Laessoe Jorgen - People of ancient Assyria

Author : Laessoe Jorgen
Title : People of ancient Assyria
Year : 1963

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AS Assyria merely a more brutal, more uncivilized and less interesting offshoot of the culture created by Sumerians and Babylonians in Southern Mesopotamia at the dawn of history? Do the countless Assyrian reliefs that fill our museums give a complete picture of the phenomenon that was Assyria? Was the contribution of this people to world culture merely an incredibly effective military organization? Is it a true picture of Assyria that the reliefs and annals give us, with their presentation of war chariots, archers, battering-rams surrounding besieged cities, the punishment of prisoners of war, and the triumphal march of the Assyrian army through the realms of the Near East? Have we no evidence of the human element behind this phenomenon? How far may we rely on the Biblical descriptions of the cruelty of the Assyrian armies and the depravity of Assyrian cities? How are we, who can look back on the incredible events of the European wars of religion, on the conduct of Europeans towards the Indians of America, and on man’s recent treatment of his fellow-man, to judge these Assyrians? The rather answer to many of these questions is to be sought they in the personal documents of the time than in the official inscriptions, in the letters Assyrians wrote to one another rather than in the annals of their rulers. Truth resides more often in the letters from one human being to another: distortion of facts often insinuates itself more easily into public proclamations intended for contemporary or subsequent acceptance. Therefore, in an attempt to rehabilitate the Assyrians and to provide a truer picture on which to base their reputation, their official inscriptions are, with few exceptions, excluded from this book. The basis of presentation here consists of historical sources that must in every respect be regarded as primary, namely the correspondence discovered in excavating the archives of Assyrian kings and governors. It is impossible to offer such a presentation without mentioning the achievements of a number of Assyriologists. The Mari letters that form the basis of Chapter III (n) have been published and edited by a group of French and Belgian scholars among whom G. Dossin, of Liege, must have pride of place. His collaborators in the publication of these archives have been C.-F. Jean of Paris, J.-R. Kupper of Liege, J. Bottero of Paris, and A. Finet of Charleroi, whose work, published in the series Archives Royales de Mari I-VI (Paris, 1950-54) and XV (Paris, 1954), has been used as the basis of the present account. To this must be added a long sequence of articles in the periodicals Syria and Revue d’Assyriologie. J.-R. Kupper has undertaken a special investigation of the Bedouin in the Mari area in his book Les Nomades en Mesopotamie au temps des Rois de Mari (Paris, 1957). This is supplemented in respect of the Isin-Larsa period by Dietz Otto Edzard: Die ‘Ziveite Zwischen.Zeit’ Babyloniens (Wiesbaden, 1957). The inscriptions from Nimrud (the Assurnasirpal stele, pp. 58 ff., and Esarhaddon’s treaty with the Mede Ramataia, pp. 65 ff.) were first dealt with by D. J. Wiseman (then of the British Museum) in the periodical Iraq (Vols. 14 1952, pp. 24-44, and 20 1958, pp. 1-99, with Plates 1-53, respectively). The Sargon Chronicle translated on pp. 19 was published by L. W. King in Chronicles Concerning Early Babylonian Kings, II, pp. 113-119 (London, 1907); the Sargon inscription on p. 19 was first published by A. Poebel in Historical and Grammatical Texts (Philadelphia, 1914) as No. 34. The Sumerian king-list quoted in Chapter II was edited by T. Jacobsen in The Sumerian King List (Chicago, 1939), while the Assyrian king-list used in Chapter III was edited by I. J. Gelb in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 13, pp. 209-230 (Chicago, 1954). The text of the Old Akkadian letter mentioning the first appearance of the Gutians in Mesopotamia (p. 21) was published by S. Smith in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, in connexion with his article Notes on the Gutian Period in the volume for 1932, pp. 295-308. The Sumerian and Babylonian yearnames used for dating in southern Mesopotamia have been collected and discussed by the German scholar A. Ungnad in Reallexikon der Assyriologie, xii Vol. II (Berlin-Leipzig, 1938), under the entry ‘Datenlisten’ (pp. 131-196): the Assyrian eponym-lists (catalogues of officials holding the post of limmu, used for dating in northern Mesopotamia) have been treated by Ungnad under the entry ‘Eponymen’ of the same work (pp. 412- 457). For the neo-Assyrian period the last-named article is supplemented by Margarete Falkner’s important contribution, Die Eponymen der spatassyrischen Zeit, in the periodical Archiv fur Orientforschung, Vol. 17, pp. 100-120 (Graz, 1954-55). The latest history of the kingdom of Mittanni is by R. T. O’Callaghan: Aram Naharaim (Analecta Orientalia, 26, Rome, 1948); and that of the Hurrians in general by I. J. Gelb in his book Hurrians and Subarians (Chicago, 1944). The comprehensive material on Hurrian personal names from Yorghan Tepe has been dealt with by I. J. Gelb, P. M. Purves, and A. A. MacRae in Nuzi Personal Names (Chicago, 1943). ...

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