Rituals in the Temple of Aššur (1-8)

The first eight texts concern rituals performed mainly within the Aššur Temple and its courtyard, notably in spaces open to a public wider than the king and the priestly class exclusively. They also included movements in the Old and the New Palaces in Aššur, the Dagan Temple, and the Anu Temple: the recurrent comment on the change of position between these different buildings was needed to stress the idea of the inner city as a single cultic place where gods could live in harmony due in part to the constant effort of their king.

As for texts 1-6, the cultic acts recorded in these sources stretch over a period from the 18th to the 25th Shebat: they were thus included in the wider frame of the Shebat-Adar festival. In addition, this first group includes two more documents that are not part of this same religious cycle but share the location with the others as to where the action took place: the Coronation Ritual (no. 7) and the Brazier offering (no. 8) were also both performed in the Aššur Temple.

They are all prescriptive texts: they describe the actions that are to be performed on each occasion in order to provide the cultic performers with a clear list of instructions. This was a fundamental issue aiming to ensure the proper performance of the ritual: if any mistake happened during these days, then the positive outcome of the entire event would have been in danger. It is possible that the main recipients for these documents were the high priests of the Temple, namely, those who were in charge of conducting the ceremonies and directed other personnel (which included in a few cases the king himself).

The days recorded in the first 6 texts note the recurrent performance of purification rites, funerary offerings, food offerings and libations, processions, and also the ritual of the opening of the mouth (see no. 1, r. 25: UD-23-KAM LUGAL ina É dan-ni KA.LUH.Ù.DA DÙ-áš "On the 23rd day the king performs the 'Opening of the Mouth' in the main room", and the parallel passage of text no. 6, l. 1). The nature of these performances found its explanation in the fact that they were introductory actions that led to the glorification of Aššur and his beloved pupil, the king, in the following days.[[6]]

The texts are strictly connected to each other: they present many equivalent passages though never use exactly the same words, and they supplement each other since none of them has come to us in an integral shape. In addition, texts 1-6 present many elements common to the other rituals edited in this volume.

Text no. 7 is a unique source that reveals much of the Assyrian understanding of kingship. As stated above, the entire state ideology and propaganda provided a belief system whereby the process of imperial expansion represented in effect an effort to extend the influence of Aššur. Thus, during the coronation rite, not only the king was appointed by the god and received the order to expand the borders of the Assyrian land, but also the high officials from all over the empire had to be present to witness the event and officially legitimate the role of their supreme leader (see their proclamation at ll. ii 30-36). As reward, they obtained confirmation of their role within the social structure by the ruler himself (ll. 12-13: MAN i-qa-bi-a­šu-nu ma-a ia-ma-tu [pa-h]a-su lu-ka-il, "The king tells them: 'Each and everyone keep his [off]ice!"') and received gifts to bring back to their homelands as physical proof of the celebration that they attended.

6 For an in-depth discussion on the entire festive cycle, see Pongratz-Leisten in this volume.

Stefania Ermidoro

Stefania Ermidoro, 'Rituals in the Temple of Aššur (1-8)', 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 [http://oracc.org/natureandcontent/nos18/]

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