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THE ARAMAIZATION OF ASSYRIA:  ASPECTS OF WESTERN IMPACT

 

 

 

 

 

HAYIM TADMOR

Historian of the Bible and Ancient Near East who established an international centre of Assyriology

Hayim Frumstein (Hayim Tadmor), Assyriologist: born Harbin, China 18 November 1923; Professor, Department of Assyriology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1971-93; married 1953 Miriam Skura (one son, one daughter); died Jerusalem 11 December 2005.

Modern scholarship has recognized the impact of the Arameans and Aramaic upon the Assyrian empire ever since Layard discovered the bronze lion weights of Shalmaneser V at Nimrud, with denominations of the weights incised in Akkadian and Aramaic (1).Then followed the appearance of the cuneiform tablets with Aramaic endorsements, Aramaic dockets and the representations on the monuments of an Aramean scribe alongside the Assyrian scribe (2). The interest in these significant, though few, finds has been renewed with the recent stress in scholarship on inner social, economic and cultural processes of Assyria, rather than its political history. It is now generally accepted that the conquered Arameans and other West Semitic peoples strongly affected the cultural development of their conquerors, not unlike the Greek imprint upon the Romans.

And indeed, hundreds of thousands of captives from West of the Euphrates, largely soldiers, craftsmen and artisans were assimilated into the conqueror`s society, thus making their imprint upon the small but warring Assyrian nation. In the language of the sources they “were regarded as Assyrians" (3), sharing equally, it seems, with their captors in the burden of taxation and conscription (4).ln the provinces along the Khabur and the Balikh the West Semitic element had always been predominant; but from the ninth century on, the population of the newly built capitals Kalakh, Dur-Sharrukin and Nineveh also consisted in the main of people from the West; the deportees from the Aramean and the: Neo-Hittite states, Phoenicians, Israelites and Judeans, as well as some semitized Philistines and Arabians.

Four aspects are chosen to illustrate the extent of the Western, mainly Aramaic, impact: The Westerners in Assyrian office, The Use of Aramaic in the Empire; Bilingualism and Lexical Interference and Borrowed institutions.

 

I.              Westerners in Assyrian Office and Army

The Westerners in Assyria are traced primarily from the personal names appearing in administrative documents and letters (5); rarely are the deportees, now regarded as Assyrians, marked by their origin.

In the initial process of acculturation it may be supposed that many Westerners, especially those of high social status, may have chosen, or, have been given, Akkadian names for prestige value (6). Perhaps the most famous is the case of Naqi'a-Zakkutu, the powerful queen-”mother of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, who kept her original West-Semitic name, alongside its Akkadian equivalent (7).

On the lower social level one finds bearers of Akkadian names with West Semitic patronymics, such as; Bel-Ushallim son of Ia-di-il (8). Ilu-Nadin-Apli son of Ra-hi-ma-a, a weaver (9),Mannu-ki-Arba'il son of

Ahi-ia-u (an Israelite) (10), Nusku-aha~iddina son of Ia-ta-na-e-li (a Phoenician) (12), Sin-aha-iddina son of Adad-Idri (13) and Kidin-Sin, the young scribe (tupsarru sehru) the son of Su-ti-i, 'the Sutean' – the

royal scribe (14), Another example of acculturation is the case of the four sons of an Itu’uean

(KUR I-tu-'a-a): Nabu-asharid, Mushallim-Ashur, Ashur-mata-taqqin and Nabu-Na'id, in a document from the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (15), shortly before the East-Aramean tribe of the LU Itu'u began to be employed as garrisons in the newly conquered West (l6).

 The number of people bearing West Semitic proper names may be even greater than the documents reflect, since they refer to a limited cross-section of society. Furthermore, in the Assyrian legal and administrative documents the patronymic of the witnesses and parties concerned is usually not specified.

 Ore finds “Westerners" in various sectors of Assyrian society and though precise statements cannot be made for lack of prosopographic” - statistical studies, it may not be an overstatement to say that they had penetrated even into the high ranking officialdom as provincial governors and limmu-holders (17)

Elsewhere, I have pointed to some of the officials, who bore Aramaic or other West Semitic names (18):

e.g. Bur-Sagale - the eponym for the ominous year 763, Sidqi-ilu (eponym for 764), Hananu (eponym for 701), Gihilu/Gi'il-ilu (eponym for 689), Atar-ilu (eponym for 673), Girisapunu, a Phoenician-named governor of Rasappa (eponym for 660), and the literary hero, the wise Ahiqar, "the keeper of the king's signet and counselor of all Assyria," (19) ummanu of Esarhaddon. On a somewhat lower level, we find provincial governors and district governors bearing West Semitic names: e.g. Gulu-su the governor (shaknu) of the Itu'u, Arbaya a provincial governor, (bel pihati) (Z0) and Adad-suri the governor of the Arameans (shakin-mati [GAR.KUR] Ara-ma-a-a) (21)

 Recently, cylinder and stamp seals of some high ranking officials inscribed in Aramaic have come to light. Of special interest is the cylinder seal impression on a tablet from the Mamu temple at Balawat, which carries the last part of a name in an alphabetic script (most probably Aramaic); [x]bdkr (22) Its owner was apparently the senior officer in whose presence the transaction was made. The text reads:

“Seal of the governor of Arzuhina, seal of Rimni-ili, seal of Ahu-ili”, but the west Semitic name, or whatever remains of it, cannot be reconciled with the two latter names. It must therefore be the seal of the unnamed governor of Arzuhina. Why, then, should an Assyrian governor have a seal inscribed in alphabetic script unless he served in a West Semitic speaking area, or was of West Semitic descent?

 The same would perhaps be true of the bearer of the Aramaic stamp seal impression found as Khorsabad

pn ' sr/mr srsy/srgn, "Pan-Ashur (short for Pan-Assur-lamur), the master (?) of the eunuchs of Sargon " (23). It could, perhaps, be claimed that this courtier of Sargon had two seals, a cylinder seal with cuneiform legend for tablets, and this stamp seal tor Aramaic scrolls. At the same time, it stands to reason that the existence of this stamp seal, as well as of the other stamp and cylinder seals from Assyria inscribed in Aramaic (24), suggests that their bearers were of Western descent; if so, then the name Pan-Ashur-Lamur, points to another aspect of acculturation; the use of Akkadian names as a sign of prestige and a manifestation of social status .

 A most important sector of Assyrian society in which numerous deportees from the West were expectedly acculturated, was the army augmented from the times of Tighlath-pileser I by the select troops of conquered lands. In the ninth century, Ashurnasirpal II carried off charioteers, cavalrymen, and foot-soldiers from Carchemish. This was repeated in the late eighth century by Sargon II after the annexation of Carchemish. Similarly, he carried off 50 (or 200) charioteers from Samaria, as well as charioteers, cavalry, 20,000 bowmen and 1,000 shield bearers from Kummuh (25). From this time onward it became an established practice that the royal guard - kisir sharruti - was strengthened by captive soldiers - a practice continued in the reigns of Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal,

 No wonder therefore, that bearers of west Semitic names are mentioned not infrequently as officers in the Assyrian army: e.g. hanunu, "commander of the Eunuch’s guard [rab kisir sha reshi, Salamanu, "commander of Queen Mother's guard  rab-kisir-ummi-sharri (26), Abdi-ili from Ashkelon, "the 'third on the chariot' of the chief eunuch ", tashlishu-sha-rab-sha-reshi (27), or, on the lower level, Ba'al-halusu the "commander of fifty", {rab-hanshu) (28),

 Two administrative documents from Nimrud list persons - soldiers, no doubt - "residing in fortresses” (29). They include among others the following Israelites, to judge by their names; Qu'ya[u],Hilqiya(u), who was in charge of 76 persons, Giriyau and Yasuri (30).

 In another document from the same archive a qurubutu-officer - a special courier of some sort - bearing a Phoenician name Sapinu, is sent to, or entrusted with, a group of deportees (written ga-AB i.e. ga-liti), while another qurubutu-officer, Ib(?}-ni-ia (an Israelite?) is sent to a group of (exiled) Israelites (KUR) Samerinaya,(i.e. people of Samaria) (31). Probably, it was the task of these and other similar officials (32) no doubt bilingual, to instruct the exiles ”to fear God and King" (palab ili u sharri) (33) - the primary duty of the coerced, new "citizens" of the Empire.

 Occasionally, in contrast to these Western homines novi, the descendent from an old, established family is designated as Kalhu labiru, an “old Kalkhean" (34) or qinnate sha Ninua labiruti - "old time families of Nineveh" (35) The newcomers to Nineveh are derogatively referred to in that document - a letter to the king ” as nashi'ani, perhaps "social upstarts" and shagluti, deportees (36), (a word play on sakluti - ignorant?). In any event, the resentment felt by veteran Ninevites towards these newcomers is clearly expressed in that letter. Though incidental, this is a significant statement, since we do not have private correspondence from that period and according to the official, imperial view, repeated time and time again in royal inscriptions, all the deportees to Assyria were "regarded as Assyrians", with the incumbent rights and obligations.

 II.             The Use of Aramaic in the Assyrian Empire

 There appears to be some evidence that in the western parts of the Empire, Aramaic served as the language of diplomacy and administration alongside of, or instead of Akkadian.

Three cases - ”all from the Assyrian royal correspondence - can be cited. The first, and a rather intriguing case, is that of the egirtu armitu, an Aramaic letter (37) referred to in ABL 872. A servant of a certain Ashur-da'in-apli son of Shulman-asharidu, is reported to have de- livered such a letter, which, in turn, was sent to the king. The question is whether this person is identical with Ashur-da'in-apli the son of Shalmaneser III, defeated and dethroned by his brother Shamshi-Adad V (38), If so, then ABL 872 would antedate by one century the other references to Aramaic letters in Assyrian sources!

 The second case is that of Nimrud Letter 13. Qurdi-Ashur-lamur, (from the time of Tiglathat”pileser III, writes to the king that he is sending an Aramaic letter from Tyre together with the Assyrian letter which we have at hand: "I have had Nabu-ushezib bring this sealed Aramaic letter (kaniku annitu armitu) from the city of Tyre " (39). Likewise, it stands to reason, that the sealed letter ” kaniku – mentioned in Nimrud letter 14 (40), sent by Ayanuri the Tabilaean (whom Albright considered to be the "Son of Tab'el" of Isaiah 7:6 (41) concerning the Moabites was also written in Aramaic, since one can hardly expect Ayanuri - most likely a Moabite (42) - to write in cuneiform.

 Yet, the most noted case of the use of Aramaic in the service of Assyrian diplomacy is, no doubt, that of the Rab-shaqe, the Chief Cupbearer (II Kings 18:17 ff,). When this high courtier was about to address the ambassadors of Hezekiah, he surprised them and the people standing on the walls of Jerusalem by speaking "in the language of Judah" rather than in Aramaic. It is, therefore, a truism, yet worth re- peating, that Sennacherib's Chief Cupbearer, when in the West, generally had to speak Aramaic ("Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it", ibid. 26) not Akkadian. The message of Rab-shaqe, delivered in the "language of Judah" and which bears some close affinities to the style of the royal Assyrian inscriptions (43), might have been read from a scroll (44). It was clearly prepared in advance, probably by an Israelite or Judahite secretary (45). Some evidence·: on the use of Aramaic in the military administration of the Empire  may be found in the Assyrian palace reliefs, beginning with those or Tiqlathpileser III (46), There, as is well known, two scribes are portrayed in the act of writing while on a campaign: the Assyrian scribe is holding a stylus and what was believed to be a tablet and which is now interpreted as a wax-coated wooden board (47); the other scribe is holding a pen and parchment or papyrus. This scribe must be the tupsharru Aramaya, the Aramean Scribe, referred to in the economic documents (see below), Both scribes are usually depicted in a considerable distance from the battlefield, counting captives, dead or alive and recording  booty and spoil (48), The question is: Why two different scribes? When interrogating captives, an Assyrian scribe accompanied by an interpreter would seem to be adequate (49). Can we not assume that the Assyrian royal chancellery employed a secretary for the purpose of keeping records also in Aramaic (50)?

 However the presence of the Aramean scribes was not restricted to the military sphere; occasionally they are mentioned in administrative and economic documents as serving in the royal court. The earliest

attestation to date is found in the Nimrud Wine Lists from the begin-

ning of the eighth century. In several documents the Aramean scribes

(LU.A.BA.MESH KUR Ara-ma-a-a) appear among other recipients of wine

rations (51).

 Of special interest is a document from the year 786 which lists three categories of scribes: Assyrian, Egyptian and Aramean (52). Later, in the seventh century, we find the Aramean scribes serving in the palace and the household of the royal family — e.g. Abagu, the scribe of the palace (53) or Nuriea, the scribe of the prince (54) as well as several other Aramean scribes ~ Sa'ilu, Ahu-[...] and Ammaya - without specific attributes (55),Finally, the Assyrian and the Aramean scribes are listed consecutively in a prophetical query put before Shamash, the lord of the oracles (56) and in a lexical text of the lu=sha category (57).

 III.            Bilingualism and Lexical Interference

 In the foregoing section we have presented evidence for the coexistence of the Aramean scribe alongside the Assyrian in the royal service. Furthermore, there are several indications that at least some of these scribes were bilingual. One is the occurrence of Aramaic superscriptions and endorsements on cuneiform documents, mostly economic, known from the early days of Assyriology and which have been widely studied. (The collections of Stevenson and Delaporte (58) can now be supplemented by the tablets published recently by Millard (59) and Bordreuil (60).

 The tablets are of two types; rectangular - the dannatu / dnt  i.e. "a valid tablet a loan word from Neo-Assyrian (6lL (occasionally also called egirtu and spr," deed" (62) a term which becomes frequent in the later Aramaic papyri), and triangular, the corn-loan dockets, the purpose of which has been most recently studied by Postgate (63) The Aramaic superscription on the dannatu / dnt - tablet is either incised or written in ink. These are no more than abbreviations: a word, two words or occasionally a full line, for the sake of identifying the deed.

 It seems almost unfeasible that two different scribes were employed in inscribing the very same tablet.

Is it not more likely that only one scribe wrote both the Akkadian text and the Aramaic superscription?

Certainly this is the case with those tablets on which the superscription is incised. That scribe obviously must have been bilingual.

 The second category, the triangular shaped corn-loan dockets (64) (from Ashur, Nineveh and Tell Halaf) are, in the order of their development, unilingual (= Akkadian), bilingual and unilingual (= Aramaic) - all incised. Again, it stands to reason that in a bilingual docket, only one scribe was involved.

 Another possible case of bilingualism can be observed in the oracular queries to Shamash written mostly in Babylonian script (65) There we find repeatedly the following statement (66) "PN, whose name is written on this niyaru” or, sometimes:"on this nibzu (67) should he be appointed to an office? And when appointed, will he be loyal to Esarhaddon (or Ashurbanipal), king of Assyria?" It follows, that a

 a name of a person or, occasionally, of a city (68), mentioned in the query was put before Shamash who was expected to answer “yes" or "no". It is obvious, that when on niyaru, a slip of papyrus, the query was written in Aramaic, whereas, when on nibzu, a docket, it was in incised either in Akkadian or in Aramaic. In one text the names of the scribes who performed the extispicy were incised in Aramaic, in between the two parts of the query (69). Aramaic, it would seem, had entered the sanctum (70)

 Languages in contact, and especially bilingualism, produce mutual influence recognizable in phonetic, grammatical and lexical interference (71). In the latter category the most obvious are the lexical borrowings. Of special value for the present topic is therefore the recent study of S. Kaufman (72), who has analyzed thoroughly the lexical borrowing from Akkadian found in Aramaic dialects. Kaufman’s list includes 220 verbs and nouns, considered by him as certain borrowings. These words are in the realm of political and legal terminology, names of professions, architectural or topographic terms, etc. (73).

 However, no similar classification has yet been made of the Aramaic and other west Semitic loanwords in Akkadian, though W. von Soden has significantly contributed towards the topic by publishing a provisional list of approximately 250 Aramaic loanwords in Akkadian (both the Assyrian and Babylonian dialects) (74).

 To the scribal sphere belong the obvious "ordinary borrowings" in Bloomfield’s terminology; words like sepiru, scribe (75) niyaru (itself of Egyptian origin), later urbanu, papyrus (76) magallatu, scroll (77) kerku, roll (78) and egirtu, letter (79). "Lexical borrowing of this type ran be described as a result of the fact that using ready-made designations more economical than describing things afresh. Few users

nl language are poets." (80).

 In the military and administrative sphere one finds nouns like galutu : exile (81), galiti = deportees (82), gududu = gang, platoon (83), hayalu = troops (84), kinishtu = gathering, congregation (85), qarabu = battle (86) and urbi, an old Crux interpretum in the Sennacherib Annals, which is, I believe, a W.S. designation of a special type of soldiery (87). One also finds verbs like: beheru = to select, enlist (88) (hence behirtu (89), census, call for arms, mobilization) kanashu to gather (90) radapu, to pursue (an enemy (91)) and of course shaglu, to deport, actually a calque formation, - ”hence shaglutu, deportees (92). Naturally, loanwords in the sphere of scribal art are to be expected, but the existence of loanwords in the military sphere side by side with rich Akkadian cognate terminology would exemplify more than anything else the extent of W.S. penetration. This is only natural, as the army was the first to absorb the deportees and foreigners some of whom, eventually, became commanding officers (93).

 Most of these borrowed terms from the military and administrative spheres are known from the royal correspondence unearthed in Nineveh and Kalah, usually written in the Assyrian dialect. It is, indeed, in these letters, composed by functionaries in the provinces or addressed to them by the royal chancellery (=abat sharri = "King's ordinance") that additional West Semitic words from other sphere: of life

not infrequently occur. The following examples - on a minimal count – will exemplify the case; gazalu=to rob (94),gadu=male kid (95),gubbu=water cistern (96),harurtu=throat (97),kataru=to wait for(98),marasu=to squash(99),madbaru, mudabiru=steppe(100),nasiku=tribal chieftain, ”prince"(101),pahazu=to be reckless(102),palu=to search (l03),qudduru=round,or blackened(104),qarahu=to freeze, and qarhu=ice (105), sapaqu=to be sufficient(106),saqalu=to cleanse,polish(107),sapitu=watch tower(108),siparatu=morning(109), and words like mandetu=information(110),or nadadu=to escape(111) occurring in the letters written in the NB (Neo-babylonian) dialect.

 The language of these letters and administrative documents, nearest to the spoken vernacular, reflects the actual degree of West Semitic lexical interference in Akkadian of the 8th and 7th centuries (112),

This may remind us of contemporary Franglais, though we have no evidence of any similar cultural campaign against the vulgarization of a national language as nowadays.

 IV.           Borrowed Institutions

 I shall adduce here two examples of indigenous Western institutions taken up by the Assyrians: the loyalty oath and court prophecy.

A.    The loyalty oath.

 Modern scholarship closely associates the loyalty oath, vassal treaty and covenant in Assyria with their western and especially Biblical counterparts. The following cursory observations are not intended to discommend the use of the comparative method in the study of the Ancient Near East, nor to minimize the intrinsic value of its achievement, Their purpose is merely to focus the attention of the historian on the ultimate Western origin of ade, the loyalty oath, and to outline its role as a political institution in the Assyrian Empire of the late eight and early seventh centuries.

 The Aramaic origin of ade, the main term for loyalty oath (lit. obligations taken under oath, hence: treaty stipulations) can hardly be doubted any more. The word, borrowed into Akkadian, is plurale tantum

(the alleged sing. form *add, listed in the current dictionaries of the Akkadian is based on either a wrong reading (113) or on a reconstruction made at the time when its etymology had not yet been recognized (114)). It is also plurale tantum in Aramaic and in Biblical Hebrew, where it is cognate; ‘dn, ‘dy; ‘edot, ‘edut, - and once ‘adim (Isaiah 33:8 in 1QIs aMT ‘arim), ordinances, legal obligations, covenant (115) The term, often rendered "vassal treaty", following Wiseman's terminology from l958 (116) appears in cuneiform documents for the first time in the middle of the eighth century, supplanting the traditional Akkadian terms of the second millennium, riksu or rikiltu (pl. riksate) u mamitu, bond, obligation under oath, covenant. Though riksu remained the term for bond and agreement also in later documents it was not employed any more to designate the loyalty-oath,while rikiltu became a derogatory term, denoting mainly - "bond of conspiracy", hence, conspiracy, in general (117) like qesher its semantic equivalent in Biblical Hebrew.

 The distribution and the usage of the terms riksu, rikiltu, mamitu, and especially that of ade have been treated in extenso in the classical

work of Korosec from 1931 (118) and in recent works - mainly those of McCarthy (119) and Weinfeld (120) Therefore, there is no need to elaborate further. I shall delineate very briefly only the essential stages

in the development of ade in Assyria. A more detailed examination is being reserved for a separate study.

 (a) We do not possess any Assyrian treaties of the 2nd millennium, and it is questionable whether they ever existed. However, when royal inscriptions of the middle Assyrian period refer to vassalage, the

Babylonian traditional terms are employed; Adad-nirari I imposes a vassal-oath upon Shattuara of Hanigalbat (utammeshuma) (121) Tiglathpileser I imposes vassalage on sixty captured kings of Na’iri by setting them free before Shamash and making them swear the "oath of the great gods" (mamit ilani rabuti utammeshunuti) to pay homage (ardute) forever (122). Likewise, the poet of the Tukulti-Ninurta Epic refers to rikiltu and mamitu, when describing the violation of the parity-treaty on behalf of Kashtiliash of Babylon (123).

 (b) Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III, the warring kings of the 9th century seem not to have imposed vassal oaths on king of the ravaged Aramean and Neo-Hittite states of Syria and south-eastern

Anatolia, or at least, no reference to these oaths is made in their inscriptions.

 The only extant cuneiform treaty from that period is that of Marduk~zakir-shumi of Babylon and Shamshi-Adad V, Shalmaneser's successor (124).Though only a fragment of this document (written in Babylonian!) has survived there is enough there to show that the Babylonian king is the hegemon, helping the Assyrian prince to secure his throne in the battle for succession.

 (c) The traditional terms for treaty and covenant were still in use in Assyria at the end of the ninth and the beginning of the eighth century. The relations between Assyria and Babylonla are defined in the "Synchronistic History" - a chronographic document compiled for political-propagandistic use - as riksate and mamitu, "bonds of oath” or tubta u sulumme gamaru, "covenant and peace', but not as ade (125).

 Even in the middle of the seventh century the vassal-oath of Samsi, Queen of the Arabs, is defined in the Annals of Tiglath-pileser Ill as mamit Shamash, "an oath sworn (in the name of) Shamash”, but not as ade (125) (In a broken passage, describing the rebellion of the king Unqi, ade might perhaps be restored: [ina ade nis ilani] ihti, lux tlw restoration is conjectural) (127).

 (d) The term ade appears for the first time in the 'vassal treaty' of c. 750 B,C.E, imposed by Ashur-nirari V upon Mati-ilu of Arpad (128), the exact expression being ade sha Ashur-nirari shar mat Ashur

"the loyalty oaths (sworn to) Ashur-nirari, King of Assyria" (129). Apparently from the reign of Ashur-nirari, or from that of his successor, Tighlatpileser lll, comes a fragment of another 'vassal treaty' imposed on

an unknown king in Northern Syria. Although the word ade is missing in that small fragment, BM.134596, published recently by A.R. Millard.

(130), the phrases like [la] idaggaluni “should they [not] respect", [la] ittalakuni "should they [not] come", [la] <ta>sabbatuni “should they [not] seize', [la tu]shebalan{nini] "should you “[not] bring to me" - seem to indicate that it is, indeed, part of a ’vassal-treaty', though not from the hand of the scribe who wrote the tablet of ade of Ashur-nirari, as Millard observed. It was about the very same time (c.760-750), that the Aramaic treaty between Mati”ilu and the elusive Bar-ga'aya of KTK, was composed (131).This treaty in which ‘dy is the key term, was apparently formulated by a scribe who also knew Akkadian legal terminology and had been influenced by it (132)

 (e) Probably, it was in the second quarter of the eight century when the Assyrians borrowed from the Arameans the terminology and form of the ade, a well established Western institution, which regulated the political relations between major and minor powers and transformed it into an effective, often brutal, instrument of domination. Breaking the loyalty-oath was tantamount to rebellion, punishable by dethronement, mutilation or death of the "sinner” and ultimate annexation of his kingdom. Numerous passages in the royal inscriptions from Sargon to Ashurbanipal, testify to the significance of the loyalty oath in Assyrian political theory and imperial practice (133).

 (f) In the next stage, in Assyria proper, the concept of the vassal-oath was extended to the relationship between the monarch and his subjects, in cases of irregular succession. The first is the case of Sennacherib. According to Esarhaddon’s "Apoloqy" some time before 681, Sennecherib assembled his sons, courtiers and the "people of Assyria, rank and file" and made them swear a loyalty oath to Esarhaddon, the heir appointed, though not in the line of succession (134).

 A similar extraordinary procedure was repeated in 672, when Esarhaddon appointed Ashurbanipal to succeed him as the king of Assyria, favoring him over his brother Shamash-shum-ukin - apparently the firstborn (135)-the designated king of Babylon. The ceremonies of taking the ade are described in the so called "Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon" published by D.J. Wiseman in 1958 and widely discussed ever since (136).

 The next occasion of taking the loyalty oath - in Assyria and Babylonia” was on the death of Esarhaddon in 669. The dowager empress Naqi’a-Zakkutu imposed her authority to secure the succession of her grandson Ashurbanipal (137). The latter’s son, Sin-shar-ishkun, seems to have repeated similar arrangements, imposing upon his people, the loyalty oath to safeguard his irregular succession (138)

 It is mainly in connection with the events of 672 and 668 that ade was imposed not only on the courtiers, but also upon the people of the central cities of Assyria and Babylonia. Several letters from the royal correspondence testify that these ceremonies were closely watched by the king's envoys and reported to him (139). There is no justification to consider these irregular events, stemming from irregular succession, as the customary procedure in Assyria throughout its history. Indeed, certain specific regulations (riksatu) were imposed on courtiers in Assyria of the XII-XI centuries, as shown by the "Court and Harem Edicts" published by Weidner in 1956 (140). But these have

 nothing to do with the loyalty oath that courtiers and populace would take to safeguard the successor to the throne. I could not find any evidence that this latter practice, though common among the Hittites under the Empire (141) ever existed in Assyria before the seventh century, at the time when Aramaic ade gained prominence in the Empire (142)

  B. Court Prophecy

The second example of the West-Semitic impact upon Assyria - though it be on a speculative note - is the phenomenon of court prophecy. It is attested in Assyria (but not in Babylonia) in the reign of Esarhaddon and in the early years of Ashurbanipal. (A collection of court oracles was first published by George Smith (143), supplemented by Strong and Langdon (144).A new edition of these oracles is in preparation by K. Deller and Simo Parpola.) In high poetic style, in the Assyrian dialect, court prophetesses (raggimtu), and occasionally prophets (raggimu) (145) address Esarhaddon upon his accession to the throne and encourage him in an almost biblical fashion, uttering short prophecies:

 "Oh king of Assyria, fear not ... Fear not, Esarhaddon!

I, the god Bel, am speaking to you. I watch over your inner heart, as did your mother who brought you forth. Sixty great gods are standing together with me and protect you. The god Sin is at your right, the god Shamash at your left. The sixty great gods are standing around you, ranged for battle. Do not trust human beings! Lift your eyes to me, look at me! I am Ishtar of Arbela; I have turned Ashur's favor to you. When you were small, I chose you. Fear not! Praise me! Where is there any enemy who overcame you, while I remained quiet? Those who are (now) behind will (soon) be the leaders. I am the god Nabu, god of the stylus. Praise me! (This oracle is) from the woman Baia of Arbela" (146)

 To the best of my knowledge, there are no antecedents of such a phenomenon in Assyria before the age of Esarhaddon - the time when traditionally the Aramean Ahiqar was the royal ummanu. It is a novelty and forms a departure from the traditional Mesopotamian way to obtain the divine message through extispicy, dreams and other omens. We may therefore venture to suggest that, indeed, court prophecy of the oral-message type developed in Assyria under the impact of the western models, like that in Hamath (147) and, especially, like those in Israel.

 Yet, this phenomenon which produced a new genre - the finest, if not the most original among the literary products in cuneiform of the Arameo-Assyrian fusion - was not destined to survive; it lasted no more than a generation. It is still attested in the early part of Ashurbaniapal’s reign. One of the two prophetic texts from his reign that survived, K.83 - in part obscure and unfortunately mistranslated (148)*contains allusions to foreign nations (Elamites, Cimmerians) and political events or great significance (the conquest of Egypt) - again, not unlike its Biblical counterparts in the prophecies of Hosea and Isaiah.459

 

V.            Conclusion

An attempt has been made in this paper to outline the evidence for the impact of the West on the Assyrian Empire, predominantly that of the Arameans and the Aramaic language, initiated by annexing the lands west of the Khabur and the Euphrates and by mass deportations. In time the Arameans gradually transformed the cultural face of the Empire and were to outlive Assyria by serving as the link with the succeeding Chaldean and Achaemenid Empires (149).

The Assyrians, vastly outnumbered by their captives, forced them to participate in the building and maintaining of their state and inevitably, if therefore, absorbed much linguistically and culturally from the West. That this was not a one-way process, but rather a highly complex symbiotic relationship between the Assyrians and the Arameans, can no longer be doubted (150).

I have adduced here some evidence for this symbiosis in several cultural spheres and especially, in the two realms in which the Assyrian phenomenon was manifested: the military and the imperial. Further evidence for the complex and intricate process of Aramaization - or rather "Westernization" - of the Assyrian Empire will surely be forthcoming (151).

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