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Akhenaten and Moses

Defying centuries of traditional worship of the Egyptian pantheon, Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten decreed during his reign in the mid-14th century B.C.E. that his subjects were to worship only one god: the sun-disk Aten. Akhenaten is sometimes called the world’s first monotheist. Did his monotheism later influence Moses—and the birth of Israelite monotheism?

In “Did Akhenaten’s Monotheism Influence Moses?” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, University of California, Santa Barbara, emeritus professor of anthropology Brian Fagan discusses this tantalizing question.

Egyptian King Akhenaten, meaning “Effective for Aten”—his name was originally Amenhotep IV, reigned from about 1352 to 1336 B.C.E. In the fifth year of his reign, he moved the royal residence from Thebes to a new site in Middle Egypt, Akhetaten (“the horizon of Aten,” present-day Tell el-Amarna), and there ordered lavish temples to be built for Aten. Akhenaten claimed to be the only one who had access to Aten, thus making an interceding priesthood unnecessary.

In the BAR article “The Monotheism of the Heretic Pharaoh,” Donald B. Redford, who excavated Akhenaten’s earliest temple at Karnak (in modern Thebes), describes how Akhenaten instituted worship of Aten:

The cult of the Sun-Disk emerged from an iconoclastic “war” between the “Good God” (Akhenaten), and all the rest of the gods. The outcome of this “war” was the exaltation of the former and the annihilation of the latter. Akhenaten taxed and gradually closed the temples of the other gods; the images of their erstwhile occupants were occasionally destroyed. Cult, ritual and mythology were anathematized, literature edited to remove unwanted allusions. Names were changed to eliminate hateful divine elements; and cities where the old gods had been worshipped, were abandoned by court and government.

Akhenaten destroyed much, he created little. No mythology was devised for his new god. No symbolism was permitted in art or the cult, and the cult itself was reduced to the one simple act of offering upon the altar. Syncretism was no longer possible: Akhenaten’s god does not accept and absorb—he excludes and annihilates.

Did Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten’s adamant worship of one deity influence the Biblical Moses, leader of the Israelite Exodus? Was Akhenaten’s monotheism the progenitor of Israelite monotheism? According to BAR author Brian Fagan, we are talking about two different kinds of monothesisms:

“Israelite monotheism developed through centuries of discussion, declarations of faith and interactions with other societies and other beliefs,” Fagan writes. “In contrast, Akhenaten’s monotheism developed very largely at the behest of a single, absolute monarch presiding over an isolated land, where the pharaoh’s word was divine and secular law. It was an experiment that withered on the vine.”
When Tutankhaten—the second son of Akhenaten; we know him as the famous King Tut—ascended to the throne, he, working with his advisers, restored worship of the traditional Egyptian pantheon and its chief god, Amun. Tutankhaten also changed his name to Tutankhamun, meaning “the living image of Amun.”

An Unexpected Consequence of the Christian Crusades

From a western point of view, the Christian Crusades have a glorified and righteous history: countless films and books recount how the shining knights of Christianity set out to save Christendom from the “infidel.” Ironically, the reality of Crusades history is that probably the best thing to come out of the Christian Crusades for western civilization was not the conquest of, but rather the exposure to, the Muslim “infidel.” Below, J. Harold Ellens details this twist in Crusades history in “The Fihrist: How an Arab Book Seller Saved Civilization.”

At a time when western Christian society could be accurately characterized as superstitious, brutal, dogmatic and repressive, the Arab world during the Christian Crusades period was reaching a zenith of learning and enlightenment. Once such example of this is the watershed work called the Fihrist (meaning “the catalogue”), a compendium of all of the significant written works on religion, the humanities and science available at the end of the first millennium A.D. The Fihrist, and the scholarship it represents, is one of the shining positives that emerged from a Crusades history that was otherwise brutal and bloody.

As explained by J. Harold Ellens below, from the Fihrist western scholars gained from the Christian Crusades the wealth of human knowledge that spanned the preceding several millennia—even Aristotle’s will was included in the masterwork compendium. It could be—and has been—argued that in Crusades history the best and unanticipated consequence of the Christian Crusades is that the western world now had the opportunity to regain ancient knowledge—through works like the Fihrist—that centuries of political instability and religious superstition had lost.

It took time. The western Renaissance several hundred years later is largely attributed to this reacquisition of ancient learning from works like the Fihrist. But gradually this consequence of the Christian Crusades trickled down to men (and some women) of learning in later generations, who were able to incorporate this aspect of Crusades history into a revival of knowledge in the humanities and sciences.

What the Christian Crusades gave to the Muslim world in terms of destruction, death and conflict was nowhere near the unexpected and unanticipated gift that the western world obtained from Crusades history in the form of works like the Fihrist. The Christians set out to conquer the “infidel,” but the “infidel” ended up educating the Christians.

The Fihrist

by J. Harold Ellens

The Fihrist: How an Arab book seller saved civilization

In a fiery speech delivered at Clermont, France, in 1095 C.E., Pope Urban II called on Western Christians to expel the “Infidel” from the Holy Land. Thus the Pope unleashed the Crusades, during which European armies gained control of most of the Levant, including Jerusalem. The Pope also unleashed something else—a kind of frenzied destructiveness that frequently accompanies righteous fury. The wars of the following two centuries were marked by unimaginable and often irrational acts of rapine and murder, not the least of which was the Crusader attack in 1203 upon Constantinople, in which hundreds of thousands of Eastern Orthodox Christians were slaughtered.

In return, the West received one of the greatest gifts ever presented by one civilization to another. The Crusades opened up a rich mine of Eastern scholarship. The West would be civilized by the “Infidel,” informed by refined Persian and Arab scientists, historians, physicians, poets and philosophers.

An important instrument in this cultural exchange was a remarkable book, the Fihrist (Catalogue). This tenth-century C.E. book is a catalogue of all the significant written works on religion, science and the humanities that were available at the end of the first millennium C.E. It includes a digest of ancient Greek and Roman literature, much of which was lost to the West after the fall of the Roman Empire and the destruction of the Alexandria Library.a The Fihrist also lists classical texts that were preserved by Eastern scholars in the great imperial libraries of Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus and Khurasan.

The breadth of learning revealed by the Fihrist is astonishing. It treats language, calligraphy and holy scriptures such as the Torah, the Gospels and the Koran. It contains chapters on Arab grammarians, history and politics, pre-Islamic poetry, the literature of the Umayyad (661–750) and Abbasid (750–1258) caliphates, as well as chapters on prominent jurists and legal authorities. It provides a summary of philosophy from the Hellenic thinker, Thales of Miletus (c. 620–555 B.C.E.), to the end of the first millennium C.E.—devoting considerable ink to Plato and Aristotle, even recording the entire text of Aristotle’s will. TheFihrist discusses mathematics, astronomy, medicine, fables and legends, Christian and Islamic sects, alchemy and bookmaking, and it tells what was known of such faraway places as India, Indochina and China.

The author of this signal work, Abu ’l-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Nadim (c. 935–990 C.E.), was probably born in Baghdad, where his father ran a bookstore. The name “al-Nadim” (literally, “courtier”) means that he was a court official of some sort. His father was a warrag, or entrepreneur. Al-Nadim probably received a normal education: beginning instruction at the mosque at age six, memorizing much of the Koran by early adolescence, and then entering one of the mosque’s study circles. During the course of his life, he also had the opportunity to study under some of the luminaries of his day, such as the famous jurist Abu Sa’id al-Sirafi, the mathematician Yunus al-Qass and the historian Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Marzubani.
Al-Nadim’s greatest source of learning, however, was his father’s bookstore, where he was employed. No doubt his research was extremely useful to his father and their potential customers, especially his detailed knowledge of important books and authors. One imagines that his daily routine included copying manuscripts, entertaining scholars and acquiring books.1 In chapter four of the Fihrist, al-Nadim explains that his life’s work was “to present the names of the poets and the amount of verses written by each poet among them … so that whoever desires to collect books and poems can have this information.” Perhaps not accidentally, this system closely corresponds to that developed by the third-century B.C.E. scholar Callimachus for recording books in Egypt’s Alexandria Library.2

One of al-Nadim’s biographers refers to him as a Mu’tazili—that is, a member of a heretical Islamic sect that embraced the rationalistic and humanistic aspects of Islamic thought. The Mu’tazili, for instance, rejected traditional Islamic determinism, according to which everything happens because of the will of God. They believed, instead, that God’s justice could only exist if human beings were the authors of their own actions—and thus were punished or rewarded according to what they, not only God, willed and did. Even though al-Nadim was a Shi’ite who considered the rival Sunni Muslims crude and ignorant, he must have been seriously interested in the Mu’tazili, since he devotes a large part of chapter five to the sect.3 Mu’tazilism also seems like the sort of philosophy that would appeal to a man of al-Nadim’s learning.

Al-Nadim added to, arranged and rearranged his encyclopedia until his untimely death at the age of 55. On the title page of the Fihrist manuscript in Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library (see the second sidebar to this article) is a note, almost certainly penned by the great historian al-Maqrizi (1365–1441), indicating that al-Nadim died on the tenth day before the end of the month of Sha’ban in 990/1. Manuscripts of the Fihrist in al-Nadim’s own handwriting were probably placed in the royal library at Baghdad. In 1229 an Arab scholar claimed that he had worked from a manuscript of the Fihrist in its author’s hand; in 1252 the lexicographer al-Saghani made a similar claim.

One of al-Nadim’s persistent interests was the Arabic language. He cites scholarly debates about the origins of Arabic script—whether it was developed in a small Midianite Bedouin encampment in modern northwest Saudi Arabia or was borrowed from foreigners. Some sources say that Adam passed the script down, al-Nadim tells us; others claim that Ishmael gave it to his descendants. Al-Nadim is not much concerned with these folk traditions, but he is very interested in transcriptions of the Koran in the various dialects, scripts, hands and illuminations available in his day.

Al-Nadim not only sold and catalogued books, he was passionate about them. In the Fihrist, he comments on books and scripts of the Persians, Greeks, Hebrews (archaic and current), Syrians, Saxons, Chinese, Turks, Indians, Nubians, Russians, Bulgarians, Franks and Armenians. He loved all aspects of bookmaking, from orthography and calligraphy to methods of sharpening pens and making paper. Books, for al-Nadim, were almost alive; they were friends and teachers. “[B]ooks are the shells of wisdom, which are split open for the pearls of character,” he records one source as saying. From another source he quotes: “If books had not bound together the experiences of former generations, the shackles of later generations in their forgetfulness would not have been loosed.” Books represented an ideal existence without the failings to which men and women are prone. As one source says,

We have companions of whose conversation we never weary;
Confiding and trustworthy whether absent or present,
They give us the benefit of their knowledge … of what has passed,
With wise opinion, discipline, and instruction well-guided,
Without cause to be dreaded or fear of suspicion.

It is not surprising that al-Nadim devotes an extensive section of his volume to how the Koran was supposed to have been assembled from the revelations of the prophet Mohammed. He discusses the various sources, editions and interpretations of the Koran, along with the Islamic sages who commented on the holy book and the people and places mentioned in it. Al-Nadim also includes careful notes on discrepancies in the Koran— inconsistencies, special characteristics of language or ideas, as well as other notable peculiarities in the sacred texts.

The Fihrist: How an Arab book seller saved civilization

Apparently al-Nadim visited official libraries, bookstores, authors and private libraries in his search for books. Of one book collector, Mohammed ibn al-Husayn, who lived near Aleppo, al-Nadim writes: “I have never seen anyone else with a library as extensive as the one which he had. It certainly contained Arabic books about grammar, philology, and literature, as well as ancient works. I met this man a number of times and, although he was friendly with me, he was wary and tight with his possessions.”

Hand-copied books were valuable objects—prized particularly by the feudal chiefs who ruled Aleppo from 944 to 967 C.E. and who were commandeering books to build their own library. Al-Husayn was “tight” because he was worried that the Aleppo sheiks would learn of his beloved volumes and then confiscate them. Among his precious antique manuscripts, al-Nadim reports, were “trusts and contracts in the handwriting of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali,” the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, along with documents in the hand of Mohammed’s scribes.

While making his way from library to library and from city to city, al-Nadim was always on the watch for especially rare books. He knew of two eighth-century C.E. Arabic grammar books that had apparently been lost, since he could find no one who had ever seen a copy or knew of anyone who had. One can sense the palpable grief of a true bibliophile in al-Nadim’s account of his futile search for these tomes.
Of a well-known man named al-Suli, “one of the brilliant men of letters and collectors of books,” al-Nadim reports a long list of admirable things, from his writing important books to his being a champion chess player. But the news about al-Suli is not all good. In his magnum opus on poetry, entitled Leaves, al-Nadim observes, “he relied upon the book of al-Marthadi about poetry and the poets; in fact he transcribed and plagiarized it. I have seen a copy of [the work of] this man [al-Marthadi] which came from the library of al-Suli and by which he was exposed.”

The Fihrist: How an Arab book seller saved civilization

One intriguing passage in the Fihrist concerns ancient Persian astronomy. After carefully describing how Persian scientists treated the bark of the white poplar tree to produce a durable writing material, al-Nadim informs us that they wrote down detailed astronomical tables collected from as far back as the Babylonians. Then the ancient scientists looked for a city where the climate was optimal for preserving these records. They determined upon the Persian city of Jayy:

Then they went … inside the city of Jayy, to make it the depository for their sciences. This [depository] was called Sarwayh [Saruyah] and it has lasted until our own time. In regard to this building … many years before our time a side [of the building] became ruined. Then they found a vault in the cleft-off side … in which they discovered many books of the ancients, written on white poplar bark … and containing all of the sciences of the forefathers written in the old Persian form of writing.

Al-Nadim reports further that he had it on “reliable authority” that in 961 or 962 “another vaulted building cracked open … Many books were discovered in this place, but nobody found out how to read them.” The author then informs us that a decade before he had seen for himself books in Greek that had been found in a wall of the city (presumably Jayy). Al-Nadim closes this account by observing that in ancient times learning was forbidden except for those who were scholars or known to be able to receive learning by natural genius. Although the Greeks and Romans promoted learning, the Byzantine Christians forbade literacy except for the study of theology. In contrast, al-Nadim believed that Islam encourages the pursuit of literacy and knowledge.

Although the Fihrist is probably most valuable as a compendium of knowledge, it also preserves the spirit of its times through informative and entertaining narratives. One such story tells of a cotton worker named Mohammed ibn Kullab, who had a running theological debate with an acquaintance. Ibn Kullab contended that the Word of Allah, notably the Koran, is also Allah. His interlocutor then accused ibn Kullab of being a Christian, since Christians believed, on the basis of the Gospel of John, that the Word is God, and asked, “What do you have to say about the Christ (al-Masih)?” He would say the same thing about Christ that the Sunni Muslims say about the Koran, ibn Kullab responded: He is the Word of God.

This story nicely illustrates al-Nadim’s tone of mind: tolerant, curious, often bemused. Not only does the Fihrist show the breadth of al-Nadim’s knowledge, it is also a testament to his compassion. This devout Muslim, extremely proud of his culture and heritage, honored the beliefs of other peoples and gave them residence in his life’s work. He knew much about Judaism and Christianity, for example; he knew their histories, their scriptures, their religious beliefs. He knew the works of ancient Greek, Hindu and Chinese scholars. He was fascinated by the world beyond his own, so he built a monument to it, the Fihrist, which shines brightly with his humane spirit.

Notes

1. Al-Nadim provides numerous accounts of book collections in remote places. For example, he tells of one sage, Khalid ibn Yzid ibn Mu’awiyah, who ordered a group of Greek philosophers from a city in Egypt, presumably Alexandria, to translate Greek and Coptic scientific books into Arabic (p. 581). Al-Nadim gives one unusually interesting account: “I heard Abu Ishaq ibn Shahram tell in a general gathering that there is in the Byzantine country a temple of ancient construction. It has a portal larger than any other ever seen with both gates made of iron. In ancient times, when they worshipped heavenly bodies and idols, the Greeks exalted this [temple], praying and sacrificing in it. He [Ibn Shahram] said, ‘I asked the emperor of the Byzantines to open it for me, but this was impossible, as it had been locked since the time that the Byzantines had become Christians. I continued, however, to be courteous to him, to correspond with him, and also to entreat him in conversation during my stay at his court. … He agreed to open it and, behold, this building was made of marble and great colored stones, upon which there were many beautiful inscriptions and sculptures. I have never seen or heard of anything equaling its vastness and beauty. In this temple there were numerous camel loads of ancient books … Some of these [books] were worn and some in normal condition. Others were eaten by insects.’ Then he said, ‘I saw there gold offering utensils and other rare things.’ He went on to say, ‘After my exit the door was locked …’ He believed that the building was a three-day journey from Constantinople” (pp. 585–586). It is likely that this was the famous Celsus Library at Ephesus, built in the second century C.E.

2. Callimachus (c. 305–235 B.C.E.) served under four successive chief librarians as the collector and collator of the Alexandria Library. He produced a 120-volume catalogue, called the Pinakes, of the library’s 500,000 books (that number would reach 1,000,000 by the time of Jesus). The Pinakes contained information on each book’s contents, provenance and author. After the library was destroyed in the seventh century C.E., many of its surviving books were apparently carried off to the imperial libraries of the caliphates, where they were translated into Persian and Arabic. For more information, see J. Harold Ellens, “You Can Look It Up!AO 02:02; “The Ancient Library of Alexandria: The West’s Most Important Repository of Learning,BR 13:01; The Ancient Library of Alexandria and Early Christian Theological Development, Occasional Papers no. 27 (Claremont, CA: Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate University, 1993).

3. In the Fihrist, al-Nadim provides a summary of what others think of the Mu’tazilah (meaning “Those Who Separate Themselves”): “The Zaydiyah and Ibadiyah said that they did not believe in [God’s] grace, and were neither polytheists nor Muslims, but sinners. The companions of al-Hasan said that they were hypocrites and also sinners. All of the Mu’tazilah separated themselves from the things about which these [groups] differed. They said, ‘We agree about what they join in calling sin, but we avoid matters about which they disagree concerning unbelief, belief, hypocrisy, and polytheism’” (pp. 380–381).

Secret pagan basilica in Rome emerges from the shadows after 2,000 years

An underground chamber that was a place of worship for a mysterious cult 2,000 years ago has opened to the public for the first time

Riccardo Mancinelli, technical director of the team in charge of restoring stucco figures on the walls of the pre-Christian, 1st century, underground basilica of Porta Maggiore

Riccardo Mancinelli, technical director of the team in charge of restoring stucco figures on the walls of the pre-Christian, 1st century, underground basilica of Porta Maggiore Photo: Chris Warde-Jones/The Telegraph

A mysterious Roman basilica built for the worship of an esoteric pagan cult and now lying hidden more than 40ft below street level has opened to the public for the first time.

The basilica, the only one of its kind in the world, was excavated from solid tufa volcanic rock on the outskirts of the imperial capital in the first century AD.

Lavishly decorated with stucco reliefs of gods, goddesses, panthers, winged cherubs and pygmies, it was discovered by accident in 1917 during the construction of a railway line from Rome to Cassino, a town to the south. An underground passageway caved in, revealing the entrance to the hidden chamber.

Archway and stucco figures on the walls of the underground basilica Archway and stucco figures on the walls of the underground basilica   Photo: Chris Warde-Jones/The Telegraph

A painstaking restoration that has been going on for years has now reached the point where the 40ft-long basilica can be opened to visitors.

The subterranean basilica, which predates Christianity, was built by a rich Roman family who were devotees of a little-known cult called Neopythagoreanism.

Originating in the first century BC, it was a school of mystical Hellenistic philosophy that preached asceticism and was based on the writings of Pythagoras and Plato.

A fresco depicting birds on the walls A fresco depicting birds on the walls   Photo: Chris Warde-Jones/The Telegraph

“There were lots of cults worshipped at the time and the empire was in general fairly tolerant towards them,” said Dr Giovanna Bandini, the director of the site. “But this one was seen as a threat because it discounted the idea of the emperor as a divine mediator between mortals and the gods.”

The basilica is thought to have been constructed by the influential Statilius family.

Stucco figuresStucco figures  Photo: Chris Warde-Jones/The Telegraph

But they were accused of practising black magic and illicit rites by Agrippina, the ruthless, scheming mother of the Emperor Nero.

The head of the family, Titus Statilius Taurus, was investigated by the Senate for what Tacitus in his Annals called “addiction to magical superstitions”. He protested his innocence but committed suicide in AD53.

The basilica eventually fell into disrepair and was sealed up during the reign of the Emperor Claudius before being forgotten about.

A dedicated team of experts is restoring the interior of the basilica, scrubbing away mould and removing encrusted deposits of calcium with chemicals, tools and lasers.

Riccardo Mancinelli, technical director of the team in charge of restoring stucco figures on the walls of the basilica of Porta MaggioreRiccardo Mancinelli, technical director of the team in charge of restoring stucco figures on the walls of the basilica of Porta Maggiore  Photo: Chris Warde-Jones/The Telegraph

Scaffolding platforms have been built in order to allow the restorers to access the arched ceiling, which is covered in stucco reliefs, some decayed but others in a remarkable state of preservation.

The restorers remove thick layers of calcium deposits first by hand, with scalpels, and then use small drills.

“They are the sort that you see in a dentist’s surgery,” said Riccardo Mancinelli, the technical director of the project.

The basilica consists of three naves lined by six rock pillars and an apse, all decorated with finely executed images of centaurs, griffins and satyrs.

There are depictions of classical heroes such as Achilles, Orpheus, Paris and Hercules.

Archway and stucco figures on the walls of the underground basilica Archway and stucco figures on the walls of the underground basilica   Photo: Chris Warde-Jones/The Telegraph

The head of Medusa guards the entrance to the chamber, while the lower parts of the walls are painted a deep ox-blood red, with renditions of wild birds and women in togas.

The basilica, which is entirely hidden to the outside world and accessed via a door masked from the street by a mesh fence, lies directly beneath the railway line. Trains rumble noisily overhead.

It was dug out of tufa, which is a rock that is easy to excavate. It is the reason that there are so many catacombs beneath Rome,” said Mario Bellini, an engineer involved with the project.

Although the restoration is still under way, the basilica can now be visited by tourists. Groups will be kept small because of the fragility of the monument.

Daniela Duranti, one of the team in charge of restoring stucco figures on the walls of the pre-Christian, 1st century, underground basilica of Porta MaggioreDaniela Duranti, one of the team in charge of restoring stucco figures on the walls of the pre-Christian, 1st century, underground basilica of Porta Maggiore  Photo: Chris Warde-Jones/The Telegraph

“The temperature and humidity must be kept constant,” said Dr Bandini. “The temperature must not rise above 18C and humidity must not rise above 92 per cent. “But it mustn’t go below 87 per cent either, otherwise the stucco starts to dry out and crack.

“This place is unique in the Roman world in terms of its architecture and design. It was a precursor to the basilicas built during the Christian era, centuries later.”

Lost ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ Verse Depicts Cacophonous Abode of Gods

by Elizabeth Palermo,

The Gilgamesh tablet.

A serendipitous deal between a history museum and a smuggler has provided new insight into one of the most famous stories ever told: “The Epic of Gilgamesh.”

The new finding, a clay tablet, reveals a previously unknown “chapter” of the epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia. This new section brings both noise and color to a forest for the gods that was thought to be a quiet place in the work of literature. The newfound verse also reveals details about the inner conflict the poem’s heroes endured.

In 2011, the Sulaymaniyah Museum in Slemani, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, purchased a set of 80 to 90 clay tablets from a known smuggler. The museum has been engaging in these backroom dealings as a way to regain valuable artifacts that disappeared from Iraqi historical sites and museums since the start of the American-led invasion of that country, according to the online nonprofit publication Ancient History Et Cetera.

Among the various tablets purchased, one stood out to Farouk Al-Rawi, a professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. The large block of clay, etched with cuneiform writing, was still caked in mud when Al-Rawi advised the Sulaymaniyah Museum to purchase artifact for the agreed upon $800. [In Photos: See the Treasures of Mesopotamia]

With the help of Andrew George, associate dean of languages and culture at SOAS and translator of “The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation” (Penguin Classics, 2000), Al-Rawi translated the tablet in just five days. The clay artifact could date as far back to the old-Babylonian period (2003-1595 B.C.), according to the Sulaymaniyah Museum. However, Al-Rawi and George said they believe it’s a bit younger and was inscribed in the neo-Babylonian period (626-539 B.C.).

Al-Rawi and George soon discovered that the stolen tablet told a familiar story: the story of Gilgamesh, the protagonist of the ancient Babylonian tale, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” which is widely regarded as the first-ever epic poem and the first great work of literature ever created. Because of the time period when the story was written, the tale was likely inscribed on “tablets,” with each tablet telling a different part of the story (kind of like modern chapters or verses).

What Al-Rawi and George translated is a formerly unknown portion of the fifth tablet, which tells the story of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and Enkidu (the wild man created by the gods to keep Gilgamesh in line) as they travel to the Cedar Forest (home of the gods) to defeat the ogre Humbaba.

The new tablet adds 20 previously unknown lines to the epic story, filling in some of the details about how the forest looked and sounded.

“The new tablet continues where other sources break off, and we learn that the Cedar Forest is no place of serene and quiet glades. It is full of noisy birds and cicadas, and monkeys scream and yell in the trees,” George told Live Science in an email.

In a parody of courtly life, the monstrous Humbaba treats the cacophony of jungle noises as a kind of entertainment, “like King Louie in ‘The Jungle Book,'” George said. Such a vivid description of the natural landscapes is “very rare” in Babylonian narrative poetry, he added

Other newfound lines of the poem confirm details that are alluded to in other parts of the work. For example, it shows that Enkidu and Humbaba were childhood buddies and that, after killing the ogre, the story’s heroes feel a bit remorseful, at least for destroying the lovely forest.

“Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut down the cedar to take home to Babylonia, and the new text carries a line that seems to express Enkidu’s recognition that reducing the forest to a wasteland is a bad thing to have done, and will upset the gods,” George said. Like the description of the forest, this kind of ecological awareness is very rare in ancient poetry, he added.

The tablet, now mud-free and fully translated, is currently on display at the Sulaymaniyah Museum. A paper outlining Al-Rawi and George’s findings was published in 2014 in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies.

 Original article on Live Science..

Analysis of the ISIS Destruction at the Mosul Museum

This is a cross-posting from the blog Gates of Nineveh. Part 1 and Part 2 of the original posts can be found there.

Last week ISIS released yet another propaganda video, showing what has been feared since the fall of Mosul last summer: the destruction of ancient artifacts of the Mosul Museum. By now most of the world has seen this video, which has been featured in all the world’s major news agencies. This post will attempt to identify what has been lost and assess the damage.

As in several of the group’s past videos, a spokesman for the group appears in the video to explain the rationale for the destruction. International Business Times has provided a translation:

These ruins that are behind me, they are idols and statues that people in the past used to worship instead of Allah. The so-called Assyrians and Akkadians and others looked to gods for war, agriculture and rain to whom they offered sacrifices…The Prophet Mohammed took down idols with his bare hands when he went into Mecca. We were ordered by our prophet to take down idols and destroy them, and the companions of the prophet did this after this time, when they conquered countries.

The video then shows a montage of ISIS fighters toppling sculptures, smashing them with sledgehammers and using jackhammers to pulverize the faces of some statues.

Most of the destroyed artifacts fall into two categories: Sculptures from the Roman period city of Hatra, situated in the desert to the south of Mosul, and Assyrian artifacts from Nineveh and surrounding sites such as Khorsabad and Balawat.

In some ways, it could have been worse. In 2003 around 1,500 smaller objects from the Mosul Museum were relocated to the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad in order that they may be better protected. Nevertheless, many statues otherwise too large or delicate to be moved remained.

THE NERGAL GATE

The scene with the narrator was shot at the Nergal Gate, one of the gates on the north side of Nineveh. The entrance to the gate was flanked by two large winged human-headed bulls known as lamassu in Akkadian. The gate and its lamassuwere first excavated by Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1849 but then re-buried. The left lamassu (seen above behind the ISIS narrator) was uncovered again sometime before 1892, and a local man paid an Ottoman official for the top half of it, cut it off and broken down over a fire in order to extract lime. The right lamassu remained buried until 1941 when heavy rains eroded the soil around the gate and exposed the two statues. The gate was later reconstructed around them and they have remained on display ever since.[1]

The gate was built during Sennacherib’s expansion of Nineveh sometime between 704 and 690 BC.

The video stops at 2:26 to highlight the sign which states that “this gate is related to the god Nergal, the god of plague and the lower world.” The left lamassu, already missing its upper half, does not seem to have been targeted. The rightlamassu had its face chiseled off with a jackhammer, likely causing irreparable damage.428

There is no indication that the reconstructed gate itself was damaged. Inside the gate there are two additional lamassuwhich were less well preserved than the lamassu on the outside of the gate. Both were heavily cracked, and the one on the left was missing his head above the nose and the one on the right was missing everything except its head.

The lamassu on the left was broken apart with sledgehammers into large chunks. The head on the right was broken apart with a jackhammer.

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ASSYRIAN RELIEF SCULPTURES

At 1:19 a partially reconstructed relief identified by its sign as coming from Dur-Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) can be seen. The city was constructed by Sargon II sometime after 716 BC and abandoned upon his death in 705. This sort of relief usually shows tribute-bearers seeking an audience with the king and in this case one of the supplicants is holding a model of a fortification.Palace relief from Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad) in the Mosul Museum. Photo (c) Hubert Debbasch.

Relief from Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad) in the Mosul Museum, 1:19 of ISIS video.

STATUE OF SARGON (?)

At the 1:44 mark the video showed a fallen, brokenstatue identified by a museum sign as a statue of Sargon II of Assyria (r. 722-705 BC):154

STATUES OF THE KINGS OF HATRA

Hatra was a wealthy trading city located in the desert south of Mosul, one of several such cities which sprung up in the space between Parthia and the Roman Empire. Hatra, Palmyra, Petra and Dura-Europos all made their fortune as intermediaries, trading stops between east and west. All of these cities were client states of either Rome or Parthia, with Hatra choosing Parthia.

This made Hatra a target for Rome, and Trajan besieged the city during his Mesopotamian campaign in 114 AD but failed to capture it. Septimius Severus launched several assaults on the city during his invasion of Parthia in 198 which also failed. The heat, the open plain which made it difficult to approach the walls undetected, and the lack of any water or food in the area around the city kept Hatra safe from protracted sieges. Hatra was destroyed in 240, not to Rome but to the forces of the Sassanid monarch Shapur I during his campaign against the last Parthian client states that stood between himself and renewed war with the Roman Empire.

Hatra’s unique position between east and west produced an outpouring of art unique in the Parthian empire. Influencesfrom east and west mixed to create a very naturalistic but still unmistakably eastern artistic style. Here gorgon heads adorned temples to Near Eastern gods alongside Aramaic inscriptions. Mesopotamian deities such as Shamash and Nergal were depicted alongside Greco-Roman deities such as Hercules. Classical nudes and statues adorned in ornate Parthian robes existed side by side. One statue of Apollo the Roman sun god even featured symbols of Shamash the Near Eastern sun god on his clothing.

The damage by ISIS to the artistic legacy of Hatra has been catastrophic.

008The beginning of the video (0:08) shows three men hitting two statues with a sledgehammer while failing to do much damage. They try to pull the statues over without success.

These statues represent kings of Hatra. The statue on the left is of an unidentified king of Hatra, dressed in a Parthian style and holding an acanthus leaf in his left hand and a piece of fruit in his right. Its museum number is MM5.

The statue on the right has been called “the finest of all the sculptures unearthed in Hatra.” An Aramaic inscription on the base of the statue reads “The Image of King Uthal, the merciful, noble-minded servant of God, blessed by God.” All other details about this king’s life, including the dates of his reign, remain obscure.[2]

At the 2:50 mark the statue of Uthal is shown being snapped at the base and toppled. Three men attack the statue with sledgehammers after it hits the ground. Both statues are seen broken into numerous pieces on the floor.

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At 2:53 a third statue can be seen being toppled. This is a statue of Sanatruq II, the last king of Parthia before the city was destroyed by Shapur I in 240.[3]

This statue was reconstructed from several fragments, so it shattered easily when it hit the floor.

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Another sculpture is seen being unwrapped at 0:38. This is a depiction of an unidentified Hatrene king holding an eagle symbolizing the ancient near eastern sun god Shamash.

The statue was toppled but it took a number of blows with a sledgehammer to dismember it.

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We have 27 known statues of kings of Hatra, so the destruction of four of them represents a loss of 15% of all statues of Hatrene kings in existence.[4]

OTHER LARGE HATRENE SCULPTURES

040The sculpture on the right is a statue of a Hatrene nobleman dressed in the Parthian style. This is one of the earlier Hatrene sculptures found and dates to the 1st century AD. Its catalog number is MM14.

The statue on the left is believed to be of a priest based on its clothing. It was missing its head when excavated.[5]

Statues seen at 0:40 and 2:43 of the video. From Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 19, pl. 199, pp. 75, 212.

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In another alcove at 3:16 a headless statue can be seen, clutching a sword in his hands and wearing long pleated trousers and a cape. An inscription identifies it as a depiction of a certain Makai ben Nashri.[6] This statue was toppled sideways off its base and snaps in half when it hits an architectural element along the wall. When it hits the floor the legs break into several more pieces.

Statue of Makai ben Nashri seen in 3:16 of video. Left photo by Diane Siebrandt, U.S. State Department, 2008. Right photo from Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, p. 78.

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GRECO-ROMAN INFLUENCED SCULPTURE

A headless statue of Hercules is seen being toppled. However, when it hits the ground it shatters into hundreds of pieces, revealing it to be a plaster cast with steel rebar inside. The original is kept in the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad.

248359Near the beginning of the video an ISIS fighter is shown unwrapping a nude female torso, believed to be a depiction of Venus/Aphrodite.[7] The camera cuts away before the statue is unwrapped and the sculpture is not seen again, however, it may be one of the broken objects in the background of the shot of the Hercules statue shown above at 3:59.

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Venus statue. Photo by Dr. Suzanne Bott, 2009.

Another statue shown smashed on the floor is one of many small statues of Nike uncovered at Hatra, not all of which have been published:

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Statue of Nike, Greek goddess of victory. Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 102 p. 125. This specific statue is kept in Baghdad.

OTHER HATRENE SCULPTURES

A statue of a seated goddess holding a sphere and a large mask-type sculpture of a face are both seen being shattered, however both appear to be replicas. The original of the seated goddess is kept in Baghdad and the mask is a cast of an architectural element from Hatra.

Early in the video one shot shows a number of plaques depicting Hatrene gods and goddesses:

From left to right: Barmaren, Marten, Maren. From Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 88, 89, 90, p. 113-115.

Clockwise from far right: Maren, Marten receiving a worshiper, the moon god Barmaren, Marten again.

Oddly, these reliefs appear undamaged at the end of the video:403A large eagle is seen being toppled over and shattered. This eagle was once also an architectural element from Hatra. It was partially reconstructed.

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Mosul Museum eagle prior to reconstruction. From Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 133, p. 143.

Three small reliefs are shown being destroyed at 3:46. All are pulverized with sledgehammers and ripped out of the wall. All are from Hatra, the middle published by Safar and Mustafa, the right unpublished and the left is too blurry to be identified in the video but other pictures from inside the museum make it clear that it is a relief of a reclining woman.

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Relief of a reclining woman. Photo by Diane Siebrandt, U.S. State Department, 2008.

Reliefs. Photo by Diane Siebrandt, U.S. State Department, 2008.

Relief sculpture of a military figure. From Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 92, p. 116.

In the background at the 0:32 mark a statue of a lion can be seen. Its final disposition is not seen in the video but it is likely one of the blurry piles of rubble seen towards the end:

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Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 187, p. 198.

It is important to note that there are many more items from the Mosul Museum which were not shown in ISIS’ video. The Islamic art wing was not shown at all, and most of the Assyrian section does not appear in the video either. This does not mean that these artifacts have survived. Their destruction may have been cut from the video before release. Alternately, such items may have been smuggled out and sold on the antiquities market or may still be in the museum.

Regardless, from what we can see in this video the loss for the study the Roman and Parthian Near East is absolutely devastating.

Special thanks to Dr. Suzanne Bott for uploading many pre-destruction pictures of the Mosul Museum, Hubert Debbasch for providing photos from his travels, to Dr. Lamia al-Gailani Werr for information about replicas in the museum, and to Dr. Lucinda Dirven for more information about museum replicas and bibliographic information.

REFERENCES

[1] J.P.G. Finch, “The Winged Bulls at the Nergal Gate of Nineveh,” Iraq 10, No. 1 (Spring 1948): 9-18.

[2] Shinji Fukai, “The Artifacts of Hatra and Parthian Art,” East and West 11, No. 2/3 (June-September 1960): 142-144, pl. 2-3; Fu’ad Safar and Ali Muhammad Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God [Arabic title al-Ḥaḍr, madīnat al-shams] (Baghdad: Wizarat al-Iʻlām, Mudīrīyat al-Athār al-ʻĀmmah, 1974), 197-198, pl. 208-210.

[3] Fukai, “The Artifacts of Hatra and Parthian Art,” 144 pl. 4; Henri Stierlin, Cités du Désert: Pétra, Palmyre, Hatra(Fribourg: Seuil, 1987), 198, pl. 178; Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, 23, pl. 4.

[4] Michael Sommer, Hatra: Geschichte und Kultur einer Karawanenstadt im römisch-parthischen Mesopotamien
(Mainz: Zabern, 2003), 75, pl. 106; Lucinda Dirven, “Aspects of Hatrene Religion: A Note on the Statues of Kings and Nobles from Hatra,” 209-246 in The Variety of Local Religious Life in the Near East in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods(Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2008), 220-221.

[5] Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, 75, 212, pl. 187, 199.

[6] Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 24, p. 78.

[7] Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 84, p. 110.

[8] Safar and Mustafa, Hatra: The City of the Sun God, pl. 88, 89, 90, p. 113-115; Lucinda Dirven, “A Goddess with Dogs from Hatra,” in Animals, Gods and Men from East to West. Papers on archaeology and history in honour of Roberta Venco Ricciardi, A. Peruzzetto, F. Dorna-Metzger, L. Dirven (eds.), [BAR 2516] (Oxford 2013), p.147–160, pl. 8.

Article © Christopher Jones 2015. Republished with permission of the author.

Nephilim

I quote five translations whose returns, in my opinion, have changed the text and therefore the meaning of Genesis 6:4.

New Living Translation
In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.

International Standard Version
The Nephilim were on the earth at that time (and also immediately afterward), when those divine beings were having sexual relations with those human women, who gave birth to children for them. These children became the heroes and legendary figures of ancient times.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Now giants were upon the earth in those days. For after the sons of God went in to the daughters of men and they brought forth children, these are the mighty men of old, men of renown.

Good News Translation
In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.

NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES (2013 REVISION)

The Neph′i·lim* were on the earth in those days and afterward. During that time the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men, and these bore sons to them. They were the mighty ones of old times, the men of fame.

The concept of the verse, as it appears in these translations are similar. Connecting  the Nephilim  as the offspring of the fallen angels. Other translations may think the same, but leave the text intact.

the ancient Greek text with interpretive performance –
(the hermeneutics performance belongs to John T. Kolitsara
οἱ δὲ γίγαντες ἦσαν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις· καὶ μετ᾿ ἐκεῖνο, ὡς ἂν εἰσεπορεύοντο οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ πρὸς τὰς θυγατέρας τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ἐγεννῶσαν ἑαυτοῖς· ἐκεῖνοι ἦσαν οἱ γίγαντες οἱ ἀπ᾿ αἰῶνος, οἱ ἄνθρωποι οἱ ὀνομαστοί.
The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
Almost all other translations are in the same pattern with the above two translations. The sticking point and question is the part of the sentence that says …” and also after that”.
It seems that Nephilim was existed before the Fallen Angels.
Here we have some interesting Commentaries and their analysis.
Pulpit Commentary
Verse 4. – There were. Not became, or arose, as if the giants were the fruit of the previously-mentioned misalliances; but already existedcontemporaneously with the sons of God (cf. Keil, Havernick, and Lange).Giants. Nephilim, from naphal, to fall; hence supposed to describe the offspring of the daughters of men and the fallen angels (Hoffman, Delitzsch). The LXX, translate by γίγαντες; whence the “giants” of the A.V. and Vulgate, which Luther rejects as fabulous; but Kalisch, on the strength of Numbers 13:33, accepts as the certain import of the term. More probable is the interpretation which understands them as men of violence, roving, lawless gallants, “who fall on others;” robbers, or tyrants (Aquila, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Luther, Calvin, Kurtz, Keil,. Murphy, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’). That they were “monsters, prodigies” (Tueh, Knobel), may be rejected, though it is not unlikely they were men of large physical stature, like the Anakim, Rephaim, and others (cf. Numbers 13:33). In the earth. Not merely on it, but largely occupying the populated region. In those days.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
There were giants in the earth in those days,…. That is, in the days before the sons of God took the daughters of men for wives, in such a general manner as before declared, or before the declension and apostasy became so universal; even in the times of Jared, as the Arabic writers (n) understand it, who say that these giants were begotten on the daughters of Cain by the children of Seth, who went down from the mountain to them in the days of Jared, see Genesis 5:20 the word “Nephilim” comes from a word which signifies to fall; and these might be so called, either because they made their fear to fall upon men, or men, through fear, to fall before them, because of their height and strength; or rather because they fell and rushed on men with great violence, and oppressed them in a cruel and tyrannical manner; or, as some think, because they fell off and were apostates from the true religion, which is much better than to understand them of apostate angels, whom the Targum of Jonathan mentions by name, and calls them Schanchazai and Uziel, who fell from heaven, and were in the earth in those days:

and also after that, which shows that the preceding clause respects giants in former times:

when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, came into their houses and chambers, and lay with them:

and they bare children unto them, or giants unto them, as may be supplied from the former clause; for the sense is, as there were giants before this general defection, so there were at this time, when there was a mixture of the Cainites and Sethites; which were the offspring of the sons of God, or posterity of Seth, mixing with the daughters of men, or the posterity of Cain; for this is not to be understood after the flood, as Aben Ezra, Ben Melech; and so they are described in the following words:

the same became mighty men; for tallness and strength, for power and dominion, for tyranny and oppression:

4. The Nephilim] i.e. giants. It is natural to refer to Numbers 13:33, “And there we saw the Nephilim (Or, giants), the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” The tradition that the Nephilim existed at the time of the Exodus was therefore quite strongly held. The precise meaning of the name has been lost. The passage in Numbers shews clearly that it denoted men of gigantic stature. The etymology very probably goes back to primitive times; and its origin is lost with the dialects that disappeared when the Israelites finally occupied Palestine. It was natural to connect the word with the Hebrew naphal, “to fall”; hence arose the renderings of Aquila, οἱ ἐπιπίπτοντες, “the assailants,” and of Symmachus, οἱ βιαῖοι, “the violent,” while among Patristic commentators the word was connected with “the fallen angels.” But these are merely guesses; and we must be content to leave the etymology of “the Nephilim,” like that of “the Rephaim” and “the Anakim,” unexplained.

and also after that] These words are introduced very awkwardly; and were very probably added as a gloss, in order to shew that the Nephilim existed not only in primitive ages, but also at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, as would be implied by Numbers 13:33. The continuance of the Nephilim in later times seems to contradict the account of the destruction of all the dwellers on the earth by the Flood. This contradiction is to be explained on the supposition, mentioned above, that the present passage is a fragment of a tradition in which the Flood was not recorded.

the mighty men, &c.] That is to say, “the well-known giants of old-world time,” familiar personages in Israelite folk-lore. To this class belong such names as “Nimrod,” Genesis 10:8, and “Og,” Deuteronomy 3:11.

Two classes of men, with strong hand and strong will, are here described. “The giants,” the well-known men of great stature, physical force, and violent will, who were enabled by these qualities to claim and secure the supremacy over their fellow-men. “Had been in the land in those days.” In the days when those intermarriages were beginning to take place, the warriors were asserting the claim of might. Violence and rapine were becoming rampant in the land. “And after that.” The progeny of the mixed marriages were the second and subsequent class of leading men. “The sons of God” are here contradistinguished from the “nephilim, or giants,” who appear therefore to have belonged to the Cainites. The offspring of these unhallowed unions were the heroes, the gallants, the mighty men, the men of renown. They were probably more refined in manners and exalted in thought than their predecessors of pure Cainite descent. “Men of name,” whose names are often in men’s mouths, because they either deserved or required to be named frequently on account of their influential or representative character. Being distinguished from the common herd by prominent qualities or memorable exploits, they were also frequently marked out by a special name or surname, derived from such trait of character or deed of notoriety. “Of old” (מעולם mē’ôlām). This has been sometimes explained “of the world,” in the sense of αἰών aiōn; but the meaning is too late for the present passage. The phrase uniformly means “of old,” covering a more or less extensive length of time. This note of time implies a writer probably after the deluge, who could speak of antediluvian affairs, as happening of old.

The Greek Septuagint also suggests that both the “Nephilim” and “mighty ones” are identical by using the same word gi′gan·tes (giants) to translate both expressions.

Reviewing the account, we see that verses 1 to 3 tell of “the sons of the true God” taking wives and of Jehovah’s statement that he was going to end his patience with men after 120 years. Verse 4 then speaks of the Nephilim proving to be in the earth “in those days,” evidently the days when Jehovah made the statement. Then it shows that this situation continued “after that, when the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men,” and describes in more detail the results of the union of “the sons of the true God” with women.

Genesis 6:4 
HEB: הַנְּפִלִ֞ים הָי֣וּ בָאָרֶץ֮
NAS: The Nephilim were on the earth
KJV: There were giants in the earth
INT: the Nephilim were on the earth

 

By Historian

God’s Wife Asherah

 

Asherah (/ˈæʃərə/; Ugaritic: 𐎀𐎘𐎗𐎚 : ‘ṯrt; Hebrew: אֲשֵׁרָה‎), in Semitic mythology, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu, and in Hittite as Asherdu(s) or Ashertu(s) or Aserdu(s) orAsertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʼAṯirat.

Asherah is identified as the consort of the Sumerian god Anu and Ugaritic El, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons. This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon. The name Dione, which like ‘Elat means “Goddess”, is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet (‘Elat) of “the Goddess par excellence” was used to describe her at Ugarit. The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title “Queen of Heaven”, stating: “pray thou not for this people…the children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.”(Hebrew: לִמְלֶכֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם‎) in Jer 7:18 and Jer 44:17–19, 25. (For a discussion of “Queen of Heaven” in the Hebrew Bible, see Queen of Heaven.)

In Israel and Judah

Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BC, polytheism was normal throughout Israel; it was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BC) that monotheism became universal among Jews. Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah at one time was worshiped as the consort of Yahweh, the national God of Israel. There are references to the worship of numerous gods throughout Kings, Solomon builds temples to many gods and Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh. Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh had erected this statue. (2 Kings 21:7) Further evidence includes, for example, an 8th-century combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert  where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and an inscription that refers to “Yahweh … and his Asherah”. The inscriptions found invoke not only Yahweh but El and Baal, and two include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.” There is general agreement that Yahweh is being invoked in connection with Samaria (capital of thekingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom); this suggests that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, and raises a question over the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god ofEdom. The “Asherah” is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of El, is unclear. It has been suggested that the Israelites might consider Asherah as a consort of Baal due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic History at the later period of Monarchy.

Further evidence includes the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, supporting the view that Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as theQueen of Heaven.

Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Bible.

From Wikipedia

The Hebrew God Yahweh is conceived of biblically as a male deity, with the covenant relationship between him and Israel often portrayed as that of a marriage between husband and wife.

(The other name by which the deity is most often referred to in the Hebrew Bible is Elohim [translated “God”], an originally plural form meaning “gods.” “The LORD” in English versions translates Yahweh–the assumed pronunciation of YHWH [a name of uncertain meaning], there being no vowels in the original Hebrew text.)


The perception of God as masculine is of course not surprising in a patriarchal or male-ruled society. As noted by Susan Ackerman, there are some feminizations of Yahweh in Isaiah (e.g., “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you” [66:13]; see also 42:14 and 49:15).

But then Isaiah also refers to kings as “nursing fathers” (49:23) and to daughters who “shalt suck the breasts of kings” (60:16), words that cannot be taken literally. In any case, Yahweh outside of some Isaianic imagery is masculine in the Hebrew Bible.

In the New Testament, “God” translates the Greek Theos, with God remaining a male deity. Thus Jesus regularly uses the word Father (Greek Pater, in Jesus’ Aramaic Abba) for God (e.g., Matt. 6:8-9; Mark 14:36; Luke 10:21; John 17:1; see also Paul’s use in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6).

Elaine Pagels points out that some Christian Gnostics thought of the divine in both masculine and feminine terms, with Jesus referring to the Holy Spirit as his Mother in the Gospel of Thomas and in the Gospel to the Hebrews, and with the Apocryphon of John describing the Trinity as Father, Mother, and Son.

As Pagels notes, however, such views were suppressed as heretical, with none of the Gnostic texts included in the New Testament canon. (The Nag Hammadi Library)

There is archeological evidence that at least some ancient Hebrews perceived of Yahweh as having a consort or female companion. This could be the origin of the mysterious Lady Wisdom found in Proverbs and the Apocrypha. (She is in some of the Gnostic texts as well.)

Wisdom (Hebrew hokma, a feminine noun) is personified in Proverbs not only as a woman but as a preexistent entity with Yahweh.

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way,” says Lady Wisdom, “before his works of old,… and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”

(Prov. 8:22,30).

It was through Wisdom that Yahweh “founded the earth” (3:19), she is “a tree of life” to those who lay hold of her (3:18), and she offers to reward all who seek her:

“I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (8:17).

In the Apocrypha, Lady Wisdom is identified with the Torah or biblical law (Sirach 24:23; Baruch 4:1). In the New Testament, the preexistent Word (Greek Logos) at the beginning of the Gospel of John is reminiscent of Wisdom, and in 1 Cor. 1:24 Paul calls Christ “the wisdom of God” (Greek Theou Sophia).

The metaphor of Yahweh and the Hebrew people as husband and wife is found first in the book of Hosea, and continues in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. It is a troubled marriage, for despite Yahweh’s “love toward the children of Israel,” they “look to other gods” (Hos. 3:1).

The wife’s infidelity is thus a metaphor for the Israelite people’s idolatry.

“Thy maker is thine husband,” Isaiah tells Israel, yet she beds down with others (Isa. 54:5; 57:7-8).

“Turn, O backsliding children,” Yahweh pleads in Jeremiah (3:14), “for I am married unto you.”

At one point Yahweh divorces Israel for her adultery, only to have “her treacherous sister Judah” commit adultery also (Jer. 3:8). Ezekiel 23 allegorizes Samaria and Jerusalem, the Israelite and Judahite capitals, as two sisters with a host of foreign lovers while both are married to Yahweh.

Particularly disturbing to feminist commentators are the biblical passages that describe Yahweh’s brutal punishment of the women who symbolize Israel’s unfaithfulness. As noted by Kathleen M. O’Connor, the portrayal of physical abuse by the divine in such passages implicitly condones such behavior in humans. Yahweh strips “the virgin daughter of Babylon” in Isa. 47:1-4, and helps the Babylonians rape Jerusalem in Jer. 13:26.

In Lamentations, Yahweh trods “the virgin” Jerusalem “as in a winepress” (1:15), and in Ezekiel he tells his wife Oholibah (Jerusalem),

“I will raise up thy lovers against thee,” and they will “strip thee out of thy clothes”; they will take away not only “thy sons and thy daughters” but “thy nose and thine ears,” and “thus will I make thy lewdness to cease from thee”

(23:22-27)

Needless to say, the thought behind these metaphors of Yahweh the husband physically abusing his wife presents a challenge to modern biblical interpreters. Through such imagery “the Bible,” writes Sharon H. Ringe in The Women’s Bible Commentary,

“seems to bless the harm and abuse with which women live and sometimes die.”

The brutality seems hardly ameliorated by Yahweh’s assurances to his mutilated wife of a brighter tomorrow, for they make God sound like the stereotypical wife beater who minimizes what he has done and promises not to do it again:

“In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee… Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel,… and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry”

(Isa. 54:8; Jer. 31:4).

ASHERAH –  The Lord God’s Lady?


The goddess Asherah was the consort of El (“god”), the supreme god of Canaan and father of the popular Baal.

In the Bible her name often appears as ha asherah, meaning “the” asherah. In such instances the reference is not to the goddess but to a symbol of her, an object (in the plural asherim) that was apparently a sacred pole, tree, or group of trees (hence the translation “groves”) at Israelite sanctuaries or “high places” as well as by altars of Baal. The erecting of asherim was among the “evil” deeds of kings like Ahab and Manasseh, and cutting the things down was a regular chore of “right” kings like Hezekiah and Josiah.


The presence of Asherah or her symbol at places where Yahweh, the biblical God of the Hebrews, was worshipped raises the question of whether the Canaanite goddess was considered also to be the consort of Yahweh.

We know from references to,

  • “the sons of God” (Gen. 6:1-4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7)
  • “the host of heaven” (1 Kings 22:19)
  • “angels” (Gen. 19:1; Ps. 103:20)
  • God’s statement “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26),

…that Yahweh was not alone in his heaven.

We know also that Yahweh supplanted the Canaanite El to the extent that God’s other names in the Hebrew Bible include El, El Elyon (“God Most High”), El Shaddai (“God Almighty”), and the (originally) plural form Elohim (as in Gen. 1:1).

But did Yahweh take El’s woman too?

The answer may well be found, appropriately enough, in some graffiti, inscriptions dating from the eighth century B.C.E., found on walls and storage jars at two sites, Khirbet el-Kom and Kuntillet Ajrud, in Israel. (See Dever’sRecent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research.)

The graffiti includes blessings such as,

“I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and by his asherah,” and “I bless you by Yahweh of Teiman and by his asherah.”

Does this mean by Yahweh and by his goddess? Or is it saying “by Yahweh and by his sacred pole”?

All we may safely assume at this point has been well put by the French epigrapher Andre Lemaire:

“Whatever an asherah is, Yahweh had one!”

by Ronald L. Ecker

Who Were the Essenes?

Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 02/07/2013

Who Were the Essenes?

In a recent study about the Essenes of Qumran, archaeologist Eyal Regev used the tools of social archaeology to answer the question, “Who were the Essenes?” Photo by Zev Radovan.

A recent study has sought to determine by sophisticated new methods whether Khirbet Qumran was home to a Qumran community of sectarian Jews, the Essenes of Qumran.

The new study by Eyal Regev of Bar-Ilan University examines the architectural plan of Qumran and applies so-called “access analysis” to map the site’s spatial organization in order to uncover the social ideology of the Essenes of Qumran.

Regev characterizes this approach to studying the Qumran community as social archaeology, “now an established field of research which uses archaeological records to reconstruct the belief system and social organization of past societies.”

By physically dividing up and demarcating spaces—walls, doorways and entrances that are used on an everyday basis—the architecture thereby classifies and controls the movement of people and the spaces they inhabit. Studying these spaces can help archaeologists answer the question, “Who were the Essenes?”

In a detailed analysis of the physical spaces of the Qumran community, Regev finds the occupied area is divided into different space segments, “each connected to a controlling central passage with minimal connections between segments.” The spaces within segments are also “minimally connected.” Access to most spaces is therefore “limited, and several boundaries must be crossed to reach most spaces from any starting point on the site.”

The large rooms (such as the dining room and the so-called scriptorium) used by the Essenes of Qumran “were not easily accessible and were out of view of casual entrants.” This, says Regev, means that “social encounters between the inhabitants were quite uncommon.”

From such analyses, Regev concludes that the spaces of the Qumran community reflect “an ethos of social segregation, not only between the inhabitants themselves, but, more importantly, between the inhabitants and the outside world.”

The organization of space at Qumran thus “reflects sectarian organization and ideology.” Moreover, all this is consistent with the ideology of the famous Community Rule, one of the original intact scrolls. While this does not prove that the sectarian Qumran community was Essene, together with much other evidence, both from the architecture and the finds from the excavation, the Essene identification, says Regev, is “extremely plausible.”

Ancient Mesopotamian Beliefs in the Afterlife

The Mesopotamians did not view physical death as the ultimate end of life. The dead continued an animated existence in the form of a spirit, designated by the Sumerian term gidim and its Akkadian equivalent, eṭemmu.

Unlike the rich corpus of ancient Egyptian funerary texts, no such “guidebooks” from Mesopotamiadetail the afterlife and the soul’s fate after death. Instead, ancient Mesopotamian views of the afterlife must be pieced together from a variety of sources across different genres.

Many literary texts, most famously the Epic ofGilgamesh, contemplate the meaning of death, recount the fate of the dead in the netherworld, and describe mourning rites. Other texts were probably composed in order to be recited during religious rites involving ghosts or dying gods. Of these ritual texts, the most notable are Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the NetherworldIshtar’s Descent to the Netherworld; and Nergal and Ereshkigal. Further sources for Mesopotamian afterlife beliefs include burials,grave inscriptions, economic texts recording disbursements for funerals or cults of the dead, references to death in royal inscriptions and edicts, chronicles, royal and private letters, lexical texts, cultic commentaries, magico-medical texts, omens, and curse formulas.

In addition to belonging to different genres, the sources for Mesopotamian beliefs in the afterlife come from distinct periods in Mesopotamian history and encompass Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures. We should therefore be careful not to view Mesopotamian afterlife beliefs as static or uniform. Like all cultural systems, Mesopotamian ideas of the afterlife transformed throughout time. Beliefs and practices relating to the afterlife also varied with socio-economic status and differed within official and popular religious paradigms. With this in mind, however, cultural continuity between the Sumerian civilization and its successors allows a synthesis of diverse sources in order to provide a working introduction to Mesopotamian concepts of the afterlife.

The Netherworld

Ancient Mesopotamians conceptualized the netherworld as the cosmic opposite of the heavens and as a shadowy version of life on earth. Metaphysically, it was thought to lie a great distance from the realm of the living. Physically, however, it lay underground and is poetically described as located only a short distance from the earth’s surface.

Literary accounts of the netherworld are generally dismal. It is described as a dark “land of no return” and the “house which none leaves who enters,” with dust on its door and bolt (Dalley 155). Yet other accounts moderate this bleak picture. For instance, a Sumerian work referred to as the Death of Urnamma describes the spirits of the dead rejoicing and feasting upon the ruler Urnamma’s arrival in the netherworld. Shamash, the sun god of justice, also visited the netherworld every night on his daily circuit through the cosmos. Similarly, scholar Caitlín Barrett has proposed that grave iconography – specifically symbolism related to the goddess Inanna/Ishtar who descended and returned from the underworld — indicates a belief in a more desirable afterlife existence than the one described in many literary texts. Although humans could not hope to return to life in exact imitation of Inanna/Ishtar, Barrett argues, by utilizing funerary iconography representing Ishtar, they could seek to avoid the unpleasant aspects of the netherworld from which Inanna/Ishtar herself had escaped. The Mesopotamian netherworld is therefore best understood as neither a place of great misery nor great joy, but as a dulled version of life on earth.

Queen of the Night

Queen of the Night

One of the most vivid portrayals of the netherworld describes a subterranean “great city” (Sumerian “iri.gal”) protected by seven walls and gates where the spirits of the dead dwell. In the Akkadian Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld, Ishtar passes through these seven gates on her journey to the netherworld. At each gate she is stripped of her garments and jewelry until she enters the city of the dead naked. In light of such descriptions, it is perhaps notable that Mesopotamian funerary rites for the elite could last up to seven days.

The community of spirits living in the “great city” was sometimes called Arallu in Akkadian or Ganzer in Sumerian, terms of uncertain meaning. Sumerian Ganzer is also a name for the underworld and an entrance to the underworld. Paralleling the Mesopotamian idea of divine authority in heaven and earth, the realm of the dead was governed by particular deities who were ranked in hierarchical order with a supreme chief at their head. In older texts the goddess Ereshkigal (“Mistress of the Great Earth”) was queen of the Netherworld. She was later replaced by the male warrior god Nergal (“Chief of the Great City”). An Akkadian myth dating at latest to the mid-second millennium BCE attempts to resolve the conflicting traditions by making Ereshkigal the spouse of Nergal. Like the deities in heaven who met regularly in a divine council to render judgments for the universe, the divine rulers of the underworld were assisted in their decisions by an elite body of divinities called the Anunnaki.

It must be emphasized that the Mesopotamian netherworld was not a “hell.” Although it was understood as the geographic opposite of the heavens, and although its environment was largely an inversion of heavenly realms (for instance, it was characterized by darkness instead of light), it did not stand opposite heaven as a possible dwelling place for dead spirits based on behavior during life. The Mesopotamian netherworld was neither a place of punishment nor reward. Rather, it was the only otherworldly destination for dead spirits whose bodies and graves or cult statues had received proper ritual care.

Human Nature & Fate after Death

In the Old Babylonian Atrahasis epic, the gods created humans by mixing clay with the blood of a rebellious deity named We-ilu who was specially slaughtered for the occasion. Humans therefore contained both an earthly and a divine component. Yet the divine element did not mean that humans were immortal. The Mesopotamians had no concept of either physical resurrection or metempsychosis.[4] Rather, Enki (Akkadian Ea), the Sumerian deity of wisdom and magic, ordained death for humans from their very inception. Mortality defined the fundamental human condition, and is even described as the destiny (Akk. šimtu) of mankind. The most common euphemism for dying in Mesopotamian texts is “to go to one’s fate” (Cooper 21). The quest for physical immortality, suggests the Epic of Gilgamesh, was consequently futile. The best humans could strive for was enduring fame through their deeds and accomplishments on earth. Immortality, insofar as it was metaphorically possible, was actualized in the memory of future generations.

Humans were considered alive (Akk. awilu) as long as they had blood in their veins and breath in their nostrils.  At the moment when humans were emptied of blood or exhaled their last breath, their bodies were considered empty cadavers (Akk. pagaru. The condition of this empty corpse is compared to deep sleep and, upon burial in the ground, the body fashioned from clay “returned to clay” (Bottéro, “Religion” 107). The biblical euphemism for death as sleep (New Revised Standard Version, 1 Kgs. 2:10; 2 Kgs. 10:35; 15:38; 24:6; 2 Chron. 9:31) and the statement, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19; cf. Ecc. 3:20), point to the common cultural milieu underlying ancient Mesopotamian and Israelite paradigms.

The Mesopotamians did not view physical death as the ultimate end of life. The dead continued an animated existence in the form of a spirit, designated by the Sumerian term gidim and its Akkadian equivalent, eṭemmu. The eṭemmu is best understood as a ghost. Its etiology is described in the Old Babylonian Atrahasis epic I 206-230, which recounts the creation of humans from the blood of the slain god We-ilu. The text uses word play to connect the etemmu to a divine quality: We-ilu is characterized as one who has ṭemu, “understanding” or “intelligence”. Thus, humans were thought to be composed of a corporeal body and some type of divine insight.

It must be stressed that Mesopotamian notions of the physical body and the eṭemmu do not represent a strict body/soul dualism. Unlike the concept of psyche in Classical Greek thought, the eṭemmu was closely associated with the physical corpse. Some texts even speak of the eṭemmu as if it were identical to the body. For instance, the eṭemmu is sometimes described as “sleeping” in the grave (Scurlock, “Death” 1892) – a description that echoes accounts of the corpse or pagaru. Further, the eṭemmu retained corporeal needs such as hunger and thirst, a characteristic that will be discussed in more detail below. It also unclear whether the eṭemmu existed within the living body prior to death (and was thus an entity that separatedfrom the body), or whether it only came into existence at the moment of physical death (and was thus an entity created by the transformation of some physical life-force). In either case, upon physical death the status of the deceased changed from awilu to eṭemmu. Death was therefore a transitionary stage during which humans were transformed from one state of existence to another.

The eṭemmu was not immediately transported to the netherworld after bodily death, but had to undergo an arduous journey in order to reach it. Proper burial and mourning of the corpse was essential for theeṭemmu’s transition to the next world. Provided that the necessary funerary rites were performed, the ghost was required to cross a demon-infested steppe, pass over the Khuber River with the assistance of an individual named Silushi/Silulim or Khumut-tabal (the latter meaning “Quick, take [me] there!”), and be admitted through the seven gates of the netherworld city with the permission of the gatekeeper, Bidu (“Open up!”).

Upon arrival in the netherworld, the eṭemmu was “judged” by the court of the Annunaki and assigned a place in its new subterranean community. This judgment and placement was not of an ethical nature and had nothing to do with the deceased’s merits during its lifetime. Instead, it had rather a clerical function and confirmed, according to the rules of the netherworld, the etemmu’s entrance into its new home.

Yet the judgment and placement of the eṭemmu in the netherworld was not entirely arbitrary or neutral. Just as social hierarchies existed within living communities, so too did a hierarchy between ghosts exist in the “great city” of the dead. The status of an eṭemmu in the netherworld was determined by two factors: the social status of the deceased while alive, and the post-mortem care its body and grave or cult statue received from the living on earth. Kings like Urnamma and Gilgamesh remained rulers and judges of the dead in the netherworld, and priests remained priests. In this respect the social order underground mimicked that above. Some texts such as Gilgamesh and Enkidu and the Netherworld indicate that the deceased’s lot in the underworld depended on the number of children one had. The more descendents, the more privileged the eṭemmu’s existence in the netherworld, for there were more relatives to ensure the performance of necessary post-mortem rituals.

In the underworld the eṭemmu could be reunited with relatives who had preceded them in death. It should be noted, however, that although the eṭemmu was capable of recognizing and being recognized by the ghosts of people the deceased had known during life, these ghosts do not seem to have retained the deceased’s unique personality traits in the netherworld.

Chaplet from Tomb at Ur

Chaplet from Tomb at Ur

In addition to the eṭemmu, living beings were also thought to be composed of a wind-like emanation called in Akkadian the zaqiqu (or ziqiqu). This spirit was sexless, probably birdlike, and was associated with dreaming because it could depart the body while the individual was asleep. Both the eṭemmu and thezaqiqu descended to the netherworld after physical death. Aside from descriptions of dreams, however, theeṭemmu is mentioned far more prominently than the zaqiqu in Mesopotamian literature. This may be due to the fact that, unlike the eṭemmu, the zaqiqu was considered relatively harmless and unable to interfere either positively or negatively in the affairs of the living. It was therefore natural that a greater number of Mesopotamian texts would focus on proper ritual care for the eṭemmu, since these rites were intended to pacify the spirit of the dead so that it would not haunt the living.

The Relationship Between the Dead & the Living

As indicated above, the fate of the eṭemmu after corporeal death depended on performance of the proper post-mortem rituals by the living. First, funerary rites—specifically burial of the corpse and ritual mourning— at the time of death were necessary for the eṭemmu’s successful journey to and integration into the netherworld. Second, continued cultic offerings at the deceased’s grave or (at least in the pre-Sargonic period) cult statue were required to ensure the eṭemmu’s comfortable existence in the netherworld. We have seen that the eṭemmu retained the needs of a living being. Most importantly, it required sustenance. Yet the netherworld was devoid of any palatable nourishment. As the Death of Urnamma articulates, “The food of the netherworld is bitter and the water is brackish” (Cohen 103). The ghost was therefore dependent on the living for subsistence, which was provided through offerings of food and beverage. Absence of offerings reduced the eṭemmu to a beggar’s existence in the netherworld. The primary responsibility for performing these offerings fell to the eldest son of the deceased. Scurlock connects post-mortem duties with Mesopotamian property laws by positing that this “is presumably why [the eldest son] also customarily received an extra share of the inheritance” (“Death” 1888).

Mesopotamian Male Worshiper Votive Figure

Mesopotamian Male Worshiper Votive Figure

Both non-elites and elites required such rituals, but the necessity of death cults for the elite was particularly emphasized. The primary difference between death cults for the non-elite and elite appears to have been that, for ordinary people, only the deceased personally known to their descendants –such as immediate family— required individual eṭemmu cults. Distant relatives seem to have “merged together in a sort of corporate ancestor” (Scurlock, “Death” 1889). In contrast, royal cult offerings were made individually to all ancestors of the reigning king.

As long as offerings continued regularly, the eṭemmu remained at peace in the netherworld. Pacified ghosts were friendly and could be induced to aid the living, or at least were prevented from harming them. A person who did not receive proper burial rites or cultic offerings, however, became a restless ghost or vicious demon. Some cases where this could occur included people who were left unburied, suffered a violent death or other unnatural end, or died unmarried. Vicious ghosts pursued, seized, bound, or even physically abused their victims, and could also possess victims by entering into them via their ears. They could also haunt the dreams of the living. Sickness, both physical and psychological, and misfortune were often believed to be caused by the anger of a restless eṭemmu . For example, the suffering servant of the Babylonian poem Ludlul bēl nēmeqi deplores his fate:

Debilitating Disease is let loose upon me:
An Evil Wind has blown [from the] horizon,
Headache has sprung up from the surface of the underworld….
The irresistible [Ghost] left Ekur
[The Lamastu-demon came] down from the mountain. (Lines 50-55, Poem of the Righteous Sufferer)

The Mesopotamians developed many magical means of dealing with vengeful ghosts. Some methods included the tying of magical knots, the manufacturing of amulets, smearing on magical ointments, drinking magical potions, the burial of a surrogate figurine representing the ghost, and the pouring libations while reciting incantations.

Conclusions

In Mesopotamian conceptions of the afterlife, life did not end after physical death but continued in the form of an eṭemmu, a spirit or ghost dwelling in the netherworld. Further, physical death did not sever the relationship between living and deceased but reinforced their bond through a new set of mutual obligations. Just as the well being of the ghost in the netherworld was contingent upon offerings from the living, so too was the well being of the living contingent upon on the proper propitiation and favor of the dead. To a notable degree, these afterlife beliefs reflected and reinforced the social structure of kinship ties in Mesopotamian communities.


Written by , published on 20 June 2014 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.

References

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