>The King and the Gods

>Brown University is sponsoring a symposium in Assyriology on Monday, April 27, 2009. The theme of the symposium is “The King and the Gods: The Interplay of Power, Propaganda, Scholarly Learning, and Religion in Ancient Assyria.”

The blog of the Joukowsky Institute has posted the following information about the symposium:


The departments of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies, Judaic Studies, and Religious Studies will host for one afternoon three internationally known scholars in the study of the history, culture, languages, and religions of Ancient West Asia: Eckart Frahm (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University), Grant Frame (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania), and Beate Pongratz-Leisten (Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University). The papers will examine from the vast corpus of extant Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform texts selected aspects of Assyria’s contribution to the Mesopotamian cultural heritage in the modern manner of interdisciplinary studies, combining history, art, linguistics, and political/religious ideology. Emphasis is placed on the interplay of power, propaganda, scholarly learning, and religion in ancient Assyria. Brown Professors John Steele and Jamie Novotny will provide responses that take into account Assyria’s history, culture, literary and scholarly traditions, and cultic and divinatory practices.


The conference will take place at Brown University (Providence, RI, USA) on April 27, 2009. It will be held in the single session from 12:00 noon until 5:00 PM and will consist of three scholarly papers (45 min.) and two responses (20 min.); there will be approximately 15 minutes between papers for questions and discussion.

Papers and Abstracts:

Eckart Frahm (Yale University): “The Many Faces of an Assyrian Royal Advisor: Observations on the Scientific, Literary, and Political Texts of Nabû-zuqup-kenu.”

This lecture will investigate the numerous texts written by Nabû-zuqup-kenu one of Assyria’s most important scribes during the reigns of Sargon II (722-705 BCE) and Sennacherib (704-681 BCE), when Assyria ruled all of Western Asia. An attempt will be made to outline Nabû-zuqup-kenu’s scholarly duties and to link some of the texts he produced to specific political events.

Grant Frame (University of Pennsylvania): “Politics and Divination in the Neo-Assyrian Period.”

Assyrian monarchs of the first millennium BCE used the widespread belief in? omens and divination–in particular the practices of astrology and extispicy–?to help justify and maintain control of their empire. On the one hand, rulers ?allowed their actions to be influenced by omens and divination, although at? times they clearly attempted to control the influence of the diviners in their court. On ?the other hand, Assyrian monarchs also made use of omens and divination to justify their own? actions, particularly when those actions might have be considered controversial.

Beate Pongratz-Leisten (Princeton University): “Sacred Topography of the Empire: Assyrian State Rituals.”

A problem that larger territorial states, such as the Ur III state and large-scale empires such as Assyria had to face, was to integrate local communities into their central organizational system. In addition to political and economic strategies that tied the periphery to the political and religious center of the city of Assur, the Assyrian rulers relied on the creation of state rituals to stabilize their empire and reinforce the acceptance of their power. The cultic performance of these state rituals required the active participation of the Assyrian king in his role as high priest of the god Ashur. In his effort to integrate the vast territories of his empire, the king’s ritual performance was not just a reflection of political power but an active shaping of social bonds and spatial relationships. In addition to the creation of their provincial system, the Assyrian kings used cultic ritual as a further means to build cultural unification and turn intercultural space into intracultural space. The history of the ritual thereby reflects the dynamics of the back and forth of the political frontiers that are pushed towards the borders of the cosmos.

For more information visit of the web page of the Joukowsky Institute.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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