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Title33841240 Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography Mario Liverani
TagsNarrative Historian Epic Of Gilgamesh Historiography Mythology
File Size10.9 MB
Total Pages231
Table of Contents
Editors’ Introduction
PART ONE: Mesopotamia
1. Adapa, guest of the gods
	1. The Narrative Logic
	2. The Technological and Cultural Setting
	3. The Foundational Function
PART TWO: Hittite Anatolia
2. Telipinu, or: on solidarity
	1. Telipinu’s Edict as ‘Ready Made’ History, or as History ‘To be Constructed’
	2. Prosperity, Decay, Restoration
	3. The System of Succession to the Throne
	4. The Bloody Deeds
	5. Lords and Servants
	6. The External Front
	7. Solidarity
3. Shunashura, or: on reciprocity
	1. Symmetry as the Formal Expression of Reciprocity
	2. Analysis of the Juridical Section
	3. Analysis of the Historical Section
	4. Levels of Discourse and Audiences of the Message
4. Leaving by chariot for the desert
	1. Idrimi and the Doomed Prince
	2. Other Occurrences of the Topos
	3. The Position of the Motif within the Narrative Sequence
	4. The Basic Features
	5. Accessory Features
	6. The Fairy Tale Pattern and Historical Truth
5. Rib-Adda, righteous sufferer
	1. The Present
	2. The Past
	3. The Future
	4. History and Wisdom
6. Aziru, servant of two masters
	1. Epistolary Technique
	2. The Code of Movement
	3. Building a Kingdom
	PART FOUR: Hebrew Bible
7. The story of Joash
	1. Theatricality as a Form of Political Propaganda
	2. Joash and Idrimi
	3. Usurpation and Legitimation
	4. Hiding and Recognition
	5. Roles and Characters
	6. Political Action and Propaganda
8. Messages, women, and hospitality: inter-tribal communication in Judges 19–21
	1. Non-Verbal Communication in Judges 19–21
	2. The Woman as Message
	3. Hospitality
	4. The Topography of Social Communication
	Personal Names
	Deities and Mythical Beings
	Places and Peoples
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Studies in Egyptology and
the Ancient Near East

This interdisciplinary series publishes works on the ancient Near East

in antiquity, including the Graeco-Roman period, and is open to

specialized studies as well as to works of synthesis or comparison.

Series Editor

John Baines, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford

Editorial Board

Jeremy Black (University of Oxford)

Alan Bowman (University of Oxford)

Erik Hornung (University of Basel)

Anthony Leahy (University of Birmingham)

Peter Machinist (Harvard University)

Piotr Michalowski (University of Michigan)

David O'Connor (Institute of Fine Arts, New York University)

D.T. Potts (University of Sydney)

Dorothy Thompson (University of Cambridge)

Pascal Vernus (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris)

Norman Yoffee (University of Michigan)

Also Forthcoming in this Series

Local Power in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia

Andrea Seri

Page 115

98 Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography

The current reinterpretation of the Amarna correspondence aims at under-
standing the overall historical situation underlying the individual letters, rather
than at an uncritical historical use of the ‘items of information’ contained in
them. The process focuses primarily on pointing out stereotyped procedures,
patterns, and expressions, both administrative and literary in character (see
already Liverani 1967a; 1971a). Recurring stereotypes are especially revealing of
the concepts and worries that prompted the writing of the letters. Moreover, the
very fact that they occur frequently warns us against using individual and specific
statements as independent evidence. In letters, especially diplomatic letters, such
statements can easily be biased, because the author takes up a subjective stance in
order to convince the addressee.

It would be particularly interesting to define the existential position of the
authors, and the patterns with which they interpreted reality. How did they feel
themselves as part of the world that surrounded them? How did they conceive
their relations with other people, and with the gods? How did they evaluate the
connections between behaviour and success? How did they characterise the
present in the perspectives of the past and of the future? The Amarna letters seem
to supply useful and adequate material to study how these questions apply to
concrete historical events. It is possible to establish a basis for evaluating what
parts in individual letters pertain to concrete events, and what parts are inter-
pretative patterns applied to reality – whether consciously or unconsciously – by
the authors of the letters.

By so doing, we tackle the world of ‘wisdom’ (in its broader meaning), which
is poorly documented in second millennium Syria.1 Yet this is not a difficulty. It
may even be an additional reason for our interest, namely to recover some ele-
ments of the lost Syrian ‘wisdom’ of the Bronze Age. We would recover those
elements not from remains of learned or literary reflection, but from documents
composed of practical needs that are spontaneous and germane to the historical
moment. We can at once anticipate that the interpretative pattern that results
from a detailed analysis of the letters will show close connections with a well
known motif in Near Eastern wisdom, one commonly called the ‘righteous suf-
ferer’.2 The analysis that follows is based on the procedure of deconstructing
single letters and then reassembling them according to the ‘righteous sufferer’

1 The situation is such that when Albright (1955) tried to point out parallels between the wisdom of

the Old Testament and that of the Bronze Age ‘Canaanite’ world, he could not find more than a
few proverbs (cf. now Cazelles 1963), and some stylistic parallels.

2 At one time the parallel between texts like the biblical Book of Job and the late second millennium
Babylonian composition Ludlul bel nemeqi was rather weak in historical terms. Today the gap is
being filled through the publication of new texts and by the identification of wisdom elements in
texts of different genres. So I believe that I am justified in estimating that the ‘righteous sufferer’
motif was a widespread cultural model in the ancient Near East.

Page 116

Rib-Adda, righteous sufferer 99

pattern. The aim of this is assuredly not to deny the necessity of reading a single
letter as a unit (a necessity on which I insisted in an early study, Liverani 1971a,
and on which I still insist). Quite the contrary, this is done in order to provide a
unitary reading, using a pattern of reference of which each letter is a materiali-
sation. Deconstruction is therefore a transitional and instrumental procedure,
with a more conscious and organic recomposition in mind. In a sense it seems
possible to consider the letters as stanzas of a long wisdom poem, each stanza
repeating (with only accidental, even merely stylistic, variations) the same con-
cepts, always in the framework of the same pattern.

I have selected the correspondence of Rib-Adda, not because it has a peculiar
character when compared to other groups of letters, but simply because it is by
far the most extensive corpus of Amarna letters, and it supplies a documentary
basis that is less likely to be influenced by happenstance. Rib-Adda’s letters show
more precisely, and with greater clarity, what we indistinctly perceive in the
correspondence of other Syro-Palestinian kings, such as Abdi-Heba or Abi-Milki.
Moreover, I have preferred to limit my analysis to a single group of letters only,
which can be viewed as homogeneous in literary terms. In principle this allows
one to isolate a personalised characterisation, which is especially useful in the
patter of the ‘righteous sufferer’, since it presents a highly personalised analysis of
the surrounding reality.


1.1 T H E R I G H T E O U S S U B J E C T

It is necessary to start from the subject, the writer of the letters, since their gen-
eral focus is extremely egocentric. With some simplification we can say that the
world is made up of just two elements: the subject and the others. The subject is
at the centre; the others are all around him. The others’ movements are always
considered in relation to him: either they press (in a hostile way) toward the
centre where the subject is located, or they flee (also in a hostile way) to an
‘outside’ space, where they tend to disappear. Any judgement on others is given
in function of the subject and is based on their relations to the subject. Matters
are quite simple: the others are enemies. The moral characterisation of the two is
one of basic contrast: the subject is just, the others are unjust.

On the whole, Rib-Adda’s correspondence is highly autobiographical, but
more in the sense of establishing a pattern than of narrating a chronicle. From the
many hints Rib-Adda gives regarding himself or, less frequently, his city (which
is exactly the same) we get an extremely stereotyped and elementary ‘self-
portrait’: Rib-Adda is ‘just’, Rib-Adda is ‘alone’.

Page 230

Index 213

Jabesh (town in Gilead) 160–1, 179, 185,
187–8, 191

Jebusites (pre-Israelitic people in Jerusalem)

Jericho (town in Benjamin, central
Palestine) 16

Jerusalem (capital city of Judah) 149, 158,
175, 180, 182, 192

Judah, Judeans (kingdom and people in
Southern Palestine) x, 147–8, 159,
175, 184, 191–2

Karkemish (town on the Syrian Euphrates)

Kashka, Kashkeans (tribal people in North-

ern Anatolia) 14, 34–5, 48
Kashshu (Babylonia, cf. Kassites) 142
Kassites (Iranian people and Babylonian

dynasty) 123
Kinahni (Syria-Palestine, cf. Canaan) 97,

107, 114–15, 142
Kizzuwatna (kingdom in South-Eastern

Anatolia) ix, 35, 48, 52–5, 57, 59–81,

Kumidi (town in inland Lebanon) 107, 142
Kushara (town in central Anatolia) 36, 51

Lachish (town in Judah, southern Palestine)

Lahha (town in South-Eastern Anatolia) 48
Lamiya (town in Kizzuwatna) 65–6
Landa (town in central Anatolia) 31
Lawazantiya (town in South-Eastern

Anatolia) 48–9
Lebanon (region and mountain in Syria) 97,

Levites (Israelite tribe) 160–1, 163, 166,

168–9, 171–4, 176–7, 179–84, 191–2
Lusna (town in central Anatolia) 31
Luwana (town in Kizzuwatna) 65

Mari (city and kingdom on the Syrian

Euphrates) 165, 168
Maspat (town near Byblos) 101
Mediterranean Sea 48, 92
Memphis (capital city of Egypt) 87–8

Mesopotamia, Mesopotamian (region
between the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers, mostly in modern Iraq) viii, xi,
3, 10–13, 18–21, 23, 27, 34, 48, 122–4,

Mitanni (kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia)
ix, 34, 49, 52, 55, 85, 113, 136–7, 142,
144, 150

Mizpah (town in Benjamin, central
Palestine) 184–6, 192

Napata (capital city of Nubia) 165
Nahrin (region in Upper Mesopotamia, cf.

Mitanni) 85
Nenasha (town in central Anatolia) 31, 51
Nineveh (capital city of Assyria) 3, 175
Nubia, Nubian (region and people in the

Upper Nile basin, modern Sudan)
113, 117, 119–20, 165

Nuhashe (region in central Syria) 75, 126,
132–4, 138

Parshuhanta (town in central Anatolia) 31
Palestine (Southern Levant) 12–13, 97, 99,

106, 111, 116, 123, 125, 135, 140, 158,

Parduwatta (town in Anatolia) 29
Persian Gulf (between Arabia and Iran) 3
Philistines (people of coastal Palestine) 165
Pitura (town in Kizzuwatna) 65

Qadesh (town and kingdom in Syria) 87,

138, 143
Qatna (town and kingdom in Syria) 136,


Ramah (town in Benjamin, central Pales-

tine) 180
Rimmon Rock (site in Transjordan) 186

Sallapa (town in Anatolia) 29
Samaria, Samaritans (city and kingdom in

North-central Palestine) 14, 16, 165,

Semites, Semitic 100
Shaliya (town in Kizzuwatna) 66

Page 231

214 Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography

Shamri (river in Kizzuwatna) 65
Shanahuitta (town in central Anatolia) 32,

37, 51
Shehlal (people in Syria) 131
Sherigga (town in Kizzuwatna) 65
Shigata (town near Byblos) 104, 106
Shiloh (town in Benjamin, central

Palestine) 160, 177, 179, 185
Sidon (town and kingdom in Lebanon) 103,

109, 114, 118
Sodom (town in Southern Palestine) 15–16,

178, 190–1
Sumura (town in coastal Syria) 104–5, 107,

109, 114, 117–18, 120, 122, 125, 131–
2, 141–3

Suteans (nomadic people in Syria) 86, 93–4
Syria, Syrian (northern Levant) x, 12–13,

27, 34, 48, 53, 77, 83, 85, 90, 95, 97–
100, 106, 111, 116, 123, 125–6, 137,
142, 150, 158, 187

Tabal (region and kingdom in central

Anatolia, cf. Cappadocia) 175
Taurus (mountain range in Southern Ana-

tolia) 77

Thebes (capital city of Egypt) 165
Tunip (town and kingdom in Syria) 134,

Turkey (cf. Anatolia) 85
Tuwanuwa (town in central Anatolia) 31
Tyre (town and kingdom in Lebanon) 103,

141–2, 175

Ube (region in Syria, cf. Abina) 97, 142
Ugarit, Ugaritic (town and kingdom in

Syria, and its language) 73, 86, 95,
106, 109, 123, 143, 163, 173, 175, 187

Ullaza (town in Lebanon) 106–7
Urshu (town in South-Eastern Anatolia)


Yamhad (kingdom in Northern Syria) 34,

Yarimuta (town in Northern Palestine) 114,


Zallara (town in central Anatolia) 31
Zalpa (town in Northern Anatolia) 33, 51
Zizzilippi (town in South-Eastern Anatolia)


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