after this phase, if we exclude the duplicates from the Imperial epoch written down for archival reasons, were never used again for liturgical purposes. In addition to CTH 733, there are traces of ritual celebrations connected with the Zalpa area that are documented by some fragments discussed by Forlanini5 and Popko.6

battaglia di Qadesh”, StAs 3, Roma 2005, 113-121. Now see also my paper “The Religious Traditions of the ‘Zalpa Kingdom’. New Edition of CTH 733 and related Documents”, read at the 7th International Congress of Hittitology in Çorum, 25-29 August 2008, in which I also introduced, among other arguments, what is discussed in this article. 3 On the city of Nerik, in addition to the fundamental book of V. Haas, Der Kult von Nerik, Rom 1970, see now the contributions of C. Corti, “ attušili III e la gestione del culto nella città santa di Nerik (I)”, in: C. Mora— P. Piacentini (eds.), L’ufficio e il documento. I luoghi, i modi, gli strumenti dell’amministrazione in Egitto e nel Vicino Oriente antico, QA 83 (Milano 2006), 313-329; Id., “Hattušili III. and the Cult Management of the Holy City of Nerik (II)” in: F. Pecchioli Daddi— G. Torri—C. Corti (eds.), Central-North Anatolia in the Hittite Period. New Perspectives in the Light of Recent Research, StAs 5, Roma 2009, 13-23; J. Klinger, “Zalpa, Nerik und Hakmiš—die Bedeutung der nördlichen Peripherie Zentralanatoliens in hethitischer Zeit”, in: G. Wilhelm (ed.), Hattusa-Bogazköy. Das Hethiterreich im Spannungsfeld des Alten Orients, CDOG 6, Wiesbaden 2009, 277-290; Id., “The Cult of Nerik—Revisited”, StAs 5, 97-107; all works with bibliographical references. 4 For a list see G. B. Holland—M. Zorman, The Tale of Zalpa. Myth, Morality, and Coherence in a Hittite Narrative, StMed 19, Pavia 2007, 68-70. 5 M. Forlanini, “Die ‘Götter von Zalpa’. Hethitische Götter und Städte am Schwarzen Meer”, ZA 74 (1984), 245-266, in particular 253-258. 6 M. Popko, “Zu den Göttern von Zalpa”, in: M. Mazoyer—O. Casabonne (eds.), Studia Anatolica et Varia. Mélange offerts au Professeur René Lebrun (Vol. II), Paris 2004, 241-252.

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Scholars maintain that these texts were written down during the late Imperial phase without direct links with the ancient cults of Zalpa; it would seem then that they are elaborations connected to the reorganization of the cults in the northern area, not tied to either the ancient invocations of Hattian tradition or to the concrete—and more recent—cult practices in the territory, in so much as the region of Zalpa was lost by the Hittites at the end of the old Kingdom and never re-conquered again.7 Bearing this in mind, I would like to present a new reconstruction of these celebrations drawing from sources entered under various catalog numbers, in particular, under CTH 648, “festivals celebrated by the DUMU”, already analyzed in part by scholars, as well as from sources catalogued under CTH 470 (magical rituals), CTH 530 (cult inventories), CTH 670 (festival fragments) and CTH 832 (fragments of unknown attribution) which could be identified thanks to some peculiarities of the tablets like the toponyms, divine names, lexicon and the palaeographic characteristics. This analysis allows for the identification of five new fragments, four of which definitely constitute joins. After taking a considerable number of specimens and placing them in a logical sequence to reconstruct a coherent festive celebration, I think it is opportune to assign them to a new CTHnumber: CTH A B C D E F G

667 “Celebrations in the Zalpuwa Land”8 IBoT 2.9 + KUB 52.102 KUB 59.31 KUB 57.82 KUB 59.30 + Bo 6977 (+)? VBoT 130 KUB 58.32 (+)? KUB 59.17+ Bo 3194 (+)? KUB 52.103 Bo 5126 + Bo 5631 (+) KBo 13.79 KUB 57.84

By comparing the moments in which various testimonies run parallel, it is possible to identify at least three main versions: one with very narrow columns,9 documented by IBoT 2.9 + KUB 52.102 and KUB 57.84; another with two columns, much larger than the 7 See M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 261; G. Del Monte, “Rec. a KUB 58”, OA 28 (1989), 164-165 (Nr. 32). See also M. Popko, “Zu den Göttern von Zalpa”, 241, 249-250, who maintains, on the basis of a partial reconstruction, that the fragments make reference to the restoration of the cult implemented during the late imperial period and influenced by elements clearly connected to the southern tradition. 8 The new fragments and joins discovered by me are in bold script. 9 On average 12-13 signs per line.


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previous one;10 and, finally, a third version testified by KUB 59.30+ with one column only because it contains in three lines that which the parallels develop in six; for the same reason, VBoT 130 might also be part of this tablet. It must be noted that the beginning of the festival, as documented in IBoT 2.9 + KUB 52.102 obv. I, does not correspond with what we find in obv. I of KUB 58.32. This means that the festival was probably described on more than one tablet—a thought which lacks decisive proof in that the colophons are not preserved in their entirety. In fact, only part of the colophon remains in KUB 58.32(+) and Bo 5126+, and only the latter reports the name of the city of Zalpa.11 According to my reconstruction, the events of the festival may be summarized as follows:12 The main text—IBoT 2.9 + KUB 52.102—begins with the description of the arrival in autumn in Zalpa of the ‘prince’, whose task it is to celebrate the city’s deities:13 1 2 3 4 1-2 3-4

ma-a-an zé-e-ni DUMU-aš A[-N]A ⎡DINGIRMEŠ⎤ URU Za-al-pa i-ya-u-wa-an-z[i] pa-iz-zi nu IŠ-TU É.GALLIM I GU4[.MA] I GU4 ÁB IV UDU pé-en-na-anzi When in autumn the prince goes to celebrate the gods to Zalpa, from the palace they drive one bu[ll], one cow and four sheeps.

From the building of the uriyanni, offerings are carried out for the gods of the city.14 The prince subsequently enters the tent ZARATI. The following day he reaches the temple of Ammamma while the priestess, “mother of the god”, prepares food and drink, and then the prince goes (?) into the warehouse (ÈA-PU-US-SI), which is the same building that the prince reaches in the heading to the

About 19-20 signs. See M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 255. 12 On this festival it is not possible to analyse the available documentation in-depth, which will be treated in the edictio princeps. 13 For the join and the transcription of the first nine lines see S. De MartinoH. Otten, “Rez. zu KUB 52”, ZA 74 (1984), 301. 14 Also in the “Sacrifice List” in the text of the AN.TA .ŠUM festival KBo 4.13 I, 21’, one sheep is sacrificed to the gods of Zalpa; now M. Forlanini, “The Offering List of KBo 4.13 (I 17’-48’) to the local gods of the kingdom, known as the “Sacrifice List”, and the history of the formation of the early Hittite state and its initial expansion beyond central Anatolia”, in A. Archi-R. Francia (eds.), VI Congresso Internazionale di Ittitologia, SMEA 49, Roma 2007, 259ss, with a historical-geographical analysis. 10 11

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invocations of CTH 733 in the version of the GUDU12 priest,15 and some people are carrying something; after which the text breaks off. The text picks up again in Col II with a list (rr. 2’-8’) of the “twelve” divinities of the pantheon (to the list presented by Popko we may add DU URU [a-aš- a-š/ta-at-ta)16 and, in the following paragraph the list of offerings for the gods of Zalpa is found again, offerings which, also in this case, come from the palace. Notwithstanding the damaged context, a ritual seems to be playing out, followed by an invocation, perhaps to the god Halipinu, and then further offerings of bread.17 At this point we could insert KUB 58.32+ (a new duplicate) with the description of several statues of the twelve divinities (obv. I 1-14): reference is made in particular to a divine “triad”, made up of the two Storm gods (Storm god of Maštura, Storm god of Hašhašanta) and the Sun deity (Sun goddess of Zihnuwa), and perhaps, to EREŠ.KI.GAL and NIN.É.GAL, with a list of some votive objects. Two subsequent paragraphs are dedicated to the same “triad”, to whom the priestess “mother of the god” offers bread and beer. In the last line we learn that the offerings were supplied, for “the festival of the month”, by the men of the palace of the overseer of the right side.18 A particularly interesting paragraph then follows, which is stated here in its entirety (Bo 5126+ obv. I 20’-25’ and duplicates): [ [ [ [

]DUMU.MUNUSMEŠ šu-up-pa-e-eš I ŠA LUGAL PU-U -ŠÚ I Š[A šu-up-pa-e-eš]-ša(?) DUMUMEŠ DUTUŠI DÙ-an-zi A-NA D a-l[i-pí-nu(-) a-pí-]⎡e⎤-da-ni a-ša-an-[z]i ma-a-an-wa-ra-aš-kán a-še-š[a-an-zi(?) L Ú ] SANGA MUNUS⎡AMA⎤.DINGIR[LI]M MA- AR DUTUŠI pa-a-a[n-zi

The integration in KUB 28.77+ obv. I 1 of the term “warehouse”, we owe to M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 247 note 8. 16 The integration in IBoT 2.9 obv. II 4’ is certain, in that this divinity is part of a divine triad; see later on. Cfr. M. Popko, “Zu den Göttern von Zalpa”, cit., 241-242. 17 The last paragraph is partially restorable due to the duplicate KUB 59.31 obv. discovered by M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 254 and note 39. From the last lines of the fragment, we detect exclusively single words like bed/bedding, the sea and stelae. According to the scholar this fragment may have preceded KUB 59.30 obv.; but see the reconstruction of the tablets put forward herein. 18 For the textual references in which are mentioned the LÚMEŠ É.GAL (LÚ)ABUBITI, see F. Pecchioli Daddi, Mestieri, professioni e dignità nell’Anatolia ittita, Roma 1982, 108. For this line cfr. M. Popko, “Rez. zu KUB 59”, Or NS 60 (1991), 126 Nr. 30. 15


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] DUMU.MUNUSMEŠ šu-up-pa[-e-eš] SUM-an-za(?) ŠE.NAGAan[-zi ]x-x-ma-aš-ma-aš [kiš-ša(?)-]an SUM-a[n-zi(?)


]the pure daughters, one of the substitute19 king, one o[f . . . ]and the [ pur]e(?) sons of his Majesty celebrate; to the god Hal[ipinu ] they are seated [in front(?)] of th[at one]. When they (have?) se[at(ed?)] them[ ]the priest (and) “mother of the god” priestess g[o] in front of his Majesty[ ]the pure daughters (the things?) given (?) th[ey] wash[ ]. . to them(?) [in this w]ay [they] give.[

[ [ [ [ [ [

The particularity of the ceremony shown here is due really to the presence of players who are rarely cited in known texts. I refer especially to the “[ pur]e(?) sons of his Majesty” and to the “pure daughters” who, together with the prince, actively participate in the cult. More precisely, to the best of my knowledge, there are not other attestations of this sort besides those contained in these tablets for the šu-up-pa-e-eš]-ša(?) DUMUMEŠ DUTUŠI and the DUMU. MUNUSMEŠ šu-up-pa-e-eš; it is difficult, therefore, to give a reliable description and/or definition for these players without looking for a link with the royal family and the “kingship” for the male protagonists and, for the others, an association with the concept of “purity” and with the figure of the “priestess” (DUMU.MUNUS) šuppeššara-.20 However, at the moment, this is all hypothetical. The most important element that emerges from the context, however, is the presence of the sovereign in the ceremony. Indeed it says that the priest and priestess “mother of the god”, are present in front of his majesty: ] SANGA




Subsequent paragraphs in the text present a considerable number of offerings and a list of various objects which it is believed were 19 For the references and the interpretation of PU-U -ŠÚ see the comment in H. M. Kümmel, Ersatzrituale für den hethitischen König, StBoT 3, Wiesbaden 1967, 81-82. 20 For the adjective šuppi-/KÙ.GA attributed to several priests see A. TaggarCohen, Hittite Priesthood, THeth 26, Heidelberg 2006, 148-152, 201-202 with references and bibliography. For (DUMU.MUNUS) šuppeššara- in Hittite documentation, in addition to the mythological texts CTH 328 and CTH 330, see in a ritual setting principally CTH 393 and CTH 406 (see the comment of D. Bawanypeck, Die Rituale der Auguren, THeth 25, Heidelberg 2005, 66 and H.A. Hoffner, “Paskuwatti’s ritual against sexual impotence (CTH 406)”, AuOr 5 (1987), 284) and, for that festival, CTH 639 (now A. Taggar-Cohen, THeth 26, 317-320 note 836).

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for the DUMU.MUNUSMEŠ šu-up-pa-e-eš. The objects are mainly cloth or fabric, festive clothing and covers for the bed or bedding (?), with everything having been prepared in the tent. When (the statue of ) the Sun goddess of the Earth is mentioned, as well as something else that is covered (perhaps this “something” was evil or possibly a statue that was not meant to be seen?),21 there follows a brief list of metal objects, including gold earrings, musical percussion instruments (cymbals) made of iron and copper (r. 14’ of KUB 59.30 obv.), and subsequently a chest with someone’s clothing (ladies’ shoes and toiletries ?), everything having been prepared for a ritual. There are no details about the beginning of the ceremony, except for the mention of Mašturah and of the twelve stelae, which I think refer to the “twelve” divinities cited in the obv. II, 2’-8’ of IBoT 2.9 + KUB 52.102, and to the twelve simulacra of KUB 52.103, 9’—as Popko pointed out.22 The celebration thus reconstructed would involve Hammanni, NIN.É.GAL, the Storm god and other divinities—lost in a break— for whom the drinking rituals are celebrated and whose statues are brought into the temple. According to my reconstruction, the start of the second column of manuscript F should follow where there is a series of invocations expressed by the interjection e- u-wa “Come!”. The latter recalls, for example, the ceremony invoking the deified mountains for the Festival of the Month (CTH 591)23 and the mugawar (“invocation”) KUB 36.90 for the Storm god of Nerik.24 In this case it might be a call for the goddess Ammamma in that, despite the fragmentary nature of the passage, MUNUS.LUGAL is mentioned, which I think is an attribute to be referred precisely to this goddess.

21 If the phrase were not so damaged, we could think about a comparison with the paragraph in CTH 733 dedicated to the Sungoddess of the Earth according to what is said: “and do not look at her in her splendor. The Sungoddess of the Earth shall see you!”. We also recall the expression IGI I]A-wa tar-ku-wa-an-da! of KUB 59.17 + Bo 3990 obv. 4’, integrated by M. Popko, “Zu den Göttern von Zalpa”, 244, 246-247. 22 On the connections, see M. Popko, “Zu den Göttern von Zalpa”, 242. 23 Edition by J. Klinger, Untersuchungen zur Rekonstruktion der hattischen Kultschicht, StBoT 37, Wiesbaden 1996, 286-614. 24 V. Haas, Der Kult von Nerik, Rom 1970, 175-183.


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KUB 57.8425 opens up a new scenario because the festive celebrations become itinerant, in that various centres in the Zalpa region are encountered. In Reverse III/IV?, the chief shepherd26 sacrifices sixty four animals (both ovine and bovine) in honour of the gods, and men from the city of Tatimma continue to slaughter the animals and polish (?) the alputi.27 Lists of competitions follow as well as performances not otherwise attested. Men from the city of Mišturha take three young girls, and men from Zihnuwa go to another city and run to eight villages28 where they bring together the girls, who are finally taken to the city of Urimma. The girls undress and three of them put on precious clothes and participate in a mimed scene, perhaps an athletic contest ritual. It is probable that the three “girls” are to be identified with the “pure daughters” and are involved in preliminary actions before the “purification”(?); this last condition being determined, presumably, through the carrying out of the “ritual”. Then, after a lacuna of uncertain length, KUB 59.17 + Bo 399029 obv. comes into play to describe what seems to be a re-evocation or a particular ritual that, as rightly pointed out by Popko, recalls a mythological narration in which the main protagonists are the goddess Ammamma, her daughters (the three Ammamma), and the sea. In this context, therefore, it is reasonable to think that the entire first part of the ritual was dedicated to the preparation (list of objects, the clothing, etc.), as well as to the choosing of players through ritual competitions, followed by the invocation that preceded

25 Edition by M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 255-258; duplicates are VBoT 130 and KUB 57.82. 26 On the role of the shepherd in the Hittite empire, see F. Pecchioli Daddi, “La condizione sociale del pastore (LÚSIPAD) e dell’amministratore (LÚAGRIG): esempi di “diversità” presso gli Ittiti”, in: Stato, Economia, Lavoro nel Vicino Oriente antico, Milano 1988, 240-248, in particular 240-242. For attestations Ead., Mestieri, 544. 27 The reference to this object in a context of animals and presence of the head shepherd may confirm the hypothesis put forward by Soysal that it is about “lituus”; in fact the crook is representative of this social category and is a royal symbol. See O. Soysal, “The Angry Priests in a Hattian-Hittite Narrative”, JANER 4 (2004), 92-93; now Id., “Philological Contributions to Hattian-Hittite Religion (I)”, JANER 8 (2008), 58ss with textual references. 28 Tašpina, Hilaluha, Inzilitipa, Tunteraha, Kiziwar, Kapušku, Zuluza and Kaumar; see M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 258 and note 57. 29 For the join and the edition of the text with comment see M. Popko, “Zu den Göttern von Zalpa”, 244ss.

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the festive ritual in honor of the mother goddess, which we are now analyzing. The document proceeds with rituals, offerings of food and drink, and processions in which musical percussion instruments30 are played. The main protagonists are the “mother of the god” priestesses (MUNUS.MEŠAMA.DINGIRLIM ) whom we have encountered many times during this festival.31 The celebration is concluded in the temple of the goddess Ammamma with the ceremony of the bowing of these female officiants in front of the simulacra of the divinity. With the Reverse a new ceremony probably began, perhaps with offerings from the palace of the overseer of the right side dedicated(?) to the two Storm gods (?)32 during the celebration of the festival officiated by the LÚSANGA priest. After a lacuna of uncertain length, the celebration continues, always in a fragmentary context, with a ritual in which a person(?) is taken to a vineyard and perhaps covered with a piece of cloth. The ritual concludes with the phrase UL-za Ú-UL ku-iš-ki e-ep-zi. Inside the palace there are moments of joy and amusement, during which someone makes a speech. The last two lines right before the text concludes (with a list of precious objects),33 though fragmentary, deserve special attention because they demonstrate the revival of the cults and relative offerings after a lengthy period of disregard (KUB 59.30+ rev. 9’-10’): [ [ [ [

]x ku-it du-u-wa-an pa-ra-a ša-me-nu-wa-an-te[-eš ]⎡e⎤šir 34 ki-iš-š ]a-an pí-ya-u-e-ni ]because for a long time (the gods of Zalpa) have been ignored hence these offerings(?) in this] way do we donate.

The texts of a celebratory nature linked to the region of Zalpa, in my opinion, are not limited to those dealt with until now; there is 30 Particularly the musical instrument galgalturi, which was among the objects cited in the list previously analyzed. 31 Who were surely dedicated to the goddess Ammamma. 32 See M. Popko, Or NS 60, 126 Nr. 30. 33 KUB 59.30+ rev. 11’-14’ and duplicate KUB 59.31 rev. 1’-3’. 34 For duwān parā see now H. C. Melchert, “Hittite duwān (parā)”, in: C. Bowern, B. Evans, L. Miceli (eds.), Morphology and Language History: In honour of Harold Koch, Amsterdam/ Philadelphia 2008, 201-209 with bibliographical references; regarding the verb šamenu-/šaminu- (A) see CHD Š, 121-122.


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in fact, a small group of fragments, that, for convenience’s sake, as well as due to the difficulty in finding a precise collocation, were attributed to the invocations of CTH 733.35 This group is made up of: A Bo 2076/g B KBo 54.224 C Bo 138/u

According to Forlanini they could refer to documents in which a festival is described, and especially rituals that were celebrated in different cities in the absence of the prince,36 but, differently, I hold that these fragments fall fully within the celebrations described so far. It is my view that given the fragmentary state of these documents, it cannot be determined who the main officiant of such celebrations was. It can be reasonably thought that the rituals described may refer to specific ceremonies that were part of a larger festival, as takes place, for instance, in KUB 57.84 rev. III/IV? 11’ff. with performances of men from various villages that conclude, perhaps, with a ritual previously described. The famous colophon of the funerary ritual for the sovereign,37 IBoT 2.130 (Bo 3520), therefore leads me to put forward a different interpretation: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

I I M . G Í D. DA m a - a - a n LUGAL-uš DINGIR-uš ki-ša-ri nu I-NA KUR URUZa-al-pa-a GIM-an ši-ú-na-aš pár-na-aš a-ni-ya-at-ti ne-wa-a - a-an-zi [ ]x I ŠU-TUM-ya [ a]p-pa-an-zi

One ‘long tablet’ (entitled): When the king ‘becomes a god’ (dies), and when, in the country of Zalpa, they renew the furnishings of the house of the god. [ ]. . and one measure(?) [ ]they [t]ake

In the colophon it is said that the rituals take place in Zalpa, but unfortunately the description of the celebration is not preserved and hence this indication remains isolated. The rest of the text, which in scholarly literature is rarely cited, reports that the furnishings would be renewed for the ‘house of the god’.

See, for example, S. Košak, Konkordanz der hethitischen Texte, 1.4. M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 254-255. 37 H. Otten, Hethitische Totenrituale, Berlin 1958, 92-93, 133; A. Kassian-A. Korolëv-A. Sidel’tsev, Hittite Funerary Ritual šalliš waštaiš, AOAT 288, Münster 2002, 689-691 with bibliography. Partial translation in CHD P, 278. 35 36

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One of the paragraphs in Bo 2076/g apparently describes the replacement of cult furnishings in the temple, such as the bed, throne, the leopard skin, with new ones. Bo 2076/g obv.? left Col. 7’ [ LÚMEŠ(?) URU ]a-aš- a-ša-at-ta GIŠNÁ GIŠŠÚ.A ka-ru-ú-⎡i⎤[-li 8’ [ ]x-i GIBILTIM ti-⎡an⎤-zi KUŠ pár-ša-na-aš x[ 9’ [ ]x-zi nu-uš-ša-an GIŠNÁ u-it-ti-an-da x[ 10’ [ ]x-i nu-uš-ša-an u-u-kán- [zi 7’ 8’ 9’ 10’

[ the men(?) of the city of ]ašhašatta the old bed (and) the old throne[ [ ] . . . they place new, the leopard skin ..[ [ ] . . . mand pull out the bed ..[ [ ] . . . and [they] slaughter[

The reference in the colophon of the funerary ritual to the region of Zalpa, and not to any city in particular, finds an unusual correspondence in the rites involving players in various cities of the country: in Hašhašatta the furnishings are renewed (7’-10’), in Tatimma animals are sacrificed (11’-13’), in Zihnuwa they polish the lituus (17’)—the symbol of the king’s power38—and in the city of Kaiupi something is burnt (19’).39 Going back to the main celebrations described above, it must be noted that aside from the city of Zalpa, Tatimma and Zihnuwa are, among others, involved; in essence, as Forlanini rightly pointed out, they are tablets that “. . beschreiben den Kult eines ganzen Landes und nicht nur den einer Stadt”.40 The idea to attribute fragment 2076/g, as well as its two duplicates, to the new CTH 667, leads me to believe that the whole group of celebrations was connected to the funerary ritual for the sovereign. To support this proposal I think we may add that the tablet’s shape and size, the ductus, and the scribe’s handwriting of the colophon IBoT 2.13041 are all similar, if not to say identical, to those of the tablet KUB 57.84 (manuscript G). If this hypothesis holds up upon verification, the ceremonies thus far described will have to be evaluated from a totally new

See note 27. On the actions carried out by the men of the various cities, see M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 255. 40 M. Forlanini, ZA 74, 258. 41 I wish to thank Drs. Metin and Meltem Alparslan for sending the photographs of the fragment IBoT 2.130, conserved in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. 38 39


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perspective42 and would be a testament of a ritual so complex that, up until now, it does not find comparison elsewhere. In light of this research, we recall a passage on the third! day of the funerary ritual for the sovereign (CTH 450) in which a fragmentary context tells (KUB 12.48 obv. II? 1ss, and duplicates):43 1 [... 2 [... 3 [...

in which tow]n he died ]they perform [the (rite of the) concilia]tion. where the deceased was bu]rnt, in that [town they . . . ]it (etc.)

In this way perhaps the circle closes: just as in illo tempore royalty came from the “Kingdom of Zalpa”,44 upon the death of a sovereign, there it returned. The evidence of a new celebration in honour of the gods of the Zalpuwa region—probably celebrated on the occasion (or anniversary?) of a king’s death—throws back into debate the idea that northern Anatolia, and especially the region near the Black Sea, might have been lost by the Hittites at the end of the old Hittite period and then never ever re-conquered. It is thought that with the advent of Hattušili III and his son Tuthaliya IV, a large part of the territories in the North were reacquired by the central power, but it is only the cities of Nerik and Hakmiš that we refer to as the last avant-garde places of this new expansion. The festive celebration that I have described here refutes this scenario, as does its textual tradition,45 and opens up new opportunities to investigate further: that even the region of Zalpa on the Black Sea was reached again and recuperated in the late Imperial Period under Hattušili III and Tuthaliya IV.46

42 Note, as just one example, the mention of LUGAL PU-U -ŠÚ in Bo 5126+ obv. I 20’ and probably also that of LUG]AL(?) PU-U -ŠI I.A in KUB 59.17+ obv. 15’. 43 Translation of A. Kassian-A. Korolëv-A. Sidel’tsev, AOAT 288, 297. 44 See V. Haas, “Zalpa, die Stadt am Schwarzen Meer und das althethitische Königtum“, MDOG 109 (1977), 15-26, in particular 25; C. Corti, Eothen 11, 179; Id., StAs 3, passim. 45 More copies of the same document among which the oldest, we presume, is the one with a single column. 46 Thus see C. Corti, “The Religious Traditions of the ‘Zalpa Kingdom’. New Edition of CTH 733 and related documents”, a paper read at the 7th International Congress of Hittitology in Çorum, 25-29 August, 2008. I also think that—in the period between Arnuwanda I and Hattušili III—the loss of Hittite control of the extreme northern regions was not total, but it happened in alternating phases. For a new scenario with regards to the district of Nerik, see now J. Klinger, StAs 5, 97-107.

VAN SETERS’ SAGA OF KING DAVID TZEMAH YOREH Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish Studies, Los Angeles, CA 90077 [email protected] Abstract The Saga of King David by John Van Seters is an engrossing yet scholarly book, written with an originality that has challenged the field of bible for more than forty years. Expanding and revising a series of articles and the less detailed analysis of his sweeping opus In Search of History, Van Seters puts the final nails in the coffin of the Solomonic dating of the books of Samuel and the Succession Narrative. He offers his own original hypothesis, namely that the Succession Narrative was composed in the late Persian period as a satirical response to the Deuteronomistic Historian’s account of David’s reign. He submits that the Sitz im Leben of the account is the mercenary dominated martial culture of the late fifth and early fourth century Near East. As is typical to much of Van Seters’ work, he mostly disregards language as a means of dating the Court History. In the absence of linguistic criteria in the bulk of the material under discussion which would indicate a Persian date of composition, many scholars will look in askance at Van Seters’ very late dating of I and II Samuel. This problem and others identified in this review should, however, should not deter scholarship from deeply engaging with Van Seters’ ideas. Keywords: Van Seters, I Samuel, II Samuel, succession narrative, Court History, Persian period, mercenaries

The Saga of King David by John Van Seters is an engrossing yet scholarly book, written with an originality that has challenged the field of bible for more than forty years. Expanding and revising a series of articles1 and the less detailed analysis of his sweeping 1 J. Van Seters, “Problems in the Literary Analysis of the Court History of David,” JSOT 1 (1976): 22-29; “Histories and Historians of the Near East: Ancient Israel,” Orientala 50 (1981): 137-185; “Love and Death in the Court History of David,” 121-24, in Love and Death in the Ancient Near East: Essays in Honor of Marvin H. Pope, ed. J. H. Marks and R. M. Good, Guildford CT, 1987; “The Court History and DtrH: Conflicting Perspectives on the House of David,” 70-93 in Die sogenannte Thronfolgegeschichte Davids, ed. A. de Pury and T. Römer, OBO 176, Freiburg, 2000; “Is there any Historiography

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156921210X500549


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opus In Search of History,2 Van Seters puts the final nails in the coffin of the Solomonic dating of the books of Samuel and more specifically the Succession Narrative. He offers his own original hypothesis, namely that the Succession Narrative was composed in the late Persian period as a satirical response to the Deuteronomistic Historian’s account of David’s reign. In his introduction, Van Seters skillfully navigates the history of scholarship—which he begins with Wellhausen3 who in his words “quite remarkabl[y] . . . set out in a few pages in the Prolegomena the main features of the critical study of the David narrative that were to become the basis for the development of future research by generations of scholars down to recent times” (p. 4). Wellhausen identified two complimentary accounts in I and II Samuel: the first being 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 8, summarizing David rise and main achievements as monarch; and the second more biased account in II Samuel 9-20, and I Kings 1-2, and the Succession Narrative. The earlier account (I Samuel 16-II Samuel 8) is according to Wellhausen a “collection of stories loosely fitted together” (p. 5) [excepting II Samuel 2-5 and 8 which exhibit literary cohesion] to which Wellhausen applies his typical history of tradition analysis. The second and later account is “historical”, i.e. directly related to actual events and was preserved in a “remarkably intact” fashion. In Van Seters’ words “It was . . . left to later scholars to sort out his many suggestions in a more systematic way” (p. 5). Rost, in his Die Überlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids,4 becomes the first champion of many to defend the literary unity of the Succession Narrative. According to Van Seters’ “Rost’s stylistic structural and artistic analysis of the Succession Narrative strongly supports the case for the unity of the work and for the literary skill of its author” (p. 10), and there is no doubt in Van Seters’ mind in the Hebrew Bible? A Hebrew-Greek Comparison,” JNSL 28/2 (2002): 1-25; “The ‘Shared Text’ of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles Re-examined,” 503-515 in Reflections and Refractions: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld, ed. R Rezetko et al. VTSup 113, Leiden, 2007; “David: Messianic King or Mercenary Ruler?” 27-39, in Community Identities in Judean Historiography: Biblical and Comparative Perspectives, ed. G. N. Knoppers and K. A. Ristau, Winona Lake, IN, 2009. 2 J. Van Seters, In Search of History: Historiography in the Ancient World and the Origins of Biblical History, New Haven, CT, 1987. 3 J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (tr. Peter Smith), Gloucester MA,. 1973. 4 L. Rost, Die Überlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids, BWANT 3/6, Stuttgart, 1926. See also G. Von Rad, “The Beginnings of Historical Writing in Ancient Israel,” in The Problem of the Hexateuch and other Essays, Edinburgh, 1966, 166-204.

van seters’ saga of king david


that we are in fact dealing with one author. Van Seters then traces the emergence of the European redaction-criticism school5 as represented by Dietrich,6 and presents the familiar argument that a work exhibiting such artistry could not have possibly been composed by so many successive authors. He devotes two pages to Rudnig7 (pp. 32-34), an interesting choice considering that according to Van Seters, “in the recent work of Thilo Rudnig . . . the number of editors and revisers has proliferated to the point of absurdity . . . The basic text [according to Rundig] has been subject to over a dozen identified redactions, as well as innumerable glosses and additions” (p. 32). This reductio ad absurdum is meant to cast grave doubts on the validity of the redaction-criticism method, though perhaps further engaging more mainstream advocates of this methodology would have been more effective. Van Seters argues that the Succession Narrative was composed in the late Persian period as “serious entertainment” meant to challenge Deuteronomistic notions of kingship and state. He compares the Succession Narrative to Icelandic Sagas of the 12th century and later which were also “based on an older written historical record but. . . . supply extensive fictional details to make the “historical” account more vivid” (p. 49). In particular Van Seters notes “that while in most cases the saga tends to glorify a certain period of the past as a heroic age, it is also possible for a work of particular literary brilliance (i.e. the Succession Narrative) to parody and subvert that same literary tradition” (p. 49). He begins his literary analysis, however, with the History of David’s Rise (I Samuel 15-II Samuel 4). Van Seters contends that the primary narrative of the History of David’s rise was composed by the Deuteronomistic Historian, he refers to this base as the “A” account. Upon this base, a second author added a satirical revision of David’s rise and triumph, undercutting many of the Deuteronomistic Historian’s views regarding kingship, state and prophecy. He refers to this supplementary addition as “B”. The 5 Beginning with T. Veijola, Die Ewige Dynastie: David und die Entsehung seiner Dynastie nach der deuteronomistischen Darstellung, Suomalaisen Tiedeakatemian Toimituksia Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae Series B 193, Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1975. 6 W. Dietrich, “Die frühe Königzeit in Israel: 10. Jahrhundert v. Chr.” (Biblisch Enzyklopädie 3; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1997): 202-73, et al. 7 T. A. Rudnig, Davids Thron: Redaktionskritische Studien zür der Thronnachfolge Davids (BZAW 358); Berlin, 2006.


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jewel in B’s crown, however, was the Succession Narrative which survives intact in II Samuel 9-20, I Kings 1 + 2, Van Seters’ Saga of King David. Critique Auerbach famously points out in his “Odysseus’ Scar”8 that typical biblical narrative is terse and rarely betrays the thoughts and motivations of the characters. With few notable exceptions this is also the case in the Succession Narrative of II Samuel and I Kings.9 As one reads Van Seters’ treatment one is struck by his colorful descriptions of what he considers these motivations are, and since he forcefully argues that the David Saga to be satirical, his judgment of David is invariably uncharitable. Van Seters is by no means the first to, portray David negatively,10 one should note, however, that Van Seters’ spin is particularly Machiavellian (e.g. “A more cynical reading of the narrative, and the one that seems to come closer to the relentless drive of the narrative itself, is to see in David one who is able to manipulate events, with a certain amount of pious legitimization. . . .” [ p. 206]). Van Seters’ one sided interpretation is frequently presented without sufficient consideration of other less negative understandings of the narrative, which is a definite weakness since the Biblical text is naturally open to other interpretation. Below I provide a list of some possible positive portrayals as compared to Van Seters’ negative understanding of David in his “B” source. – David’s is unswervingly loyal to Saul even when the latter threatens him repeatedly (VS: “The whole encounter between David and Saul is carefully staged by David to put Saul and his men in the wrong” [ pp. 185-186]). – David’s is committed to fighting Judah’s enemies, even while being pursued by the King (VS: “The presentation of David 8 E. Auerbach, “Odysseus’ scar” in Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (tr. W. Trask), New York, 1946, 1-20. 9 One exception is II Samuel 12:13-26, where David explains his aberrant mourning patterns to his servants. 10 See the non-apologetic reading of David’s reign already in A. Ehrlich, Miqra Kif ’shuto, Berlin, 1899; and more recently B. Halpern, David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Muderer, Traitor, King, Grand Rapids, 2001.

van seters’ saga of king david

– –


in Chapter 27 is not a very praiseworthy one. David plays the very dangerous and deceptive game . . . conducting raids on the aboriginal people of the region . . . massacring the inhabitants . . . booty to please the pagan king and to win support in Judah” [ pp. 191-192]) David’s deep love for his children, and his unwillingness to kill Absalom even as the latter threatens his life (VS: “The narrator speaks most directly to David’s behavior and his self indulgent mourning. . . . David’s actions are so obviously inadequate and weak in this whole affair that one cannot imagine that the narrator is intending to portray David in a positive light” [ pp. 321-322]). David protects the defenseless and weak such as Abiathar, the sole survivor of the Nob massacre and Nabal’s shepherds (VS: “David and his men [are] a bunch of ‘brigands’ who live off the wealthy land owners by providing ‘protection’ whether they want it or not” [ pp. 186-187]). David loves Jonathan and cries at their separation—(VS: “It is David who manipulates Jonathan’s affections for him and who is placed in great risk for David’s benefit” [ p. 349]) David forgives Absalom (following the murder of Amnon) who after all is said and done simply looked out for his sister (VS: “David is in fact quite stupid and quite unjust in his actions . . . He is easily persuaded because he longs for Absalom’s return . . . this half hearted reconciliation only allows matters to fester”[ p. 305]).

I am not trying to portray David as a wholly positive character, merely to demonstrate that Van Seters may be reading some of this negativity into the text to support his theory. Van Seters compares the literary artistry of the Succession Narrative to the work of J (p. 52), whose genius lay in his artful presentation of human characters. I would argue as countless others before me that David is being presented not as an evil, capricious individual by the Succession Narrative, but rather as a man like all men and women, a man of both strengths and weaknesses. Baruch Halpern’s Secret Demons, for example, portrays David unapologetically as well.11 One should note, 11 Ironically (at least in relation to Van Seters) Halpern’s Secret Demons advocates for the historicity of the account, showing that non-apologetic portrayals of David needn’t serve as an argument against the authenticity of the account.


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however, that in comparison to Van Seters’ Halpern’s description of David is generally more nuanced, which would accord better with Van Seters’ laudatory depiction of the narrative art evinced in King David’s Saga. Van Seters’ overview of pertinent scholarship is generally quite careful, though when it comes to the details, alternative treatments of the texts, especially analyses which posit multiple authorship receive short shrift. This is understandable, however, considering that first and foremost this book is the presentation of a new theory, rather than a review of scholarship. Particular noteworthy in the eyes of this reviewer is Van Seters’ consideration of Israeli scholarship when compared with his previous work. Apart from his discussion of Rofe and Tov’s theories regarding the Septuagint version of David’s battle with Goliath,12 he discusses the archaeological basis for treating the books of Samuel as historical relying upon the work of the so called Tel Aviv school of Biblical archeology. He concentrates upon Na’aman and Finkelstein,13 who have convincingly overturned the previous archeological consensus regarding the existence of a united monarchy, governed from Jerusalem.14 Jerusalem, as has been demonstrated, was a small town during the hypothetical Solomonic period, and there is no way it could have supported a kingdom the size of Solomon’s as described in I Kings, which significantly weakens a claim for the historicity of the books of Samuel and the beginning of I Kings. In fact, it seems quite likely that there was an insufficient population base in Judah to support literary activity of any kind until the late 8th century—implying that there was at least a 250 year gap between the writing of the book and the events (even if one is not inclined to accept Van Seters’ late Persian date). Most specifically Van Seters criticizes McCarter’s influential commentary on the books of Samuel,15 contending that much of this scholar’s analysis is dependent upon his view that the 12 E. Tov, “The Composition of 1 Samuel 16-18 in the Light of the Septuagint Version,” pp. 97-130 in Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism, ed. J. H. Tigay, Philadelphia, 1985; A. Rofe, “The Battle of David and Goliath: Folktale, Theology, Eschatology,” 117-151, in Judaic Perspectives on Ancient Israel, ed. J. Neusner et al., Philadelphia, 1987. 13 N. Na’aman, “When and How Did Jerusalem Become a Great City? The Rise of Jerusalem as Judah’s Premier City in the Eighth-Seventh Centuries B.C.E.”, BASOR 347 (2007): 21-56, et al.; I. Finkelstein, “The Archaeology of the United Monarchy: An Alternative View,” Levant 28 (1996): 177-187, et al. 14 It should be noted that Na’aman and Finkelstein’s positions are not identical, a fuller elaboration of their positions is, however, not pertinent to this review. 15 P. K. McCarter, I Samuel, AB, New York, 1980.

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succession narrative was based on historical events. Van Seters’ arguments against historicity are among the most compelling the book has to offer, and perhaps constitute a watershed moment in the final shedding of the Bible as History school of thought with regard to the books of Samuel and the beginning of I Kings. David the Mercenary Van Seters offers an inventive approach in his dating of the Saga of King David. He submits that the Sitz im Leben of the account is the mercenary-dominated martial culture of the late fifth and early fourth century Near East. According to Van Seters, the author of the Saga mapped his perception of the Persian empire onto an imagined united monarchy of the same scope. In the late fifth and early fourth century Greek mercenaries were the elite units employed in the wars fought by the major powers of the time—their loyalty insured by high pay and land grants. Van Seters contends that David himself is portrayed as a leader of such a mercenary band, whose loyalty is for sale to the highest bidder including his erstwhile enemy Achish the King of Gath (a Philistine monarch). Other indications of such a culture are the ambiguous references to the Kerethites and Pelethites in David’s guard, as well as David’s heroes, who are loyal to the monarch throughout the rebellions and succession of his chosen son, Solomon. Van Seters forcefully asserts that the Kerethites are a reference to mercenaries from Crete, and the Pelethites users of a certain type of shield (pelti ) very common to the early fourth century, especially among mercenaries. This possibility is quite intriguing, and Van Seters is to be lauded for his creative attempt at introducing novel criteria to the dating of Biblical narratives. Substantively though, this idea is lacking. The phenomenon of disenfranchised gangs of opportunists is of course not restricted to a specific time or place—and Van Seters’ attempt to pinpoint specific fourth century Hellenistic features in the depictions of David’s “merry” band, is not especially convincing. A case in point is the interaction between David and King Achish of the Philistine city of Gath (Chapters 27-30). Van Seters glosses over the fact that David is not actually hired by Achish, Achish gives David no money. Rather, David seeks refuge from the Philistine monarch, in an attempt to escape Saul’s constant pursuit. The monarchical land grant is not given as payment to David for services rendered but rather as a city where his band can reside, and can


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hardly seen as specifically characterizing fourth century mercenary culture. The King of Egypt, for example, granted the Israelites a separate domain within Egypt, simply because they were a separate ethnic group (Genesis 47). Moreover, Achish never commands David to perform militarily, rather he asks David “where did you pillage today?” (1 Samuel 27:10) implying that he did not give any specific command to wage battles. In an attempt to ingratiate himself to Achish, David portrays himself as a turncoat—thus insuring his continued safety under Philistine protection. Van Seters argues that David’s utter annihilation of the inhabitants of the cities he pillaged is a reflection of a particular mercenary cruelty. This type of warfare, however, pervades biblical narrative, and hardly can be used as evidence one way or another. The only evidence that is at least somewhat suggestive is Achish’s assumption that David will join him in the final war against Saul. Once again, however, no money passes hands, which is certainly atypical of mercenary culture. Achish’s assumption that David will fight on his side can be seen as simply the logical outcome of David’s perceived activities up to this point, i.e. his campaigns against Judah. Finally, mercenaries are characterized by shifting loyalties, but David’s unswerving loyalty to Judah and his unwillingness to kill the legitimate Israelite monarch are a constant theme throughout the books of Samuel. As one can see, a strong case can be made that David merely sought refuge from Achish and tricked him in order to ensure his continued residence. The Kerethites and Pelethites One of Van Seters’ most interesting points is his equation between the Kerethites and Pelethites (mentioned together in 2 Sam 8:18; 15:18; 20:7, 23; 1 Kings 1:38, 44) and Greek mercenaries. The linguistic resemblance to the Greek military terminology is remarkable, however, only if one accepts Van Seters’ date of composition and the mercenary Sitz im Leben. Otherwise, one should look for the meaning of such terms closer afield. The Kerethites are mentioned at the end of I Samuel as residing in the Negev in an area likely contiguous with Philistine territory (I Samuel 30:14), and are synonymous with the Philistines in Ezekiel 25:16.16 The term Pelethites, is often thought to be a reference to the Philistines, based 16

In Ezekiel it appears in the full plural ‫כרתים‬.

van seters’ saga of king david


upon the shared consonants (p. l. t), and indeed the Kerethites and Pelethites appear in conjunction with Gittites in II Samuel 15:18, implying perhaps that the three are groups of Philistines17 in David’s service.18 It must be said that Van Seters suggested derivation is phonetically quite tempting. Ultimately, though, it relies too heavily upon a dating scheme particular to this scholar, the Sitz im Leben he posits for this narrative, and the text’s uncorroborated use of Greek loanwords. John Van Seters and the Language Criterion As is typical to much of Van Seters’ work, he mostly disregards language as a means of dating the Court History. Among the only times he makes any reference to language as a criterion is in his discussion of Alexander Rofe’s article (see above)—which posits a late Persian date for the Masoretic version of the battle between David and Goliath (I Samuel 17). Van Seters extrapolates from Rofe’s linguistic findings and concludes that the entire non-Deuteronomistic account of the Davidic history is to be attributed to this period (pp. 152-156). Rofe, however, makes no such claim, in fact he singles out this chapter as a late addition to its surroundings. Moreover, Rofe clearly agrees with the distinction between classical and late biblical Hebrew best articulated in Hurvitz’s work19 and thus in the absence of linguistic criteria in the bulk of the material under discussion, many scholars will of course look askance at Van Seters’ very late dating of the Court History. Even if one does not accept Hurvitz’s dating scheme, however, one would expect Hebrew from the early fourth century to exhibit Persian and perhaps Greek loan words (compare the books of Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Chronicles all Perhaps the author was reluctant to identify them outright as Philistines, since they are portrayed as Israel’s number one enemy in the books of Samuel. 18 Another possibility worthy of consideration is that the Kerethites derive from the Hebrew root k.r.t (to cut off) and the Pelethites derive from p.l.h (to be distinct), both of which occur a fair number of times in the Bible (Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford, 1907, 503, 811). The Kerethites and the Pelethites, could perhaps refer to members of David’s erstwhile band who were cut off from civilization because of debt and such, and who found purpose under David’s leadership. Naturally they would form the backbone of his military, and not abandon him even in the face of extreme adversity (such as Absalom’s rebellion and the succession crisis at the end of his reign). 19 A. Hurvitz, “Early and Late in Biblical Hebrew: The Characteristics of Late Biblical Hebrew” in Chapters on Hebrew (Hebrew) (ed. M. Bar-Asher), Jerusalem, 1997, 15-28, et al. 17


tzemah yoreh

of which were written in the Persian and Hellenistic periods), almost totally absent from this section of the Bible. One would especially expect this in light of Van Seters’ contention that the author of the Court History was mapping the Greek dominated mercenary culture upon a satirized Davidic Kingdom. The only Greek terms Van Seters brings are “the Kerethites and the Pelethites” which are just as or more easily explained as references to groups closer afield (see above). A substantial number of Hebrew language scholars subscribe to the principles of Hurvitz’s dating scheme, and not engaging this well-established position is a serious weakness of this book. In the same vein, a very telling mistake in the eyes of this reviewer is the consistent confusion between the roots ‫ם‬.‫ח‬.‫ ר‬and ‫ם‬.‫ח‬.‫ נ‬in a discussion of the latter’s derivatives in I Samuel 15 and elsewhere (pp. 129-131). Over the course of no less than two pages, the mistake is repeated multiple times, including in the titles of the articles to which Van Seters refers. This is almost certainly a gross, typographical error, but it is a very serious one, since Van Seters’ understanding of the root is an important part of the argument. Methodology Throughout the book, Van Seters consistently assigns large swathes of material to a single author (despite indications otherwise) which leave him open to the charge of harmonistic readings. Three of the most telling examples of Van Seters’ tendency to gloss over textual difficulties are brought below. I Samuel 15:1-16:13—This entire passage is assigned by Van Seters to one author (pp. 129-131 et al.), though multiple textual fractures exist. The most blatant contradiction is the threefold repetition of God’s “regret” regarding the appointment/anointment of Saul as King (15:11, 23; 16:1) as opposed to Samuel’s assertion that the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or regret (15:29). This contradiction has consistently been explained by scholars20 as a sign of multiple authorship.21 This is true as far back as the 19th century, and see H. P. Smith, The Books of Samuel, ICC, New York, 1899, 156, and more recently McCarter, I Samuel, 268. 21 Another very apparent unevenness is the two different ways in which Saul failed to comply with the command to annihilate Amalek—his failure to kill Agag the king of Amalek and his failure to kill the livestock. Samuel takes him to task 20

van seters’ saga of king david


I Samuel 17:1-58—Van Seters (pp. 121-162), offers critiques of some of the more recent critical analyses of this passage such as Auld and Ho’s,22 arguing with Rofe23 against their assertion that the Septuagint’s shorter version is more original. He doesn’t, however, deal with the unevenness of the Masoretic text which led them and many others to posit multiple authorship. He attributes the entire chapter to his B source, which considering the meandering style is a difficult proposition. B’s literary artistry, consistently asserted by Van Seters, is quite lacking in this pericope if it is attributed in its entirety to one author. Vss. 12-15, for example, which introduce David and his family, clearly interrupt the depiction of the Philistine campaign continued in vss. 16ff. Why couldn’t these verses have been placed at the beginning of the narrative? I Samuel 25:1-28:2—Van Seters attributes all of Chapter 25-27 to his B source (pp. 175-190). In my opinion, echoing McCarter and others,24 there are a number of strands at work in these chapters, I shall focus, however, on Chapter 25, specifically upon Abigail’s fawning speech to David. Note the doublet in vss. 24-25 where Abigail asks David to listen to her words two different times, then before she even offers the gift she talks about David’s restraint, when he hasn’t even restrained himself yet—for a woman attempting to avert a massacre she is certainly verbose. Next there is the entirely irrelevant mention of David’s future kingship, which is anachronistic to the passage and not connected at all to David’s restraint or lack thereof. No one knows about David’s anointment, or of his plan to become king. In fact David does not allude to this in his answer to Abigail in vs. 32ff. If indeed the B source to which this account is attributed is a masterful writer then these inconsistencies, frequently noted in scholarship,25 have to be better explained by Van Seters.

for his second failure, surprisingly the fact he didn’t kill the king of the Amalekites doesn’t come up, even though one may construe this as the more egregious breach of the divine command. 22 A. G. Auld and C. Y. S. Ho, “The Making of David and Goliath,” JSOT 56 (1992): 19-39; See also McCarter, I Samuel, 284-309. 23 Rofe, “David and Goliath,” 1987. 24 McCarter, 397ff. 25 Smith, 227-228; McCarter 397-402.


tzemah yoreh Conclusion

Van Seters continues his legacy of challenging some of the basic premises of the field and as usual offers innovative tools to date and understand Biblical narrative. He surgically exposes the weaknesses of competing theories and advances his own arguments in a meticulous yet colorful fashion. The problems identified in this review should not deter scholarship from deeply engaging with Van Seters’ ideas.

REVIEW Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert ed., Papyrus Ebers und die antike Heilkunde. Philippika. Marburger altertumskundliche Abhandlungen 7. Harrassowitz Verlag. Wiesbaden 2005. This small book collects seven essays on diseases, therapies, medicaments, and healers in ancient Egypt. Six of these essays are reworked versions of papers delivered at a colloquium organized in celebration of the exhibit of the magnificent Medical Papyrus Ebers in the Library of the University of Leipzig in 2002. Measuring originally almost 19 meters in length, Papyrus Ebers is one of the longest papyrus manuscripts preserved from ancient Egypt. Even if 28 of the 102 text columns were lost during World War II, Papyrus Ebers remains the gem of the large corpus of medical papyri from ancient Egypt. It includes four separate compilations on medications, the cardiovascular system, the wekhedu (a pathogenic substance that was believed to cause disease), and swellings, parts of which are paralleled in other medical papyri. Its hieratic calligraphy, datable to the early New Kingdom (ca. 1550 BCE), and handsome layout are also rightly famous. The first article of the volume, written by Gundolf Keil, a well-known historian of ancient medicine, presents an excellent overview of the nature and structure of the manuscript, guiding the reader from beginning to end through the extensive manuscript while tracing the history of scholarship along the way. It is required reading for philologists and students of intellectual history alike. Papyrus Ebers used to be cited frequently as evidence for the by now defunct view that Egyptian healing methods were originally quite rational—or even scientific—in nature, but, starting with the New Kingdom, became more and more contaminated with illogical and superstitious methods. Today most scholars would agree that healing in ancient Egypt was always a combination of empirical and occult knowledge and therapies. The rigid distinction between medicine and magic, valuing the former over the latter, is now usually dismissed as a modern construct that is at odds with ancient Egyptian thought and professional realities. The editor of © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 Also available online –

JANER 10.1 DOI: 10.1163/156921210X500558



the volume is sensitive to this important shift in scholarly perspectives. It is commendable that he chose the word Heilkunde (healing) over Medizin (medicine) in the title of the book, thus acknowledging the importance of studying Egyptian healing methods in and on the terms of the Egyptian scribes, healers and patients themselves. Yet, reading the contributions, one realizes that this new perspective is not yet common-place, as the notions and assumptions of the medicine-versus-magic perspective still simmer through in certain contributions. This is in my view an important lesson to draw from this book. Of the seven articles, three will be of particular interest to the readers of this journal. Christian Leitz’s contribution on the role of religion and empirical observation in the selection of medicaments in Papyrus Ebers is an instructive example of how to overcome the rigid distinction between medicine and magic in the study of Egyptian healing practices. Starting from the famous passage “Heka is efficacious in combination with the medicament as much as the medicament is efficacious in combination with heka” (Ebers 3; nªt ˜k¡ ˜r p«rt ³s p«r), Leitz does not only ask in his analysis for the pharmacological properties of the prescribed ingredients and medicaments (which he equates with p«rt), but also for their possible analogical relations with the incantation (simply equated with ˜k¡ in his analysis), as for example through the laws of similarity (sympathetic magic) and contact (contagious magic) or the mythological precedent. He concludes that a rational approach to the problem at hand did not exclude the application of persuasive analogy in the therapy adopted. These two mental attitudes and therapeutic methods were not mutually exclusive, but complementary in battling disease. His observations are insightful and deserve further study. At the same time, the article exposes how little we actually know about metaphors and associative thinking in ancient Egypt. The methodology adopted is provocative and fruitful, but the conclusions are, at this stage of our knowledge, precarious at best. The article by Joachim F. Quack deals with the principles and rules of social exclusion and prohibitions of entry into a temple as described in the still unpublished Book of the Temple, an Egyptian treatise on the ideal temple preserved in many copies of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. This contribution is important for two reasons. First, it discusses intriguing passages concerned with the rules of access to a temple. These passages explicate that persons



with abnormal physique, those displaying neurotic and maladjusted behavior, and those who suffer from a skin disease were forbidden entry. Their deformities, behavior and ailments were considered outward signs of divine discontent. In addition to this important new information, these passages allow for correcting the translation of ˜mwt-s¡, a singular word first attested in Papyrus Ebers (recipe 733 = Hearst 159). For no good reason, the word has always been translated as “witchcraft.” Quack now demonstrates convincingly that the word refers in fact to a skin disease. Instead of treating a victim of private binding rituals, the Ebers recipe is concerned with alleviating the symptoms of a skin disease (and, if Quack’s emendation is accepted, also with causing a skin disease). Hans Werner Fischer-Elfert presents a provocative reading of the three incantations that open Papyrus Ebers, the only incantations inscribed on this lengthy papyrus roll. According to their titles, the incantations were to be recited whenever the healer applied a medicament, removed a bandage, and gave the patient a medication to drink respectively. Scholars have always worked on the assumption that these are essentially three unrelated incantations that happen to be grouped together in Papyrus Ebers and, secondly, that it was the patient who recited them. This view is also upheld in Keil’s overview of Papyrus Ebers in this volume (see above). Fischer-Elfert, however, is of the opinion that the spells form a thematic unit that ought to be read in sequence and, furthermore, that it was in fact the healer who recited them. By means of a close reading of the incantations, he develops the argument that the statements and mythological allusions are best understood as references to distinctive stages in a rite of initiation into the profession of healer. The incantations are thus the words that the aspirant healer had to recite during the rite of initiation, and that he subsequently repeated whenever he treated a patient. In Fischer-Elfert’s view, this ritual would have proceeded from a display of the proper credentials and knowledge in combination with a ritual immunization against disease (first incantation), to some sort of trial by water and fire (second incantation), to a transformation into a new state of being, i.e. a member of the select group of professional healers (third incantation). The other three contributions deal with the issue of the codification and transmission of medical knowledge in ancient Egypt and its possible influence on ancient Greece, with skeletal evidence of rare pathologies from the New Kingdom necropolis of Memphis,



and with the biochemical properties of copper, iron and lead, which elements occur in many ingredients prescribed in Papyrus Ebers for curing various ailments. Jacco Dieleman UCLA