The Assyrian Legacy in the Cradle of Civilization

The Assyrian Legacy in the Cradle of Civilization


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington D.C.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Well, welcome
all to the Library of Congress. I’m Mary Jane Deeb, Chief of
the African Middle East Division which is sponsoring this exciting
event today in partnership with the Assyrian Universal
Alliance of America. Before I start let me
first thank the two people who have been most instrumental
in making this program possible. Miriam [assumed spelling]
[inaudible] came to the Library about a year ago to discuss the
possibility of holding a program on Assyrians at the Library. Together we planned and designed
a framework for this project. And then Eden [assumed
spelling] [inaudible] joined us to organize the content
of today’s symposium, and to bring together
this exceptional group of scholars whom you
will hear from today. Let’s give them both
a round of applause. Can you please stand? [ Clapping ] I also want to thank the Chairman
of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Carlo Ganjeh, who will address us
in a moment, and I want to thank him for his support for this program. Thanks also go to my own team– Joan Weeks, head of
the Near East Section. There she is at the back. [inaudible], Mohammed
[inaudible], Levon Avdoyan and Ann Brenner [assumed spelling]. They all put together the
wonderful display of materials that you will see down there
in the Woodrow Wilson Room. Today’s symposium on the Assyrian
legacy from ancient civilization to today’s cultural revival
is the first symposium on the Assyrians ever held
at the Library of Congress. It is also part of a series of programs my division has been
holding for the past few years to bring to the public the history of some ancient civilizations
of the Near East. We hear little about the history of
these ancient people today primarily because the empires of which
they were part have disappeared. However, there exists abundant
materials in ancient [inaudible], Greek, Latin text on the Assyrians, and certainly since the mid-19th
century there have been major archaeological discoveries
in Mesopotamia to chronicle the history. And yet while some
are trying to unearth and preserve the ancient
sites that tell the story of past civilizations others,
unfortunately, are destroying them. At the Library of Congress we
collect, we preserve, we serve and we make possible through our
programs a better understanding of the past history and the
present cultures of the world. We consider that the Library’s
unique collections preserve the memory of the world and through
our programs we reveal some of its recollections. And, so, today we’re sharing with
all those present in this room, and with all those who will be
watching the videotape program, a page of history that will
be narrated by a number of exceptional scholars
who have travelled from all over the United States,
Canada and as far as Finland to present the research
on the Assyrian legacy. But to begin with I would like
to introduce Robert Newlen, the Chief of Staff of
the Library of Congress. And Robert Newlen was appointed
Chief of Staff on December 14, 2014. In this capacity he has
Library-wide program and management responsibilities,
and also oversees the Offices of Communications, Congressional
Relations, Development, Financial Office, Contracts and
Grant Management, General Counsel, Office of Opportunity and
Inclusiveness and Compliance, and the Office of Strategic
and Planning Office. Before being named Chief of Staff
Mr Newlen joined the Library of Congress in November 1975,
and has been at that institution since then, most recently as
the Assistant Law Librarian for Collections, Outreach and
Services in the Law Library. So, let us all welcome Robert Newlen
who will make a few remarks for us. [ Clapping ]>>Robert Newlen: Well, good
morning and thank you, Mary Jane, for that kind introduction. I really appreciated that
she said I had been Chief of Staff since November 2014. At a similar function here at the
Library recently I was introduced as Robert Newlen who has been
Chief of Staff since November 1914. And I have been here a long time. I’m in my 41st year, but I was not
around for the Russian Revolution. So, thank you, again, Mary Jane. And welcome to all of you. And I welcome you on behalf
of the Acting Librarian of Congress, David S. Mao. As a Librarian myself I encourage
each of you to explore the breadth and depth of our incredible
collections both online and in person. And I hope if this is your
first visit to the Library that you’ll have an opportunity to
explore this incredible building, the Thomas Jefferson Building,
which is a real national treasure. Today’s symposium is an example of what the Library
of Congress does best. And that is bringing
people together to explore, learn and discover how each
culture has contributed to the evolution of civilization. To the best of my knowledge this is
the first time the Library has held a program of this magnitude
on the Assyrian civilization. The symposium today
would not have occurred without the Assyrian Universal
Alliance of America, its Chairman, Carlo Ganjeh, Dr. Eden [inaudible]
and Mrs. Miriam [inaudible], as well as all of the Library staff. I also want to acknowledge Mary
Jane Deeb, Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division, who brings such wonderful
leadership not only to the division, but to the Library of Congress. And I would also like to acknowledge
the very talented Library of Congress staff that
she works with. We have two treasures here at the
Library of Congress, our collections and our staff, who really
are national treasures. So, I’d like to give
Mary Jane and her staff and our other contributors
a round of applause. [ Clapping ] It is most fitting that
the Assyrian community of America hold a conference
on its history in ancient civilization
here at the Library. We hold one of the largest
collections in the world of books, serials, newspapers, maps and
photographs on and about Assyrians, not only in Semitic languages
such as Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic and Hebrew, but also
in Turkish and Persian, as well as in English and numerous
European languages such as French, German, Italian and Spanish. Mary Jane mentioned earlier the
publications or the materials that we have in the room adjoining. And I hope you’ll take
advantage at the breaks and lunch to take a look at the
material there. The room that the material is
in is the Woodrow Wilson Room of the Library of Congress. So, you’re going to be surrounded
by Woodrow Wilson’s personal library which was given to us
by his widow in 1946. In conclusion, I want to wish you
a most enjoyable day as you listen to the celebrated scholars from
around the world that are speaking. I had a chance to review
the biographies of all of the participants in
this symposium today, and it’s really an
unbelievable group of scholars. So, thank you for being
here and enjoy the day. And welcome to the Library. Thank you. [ Clapping ]>>Mary Jane Deeb:
Thank you, Robert. And thank you all for being here. And now I’d like to
introduce someone without whose support we would not
have been able to gather today. Carlo Ganjeh is the Chairman of the Assyrian American National
Federation Advisory Boards and an advisor to the
Assyrian American Association of San Jose, California. And in 2002 he was elected
Chairman of the America’s Chapter of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. He is an Assyrian who for
30 years has been engaged as an active volunteer working on
Assyrian issues serving his people in different capacities at the
local, state and national levels in U.S. organizations and globally. He’s a graduate of the Assyrian
High School in Tehran, Shoshan, but immigrated as a
refugee to the United States because of the Iraq-Iran war. He currently resides in the Bay
Area in California where he owns and operates a financing business. And I would like to
call upon him to come and make some remarks
on this occasion. So, Carlo Ganjeh? [ Clapping ]>>Carlo Ganjeh: [foreign
language] peace on you. On behalf of the Assyrian American and Assyrian Universal Alliance
Americas Chapter I would like to thank the Library of
Congress, especially Dr. Deeb for assisting us in organizing
this program for our people one of the builders of the civilization. After World War I and II,
and Assyrians being displaced from their original lands
because of the World Wars, the Assyrian community in Middle
East they see the need that we have to have international organization
to work on the Assyrian issues to preserve our culture,
our heritage and bring a better
future for our people. Exactly two years ago after the
Isis [inaudible] attacked Mosul over 200,000 Assyrians they
were displaced from [inaudible]. Today Assyrians live
in over 40 countries. And we try to preserve
our culture, our heritage and bring a better
future for our people. Assyrian people are indigenous
people of the Middle East. And we are continuing to preserve
our heritage, our language, and we believe that in future
we will have a better, peaceful and prosperous future
for our people. Thank you, and I also would like
to thank you Dr. Eden [inaudible] because without her this
program it was impossible. Again, thank you from the Library
of Congress for the opportunity. And I was amazed with the
collections that you have. And I’m sure this program
will bring more attention to the Assyrian Americans to
contribute more to the Library, and hopefully we can get more
books and more publications here. Thank you and we appreciate
your help and support. [ Clapping ]>>Mary Jane Deeb: Thank
you so much, Mr. Ganjeh. And now we’re going
to start the program. And may I call upon
Professors Harrak, Woods and Parpola to
come to the stage? Thank you. So, we will start in the order
that you have on your programs. We will start with
Professor Amir Harrak. Each speaker will speak
for about 20 minutes. And we will leave the questions and
answers for the end of the panel. And at the end we will open
it to questions and answers, and we’ll be following
the program you have here. Although you do have the bios of
the speakers I will still read them. And the reason I’m doing so
is that we’re being televised, and the program will be webcast
on the Library’s website. And, so, for people around the world
who will be seeing this program, we are just a small
fraction of the people who will be seeing this program. Once it’s webcast then
it’s picked up by YouTube, it’s picked up by other
organizations, and we have found out that our programs
are seen literally in every corner of the world. So, I will begin with
introducing Professor Harrak. He’s a professor of
Aramaic and Syriac Studies at the University of Toronto. He studied Philosophy and Theology at St. John’s Seminary
in Mosul, Iraq. And in 1980 he obtained
three [inaudible] degrees in Church History, Oriental Studies,
and Archaeology and Art History from the Catholic University
of Louvain, Belgium. He received his Ph.D.
in 1987 in Assyriology from the University
of Toronto, Canada. And the next year began a teaching
career at the same university. Among his latest publications
are the two volumes on Syriac and Garshuni Inscriptions
of Iraq published in 2010 by the Académie des Inscriptions
et Belles-Lettres in Paris, and a Catalog of Syriac and Garshuni
Manuscripts CSCO, Subsidia, Louvain. He is also the founder
and the current president of the Canadian Society
for Syriac Studies and the General Editor
of its journal. Professor Amir Harrak will now give
a talk and a Power presentation on the Neo-Assyrian Winged
Bulls and their Origins. Professor Harrak?>>Amir Harrak: Thank you, Dr. Deeb. Good morning, everyone. I will talk about winged
bulls and beyond. I would like to talk a little
bit about other stone works, as well as ivory and
jewelry, and you will see that it is quite fascinating. [ Inaudible Speaker ] Okay. But with the ninth and seventh
centuries B.C. Assyria built the first empire which extended from
Western Persia to the Mediterranean, and from Northern Mesopotamia
and Syria to Egypt. The empire was constantly dated
by a powerful military machine, and a sophisticated administrative
system, both reflected in native annals and state archives. The empire also produced
remarkable works of art. Laurel leaf sculptures,
wall paintings, jewelry and ivory carvings, which
at finest and elegance to mighty Assyria we shall
survey this great wealth of art, which had reached new and
sometimes unique standards. The Assyrian stone [inaudible]
and artists expressed some of their religious beliefs
in their stone works. The gateways of palaces and temples
were all flanked by winged bulls and lions, which they took for
guardians of gates and entrances. Since the third millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia supernatural beings
were conceived as being combinations of human and animal
elements, and thus we see in art human-headed bulls and lions, and statues of half
man-half bull or lion. During the 13th century B.C. the
Assyrians added another element to these monsters– wings to
highlight their celestial nature. Thus winged men and winged bulls and
lions began to appear in a variety of positions as you can see
in the [inaudible] here. Figures that quickly spread
out from Assyria to the rest of Mesopotamia and Upper Syria. As Assyria progressively became an
unmatched superpower at the dawn of the first millennium B.C.
Assyrians stoned the monsters into [inaudible] placed
almost always at gateways. Here they play two roles–
architectural and religious. In architecture the [inaudible]
are mere jumps upon which arches of gates and doorways rest. And in religion they are protective
deities not much different from the Judeo-Christian
concept of angels. There are three main
types of [inaudible]– the Centaur, made of the upper body
of man and the lower body of lion, attested monumentally only
during the ninth century B.C., the Anthropomorphic Winged bull,
and the Anthropomorphic Winged Lion. The latter two are known from the
ninth to the seventh centuries. The Assyrians portrayed
these monsters with the stylistic features known
to the Assyrians of that period. They all wear cylindrical tiaras
with horns seen in other deities, but the earrings hanging
from the ears of some of the [inaudible] are also worn
by Assyrian kings and dignitaries. Some were found in
archaeological digs, in fact. The hair which covers the cheeks,
the chin and part of the chest, and which also falls at the back
of the head, is always plated just as the hair of contemporary
kings and people is. And the depiction of [inaudible] and people the eyebrows
are thick and continuous. The eyes are bulgy and the
nose is slightly round, anatomical features known to
Mediterranean people in general. One of the most remarkable Assyrian
achievements in art is to express in the same work different
positions at the same time. Some of the [inaudible] are
depicted with five legs to be seen in a profile in a walking
position as if patrolling, and in front in a resting
position of guards at entrances. These peculiar anatomical features
dates to the ninth century B.C., but Assyrians expressed
already during the 13th century in a relief showing
King Tukulti-Ninurta I in two worshipping attitudes–
standing and kneeling. The fact that the Assyrian artist
at the time of Ashurbanipal, seventh century B.C., also
depicted a hunting lion in three positions coming out of
the cage, moving towards the king and jumping at him highlights
a centuries-old practice among the Assyrians. The [inaudible] are mentioned in Assyrian royal inscriptions
naming them and defining their
functions within the palace. The two frequent names
are the Lamashtu, she’s a female, or
Lamashtu and Shadu. The Lamashtu may have its origin
in the Sumerian protective goddess, Lama, and is always a good
genius, a good spirit. By contrast the name Shadu refers to two different spirits–
one good and one bad. But when Shadu accompanies the name of Lamashtu Shadu is
always the good spirit. Modern Assyrians know
the name Shada, devil from which the word Shaitan,
devilish or foolish person, derives. I will expand now to talk a
little bit about laurel leafs. The Assyrian artists also worked with the stone slabs
recording religious, military and hunting scenes
carved in laurel leafs. Since ancient Mesopotamian
buildings were constructed with mud bricks stone
slabs were placed against their lower
walls in protection. The local limestone was
readily available in Assyria, and with it until recently
churches, synagogues, mosques and houses were constructed. The practice of depicting
sceneries on such slabs is known in Mesopotamia and Syria, but
the maturity of the Assyrian art, even in the ninth century, indicates
an indigenous practice dated much earlier than that century. The first depicted
slabs date to the time of the ninth century Ashurbanipal I in his capital city Kalhu
nowadays called Nimrud. The scenery is essentially
religious and even when it includes hunting episodes. It shows the king with a variety of winged genies including
eagle-headed men and winged men standing or kneeling
on both sides of a stylized tree. The genies hold bales and cords
while the king carries a libation bowl in the right hand and holds
a staff with the left hand. In another [inaudible] scene the
king is seen seated with a bowl in his hand and surrounded
by attendants and genies. Military and hunting scenes
dominated art of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. in line with the territorial
expansion of Assyria. In both cases the king is the
focus of the scenes with no place for genies or other divinities
including the national guard Ashur. We see the king participating in
warfare and hunting wild animals, namely lions, and in
both cases he is depicted as a human being proving
his prowess in hunting. Military scenes include sieges,
deportations and impaling, violent tactics used
by all ancient nations. Even is these brutal contexts the
Assyrian artist added environmental sceneries including rivers
filled with fish and crabs, mountains covered with
trees and shrubs, and all kinds of birds
flying in the open skies. Lines of soldiers and prisoners
of war are traced symmetrically and harmoniously with
lines of trees. And since this arrangement recurs
nearly in all military scenes it is as if the artist involved nature
in otherwise bloody events. In the siege of Lachish,
a biblical city in Israel, which the late century
Sennacherib [inaudible], the artist produced a
well-conceived composition. The scene begins at the bottom with the drafted armies marching
toward the city of Lachish located in the middle of the way, and then
progresses toward the seated king who occupies the top
of the composition. The military scenes include a
variety of weapons, siege engines, defensive tactics and
different throngs of soldiers. The artist also traced the
topography of foreign countries. For example, here we have boats,
whether they are maritime, mountainous or just plain lands,
foreign people are depicted by the way they physically
looked and dressed up and the type of works
they undertook. Besides military events peace
treaties are fittingly recorded. And the scene shown in the throne
of King [inaudible] III the treaty between warring kings is concluded by probably the first
political handshaking. A rare scene even in antiquity and
you can see them shaking the hands. Hunting depictions are
particularly interesting because they show striking realism
never detected in ancient art. Hunted lions are shown
suffering, reeling and agonizing, but one lioness, defiant
even while succumbing to arrows penetrating her body. No artist in antiquity had every
reached the artistic standard that the Assyrians had so
brilliantly achieved in art. Artists also portrayed people
hunting wild animals and bulls as a scene in some
delightful scenes. The military and hunting activities
were also painted on walls with vivid colors and
gracious lines. They survive in a few Assyrian
provincial cities of Syria. The paintings reflect the ability
of the Assyrian artists to work with pigments and drawings
creating charming sceneries. Ivory works– a great number of
ivory objects were [inaudible] in Assyria especially in
the capital Kalhu, Nimrud. While the art of these
objects betrays Egyptian and Syrian influences some objects
exhibit Mesopotamian motives. Since the Assyrians were brilliant in art some ivory works
must have been produced by Assyrian craftsman in Assyria. One can admire what I call
the Assyrian Mona Lisa with her subtle smile the
[inaudible] looking lady at the window, and the truly
delightful cow suckling her calf while turning her head towards
the latter in affection. Even if these works may not
be Assyrian they tell much about the finesse and charm of their
owners since the Assyrian used them to ornate their chairs,
beds, thrones and other pieces of furniture. Lastly, jewelry work– in producing
jewelry the Assyrians reached such a professional standard that not even our modern
machines can reach. And I’m not exaggerating. A cache of jewels was uncovered in
Nimrud in 1989 in a royal grave, and it is so stunning that the King
Tut’s treasures looks quite pale in comparison with it. The treasure of Nimrud
includes pairs of earrings with hanging bells,
pomegranate-shaped pendants, solid gold bracelets, pairs of cuffs
made of heavy gold, bangles, anklets and the truly unique
and splendid headbands. The headband is made of fine-woven
herringbone-patterned gold strands, and consists of six gold
ribbons connected by hinges with five discs each inlaid
around a precious stone, and a rectangular plaque decorated
with rosettes around its edges. The plaque is inlaid with
two square precious stones and with tassels attached
to its lower edge. The gold necklace is made
of a tube [inaudible] with alternating vertical
and horizontal wavy lines. Twenty-eight almond-shaped pendants
are suspended around the tube by a gold wire passing
through rings. Its clasp is made of two
entwined dragon’s heads and Mesopotamian motif that
continue to be seen in the art of medieval churches
in the north of Iraq. One would add four gold bowls. Two of which inscribed with
names of Assyrian queens. In producing these gold vessels the
Assyrian goldsmith imitated bowls made of exceptionally thin walls, called by archaeologists
palace ware, that is abundantly found in Nimrud. In conclusion, Assyrian artists
added elegance to an empire known for its military prowess and
its administrative regal. Thank you. [ Clapping ]>>Mary Jane Deeb: Thank
you, Professor Harrak. That was really beautiful
and inspiring. And now we’re going to have Professor Woods who’s
Associate Professor of Sumerology in the Oriental Institute of
the University of Chicago, and whose paper, there’s a change
in the title from what you have, it’s going to be on Gilgamesh in
its ancient and modern context. Professor Woods teaches in the
Oriental Institute in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and
Civilization, and the Program in the Ancient Mediterranean World
of the University of Chicago. He received his bachelor’s degree
from Yale University and his Ph.D. in Assyriology from
Harvard University. He was a Junior Fellow
in the Harvard Society of Fellows before joining
the faculty of the University of Chicago. His research interests include
Sumerian writing and language, as well as early Mesopotamian
religion, literature and administration. He is currently completing two
monographs including one entitled “Gilgamesh in Sumerian Literary
Tradition” for the SBL Series in Writing of the Ancient World,
which will provide new translations and commentary for the six Gilgamesh
[inaudible] preserved in Sumerian. So, Professor Woods? [ Clapping ]>>Christopher Woods:
So, this is [inaudible]. So, I’d like to thank
the organizers, particularly Eden [inaudible], for
the invitation to speak on Gilgamesh at this first ever conference on the
Assyrian legacy here at the Library of Congress in this
really impressive building. It’s a great honor
for me to be here. So, as the wonderful
introduction just mentioned, what I’d like to do today is speak
about the history and context of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and
concluding with a focus on the role of two prominent Assyrians
in this story– one its greatest patron in antiquity
and the other its modern discoverer. But first what is the
Epic of Gilgamesh about? Well, it’s human mortality
and the fear of death are the principle themes. The death of Gilgamesh’s
companion, Enkidu, after a series of shared adventures
sets Gilgamesh on a quest to meet the immortal survivor
of the flood, Utnapishtim, the Mesopotamian Noah, to learn
the secret of immortality. It’s a quest, of course, in
which he ultimately fails, but acquires a great deal
of wisdom in the process. So, the epic is about the
acquisition of self-knowledge, as well as the divinely-ordained
scheme of things, a wisdom that the gods
gave to humans in the antediluvian age before the
flood, but was lost with the flood. We of course celebrate Gilgamesh
as the first masterpiece of world literature
and, certainly today, it’s the best known
Mesopotamian composition. But what we often overlook is that Gilgamesh also had a
substantial following in antiquity, to judge by its wide
circulation and longevity and artistic representation,
it enjoyed popularity in the ancient world as well. The major themes of the epic
resonate with us just as much as they did with the ancients. And this is what gives the epic
its universal and timeless appeal. And here you have an example of a
first millennium B.C. cylinder seal. It depicts Gilgamesh and Enkidu
dispatching the Bull of Heaven as its recounted in
tablet six of the epic. Here is a relief of a
hero, it’s not definite, but many people have
wanted to identify with Gilgamesh overpowering a lion. This is from the throne
room of Sargon II. And at the very least it recalls
a passage from the beginning of tablet nine of the Epic of
Gilgamesh where Gilgamesh distraught after the death of Enkidu reverts to
this primitive state becoming a sort of child of nature before beginning
his quest to seek out Utnapishtim. In the epic, of course,
we have Humbaba, who’s the protector
of the Cedar Forest. He’s decapitated by Enkidu. And we have a great variety
of mask-like representations from Mesopotamian depicting the
head of Humbaba that were used as probably protective amulets,
and these have also survived in the archaeological record. Well, images from the epic, particularly those involving
Humbaba, these were very , very popular, they liked this part
of the story a lot, and is slang or found really far and wide in
Mesopotamia, again a testament to the epic in antiquity
and its popularity. We have here this piece from
the Old Babylonian Period, from the second millennium
B.C., another piece all the way up from the Anatolian capital in
Turkey, and even in Southeast Iran. Now, Gilgamesh is at
present a damaged and only partially
complete masterpiece. What you see here are some of the
largest fragments of the epic. As many of you no doubt know it’s
written in the cuneiform script and it represents standard
Babylonian. That’s the canonical version of it. This is a dialect of
Akkadian, a Semitic language. And these bits and pieces have to be
assembled in a jigsaw-like puzzle. Unfortunately, only
2,000 of the 3,000 lines of the epic are preserved, but because Mesopotamian literary
texts were copied and recopied as scribal exercises
there’s hope that more, and perhaps eventually the entire
epic, may one day be recovered. Now, when we speak of the history
of Gilgamesh it’s really a story that centers around three
Mesopotamian cities– Uruk, Ur– not to be confused with
Uruk– and Nineveh. Now, Gilgamesh hailed from
the city state of Uruk. He was the King of Uruk. And Uruk is a very special place. It emerges at the end of the fourth
millennium B.C., or 34, 3,500, as the world’s first
city, first metropolis. And it’s the place where writing is
first invented in all likelihood. Now, Gilgamesh didn’t rule at that
point in time, but he ruled probably about five, six, 700 years
later, around 27, 2,800 B.C. So, about easily 500 years after
the invention of writing, but, unfortunately, just before or
just on the cusp of history when we had the first
historical texts. So, often people ask was
Gilgamesh a real person. Well, we don’t know for sure
because we have no texts that we can relate directly to him,
but they’re good reasons to assume that there is a real person
behind the actual legend. Now, Ur, on the other hand, was the
seat of a very important dynasty at the end of the third millennium. So, now we’re fast
forwarding again another five, 600 years down to 2100 B.C.,
and this dynasty was known as the third dynasty of
Ur or the Ur III Period. Now, the kings of Ur claimed
a very special bond with Urok. And they commissioned several
stories about Gilgamesh in the Sumerian language,
which is completely unrelated to standard Babylonian. Nineveh, in this story, now we fast
forward again another 1,500 years, was as we heard the capital of the
vast Assyrian empire Ashurbanipal, we just heard much about, was one
of the greatest Mesopotamian rulers. He ruled his empire from Nineveh
in the seventh century B.C., and he’s famous for his
military exploits, of course, but he was also something
of a renaissance man, and one of the few Mesopotamian
monarchs to claim literacy. At his capital Nineveh
he established one of the great libraries of antiquity,
the Library of Ashurbanipal. And it’s from this library that
we have the best preserved copies of the Epic of Gilgamesh. So, our story begins at Ur around
2100 B.C. during this Ur III Period. Now, as I’d mentioned, the rulers
of Ur claimed a special bond with the early Urok rulers,
particularly with Gilgamesh, even though these rulers
of Urok preceded them by a good five, 600 years. But at Ur they saw Urok at
the time of Gilgamesh as sort of a heroic Sumerian golden age,
and they saw themselves as the heirs and stewards of this
ancient tradition. The Ur III kings sought to
legitimize their own rule by constantly connecting themselves
with Urok and its bygone rulers, and with Gilgamesh in particular. The dynasty’s greatest
ruler was Shulgi, who consolidated the
incipient empire that he inherited from his father. Shulgi, who frequently referred
to himself as Brother Friend of Gilgamesh, was like Ashurbanipal
some 1,500 years later, literate and had a special penchant
for learning. So, it comes as no surprise
that given the spirit of the Ur III Period generally, and
Shulgi’s inclinations for education in particular, that it was
during this period that a cycle of poems celebrating Gilgamesh and his exploits was first
committed to writing. And no doubt these stories drew
upon longstanding oral traditions that must have been in
circulation since the days of the first dynasty of Urok. So, there are actually five
primary Sumerian Gilgamesh stories. Now, likely these poems were
composed to be performed at court before Shulgi and others. And perhaps they were set to music. But these stories have a very
laconic abrupt style suggesting that they were probably
abbreviations of traditional oral compositions. One possible purpose for writing
down of these poems may have been for training singers and for preserving the
outline of an oral performance. So, what was the historical
development of Gilgamesh? Well, it needs to be pointed out that these Sumerian stories they
share a broad theme of Gilgamesh, but they’re largely
disconnected from one another. There’s no such thing as
a Sumerian Gilgamesh Epic. It was only in the
Old Babylonian Period with the first Akkadian
version of Gilgamesh that we have the first
true Epic of Gilgamesh. And this is the Old Babylonian
version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. And what this represents
it pulled together all of these Sumerian sources, it
added a lot more that wasn’t in the original Sumerian stories,
had no counterpart in them, and it brought it together
into sort of a coherent whole. Now, the Old Babylonian version
of Gilgamesh is far from complete, but it’s a poem of
tremendous beauty and power. And the opening line of this
story, and it’s served as the title for compositions in antiquity,
the first line was the title, is translated as the one
who is greatest among kings. And this is really a very apt title
because the poem is really a hymn to heroism in knightly might. Now, in the Middle
Babylonian Period, so that we’re fast forwarding
now to the second half of the second millennium,
so, 1600 to 1000 B.C., Gilgamesh spreads throughout
the ancient Near East as Akkadian becomes the lingua
franca of the Near East, it spreads to Northern
Mesopotamia, it spreads to Anatolia, and it takes on various
versions and translations. What happens then around 1300
to 1000 is very important, because then what we have now is
the canonization of Gilgamesh. We have all of these
disparate versions. And then at the end of the second
millennium the story is eventually canonized, and it’s written
in the literary dialect, standard Babylonian that
was actually never spoken. And when you go and you
buy the Epic of Gilgamesh at a bookstore what you’re
reading is this canonical version that was written at this period. Now, this story, the canonical
version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, is attributed by ancient sources
to a scribe, an [inaudible], by the name of Sin-leqi-unninni, who
may have been the principle editor of the text, who pulled together
all of this ancient material and crafted this one
canonical version perhaps. It’s a very different story
than the one that we have in the Old Babylonian Period,
and, again, the very first line of the story reflects this. The standard Babylonian
version places emphasis on Gilgamesh’s acquisition
of wisdom and self-knowledge through hard experience
and personal suffering. It’s a somber reflection,
a less confident and more introspective story. And, again, you see this in the
first line– he who saw the deep, the foundations, of the land– which contrast very nicely with
the earlier Old Babylonian title. Now, one of the things
we’re interested in is how Sin-leqi-unninni,
if we can trust that ancient attribution,
changed the epic. So, in addition to shaping and
refocusing the theme and mood of the epic he, or another, made a number of concrete
changes that we can identify. For instance, we have this beautiful
sweeping prologue at the beginning of the epic that portrays it as
the autobiography of Gilgamesh. This didn’t exist in
earlier versions. The transformation of Enkidu,
who plays a very minor role in the early Sumerian
stories, and now he’s elevated to Gilgamesh’s counterpart,
and sort of his alter ego. And we have the addition of
the final tablet of the epic, this mysterious tablet 12,
which is really an appendix to the 11-tablet epic, and it’s
a literal translation of one of these earlier Sumerian stories– Gilgamesh, Enkidu and
the netherworld. And he did this as a show
probably of scholarly erudition to underscore the mortality
theme of the epic. More generally, Sin-leqi-unninni’s
conceptualization of the epic is reflected in the
very structure of the narrative. The travels of Gilgamesh come
to encapsulate the known world and are symbolic of the
universality of the epic. That is the sort of all-encompassing
theme of the epic is reflected in the physical action of
the narrative with Urok, the city par excellence, serving
as the anchor and focal point. The first half of the epic,
tablets three through five, are really an adventure
story out west. Right? Their travels are all done
in the western part of Mesopotamia at the Near Eastern world. The second half is a search
for this antediluvian wisdom, the wisdom of Utnapishtim
in the mythical east. So, what I would like to devote
the remainder of this talk to, and conclude with, is the
discovery of Gilgamesh after it was lost for two millennia. The event, as I’d mentioned
at the outset, is bookended by two Assyrians–
one ancient and one modern. And I’ve already mentioned,
we’ve heard mention already, of the great seventh-century
Assyrian King Ashurbanipal and his famous library at
the capital of Nineveh. Ashurbanipal, as I mentioned, was
known for his claims to literacy and his love of learning, and
you can see him boasting about it in this quote, and of
course his famous library. Now, the library, actually
you have here is a letter from Ashurbanipal asking his agents to collect materials
for the library. The library actually began
modestly with texts involving omens. But eventually it grew to
at least 25,000 tablets. You can see he’s went far and
wide to collect this material. It included literary compositions
and other records of all kinds, and included multiple copies
of the Epic of Gilgamesh. There are probably at least four
copies of the Epic of Gilgamesh in Ashurbanipal’s library, and
that, in fact, is our main source for the epic comes
from this library. When Nineveh fell in 612
B.C. the royal palace, and with it the library, were burnt. The library rooms collapsed
to the foundations of the building sending
25,000 tablets plunging into the palace foundations, and
they rested there undisturbed for two and a half thousand years. Now, fast forward to the
middle of the 19th century and we had the birth of ancient
Near Eastern archaeology. And a few things are
happening at this point. We had the decipherment of cuneiform
by Rollinson and others, the French and British, often in
competition with one another, begin excavating Assyrian capitals
which were known for mentions in the bible and classical sources. But our interests lie in
the pioneering excavations of Nineveh [inaudible]
by Austen Henry Layard in the mid-19th century. Now, he was primarily, at this point
these were really treasure seekers. Right? They’re interested
in sculpture and these were shipped back to
the British Museum including, you can see here these, well,
we just heard about a lot about [inaudible] were shipped
back to the British Museum, and they also incidentally
found some tablets as well. Layard finds these were a
sensation in the United Kingdom. You could see them moving one of these [inaudible]
into the British Museum. There’s a caricature of Layard
as writing on one of these bowls when he started his
political career. Some of these drawings were
actually made by Layard. He was an artist. You can see him here in the
lower-left image actually drawing. These were very destructive
archaeologic treasure-hunting operations and very destructive
tunneling at Nineveh and Corsiva that they engaged in
to find these things. It was just how archaeology
was done at the time. But Layard actually
didn’t work alone. He had an assistant who would go on to become his archaeological
successor, Hormuzd Rassam, who would play a critical role
in Near Eastern archaeology, and is really one of
its unsung heroes. Rassam was an ethnic Assyrian born
in Mosul, a Chaldean Christian. He was actually hired by
Layard as a paymaster in 1845. Layard was highly impressed with
Rassam, and he became something of a father figure to Rassam,
and the two remained friends for the next 50 years
until Layard’s death. Eventually Rassam would
succeed Layard and the British Museum
entrusted Rassam with heading its excavations
in Iraq. Now, the field work was
conducted between 1852 and 54 where Rassam really made a number
of astonishing discoveries. In fact, it was Rassam, not Layard,
who excavated Ashurbanipal’s library and palace, and discovered
all the tablets that would go on to make the nucleus of the British Museum’s
fantastic tablet collection. And so it was Rassam who actually
discovered the Epic of Gilgamesh. Here you see two portraits of
Rassam that he sat for at the age of 25 just before he became Director
of the British Museum excavations, and they really contrast
the Middle Eastern and European dress symbolizes really
the ambivalence in Rassam’s life. He belonged to both worlds in
name, but in reality, in the end, unfortunately, to neither. Now, Rassam’s fortunes changed
for the worse once he returned to England where he found that
in the press his colleagues in the fields and at the British
Museum were either claiming his discoveries for themselves, or crediting his accomplishments
to others. And really this was an
issue of cultural prejudice in Victorian England
where many couldn’t accept that a Middle Easterner had
made contributions of this kind. He was often described, for
instance, as a digger with Layard as the brains behind the operation. And this prejudice was to
plague him the rest of his life after a disastrous stint in politics
Rassam resumed his archaeological career later in life, and
he made more important finds at Balwat in Sipar. However, he entered into a very
public dispute with this man in the lower right, Budge
of the British Museum, who actually accused him
of stealing artifacts. There was no evidence
for this, of course. Rassam sued Budge for slander
in a very famous lawsuit in 1893 that was a sensation in the
U.K. covered by the press. He won the lawsuit, but was
awarded almost nothing in damages. He retired in Brighton
in debt, embittered, embarrassed and largely forgotten. But the field has, however, been
kinder to him in recent years. And there’s been a real
effort to restore Rassam and his position in the field. Now, as for the Epic of Gilgamesh
itself after it was discovered, we have to fast forward 20
years from Rassam’s discovery of Ashurbanipal’s library. You have to remember,
or know, that Layard and Rassam couldn’t read
the tablets that they found. Right? The decipherment of
Akkadian was in its infancy. Enter a genius by the name of George
Smith from a working class family, limited formal education, but
fascinated with biblical history and the sensational Assyrian finds
that were being made at the time. He spent his lunch hours at
the British Museum training under Rollinson, who was one of the
principle decipherers of Akkadian and the father of Assyriology. George eventually got a
position at the British Museum, and began looking through
this vast tablet collection for a sensational tablet
that would make him a star, and make a big splash in the world. It took him five years to find
it sifting through these tablets, but in 1872 he found it, sorting
through the thousands of tablets in Ashurbanipal’s library. He found the best preserved
manuscript of tablet 11 of Gilgamesh which just so happens
recounts the flood. And this was an absolutely
sensational find as it not only corroborated
the biblical account of the flood, but it predated it. And, so, it showed
that a major episode of genesis had earlier
Mesopotamian origins. You can see here in
this quote from Budge– Rollinson’s reaction upon
finding the tablet where he sort of took his clothes off in
a state of great excitement. Some people now actually think he
was suffering an epileptic fit, so, maybe is a different spin on this. To conclude, Smith presented his
findings at a very public meeting at the Society of Biblical
Archaeology where even Prime Minister
Gladstone was in attendance. It made international news. Actually you can see it here. The Daily Telegraph was so impressed
with Smith’s famous lecture on the flood that they
actually funded him to go back to Rassam’s old trenches to find
missing pieces of the flood story. And that’s really an incredible
thing to ask if you’re familiar with these things because it’s
like literally finding a needle in a haystack, finding
another bit of a tablet. But actually he succeeded in part. He found a portion of a
text that wasn’t Gilgamesh, but a related text, but it
filled an important gap. This was a sensational
success for the Daily Telegraph that was funding this excavation. They couldn’t ask for
a better outcome. He found it like within the second
or third day of returning to Iraq. However, he was a victim
of his own success, because once they had the
tablet they were looking for they cancelled the
expedition in the end. So, George Smith, in 1876
on a return trip to Iraq, he fell ill in Aleppo
and, unfortunately, died at a very young age of 36, which brings us to
the end of our story. And I would just point
out some further reading if you’re interested, if you
read the Epic of Gilgamesh, and I hope you all do or have, you should read the exceptional
translation of Andrew George. I think it’s the only
one you should read. And then there are a number of other
very nice books on Assyrian legacy. There’s another one by Mogens
Trolle Larsen called “The Conquest of Assyria” which is excellent,
but I think, unfortunately, out of print and very expensive. There’s “Empires of the Plain” which recounts the
early pioneering efforts of ancient Near Eastern archaeology. And “The Buried Book” is a book
about Gilgamesh, and it recounts in very nice detail the era
of Rollinson and Rassam, and the sort of fascinating
story that was their lives. Thank you very much. [ Clapping ]>>Mary Jane Deeb: Thank
you, Professor Woods, and for those who have read
Gilgamesh it’s definitely an inspiration. Go back to it. Thank you. So, now we have Professor Simo
Parpola, Professor Emeritus of Assyriology at the
University of Helsinki. He specializes in the
new Assyrian Empire. His research interests encompass
all aspects of Assyrian language, culture and history,
especially Assyrian religion, royal ideology and sciences. The Melammu Project,
which he initiated, investigates the continuity,
transformation and diffusion of Assyrian and Babylonian culture
throughout the ancient world. In addition to his academic
activities Professor Parpola has also worked for the
benefit of oppressed and persecuted modern Assyrians,
and is co-founder and chairman of the Finland Assyria Association. Professor Parpola? [ Clapping ]>>Simo Parpola: Ladies
and gentlemen. Assyria is known from the bible as a great military power oppressing
the Near East for centuries, only to be utterly destroyed and wiped off the face
of the Earth in the end. This notion of Assyria
is still very common, but it is misleading and wrong. The Assyrian Empire was much more
than just a cold military power. And when it fell it by no
means meant the end of Assyria and Assyrians, nor
the end of the empire. I have planned my talk so that
we will begin with having a look at what happened to Assyria and
Assyrians after the fall of Empire and then continue with a
look at the organization of the Empire at its heyday. We will see that the ideological
and administrative structures and methods needed to keep
everything going did not disappear, but remained in place even
after the fall of Assyria. They were as vital
to the functioning of all subsequent empires
as they had been to Assyria. And thus came to have a profound and
lasting impact on the afterworld, both in the west and the east. The Assyrian Empire was the
United States of its time. It was a large multi-ethnic
scientific and technologically-advanced
country, and certainly the most
powerful country in the Eastern Mediterranean
and the Near East. Like the United States
it had been born, it grew from humble
beginnings by conquest. But through a very
efficient and effective policy of integration it was
able to unify the country to a homogenous foe sharing a common
language, the imperial Aramaic, which was sort of the
equivalent of American English, which was spoken all over the
empire by people who had long since forgotten their ethnic
origins and shared values, religion and ideology of the empire. Even the ruling class,
which traced its origins in the Old Akkadian Empire
of the third millennial B.C. and spoke mainly Assyrian,
was totally bilingual. And probably some of
the elite who were of other ethnic origins also
shared the ideas of the empire. This is very important to keep in
mind when we look at what happened after the fall of Assyria. Well, you already have seen
pictures of the Assyrian Empire. What we have here is just the extent of Assyria’s provincial
administration. Actually Assyria was considered
a bit larger if you count in the vessel states, such as Lydia
and Phrygia in the Anatolia area and Urartu, now Armenia,
to the north of Assyria. In fact, Assyria’s indirect
influence extended much farther than the [inaudible] area until
the [inaudible] Peninsula, that is to say now Spain,
because the Finnishians, who were experienced
vessels, acted for Assyrians in their commercial enterprises
and for [inaudible] silver mines in Spain, which were
important to the empire. Now, Assyria fell, as we have
heard, when Nineveh was destroyed in 612 B.C. as a result of a long
power struggle among the ruling elite which started with two sons
of Ashurbanipal fighting for power, and then ended up involving the
whole ruling elite including Assyrian governors in
Southern Babylonia and Media. In 612 Nineveh was [inaudible]
and razed to the ground, and the country was
divided into two parts– the Medes, who actually carried
out the destruction of Nineveh, carried away all the parts of the
governments that they were not able to escape from the city, and
deported much know-how not only from Ninevah, but also
from [inaudible] to their capital [inaudible]
in Western Iran. The Babylonians, under
the leadership of [inaudible] took the
western part of the empire, including Assyrian areas in
[inaudible] and Anatolia. So, it’s important to remember
here that the actual seat of Assyrian government
remained on the Median side, and thus the Medes were able
to claim universal kinship. [inaudible] this appear
as heirs to the Assyrians, whereas the Babylonians, who in fact
were just part of the old empire, could only claim the kinship of
Babylon because they were not on the scene when Assyria fell. Apart from the shift of the
power to [inaudible] and Babylon, and the liquidation of much
of the Assyrian abilities, nothing much happened elsewhere
otherwise in the empire. Life went on as it had been,
and both the Babylonians, and especially the Babylonians, pursued the Assyrian policies before
the fall including, for instance, the deportations as we know
very well from the bible. So, here we have a map of the
new division of the empire. I must point out here that
the areas controlled by Media, which are much larger than
actually Assyria ever controlled, they are more loosely organized
than in the Assyrian Empire, and consisted of all sorts
of tributary arrangements between the Medes and
other Median tribes. Some have even contested
that a Median, its empire, actually ever existed, but I
believe there was an empire. And, in fact, it was very much
Assyrian, probably not only in organization, but also
in its habits as we’ll learn from later historiographers. Well, some 70 years after Assyria’s
fall both Media and Babylonia, near Babylonia, an empire came
under control of Cyrus the Great, who now became [inaudible] of all the countries
earlier ruled by Assyria. It’s incredible, but this
[inaudible] of time that had elapsed since the fall of Assyria
the Persians under Cyrus and his followers proved to be
even more faithful followers than Babylonians and Medes before
them of Assyrian practices. The former Assyrian area was
preserved under its former name, Athura, actually in the
form of four [inaudible], but actually only one [inaudible]
controlled by the same family, which had ruled it under
the Babylonian kinship. And the Median half
also was combined into four [inaudible]
consisting of Media, [inaudible] and then Cyrus’ home country Persia. Aramaic continued its
position as lingua franca. Assyrian practices and
manners [inaudible] everywhere. And we have, for instance, the
great historical records [inaudible] witness descriptions of the life
in the sort of the [inaudible] which really shows how
unchanged everything went on. Here is the provincial division
of the Median Empire Assyria along with Abar-Nahara, which is the old
Assyrian Eber-Nari, the designation for the Transeuphratene provinces. And here’s a telling example of how it certainly unfaithfully
the Persian kings followed the Assyrian model. These are two depictions
of the royal origins at the New Year’s festival. One from [inaudible] in
Assyria to the left, 740 B.C., and the second is the Persian King
[inaudible] seated on the throne in [inaudible] 230 years later. The only thing here that really
differs is that some [inaudible] in the throne, but we have similar
representations of Assyrian throne, also from Assyria, and the fact that the Persians despite
the destruction brought in Nineveh were able to so faithfully copy
Assyria’s [inaudible]. Its [inaudible] by the fact that
it was the Assyrian sculptures who actually executed these
reliefs for the Persians as is told in the Persian inscriptions also. And we have also [inaudible]
documents from [inaudible] recording
the payments made by the Assyrian artists. Now, after Alexander
the Great’s defeat of the [inaudible] he established a
far-flung empire, as you all know, which extended far to India,
but this did not last long since Alexander died soon, and
it was divided by his generals who each started to
compete for power and establish their own empires. The most successful of his
followers was [inaudible] who in fact reestablished
Assyria again, and the area of the [inaudible]
Empire, here as you can see, [inaudible] points to the
throne of Persian Empire. Its administrative center
was originally in Babylonia in a city founded by [inaudible]
quite close to Babylon, and later on in Syria,
Syria [inaudible]. So, you see that just like Alexander
had made his empire’s capital Babylon the [inaudible] also
continued this habit, and the weight of the empire was really in the west
[inaudible] Assyrian central areas. The Macedonians who helped power
soon they’re very much [inaudible]. And it’s quite clear that some
of them started speaking Aramaic, which remained the
official language. And even though they perpetuated
Hellenistic customs and art forms, they also favored [inaudible]
with the Mesopotamia culture. At this time we are still
[inaudible] from libraries in Babylonia, so the
historical knowledge of Mesopotamia was preserved,
and also the Mesopotamians and Assyrians made their culture
known to the priests in the form of a history written by the
Priest [inaudible] in 280. Then finally [inaudible] about
Mesopotamia and Roman rule. What is important to keep
in mind is that at the time when Romans entered the scene the
[inaudible] Empire had been started to dwindle under the
attacks of the Parthenons and actually comprised only at this
time the areas of present day Syria. And when it was [inaudible] by Rome it became the Roman
province of Syria in this extent. In the other areas of former
Mesopotamia some areas had become semi-independent kingdoms
under the Parthenons. For instance, [inaudible] in
Syria and [inaudible] in the east in the area where we have
nowadays [inaudible], for instance. When Roman prosecution
was changed from republic into dictatorship there
started an influx of Oriental influence
into the Roman court. And already from the
first Roman emperors on there were several Syrian
or Mesopotamian advisors in the Roman court
[inaudible] and [inaudible]. These were astrologers, but they
continued as advisors of the emperor as in Mesopotamia before. Despite all appearances all
Mesopotamian cultural traditions continued still in Syria now
called [inaudible] Province, and we have several ancient
live descriptions of life there, for instance, by Lucian who calls
himself by Assyrian [inaudible], the author of the first
theorate order Aramaic, [inaudible] who claims
he was born in Assyria and despises the three culture
[inaudible] the Greeks have inherited everything
from the Assyrians. Until this point Hellenistic Roman
[inaudible] had not distinguished between Syria and Assyria,
but from the point that Assyria became a Roman
province the name Syria, which is actually only an
abbreviation of Assyria, became to denote justice [inaudible]
area while the Assyria started to be applied to the former empire. Here is an example of the
cultural continuity in Roman Syria. We have here Assyrian priests
[inaudible] officiating in [inaudible] in 50 B.C. the same
[inaudible] Syrian [inaudible] and still bearing the
same sort of [inaudible] as the Assyrian priests
700 years earlier. Well, the Assyrians had on
the formerly Median side of the [inaudible] still remained
outside of the Roman Province Syria, because the Romans thought that it
did not pay off and [inaudible] far, but they were shortly an annexed by
the Romans, first by train and then by the [inaudible], who
established in Rome a dynasty that really transferred the center of the Roman Empire
from Rome to the east. And under this emperor started the
development that eventually led to the division of the Roman
Empire into Eastern Roman part, and transformed the
[inaudible] culture to very close to the old Assyrian
heritage in religious terms. But on the other hand these
influences also were transmitted to the west through the Roman Empire and the establishment
of Christianity in Rome. Okay, now, let’s move to considering
the Assyrian state [inaudible]. I will go through– yes,
well, I’m afraid I will have to skip my presentation
because I wasted too much time on the preservation of Assyrian
identity in post-empire times, but I consider that a
very important point because it shows how everything
that we find as Assyrian influence in later times was not due
to borrowing or, let’s say, not intimate contact with Assyria, but really through a historical
development where everything passed on structurally and naturally
to the later generations. I will now just shortly show
you the remaining slides that I have prepared. Unfortunately, the time
does not permit to discuss. So, is my time out? [ Inaudible Speaker ] Completely. Okay. Well, as you can see there
should have been stuff for a much longer talk. Here at this point
I just have to say that these Assyrian art motifs
are to be seen everywhere nowadays and the last centuries
official buildings. For example, also here, the
[inaudible] and the [inaudible]. Thank you very much. [ Clapping ]>>Mary Jane Deeb: Thank you
very much, Professor Parpola. And now we have a few
minutes for questions. So, if you please address the
issues that the speakers brought up. Okay? Yes, Professor Eden? [ Inaudible Speaker ]>>I’d like to return to Gilgamesh,
if I may please, Professor Woods. I was wondering about two things. Whether when the language
changed from Akkadian to Aramaic, and Akkadian was no longer spoken as you said was Gilgamesh
read off in Aramaic? Because reading off was rather a
tradition of the ancient world.>>Christopher Woods: Yeah, I think
this is partly a question for Simo, but sometime in the first millennium
B.C. there’s a switch from Akkadian to Aramaic, but Gilgamesh, as I
mentioned, was originally written in Sumerian, then the first
actual Akkadian epic that we know of was written in Old Babylonian,
but then the canonical version of Gilgamesh was written in a
dialect called standard Babylonian, which was just a literary dialect. No one actually spoke it. It was based on Old Babylonian. It had Old Babylonian forms. And it was a literary language. And once it was canonized
and written in the standard Babylonian version
that became the set version of it. So, there’s not evidence
of an Aramaic Gilgamesh. The question of the
legacy of Gilgamesh in the post-[inaudible]
world is a fascinating one, one that we don’t have a lot of
evidence for, but it shows up, well, Gilgamesh and Huwawa show up in
“The Book of Giants,” they show up in some early Arabic
incantations, and probably Gilgamesh
played an important role in shaping The Alexander Romance. It may even show up in parts of the
1,001 Nights, elements, influences, but as a story, as an epic, it was
just written in standard Babylonian.>>Simo Parpola: Well,
I wanted to add that if I remember correctly
there’s also an Aramaic fragment from [inaudible]. [ Inaudible Speaker ] Mentioning [inaudible].>>Christopher Woods:
Yeah, and this is “The Book of Giants” that I had mentioned. And, so, they’re mentioned. So, Gilgamesh and Huwawa
are mentioned as giants. In fact, that tradition
from [inaudible] goes back to the actual Epic of Gilgamesh where Gilgamesh is described
as a giant essentially. But that mention of Gilgamesh
and Huwawa is isolated. It has nothing to do with the
story of the Epic of Gilgamesh. They’re just mentioned
as two possible giants. And this tradition that you see in the [inaudible] also
makes its way into Arabic. And they actually become
sort of demonic figures. So, there’s a memory of them,
but the actual story is lost. So, they’re mentioned in Arabic, but there’s no Aramaic
version of Gilgamesh.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Yes?>>I wonder if you could address it
a little more about the influence of Gilgamesh on the bible. You mentioned, you know, the
flood myth, but also I wonder if you could briefly touch on
what other influences it had on the bible, and did
it have any influence on Roman literature,
Latin literature?>>Christopher Woods: Well,
yeah, there is a mention, there’s a very interesting,
it’s very difficult to nail down the actual influences. So, even if you take something like
the flood story that doesn’t come from Gilgamesh, it comes from
another story called [inaudible], and there was even a
Sumerian flood story, but it is in the story
[inaudible] and [inaudible] deals with the Mesopotamian Noah,
and the early versions of Gilgamesh don’t include the flood
narrative, although interestingly, in the Sumerian story
there’s a reference. One of the earlier Sumerians
there’s a reference to Utnapishtim, so they are always
somehow linked together. But that really is a
separate tradition. That’s almost grafted or fleshed
out in the [inaudible] Epic of Gilgamesh, and that
obviously makes it way directly into the bible. But Gilgamesh, as a story,
it would be very hard to actually prove a direct
link between Gilgamesh and biblical accounts
outside of the flood story. As for classical literature
there is a mention of Gilgamesh in a little small sort of almost
anecdotal story of [inaudible] where he sort of [inaudible]
Gilgamesh with another king, [inaudible], and a bunch of
others, and it has nothing to do with the Epic of Gilgamesh, but
it’s really just the name is frozen in there. And that’s what you
get, more or less, are sort of mentions of the name. Really the primary, the best
evidence for Gilgamesh’s influence on later classical literature would
have to be the Alexander Romance, because the parallels between and
the themes of these two stories are so remarkable when you read
them next to one another. The travel out east, the diving, the trying to transcend
human limitations, the fear of death, immortality. It’s harder not to see a connection between the Greek Alexander
Romance and Gilgamesh. And they’re two sort
of parallel figures. Right? Alexander goes
to the end of the world, conquers all the known world,
and wants to seek a type of immortality in doing so. Gilgamesh is a similar
type of figure so you can see how then the ancients
sort of saw these two as analogous. And I think the Greek Alexander
Romance takes a lot of its cues, is modeled in large
part upon Gilgamesh, but really after that
it’s very difficult to show definitive connections.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Okay. And I think there was one here. Yes? [ Inaudible Speaker ] Okay, where is Candace? Just speak and then we [inaudible].>>My question is for
Professor Parpola and others. We’ve heard a lot about the
Assyrians as dynasts and as monarchs and so forth, but who did they
rule in Northern Mesopotamia? Who were the Assyrian people? Were they nomads? Were they pastoralists? Were they tribally organized? Who were these people
in Northern Mesopotamia or Anatole or to the Mediterranean?>>Simo Parpola: Well, the Assyrians
are one of the indigenous people of Mesopotamia who
are already attested in various sources,
Sumerian sources. So, the city of [inaudible] is
the old center of Assyrians, which was an important commercial
place in the third millennium B.C. And it became part of
the Old Akkadian Empire, and there was a governor of the
Akkadian Empire in that city. Later on after the collapse of
the Old Akkadian Empire the city of [inaudible] continued
its long-distance trade with Anatolia, for instance. And in the early 2000, about
1950 B.C., we see the rise of the first Assyrian kingdom that soon controlled large
parts of Northern Mesopotamia. So, they were not nomads
in the sense, but they were originally traders. And they carried out such a
lucrative trade with Anatolia because they monopolized, for
instance, the trade in tin, which was essential
for producing thrones. So, they became very
wealthy and very ambitious, and became empire builders. And the Old Assyrian Empire
collapsed quite roughly soon, but in the so-called [inaudible] age
1300 before Christ we see the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire,
which is really the same thing as the New Assyrian
Empire from which I talked. It dominated for 700 years
with little ups and downs, the political scene
in the Near East. Well, as I tried to explain
not very successfully, the citizens of the [inaudible]
Empire really collectively shared the Assyrian national
identity in addition to what ethnic memories they
may have had of their origins. But when Assyria collapsed this
national identity was changed into ethnic identity, because there
was no Assyrian Empire any longer. But the Assyrians insisted they
knew what they were, and the things that really connected them
was the language, and, of course, also their religion. I would have explained if I had
time that there are many elements in Christianity for instance
the [inaudible] doctrine that goes back to Assyria. Also the idea of Christ
as the savior of mankind. This is the role that the Assyrian
kings performed in the world. They were the incarnations
of [inaudible] say the son of the Supreme [inaudible]. And also I would have talked
about the third element in Assyria religion, namely,
the belief in the Holy Ghost. But there was no time for it. Anyhow, so, when we talked about
Assyrians we have to distinguish between two things– the
Assyrians of the time of the empire and then the Assyrians
that are the same people, but have a slightly different
identity to say despite the fact that Aramaic was also spoken
in Assyrian Empire, of course, the people usually identify
the old Syrians with Akkadians. But they were the same
as [inaudible], but they were Aramaic
[inaudible] mainly, and believed in more or
less the same things.>>Mary Jane Deeb:
Thank you very much. One more question. We have someone here, and
then we’ll take a break.>>Thank you. My question is I understand they
were indigenous people, Assyrian, so they were not migrated from
any other places prehistorically like the Medes or [inaudible]
which they came from I think today’s [inaudible]?>>Simo Parpola: No. They were indigenous to Mesopotamia. For instance, the Arameans
which later gave their language to the whole empire were
originally inhabitants of [inaudible], [inaudible]
in Syria. And then at the end of the
seventh millennium B.C. when climatic conditions started
to [inaudible] there was a period of warming which meant fewer rains. These Arameans, who were
nomads and had multiplied under more favorable climatic
conditions, started to move from [inaudible] to other
parts of the Near East, spreading all over
the Assyrian Empire. That was the beginning
of the spread of Aramaic. But they are still part of the
historical ancient Near East.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much. Now we’ll take a break
for 10 minutes. The books are there, but please
take no food inside, no food, no drinks in the Woodrow
Wilson, but please help yourself. Have a break and then we’ll
start with the second panel. Okay? So, and thanks
again to the speakers. They’ve done a fabulous job. [ Clapping ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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