Temple Services and Takultu Manuals (37-48)

This chapter groups texts that may be connected to the major Assyrian festival called tākultu. Stemming from an older tradition,[[17]] the rite gained an increasing popularity until it became one of the most important elements of State propaganda due to its universalistic and celebratory features that echoed the royal ideology.

The literal meaning of the word tākultu was "meal", and in effect it was also used in civic contexts to describe repasts or other moments of common food consumption by the king together with his officials and soldiers. When it was applied to a religious festival, however, it referred to a very specific ritual, as these texts attest. They all show a clear Assyrian nature: their language presents traces of the Assyrian dialect, they have all been found in Assyria and depict a ritual to be performed in the Temple of Aššur in the capital city.

As for the structure of their content (which is similar in all the sources collected in this group), the ritual opened with a long invocation to the gods, who were invited to take part in the ceremony and summoned to attend a toast, as is attested by the insistent repetition of the imperative form šitî "drink!" (in text no. 42) or the invitation to "accept life, listen to prayers!" (40, r. ii 9'-10': lim-hu-ru TI.LA liš-me-ú su-pe-e). A long list of divine or divinized entities and items is recorded, starting with the gods, altars and architectural elements of the capital Aššur followed by all the other deities dwelling in Assyria — together with architectonic, physical and geographical elements of the land. These invocations followed a precise order and represented, in effect, the bulk of the corpus. Its distinguishing feature was that all the texts note that these names had to be invoked twice a day, morning and evening, in all the main Assyrian temples (see for ex. 37 l. 31: ina še-[er]-t[i] [nu-bat]-ti šu-me-šú-nu ta-za-ka[r]).

Despite the name of the ritual explicitly mentioned in the text 42 at ll. r. iv 7', 22' and 25', it is remarkable that nowhere in these tablets is an invitation to eat present. Still, the fact that food accompanied the libations and toasts included in the tākultu ritual can be inferred from this passage at the end of no. 42 (ll. r. iv 7'-9'): šá ta-kúl-ta ši-a-ti e-pu-šu NINDA.MEŠ u A.MEŠ a-na DINGIR.MEŠ SUM-nu-ni "He who performed this ceremonial feeding and gave bread and water to the gods."

Finally, a long prayer was pronounced requesting the blessing of the gods upon the Assyrian ruler.

Besides that which was requested for the king (a long reign, health and longevity, priesthood, sovereignty and power), some requests were also presented for those who attended the entire service (40 r. iv 28'-35' and 42 r. iv): grain, silver, bariku-salt for their food and oil for their lamps. This proves the presence of an audience that attended the rite: surely priests and temple personnel, but likely also representatives of the social elite who could thus witness the display of the piety and magnanimity of their leader.

17 On the chronology of these texts, see Porter 1997. See also Pongratz-Leisten in this volume.

Stefania Ermidoro

Stefania Ermidoro, 'Temple Services and Takultu Manuals (37-48)', 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/nos3748/]

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