The royal image of a heroic warrior who defended the civilized world against the forces of chaos and evil and who was willing to push the borders of civilization to the limits of the known world was the one that Assyrian monarchs communicated most frequently in inscriptions and reliefs. During Assyrian history this image changed substantially. Starting out as pacification of Assyria and defence of trade routes it became part of an expansive imperialistic ideology and heavily augmented with religious symbolism during the latter part of the second millennium BC. After the traumatic events at the end of the reign of Sargon II the warrior-image of the Assyrian king changed again from individual heroism to a more sublime form, in which the simple royal presence at the battlefield ensured victory.
This paper will deal with these changing facets and it will try to show, how the “Interaction between History and Present” (in terms of Hartmut Rosa’s Theory of Resonance) shaped these facets.
As an incarnation of Ninurta, the Son of God, the Assyrian king had two central public roles. On the one hand, he was the defender of the “Kingdom of Heaven” (materialized in the Assyrian Empire) against all possible forces of evil threatening it, the Saviour who safeguarded and expanded the realm and thus furthered the will of God. On the other, as the Slayer of the Dragon (Tiamat) and the conqueror of sin and evil (Anzû), the was the Redeemer, the Good Shepherd who died for his sheep and by his resurrection outlined the way to heaven for those who followed his example. As the Perfect Man, he was a bridge between Heaven and Earth—the High Priest of Aššur, who took care of the temples and offerings and played a central role in religious rituals and public festivals.
The idea of the king as a heavenly-sent Saviour and Redeemer became an inseparable part of Assyrian identity, consolidating and unifying the nation, and lives on in the Christian image of Jesus Christ as “God’s High Priest” (Matthew 3:13-17, Hebrews 6:17-20, etc.) and in the title Pontifex Maximus adopted, beginning with Augustus, by Roman and Byzantine emperors.
Final remarks and a general response to the workshop will be delivered by
This conference presents many interesting talks on the king and his role in the realm as well as his relationship to the elite, to the people and finally to the enemies of the Empire. These concluding remarks will illuminate the role of the royal and elite women in all this. I will start by discussing the relationship between the king and the queen (and the mother of the king). I will highlight the important role that the queen had, both ideologically and in the social reality of the Empire. On some occasions, her actions essentially paralleled the actions of the king. The next portion of my presentation discussed the relationship between the king and the other elite women. Rather than speculating about the secondary wives (on which we have little direct evidence), I will concentrate on the few cases where interactions between the king and elite women are clearly documented. Most of these cases relate to the geographical margins of the Empire. I will conclude the talk by discussing the Assyrian elite female identity and how it differs from elite male identity and how our theoretical concept of “identity” is inextricably linked with the concept of “power.”