Cultic Geography of Assur (49)

In the scholarly Assyriological tradition, this unique text has been alternatively called the "Divine Directory" (Götteradressbuch) or "Topography" (Stadtbeschreibung) of Aššur, with the first name generally prevailing. However, neither definition is appropriate when considering the document as a whole: the first one, in fact, may be applied to its first section that constitutes in effect a list of deities present in Aššur grouped, according to their temples of residence. The topographical section, instead, is only the second and final one, which records the city gates and shrines. For these lines, starting from 120 onward, George has proposed the name "Assyrian Temple List" because it also includes sacred structures located in other religious centres (Nineveh, Arbela, Kurbail and Calah) — however, this definition can be applied only to a portion of the text.[[18]]

Since the primary purpose of both of these lists (gods and shrines) was certainly to provide a theological and cosmological glorification of the city, the name "Cultic Topography" appears appropriate: it brings together, in fact, the two "souls" of the document, which are tightly bound to each other. Deities were named according to the temples they belonged to — and for each divine house its owner is mentioned: thus, the two sections of the text are continuously recalled and appear as tightly linked to each other.

The order in which the gods were listed in the first part followed their acknowledged ranking within the Assyrian pantheon: we thus have deities living at the shrines of Aššur, Anu, Adad, Sîn, Šamaš, Bēl-šarru, Ištar of Aššur, Bēlat-ekalli, Šarrat-nipḫa, Ištar of Nineveh and Gula. Similarly, the second list opens with the religious main building of Aššur, the Ešarra, and continues with the temples of Anu and Adad, Sîn and Šamaš, Bēl-šarru and Nabû, Ištar of Aššur, Bēlat-ekalli, Šarrat-nipḫa, Ištar of Nineveh, Amurru and Gula. The few differences between the two sections might be due to topographical reasons, but they do not obfuscate the basic structure of the text that evidently was considered as a complete whole.

The text is known from many exemplars, and even though its final version can be assigned to the late Neo-Assyrian period on the basis of both internal and formal factors, the Cultic Topography must have been the result of a long written tradition that, similarly to the tākultu manuals and other sources included in this volume, was deeply rooted in previous generations from the Middle-Assyrian era.

This is not the only similarity between text no. 49 and the preceding tablets nos. 37-48. In addition to adhering to the same order for the naming of the gods, the text celebrates the pre-eminence of the central state not through a glorification of its political power but rather through its cosmological role as centre of the (religious) world, around which the minor buildings and shrines revolved. However, if the tākultu manuals dealt with all the lands of the known empire in order to reach this purpose, the Cultic Topography of Aššur focused (almost) exclusively on the religious capital, leaving no doubt on the supreme role of the city.

18 See the discussion in George 1992, pp. 167-184.

Stefania Ermidoro

Stefania Ermidoro, 'Cultic Geography of Assur (49)', 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 []

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