Letters from Priests

The letters edited in this volume represent the correspondence of various priests and high temple officials in the Assyrian realm during the third through fifth decades of the seventh century BC. They consist chiefly of reports to Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal about cultic concerns and matters connected with the construction and renovation of temple edifices in the major cities of the Assyrian empire, both in the heartland and in the provinces. These kings took an interest in, and were kept informed of, even the minutest details concerning the temple and cult. Those who reported to them were all men of eminence, occupying high positions in the hierarchies of the temples with which they were associated. Among them are a scribe of the temple of Aššur and the inspector of the holy precinct of Assur; the priests of the temples of Ninurta, Ištar, and Nabû, and the "mayor" of the temple of Nabû, all in Calah; the priest and steward of the temple of Ištar of Arbela; the priest and chief administrator of the temple of Marduk in Babylon; the priest of the temple of Adad in Kurba'il; and priests of temples in Nineveh and Harran. Several royal orders dealing with matters of cult are also included.

These fascinating letters throw light on the building, refurbishment, and maintenance of temples, the fashioning and installation of statues of the king, the provisioning of the cult, the performance of sacrifices, the rite of sacred marriage, and the processions of divine images. Staggering quantities of precious metals and gems are mentioned, as are huge numbers of animals destined for sacrifice.

Steven W. Cole

Steven W. Cole, 'Letters from Priests', Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Priests to Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, SAA 13. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1998; online contents: SAAo/SAA13 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 [http://oracc.org/lettersfrompriests/]

 
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SAAo/SAA13, 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 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/] license, 2007-20.
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