Records for Cultic Reforms and Events (52-55)

This last group of texts records activities performed in various temples in the city of Aššur. They are clearly dated: text no. 52 (and possibly also nos. 53 and 54 that are quite broken but are certainly very similar to it) is dated to the reign of Sennacherib, mentioned in lines iv 1' and r. iv 5';[[19]] and text no. 55 specifies a very precise date to the reign of Sargon II in ll. 1-3. This last tablet is also the only one whose format is by all means a report, describing events that took place from the 20th to the 22nd day of Kanunu. The other texts appear to be lists of instructions for different performers, but they identify actions that had been already executed by the time they were drafted.

Text no. 52, an amulet-shaped tablet, is a composite text and covers a whole series of cultic prescriptions and practical information. Its larger sections provide a precise indication of the gods' pedestals within the Aššur temple (iv 1'-v 16'), cultic prescriptions (r. 1'-47'), the proper days for ritual baths and kettledrum performances (r. ii 1'-19'), oracular responses (r. ii 30'-iii 42'), references to the position that each god must observe on the occasion of the akitu procession, and the seat they must take in their shrines (r. iv 5'-51' which, interestingly, also provide the exact day of the event, namely, the 12th of Shebat). It is a particularly significant document in the light of a reconstruction of the cultic calendar of the Neo-Assyrian empire and its main festive cycles since it provides the precise dates on which specific acts had to be performed. The acts described in this document mostly coincide with the ones recorded in the subsequent two (53-54), except for the lists of the gods that present some minor differences.

Text no. 55 is extremely rich with information. It can be divided into three main sections: the first one (the entire obverse of the tablet) records the performance of a ritual arrangement in the Ešarra temple for the placement of a new basalt socle and the re-plastering of the altar. Significantly, this is the only case in which the officials who perform the rite are called by their personal names: the royal scribe Nabû-šallimšunu and the city scribe Zazâ: see ll. 6 and 10. The reverse begins with a set of instructions for the temple personnel (ll. l'-11') and ends with a few final indications on the distribution of the rehati, followed by the colophon from which we know that the tablet was extracted from a longer original and written down by the same city scribe who conducted the ritual and could, thus, describe the event as an "eyewitness."

19The text likely included passages from older originals: see the discussion in W. Meinhold, Ištar in Aššur. Untersuchung eines Lokalkultes von ea. 2500 bis 614 v.Chr. (AOAT 367), Munster 2009, 216-217.

Stefania Ermidoro

Stefania Ermidoro, 'Records for Cultic Reforms and Events (52-55)', 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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