Archives de catégorie : Varia

Women who played the role of interceder: Part 2

Women who played the role of interceder: Part 2

Eiko Matsushima

REFEMA 3rd workshop (September 4, 2013, Carqueiranne)

1.     Introduction

In my recent paper, read during the REFEMA Second Workshop on the 24th of June 2013 at Chuo University, Tokyo, I talked about women who played the role of interceder between her husband and other people. The main source of my idea was a number of references to the goddess, who was seen to ask her husband for the benevolence for the king (and/or his family) during the “Divine Marriage Ceremony” in first century Babylonia and Assyria.

It seems significant that the spouse of a divine couple sometimes gave important suggestions to her husband and that the people expected her to be an interceder on their behalf. As well, in the Gilgamesh Epic, the standard version tablet VII shows Uta-Napishti’s wife (marhītu) giving advice to her husband that made him change his mind and enabled Gilgamesh to find the plant of life. Thus, in the religious or mythic sphere, women sometimes played a significant role as adviser to their husbands as well as interceders.

Though this feature is found exclusively in religious and mythic texts, we may perhaps infer some actual roles of women in human societies in Mesopotamia, especially in high society. Looking at some famous royal women in the first millennium Assyrian court, we discover a few queens whose deeds or memories are recorded in written materials. While the documents give no information as to a complete picture of their activities, the following was observed:

In Assyria, from the ninth to the seventh century BCE, eleven names of principal wives (MÍ.É.GAL/ MÍ/KUR=sēgallu) appear in the available records.[1] The women are indicated at times using the title ummi šarri (MÍ.AMA.MAN or AMA.LUGAL), “Queen Mother,” which is always accompanied by the name of the woman’s son, i.e. the actual king, as well as kallātu, which is always accompanied by the name of the father of her husband. For example, Sammuramat, wife of Šamši-Adad V (823-811 BCE) and mother of Adad-nerari III (810-783), is called kallāt Šulmanu-šarru (Shalmaneser: 858-824 BCE), Naquia/Zakutu, wife of Sennacherib (704-681 BCE) and mother of Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE) used the titles sēgallu, ummi šarri and kallātu (MÍ.É.GI4.A) Šarru-ukin. In both cases, the women obtained and maintained power as mother of the king.

We know only a few queens depicted with their husband. In the well-known garden scene on the bas-reliefs from the North Palace of Nineveh, Libbali-šarrat, the principal wife of Ashurbanipal can be found sitting in front of the king as his partner. It is worthy of note that she behaves here as spouse, not as mother. A letter written by a sister of Ashurbanipal, Libbali-šarrat also describes her: “You are a daughter-in-law (kallātu), the lady of the house of Assurbanipal, the crown prince of Esarhaddon.”[2]

Given the available evidence, I observed in my last paper that the system of the household has much to do with women’s status in first millennium Mesopotamia. One keyword was kallātu, which is used not only by Neo-Assyrian queens but also by some goddesses as one of their important epithets. Goddesses use also hīrtu as their title. It seems that a woman’s efficiency to her husband depends on her position as hīrtu as well as kallātu. In the present paper, I try to collect references to both hīrtu and kallātu and build on the earlier research.

2.     Observations

Looking at the two of the main titles of the goddesses, rtu and kallātu, it is important to first define their meaning. These Akkadian words are explained in the Chicago Assyrian Dictionaries as follows:

rtu : wife of equal status with the husband […] In speaking of the wives of gods, hīrtu is preferred to aššatu/altu (CAD H: 200a-201b).

kallātu: daughter-in-law, wife of a son living in his father’s household, bride, sister-in-law […] The word denotes a young woman who was acquired by the master of a household as a wife for his son living in this household (CAD K: 79a-82b).

Let us list these titles with the names of the goddesses. I am going to underline some key words by color pens as rtu, kallātu, etc.

Aja

1)     As rtu

Aja hīrtu narāmta-ka
“Aja, your beloved first wife”  BMS 10:23 and duplis., see Ebeling Handerhebung 50:126 (N/I 343a)

ana Aja hīrtu narāmti-šú   BBR No.1-20:104 and 107

[              hī]rtum ina bīt majjāli liqbi-ka
“May [Aja your spo]use say to you in the bedchamber, [“Be appeased”]
Lambert, BWL 138:200 (last line of a long hymn to Šamaš: a manuscript has an Ashurbanipal colophone.

2)     As kallātu

Gilgameš Epic, tabl.III
[š]ī ai idūr-ka dAja kallāt lihassis-ka[3]
“May she not fear you, may Aya the Bride remind you”  (III 56)
šī ai id[ūr-ka dAja kallāt lihassis-ka]
“May she not fear[ you, may Aya the Bride remind you”]  (III 74)
šī ai <i>dūr-ka dAja kallāt lihassis-ka]
“May she not fear you, may Aya the Bride remind you”]  (III 86)

(In the texts from Sippar or mentioning Sippar, we find the followings)
PN ana DN kallātim ana kisalluhhi iddin
“She dedicated (the girl) PN to Aja, the wife, to serve as court sweeper  VAS 8 55:12 (OB)
Šamaš u Aja ka-al-la-tum … liballiţuka  CT 6 27a :4,  wr. É.GI4.A  YOS 2 64 :4(both OB letters)
ana … Aja kallātimltija  CT 32 xi 12 and 32 (NB, Cruc. Mon. Maništušu)
Aja kallātim rabītum narāmmat Šamaš  VAB 4 232 ii 13 (Nbn),

(in other inscris.)
Aja kallātumltum rabītum    Syria 32 17 iv 25 (Jahdunlim)
dAja kallāt ina sissikti(TÚG.SÍG)meš -šú ebbeti pāni(IGI)-ka likpur
mūšab Šamaš bēlu rabû u Aja kallātim narāmti-šu   CT 34 28 i 58
Aja kallātu rabîti ašibat bīt majjāli kajjanāmma panû-ka lišnamir ūmišam damiqta-a liqbi-ku
“Aja, the great bride (=daughter in law) who stays in the bedroom and constantly brighten your face, may she say you favorite (words) for me!”
VAB 4, 258 ii 19-20 (Nabonidus)
[dAja lip]šur É.GI4.A GAL-tum  Iraq 31 176:13 (lipšur-lit)

As for Aja, she is always called only as kallātu, and has no attribution to this title: not kallātu of someone or some temple, but simple kallātu or kallātum rabītum. I wonder if the English translation of this term “daughter-in-law” is convenient or not.

Taštu

1)     As hīrtu

 [dTaš]tu bēltu rabîtu hīrtu narāmta-ka şabitat abbūti ina mahri-ka ina majjāl taknê ūmišam naparkâ literriš-ka balāţi
“Tašmētu the great Lady, your beloved spouse, who intercedes (for me) [daily] before you in the sweet bed, who never ceases asking you to protect my life.”
H. Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone (AOAT 2, Neukirchen-Vlyn, 1968) No. 338

Tašmetum hiīrat Nabium ina pān Nabium hā‘iri-šá lemutta-šú littasqir
“May Tašmētu, the spouse of Nabû, speak unfavourably of him in the presence of her husband Nabû”
SAA XII no.97 (=NARGE 37:ND 6207) 11’-r.1,
also SAA XII no.96 (=Iraq 19 135:ND 5550), r 4-5.

(Tašmētum) [ša]nukkat É.ŠÁR.RA t kiššūti AN [x x x m]alli-tu hīrat Nabû narāmti d[  ]
“Princesse of Ešarra, temple of the universe … she who beseeches, wige of Nabû, the beloved of …”  SAA III no.6 5-6 (=KAR 122)
hiīrti-i narāmte atti …
“You are my beloved wife … ”   ibid. 15

2)     As kallātu

Taštu kallāt Marduk   Biggs Šaziga 76:21 (SB inc.)

Tašmētu kalātum rabītu   Šurpu II 156

Tašmētum kalāt É. SAG.ÍLA   Streck Asb. 286 r. 14

3)     As hīrtu and kallātu

Tašmētum kallāt[u rabī] ina pān Nabû hā’i[ri-šá] amat-su lū tu[lammin] šimtu la ţābtú lu [tašim-šú] lā ţūb libbi ţūb [šīri lutaqbi]
“May Tašmētum, [great] daughter-in-law, vi[lify] him before Nabû, her spouse, may [she decree] an unpleasant fate for him and [grant] him neither peace of mind nor [body].
SAA XII no.95 (= Iraq 19 133:ND 5463) r.2-5.(NAleg.)

Tašmētum hīrat]šarhi Mu’ati apil Tutu kalāt [É. S]AG.ÍLA
“chosen wife of proud Mu’ati (i.e., Nabû), the first-born son of Tutu (Marduk), the daughter-in-law of Esagila  BMS 33:7, see Ebeling Handerhebung 124, cf. Craig ABRT 1 31 r.16)

Tašmētum kalāt É. [SAG.ÍL] hīratr bēl ilī  KAR 362:1 (hymn to Tašmētu)

We find in CTN IV (=D.J. Wiseman and J. Black, Literary Texts from the Temple of Nabû, Oxford 1996) no. 168 the following phrases.

(Taštu) kallāt É.SAG.ÍL É tašilati narāmti É.ZI.DA hīrat Nabû paqíd kiššati bēl gimri  (ii 42-43)
Taštum (iii 25 ……. ) ana Nabû hā’iri-kiru reštî šá É.SAG.GÍL abbūti şab-ti lišme siqria (iii 28-29)
Taštum bēlet hi-[     (iv 19)   ]…. ana Nabû hame‘ri-ki bēlu ašarēdu reš šá É.SAG.GÍL abbūti şab-ti qi-bi ba-ni-tí? liš-me (iv 22-24)
(Nanaja) ana Nabû hā’ir-ki abbūti şabti  (iv 49)

also Nanâja

ana Nanaja….. hīrat DN ….. narāmti (var. narāmat) rubûti-šu
“For Nanaja, …. the spouse of DN, beloved by DN’s royal majesty”  Borger, Esarh. 77 § 49:3

ana Nanaja…..hiīrat dMuzibsâ…narāmti rubûti-šu
“For Nanaja, …. the eminent spouse of the god Muzibsâ ….beloved of his majesty ….
RIMB 2, B.6.31.17, 3

dNanaja …..jâti mAN.ŠÁR-ŠEŠ.SUM.NA…. ina mahar dAG hā’iri-ki tizqar banīti balāţ ū rūti šebē littūtu ţūbi šīri u hu-ud lìb-bi ši-i-mi ši-ma-ti
“Nanaja ….. I am Esarhaddon, the prince who reveres you….. before the god Nabû, your husband, speak well of me, determine as my fate a long life, fullness of old age, good health and happiness’  …  ibid., 16-18

kallat É. SAG.ÍL … hirāt’ati narāmti Bēl AD!-[šú]
“The daughter-in-law of Esagil …[…], the spouse of Mūati, the beloved of Bēl [his] father
SAA III no.4 (= ABRT 1 54) ii 2’-3’ (hymn to Nanâ), cf.  also SBH p. 129 No.84:14f.

[é.g]i4.a dumu.sag.dUraš.a [gašan.z]i.da gašan.ka.téš,a,sì.ga.kex [gašan.g]u.la gašan.mu dNa.na.a: kal-lat mārtu rēštītu ša Ni[nurta] rubāt rēštītu Tašmētu x [x] rubāt rabītu bēltu dMIN (=Nanâ)
SBH p.65 r.13 and dupl.

Zarpanītu

 1)    As hīrtu

(Zarpanītu) hīrtu narāmti Marduk  KAR 58 r.25, also ibid. 32,

2)     As kallātu

[dPap.nu]n.an.ki é.gi4.a engur.ra:[ Zarpanīt]u kallāt apsî Weissbach Misc. No. 13:39 f. cf. SBH p. 129 No. 84:6f.

kallāt dEN.AN.KI … hīrat bēl ilī  A.419:1 (unpubl. Asuur text in Istanbul)  (CAD K.82a)

zi nidlam.a.ni nin Nibruki.kex  é.gi4.a.gal  en.dNu.nam.nir. kex : nīšrtika šarrat Nippuri kallātu rabītu ša bēli Nunamnir
“By the life of your wife, queen of Nippur, great daughter-in-law of the lord Enlil   LKA 77 iv 16 (inc.)

3)     As hīrtu and kallātu

kabtat šarrat dannat hamma[t h]īrat ilat bēlat … narāmti dTU.TU
“She(=Zarpanītu) is noble, queen, bride, mistress, (ruing) first wife, goddess and lady
ZA 4 248:13 (=Craig, ABRT 1 31:16) = SAA III no. 2 r.16-17

Zarpanītu… bēltum rabītum(GAL)tumrat dEN.BI.LU.LU kallāt dNU.D [ÍM.MUD]
“The great lady, the spouse of Enbilulu, the daughter-in-law of Nudimmud”
Craig, ABRT I 31 r.22= SAA III no. 2 r.22
cf. (Zarpanītu)… bēltum rabītum(GAL)tunarāmti dAMAR.UD …] ibid. r. 25

Also

Zarpanītu ina urši bīt hammūti lemutta-šu litasqar
“May Zarpanītu pronounce evil (words) against him in the bedroom where (Marduk lives) as master (of the family)!”
K. 2411=J. A. Craig, ABRT I 76-79, col. I 28’)

Mulissu

1)    As hīrtu

 “Mulissu šarrat Ešarra hīrat Aššur banīt ilāni rabûti ša n-ahhê-eriba šar Aššur ūmišam amāt damiqti-šu ina muhhi Aššur liššakin šaptu-ša
Mulissu, the queen of Ešarra, spouse of Aššur, creatress of great gods, who daily pronounce favorite words on the behalf of Sennacherib before Aššur.”
K. 2411=J. A. Craig, ABRT I 76-79, col. II 10-12)

dNIN.LÍL hī-ti nammadi dAššur   cf. hīrtu narāmta-šú  Wiseman, Treaties 417
“Mulissu, the beloved spouse of Ashur”
AKA 62 iv 35, Tigl. I

mahar Ninlil … hīrtu narāmti Aššur
“Before Ninlil, the beloved wife of Assur”
Streck Asb 82 x 27

Ninlil šarrat hīrtu narāmti dEN.LÍL  BE 8 150:5 (NB leg.)

We never find, for now, an example of title kallātu used by Mulissu/Ninlil. 

Gula

1) As hīrtu

rat rašbat (said of Gula)  LKA 18:12 and 5

2)     As kallātu

Ninurta … Gula kallāt É.ŠÁR.RA  BBSt. No. 6 ii 39 (Nbk. I) cf. MDP 2 p. 113 ii 13

[nin.É,šu].me.[ša4] kù.mah.kex é.gi4.a dEn.líl.lá.kex ág,gá dU.ux(GIŠGAL).lu.kex : bēl[et É].ŠU.ME.[ŠA4 el]let şīrtu kallāt Enlil narāmtu Ninurta
“Pure ladyof the Ešumeša, exalted daughter-in-law of Enlil, beloves (wife) of Ninurta  KAR 73 r.5f and dups

cf. dNun.gal.la … é.gi4.a.ni  Nungal, his (Enlil’s) daughter-in-law  PBS 1/2 104:12

mušītu kallā kuttumtu //kallā kuttumtu Gula
Gula the night, the veiled daughter-in-law (is) Gula (because no one may look upon her even from afar)  KAR 94:6 and dulp.(comm. to Maqlu I 2), see AfO 12 240 no. 26,
cf.  mušītu kallāt Anim   KAR 38:13 and r. 23 (inc.).

 (Nininsina/Gula) é.gi4.a  en.dNu.nam.nir.ra : kallātli Nunamnir  BA 5 644 No. 11:5f.

3)    As hīrtu and kallātu

mārāku kallāku hīrāku u abrakkāku   Or. NS 36 120:65 (Gula hymn)

Šarrat-Nippuri

rtultu na-ram-tu (var. na-ra-am-tum) dNIN.ZÍL.LÁ kallāt dNIN.UGU.BÀN.DA be-let Eridu “(Ištar), first wife and lady, beloved of DN, daughter-in-law of Ea, lady of Eridu
AfK I 26 r.i 32 (hymn to Šarrat-Nippuri);

Other goddesses

ana hīrti-šu elletim
“to his (Ea’s) pure spouse”   VAS 1 32 i.9

??

rtum šinnatka
“the spouse, your (Anu’s) equal ”  TCL 6 51:20) (cf. above??)

Ishtar

šūsumat hīr[tu] rabītu šitruhtu Ištar
the proud Ishtar, the first wife, is beautiful   BBR No. 61:7 (incipit of a hymn)

Nikkal

dNIN.GAL hīrtú nāramta-ka epšēt[i!-ia x x x x x x x x ]
“May Nikkal, your beloved spouse, [ look upon] my deeds [ with favour].
SAA XII no.90 (=Bauer Asb pl.21) r.4 (Asb recovers a stolen village for Sin).

MUL.MAR.GÍD.DA mārat Anim rabītu kallāt É.KUR
“Ursa major, great daughter of Anu, daughter –in-law of the Ekur  STT 73:77

Bau

dBa’u kallātum  ZA 45 204 iii 5 (Bogh. rit.)l

Ereškigal

hīrti narāmti  SAA III np.32 r.18

said of humans : CAD H 200 : (only OB and lit.)

However:

Anti’kus LUGAL.KUR.KUR …Astarkanikku hīrat-su šarrat
“ Antiochus, the emperor…Statonike, his consort, the queen”   5R 66 No. 2 ii 27.

míTašmētum-šarrat MÍ.É.GAL hīrtu narāmti-ia
« Tašmētu-šarrat, the queen, my beloved wife” ARRIM 4 32:15 (inscription on a lion from the doorway of Room LXV of the South-West palace of Kuyunjik (by Sennacherib):

3.     Instead of a conclusion

Instead of a conclusion, I will offer up some observations.

1)      The title kallātu is generally used with an attribution: either the name of the father of a woman’s husband, or the shrine name of her “father-in-law.” However, as in the case of Aja where we always find kallātu, and not kallātu of someone or some temple. This seems to put into question whether the English translation of the term “daughter-in-law” is in fact accurate.

2)      A lot of goddesses use hīrtu as one of their main titles. The term is understood as “the first wife who has equal status with the husband,” and is sometimes followed by narāmtu as hīrtu narāmtu “beloved wife.” With this qualification, the woman is able to give significant suggestions to her husband or intercede with him on behalf of her devotees.

Given the information available, it seems that the status of women in Mesopotamia depended mainly on the system of the household. Once she got and kept a position as “the first wife” and “kallātu” by marriage, she could make use of her efficiencies in her family. In the religious sphere, we can see this wherein the goddesses, who had the title of hīrtu and/or kallātu were effective in swaying their husband’s opinions, and playing their role of interceder. Perhaps, then, in the human world, a parallel phenomenon could be seen. Unfortunately, no references have been uncovered to substantiate the supposition.

However, in our REFEMA project, a lot of studies about the economic roles and activities of women have been presented, and will be presented during the next two workshops. One day in the very near future, then, we may be able to complete each other’s studies and gain a new view about the status of women in ancient Mesopotamia.


[1] S. L. Macgregor, Beyond Hearth and Home: Women in the public Sphere in Neo -Assyrian Society, SAAS XXI, Helsinki 2012, pp. 71-13.

[2] SAA XVI 28 (=ABL 308). As for diverse interpretations about this letter, see my previous paper (part one of the same title), note 11, as well as the references included in that note.

[3] George,2003: Ninsun, Gilgamesh’a mother, begins her long monologue by blaming on Šamaš her son’s desire for adventure and hopes that Aya will intercede with him on Gilgamesh’s behalf (45-57). Ninsun repeats her plea that Aya remind Šamaš to command her son to the care of the night (74-9). Further,she asks for Šamaš about the Gilgamesh’s journey, seeking Aya’s wifely intercession a third time (80-6)

Women who played the role of interceder: Part 1

Women who played the role of interceder: Part 1

Eiko Matsushima

REFEMA 2nd workshop (June 22, 2013, Tokyo)

1.     Introduction

Today, I would like to talk about one aspect of the roles of women in ancient Mesopotamia, one that I am in fact very interested in.

I recently had occasion to review my previous study on the divine marriage ceremonies in Mesopotamia, which looked specifically at the Assyro-Babylonian world.[1] There exist several sources of written materials on the ceremonies and from them we can understand that the ceremonies were significant religious events. The leading figures of the ceremonies were the main god of a big city (or a country) and his spouse, for example Marduk, the chief god of Babylon and his spouse Zarpanītu, or Nabû, who had a big temple in the city of Kalhu in Assyria, and his spouse Tašmētu, etc. The king and the royal family took care of the ceremony, preparing the furnishings, sacrifices, and banquets. We do not know if the ceremony was held annually or on other occasions, but the fact that there are several mentions on it indicates that it was not a rare event. Many discussions have developed on the subject and some important publications have been generated.[2] I will not talk about the details of the rite, as it is discussed elsewhere, but rather investigate the fact that the goddess, the “bride” of the wedding ceremony, played an important role.

During the ceremony, the goddess stayed for couple of days in a “bedroom” with her husband. Some of the available documents explain that in the course of her stay on the wedding bed, the bride asked her husband for benevolence toward the king (and/or his family).[3] That is to say, she played an intermediary role between the human king and her divine husband, the great god of the country. As a matter of fact, in first century Assyria and Babylonia, the ritual was realized with divine statues, which were identified with the gods themselves understood to live in the temple, thus in a very symbolic way. Given the information, it seems significant that the spouse of the divine couple gives some important suggestions to her husband, and additionally the people expected her to be an interceder on their behalf. I infer from this that similar incidents might occur in human society.

By collecting some examples of “women who intercede” in Mesopotamian society from the written materials, I will analyze them in order to investigate whether my inference is sufficiently reasonable or not.

2.1        Examples of the intercession of the goddesses during the wedding ceremony

Looking first at the goddesses in divine marriage ceremonies in first century Assyria and Babylonia, we can find among the documents mentions of the followings:

1)     Tašmētu to Nabû

 [Taš]tu bēltu rabîtu hīrtu narāmta-ka şabitat abbūti ina mahri-ka ina majjāl taknê ūmišam naparkâ literriš-ka balāţi
“Tašmētu the great Lady, your beloved spouse, who intercedes (for me) [daily] before you in the sweet bed, who never ceases asking you to protect my life.”
H. Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone (AOAT 2, Neukirchen-Vlyn, 1968) no.338

2)     Zarpanītu to Marduk

Zarpanītu ina urši bīt hammūti lemutta-šu litasqar
“May Zarpanītu pronounce evil (words) against him in the bedroom where (Marduk lives) as master (of the family)!”
K. 2411 (=J. A. Craig, ABRT I 76-79) col. I 28’

3)     Mulissu to Aššur

Mulissu šarrat Ešarra hīrat Aššur banīt ilāni rabûti ša Sîn-ahhê-eriba šar Aššur ūmišam amāt damiqti-šu ina muhhi Aššur liššakin šaptu-ša
“Mulissu, the queen of Ešarra, spouse of Aššur, creator(ess) of great gods, who daily pronounce favorable words on behalf of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, before Aššur.”
K. 2411 (=J. A. Craig, ABRT I 76-79), col. II 10-12[4]

4)    Aja to Šamaš

 a. [              hí]rtum ina bīt majjāli liqbi-ka
“May[Aya your spo]use say to you in the bedchamber, [“Be appeased”] ”
Lambert, BWL 138:200 (last line of a long hymn to Šamaš: a manuscript has an Ashurbanipal colophone.

b. Aja kallātu rabîti ašibat bīt majjāli kajjanāmma panû-ka lišnamir ūmišam damiqta-a liqbi-ku
“Aja, the great bride (/daughter in law) who stays in the bedroom and constantly brightens your face, may she say you favorite (words) for me!”
VAB 4, 258 ii 20 (Nabonidus)

We see here that Tašmētu intercedes with Nabû, Zarpanītu with Marduk, and Aya with Šamaš, etc, on behalf of each goddesse’s royal devotee. Thus, the goddesses play an intermediary role between a human, generally the king (and/or his family), and the great god of the country.

The intercession of goddesses, as well some gods, between great gods and human beings has already been discussed extensively.[5] Some try to find a common aspect in the role the of goddesses I mentioned here, with the role of the famous goddess Ištar. I am not convinced in this view, since Ištar, from the third to the first millennium, has retained a major position with overwhelming power in the pantheon. She protects the king by her own will, and even if she intercedes for the king, she is standing before the chief gods of the pantheon or before the supreme divine council, that is to say, in a public place.

Other goddesses do not act so publicly. Tašmētu, for example, intercedes with her husband in her bedroom, a very private space. The wedding bed, though entirely private, was the place of her intercession, and so the place of her activities. In Assyro-Babylonian divine marriage rites of the first millennium, gods such as Nabû, Marduk, Šamaš, etc. were the main heroes, whereas the goddess were ranked second, as merely the spouse of a great god. However, the goddess played a significant role in the private sphere.

In examples given here, the main title of the goddesses is either rtu (=spouse: 1) 3) 4)) or kallātu (=bride or daughter-in-law: 5)). In example 2), Zarpanītu is depicted to as ina urši bīt hammūti “in [the] bed of the family master’s house”. These Akkadian words are explained in the Chicago Assyrian Dictionaries (here abbreviated as CAD) as follows:

rtu : wife of equal status with the husband. […] In speaking of the wives of gods, hīrtu is preferred to aššatu/altu (CAD H: 200a-201b).

kallātu: daughter-in-law, wife of a son living in his father’s household, bride, sister-in-law […]The word denotes a young woman who was acquired by the master of a household as a wife for his son living in this household (CAD K: 79a-82b).

hammūtu: a status of head of the family (CAD H 69b-70a).

Using these explications, we can understand that each of these goddesses was considered to be the (main) wife in a big and divine household. Her status might not be exactly equal to that of her husband, but she had her own firm position in the household. Her status was appreciated to a certain degree in the household as well as in the society.

Ancient Mesopotamia, especially in the post-Sumer period, was a male-dominated world. The possibilities for women were limited both in society as well as in the family. However, as the second-ranking person, she was efficient in her private area, especially in the bedroom. A goddess, who was the first wife of a chief god, could offer suggestions to her husband and act as an intermediary between a god and a human being. In particular, she could request of the great god, her husband, much benevolence for the king, his land, and his people.

From this feature which can be seen in the religious sphere, we may imagine the actual roles of women in the mortal societies of Mesopotamia, especially upper classes in the society.

2.2 An episode in the Gilgamesh Epic: standard version, tablet XI.

I would like to add here one more example of a woman who got her husband to change his mind. In the Gilgamesh Epic, the hero, being shocked by the death of his friend Enkidu, went on a long journey in order to meet Uta-Napishti who had survived the Flood and remained alive in a distant place. When he finally found Uta-Napishti, Gilgamesh asked him how to obtain eternal life. However, failing to pass a test (he could not stay awake for six nights and seven days), Uta-Napishti tried to make him go back to his natal city. However, Uta-Napishti’s wife (marhītu), feeling pity for Gilgamesh asked her husband to help once more that unhappy young man. Following her intervention, Uta-Napishti decided to disclose a secret to Gilgamesh: a plant of life that can be found in the bottom of Apsu, i.e. the deep underground water (tab. XI 273 ff.). Gilgameš then went on to find the plant and take it back with him to his city, Uruk. As you well know, however, he lost it just before his arrival due to his own inattention.

 The central point of importance for this episode is that Uta-Napishti suddenly and easily changed his mind, just after his wife criticized his initial decision.

3.   Royal women in Sargonic Assyria

During the long history of Mesopotamia, there were some women whose activities are recorded in written materials. Recent studies on palace women in the Neo-Assyrian period have given us a new view of women in the royal court including queens.[6] For instance, eleven names of principal wives (MÍ.É.GAL/ MÍ/KUR=sēgallu) from the ninth to the seventh century BCE are known, including Sammuramat and Naquia/Zakutu as the most well known. Let us take a brief look at them.

Sammuramat was the wife of Šamši-Adad V (823-811 BCE) and mother of Adad-nerari III (810-783). We know of four public monuments on which the name Sammuramat is clearly inscribed: two statues found in the Nabû Temple at Kalhu, a boundary stone erected in southeastern Turkey, and a large limestone stele placed among the monuments at Assur. On the top of the limestone stele, a text is engraved in which she is called kallāt Šulmanu-šarru, “daughter-in-law” of Shalmaneser (858-824 BCE).[7] All of these four monuments date during the reign of Adad-nerari III.[8] The inscription on the boundary stone explains that Sammuramat accompanied her son on a military campaign, and documents indicate that she was an important and powerful person in the Assyrian government, at least during the reign of Adad-nerari III. It is highly probable that she acted as regent for her son at the beginning of his reign. However, we know almost nothing about her position and power during the reign of her husband. Perhaps she was already appreciated as kallātu of the father of Šamši-Adad V.

In later times myths and legends around her were invented, and Greek and Roman writers composed stories in which classical Semiramis was the heroine.

Another famous royal woman, Naquia/Zakutu, became a wife of Sennacherib (704-681 BCE), probably while he was still the crown prince. Nothing is known about her until 683 BCE when her son Esarhaddon was nominated as crown prince. It is well known that Esarhaddon was the youngest son of Sennacherib, and that there was a serious succession conflict before and after the death of Sennacherib between Esarhaddon and his brothers; we also know that Sennacherib was murdered by one or several of his sons certainly because of that conflict. It seems that during his reign, another palace lady, Tašmetum-šarrat, was the first queen whereas Naquia was just one of other wives.[9] Since the coronation of Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE), however, she became the ummi šarri (MÍ.AMA.MAN or AMA.LUGAL), “Queen Mother,” and was sometimes present in public places, especially during religious activities. The fact that some high-ranked officials sent letters directly to her indicates that she maintained great power and efficiency in the royal court, but we do not know exactly what kind of power she had. Her titles were sēgallu, ummi šarri as we have just seen above, and kallātu (MÍ.É.GI4.A) Šarru-ukin.[10] Naquia/Zakutu was an extraordinary queen, and a unique woman in the long history of Mesopotamia. S. C. Melville has suggested that it was Esarhaddon’s own idea to bring her to power. When Esarhaddon died, she forced all Assyrian high officials to take an oath of loyalty, the so-called Zakutu treaty (ABL 1239 + JCS 39, 189), on behalf of her grandson Ashurbanipal (668-631 BCE), the youngest among his brothers, on his coronation. A woman intervening thus in political affairs using her own name and will was a unique and unparalleled event.

In the cases of both Sammuramat and Naquia, the women obtained and maintained power as the mothers of kings, acting always as “Queen Mother.” One bronze relief shows Naquia depicted with his son Esarhaddon. Indeed, in analyzing her role we see her essentially as a mother loyal to her son, making her able to take advantage of her position.

Libbali-šarrat, the principal wife of Ashurbanipal, on the other hand, is a queen depicted with her husband in a bas-relief, and it is her position as wife and not mother that is of central importance. In the well-known garden scene from the North Palace Nineveh, she is seated facing the king who is reclining on a coach: both are drinking, beer or wine, in order to celebrate the victory over the Elamites. The depicted banquet certainly took place in the queen’s residence, thus in a private domain in the royal palace. In the depiction she is present as a partner of the king, even if the king is above her in the royal family’s hierarchy. It is worthy of notice that she behaves in the image as a spouse, not as a mother. In a letter written some years ago by a sister of Ashurbanipal, Šerua-eţerat, Libbali-šarrat is described: “You are a daughter-in-law (kallātu), the lady of the house of Assurbanipal, the crown prince of Esarhaddon.”[11]

4.   Temporary observations

Having thus seen some examples of the attributes of women in high classes, from goddesses to royal ladies in first millennium Mesopotamia, we can observe that in religious spheres, goddesses were expected to play the role of interceder with her divine husband on behalf of her devotees. This act always took place in a private space. We understand also that her efficiency depends on her position as hirtu and kallātu. In one legendry epic, Uta-Napishti’s wife –marhītu–got him to change his mind. Thus, in the religious or mythic domain, women could play an important role as adviser to her husband as well as interceder on behalf of her devotees.

Then we looked at examples of famous royal women in the Assyrian court of the first millennium: queens whose deeds or memories are recorded. From the available documents and other materials, we cannot construct a complete image of their activities, and cannot understand all of their roles in society. Nevertheless, we have seen that the system of the household has much to do with their status. We found one keyword: kallātu. This Akkadian term is, as we have seen above, understood as “a young woman who was acquired by the master of a household as a wife for his son living in this household.” So, I will turn to an analysis of the meaning(s) and function(s) of kallātu, in order to discern some further aspects of women’s role in the family as well as in the society of Mesopotamia.


[1]  I presented a paper titled ”Ištar and Other Goddesses in the So-called “Sacred Marriage” in Ancient Mesopotamia” at the International Conference on Ishtar/Astarte/Aphrodite: Transformation of a Goddess, at Keio-University, on 25-26 August, 2011. A book with all of the revised papers of this conference is forthcoming. As for my previous work, see 2.2 in this forthcoming article.

[2] A history of these discussions can be found in the recent book edited by M. Nissinen and R.Uro: Sacred Marriages, the Divine-Human Sexual Metaphor from Sumer to Early Christianity, Eisenbrauns, Indiana, 2008.

[3] Or, as we are going to see in section 2.2, asked to pronounce a malediction on the enemy of her devotee.

[4] We are not sure if this example can be related to the wedding rite, but it does depict a goddess who intercedes.

[5] See in particular the work of B. Pongratz-Leisten, in M.Nissinen and R.Uro, Sacred Marriages, 65-66.

[6] We refer for instance to only two books: Melville, S. C., The Role of Naqia/Zakutu in Sargonic Politics. SAAS IX, Helsinki, 1999 (Here abbreviated as Melville, 1999). Macgregor, S. L., Beyond the Hearth and Home: Women in the Public Sphere in Neo-Assyrian Society. SAAS XXI, Helsinki 2012 (Here abbreviated as Macgregor, 2012). There are many useful references in the bibliographies of these books.

[7] A.K. Grayson, Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC II, RIM 3, Toronto, 1996, A.104.2001, 6.

[8] On the top of the stele found at Assur, a seven-line text with her name was inscribed. The text reads as follows: “Stele of Sammuramat, queen of Šamši-Adads, king of the universe, king of Assyria, mother of Adad-nerarti, king of the universe, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Shalmaneser, king of the four quarters (Macgregor, p. 84).

[9] There is an inscription of Sennacherib in which he expresses a feeling of affection for Tašmetum-šarrat: it is a unique phenomenon in Assyrian history that a king speaks of his personal feelings towards his wife in official inscriptions: ARRIM 4, 1986, p.32; see S. L. Macgregor, 2012, 85, note 173.

[10] Among the two examples of Naquia/Zakutu as kallāt Šarru-ukin, Borger, Asarh, 115-116 (revised in Melville, 1999, 39) and ADD 645, 3. The former is an inscription in which she declares that his son Esarhaddon was to be put on the throne of Assyria with the strong support of great gods. It is written and organized just like a royal building inscription.

[11] See SAA XVI 28 (=ABL 308). There are a few different interpretations of the letter. I prefer that of A. Livingstone, which seems simpler than the others: he understands that Šerua-eţerat was treating Libbali-šarrat with respect, addressing her royal titles: see ZA 97, 2007, 100-105. See also the translation of M. Luukko and G. Van Buylaere (SAA 16, Helsinki, 2002, no.28), which notices an opposite nuance. They understand that Šerua-eţerat blames Libbali-šarrat for not writing to her sister-in-law and finds out that there is a rivalry between two high ranked women in the royal family. From the letter, at least, we understand that royal women sometimes wrote to each other.

Women in a Cultic Context

Women in a Cultic Context

Eiko MATSUSHIMA

 

It is difficult to discuss on the women in cultic context in general view point, since the subject is too vast. Here I try to see only one aspect of the role of the goddesses in a temple ritual, which is generally called the “Sacred Marriage Rite,” but I intentionally say “The So-called Sacred Marriage Rite,” I once carried out an intensive study of that rite from the Assyro-Babylonian world, using Akkadian materials, and have published a number of works on it.[1]

Many discussions on this subject have been developed for more than half a century and a number of important publications were generated. We can find a history of the discussions on it in a recent book, Sacred Marriages, the Divine-Human Sexual Metaphor from Sumer to Early Christianity[2].Therefore, I do not repeat it here, but refer to the fact that the ritual in question about which we have a plenty of materials in Sumer, was also celebrated in post-Sumer Mesopotamia until the first millennium BCE. The protagonists were not Ištar and Dumuzi as in Sumer, but other deities whose personalities were quite different from theirs.

As I have mentioned above, I collected the documents related to the ritual in the Akkadian field in the 1980s, Now am preparing a new paper in which I intend to speak a lot about this subject. Let me dress however a list of the rituals exclusively of those of the First Millennium..

  1. Nabû and Tašmētu in Kalhu, Assyria. Seventh century BCE.
  2. Marduk and Zarpanītu in Babylon. Seventh century BCE.
  3. quršu ritual of Mulissu in Assur. Eighth or seventh century BCE.
  4. Šamaš and Aya in Sippar. Sixth and fifth century BCE.
  5. Anu and Antu in Uruk. Late Babylonian periods.

The protagonists were the main god of a big city and his spouse, as Marduk and Zarpanītu, Nabû and Tašmētu or Nanaja, Šamaš and Aya, and Anu and Antu. The king and the royal family took care of the wedding ceremony, preparing the furnishings, sacrifices, and banquets, but they did not take part in the ritual. The ceremony itself was performed certainly by divine statues.

Some of our documents speak of the Goddess who asks her husband the benevolence for the king (and/or his family) on the wedding bed. Thus she playes the intermediary role between the human king and her husband, the great god of the country. Tašmētu intercedes with Nabû on behalf of her royal devotee, Zarpanītu with Marduk, Aya with Šamaš, etc.

The intercession of goddesses during the “Sacread Marriage” is already noticed. Some authors of the articles in Sacred Marriages compare the act of the goddesses in the first millennium rites with Inanna/Ištar in the Sumerian materials [3], as well as the role of Ištar which we find in the Assyrian royal documents. I understand, contrary to many of them, that the role of Tašmētu, Zarpanītu, Aya, etc. is not the same as the role of Ištar in the “Sacreasd Marriage” in Sumer and in Assyrian documents of the first millennium. Ištar always retains a major position with overwhelming power in the pantheon throughout the Mesopotamian history. She protects the king with her own will. Even if she seems to intercede for the king, she stands before the chief gods of the pantheon or before the supreme divine council, that is to say, in a public place. In contrast to this, Tašmētu for example, intercedes with her husband, in her bedroom, that is to say, in a very private space. The wedding bed was, though private, the place of her intercession, and so the place of her activities.

We observe the followings. In the Akkadian divine marriage rite of the first millennium, gods such as Nabû, Marduk, Šamaš, etc. were the main heroes, whereas the goddess was ranked second, as merely the spouse of a great god.

Ancient Mesopotamia, especially in the post Sumer periods, was a male-dominated world. The possibilities for women were limited in society as well as in the family. However, as the second-ranking person, she was efficient in her private area, especially in her bedroom. A goddess could offer many suggestions to her husband, be an intermediary between a god and a human being, and request of the great god, her husband, much benevolence for the king, his land, and his people.

Thus Ištar/Inanna disappeared from the sacred love rite after the second half of the second millennium. In the first millennium, the ritual of divine marriage was celebrated in which the goddess was just the spouse, the second-ranking person behind her husband, at least from the social perspective of the time. On the other hand the outstanding goddess Ištar maintained her overwhelming power over the course of time, as the goddess of sexual love, of war, and a great patron of the kingship, especially in Assyria. Other goddesses remained always unassuming beside their husbands. However, they actually played significant roles in the “bed of the marriage rite.” Such a goddess could exert much influence through the marriage rite and secured the well-being of the king and his family. Her role cannot be well seen from out, but she was effective behind the scenes.

I suppose that through this fact in religious sphere, actual roles of women in human societies in Mesopotamia, especially in high societies, can be appeared.


[1]  See E. Matsushima, “Le lit de Šamaš et le rituel eu Mariage à l’Ebabbar,” ASJ 7, 1985, pp. 129–37; “Le ritual hiérogamique de Nabû,”  ASJ 9, 1987, pp. 131–75; “Le ritual du mariage divin dans les documents accadiens,” ASJ 10, 1988, pp. 95–128.

[2] Edited by M. Nissinen and R. Uro (Indiana: Eisenbrauns) 2008, here abbreviated as Sacred Marriages. The documentation was re-arranged and aptly completed later by M. Nissinen in Akkadian Rituals and Poetry of Divine Love,” in R. M. Whiting (ed.), Melammu Symposia II, Mythology and Mythologies. Helsinki 2001, pp. 93–136..

[3] See Sacred Marriages pp.65-66.