The Cult of the Deified King in Ur III Mesopotamia
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CitationPitts, Audrey. 2015. The Cult of the Deified King in Ur III Mesopotamia. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe topic of divine kingship in Mesopotamia, and in the Ur III period (ca. 2112-2004 B.C.E.) in particular, has been the subject of studies focused on aspects such as its ideology, rhetoric, political motivation, and place in the history of religion. This dissertation is concerned with more pragmatic aspects of the phenomenon, and investigates what, if any, effect the institution of divine kingship had on day-to-day life. The Ur III period was selected both because four of its five kings were deified during their lifetime, and over 95,000 administrative, i.e. non-ideologically oriented, records dating to this period are available for analysis. The main focus of this thesis is on cult, the essential signifier of divinity in that society, and, specifically, on the manner in which the cult of the deified king was established, extended, and popularized. The primary source utilized was the Base de Datos de Textos Neo-Sumerios (BDTNS).
The first chapter demonstrates that at the center of the cult of the deified king were effigies that underwent numerous ritual treatments and were housed in both their own and in other deities' temples, and that in these respects the king's cult was identical to those of the traditional gods. A list of the individual statues and their locations is provided, in chronological order of attestation. Areas where ramifications of the king's godhood might be identified outside of cult are also addressed. The chapter is bracketed by discussions of divine kingship in the immediately preceding (Sargonic) and following (Isin-Larsa) periods, for comparative purposes.
The second chapter provides evidence that processions of cult statues by boat and chariot, and offering before them at specific festivals and sites outside of temples were relatively common events. As cult images of the deified kings were among those so treated, it is clear that the Ur III kings saw the benefit of these practices, with their concomitant festivities, banquets and entertainment, for publicizing their own cult among the largely illiterate populace. In addition, I analyzed the movements and activities of the king himself, as recorded in the administrative archives. These show that the kings were frequently in the public eye as they traveled, mainly by boat, among the cities of southern Babylonia, to ritual events both in- and outside of temple settings.
The third chapter addresses the issue of the effect of the concerted efforts to publicize the king's cult on the population at large. settling on onomastics as the best proxy for determining the public's reaction available. Two hundred and sixty-seven individual names in which the name of the deified king was used as a theophoric element are identified, with Šulgi, the second Ur III king and the first of that dynasty to be deified during during his life, the most popular honorée by far. I examine the statements that the holders of these names are making about a particular divine king, and show that virtually all such names have a counterpart incorporating the name of a traditional deity. I also provide a representative sampling of the people who were given or had adopted such names in terms of their sex, ethnicity, and job title or function in order to determine if this practice was limited to a particular demographic, and conclude that it was widespread, affecting all levels of society. From this I deduce that the deliberate efforts of the kings to popularize their cult may be termed successful.
An appendix contains two tables summarizing the onomastic material. Table A lists all of the names in which the king's was incorporated as the theophoric element, along with their translation. Table B provides the data that was used to differentiate among the individual persons who bore one of the names listed in Table A.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:17467243
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