ACABS 592. Seminar in Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies.
Section 002
Winter 2010

Piotr Michalowski


Meetings: Wed 9:00am-12:00 pm, room: B113 MLB
Office hours: Tuesday 1-2 and by appointment (, 3068 Thayer.

This class will provide a forum for the discussion of selected issues raised by categories of culture that have been labeled as "religion," with special reference to the traditions of ancient Mesopotamia.

Students will be expected to take part in class discussions, offer a short class presentation at most sessions, as well as a written paper.

Background readings:

Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. Published in co-operation with British Museum Press. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.
Jean Bottéro, Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia. Teresa Lavender Fagan (Translator). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
I. M. Diakonoff,  Archaic Myths of the Orient and the Occident. Orientalia Gothoburgensia 10, Göteborg 1995. 
Thorkild Jacobsen, Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986.

Preliminary List of Readings

January 6: Introductory Discussion

A. Leo Oppenheim, "Why a `Mesopotamian Religion' Should Not Be Written." Pp. 171-83 in his Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. Revised edition completed by Erica Reiner. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

January 13: Thoughts on Religion

Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System.." In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, Michael P. Baton, ed., 85-125. London: Tavistock Publications (also in his The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, 1973, 87-126).

Melford E. Spiro, "Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation." In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, Michael P. Baton, ed., 85-125. London: Tavistock Publications, 1976.

Talal Asad, "Anthropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz." Man 18 (1983): 237-259.

Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, "Magic, Science and Religion in Western Thought: Anthropology's Intellectual Legacy."  Pp. 1-31  in Magic, Science, and the Scope of Rationality.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, "Rationality, Relativism, and the Translation and Commesurability of Cultures."  Pp. 111-139 in Magic, Science, and the Scope of Rationality.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Roy A. Rappaport, "Ritual, Time, and Eternity," Zygon 27 (1992) 5-30.

January 20: Introduction to Mesopotamian Religion

Jean Bottéro, "The Religious System," pp. 201-231 in  Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods. Translated by Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van de Mieroop. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

W. W. Hallo, "Sumerian Religion."  Pp. 15-36 in kinattutu sa darati:  Raphael Kutscher Memorial Volume. Tel Aviv: Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, 1993.

Piotr Michalowski, "The Unbearable Lightness of Enlil."  Pp. 237-247 in Intellectual Life of the Ancient Near East: Papers Presented at the 43rd Rencontre assyriologique internationale, Prague, July 1-5, 1996 ,J. Prosecký, ed. Prague: Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Oriental Institute, 1998.

W.H. Ph. Römer, "The Religion of Ancient Mesopotamia." Pp. 115-194 in Historia Religionum: Handbook for the History of Religions, Vol. I Religions of the Past, C. Jouco Bleeker and Geo Widengren, eds. Leiden: Brill, 1969.

G. Selz, “The Holy Drum, the Spear, and the Harp. Towards an Understanding of the Problems of Deification in the Third Millennium Mesopotamia.” Pp. 167-215 in  I. L. Finkel and M. J. Geller eds., Sumerian Gods and Their Representation. Cuneiform Monographs 7, Groningen,1997.

January 27: The Pantheon I: Some Deities

A. R. George, "Marduk and the Cult of the Gods of Nippur at Babylon," Orientalia NS 66 (1997) 65-70.c n

W. G. Lambert,
--------"The God Ashshur,"  Iraq 45 (1983) 82-86.
--------"The Pair Lahmu--Lahamu in Cosmology."  Orientalia N.S. 54 (1985) 189-202.
--------"The Name of Nergal Again," Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 80 (1990) 40-52.
--------"Surrejoinder to P. Steinkeller (ZA 80 [1990] 53-59)," Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 80 (1990)
--------"Pantheons, Mesopotamian." P. 139 in  Freedman, D. N. ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Volume 5: O-Sh (New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Piotr Steinkeller, "The Name of Nergal," Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 77 (1987) 161-168.
-------" More on the Name of Nergal and Related Matters," Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 80 (1990) 53-59.

February 3: The Pantheon II: Diachronic and Political Perspectives

P. A. Beaulieu, "Antiquarian Theology in Seleucid Uruk," Acta Sumerologica 14 (1992).

William W. Hallo, "Enki and the Theology of Eridu," Journal of the American Oriental Society 116 (1996) 231-234.

Amélie Kuhrt, "Usurpation, Conquest and Ceremonial: From Babylon to Persia."  Pp. 20-55 in Rituals of Royalty:  Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies, D. Cannadine and Simon Price, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

W. G. Lambert, “The Historical Development of the Mesopotamian Pantheon: A Study in Sophisticated Polytheism.” Pp. 191-200 in H. Goedicke - J. J. Roberts eds., Unity and Diversity, 1975.
-------" The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I: A Turning Point in the History of Ancient Mesopotamian Religion." Pp. 3-13 in The Seed of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of T.J. Meek, ed. By W.S. McCullough. Toronto: Toronto University Press, .

A. Westenholz, "Personal Names in Ebla and in Pre-Sargonic Babylonia," Pp. 99-117 in Eblaite Personal Names and Semitic Name-Giving, A. Archi, ed.  Rome, 1988.

February 10: The Pantheon III: Gender Perspectives

Julia Assante, “The kar.kid / harimtu, Prostitute or Single Woman? A Reconsideration of the Evidence,” Ugarit Forschungen 30 (1998) 5-96.

Thorkild Jacobsen, "Notes on Nintur." Orientalia N.S. 42 (1973) 274-298.

W. G. Lambert,  “Goddesses in the Pantheon: A Reflection of Women in Society?.” Pp. 125-130 in J.-M. Durand ed., La femme dans le Proche-Orient antique, XXXIII RAI, Paris 1987.

J. Goodnick Westenholz, "Goddesses of the Ancient Near East 3000-1000 BC." Pp. 63-82  in L. Goodison and Ch. Morris eds., Ancient Goddesses. The Myths and the Evidence, London 1998: 63-82.

February 17:  Magic and Healing

T. Abusch,  "An Early Form of the Witchcraft Ritual Maqlû and the Origin of a Babylonian Magical Ceremony." Pp. 1-57 in Lingering Over Words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of W.L. Moran. T. Abusch et al eds, Atlanta 1990.

Wim van Binsbergen & Frans Wiggermann, "Magic in History: A Theoretical Perspective, and its Application to Ancient
Mesopotamia." 1999.  Web publication.

February 24: The Cult I: Cultic Personnel

Dominique Collon, "Depictions of Priests and Priestesses in the Ancient Near East."  Pp. 16-46 in Watanabe, Kazuko, ed., Priests and Officials in the Ancient Near East:  Papers of the Second Colloquium on the Ancient Near East - The City and Its Life Held at the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan (Mitaka, Tokyo), March 22-24, 1996. Heidelberg: C. Winter; 1999.

Piotr Steinkeller, "On Rulers, Priests and Sacred Marriage: Tracing the Evolution of Early Sumerian Kingship." Pp. 103-138 in Watanabe, Kazuko, ed., Priests and Officials in the Ancient Near East:  Papers of the Second Colloquium on the Ancient Near East - The City and Its Life Held at the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan (Mitaka, Tokyo), March 22-24, 1996. Heidelberg: C. Winter; 1999.

J. Goodnick (Westenholz), "Enheduanna, En-Priestress, Hen of Nanna, Spouse of Nanna.” Pp. 539-556 in H. Behrens et al, eds., DUMU-E2-DUB-BA-A, Studies in Honor of Ake W. Sjöberg, Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Found, 11, Philadelphia 1989.
------"Tamar, qedeš…, qadištu, and Sacred Prostitution in Mesopotamia," HTR 82 (1989): 245- 265.
------"The Clergy of Nippur: the Priestess of Enlil." Pp. 297-310  in M. deJ. Ellis ed., Nippur at the Centennial, XXXV RAI, Philadelphia 1992.

JoAnn Scurlock, "Physician, Exorcist, Conjurer.  A Tale of Two Healing Professionals.  Pp. 69-80 in T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn, eds., Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives. Styx, 1999.

F. A. M. Wiggerman, "Theologies, Priests, and Worship in Ancient Mesopotamia.  Pp. 1857-1870 in  Sasson, Jack M., ed., Civilizations of the Ancient Near East.  Volume III (New York; Charles Scribner's Sons,1995.

March 3: The Cult II: Worship & Ritual

Angelica Berlejung, "Washing the Mouth: The Consecration of Divine Images in Mesopotamia."  Pp. 45-72 in The Image and the Book, K. van der Toorn, ed.  Leuven: Peeters, 1997.

Michael B. Dick, "The Relationship Between Cult Image and Deity in Mesopotamia." Pp. 111-116 in Intellectual Life in the Ancient Near East. 43rd Renconre assyriologique internationale, Prague.  J. Prosecký, ed., Prague: Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 1998.

Michael B. Dick and Christopher Walker, "The Induction of the Cult Image in Ancient Mesopotamia."  Pp. 55-121 in Born in Heaven, Made on Earth: The Creation of the Cult Image, M. B. Dick, ed.  Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999.

Edwin C. Kingsbury, "A Seven Day Ritual in the Old Babylonian Cult at Larsa," Hebrew Union College Annual 34 (1963) 1-28.

K. van der Toorn, "Domestic Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia." Pp. 69-78 in Houses and Households in Ancient Mesopotamia, K. R. Veenhof, ed.. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1996. .

March 10: The Cult III: Public Ritual

Jeremy Black, "The New Year Ceremonies in Ancient Babylon: 'Taking Bel by the Hand' and a Cultic Picnic," Religion 11: 39-59

J.-M. Durand, "Le mythogème du combat entre le Dieu de l'Orage et la Mer en Mésopotamie," MARI 7 (1993) 41-61.

Thorkild Jacobsen, "The Battle Between Marduk and Tiamat," Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (19) 104-108.
--------"Religious Drama in ancient Mesopotamia." pp. 65-97 in Unity and Diversity: Essays in the History, Literature, and Religion of the Ancient Near East, H. Goedicke and J. Roberts, eds. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977.

Piotr Michalowski, "Presence at the Creation." Pp. 381-396 in Lingering Over Words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran, T. Abusch et all, eds.. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990.

Beate Pongratz-Leisten, "Das 'negative Sündenbekenntnis' des Königs anläßlich des babylonischen Neujahrsfestes und die kidinnutu von Babylon." Pp. 83-101 in Schuld, Gewissen, Person. J. Assmann and Th. Sundermeier.eds., Studien zum Verstehen fremder Religionen, Bd. 9. Gütersloh, 1997.
---------"The Interplay of Military Strategy and Cultic Practice in Assyrian Politics." Pp. 245-252 in S. Parpola and R. M. Whiting, eds., Assyria 1995. Helsinki, 1997.

March 17: Astronomy and Astral Magic

Erica Reiner, Astral Magic in Babylonia. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1995.

P.-A. Beaulieu, "The Babylonian Man in the Moon." Journal of Cuneiform Studies 51 (1999) 91-100.

Francesa Rochberg, "The Cultural Locus of Astronomy in Late Babylonia." Pp. 31-46 in Galter, Hannes D., ed., Die Rolle der Astronomie in den Kulturen Mesopotamiens:  Beitrage zum 3. Grazer Morgenlandischen Symposion (23. - 27. September 1991).  Graz: Graz Kult,1993.

March 24: The Afterlife of Mesopotamian Religion

J. S. Cooper, "Assyrian Prophecies, the Assyrian Tree, and the Mesopotamian Origins of Jewish Monotheism, Greek Philosophy, Christian Theology, Gnosticism, and Much More," Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000) 430-444.

 M. J. Geller, "Akkadian Medicine in the Babylonian Talmud."  Pp. in A Traditional Quest: Essays in Honour of Louis Jacobs
---------"The Influence of Ancient Mesopotamia on Hellenistic Judaism."  Pp. 43-54 in Sasson, Jack M., ed.., Civilizations of the Ancient Near East.Volume I (New York; Charles Scribner's Sons; 1995.
Simo Parpola, "The Assyrian Tree of Life:  Monotheism and Greek Philosophy," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 52 (July 1993) 161-208.
---------"Monotheism in Ancient Assyria."  Pp. 165-210 in Porter, Barbara Nevling, ed., One God or Many? Concepts of Divinity in the Ancient World.  Casco Bay: The Casco Bay Assyriological Institute, 2000.
---------"The Mesopotamian Soul of Western Culture,"  Bulletin of the Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies 35 (2000) 29-35.

March 31, April 7 & 14: presentation of student research