The Dynamics of the Relational Space

Conceptually, Assyrian rituals endeavored to create a relational space in which all cities and their panthea would be tied to the imperial center, thereby fostering social bonds on a large spatial scale and envisioning a unified territory under divine guidance. This recalls Naram-Sin's inscription on the Bassetki Statue,[[49]] in which the Akkadian king similarly creates a sacred topography of the empire by invoking the gods of the Sumerian cities whose rebellion he had previously crushed in a military campaign. Instead of referring to the political elites of the various cities, Naram-Sin appropriates the patron deities of these cities and depicts them as active contributors to his military and political success. A similar case can be made for Hammurabi and his Prologue to his Law Code, in which he portrays himself as the caretaker of their cults instead of referring to his conquest of the cities of Babylonia.[[50]]

Although the tākultu text is a ritual and not a royal inscription, it pursues the same strategy for mapping the empire's geographical scope. In contrast to the Narām-Sîn text and Hammurabi's prologue, however, the Assyrian mode of mapping imperial territory draws attention to the Assyrian heartland and its relationship to the rest of the empire. This relationship is unlike the hierarchy of the pantheon as laid down in the god lists, which obviously determined the choice made in Hammurabi's inscriptions. Assurbanipal's tākultu ritual (no. 40), for instance, begins by invoking the deities of the Aššur temple as well as the deities of other temples in the city of Assur. It continues by invoking the deities of the temples of the Assyrian royal residences Nineveh and Calah and of the cultic centers of Kurbail, Arbela, and Tua. Subsequently, it proceeds to list the deities in the region of Kilizi and Bīt-Bēlti and moves west to the Hābūr area before turning north and listing the divinities of Urartu together with other established northern Syrian divinities, including Nergal of Hubšalum and Eblaītu (albeit without reference to their cultic centers). The ritual ends with an invocation of the winds, the gods who rule over the camps, divine weapons, Dahurate, Adad of Rains, Assyrian cities, sanctuaries, frontiers, wastelands, mounds/ruins, the royal throne, the cultic socle, the cella, and the sanctuary of Assyria, as well as of the mountains, springs, and rivers of the four directions. This section is followed by a long blessing, which appears to have stood at the end of the text before Sennacherib's sack of Babylon.

In Sennacherib's tākultu (no. 38), the last two columns of the text were added later, and they list the gods of Marduk's temple Esagila and of Babylon, as well as the deities of a nameless city, the city of Der, and yet another unidentified city, before returning to the gods of Nineveh. Assurbanipal's tākultu restricts the final list to the gods of Babylon, omitting Der and the other cities before concluding with Aššur. As already mentioned, the author Issar-šumu-ēreš replaced these omissions by adding a long list of heavenly bodies, including the planets. The political-geographical dimensions laid out in the ritual text reflect the dynamics of a flexible and dynamic imperial border and correspond to Assyrian political realities.[[51]] In its spatial dynamics, the tākultu banquet clearly differs from the Assyrian akītu-festival. The tākultu has an unambiguous centripetal effect,[[52]] drawing divine focus to the imperial center and thereby enhancing the ideological value of regular deliveries to the Aššur temple.

49 D. Frayne, Sargonic and Gutian Periods (2334-2113 BC). RIME 2 (Toronto, 1993); see B. Pongratz-Leisten, "The Projection of a Sacred Imperial Topography in the Texts of Naram-Sin and Hammurabi," in E. Frood and R. Raja (eds.), Redefining the Sacred: Religious Architecture and Text in the Near East and Egypt (Brepols), in press.

50 Roth 1997, 76ff. The sequence of his list of the cities and divinities does not follow geographical rules. Instead, if one includes the first section describing An and Enlil choosing Marduk, the son of Ea, for the patron deity of Babylon, the text reflects the hierarchy of the supra-regional pantheon of Babylonia of the time with Anu, Enlil, Ea, Marduk (city god of Babylon, capital of Hammurabi's Babylonia), Sîn (of Ur), Šamaš and Aya (of Sippar and Larsa), Anu and Ištar (of Uruk), Zababa and Ištar (of Kiš), Erra (of Cutha), Tutu (of Borsippa), Uraš (of Dilbat), Mami (of Keš), Ištar goddesses (of Zabalam, Akkad, Nineveh, Babylon), Adad (of Karkar), Ea and Damkina (of Malgium), Dagan (of Mari and Tuttul), Tišpak and Ninazu (of Babylon), see also B. Groneberg, Die Götter des Zweistromlandes (Düsseldorf/Zürich, 2004) 245

51 M. Liverani, International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 BC (New York, 2001), 29.

52 On the spatial dynamics of festivals in creating a cultic topography see Pongratz-Leisten 1994 and 1997.

Beate Pongratz-Leisten

Beate Pongratz-Leisten, 'The Dynamics of the Relational Space', Assyrian Royal Rituals and Cultic Texts, SAA 20. Original publication: Winona Laka, IN, Eisenbrauns, 2017; online contents: SAAo/SAA20 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 []

Back to top ^^
SAAo/SAA20, 2014-. Since 2015, SAAo is based at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Historisches Seminar (LMU Munich, History Department) - Alexander von Humboldt Chair for Ancient History of the Near and Middle East. Content released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 [] license, 2007-20.
Oracc uses cookies only to collect Google Analytics data. Read more here []; see the stats here []; opt out here.