Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Violence against the Enemy in Mesopotamian Myth, Ritual, and Historiography
by SooHoo, Anthony P., Ph.D., New York University, 2019, 847; 13420957
Abstract (Summary)

Evidence for violence is found in all periods of Mesopotamian history. Kingship, which was divine in origin, included the exercise of power and the legitimate use of violence. Mesopotamian violence reflects the culture's understanding of ontology, order, and justice. Although there is scant archaeological evidence for its actual practice, the worldview that allowed it to flourish can be reconstructed from myth, ritual, and historiography.

Approaching Mesopotamian conceptions of violence through these three modes of discourse, this study explores the behavior through the lens of theory, practice, and presentation. The investigation is guided by the following questions:

• What do the myths say about violence? How is violence imagined and theorized?

• How do the war rituals promote and normalize the practice of violence?

• How and why is violence presented in the narrative(s) of the royal annals and in the visual program of the palace reliefs?

This study moves from offering a general account of Mesopotamian violence directed against the enemy "other" to analyzing the portrayal of a particular act.

Mesopotamian myths served as paradigms for successful kingship. It is argued that the thematic content, asymmetrical characterization, chronotypes, and emplotment observed in Lugal-e, Bin šar dadmē, and Enūma eliš are also operative in the war rituals and the royal historiography. Central to Mesopotamian theorizing about violence is the concept of evil, which is best understood in relation to the culture's ideas about divine and social order.

Waging war in Mesopotamia entailed various practices that framed the conflict as part of the cosmic struggle against chaos. This study addresses the contexts in which these practices occur and the social structures that make them seem natural, necessary, and desirable. The so-called war rituals involved processes of socialization that allow violence to commence, escalate, and terminate. This symbolically loaded ritualized violence reflected and created (or destroyed) relationships, both natural and supernatural.

Finally, accounts of ritualized violence were strategically incorporated into the historiography of Mesopotamian rulers as expressions of royal ideology. This study analyzes the sources for the beheading of Teumman, arguing that variations in the textual and pictorial presentation were influenced by the Assyrian conflict with Egypt and Babylonia.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pongratz-Leisten, Beate
Commitee: Campbell, Roderick B., Dubovský, Peter, Konstantopoulos, Gina V., d'Alfonso, Lorenzo
School: New York University
Department: Study of the Ancient World
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 80/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ancient languages, Near Eastern Studies, Ancient history
Keywords: Ashurbanipal, Assyriology, Mesopotamian war rituals, Teumman, Til-tuba reliefs, Violence
Publication Number: 13420957
ISBN: 978-1-392-00459-3
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