delicious history

So the rest of my lectures are a little too long to post here, and I haven’t had time to whittle them down yet. But, I thought I’d post a few links to web resources I’ve found for the class, with my commentary (of course). They’re mostly more interesting than my lectures anyway.

A page I made of Ancient Near East links.

Here are a couple of works of Sumerian literature (in translation, of course) online. Will be back later with some Egyptian stuff.

Inanna’s Descent to the Netherwold online
This is a rather lengthy composition. Skim it to get the gist of the story, and note the family relationships between the various gods, the petty squabbling between them, and Inanna’s ambition to rule over more than her fair share of the cosmos. Note also that Dumuzi the shepherd, in addition to being a god of fertility and Inanna’s husband, shows up as a king in the Sumerian King List linked to below.

Summary: Inanna descends to the underworld in hopes of taking over the realm of her sister, Ereshkigala. This errand comes to a strange and messy conclusion when Inanna is stripped of her finery and killed. To escape this ignominious fate, Inanna must find someone to take her place in the netherworld, and in a fit of jealous rage hands over her husband Dumuzi to take on that role.

The Sumerian King List online
The earliest compilation we have of the Sumerian King List dates to the late 19th century BC. It is a list of kings which begins in the distant, mythological past (beginning before a worldwide flood which resembles the Biblical flood of Genesis 6-9), and continues through a dynasty of kings who ruled in the city of Isin until ca. 1800 BC. The list represents a particular ideology of Mesopotamian kingship: although in actuality southern Mesopotamia was not united under a single leader until the dynasty begun by Sargon of Agade (see lines 266-296), the list extends this idea of a single king over all of Mesopotamia back into time. This concept of kingship was given added legitimacy by representing it as having a divine origin (kingship “came down from heaven”), and by extending it back into a “legendary” time, when a single king could rule for tens of thousands of years.

The later dynasties, especially the dynasty of Sargon of Agade (=Akkad) and later, are well-attested historically. This has led some scholars to try to use the earlier sections of the Sumerian King List as historical evidence as well, but such a usage is very problematic.

  • Paragraph 1: The phrase “After the kingship descended from heaven…”, illustrating the divine origin of kinship.
  • “The flood,” an event which divides the first and second paragraphs: the Mesopotamians had a tradition of a world-wide flood.
  • The idea that “kingship” moves from city to city (city names are in turquoise), and that one city at a time holds some kind of special power.
  • The mention of the city named “Kish” (written “Kic”) in this translation-this city held a special significance in Mesopotamian royal ideology.
  • The extremely long reigns attributed to the early kings, reducing to more reasonable lengths of reigns for the later kings.
  • Look for “Gilgamec” (=Gilgamesh), about whom the Epic was written. Other kings from this list appear in epics and stories, such as Dumuzi the shepherd, who was a god of vegetation and fertility and was involved in a rather turbulent relationship with the goddess Inanna.
  • Look for Sargon of Agade (=Akkad); he initiated the “Akkadian Empire,” the first unification of Southern Mesopotamia under a single leader.
  • Just for fun, look at the various professions some of the kings held before becoming king: fuller, boatmen, gardener, even “woman tavern-keeper.”
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