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The First Dog People

Because this is a dog year in the Chinese zodiac, and because dogs are now helping sniff out looted artifacts from Iraq and Syria, plus I love dogs, it seems a good time to talk about how Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians–Mesopotamians–were all major dog people.

The first dog people.

Sit, Ur-Gi, Sit

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Babylonian man who’s clearly a dog person, and his dog. (Source)

It is commonly believed (and seemingly supported by tangible evidence to an amateur) that soon after the dog (ur-gi in Sumerian) was first domesticated, the dog collar was developed in Egypt. But, as with a lot of things, it is actually ancient Sumer where that took place.

Archaeological evidence from Egypt dates further back than that from Mesopotamia, but in an article at Ancient History, titled, “Dogs in Ancient Egypt,” Joshua J. Mark still writes that dog collars and leashes were of Sumerian origin:

“The dog collar and leash were most likely developed by the Sumerians earlier although evidence for both of these in Mesopotamia appears later than 3500 BCE in objects like a golden Saluki pendant from Ur dated to 3300 BCE.” (Source)

Further, in another Ancient History article, titled, “Dogs & Their Collars in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Mark reiterates the belief that Mesopotamia was where domesticated dogs in collars first appeared, even, curiously, after declaring the difficulty of saying so with certainty:

“In the same way that scholars debate the origin of the dog and its first domestication, it is difficult to say with certainty that the people of Mesopotamia were the first to invent the collar. It is probable, even quite likely, that the collar – like people’s relationship with dogs themselves – developed independently in many different regions at different times. Even so, as far as the collar’s depiction in ancient art is concerned, the earliest come from Mesopotamia.” (Source)

Well, who am I to argue? Regardless of where dogs first began donning collars and getting led on leashes, Mesopotamians domesticated dogs for practical purposes like everyone else; security for their dwellings and their herds, as well as hunting.

But as we will find out, that package came with a lot more perks, and as we know…it was pretty freakin’ great.

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This plaque found at the palace at Nineveh depicts Assyrian hunters with their hounds. (Source)

But let’s start at the beginning of this relationship.

To enter an ancient Mesopotamian city or village was to see collared dogs roaming freely, cleaning up carrion messes while guarding those human dwellings, along with the assets essential to their survival within them. They wore collars, because though they spent their days roaming free, they each had a master who cared for them and considered them the family pet.

Such an arrangement created the perfect environment in which the relationship between humans and dogs went beyond that of practicality and became one of companionship and love, the relationship all dog people have with their pooches today.

Good Dogs

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Statue of a very good Mesopotamian dog, c. 5000-1000 BCE. (Source)

Though surely there were mutts, there were three main breeds of dog we know existed in ancient Mesopotamia; the Greyhound (which includes the Saluki type), the Dane, and the Mastiff. Mark quotes historian Wolfram Von Soden, whom I attribute the last statement to, describing the types of dogs and for what practical purposes they were each best suited:

“As far as we can tell, there were only two main breeds of dog: large greyhounds which were used primarily in hunting, and very strong dogs (on the order of Danes and mastiffs), which in the ancient Orient were more than a match for the generally smaller wolves and, for that reason, were especially suitable as herd dogs.” (Source)

Further descriptions of the types of dogs found in Mesopotamia come from inscriptions such as one from the Ur III Period (2047 – 1750 BCE), describing large mastiff-like creatures coming into the city with their handlers, wearing thick collars and leashes that one can only guess were made of leather.

For a clearer picture of what the dogs of Mesopotamia looked like, here is this simple video.

They Liked Them & Put Collars on Them

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Plaque from Sippar depicting a man leading a large dog on a leash, possibly a Mastiff, dating to the Old Babylonian Period (2000 – 1600 BCE). Note the wide collar, rope tied twice around the dog’s neck. (Source)

Pretty much all depictions of dogs from Mesopotamia showed them wearing collars, all of which were wide to protect the animal’s neck. The earliest version of the collar was probably just rope that was wound around the dog’s neck multiple times (as in the image above) or a piece of sturdy cloth, which then probably evolved to the leather version I mentioned earlier.

According to Mark, though people from all rungs of the social ladder owned dogs in ancient Mesopotamia, dogs belonging to masters of the upper class wore collars that not only bore their names, but also their masters’.

The significance of the collar goes beyond its practicality, then. Mark, in the “Dogs & Their Collars in Ancient Mesopotamia” article, writes that the dog collar also served as a sort of testament to people’s inclination to spoil their pooches whom they felt were worthy of such an accessory.

Mesopotamian Belly Rubs

When looking at all there is to look at, whether art or any kind of literature featuring dogs from ancient Mesopotamia–and especially knowing their collars sometimes bore their names–it’s easy to see that the status of our best friend was high in more ways than one.

Today we have our pooches’ pictures on our phone lock screens, and that’s just scratching the surface of how we worship them. Well, Mesopotamians worshiped their dogs, too. Sometimes literally. Sometimes by having their image on the equivalent of the Mesopotamian phone lock screen – cylinder seals. Cylinder seals were used to identify individuals in writing, like a signature. Dogs making it into a person’s signature further drives home the importance of the intimate relationship people had with their dogs.

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This cylinder seal dating back to the 2nd millenium BCE, features a male worshiper with a dog. Note the collar on the dog. (Source)

Best Friends with Benefits

Dogs were first and foremost domesticated for practical purposes, but alongside the universal ones, Mesopotamians got a few extra magical ones. They equaled, and were synonymous with, protection, not just in the practical ways in which we still rely on them, but also in the spiritual and supernatural sense; they protected humans against angry gods, ghosts, evil spirits, and demons.

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The golden pendant of the saluki from Uruk, c. 3300 BCE, housed at the Louvre in Paris. (Source)

The labyrinthine pantheon Mesopotamians worshiped, and their belief that every deed done or not done counted and every action had a reaction, made them take very practical and serious measures to protect themselves from any vengeful gods, or worse, demons.

Along with incantations and prayers, physical objects were produced as a line of defense. The golden dog pendant pictured above is a protective amulet that was worn or carried by its owner. In the ruins of Nineveh, dog statuettes with inscriptions saying they are for protection were found buried beneath an entrance to the North Palace. At the city of Kalhu (Nimrud), five dog figurines made of clay, known as The Nimrud Dogs, were also found with the same kind of inscriptions identifying them and their purpose.

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Clay dog figurines found buried underneath a North Palace entryway at Nineveh. Inscriptions on their bodies include declarations such as: “Loud is his bark!” (Source)

It was during Hammurabi’s reign (c. 1792 – 1750 BCE) that the practice of creating clay or bronze figures of dogs took off in ancient Mesopotamia, not to be cute and have the likenesses of pets to decorate with, but for security. Such sacred knickknacks were buried in multiples beneath entrances to buildings, including those of palaces, as mentioned above. Rituals preceded these burials, during which incantations were recited to awaken the protective spirit of the dog in the object being buried.

Dogs and Gods

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A plaque dating back to the reign of Babylonian king Nabu-mukin-apli, 978-943 BCE, showing Gula with one of her pooches. (Source)

In her book, The Healing Goddess Gula: Towards an Understanding of Ancient Babylonian Medicine, Barbara Böck writes about Lamashtu, a demon whose “specialty is killing babies,” among other horrible things. To protect their babies from Lamashtu, Mesopotamians called on Gula and her dogs.

Gula, among other things, was the goddess of healing and dogs. She is always either depicted with a dog at her side (as shown above) or as a dog herself; it was during the Old Babylonian Period (c. 2000- 1600 BCE) that her symbol became simply the dog.

When Gula was called upon through an incantation to keep Lamashtu from snatching a baby, her dogs faced the demon and threatened her:

“We are not just any dog, we are dogs of Gula, poised to flay your face, tear your back to pieces, and lacerate your ankles.” (Source)

You’ll note that Gula is primarily the goddess of healing, though she wears a few more hats, including that of being the goddess of dogs, but what do those things have to do with each other so that they exist in one deity?

Well, dogs were the sacred companions of Gula because they were healers themselves. The saliva of dogs, which Mesopotamians observed could heal wounds, was valued as medicine.

Another part of Gula that the Mesopotamian view of dogs drew from is the fact that the goddess was also associated with the underworld and transformation, things people experience after death. Dogs in this context were the companions of the dead on their journey to the afterlife, where they might have to face demons or other unsavory characters they need protecting from.

It’s a very bittersweet thing, the heights the relationship between dogs and humans reached, especially when you take into consideration that it was children whom dogs accompanied the most on their journeys to the afterlife. (No, I’m not crying, you are.)

Going back to the part about her being the goddess of dogs, Gula protected them (along with cats…this goddess is my kind of goddess), and as Böck writes, a partially-preserved prayer to Gula makes it clear that not doing right by a dog, alive or dead, is really not okay with her:

“He has shown great disrespect which before Gula…

[He saw…] but pretended not to notice it. He saw a wounded dog but he pretended [not to notice it].

He saw [a…dog] but pretended not to notice it. The dogs [were] fighting…

[…they were wai]ling and he saw it but pretended not to notice it…

[He saw a dead dog] but did not bury it and threw it to the ground…

…the dogs were fighting but he did not remove them…” (Source)

Keep in mind, we’re talking about a deity associated with the underworld, which means it’s best to not anger her, or you might need to find another way to protect yourself from harm. And you might as well forget about a dog coming to your rescue then.

Long Before Lassie

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Saluki.

Domesticated dogs in collars and on leashes also made plenty of appearances in Mesopotamian literature. Samuel Noah Kramer, author of History Begins at Sumer, wrote that dogs are referred to in 83 proverbs and fables.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Descent of Inanna, we see that Gula was not the only deity accompanied by dogs. In the former, the goddess Inanna (Ishtar) makes her appearance accompanied by seven hunting dogs wearing collars and being led on leashes. In the latter, the god Dumuzi (Tammuz) keeps a royal retinue that includes domesticated dogs in the underworld where he resides.

These dogs are the protectors and companions of these deities, and especially in the case of Inanna, who was often called upon for protection. The dogs were that extra level of divine protection.

As Kramer notes, according to Mark, along with such elevated roles in mythology, dogs were also the subject of fables that showcased loyalty, unconditional love, and the protective nature of our best friends to impart wisdom, as fables do. In fact, some of Aesop’s fables were not his at all, but rather Sumerian ones written centuries before Aesop (c. 620 – 564 BCE) was even alive, but that’s another topic for another time. Two such fables were, Why the Dog is Subservient to Man and The Show Dog, which are summarized quite well here, but essentially highlight the attributes of dogs, such as loyalty, unconditional love, and fierce protectiveness.

The interesting aside I want to point to is that Mesopotamians had dog shows, and this is something that, according to Kramer, helps support the idea that domestication and the collar in Mesopotamia predated those things in Egypt.

All Dogs Go To Heaven

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Dog paw prints accidentally and wonderfully left in clay, from Ur, c. 2047-2030 BCE. (Source)

At Gula’s most prominent temple at Isin, where dogs considered sacred roamed and were taken care of by the priests and priestesses there, underneath the ramp leading up to the building, 30 actual dogs were found buried.

Böck writes that although the dogs might have been sacrificial, it is also possible they were just the sacred dogs of the temple whose burial was simply a way to honor them after their natural passing, as Gula liked.

Of course, I choose to believe the latter option.

I choose to believe the latter option, because I can’t imagine that even in the harsh world of antiquity, where live animals were often buried with their owners in order to accompany them to the afterlife, anyone could stomach a stand-alone sacrifice of a protector, healer, and best friend. I choose to believe that the dog has always, from day one, held a large chunk of humanity’s collective heart. I choose to believe we’re all dog people if we all knew what our ancestors figured out about the creature that is love itself.

Sources and further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saluki

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1031/dogs-in-ancient-egypt/

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1175/dogs–their-collars-in-ancient-mesopotamia/

https://archive.org/details/Kramer1956HistoryBeginsAtSumer

https://www.ancient.eu/article/215/inannas-descent-a-sumerian-tale-of-injustice/

https://www.ancient.eu/Inanna/

http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/gods/lords/lordumuzi.html

https://www.ancient.eu/Gula/

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1001/the-nimrud-dogs/

https://www.ancient.eu/article/846/cylinder-seals-in-ancient-mesopotamia—their-hist/

https://books.google.com/books?id=Tfd0AQAAQBAJ&pg=PA39&dq=he+has+shown+great+disrespect+which+before+gula&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiKkZf_-oLaAhUX92MKHedFB0YQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=he%20has%20shown%20great%20disrespect%20which%20before%20gula&f=false

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isin

http://www.ancientneareast.net/mesopotamian-religion/lamastu-lamashtu/

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Nimrud, Sumerian, Ur

 

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Tiglath-Pileser III

 

Look at this bas-relief found at a palace in Nimrud…

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…it depicts the humiliation of one man by another.

Some sources identify the prostrate figure as Hanunu, a king who ruled Gaza in the 8th Century BCE. Others simply identify him as a captured enemy.

Either way, the one thing everyone agrees on is that the foot placed upon his neck belongs to Tiglath-Pileser III (745 – 727 BCE), an Assyrian king who laid the groundwork for modern imperialism and began a long line of Assyria’s greatest kings.

Whooooooo Was He/Who-Who Who-Who?

Tiglath-Pileser III is the first king we’re covering at All Mesopotamia that has been mentioned on the Assyrian King List (as well as the first Assyrian king to be mentioned in the bible). Though his reign is nowhere near being the first to occur within the traditional (and disputed) timeline of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (934 – 610 BCE or 912 – 612 BCE), some scholars believe this era began with Tiglath-Pileser III’s ascent to the throne in 745 BCE.

Being the third ruler in Assyria to carry the name Tiglath-Pileser—which is the Hebraic form of the Akkadian Tukulti-apil-Ešarra, which translates to “my trust/support is in the son of Esharra,” which refers to Ninurta, the god of war and hunting—you’d think he was related to at least one of the other two Tiglath-Pilesers. But he wasn’t. The first and second Tiglath-Pilesers ruled during what scholars have labeled the Middle-Assyrian period; one was during the 11th Century BCE, the other in the 10th Century BCE, respectively.

The gap grows wider and the direct relation is completely taken off the table when we remember that the third Tiglath-Pileser’s reign was in the 8th Century BCE.

Nonetheless, there is blood in this story.

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Tiglath Pileser III shown in his chariot in this panel from his palace at Nimrud. (Source)

Of course, it’s not uncommon for unrelated kings to share a name, especially when the name is a nod to a deity (and truth be told, Tiglath-Pileser III never linked himself to his first two namesakes), but what makes TPIII’s choice so interesting is the inherent murkiness of his origins. (I will call him TPIII throughout the rest of this post.)

Though he presented himself as the son of Adad-nirari III (811 – 783 BCE), scholars question the truth of this relation, because there are three other guys between Adad-nirari III and TPIII on the Assyrian King List. Also, two of those guys are the actual sons of Adad-nirari III, with his grandson ruling in the gap between their reigns.

Oh, and another thing: in 1892, a stele was discovered that showed TPIII’s name imprinted over one of those three guys’ names. Add to that the scantiness of information about anyone mentioned here, including Adad-nirari III, and you’ve got yourself a fishy situation in some very murky (and bloody) waters.

The Assyrian Shady

So, how did such a shady character become one of the most powerful kings of Assyria?

Let’s start with the name Pulu.

Pulu (or Pul as he appears in the bible) was the governor of Kalhu (Nimrud), the capital of a stagnant and waning Assyrian empire, one that was dealing with regional rulers with too much power, serving (or not) under ineffectual kings who were hardly maintaining what their long-gone predecessors had built.

Meanwhile, Assyria’s army, known the ancient world over as the greatest, also began to lose its luster when in 754 BCE it met its match in the kingdom of Urartu‘s army…and lost.

This loss was a significant disaster for Assyria; it grew an already-existing fissure in the empire as its vassal states and allies began to undermine Assyria and look to Urartu as an alternative power to whom they would pledge allegiance. This shift in loyalties also affected Assyria’s coffers, which had been regularly filled with tributes from those very vassal states and allies now looking for other ways to “invest,” if you will. The ripple effect of this loss was long-lasting and reached as far as Babylonia in the south, where in 749 BCE forces were dispatched to protect Assyrian interests.

Needless to say, things just weren’t going well for Assyria during this time, and poor Ashur-nirari V (754 – 745 BCE) had not been king for long before he had to bear the brunt of a half century’s worth of failure and unrest. All this led to civil war, which broke out in 746 BCE and saw the royal family slaughtered, giving way to Tiglath-Pileser III, new king and former governor of Kalhu, aka Pulu.

Really, Machiavelli would’ve given Pulu a nod of approval for slaughtering his way to the top, and, more importantly, setting things up so that the same thing wouldn’t happen to him. Because as we will see, Pulu had a lot of work to do, and he wanted (and apparently needed) it done right.

First Things First

Since it takes one to know one, TPIII’s first order as king was to take power back from regional rulers.

He started by cutting up the larger, more rebellious provinces into little pieces. Over a period of seven years, TPIII had fashioned some 80 provinces through this technique. He then appointed eunuchs to govern all those provinces.

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“Two court officials – who are beardless and, therefore, possibly identifiable as eunuchs – are shown marching toward the king. The second figure motions to the line of men that stood behind him to come forward toward the king.” (Source)

Of course, appointing eunuchs would get another Machiavellian nod, as according to Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat (and basic biology), eunuchs were a great way to maintain control over who occupies a position of power without the complication of heirs, much less a pedigree that mattered.

More, More, More

As I said before, TPIII is credited by some scholars with the founding of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which some historians believe is the world’s first true empire (sorry, Sargon of Akkad). It was a period during which Assyria grew to an area stretching from Asia Minor to Egypt by 671 BCE. This, despite being a geographically vulnerable nation.

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The expansion and expanse of the Assyrian Empire–they even had Cyprus! (Source)

It was really a “domino effect” that turned a nation with vulnerable geography into the world’s first superpower, one always on the offense rather than the defense. This effect is described well by Dattatreya Mandal in a Realm of History article titled, “10 Fascinating Things You Should Know About The Ancient Assyrian State And Its Army“:

“Simply put, this terrain rich in its plump grain-lands was open to plunder from most sides, with potential risks being posed by the nomadic tribes, hill folks and even proximate competing powers. This in turn affected a reactionary measure in the Assyrian society – that led to development of an effective and well organized military system that could cope with the constant state of aggression, conflicts and raids (much like the Romans).” (Source)

TPIII took over an army that had already perfected siege warfare and had genius battlefield tactics, and even featured the world’s first separate engineer corps. This History On the Net article titled “Assyrian Empire: The Most Powerful Empire in the World,” details that perfection:

“The Assyrians were the first army to contain a separate engineer corps. Assyrians moved mobile ladders and ramps right up against heavily fortified city walls. Sappers and miners dug underneath the walls. Massive siege engines became prized Assyrian armaments.” (Source)

This was also an army that had been incorporating the psychology of fear into its strategy. In an Ancient History Encyclopedia entry, the historian Simon Anglim is quoted on this combination of Assyrian war methods and its effect on warfare as we know it:

“By these methods of siege and horror, technology and terror, the Assyrians became the unrivaled masters of the Near East for five centuries. By the time of their fall, their expertise in siege technology had spread throughout the region.” (Source)

Nonetheless, this great army had just met its match and lost.

Knowing he would just be another ineffectual leader of a doomed empire if he didn’t think outside the box, TPIII created what all scholars indisputably credit him with: the world’s first truly professional army.

You and What Ar–Never Mind

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Unstoppable. Not to mention incredible. (Source)

We have to acknowledge that TPIII’s predecessors accomplished a lot with what all armies were at the time: essentially part-time and made up of mostly farmers during their off-seasons, and mercenaries. As the Assyrian empire grew, however, so did its internal problems and need for a full-time force to protect its interests from within as well as without.

Being that he had more than a few corrected provinces to work with now, TPIII introduced a system that required each one of those provinces to designate a certain number of men to be professionally trained, full-time soldiers. In a DailyHistory.org post titled, “How did ancient Professional Armies develop?”, Mark Altaweel details this part of a multi-pronged approach to vamping up the Assyrian army:

“These army units began to have distinct ranks and be part of specialized units within the military,” Altaweel writes. “This included the chariotry, cavalry, and infantry units; specialized units also included naval units consisting of Phoenicians. Other specialized soldiers include engineering units used for siege warfare.”

The overhaul extended further, all the way to command. “In addition, the army’s command structure became more sophisticated with developed ranks, similar to modern militaries,” Altaweel writes.

TPIII also made sure to reserve high ranks for pure Assyrians rather than those absorbed through conquest; cavalry, heavy infantry, and charioteers were all native Assyrians.

This overhaul, particularly locking in individuals with nothing on their schedule but soldiering year-round, translated into a gargantuan advantage over any other army in the world at the time, all of whom, Altaweel points out, still had a shortage of men during planting and harvest seasons. I can only imagine that to be attacked by the professional Assyrian army often entailed an imminent familiarity with the element of surprise for the attacked.

In the image above, you see a small part of what a siege carried out by the Assyrian army looked like; the skill of professionally-trained men with advanced weaponry, alongside technology. It was only through that multi-faceted approach to war and siege that TPIII was able to avenge Assyria’s defeat to the kingdom of Urartu and move on to destroying its difficult ally, the city of Arpad.

Arpad‘s defeat was no easy feat–it took three years to bring that city down. This tidbit serves as a testament to the strength of Arpad, of course, but it also speaks to the otherworldly capabilities of TPIII’s relentless army.

In his “Assyrian Warfare” entry for Ancient History Encyclopedia, Joshua J. Mark puts into perspective what Arpad was up against during its three-year siege, and why its considerable strength was still not enough when facing TPIII’s new and improved army:

“Campaigns such as the long siege of Arpad could only have been carried out by a professional army such as the one Tiglath Pileser III had created and, as the historian [Peter] Dubovsky notes, this expansion of the Assyrian Empire could not have taken place without ‘the new organization of the army, improved logistics and weaponry’ and, in particular, the use of iron weapons instead of bronze.” (Source)

No other army had the resources the Assyrian war machine had: fast-made iron weapons and armor. Note, this could only happen by way of Assyria’s hegemony over iron ore-producing regions while everyone else’s weapons were still made of bronze. This is not including advanced engineering skills, unbeatable tactics and, of course, TPIII’s mind and ambition.

“Tiglath Pileser III’s brilliant successes in battle lay in his military strategies and his willingness to do whatever it required to succeed in his objectives,” Simon Anglim writes of TPIII’s recipe for success.

Everybody’s Gonna Protect Their Feet

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Shoes really make or break an outfit, and the Assyrian army boot really tied the whole professional army thing together. (Source)

For an army to fight year round, it needs to be an all-weather and all-terrain one. This cannot happen without the proper footwear. Enter my favorite and the coolest of TPIII’s innovations and inventions: the army boot.

On the significance and features of the Assyrian army boot, Mark quotes the historian Paul Kriwaczek:

“…the Assyrian military invention that was arguably one of the most influential and long-lasting of all: the army boot. In this case the boots were knee-high leather footwear, thick-soled, hobnailed and with iron plates inserted to protect the shins, which made it possible for the first time to fight on any terrain however rough or wet, mountain or marsh, and in any season, winter or summer. This was the first all-weather, all-year army.” (Source)

Further, in his book, The Great Armies of Antiquity, Richard A. Gabriel describes the specific ways in which the “jackboot” was beneficial to its wearer:

“The high boot provided excellent ankle support for troops who fought regularly in rough terrain … The boot kept foot injuries to a minimum, especially in an army with large contingents of horses and other pack animals.” (Source)

There’s not much else left to say about this accomplishment by TPIII, except it was such a great one, it wasn’t long before it became an everlasting staple of every military on earth…not to mention my personal favorite style of boot.

The Walls Come Down

With an area stretching as far as the Mediterranean, there was a lot of land full of people for TPIII to work with to make his empire not only bigger, but better.

Along with slaughter and slavery, the norms of war in antiquity, it was common practice and standard procedure in Assyria to deport defeated subjects, particularly if they had abilities and skills beneficial to the empire. This is a policy that TPIII is often credited with instituting, but it was actually first instituted by Adad-Nirari I in the 14th Century BCE. Nonetheless, he did it on such a big scale, it became a part of his legacy.

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People of Lachish Deported and Relocated. (Source)

Now, deportation did not have the same connotation it does today. Like I said, to be deported under Assyrian rule was really to be resettled by being sent to a province where the empire needed more settlers with practicable skills.

In the Ancient History Encyclopedia Tiglath Pileser III entry, Karen Radner describes such events:

“We must not imagine treks of destitute fugitives who were easy prey for famine and disease … the deportees were meant to travel as comfortably and safely as possible in order to reach their destination in good physical shape . . . the ultimate goal of the Assyrian resettlement policy was to create a homogeneous population with a shared culture and a common identity – that of ‘Assyrians’.” (Source)

To ensure deportations went smoothly and subjects arrived at their destinations in good physical shape, it took an organized effort that went well beyond just keeping these people moving toward their destination. Take this letter written by an official handling a deportation of Aramaeans ordered by TPIII:

As for the Aramaeans about whom the king my lord has written to me: ‘Prepare them for their journey!’ I shall give them their food supplies, clothes, a waterskin, a pair of shoes and oil. I do not have my donkeys yet, but once they are available, I will dispatch my convoy. (Source)

Even after the arrival of the deported subjects at their final destination, that official’s work of ensuring the welfare of his charges was still not done, as we see in another letter he wrote to TPIII:

As for the Aramaeans about whom the king my lord has said: ‘They are to have wives!’ We found numerous suitable women but their fathers refuse to give them in marriage, claiming: ‘We will not consent unless they can pay the bride price.’ Let them be paid so that the Aramaeans can get married. (Source)

Of course, destroying these peoples’ entire worlds and resettling them where they were to serve their conqueror’s needs does not a brownie point make, but considering the way war usually ended for the defeated in antiquity, well, it’s a little less horrible to be resettled and given a job and, apparently, a life partner.

Say it in Aramaic

Though Assyria had absorbed many different peoples through its expansion, there was one particular group Assyrians had done that a lot with: speakers of Aramaic.

Aramaic was a language spoken by those hailing from Aram, a group of city-states in what is modern-day Syria. They were a people Assyria had been picking fights with since the reign of the first Tiglath-Pileser in the 11th Century BCE. TPIII had resettled and assimilated so many Aramaeans as he expanded his empire, it was virtually overrun with them.

Perhaps to make things easier, what with so many people speaking it already, or perhaps because of the ease of Aramaic compared to Assyria’s Akkadian, TPIII eventually made Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic the official language of the Assyrian Empire. One can only deduce that when the Romans made Latin their lingua franca centuries later, it was TPIII’s example they were following.

He Did it His Way

Tiglath-Pileser III’s reign lasted 17 years, filled with war, conquest, innovation and invention. He had even managed in that time to crown himself king of Babylonia in 729 BCE when a revolt broke out there after the death of its Assyrian ally king Nabonassar (747 – 734 BCE).

Pretty much everything TPIII did was carried out in the same spirit as the one in the opening image of this post–a reinforcement of Assyria’s dominance and hold on the region. By the time he died in 727 BCE from natural causes, TPIII had built an invincible empire that would continue to flourish with a line of equally consequential and notable kings, including his son Sargon II (722 – 705 BCE) and the last of the great kings of Assyria, his great-great grandson Ashurbanipal (668 – 627 BCE).

Mark sums up the legacy of the third Tiglath-Pileser best in his Tiglath-Pileser III article, and perhaps helps scholars’ argument along that the Neo-Assyrian era began with this mysterious yet determined man:

“Tiglath Pileser III’s achievements laid the foundation for the future of the Assyrian Empire, which has come to be recognized as the greatest political and military entity of its time and the model on which future empires would be based.” (Source)

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2018 in Assyrian, Kings

 

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Ku-Baba

 

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A little too much eye makeup! (Source)

A long while ago, I wanted to write about Ku-Baba, the only woman on the Sumerian King List. I went first to my go-to source on anything Sumerian, Sumerian Shakespeare, and found that Jerald Starr, the brain behind the site, had not mentioned Ku-Baba at all. It was as if I was just imagining this rather intriguing figure.

Nonetheless, I wrote to Starr with the hope he would have some information about Ku-Baba, or at least a good source he could point me toward. His response, which was basically doubt that she existed at all, left me feeling like I was at a dead end at the time, so I abandoned the idea of writing about her.

Fast forward to today, and Starr has changed his mind. “I had to revise my opinion,” he wrote to me in a surprise email. He also included a link to a new post on his website, in which he explains in detail how he arrived at the conclusion that Ku-Baba might have existed after all.

“For a long time I doubted that Ku-Baba even existed,” he writes in the post. “I believed the reference was a sly mean-spirited joke by the scribe who wrote the King List.”

What changed Starr’s mind was an alabaster statue at the Louvre from Girsu, with a little too much eye makeup to be just your run-of-the-mill Sumerian priestess, as he had initially believed. “When I first saw the statue, I believed it was a Sumerian priestess because she seems to be wearing a circular headband,” he writes, “. . .although for a priestess I thought she was a bit heavy-handed with the makeup.”

From the eyes, Starr traveled back up to the head, where it became clear to him that it was no headband this statue was wearing–that it was a hat he’d never seen on a Sumerian woman before. “The hat on the statue most closely resembles a shepherd hat, the crown of a Sumerian king,” he writes.

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That’s no headband! (Source)

And from there, Starr writes as only he can about the minutest details to put Ku-Baba, the first woman ruler in history, back into the realm of possibility, giving me a chance to write about Ku-Baba like I had originally wanted.

The First Woman Ruler

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Ku-Baba. (Source)

Ku-Baba, Kug-Bau in Sumerian, is the only female monarch on the Sumerian King List. She ruled between 2500 BC and 2330 BC. On the list itself, she is identified as:

… the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish, became king; she ruled for 100 years.

Every source I came across in my research, including Starr, questioned how a woman who was a tavern-keeper became king. They then went on to explain that tavern keeping was one of many occupations Mesopotamian women could hold. Now, aside from Starr, said sources all described tavern keeping as a well-respected occupation, even while some mentioned that taverns in Sumer were pretty much brothels. This complicates further the rationale of a woman tavern-keeper becoming king, but in her About.com article titled, “Kubaba, A Queen Among Kings,” Carly Silver writes, “Regardless of what kind of show they were running, women often ran taverns, holding perhaps one of the only independent female positions of power in ancient Sumer.”

Silver drives home the rather high status of the tavern-keeper profession by mentioning Siduri, the female tavern-keeper Gilgamesh meets in the Underworld in his quest for immortality in the epic of his namesake. In it, the tavern-keeper gives Gilgamesh, a powerful god-king, sage advice about the nature of human life, how short it is, and how one ought to enjoy it.

“So, in what was probably a very important epic even in antiquity,” she writes, “a female tavern-keeper was seen as a guide along perilous paths and a figure worthy of veneration.”

Conversely, Starr’s description of the status of a tavern-keeper, or barmaid, is one that is very different from Silver’s. He writes, “Throughout history, a barmaid was typically considered to be a woman of loose morals, freely available to the patrons of the tavern, and little better than a common prostitute.”

So, how can this be? Several sources commend tavern keeping as a respectable occupation, almost making it sound like it was a foot in the door for Ku-Baba to become queen in her own right, while one all but ascribes it to prostitutes.

It helps that Starr does mention a distinction between a mere barmaid who slings drinks and provides patrons with her company, and someone who owns the establishment where this business takes place, a distinction other sources do not mention. Starr also classifies an owner of a tavern as “middle class,” while iterating that the employee slinging the drinks is “a commoner, and a lowly commoner at that.”

Furthermore, in order to see more clearly how tavern keeping relates to Ku-Baba’s rise to royalty, it helps to look at the picture in a different way.

According to Starr, even though there is no question Ku-Baba was a commoner, she might not have been a tavern-keeper. Starr states in his post that it was her parents who were tavern-keepers, a nugget he says her enemies distorted and used against her to tarnish her reputation and legacy. “I believe Ku-Baba was unfairly characterized as a bawd (the usual description of a female barkeeper) for propaganda reasons,” Starr writes. “I believe it was a deliberate attempt to sully her reputation. It is the kind of thing her enemies would say about her.”

Bottom line, we must let go of the idea that Ku-Baba was a tavern-keeper to get to the bottom of how she became a queen in her own right, because everything is questionable when you have an enemy, which she did, according to Starr.

And who was that enemy, you ask? Sargon of Akkad, our favorite baby in a basket here at AllMesopotamia.

Again, I point you toward Starr’s article for a more comprehensive telling of this story and presentation of the case involving Ku-Baba’s previous profession, but Sargon of Akkad usurped the throne of Kish from Ur-Zababa, Ku-Baba’s grandson, 31 years after her death, serving as background for Starr’s conclusion.

But how did Ku-Baba take the throne?

In her article titled “Ku-Bau, the First Woman Ruler,” Darci Clark writes, “In general, other women in Mesopotamian society would only be able to exert any political influence through their relationships to the king.”

Starr echoes Clark’s statement: “Sumerian queens were always the wives of kings. They never governed on their own.”

Okay, but would a king marry a commoner?

“Although it is highly unlikely that a king would marry a commoner,” Starr explains, “it is certainly within the realm of possibility.”

It’s possible Ku-Baba married a king, but there is no mention of such a thing happening in ancient texts. Nevertheless, a king was involved. According to Clark, Ku-Baba became lugal of Kish after performing an act of kindness. It seems that a king–Puzur-Nirah, king of Akshak, namely–awarded Ku-Baba her kingship for a “pious deed.”

Researching this further, I came across an article on the website History Hustle, titled “Kubaba, the Bartender Who Became the First Woman Ruler in History,” which pointed me toward the Weidner Chronicle, an interesting ancient Babylonian religious text, where the deed and its reward are described:

In the reign of Puzur-Nirah, king of Akšak . . . Kubaba gave bread to the fisherman and gave water, she made him offer the fish to Esagila. Marduk the king, the prince of Apsu, favored her and said: “Let it be so!” He entrusted to Kubaba the tavernkeeper, sovereignty over the whole world. (Lines 43-45, Weidner Chronicle)

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The city of Kish. (Source)

A Feminine Legacy

Very little is known about Ku-Baba’s reign. We do know that she made Kish strong, and that she reigned for 100 years. It is easy to conclude then that she was a successful monarch. Really, there’s no way she could have not been.

Starr writes, “Any female pretender to the throne who didn’t do an excellent job would quickly find herself in the middle of a coup d’état. She was capable enough, and respected enough, to stay in power and establish a dynasty.”

That dynasty, the 4th Dynasty of Kish, lasted for two generations, ending with the above-mentioned Ur-Zababa, son of Puzur-Suen, son of Ku-Baba. Not bad for a woman living in a man’s world, and a man’s world it was.

Carly Silver writes that Ku-Baba’s was remembered by later generations as an improper usurper. They would also refer to Ku-Baba when describing things that are not as they should be–women taking on men’s roles has never been popular. “By taking on the duties of a man – a king – Kubaba was seen to have crossed a boundary and transcended gender divisions in an improper fashion,” Silver writes.

Ku-Baba was also referenced when a lung didn’t look so good, or a child was born with both male and female genitalia. “Combining male and female genitalia in an individual would echo her reign as lugal, or king, which the ancients saw as violating the natural order of things,” Silver writes.

Nonetheless, Ku-Baba lived in people’s memories until Babylonian times, becoming a goddess. “But she was still a barmaid,” Starr explains. “She is portrayed as a kindly woman in all of the stories about her . . . Ku-Baba never lost the ‘common touch’. Queen Ku-Baba was always ‘the people’s queen’.”

Whether her legacy when she was an actual memory was a positive or negative one, today, in 2017, Ku-Baba’s legacy is that of (written) history’s first woman ruler, one who could only be slandered by a past that might have been falsified by her enemy, and one whose ascendancy to the throne was built upon kindness.

How feminine. How fitting.

P.S. Make sure you read Starr’s Ku-Baba post, as there are things and photos I did not include here that are sure to pique your interest further in this interesting lady. And while you’re at it, if you haven’t already, read our Q&A interview with Sumerian Shakespeare himself!

Sources and Further Reading:

Queen Ku-Baba – Sumerian Shakespeare  http://sumerianshakespeare.com/748301/769001.html

Sumerian King List – http://www.livius.org/sources/content/anet/266-the-sumerian-king-list/

Ku-Bau: The First Woman Ruler – Darci Clark http://semiramis-speaks.com/ku-bau-the-first-woman-ruler/

Kubaba, A Queen Among Kings – Carly Silver  http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/sumer/fl/Kubaba-A-Queen-Among-Men.htm

Kubaba, the Bartender Who Became the First woman Ruler in History http://historyhustle.com/kubaba-bartender-became-worlds-first-woman-ruler/

Weidner Chronicle http://www.livius.org/sources/content/mesopotamian-chronicles-content/abc-19-weidner-chronicle/?

 

 

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The Lives of Scribes in Ancient Mesopotamia

Scribes. Scribing with their reed styli. (Source)

Before writing

Around 3500 B.C., just before the birth of writing, Sumerians had already been maintaining a civilization for thousands of years, complete with farming, temples, and all kinds of commerce, all of which required record keeping.

But how do you keep records without writing? Well, not very practically. Before writing, Sumerians had a system to record their business transactions; it involved tokens made out of clay and a clay bubble to hold the tokens, which they baked into the bubble, rendering the tokens, well, completely pointless. The owner of the token-stuffed bulla (Latin for “bubble”) would’ve made impressions of the tokens on the outside before baking them in, of course, but, you know, that made the tokens even more pointless. (Source)

Not practical. A clay bulla and the tokens inside it. (Source)

Luckily, someone in 3500 B.C. decided there was a better way to keep records, one that was quicker, more convenient, and undoubtedly one that was easier to file than a bunch of clay balls!

Pictographs. Cuneiform went through a series of innovations that turned it into cool-looking, abstract symbols. (Source)

And so writing was born, bringing with it the demand for those who could do it.

Who could?

In 2000 B.C., scribes were some of the most educated people in the world. Along with reading and writing cuneiform, scribes eventually evolved to have chops in math or science or business or literature.

If you could read and write in ancient Mesopotamia, you had a good life, and chances were pretty high you were born into that good life. In fact, some 70% of the scribes we know by name were the sons of society’s elite, including royalty. (Source)

This isn’t to say status was the requirement to become a scribe, but rather the usual source of the requirement: money.

The son of a merchant had as much a chance at becoming a scribe as the son of a king. Even more socially progressive, it eventually became that the daughter of a king, had as much chance of becoming a scribe as her male counterpart. (It is only appropriate, since Sumerians credited the goddess Nisaba with the invention of writing!)

How could they?

A day at school. An illustration of boys studying to be scribes, the future elite of society. (Source)

Along with money, becoming a scribe took time and hard work.

It’s important to keep in mind that cuneiform was very difficult, even for those who used it practically.

“The scribe did not so much read a line of text as translate it,” wrote Jerald Starr on his website. A scribe had to learn business, math, science, and literature in order for his/her basic literacy skills to even matter. In other words, scribes had to know the context of what they were reading in order to read it, pretty much on a jargon level. The reason for this is because cuneiform, a script used to record more than one language, was a phonetic one—one syllable could make up any number of words, with any number of definitions, depending on whether you were writing in Sumerian or some other Mesopotamian language. (Source)

Boys were sent to an e-dubba, a tablet house where they would spend years learning to read and write the cuneiform script and the subjects they would write about. When they graduated, they became dubsars, tablet writers.

That schooling was no cakewalk for the student, nor was it for his parents. Aside from what I am going to take the liberty of calling tuition, a future scribe’s father also had to factor in the expense of keeping his son’s schoolmaster happy, who expected to be wined and dined in order to go a little easy on a pupil. The son, in the meantime, had to climb up a hierarchy within an e-dubba. You can read more about what these tablet houses were like here and here.

Of course, writing didn’t include women as soon as it was invented. It took a few years for women to show up in records as scribes. According to Radner and Robson, the earliest record of a woman scribe dates to the Akkad period (ca. 2350 – 2150 B.C.). (Source)

Although Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson wrote in their book, The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, “The profession of scribe is much better attested for men than for women,” there are things we do know about how women scribes came to be. In her book Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia, Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat wrote that women scribes were the daughters of the elite, some the daughters of scribes. Nemet-Nejat also points out that there were women scribes who were slaves: “Slaves with scribal skills were sometimes given to princesses as part of their dowries.” (Source)

As far as how those women scribes got their chops, priestesses were taught at the temples they served, while those not taking the religious path were taught at home.

What did scribes write?

Sumerian King List. A scribe was first and foremost a recorder of history. (Source)

For the first thousand years or so after writing was invented, everything written down was of an administrative nature. “Most people will therefore be disappointed to learn that writing was invented for the simple purpose of conducting business transactions, to record the exchange of merchandise,” wrote Starr.

Even after Sumerians branched out to recording more subjective subjects, 97% of what they recorded were things like receipts, ledgers, inventories, contracts, nothing inherently interesting or telling about the human condition. They were practical people, those Sumerians.

This brings us to what scribes could do with their skills, subjectively or not.

“…It’s unlikely that any scribe ever went hungry for lack of paying work,” wrote Starr.

And it’s easy to see why the sky was the limit for a man who graduated from a tablet house. If he came from a family of merchants, he kept records for the business; if he worked in a temple, he recorded offerings for the gods. Heck, e-dubbas needed teachers, and given that e-dubbas were focused on producing bureaucratic officials, the king, whether literate or not, needed a scribe. The king’s court was like Google, where the best minds wanted to end up.

Code of Hammurabi stele. This was some commission for one special scribe. (Source)

A scribe didn’t even have to be a full-time scribe to reap the benefits of his skills. He could set up shop in the middle of the town square and write letters for his illiterate neighbors and never go hungry like most people did in the ancient world.

In the Old Babylonian City of Sippar women recorded the transactions of members of the cloister, the city’s financial institution. What we might consider HR records from Sippar (and Mari too) show that a good number of those women were slaves. Women scribes are also known to have written songs and lullabies for the royalty, along with laments. According to Nemet-Nejat, royal women of the Ur III Dynasty (2114-2004 B.C.) wrote songs to praise their kings.

Their Bylines

A tablet bearing the world’s oldest love poem that depicts the sacred marriage between Inana and Dumuzi. Could a woman’s hand have written this tablet? (Source)

As I mentioned in the last section, only some scribes got to let themselves be known directly through their work to anyone other than their employer. I also mentioned there were female slave scribes whose social status gave them less pay than their colleagues.

Obviously, there was a hierarchy within the elite. The son of a merchant has as much chance to become a dubsar as the son of a king, sure, but once those two are out in the real world, their social differences surely resurface. Moreover, without a signature, it gets hard to know anything about the scribe, even their gender.

Nemet-Nejat wrote that we see signatures on some tablets as early as 2600 B.C. Now, perhaps due to the verbal storytelling tradition, literary works, like the Epic of Gilgamesh, were set to stone anonymously, but that did not mean the one who set it to stone couldn’t be held accountable for mistakes–a list of scribes who wrote and edited well-known works was found at Nineveh.

For scribes who got to sign their names, as their heads inflated with importance, they took to including their lineage, traveling back as far as their earliest ancestors (helping us determine their social status thousands of years later!). Some took their title up a notch, adding “astrologer” to scribe, for example, or were probably asked to make it clear they were a “junior scribe.” Some just showed up in their own narrative, but they were very special (I will talk more about this in the next section). (Source)

The most profound examples, I feel, which demonstrate just how big a gap there is between a royal/noble scribe versus anyone else, lies in one of the products of scribes: the seal. Loftier scribes made seals, autograph stamps, if you will. Seals were cylinders made of stone, carved with impressions pertaining to their owner, often bearing divine scenes that tell a lot about his/her social status. It is through these scenes we get an idea of just how revered a literate royal or noble was.

The seal of Arad-Nanna, a scribe of very high status. (Source)

On the cylinder seal of Arad-Nanna, a high official and possibly of royal blood, we see him having audience with the king, with a goddess in tow. According to Starr, the difference in body language of Arad-Nanna and the goddess accompanying him is one of great significance. “Arad-Nanna doesn’t hold his hands in the ‘reverence’ position,” Starr points out. “The scene is almost relaxed and familiar, as between two near-equals. This suggests he is a member of the royal family. The goddess who accompanies Arad-Nanna is not a minor goddess … The multiple horns on her helmet indicates that she is a major goddess. Significantly, she has her hands held up in reverence to the king, whereas Arad-Nanna does not.” (Source)

Even goddesses took the backseat to scribes of noble or royal birth, and it is clear that it was those individuals whom the king employed in his courts to be his officials and recorders of his feats.

As for knowing the gender of the writer, often the only thing we have to go on to tell us a woman is the author of something is the presence of a feminine touch in the writing. Starr sensed that in a tablet he translated recently. Radner and Robson also wrote about how the Ur III and Old Babylonian periods were seasoned with Sumerian writings about the goddess Inana and the god Dumuzi being in love, leading scholar Jerrold Cooper to believe that the authors of some of those compositions were women, simply because of “feminine sensibility and a female approach to sexuality.” (Source)

And this brings us to an important distinction, a case of semantics.

When a scribe is an author

Tablet #36. A mystery, far from administrative. (Source)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “Author” as “a person who starts or creates something (such as a plan or idea).” Nemet-Nejat wrote that when a work is by a single author, it shows “uniqueness in language, subject matter, and artistic development.” Ultimately, the two sources agree that an author is more than just a recorder. (Source)

On his blog, Starr has written about Tablet #36. It is a tablet that embodies all of what Nemet-Nejat (indirectly) says makes it the work of a unique author. Tablet #36 was a mystery until Starr translated it and found it was an encoded political satire, a work written by one, no ordinary scribe: “…the language of [Tablet #36] is too sophisticated to have been written by someone who was only casually acquainted with the complexities of narrative cuneiform writing,” Starr wrote. “There can be little doubt that the story of [Tablet #36] was written by a full-time ‘wordsmith.'” You can read about this tablet, the content of which Starr titled “The Great Fatted Bull,” along with Starr’s musings about its enigmatic author here.

Starr points out that the author of Tablet #36 was most probably not a full-time scribe, just someone who could write and had the luxury of thinking for himself, along with the time to create a code for his dangerous thoughts. This guy was a completely different animal from, say, Arad-Nanna, who was too drunk on rubbing elbows with the king to criticize him.

Enheduanna. An author. (Source)

Enheduanna, daughter of Sargon of Akkad and the Shakespeare of Sumerian literature, was also a different animal. She wrote poems and laments that included a personal dimension, something I mentioned earlier was reserved for a special few allowed to include themselves in the human experience, and a rare occurrence in much of the ancient world’s writings. Enheduanna was no run-of-the-mill scribe who only wrote generic praise-filled songs to the king, no. She wrote about her expulsion during her brother’s reign, a criticism that wouldn’t have let her writing career span some forty years, as she wouldn’t have been left to live it.

Radner and Robson wrote that being an author in a world of scribes was a feat for a king, and certainly one for a woman of high birth:

“The essential point is that in antiquity unusual men, such as rulers, or a woman such as Enheduana, exceptional because of her high birth and religious duties, could equally be regarded as authors.” (Source)

Contemporaries of their own legacy

It is safe to say that the first scribes were contemporaries of their own lasting legacy, and the status they enjoyed was appropriate, whether they recorded sheep sales or wrote in code…

“Without scribes, letters would not have been written or read, royal monuments would not have been carved with cuneiform, and stories would have been told and then forgotten.” (Source)

Imagine what a world this would’ve been without scribes.

Sources and further reading:

The Sumerian invention of writing http://sumerianshakespeare.com/30301.html

Nisaba http://www.goddessschool.com/projects/artesia/fpl1nisaba.html

Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia (Women scribes) https://books.google.com/books?id=lbmXsaTGNKUC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=women+mesopotamia+scribes&source=bl&ots=dt2I9mGPqk&sig=qJ_MkVscUVs9hUvb_D28fKDB87I&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WGBJVes0hKOwBfDYgdAB&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=women%20mesopotamia%20scribes&f=false

Priests and priestesses in Ancient Mesopotamia http://www.fofweb.com/History/HistRefMain.asp?iPin=MESP0664&SID=2&DatabaseName=Ancient+and+Medieval+History+Online&InputText=%22priests+and+priestesses+in+ancient+Mesopotamia%22&SearchStyle=&dTitle=priests+and+priestesses+in+ancient+Mesopotamia&TabRecordType=All+Records&BioCountPass=0&SubCountPass=1&DocCountPass=0&ImgCountPass=0&MapCountPass=0&FedCountPass=&MedCountPass=0&NewsCountPass=0&RecPosition=1&AmericanData=&WomenData=&AFHCData=&IndianData=&WorldData=&AncientData=Set&GovernmentData=

Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia (Scribe signatures) https://books.google.com/books?id=lbmXsaTGNKUC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=how+scribes+signed+their+names+on+mesopotamian+tablets&source=bl&ots=dt2L3mNWpq&sig=6LCEsL7O0Y56BNxD8KiYP0D-CPk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Zx1uVcPFIIanyQS68YP4Cg&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=how%20scribes%20signed%20their%20names%20on%20mesopotamian%20tablets&f=false

Scribal social ranking in Sumerian Society http://sumerianshakespeare.com/34101/68901.html

Family life in Ancient Sumeria http://stravaganzastravaganza.blogspot.com/2011/12/sumerian-family-life.html

Women As Scribes Throughout History http://exploringfeminisms.com/2011/06/27/women-as-scribes-throughout-history-originally-written-fall-of-2010/

An introduction to the princess wife http://sumerianshakespeare.com/533701/index.html

The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture https://books.google.com/books?id=i4jBn3cThwgC&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=sippar+records+of+women+scribes&source=bl&ots=jpjBY4p0pZ&sig=Hbeu85_RO6zV86PKQYti3cy90bY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=neeJVc2MFsHasQXR7YL4Cg&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=sippar%20records%20of%20women%20scribes&f=false

Tablet #36 https://allmesopotamia.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/tablet-36-by-sumerian-shakespeare/

Tablet #36 (Sumerian Shakespeare) http://sumerianshakespeare.com/6801.html

The Scribe http://sumerianshakespeare.com/34101/index.html

Writing Page http://www.mesopotamia.co.uk/writing/home_set.html

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Shaduppum, A City Full of Surprises.

Shaduppum. Ain’t it a beauty?

In 1945, on the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad, the ancient city of Shaduppum was discovered at Tell Harmal.

Excavations soon got underway, led by Iraqi archaeologist Taha Baqir, and Muhammed Ali Mustafa of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities. (Source) The excavations unearthed an Old Babylonian city with a collection of close to 3,000 tablets.

Now, with so many tablets in its hold, it’s no wonder Shaduppum’s patron god is that of writing and record-keeping, and that it was an administrative hub for Babylonia.

First Things First

Although it was established as early as the late third millenium BC, during the days of Sargon of Akkad, Shaduppum didn’t rise to prominence until the second millennium BC, when it served as a Babylonian accounting hub.The city’s name reflects this, by translating into “the treasury,” or “accountant’s office.”

Within Shaduppum’s walls, private homes, one administration building, and seven temples were unearthed, some reconstructed. Of the seven temples, a large one dedicated to Nisaba, the Sumerian goddess of writing and record-keeping, and her consort, sits just inside the city’s gates. That temple’s entrance was guarded by two roaring terra-cotta lions.

One of the terra-cotta lions at Shaduppum, on display at the Iraqi National Museum.

That Terra-cotta lion with his buddy guarding the temple of Nisaba in the city of Shaduppum. (Source)

 

Accountants aren’t all about numbers!

So, almost 3,000 tablets were unearthed at Shaduppum, but only a few weren’t of an administrative nature, and you’ll find that the nature of these non-administrative tablets is a little surprising.

I find it surprising, anyway, that a city with such a cut and dry purpose had a copy of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest written work of literature, in its vaults. It was some nine decades after the standard Akkadian version of the ancient poem was discovered in Ashurbanipal’s library at Nineveh, that two tablets of it were unearthed at Shaduppum.

The next surprise is actually two surprises in one.

You see, Iraqi archaeologist Taha Baqir also discovered a set of laws some two centuries older than the Code of Hammurabi at Shaduppum. The Laws of Eshnunna were written in Akkadian on two tablets, marked A and B, dating back to 1930 BC. That’s the first surprise regarding this find. The second one might make you do a double take…

The Laws of Eshnunna, Eshnunna being the city north of Ur where they originated, were promoted by that city’s ruler, Bilalama. In 1948, a year after Baqir’s discovery, Albrecht Goetze translated and published the laws, revealing that though Bilalama had some two-hundred years on Hammurabi, he was a little more progressive than the man whose laws inspired the Ten Commandments. That’s right. Unlike Hammurabi, whose punishments usually featured maiming, if not death, Bilalama implemented a monetary, fine-based penal system. But don’t get too comfortable with Bilalama’s laws, because the more serious offenses, including sexual ones, were punishable by death. That’s pretty progressive!

Shamash: These aren’t the first laws. Hammurabi: What?! Wait–. Shamash: Shhh. Now smile for the chiseler! 

Poor Hammurabi.

Stealing some Greek thunder

Hammurabi was not the only one whose thunder is stolen by tablets at Tell Harmal. The one-upping found in Shaduppum’s collection of tablets didn’t even stop at Mesopotamia’s borders, for it extended all the way to the Greek realm, delivering the two bombshells I’m going to talk about now.

Now, even if you used math class (or history) as nap time, the names Euclid and Pythagoras should sound familiar to you. And if not (it’s okay), I’ll refresh your memory: Euclid of Alexandria is the father of geometry, and Pythagoras of Samos proved that a^2+b^2=c^2 in a right-angled triangle, aka, the Pythagorean Theorem.

The tablets that steal a bit of Greek mathematician thunder. Sorry, Bros.

Though the fact still remains that Euclid and Pythagoras gave us the official real deal, complete with proof and universal mathematical truths, two tablets dating to the early second millennium BC deliver the same newsflash Hammurabi got about his laws: Kinda’ been there, kinda’ done that.

The algebraic-geometry on one tablet (the one on the left in the picture above) features work similar to Euclid’s, dealing with the hypotenuse of a right-angle triangle. The other tablet features a problem with a rectangle whose length and width are calculated using what is essentially the Pythagorean Theorem.

Pythagoras: *A long, deep, deep, deep SIGH*

Sorry, Bros.

Another look at Shaduppum

So, the first round of excavations at Tell Harmal was fruitful, but a second round in 1997 turned out to be all about details. The Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage allowed more excavations at Tell Harmal that year, this time by a joint effort between Baghdad University and the German Archaeological Institute.

Because of Shaduppum’s relatively late rise to prominence, in the spring of 1997 and autumn of 1998, the collaborative project took a closer look at the rock layers of the city, confirming different ages in the multiple building layers.

Most interestingly, stratigraphy of the city’s walls showed it was not fortified until the rise of Babylonia in the second millennium BC, suggesting that its rise to prominence was quite significant–it went from being a city so inconsequential it lacked fortification, perhaps, to a city with pronounced walls. Evidence also suggested then that the city had been destroyed by fire and destruction around the time of Hammurabi, then rebuilt.

It’s a very interesting project that you can read more about here.

A city of consequence

There remains much we don’t know about Shaduppum, that we may never know, but one thing is clear: Shaduppum was a city that had a little bit of everything that made it a Mesopotamian city worth a look.

 

Sources and Further Reading

http://www.miglus.de/Themen/Harmal/harmal.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eshnunna

http://books.google.com/books?id=1C4NKp4zgIQC&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=tell+harmal+city+of+agade&source=bl&ots=Ss36wkEcA9&sig=sN53Fql2w0iVsHKZpsJrwvwwPpc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XS15U7bNK4iRqAb76YCQAQ&ved=0CGMQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=tell%20harmal%20city%20of%20agade&f=false

https://allmesopotamia.wordpress.com/?s=sargon+the+great

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/akka/hd_akka.htm

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/articles/o/old_babylonian_period.aspx

http://proteus.brown.edu/mesopotamianarchaeology/994

http://www.ezida.com/cats/lion%20t1.jpg

http://www.goddessaday.com/mesopotamian/nisaba

http://www.fofweb.com/History/HistRefMain.asp?iPin=MESP0046&SID=2&DatabaseName=Ancient+and+Medieval+History+Online&InputText=%22Nisaba%22&SearchStyle=&dTitle=Shaduppum&TabRecordType=All+Records&BioCountPass=0&SubCountPass=4&DocCountPass=0&ImgCountPass=0&MapCountPass=0&FedCountPass=&MedCountPass=0&NewsCountPass=0&RecPosition=3&AmericanData=&WomenData=&AFHCData=&IndianData=&WorldData=&AncientData=Set&GovernmentData=

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_Goetze

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclid

http://cojs.org/cojswiki/index.php/Tell_Harmal_Mathematical_Tablets

http://www.miglus.de/Themen/Harmal/1997/1997.html

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Babylon, Uncategorized

 

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How Sumerians made sense of the universe

First there was ______, then there was ______, and the universe was created.

It’s a pretty standard and simplified formula of how humans have been trying to explain the elusive origins of our universe and its inhabitants, since the beginning of time. The most well known of such explanations to come out of our favorite place here at All Mesopotamia is the Enûma Eliš (Enuma Elish), a Babylonian creation myth. Its composition date is believed to either be as early as the 18th century BCE, or as late as the 11th century BCE, depending on whom you ask, but it is definitely one of the oldest comprehensive written creation myths.

As is common knowledge, before Babylon was even a thought, Sumerians had the run of Mesopotamia, and they did a lot of organizing while they did. This required making sense of the chaos that was the universe to the people who had to figure out even how to produce their own food.

Who am I? Where am I?

To people vulnerable to every little speck of dust the universe threw their way, our ancestors needed to make sense of what must have been a terrifying existence. Hence, the titular questions of this section that we all might ask if we woke up with pizza stuck to our face, in a strange place. For Sumerians, the universe was that strange place. It was vast and harsh, and especially where they were standing, a hot and flood-plagued spot. They needed a way to explain their surroundings, and their existence within those surroundings.

There is always something there…

Illustration of the Sumerian Creation Myth by Hanna Agosta.

Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art writes in his piece Epic of Creation (Mesopotamia): “…no single myth addressed issues of initial creation. It was simply assumed that the gods existed before the world was formed.”

Though not all Mesopotamian creation myths tell the same story, they all have one thing in common: They all begin with a universal element already in existence, like water or earth or sky, represented by corresponding primeval gods.

The Sumerian Myth webpage says: “Often, the Sumerians wrote as if their civilization (agricultural techniques, cities, classes of people) came first, and people later.” The introduction of a Sumerian story called “The Huluppu Tree,” gives a great example of this:

In the first days when everything needed was brought into being, In the first days when everything needed was properly nourished… (Source)

In another Sumerian text, it is Nammu, the sea, that is the starting point. “[Nammu is] the mother, who gave birth to heaven and earth.” (Source)

But why and how did I end up here?

All Mesopotamian creation myths share one purpose for the creation of humankind, and it’s pretty cut and dry (not to mention depressing): Humans were created by the gods to do the menial jobs they didn’t want to do themselves.

And if you didn’t feel lucky enough as a general peon, you could take delight in knowing you were also created to keep the temples stocked with food and spirits for, you guessed it, the gods. One can understand (albeit grudgingly by yours truly) why scholars often label the Mesopotamian civilization “pessimistic.” The purpose is the same, but the how is where Mesopotamian creation myths differ when it comes to the creation of humankind. Sumerians believed they were fashioned out of clay by Enki, the god of wisdom, and Ninmah, the goddess of birth. (Source)

While in Enuma Elish, humans are created from the blood of a defeated god, Kingu, the second husband of Tiamat (salt water goddess). Regardless of how they came to exist, their existence sounds like a bleak existence, doesn’t it? I believe inventing beer was one way for these poor people to cope with their lot in life, for sure, but as smart as that invention was, there was something even smarter still.

Waxing philosophical

Top bird explains your place in the universe. (Source)

Philosophy is usually associated with the Greeks, but Sumerians also spent time philosophizing. In fact, around the 3rd millennium BC, Sumerians put their philosophical thoughts about humanity’s place in the universe into writing.

The Sumerian Disputations is a series of seven debate topics, or dialogues, between various opposite entities. Though the entities are not always intellectual, their arguments reflect intellectual views of the universe. In Debate Between Bird and Fish, for example, the bird and fish try to more or less one-up each other by pointing out their strengths and, ultimately, their importance in/to the universe, all the while using human standards for measurement, in this case, which of the two pleases Culgi, the son of the chief god Enlil, the most. In this debate, the bird comes out the winner for its sweet song. Another debate is between Winter and Summer, in which Winter wins for being the provider of water, pointed out as an important element for agriculture.

What matters

Sumerians, Babylonians, and every people who questioned their existence since, after, or even before them, have explained the universe in one way or other. Today, we have TV shows and the actual Big Bang theory for those of us who want a scientific explanation for the universe, but even science doesn’t have all the answers. We might forever wonder about our ever present universe, our home, in which we have built and continue to build our purpose and destiny, and maybe that is the point of it all.

 

Sources and further reading:

http://www.ancient.eu.com/article/225/ http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/epic/hd_epic.htm http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/SumerianMyth.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumerian_disputations http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/myths/texts/disputations/birdfish.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_between_Summer_and_Winter

 

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