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The Fabric of Cities

Culture and History of the

Ancient Near East
Founding Editor
M.H.E. Weippert
Thomas Schneider
The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/chan
The Fabric of Cities
Aspects of Urbanism, Urban Topography
and Society in Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome
Edited by
Natalie N. May and Ulrike Steinert
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ISSN 1566-2055
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The Fabric of cities : aspects of urbanism, urban topography and society in Mesopotamia, Greece
and Rome / edited by Natalie N. May and Ulrike Steinert.
pages cm. (Culture and history of the ancient Near East ; volume 68)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-26233-1 (hardback : alk. paper) ISBN 978-90-04-26234-8 (e-book :
alk. paper) 1. Cities and townsMiddle EastHistory. 2. UrbanizationMiddle EastHistory.
3. Cities and townsRomeHistory. 4. UrbanizationRomeHistory. 5. Civilization, Classical.
I. May, Natalie N. (Natalie Naomi) II. Steinert, Ulrike.
HT147.M53F33 2013
Acknowledgements ........................................................................................ vii
Introduction: Urban Topography as a Reflection of Society? ........... 1
Natalie N. May and Ulrike Steinert
The Cost of Cosmogony: Ethical Reflections on Resource
Extraction, Monumental Architecture and Urbanism
in the Sumerian Literary Tradition ...................................................... 43
J. Cale Johnson
Gates and Their Functions in Mesopotamia and Ancient Israel ..... 77
Natalie N. May
City Streets: Reflections on Urban Society in the Cuneiform
Sources of the Second and First Millennium bce ........................... 123
Ulrike Steinert
The Babylonian Cities: Investigating Urban Morphology Using
Texts and Archaeology ............................................................................. 171
Heather D. Baker
From bbnu to btnu, Looking for Spaces in Late Assyrian
Palaces ........................................................................................................... 189
David Kertai
Ich bin die Grenze der Agora. Zum kognitiven Stadtbild der
Athener in klassischer Zeit ..................................................................... 203
Jan Stenger
Religise Topographie Roms: Der Aventin
Innerhalb der Stadt und ausserhalb des Pomeriums ..................... 229
Darja terbenc Erker
vi contents
Index ................................................................................................................... 247
Keywords ...................................................................................................... 247
Personal and Divine Names.................................................................... 251
Geographical and Place Names ............................................................. 253
Textual Sources .......................................................................................... 255
Words and Terms in Ancient Languages ........................................... 258
This book contains contributions of an interdisciplinary colloquium of
the TOPOI project, which was held at the Freie Universitt Berlin in June
2009. The topic of this conference revolved around the question of the
co-relation between the political systems of ancient states, the social
organisation and the topographical structure of their cities and the ways
of influence of political changes on it. In this colloquium we were looking
for a dialogue between philology, history and archaeology.
We would like to thank TOPOI for the opportunity to hold the col-
loquium, and the volume contributors for their cooperation. We are also
grateful to Heather D. Baker and Markham J. Geller for advice and critique
on earlier versions of the Introduction. Moreover, we wish to express our
gratitude to the editors of Culture and History of the Ancient Near East
for giving us the opportunity to publish the colloquium proceedings in
the series, and to Katelyn Chin and Karen Cullen from Brill for their
devoted work and cooperation during the preparation of the manuscript
for print.
Berlin, August 2013
Natalie N. May and Ulrike Steinert
This book presents a collection of articles which address interconnections
between aspects of the topographical structure of ancient cities and the
social-political organisation of ancient cities and states, as well as cultural
perceptions of urban spaces. The introductory chapter sets a theoretical
framework for the volume by presenting an overview of past scholarship
on urban topography as an expression of social structures, focusing on
key disciplines involved in this research in the last decades. Although
the approach to the topographical organisation of a city as a mirror of its
social organisation has been very popular in disciplines such as archaeo-
logy (e.g. Herzog 1997, 13; Heinz 1997) and social geography (see e.g. the
work of L. Wirth (1938) and Soja (2000), its application can still lead to
new insights in many fields of research, as this volume intends to show.
At the same time, it has to be emphasised that the relation between
(urban) space and society works in two directions, as a kind of dialectic
process: urban space reflects or expresses social relations and can influ-
ence peoples behaviour, but on the other hand, urban space is formed
and changed by social agents, and the social meanings and conceptions
of the environment are generated through peoples social interactions and
practices in it (see e.g. Carmona et al. 2010, 133).
The contributions in this volume present and compare semantic, picto-
rial, and archaeological information spanning over various geographical
areas and chronological periods of the ancient Near East and Classical
Antiquity, the latter exemplified by articles on Athens and Rome (Jan
Stenger and Darja terbenc Erker). The research in this book is based on
a broad interdisciplinary approach encompassing a variety of sources and
societies. The volume embraces archaeological, iconographic and written
materials, starting with third millennium Sumer, Akkadian sources of the
entire Mesopotamian tradition, evidence from the Syro-Hittite city-states,
ancient Israel, Greece and Rome. Many of its contributions explore fields
which have not been extensively investigated, and which open up new
horizons in the study of urban space. Previously explored topics, such as
city gates of the ancient Near East and the Pomerium, are addressed from
2 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
a new perspective. Each paper in this book approaches urbanism from a
different angle and treats different aspects of early cities. Special atten-
tion is given to characteristic urban features of social and organisational
importance: city gates, streets and open public spaces, citadels, and city
quarters. Studies in this volume treat the various functions of urban pub-
lic spaces (Natalie N. May and Ulrike Steinert). Another topic discussed
is the relationship between public versus private spaces in palaces (David
Kertai). Heather D. Baker investigates the impact of private ownership
on the evolution of urban neighbourhoods in first millennium Babylonia.
The research presented here refers to manifold topics such as the con-
nections between urbanism and violence (J. Cale Johnson); functions of
marginal spaces in ancient Near Eastern cities (May and Steinert) and
in ancient Rome (terbenc Erker), and the reflection of urban topogra-
phy in the language terminology applied to it. It analyses the reference
system used to structure the communicative spaces of the cities in the
written sources (Stenger) and the language of spatial orientation related
to domains of urban society such as administration, social structure, and
religious ceremonies.
Literature dedicated to the study of the ancient city is now vast. Since
Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, Max Weber and Gordon Childe much
effort has been undertaken to investigate this subject, and many interdis-
ciplinary publications have come to light. Nonetheless, the main target
of most of this research has been the emergence of cities, and much of
it is based on the analysis of the archaeological record supplemented by
anthropological approaches rather than written sources. The purpose of
the present volume is to contribute to the study of urbanism through a
cross-cultural investigation of the social aspects of the city structure of
the ancient Near East and Classical world, based primarily on the written
evidence. Archaeological excavations reveal settlement plans and thus
supply the same kinds of evidence, though varying geographically and
chronologically. By contrast, the kinds of preserved written sources often
differ across cultures and thus do not present a uniform spectrum of evi-
dence and information for research, a factor that partially accounts for the
variety of topics pursued in the contributions to this volume. The present
study aims at exploring questions such as:
Are there discernible correlations between urban topography and the
social organisation of ancient cities?
In which ways does the topography of the urban environment reflect
different ways of socio-political organisation and historical processes?
introduction 3
Can the influence of private individuals and marginal ethnic groups be
identified in the city layout? How do they influence its development?
How do ancient sources reflect on urbanism?
How are mental images and socio-cultural views of urban spaces
expressed cross-culturally in the written sources or through
What are the limitations of the available textual or archaeological
sources for answering these questions?
Although the introductory chapter forms primarily a resum of previous
research, in which archaeology and anthropological approaches are over-
represented, this overview is important for setting out a comprehensive
background for the reader and at the same time offering a contrast to
the contributions in this volume, by outlining the achievements but
also the limits of research which predominantly deals with archaeological
information alone. The Introduction also provides cross-cultural compari-
sons on the matters treated by the contributors.
1.Defining a City
Dealing with the ancient city one must never forget the differences result-
ing from diachronic development and geographical variability. Early
research into Mesopotamian cities was engaged mostly with urbanisa-
tion and thus turned to investigating Sumerian city-states (e.g. Oppen-
heim 1969; Adams 1966; Algaze 2008). In the last decades, Elizabeth Stone
(1991, 1995, 2005, 2008) pointed out the main features of the Sumerian,
as well as the later northern and southern Mesopotamian cities, which
can be related to the mythological concept of city life as a component of
civilisation bestowed by the gods.
Starting with Fustel de Coulanges (1980, 126ff.), exploration of early
urbanisation raised the question of the emergence of cities. Indeed, classical
sources (terbenc Erker, this volume, and e.g. Troy, Thebes, Athens)1 often
supply city foundation legends. Typically, Near Eastern sources lack such
legends. Instead, our sources2 provide information about the construction
1DNP s.v. Troja, Theben, Athen.
2Assyrian royal inscriptions and the Bible.
4 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
and foundation of cities, especially Assyrian royal residences (Kar-Tukulti-
Ninurta, Kalhu, Dur-Sharruken, Nineveh, but also Samaria).3
In antiquity, a correct foundation procedure was an important guaran-
tee of the citys prosperity. Darja terbenc Erker shows how in Rome the
negative status of the Aventine hill in the foundation legends is connected
with the marginal position of this area as a home to foreign cults in the
religious topography of the city. In Mesopotamia all the cities known to
have been deliberately founded are either Assyrian capitals, or the out-
posts of the Assyrian expansion. Nothing is known of the last ones except
the very fact of their foundation. As for the new Assyrian capitals, the
main guarantee of a new capitals prosperity was a proper inauguration
ritual (e.g. Fuchs 1994, 73; Bull inscription lines 97100).
Weber (1958), following Aristotle (Aristot. pol. 2, 2, 3, and esp. 3, 1, 12)4
denied that ancient Near Eastern cities were cities. For Aristotle the city
meant primarily the political and social structure of the Greek polis, which
ancient Near Eastern cities naturally lacked. Modern research (infra)
departed from Webers perception of the Oriental cities. Nevertheless,
the great diversity in attitudes to the cities of the Classical world and those
of the Near East in modern scholarship did not disappear, since unlike
the Greek polis Oriental cities were not communities of citizens.5 But
do the city plans of Classical and Near Eastern cities indeed mirror the
differences in their political organisation? The layouts of ancient Near
Eastern cities as a reflection of social organisation were scrutinized
by Marlies Heinz (1997), but her important study is exclusively based
on the archaeological record. The present volume is an attempt to inves-
tigate the topography of ancient cities as a mirror of society drawing pri-
marily on the written sources.
Early research into ancient cities put very much effort into defining
what the city is (e.g. Childe 1950; cf. Herzog 1997). But as has been pointed
out by Childe himself, The city is a phenomenon which is notoriously
3For the Assyrian capitals these are contemporary royal inscriptions (for Kar-Tukulti-
Ninurta see Grayson 1987, 278, A.0.78.25, lines 2530; for Kalhu/CalahGrayson 1991, 288,
A.0.101.30the so-called Banquet Inscription of Ashurnasirpal II; for NinevehLuckenbill
1924, 94ff., The Palace without a Rival etc.; for Dur-SharrukenFuchs 1994, 3744 Zyl.,
lines 3377 etc.).
4See Liverani (1997: 86, 9193) for an overview of the research stream that followed
these views.
5For the discussion of collective governance in Mesopotamia see Liverani 1997, 9193
and van de Mieroop 1997: 120139; cf. most recently Fleming 2004, 170ff. concerning the
evidence of the Mari texts.
introduction 5
difficult to define (Childe 1950, 12), and differing solutions and criteria
have been suggested in different fields.6 Comparative approaches include
Childe (1950) and Lewis Mumford (1961). Childe set up a list of features
including considerable size, high population density, the production of
agricultural surpluses, the existence of monumental or public buildings,
full-time craft specialisation, systems of counting and record-keeping, writ-
ing systems, officials, priests, and foreign trade.7 Cross-cultural research of
the last decades has led scholars to question the universality of many of
Childes criteria for identifying a city.8
Although factors such as site size and population density have often
been used as defining criteria for cities in archaeology, history and the
social sciences (e.g. L. Wirth 1938, 8; Sjoberg 1960, 83; Kostoff 1991, 37;
Owen / Preston 2009, 3), other approaches note the high range of varia-
tion in the size of urban settlements and emphasise instead the concept
of centrality: in these approaches the term urban is reserved for central
settlements which perform special (political, economic, social) functions
in relation to a hinterland (e.g. Trigger 1972; Nvak 1999; Hansen 2008)
or as population centres offering specialized services to a wider society
(Renfrew 2008, 31).9 Similarly, Paul Knox (1995, 8f.) defines the social role
of cities as centres of authority, as places which generate discourses and
collective beliefs that offer settings for the gathering of high-level informa-
tion and for establishing and monitoring implicit contracts. Thus, crucial
criteria for defining a city include internal diversity, public institutions
and socio-economic differentiation (Marcus / Sabloff 2008, 12ff.).10
6For instance in sociological approaches, cities are seen as places providing mean-
ing to their inhabitants, expressed in the concept of placeness, i.e. as places with which
people connect a sense of belonging (to a community), home, shared identity (see e.g.
Orum / Chen 2003).
7Similar features were discussed by Mumford (1961) and include the division between
rich and poor, the institution of property, and a social make-up constituted by a hetero-
geneous collective entity.
8See e.g. Bard 2008; Hansen 2008; Hirth 2008: there are societies with cities, but with-
out writing systems (and vice versa); there are cities without monumental architecture;
city and state are not necessarily linked to each other (there are examples of cities existing
without a state and vice versa). Some cities are open structures without fortifications. For
the latter criterion see also L. Wirth 1938.
9Scholars who concentrate on functions and roles of cities reflected e.g. in public
buildings include Eric Wolf (1966, 11), who defined cities as settlements in which a com-
bination of functions are exercised. The diversity of activities and functions performed in
cities is often linked with the existence of centralised authority and social hierarchy, but
hierarchy by itself cannot be taken as a criterion for urbanism (Owen / Preston 2009, 3).
10Taking into account the variability of ancient cities, several classifications of city
types bound to their functions have been developed, see e.g. E. Wirth 1975, 51ff. Richard
6 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
Spiro Kostoff (1985) lists general elements of the urban environment
as organisational features of many cities in different cultures and regions,
such as streets, public squares, fortifications, a monumental core with spe-
cial buildings (e.g. temples, churches, baths, palace, courthouse, market,
shops, restaurants, libraries, canals etc.) reflecting diversified political,
social, religious, and administrative institutions.11 A city should also dis-
play an internal differentiation of the settlement connected to the social
division of labour (Nvak 1999, 48f.).
Urban settlements can be distinguished from other types of concen-
trated populations by transformations in leadership, in spatial and eco-
nomic organisation (M. L. Smith 2003).12 Thus, cities have been described
as a container of power (Giddens 1984, 262), where elite groups acquire
status, economic and political power (Herzog 1997, 6f.). Yet, the relation-
ship between urban form and political authority is not straightforward. It
has been shown that cities do not require a state level of political author-
ity to exist (M. L. Smith 2003, 12ff. with further literature), and leadership
roles may not be apparent on the level of the city form itself (cf. temples
preceding palaces as central organisations in Mesopotamian cities; Stone
1995). Similarly, features facilitating city life such as markets, roads, and
sanitation, can come into being without central planning (M. L. Smith
2003, 16ff.). Different elite and non-elite groups forming networks and
alliances on the basis of shared religion, occupation or ethnicity can
have an impact on the layout of cities through the actions of such groups
(by sponsoring or participating in the construction of monuments etc.;
M. L. Smith 2003, 16ff.).
Some scholars emphasise the emblematic and religious meaning of
cities and their structure, symbolising the cosmic order, e.g. through the
form or the orientation of buildings, walls, streets according to the car-
dinal directions (e.g. Wheatley 1971 on ancient Chinese cities). Yet, as
comparative studies show, both urban and non-urban settlements can be
Fox (1977) distinguished regal-ritual, administrative and commercial city types. Because
most cities combine several functions at the same time, such pure types can exist only
in theory (Nvak 1999, 54f.). For the essential aspect of exchange and trade (especially
long-distance) as a motor of city formation see e.g. Renfrew 1975; Soja 2000, 42ff.; 50ff.;
Algaze 2008, 155ff.
11Colin Renfrew (1979, 16) suggested that archaeology has to look for affinities of
form, i.e. common features of cities, which might indicate similar general processes.
12Arguing that a definition of urbanism has to be quite abstract to be universally appli-
cable, Aidan Southhall (1973) defined cities as places with a high density of social interac-
tion and differentiation of social roles, exhibiting internal complexity and heterogeneity,
e.g. differences of wealth (see also Kostoff 1991).
introduction 7
read as cosmograms, as well as sociograms (cf. Carl et al. 2000; Choay
1986; Lagopoulos 1986a; 1986b). Another approach is to look for indig-
enous conceptualisations of what a city is. It has been noted that in many
languages the word for town, city also designates the hinterland around
the urban centre or the territory controlled by a ruler (Marcus / Sabloff
2008, 22ff.).13 Similarly, the fact that the Akkadian language does not
clearly reflect the difference between urban and non-urban settlements14
could reflect the idea of unity between cities and their hinterland, or
that the concept of city was not defined by size. Any settlement name
would always be written with the determinative ur u, originally Sum-
erian, meaning city. Nevertheless, some distinctive aspects of ancient
cities are important for the present research. Thus, it should be stressed
that a typical attribute of nearly every ancient city was its city walls (e.g.
Arav 2008, 5).15 This feature, prominently defining the city margins, was
13Although a Mesopotamian city comprised the walled centre as well as the surround-
ing areas and agricultural land, the Akkadian word lu does only refer to the walled urban
area, and the Akkadian language designates the surrounding areas with specific terms
or compound expressions, e.g. at li outside the city (which equates to Sum. ur u-
bar city outskirts, agricultural land around a city), nam pasture land, outlying area
around a city, alu district (often forming a unit within cities) and the more specific
ugru meadow, arable land (also an administrative unit, often associated with cities, cf.
CAD U/W, 23ff.), tamirtu (irrigated) agricultural land; surrounding (of a city). This might
reflect the opposition between the civilised city and the wilderness, steppe (ru) in the
Mesopotamian worldview. Similarly, the term nam can stand in contrast to cultivated
land and city and may refer to a deserted place or the steppe.
14So for instance, Sennacherib reports of the destruction of Hezekiahs 46 strong,
walled cities (46 lni (URU
)- dan-nu-ti bt drni (.BD
); Luckenbill 1924, 32;
Oriental Institute Prism col. iii lines 1920) though there is no evidence for the existence
in Judah of so many fortified urban settlements. The word lu can also designate smaller
settlements (manors, estates or forts), cf. CAD A/1, 379ff. Attributes are used with lu, e.g.
to indicate size and special types of cities (small, fortified etc.). The word edur hamlet,
rural settlement is a Sumerian loanword from - dur u5, literally meaning manor, farm
on wet ground (connected to a permanent water supply or swamp). The connection with
dru (=BD) city wall, fortification, the root which in one form or another is attested in
all of the Semitic languages (AHw, 178a) is unclear. An Akkadian word for village, kapru,
has widespread West-Semitic cognates (e.g. Hebrew ; Aram. kfr; Arab. kafr), and it is
paralleled with adur/- dur u5

in lexical lists (Diri V, 307 f, CAD K, 189b). However, kapru
notoriously appears with the meaning village in Old Babylonian and Mari only, which
drove some scholars to the conclusion that it is an Amorite loan word (convincingly dis-
missed by Dietz Edzard [1964, 145]). In later periods it is found only as a component of
geographical names, which according to CAD K, 190b might well represent geographical
designations. In Nuzi, a geographical name Kapru is attested written with determinative
ur u (CAD K, 190a). See also van de Mieroop 1997, 10 concerning the Akkadian terminol-
ogy for the city and various types of settlements.
15Also expressed archaeologically. The linkage between urbanism and the existence of
fortifications has been criticised (see e.g. Childe 1950; Dring 2011), because there are cities
without city walls and fortified settlements which are not urban in character. One example
8 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
crucial for urban organisation and planning. In Mesopotamian cuneiform
texts, starting with early Sumerian sources, city walls are perceived as an
essential urban characteristic.16 The walls determined the importance of
the city gates (May, this volume) and the layout of the main city streets,
as connecting between the gates (Steinert, this volume).
Considering all the aforementioned approaches, we purposely avoid
giving a definition of the city here since it is not an objective of this vol-
ume, nor is this matter discussed in individual contributions. In our opin-
ion, there cannot be a general definition of the city suiting all periods of
human history and no all-embracing definition of a city can be suggested
even for antiquity as a whole. Moreover, taking into account the emic per-
spectives of different cultures, several definitions of urbanism are likely to
evolve (Butzer 2008).
2.Urban Form and Social Structures
Within the archaeology of the Near East and Greece, the study of the
relationship between urban spaces and social organisation and rela-
tions developed into a considerable trend in recent years and decades.17
Moreover, this topic has long been investigated in other fields, including
social geography.18
of an unfortified city is Egyptian Tell al-Amarna. However, what is important is that the
ancients themselves perceived city walls as the main urban trait.
16For instance, in a Mari letter the expression lim ribtim metropolis is supple-
mented by the phrase a dram law, surrounded by a wall (Rouault 1977, 61, 22). In
this connection, Jean-Marie Durand (1991) draws attention to the possible connection of
the word ribtu main street with rab big (literally ville grande place), relating it to
a conceptualisation of the capital city as political and cosmological centre of state and
universe. See also the central importance of the city wall of Uruk as framing location for
the whole Gilgamesh Epic, where the building of the wall is the main lasting accomplish-
ment of Gilgamesh for which he is remembered (cf. van de Mieroop 1997, 73ff. for the
topic of the royal construction of city walls in Mesopotamia). Note also the well known
Biblical metaphor, which uses gates as synonym, pars pro toto, to describe the city. The
construction of city walls was an important part of the Greek foundation legends (e.g. DNP
s.v. Troja, Athen, Theben).
17See e.g. for Greece Owen / Preston 2009 and Westgate et al. 2007, especially for
interrelations between urban layout, social organisation and political ideologies; for Israel,
Herzog 1997; for Mesopotamia see e.g. Heinz 1997; Nvak 1999; Stone 1991; 1999; 2005;
2008; van de Mieroop 1997.
18Starting with the Chicago School, e.g. L. Wirth 1938; cf. Soja 2000 (with an over-
view of urban theory in the twentieth century), urban sociology (e.g. Castells 1979; Gott-
diener 1985; Klltorp et al. 1997; Korff 1990; Lefbvre 1991; Lw 2008; Tonkiss 2005), social
anthropology (e.g. Gmelch & Zenner 2002; Gutkind 1974; Low / Lawrence-Ziga 2003),
introduction 9
Studies of urban form show that the plans of cities in different cultures
and periods can exhibit similarities as well as differences, which have been
interpreted in different ways.19 It has been observed that the relationship
between forms of social organisation and spatial patterns is complex and
that it is often not directly mirrored in the archaeological data, because
not all social processes are reflected in material culture (Heinz 1997, 113;
Keith 2003, 59ff.). The spectrum of explanations brought forward points
to the multiplicity of interrelated factors (e.g. environmental, ecologi-
cal, cultural, socio-political, economic, historical) influencing and having
impact on urban form (cf. Morris 1994).
One explanation for similarities in urban structures is the common need
to accommodate similar functions in a limited area with a limited cross-
cultural variation in the uses of buildings. Urban structures, which are
likely to reflect urban functions, include the following examples assem-
bled by Renfrew (2008, 46):20 fortifications (military), temples and cult
buildings (religious), royal palaces (political), areas of craft production,
places of public assemblies.
It has been established that there are no mono-causal explanations
for similarities of forms in urban built space.21 Since the 1980s symbolic
and interpretative approaches have come to view human behaviour as
semiotics (e.g. Barthes 1986; Eco 1986; Gottdiener & Logopoulos 1986), and in the history
of urban planning and architecture (e.g. Morris 1994; Mumford 1961).
19See, for comparisons between urban form and functions, Bintliff (1977) on medi-
eval monasteries and the Minoan palace of Mallia in Crete. Comparisons of similarities in
urban form are especially applicable to cities within one culture, tradition, period or cat-
egory, e.g. Roman army camp towns (Renfrew 2008, 37; Stone 1991). Similarities between
cities within one region or period can be due to standardisation as a result of central
control or urban planning (Renfrew 2008, 37ff.).
20For intercultural comparisons see also Adams (1966) on second millennium bce
Mesopotamian and Aztec cities in Mexico; Carl et al. (2000) for structural similarities
between New Kingdom el-Amarna and late medieval London. Gideon Sjoberg (1960) has
contrasted preindustrial and modern cities, while stating that preindustrial cities resemble
each other because of similar ecological and social factors (e.g. a well-defined class struc-
ture and a division of labour), common structural features and similar values. A number
of characteristics of Sjobergs constructed ideal type of a typical preindustrial city have
been shown to be variable, especially the linkage between literacy and urbanism (cf. Her-
zog 1997, 5). For structural differences between preindustrial and industrial cities see also
Soja 2000.
21E.g. as responses to ecological and social conditions or economic ways of life. See
Pflzner 2001, 9ff. for a review of deterministic and functionalistic approaches, cf. e.g.
Binford 1972, 20ff.; Kent 1987, 517ff.; see for different urban form determinants also Morris
1994, 10ff. The Central Place Theory (Christaller 1933) has had an influence in explain-
ing the spatial organisation of urban centres in terms of settlement hierarchies (see e.g.
Trigger 1972).
10 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
shaped by the contents of specific cultural traditions, norms, and world
views and by universal structures of the human mind.22 There has been a
growing interest in studying the culturally specific ideas of the inhabitants
of ancient cities about their centres, including similar patterns of belief
and symbolic meanings that influenced the layout of cities (e.g. cosmic
imagery reflected in centrality, verticality and quadripartition). According
to the work of Franoise Choay (1986), preindustrial societies in general
can be contrasted with industrial societies in that the structure of their
built-up systems is linked to the totality of culture: the Bororo village,
Classical Athens, and medieval towns express in different ways the social
organisation, political order and other aspects of each culture. According
to socio-semiotic studies influenced by Marxist materialism like Lagopo-
ulos (1986a), the semiotic models of settlement space of different societies
vary with their mode of production and overall structure, articulating to
varying degrees cosmological, religious, social, and political aspects, often
in a combined way. While cosmological connotations connected to domi-
nant religious codes seem to be of importance in various societies, with
the exception of the industrial societies, there is no general systematic
evolution of semiotic models. The geometric form of settlement in prein-
dustrial societies is limited (orthogonal or centric) and there is gener-
ally a dominant central element. Mirko Nvak (1999, 374ff.) states that
most urban settlements in the ancient Near East (and also in Greece) had
an irregular shape reflecting organic growth; rectangular and round cities
in the Near East can be associated with specific geographical regions and
periods: the former is dominant in Assyria and Babylonia, and found in
Roman, Sassanian and early Islamic foundations, while the latter is domi-
nant in Syria, Iran and in Islamic cities.
Bruce Trigger (2008, 60, 62ff.) connects cross-cultural similarities in the
layout of city plans with uniformities in the human perception of space, as
well as with human cognitive processes and symbolic aspects of culture.
Karl Butzer (2008, 82ff.) argues that city forms also reflect the cultural
values of societies, and that Hellenistic cities in the Near East with a grid-
iron plan were designed to communicate a new ideology (of the politi-
cal order) of Greek civilisation in non-Hellenic areas and to acculturate
indigenous peoples.23
22See e.g. Hodder 1982a; 1982b; Kent 1987.
23See below for an alternative interpretation.
introduction 11
In the light of comparative studies, the traditional contrast between
ancient Near Eastern and Greek urbanism and their differing socio-
political structures have to be put into a modified perspective which is
crucial for the topic of the present volume.
2.1City Planning in Antiquity
One presumed contrast between eastern and western cities of antiq-
uity concerns the idea that city planning began with Hippodamus of
Miletus. The development of the great majority of Mesopotamian and
ancient Near Eastern cities through the millennia of their existence has
often been described as unstructured and unplanned in contrast to the
regular planning found in cities of the Classical world.24 Yet, city plan-
ning was not unknown, neither in Near Eastern antiquity nor in other
ancient city cultures (Morris 1994; Marcus / Sabloff 2008; M. E. Smith
2002).25 Thus, urban settlements with an orthogonal grid-plan were built
in Mesopotamia,26 Egypt and the Indus region, while Athens during the
Classical period and ancient Rome had no grid plan (Butzer 2008; Morris
1994). In the ancient Near East capitals founded by royal initiative reveal
regular planning (figs. 12; Dur-Sharruken, Samaria), even possibly with
an orthogonal street arrangement.27 Not only Assyrian capital cities, but
also depictions of Neo-Assyrian army camps on palace reliefs demonstrate
a geometric arrangement of streets (figs. 34; and Micale & Nadali 2004,
172 fig. 10).28 Building a city on a preconceived plan seems to have been a
royal initiative. Greek poleis originally were not built in accordance with
a plan either, but had an irregular shape due to environmental conditions
24See Baker, in press and in this volume for the examples of this type of development.
25See especially Bard 2008; Kemp 1972 and Morris 1994, 26ff. In Egyptian, urban
settlements were referred to as either nwt or dmi, with the former usually designating
unplanned, grown settlements, the latter referring to cities that were laid out along a
formal plan, e.g. Kahun or Tell el-Amarna (Uphill 2008). According to Barry Kemp and
Anthony Morris, Egyptian cities, like Amarna, display only partial planning of the main
layout and route structure combined with organically grown neighbourhoods, while some
settlements like Kahun or Deir el-Medina have a highly formal grid plan of streets and
uniform houses arranged in blocks.
26E.g. early Sumerian trading colonies like Habuba Kabira or Old Babylonian provin-
cial centres like Haradum, Shaduppum, see Heinz 1997; Nvak 1999, 376ff.; Stone 2005.
27Probably Sennacheribs embellishing of Nineveh (e.g. Palace Without a Rival,
Luckenbill 1924, 95, line 69). This similarly applies also to Egyptian foundations and spe-
cial purpose towns.
28The depiction of an Assyrian military camp on a relief of Ashurnasirpal IIs palace
represents a circular plan with a cross-shaped division into four sectors similar to the
Roman arrangement of the decomanus and cardo main streets.
12 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
and growth patterns. Hippodamus vision of a regular city plan might
well be a Hellenistic adoption of a Near Eastern technology together with
many others.29 Due to the fact that most cities in Mesopotamia had an
irregular form and an organically grown street layout and share many sim-
ilarities with Islamic cities in the Near East (e.g. the segregation between
the public and private sphere, the dominance of the courtyard house
and the uniform outward appearance of house facades), several authors
have attributed these uniformities to similarities in social organisation.30
2.2Public and Private
The main contrast between the ancient Near East and Greece has been the
notion that Mesopotamian cities lack public open spaces for assemblies
like the agora and special purpose buildings for communal or leisure
activities like the stadium, theatre, gymnasium. These revolutionary fea-
tures have been explained sociologically, as a result of the development
of democracy and citizenship in Classical Greece, and intellectually, with
a change in the perception of space.31
It is correct that ancient Near Eastern cities, whether planned or devel-
oped spontaneously, typically lack the open public areas which were so
characteristic of Greek and Roman cities. The public areas of Mesopotamian
cities were mainly associated with temples and palaces, notably the temple
29The orthogonal plan was already in use in planned Greek colonies in the seventh
century bce, long before Hippodamus, which is related to centralisation (Bengs 1997, 29;
Greco 2009). According to Morris (1994), Egyptian Kahun is the oldest urban settlement
with a true gridiron layout, while a rectilinear street system defining superblocks, the sub-
division of which was left to the occupiers, is found in many ancient cities. Nvak (1999)
describes the rectangular city shape as a Mesopotamian invention connected to the cos-
mological concept of the four quarters of the world. Moreover, Hellenistic cities in the
Near East were rarely rectangular or had a regular grid pattern of streets (one notable
example is Seleukia), and this feature, which is typical for cities of the Roman period, fell
again into decline in the Late Antiquity (Nvak 1999; cf. Boksmati 2009 for the limits of
Hellenisation affecting the city of Beirut during the Hellenistic period).
30These structural patterns of Islamic cities have been connected with a dominant
bottom-up social organisation based on kinship reflecting a primary concern for house-
holds and neighbourhood associations; see e.g. Bengs 1997, 16ff.; Butzer 2008, 85f. Mark
Lehner (2000) and David Schloen (2001, 108ff.) explain similarities in the settlement pat-
terns in the ancient and recent, preindustrial Near East and Egypt on the basis of the
persistence of the patrimonial household system.
31Cf. Zucker 1959, 19; cited in Morris 1994, 42. Similarly, Christer Bengs (1997, 25) con-
trasts the Classical Greek city with early Islamic cities as reflections of two differing sys-
tems: a society with an emphasis on the community and unified control vs. a closed tribal
society characterised by hierarchies and levels of control.
introduction 13
or palace courtyards.32 Accessibility to these courtyards seems to have been
limited to selected public only (e.g. fig. 5). Most public affairs were man-
aged indoors and not in open areas, although palace, temple and city gates
could serve as places of litigation or even assembly, which was, however,
typical for the periphery, such as Nuzi (May, this volume). In the absence
of special places for staging public events, in the Mesopotamian heartland
certain city streets and gate spaces served as the main locale for such activi-
ties (e.g. assemblies, religious festivals; contributions of Steinert and May,
this volume). In the Assyrian Empire, administration and court duties were
performed by officials at their residences, starting from the lower levels33 up
to the royal palaces. The residence was also a place of work, and not only for
the officials. The situation was similar in first millennium Babylonia as well
(Baker 2011, 53940; Stone 1987, 126f.; Brusasco 1999/2000), and it seems to
be a feature common to pre-industrial societies in general. As a consequence
the distinction between the private and public quarters in the palaces was
blurred, as demonstrated by Kertai (this volume).
Nonetheless, there are exceptions to this clear-cut contrast between the
East and West regarding the existence of large public spaces in the city.
Syro-Hittite cities34 reveal a spatial approach very different from Mesopo-
tamia or the southern Levant. There existed not only multiple plazas and
open spaces of profoundly public character, which were located inside the
fortified acropolis and were delimited by architectural features, but these
public spaces and also the city walls were decorated with reliefs pointing
to their ceremonial importance. Syro-Hittite plazas were also sites for the
installation of gigantic statues of deified ancestors of the ruling family or
city founders (Pucci 2006; Gilibert 2011; 2012).35 Due to lack of written
evidence, there is no way to completely investigate all of the functions of
the open spaces in first millennium Syrian society, but their very existence
seems to contrast with the spatial organisation of the rest of the ancient
Near East.36 Yet, this perception might to some degree also be due to our
still limited knowledge of Mesopotamian cities.
32Large public open spaces can also be found along main processional roads of big
urban centres, for instance the so-called Tempelplatz in Assur, see Steinert 2011, 331ff. for
a discussion with further literature. For the gate squares see May, this volume.
33E.g. the Red House at Dur-Katlimmu had official and private wings. It was in use
under Babylonian rule (ca. 612602 bce), but its occupants were Assyrians (Khne 2000,
763, 768).
34Often described as city-states, though little is known about their actual political and
territorial structure.
35This is similar to the installation of stelae at the city gate plazas (May, this volume).
36Note moreover the evidence for a large plaza at the Hurrian urban centre Urkesh
(Tall Mozan) in the North Mesopotamian Khabour region, which was situated next to the
14 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
2.3City and Trade
Another often noted difference of ancient Near Eastern cities in contrast
with Classical Greek urbanism is the absence of a market place, which
in Greek and Roman cities was connected with the multi-purpose agora
and the forum.
The economy of the earliest Sumerian cities was primarily redistribu-
tive, and the trade, by and large, arranged and controlled by the state, was
primarily marketless.37 The initially marketless character (Hammond 1972,
41) of early Mesopotamian trade might to some extent explain the absence
of a market place deliberately imbedded into a city plan in the ancient
Near Eastern cities also in later periods. On the other hand, areas for the
exchange of goods are not restricted to open plazas within the city. As
textual and archaeological evidence shows, this function was performed
by the main streets (Stone 2005; Steinert, this volume) and gate spaces
(May, this volume)a feature which is still present in Middle Eastern cit-
ies (E. Wirth 1997, 32).38 It is also possible that markets were occasionally
held outside the city gates and have not been archaeologically attested.
However, another characteristic of Mesopotamian trade was that its main
arteries were rivers rather than roads. Thus the harbourkrumoften
served as market and industrial area (Stone 1991, 242; 2005, 15152).
It should be stressed that though the original meaning of krum in
Akkadian was harbour (CAD K, 231a237a), it often designated trading
stations and even merchant communities (CAD K, 234a237a) as well as
central oval temple complex (Buccellati 2005, 7f. with fig. 1; Pflzner 2008, 396ff. with
fig. 12, 16). The terraced temple complex with its staircase and ramp was oriented toward
this plaza, which shows that this architectural arrangement with its long continuity from
the first half of the 3rd until the second half of the 2nd millennium bce was an important
and consciously planned element of the urban layout of Urkesh (Pflzner 2008, 407ff.,
428). The plaza seems to have connected the temple and a royal palace and could have
been used for various public activities and gatherings of the population, e.g. during reli-
gious festivals.
37This does not mean of course that markets and trade were non-existent (see below,
and Renger 1984, Wilcke 2007). However, there was no market as an economic factor
determining the economy of Ancient Mesopotamia as a whole. (Renger 1984, 113; see
also Wilcke 2007, 113). Palace and temple still performed redistributive functions in the
first millennium in Assyria (Kinnier Wilson 1972), and even in conditions of the increas-
ing monetisation of the economy in Babylonia (Jursa 2010, 9, 2931, 50 with note 207,
66, 68, 162163, 250 with note 1486, 442, 654656, 661, 669672, 771 and passim; Kleber
2010, 549ff.). See Jursa 2011, 1322 for the most recent overview of the economic theories
as applied to Mesopotamia.
38During the survey at Mashkan-shapir, an area without dense buildings was detected in
the vicinity of the main street, which could have been a market place (Stone 2005, 152).
introduction 15
an office in the krum (ibid. and CAD K, 237b238a). Later it also becomes
a component of city names such as Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta, Kar-Shalmaneser,
Kar-Sharruken, etc. This change in meaning reflects the switch in trade
modes from southern Mesopotamia, where the harbour was indeed the
most important trade node, to the emporium in the inland trade away
from the rivers, as was the case with the Old Assyrian trading stations
in Anatolia. Nonetheless, krum never came to denote an open market
place, but always designated a built-up area.
It has been demonstrated (Stone 1995, 236; Cooper 2006, 12223, 139)
that the early urbanisation process in southern Mesopotamia was closely
tied with the exchange of raw materials. Besides trade, the primary form
of this exchange was war. This kind of exchange was naturally a state
prerogative, a part of the redistributive economy, which had no need for
an open market place, but only a storage placea temple or a palace.
The practice of extracting the raw building materials through spoil is well
known e.g. through the literary topos of military expeditions to the Cedar
Forest of the Mount Amanus.39 The article of Johnson (this volume) dem-
onstrates how raw materials necessary for city building were extorted
through military campaigns.
2.4City Layout and Political Organisation
Is the topography of a city-state different from that of an imperial capital?
Can democracy be distinguished from despotic rule through the urban
topography? How did changes of political structure influence the topo-
graphical structure of a city? In view of the interdisciplinary outlook of the
present volume, it is important to highlight comparative analyses which
have correlated urban form with political structures and forms of state
societies. According to Trigger (2003, 92ff.), variation in the layout of
urban centres correlates with two different types of political organisation:
city-state systems and territorial states.40 In city-states the majority of the
39Note that in the Bible the same precious cedar wood necessary for temple and palace
building was acquired by Solomon through an exchange agreement, not through wars
(1 Kgs 5:611).
40See also Hansen 2000; 2002; 2006 for the Greek polis-system and comparative
studies of city-state cultures; cf. Yoffee 2005, 45f. for Mesopotamia. In regions without
centralised power (e.g. Sumer, Classical Greece), similarities between autonomous cen-
tres (e.g. the ziqqurats of Sumerian cities) have been interpreted as a result of peer-polity
interaction found in early state societies, connected to processes of competition, warfare,
exchange of goods, responsible for producing a degree of cultural homogeneity (Cherry
1986; Renfrew 1975; 1986; Sabloff 1986; Snodgrass 1986).
16 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
population and also a considerable number of full-time farmers lived in
urban centres.41 The centres of territorial states were mostly occupied by
members of the upper classes (officials, craftsmen, employed retainers),
and farmers tended to live in villages in the hinterland, thus these urban
centres contained a much smaller percentage of the total population.
These differences in political organisation have an impact on the form and
layout of urban centres reflected in cross-cultural uniformities: the major
cities in city-states tend to be larger (offering a broader range of special
services) than those in territorial states. Moreover, while city-states are
compact, the layout of cities in territorial states tends to be dispersed. In
the latter centres, members of the nobility, rulers and high-ranking offi-
cials tend to live apart from the rest of the population in separated settle-
ments; temples and palaces are often surrounded by their own enclosure
wall (e.g. Egypt and the acropolis in Assyrian royal residence-cities).
A similar approach was suggested by Stone (2008) who argues that there
is a correlation between polity type and urban structures. She analysed
differences regarding the physical organisation of cities between societies
based on hierarchy (and systematic exclusionary domination) and soci-
eties based on heterarchy, but also taking into account environmental and
ecological factors.42 Urban centres in states based on exclusionary control
are characterised by a relatively small size, occupation by elites, their ser-
vants and dependent populations living in the suburbs or countryside. In
contrast, capital cities in states with power-sharing mechanisms (reflected
e.g. in physically and structurally separated political and religious institu-
tions) are large and contain clearly defined neighbourhoods, which are
inhabited by a mixture of different social groups without segregation
between rich and poor (Stone 2008, 143ff.).
3.Bottom-up Analyses of the City Structure
Until recently a tendency to concentrate the investigation of urban spaces
on monumental architecture and the relationship between architecture
41E.g. in Early Dynastic Mesopotamia, see Adams 1981; Trigger 2003, 125; see already
Weber 1958, 70f. calling the city-farmers Ackerbrger.
42According to Stone (2008), specific ecological conditions are favourable for specific
political and institutional structures. States with exclusionary domination are found in
regions with permanent and bounded agricultural land (e.g. Egypt), while states with cor-
porate power strategies are in regions with impermanent and unbounded land (e.g. Meso-
potamia). In southern Mesopotamia, the constraining environment favours an agricultural
system, which is more fit for institutional management (Stone 2005).
introduction 17
and royal power has prevailed in the textual and archaeological studies of
Mesopotamian cities (see e.g. Novk 1999; Maran et al. 2006; Bretschnei-
der et al. 2007). This approach has been criticised (Baker 2011, 534; see
already Liverani 1997 with a critique regarding the predominant model
of the Near Eastern city used in the field). Research has to take into
account the fact that urban spaces are also shaped by the inhabitants in
a variety of ways. Although the configurations of public space are to a
large extent guided by elites, urban transformations are always to some
degree caused by the active participation of the inhabitants, especially on
the level of private and semi-private space (M. L. Smith 2003, 19ff.).
Due to their non-monumental appearance, archaeological investigation
of private residences in the ancient Near East lagged behind research into
temples and royal buildings. And the exploration of private households
based on written sources has begun only in recent years.
Thus Heather Baker in a number of recent studies has attempted a new
approach to reconstructing bottom-up processes in Mesopotamian cities,
concentrating on the non-monumental architecture of neighbourhoods
during the first millennium bce (Baker 2010; 2011; Baker forthcoming;
and also her contribution in this volume). These studies address ques-
tions about the role of non-monumental architecture and urban form in
reproducing and transmitting social values and structures, and attempt
to read the Mesopotamian cities on the level of the experience of their
inhabitants, integrating textual and archaeological sources. Baker espe-
cially notes the problem that the cuneiform sources as products of an elite
scribal milieu are not very suited to shed light on the views of the popu-
lation at large, and that everyday documents hardly ever touch on indi-
vidual experiences. Nevertheless, conflicting statements in textual sources
demonstrate that the experience of the environment must have differed
from individual to individual. On the other hand, archaeological evidence
also points toward shared cultural values, e.g. the preference for a uniform
outward appearance of house facades.43
Kathryn Keith (2003) and Michael E. Smith (2010) discuss bottom-up
and top-down social processes which influence the patterning and make-
up of residential neighbourhoods in ancient and preindustrial cities.
43The similarities of form and blank public facades of house blocks in the Greek cities
of the Classical period have been interpreted as expressions of an egalitarian ethos and the
concept of isonomia (Dolynskij 2009, 122f.; cf. Bengs 1997, 117 for the same phenomenon
in early Islamic cities based on the rejection of any outward expression of wealth in the
Islamic tradition).
18 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
Unplanned layouts of residential districts point to bottom-up processes,
while their extensive planning hints at institutional control (M. E. Smith
2010, 151, contrasting early Islamic and ancient Chinese cities).44 Keith
(2003, 62ff.) argues along similar lines that while the main streets in Old
Babylonian cities were maintained over long periods of time, smaller
streets in residential areas often changed over time, pointing in the first
instance at institutional involvement in the maintenance and control of
main streets, while in the second instance local negotiation of inhabitants
was a decisive factor.
The division of cities into districts or neighbourhoods can be seen as
one of the few universals of urban life in preindustrial and modern cities
(Smith 2010).45 Sjoberg (1960, especially 95103) established a series of
differences between preindustrial and industrial cities and described the
residential patterns of preindustrial centres by reference to a concentric
spatial model: the city centre contains an elite district, while the middle
classes and commoners reside in the surrounding areas and outcasts in
a zone at the periphery.46 According to cross-cultural studies, residents
of neighbourhoods in preindustrial cities often share one or more social
attributes (race, ethnicity, class, religion, occupation), but neighbour-
hoods are not necessarily socially homogeneous.47 Thus, several contri-
butions on ancient and preindustrial cities draw the conclusion that in
contrast to models of the Chicago School on modern cities, which empha-
sise the factor of social segregation, neighbourhoods in ancient cities were
socially mixed; rich and poor lived side by side.48 In Mesopotamian cities,
44For self-reliant neighbourhood communities in early Islamic cities see Bengs 1997, 17.
45According to Michael E. Smith two kinds of residential zones have to be distin-
guished: the level of the neighbourhood or quarter (a small area characterised by face-to-
face interaction between inhabitants) and the level of the district or ward (a larger zone
with administrative or social significance in the city consisting of multiple neighbour-
hoods; see also Stone 1987, 3).
46Residential zones in ancient cities corresponding to social neighbourhoods were
often bounded by physical features (walls, streets, rivers or canals), as can be found in
ancient Chinese and early Islamic cities; cf. Marcus 2009.
47This trait is present in the Middle Eastern cities up to recent times.
48See e.g. Heinz 1997, 103ff.; Keith 2003; for Egypt, Bard 2008, 177. In her study of
Mesopotamian Bronze Age urban settlements, Heinz differentiates a category with homo-
geneous and heterogeneous residential architecture reflecting a relatively homogeneous
social make-up of the residents vs. a more heterogeneous, socially differentiated social
make-up. She correlates size, complexity, number of rooms and building plan of residential
introduction 19
differences in social status and economic standing between individuals
and families are expressed in the sizes of their houses and their position
in relation to the public space of the street network (Baker 2011, 539ff.).
According to Keith (2003, 77f.), neighbourhoods in Old Babylonian
cities tended to consist of a large house surrounded by several smaller
buildings pointing at a heterogeneous social make-up. Some evidence for
the division of large houses through inheritance points to the co-residence
of brothers and to some degree of family patterning in residential areas.49
Though social segregation was not characteristic of the ancient Near
Eastern cities,50 temporal developments concerning socially mixed neigh-
bourhoods in cities of the second and first millennium bce have also been
noted, with tendency towards stronger social segregation (Stone 2007,
162, 164; Baker 2011, 5434). Yet, evidence can also be adduced indicating
that both in second and first millennium bce cities, one can find socially
mixed neighbourhoods as well as districts which accommodated mem-
bers of one social or professional group (e.g. temple personnel; cf. Stone
2008 comparing Old Babylonian Mashkan-Shapir and fortress towns in
Urartu; Baker 2011, 544).
A growing number of archaeological, textual and ethnoarchaeological
studies analyse the relationship between house form, activity areas, cir-
culation patterns, functions connected to the rooms of houses as reflect-
ing family structures, and social relations among the inhabitants, between
buildings with socio-economic rank. While her study does not confirm spatial segregation
of social or occupational groups in Mesopotamian cities, Keith (2003) discusses evidence
for Old Babylonian cities where people with various occupations resided in one neigh-
bourhood (various crafts- and businessmen worked and had shops in their private homes),
e.g. at Larsa and Mashkan-Shapir. There is also some archaeological and textual evidence
for some degree of occupational patterning at other settlements, e.g. at Nippur and Ur. At
Nippur, area TB was the residential quarter for landless employees of the state (Stone
1987, 76), while area TA was occupied by small property owners (ibid., 71). In Ur, priestly
families associated with the Nanna and Ningal temples lived in area EM, while business-
men who financed trade expeditions occupied area AH (van de Mieroop 1983, 123, 163).
49See Stone 1981; 1987. Laura Battini-Villard (1997, 341ff.) differentiates densely built
and uncongested residential quarters in Mesopotamian cities of the Old Babylonian period.
She argues that the uncongested quarter in the north of Larsa contained a very large house
belonging to people of the highest level of society (high functionaries or members of the
royal family), while the dense quarters of Ur and Nippur were occupied by families of well-
to-do middle classes, e.g. merchants or members of the clergy.
50Beyond the citadels, which were not, by and large, residential areas.
20 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
household members and the outside world.51 Noteworthy are also investi-
gations of house structures to make inferences about gender relations and
power relations within households.52
The research of Paolo Brusasco and Baker pointed out the need to
combine where possible textual and archaeological sources to substanti-
ate conclusions on building and social structure.53 This strategy is also
used by Kertai (this volume) in his contribution about Assyrian palatial
architecture and its public and private spheres. The differing conclusions
regarding the correlation between house forms, household size and struc-
ture and gender relations show that inferring social phenomena should
be derived from all the available kinds of sources, and not merely from
archaeological evidence. Thus, there are, for instance, different views
regarding the relationship between house and household sizes,54 because
many different factors and processes like social mobility, economic rise and
decline, major events in the family cycle, and historical changes have to
be taken into account (Baker 2010; Pflzner 2001, 18ff.). Different house
51See e.g. for Mesopotamia Baker 2010; Baker, in press; Battini-Villard 1999; Eichmann
1991; Heinz 1997; Herzog 1997; Krafeld-Dougherty 1994; Miglus 1999; Pflzner 2001; see also
the contributions in Veenhof 1996, especially Stone 1996; for an interdisciplinary study on
the cultural significance of domestic architecture see Kent 1990; important anthropologi-
cal contributions on domestic architecture are e.g. Rapoport 1969; 1990.
52See, for circulation patterns in domestic architecture of Old Babylonian Ur reflect-
ing family structures and gender relations, Brusasco 1999/2000; 2004; for studies of house
structure and gender relations in ancient Greece see e.g. Nevett 2007 and Dolynskij 2009;
for workmens houses in Deir el-Medina (Egypt) see Koltsida 2007; cf. the ethnographic
study of Bourdieu 2003 on symbolic, cosmological and gender issues.
53Brusasco 1999/2000; 2004; Baker 2010, 2011, forthcoming.
54Stone (1981; 1987; 1996) regarded extended patrilineal households as the norm for
southern Mesopotamia in the third and second millennium bce, and correlated linear
and square houses in Old Babylonian Nippur with nuclear versus extended families.
In contrast, Battini-Villard (1999), Brusasco (1999/2000) and Schloen (2001) detected a
dominance of nuclear family households (for second millennium Mesopotamia and the
Levant). Pflzner (2001) shows that there is no general connection between the number
of rooms in a house and family size, but notes that large elite houses in third millen-
nium bce northern Mesopotamia seem to have been inhabited by large households. The
interpretation of house size in socio-economic terms is often found in the literature (e.g.
Battini-Villard 1999). A relation between house sizes and different status groups can also
be shown for the residential districts in Ugarit, with a tendency to spatial concentration of
elite residences around the palace separate from the neighbourhoods of middle and lower
class residences distributed all over the city (Calvet / Castel 2004, 220f.; Yon 2006). Cf.
interpretations of house compounds (insulae) as residences of extended family groups in
Minoan Crete settlements, where spatial size and location of residential buildings are seen
as indications of social status (e.g. large Megaron buildings as dwellings of elite members)
and social distance (cf. Cultraro 2007; Cunningham 2007).
introduction 21
sizes are regarded as reflecting differences in wealth and social status,
while modifications of domestic buildings (including their extension and
division) have been related to processes of family extension and fission,
division of inheritance, economic decline as well as to social mobility and
population growth.55 Brusascos investigation of the residential houses at
Ur, integrating archaeological, social and psychological theories and meth-
ods with textual and ethnographic evidence, was able to show an interre-
lationship between house types (houses with and without one or multiple
courtyards), household structure (nuclear versus extended family types)
and the socio-economic profile of the household (relative wealth, business
activities). Moreover, the room structure of houses (the number and posi-
tion of main living rooms, the existence of entrance suites, chapels, and
archives) and the social relations between household members (relations
of equality or inequality between the branches of co-residing extended
families) can be correlated.
The archaeological analysis of house forms and structures of ancient
Near Eastern domestic architecture (e.g. the typical form of the courtyard
house) in terms of gender relations can be pursued by integrating tex-
tual sources and comparing the evidence with ancient Greek and Islamic
courtyard houses. The classical Greek house with a separate mens recep-
tion room and its control of access and movement between rooms reflects
a distinction between outside and inside, public and private, reception
and private rooms as well as a heightened seclusion of women (Nevett
2007; Dolynskij 2009). These structural patterns have been connected to
social status and the concept of citizenship of the polis, because smaller
houses of poorer households placed less emphasis on privacy.56
55Baker 2008, 185ff.; Brusasco 1999/2000; Pflzner 2001, 384ff.; Schloen 2001; Stone
1981; 1987, 4153; Yon 2006, 68. There are indications for both sharing of communal space
(e.g. central courtyard, house entrance, cooking area) between house parties (possibly
extended families) and the separation of house parts between two (unrelated) parties
(Stone 1981; 1987; Baker 2010). In terms of social mobility, it is interesting to note that
elite residences tend to stay unchanged over longer periods of time (Baker 2010, 189).
56Nevett 2007, 8. Such differences can also be observed between houses in cities (like
Athens) and smaller settlements (ibid., 8f.; cf. Dolynskij 2009). Alexander Anian (2007)
correlates the development of Greek houses during the Early Iron Age towards more pri-
vacy, separation of functions and gender distinction with the shift of Greek society from
a stratified society towards the polis. With this turning inward of the oikos arose also a
new need for public spaces designed for communal activities. Cf. also Dolynskij (2009,
122f.) who sees the Classical house structures as expression of the membership within the
citizen class of the polis.
22 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
On the other hand, the development of domestic architecture in
the Near East and in the Aegean world can be compared in relation to
socio-historical changes. Greek houses of earlier periods,57 which con-
sisted only of one room and an open area or of a front and a back space,
and Greek houses of the Roman period with multiple entrances, reflect a
less sharp distinction between family and outsiders, and between male
and female spheres (Nevett 2007, 9f.). Similar differences in structural
patterns related to social factors and diachronic changes are likely to
be found in the domestic architecture of ancient Mesopotamia.58 Thus,
Battini-Villard (1999) noted for Mesopotamian domestic architecture in
the Old Babylonian period a tendency toward functional specialisation
with growing house size (and number of rooms) in contrast to the multi-
functionality of rooms in smaller houses. Yet, there seems to be no con-
sensus on this point, because other analyses found only few functionally
specialised uses of rooms.59
Moreover, the interpretation of the spatial organisation of Mesopota-
mian houses from the Old Babylonian period along a rigid gender division
(Battini-Villard 1999; Battini 2009), with the ground floor for the activities
of men and older sons and an assumed upper floor reserved for women
and small children, can be questioned.60 Brusasco (1999/2000; 2004)
57See Dolynskij (2009, 116ff.) for the development of Greek houses from the Archaic to
the Classical period: from houses with weak boundaries and unstructured interiors display-
ing social solidarity towards houses with segregated interiors and controlled boundaries
reflecting the privatisation of the independent household. For differences in the place-
ment of the main room of houses and segregation of private and public space in Minoan
Crete cf. Cultraro 2007; Cunningham 2007.
58See also Koltsida (2007) for the prevailing multi-functionality of rooms and non-
existence of areas restricted to men/women in workmens houses of ancient Egyptian Deir
el-Medina and el-Amarna. Ethnographic parallels from Egypt and other regions in the Near
East also show that the distinct specification of male and female areas and separation of
women tends to occur only in larger houses of wealthy, urban households (Koltsida 2007,
125ff.; Brusasco 1999/2000, 105ff.).
59See e.g. Castel 1992, 79ff. for Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian houses; Krafeld-
Dougherty 1994. According to Pflzner (2001, 25), it is not possible to develop definite
functional schemes for Mesopotamian houses because most rooms were multi-functional
and use-flexible, and many activities do not leave any traces in the archaeological record.
Yet, despite their multi-functionality, a primary specialisation for rooms in urban residen-
tial areas has been detected e.g. for Ur, Late Bronze Age Ugarit and Neo-Assyrian houses
(Brusasco 1999/2000, 92f.; Castel 1992, 79ff.; Calvet / Castel 2004; Yon 2006; Callot 2009),
consisting of rooms for the receptions of guests, food preparation, craft production, stor-
age, lavatories or toilets, in Ur chapels, and archives.
60Pflzners analysis of houses in third millennium bce northern Mesopotamia (2001,
384ff.), which mostly consist only of one main, multi-functional room, also does not
indicate a gender separation for this period. For the possibility of an upper floor in Old
introduction 23
demonstrates that the Old Babylonian houses do not indicate any seclu-
sion of women and have hardly any gender-specific areas, which points
to differences between Mesopotamian and other Euro-Asiatic patrilineal
societies like Classical Greece and the Islamic Near East regarding the
social position and roles of women, despite the prevalence of the court-
yard house in all these cultures.
On the other hand, similarities between ancient Mesopotamian and
recent Near Eastern, especially Islamic domestic architecture (e.g. house
plans) have often been highlighted and explained on the basis of social
structures (e.g. household forms, patterns of marriage, residence, inheri-
tance; Bengs 1997, 16ff.; Morris 1994, 11, 22ff.; Schloen 2001, 108ff.; Stone
2005, 145) and used to interpret archaeological and textual data (Krafeld-
Dougherty 1994; Pflzner 2001). Beside the emphasis on introversion of
houses in both cultural traditions, reflecting a similar need for privacy,
the spatial expression in Old Babylonian and Islamic houses of the domi-
nance of the pater familias has also been noted, reflecting social (often
generational) inequality between family branches (Brusasco 1999/2000;
2004). On the other hand, in contrast to Islamic houses, Mesopotamian
houses (e.g. from Ur, and Kertai, this volume) do not indicate any seclu-
sion or segregation of women.
Due to the diverging background of the authors of this volume, the con-
tributions presented in this book unite a variety of thematic and theoreti-
cal approaches to the phenomenon of urbanism in antiquity. The articles
represent the heterogeneous character of the evidence at our disposal and
treat a number of different aspects of urbanism. One aspect prevalent in
contributions to this volume addresses the concepts of people in ancient
urban societies regarding life in their cities as reflected in textual sources.
The contributions are in line with previous studies (e.g. Arav 2008), which
have a deconstructivist outlook in revealing concepts and images in texts
and confronting them with archaeological data. Thus, some authors (Arav
2008) point out culturally differing attitudes in the Bible and the Greek
world towards cities and city life (Roddy 2008; Williams 2008; Grams
2008), which are of interest in the light of conflicting attitudes found in
Babylonian houses with a probable use of rooms as sleeping area see Brusasco 1999/2000,
86f.; cf. the contributions in Battini 2009 on houses in Larsa, Emar, Ugarit.
24 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
Mesopotamian texts. The cities are surely perceived as and listed among
those features of civilisation that are divinely revealed, blessed and
founded,61 but thus they are also perceived as eternal.62
However, urbanism was not always described as a positive, divinely
blessed and inspired process. The sources demonstrate active anti-urban-
ism notions, referring to the city as an overcrowded trapan attitude
inherent not in Sumerian sources alone (Johnson, this volume). The phys-
ical density of early cities gave raise to moral density, which was mirrored
by the languageAkkadian stock phrases and expressions. Mesopotamian
(Johnson, this volume), and especially Biblical (Roddy 2008) concepts of
the city could be very negative.63 The population density of the city was
well recognised by ancient Mesopotamians as an important element of an
urban structure and was perceived as a negative feature typical of cities.
While both the Hebrew Bible and the gospel traditions view cities
(except Jerusalem) as negative and dangerous places full of crime and
injustice, the attitudes of the Greek philosophers toward the polis are pre-
dominantly positive, although some philosophers refused to live in a city.
Similarly, Mesopotamian textual sources show contradictory attitudes: on
the one hand, sedentary city life and all aspects of civilisation, including
cities, were invented and bestowed upon humanity by the gods and are
thus valued highly, but on the other hand some texts also reveal social
anxieties and negative views towards social outsiders and have-nots,
which are discernible in the discourses on city streets in cuneiform texts
(see Steinert, this volume).This dichotomy in attitude is reflected in mod-
ern theories of urbanism as well.64
J. Cale Johnson (this volume) shows that building materials necessary
for the developing cities were predominantly extracted from outside the
country as tribute or through the warfare. Nonetheless, this pattern is as
61See Enki and the World Order, ETCSL 1.1.3, lines 212218 for Ur, and the foundation
of Babylon by Marduk together with the creation of the world (Enuma Elish, tablet VI lines
55ff., Talon 2005, 64ff.). See also Melvin 2010, 4.
62In Sumerian mythology, all features of civilisation (intimately connected with city
life) emerge through the creation of patron deities or are bestowed upon the humans
by the gods or semi-divine beings. In Akkadian mythological texts, working gods can be
encountered, e.g. in the Atrahasis myth. According to the Gilgamesh Epic, the foundation
of Uruks city wall was laid by the seven sages in the time before the Flood. Cf. Melvin
(2010) contrasting Mesopotamian versus Biblical view on the origins of civilisation.
63In the writings of Ibn Khaldun, a similar negative moral judgment of city life can be
found (Baali 1988, 95ff.).
64Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986; Herzog 1997, 6, 9; Gmelch & Zenner 2002; Tonkiss
introduction 25
characteristic for imperialistic democracies as it is for monarchies. For
instance, the Athenian arche extracted resources for building the Parthe-
non and the Acropolis (Kallet 2005, especially 42) in a manner similar to
that of ruler Enmerkar in the Sumerian composition Enmerkar and the
Lord of Aratta.
However, as opposite to Classical antiquity (Grame 2007), ancient
Near Eastern civilisation seems to lack articulated urban theory, because
neither political (like Aristotle, Aristot. pol. 7, 11), nor architectural (cf.
Hippodamus) treatises on the city organisation are known from the tex-
tual sources.65 Yet, studies of ancient Near Eastern urban form and monu-
mental architecture such as Heinz (2006) and Nvak (1999) demonstrate
that city space and architecture were designed to express the ideas of
those who sponsored them and to communicate an ideological message
as well as political concepts of rulership and authority. Moreover, analy-
ses like those of Pongratz-Leisten (1994) and Pucci (2006) demonstrate
that central elements of urban space such as the city gates, walls or royal
gardens convey symbolic meanings, helping to define a community and
embody collective values and an idea of community.
The articles by Natalie N. May and Ulrike Steinert in the present vol-
ume analyse various civic functions of city gates and streets in Mesopo-
tamia and the southern Levant. The assignment of these functions to the
areas beyond the palace and temple organisations may hint at a decentra-
lised structural organisation of city life and accentuate the importance of
neighbourhoods. In this connection a thesis by Rami Arav (2008, 8) has
to be mentioned. He proposes a contrast between ancient Near Eastern
and Greek cities, explaining differences in the attitudes of these cultures
toward city life. In contrast to Mesopotamia and the southern Levant, the
heart of the Greek city was the agora and that of the Roman city was the
forum, which were also located in the physical centre of the settlement,
and the city gates had no function in community life. Thus, the differing
attitudes of Greeks and Near Easterners and the feelings of insecurity of
the latter could be related to the differences in the spatial and structural
organisation of social activities.
65Cf. only in royal building inscriptions does one find limited considerations about
the construction of cities (esp. royal residence-cities), e.g. their location, or about the
motives for changes in the urban structure (e.g. broadening of streets). See nn. 13 and 25.
The lament literature, e.g. the Curse of Agade or the Lamentation over the Destruction of
Sumer and Ur, expresses to some extent the ancient Mesopotamian cognition of the cities
architectural and political organisation, however, no theoretical works dedicated to these
matters existed.
26 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
Nonetheless, as noted above, the lack of market plazas, but not of the
market-streets and market places at the gates,66 in Mesopotamian cities
during the late periods could be a continuation of a traditional city layout,
which was consolidated in the periods when trade and the economy were
to a very high extent controlled by the state. Similarly, in Rome the impe-
rial fori continued to be built when the republic had long ceased to exist,
which indicates that the tradition of the citys public spaces was still alive
despite the change in political organisation.67
The important role of the cultural meanings attached to urban spaces is
investigated in Jan Stengers and Darja terbenc Erkers studies. terbenc
Erkers contribution, in examining the meaning of the Aventine within
Romes religious topography, opens up another horizon for intercultural
comparisons. Her analysis of the political and religious ordering and
demarcating of Romes urban space reviews differing textual evaluations
of the Aventine as negative and marginal space relating to foreign ele-
ments in Roman religion and society. Her contribution is not only impor-
tant regarding the question of religious segregation (beside ethnic and
social forms of segregation) in ancient cities, which seems limited apart
from the demarcation of sacral spaces and palaces. It also draws attention
to the intrinsic relationship between the meaning of urban places within
Romes religious topography, and the history of the Roman state and the
growth of the empire.
Stengers observations about the image of Classical Greek Athens in
contemporary written sources underlines the findings of Lynch (1960)
and of cognitive research demonstrating that inhabitants develop a
mental model of the city through social practice and their uses of urban
places, and that there is a cultural and social basis for the conception of
the urban environment. In accordance with semiotic and anthropological
studies describing the mental mapping of the environment as an ideo-
logical representation of social processes (see Gottdiener / Lagopoulos
1986, 11f.), Stenger notes especially that elements of urban topography
have different degrees of significance, and that the Athenians correlated
all elements and kinds of spatial information in a dynamic process. In this
process, space is constituted by the relationships between elements, and
structured through the attribution of functions, related social practice and
symbolic meanings.
66See the contributions of Steinert and May.
67Cf. Morris 1994; Mumford 1961 for a similar petrification of the Hellenistic city.
introduction 27
Despite the fact that the development of geometry in ancient Greece
was inspired by necessities of parcelling, the imagining of a city plan
remained a sphere of mental and verbal description (Stenger, this vol-
ume). In Mesopotamia, however, attempts at schematic representations
of a city like the famous Kassite map of Nippur (Finkelstein 1962, 80,
fig. 1, pl. X) and even a universe plan are known from at least the sec-
ond millennium bce. However, we know about the existence of maps of
the world of Aristagoras (Hdt. 5, 49), Anaximander, Hecateus of Miletus
and Eratosthenes,68 though the Babylonian mappa mundi precedes all of
them in time (ninth century bce; Horowitz 1998, 20ff.).69 Notably, Meso-
potamian maps are accompanied by meticulous verbal descriptions, and
are considerably more detailed than the verbal descriptions of the (not
extant) Greek maps. The mappa mundi puts Babylonia in the centre of the
universe, while for Herodotus (Hdt. 4, 42) and Anaximander it is Greece.70
Though Mesopotamian maps are schematic and not scaled plans, they
display salient details and features, such as rivers, canals, gates.
Representations of architectural constructions are known in Mesopo-
tamia from the earliest periods and emerged together with the invention
of writing. Architectural installations represented already in pictographic
script and later in the monumental and minor reliefs reveal Mesopota-
mian cognitive concepts of space.71 Schemes of the cities originate in the
representations of separate buildings such as the twenty-first century
bce plan of a temple (Gudea, Statue B) combined with its elevation.72
This combination continued in representations of army camps on Neo-
Assyrian palatial reliefs. The cities on these reliefs are, however, always
represented as elevations lacking exact measurements but displaying
characteristic details, such as the number of city walls, prominent archi-
tectural constructions, aqueducts, the form of crenellations, or apotropaic
68See DNP s.v. Anaximander, Hecateus of Miletus and Eratosthenes.
69For other Mesopotamian sketches of the world see Horowitz 1998, 42.
70For a more detailed comparison of Mesopotamian and Greek maps of the world
see Horowitz 1998, 4042; for cartographic sources from Mesopotamia see the overview
of Millard 1987; for Egypt Shore 1987, for a comparative perspective on maps from the
Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome see the studies in Talbert 2012.
71For studies and overviews of ancient artistic representations of Mesopotamian
settlements, urban features and house architecture see Bretschneider 1991; Heinrich
1957; Miglus 1999, 231 ff.; Muller 2009; Porada 1967. For an analysis of Mesopotamian
architecture in terms of spatial concepts see Winter 1991.
72For plans of houses on cuneiform tablets see the overview in Miglus 1999, 217ff.;
Abrahami 2009ab with literature; for a depiction of a courtyard house see e.g. McCown /
Haines / Hansen 1967, pl. 52.
28 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
colossi at the gate (fig. 6 and Barnett et al. 1976, pls. 23 [Room H] and 25
[Room I]). Descriptions of the cities layouts and topographical features
are preserved in numerous cuneiform texts which reflect the mental maps
of the urban residents.73
It has often been suggested that the spatial organisation of the ancient
Near Eastern cities reflects the political organisation of the society, as
non-democratic and not publicly oriented, in opposition to the Greek and
Roman self-governed urban communities.74 Nonetheless, the research
reveals that ancient city plans display traditional features inherent to a
particular culture and do not necessarily reflect diachronic changes in
political structure. Moreover, Baker points out that, according to the exca-
vators soundings, the main streets in the Merkes area of Babylon during
the first millennium bce preserve the course of their Old Babylonian fore-
bears (Baker, this volume).
Not only the spatial arrangement of the age-old Mesopotamian cities
reveals traditionalism characteristic of this civilisation, but in Classical
Antiquity political transformations did not cause radical alterations in
traditional architectural forms of organisation of urban public spaces.
Thus, such a typical feature of Greek civilisation as a theatre, when
introduced in Babylonia by the Seleucids, served as a place of assembly
as well (Baker 2009, 96 and van der Spek 2001). Nonetheless, Babylonian
cities were not organised as Greek poleis under Hellenistic rulers, and the
introduction of this architectural innovation into the traditional Mesopo-
tamian milieu reflected cultural rather than political change.
Both in the ancient Near East and in the Classical world the functions of
these public spaces could evolve. It seems promising to continue to inves-
tigate in a comparative fashion the ways in which public spaces evolved in
different societies. Thus, it has to be further explored to which extent the
limited existence of public spaces for communal assemblies in the Near
East reflects a society based on personalised patrimonialism (cf. Lehner
2000; Schloen 2001). Similarly, studies are needed to assess whether
the development of public spaces and communal institutions in Greece
73Many of them have been assembled and brilliantly analysed by Andrew George
(1992) in order to reconstruct the topography of Babylon and other Mesopotamian cities.
For the mental maps of the universe in Mesopotamia see Horowitz 1998.
74See Liverani 1997 for an overview of the related literature.
introduction 29
reflects a transformation from a society based on kinship towards one
based on territoriality (Bengs 1997, 21f.), or towards a growing complexity
of social and political organisation, based on class and a rationalised state
(Anian 2007, 167f.; Knappett 2009).75
From the very start, the layout of ancient Near Eastern cities was archi-
tecturally not suited for public functions. Unlike the Greek and Roman
cities, they initially lacked preconceived spaces for markets, processions,
performances, assembly, and so forth, because these functions were non-
existent or minimal at the dawn of urbanisation. Later on spaces in the
public domain, such as streets and gates, were adapted to accommodate
these functions without changing their architectural form. The traditional
form of the city did not always change to suit political, economic or social
change. Thus, city plans can preserve a degree of conservatism and tradi-
tionalism despite political changes, and do not mirror a contrast between
different political systems in a simple manner. Imperialistic tendencies
can influence the development of the cities in the same way regardless of
the fact that they occur in democratic and autocratic states. Similarities
between ancient and recent Near Eastern urban form and structures do
not necessarily imply corresponding social patterns. Similarity or diver-
sity in the forms of buildings or city layouts does not inevitably point to
similar or diverse functions, and city form did not adjust to the political
and social structure.
Summing up, the following chapters demonstrate not only the need for
more archaeological data to fill the gaps in the current state of knowledge
of cities and their internal structure in relation to socio-political organi-
sation. They also point out that textual, archaeological and iconographic
sources have to be integrated to be able to study cities within their wider
social and cultural context, and to evaluate cross-cultural analogies.
CAD The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, Oriental Institute, 19562010.
DNP Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider, editors. Der Neue Pauly. 18 volumes.
Stuttgart, 19962003.
ETCSL Electronic corpus of Sumerian literature (http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk).
75Note that the term agora and the existence of large open spaces for public assem-
blies is attested in Cretan settlements and in colonies of Greek settlers already in the sev-
enth and sixth centuries bce (Sjgren 2007, 154f.; Anian 2007, 167f.).
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Fig. 1.Plan of Dur-Sharruken (inaugurated in 706 bce). After Place (1867, pl. 2).
introduction 39












40 natalie n. may and ulrike steinert
Fig. 3.Neo-Assyrian Camp. Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (883859 bce)
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introduction 41
Fig. 5.Throne Room Courtyard. Palace of Sargon II (721?705 bce) at
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J. Cale Johnson1
Imperialistic expansions (and the cosmogonic beliefs that go along with
them) are generally built on the dead bodies of both their woebegone
enemies and a certain part of their own populace. The last few years
have witnessed a flurry of publications on the means that Mesopotamian
societies adopted in order to represent these acts of state violence and
calibrate them with state-oriented cosmogonies of one kind or another.2
In contrast to these discussions of the representation of warfare and
death in the ancient Near East, I would like to root my own discussion
of warfare (and in particular its role in the acquisition of raw materials)
in the theoretical matrix provided by Bruce Lincolns work on cosmog-
ony, urbanism, the ethics of kingship, and royal embodiment. Lincolns
work continually stresses that the cosmogony and the ethics of the state
are deeply intertwined:3 the ritual, political and military activities of the
1I would like to thank Robert K. Englund, Jerrold Cooper and Jean-Jacques Glassner as
well as the editors of this volume for feedback and corrections to an earlier draft. I would
also like to thank the TOPOI project (research group D-III-2) for supporting this work.
All remaining errors and infelicities are entirely my own. Please send feedback to jcale@
2Bahrani 2008; Noegel 2007; Richardson 2007 and the papers in Porter 2005.
3Lincoln 1986; 1999; 2007. Zainab Bahrani (2008, 1013) does take a first step toward
integrating the cosmogonic dimension of state-sponsored violence into larger discussions
of just war theory, but largely in terms of visual culture. For recent comparative work on
the legal aspects, see James Turner Johnson 2005, and for the history of international law
in the ancient Near East, see the series of papers by Amnon Altman in Journal of the His-
tory of International Law between 2004 and 2010 (Altman 2004; 2005; 2008; 2009a; 2009b;
2010; these papers are collected in Altman 2012, non vidi); the topic is not dealt with sub-
stantially in Cohen and Westbrook 2000, but it is implicit in the extensive literature on
international treaties. The language of cosmogony (cosmos creation and recreation) is
used here in line with Lincolns work; cosmogonies necessarily both refer back to cos-
mological models and result in instantiated cosmologies, but in speaking of cosmology
we generally presuppose a static model of the universe that does not require on-going
maintenance and revivification. In order to avoid these presuppositions, I describe any
activities of the ruler or the urban center that bring into being or maintain the cosmos as
44 j. cale johnson
king establish a zone in which both correct ritual practice (calibrating
the micro- and the macrosocial as well as disjoint ontic realms) and just
behavior (including both legal remedies against unjust behavior within
this zone such as the Codex Hammurabi as well as models of just war
against external enemies) are brought into being in opposition to the
chaotic world outside the realm.4 But in addition (and here lies the spe-
cific importance of Lincolns framework as a whole), his work formulates
three zones of signification in which this type of cosmos building and
calibration takes place: the individual human body or microcosm..., the
macrocosm, or the universe writ large..., and the entity intermediate to
individual and cosmosthe mesocosm, if you willhuman society.5 In
this paper I focus on how the acquisition of raw materials for monumen-
tal architecture mediates between the macrocosm and the urban center
as mesocosm; links between the microcosm of the rulers body and the
universe as macrocosm were certainly present as well, but would direct
us away from this volumes theme.
The best known example of this type of multimodal ritual/architectural/
mythical complex in Mesopotamia is the New Year Festival celebrated in
the core cities of the Neo-Assyrian state. This ritual complex included all
manner of cosmogonic significations from warfare and procession to ritual
and the recitation of cosmogonic mythology (Enuma Elish) and, crucially,
it brought into being a zone of cosmogonically rooted, ethical ordo that
legitimated the military and other extractive activities of the Neo-Assyrian
state.6 Similar complexes of ritual, architectural and military practice arose
in each of the imperial centers in Mesopotamia as they sought to align
the different zones of signification that were available to them: (i) the
concrete, visible space of ritual and architecture, (ii) the cartographic
4For the ideological side of the equation, see Pongratz-Leisten 2001; 2002; Wigger-
mann 1996; Liverani 2001a, 9196 (Conquest as a Cosmic Organization). For the more
practical aspects (no less ideological of course), see the discussion of the central zone as
model in Michalowski 1987, particularly 6467. The papers collected in Richardson 2010,
though presumably germane to these issues, are not yet available to me.
5Lincoln 1986, 4. For a recent treatment of the primary materials, see Badalanova 2008.
The three spaces defined by Lincoln also fit very nicely into recent discussions of architec-
ture, embodiment and various forms of power, see Meusburger 2008 and the case studies
in Maran et al. 2009.
6For recent papers that summarize major components of this ritual complex, see
Pongratz-Leisten 1994; 1997; Weissert 1997; Maul 2000; Dick 2006; Zgoll 2006. For cor-
responding practices at the periphery and their motivating ideology, see Tadmor 1999;
Shafer 2007. See Cancik-Kirschbaum and Johnson 2013 for a new model of how regular
offerings to the temple of Assur in the Middle Assyrian period were used to map cultic
festivals into the geographical horizon of the Middle Assyrian state.
the cost of cosmogony 45
spaces defined by cities, regions and borders, and (iii) the cosmic spaces
thought to mirror fields of activity within (i) and (ii). The particular aspect
of these mappings that is of interest to me here is the seemingly trivial
fact that, ideally, the raw materials for the architectural component of a
given ritual complex (either a temple or a palace) were to be extracted
from the periphery of the state through either direct military activities
or the indirect use of force in diplomacy, including interstate trade. The
iconic character of state-sponsored monumental architecture as a micro-
cosm for the territorial state (viz. a mesocosm in Lincolns terminology)
has been eloquently stated by Irene Winter in her seminal descriptions of
the throne room of Assurnasirpal II:
What we would then be presented with in both text and image is an artic-
ulation of the boundaries of the empireimplying not only the limits of
the kings territory, but what the boundaries enclose as well. The walls of the
throneroom then both echo the limits of the empire and at the same time
make the throneroom itself the symbolic center, creating a physical micro-
cosm of the state.7
The iconism identified by Winter famously includes both the mirroring of
word and image within the throne room (left-to-right word order match-
ing left-to-right sequence within individual reliefs, epithets of the king in
the standard inscription written on each wall slab matching the scenes
depicted on certain reliefs within the room as a whole, with the physical
presence of the king himself corresponding to the first person pronoun)
and the iconic relation that holds between the space defined by the walls
of the throne room as an architectural unit and the borders of the state.
Winter does not focus in particular on the indexicality of the raw materi-
als that were used in the construction of the throne room, namely the
fact that these raw materials (including captive labor) were extracted at
least in part through the actions depicted in word and image through-
out the throne room. The indexical aspect of the physical microcosm
of the throne room, however, is effected not only through the physical
presence of the king, but also through the contiguous presence of the
crafted raw materials (drawn from indexically registered points of origin
throughout the length and breadth of the known world) that form the
7Winter presents her understanding of the throne room, oriented to quite different
audiences, in two well-known papers, Winter 1981 and Winter 1983, 24.
46 j. cale johnson
throne room itself.8 In other words, the locales from which particular raw
materials (and labor) were acquired are represented indexically (viz. signs
that code their meaning through spatio-temporal contiguity) by their
presence in the various elements of the throne room. Given the extensive
role of indexicality in a monumental space such as the throne room of
Assurnasirpal II, both in terms of the physical presence of the king and the
physical origin of the materials that were used to build the throne room,
it follows that one of the central pre-occupations of the Assyrian annals
is the acquisition of booty during the campaign and the transportation of
these materials back to the Assyrian heartland.9
Here, however, I focus on the extraction of raw materials for monu-
mental building not in the well-known Assyrian textsbut rather in the
Sumerian literature from the end of the third and the beginning of the
second millennium bce. Mario Liverani has pointed out the pervasive
character of this theme throughout Mesopotamian history:
The motif of the king who builds a palace or a temple in his capital city,
using materials coming from the most varied and most remote countries
(a motif running through the entirety of ancient Near Eastern history, from
Gudea to Darius), tells us a story of universal rule, of a superior capacity to
enforce the entire world to contribute to the unprecedented enterprise
thus demonstrating the kings power and the gods support.10
8The material indexicality of the reliefs (and the gestures associated with tributaries)
has been emphasized by Cifarelli 1998. Bahrani (2008, 5258 and 7780) writes at some
length of the indexical aspects of images of the king, but only alludes to the origin of build-
ing materials in passing ([w]ritten accounts describe the importance of all the materials
used, their place of origin,...), 52. It should be kept in mind that Bahrani and other art
historians generally link indexicality to agency in the particular sense of those terms used
by Gell 1998, see Bahrani 2008, 7980. For a reconsideration of Gells use of these terms,
with particular reference to the agency of temples and the like, see Winter 2007. For a
modern parallel to this use of material indexicality (as exemplified by holocaust memori-
als), see Marcuse 2010.
9Marc van de Mieroop has noted that in Assyria, royal building inscriptions, especially
starting with those of Adad-nerari I (ca. 1300), provide the [relevant military] campaigns
as a means of dating the construction: after the king had gone on campaigns in a sequence
of years, he built a palace or temple. What may have been the primary purpose of the
annalistic texts, [viz.] the commemoration of a construction, becomes almost an appendix
to a long account of annual campaigns (van de Mieroop 1999, 267 citing Grayson 1980,
1512). For a catalogue and discussion of the building materials described in the annals,
see Lackenbacher 1982, especially 81128. For a particularly insightful review of the con-
nections between iconography and the role of military campaigns in the maintenance of
the Neo-Assyrian cosmological state, see Bonatz 2005.
10Liverani 2001b, 303.
the cost of cosmogony 47
The essential feature of this trope is that the abilities of and divine favor
toward a ruler are demonstrated in the acquisition of the necessary raw
materials (through a well run military or effective diplomatic activities or
both) as well as through specialized forms of knowledge (including every-
thing from how to fashion metalwork to the correct rituals and incanta-
tions to be performed in opposition to a threatening lunar eclipse).11 This
general theme is a constant throughout Mesopotamian history, but there
is a brief moment in the later phases of Sumerian literary production in
which the literati actually stop and recognize the human cost of extract-
ing raw materials from foreign cities, namely in a passage from Enmerkar
and the Lord of Aratta (lines 115120, below). The fact that Enmerkar is
portrayed as genuinely concerned for the well-being of the populace of
a foreign city, namely Aratta, represents something of an anomaly in the
history of Mesopotamian thought. Though the avoidance of civilian casu-
alties would normally constitute a question of jus in bellum justifiable
action in the course of warfare, Enmerkars hesitation would also seem
to call into question the traditional Mesopotamian theory of jus ad bel-
lum, justifications for going to war, namely that the ruler is authorized
by the chief deities to bring order to the known world through military
force, where tribute to superordinate rulers as well as the embodiment of
tribute and booty in the form of monumental architecture is seen as an
essential component of this kind of cosmogonic activity.12
I argue that the authors of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, presum-
ably working in the Ur III (ca. 21002000 bce) or the Isin-Larsa period
(ca. 20001800 bce), are reflecting on the rule of the Sargonic Dynasty
as represented in The Curse of Agade. This moment of ethical reflection
(in the course of a literature that does not generally shed many tears for
defeated enemies) is part of a specific literary tradition that extends from
the Nippur clergy who wrote The Curse of Agade and perceived themselves
as victims, real or imagined, of Sargonic imperialistic intervention and rit-
ual impropriety under Naram-Sin to the authors of Enmerkar and the Lord
11The role of skill, craft or wisdom in maintaining political rule and revivifying the
cosmogonic order have been described in a wide range of approaches, including Pongratz-
Leistens notion of Herrschaftswissen (Pongratz-Leisten 1999, cf. Lenzi 2008 and Glassners
critique of Alan Lenzi in Glassner forthcoming), Mary Helms work on the role of geo-
graphical distance (Helms 1988; 1993) as well as Algazes application of World Systems
Theory to the ancient Near East (Algaze 1989; 1993; 2005) as well as Englunds critique
in An Examination of the Textual Witnesses to Late Uruk World Systems (Englund
12Bahrani 2008, 11.
48 j. cale johnson
of Aratta.13 Once this minority report was embedded within the Sumer-
ian literary tradition, it continues to color the general opinion of figures
such as Enmerkar in later traditions, even if the initial vehicle, namely
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, is not transmitted beyond the Old Baby-
lonian period.14 This minority report then culminates in the rather odd
characterization of Enmerkar that we find in The Cuthean Legend. As
Piotr Michalowski puts it, Writing in first person, Naram-Sin tells us that:
He [Enmerkar] did not inscribe a monument, and did not establish his
name, and so I did not praise him.15 As emphasized by Michalowski,
it is exceedingly strange that Enmerkar, credited with the invention of
writing in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, is described as failing to leave
behind a description of his heroic deeds for future kings. In my view, this
characterization of Enmerkar stems from the anti-militaristic character
of Enmerkar as a riddler and inventor and this anti-militaristic charac-
ter is epitomized by his concern for civilian deaths in Enmerkar and the
Lord of Aratta, lines 115120.16 Whatever the internal, literary history that
leads from The Curse of Agade to Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta and The
Cuthean Legend might be, it highlights the dangerous position of the king:
he is normally obligated to campaign in order to maintain the integrity of
the state, expand the borders of the ordered cosmos, and acquire precious
materials for monumental architecture, but at the same time, if the king
fails in these efforts, the failure would be his alone (often rationalized as
the result of an individual rulers sin or hubris).17 The Curse of Agade offers
13That the Nippur clergy were victimized in this way is made fairly clear in The Curse
of Agade, lines 129130: {itima e2 u4 nu-zu-ba u3-e igi i-ni-in-ar / urudaen ku3 diir-re-
e-ne-ke4 uriki igi i-ni-in-bar} The people looked into the cella, a room which knows no
daylight, Akkad looked at the holy vessels of the gods (translation after Cooper 1983).
14See the recent edition of the text in Mittermayer 2009.
15Michalowski 1999, quote on 82; on the relevance of establishing ones name, see
below n. 17.
16As Catherine Mittermayers review of the secondary literature makes clear, the
reading of Enmerkar as a crafty anti-hero, more invested in solving riddles than slaying
enemies, was already recognized in Maurice Lamberts 1953 review of Samuel Kramers
editio princeps (Mittermayer 2009, 1). Such a characterization also fits very nicely into
the general themes of the Enmerkar epic as a whole such as the replacement of warfare
with diplomacy and trade, see Vanstiphout 1995; 2003, 4955; in speaking of the entire
Matter of Aratta, Herman Vanstiphout notes that [m]ilitary glory is spurned and even
somewhat ridiculed in at least two of the poems [viz. Enmerkar and Ensukedana and
The Return of Lugalbanda] (Vanstiphout 2003, 15 and n. 78), but all the more so in the
technical and commercial (rather than military) competition that we find in Enmerkar
and the Lord of Aratta.
17For the general model, see Altman 2004, particularly 167168, although the theme
is found throughout the Mesopotamian text-artifactual record from the sin of Lugalzagesi
the cost of cosmogony 49
a cautionary tale of militaristic hubris (epitomized by the destruction and
plunder of the Ekur temple), Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta reacts to the
excessive militarism of Naram-Sin by positing an anti-hero in the form of
the inventor of writing, crafty Enmerkar, and The Cuthean Legend then
offers a rebuttal to Enmerkars insufficiently heroic character.
1.The Extraction of Raw Materials Motif
Averbeck has recently described in considerable detail the building
inscription traditions in the third and early second millennium bce, focus-
ing in particular on the similarities between foundation inscriptions like
The Cylinders of Gudea and the abbreviated version on the back of Gudea
Statue B.18 The lines that describe the extraction of raw materials in The
Cylinders of Gudea do not form a single block in the Gudea materials (as
they will in later texts), but are instead interspersed with descriptions of
how these materials were extracted, processed and delivered to Gudea.
The first set of three materials ({
eren-bi}, {ad gal-gal-bi} and {na gal-gal-
bi}, lines 408, 420 and 427 below) are brought from the Cedar Mountain
eren-na} (line 405 = xv 19), while the second set (in lines 438442
below) derives from the copper mountains in the direction of Kimash
{ur-sa uruda-ke4 ki-ma-ta} (line 436 = xvi 15).
(Ukg. 16; Hirsch 1967; Powell 1996) to that of Sargon II (Tadmor et al. 1989; Talon 2005).
The rituals meant to undo similar kinds of miasma are treated in Maul 2004. For an over-
view of the links between sin and sanction in Mesopotamia and the Hebrew Bible, see van
der Toorn 1985, passim, although in light of recent publications such as Schwemer 2007
and Abusch / Schwemer 2011, new synthetic and comparative treatments are necessary.
Two further volumes that seem to deal with this theme (Lmmerhirt 2010 and Schaudig
2013) were not available to me until recently (long after this paper was writtten) and
I have not tried to integrate them into my argument in this paper. The standard proverbial
exhortation to establish ones name, which is typically conjoined with a call for humility
before the gods, is dealt with in Greenspahn 1994 and Samet 2010, although both Frederick
Greenspahn and Nili Samet omit certain indirect third millennium precursors from their
discussions such as the visual representation of the deity Ningirsu on the Stele of Vultures
and the figure in Gudeas dream (Cyl A iv 1415 = 101102), both of which are formulated
in positive terms vis--vis the deity rather than the negative and interrogative terms used
vis--vis the human ruler.
18Averbeck 2010. The volume in which Averbeck 2010 appears offers a more-or-less
chronological survey of temple building in the ancient Near East and in combination with
Lachenbacker 1982, we have fairly good descriptions of the social practice as a whole. For
a broader perspective on temple building, craft and wisdom, see Van Leeuwen 2007.
50 j. cale johnson
Gudea Cyl. A, xv 22, 34, xvi 6, 1721 (= lines 408, 420, 427, 438442):
eren-bi tun3 gal-e im-mi-ku5 /...(420) ad gal-gal-bi diri-diri-ga-bi /...
(427) na gal-gal-bi lagab-ba mi-ni-de6
(408) As for its (the Cedar Mountains) cedars, he (Gudea) had them cut
down with a big ax....(420) As for its big beams, (they were) floating (down-
river)...(427) As for its big stones, he brought them back in blocks.
(438) uruda-bi gi-diri-ba mu-ni-ba-al / (439) lu2 e2 lugal-na du3-dam /
(440) ensi2-ra ku3-sig17 kur-bi-ta / (441) saar-ba mu-na-tum5 /
(442) gu3-de2-a ku3 ne-a kur-bi-ta mu-na-ta-e11-de3
(438) As for its copper, he had it dug out (and put) in baskets. (439) It was
to the man who was to build the house of his king, (440a) (It was) to the
Ensi (441) that they were bringing (440b) gold dust from the mountains. (442)
(It was) to Gudea that they were bringing precious metals down from the
mountains in this way.19
The discursive structure exemplified in this passage is an enumeration
of distinct entities, each of which is newly topicalized in sequence.20
Thus {
eren-bi} in line 408 (xv 22) introduces a new topic, as for its
cedars, where its refers (indirectly) back to the Cedar Mountain, and
then describes how these materials reached Gudea. Then a new topic
is introduced in line 420 (xv 34) and the process repeats, enumerating
each of the major types of raw building material in turn. For our purposes
here, the crucial point is that these raw materials are extracted directly
from the natural world rather than from the monumental architecture of
some other urban center.21 In other words, Gudea correctly acquires the
19Since the sources of the raw materials listed here are both inanimate ({kur
and {ur-sa uruda-ke4 ki-ma-ta} respectively), it comes as no surprise that these materials
bear an inanimate possessive pronoun {*-bi} as part of the topicalization structure used to
single out each type of raw material in sequence. We can be sure that this is the possessive
pronoun rather than the demonstrative due to the fact that an earlier passage uses the same
discursive structure as in our passage, but has {urudada-ni} his/her copper, presumably in
reference to {dnin-zag-ga} in the preceding line (lines 397398 = xv 1112). Clearly all of these
materials (both materials bearing the {*-bi} suffix as well as those bearing the {*-(a)ni} suffix)
are coming from a great distance, so the distinction between {*-bi} and {*-(a)ni} cannot be in
terms of proximity to speaker, as an interpretation of them as demonstratives would require.
20For the correlation between enumeration as a literary technique and pragmatic
phenomena such as topicalization, see Johnson 2010, particularly 132, n. 76. It might be
argued that certain phrases like {ku za-gin-bi} in the so-called Urukagina Lament = The
Sin of Lugalzagesi (Ukg 16, see Cooper 1983, 248; Hirsch 1967; Powell 1996) are the earliest
exemplars of the discursive structure that I am describing, but the {*-bi} suffix in these
phrases is actually part of the archaic conjunction {*X Y-bi-da} in Sumerian and not the
topicalization structure that we are looking at here; see Civil 2008.
21We now have some limited administrative evidence for direct extraction of raw
materials from the natural world, namely the mining of copper, as in line 438, see Lafont
1996 and the discussion of Bernard Lafonts evidence in Englund 2006, 89.
the cost of cosmogony 51
raw materials for the new temple of Ningirsu from a wide variety of dis-
tant places (presumably through some combination of direct extraction,
military coercion and diplomacy), but does not admit to cannibalizing
materials from a previous incarnation of Ningirsus temple or any other
pre-existing temple.
2.Recycling the Ekur as a Sign of the Unheilsherrscher
In opposition to the quintessential ruler Gudea and the idealized depic-
tion of resource extraction and temple building that we find in The Gudea
Cylinders, the great anti-hero of the Sumerian literary materials from the
Old Babylonian period (at least according to one strand of tradition) is
undoubtedly the legendary figure of Naram-Sin in The Curse of Agade.22
Whereas Gudea brought the raw materials for the temple that he would
build from the edges of the known Mesopotamian universe, the clergy
who want to condemn Naram-Sin in The Curse of Agade describe the raw
materials that Naram-Sin uses to rebuild the Ekur temple in Nippur as
essentially recycled from the previous incarnation of the temple rather
than extracted from the periphery. Or rather, to be somewhat more pre-
cise, the disgruntled literati in question describe Naram-Sin extracting
raw materials from the erstwhile Ekur temple and sending these materi-
als off via boat for some unstated purpose, but we should probably see
this as literary hyperbole meant to describe Naram-Sin recycling materials
from the previous incarnation of the Ekur temple for the new version that
he seeks to build.23 Moreover, it should be reiterated here that we have
22See the edition in Cooper 1983 as well as the numerous divergent interpretations
summarized in Cooper 1993; Liverani 1993; Michalowski 1999; Cooper 2001.
23In making such a statement I am adopting an interpretation of the text in line with
Edzard (1989), namely (i) the temple for which omens are requested in lines 9497 is the
Ekur temple in Nippur, (ii) the word of the Ekur in line 57 signifies the loss of divine
favor for Naram-Sin, and (iii) the loss of divine favor is in response to a lack of explicit
piety and temple building on the part of Naram-Sin in the preceding lines, cf. Cooper
1993, 17, n. 30. Coopers criticism of some earlier interpretations of The Curse of Agade are
certainly well founded, particularly as presented in Cooper 2001, but ultimately I think
Westenholzs inference that The Curse of Agade reflect[s] a misunderstanding of the ini-
tial demolition that had to be done before the reconstruction could begin (Westenholz
1987, 28 apud Cooper 2001, 141) is nearly correct. Cooper goes on to criticize Aage West-
enholzs view, ...as if the experience of several millennia of mud brick construction had
not made the reconstruction process obvious (Cooper 2001, 141). But if we simply replace
Westenholzs misunderstanding with a term like misrepresentation, which neutralizes
questions of authorial self-awareness, then we can argue that the author of The Curse of
Agade is intentionally portraying Naram-Sins preliminary demolition as an unauthorized
destruction of the Ekur temple. Such an interpretation annuls the extremely complicated
discussions of historicity that have arisen around The Curse of Agade and refocuses the
52 j. cale johnson
contemporary administrative documentationfrom the site of the Ekur
temple itselfindicating that Naram-Sin did actually begin the rebuilding
process, even if it had to be completed by Sharkalisharri.24
The Curse of Agade, lines 136141 (Cooper 1983, 5657):
(136) ku3-sig17-bi mi-si-I-ra bi2-in-ak
(137) ku3-babbar3-bi
lu-ub2 ir-ra bi2-in-ak25
(138) uruda-bi e ma DU-a-gen7 kar-ra bi2-in-si-si
(139) ku3-bi ku3-dim2-e im-dim2-e
(140) za-bi za-dim2-e im-dim2-e
(141) uruda-bi simug im-tu11-be2
(136) As for its gold, he had it put in a strongbox, (137) As for its silver, he had
it put in leather sacks, (138) As for its copper, he filled up the port with it as if
he had delivered huge ears of barley, (139) As for its metal, the metalworkers
were working it, (140) As for its stones, the lapidaries were working it. (141) As
for its copper, the blacksmiths were hammering it.
Just as in the passage from The Gudea Cylinders dealt with above, this pas-
sage from The Curse of Agade makes use of the same topicalization struc-
ture, in which each raw material is topicalized and then followed by a
authorial intent on the theological question that motivates the entire text: Can a temporal
ruler reconstruct the Ekur (an act that is cosmogonic to the core) without having received
appropriate omens from Enlil?
24Thus Westenholz 1987, 2429. Steinkeller 1993 disagrees with Westenholzs use of
The Curse of Agade in his discussion of the archival records, but if work on the Ekur was
interrupted for a period of time at the end of Naram-Sins reign and had to be completed
by Sharkalisharri, such an interruption could have been easily misrepresented by disgrun-
tled Nippur literati as Naram-Sins failure to receive appropriate omens, as depicted in
The Curse of Agade lines 9297. The interrupted reconstruction of the Ekur may well have
left an open pit that may have reminded passers-by of a plundered temple or a mining
operation, but we must still carefully distinguish between historical realities (rooted in
contemporary documentation) and ideologically motivated memories that refer back to
these realities; see primarily Glassner 1986, which is organized along these lines, as well as
Coopers review (1992) and the subsequent discussions cited in the preceding footnotes.
25The same construction in {
lu-ub2 ir ak} to put in leather sacks (transla-
tion Mittermayer 2009, 121) is also found in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (ELA), lines
124 and 196 in Mittermayers new edition. In ELA, however, a double object construc-
tion is used {((
second object
ku3-sig17)) u3-tu-da-ba ((
first object

lu-ub2-ir)) a-ba-ni-in-
ak} rather than the underlying locative construction attested in line 137 of The Curse of
Agade. That the {a-} of {a-ba-ni-in-ak} is the prospective rather than a locative attached to
{ir} is made clear by the variant in line 196: witness Vu (UET 6/1, 47 + UET 6/3, 497) vs. 17
has {u3-ba-ni-in-ak} rather than the {a-ba-ni-in-ak} in the other witnesses (Mittermayer
2009, 177), although it must be admitted that witness Vu may have miscopied the {u3-}
from the following line (197) into this line (196) as evidenced by the fact that witness Vu
omits the prospective from the verb in line 197 {ba-ni-in-us2}. Note as well the absence of
a topicalization structure and the inversion of first and second objects in ELA.
the cost of cosmogony 53
predicate that comments on its acquisition or manipulation. In these lines
from The Curse of Agade we see Gudeas idealized practice of extracting
resources from natural sources parodied and inverted through a reanaly-
sis of the possessive pronouns that form the topicalization structure at the
beginning of each line. As we have seen above, the possessive pronouns
that formed the topicalization structures in the passage from The Gudea
Cylinders referred to the particular geographical sites from which the
raw materials were extracted, so that the {*-bi} in {uruda-bi} in line 438
(xvi 17) of The Gudea Cylinders refers to the copper mountains in the
direction of Kimash {ur-sa uruda-ke4 ki-ma-ta} (line 436 = xvi 15).
Here in The Curse of Agade, however, Naram-Sin extracts the raw materi-
als from the old Ekur temple and the possessive pronouns that form the
topicalization pattern refer to the Ekur temple itself.26 One could possibly
go so far as to say that these pronouns refer to the once and future temple,
namely to both the old temple that Naram-Sin is tearing down as well
as the new temple that he plans on building, but from the point of view
of the author of The Curse of Agade, the possessive pronouns that form
the topicalization structures in lines 130141 refer to the only legitimate
instantiation of the Ekur temple, namely the Ekur temple that Naram-Sin
is demolishing in preparation for its reconstruction.
If we understand the source of the raw materials that Naram-Sin will
use to rebuild the Ekur temple to be the old Ekur temple, then a number
of otherwise incongruous features of The Curse of Agade seem to fall into
place, particularly in opposition to the idealized scenario in The Gudea
Cylinders. The distant land {kur} that one might have expected as the
source of these materials is replaced by the nearly homophonous Ekur
temple {e2-kur}, and plays on the widespread use of {kur} mountain as
a metaphor for the temple.27
26Part of the interpretive difficulty here lies in lines 134135, which immediately pre-
cede the passage we are looking at here. Cooper renders these lines as follows: {
taskarin / i gi-gun4-na-be2-e KUM ba-an-sur-sur}, The
cedar, cypress, juniper, and boxwood, / Woods for its giguna, he... (Cooper 1983, 57).
Mark Geller has suggested (personal communication) the possibility that line 135 could
be read as {i gi-gun4-na-bi zi3-kum ba-an-sur-sur}. If {ba-an-} represents a reduced form
of the *bani- prefix before a zero pronoun, the construction as a whole can be seen as a
straightforward example of the double object construction: {((
first object
i gi-gun4-na-bi))
second object
zi2-kum)) ba-an-sur-sur}, (The cedar, cypress, juniper and boxwood) / as for
the giguna (made from these) trees, it was scattered like isqqu flour, where the isqqu/
z.kum flour is actually meant to represent the broken bits of wood and sawdust from
the trees that originally formed the giguna. For the ordinary state of the trees that form the
giguna, see Enki and the World Order, lines 204 and 207.
27See George 1992, passim.
54 j. cale johnson
Fig. 1.Reverse of SF 76 (copied by Wiggermann 1996, 228, fig. 2). Wiggermann
describes it as follows: In the centre of the inhabited world, represented by
four times the sign {aag

(GANA2), field, lies {kur} mountain, undoubtedly
referring to the city of Nippur and the Ekur, Mountain House, whence Enlil,
surnamed the Great Mountain ({dkur-gal}), rules his human subjects. The com-
munity of mankind, effectively ordered, is outlined on the other side of the tablet
by means of the list of professional names.28
It is only on the basis of this underlying pun that the older instantiation
of the Ekur temple can act as the referent of the possessive pronouns.29
This is not a matter of historical reality per se (Naram-Sin only demol-
ishes the old temple in preparation for its reconstruction and all kings
presumably indulged in some recycling of raw materials), but rather of a
literary hyperbole that is used to reinterpret Naram-Sins behavior as inap-
propriate, unsanctioned by the gods, and ultimately as actions typical of
an Unheilsherrscher.
It should be reiterated that the characterization of Naram-Sin as an
Unheilsherrscher is not simply a matter of him being unlucky or lacking in
28Quote from Wiggermann 1996, 208209. Given the fact that rivers are represented
by snakes in Sumerian mythology, there may be a connection between the rivers that
form the edge of the known universe in this cosmological map and the knotted snakes
that decorate at least one other example of Archaic Lu2 A, namely SF 75. For the history
of Archaic Lu2 A, see Englund 1998, especially 8692 and 103106. There are also some
precursors to this iconographic tradition among the seals from Archaic Ur republished in
Matthews 1993 such as figures 1216, nos. 6, 8, 10, 11, but particularly on the right side of
no. 12 as well as nos. 25, 29, 31 and 33 (almost all dating to Seal Inscription Strata (SIS) 4,
ca. 2800 bce, see Matthews 1993 for a detailed discussion).
29For the trope here as an example of the sameness of the signifier mask[ing] a dif-
ference of the signified, see Pucci 1982, 48, apud Winter 1995, 257.
the cost of cosmogony 55
divine favor. The Unheilsherrscher is cursed not because of the existence
of a negative omen per se, which presumably could have been ameliorated
in some way, but rather because he fails to react to negative omens in a
ritually and legally appropriate way.30 This failure on the part of Naram-
Sin is particularly clear in how he reacts to the ominous dream that he
sees in lines 55 through 85. In the dream Naram-Sin imagines the with-
drawal of divine favor and its consequences for the city of Akkade, that
its future was altogether unfavorable, that its temples would be shaken
and its stores scattered, in Jerrold Coopers translation of lines 8485.31
The text notes very clearly that this is what Naram-Sin saw in a dream,32
but Naram-Sins reaction to the ominous dream is characteristic of an
Unheilsherrscher: he understood it (= the dream), but would not artic-
ulate it, nor would he talk with anyone about it.33 Naram-Sins reac-
tion contrasts quite unfavorably with the idealized reaction of a proper
Heilsherrscher like Gudea, who states in reaction to his own dream, I do
not understand the meaning of what came to me in my nocturnal vision,
30Mesopotamian omens are often misunderstood as signs of an inevitable future, but
this is almost never the case; there are remedies and the contrast between Heilsherrscher
and Unheilsherrscher is largely a function of whether or not a given ruler seeks out these
remedies from the ritual specialists or not. This aspect is unspecified and perhaps even
absent from Hans Gterbocks original discussion (Gterbock 1934, especially 1516 and
7576, and Gterbock 1938). The role of the kings own behavior, in general terms, is
emphasized by Jacob J. Finkelstein: in speaking of Gurneys translation of Unheilsherrscher
as ill-fated, Finkelstein writes that this translation does not convey the element of the
kings own instrumentality in bringing about the misfortune (by real or alleged misdeeds)
which is definitely implied in the German term (Finkelstein 1963, 467, n. 23). The role of
the ritual procedures in ameliorating such situations is made abundantly clear, however,
in Mauls well-known collection of Namburbi materials (Maul 1994). Although Gterbocks
argument was based primarily the so-called Weidner Chronicle, which is now known to be
a didactic letter rather than an actual chronicle (al-Rawi 1990; Cancik-Kirschbaum 2009,
1415), the general theme of the Unheilsherrscher is a regular feature of various late genres
associated with the nar literature. Michael Hauls re-edition of the nar materials (Haul
2009), however, does not seem to touch on the issue.
31See Johnson 2011, 153, n. 4, It is Naram-Sins vision of an Agade lacking divine favor
that pushes him to rebuild the Ekur andlacking positive omens to proceedNaram-Sins
act of hubris in rebuilding the temple without divine approval. The irony, of course, is that
the image of the absence of divine favor in the dream propels Naram-Sin down a pathway
that leads, precisely, to the absence of divine favor.
32{dna-ra-am-dsuen-e ma2-e6-ka igi ba-ni-in-du8-a} (line 86).
33{a3-ga-ni-e3 mu-un-zu eme-na nu-um-a2-a2 lu2-da nu-mu-un-da-ab-be2} (line 87).
For the grammatical structure at work in line 86, see Johnson 2010, 102, n. 57. For the
special role of dreams in elucidating a rulers secret or unknown sins as well as the use of
penitential prayers (ig) in counteracting ominous dreams, see van der Toorn 1985, 97,
120 and 125, but in particular 91 and n. 482.
56 j. cale johnson
so I will bring my dream to my mother (for interpretation).34 In other
words, when a ruler experiences an omen of some kind, he is expected to
make it known to his advisors and to endure whatever ritual prescriptions
they propose rather than keeping it to himself.35 Given the impropriety
of Naram-Sins reaction to his ominous dream (and the role of his inap-
propriate reaction in his own downfall), it is entirely appropriate that he
becomes the central figure in the short historiola that first appears in the
Old Babylonian proverb collections, but eventually becomes the opening
lines of The Assyrian Dream Book in the first millennium bce: O Sisig/
Zaqiqu! I (= Shamash) sent you to Akkad.36
While framed in The Curse of Agade itself as a case of cultic infelicity
(Naram-Sins demolition of the Ekur without the benefit of the proper
omens or divinely inspired dreams, interpreted as an act of hubris vis--vis
the gods), the underlying problem with Naram-Sin that the authors of this
passage wish to critique is presumably his failure to appease the clergy in
charge of the Ekur temple. It has often been suggested that the hostility
of the clergy was ethnically or culturally motivated, and that the primary
reason for their negative portrayal of Naram-Sin was, simply put, that
he was not a Sumerian.37 I suspect, however, that the real cause of the
34{ni2 ma-e6-ke2 ma-ab-de6-a-a2 / a3-bi nu-zu / ama-u10 ma-mu-u10 ga-na-tum2}
(Cyl. A i 2729).
35As noted by Cooper (1985, 3339), the trope of an unspoken negative omen, seen in
a dream and leading to the downfall of ruler and dynasty, also shows up in The Sumerian
Sargon Legend, line 4. The difference is that Sargon, again prototypically, plays the would-
be Heilsherrscher to Ur-Zababas role as Unheilsherrscher and it is Ur-Zababa who fails to
report the negative omen, while Sargon does so even at the threat of his own life (though
the negative omen is directed at Ur-Zababa). See Cooper and Heimpel 1983 and the discus-
sion in Cooper 1985. In some sense, ominous dreams and how rulers react to them act as
an internal clockwork (providing a legendary narrative for the transition from one dynasty
to the next) in the otherwise somewhat dry lists of dynastic succession in The Sumerian
King List. How precisely The Sumerian King List operates as a text (and consequently how
it might interact with other genres so as to operationalize dynastic change) is still rather
unclear; for some of the more influential interpretations of The Sumerian King List as a
self-consciously schematic document that should not be read in a literally chronological
sequence, see Michalowski 1983; Wilcke 1989 and Hallo 1998.
36{si-si-ig a-ga-deki-e3 i3-gi4-in} = [dzi]-qi-qu...[ana a]-ga-de3ki a2-pur-[ka]. On
historiola generally in ancient Near Eastern materials, see Sanders 2001. The particular
background of the anti-historiola that we have here (Naram-Sin serves not as model, but
rather as an example of how a ruler should not behave when faced with a negative omen)
is dealt with in Butler 1998, 321324; Gadotti 2005, 141, as well as Johnson 2011; the Old
Babylonian version appears in Alster 1997, vol. 1, 194 and 242 (viz. Proverb Collections 11
and 18).
37Cooper 1983, 910, arguing against such as characterization. See also Cooper 2001.
the cost of cosmogony 57
dissatisfaction of the Ekur clergy was that, under the rule of the Akkadian
kings, the Ekur was no longer the center of the political universe, at least
in practical terms. One of the perquisites of being the temple of the chief
deity Enlil was that the clergy of the Ekur and their environs enjoyed a
fairly constant stream of war booty and other forms of tribute, adornment
and architectural elaboration. Even if the stream of tribute to the Ekur
was not interrupted in any way, the anti-Naram-Sin faction in Nippur
could easily imagine that the best of the war booty and other (diplomatic)
acquisitions were being diverted to the city of Akkade. Thus the official or
formal status of the Ekur temple (undoubtedly still at the top of any list)
may have been contradicted by the movement of practical and material
wealth away from Nippur and toward Akkade (at least in the imagination
of whoever actually wrote The Curse of Agade). This is particularly clear
if we look at the description of the city of Akkade in the first section of
The Curse of Agade (lines 154). Cooper renders lines 1222 as follows:
(12) So that the warehouses would be provisioned, (13) that dwellings would
be founded in that city, (14) that its people would eat splendid food, (15) that
its people would drink splendid beverages, (16) that those bathed (for holi-
days) would rejoice in the courtyards, (17) that the people would throng the
places of celebration, (18) that acquaintances would dine together, (19) that
foreigners would cruise about like unusual birds in the sky, (20) that (even)
Marhai would be reentered on the (tribute) rolls, (21) that monkeys, mighty
elephants, water buffalo, exotic animals, (22) would jostle each other in the
public squares....38
This image of happy, heterogeneous cosmopolitanism might reasonably
lead one to conclude that Akkade simply enjoyed divine favor under the
Akkadian kings up to a certain point in the reign of Naram-Sin, at which
point the winds of divine favor shifted and Enlil turned against Akkade
38(12) e2 ni2-gur11-ra ni2 sa2 di-de3
(13) iriki-bi dur2 ki ar sum-mu-de3
(14) u3-bi u2 nir-al2 gu7-u-de3
(15) u3-bi a nir-gal2 na8-na8-de3
(16) sa a tu5-a kisal ul2-le-de3
(17) ki ezem-ma u3 sig7-ge-de3
(18) lu2 zu-u3-ne te2-bi gu7-u3-de3
(19) lu2 bar-ra muen nu-zu-gen7 an-na niin-de3
(20) mar-a-iki le-um-ma gur-ru-de3
(21) uguugu4-bi am-si ma ab2-za-za u2-ma-am ki bad-ra2
(22) a3 sila daal-la-ke4 te2-bi tag-tag-ge-de3
(after Cooper 1983, 50, with a few minor changes).
58 j. cale johnson
and its ruler Naram-Sin.39 There is, however, no expression of temple
building or even a show of piety in these first fifty-odd lines; it is a descrip-
tion of a big city, largely non-religious hustle and flow that any present-
day urbanite can easily recognize.
The decisive counterpoint to the description of urban effervescence
that we see in the initial 54 lines of The Curse of Agade comes in line 57, in
Coopers lovely, almost biblical translation, But the word from Ekur was
as silence {inim e2-kur-ra me-gen7 ba-an-ar}. It seems fairly clear that
the primary objection that the Nippur clergy had to Naram-Sins behav-
ior was his ostensible lack of piety, even if material facts would contra-
dict such a point of view. Thus from a geopolitical perspective that takes
Naram-Sins capital in Akkade as the center with the Ekur temple located
in Nippur in its peripheryan inversion of the map in figure 1the {kur}
represented by the previous incarnation of the Ekur temple could indeed
serve, within the poetics of The Curse of Agade at least, as a resource-rich
peripheral distant land that provides raw materials for the construction
of the new incarnation of the Ekur temple.
In using literary hyperbole to represent the impiety of Naram-Sin, the
authors of The Curse of Agade were leveraging the new geopolitical rela-
tionship between Nippur and Akkade: the Ekur temple had been reduced
to a peripheral temple-mountain, viz. {kur}, and the Nippur clergy
reframe the traditional trope of extracting raw materials from peripheral
lands {kur} as a way of depicting the unjust extraction of raw materials
from the proper center of the universe, namely the Ekur temple in Nippur.
Stated somewhat differently, the new geopolitical situation in which the
priesthood of the Ekur temple found itself (with the Ekur imagined as a
peripheral, foreign temple from the point of view of Naram-Sin) created
the necessary socio-historical context in which a disgruntled priesthood (or
later literati) might sympathize with the inhabitants of a mythical land like
Aratta, and then portray crafty Enmerkar (the inventor of writing no less)
as a ruler who appeals to diplomacy, technology and commerce rather
39Cooper 1983, 30: the initial displeasure of Inanna and Enlil in the Curse of Agade
might also have been arbitrary; and 240: Enlils initial hostility here may be simply capri-
cious, or, for humans, incomprehensible divine will. In my view, however, Naram-Sin is
clearly at fault, as Maurice Lambert put it some years ago: Les clercs msopotamiens ont
expliqu que la fin de lempire provient clairement dune faute, vitable de Naramsin qui
a soulev contra lui la colre des dieux = The Mesopotamian scribes explained that the
end of the empire as resulting from a mistake, which Naram-Sin could have avoided, that
provoked the anger of the gods against him (Lambert 1974, 19, n. 85, apud Cooper 1983,
8 and passim).
the cost of cosmogony 59
than military force. Needless to say, this must have represented a com-
plete reversal of the standard view of war booty among the priests of the
Ekur temple.
3.The Ethics of Resource Extraction
It may be difficult for some of us to imagine a priesthood or clergy that
might look forward to and even celebrate a delivery of war booty (includ-
ing enslaved human beings) from a victorious ruler for dedication to the
deity. We cannot help but think of modern-day mosques, churches and
synagogues, where the collection of material support is somewhat more
discrete and subtle. Nonetheless, the historical record makes it quite clear
that (i) temples were one of the major beneficiaries of military campaigns
and that (ii) one of the most widely used techniques for the extraction
of raw materials was, as Englund has described it, the simple plunder of
other peoples temples and palaces.
The violent removal of desired goods from Anatolia, Persia and other Gulf
regions such as Bahrain and particularly Oman (ancient Magan), or their
removal under threat of annihilation, was a preferred means of Babylonian
elites to satisfy their needs for goods not native to Mesopotamia. Campaigns
designed to plunder booty from their neighbors, early on in the Old Akka-
dian period, and more systematically thereafter, became institutionalized
means of state-sponsored extortion that, at least in several instances, was
so widespread as to stave off the impending collapse of terror regimes with
little or no basis of economic support. This threat of violence stood squarely
behind the more benign extortion of taxation of domestic populations and
close neighbors, and the demand of tribute from those more distant from
Babylonian seats of power.40
The behavior described here by Englund as simple plunder was undoubt-
edly the norm throughout Mesopotamian history. Urban centers rep-
resented incomparable concentrations of accessible raw materials that
could be quickly refashioned into analogous pieces of monumental archi-
tecture and adornment at home. This is presumably the background for
the hyperbole that we find in The Curse of Agade.
At first glance, therefore, it is rather surprising that we find the follow-
ing statement inserted into Enmerkars first message to the Lord of Aratta
at the beginning of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.
40Englund 2006, 9.
60 j. cale johnson
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, lines 115120, repeated in lines 187192
(Vanstiphout 2003, 6263; Mittermayer 2009, 120121 and 235237):
(115) iri-bi irsa
-gen7 i-bi-ta na-an-na-ra-ab-dal-en
(116) muen-gen7 gud3 us2-sa-bi-a nam bi2-ib-dal-en
(117) ganba al2-la-gen7 na-an-si-ig-en
(118) iri gul-gul-lu-gen7 saar nam bi2-ib-a-za-en
(119) arattaki a2-dam den-ki-ke4 nam ba-an-ku5
(120) ki bi2-in-gul-la-gen7 ki nam ga bi2-ib-gul-en
(115) As for the inhabitants of (Aratta), I dont want to make them fly from
their tree like pigeons. (116) It is not in their nests, which are attached to (the
tree), that I will make them fly around like birds (in a cage). (117) I dont want
to heap them (= the inhabitants) up like what is in the marketplace. (118) It
is not the rubble that I will have divided up as spoil, as if I were a destroyer
of cities. (119) As for Aratta, a settlement cursed by Enki, (120) It is not such a
place, like a place in ruins, that I want to see destroyed.
This passage appeals to the same literary motif that we saw in The Gudea
Cylinders and The Curse of Agade (viz. the acquisition of raw materials)
and it also preserves some of the linguistic features such as the topi-
calization structure that we saw earlier. This time, however, an explicit
topicalization only occurs in line 115 {(arattaki-a) iri-bi}, as for the city
(of Aratta). While the same phrase serves as the topic for all six lines in
this passage, presumably undergoing ellipsis in each line after line 115,
its referent and the referent of its elided possessor shift half way through
the passage. In lines 115, 116 and 117, {iri} is an instance of metonymy in
which the city {iri} stands for the populace of Aratta. In the remaining
three lines (118120), {iri} returns to its basic meaning, namely the walls
and buildings that make up the urban structure itself, while the possessor
presumably shifts to the populace of Aratta through the ambiguity of {-bi}
between inanimate singular and (animate) plural. The shift in possessor
in line 118 may then be confirmed by the first few words in the last three
lines; {iri gul-gul-gen7}, {arattaki a2-dam...}, and {ki bi2-in-gul-la-gen7}, all
of which designate the constructed urban landscape rather than the pop-
ulace. In certain ways, however, this passage from Enmerkar and the Lord
of Aratta is a mirror image of the earlier instantiations of the resource
extraction motif in that it describes what Enmerkar does seek from Aratta
(the usual list of precious materials) by describing what Enmerkar does not
seek, namely the dispossession, enslavement or death of the populace, the
destruction of their homes or the capture of their territory. It is an attempt
to separate the economic logic of resource extraction from the human toll
the cost of cosmogony 61
that is usually exacted in such transactions. That is to say, it represents
the emergence of tribute, diplomacy and trade in place of warfare and
dispossession, the primary theme of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta as a
whole. This interpretation only becomes clear, however, once the various
manifestations of {nam} in this passage are taken into consideration.
4.Negative Contrastive Focus in Sumerian
Here and elsewhere in the Sumerian literature composed in the Ur III and
Isin-Larsa periods, I interpret the orthographic sequence {nam} followed
by {bi2-} not as a representation of the *na- modal prefix followed by the
*bi- conjugation prefix, but rather as the negative particle *nu- followed
by the copula *-am, with the resulting segment (/nu-am/) functioning as
an independent phrase preceding a verb that begins with the *bi- pre-
fix. This yields, in my view, a negative form of contrastive focus, meaning
something like it is not x that.... This construction, which I have termed
the *XP nam bi- construction, is dealt with at considerable length else-
where, but I reiterate a few points in favor of my interpretation here:41
(i) {nam} is used to represent /nu-am/ in certain Ur III administrative
(ii) {nam-mi} and {na-mi} regularly alternate in the Sumerian literature
of the Old Babylonian period, but alternations between {nam bi2-}, on
the one hand, and either {na-mi} or {nam-mi}, on the other hand, are
very rare.
(iii) If {nam} in {nam bi2-} is interpreted as a verbal prefix, it would rep-
resent the only case of a prefix that includes an incongruous Anlaut/
Auslaut, namely /m/ followed by /b/.42
Clearly the strongest of these arguments is the use of {nam} to write a
negation of some kind in certain Ur III administrative documents such as
the following:
41Johnson 2008.
42There is also some limited lexical evidence for an equation between {nam} and the
negation l in Akkadian; see CAD L, 1a and AHw, 520f, although these simply point us to a
couple references in the NBGTs, namely NBGT I, 417 (MSL 4, 145), and NBGT IXb, 5 (MSL
4, 177). Of course the absence of any context for the lexical entries makes it difficult to
know if these entries are relevant. Given the fact that Akkadian l negates nominal phrases
and subordinate clauses, it may be significant that in NBGT IXb, 5, {nam} is only equated
with l and not with ul.
62 j. cale johnson
ITT 5, 6863 (Ur III crop yield account)
1. 6(bur3) 5(iku) 1/2(iku) GAN2 113 1/2 iku of agricultural land
2. 3(iku) 1/2(iku) 1/4(iku) GAN2 su3 3 3/4 iku of fallow land
3. e-bi 6(ge2) 1(u) 8(a) 4(barig) gur As for its barley, (it is) 378 4/5 gur
4. iri-ki-bi engar (Field of) Irikibi, the cultivator...
(one line blank)
1. a-a3 kur-bi3-lu The field: Kurbilu
2. 6(bur3) 1(ee3) 3(iku) 1/2(iku) 1/4(iku) 117 3/4 iku of agricultural land,
GAN2 <GAN2 su3> nam there is no fallow land
3. e-bi nam As for its barley, there is none
4. ur-gu-la engar (Field of) Urgula, the cultivator
Note in particular the parallelism between column ii, line 3 {e-bi 6(ge2)
1(u) 8(a) 4(barig) gur}, which lists a substantial amount of barley, and
column iii line 3, which also has the phrase {e-bi} as for its barley, but
followed by {nam} literally, it is not, presumably meaning something
like there is none in context. {nam} as an abbreviation of {ni2-nam}
something, anything is unlikely since the standard orthography for this
word in the Ur III period is {ni2-na-me}. Administrative texts like this
as well as the other arguments listed above clearly allow for the possibil-
ity that at least some of the occurrences of {nam} in the passage from
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta use this orthography to represent the
negative particle *nu- followed by the copula *-am. As a number of inves-
tigators have recognized over the years, one of the primary uses of the
copula in Sumerian is to code a kind of emphasis known as (contrastive)
focus, which if present here, would lead to the following interpretations
of lines 116, 118 and 120.43
43One of the earliest discussion of focus, viz. emphasis, associated with the copula
seems to be Heimpel 1970, 492495, apud Karahashi 2006. Recent discussions of the copula
as a marker of (contrastive) focus are to be found in Huber 2001, especially 149, exx. 399
and 400; Johnson 2008; Zlyomi 2009; Jagersma 2010, 712714; Zlyomi 2012. One basic
rule vis--vis the interpretation of instances of the copula that form focus constructions
seems to be that when the copula follows a nominal phrase that is a cardinality expres-
sion (see Williamson 1987, 175 as well as Johnson 2006 for description), the construction
is best translated in English as an existential sentence. This is evident from a clause like
{a3 ma-mu-da-ka lu2 di-am3...} there was a man in the dream..., (Gudea, Cyl. A iv 14
= line 101). Another use of the copula to code a categorical rather than referential meaning
is the use of a doubled copular construction to form a wh-question that asks for semantic
type rather than, say, an individuals name. This is particularly clear in Ereshkigals ques-
tion to Galatura and Kurgara, the two strange creatures who descend into the netherworld
in Inannas Descent to the Netherworld so as to rescue Inanna from her sister. Ereshkigal
asks {[a-ba-am3] za-e me-en-ze2-en}, literally who is it that you are? but presumably
the cost of cosmogony 63
Negative contrastive focus in ELA, lines 116, 118 and 120:
116. ((
= [[iri-bi]]))...muen-gen7 ((
gud3 us2-sa-bi-a nam)) bi2-ib-
As for its populace, it is not in their nests that are attached to it (with Aratta
as metaphorical treeJCJ) that I will make them fly around like birds
(in a cage).
118. ((
= [[iri-bi]])) iri gul-gul-lu-gen7 ((
saar nam)) bi2-ib-a-
As for their city, it is not the rubble that I will have divided up as spoil like
a destroyer of cities.
120. ((
= [[iri-bi]])) ki bi2-in-gul-la-gen7 ((
ki nam)) ga-bi2-ib-
As for their city, it is not such a place, like a place in ruins that I want to see
The lines that intervene between these contrastive focus constructions,
however, demonstrate that the only things that Enmerkar is after are the
same precious materials that were explicitly mentioned in the passage
from The Curse of Agade. Both passages make use of the same topicaliza-
tion pattern in which a series of related topics are each qualified by some-
thing like a cleft sentence: in The Curse of Agade, the motif is framed in
positive terms (lines 136141, above), while in this passage from Enmerkar
and the Lord of Aratta, the same motif is framed in negative terms: As for
their city, it is not the rubble that....44
The author of these lines from Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta refers to
the desired materials through negation: it is not the rubble that I want,
which in combination with contrastive focus, implicitly yields, it is the
gold, silver and so forth that I want! The cuneiform sign NAM is used to
code what is clearly the central motif in the passage. I would even go one
step further, however, and suggest that the dominant figure or trope in the
meaning what are you two? i.e., what type of person ({a-ba}) are you? (see Jagersma
2010, 683, ex. 33). The same type of construction is also seen in Enki and Ninursaa
170171: {a-ba me-en za-e me-en / a2-e nu-
kiri6...} What are you? I am a gardener....
When identification rather than categorization is the goal of the question, only a single
copula is used as in Inannas Descent to the Netherworld 8081a: {a-ba me-en za-e / me
dga-a-an-na...} Who are you? I am Inanna.... The double copular construction coding
semantic type also occurs rather frequently in the proverb collections in declarative state-
ments rather than in questions, for example, Alster 1997, vol. 1, 53, (= Proverb Collection
2.40), ETCSL 6.1.2, segment A, line 72: {dub-sar u ka-ta sa2-a e-ne-am3 dub-sar-ra-am3} A
scribe whose hand can follow dictation is indeed a scribe! (translation ETCSL).
44On cleft sentences in Sumerian and the role that the copula plays in their formation,
see generally Zlyomi 2012.
64 j. cale johnson
passage is articulated through the use of NAM in a number of different
orthographic modalities. As already noted, three occurrences of the sign
NAM in these six lines (116, 118 and 120) are to be interpreted as negative
contrastive focus constructions (it is not...). NAM also occurs in a com-
pound verb construction in line 119, viz. {nam-ku5} meaning to curse,
and the phonologically similar verbal prefix *{na-an-} occurs in the two
remaining lines (115 and 117). Thus every verb in the passage is preceded
by NAM or begins with a verbal prefix that sounds like NAM, viz. *{na-
an-}. The centrality of NAM in the passage is made particularly clear by
witness Fn (CBS 10435 + Ni 4529), which uses the NAM sign as the verbal
prefix for every verb in the passage.45
Witness Fn iii 510 (= lines 115120; transliteration Mittermayer 2009,
165166; NAM has been capitalized and disconnected from the verb in each
line; NAM signs that only occur in this witness are also underlined):46
Fn iii 5 (= 115) [...]
-gen7 i-bi-ta NAM dal-dal-le-en
Fn iii 6 (= 116) [... gu]d3 us2-sa-bi-a NAM bi2-ib-x-e
Fn iii 7 (= 117) [...]-la-gen7 NAM si-si-ge
Fn iii 8 (= 118) [x g]ul-gul-la-gen7 saar NAM a-za-e
Fn iii 9 (=119) [ar]ataki a2-dam den-ki-ke4 NAM ba-an-ku5
Fn iii 10 (= 120) [x b]i2-in-gul-la-gen7 ki NAM ga-bi3-ib-gul-e
The use of NAM in the passage organizes both the ordinary denotational
meaning of the passage as well as a series of iconic representations that
operate at the orthographic level. Since the NAM sign is also a logographic
representation of a bird of some kind (or, more likely, a flock of small
birds) and serves elsewhere to write the names of at least two species of
flying creatures (Veldhuis identifies the {sim
} bird as swallow and
)} as locust), these alternative values of the NAM sign must
have crossed the mind of an attentive reader of the passage.47 Neither of
45Mittermayer notes that witness Fn is anomalous in some ways. In my view, the
scribe who wrote witness Fn has taken a contemporary oral commentary on the role of
NAM in the passage a little bit too literally and, consequently, replaced the verbal pre-
fixes in lines 115 and 117 ({na-an-na-ra-ab-} and {na-an-} respectively) with a single NAM
sign in each case. When Vu repeats the passage in lines 187192, however, only lines 188
and 192 include NAM. Needless to say, I am using verbal prefix here in a very loose and
non-technical sense.
46See the translation above.
47See Veldhuis 2004, 279280 and 224225 respectively. Veldhuis notes that {buru5}
small bird, sparrow has often been confused with NAM in Assyriological works, but in
the original texts it can be distinguished from NAM (Veldhuis 2004, 225227, cf. Lambert
1954). There is also a clear association of {sim
} with violent imagery that makes sense
the cost of cosmogony 65
these two interpretive possibilities for NAM are positive: {sim
} swal-
low appears in a series of examples in which they are symbolic of rebel-
lious subjects whose bodies will be piled up in heaps, while {bir5} would
present the inhabitants of Aratta as locusts, left homeless to wander the
earth in search of food and shelter.48 I would like to suggest, however, that
the primary orthographic pun that would have struck contemporary read-
ers has to do with the swallow {sim
} rather than the locust.
The association between the swallow {sim
} and urban architecture
as well as their propensity to fly away in mass when threatened seem to
derive from the natural behavior of swallows.49 If the swallow mentioned
in the cuneiform record is analogous to the North American Cliff Swallow
(Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), then the following description of their behav-
ior may shed some light on their representation in Sumerian literature:
The Cliff Swallow is one of the most social landbirds of North America.
These birds typically nest in large colonies, and a single site may contain
up to 3,500 active nests. Cliff Swallows originally were birds of the west-
ern mountains, where they still nest commonly underneath horizontal rock
ledges on the sides of steep canyons in the foothills and lower elevations of
the Sierra Nevada and Rocky and Cascade mountains.50
Likewise, this picture of a Cliff Swallow colony provides a clear referent
and literary background for the paronomastic use of NAM = {sim} in our
passage. Both the ordinary denotational meaning of the passage (I dont
want to make them fly from their tree like pigeons / it is not in their
nests, which are attached to [the tree], that I will make them fly around
like birds) as well as the possibility of an iconic referent for the NAM
sign itself (NAM = FLOCK OF SMALL FLYING CREATURES) may point to
in this passage, see Black 1996 apud Veldhuis 2004, 279, where Veldhuis points out that
the occurrences of {buru5
} in Blacks examples 4, 5 and 6 should all be corrected to
48The association between the piled up {si-ig} dead bodies of swallows and the simi-
larly treated bodies of rebellious subjects appears elsewhere as well: in a ir3 nam-gula of
Ninisina (Rmer 1998, 673, A, rev. line 9): {ul-du-zu
-gen7 a-ra-ur4-ru zar-re-e
a-ra-ab-sal-e} As for your persecutor, having been gathered (ammu) like swallows,
may they be spread out like sheaves, we have the usual components: (i) the evil-doer
{ul-du} compared to swallows {sim
-gen7}, (ii) {ur4-ru} and (iii) the piling of sheaves
motif {zar-re-e...sal}. Among the examples collected in Black 1996, swallows are explic-
itly compared to malefactors {ul-du} and the...people of rebellious lands {ki bala-a
u3 tar-tar-ra-[bi]} (Black 1996, 2829).
49Black 1996, 3638.
50Brown and Brown 1995.
66 j. cale johnson
a colony of swallows as a metaphor for the inhabitants of the rebellious
city of Aratta.51
The use of NAM read as {sim} as the leitmotif in these lines is particu-
larly appropriate to the ordinary denotational construal of lines 115120,
allowing these lines to draw on a rich stream of Mesopotamian imagery
in which human beings are represented with bird-like features, particu-
larly in connection to death and the netherworld.52 The linkage between
the swallow {sim(NAM)
} and the other uses of NAM in the passage
may also have been suggested by a Sumerian proverb that equates mate-
rial possessions with swallows in flight, {ni2-gur11 sim
dal-dal ki-tu
nu-pa3-de3-dam}, possessions are swallows flying around, unable to find
a place to settle (Proverb Collection 1.18, translation after Black).53
This proverb resonates with a larger complex of late texts that Bendt
Alster has summarized under the heading of The Vanity Theme, where
pride of place is given to a composition that begins with the phrase {nig2-
nam nu-kal zi ku7-ku7-dam} nothing is of value, but life is truly sweet, a
line that agrees with the sentiments of our passage from Enmerkar and the
Lord of Aratta quite well.54 Crucially, however, it represents a devaluing of
materials possessions vis--vis human life.
I have sought in these few pages to outline a minority literary tradition
thatlargely in reaction to the militaristic figure of Naram-Sinimagined
51The only other trace of this constellation of imagery in later materials, which I was
able to identify with the assistance of Ulrike Steinert, is the use of similar topoi in the
inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser I such as the following: a-na gi-sal-lat KUR-i a-qu-ti / ki-ma
MUEN ip-par2-u they flew like birds to ledges on high mountains, (AKA 42 iii 6869 =
RIMA 0.87.1 iii 6869; Grayson 1991, 20) and pa-gar muq-tab-li-u-nu a-na gu-ru-na-a-te /
i-na gi-sal-lat KUR-i lu-qe2-ri-in / al-ma-at qu-ra-di-u-nu ID2 na-a-me / a-na ID2.IDIGNA
lu u2-e-i I built up mounds with the corpses of their men-at-arms on mountain ledges. I
allowed the river Name to carry the bodies of their warriors out to the Tigris (AKA 40 ii 22
= RIMA 0.87.1 ii 22; Grayson 1991, 15). The key term is gisall eaves, a Sumerian loanword
{gi-sal-la}, that only appears in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser I.
52See generally Johnson 2013.
53Black 1996, 35; Alster 1997, 10; N 5230 seems to have NAM rather BURU5 (Alster 1997,
vol. 2, pl. 6), while 3 N-T 907-268 + 3 N-T 916-334 (witness O) has a clear BURU5 (Gordon
1959, pl. 10). Alster reconstructs {buru5
} in all witnesses, so the connection may be
only in terms of small birds generally rather than the swallow in particular. The same
image also makes an appearance in line 84 in the first of the Pushkin Museum Elegies (see
Kramer 1960; this line is not duplicated by the materials published in Sjberg 1983).
54Alster 2005, 265341.
the cost of cosmogony 67
Enmerkar as a riddler and inventor rather than a standard hero. The anti-
militarism of Enmerkar has been described as ethical by one of our most
insightful critics, but I would suggest that Enmerkars behavior is really
only ethical from our own anachronistic point of view.55 Within the tradi-
tional mores of Mesopotamian kingship, Enmerkars behavior was indeed
questionable and rightfully chastised in The Cuthean Legend. That being
said, I suspect that the image of a ruler trapped in his own monumental
architecture may point the way to the real inheritors of this early anti-
heroic tradition: later wisdom literature. Claus Ambos has noted the
shared imagery of the imprisoned king in both Ludlul II 96 (My house
has become my prison) and the bt sal m ritual and the same image
provides the dominant trope in one of the more literary moments in the
Amarna Letters of Rib-Adda (EA 74, line 46, and elsewhere), in which he
sees himself as like a bird in a bird-trap (gloss: cage), so am I in Byblos
(see in comparison line 116 of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta above).56
Thus over the long history of Mesopotamian literature and its inheritors
we see that the social values invested in architectural (and consequently
cosmogonic) edifices could indeed change over time: the altered circum-
stances of the Ekur priesthood make room in the Sumerian literary
imagination for the crafty anti-hero Enmerkar. In later periods, however, a
critique of Enmerkars anti-militarism would emerge in The Cuthean Leg-
end of Naram-Sin and the ambivalence of the built-up urban landscape
(as a symbol of imperial power or as a virtual prison for a cultically or
psychologically troubled ruler) would become the dominant image.
Moving to the broader, comparative framework of the volume as a
whole, the moments in the literary history of Sumerian that I have dis-
cussed in this paper, particularly when the extraction of raw materi-
als becomes a central pre-occupation of the literati, clearly represent
a key piece of evidence for how Mesopotamians conceptualized and
reflected on urbanism itself, which is one of the most important objects
of investigation for this volume.57 The construction of the edifices of
55Vanstiphout 1994, 153, and 1995, 7, among other places.
56For the Ludlul passage, see W. G. Lambert 1960, 4445. The discussion of bt sal m
is in Ambos 2008, but see in particular Ambos 2008, 4, n. 7, for Sumerian precursors. On
the historical setting of the exorcistic medicine associated with the Second Dynasty of Isin
(and its Sumerian precursors), which is at the core of Babylonian wisdom literature, see
Beaulieu 2007. Once the bird in the cage motif is shorn from its foundation in wisdom
literaturea foundation still present in the letters of Rib-Adda (see Liverani 2004)it
goes on as a frozen topos for besieged cities in first millennium sources (see Tadmor 1994,
78; Mayer 2003, 187189).
57See May / Steinert, Introduction, this volume.
68 j. cale johnson
urban life, both architectural and cosmogonic, was one of the central
concerns of Mesopotamian city dwellers and it is abundantly clear that
they saw their built environment as much more than brick and mortar
(see the discussion of emblematic and religious meaning of cities in the
Introduction).58 Within the series of reflections on Mesopotamian urban-
ism assembled here, the changing role of the swallow in flight {sim

dal-dal} is particularly interesting: framed in Enmerkar and the Lord of
Aratta as an image of urbanites either trapped within the confines of
the city (an image that reappears in Rib-Addas correspondence in the
Amarna Letters) or fleeing the city in the face of potential violence, the
image of the swallow in flight reappears later on in the Sumerian prov-
erb collections as a description of material possessions {ni2-gur11} rather
than human beings. In some sense, therefore, the later literati had learned
the lesson of Enmerkars speech in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta: rather
than clinging to material possessions, wisdom literature such as Nothing is
of Value and other similar texts taught them to devalue material wealth in
favor of the more subtle pleasures of Sumerian belles lettres, and in doing
so they insulated themselves, at least to some degree, from the hurly-burly
of urban existence.
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AKA The Annals of the Kings of Assyria (see Budge 1902)
AoF Altorientalische Forschungen
AOAT Alter Orient und Altes Testament
AOS American Oriental Series
BBVO Berlin Beitrge Vorderen Orient
CBS Museum siglum of the University Museum in Philadelphia (Catalogue of the
Babylonian Section)
ELA Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (see Mittermayer 2009)
ETCSL The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature <http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/>
JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
JCS Journal of Cuneiform Studies
JNES Journal of Near Eastern Studies
JSOT Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
Ni Museum siglum of the Archaeological Museum, Istanbul (Nippur)
OBO Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis
OIS Oriental Institute Studies
58See May / Steinert, Introduction, this volume.
the cost of cosmogony 69
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OLP Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica
OrAn Oriens Antiquus
OrNS Orientalia, Nova Series
RA Revue dAssyriologie et dArchologie Orientale
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RlA Reallexikon der Assyriologie
RIMA The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Assyrian Periods
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Natalie N. May
Since Max Weber who denied that the Oriental cities were real cities
(Weber 1958), efforts of many scholars have been aimed at establishing
a connection between the city form and its socio-political structure.1
It has often been claimed that the city plan mirrors a citys political
organisation.2 The lack of preconceived public spaces in the Near East-
ern cities as opposite to the city-states of the Classical Antiquity was one
of the focuses of these discussions (Liverani 1997, 9193; May / Steinert,
Introduction, this volume).
One of the main public spaces of the Near Eastern city was and still is the
city gate. Does this fact reflect the socio-political system of these cities?
The present article is dedicated to the special socio-religious significance
of the gate space in the life of the cities in the ancient Near East. The pur-
pose is a comparative cross-cultural analysis of the gate space functions
in Mesopotamia and the Levant based on textual, visual and archaeologi-
cal evidence. The question of the cosmic significance,3 metaphysics and
semiotics of the gate space as a liminal area will be consciously set aside
as sufficiently treated both by Assyriologists,4 and anthropologists.5
Functions of the gates in the Bible have been well studied and discussed
before. Gate functions in Mesopotamia were taken for granted as paral-
leled by the Biblical examples.6 An attempt will be made here to analyse
all available written sources, both Biblical and cuneiform, together with
relevant archaeological and pictorial material in order to examine simi-
larities and differences in the city gate functions in diachronic and geo-
graphical perspectives.
1E.g. Oppenheim 1969; Adams 1966; Heinz 199; Algaze 2008; Stone 1991, 1995, 2005,
2008; see May / Steinert, Introduction (this volume) for the comprehensive bibliography.
2Herzog 1997, 13 with further bibliography and Heinz 1997.
3For the most recent discussion of the gate to the Netherworld in Mesopotamia and
the Bible see Paul 2010.
4Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 1336 Radner 2010, 271 with n. 12 for further literature.
5See May / Steinert, this volume.
6For instance George 1992, 458 quoted below.
78 natalie n. may
First terminological questions including ancient terms for gates
and gate spaces are addressed. Further, the following, often intercon-
nected gate space functions will be treated and compared for various
periods and geographical locations:
1. Gates as a sacral space. Temples, chapels, cult ceremonies and sacrifices
at the gate.
2. Gates as a place for the installation of the royal monuments.
3. Processional gates: a place for public performances: military and
4. Gates as a place for the public appearance of the king.
5. Gates as a place for public assemblies.
6. Gates as a place for judicial activities: judgement, litigation, legal agree-
ments, publication of court decisions and legal documents.
7. Gates as a place for public executions (not only of legal character).
8. Gates as a market place.
9. Gates as a place of control.
Obviously the occasional state of preservation of our sources does not
always permit a full-scale diachronic and cross-cultural comparison for
each of these functions. Nevertheless, all the available information must
be considered in order to answer the question, if the public functions of
the gates reflect differences in political and social organisation.
1.Gate Space: Definition
By the space of the gates I mean the space before, inside and behind
the gates. The meaning of the first and the last is probably self-evident,
but the meaning of the space inside the gates needs an explanation.
Ancient Near Eastern gates had inner chambers (fig. 1),7 sometimes also
designated as a gatehouse, which were used for various purposes. These
inner chambers could be rather spacious and were used for multiple pur-
poses. They constituted the inner gate space.
7See also, for instance, six-chamber city gates at Gezer (Stern et al. 1993, 503) and
Herzog 1986 for the largest assemblage of the ancient Near Eastern city gate plans.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel79
2.Akkadian and Hebrew Terms for the Gate and Gate Space
There are two terms for gates in Akkadian:
abullu=k- gal city gate, entrance gate of a building or a building
complex. This word designates a big monumental portal.
bbu=kopening, doorway, door, gate, entrance.
In fact both words contaminate and can refer to the city, temple or palace
gates. There is also an expression bb abullim in Old Assyrian8 and Old
Babylonian.9 Bb ekalli(m) palace gate,10 and bb ili(m) gate of the god
(= temple)11 had special significance, which should be compared with the
role of the city gates.
In the Bible the gate space is described as: gate;12... ,
gate square, square at the city gate.13
Square ( , lit. wide place) at the gate ( ) is found in the post-
exilic texts.14 In the pre-exilic period the gate space is probably described
as / /, lit. outside space in Ashkelon (2 Sam 1:20) and
Damascus (1 Kgs 20:34).15
8CAD A I, 84a; Bilgi / Bayram 1995, 82; no. 43, line 15.
9CAD B, 22a.
10CAD B, 16b18a.
11CAD B, 18b20a. It is not impossible that the name of the quarter in Babylon
(k- di ngi r - r a=Bbili), known from the Kassite period, which also served as a name for
the entire city, was a use of a common gate name to support a folk-etymology (George
1992, 253256) of this name for the city of Babylon. This seems even more plausible in the
light of the absence of textual evidence for the existence of a gate with the name bb il
in Babylon.
13All from late sourcesNehemiah 8:3, 16, and 2 Chronicles 32:6. (derived from
the root with the meaning wide) in the Hebrew Bible seems to have a semantic field
close to that of ribtu (see Steinert, 2011, 317 and this volume; Koehler / Baumgarten 1996,
12121213 with parallel to rebtu and rebt Ninua [ibid., 1212, 1213]; note especially meanings
of squares at palace gates [at Susa; Esth 4:6], - , , city square
before the kings [= palace] gate).
14 , wide space at the Ephraim Gate (Neh 8:16),
- , wide space that is in front of the Water Gate (Neh 8:3); , wide
space at the city gate (2 Chron 32:6). Compare s i l a- dagal - l a, wide square/street of the
gate attested in the texts of the Old Babylonian period (Steinert, this volume and n. 14).
For ribt abul... / s i l a- dagal - k- gal see CAD R, 320b.
15However this word survived also in later periods with the meaning open fields
(Ps 144:13; Job 5:10; Prov 8:26). Both in pre-exilic and post-exilic texts it might also mean
street, street corner, market street (Koehler / Baumgarten 1996, 299).
80 natalie n. may
3.Gate Space Functions
3.1Gates as a Sacral Space. Temples, Chapels, Cult Ceremonies
and Sacrifices at the Gate
City gates as well as gates of shrines, cellas and chapels in Mesopotamia
had elaborated ceremonial names which survived as lists,16 but also in
numerous documents of various kinds. Gates played a preeminent role in
the cult, especially, of course, in the religious centres. The gates of Nippur,
one of the most ancient cult cities of Mesopotamia, the seat of Enlil, were
named after the main gods of the pantheon and their spouses Enlil and
Ninlil; Ea; ama and Aya; Marduk, Itar.17 There is even a name holy
or pure gate in Nippur (k- gal - - s i ki l - l a=abullum elletum).18 Gates
bearing the name of a god are known also on periphery, for instance at
In sixth century bce Babylon all the gates20 were named after various
gods: Marduk, Itar, Enlil, Adad, ama, Ura, Zababa.21 In the city of Assur
the existence of the gates of Aur, ama, erua and Illat is evidenced
at least from the Middle Assyrian period.22 Each of these gates was the
starting point of a ceremonial way of the same name, through which the
procession of the god passed on ritual occasions.23
The city or palace gate spaces could also serve as sacred spaces,24 but
of course the most important sacral space was the space of the temple
gatesk- di ngi r = bb ili, gate of the god,25 the place where the wor-
shipper would meet the divine statue, i.e. the god.26
16For instance in the lexical lists Proto-Kagal, Kagal, and ritual texts (Civil 1971, 63ff.;
227ff.), incorporating the liststhe so-called Gtteradressbuch (George 1992, 176177;
182183), and the gate lists of E-sagil (George 1992, 8398; 389409).
17Civil 1971, 228, Canonical Kagal col. i, lines 511, Old Babylonian.
18Civil 1971, 228, Canonical Kagal col. i, line 12. Old Babylonian.
19Negri Scafa 1998, 144145.
20With only one exception, which is the Kings Gate. George 1992, 6667, TINTIR=
Babylon (no. 1), tablet v, lines 54, 6869, 72 and below.
21George 1992, 131; esp. 24 fig. 4; 28 fig. 5.
22Idem, 456457.
23Idem, 15.
24Due to their liminal position, gates, as well as doors and other passages were also
important spots in medical and magic rituals. For instance in the course of a reanimation
ritual certain actions were performed at the gate of eternity, abulli a darti (K.GAL
da-ra-a-ti; KAR 33, line 9; Ebeling 1931a, 7475). Dust and other substances from these
spots were widely used in magic. But this aspect of the gate spaces is beyond the present
study. See CAD A, 8288; CAD B, 1427 passim, and Negri Scafa 1998, 139, with n. 2 on
Nuzi and Hittite evidence.
25CAD B, 19b. Gate of the god usually designates a temple gate, or the gate named after
a specific deity, but very often activities of legal character were performed there (see below).
26Cf. k- s i l i m- ma, gate of well-being (George 1992, 402).
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel81
From the earliest periods sacrifices were offered in Mesopotamia at
the temple gates (fig. 2).27 An Old Babylonian tablet dated to the thirty-
second year of Hammurabi preserved a ritual of offerings to the temple
gates at Ur, performed on the occasion of the eu-days of the month,
i.e. the new moon, seventh, tenth, fifteenth and twenty-fifth days.28
Hundreds of years later, in the Neo-Babylonian period with the deve-
lopment of the market economy, sacrifices could be replaced by money
offeringserbu a bbi or erbu a quppi a bbi, which were put in a spe-
cial boxquppu, installed at the temple gates.29
This practice has direct parallels in the description of tax collection at
Jerusalem Temple in 2 Chronicles 24:89:
- . , - ; ,
. - - ,
So the king commanded, and they made a chest, and set it at the gate of the
house of YHWH, outside. And they made a proclamation through Judah and
Jerusalem, to bring in for YHWH the tax that Moses the servant of God laid
upon Israel in the wilderness.
Given the late, post-exilic date of the Biblical source there can be no doubt
that it was influenced by Late Babylonian practices.
Nevertheless, altars were installed and sheep sacrifices were performed
at the temple gates also in the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods,
and at the Mesopotamian periphery, for example at Nuzi.30 In Assyria
animal offerings were sent by the palace for gates of the small and the
big shrinebb(K) suk-ki dan-nu and ql-li (1 ox, 10 sheep, 1 duck for
each).31 Neo-Babylonian texts present us lists of animals to be slaughtered
(nukkusu) at the gates.32 An eclipse ritual from Seleucid Uruk prescribes the
lamentation and chief priests (kal and ang) to install a brazier (garraku)
in front of the gates of temples (bb bt il (K..DINGIR.RA
27George 1992, 395.
28Hallo / Levine 1967. These rites also included offerings in the temple courtyard much
alike 1 Kings 8:64.
29Kleber 2010, 544545.
) a b-ab ilni(DINGIR
) with further details (Pfeiffer / Lacheman
1942, 14 = HSS 13 94, line 1ff.). It is of course hard to define with certainty if the temple
gate or city gate is meant here.
31Fales / Postgate, 1992, 179=SAA 7 181, lines 12.
32Tremayne 1925, YOS 7 8, line 20; 143, line 4; TCL 13 145, lines 10, 12= Contenau 1929,
pl. 71. The evidence of animal sacrifice is probably also known from Kassite Nippur, though
it is not clear if an offering or other deliveries to the gates are listed there (see n. 84).
33Linssen 2004, 306, line 14; 307, line 38.
82 natalie n. may
In the Temple of Solomon cultic utensils were installed at the temples
courtyard, presumably in front of the temple portal (1 Kgs 7:1639). The
vision of Ezekiel describes sacrifices and offerings made outside the tem-
ple, at its gate surrounded by a courtyard. The topography of the ritual as
it appears in Ezekiel (46:212) and its attachment to the calendar holidays
resembles very much the offerings at the temple gate and courtyard in
Ur published by William Hallo and Baruch Levine, though they chose for
comparison Ezekiel 44:13.34 Nevertheless it proves again a great impact
of Babylonian rites on the Book of Ezekiel (46:212):
, - ,
, - ; - , - -
, , , , - . -
, : - , .
. , ; , .
. , ; - ,
, . , ; , , ,
, - . ,
- , - - ,
, - , : -
, . , .) (
- . , ; , ,
, - , , -
, - ; - -
And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of the gate from outside,
and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his
burnt-offering and his peace-offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold
of the gate; then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the
evening. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of that
gate before YHWH on the Sabbaths and on the new moons. And the burnt-
offering that the prince shall offer unto YHWH shall be on the Sabbath day
six lambs without blemish and a ram without blemish; and the meal-offering
shall be an ephah for the ram, and the meal-offering for the lambs as he
is able to give, and a hin of oil to an ephah. And in the day of the new
moon it shall be a young bullock without blemish; and six lambs, and a
ram; they shall be without blemish; and he shall prepare a meal-offering, an
ephah for the bullock, and an ephah for the ram, and for the lambs accord-
ing as his means suffice, and a hin of oil to an ephah. And when the prince
34See n. 28. Hallo and Levine (1967, 49) refer to Ezek 44:13 because the locked temple
gates are mentioned there as well as in the text that they published. However, locking and
unlocking the gate is also a matter of Ezek 46:2 and 12. For locking gates and controlled
access to the Assyrian palaces see also Radner 2010.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel83
shall enter, he shall go in by the way of the porch of the gate, and he shall
go forth by the way thereof. But when the people of the land shall come
before the YHWH in the appointed seasons, he that entered by the way of
the north gate to worship shall go forth by the way of the south gate; and
he that entered by the way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of
the north gate; he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came
in, but shall go forth straight before him. And the prince, when they go in,
shall go in in the midst of them; and when they go forth, they shall go forth
together. And in the feasts and in the appointed seasons the meal-offering
shall be an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and for the lambs
as he is able to give, and a hin of oil to an ephah. And when the prince shall
prepare a freewill-offering, a burnt-offering or peace-offerings as a freewill-
offering unto the LORD, one shall open for him the gate that looked toward
the east, and he shall prepare his burnt-offering and his peace-offerings, as
he doth on the Sabbath day; then he shall go forth; and after his going forth
one shall shut the gate.35
Not only temple gates, but also palace gates and, especially, city gates
were important cult places. A stele of an Elamite karbu-priest of Inuinak
describes the installation of a standard (?; gi - gal ) and sacrifices at the
gate of Inuinak, presumably in front of his throne. The installation
was accompanied by singing.36 In this connection it is interesting that a
gate name gate, which hears prayers ([ k- s ] s kur - e- ga bbu(K)
e-mu- k[a-ra-bi...) is known from a Late Babylonian text from the R
temple at Uruk.37 In the Old Babylonian period, in the time of Sn-iddinam
of Larsa, sheep sacrifices were offered to the gate of a palace and the gate
of the house of his sonship.38 Sheep, the income from an audience gift
(nmirtu), are offered to the six gates of the city of Assur, one to each: that
of Aur, of ama, Turret and Tissaru gate, gate of erua, and Tabra gate
according to the twelfth century document from the archive of Ninurta-
35The translation follows the JPS Bible.
36MDP IV, pl. 2: col. I, line 13col. iii, line 2; Scheil 1902, 45. Note in this connection
that karbu-genii were often installed at gates as apotropaic figures (CAD K, 216b).
37George 1992, 210211, pl. 48, no. 31, rev. line 4.
381 udu- ni t gaba- r i k- - gal 1 udu- ni t gaba- r i k- nam- dumu- ni
one sheep offering in front of the gate of the palace, one sheep in front of the gate of his
sonship. These two gates appear in the list after the temples, which are also receiving
sheep offerings (Goetze 1950, 92 and 103, YBC 7288, lines 67).
39KAJ 254, lines 38; Ebeling 1927=1968, 133; George 1992, 457.
84 natalie n. may
The tkultu-ritual text40 terminates with the prescription of offerings to
be performed at the gate chapelbt ilni(.DINGIR
) [] abulli(K.
GAL) (ibid., line 5). The Neo-Assyrian singers ritual commends an offering
to be performed before the throne, presumably of ama, standing in the
gate inner space (birt bbi, lit. in-between the gates).41
Sacrifices and libations at the gate were performed there in the course
of purification rites, such as bt rimki,42 and on the occasions of the cel-
ebration of the New Year (merged with aktu) and triumphs43 (fig. 3, 4).44
For this purpose divine symbolsurigallu or urinnu were installed at the
gate. This was done, for instance, during the nocturnal festival in the R
temple at Hellenistic Uruk,45 probably also in the course of bt rimki,46 and
by Assurbanipal at the entrance to the temple of Itar of Arbela (fig. 5).47
Assurbanipals sacrifice at the temple gates of Itar of Arbela was a part
of a triumphAssyrias most important media event, during which the
gates played the role of the most significant public spots (see below).
The existence of gate chapels and daises is also attested. Such daises
(parakku) are known at the Itar Gate48 and at the gate of the temple of
Ningizida in Babylon.49 A dais against the gate (Cella C) was excavated by
the German expedition in Babylon, and was suggested by Andrew George
40Col. x 553, Frankena 1961, 201, 203. The tkultu-ritual is known since the Middle
Assyrian period, and was obviously connected to the aktu (Frankena 1961, 202). However
text B, which is quoted here dates to Sennacherib, as follows from the mentioning of the
name of this king in col. v, line 12.
41nru (
NAR...DUGkal]-l[u am]n([I])[x] m(A
) tumalli(SI.A)-ma ina r
(SAG) kuss(
GU.ZA) ina bi-rit bbi(K) taakkan(GAR-an), the singer...you fill the
bowl with oil and water, and install at the top of the throne (which is) in-between the
gates (Zimmern 1901, 174175, BBR 60 obv. col. i, lines 6, 9). This passage at the beginning
of the tablet is badly broken. Birit bbi here indicates the inner chambers of the gate.
42Zimmern 1901, 126127, BBR 26 col. iii 20.
43See below the full quotations of Assurbanipals inscriptions (Borger 1996, 107; B col.
vi, lines 6668/ C col. vii lines 6365; Epigraph no. 14, Fuchs apud Borger 1996, 301302;
col. i line 47col. ii line 3). The inscriptions of Assurbanipal use the expression mu/
mahuri umair, I presented as an offering for a rather exceptional offeringthe
head of his enemy, the Elamite king Teumman, upon which he also pours a libation.
44These pictures illustrate the Assyrian kings triumphal entrance to a city, see May
2012, 267274.
45Linssen 2004, 246, 249, TU 41, rev. lines 2627.
46Zimmern 1901, 126 with n. 7.
47For the sacrifices made to the divine symbols at the gate see the evidence collected
in May 2008. The divine symbols represented on fig. 5 are reported to be installed in
the course of the renovation of Itar temple at Arbela,
u-ri-in-nu bb(K) bt() dI-tar
uru(GUKIN) -za--in-ma az-kup, I set up and decorated with gold the divine symbols
at the gate of the temple of Itar (K. 891; I Rawlinson, pl. 8, no. 2).
48George 1992, 102103; no. 11, line 5.
49Idem, 100101; no. 9, line 3.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel85
to be identified with parak dAssare,50 known from the textual evidence to
have stood against the gate.51
The house of gods at the gates is mentioned in the text of the tkultu-
ritual (see above).52 The Old Assyrian king Erium reports the rebuilding
of a watmnuma chapel of the god Aur at the city gates:
i-ri-u-um i--a-ak a-r [mul]-lam q-a-am wa-at-ma-nam [ana
b]e-li-a e-[pu-u] ku-s-a-a[m][x] x-tm e-pu-u p-ni-a u-a-ra-a[m]
Erium, the ruler of Assyria, a chapel, a votive gift for the mullum-gate
(Step Gate?) I made to my lord. I built a [...] throne (and) inlayed its front
with a precious uru-stone.53
We have no archaeological evidence, but it is not improbable that the
construction above the gates was used as a chapel, or that the chapel was
a structure anywhere within the gate space. The understanding of this
matter depends on the understanding of the term mullum in this pas-
sage, which CAD interprets as a gatehouse and von Soden as an Assyrian
gate name.54 Van Driel assembled and discussed all the evidence, but did
not come to a conclusion about the nature of the mullum construction.55
If the mullum is indeed a gate-house it most probably served as a gate
chapel, not unlike the mediaeval gate-churches above the gate passage.
A typical Assyrian cult of the Sun god with horse offerings was cel-
ebrated by the kings of Judah at the gates of the Jerusalem temple, most
probably in a special chapel where also the chariots of the Sun god were
stored (2 Kgs 23:11).56
50Idem, 400401.
51George 1992, 9495; no. 6, rev. line 31.
52In Qatna a bt abullim (- k- gal ) is known. This expression was translated literally
as gate-house by the publisher of the text, who, however, admits the obscurity of the
meaning of the term (Eidem 2007, 298300).
53Grayson 1987, 20, lines 48 paralleled by idem, 26, lines 1519. The text is obscure.
I prefer to take mullum and watmnum as accusativus duplex, and not as a sequence of
homogenous parts of the sentence (contracted sentence), as Grayson does, because qa-a-u
is obviously an adverbial participle. See George 2003, 61819, line 8.
54CAD M II, 277; AHw, 684b.
55Van Driel 1969, 2931.
56ama gates existed in many cities, most often serving as a place of litigation (see
below). Stables (?, bt abste) at the (temple) gates of Anu and Adad are known in Assyria
itself (Grayson 1987, 153; A.0.76.17, line 4; Adad-nrr I). For the stables (?) of Ninurta and
Aur see ND. 1120, rev. lines 19 and 22(van Driel 1961, 200201) and VAT 10646, line 7
(May 2008, 218 and the commentary on p. 230) respectively.
86 natalie n. may
Ceremonial gates and altars/high places ( )57 at the city gates
existed in Ancient Israel. They are known both from archaeological exca-
vations, particularly at the gates of Hazor, Megiddo, Dan and Jaffo,58 and
from the Biblical texts (2 Kgs 23:8):
, - - , , - -
, - - , - ; -
. , - -
He brought all the priests from the cities of Judah, and defied the high places
where priests had offered sacrifices, from Geba to Beer-Sheva. And he tore
down the high places of the gates, by the gate of Joshua, governor of the city,
on a persons left at the city gate.59
Doubtless, the sacral and ritual function of the gate spaces was precondi-
tioned by their liminality, which was also the reason for the role the gates
played in magic.60 However, primary interest for us in the light of the aim
of the present research is that any kind of ritual or other performance
presented at the gate space had a public character due to its accessibility
for the lay audience, in contrast to the temples which were accessible for
the clergy only.
3.2The Installation of Royal Monuments at the Gates
The combination of sacredness on one hand and of publicity on the other
was also the reason why royal monumentssteles and statueswere
placed and revered at the gates. Assyrian inscriptions attest royal images61
at the city gate already in the Middle Assyrian period. Aur-ndin-apli
(12071204 or 11961194 bce) not only installed an image of his kingship
at the entrance to his city, but built a special house, presumably a shrine,62
for this image:63
57See Haran 1981, 3334 on , customarily rendered into English as a high place,
to mean simply altar.
58See Herzog 1986, 16465 for a summary of the archaeological evidence for the cult at
gates, most of which derives from the second millennium bce. Remains of the baldachin
structure at the gate of Dan were suggested to be a dais of a deity (Biran 2001), but might
be the seat of a king, and not necessarily a cultic structure. Note a fragment of an altar
found at the gate of Jaffo.
59Translation by Cogan / Tadmor 1988, 279. See also Emerton 1994 on this passage.
60See n. 24.
61alam arrtiya might designate a statue in the round, as well as a stele.
62Grayson 1987, 300.
63Idem, 301, lines 2430.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel87
a-lam arr(LUGAL)-ti-ia e-pe-a i-na si-i-pi li(URU)-ia (erasure) ba-it
) ina ma-ar dA-ur4 da-ma a-na a-zu-zi lu ak-ru-ub i-na
u4-mi-u-ma bt() a-lam arr(LUGAL)-ti-ia i-na ki-pi-ir Idiglat(
i-na si-ip-pi li(URU)-ia lu(URU) ba-it ilni(DINGIR
) lu e-pu-u na-re-ia
te-me-ni-ia i-na qer-bi-a -ku-un
I vowed to make the image of my kingship (and) install (it) at the entrance
to my city, chosen by the gods, before Aur and ama. At that time I
made the house of the image of my kingship on the bank of the Tigris, at
the entrance to my city, chosen by the gods. My steles and (foundation)
inscriptions I put inside it.
The practice of the installation of royal steles at the entrances contin-
ues in the Neo-Assyrian period. In a letter to Esarhaddon (680669 bce)
we find:64
arru(MAN) liq-bi TA* b-et i-da-nu-ni a-na rb(L

GAL) upparru(A.BA)
arru(MAN) -e-mu li-kun na-ru-u u-mu arri(MAN) ina libbi() li-
ur ina si-ip-pa-ni bti() i--kan-u-ni is-se-ni-ma u4-mu bu(DG.
GA) le-mur
Let the king order the chief scribe to write the name of the king on the stele,
and at the same time to look up a favourable day for them to place (it) at
the entrance to the house.65
Shalmaneser III places a statue of himself at the Coppersmith (Tabra)
gate of the city of Assur: a-lam arr(MAN)-ti-a pu(D)-u ina abul(K.
GAL) Tabra(TIBIR) ul-ziz, I made an image of my kingship (and) put it at
the Tabra Gate.66 The inscription is incised upon the royal statue.
A stele of Assurnasirpal II with an altar in front of it was erected at the
gate of the Ninurta temple at Kalu (fig. 6). A stele of Tiglath-Pileser III
is depicted standing at the city gate of Tirtakka on a relief from room II
(722725 bce) of Sargon IIs palace at Khorsabad (Dr-arrukn; fig. 7).
Three steles of Esarhaddon were installed at the gates of conquered cities:
one at gate D of Zincirli (Samal) and two at the north-eastern city gate
and at the main gate of the acropolis of Tell-Ahmar (Til Barsip)a stele at
each gate (fig. 8a, b).67 Andrew George suggested the existence of a Gate
of the Statue in Babylon.68 However, it is not clear if it is a royal, divine
or other monument.
64SAA 16, no. 125, lines r. 410 = Luukko / van Buyalere 2002, 106107.
65Presumably a temple or a palace.
66Grayson 1996, 119, col. iii, line 10.
67Ussishkin 1989, 488489; Porter 2000.
68George 1992, 456.
88 natalie n. may
David Ussishkin69 gathered most of the cases of the installation of this
kind of monuments at city gates in Anatolia and the Levant in the second
and first millennia bce, including steles erected by the Assyrians. He starts
with the seated royal statue at the innermost entrance to the inner gate-
house of the centralSouth-WestGate of Tell Mardikh (Ebla) dated to
ca. 20001800 bce.70 Remains of the statues dated to the period of the
Hittite Empire were unearthed nearby the Sphinx Gate of Alaa Hyk
also the central gate of the city, and the Sphinx Gate at Boazky (Hattua),
which served as an entrance to the temple area for cultic processions.71 A
colossal royal statue, which Ussishkin tends to attribute to Pisisris (738
717 bce) stood in the second chamber of the inner gatehouse of the South
Gate at Carchemish.72 A colossal royal statue was installed at the inner
gatehouse of the Lions Gate of Arslantepe (Melid) in the second half
of the eight century bce.73 Ussishkin also suggests that a royal statue was
erected at the eastern (central?) gate of Tell Tayanat early in the eight cen-
tury bce. Ussishkin claimed that royal monuments were set in a promi-
nent position inside or adjacent to a central gatehouse and were meant
to symbolize authority, domination or conquest of the city in question.74
He connects the phenomenon with the importance and function of the
gate in the public life of the city in the ancient Near East.75 However, the
evidence from Mesopotamia quoted above and below denotes the sacral
aspect of the act of installation of royal monuments at the gate.76
Archaeological records prove that steles were erected at the gate spaces
of Ancient Israel.77 At Tel Dan uninscribed orthostats (maebt; 9th8th
centuries bce) were found in situ at the gate plaza,78 as well as the scat-
tered fragments of the famous stele of David (end of 9th century bce). A
fragment of a monumental inscribed Israelite stele was unearthed in the
debris near the great gate of Samaria. It is dated to the eight century bce
on the grounds of the palaeography of its Hebrew inscription.79
69Ussishkin 1989.
70Ussishkin 1989, 485.
71Ussishkin 1989, 486.
72Idem, 487.
74Idem, 485.
75Idem, 490.
76On royal effigy as a sacral object see May 2008, Chapter I.3.
77Ussishkin 1989, 490.
78Biran / Naveh 1993, 8187; idem 1995, 113.
79Ussishkin 1989, 490; Crowfoot et al. 1942, 15; Birnbaum apud Crowfoot et al. 1957,
3334, pl. II.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel89
3.3Processional GatesA Place for Public Performances:
Military and Ritual
Publicity and sacredness were again the reason for the gate spaces to
be the place of ritualised performances. In the Assyrian Empire of the
seventh century bce the gates of Nineveh, and of the cult centre of
ItarArbela served as the place of spectacular public performances
triumphal military processions, which are designated in Akkadian by
the expression erb li, literary entrance to the city, since the triumphal
procession was passing through the city gate in the sight of the citizens.80
It has been shown that in the Late Assyrian period military triumphs
were celebrated together with the New Year feastaktu.81 It was the
main media event, an occasion on which the king was seen by the
people. However, triumphal entrances were performed not only into
the cities of Assyrian mainland, but also to the subjugated cities in the
hostile land.82
The Hebrew Bible describes the women coming out of the cities to
meet Saul and David returning from the victorious war with the Philis-
tines, and forming a triumphal procession accompanied by recitation,
singing and dance (2 Sam 18:6, 7):
- , - ,
. , , ) (
. , : ,
Dancing women came out from all the cities of Israel to meet Saul, the king,
with tambourines and celebration and lutes,
Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands,
sang the women.83
Besides military processions, the gates were also a place where ritual pro-
cessions were passing. It was during the aktu when the gates had their
main ceremonial function in Mesopotamia, and the festival procession
was to pass through the gates. A Middle Babylonian gate name abul
akti the New Year festival gate was known in Nippur.84 Temple gates
80May 2012, especially 461, 464, 474.
81Pongratz-Leisten 1997, 24552; Tadmor 2004; May 2012.
82May 2012, 471, 480.
83Translation following McCarter 1980, 310. P. Kyle McCarter amends the Biblical text
into to meet David.
84Six Kassite texts mention the aktu-gate, Sassmannshausen 2001, 243 (MUN 48,
lines 28, 32); 244 (MUN 50, line 15); 248 (MUN 57, line 1); 420 (MUN 400, line 3), and
90 natalie n. may
naturally served the function of the place of display of a divine statue
when it exited or entered the temple. The gates of the entrance of Gula,
bb(K) e-reb dGu-la are mentioned to indicate the location of a house.85
Nebuchadnezzar embellished the northern gate of the chapel of Nab for
his exit and entrance.86 This is the gate described in the gate list of -sagil
as bb nreb dNab u dBlet-Bbili, the Entrance Gate of Nab and Blet-
Bbili(=Itar).87 The most famous New Year festival gate is the Babylo-
nian gate of Itar, now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin (Jakob
Rost 1992, 12021, no. 61 and 123125, nos. 6263).
The Middle Assyrian coronation ritual prescribes to carry the king out
of the city gate during the coronation ceremony.88 These are probably
the gates known from the Gtteradressbuch as the Kings Entrance Gate,
abul nreb arri, another name of the mullu-gate in the city of Assur,
which was also a gate of litigation (see below).89
Another Middle Assyrian ritual commends going out, sitting and mak-
ing sacrifice at the gate: [x] abulli(K.GAL) A+ur illak(DU)-ku pan(IGI)
abulli(K.GAL) uab(TU)-bu niq (UDU
PBS 2/2 77, lines 2 and 11; PBS 106, line 27. PBS 106, line 27 speaks of the distribution of
flour to the singers of the aktu-gate, a-na nar(NAR
) abul(K.GAL) -ki-te/ti. PBS
2/2 77, lines 1012 assign flour rations to the singers of aktu- and other gates. PBS 2/2 77,
line 2 assigns a commodity of flour to the aktu-gate, not specifying a particular recipient.
A ration given to the singers of the (aktu)-gate is interesting on its own, pointing out that
a team of singers was among this gates personnel, which is obviously connected with
rituals performed there.
85Fales / Postgate 1995, 96 (= SAA 11 153). Another variant of this gate name is bb(K)
n-reb dGu-la (George 1992, 9495; no. 6, rev. line 29). Andrew George (1992, 399) suggests
to identify this gate with k- gn- a, probably the principal gate of Gulas temple E-gal-
ma, located close to E-sagil in Babylon. As George notices, the ceremonial name of the
gate is shared with the gate of E-zida at Borsippa, through which Nabs procession passed
to and from the Babylonian New Year festival. The gate of Gula existed also in Nippur
(Kramer 1956, 273274).
86bb(K) iltni(IM.SI.S) kaspi(K.BABBAR) uh-hi-i-ma a-na [a-i-]-e e-ri-ba a...
Nab(dAG), I inlayed the north gate with silver for the exit and entrance of...Nab
(Langdon 1912, 158; A col. vi 4648).
87[b]b ([K]) bb(K) Nab (dAG) u Blet(dM)-Bbili(TIN.TIRKI) ina l[b]-bi
i-ru-ub-<bu> n-reb Nab (dAG) u Blet(dM)-Bbili(TIN.TIRKI) m-s, The gate through
which Nab and Blet-Bbili enter is called the Entrance Gate of Nab and Blet-Bbili
(George 1992, 9495; no. 6, rev. line 23; 361362; 397398).
88Mller 1937, 1415, lines 4344.
89abul(K.GAL) n-reb arri (MAN) mu-la-l[u] (George 1992, 17677, line 121).
90[to] the gate of Aur they go (and) sit down in front of the gate, sacrifice [...]
(Speleers 1925, 36, no. 308, line 8).
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel91
3.4Gates as a Place for the Public Appearance of the King
Not only royal monuments, but the king himself makes his public appear-
ances at the gate. As we saw he does it on the occasion of triumphs and
ritual processions.91 The culminating point of the triumph is the kings
appearance at the gate performing a libation, which is the usual termina-
tion of a sacrifice.92 Assurbanipals libation over Teummans head at the
gate of Arbela (fig. 5, and below) is the most explicit example of the kings
public appearance at the gate in Assyria.
The gate list of E-sagil mentions the dais at the gate of the chapel of
Gula, called parak arri, the dais of the king, which probably served as the
seat of the king on public occasions.93 The city gate of Babylon94 called the
Kings Gate, abul arri, is the only gate in this city, which does not bear
the name of a god. It might be used for the royal ceremonies. The gate name
princes gate, k- gal dumu- me l ugal is attested in Kassite Nippur.95
The gate is the place of the public appearance of the king also in the
Bible. In 1 Kings one finds the enthroned kings of Israel and Judah, Ahaz
and Jehosaphat sitting at the gate and hearing the prophets predicting
them a victory (1 Kgs 22:10):
, , - -
. , - ; ,
Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their
thrones, dressed in robes, at the threshing floor96 at the entrance of the gate
of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them.97
David masters his troops at the city gates of Mahanaim before the battle
as well (2 Sam 18:15, especially 4):
91See also Schmitt, 2000. His pictorial examples of royal ceremonies at the gate (Abb. 8,
9)the depictions on the White Obelisk, are in my view representations of triumphal pro-
cessions and celebrations (May 2012, 267274).
92May 2008 and May 2012, 464468, 471474, 476.
93George 1992, 9495; no. 6, rev. line 32.
94George 1992, 6667, TINTIR=Babylon (no. 1), tablet V, lines 54, 6869, 72.
95PBS 2/2 77, line r. 3.
96Eidem (2007, 299300) discusses the possibility of the existence of a threshing floor
at the gates of Qatna (depending on the translation of makanum), and points to the exis-
tence of threshing floors or grain storages at Tuttul, as follows from the Old Babylonian
97Translation Cogan 2001, 487. Cogan comments, The cramped city streets and quar-
ters could not accommodate large gatherings, and the only open space was to be found
just inside the city gate or, better yet, outside it; such tracts served as the market and the
place of assembly (idem, 490).
92 natalie n. may
. , ; - ,
, , - - , -
. , - , - , ...;
David mastered the army (lit. the people) that was with him, setting com-
manders of thousands and commanders of hundreds over them. David
divided the army into three parts, one third under the command of Joab,
one third under the command of Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joabs brother,
and one third under the command of Irtai the Gittite;...The king stood at
the gate as the entire army (lit. the people) marched out by hundreds and
The king is sitting at the gate to meet the people and the army coming to
him as does David after Abshaloms revolt (2 Sam 19:9):
, , - ; ,
David got up and took his seat at the gate, and when the army (lit. the peo-
ple) was told that the king was sitting at the gate, the entire army (lit. the
people) came before the king.
Finally, the late post-exilic account of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennach-
erib reports of Hezekiah assembling his generals at the city gate plaza and
addressing them with a speech of encouragement (2 Chron 32:6):
, - , - , ; - ,
He placed military officers in charge of the people, summoned them to him-
self on the plaza at the city gate, and spoke directly to them as follows....98
The king at the gate in the Bible meeting and mastering the troops resem-
bles of course the Neo-Assyrian triumphs, though these cultic-military
performances were of much larger scale.
However, in the vision of Ezekiel the prince ( ) is prescribed to
eat a sacrificial meal at the temple gate, in the passage compared by
Hallo and Levine99 with the practice of offering to the temple gates at Ur
(Ezek 44:3):
; )- ( - - , -
100. ,
98Translation by Myers 1965, 185.
99Hallo / Levine 1967, 49.
100It is noteworthy that this sacrificial meal seems not to be eaten publically, because
the preceding passages (Ezek 44:12) prescribe to lock the doors and let no one enter the
temple precinct.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel93
As for the prince, being a prince, he shall sit therein to eat bread before
YHWH; he shall enter by the way of the porch of the gate, and shall go out
by the way of the same.
It was suggested that in the Bible the king judges at the gate (Jer 38:7)101
though the quotation does not directly point to it:
, - - , , -
- ; , - . , ; -
. ,
But Ebed-Melech, the Cushite, a eunuch man, heardsince he was in the
kings housethat they had put Jeremiah into the pit. Now the king was sit-
ting in the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed-Melech went out from the kings house
and spoke to the king.102
It should, nevertheless, be noted that to the best of my knowledge, we do
not find the king judging at the gate in the Akkadian texts.
3.5The Gate Space as a Place for Public Assemblies
The Biblical text presents multiple evidence for the gate space being
place of an assembly and the seat of elders,
- - , her husband is known in the gates when he sits with the
elders of the land (Prov 31:23).103
Gates were the place of public meetings as follows from the evidence
discussed above and from further Biblical examples. Sichem and Hammor
talk to their people at the gate of their city convincing them to make cir-
cumcision (Gen. 34:20, 21):
. , - ; - ,
Hamor and Shechem came to the gate of their city, and spoke to their
townsmen, saying....104
In the post-exilic period the people of Jerusalem assembled to hear the
Torah reading at the city gate (Neh 8:23):
101Lundbom 1999, 71.
102Translation idem, 45.
103Translation by Fox, 1964, 1115. The commentator states again that civic, personal
and juridical business was conducted in the gates by city elders (idem, 896). For the elders
at the gates as a court jury see also Deut 21:1822; Ruth 4:111.
104The translation is mine. Speiser (1981, 263) rendered the gate of their city as the
town council noting Literally the gate of their town, the place where all public busi-
ness was transacted (idem, 265).
94 natalie n. may
, , - , -
- , - - . ,
- , - ; , -
On the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law
(Torah) before the assembly of every man and woman, all who could hear
and understand. And he read it at the plaza in front of the Water Gate from
dawn until midday before the men and women who could understand,
and all the people listened attentively (lit. the ears of the all people were
directed towards) to the Book of the Law (Torah).105
Finally, the city gate and streets are the places where the Wisdom seeks
for publicity (Prov 1:2021):
: , . , ; ,
The Wisdom cries aloud in the streets, in the plazas gives for her voice, at the
crossroads she calls out, at the openings of the city gate she has her say.106
I am not aware of any direct evidence from Mesopotamia itself for an
assembly (purum) at the gate.107 However, the divine or human assem-
blys main concern is litigation,108 which often takes place at the gate (see
below). Andrew George109 interprets Enma eli V, lines 125128, where it
is said that the divine assembly should take place in Babylon, as a word
play on the folk-etymology of the name of Babylon as Bb-il gate of the
gods. He suggests that the assembly takes place at the gate of the gods
that is in Babylon. One of the gates in Assur bore the ceremonial name l
drt puur ni, Eternal be the assembly of the people!110
Most interesting is probably the parallelism between Akkadian bu/,
which means both elder (when in plural) and witness,111 and the
elders serving as witnesses in the Bible as in Ruth 4:111.
105Translation of the author.
106Translation after Fox (2000, 95) with my amendments.
107The only textual example of an assembly at the gate is rather unclear, a-na ri-ik-si
bb(K) ekalli(.GAL) ana pu-ur um-ma-ni, to the board/treaty(?) of the palace gate,
to the assembly of specialists (VAT 8258=KAR 71, line; Ebeling 1931b, 30).
108CAD P, 485491.
1091992, 256257.
110Menzel 1981, II T 155: 131, KAV 42 iii 37 and Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 26, 29. See also
Steinert, this volume, n. 134.
111 CAD II, 390ff. For bu as a witness at the gate see below and nn. 128, 129. Most of
this evidence derives from Nuzi.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel95
3.6Gates as a Place for Judicial Activities: Judgement, Litigation, Legal
Agreements, Publication of Court Decisions and Legal Documents etc.
In the texts, both Akkadian and Biblical, the most often mentioned func-
tion of the gate space is its being a place of legal actions.112 This function
of the gate space cannot be found in the archaeological record or visual
representation with probably one only exception.113 Litigation took place
at the city gate, as well as at palace and temple gates.
In both Akkadian and Biblical contexts we find the gate space being
used as a legal court on occasion of lawsuits. Books of Amos (5:10) and
Isaiah (29:21) use the term , which designates the person
demanding a litigation at the gate in order to prove his case. Gates in
Mesopotamia were the place of the seat of the judges,114 in the Bible
the seat of the jury of elders,115 a court where decisions were made.116 In
Mesopotamia judgement at the gate is a common place found in literary
textsproverbs and sayings. A text from Assur, written in the Neo-Assyr-
ian dialect, and belonging to the collection defined by Wilfred Lambert as
Popular Sayings renders:
a-na URUKu--ti ki-i il-li-ku ina ti-ib e-e-ri ina bb(K) ha-za-an-ni ig-ru-
When he went to the city of Cutha, they took him to law at break of dawn
in the magistrates gate.
ap-par-ru- i-na bb(K) de-e-ni -u-uz im-na u-me-la kt-ra-a -pa-
qa-ad i-di i-bil-ta- ama(dUTU) qu-ra-du
The sycophant stands in court at the city gate, right and left he hands out
bribes. The warrior ama knows his misdeeds.117
112The evidence is endless. There is no place and sense to discuss all the evidence here,
only some texts are quoted. For the rest see CAD A, 8288 and B 1427, passim.
113Traces of a throne were excavated at the gate plaza of Tel Dan. It was suggested,
among other possibilities, that the throne was installed there for the king performing a
royal court of justice (see discussion in Schmitt 2000, 477). The suggestion is based again
on Biblical sources (Jer. 38:78), and cannot be used as direct evidence in spite of its high
probability, since the interpretation of this passage as the royal court at the gate is itself
a suggestion. It is obvious, however, that the throne at the Tel Dan gate plaza stood there
for a high official, most probably the king, though in Mesopotamia daises for gods were
also erected at the gates (see above).
114CAD A, 86a.
115Deut 21:1822; Ruth 4:111; Prov 31:23.
116CAD B, 19b20a, 21b22a.
117Lambert, 1960, 218219, lines r. 12, and 810 respectively. I follow Lamberts transla-
tion, but in fact it should be rendered, the sycophant stands at the gate of judgement.
96 natalie n. may
This rather late and literary text reflects a common notion of a gate being
a place of legal procedures.
Often the gate of litigation is the gate of the god.118 Gate names such
as gate of judgements, bb dn at the Eanna temple in Uruk119 or the
gate of the judges, bb dayyn in Old Babylonian Sippar,120 which was
probably the gate of ama, the judge121 (ama was the Sun god and the
god of justice), also designate the gate space function. The term dayyn
a bbi, judges of the gate is also often attested.122 Gates of ama are
known in Babylon,123 Assur124 and Sippar,125 but it seems that only in Sip-
par it was the gate of litigation.
The range of judicial procedures which took place at the gate is much
wider than just the act or a court of justice itself. There are attesta-
tions of:
Gates are places of the publication of legal decisions
Court of justice at the gate
Witnesses sworn or oaths taken at the gate
Gates as a place of legal transactions and contracts signed at the gate
The starting point of a legal procedure at the gate was publishing of legal
documents. This action is known as dtu in the peripheral texts from
Nuzi and Arrapha. The document was read at the gate and then written
down. The final clause of multiple legal documents from Nuzi states, uppu
arki dti ina bb abulli a URUNuzi air, (this) tablet is written after the
proclamation at the city gate of Nuzi.126 Sometimes this clause states that
the tablet was written ina pni...hazannu, in front of the mayor.127
Another rather peripheral corpus of evidence, namely the Old Assyr-
ian documents from Kltepe (krum Kane) seems to be particularly clear
This also transmits the play of words here: he himself is being judged by ama. The text
is dated to 716 bce.
118CAD B, 19b.
119Kleber 2008, 6 with n. 183.
120CAD B, 21b.
121k- d ut u- di - ku5 (CT 4 46a: 4).
122CAD B, 17b, 19b.
123George 1992, 6667, TINTIR=Babylon (no. 1), tablet v, lines 56, 6869, 74, and passim.
124George, 1992, 17677, line 123, and p. 456ff.
125See above with n. 120, and below.
126See Negri Scafa 1998, 140 and Lacheman 1962 for the meaning and appearance of
the dtu-clause on the Nuzi texts. Further examples with the variants of writing appear
in CAD III, 195.
127For instance JEN 433: 36; 440: 16.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel97
concerning an oath sworn at the gate. The longest known Old Assyrian text
from Kane,128 being a record of a lawsuit regarding a robbery, describes
that the witnessed tablets, whether concerning you or concerning Id-
Itar, which they certified in the Gate of the God, up-pu- a -bi4-a lu
a-u-m-k lu a-u-m I-d-Itar(ADAR) a i-na ba-b ilim(DINGIR) -a-
ri-mu--ni were taken by burglars. The expressions a b a bb ilim129
and uppum (a b) a bb ilim, a tablet (witnessed) in the Gate of the
God is well attested in the documents from krum Kane.130
However, contracts were also reached at the Gate of the God,131 a-na
bb(K) ilim(DINGIR) nu--ri-s-[ma] bb(K): ta-am-gi5-ir-tum i-bi4-
-ma, We led him down to the Gate of the God, and in the Gate this
agreement was reached.
The custom of litigation at the gate was common in this period also in
the Assyrian mainland. An Old Assyrian inscription of Erium132 enlists
Seven Judges of the mullum-gate. The mullum-gate of the city of
Assur in the Old Assyrian period is said to be a place of judgement also
in the letters,133 which, using Georges expression, brings to mind the
ancient tradition of justice at the gate.134
Witnesses were sworn and oaths were taken at the gates in Assyria
itself as they were in Anatolian colonies of the Assyrians. The Erium text
mentions the mullum-gate as a place where oaths were taken, testimo-
nies were given and legal decisions were made:135
q-bi wa-ta-ar-tim i-na mu-u-l[-l]e [(x)] x a a-re-be-em pu-u q-na-s
i-a-ba-at ki-ma k-ar-p-tim a-<p>-e-tim q-q-s i-a-p ki-ma qanm(GI)
q-li-<im(?)> i-q-a-al ma--[u] i-p-u-ma i-lu-ku q-bi4-i wa-ta-a[r-t]im
i-na mu-u-l-le bt(-be-et)a-re-be-em bs(-be)-s e-we a a-na -bu-u[t
s]-ra-tim e-le- [7 da]-a-a-n a d-na-am i-na [mu-u-l-l]e i-d-nu di -
i[n s-r]a-[t]im [lidnum dAur] dAdad(IKUR) be-l[u-um il zaru
li]-il5-q-ta -ra-a[m] [u x x x (x)-a]m e i-d-na-u
128Larsen 1988, 115, No. 84a, lines 5557.
129lu up-pa-am il5-q lu -b-e a-na ba-ab ilim(DINGIR
im) --ri-id, let him take a
tablet, let him send down the witnesses to the gate of the god (Albayrak 2006, 96, No. 45.
Kt. o/k 30, lines 2830), and CAD A II, 218 TCL 130: 30.
130up-p-am/um (a -be) a ba-b i-lim/DINGIR Veenhof 2010, 143; no. 42, lines 13;
159; no. 51, lines 1718; 178; no. 62, line 1=nos. 63, line 15 and 64, lines 18f.
131Veenhof 2010, 103, no.13, lines 4345.
132Grayson et al. 1987, 2021, lines 2630.
133CAD M II, 277a.
134George 1992, 458.
135Grayson et al. 1987, 21, lines 3952.
98 natalie n. may
The one who lies (lit. talks too much) in the mullum-gate, [the demon] of
ruins will seize his mouth and his hindquarters; he will smash his head like
a shattered pot; he will fall like a broken reed and water will flow from his
mouth. The one who lies (lit. talks too much) in the mullum-gate, his
house will become a house of ruin. He who rises to give false testimony, may
the [Seven] Judges who decide legal cases in [the mullum-gat]e give a false
decision [against him]; may Aur [and] Adad, and Bl [my gods, p]luck [his
seed]; a place [...] may they not give to him.
The legal function of the gate space is interconnected with its sacral func-
tion: the witnesses swore by the deity/deities of the gate, in this case pre-
sumably by Aur, Adad and Bl, who would punish them for the false
testimony. The Erium inscription describes the witness given under oath
obviously in the course of the litigation process.
The court of justice at the gate is also found in the Bible (Deut 17:29):
, - : - , -
, , . - -
, - . - - , ; ,
. , ;
, - - -
- . , ; - , - -
- . - , : ,
. , ; , - , ,
: , - - ,
. , -
If there be found in the midst of you, within any of your gates which YHWH
your God gave to you, man or woman, that did that which is evil in the
sight of the YHWH your God, in transgressing His covenant, and had gone
and served other gods, and worshipped them, or the sun, or the moon, or
any of the host of heaven, which I have commanded not; and it be told
you, and you hear it, then shall you inquire diligently, and, behold, if it be
true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel; then
shall you bring forth that man or that woman, who have done this evil thing,
unto thy gates, even the man or the woman; and you shall stone them with
stones, that they die. At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall
he that is to die be put to death; at the mouth of one witness he shall not be
put to death. The hand of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him
to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall put away the
evil from the midst of you. If there arise a matter too hard for you in judg-
ment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke
and stroke, even matters of controversy within thy gates; then shall you
arise, and get you up unto the place which YHWH your God shall choose.
And you shall come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel99
shall be in those days; and you shall inquire; and they shall declare unto you
the sentence of judgment.136
In the book of Zechariah (8:16) the gate is defined as a place of judgement,
. , - , Speak
truth to one another, and judge with complete justice in your gates.137
However, the gates were also the place where the witness for a business
or marriage contract could be found. In the book of Ruth (4:911), Boaz
buys the field of Naomi and pronounces Ruth to be his wife at the city
gate taking city elders and people at the gates as witnesses:
, - - , , -
- . , -
, - - , - - ,
; , - - . , :
Then Boaz said to the elders and to all the people, You are witness today
that I buy all that belonged to Elimelek and all that belonged to Kilyon and
Mahlon from the hand of Naomi. And Ruth the Moabitess, wife of Mahlon,
I buy as my wife, to establish the name of the dead on his inheritance, so
that the name of the dead not be cut off from among his brethren, or from
the gate of his town. You are witness today! Then the people who were
at the gate and the elders said, (We are) witnesses!138
The following verses (Ruth 4:1112) are a blessing and might be in fact the
confirmation of the wedding contract by the assembly. But the whole pas-
sage (Ruth 4:112) describes a civic litigation process all of which takes
place at the city gate in the eyes of ten elders whom Boaz called to witness
that the other party withdraws its claims (4:16).
Abraham buys his burial place, the cave of Mahpelah, from Ephron
the Hittite at the gates of the Hittite city (Gen 23: esp. 1011) having all the
people entering it as witnesses:
, - - ; - ,
- , - . -
. , - ;
Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth. Ephron the Hittite answered
Abraham in front of the sons of Heth, all coming to the gate of his city, so:
136Translation following the JPS Bible.
137Amended translation of Carol and Eric Meyers (1993, 409). See their note on the
function of the gates in the Biblical texts (ibid., 427).
138Translation by Campbell (1975, 140) with my amendments. For marriage contracts
at the gate in Mesopotamia see CAD B, 23.
100 natalie n. may
No my lord, hear to me: I gave you the field and the cave in it, I gave it in
the eyes of my peoplebury your dead!139
It is noteworthy, that both Edward Campbell and Ephraim Speiser140 do
not translate gate literally, but render it as a city assembly or council,
thus applying the derivative and not the direct meaning.
As both the Biblical and Mesopotamian evidence display, gates were the
place for various legal transactions. Contracts were made and the tablets
were sealed at the gates; payments, in accordance with the legal obliga-
tions were executed there, and the contract witnesses witnessed at the
gate as well. In Mesopotamia the richest evidence for the gate as a place
of business legal actions, derives from Old Assyrian and from Nuzi docu-
ments.141 The location of these actions reflects their public character.142
A Seleucid text preserved a unique description of an interrogation by
torture on the rack, simmiltu a maltu the ladder of interrogation, of
the suspects in sacrilegious larceny at the temple. The procedure was car-
ried out in front of the high official (atammu) of E-sagila, and of the
judges of the house of gods behind the gate, presumably of the temple.143
3.7Gates as a Place for Public Executions (Not Only of Legal Character)
Legal procedure at the gate did not end with the judges sentence. It was
indeed carried out there from the beginning until the very end. The gate
space was used not only for tortures, but also for executions. I have found
no Akkadian documents that evidence the execution at the gate as a mat-
ter of a court decision. However, already in a literary Babylonian prayer
to Marduk, a composition which Lambert tends to date to the Kassite
period,144 a gate of punishment, bb erti is mentioned connecting the
gates to the place of both judgement and punishment: ur-ru- -ri
di-i-[ni] ina ba-ab r-ti-ka ka-sa-a i-da-a-[], ...bringing him to the
place of judgement, his arms are bound in your gate of punishment.145
139The translation is mine. See Speiser 1981, 168 for the alternative.
140See notes 108109.
141CAD A I, 84a; B 19b; M II, 277a, III, 195. For the analyses of Nuzi material see Negri
Scafa 1998.
142For the legal transactions at the gate in the Bible see the passages quoted above
from the books of Genesis (23, esp. 10) and Ruth (4:112).
) a bt() il(DINGIR
) ina ku-tal b[bi](K[]), Joanns
2000, 195, lines 1011.
144Lambert 195960, 48.
145Idem, 5, lines 42143.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel101
Idiomatic usage of the expression in this literary text indicates that the
gates in general were known as a site of executions.
Another Middle Babylonian example for punishment at the gates derives
from the curse formula of a kudurru-inscription of Marduk-apla-iddina,146
abulli(K.GAL) li(URU)-u ka-me li-a-rid-ma i-na ka-mat li(URU)-u
li-ar-bi-u-u-ma, may he be expelled (from) the gate of his city as a cap-
tive (!),147 and may they make him stay outside the city.148
Most of the cases of execution at the city gates derive from Assyria,
where they are executions of war prisoners. Assyrian kings used to pile
severed heads and corpses at the gates of cities (fig. 9 a, b), not necessarily
Assyrian ones. In the inscriptions of Assurnasirpal II, piles of heads and
impalement in front or near by the city gate is a common place, a-si-tu
) ina pu-ut abulli(K.GAL-) lu ar-ip, a pile of
heads I erected in front of his gates;149 700(7 ME) b (ERIN
) ina pu-ut
abulli(K.GAL) u-nu a-na
zi-qi-pi -za-qip, 700 soldiers I impaled on
stakes in front of their city gate.150 It is also well paralleled by 2 Kings
10:8, a noted by Cogan and Tadmor,151 , -
- , ; - , The
messenger came and reported to him, they have brought the heads of
the princes. He said, Put them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate
until morning.
Tiglath-Pileser III singles out for the exemplary execution the per-
son responsible for the resistancethe local king,152 mdNab(MUATI)-
-ab-i arra(LUGAL)--nu m-e-ret abul(K.GAL) li(URU)- a-na
za-qi-pi -e-li-ma <-ad-gi-la> ms(KUR)-su, I impaled Nab-uabi,
146Scheil, 1905, 38=MDP VI, col. vi, lines 1617.
147Contra CAD K, 122a. Note phraseology similar to Esarhaddons inscriptions below.
148This passage can of course be interpreted as an exile from the city. In the previous
line (Scheil, 1905, 38=MDP VI, col. vi, line 15) the violator of the kudurru is cursed with
leprosy. So he should be driven out of the city as a leper, which constitutes a parallel to
the law of Lev. 13:11, 46 and Num. 12:1416 in general, and to 2 Kings 7:3 which describes
four lepers sitting at the city gate during the siege of Samaria by Ben-Hadad.
149Grayson 1991, 220, iii 108; also idem, 199, i 89; 210, ii 108109; 260, 7576 with com-
binations and variations. Shalmaneser III also used this expression (Grayson 1996, 20, ii
53). The inscriptions of these kings very often describe piles of heads and impaled captives
in front or around conquered cities applying a variant of the same stock phrase. The highly
literary character of this expression is also betrayed by a sign play when astu a qaqqadte
) ina pt(SAG) abulli/li is written with the use of Sumerograms.
150Grayson 1991, col. ii 109; variant idem, 260, 7576.
151Cogan / Tadmor 1988, 113.
152This reflects a transition from politics of plunder and devastation to gradual annexa-
tion in Assyrian imperialism.
102 natalie n. may
their king, before the gate of his city and exposed him to the gaze of his
Sennacheribs inscriptions carry on the change. Not only is the local
king chosen for exemplary execution, but he is also brought to Assyria for
this purpose:
mu-zu-bu ar(LUGAL) Bbili(K.DINGIR.RAKI) i-na taz(M) ri(EDIN)
bal-u-su ik-u-du qt(UII)-u-un e-ri-in-nu bi-ri-tu id-du-u-ma a-di
ma-ri-ia ub-lu-ni-u i-na abul(K.GAL) qabal(MURUB4) li(URU) a
Ninua(NINAKI) ar-ku-su da-bu--e
Their hands captured zubu, king of Babylon alive in an open battle. They
put him into a neck-stock (and) fetters, and brought him before me. I fas-
tened him at the inner gate of Nineveh as a bear.154
Esarhaddons scribes obviously knew Sennacheribs inscriptions.155 He is
also reported to have put a captive king near the inner city gate of Nineveh
together with a bear, a dog and a swine to be mocked by the mob:156
URUAr-za-a pa-a-i na-al mt(KUR) Mu-ur-ri -lu-lam-ma mA-su-
i-li arra(LUGAL)-u bi-re-t ad-di-ma ana mt A+urKI -ra-a ina e-i
abul(K.GAL) qabal (MURUB4) li(URU) URUNi-nu-a it-ti a-si kalbi(UR.
GI7) u a(A) -e-ib-u-nu-ti ka-m-i
I plundered Arz, which is on the ridge of the brook of Egypt. Asuili, its
king I put in fetters, (and) brought to Assyria. Near the inner gate of Nineveh
with a bear, a dog and a pig I put them as captives.
Another opponent of Esarhaddon, the Arabian King Uabu, and his soldiers
were put in collars near the city gate. The mentioning in this connection
of Esarhaddons love for justice and punishing crime is remarkable, espe-
cially in the context of punishment at the city gate since it is extremely
rare that the Assyrian kings represent themselves as a king of justice.157
It obviously points to the punishment of the rebellious king as to that of
153Tadmor 1994, 122123, Summary Inscription I, lines 910.
154Luckenbill 1924, 8788, Nebi-Yunis Inscription (H4), lines 3436, var. idem, 90, lines
1315. R. Campbell Thompson (1940, 95) notices a variant of Nebi Yunis inscription with
bbu instead of abullu, and it-ti a-si in place of da-bu--e.
155In this connection note DAM.A, DM.A=da-bu- (CAD D, 17a, lexical section).
156Borger 1956, 50; Prism A, Episode 7, col. iii, lines 3942=Leichty, 2011, 1718.
157The royal function as a king of justice is rarely associated with the kings of Assyria
and is known only for Sargon II and his successors, which probably is an evidence of Baby-
lonian influence (Postgate 1974, 418; Tadmor 2006).
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel103
a criminal, which is a typical Assyrian attitude towards the disloyalty
of vassals:158
a-na-ku mA+ur-au(PAP)-iddina(A) ar(LUGAL) mt(KUR) A+urKI ar
(LUGAL) kib-rat erbet(LMMU)-ti kit-tu i-ram-mu-ma a-lip-t ik-kib- b
) tazi(M)-ia a-na na-ra-ru-tu mIa-ta-a -pur-ma
ka-li- ik-bu-su-ma m-a-bu adi b(
)- is-si- bi-re-tu id-du-u-
ma -bi-lu-nim-ma
i-ga-ru -kun --nu-ti-ma ina le-et abulli(K.GAL)-ia
I, Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters, who loves justice,
for whom treachery is interdicted; I sent my battle troops to the aid of Yata.
They totally defeated the Arab. They put Uabu with his army into fetters and
brought him (to Assyria). I put them in stocks159 and fastened them aside
my (city) gate.160
In the time of Esarhaddon the inner gate of Nineveh, abul qabal li a
Ninua, probably becomes the place of public executions of the ene-
mies of Assyria. Thats where his son Assurbanipal exposes the severed
head of Teumman161 and causes the sons of Nab-um-re to grind the
bones of their father.162 This scene was presumably represented upon
the relief of room 33 of the Southwest palace at Nineveh.163 The head of
Teumman was not only hung upon the gate at Nineveh, but also served as
a libation receptacle at the gate of Arbela in the course of the triumphal
pilgrimage of Assurbanipal (fig. 5):
a-na-ku Aur(AN+R)-bni(D)-apli(A) r(MAN) mt(KUR) A+urKI
qaqqad(SAG.DU) mTe-um-man [ar(MAN)] Elam(KURELAM.MAKI) ina
158The curses of Esarhaddons vassal treaties are probably the best manifestation of the
attitude to changing or disregarding the vassal oath and the very document of the treaty
being a crime (Parpola / Watanabe 1988, 43ff., 31= SAA 2 no. 6, lines 360ff.).
159Note the wordplay: igru serves also as synecdoche for a gate (CAD II, 409b).
160Borger 1956, 54; Prism A, Episode 14, col. iv, lines 2531=Leichty 2011, 1920.
161ni-kis qaqqad(SAG.DU) mTe-um-man ina irat(GABA) abul(K.GAL) qereb(MURUB4)
li(URU) a Ninua((NINAKI/URUNINA/ URUNINAKI) -ma-i-ra ma-u-ri - da-na-
an Aur(AN+R) u Itar(d15) bli(EN
-ia) n(UN
) kul-lu-me, The cut-off head of
Teumman, in front of the gates of the inner city of Nineveh I presented as an offering in
order to reveal to all the people the might of Aur and Itar, my lords (Borger 1996, 107;
Prisms B col. vi, lines 6668 / C col. vii, lines 6365).
) mdNab(MUATI/AG)-um(MU)-re(KAM/URU4-e) a/
ul-tu q-reb mt(KUR) Gam-bu-li il-qu-u/-ni a-na mt(KUR) A+urKI emtu(GR.PAD.
) -a-ti/te mi-i-ret abul(K.GAL) qabal(MURUB4) li(URU) Ninua(NINAKI)/
Ni-nu-a -a-i-la mr(DUMU
)-, the bones of Nab-um-re that I brought from
the land of Gambulu to Assyria, I caused his sons to grind these bones near the inner gates
of Nineveh (Borger 1996, 108; B VI 97B VII 2/C VII 115119).
163Barnett et al. 1998, pl. 289, slab 381b.
104 natalie n. may
abul(K.GAL) qabal(MURUB4) li(URU) mu-u-ri -[ma]-ir a ul-tu ul-la
i-na ba-ru-ti qa-bu-u um-ma [qaqqad([SAG].[DU
ta-na-[kis] karn(GETIN) eli(UGU)--nu ta-naq-q a x[...] e-nen-[na
ama] ([dUT]U u Adad(dIKUR) ina tari(LAL)-ia[...] qaqqad(SAG.DU
)-ia ak-kikis karna(GETIN) aq-qa-[a eli(UGU)--nu]
I, Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, the (cut off) head of Teumman, king
of Elam, at city gate of the inner city I presented as an offering. That,
which from the days of old was declared in an omen, saying: Cut off the
heads of your enemies, libate wine upon them, now ama and Adad in my
time [...]. I cut off the heads of my enemies, libated wine upon them.164
These Neo-Assyrian executions at the gates were part of the celebration
of triumphs.
The Biblical examples of execution at the gate are comparatively numer-
ous. Thus the idolaters (see above, Deut 17:5) should be stoned to death at
the gate. The same is the fate of the rebellious son (Deut 21:1822).
, ; , , -
- , - ; , .
. , ; , , - .
, - ; , , , -
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not hearken to the
voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and though they chasten him,
will not hearken unto them; then shall his father and his mother lay hold
on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of
his place; and they shall say unto the elders of his city: This our son is stub-
born and rebellious, he does not hearken to our voice; he is a glutton, and
a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones that
he dies; so shall you put away the evil from the midst of you; and all Israel
shall hear, and see.165
In both cases the execution is to follow the sentence.
3.8Market Places at the Gates
The gate space served as a market place, which is reflected in the multiply
attested Akkadian expression and gate name bb mari, the market gate.166
This expression is known from the Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian
164Epigraph no. 14 (Fuchs apud Borger 1996, 301302; col. i, line 47col. ii, line 3). This
libation took place at the gate of the temple of Itar at Arbela (see above n. 47).
165The translation follows the JPS Bible.
166CAD B, 22a; CAD M I, 98.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel105
periods in Assyria and Babylonia respectively. In the pre-Hammurabi Old
City of Babylon, the Market Gate was the gate through which the road to
the southern city of Dilbat passed.167 In the Late Babylonian period this
gate name is attested in Babylon itself, Uruk, Kutha168 and Bt-Amukkni,169
and is always written with Sumerogram, k- KI . LAM( ganba). In Uruk,
Kutha and Bt-Amukkni the Market Gate gave its name to the city quar-
ters, and in Babylon of the Late Babylonian period it probably is also a
place name.170
A Late Assyrian text of Assurbanipal and 2 Kings present an interest-
ing parallel of the prices at the gate market being an indication of the
economic situation in the country.171 Assurbanipal boasts of his military
achievements and tribute brought to Assyria after the defeat of Arab
tribes, which led to an extraordinary low price for such an exotic item as
a camel:172
) zikru/(NITA) zik-ru u sinni(MUNUS)/sin-ni ss(ANE
) alp(GU4
) u e-e-ni ina la me-ni -lu-la a-na
mt(KUR) Aur(AN+RKI) nap-ar mti(KUR)-ia /a] Aur(AN+RKI)
id-di-na ka-la-mu a-na si-ir-ti- um-dal-lu-u a-na pa /pa-i gim-ri-
gammal (ANE.A.AB.BA
) ki-ma e-e-ni -par-ri-is -za-i-iz a-na
) mt(KUR) Aur(AN+RKI) ina qa-bal-ti mti(KUR)-ia gammal
) 1 iqil(GN) 1/[2 iqil(GN]) kas-pi i-am-mu ina bb(K)
Numberless humans, male and female, horses, camels, cattle and small cattle
I brought to Assyria as a booty, I gave it all of my country of Assyria, I filled its
(AssyriasN.N.M) borders with its (the bootysN.N.M) entirety. I divided
(and) distributed camels to the people of Assyria as if a small cattle; in the
middle of my land they bought a camel for a shekel (or) half a shekel173 at
the gate market.
Elisha predicts high prices for flour and crops at the gates of Samaria as
the gods punishment to Ahaban indication of economic collapse and
famine (2 Kgs 7:1):174
167George 1992, 18.
168See also George 1992, 373written also k( / gal ) - ganba.
169Pohl 1933, 48*; no. 19, line 47.
171Cogan and Tadmor (1988, 79) in their commentary also noted the literary motif of
a cheap price as an abundance resulting from military booty.
172Borger 1996, 67, A ix, lines 4249.
173See Frahm, 2005 on the half-shekel coins.
174The verse is repeated thrice: here and in 7:16 and 7:18.
106 natalie n. may
- , : - ,
Then Elisha said: Hear the words of YHWH, thus said YHWH, This time
tomorrow a seah of choice flour shall be (sold) for a shekel, and two seahs
of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.175
Both examples quoted above show that in Mesopotamia and beyond
market gates were the place where the exemplar prices were established.
Paola Negri Scafa176 notes also that in Nuzi standard measures (ammati a
abulli, measure [lit. cubit] of the gate) were also displayed at the gate.
Further examples of the standard measures of the gate are known as early
as from the Old Babylonian Sippar of the time of Samsuiluna, where it is
a standard measure of (the god of justiceN.N.M) ama at the gate of
the (temple precinctN.N.M) gagm, qatu(
BAN) ama (dUTU) i-na
bb(K) ga-gi4-im.177
Given the well-known association of the correct measures with the
notion of justice in Mesopotamia,178 the establishment of exemplar prices
and measures at the gate markets connects the gates with justice and
jurisdiction once again.
3.9Gates as a Place of Control
The public functions of the gates needed control. A variety of officials
of the gates existed in different locations of the ancient Near East. They
exercised duties connected to the public functions of the gate spaces.
There were gate officials since the earliest times in Mesopotamia. Vari-
ous terms were used to designate them in different periods and even in
different locations within the same period. The exact meaning of these
terms and functions of the gate officials deserves a separate investigation.179
Below a list of the terms for gate officials is given with reference to loca-
tion and period, but without an attempt at establishing their functions:
175Cogan / Tadmor 1988, 77 translate at the market price of Samaria, taking the
expression at the gate of in its semantic development as the rate of exchange.
1761998, 140, with n. 5 for further references.
177Sigrist 1988, 75; no. 58a, lines 910 and 76; no. 58b, lines 78.
178And thus with ama as the god of justice.
179Some of them dealt with the taxes paid at the gate: VAS 54, line 4ff. Taxation at the
gate, its recipients and reason is another vast field to be explored (see evidence collected
at CAD B, 1623 passim and CAD A I, 87).
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel107
with abullu:180
Old Babylomian: a abulli(L.K.GAL)
mr abulli(DUMU.K.GAL)
- t am k- - gal and - t am k- gal are known from
the early Old Babylonian lexical list l=a.181
Apart from that is an Old Babylonian attestation for gate attendants (?)
muzzaz abulli (mu-za-az K.GAL
Nuzi:183 abultannu(L.K.GAL-(nu)) a city gate official.
Neo-Assyrian: rab abulli(L. GAL.K.GAL)
Neo-Babylonian: bl abulli(L.EN.K.GAL)
with bbu:184
a bb ekalli((L).K..GAL)Old Akkadian, Ur III, Old Babylonian and
Middle Babylonian periods.
L.K.NA = a b[bim] is known from an Old Babylonian lexical list.185
Nuzi: maar bbi a ekalli an official of palace gate.186
Neo-Babylonian: rab bbi(L.GAL.K)
Kudurru, governor of Uruk in the reign of Assurbanipal writes in his letter
to the king that Bl-ibni, military commander of the Sealand appointed
his nephew Muzib-Marduk a mui bbi (a UGU K).187 The event
is important enough to be reported to the king, but the functions of the
appointee remain unclear.
In the Bible (2 Kgs 23:8)188 the gates are called gates of Joshua
in the name of the city governor, - . The distribution of the
180CAD A, 8889. CAD translates each of these terms by the neutral gatekeeper,
which says nothing about these officials real function.
181Civil 1969, 98, lines 137 e, f.
182BE 6/1 58: 14f. There are numerous attestations of gate garrisons (CAD B, 17b18a)
and guards (maaru, CAD M I, 342), Eidem 2007, and Wright 1990. Some documents are
ration lists of the gate garrisons (for instance Eidem 2007), but there is also evidence for
payments for carried out work made at the gate (CAD B, 17 a, quoting TCL 7 8: 4 and 43:
3; PSD 180a, quoting Uruinimgina 7 vii 34(=5 vi 2324).
183For the exhaustive analysis of the evidence on abultannu see Negri Scafa 1998, pas-
sim and especially 140, for a summary. Though she manages to trace dynasties of these
officials at Nuzi (eadem, 152) the texts do not provide information about their particular
184CAD B, 2627.
185Civil 1969, 171; line 469.
186Negri Scafa 1998, 152153. Negri Scafa notices also emantuluthe head of a mili-
tary unit of ten men of the gate guard (eadem, 140).
187ABL 277, rev. lines 27, and Waterman 1930, 188189.
188Quoted above.
108 natalie n. may
gate offices ( ) at the Temple by David is described in 1 Chronicles
26:12ff. Their exact function is again unclear. The royal officer in 2 Kings
7:17 appointed by the king of Israel in charge of the gates ( - ) of
Samaria and trampled to death at that same gate by the hungry mob, was
probably responsible for the regulation of access in and out of the starving
city, and for the market prices at the gate during famine. His appointment
was obviously of an extraordinary character.
In Mesopotamia and in the Bible the gate was a public place. There (inter
alia) legal procedures took place,189 but it was a place of publicity, be it
royal, as well as of any other kind. It is clear particularly from the gate
names that in the large Mesopotamian metropoliae such as Sippar, Uruk,
Babylon, Assyrian capitals, and even at Megiddo and Hazor in Ancient
Israel various functions were assigned to different gates. There were mar-
ket gates, judges gates, ceremonial gates etc. In smaller urban compounds
all the public activities were concentrated at the same gate.
John Wright190 made an attempt of diachronic analyses of the gate
functions in the Bible, claiming that in the Iron Age II the city gate was
a paraphrase for the city itself.191 According to his scheme, in the Neo-
Babylonian Judean city the gates functions were transmitted to the tem-
ple gates,192 and in the Achaemenid period, to the squares. The power
accordingly moves from the city to the temple gates, and then to the
squares. This scheme is supposed to reflect the development from a two
tiered society to a three tiered via the stage of the four tiered temple
oriented Neo-Babylonian Jerusalem. The weakest in this chain of Wright
is the definition of the as a square though it seems to mean just
broad space. It may designate a street as well as a plaza, seemingly simi-
lar to Akkadian ribtu.193 It can be also located at the city gate, and is also
attested in the post-exilic period.194 The other problem is of course the
dating of the Biblical material and the absence of actual legal documents
to support or deny the literary evidence.
189See the examples assembled in PSD A 180a, most of which refer to Uruinimgina.
190Wright 2003.
191Ibid. 2003, 2226.
192Ibid., 33ff., based on Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
193See Steinert 2011, 317 and this volume.
194See above and notes 10 and 11.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel109
The comparison of the Mesopotamian and Biblical material discussed
in the present study shows that though the role of the gate evolved with
time, it does not necessarily reflect an axial development, but a specific
stage of a particular social structure. First of all, it is clear that the gate of
the city, temple or palace can share the same functions.195 It seems that
in the Mesopotamian periphery such as in the Old Assyrian Assur and its
colonies, and in Nuzi, the city gates were places of communal activities,
primarily legal as they were in Ancient Israel. With the growth of royal
power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire the public functions focused on the
royal persona and his appearance in the gates, but in the Land of Israel
this phenomenon existed from David through Jesus.196 In the Neo- and
Late Babylonian periods city and temple gates had again sacral and com-
munal functions.
The main importance for us here is the absence of a space deliberately
designated for public activities. Gate squares either before or behind the
gates together with the gate construction itself served in Mesopotamia
and Ancient Israel as a place of the main urban public activities, civic
space in Wrights definition. So did the streets (Steinert, this volume).
Most public events such as processions and the kings public appearance
to the people also took place at the city gate space, but it was rather a con-
sequence of a spontaneous development rather than a preconceived urban
planning. Unlike the agora or forum of the Classical world, topographi-
cally, gate spaces were not the heart of the city. Often the gate squares
were located even outside the city, which led Wright to deny the exis-
tence of a geographical entity city in Ancient Israel.197 Was this reflect-
ing an authoritarian structure of the society in opposition to democracy,
when the main place of the city was not the rulers residence, but the city
square? It seems that in the ancient Near East the absence of specially
designed public spaces was a matter of tradition, and environmental and
climatic conditions (May / Steinert, Introduction, this volume) rather than
a direct reflection of the political order.
195For instance the Temple (gate or court) can become a market as is well know from
the famous passage of the New Testament (Matt. 21:1213; Mark 11:1517; Luke 19:45). The
Kings gate may designate a palace gate as well as a city gate name, so it cannot be identi-
fied with certainty for instance in the book of Esther (passim), as well as in most cases in
various Mesopotamian texts.
196The topos of the triumphal entrance of the messiah to Jerusalem in the Hebrew
Bible (Zech 9:9), and the New Testament (Matt. 21:110; Mark 11:115; Luke 19:2938).
197Wright 2003, 50.
110 natalie n. may
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116 natalie n. may
Fig. 1.Scheme of the gate space of a six-chamber gates. Drawing by Nica May.
Fig. 2.Libation and prayer at the temple portal. Dedication plaque from Ur.
Larsa period. Photograph by Natalie N. May.
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel117
Fig. 3.Sacrifice and libation at the city gate. White Obelisk, third register, sides
AC. Drawing by Nica May (drawn after Sollberger 1974, pls. XLIIXLIV).
Fig. 4.Triumphal entrance of Sennacherib to the Babylonian city of Dilbat.
Sacrifice at the gate. Layard 1853, pl. 73.
118 natalie n. may
Fig. 5.Assurbanipals libation over Teummans head in front of the divine sym-
bols with a bow mounted upon it at the gates of Arbela in the course of the aktu-
festival. North palace, room I, slab 9 (Place 1867, pl. 41).
Fig. 6.Stele of Assurnasirpal II with an altar in front of it at the gate of the
Ninurta Temple, Kalu (Layard 1953a, 351).
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel119
Fig. 7.Siege of the city Tikrakka. Palace of Sargon II at Dr-arrukn, room 2.
Royal stele at the city gates (Botta and Flandin 1849, pl. 64).
120 natalie n. may
Fig. 8a
Fig. 8a, b.Stele of Esarhaddon at the gate of Samal. (a) The gate (Luschan 1898,
pl. 23). (b) Esarhaddons effigy upon the stele (Luschan 1893, pl. 50).
Fig. 8b
gates and their functions in mesopotamia and ancient israel121
Fig. 9a
Fig. 9a, b.(a) The impaling and mutilation of the male inhabitants of the city
Kulisi in front of its gates. (b) Piles of severed heads in front of a captured
ubrian city. Bronze bands of the Balawat Gate (648 bce) of Shalmaneser III
(King 1915, pls. 56, band X, 3 lower register and pl. 44, band VIII, 2 lower register
Fig. 9b
Ulrike Steinert
City streets are not only traffic routes, but also places for public life and
social interaction. Streets as inherently public spaces not only structure
communities, in many eras they have been the primary locale for commu-
nal events: rituals, collective celebrations, executions or public upheav-
als. According to the present, limited state of scientific knowledge, most
Mesopotamian cities (with the exception of Syro-Hittite cities and urban
centres in northern Mesopotamia) do not seem to have had large open
areas or special-purpose buildings serving as places for public activities,
but the cities main roads and gates served as the most important places
for these activities (see May / Steinert, Introduction and Natalie N. Mays
contribution, both in this volume). This absence explains the multi-
functional nature of city streets and gates, as this article and Mays article
in this volume show.
As pointed out in this book, mental models of and discourses on urban
spaces in written sources reflect the social meanings that are generated
by peoples interactions and practices in the urban space and through the
mapping of social and cultural values onto urban space (May / Steinert,
Introduction and Stenger, this volume). Thus, discourses on streets in tex-
tual sources can reveal aspects of the life and the social fabric of ancient
urban societies. The present contribution aims at providing an overview
of how streets and their public functions are represented in cuneiform
texts from the second and first millennium bce, and which cultural and
social meanings are attached to streets in different sources. How is Meso-
potamian urban society reflected in written materials that concern them-
selves with streets?2 Since many similar socio-cultural meanings seem to
1I would like to thank the TOPOI project that made this study possible by granting me
a scholarship during 20082010. Moreover, I am very grateful to Cale Johnson and Mark
Geller who read earlier versions of this paper, improved my English and provided helpful
criticism. Any remaining errors are of course my own.
2We have to keep in mind that the texts belonging to the stream of tradition (such
as myths, rituals, omens, prayers, wisdom texts, royal inscriptions etc.) reflect mainly the
124 ulrike steinert
be attached to city streets cross-culturally, it is also asked if any culture-
specific features can be found in the Mesopotamian sources.
Various cuneiform texts from the second and first millennium bce
Mesopotamia mention city streets in connection with various activities
of daily life which took place there, with the multiple functions performed
by urban centres (political/administrative, judicial, religious/cultic, eco-
nomic/commercial, cultural etc.), and with a complex, differentiated urban
society with its heterogeneous groups of inhabitants, professions, special-
ists of different economic means and social standing.3 City streets are
characterised as public space in contrast to the privacy of the house, often
in terms of the opposition between outside versus inside.4 In descrip-
tions of urban building projects in royal inscriptions, the public space of
perspectives of an urban elite, of scribes who predominantly worked for the big institu-
tions (palace/temple) and also were scholars, priests, omen and ritual specialists, as well
as authors. Yet, many of the phenomena described can be rooted in common experiences
and beliefs shared with other members and groups of their urban communities.
3As Marc van de Mieroop (1997, 101ff.) noted, the social structure of Mesopotamian cit-
ies is still poorly known. Beside the nuclear family as the basic social unit, van de Mieroop
(1997, 110ff.) mentions the existence of other social groups and networks based on pro-
fession (professional organisations), residence (the city-ward or neighbourhood which
had its own governmental structure) and ethnic identity. Assyrian and Babylonian cities
had diverse populations, many of which had ties to the palace or temples that employed
numerous people and were the primary social organising forces of the cities. According
to Leo Oppenheim (1977, 74ff.), Mesopotamian society was primarily based on economic
status-stratification. Upper strata of urban society included office-holders in the big insti-
tutions (e.g. bureaucrats, priests, scribes) and owners of agricultural land in the country-
side, which they did not cultivate themselves (but rented to tenant farmers). There were
also city-dwellers who cultivated fields and orchards in the suburbs and engaged in trad-
ing/businesses (Oppenheim 1977, 86; van de Mieroop 1997, 142ff., 176ff.). The various crafts
probably had a different social standing (e.g. goldsmith versus tanner). On the other hand,
Oppenheim argued that ideally, all free citizens enjoyed equal status as members of the
citys or city wards assembly, which managed communal affairs, relations with the palace
and matters between citizens (judicial conflicts, marriages, testaments, sales of property
etc.); Oppenheim 1977, 95, 111f.; cf. van de Mieroop 1997, 120ff. For connections between
the spatial organisation of Mesopotamian cities and social structure see also Stone 1991
and the literature discussed by May /Steinert, Introduction, this volume.
4The typical Mesopotamian courtyard house was designed for privacy, turning inward
and restricting contact with the outside (Guinan 1996, 61). The house omens of umma
lu highlight this contrast between the public sphere of the street and the private sphere
of the house with omens which attach a positive value to the subordination of the private
to the public: Encroachment of the house upon the boundaries of the street in the process of
construction foreshadows bad luck and disharmony for the inhabitants or owners (Guinan
1996, 63f.; Freedman 1998, 90 Tablet 5: 23ff.). Other omens about the exterior appearance
of houses reflect expectations of appropriate social presentation in the community: a mod-
est, inconspicuous and uninviting faade results in happiness, well-being and protection of
the household inside (Guinan 1996, 64f.; Freedman 1998, 110 Tablet 6: 1ff.).
city streets 125
city streets is seen as superordinate to private space, e.g. when a city street
is broadened to serve as royal processional road and any infringements of
private houses on the borders of the street are strictly prohibited.5
An aspect that is dominantly reflected in the texts dealt with here is
a system of symbolic meanings attached to places such as city, house or
the streets, which are correlated to basic social distinctions and which
underpin the social order and its structure. On the one hand, streets are
places used for public activities and events, where the whole community
gets together, e.g. during religious festivals. But they are also conceptua-
lised as a kind of negative space, as the place of marginal, destitute and
threatening elements of society. This symbolic system employs a contrast
between social insiders and outsiders, or put differently: with these con-
ceptions members of the urban upper class seem to set themselves apart
from those at the other end of the social scale.6
This combination of attributions and projections regarding city streets
in textual sources, of cultural meanings, values, anxieties, social ten-
sions, leads to the impression that (especially upper-class) Babylonians
had an ambivalent attitude toward life in the streets of their cities.7 Yet,
5See the inscriptions of Sennacherib concerning his building projects in Nineveh
(Luckenbill 1924, 152f., 98, 101, 113), which included the broadening of small lanes and
streets (i.e. displacement of houses) to let more light in. Following Kostof (1993, 190ff.), in
the history of urbanism, there have always been conflicts and tensions between public and
private interests regarding control of the public space of streets. In Spiro Kostoffs view,
in ancient Mesopotamian, Greek and Islamic cities, the private element (privately owned
streets in living quarters and a house architecture emphasizing the closed character of
neighbourhoods) prevailed over the public element, but in the official ideology, private
space is subordinated to public space.
6To which degree this contrast in the texts actually reflects social reality remains quite
vague. There is generally no marked division into areas inhabited by rich and poor in
Mesopotamian cities (see the overview of the literature in May / Steinert, Introduction,
this volume), although polluting activities tended to be performed on the outskirts, and
city-wards were sometimes separated from each other by walls and gates (Trigger 2003,
122, 127). Upper class residences and palaces often tend to occupy areas favoured by
the climatic conditions (e.g. winds, fresh air). How numerous marginalised groups or
unintegrated individuals (such as the homeless) were in Mesopotamian cities is hard to
estimate and certainly depended on many historical factors (wars, political changes, eco-
nomic crises etc.). But it seems that the social system included strategies and practices
which effected social integration and stabilisation, e.g. preventing pauperisation through
the remission of debts by royal edicts in times of economic crises (Selz 2007 for Babylonia
in the second millennium bce). The lower strata including wage-labourers, tenants, retain-
ers and slaves were to a large part dependent on or integrated into upper class households
and the big institutions (e.g. Galil 2007 for the Neo-Assyrian period).
7Similarly, ambivalent notions regarding todays cities, as places of civilization versus
barbarism, can also be found in present-day sociological discourse on urbanism (Schroer
126 ulrike steinert
ceremonial streets, characteristic of urban centres, were a source of pride
for rulers who financed these building projects, and certainly also in the
collective consciousness of the citizens. Thus, the Babylonian king Nabo-
nidus prays to the gods that his residence in the centre of Babylon shall be
long-lasting, and that he wants to enjoy walking to and fro on the streets
of his city.8
1.Streets and Activities of Daily Life
1.1City Streets, Traffic and Spatial Orientation
Mesopotamian city streets were dominated by pedestrians, although
domestic animals were regularly encountered there as well.9 Since little
is known from the texts about the use of animal-drawn carts in Mesopo-
tamian cities, we are dependent on archaeological information. At least
the broader main streets allowed for the use of animal drawn carts, chari-
ots and riding animals, but smaller city streets were too narrow for any
2006, 229ff.). See for further cross-cultural similarities in the cultural attitudes regarding
city life, May / Steinert, Introduction, this volume.
8Langdon 1912, 260 ii 47, see Schaudig 2001, 388: ina qereb Bbili(TIN.TIRki) likn ubt
ina sulu atalluku lubu.
9For domestic animals frequenting city streets see 250 of Hammurapis Laws (Roth
1995, 128) where the case of an ox is discussed that gores a man to death in the street.
An animal typically associated with the streets is the dog; to be like a dog in the street
is a popular metaphor for poverty used in literary texts. The presence of various wild and
domestic animals in the city plays a fundamental part in the omen series umma lu (see
Freedman 1998; 2006; Moren 1978). For example, tablet 42 begins with the entry if oxen
are dancing in the street (ina ribti(SILA.DAGAL.LA), Freedman 1998, 20). Tablets 3040
and 4349 deal especially with the behavior and encounters with animals in or near
the city and in a mans house. According to the incipits of Tablets 7172 and of what is
known of Tablet 66 (its incipit is if hawks walk in the road (ina arrni (KASKAL), Freed-
man 1998, 21f. and Appendix B; Moren 1978, 211), these tablets discuss birds seen inside
the city. Passages mentioning animals in the city streets can be found e.g. in Tablet 42
if a fox runs around in the street (ribtu; Ntscher 1930, 36 K. 2259 Rev. 7). Tablet 49
(K. 3725; CT 38, 45; Ntscher 1930, 39f.; cf. Moren 1978, 193f.; Freedman 1998, 21: 49) deal-
ing with pigs begins with a section about numerous pigs in city streets (ribtu, squ) danc-
ing, running around, assembling, screaming etc. We find parallel entries at the beginning
of Tablet 46 about dogs howling, barking together, walking around, assembling or going
wild in the streets (squ, Ntscher 1930, 56f. K. 236, K. 8063+, CT 38, 49 Vs.; Moren 1978,
190). In Tablet 1 of the Diagnostic Handbook (Labat 1951, 2ff.) dogs, pigs, oxen, sheep, horses
are mentioned as animals that the healer might see on his way to the patients house. See
also the Curse of Agade, lines 21f. imagining that even exotic animals like monkeys, ele-
phants, water buffalo jostled each other in the public squares ( a3 s i l a- dagal - l a- ke4 )
of this city (Cooper 1983; ETCSL c. 2.1.5).
city streets 127
vehicles.10 There is some evidence for the use of chariots during proces-
sions on the major ceremonial streets of big cities, which were sometimes
furnished with tracks for this purpose.11 Parades of the Assyrian king in
his chariot accompanied by courtiers, priests, musicians and soldiers are
depicted on Neo-Assyrian reliefs.12
Streets and crossroads formed the basis of orientation for a Babylonian
visiting another city, which is illustrated in a humoristic text (dated in
the colophon to the end of the ninth century bce).13 In it, a citizen of
Nippur invites a priest from Isin, and describes a series of streets and a
square (ribtu) that the visitor will pass or cross to his left, as he walks
along after entering the Exalted Gate (ABUL MA), a city gate situated
in the western part of the city wall on the Map of Nippur (ca. 1300 bce;
cf. fig. 2): When you come to Nippur, my [city], you enter by the Exalted
Gate. You will locate a stre[et (E.SIR2), a bro]ad street (SILA.DAGAL.LA),
a square (ribtu), the Tillazida Street (E.SIR2), (and) the Nusku-Ninimma
Street (SILA) to your left. Reaching the city quarter Purification priests
of the road, trust in Ea!, the visitor is advised to ask a woman identified
by name, profession and affiliation, living in the area (qaqqaru) of the
Tillazida Street, how to get to the house of the host (lines 1316), remind-
ing us that street signs and house numbers are a quite recent invention.
Moreover, not every street seems to have had a name, two streets are just
called street and broad street.14
10In Tablet 1 of the Diagnostic Handbook (Labat 1951, 5: 41f.; cf. CAD S, 163a sub b) the
possible situation that a healer sees a chariot or cart (narkabtu, saparru, umbu) on his
way to the patient, is mentioned.
11In Assur, the main street leading from the Aur-Temple in the northeast of the city
to the Tabra Gate was used as processional street for the New Years Festival (aktu, see
Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 60ff., 79ff.). It is probably identical with the kings road called l
arri a lismu (cf. Radner 1997, 278). This street was paved with stones and pebbles. The
access roads from the temples to this street were also paved with bricks. The Assyrian
king Sennacherib constructed a railway with parallel tracks for (divine) chariots (narkabtu,
rukubu, Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 193ff.) having a width of 1,1 to 1,5 m and actually found in
the courtyards and gates of the Aur-Temple and the aktu-house (see Miglus 20062008,
104; Andrae 1977, 223f. fig. 202203, 220).
12See e.g. Barnett et al. 1998, 133ff. and pl. 473496 (Sennacherib).
13Cavigneaux 1979, 114f. No. 1: 1012; Foster 1995, 363: ana Nippur(NIBRUki) [li(URU)]-ia
tallakamma abulla(KA2.GAL) ra(MA) terruba / sqa(E.SI[R2) sqa rapata(SILA.
DAGA]L.LA) ribtum / sq(E.[SIR2) Tillazida(TIL]LA4.ZI.DA) sq(SILA) Nusku(dNUSKA) u
Ninimma(dNIN.IMMA3) ana umli(A2.GUB3.BI)-ka taakkan(GAR-an).
14Because SILA.DAGAL.LA and ribtu follow directly after each other it can be con-
cluded that this was meant to signify different topographic entities, that SILA.DAGAL.LA
stands for squ rapu broad street, while ribtu is employed in another one of its meaning
components (crossroad or square), cf. the different interpretations of ribtu in AHw and
CAD; for an extensive discussion of ribtu see Steinert 2011.
128 ulrike steinert
1.2Playground for Kids
There were hardly any public recreational areas within the Mesopotamian
cities. Thus, streets serving as playground for kids are mentioned a few
times in literary sources.15 A cultic lament from the first millennium bce
speaks of the children whose playground is in the street(s) and road(s).16
In a Sumerian tigi-song of Inanna called by the modern title The Wiles
of Women, which consists of a dialogue between a girl (Inanna) and her
seducer (Dumuzi), Dumuzi advises the girl to give her mother the fol-
lowing excuse for coming home late at night: My (girl)friend was stroll-
ing with me in the street, to the playing of tambourine and recorder she
danced with me, we sang and time went by.17 These references imply that
the activities of adolescent girls were not restricted to the house, but that
they were visible in public, and spent time outside the family home with
friends of their own age.
Although the image of a care-free time in life for adolescent girls before
marriage might be a purely literary image without much reality, refer-
ences in incantations against the female ardat lil-demon, the ghost of
an adolescent girl who died before having married and experienced sexu-
ality and childbirth, imply that participating in the activities of ones age
group also belonged to a happy and fulfilled life. The ardat lil-demon is
pitifully described as a girl who never went along the street and road with
the (other) girls, who never rejoiced with (other) young girls,18 who
was never seen at her citys festival,19 never having the chance to take
part in the social life of her community.
15During the excavations at Assur, a game board with 20 squares scratched into one
stone slab of the street pavement was found in a little alley (Kanalgasse) within a Late
Assyrian city quarter, Miglus 1996, 280 and Fig. 29b.
16SBH No. 70 Rev. 14f., see Cohen 1988, 330 f+239: di 4 - di 4 - l a2 ki - e emen s i l a
[ e- s i r 2 ] - r a...: eertu aar mlul[ti] ina sqi u sul [...]. Cf. the curse in Esarhaddons
Succession Treaty (Parpola/Watanabe 1988, 46: 437439) in which the goddess of birth
Blet-il shall cut off birth from the land and deprive the nurses (trtu) of the cries of little
children in street(s) and square(s) (ina sqi(SILA) ribt).
17ma- l a- mu s i l a- dagal - l a e- ne mu- di - ni - i b- ma- ma, with the Akkadian gloss,
ina ribtim immellil, see Wilcke 1970, 84f., commentary on line 15; for the text see Sefati 1998,
186ff.; translation cited using Jacobsen 1987, 1012 and Leick 1994, 69f.; cf. Haas 1999, 141f.
18Lackenbacher 1971, 136: 69: ki - s i ki l ki ki - s i ki l - e- ne s i l a e2 - s i r - r a nu-
mu- un- di b- ba: ardatu a itti ardti sqa u sul l iba; see also the Old Babylonian
ardat lil incantation published by Farber (1989b) where her behaviour is contrasted with
the girls who play cheerfully in the street (Farber 1989b, 15ff. lines 712).
19Geller 1988, 15: 3839: [ ki - s i ki l k] i ki - s i ki l - e- ne nu- un- ul 2 - l a: MIN
(= ardatu) a itti ardti l id / [ ki - s i ki l eze] n[ i
z ] i
i n ur u- a- na- e3 i gi nu- mu-
un- ni - i n- du8 : MIN a ina isinni a li(URU)-u l innamru; see also Hecker 2008, 126.
city streets 129
1.3Peddlers, Businesses, Shops
The Akkadian term squ street can denote a marketplace where one
can buy and sell goods. Besides the streets, the city gates and the kru
quay, embankment, which was outside the city proper, were important
places for commercial activities in Mesopotamian cities. Moreover, terms
as bbtu city quarter and maru marketplace designate locations for
trading.20 Sumerian texts from the second half of the third millennium
bce speak of goods being in the street (s i l a- a gal 2 ),21 and in tablets
from the first half of the second millennium bce we find references to the
sq imtim, commercial street.22 In a humoristic text from the first mil-
lennium bce called The Poor Man of Nippur, the protagonist tries to buy a
sheep in exchange for his clothes ina ribt liu in the main street of his
city, identifying ribtu as a place for the exchange of goods. Given our pres-
ent knowledge it cannot be decided if in this reference ribt li designates
a specific street or a city square used as marketplace. Notably, the current
opinion on this issue is highlighted by Heather Baker in a recent article:
There is no evidence at this time for public squares forming a part of the
street network, nor indeed for any kind of formal civic space comparable
to the Greek agora or the Roman forum, at least until the Hellenistic era
when the Greek theatre at Babylon served also as a place of assembly.23
The multiple public, political, economic, administrative activities which
took place at the Greek agora and the Roman forum seem to have been
distributed to a number of places within the Mesopotamian city (Steinert
2011).24 The urban community was administered from the city gate(s),
where the assembly of citizens (or of a city quarter) convened and the
mayor exercised his office.25 While the harbour (kru), situated inside or
outside the city walls, was the administratively and legally independent
20For places of commercial activities see Rllig 1976; Renger 1984; Zaccagnini 1987
1990, 421426; Fales 1984; Oelsner 1984; Silver 1985, 119ff.; Adamthwaite 2001, 241ff. with
further literature. Zaccagnini (19871990, 422) interprets KI.LAM(ganba) = maru as an
open space, located in a specific part within the city area connected to trade activities.
21 For different interpretations of this phrase with implications to the existence of a
market(place) see Foster 1977, 40.
22Morris 1985, 119. For streets as marketplace see also Streck 2012, 207; Jursa 2010,
641ff. (for first millennium bce Babylonia).
23Baker 2009, 96; cf. van der Spek 2001.
24Cf. Stenger, this volume, on the central importance of the Agora in the mental maps
of the Athenians regarding their city.
25Oppenheim 1977, 115f. Cf. Natalie N. Mays article in this volume. Interestingly,
Oppenheim (1977, 128) connected ribtu to a place next to the gate inside the city where
the assembly met, without providing textual evidence.
130 ulrike steinert
centre of overland and intercity trade where foreign traders lived and tav-
erns, inns, stores were located, within the settlements, the city gates and
major streets served as the main places for commercial activities.26
In Old Babylonian texts from Sippar documenting the transfer of real
estate and movable property, houses are often situated next to a major or
broad street (ribtu).27 In one text, a large house also comprises a tavern
and shops, which exit onto the main street of Sippar.28 In another exam-
ple, the house also contains two shops, which exit to the main street and
border on another shop and a tavern.29 These documents show that ribtu
is connected to living quarters and economic activities at the same time.30
There is also written evidence from Hellenistic Uruk for the existence of
rows of shops located along a number of major public streets.31
Street peddlers are rarely mentioned in the texts, although already in
sources from third millennium bce Sumer there is evidence for food ped-
dlers selling import products such as wine and salt, as well as domes-
tic beer, roasted grain, pots and alkali (for soap).32 Street peddlers are
called zilul(l)33 in Akkadian, while the other term sairu, fem. sairtu
retailer (lit. roaming about) can be used in a pejorative way (tramp,
vagabond, prowler) implying activities or professions that do not have a
high social standing, and are economically precarious.34
26Cf. the roofed bazaars or suqs in Islamic cities of the Orient. In these cities, shops
and crafts are similarly concentrated along major streets, either near the city centre or the
city gates (Wirth 1975, 55ff.; Kostoff 1993, 99, 229). In contrast to ancient Mesopotamia,
bazaars integrate both local and foreign trade.
27See e.g. Ranke 1906, No. 13; Ungnad 19091923, III 251; Scheil 1902, No. 10, Ungnad
19091923, III 457. Rivkah Harris, in her discussion of the topographic terms in Old Baby-
lonian texts from Sippar (1975, 17ff.), differentiates between broad streets (SILA.DAGAL)
and the (city) square (ribtum).
28Scheil 1902, No. 10: lines 19f. bt(E2) sbm u bt(E2) martim a ina ribtim a
Sippar(ZIMBIRki) u. Cf. Harris 1975, 21 reads Square of Sippar-ri.
29Ranke 1906, No. 13: 111; cf. Harris 1975, 21.
30See also Silver 1985, 121.
31Baker 2009, 96.
32Silver 1985, 118, citing Oppenheim 1970; see also Haas 1992, 31ff.
33Negative social evaluations are implied by references like the following from the
Babylonian Theodicy (Lambert 1960, 84: 249; CAD S, 401f. sub 1a1) where the reversal
of the normal social order is criticized: ina sqi zilulli id aplum the heir runs around
in the street like a peddler; see also CAD Z, 118. The logogram for zilul connects this
profession with a stand (gi gal = manzzu). See also the fragment of a SB omen text
K. 4134: 21; Kcher/Oppenheim 19571958, 75: umma(DI) awlu(NA) ana ibti(A2.
A2)-u sqa(SILA) ittiq(DIB)-ma illak(DU-ak)-ma if a man goes down the street in pursuit
of his business.... The following protases concern animals that appear in front of a man
walking in the street; l. 22 forecasts that he will not be successful in his undertaking.
34CAD S, 55f. In lexical lists sairu is used as a synonym for zilul. The sairtu-woman
is associated with the kar - ki d prostitute, see Haas 1992, 48 n. 38; Cooper 20062008,
city streets 131
While mobile street peddlers going from house to house leave no
trace in the archaeological record, some evidence exists for shops and
workshops,35 for instance in the residential quarter at Ur dating to the
Isin-Larsa Period (ca. 1900 bce), which was excavated by Leonard Woolley
and Max Mallowan.36 Among the buildings in some of the streets and
alleys Woolley and Mallowan found what they interpreted as shops or
open booths (show rooms) of merchants.37 The front walls of these
shops, which were preserved only to a low height, could have had open
fronts with windows, doors or counters which were closed at night by
wooden shutters (in contrast to the walls of the residences which did not
have windows turning to the street).38
Street names in written sources can also be indicative of economic
activities in certain streets and quarters of Mesopotamian cities in the
second and first millennia bce. Streets are not only often named after a
deity who had a temple or shrine there, or after topographical features
like city gates, but they are also named after professional groups or private
persons.39 During the Achaemenid period a street of the ubru-vat
15 5 for lexical references. Compare the beginning of Tablet 1 of the Diagnostic Hand-
book (Labat 1951, 2ff.), listing various things and categories of persons the healer sees on
the street on his way to a patient. In this passage we find references to animals, disabled
people (deaf, blind), ecstatics (ma), cf. Haas 1992, 31.
35For crafts and businesses in Mesopotamian cities see the overview by van de Mieroop
1997, 176196; for an analysis of settlement structures as indicators for economic and social
organisation Heinz 1997.
36Woolley 1931, 359ff.; Woolley / Mallowan 1976, 32ff., pl. 124 for the house plan of the
quarter; see also Schmidt 1964, 143, fig. 10.
37E.g. No. IIII in Bazaar Alley, a crooked blind alley that was accessible from Pater-
noster-Row and Bakers Square and could probably be locked. Similar buildings were
found in New Street, in No. 2, 12 Store Street and in Nr. 14 Paternoster Row which was
interpreted as a public cook-shop (Woolley 1931, 360; Woolley / Mallowan 1976, 32f., 155).
These buildings always have a narrow front on the street, a small front room, and one or
more storage rooms or magazines in the rear.
38See e.g. No. II Straight Street, which consisted of only one room with its front on
Paternoster Row (Woolley / Mallowan 1976, 159). Some of the shops were connected to
a private house. No. V Store Street had cellars or magazines, probably for the storage of
grain, interpreted as the house of a grain-merchant, ibid., 33, 141). Nr. 1B Bakers Square
was the workshop of a smith (pl. 50a), in Rooms 4 and 1 installations for furnaces were
found (ibid., 158). Woolley and Mallowan interpreted buildings XI ac with three separate
entranceways from Paternoster Row, as an inn for traveling merchants (Woolley 1931,
366f.; Woolley / Mallowan 1976, 150f.).
39There is evidence for craftsmens quarters in several cities like Nineveh in the first
millennium bce with its neighbourhoods of goldsmiths, bleachers and potters, indicat-
ing that certain crafts were primarily performed in a particular neighbourhood (van de
Mieroop 1997, 183). Evidence from Nippur from the Achaemenid period indicates that cer-
tain professions (potters, butchers, merchants, weavers etc.) and foreigners lived in sepa-
rate quarters or streets (Oppenheim 1977, 78). From the name Gate of the Metalworkers
132 ulrike steinert
makers existed in Babylon; in Nuzi texts street names are connected to
fowlers and weavers.40 In Old Babylonian Sippar, the existence of a Broad
Street (SILA.DAGAL) of the People from Isin implies that foreigners or
traders from other cities also resided in special streets.41
1.4Streets and Religious Worship: Street Shrines
It is known from textual sources that deities of the Mesopotamian pan-
theon were not only venerated indoors, in temples and shrines generally
designated as bt ili house of the god, but that they also had outdoor
street shrines.
Some information about different categories of cult places in Babylon
can be found in Tablet V of the series Tintir = Babylon, which comprises
long lists describing and naming important topographical features of the
city such as the names of city walls, gates, streets, as well as temples and
shrines.42 This text uses different terms for indoor and outdoor shrines. For
instance in Tablet IV 43, major cult-centres of Babylon are named. Most of
them are called btu house, but some are designated as parakku throne-
dais implying a modest installation. Yet, in the summary in Tablet V 82,
all the sanctuaries are called mazu cult-centre. Smaller sanctuaries are
designated as seat (ubtu) or station (manzzu).43 In the summary of
Tablet V 8288, after the 43 mazus cult-centres of the great gods, the
text counts 55 parakkus throne-daises of Marduk in the city. These seem
to be outdoor shrines scattered throughout the city and were probably
much more accessible to the general public than big sanctuaries. One of
these parakku-daises of Marduk by the name of The Gods Pay Heed to
Marduk was an important landmark, for it marked the western bound-
ary of the city quarter TE.Eki in the southeastern part of the city (Finkel /
for a city gate in the city of Assur, one can conclude that the members of this profession
worked or lived in the area around that gate. See also the evidence from Tell Munbqa
in Syria for the concentration of different activities in particular areas of the settlement
(Werner 1998, 89ff., 107f.). Trade activities are especially localised around central points
and traffic routes.
40Fincke 1993, 418; Dar. 410: 1; 464: 6.
41Ranke 1906, 105: 10; Harris 1975, 19.
42George 1992. The manuscripts of the series date to the first millennium bce, but
the text was probably composed several centuries earlier. Tablet II, for instance, lists the
numerous shrines of various deities in the temple complex Esagila of the patron god of
Babylon and Babylonia, Marduk, by their ceremonial name.
43George 1992, 9f. Both words can also mean cult pedestals, on which statues or sym-
bols of the deities resided.
city streets 133
Seymour 2008, 40, fig. 21.).44 Another parakku of Marduk by the name
Twin of his Brothers was situated along the processional route of Mar-
duk between Esagila and the temple of the New Years Festival.45 Some
of these daises were located in streets, others at temple or city gates and
in temple courtyards.46 The summary continues with two (city) walls,
three canals, eight gates, 24 streets of Babylon after which it gives a sum
of 300 parakkus (daises) of the Igigi and 600 parakkus of the Anunnaki,
180 open-air shrines (ub- l i l 2 - l a2 = ibratu, niche in the open air)47
of Itar, 180 stations of the gods Lugalirra und Meslamtaea, 12 stations
of the Divine Heptad, six stations of Kbu, four of the Divine Rainbow
(dManzt), two stations of the Evil God (ilu lemnu), and two stations of the
Watcher of the City (rbi li). In his edition of Tintir = Babylon, Andrew
George presumes that many of these shrines were located in niches at
street corners or in temple gates, and were places of worship accessible
44See George 1992, 70 Tablet V 97 and 24 Fig. 4 for a suggestion of the location of this
dais (No. 11); see also George 2008a, 60f. and 40 Fig. 21. The ritual of the Love Lyrics from
the first millennium bce which included a procession of Marduk, Zarpantu and Itar of
Babylon to various localities within the city of Babylon, mentions a dais of the Anunnaki-
gods in the district of the street of Eturkalamma, which was the temple of Itar of Babylon
situated in the quarter Eridu in vicinity of Esagila (Lambert 1975, 104: 11; George 1992,
20 Fig. 3, 24f., 307f.). There was also a seat of the Asakku-demon opposite/facing this tem-
ple (KAR 142 ii 1; see George 1993, 151).
45George 1992, 12, 64 Tablet V 14 and 333f. commentary. This dais is known as a station
of the procession beside the dais at the river bend (of the Euphrates), located outside the
city proper on the way to the aktu-house.
46See George 1992, 335 commentary to Tintir V 28 for several daises at the gate of the
Ningizida Temple in the quarter Eridu in the city centre (see also BM 34878 Rev. // BM
77236: 2f.; George, ibid., 100). The dais The Itar Gate is the Threshold of the Land in
V 48 has to be located at or near the Itar Gate (see also BM 41138: 5 talking of a dais(?)
in front of the Itar Gate, on the outside (ibid., 102). Compare also the dais Nab is the
Judge of his People in V 43 and the identical street name in V 67 which is known as Nabs
processional road from the Ura Gate in the southern part of the city to Esagila (ibid., 336).
Further references can be found in BM 34878 Rev. // BM 77236 and BM 41138 (ibid., 100ff.).
The latter fragment mentions a dais which is located in the Street of the Market Gate
(l. 3). For the location of the Market Gate (bb mari), a city gate in use during the Old
Babylonian period see ibid., 372f. commentary to Tintir V 92.
47Such niches had an elevated structure, a socle or platform (nemdu), which could
have looked similar to the throne-dais (parakku) on which images of the deity were
placed. In urpu VIII 48, the ibratu and its socle (nemdu) are listed beside such typical
topographical entities of the urban centre and its environment as field, orchard, house,
street and alley (Reiner 1958, 42). In Tablet III 83 ibratu and its socle appear in a litany
beside the Lady of the city wall and battlement parapets and beside various demons con-
nected for instance to the corners (Reiner 1958, 21; Borger 2000, 85f.). In a commentary
to urpu, the open-air shrine and socle of Tablet III 83 are explained as the throne-daises
) of Babylon (Reiner 1958, 50: 56).
134 ulrike steinert
for the general public.48 Amazingly, hardly any of these numerous outdoor
shrines has turned up in the archaeological excavations, partly because
installations as simple as open-air shrines or altars are less likely to be
preserved than monumental architectural structures.49
The large number (180) of open-air shrines dedicated to Itar in Tintir
demonstrates the popularity of this goddess among ordinary people. Ref-
erences in the god lists show that Itar was associated with topographical
features like the city wall and the streets.50 Other divine entities in the
48George 1992, 368f. According to CAD M/1, 235, the stations of Lugalirra and Meslam-
taea could have been located along the processional street of Marduk, while George (1992,
370) topographically connects the Street of the Divine Twins (mentioned in Tintir Tablet
V 79, ibid., 68 within the section of street names) and the Street of the Divine Heptad
(ibid., 68 V 78) with their respective stations. A bilingual cult hymn lets the deity talk
about the open air shrine where one comes to take counsel with me (SBH p. 92a No. 50a:
5f.): ki s al - gur - r a e2 - ad - mar - r a- mu: ibratu itltija; see CAD /3, 143b lex.). Note
that ibratu corresponds with ki s al courtyard in the Sumerian version, and that it adds
e2 (house [of taking counsel with me]) in contrast to the Akkadian version. BM 33206+
iii 1, a Late Babylonian text describing a cult ritual of the Esagila at Babylon in the month
Kislmu, mentions an ibratu open-air shrine as station of the divine procession, between
the temple gate (Gate of the god Mandnu) and the aktu-house (airgan / Lambert
19911993; Pongratz-Leisten (1994, 48) translates ibratu here as cult niche at the outer
wall, i.e. the outer temple wall.
49Although Andrew George (2008a, 61) mentions that some had been excavated in
Babylon, to my knowledge only a few free-standing features are known from streets or
crossroads in the Merkes quarter which might have been cultic structures (cf. George 1990a,
356; Baker 2009, 96f.). There the excavators unearthed square brick structures that could
have been altars, one at a crossroads of the so-called Ostweg and Altarstrasse (Reuther
1926, 67, 71f. Abb. 60 and Taf. 18, 21). A pedestal of unknown function was also found in
Zikkuratstrasse (Reuther 1926, 70f.; see also Baker 2009, 97) and around the Itar Gate
and processional street of the New Years Festival (Reuther 1926, 70; Koldewey 1918, 10
and Abb. 910; cf. Koldewey 1990, 46f.). At Ur, cult pedestals/podiums comparable to the
parakkus in the texts were only excavated indoors, in chapels of private houses (Woolley /
Mallowan 1976, pl. 4346). A similar installation was found in Tell ed-Dr (Batiment cen-
tral, Meyer 1978, Taf. 9, 4 and 78ff. citing more such cultic installations from third and
second millennia bce Mesopotamia). The podium, often placed in a niche, is the typical
architectural installation occupied by cult images in Mesopotamian temples (Seidl 1980
1983, 315f.).
50In Tablet IV of the god list An = Anum (Itar tablet), one fragmentary name of
the goddess Itar is explained as blet sqi Mistress of the Street (Litke 1998, 149: 14),
while later in line 38 the name dnin-BAD3<bar?>-ra is explained as blet eprte Lady of
the Rampart, followed by d ni n- bad3 = blet dri Lady of the City Wall (Litke 1998, 151
and pl. 23 YBC 2401 vi 77f.; Cavigneaux/Krebernik, 19982001a). The reading of one epi-
thet of the goddess as Lady of the Open-Air Shrine (CT 24, 33 v 35 // KAV 145 Rev.(!) 3:
dNINbe-let ib-ra[t-ti], cited in CAD I/J, 4f. disc.; George 1992, 369) in the god list An = Anum
was corrected through Litkes edition and the new manuscript YBC 2401 to dNIN.be-lit-
ur(!)-ru (duplicates have dbe-lit-tu-ur-ri and dBe-la-at-ur-ri) lady of the niche(?) (for
t/urru as corner angle, mentioned e.g. in a commentary beside tubqu corner, see George
2008b; cf. CAD , 165b lex.). This line 169 belongs to a section (lines 162170) enumerating
the names of eight deified cult niches of Itar (ub- l i l 2 - l a2 dI nanna- ke4 , Litke 1998,
city streets 135
summary who occupy throne-daises have a demonic (like Kbu, the Evil
God and the City Watcher) or astral character (like the Rainbow (Star)
or the Divine Heptad (Pleiades)) and are not very well known deities of
the official pantheon, but seem once again to have a closer connection to
popular religious practice.51
Other texts mention throne-daises in city and temple gates as well
as on streets. It is interesting to find, as in Tintir, references concerning
the daises of malevolent demons among them, such as the parakkus of the
Evil God. Daises of malevolent demons are also mentioned in KAR 142, a
text listing cultic locations for deities appearing in groups of seven. In obv.
ii 110 this texts lists seven throne-daises, stations(?) of the Seven Asakku-
demons, sons of Anu, conquered by Ninurta,52 five of which are situated
in gates of different temples at Babylon. In the ritual series against the
child-snatching demoness Lamatu,53 she is called daughter of Anu (like
the Seven Asakku-demons) and at ilni a sqti, sister of the gods
of the streets.54 This epithet alludes to passages in the Lamatu incanta-
tions, which mention that she was excluded from the heavenly commu-
nity of the gods and sent to earth by her father because she perversely
proposed to the gods to eat the flesh of humans.55 That she belongs to the
gods of the street can be related to Lamatus exclusion from heaven and
subsequent denial of regular veneration and offerings in the temple cults,
which were regularly provided to deities by humans. Instead, Lamatu is
associated with evil demons that roam streets and wilderness.56
160, pl. 23 YBC 2401 vii 18; compare CT 24, 33 v 3236 // KAV 145 Rev.! 14; Cavigneaux/
Krebernik 19982001b; Cavigneaux/Krebernik 19982001c; Wiggermann 19931997). Fol-
lowing Frans Wiggermann, the eight ub- l i l 2 - l a2 -deities could refer to parts of the temple
of Inanna/Itar, i.e. the four deified corners (ub) in lines 164167. Note though that one
designation, ub- s aar - r a earthen niche, also appears as one of the 55 parakkus of
Marduk in Babylon according to Tintir V 25 (George 1992, 64).
51An altar dedicated by Shalmaneser III to the Sebittu, the Divine Heptad, was found at
Nineveh (in secondary archaeological context), in the area between the mounds Kouyun-
jik and Nebi Yunus (Reade 19982001, 410 13.4 and 390 fig. 1 map). The Sebittu also had
a temple on Kouyunjik.
52Cited in George 1992, 285 commentary to Tintir II 5.
534R 56 i 2 and dupl., cf. Kcher 1949, 150.
54Forerunners of Lamatu incantations in Sumerian call her sister of the divine son of
the street of Ur, a title also applied to groups of demons in other texts (cf. Tonietti 1979,
315: 3 with commentary to line 18 on page 316). Wiggermann (2000, 226) relates this title
to the seven utukku-spirits.
55Cf. Farber 19801983, 445; Wiggermann 2000, 224ff.
56Could it nonetheless be that Lamatu was venerated (or placated) at street shrines
like other demons? At least, in Old Babylonian Sippar (a part of town called Sippar-rabm),
there is a Lamatu Street (Harris 1975, 18), which reminds us of the practice of naming
streets after the deity that had a temple or a shrine there. Other streets named after gods
136 ulrike steinert
Other gods, mostly of subordinate rank, are associated with the street.
Among them is Ium, the messenger and vizier of the god Erra. Because
of his function he is called messenger/ herald of the street (sukkal/ngir
sqi)57 or guardian of the quiet street (ni mgi r s i l a- a s i g3 - ga- ke4 :
ngir sqi aqummi).58
Deities associated with streets59 and outdoor shrines are mentioned
several times in Sumerian and bilingual cultic lamentations from the sec-
ond and first millennium bce, e.g. the goddess Ninmuga, a deity associ-
ated with birth and handicrafts and known from god lists as the wife of
Ium (Hendursaga).60 The goddess Lamma-a6-ga, the chief vizier and
messenger of Baba in Laga, is called Lamma-a6-ga of the wide streets
(and) of the steppe in cult liturgies.61
Beside outdoor shrines and divine images, other images could be found
in the public space of Mesopotamian cities, namely images of the ruler.62
in documents from this city are the Itar Street, Bunene Street, and Street of the Divine
Heptad. Lamatus association with impure animals of city streets, dogs and pigs, could
be related to her status as goddess of the street. She is iconographically depicted suckling
a piglet and a puppy, and incantations tell us that she disguises as wet-nurse in order to
suckle human babies, thereby infecting and poisoning them. On amulets and in incanta-
tions against Lamatu, animals are intended as replacements for human victims (Wigger-
mann 2010). For a possible connection to breast-feeding of dogs and pigs by women see
Wiggermann 2010 with further literature.
57This epithet can be found in prayers, for instance in a prayer to Lugal(g)irra from
Tablet 2 of the ritual series bt mseri (Meier, 19411944, 144: 74), where Ium is called
upon to help, but also in apotropaic prayers on amulets for the protection of the house
against epidemics (for instance on the Assur tablet of the Erra Epic (KAR 169 Rev. ii 51)
which was used as such an amulet, see Reiner 1960, 151ff.).
58See the ritual series Utukk lemntu Tablet 5: 163 (CT 16, 15 v 21f., Geller 2007, 125).
In Tablet 1315: 193 (CT 16, 49: 302f., Geller 2007, 174), the god Hani who is associated
with Adad, is called god of the quiet street (dl ugal di ngi r s i l a- a s i - ga- ke4 : dMIN
il sqi aqumme). In the god list An = Anu a amli, the god ullat, who often forms a pair
with Hani, is identified with Nergal and called by this name in association with the func-
tional domain of the street (dPA = Nergal a sqi, Litke 1998, 234: 85).
59Note also the deity dLugal - t i l l a4 ruler of the city-square, mentioned in god lists
(Lambert 19871990, 153); in An = Anum VI 28 Lugal-tilla is among the names/manifesta-
tions of Nergal (Litke 1998, 202).
60The goddess Ninmuga is also called (she) who occupies the outdoor shrines (SBH
48 and dupl., Cohen 1988, 306 c+171; cf. Cavigneaux / Krebernik 19982001d, 472 4;
Cohen 1988, 285 e+215; 237 c+297; 360 a+231).
61Cohen 1988, 307 c+188 dl amma- a6 - ga s i l a- dagal - l a eden- na: dU-[ma]
damiqtu a ribt u[...]; cf. ibid. 286 e+231 with the variant s i l a- gi 6 - eden- na, street of
the dark shade.
62Brker-Klhn (1982) contains only a few examples for royal stelae from city streets
or similar open public spaces, e.g. ibid., 55f., 119 no. 11, 212f. no. 217219, 217 no. 227. When
Sennacherib constructed a royal processional road in Nineveh, he had stelae made and
erected them there opposite each other to mark the width and to inhibit a narrowing of
the street (Luckenbill 1924, 153: 19ff.). This text is actually preserved on two stelae which
city streets 137
These images have several different functions: they express power, socio-
political and divine order, and collective or group identity.63 Religious
images also play a role in ordering space, for example, in marking borders
and thresholds, and they are involved in the Mythologisierung of space
through mapping cosmological concepts of order onto the material space of
the city.64 Mesopotamian deities associated with the streets either lend
protection to the people in their terrain, or they are mediators who inter-
cede between humans and the most powerful gods of the pantheon. The
connection of evil gods and demons with the street brings us to the next
section of this article, to socio-cultural conceptions of streets as nega-
tive space: as a space containing elements of disorder, danger, pollution
and liminality: it is the space of persons at the margins and bottom of
social structure, of beings who stand in opposition to the divine order
and social norms.65
2.Streets as Negative Space
The literate, especially scholarly stratum of Mesopotamian society who
left behind a huge corpus of ritual texts and omen collections, perceived
the streets of their cities as somewhat ambivalent. Negative contexts in
which streets feature in these and other cuneiform texts describe them as
places where one is vulnerable to the attacks of evil, demons and witch-
craft, as places of dirt, rubbish, and impure animals (dogs/pigs), as places
of poverty and misery: of homeless people without families, of outsiders,
beggars, and exposed children.
2.1Streets and the Dangers of Evil, Demons and Witchcraft
Although according to Mesopotamian conceptions a person could be
attacked by evil forces like demons and witchcraft virtually anywhere,66
were found at Nineveh (at the foot of Kouyunjik, i.e. near the location of this street, and
southeast of Nebi Yunus (Paterson 1915, pl. 3 and 4; Brker-Klhn 1982, 209 no. 203204).
For Assyrian royal monuments in public urban spaces see also Yamada 2000, 25ff., 273ff.,
332; Sobolewski 1982, fig. 9; Oates / Oates 2001, 71; Strommenger 1970, 11, 15f.).
63An interesting question is who installed and took care of the numerous public street
shrinesit is possible that citizens (or groups of citizens) were actively involved in these
processes, expressing their religious identity.
64Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 13ff.
65Cf. Viktor Turner (1969, 105ff., 122ff.) for the connections between liminality, danger
and the power of the weak.
66To illustrate the point I cite an incantation published by Schramm (2008, 62, 148ff.
No. 10: 1427) listing various places demons were thought to inhabit: They hit the man
138 ulrike steinert
it seems that one was especially vulnerable to such attacks outside the
home.67 Demons, ghosts and witches are repeatedly described as roam-
ing, lurking or standing around in the street waiting to attack the victim.68
Thus, these evil beings are implicitly compared or likened to social outsid-
ers who are not integrated into society and have no place to stay.69 In the
first incantation of Tablet III (1ff.) in the anti-witchcraft ritual Maql the
witch is similarly addressed:
Oh, witch who continually roams the streets, who continually enters the
houses, who walks around in the alleys, who looks around in the main
streets; she keeps turning to her front and to her back, she stands in the
street and blocks access; in the main street she has cut off the traffic...70
at the doorpost, they hit the man walking in the street,..., they hit the man on his seat,
they hit the man in his bed,..., the udug-demon of the steppe, the udug of the moun-
tains, the udug of the sea, the udug of the wasteland, the udug of the river, the udug
of the cistern, the udug of the garden, the udug of the street, the udug of the house, the
ma ki m-demon of the steppe, the evil ma ki m (l u2 gi - a3 - ka2 - na- t a i n- s ag3 -
ga- e- ne / l u2 gen s i l a- a- t a i n- s ag3 - ga- e- ne / . . . / l u2 ki - t u - bi - t a i n-
s ag3 - g[ e] - e- ne / l u2 ki - nu2 - bi - t a i n- s ag3 - g[ e] - e- ne / . . . / udug eden- na
udug ur - s ag- ga2 udug a- ab- ba / udug a- r i - a udug i d2 - da udug pu2 - t a /
udug g i ki r i 6 udug s i l a- a udug e2 - a / ma ki m eden- na ma ki m2 ul -
gal 2 - e).
67Thus, in hemerologies and Neo-Assyrian letters, astrologers advise the king or crown
prince not to go out to the streets on unpropitious days, see CAD S, 401b sub 1a-1; Parpola
1993, no. 52, 74.
68CAD S, 403 sub 1a-3, e.g. in Utukk lemntu (Tablet 7: 27f.; CT 16, 25 i 42ff., see
Geller 2007, 136): udug ul a- l a2 ul l u2 - ge6 - s a9 - a- e3 e- s i r 2 gi b- ba gi di m
ul gal 5 - l a2 ul l u2 - ge6 - s a9 - a- e3 e- s i r 2 gi b- ba : utukku lemnu al lemnu a ana
muam ina sqa park eemmu lemnu gall lemnu a ana muam ina sul park, the
evil utukku, the evil al who block the street for the one walking about at night; the evil
ghost, the evil sheriff-demons who block the street for the one walking about at night; the
demons keep walking stealthily through the quiet streets at night to fall upon humans or
harass them (Tablet 4: 70, 6: 88, Geller 2007, 112, 205; 131, 216; Tablet 3: 3, ibid., 100, 197,
Tablet 7: 1, ibid., 135, 219); they walk the street and break into peoples houses like robbers
(Tablet 6: 64, Geller 2007, 130, 216). See also Schramm 2008, 26 1: 9ff., 17ff.: The al ad,
udug and ma ki m, the big ones, chase after men in the wide street(s),..., the mighty
Ugur who fells people in the street..., (dal ad udug ma ki m gal - gal - l a nam- l u2 -
u1 8 - l u s i l a- dagal - l a al - bu2 - bu2 - de3 - ne: du utukku rbiu rabbti a ana ni ina
ribti ittanarabbi...dU- gur nam- ur u1 6 - na e- s i r 2 ug3 de5 - de5 - ga...: dErra rab
a ina sqi ni uamqatu...).
69Thus in Utukk lemntu Tablet 9: 2631 the ghosts who entered the house of the
patient (trying to find a nice place to stay) are urged to go out to the street (Geller 2007,
146, 228).
70Meier 1937, 22 (citing K.2728+; Tallqvist 1895, 17); Abusch/Schwemer 2008, 147;
cf. Schwemer 2007, 82 n. 5556: kaptu(munusU11.ZU) muttalliktu a sqti(SILA
) /
mterribtu a btti(E2
) / dajjultu a brti / ajjutu a ribti / ana pani(IGI)-a u
arki(EGIR)-a issanaur / izzaz(GUB-az) ina sqi(SILA)-ma usaar p(GIR3.2) / ina
ribti iptaras alaktu. Similar statements appear in other incantation series against demons,
e.g. Utukk lemntu Tablet 5: 159, 178 (Geller 2007, 125f., 213) and Tablet 15: 25 (ibid.,
166, 243): e- ne- ne- ne s i l a- dagal - l a ba- an- s u8 - ge- e gi r i 3 kur - r a- ke4 ba- an-
city streets 139
The danger of the street in this incantation is intimately connected to the
fear of the evil gaze of the witch who is capable of taking away the victims
strength and attractiveness.71 It also relates to concepts of impurity and
fear of the negative consequences of coming into contact with pathogenic
substances like spittle, associated with witchcraft.72 The streets were
thought to be a potentially dangerous place of contagion, because it is
known that materia magica and objects used in rituals contaminated by
pathogenic substances were sometimes disposed of in the street.73 Thus,
the victim of witchcraft in Maql VII 133135 wishes that some passer-by
in the street will take away the evil that affects him so he can be rid of it:74
Street and alley shall undo my wrongdoings; someone (fem.) shall serve
as my substitute, someone (fem.) shall receive (it) from me! I had to face
a mishap, (now) they shall receive (it) from me!75
Sometimes part of the ritual action is to take place in the street or at a
crossroads, which brings to mind European folklore traditions of conjur-
ing the devil at a crossroads at night.76
s i g3 - ge- e : unu ina ribtu izzizzma tallaktu mtu usaar, they stand at the cross-
roads and divert (or: delay) the traffic of the country.
71In omens, it is thought to bring bad luck to see certain things or persons in the street
(e.g. in omens belonging to umma lu Tablet 85, see Kcher / Oppenheim 195758, 76
Text B Funck 3, e.g. Obv. line 26): umma(DI) arimtu musukkatu ana pani(IGI)-u l(NU)
kad(KUR) ibti(A2) tul(UBUR)-a ilappat(TAG)-ma pair, If (a man walks along the
street and) there is an impure prostitute in front of him: no obtaining of wisheshe may
touch her breast and will be released. See also ibid. 69, 75f., Text A (Sm. 332), mentioning
various animals, plants, a leper, a corpse, a midwife, an ecstatic, a doctor, an exorcist, an
omen expert, a prostitute, an impure prostitute as likely candidates to be encountered
on streets. One could be bewitched by looking at something evil or stepping on something
in the street (Maql VII 121f., Abusch/Schwemer 2008, 174f.).
72See the continuing lines 815 where it is said that with her venomous spittle the
witch has blocked the traffic and cut off the victims business profits.
73E.g. in Tablet 3 of the series against the asakku sickness demons, pathogenic sub-
stances that have absorbed the evil are left in the street (CT 17, 1: 4ff.): [Throw away] at
the street intersection what he has been wiped off with ( u ur 3 - ur 3 - r u- da- ni e- s i r 2
ka- l i mmu2 - ba- e3 u3 - me- [...]: takpirtau ana sq erbetti [...]).
74Another anti-witchcraft ritual (Schwemer 2007b, 24 and dupl.) tells us how this
transfer could be accomplished: a leather bag for money (silver), called the patients
substitute, was filled with stones and metals during the ritual and later left in the street,
hoping that a passer-by might pick it up. For a discussion of this text see Schwemer 2007a,
75Cf. Abusch / Schwemer 2008, 175; Meier 1937, 51: 139141; 1966, 79: squ u sul
lipair arnja / ntu lnanni mirtu limuranni / amur miru limurinni. The formula
in Maql VII 13435 is also found in namburbi-rituals, where pathogenic substances and
objects thought to contain mischief and harm are disposed of at other places, thrown into
the river for instance, see Mayer 1976, 271; for these namburbi-rituals see Maul 1994, 284ff.
LKA 123; ibid., 181 Sm. 1704+ 80-7-19; ibid., 484ff. lines 6083).
76In a ritual against the hand of a ghost, the patient has to wash himself several
times with red urine at a crossroads to physically get rid of the evil (AMT 95, 2 = BAM
140 ulrike steinert
In anti-witchcraft rituals sorcerers and witches are accused of having
bewitched the patient by burying figurines representing the victim at a
crossroads, at a place where they would be in constant contact with impu-
rity and would be stepped on by people passing by.77 On the other hand,
substances such as dust78 or potsherds79 from a street or crossroads were
used as materia magica and medica in various rituals.
471 iii 14, see Scurlock 2006, 649 no. 324: ina uulgalli ina sq erbetti(E.SIR2.LIMMU2.BA)
irtanammukma, on an unpropitious day he will repeatedly wash himself at a crossroads).
Another example of a ritual at a crossroads is von Weiher 1998, 58ff. No. 248, cf. Hecker
2008, 107ff., a ritual for a barren woman to get pregnant. According to one section of the
text (Rev. 2527), the woman is to place bread and heaps of flour at a crossroads and says:
What they brought I have received. What I have brought, may they receive it from me
(Rev. 28, nama amtaar nakuma limurinni). This formula, very similar to Maql VII
134135, shows that her barrenness was seen as having an external source, caused by some-
thing (an object) that an unspecified agent brought upon her; now this action is reversed
by transmitting her barrenness in an analogous way to the ritual objects which in turn are
thought to come into contact with the agent who caused the trouble in the first place.
77See Schwemer 2007a, 100; this place of depositing figurines is mentioned for instance
in a Maql type incantation, within a long list of methods for manipulating representa-
tions of the victim by destroying (burning) and burying them at different places (PBS 10/2,
18 Obv. 37 // K. 3360+ Obv. 6; Lambert 19571958, 292: 38; for further duplicates see
Schwemer 2007a, 62 n. 127): MIN(=almnija puma) ina sq erbetti(SILA.LIMMU2.BA)
utammer, they made figurines of me and buried (them) at a crossroads. This incanta-
tion (Lambert 19571958, 292: 30, 38) also states that figurines of the victim were buried
underneath (an image of) Kbu, the demon of premature birth. Could this designate a
street shrine of Kbu?
78Dust from a crossroads is used in rituals against the hand of a ghost (Scurlock 2006,
427 No. 165: 1 where it is mixed with water and put on the hurting neck of the patient),
but also in rituals to protect or calm a crying baby (Farber 1989a, 74 18/18A Text Aa
iv 4 dust from a scull, a crossroads and a threshold; ibid. 68 16: 234). Dust from streets
or crossroads is used furthermore in rituals for women in pregnancy and difficult child-
birth (BAM 248 iii 46 among other types of dust; BAM 363 Rev. 10 together with minerals
recommended for pregnant women), but also in a ritual for raising the profits of an inn
(KAR 144: 3f. // Craig ABRT 1, 66 (K. 3646): 5), where dust from several places is collected
(Farber 1987, 277ff.). A late commentary from Nippur (Civil 1974, 332) explains why such
materials as dust from the crossroads are effective in childbirth rituals: SAAR dust is
associated with aar (eru) little one, SILA.LAM4.MA crossroads is analyzed as SI
to come straight out, LA not or little one and AM.MA seed (offspring). Dust from a
crossroads was applied in medications (AMT 76, 5: 5 (recipe against stroke in the cheek);
Thureau-Dangin 1922, 34 iii 9, parallel BAM 388 i 10; see further Kcher 1966, 20). A ritual
to prevent a depressing dream from becoming reality (79-7-8, 77 Rev. 22, line 24, see
Oppenheim 1956, 304, 343; Butler 1998, 184ff., 332f.) advises to tell the dream to clay pel-
lets and then scatter them at a crossroads. For dust in namburbi-rituals see Maul 1994, 90,
98, 107, 350. For further references see CAD S, 405f. sub 1c, CAD E, 185f. sub 1b2; CAD ,
132 sub 3c.
79Potsherds found at a crossroads are employed in rituals for magical protection, e.g.
BAM 320: 16 // LKA 144 Rev. 33; BAM 237 i 9 (a ritual against vaginal bleeding during
pregnancy) and Farber 1989a, 112 39A: 5 // von Weiher 1988, 84: 58 (to protect a preg-
nant woman against sorcery causing miscarriage), where the potsherds found standing
city streets 141
2.2Streets and Impurity
In connection with Mesopotamian city streets as a place of dirt and
impurity, we shortly have to broach the question of the public hygienic
situation in Mesopotamian cities relating to garbage and sewage disposal,
which is hardly ever touched on by the textual sources. In the early peri-
ods of urbanism in Mesopotamia, as in the Uruk culture in the fourth mil-
lennium bce and even earlier, highly sophisticated sanitary engineering
techniques for urban drainage systems were in use, comprising networks
of wastewater and rainwater drainage in form of drainpipes which con-
nected houses with a canalisation in the street system (installed under-
neath the gravel or brick pavement of streets), from where wastewater
was lead outside the settlements to a river.80 Yet, in later periods, the
tradition of drainage systems on such a large scale seems to have declined.
Moreover, houses of ordinary people had no lavatories and the existence
of public toilets in streets is not generally attested in Mesopotamian
cities.81 For the situation in Assur in the Middle and Neo-Assyrian peri-
ods, Conrad Preusser noted that in absence of a public maintenance of
up (protruding from the ground) are a symbol for obstruction and blocking (Scurlock
1991, 136ff.). In rituals for pregnant women, a potsherd would have to be fastened to the
womans navel, bound on other parts of her body or rubbed on her vulva (Stol 2000, 132;
Scurlock 1991, 138). In omens, in the series umma lu for example, potsherds standing
up in the street have a negative interpretation (Freedman 1998, 69 (Tablet 2): 71ff.). An
omen fragment probably belonging to Tablet 85 of the same series (Freedman 1998, 341
for the incipit) treats various things and persons encountered by a man going along the
street (Kcher / Oppenheim 195758, 67 Text B Funck 3), among them potsherds lying
or standing up in different directions: Potsherds standing up or situated crosswise as if
blocking the street mean that the person will not attain a wish (symbolised as an obstacle);
potsherds situated parallel to the direction of the road mean that he will attain what he
wishes (lines. 28ff.; Kcher / Oppenheim 195758, 71, see also Freedman 1998, 69 n. 71,
7377). To release this person from the negative sign he encountered, it is recommended
that he should step on the sherd with his left foot. In Maql Tablet III 136f., a potsherd is
interpreted as an evil sign of sorcery, when an incantation starts with the words: Potsherd
from the street(s), why do you keep on being hostile to me? Why do your messages con-
tinually come to me? (Meier 1937, 26: 140f.; 1966, 75, aabtu(IKA-tu2) sqti(SILA
ammni tugdanarrnni / ammni napa<r>tuki ittanallakni); in the accompanying ritual
(Tablet IX 56f.) a potsherd from the street is used (Abusch / Schwemer 2008, 152, 182).
80Tamburino (2010, 38ff.) cites evidence for instance from Habuba Kabira in Syria,
where joined clay pipes and canals covered by limestone slabs were used, and from Tell
Asmar in the Diyala region, where toilet facilities were found in a number of houses con-
nected to the sewage canals by drains. Indoor lavatories in palaces and houses are attested
as early as the third millennium bce.
81 Nemet-Nejat 1998, 110f.; Tamburino 2010, 38ff. In the Neo-Assyrian and Late Babylo-
nian periods only about 4% of the houses had a toilet or lavatory (Nunn 2006, 15 and fig. 7
for house lavatories/toilets in a residential quarter of Ur in the Old Babylonian period).
Compare for differing judgements on hygienic conditions and the quality of drinking
142 ulrike steinert
streets and an overall drainage system only few houses had drainage pipes
connected to a solid canalisation in the street or to sump pits, but that
wastewater was commonly conducted underneath the thresholds of the
houses onto the open street.82
Another problem connected to the impurity of the streets was that in
the absence of municipal garbage collection, rubbish was regularly just
disposed of in the dusty, mostly unpaved city streets.83 Thus, the thresh-
olds at house entrances were continually raised to prevent rubbish to be
carried into peoples houses. The practice of dumping garbage in the street
is hinted at in the Gilgamesh Epic XII 154, where we read about the neth-
erworld city that the ghosts who do not get any kispu-offerings from their
heirs have to eat the leftovers of food that are thrown into the street.
Such leftovers would be eaten by animals regularly seen in the streets of
Mesopotamian cities such as dogs and pigs, which seem to have roamed
unattended at times, served as garbage disposals, but also left their faeces
there.84 Another cause of impurity and actual danger for public health
is described in Assurbanipals inscriptions about the conflict with his
brother ama-um-ukn, namely corpses lying around in the streets of
Babylonian cities in times of war:
The corpses of the people which the plague (god Erra) had slain, who had
lost their lives through deprivation and starvationleftovers of the feed for
the dogs and pigs, which blocked the streets and filled the crossroads
water available in Mesopotamian cities Scurlock / Andersen 2005, 15f. and van de Mieroop
1997, 159ff.
82Preusser 1954, 63. At Babylon, rainwater mostly flowed from the roofs through clay
pipes onto the streets, from where it was sometimes lead away through a brick canal or
into sump pits (Reuther 1926, 76, 146f.). Drainpipes were also installed in connection with
street toilets found in the Merkes quarter at Babylon, near the Itar temple. Some houses
of this quarter had toilets and lavatories connected to sump pits or wastewater canals
through drain pipes (Reuther 1926, 95, 111, 113f., 121).
83In cities like Babylon and Assur, only few streets had a pavement, e.g. stretches
around temples or at houses of wealthier citizens (Reuther 1926, 75; Preusser 1954,
46). Sometimes, pavement is found along the walls of houses to protect them from the
84For the street as a dirty place see e.g. a Babylonian wisdom text from the first millen-
nium bce, edited by Wilfred Lambert (1960, 215 iii 14), where the pig is described as soiling
the street with its excrements. In first millennium bce Mesopotamia, pigs were regarded as
impure animals, but maybe because of their role as garbage disposals, both dogs and pigs
were regarded with ambivalent attitudes. Dogs, although mans best friends, also transmit
diseases and of all domestic animals have the highest number of diseases in common with
humans. One can imagine that rodents also thrived in the constant presence of garbage
in the streets and could as well become a danger for public health by transmitting infec-
tious diseases.
city streets 143
I let their bones be brought out of the center of Babylon, Kutha and Sippar,
disposed of them in the outskirts (Var. on piles). With the arts of ritual
purification I purified their sanctuaries and their dirty streets.85
2.3Streets as Places of Poverty and Misery
The image of the street as place for the homeless and destitute shares a
sad continuity with our own cultural conceptions and social reality. People
begging for food or money in the street are nevertheless mentioned only
sparsely; it is even hard to find a word which exclusively means beggar.86
This situation might be interrelated to the institution of giving unwanted
and destitute persons without families (such as old women, orphans,
widows, disabled people, beggars etc.) to temples as votives where they
were used as cheap labour force in return for food and shelter(?). Thus,
the temple would have been acting as a collecting centre or place of
refuge for homeless people so as to get them off the street.87
In most references to homelessness such a way of life was feared and
not desirable. Thus, it is interesting to find a sarcastic comment in the
Babylonian Theodicy, where the sufferer rejects the normal way of life
as a head of household, but wants to leave his home and instead to live
as a social outsider: I will go from house to house and ward off hunger;
famished I will walk around and patrol the streets.88 A few more refer-
ences hint that begging as a way of providing ones income could also
be encountered in Mesopotamian cities. A royal edict from Nuzi forbids
85Borger 1996, 45 A iv 7987: almt(ADDA
) ni(UN
) a dErra uamqitu /
u a ina sunqi bubti ikun napitu / rit ukulti kalb(UR.GI7
) a(A
) / a
) purruk mal ribti / emti(GIR3.PAD.DU
)-unu ultu qereb Bbili(KA2.
DINGIR.RAki) / Kut(GU2.DU8.Aki) Sippar(ZIMBIRki) uima / attadi ana kamti (Var. ana
nakkamti) / ana ipir iippti parakk(BARA2
)-unu ubbib / ullila sulunu luti.
86See already Oppenheim 1977, 362 n. 68. There are also no entries for beggar, beg-
ging in Thomas Kmmerers and Dirk Schwiderskis Deutsch-Akkadisches Wrterbuch
(1998). Instead of a special lemma for beggar, there are several words for poor, desti-
tute, helpless used in such contexts (such as lapnu, muknu, enu). E.g. the word pis-
nuqu, translated as beggar by Lambert (1960, 79: 142), is literary and rare, and connotes
concepts like powerlessness, helplessness; cf. CAD P, 425; the Fable of the Fox B Obv. 19,
Lambert 1960, 192.
87See Renger 1992, 123f. and especially Gelb (1972, 8ff.) who draws attention to
the Sumerian formulation s i l a- a dab5 - ba seized in the street for individuals such as
vagrants and beggars, working for the temple households, mentioned in Ur-III documents.
Widows and orphans (without any family relations, home and economic support) were
very often integrated as (dependent) workers or slaves into temple households, where they
typically worked in the textile industry. Parentless children could also have the luck to be
adopted (see Volk 2006).
88Lambert 1960, 78f.: 140f., btbti lterruba luni bubti / bir lutteelume sul lu[d].
144 ulrike steinert
slaves of the palace to let their daughters engage in begging or prostitu-
tion (ana ekti u arimti) without the consent of the king.89 In an Old
Babylonian letter of the official ama-ir to his wife Zin, he quotes the
rhetoric question of the addressee from her previous letter, connected to
a request: There is neither barley as fodder for the cattle fattening farm,
nor as food for the household and your youngsters. All has been spent!
Should I go out into the street (to beg for it)?90
In a few texts the negative picture of women standing around or roam-
ing in the street is presented.91 In the Sumerian hymn Innin agurra,
this behavior is caused by the goddess Inanna: The woman whom she
rejects...in an evil way...she lets her run around in the streets, le[ts
her stand] on the br[oad street].92 Roaming the street means to have
no home or family,93 as is vividly described in the ardat lil incantations.94
Standing/roaming in the street is also a typical activity of demons and
sorcerers/witches as we have seen. Another implied contrast is that
the place of a decent and respectable (married) woman is the house,
while the prostitute/single woman (arimtu) goes out and frequents
the street95if a woman goes out (without good cause) she risks
89Pfeiffer / Speiser 1936, 51; Cooper 20062008, 16. For the related words ektu, ek,
ektu and Sumerian counterparts see lately Volk 2006, 58ff. They have various meanings
connected to orphanage, homelessness, poverty, lack of family and protection. For the
meaning begging in the Nuzi edict see Wilhelm 1990, 519f. with n. 78.
90Veenhof 2005, No: 164: 58: ana ukull(A3.GAL) namrtim(E2.UDU.GU.NIGA) /
ukull(A3.GAL) btim(E2) u ertika / eum ul ibai gamer / ana sqim li. See also EA
150: 33, a fragmentary letter of Abi-Milku, mayor of Tyre, to the Pharaoh (Moran 1992,
237f.), mentioning that the people are wailing in the street that Abi-Milku may give them
91See the dialogue Two Women line 111 cited in Volk 2000, 20 n. 94.
92Sjberg 1975, 184: 76,78: munus za3 - t ag- ga- ni [ ul ] - bi bi 2 - i n- K[ A? . . . ]
. . . t i l l a2 - a u al - dag- dag- ge [ s i l a- dagal ] - l a gi r i 3 - ni ki - a x[...].
93See the Sumerian Dialogue Between Two Scribes (SLTNi. 113 Rev. 2; 3 N-T 919, 461: 2,
cited by Volk 2000, 20 n. 96) where one assaults the other as a person who has no house,
rests in the street.
94Lackenbacher 1971; Geller 1988 and below.
95Leick 1994, 164; Haas 1999; Cooper 20062008, 14f. with references for streets and
prostitution. In the sexual omens of umma lu, sexual contacts with a prostitute are said
to take place in the street (CT 39, pl. 45: 30): umma(DI) awlu(NA) ina sq erbetti(SILA.
LIMMU2) arimta(munusKAR.KID) sadir if a man regularly engages with a prostitute at the
crossroads. Cf. Haas 1999 for streets and prostitution. In Mesopotamia, prostitution also
seems to have been connected to taverns (Cooper op. cit., 20; Worthington 2009, 133f.
4). For a critical viewpoint on prostitution in Mesopotamia and the status of the arimtu
as a prostitute see Assante 1998; 2007; 2009. The connection of the kar - ki d/arimtu
with the street can also be seen in terms of an analogy of contrasts between spatial enti-
ties and social categories, i.e. between house and street, and persons integrated or not
integrated into a patriarchical household. See in this connection ana ittiu Tablet VII ii
city streets 145
suspicion of illicit sexual activities.96 The connection of the prostitute
with the street often has a negative association with the outsiders and
outcasts of society who have no home to return to, so for example, when
Enkidu curses amat in the Gilgamesh Epic:
[ t]pu bt lalki...[ tu]b i[na mataki(AMA)?] a ardti(KI.SIKILme

[ipallurtu] a arrni(KASKAL) l mabuki / [urbtu l m]aalluka
illi(GISSU) dri(BAD3) l manzzuki...[akru u ]m lima ltki
[May you not] found a household to delight in, ..., [May you not] sit in the
womens [chamber]!...May [the junction] of the highway be where you sit!
[May the ruined houses be] where you sleep! May the shade of the city wall
be where you stand!...May [drunk] and sober strike your cheek!97
In the ardat-lil-incantations, the male lil-demon is described as the
ghost of a young man whose mother had to give birth to him in the street
with weeping, as the son of a woman having no home to raise her child,
while the female ardat lil is called the girl who never had (her own)
room, who never called (her) mothers name, i.e. a motherless child who
was not integrated into a household.98 Although children were generally
socially welcome and to have many of them was an ideal in Mesopotamian
2325 (Landsberger 1937, 96f.), where a man marries a woman with the status of a arimtu
(nam- kar - ki d) and is said to have brought her in from the main street (t i l l a2 - t a ba-
an- da- i l 2 - l a), although this woman owned a tavern before her marriage which he gives
back to her (cf. Roth 2006, 27f.; Cooper op. cit., 15 5; Assante 2007).
96In the Sumerian Edubba (school) literature, hanging around in the street is criticized
as bad behavior for both sexes and is associated with idle laziness and fussing and fighting
in public, both of which were thought of as disgraceful misdemeanor, see Volk 2000, 20
with references.
97George 2003, 638ff. Tablet VII 106ff., 115ff.; Lambert 1992, 130. In an Old Babylonian
Sumerian love incantation the female object of desire is described as: The beautiful maid
(ki - s i ki l ), who stands in the street, the maid, the prostitute, daughter of Inanna (Leick
1994, 196). The woman of the street is also mentioned in omens, e.g. in a hemerological
text (CT 51, 161 Rev. 1, cited by Livingstone 1997, 218) recommending for the 25th day of
the month Tebet that he should make a woman of the street pregnant; Itar will look at
him with favor for the game (sinnita(MUNUS) a sqi(SILA) liri Itar(I8.DAR) ana
m[llti] ana damiqti(MUNUS.SIG5) ippallas(IGI.BAR)-[su]). In lexical texts, the prosti-
tute (kar - ki d) is also associated with roaming, making rounds (ni gi n( 2 ) ; saru) at
other places like the city wall, see CAD S, 55f. In a political treaty of Aur-nrr V (Par-
pola/Watanabe 1988, 12 v 910) the contracting party, king Mati-ilu of Arpad, is cursed
that he shall become a prostitute (arimtu) if he breaches the treaty, and his soldiers shall
become women having to accept gifts in the street like a arimtu. This reflects a view
of such women as leading a precarious and marginalised existence, which would be still
more degrading for a man.
98Lackenbacher 1971, 124 i 78; Geller 1988, 15: 36: ki - s i ki l i t i ma nu- t uku mu nu-
ama pa3 - da : MIN(= ardatu) a mataki l i um ummi l izkuru; Hecker 2008, 126 (cf.
the differing Sumerian version which may mean maiden who was never called mother).
146 ulrike steinert
societies, it is known that parents (or mothers) sometimes abandoned
their newborn babies at frequented places such as a street, well or the
river, because of poverty or personal hardship.99 In legal texts the tak-
ing in of such foundlings from the street is mentioned quite often.100 In
other cases, we read of persons leaving their families and homes, either
voluntarily or by forcein cases of grave misbehaviour, sons, daugh-
ters, men and women were punished by casting them out of the fam-
ily home, sometimes even naked (without clothes or any belongings to
take with them).101 In the curse formulae of Middle and Neo-Babylonian
99See lately Volk 2006, 49ff.; Wunsch 20032004, 174ff. with earlier literature. Aban-
donment probably often awaited children of illegitimate unions. The places where children
were abandoned, together with other formulae in legal documents, signify an outside,
ownerless and lawless area, as Meir Malul (1990, 104f.) has noted. In Akkadian, foundlings
sometimes have names such as He of the street/moat (Volk 2006, 51).
100See CAD S, 402f. sub 1a2; Volk 2006, 51ff.; for foundlings in Neo- and Late Babylo-
nian documents see Wunsch 20032004, 174ff. Standard termini technici for the status of
a foundling were a child who has no father or mother, who does not know his father or
mother, who was found in a well, taken in from the street (ina sqi rub), a child who
was taken from the mouth of a dog, raven or found in company of a dog or pig (see e.g. ana
ittiu III iii 2833, Landsberger 1937, 44). The fate of a foundling depended on the goodwill
of the finder; often they ended as slaves, others were adopted and became scribes or even
worked for the royal court (Wunsch 20032004, 182f.; Volk 2006, 51ff.). In the series ana
ittiu Tablet VII (iii 11f.), the case of a qaditu-woman (a woman of special status who in
some periods seems to play a role in childbirth beside the midwife or acted as a wet-nurse)
is mentioned who takes into her home a child from (found in) the street (dumu s i l a-
am3 : mr s[qi], Landsberger 1937, 100, cf. disc. Volk 2006, 53f.). It seems that women
were most often the persons to abandon or take in foundlings (see also an apodosis in
the commentary on astrological omens K. 4026 Rev. 13 (Virolleaud 1912, 67 No. XL): The
nurse in the street will abandon her child/son (trtu ina sqi(SILA) mra(DUMU)-a
inaddi(UB-di)). In other cases, adults are taken in from the street. In ana ittiu Tablet
VII (iii 7ff.), the qaditu herself is taken in from the street (s i l a- t a: ina sqim) by a man
who loves and marries her. In legal documents from Nuzi, we find other arrangements of
women entering a household from the street by being made the sister of a man after a
public declaration of her consent in the street. Thus women who did not have a family
or were manumitted slaves would have a home and protection, see Greengus 1975, 19ff.
with note 50; cf. Lacheman / Owen 1981, 392f. No. 12 NBC 9112.
101In ana ittiu Tablet III iv 11f. (Landsberger 1937, 48) is an entry about an adopted son
who has taken off, run away into the street (ta irtai ana sqi ittenrub), after which we
find a formula for removing the adoptee from the status of a son (see CAD M/1, 319a lex.;
Landsberger 1937, 148 Commentary to iv 1116). In legal documents from Emar and Ugarit
concerning domestic affairs such as testaments we read that if a family member (wife or
son) is disloyal towards senior family members (husband, parents, elder brother) and does
not accept their authority, the delinquent places his/her garment on a stool and leaves.
In testaments from Emar (Beckman 1996, 14, RE 8: 4043; ibid., 46 RE 28: 1319; see also
Arnaud 1986, 174f. No. 181) this fate is also stipulated for a wife going after another man or
an adopted son denying respect towards his adoptive parents. The formula is also found in
a verdict of the Hittite king regulating the divorce of Ammistamru, king of Ugarit, from his
wife, a princess from Amurru (Nougayrol 1956, 127 RS.17.159: 25ff., 3139). Here the crown
city streets 147
land donation documents, called kudurrus, a homeless man who has to
roam the streets of his city is compared to a dog, while an outcast crimi-
nal is described as one who is not even allowed to walk the streets, but
instead belongs in the uninhabited steppe with the wild animals.102 These
comparisons employ a hierarchy and pattern of relating spatial entities
and relations to social differentiations: Having a home signified that one
was part of human society, while domestic animals and the homeless
are placed on another symbolic level (at the margin of society), because
they share the same topographical place, as do fugitive criminals and
wild animals (outside of human society). The (city) streets are viewed as
ambivalent, being outside (the house), but inside (the cities); they are
the connection and passage between inside (lu city) and outside (ru
wilderness), and thus liminal.103 Their liminal character is expressed not
only in rituals that included processions, but is also seen in the ambiva-
lent evaluation of streets, as a place of impurity and danger, as a source
of infection and harm.
3.Streets and Public Activities of Social Life,
Politics, Religion and Law
The city streets also occur in cuneiform texts as a place for activities
involving the public. Most importantly we note recurring references to
streets as:
a place of gossip, where one has to face the looks and judgement of
other people
a place for processions, festivals, display of royal triumph
a place for the exhibition of criminals and delinquents
prince will have to leave his garment and go away if he wishes to follow his mother (back
to Amurru) or tries to re-install her as queen after his fathers death. In all the texts the
verb wa to go out is used for the banishment from the household without mention-
ing the street, except for a few documents from Ugarit (Nougayrol 1955, 60 RS.16.141: 15),
where an unwilling fiance gets her bridal gift back and leaves for the street(s) (tapaar
ana sqti(SILAla
); similarly ibid., 55 RS.15.92: 14 where an adopted son ana sqi(SILA)
ipa[ar] if he hates his father). Arnaud (1981, 12) understands the legal gesture of placing
ones garment on a stool as a symbol for the renunciation of rights to the family property
and support.
102BBSt No. 7 ii 24 ina ribt liu; Scheil 1900, pl. 23 vii 3 ribt liu aj ikbus.
103For similar notions of liminality associated with the Aventin in Rome see terbenc
Erker, this volume.
148 ulrike steinert
a place of legal judgement
a place where the herald recites declarations
We will turn now to these aspects of streets as locales for public activities.
3.1Streets, Public Gaze and Gossip
In contrast to the privacy of the home, the street is a public place per se,
where one comes into contact with other people, where the public gaze
is upon any member of the community, which, together with gossip, can
work as a means of social control on the individual and his/her behaviour
and social interaction.104 In some contexts, the gaze of others is felt as a
potential threat, and one finds a recurring narrative in the Babylonian
literary texts, as for example in wisdom literature and prayers, where the
subject has to face adversity and contempt from people in the streets,
which is seen as a shameful disgrace. Prayers to deities often reflect a
subjects apprehension about his reputation in the eyes of his community
and a desire for divine protection, which will ensure that people will not
talk bad about him or treat him with open disrespect:
104In social anthropology, gossip is part of any socio-cultural milieu and has been seen
in the functionalist approach as a culturally determined and sanctioned process with
important functions in the maintenance of group unity and morality, enabling groups to
control competing cliques and aspiring individuals (Rappaport 2002, 266f.). The impor-
tance of the public gaze can be related to societies with a group-orientation (cf. Doug-
las 1970). In that type of society, the main source of identity comes from belonging to a
strongly bounded group. Public opinion can exert pressure on the individual who is pri-
marily judged by his or her outward appearance and how he/she lives up to expected role
models. In a group-orientated society, peoples standing and reputation in the community
is decisive, and concepts of honour and shame are an important motor and sanction of
behaviour, managed through the collective sanction of gossip (Mitchell 2002, 280f.). In
Mesopotamian sources, the combined experience of an individual of unfavourable gossip,
permanent social discord and conflict with people both in his home (family group) and
in the street (community/neighbourhood) is seen as an extremely symptomatic sign of
divine displeasure, caused by witchcraft (e.g. through negative gossip) which makes gods
and fellow men hate the victim. Thus, an incantation to ama expresses this point (Lam-
bert 19571958, 293f.: 6869): itti ili(DINGIR) u itari(dXV) uzennninni ulammeninni /
ina bti(E2) altu ina sqi(SILA) pupu ikunnimma They made god and goddess
detest me, defamed me; they have laid upon me strife at home, enmity in the street (for
a complete list of duplicates and fragments Schwemer 2007a, 318 index sub PBS 10/2, 18 //;
Abusch 2002, 70ff., 151ff.). See also KAR 228 (Ebeling 1955, 146: 1920): ina bti(E2) altu ina
sqi(SILA) pupu akn / mui(UGU) mirija(IGI.LA2-ia5) marku urra u ma(GI6)
nazqu In the house quarreling, in the street enmity is set (for me); to anyone encounter-
ing me I am a burden; day and night is sorrow. Walter Farber (1977, 56: 10ff.) adds that
the patient is hated or cursed by a lot of people.
city streets 149
In the city, the people shall [listen? to me] without forgetting it,
Establish speaking and cons[ent] for me (that what I say and do will be
approved in the community),
I want to walk the street (in such a way that) who sees me [shall be ashamed
(of himself) because of me]!105
The social dynamics of personal misfortune resulting in disgrace and mal-
treatment by ones fellow-men is unfolded in a dramatic fashion in the
Poem of the Righteous Sufferer. The onset of misfortune is foreshadowed in
frightening omens and ominous events experienced by the sufferer who
is driven from his house and made to wander outside (Tablet I 50). What
people say about him in the streets portends evil for him and gives him
a bad reputation.106 What follows is a tragic sequence of social decline
from a favourite of the king and respected member of the community
to an outsider despised by everyone, even the lowest riff-raff (Tablet I
55100). This passage emphasizes the public disgrace, slander and humili-
ation experienced from fellow men:
As I walked through the street, fingers were pointed at me, as I went into
the palace eyes would squint at me,...my best friend would slander me, my
slave openly cursed me in the assembly, my slave-girl defamed me in front
of the crowd....107
105BMS 13: 79, Ebeling 1953, 84f. (uilla-prayers to Marduk): ina lim ni(UN
a la ma[ limni?] / uknam(GAR-nam)-ma qab u mag[ri ji] / lullik sqa mir
106Literally: in the mouth of the street my reputation (egirr, i.e. things that are said
about me) is bad (ina p sqi lemun egirr(INIM.GAR-)-a); see Lambert 1960, 32 Tablet I
53; George / al-Rawi 1998, 193; Annus/Lenzi 2010, 16, 32. Also Babylonian kings like Nabon-
idus pray for positive pronouncements (egirr) about themselves expressed by the people
in the streets (Langdon 1912, 260 ii 36, Schaudig 2001, 387): ina squ u sul lidammiqu
egirrjaMay (Bunene, the vizier of ama) make favourable the gossip about me in
street and alley! For egirr interpreted as reputation (expressed in utterances of others)
see CAD E, 43 sub 1; CAD S 402, sub 1a-1. In most references these ominous utterances
are negative and associated with the evil curse, whereas the subject in prayers wishes that
favorable words may be said about him when passing people by in the streets and a finger
of favorable intent be pointed at him from behind, that people in the street may comply to
what he says or notice that he is a divinely protected person (e.g. Geller 2007, 109 Utukk
lemntu Tablet III 189190; Lambert 19591960, 59: 181ff.; Mayer 1976, 508: 120121).
107Tablet I 8081, 8890; Annus / Lenzi 2010, 17, 33: sqa abaama turru ubnti /
errub ekalli(E2.GAL-li)-ma iappur nti...ruua bi ukarraa napit / p ina
puri(UKKIN) ruranni ard / amt(GEME2) ina pn ummni apilti iqbi. See also van de
Mieroop 1997, 127 for intrigues and gossip in the city assembly which could destroy a
citizens good name. It reveals a greater apprehension of upper class members to preserve
their reputation and status.
150 ulrike steinert
That the overarching importance of public opinion nevertheless had its
limits, is illustrated by an Old Babylonian letter where the addressee is
told not to pay attention to the talk (lit. mouth) of the street (p sqim)
and to dismiss it as unfounded rumours.108
That the streets belong to the public sphere is also reflected a few times
in the cuneiform law codes. According to the Middle Assyrian Laws, spe-
cial rules of conduct had to be observed by different categories of women
when they walked in the street and appeared in public. Married free
women and concubines accompanying their mistresses had to cover their
head (probably only the hair) with a cloth, but female slaves and arimtus
are ordered to leave their head uncovered, otherwise they had to expect
severe physical punishment. The law requires the public to drag female
slaves and arimtus covering their head in public to the palace entrance
and to denounce them.109 Other sections of cuneiform law codes deal with
the rape of unmarried women and adulterous sexual encounters of men
with married women outside the house, imagining these events to take
place in a tavern, in the main street (ribtu) at night or in a granary.110
3.2Processions, Festivals, Display of Royal Triumph
In Mesopotamian textual sources such as cultic calendars, rituals, royal
inscriptions and literary compositions, we learn about recurring religious
festivals, during which ceremonial processions of divine images and
objects from their shrines within the city travel to cultic sites outside the
city walls, as witnessed by the inhabitants who enjoyed work-free holidays
on such occasions and would engage in celebration.111 Other festivals were
marked by circumambulations within or outside the town.112 Procession
routes included sections on land or water and stations at daises and
108Frankena 1974, 9: 9.
109Middle Assyrian Laws 40, KAV 1 v 42106; Roth 1995, 168f.; for a discussion of this
passage questioning the meaning prostitute usually attached to arimtu in the Assyrio-
logical literature see Assante 1998, 32ff. who interprets arimtu as a single woman. Assante
connects the wearing of a head cloth to the status of a free woman of the amlu-class, but
doubts that the Middle Assyrian laws were actually enforced and applied in practice. Karel
van der Toorn 1995 sees the veil as a sign both for high social status and for married
women in Babylonia and Assyria.
110Middle Assyrian Laws 12, 14, 55, Roth 1995, 157f. For a discussion of women in
connection with rape and adultery in cuneiform and Biblical law see Lafont 1999.
111 See e.g. the passage in the Sumerian composition The Curse of Agade (lines 1222)
discussed by J. Cale Johnson in this volume.
112For processions as part of religious festivals and cultic rituals in Mesopotamia see
Berlejung 1998; Cohen 1993; Linssen 2004; Miglus 20062008; Pongratz-Leisten 1994;
20062008 with extensive literature; Walker / Dick 2001; Zgoll 2006.
city streets 151
shrines. Before a deity would tread on a processional street, it had to be
purified or refurbished. In many cases, processional streets were also the
main arteries of the city.113
One of the best-known festival processions is that of Marduk during the
New Years Festival (aktu) at Babylon, during which, as part of the perfor-
mance of a religious drama, the deity leaves his temple to fight the imper-
sonation of chaos (Timat) outside in the steppe, thereby re-establishing
cosmic order. The fifth of the eleven stations of this procession from the
temple complex Esagila to the New Years Temple (aktu-house) outside
the city is the processional street called by the ceremonial name Aj-ibr-
ab May the arrogant not prosper!114
Although the general word squ is often used in the texts for proces-
sional streets, there is also a special Akkadian term in first millennium
bce literary Babylonian texts, madau (from the verb adu to move
in procession, to walk along).115 Another word for processional street in
Babylonian texts from the first millennium bce is mtaqu passage, thor-
oughfare, which is mostly used as attribute to squ.116 Thus, in inscrip-
tions of Nebukadnezzar II, the processional street Aj-ibr-ab is called
squ rapu mtaq bli rab Marduk broad street, processional road of the
great lord Marduk.117 Broad and narrow streets (squ rapu/qatnu) were
also called mtaq ni thoroughfare of the people which were used for
daily traffic,118 or mtaq il u arri thoroughfare of gods and king used
for parades and divine processions.119
113Note the reference to a lamentation in the quiet streets (s i l a s i - ga) (for?) Ningizida,
circumambulation in the town in Sumerian sources (Sallaberger 1993, I 282 II Tab. 102).
114Pongratz-Leisten 1994; 20062008, 101f. In the ritual texts or commentaries describ-
ing the stations of the festival, this station is just called ina sqi in the street (Thureau-
Dangin 1921, 118 Rev. 10; KAR 142, Sm. 1720, K. 9876+, Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 40f., also Text
No. 7 and 5), while in the royal inscriptions of Nebukadnezzar, Neriglissar and in the series
Tintir V, Aj-ibr-bu is simultaneously called street (sul) of Babylon (CAD S, 371a sub
1c; George 1992, 66: 64). The epithets street of Babylon and broad/narrow street could
have been popular designations (George 1992, 358).
115CAD M/1, 362f; e.g. Antagal F 163.
116For instance in inscriptions of Sennacherib (Luckenbill 1924, 102: 90; 154: 10).
117Langdon 1912, 160 vii 46, 50. In legal documents from the Late Babylonian period
mtaqu as attribute to squ is also combined with names of deities (e.g. Ungnad 1908, 105:
8 about a house in arrnu(KASKAL.MIN) a aktu mtaqu Ura(dURA) the street of
the aktu-festival, thoroughfare of Ura; cf. the Street of the Ura Gate, the processional
street of Nab in Babylon).
118In documents from Uruk, Ki and Ur, Nippur (Falkenstein 1941, 50ff.; often small
streets (squ qatnu); CAD M/2, 297b sub b).
119Attestations for this phrase come from Late Babylonian Uruk, Ki, Borsippa, Babylon
(CAD M/2, 298a sub c).
152 ulrike steinert
In some texts, the special term ribtu is mentioned as place or stage of
processions instead of the general terms for street (squ, sul). In the
context of processions, ribtu can be interpreted as a road with a linear
character, as is implied by the use of verbs of movement. A bilingual
hymn to Ninurta120 describes a procession of the god entering the city and
approaching his temple Eumea in Nippur.121 The text mentions the per-
formances of musicians and athletes, offerings and that the inhabi tants
of the city are singing songs for the deity. Then stations of the procession
are named:
ki - bi - t a i gi - zu gar - r a- [ zu- de3 ] / itu ari utu panka ina akni[ka]
ka2 - gal - uzug2 bar - eg3 - ga2 - bi ku4 - r a- [ zu- de3 ] / ina abul usukk
arbi ina erbi[ka]
s i l a- dagal - ka2 - gal - uzug2 as i l al l a l gal 2 - l a di b- be2 - da- zu- [ de3 ] /
ina ribt abul usukk a rti malt ina bik[a]
e2 - u- me- a4 e2 - an- ki - da- l a2 - a bal - e- da- zu- [ de3 ] / [ana Eu]-
mea btu a ana am(AN-e) u eretim(KI-tim) taru ina er[bika]...
When [you] set your eyes on this place,
When [you] enter the Gate of the Impure like a cold rain-storm,
When you walk along the Street of the Gate of the Impure, which is full
of rejoicing,
When you enter Eumea, the house which stretches to heaven and the
The description of the topography of Nippur in this text is in accordance
with our scant archaeological knowledge of the topography of this city,
but also with the Map of Nippur, which is on a cuneiform tablet from
about 1300 bce. Although the temple of Ninurta has not been identified,
it is highly probable that it corresponds to an excavated temple on Tablet
Hill, the western mound WA (fig. 1).122
The Gate of the Impure (called abul usukk in the Ninurta hymn) is
also on the Map of Nippur (called there abul musukktim Gate of the
Impure Women), situated in the north-western stretch of the city wall
120KAR 119 (VAT 10610); Lambert 1960, 118ff. and pl. 32 Rev. 1219. This text probably
dates to the Kassite period and was imported to Assur from Babylon.
121For the festivals of Ninurta see also Streck 19982001, 519f. 14; Gurney 1989, 2632,
No. 69+70, 5, 710; Sallaberger 1993, 121), especially the festival on occasion of his vic-
torious return from the mountains to his city and temple described in the myth Ninurtas
Return to Nippur (Angimdimma; Cooper 1978; ETCSL 1.6.1), which was celebrated in Nip-
pur in the second month of the year (Ninurtas aktu) and is reflected in the Ninurta hymn.
See also Annus 2002, 26ff., 61ff.
122Gibson et al. 19982001, 558.
city streets 153
Fig. 1.Nippur Topographic Map. Source: Gibson / Hansen / Zettler 19982001, 547 fig. 1.
154 ulrike steinert
Fig. 2.Ancient Plan of Nippur Superimposed on Modern Topographic Map of the Site. Source:
Gibson / Hansen / Zettler 19982001, 560 fig. 10 (Drawing by John C. Sanders).
city streets 155
(fig. 2).123 Unfortunately, neither streets nor squares are depicted on the
ancient city map, so it does not help to clarify the exact meaning of ribtu
in the Ninurta hymn. Nevertheless, the placement of ribtu at an inter-
mediate stage of procession and the verb bu to walk along point to
the linear conceptualisation of ribtu in this context. The stations of the
procession according to the hymn are: 1) city gate2) processional road
between gate and temple3) temple. A clear parallel for ribt abul usukk
as a main processional street can be found in Babylon, where the main
streets are often named in similar fashion after the city gate they led to,
and connected city gates and big sanctuaries serve the same fundamental
function as processional roads.
Ribtu also figures as the place for a divine procession in the Middle
Assyrian bilingual Ninisinas Journey to Nippur.124 The procession of the
goddess and her divine court starts at her temple in Isin and leads through
the streets to the quay, where she embarks on her procession ship (lines
910, 2326):
s i l a- dagal - ur u- na- ke4 mi - i n- ni - di b- be2 ur u- ni mu- un- da- s a2 :
ribt li(URU)-a ana bi l(URU)-a iannan...
du- ma s ukkal - zi e2 - gal - ma- a i gi - e3 mu- un- du: duma
sukkallu(SUKKAL) knu a Egalma ina maria illak
e- s i r 2 s i l a- dagal mu- un- na- ab- s i ki l - e ur u mu- un- na- ab- ku3 -
g[ e] : squ u ribtu ullului la(URU) ullali
When she walks along the main street of her city, (the people of) her city
do the same....
uma, the reliable vizier of Egalma, walks in front of her.
He purifies street and main street for her, he cleans the city for her. (Akk.
Street and main street purified for her, he cleanses the (whole) city for
Processions in city streets were not only performed by the gods, but they
often required the participation of the ruler, and could be used for the
display of a royal triumph, for example on the occasion of a victorious
123For this city gate see Komorczy, 1976, 341345; Behrens 1978, 150157; Stol 1998
2001, 540; 2012, 275. There is another text explaining the cultic events in Nippur in the
month Iyyar in connection with Ninurtas victorious return from battle in the mountains
(Gurney 1989, 69+70, 27f., 31f., 712; Annus 2002, 63f.). According to this text, Ninurta
returns on the 15th day, but on the 19th day the impure women had to leave the city in a
procession, because Ninurta entered his temple Eumea in anger (i 7); for a discussion
see also George (1990b, 158) who sees in the ritual procession of these women the origin
of the name of this city gate.
124KAR 15+16; see al-Fouadi 1982, 35ff.; Cohen 1975, 609ff.
156 ulrike steinert
return from a military campaign (erb li), which is especially attested in
first millennium bce Assyria.125 Notably, the triumphal entry of the king is
part of the Assyrian version of the aktu-festival.126 In Nineveh, as inscrip-
tions of Sennacherib tell us, a 34 meter wide ceremonial royal road func-
tioned as main processional road. It probably led from the Nergal Gate
in the northwestern flank of the city wall to the citadel and royal palace
on mound Kouyunjik.127 There is an example from the inscriptions of
Esarhaddon for a triumphal parade of the Assyrian king celebrating the
military victory over the kings of Sidon and Kundu/Sis (in 676/5 bce),
taking place in the ribtu of Nineveh.128 The king states that on this occa-
sion, he had the cut-off heads of the enemy kings that he had killed hung
around the necks of their magnates as part of their public humiliation, to
show the people the might of Aur.129 This parade was accompanied by
performances of singers and lyre players (May 2012).
Last but not least, Old Babylonian texts connected to the cult of the
goddess Itar describe rituals characterised by processions through the city
and to the outskirts, which merit special mention here, because they
describe the active participation of inhabitants (men, women, young men
and girls), beside cultic personnel like ecstatics, transvestites and musi-
cians, in ritual acts, especially in games of symbolic reversal (of gender
attributes) and in collective celebrations.130
125Nvak 1999, 296f. For references see Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 151190, esp. 159f.;
CAD S, 312f.
126For attestations from the reigns of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal see Pongratz-
Leisten 1997, 249ff.; Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 79ff., 106ff., 147, 151ff.; Weissert 1997, 347f. For
the aktu-festivities at Assur see also Menzel (1981) and Maul (2000). The gods procession
to the aktu-house outside the city of Assur on the second of Nisan started at the Aur
Temple where Aur, together with the king, mounted his chariot pulled by horses. The
order of the gods in procession (in front of or behind Aurs chariot) was strictly defined,
as it moved along the processional street from the Aur Temple through the temple
and palace area to the aktu-house outside the city (Menzel 1981, 55ff.; Maul 2000, 400;
Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 108, cf. 27 map of Assur). Contrary to Andraes reconstruction (1977,
68f., 223f., figs. 4042, 47), the known texts do not attest that the procession to the aktu-
house during the New Years festival at Assur took place by boat (cf. Menzel 1981, 243).
127Luckenbill 1924, 153; Nvak 1999, 162, 290; Lumsden 2004, Fig. 6. Another main
street for daily traffic and processions could have connected the Shibaniba or the Hallahu
Gate and the city (Lumsden 2004).
128Borger 1956, 50 iii 38 ina ribt Ninua.
129Ibid., 50 iii 36: au dann Aur blija ni(UN.ME) kullumimma. Note that in the
inscriptions of Assurbanipal, a new formula is introduced in connection with the presenta-
tion of captives and trophies of war: ana tmarti ni (mtiya) so that the people (of my
country) may see (Weissert 1997, 357, n. 2).
130Groneberg 1997.
city streets 157
3.3Streets, Legal Judgement and the Exhibition of Criminal Delinquents
Beside its occurrence in the Middle Assyrian Laws as a public space where
the appearance of women had to be regulated, the term ribtu is also con-
nected to judicial activities in a number of other texts. In an Old Baby-
lonian document from Ur (Figulla / Martin 1953, No. 265), a man is said
to have taken an oath by the Moon God and the king in the main street
of Ur, revealing that the trial concerning this man was held at a ribtu,
presumably in the vicinity of an important building or public place (e.g.
temple or city gate), Blum-Sn swore an oath by Nanna and Sumuel...;
in the main street of Ur he swore the oath by Nanna and Sumuel.131
In some judicial documents we read about the threat or actual perfor-
mance of humiliating punishments in public. In a clause of an Old Baby-
lonian judicial agreement from Sippar concerning an adoption, it is stated
that should one of the parties bring a claim against the current agreement,
their noses will be pierced, and their arms will be stretched, and they will
walk (like this) through the main street of Sippar.132
In a Sumerian model court case from Nippur dating to the beginning
of the second millennium bce, which was used in the scribal curriculum,
a woman caught in the act of adultery is exposed to physical punishment
and publicly humiliated: They have shaved (her) pudendum, pierced her
nose with an arrow. The king has handed her over for leading her around
in the city.133
131Figulla / Martin 1953, No. 265: 1ff., 13ff.: Blum(mEN-um)-Sn(dSUEN) n(MU) Nanna
(dNANNA) u Sumu-El(DINGIR) itma(IN.PAD3)... ina ribt Urim(URI2ki)-ma n(MU)
Nanna(dNANNA) u Sumu-El(DINGIR) itma(IN.P[AD3]). The erroneous statement in
Steinert 2011, 319 about taverns as places of judicial activities has to be corrected in the
accordance with the references cited there: it was in the main streets (ribtu) that these
activities took place in some periods of Mesopotamian history.
132Ungnad 1909, No. 19: 9ff.: appunu ippallama / idunu ittarrama / ribt
Sippar(ZIMBIRki) i[lla]k; cf. CAD T, 215 sub 15b, CAD R, 320 sub d; Harris 1975, 133 with
note 77. See also CT 45, 18: 14ff. where the plaintiff of an unlawful claim is lead around
the city of Sippar with half of his hair shaved off, his nose pierced and arms stretched (in
a stock?); cf. CAD T, 210 sub b; Harris 1975, 133 with note 78 for more references.
133Van Dijk 1959, 1214 and pl. 9 No. 8: 2126; van Dijk 1963; Greengus 19691970;
Roth 1988, 196: gal 4 - l a- a- [ ni ] / u[ mb] i n i [ n] - ku5 - r u- ne / ki r i 4 - ni g i

kak- s i - s a2
i n- bur u3 - u / ur uk i ni gi n- e- de3 / l ugal - e / [ ba] - an- s um. In legal documents
the shameful punishment of publicly exposing the delinquents naked body was primarily
performed on married women who despised or wanted to leave their husbands for another
man, e.g. in Old Babylonian documents from Hana (Clay 1923, 52: 14), and in Nuzi texts
(Chiera 1929, 71: 35 where the woman is stripped). In the OB text from Hana, the woman
is taken to the roof of the palace to be exposed to the crowd.
158 ulrike steinert
While there are other more prominent public places for judgement,
especially at the city, palace or temple gates,134 the streets are addition-
ally mentioned in connection with the herald who recites proclamations
of king or local authorities and informs people of public events (collec-
tive services, assemblies), of run-away-slaves and crimes like theft.135 In an
Old Babylonian document in Sumerian,136 it is mentioned that the herald
blows his horn in the streets to inform the people that a merchant had
lost his seal.
In the Standard Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, the city street is men-
tioned as place of public assembly of the inhabitants. In Tablet III 208f.,
Gilgamesh forbids the officers responsible for governing Uruk during his
absence, not to assemble the young men (as troops for military expedi-
tions) in the street.137 In the parallel sequence of the epics Old Babylo-
nian version, in the Yale Tablet iv 172177, Gilgamesh bolts the seven city
gates of Uruk and convenes the citys assembly (young men and elders) in
the (main) street, to inform them that he has decided to go with Enkidu
on an expedition to the Cedar Forest against Huwawa.138 While in the
Akkadian Gilgamesh compositions, the two heroes go on this expedition
alone, in the Sumerian precursor of this episode, in Bilgames and Huwawa,
Gilgamesh mobilises the young men of Uruk who accompany him and
Enkidu to the Cedar Forest as troops.139 This episode reflects the usual
practice of assembling inhabitants for military and public services, such as
repair work on the city walls or digging and cleaning irrigation canals.140
134See Natalie N. Mays contribution in this volume; CAD A/1, 82ff.; CAD B, 14ff. For
proclamations (dti) at palace and city gates about legal decisions in Nuzi texts see
Pfeiffer 1932, 18: 41; Gadd 1926, 142 No. 1: 22. Note also the ceremonial name of the Illat(u)
Gate in the city of Assur mentioned in the so-called Gtteradressbuch (Menzel 1981,
II T 155: 131, KAV 42 iii 37 and dupl.: l drt puur ni, Eternal be the assembly of the
people!; cf. Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 26, 29.
135For the street in connection with the activities of the herald see Sassmannshausen
1995, 96ff.
136Ali 1964.
137George 2003, 584.
138George 2003, 200ff.
139George 2003, 9f., 194f. Note that in the Yale Tablet, the young men of Uruk trying
to follow Gilgamesh and Enkidu, are urged to stay at home. In Tablet II 260ff. Gilgamesh
similarly addresses the young men of Uruk to give their blessing to his undertaking, while
the elders present warn him, but later agree and give Gilgamesh in Enkidus care.
140For more information on city assemblies see van de Mieroop 1997, 120ff.
city streets 159
The streets of Mesopotamian cities had various social, economic, politi-
cal, religious functions. They were important locales for communication
and public activities during which the social order and collective identity
was cemented, for instance through their functions as a place of judge-
ment and as a locale for processions of the gods and/or the ruler dur-
ing religious festivals and triumphal parades. On the other hand, streets
were also seen as a negative, marginal, liminal space where elements at
the bottom of society were localised, some of which have no fixed place
of belonging within a bounded group (family), or through their anti-social
behaviour, tend to be seen as threatening to the social order (witch/
sorcerer; idle persons hanging around engaging in worthless gossip and
quarreling). Others are marginalised because their occupation forces them
to frequent the streets. The picture presented here based on available
textual sources probably reflects social reality to some degree, but also
contains perspectives of members of the upper class who set themselves
apart from the ones at the bottom and at the margins of society. The
impression that social boundary marking was a concern in Mesopota-
mian society might also be reflected in other characteristics of the spatial
organisation of Mesopotamian streets and city quarters. The inwardness
of the house architecture (closed walls, the absence of large windows
etc.) could be interpreted as emphasising social borders and a desire of
protecting those inside from the public gaze. Moreover, the occasional
presence of gates at city quarters and private streets can be understood
as an expression of social control through specific groups (by controlling
access), marking a contrast between insiders and outsiders.141 Moreover,
the recurring topic of gossip and the public gaze in the written sources
can be seen as reflecting a group-orientation of Mesopotamian society,142
i.e. as a society in which belonging to a social group forms the main source
of a persons identity, as society in which the self-image of an individual
is determined by his/her images in the eyes of others.
Hopefully, the evidence in this contribution has demonstrated that in
Mesopotamia as in other ancient societies, social structure is expressed
in the spatial domain, which is charged with social meaning. In connection
141For similar patterns of Islamic Oriental cities cf. Bengs 1997, 15ff. and May / Steinert,
Introduction, this volume.
142For group vs. grid see Mary Douglas 1970.
160 ulrike steinert
with streets, the most dominant reflection of social structure in urban
space, according to the written sources from Mesopotamia, was the contrast
between the opposing categories inside versus outside, house versus
street, centre versus periphery, property versus poverty, social belong-
ing versus marginalisation. This contrastive ordering of social categories
and urban space is tied to a focus on the liminal character of streets, as
well as on spatial and social borders. Yet, this is just one aspect of the many
interconnections between spatial organisation and social structure, since
urban space is always formed by complex processes, overlapping factors,
and is charged with multiple attributions of social meaning. Thus, we have
encountered city streets not only in connection with social marginalisa-
tion, but also in connection with institutions and social practices effecting
the (re)-integration of social outsiders and marginalised persons.
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Heather D. Baker
This article examines new approaches to investigating the fabric of the Babylo-
nian cities, based on both archaeological and written sources. It focuses on the
physical composition of the non-monumental sectors of the city, emphasising
the agency of the local inhabitants in shaping their immediate environment and
examining the processes by which houses and neighbourhoods were transformed
over time.
Discussions of Mesopotamian urbanism tend to centre around the emer-
gence of cities in the later fourth millennium bce and their early develop-
ment. Relatively little attention has been paid to the longer-term trajectory
of urban development beyond this initial phase. It might be argued that
ancient Mesopotamia presents remarkable potential for examining the
changing form of cities within one specific geo-cultural environment over
a period of roughly three millennia (taking the end of the cuneiform writ-
ing tradition as the conventional stopping point). However, this potential
has yet to be realised. For the earlier second millennium bce, studies of
Mesopotamian cities have tended to focus on general spatial organisation,2
or on housing/residential areas/neighbourhoods.3 By the time we arrive
in the first millennium bce, we find that a great deal of attention has
been paid in recent years to the archaeology and history of certain cities,
especially the capitals Babylon,4 Nineveh,5 and Nimrud6 and the religious
1This paper is based on research conducted under the auspices of the START Project
on The Economic History of First Millennium BC Babylonia led by Michael Jursa at the
University of Vienna and funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
2E.g. Stone 1991; 1995.
3E.g. Stone 1981; 1987; Brusasco 19992000; Keith 2003.
4E.g. Renger 1999; Andr-Salvini 2008; Finkel / Seymour 2008; Marzahn 2008.
5Collon / George 20045.
6Curtis et al. 2008.
172 heather d. baker
centre Assur,7 but urbanism as a phenomenon in its own right is addressed
only selectively and there is a persistent focus on the role of the ruler
in shaping the city.8 Such a skewed perspective not only directs atten-
tion to the monumental elements of the city at the expense of others, it
also tends to turn the creation of urban form into a series of historically-
documented planned acts associated with the building (or rebuilding) of
individual structures or building complexes. This in turn can create an
impression of urban development as something large-scale and episodic,
obscuring parallel processes which operate on a smaller scale, at a local
level and at a slower pace. The approach I shall discuss here is concerned
especially with these smaller scale bottom-up processes, and with devel-
oping methods of describing and investigating urban morphology in such
a way as to facilitate the identification and analysis of long-term trajecto-
ries of development in the less well studied parts of the city.
In a recent article, Michael E. Smith9 has reviewed eight different bodies
of empirical urban theory which he considers to be of particular applica-
bility in the study of ancient cities. He terms them middle-range theory
in the sense coined by the sociologist Robert K. Merton in the 1950s (and
not as used by the archaeologist Lewis Binford), and considers them to be
particularly useful in bridging the gap between, on the one hand, purely
descriptive accounts with little wide-ranging explanatory value, and on
the other hand high-level social theory which is more comprehensive but
has little empirical content. He stresses that archaeologists who frequently
have trouble applying abstract, high-level theory in their work tend to be
more comfortable with middle-range theory, and that the latter is ide-
ally suited to the study of ancient cities and the built environment. The
eight bodies of theory that Smith identifies are: environment-behaviour
theory; architectural communication theory; space syntax; urban mor-
phology; reception theory; generative planning theory; normative urban
theory, and city size theory. These bodies of theory are by no means mutu-
ally exclusive, rather, there are significant overlaps and points of contact
between some of them. I think that Smith is right to stress the potential
contribution of these approaches to the study of ancient urbanism, and in
this article I shall examine the application of some of them in the study
of the Babylonian cities of the first millennium bce. In recent years I have
7Marzahn / Salje 2003.
8Baker 2011a.
9Smith 2011.
the babylonian cities 173
been investigating these cities using methods which draw heavily on two
of the bodies of middle-range theory reviewed by Smith, namely, urban
morphology and generative planning theory. The results of this work will
shortly be published in full elsewhere10 so, in the hope of reflecting the
interdisciplinary nature of this book, my concern here will be to explain
on a more discursive level the approach adopted, which I believe to be
particularly useful for the integration of textual and archaeological data.11
If we are to study the topographical organisation of the Babylonian city
as a mirror of its social organisation, in line with the main objectives of
this volume,12 then we have first to develop a way of describing urban
form that does justice to its complexity, one that is not focused only on
the monumental sectors but can accommodate also the finer details of the
physical structure of residential neighbourhoods. That is what this chap-
ter attempts to do.
Mesopotamia presents us with a unique opportunity to combine tex-
tual and archaeological evidence in the study of urbanism, and yet to date
little attention has been devoted to exploring how this might fruitfully
be done. One reason for this is no doubt the disciplinary divide within
Mesopotamian studies identified by John Brinkman,13 which means that
archaeologists and philologists only rarely cross over into one anothers
territory (although it might be fair to say that collaboration between the
two has become more respectable in recent years). We lack the narrative
accounts available to scholars of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds,
and yet the very rich body of everyday documents, especially the legal and
administrative texts, contains a wealth of information that can be used in
the detailed study of urban form. The Babylonian documents at our dis-
posal are particularly suitable for such an approach, not only because they
enable us to reconstruct the physical characteristics of a large number of
individual properties and their immediate surroundings, but also because
they provide vital background information on the social and economic
conditions underlying the ownership, transfer and use of those same prop-
erties. An understanding of these is vital for determining the conditions
governing household and neighbourhood transformation which might be
10Baker forthcoming.
11Some of these issues relating to the question of planning are also touched upon
in another study by the present author, though from a different perspective (Baker in
12As set out by May and Steinert in their Introduction.
13Brinkman 1984, 170.
174 heather d. baker
considered to be among the local rules responsible for generating com-
plexity at the wider scale. Since the relevant documents were written for
immediate, utilitarian purposes, their contents are essentially descriptive
and can be taken at face value in the sense that they were not intended as
propaganda or to influence the attitudes and emotions of others. That is
not to say that they can be used without reference to any canons of source
criticism, simply that their use as a historical source requires different
methods of evaluation and analysis when compared with, for example,
royal inscriptions and literary texts. In the case of first millennium bce
Babylonia we are fortunate that many of the relevant factors, such as the
legal-historical background, inheritance practice, and dowry-giving, are
well documented and studied. Moreover, archival studies have advanced
to the extent that we have quite a good understanding of how our docu-
mentation has come to take the shape it has.
2.The Study of Urban Land Use Patterns
As Michael Smith14 notes, urban morphology is an approach which has
been primarily concerned with the detailed description and analysis of
historical town plans. I suggest that this approach is eminently adapt-
able to describing and analysing land-use patterns within the Babylonian
city and that it is especially suitable for characterising the structure of
residential areas. Modern geographers conventionally break down urban
morphology into key elements, as in the following scheme:
the town plan itself, based on the street pattern
the plot pattern (land parcels or lots)
the arrangement of buildings within the plot pattern
the land use pattern
the building fabric (in three dimensions)15
One key feature of the urban morphology approach is the recognition that
spatial patterns can emerge not only as a result of central planning, but
also as the cumulative effect of many single decisions taken by individual
landowners. For example, writing about the phenomenon of fringe belts
14Smith 2011, 176177.
15Kostof 2001, 256, citing Conzen 1968; cf. Carmona et al. 2006, 617.
the babylonian cities 175
in UK towns, Jeremy Whitehand16 writes: But most fringe belts are not
contrived. They are products of large numbers of separate decisions about
individual sites. Indeed the decision-takers frequently had no knowledge
of one another and almost invariably no conception of the way in which
their decisions and those of others would in combination have the effect
that we refer to as a fringe belt. This approach, which emphasises the
agency of individuals in shaping the urban environment around them,
can, I believe, be usefully employed in the study of Babylonian residential
areas. For example, in studying the question of physical modifications
to Neo-Babylonian houses in relation to their social context, it has been
noted Such changes are of interest not only because they inform us about
the living conditions of the occupants, but also because when viewed at a
level beyond that of the individual household they may shed light on the
longer-term development of entire residential districts. At the neighbour-
hood scale, urban development may be reflected in myriad changes of
the kind I have been discussing.17 This kind of process is often labelled
organic, with sometimes thinly-disguised negative connotations of cha-
otic, haphazard development. Such values have in the past been attached
especially to traditional urban form in the Middle East, in contrast to the
(supposedly) ordered, regular planning evident in the cities of the Clas-
sical world. However, when viewed as the cumulative effect of numerous
decisions taken by individual agents acting within the parameters laid
down by prevailing patterns of socio-cultural behaviour, then urban form
begins to take on a less overtly chaotic character. In this respect the body
of theory that Smith18 labels generative planning theory comes into its
own, because it places the local inhabitantsas decision-makersat the
centre of the generative processes which shaped their immediate environ-
ment. The work of Besim Selim Hakim19 in studying the form of traditional
Islamic neighbourhoods is especially interesting in this respect because
he traces in detail the small-scale, local effects on the residential fabric of
community-based decisions made within the framework of Islamic law. As
well as the legal principles, which were upheld with regard to privacy, for
example, he notes that there was also a degree of self-regulation arising
out of the societal norms governing acceptable behaviour. This approach
fits very well together with that of urban morphology, stressing the social
16Whitehand 2001, 108.
17Baker 2010a, 193.
18Smith 2011, 179180.
19Hakim 1986.
176 heather d. baker
context of the local decision-making processes that led to physical modi-
fications to the urban fabric.
Another notable feature of urban morphology research is the focus
on the detailed, micro-scale study of individual plots, including met-
rological analysis; indeed, this has been termed a sub-field, urban
micromorphology.20 The Babylonian land-sale tablets provide a compa-
rable potential for detailed study, although in this case we are dealing
(usually) with single properties whose precise location cannot be deter-
mined. As a group the tablets shed light on the kinds of properties being
transferred at the period in question, but since these textually-attested
urban properties are floating in space (within certain parameters) rather
than fixed and contiguous, we can only extrapolate general principles from
the multitude of individual cases, without being able to recover actual
areas of urban layout beyond the immediate surroundings of individual
properties. These difficulties can be overcome to some extent by using the
excavated areas of contemporary housing as a control.
In view of these observations, it seems to me that the above scheme for
describing urban morphology can be adapted for use in a Babylonian con-
text, providing a framework for describing elements of the urban layout
that can be applied to archaeological and textual data alike. There is a sub-
stantial body of cuneiform documents recording the sale and exchange of
urban properties that provide information not only on the property that is
at the centre of the transaction, but also on its immediate environment.21
Data drawn from these tablets can be used to complement the archaeo-
logical evidence, thereby helping to overcome issues of representativeness
arising from the relative scarcity of excavated residential areas. For exam-
ple, it has been noted that, while blind alleys are scarcely represented in
the excavated areas of Neo-Babylonian housing, their frequent occurrence
in the contemporary tablets shows that they were a more common feature
of the urban landscape than might be thought, based on the archaeologi-
cal evidence alone.22
The use of textual data to shed light on the urban fabric in the way
proposed here is not in itself an innovation: such an approach has been
adopted by other scholars. In particular, it is implicit in Lucia Moris
20Whitehand 2001, 1045, 106.
21For further details see Baker 2009, 8990 with reference to a specimen house sale
22Baker 2009, 96.
the babylonian cities 177
reconstruction of the urban landscape of Emar.23 However, the process
has been subjected to little in the way of rigorous scrutiny, and my aim
here is to examine the methodological dimensions of this approach in the
light of the bodies of theory discussed above.
For investigating the Babylonian residential areas I have used a modi-
fied version of the aforementioned urban morphology scheme, one which
accommodates the kinds of information at our disposal, taking into
account the ways in which properties are described in the tablets (Table 1).
In particular, it relies on an appreciation of contemporary methods of
property surveying and the conventions used by the Babylonian scribes
in describing properties in the legal documents.24 It is based on units of
ownership (parcels) since that is what the tablets are typically dealing
with. The smallest land-use unit is the plot. A parcel can consist of a
single plot (figs. 1ab), or of several plots (figs. 2ab). In the former case,
this means that the parcel has no internal differentiation as to land-use
modes, according to the way it is described in the tablet (Table 1, cat-
egories A1ac). This holds true even though a small number of proper-
ties, despite being treated as a single unit, are nevertheless described as
having more than one use (for example, built house and unbuilt land,
see fig. 1b). The defining characteristic here is that the written property
description does not divide the parcel into separate areas differentiated
by function (e.g. plot 1 = house, plot 2 = unbuilt land), but rather we
are dealing only with one plot. Single-plot parcels are by definition of
regular (quadrilateral) shapeor at least, they are treated as such in the
tablets. It is by no means clear why in some cases a house and unbuilt plot
should be treated as one unit (1 parcel, 1 plot), while in other cases such
properties are described in greater detail (1 parcel, > 1 plotsee Table 1,
category A2b).
When irregularly-shaped properties are described in the tablets, they
are broken down into a series of quadrilaterals for the sake of the sur-
vey (see fig. 2a). These individual areas are also called plots here, because
again they represent the smallest attested land-use units. These parcels
consisting of more than one plot may have a single land-use mode (Table 1,
categories A2a, A2c; fig. 2a); alternatively, one or more of the different
plots may be assigned a distinct function (Table 1, category A2b; fig. 2b),
23Mori 2003, Chapter 1.
24On the conventions of surveying and describing urban properties see Baker 2011b.
178 heather d. baker
such as an unbuilt plot belonging to a house complex, or an alley serving
the house and sold together with it.
At the next level of analysis we are dealing with blocks (Table 1, B);
these consist of one or more contiguous parcels bounded by public streets
or, occasionally, some other boundary-marker such as a canal flowing
within the city. In this context alleys should not be classified as boundar-
ies because the textual evidence shows that they were not part of the pub-
lic street network: they never completely bisected a block and therefore
by definition they could not serve as block boundaries. Within a block,
the boundary between parcels could be formed by any combination of
external house walls, alleys and other perimeter markers (such as walls
surrounding unbuilt plots). It is clear that the nature of the house perim-
eter was significant: party walls between adjacent dwellings are indicative
of lower status when compared with those adjacent houses which had
separate external walls, as in Babylon, Merkes.25 One of the questions of
interest is whether our documentation can shed any light on the issue
of block size and configuration (see below).
25Baker 2011a.
Table 1:Scheme for classifying the morphology of residential areas (based on the
contemporary written documentation)
A.The parcel (unit of ownership)
subdivision(s) potential land-use categories
1.one plot a. house (possibly with unbuilt land or another kind of
structure attached, but not spatially differentiated in
the written description; cf. 2b)
b.other structure
d.unknown (tablet broken)
2.several plots a.house (irregular shape)
b. house complex with plots differentiated by function
c.unbuilt (irregular shape)
d.unknown (tablet broken)
B.The block (one or more parcels)
1.one parcel one parcel delimited on all sides by boundary-markers
(streets, canals, etc.)
2.several parcels adjacent parcels delimited on their external perimeters
by boundary-markers (streets, canals, etc.)
the babylonian cities 179
The scheme presented above (Table 1) was devised specifically to accom-
modate the kinds of information typically present in the land sale and
related tablets from first millennium bce Babylonia. However, it is equally
well applicable to excavated residential areas, taking into account some
key differences in the nature of the evidence. The most significant factor
here lies in the relationship between individual properties as distinguished
in excavation (normally a complete house), and actual units of ownership
(parcels) which are what the texts deal with but which may or may not
have corresponded to a single complete house. In archaeological terms
we are generally dealing with complete houses as defined by tracing their
external perimeter, whereas the documentary sources often concern sce-
narios whereby houses are in divided ownership and/or occupation.26 One
might compare Roman housing, where the term insula is commonly used
in the modern literature to denote a block in the sense employed above,
although in the words of one scholar The block defined by surrounding
streets is not properly an insula unless it is a unit of ownership.27
In Table 1 the potential land-use categories associated with the various
parcel/plot configurations are indicated in the right-hand column. This
scheme can be refined further in accordance with the types of data con-
tained in the tablets. The kinds of urban properties for which we have writ-
ten documentation can be classified into land-use categories as follows:28
26Baker 2010a, 185.
27WallaceHadrill 1994, 132.
28In the case of C. Reeds the textual sources indicate that these are primarily resi-
dential properties, i.e. houses; however, it is not possible to determine whether or not they
were accompanied by unbuilt plots.
Table 2:28Land-use categories and their corresponding parcel/plot configurations
Land-use category Parcel/plot configuration
A.Primarily residential, without unbuilt land 1a, 2ab
B.Primarily residential, with unbuilt land 1a, 2ab
C. Reeds (house plot described simply as GI.ME
= qante)
D.Independent unbuilt plot 1c, 2c
E. Independent unbuilt plot of specific function
(e.g. m alley)
F. Structure other than house 1b
G.Land use not specified or not preserved 1d, 2d
180 heather d. baker
The approach to land-use classification presented in Tables 12, based
on the written documentation, potentially incorporates a greater level of
detail than would be possible with reference to the archaeological record
alone. This is especially the case with respect to buildings other than houses
(including reed structures, and shops) since these have yet to be identified
on the ground within the excavated residential areas, although they are
mentioned in the tablets. On the other hand, owing to the fact that the
textually-documented properties can at best be located only imprecisely
within the settlement, the city districts within which individual proper-
ties were situated constitute a convenient unit of study. Thus it may be
possible to gain empirical data concerning the kinds of properties located
within certain districts of the same city, although unless the sample of
relevant tablets is sufficiently large it will be impossible to compare the
character of one district with another. Some preliminary results pointing
towards variability in the composition of city districts within Hellenistic
Uruk have been discussed recently by the present author.29
3.The Study of Block Configuration and Access Patterns
In residential areas, block size depends very much on the configuration of
the street network, and typically this was one of the most stable features
of an ancient urban environment, just as it is today. In the Merkes area of
Babylon, for example, soundings enabled the excavators to determine that
the Neo-Babylonian streets followed the same course as their Old Babylo-
nian forebears,30 and this network only fell into disuse in the Parthian era.
Within the residential block itself, parcel boundaries were fluid: house
perimeters were continually changing through expansion and contraction,
and even alleys could be remodelled or moved to suit the requirements
of those who owned and used them. The public streets, however, were
fixed over long periods and it seems clear that encroaching on them was
subject to sanction. A number of scenarios for access to private houses
are represented in the textual sources, depending on their location with
regard to the neighbouring public streets and private alleys:
29Baker 2009, 934.
30Reuther 1926, 66.
the babylonian cities 181
house adjacent to a public street
access via the public street. If the house adjoins one or more streets
and no alley, then it must have been accessed via one of the said
public streets (sometimes this is made explicit in the texts).
access via an alley. If a house adjoins an alley as well as one or more
public streets, then it may have been accessed via the alley; in fact,
usually the tablet makes it clear whether or not the alley served the
house in question.
house adjacent to an alley
access via the alley. If the only adjacent thoroughfare is an alley, then
the house must have been accessed via that alley; again, this is usually
made explicit in the document.
This range of textually-documented scenarios for access to private houses
is of some considerable interest because, as noted above, blind alleys are
significantly under-represented in the excavated residential areas of the first
millennium cities, so it is only through the textual sources that it has been
possible to confirm that they were a significant feature of the residential
areas (as they were, for example, in Old Babylonian Ur). In this respect the
written sources are vital for reconstructing the configuration of residential
blocks, and without them we would have a very different picture. The best
corpus of textual data suitable for addressing these issues comes from Hel-
lenistic Uruk; by contrast, only a very small area of contemporary housing
has been excavated at the site.31 I have suggested previously that we may
to some extent be dealing with a deliberate reorganization of the urban
settlement at Uruk which began at least in the early Hellenistic period, if
not (as I believe) already in the Late Achaemenid era, and that one ele-
ment of this new scheme was the apportioning by the temple of parcels
of land called bt ritti (tenured property) which were to be developed
by individuals for housing.32 Mostly what we witness are later stages in
the ownership history of these properties, but there is some evidence to
indicate that they were originally given out as unbuilt plots measuring
50 square cubits (ca. 625 m2). It is interesting, therefore, that one docu-
mented property of known size from Hellenistic Uruk which is described as
being adjoined on three sides by streets indicates a block length of precisely
100 cubits, i.e. ca. 50 metres (VS 15 50: 611, dated 178 bce). Another tablet,
31Kose 1998, 380, Fig. 232.
32Baker 2005, 36.
182 heather d. baker
BiMes 24 25 (157 bce), also involves a property that occupies one end of a
block, but in this case the dimensions are not given (see fig. 3).
In this paper I have explored methods of investigating the morphology
of Babylonian urban residential districts, drawing on approaches used in
other disciplines that seem to be particularly suitable for handling the
kinds of data at our disposal, both textual and archaeological. Although
I have focussed especially on the use of the written sources in the study of
urban micromorphology, it is important to stress that with the approach
adopted it is not a matter of simply interpreting the archaeological evi-
dence in the light of what the cuneiform tablets tell us. Rather, it is a
recursive process. It would be impossible to reconstruct the plan of a typi-
cal Neo-Babylonian house based on the evidence of the sale documents
alone, even in the most detailed instances, in the absence of any exca-
vated example. On the other hand, the cuneiform documentation provides
important information on the social use of space within the house, includ-
ing the identification of different sectors by name and, in some cases, by
function. Each dataset, archaeological and textual, provides context for
interrogating and testing the other in a more informed and targeted man-
ner. Such an integrated approach facilitates the identification of the local
rules which lay behind small-scale changes in the built environment and
which may have contributed to the emergence of patterns discernible at
a wider scale, both spatially and temporally.
BiMes 24 Weisberg 1991.
BRM 2 Clay 1918.
VS 15 Schroeder 1916.
RIAA2 Speleers 1925.
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muse du Louvre, 14 Mars2 Juin 2008, Paris.
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Uruk, in Heather D. Baker / Michael Jursa (eds.), Approaching the Babylonian Economy.
Proceedings of the START-Project Symposium Held in Vienna, 13 July 2004. AOAT 330.
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(2009), A waste of space? Unbuilt land in the Babylonian cities of the first millen-
nium BC, in: Iraq 71, 8998.
(2010a), The social dimensions of Babylonian domestic architecture in the Neo-
Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, in: John Curtis / St John Simpson (eds.), The
World of Achaemenid Persia. History, Art and Society in Iran and the Ancient Near East.
London, 179194.
(2010b), Babylonian Shops, Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brves et Utilitaires, 2010 no. 88.
(2011a), From street altar to palace: reading the built environment of urban Baby-
lonia, in: Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform
Culture. Oxford, 533552.
(2011b), Babylonian land survey in socio-political context, in: Gebhard J. Selz /
Klaus Wagensonner (eds.), The Empirical Dimension of Ancient Near Eastern Studies /
Die empirische Dimension altorientalischer Forschungen. Wiener Offene Orientalistik
Band 6. Vienna/Berlin, 293323.
(in press), Beyond planning: how the Babylonian city was formed, in: Cornelia
Wunsch (ed.), City Administration in Neo-Babylonian Times. The Neo-Babylonian Work-
shop of the 53rd RAI. Winona Lake, Indiana.
(forthcoming), The Urban Landscape in First Millennium BC Babylonia.
Boiy, Tom (2003), RIAA2 293300. Hellenistic Legal Documents from Uruk in the Royal
Museums of Art and History (Brussels), in: Akkadica 124, 1964.
Brinkman, John A. (1984), Settlement Surveys and Documentary Evidence: Regional Vari-
ation and Secular Trend in Mesopotamian Demography, in: Journal of Near Eastern
Studies 43, 169180.
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nian houses at Ur, in: Mesopotamia 3435: 3173.
Carmona, Matthew / Heath, Tim / Oc, Taner / Tiesdell, Steven (2006), Public Places
Urban Spaces. The Dimensions of Urban Design. Oxford.
Clay, Albert T. (1918), Legal Documents from Erech Dated in the Seleucid Era. Babylonian
Records in the Library of J. Pierpont Morgan, Part II. New Haven.
Collon, Dominique / George, Andrew R. (eds.) (20045), Nineveh. Papers of the XLIXe Ren-
contre Assyriologique Internationale, London, 711 July 2003, Part 1 (= Iraq 66 [2004]),
Part 2 (= Iraq 67/1 [2005]), London.
Curtis, John E. / McCall, Henrietta / Collon, Dominique / al-Gailani Werr, Lamia (eds.)
(2008), New Light on Nimrud. Proceedings of the Nimrud Conference, 11th13th March
2002, London.
Finkel, Irving L. / Seymour, Michael J. (eds.) (2008), Babylon: Myth and Reality, London.
Hakim, Besim Selim (1986), Arabic-Islamic Cities: Building and Planning Principles. London
[3rd edition with postscript, 2008].
Keith, Kathryn (2003), The Spatial Patterns of Everyday Life in Old Babylonian Neighbor-
hoods, in: Monica L. Smith (ed.), The Social Construction of Ancient Cities. Washington/
London, 5680.
Kose, Arno (1998), Uruk: Architektur IV, von der Seleukiden- bis zur Sasanidenzeit. Aus-
grabungen in Uruk-Warka, Endberichte 17. Mainz am Rhein.
Kostof, Spiro (2001), The City Shaped. Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History.
Marzahn, Joachim (ed.) (2008), Babylon: Wahrheit, Berlin.
Marzahn, Joachim / Salje, Beate (eds.) (2003), Wiedererstehendes Assur. 100 Jahre deutsche
Ausgrabungen in Assyrien, Mainz am Rhein.
Mori, Lucia (2003), Reconstructing the Emar Landscape, Quaderni di Geografica Storica
6, Rome.
Renger, Johannes (ed.) (1999), Babylon: Focus mesopotamischer Geschichte, Wiege frher
Gelehrsamkeit, Mythos in der Moderne. 2. Internationales Colloquium der Deutschen
Orient-Gesellschaft 24.26. Marz 1998 in Berlin, Saarbrcken.
Reuther, Oscar (1926), Die Innenstadt von Babylon (Merkes), 2 vols. Wissenschaftliche
Verffentlichung der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 47. Leipzig.
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Schroeder, Otto (1916), Kontrakte der Seleukidenzeit aus Warka. Vorderasiatische Schrift-
denkmler der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, 16. Leipzig.
Smith, Michael E. (2011), Empirical urban theory for archaeologists, in: Journal of Archae-
ological Method and Theory 18/3, 167192.
Speleers, Louis (1925), Recueil des inscriptions de lAsie Antrieure des Muses Royaux du
Cinquantenaire, Brussels.
Stone, Elizabeth C. (1981), Texts, Architecture and Ethnographic Analogy: Patterns of
Residence in Old Babylonian Nippur, in: Iraq 43, 1933.
(1987), Nippur Neighborhoods. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilisation 44, Chicago.
(1991), The spatial organisation of Mesopotamian cities, in: Aula Orientalis 9,
(1995), The development of cities in ancient Mesopotamia, in: Jack Sasson (ed.),
Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 1, New York, 235248.
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ton, NJ.
Weisberg, David B. (1991), The Late Babylonian Texts of the Oriental Institute Collection.
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the babylonian cities 185
The selected examples are all roughly contemporaneous and derive from a single
city, Hellenistic Uruk. They are not drawn to scale since in some cases measure-
ments are not given in the documents, or are not preserved.
Fig. 1a.Schematic representation of property described in tablet BiMes 24 24 and
duplicate RIAA2 299 (edition: Boiy 2003, 437).
Uruk, Adad Temple district, 212/211 bce. Single plot with single land use mode
(cf. Table 1, category A1a, and Table 2, category A Primarily residential, without
unbuilt land). The Akkadian term amatu denotes a party wall. For an archaeo-
logical counterpart cf. House 1 at Babylon, Merkes (Reuther 1926, 8092).
186 heather d. baker
Fig. 1b.Schematic representation of property described in tablet BiMes 24 27
and duplicate BiMes 24 29.
Uruk, Adad Temple district, 172 bce. Single plot with dual land use (house and
unbuilt land) though without spatial differentiation (cf. Table 1, category A1a,
and Table 2, category B Primarily residential, with unbuilt land). Note that
according to the extant cuneiform documentation, such a property could equally
well be described in the manner of a house complex with sectors spatially differ-
entiated by function (cf. Table 1, category 2b); the factors governing the choice of
one convention in preference to the other remain unclear. For an archaeological
counterpart cf. House 2 at Babylon, Merkes, a relatively rare example of an exca-
vated house with external unbuilt plot (Reuther 1926, 927; Baker 2009, 92).
Fig. 2a.Schematic representation of property described in tablet BiMes 24 19 and
duplicate BRM 2 28.
Uruk, Itar Gate district, 223 bce. House complex of irregular shape, divided into
five quadrilateral plots for the sake of the survey (cf. Table 1, category A2a, and
Table 2, category A Primarily residential, without unbuilt land). For further
discussion of this property see Baker 2005, 2022. For excavated houses with
relatively irregular outline cf. Houses 2 and 3 at Babylon, Merkes, (Reuther 1926,
the babylonian cities 187
Fig. 2b.Schematic representation of property described in tablet BiMes 24 46.
Uruk, Adad Temple district, 226 bce. House complex with shops, divided into
four quadrilateral plots, each identified according to its function (cf. Table 1, cate-
gory A2b, and Table 2, combination of B Primarily residential, with unbuilt land
and F Structure other than house). For the interpretation of Akkadian kuruppu
as shop see Baker 2010b. There is as yet no archaeological counterpart since
shops have not been identified in excavations at first millennium sites.
188 heather d. baker
Fig. 3.Schematic representation of property described in tablet BiMes 24 25.
Uruk, Lugalirra Temple district, 157 bce. House occupying one end of a block,
with public streets on three sides (cf. Table 1, category B2). The house to the east
is owned by a member of the same family.
David Kertai
After more than 150 years of research we still know frustratingly little of
what happened within the walls of the royal palaces of the Late Assyrian
Empire (ca. 900612 bce). Basic questions, such as the kind and number
of people who lived within these palaces, the use of spaces, and the access
arrangements are all still subject to a lively debate. Our understanding of
these palaces has mostly been based on archaeological sources (see May /
Steinert, Introduction). This article focuses on textual sources as reflecting
the problems inherent in attempts to reconstruct the Late Assyrian pala-
tial topography. It aims at tracing the social organisation of the palaces
and related socio-cultural views.
Several problems arise in studying palatial spaces of the Late Assyrian
Empire. The textual material we have at our disposal is of only limited
help in reconstructing the functions of spaces within these palaces. The
reasons for this can be summarised under three headings. First, the Assyr-
ian spatial terms are often ambiguous and most of them are rather unin-
formative in themselves. Assyrian terms are constructs consisting of the
bt followed by a noun that specifies its meaning. The bt is not helpful
in reconstructing the nature of spaces as it can refer to a room, a part of
a building, a building, or even to villages, cities, the household or groups
of people. Such a broad range of connotations is foreign to the English
language. With a few exceptions it is impossible to talk about space in
English without indicating the scale involved. One has to distinguish
between a living room, residential wing and residential building. There is
no single concept that covers all these options. Ambiguity is, however, not
completely absent in English. One may think of country which can refer
to a spatially undefined land, but also to a specific territory belonging to
a nation state. The Late Assyrian dialect is by its very nature ambiguous
about the scale involved. It is of interest on its own that the Assyrians did
not feel a need to distinguish between different spatial scales. This aspect
is nonetheless frustrating for modern scholars who try to understand the
ancient sources. It is only from the textual context that one might hope to
reconstruct the use and size of Assyrian spaces. The contexts are, however,
190 david kertai
often less informative than one wishes and different authors frequently
reach different conclusions. This ambiguity is, from our perspective, an
unintended aspect of the Late Assyrian dialect, but would normally not
be the intention of ancient writers. Royal inscriptions, in particular, form
an exception as Assyrian writers did often use ambiguity on purpose as a
literary technique in these texts.
The second problem in reconstructing the functions of spaces is the
very limited amount of attestations we have at our disposal. This gives
many reconstructions a provisional character. Most of the spaces that
must have existed within each palace are never attested in the texts
that are available to us. Spaces that are mentioned occur only a few times
in the preserved texts. The amount of excavated palatial spaces greatly
outnumbers textually attested spaces. The absence of attestations cannot,
therefore, be used to argue that types of spaces did not exist within the
palaces. A good example of this is the question of whether second stories
existed in Late Assyrian palaces. Second stories are never mentioned in
the preserved texts, which might be evidence against their existence. Such
an argument ex silentio is, however, very dangerous considering the gen-
eral silence of our textual material.
A third problem is caused by the overlap between expressions, for
instance in the case of storage spaces. It is often impossible to recon-
struct the differences between them, and one can never be sure whether
an expression might be descriptive or whether it, although understand-
able to all involved, represented an official term. An expression such as
the treasury of the metal scraps1 might describe a space where such
scraps are presently stored, and lose its value after the scraps had been
removed. It might also represent an official name for the place where such
scraps are permanently stored. It is difficult to know whether or when a
name is descriptive and temporary rather than official.
These problems can be demonstrated by the example of the btu dannu.
As with most spatial expressions, the name itself provides little informa-
tion on its usage; literally translated it means a strong bt. The follow-
ing text (ABL 126) describing building activity in the city of Kr-arrukn
shows some of these problems.2 Radner translates it as follows: Ich bin
hier in Kr-arrukn. (Mit) Ziegeln, so viele sie genommen haben, werde
1SAA 5, no. 206, line 5.
2SAA 15, no. 94, lines 1012: (10) a-na-ku an-na-ka ina URU.karmMANGIN (11)
SIG4.I.A.ME ammar a-a
-u-ni (12) dan-nu a-ra-i-pi.
from bbnu to btnu 191
ich das Hauptgebude aufmauern.3 This text describes a btu dannu,
which Radner interprets as a building within a palace. Making mud-
brick walls, however, must be considered an activity that can refer to all
types of buildings and does not itself point to a palatial context. Andreas
Fuchs and Simo Parpola offer a different translation: I am (now) here in
Kr-arrukn. I am building the grand hall with whatever bricks have
been glazed.4 They translate the btu dannu as a room and use the verb
to glaze bricks,5 which is more likely to apply to a palace although it
could also describe the construction of a temple. These two translations
offer different conclusions concerning the scale and nature of this btu
dannu and as it often happens with such attestations, the text itself does
not specify its location or size.
The second text concerns a series of measurements for doors, probably
to be installed in the city of Dr-arrukn.6 Of the 36 doors mentioned
one was assigned to a btu dannu. Regarding the future locations of the
other doors, we only know that one door was intended for a btu qallu
which can be translated as small bt.7 The width of the door of the btu
dannu is comparable to that of the btu qallu while all other doors are
smaller. The sizes of doors and rooms are usually related. The large door
of the btu qallu thus suggests that the associated room was of consider-
able size. The smallness of the btu qallu is thus likely to have been rela-
tive. Its name is not necessarily informative about the size or importance
of the space.
Two more attestations of a palatial btu dannu can be mentioned both
dating to the reign of Esarhaddon (680669 bce). The first text describes
the burying of apotropaic figurines in the palace: ...they should bury them
in front of the main room and the bedrooms, in places to be additionally
specified by the king.8 The bedrooms were apparently not a part of this
btu dannu, but the text does not specify their spatial relationship, and
no further information is provided. The last attestation is part of a royal
inscription and describes the construction of a btu dannu within Esar-
haddons Review Palace (ekal marti, also called bt kutalli) in Nineveh,
3Radner 1997, 270, n. 1495.
4SAA 15, no. 94, lines 1012.
5CAD 1, 85, s.v. atu A.4.
6SAA 1, no. 203.
7These two terms are part of the Neo-Assyrian antonym dannu: qallu (CAD Q, 64
8SAA 10, no. 263, lines r. 59. (5) ina IGI dan-ni (6) ina IGI KI.N.ME (7)
LUGAL is-se-ni (8) -sa
-ka-mu-ni (9) lit-me-ru.
192 david kertai
I constructed the main (house of the) palace, which was ninety-five cubits
in length (and) thirty-one cubits in width, as none of my royal predeces-
sors had done.9
Being of ca. 51 by 17 m,10 this btu dannu is too small to describe an
entire building, but it is also too big to describe most single rooms within
the palace.11 Its length could describe the main throne room, yet its width
is too large. A possible solution would be to consider the btu dannu here
as referring to the entire throne-room suite, although this probably has to
exclude the ramp located next to the throne room. The details provided in
this building description might support its identification with the throne
room, which is a location worthy of receiving special attention in a royal
building inscription.12 This suggestion seems to be strengthened by a tex-
tual variant that replaces btu dannu with bt arri,13 which refers to the
bt of the king. This uncommon expression is attested in two administra-
tive texts, which describe the future locations of bull colossi and as such
probably refers to specific locations.14 It could refer to the main entrance
of the palace,15 but also to a single space such as the throne room. Its
interpretation as throne room is suggested by its association with the
btu dannu in the text mentioned above. The plural bt of the kings (bt
arrni) generally refers to the royal burial place in Aur.16
It is clear that reconstructing the function, location and size of a pala-
tial btu dannu is rather difficult with such limited and inconclusive evi-
dence. It must be noted, however, that btu dannu belongs to the better
attested designations of palatial spaces.
We meet the same kind of problems when the people residing and
working in the palace are discussed. Functionaries often have generic
names which themselves provide little information about their duties: the
9Heidel 1956, 3031; col. v, line 1832. (18) dan-ni a 95 ina 1 K GAL-tim GD.DA
(19) 31 ina 1 K GAL-tim DAGAL (20) a ina LUGAL.ME a-lik ma-ri AD.ME-ia (21)
mm-ma la e-pu- a-na-ku e-pu-u.
10Following Powell 1990, 476.
11 The architecture mentioned in the cited text is part of Esarhaddons building activity
in the Review Palace in Nineveh.
12It is described as having mighty cedar beams and door leaves of cypress wood, the
smell of which is sweet, and which are coated with silver and copper. To the right and left
of this entrance there are du and lamassu figures of stone, which by their nature turn an
evil person back and protect (every) step, safeguard every movement (Heidel 1956, ibid.).
13Borger 1956, 62; Ep. 22 A col. vi, line 5.
14SAA 15, no. 283, line 9 and SAA 1, no. 150, line 16.
15This is how both SAA 1 and 15 translate the bt arri.
16SAA 14, no. 60, line r. 4; SAA 14, no. 62, line 8; Deller / Fales / Jakob-Rost 1995, 4144;
no. 75, line 28.
from bbnu to btnu 193
duties of various officials seem to overlap and the amount of attestations
is always disappointing. Most texts do not concern activities inside the
palace, but merely belong to the archive of its functionaries.
In general, neither do we know who lived or worked inside these pal-
aces nor the number of palatial residents. One can assume that at least
the royal family did live in a palace, but whether all members resided
in the same palace is already less clear. The texts almost never mention
high numbers of functionaries working within the palace. A group of ten
having the same profession can already be called exceptional. The num-
ber of personal names of palace functionaries that we know is limited.
The main question is whether this is a true representation of the num-
ber of palace functionaries or a reflection of the limited amount of texts
we possess.
In order to know the capacity of Late Assyrian palaces it is important to
establish their size. This is largely dependent on the presence of a second
storey. Even though our texts are silent concerning this matter, its exis-
tence can likely be excluded on the basis of the archaeological remains.
To many scholars the absence of a second storey seems counterintuitive.
The Assyrians certainly had sufficient technical know-how and it would
have created significantly more space. The idea of a second storey is com-
monly associated with the palaces, but few people have an idea about
how it would have functioned. It is impossible to exclude the existence
of a second storey, simply because one cannot exclude the existence of
something that has not been found. There is, however, no supporting
evidence and the arguments against a second storey are substantial. The
most important requirement for a second storey would be means to reach
it, i.e. the existence of staircases. One staircase, or more precisely a ramp,
can always be found within these palaces, being a standard feature of all
throne-room suites. Other staircases have, with a few exceptions, not been
discovered. One can of course argue that staircases are still to be found or
that they have disappeared because they were made of wood. While there
is no architectural evidence to support this hypothesis, wooden staircases
could have existed. It is, however, unlikely that these would have formed
the main system of circulation, since they lack the monumentality typi-
cal for Late Assyrian palaces. Any staircase would require the existence
of spaces that could accommodate it. None have been identified. The
main proponent of a second storey has been Jean-Claude Margueron.17
17See especially Margueron 2005.
194 david kertai
He generally does not introduce additional staircases in his reconstruc-
tions, suggesting that the only connection to a second storey would have
been located in the throne room. The throne room, however, is a rather
unlikely place for such a general staircase. A further argument against a
second storey is the effect it would have on the access of light and air into
the lower rooms. Even without a second storey, most of the ground floor
rooms must have been fairly dark.
Excluding the possibility of the existence of a second storey means that
the entire palatial community must have been accommodated on the
ground floor. The Northwest and Review18 Palaces in ancient Kalu are
the only two palaces that have (almost) completely been excavated. They
have yielded a relatively limited amount of residential suites. Even if sev-
eral people would have resided in a single room, no more than a hundred
persons could have resided in one such palace. Such a situation, however,
does not appear very plausible. Considering the architecture of these pal-
aces, it seems unlikely that more than fifty persons would have resided in
them and a considerably lower number appears more probable.
Many scholars, nonetheless, assume that the palatial community must
have been extensive. One administrative text, called the Survey of Palace
Officials by Mario Fales and Nicolas Postgate,19 is often used to support
higher numbers. It offers exceptionally high numbers associated with all
kinds of palace functionaries, yet the interpretation of this list as a Survey
of Palace Officials is problematic. This text cannot represent a list of per-
sons. First, it is a clear outlier in comparison to other texts; a circumstance
that raises suspicion. Second, the texts ends with the Chief Eunuch and
the personal names [A]u-duri and [De]nu-amur. The Chief Eunuch is
preceded by the number 800 and the numbers associated with [A]u-duri
and [De]nu-amur, although fragmentarily preserved, probably run in the
hundreds. This implies that the palace community contained 800 Chief
Eunuchs and several hundred persons named [A]u-duri and [De]nu-
amur. This interpretation cannot be accepted. A different explanation is
needed. An alternative solution is to reconstruct these numbers as people
belonging to or working for these individuals and functionaries, but this
would alter the identification of the list as Survey of Palace Officials.
If the list represents items, such as people, belonging to the respective
18Ekal marti, which is also known as Fort Shalmaneser, Arsenal and Military
19SAA 7, no. 21.
from bbnu to btnu 195
functionaries there is no reason why the list could not represent a list
of goods received or to be provided by these persons and function-
aries. In general it is dangerous to use such an outlier as the basis for
Understanding the function of palatial spaces is as much about inter-
preting Assyrian sources as it is about modern concepts (see introduc-
tion). There are many ways of conceptualising the spatial organisation of
Assyrian palaces, but the most common manner is to divide the palace
into public and private realms. This duality has been seen as the most fun-
damental principal underlying the organisation of Late Assyrian palaces.
However, there are several problems with this concept. First, the public-
private duality is based on a presupposition, which is not substantiated by
any Assyrian source, and secondly, one could argue that the emphasis is
placed on the wrong aspects of space.
The presupposition that Late Assyrian palaces had a strong separation
between public and private realms seems to be partly based on an analogy
with palaces from the Ottoman period with their high degree of seclusion,
but also with earlier Old-Babylonian examples. The duality between pub-
lic and private spheres as conceptualised in Late Assyrian palaces is often
articulated by using the Akkadian expressions bbnu and btnu, which
can be translated as outside (a substantive derived from bbu gate) and
inside.20 Postgate summarised this in his Reallexikon article on palaces
as follows, A distinction was drawn between the private (btn) and
public (bbn) sectors of the p[alace].21 The Middle Assyrian reference
to the so-called Haremserlasse is used to substantiate this argument.22 In
this text a doctor of the btnu occurs, but a bbnu is never mentioned
in the document. This passage therefore does not appear to provide evi-
dence for the existence of a duality between the bbnu and btnu.
In fact, the main problem with the bbnubtnu duality is its
absence in Assyrian sources. While the btnu does occur several times in
Late Assyrian sources, its presumed counterpart, the bbnu, only occurs
in Sennacheribs (704681 bce) building description of his new Review
Palace23 in Nineveh. In this text the bbnu is not contrasted with a
btnu. One can even ask whether here bbnu represents an organi-
sational principle. It rather seems to refer to a specific spatial location,
20For the multiple meanings of btnu see CAD B, 274275.
21Postgate 2005, 222.
22The same argument was suggested by Oppenheim 1965, 330.
23Described both as ekal marti or ekal/bt kutalli.
196 david kertai
namely the bbn kisallu, which probably designated one of the outer
courtyards of Sennacheribs Review Palace.24
It is unclear whether the btnu indicates a specific part of the pal-
ace or more generally refers to the entire inner part. While the btnu
is never compared with a bbnu, it is once contrasted to qannu in the
insurrection queries of Esarhaddon. Ivan Starr translated the sentence as
[...the keepers] of the inner gates (btni), or the keepers of the outer
gates (qanni).25 As this line refers to doorkeepers, it seems reasonable to
interpret the sentence as indicating two different areas of responsibility;
namely the gates of the btnu and those of the qannu. The correlation
between qannu and gates is also attested within the astronomical inqui-
ries of Esarhaddon: does the crown prince now go out of the outer gate
(qanni)?26 If qannu indeed forms a duality with btnu, one can wonder
what exactly it is contrasted to. Since qannu represents the outer gates
of the palace, the btnu should refer to the entire inside rather than to
a specific area within the palace. Otherwise one needs to assume a third
intermediate category in order to describe the gates between the btnu
and the outer gates. Starr seems to have come to the same conclusion
by interpreting the btnu as the inner gates rather than as a location
called the btnu. In general there is little to support the idea that the
btnu referred to a specific area within the palace or that it had anything
to do with seclusion. Rather, it labelled the interior of the palace in gen-
eral. Nevertheless, it cannot be excluded that it designated a more specific
location in certain situations.
One has to conclude that the duality between the bbnu and btnu
is a modern construct. It could, however, be argued that this is a semantic
issue and that the basic duality was present even when these words were
not used. Did the Assyrians themselves distinguish between public and
private realms? There seems to be little to substantiate this. The idea of
a distinct private sphere within the palace is often combined with the
notion of the existence of a harem. There are several ways in which a
harem can be defined. The most common one is based upon an Orientalist
interpretation of the Ottoman court, which is still widely found in popular
culture (e.g. Hollywood films). Such a harem is defined by the presence
24AHw, 94; CAD B, 7. bbn (outer; uerer) is an adjectival form of bbnu (outside;
am Tor, auen).
25SAA 4, no. 142, line 7.
26SAA 10, no. 52, line r. 12.
from bbnu to btnu 197
of numerous women whose main role is to (sexually) please the king. The
number of scholars who define the Assyrian harem in such terms seems
rather limited. The idea of the palace as a place occupied by royal con-
cubines and their children is more widespread and might even represent
the common opinion.27 Other scholars use the concept of a harem in its
Arabic connotation,28 which can have the more neutral meaning of the
(place of the) women. The problem with such a definition is that it is
at odds with the common connotation. If not explicitly stated, a majority
of people will have the Orientalist connotation in mind when a harem
is mentioned. Since most scholars do not qualify their use of harem, it is
often unclear what they mean.
The harem discussion is related to several other questions such as the
presence of eunuchs, concubines and secondary wives. The fact that these
debates are still on-going shows that the existing arguments have failed
to offer an overall convincing interpretation. As far as can be judged from
the occurrence of the words harem,29 eunuch30 and concubine31
in the scholarly literature,32 most scholars tend to argue in favour of their
presence at the Late Assyrian palaces. Original texts use terms which are
more neutral and mostly relate to spaces and functionaries and are rather
uninformative on their own. Their common translations are therefore
interpretations rather than literal translations. This does not necessarily
mean that such translations are incorrect, but they should be dependent on
their contexts. Unfortunately, most of these terms are only rarely attested,
and often occur in contexts that provide no clues for their interpretation.
Their translation by necessity has to be based on an interpretation of the
combined, often fragmentary, sources we have at our disposal. As a result
the argumentation turns into a vicious circle, where the existence of a pre-
supposed harem is reaffirmed by the interpretation of sources resulting in
27See e.g. Leichty 2007, 189; Melville 2004, 40; Radner 2008, 495; Reade 2009, 252.
28See e.g. Oates and Oates 2001, 38.
29Harem has been used as translation for bt isti (Parpola 2008, 6; Teppo 2007a,
2656) and btu aniu (Ahmad and Postgate 2007, xviii).
30Eunuch is generally used as translation for a ri. See e.g. Dalley 2001, 200205;
Dalley 2002, 121122; Deller 1999; Hawkins 2002, 218220; Reade 2009, 252; Watanabe
31Concubine has been used as translation for sekretu, amtu and issu. The rab isti
and akintu (see footnote 34) have been interpreted as their supervisors. See e.g. CAD E,
6162; Macgregor 2003, 98; Melville 2004, 3940; Radner 2003, 897; Teppo 2007b, 389,
405406, 409.
32E.g. in various State Archives of Assyria publications.
198 david kertai
their translation. If one looks at the sources without a harem in mind it is
difficult to find textual evidence for its existence.
Another way of investigating this problem would be to discuss some
of the officials who might have been involved with a secluded part. The
official most likely to have been active in such an area is the akintu.33
This female functionary seems at first sight to have been the female ver-
sion of the aknu who was a provincial governor, but her duties are more
related to the palace administration. The association between her office
and seclusion does not seem to be substantiated by the texts, which do
not differ much from those associated with other palace functionaries.
Her tablets show the same economic activities that are attested for other
functionaries.34 There seems to be no significant difference in the kind of
witnesses found in her documents in comparison to the documents
of other palatial functionaries. Female functionaries only rarely occur
in administrative documents, but are sometimes mentioned in the texts
of the akintu. On its own their presence reveals little about the status of
these women. Lastly, we can point to the limited number of slave women
or other possible harem members attested. When they appear in texts
they seem to differ little from their male counterparts.35 Whereas males
are normally regarded to be palatial workers, women tend to be seen as
harem members. There is no reason for such difference in interpretation.
On their own, such arguments do not refute the notion that seclusion was
important, but there is no reason to start with such a premise. In fact,
little seems to warrant the use of words like harem or concubine.36
Finally, one can argue that the duality between public and private is the
wrong aspect to analyse within the organisation of palaces. Privacy is not
a necessary aspect of palatial societies. Palaces are not primarily organised
to create privacy, but to arrange access. There is an important difference
between privacy and access. First, access is much more fluid and complex.
In general, there is no single space that separates those without access
from the privileged ones. Many levels of access can exist and these are
temporal and situational. Secondly, the internal parts of the palace pro-
vide some of the best opportunities for approaching the king and there-
fore accessing power. The concept of privacy has the connotation of being
33See e.g. CTN 3, 911; Macgregor 2003, 9698; Teppo 2007a.
34See e.g. CTN 3, 78102 (nos. 2845); SAA 6, 7287 (nos. 8199).
35See e.g. CTN 1, 113 and ND 2803 (Parker 1961, 5561).
36Macgregor 2003, 8687.
from bbnu to btnu 199
apolitical, but this is misguiding within a palatial context. Everything is
political in ancient palaces.
More recent and better documented palaces, such as Versailles and
Topkap provide good examples of the importance of access. It can, for
instance, be seen in the changes Louis XV made at Versailles in order to
relocate the living quarters of his children, wife and mistress. By manipu-
lating the distances of the different apartments to the royal bedroom, the
king organised access to himself, and thereby tried to control the status
and power of his family members.37 The political effect of gaining access
can also be seen in the Topkap Palace. The wish of the Ottoman Sul-
tans for seclusion led them to reside within the harem, thus unintention-
ally causing the eunuchs and women of the harem, whose access to the
king increased, to gain more power.38 Such examples show that a duality
between public and private is largely meaningless in palaces arranged to
control the access.
There are several factors hampering the reconstruction of a palatial topog-
raphy from the Late Assyrian textual sources. They are primarily related to
the administrative nature of the texts, which provides few clues about the
nature of the spaces and people involved. The limited amount of attesta-
tions of specific terms makes interpretations even more complicated. The
archaeological remains cannot presently be correlated with the textual
sources. In fact, the texts only provide topographical elements, i.e. differ-
ent spatial designations, which can neither be correlated together nor do
they form a coherent whole. They have, nonetheless, been used to support
conclusions about the organisation of these palaces, most specifically by
introducing a publicprivate divide. The textual sources not only fail to
offer supporting arguments, but they actually seem to refute the existence
of such a distinction. While in general textual sources have been under-
represented in studies on topography, in relation to the Late Assyrian
royal palaces, it is archaeology which appears to supply more venues for
further research.
37Justus 1996.
38Necipolu 1991.
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Jan Stenger
1.Poliskultur, Topographie und Raumkognition
Eine Geschichte der europischen Stadt ist ohne das antike Griechenland
nicht denkbar. Wer auch immer sich mit Urbanitt in historischer Per-
spektive befat, wird unweigerlich auf die spezifisch griechische Form
des Phnomens, die Polis, zurckgeworfen.1 Abgesehen von Randzonen
der griechischen Kultur, in denen Stammesverbnde und Flchenstaaten
als Organisationseinheiten prgend waren, kann gerade die kleinteilige
Polisstruktur mit ihren zahllosen greren und kleineren Stdten als cha-
rakteristisch fr die Geschichte des antiken Griechenland gelten. Dement-
sprechend haben sich die althistorische und die archologische Forschung
immer wieder auf die Lebensform der Polis und ihre baulichen, gesell-
schaftlichen sowie politischen Strukturen konzentriert, gerade in den
letzten Jahren.2 Auch den Zeitgenossen selbst war bewut, da die Stadt
als Organisationsform menschlichen Lebens unverrckbar zur griechi-
schen Kultur gehrte. Angefangen mit der Darstellung stdtischen Lebens
in der homerischen Schildbeschreibung ber die politischen Reflexionen
eines Platon oder Aristoteles bis zu den laudes urbium der Kaiserzeit und
Sptantike, hat die Stadt immer wieder der griechischen Literatur ihren
Stempel aufgedrckt.3
Im siebten Buch seiner Politik, im Rahmen einer Beschreibung des ide-
alen Staates, versumt Aristoteles nicht, auch auf die Anlage der Stadt, die
Ausrichtung des Siedlungsplatzes, die Befestigungswerke und die Anord-
nung der Privathuser einzugehen.4 Seiner Aufmerksamkeit entgeht
1 Siehe beispielsweise Kolb 1984. Zur Frage, was die Griechen unter einer Polis ver-
standen, Hansen 2007.
2Die Sekundrliteratur zu dem Thema ist unberschaubar. Hingewiesen sei auf die
Publikationen des Copenhagen Polis Centre: Hansen / Nielsen 2004; Hansen 2007.
3Zu Topographie, Stdtebau, Architektur und Stadtleben Athens als Gegenstand der
griechischen Literatur siehe Goette / Hammerstaedt 2004.
4Aristot. pol. 7, 11f. Zum Einflu von Aristoteles Konzeption der Stadt auf die moderne
Forschung siehe May / Steinert, Introduction in diesem Band, S. 8f.
204 jan stenger
ebensowenig, da in einer idealtypischen Polis Heiligtmer, Marktanla-
gen, Gymnasien und Gebude fr Behrden und Verwaltung in bestimm-
ter Weise zueinander angeordnet sind und jeweils spezifische Funktionen
erfllen. Die Stadt erscheint bei Aristoteles als relationaler Raum, der
durch die Anordnung von Pltzen, Straen und Bauten strukturiert und
dadurch erst als Stadtraum erkennbar wird. Wie in einem zweckmig
eingerichteten Organismus, so haben auch in der Polis ffentliche wie pri-
vate Gebude ihre wohldefinierten Pltze und Beziehungen untereinander,
damit das Funktionieren dieses Kosmos so gut wie mglich gewhrlei-
stet wird. Nicht zufllig rekurriert Aristoteles auf den Stadtplaner Hippo-
damos von Milet und dessen Versuch, der Polis ein geometrisches Muster
zugrunde zu legen und ein kohrentes Konzept der Flchennutzung zu
entwickeln, in dem Bereiche mit verschiedenen Funktionen voneinan-
der geschieden und zueinander in Beziehung gesetzt sind.5 Doch bereits
vor Hippodamos hatte sich in den Kolonialstdten das Bemhen urbani-
stisch manifestiert, der Stadt eine bestimmte wiedererkennbare Gestalt
zu verleihen.6
In diesem Zusammenhang sei ferner daran erinnert, da seit den Refor-
men des Kleisthenes in Athen stdtische Topographie und politische
Struktur unauflslich ineinander verwoben waren, insofern die politische
Partizipation auf einem hierarchischen Grundgerst beruhte, das teil-
weise aus geographischen Einheiten aufgebaut war, nmlich aus Demen
und Trittyen.7 Die Polis war folglich fr die Griechen stets ein strukturier-
ter Raum, nicht einfach eine amorphe Ansammlung von Menschen und
Die scheinbare Kontinuitt urbaner Lebensformen in Europa knnte
zu dem Gedanken verleiten, die materielle Ausprgung und die Wahr-
nehmung der Polis in Griechenland unterschieden sich nicht wesentlich
von den Gegebenheiten der Moderne, zumal sich die verschiedenen euro-
pischen Kulturen zu wiederholten Malen auf die Antike zurckbezogen
haben, um dort zeitlos gltige Muster zu finden. Auch in der Stadtpla-
nung dominierte ein ahistorischer Zugang, seit Kevin Lynch in seinem
5Aristot. pol. 7, 11, 1330b2127. Zur stdtischen Raumordnung, die mit dem Namen des
Hippodamos verknpft wird, siehe Hoepfner / Schwandner 1994, 1767.
6Hoepfner / Schwandner 1994; Hlscher 1998, 2023.
7Vgl. Aristot. Ath. pol. 21. Zur politischen Geographie Attikas Hansen 1995, 103108.
8Das Bewutsein fr die (geometrische) Form einer Stadt und ihrer zentralen Agora
sowie fr die Lage der Straen zeigt sich in komischer Brechung auch in der Szene aus
Aristophanes Vgeln, in der Meton einen Plan fr die neu zu grndende Stadt der Vgel
vorstellt (Aristoph. Av. 9921020). Dunbar 1995, 550562 (mit geometrischem Schema).
ich bin die grenze der agora

einflureichen Werk The Image of the City einen historischen Typus der
Stadt, nmlich den der italienischen Renaissance, als berzeitliches Ideal
gesetzt hatte, um daraus Leitlinien fr die urbanistischen Aufgaben der
Gegenwart abzuleiten.9 Als besonders wirkungsmchtig erwies sich Lynchs
Ansatz, die Raumkognition, also die mentale Reprsentation der stdti-
schen Umwelt, ins Zentrum seiner berlegungen zu stellen. Er lenkte die
Aufmerksamkeit darauf, da Menschen sich ein inneres Bild ihrer stdti-
schen Umgebung machen, das wichtige Funktionen bei der Orientierung
und dem rumlichen Richtungsverhalten bernimmt. Disziplinen wie die
Psychologie und die Geographie haben seitdem auf empirischem Wege ver-
sucht, mentale Raummodelle, sogenannte kognitive Karten, zu eruieren.10
Um die mentale Reprsentation der Stadt, die er als Bild mit visuellen
Qualitten begreift, beschreiben zu knnen, unterscheidet Lynch fnf
Kategorien von konstitutiven Elementen, nmlich Wege (paths), Rnder
oder Grenzlinien (edges), Bezirke (districts), Knotenpunkte (nodes) und
Merkzeichen (landmarks). ber sie ermittelt er eine objektive Notation
der Stadt und somit ein Bild, das deren Ordnung widerspiegelt. Je klarer
sich die genannten Elemente herausprparieren und anschlieend zu
einem kartographischen Diagramm zusammenstellen lassen, desto lesba-
rer ist eine Stadt, desto schrfer lt sich ihre Gestalt wahrnehmen.
Lynchs kognitiver, geradezu anthropologischer Zugang kann nicht
ohne weiteres auf eine antike Stadt wie das klassische Athen bertragen
werden. Grundstzlich wre zu diskutieren, ob nicht bereits die gngige
Metapher der kognitiven Karte in die Irre fhrt, da sie impliziert, da der
Mensch sich eine mentale Reprsentation seiner Umwelt schafft, die in
ihren Grundzgen einem kartographischen Diagramm entspricht. Dies
kann jedoch zumal fr eine Zeit, in der graphische Landkarten nicht ver-
fgbar waren, nicht einfach vorausgesetzt werden. Mglicherweise oder
eher: mit Gewiheit unterschied sich das mentale Raummodell eines
Atheners fundamental von dem eines modernen Menschen, da er die
Stadt ausschlielich von der Warte des Fugngers aus perzipieren konnte.
Zudem sind die erwhnten Kategorien an einem bestimmten histori-
schen Typus der Stadt ermittelt worden, ohne fr jede Kultur und jede
Epoche verallgemeinert werden zu knnen. Ob fr einen Stadtbewohner
die fnf Konstituenten relevant sind, hngt davon ab, welche urbanisti-
schen Gegebenheiten er in seiner Kultur vorfindet. In der modernen, mit
9Lynch 1960.
10Grundlegend Downs / Stea 1973.
206 jan stenger
Verkehrszeichen, Schildern und bersichtsplnen bersten westlichen
Stadt lassen sich Wege, Bezirke und Grenzen sowie Distanzen viel leichter
im Stadtbild ablesen als im klassischen Athen, wo man weitgehend ohne
solche semiotischen Hilfsmittel auskommen mute. Methodisch ergibt
sich darber hinaus die Schwierigkeit, das Material zu erheben, wenn
man die Raumwahrnehmung antiker Menschen rekonstruieren mchte.
Statt Befragungen durchfhren und Verhalten beobachten zu knnen,
sind wir darauf angewiesen, das Stadtmodell aus schriftlich festgehalte-
nen sprachlichen Zeichen abzuleiten. Diese liefern indessen weder ein auf
Vollstndigkeit zielendes Bild, noch sind sie fr diese Zwecke berliefert
Gleichwohl soll im folgenden der Frage nachgegangen werden, wie
man in der klassischen Epoche die Grostadt Athen wahrnahm, wie das
kognitive Stadtmodell der Athener strukturiert war. Anders als bei Lynch
steht nicht so sehr im Mittelpunkt, wie man sich in Athen orientierte,11
als vielmehr die Verbindung von Raum, Wissen und Kommunikation,
insofern untersucht wird, welche Informationen der Raumkognition in
mitteilbares Wissen umgesetzt werden und welches Wissen in bestimm-
ten Kontexten relevant oder erforderlich ist. An die Stelle der Wahrneh-
mung der Stadt tritt also die Kommunikation der Raumreferenz, da die
einschlgigen Texte stellenweise dazu dienen, einem Rezipientenkreis
rumliche Relationen in der Stadt mitzuteilen. Dieser kommunikative
Proze bringt die Schwierigkeit mit sich, da ein mentales Raummodell
in ein Zeichensystem, die Sprache, umgesetzt werden mu, das zahlrei-
chen Restriktionen unterliegt und nicht imstande ist, die Raumkognition
in all ihren Aspekten wiederzugeben. Wenn hier aufgrund von Inschriften
und literarischen Texten der klassischen Zeit die Kommunikation rumli-
chen Wissens analysiert wird, knnen Lynchs Kategorien nur einen ersten
Zugriff bieten, der es erlaubt, das Material zu strukturieren; wie errtert
drfen sie jedoch nicht als zeitlos gltiges Raster ber die antike Raum-
wahrnehmung gelegt werden.12
Mit diesem Ansatz versucht der Beitrag, aus der Perspektive des klas-
sischen Griechenland eine Antwort auf die leitende Fragestellung des
11Zur Orientierung des antiken Menschen im Raum und den dabei auftretenden Pro-
blemen siehe den kursorischen berblick von Gral 2002; ferner Ling 1990 (am Beispiel
12Die folgenden Beobachtungen sind als vorlufiger Eindruck zu verstehen, der auf
einer punktuellen Lektre basiert. Eine umfassende Untersuchung, die den hier gegebe-
nen Rahmen sprengen wrde, mte systematisch ein umfangreiches Corpus aus Inschrif-
ten, Reden, Komdien und Abhandlungen der klassischen Zeit sichten.
ich bin die grenze der agora

Bandes zu geben, wie mentale Reprsentationen und sozio-kulturelle
Konzeptionen von Stadtrumen im Medium der Sprache ausgedrckt
werden. Ebenso wird dabei errtert, inwieweit die soziale und politische
Organisation der antiken Stadt im gebauten Raum, aber auch im kogniti-
ven Stadtmodell reflektiert wird. Nicht zuletzt soll deutlich werden, wel-
che Grenzen die schriftlichen Zeugnisse diesem Zugang setzen.
2.Die Elemente der mentalen Reprsentation Athens
Damit berhaupt von der Struktur eines Siedlungsraumes gesprochen
werden kann, mssen Begrenzungen existieren, die verschiedene Bereiche
voneinander absetzen, also Linien, die entweder tatschlich als solche
in der Topographie kenntlich sind oder zumindest als gedachte in das
Gelnde projiziert werden knnen. Whrend auf dem Lande in erster
Linie natrliche Gegebenheiten wie Kstenlinien, Flulufe oder Wald-
rnder in Betracht kommen, ist es in einem bebauten Stadtraum oftmals
schwierig, von Natur aus vorhandene Begrenzungen auszumachen, so
da man sich eher an Artefakten orientieren kann. Wer sich der Stadt
Athen von auen nherte, konnte zuerst eine Begrenzung wahrnehmen,
die den Stadtraum vom umliegenden Land unterschied. Die als klare
Linie erkennbare Stadtmauer fate als ein Saum die urbane Topographie
zu einer Einheit zusammen.13 In den zeitgenssischen Texten dient der
Bezug auf die Stadtmauer nicht allein der Markierung der Ausdehnung
Athens, sondern auch als Referenzpunkt, um andere Entitten wie etwa
Wege zu lokalisieren.

Ich ging von der Akademie geradewegs nach dem Lykeion den Weg auer-
halb der Mauer dicht unter der Mauer entlang; als ich aber an dem kleinen
Tor anlangte, wo die Quelle des Panops ist, traf ich den Hippothales, den
Sohn des Hieronymos.14
Mehrfach verwendet Platon in seinen Dialogen die Stadtmauer als
Bezugspunkt, wobei er durch die Formulierung deutlich macht, da diese
13Vgl. Hlscher 1998, 6773; ferner May / Steinert, Introduction zu diesem Band, S. 8.
14Plat. Lys. 203a. Sokrates begibt sich also hier von der Akademie im Nordwesten der
Stadt zum Hain des Apollon Lykeios im Sdosten.
208 jan stenger
Linie die Grenze zwischen einem Innenbereich und einem Auenbereich
markiert;15 die Perspektive ist mithin die desjenigen, der sich in der Stadt
befindet. Nicht allein in einem literarischen Kontext ist es mglich, auf
diese Begrenzung zu rekurrieren, sondern ebenso, wenn administrative
Belange im Vordergrund stehen, kann die Stadtmauer als prziser Anhalts-
punkt dienen. In seiner Beschreibung der athenischen Verfassung erlu-
tert Aristoteles, da Aufseher darber wachten, da kein Unratsammler
seine Last in einem Bereich von zehn Stadien vor der Mauer ablade.16 Die-
sem Passus ist ferner zu entnehmen, da auch Straen als Begrenzungen
fungieren konnten. So sei es ebenfalls Aufgabe dieser Aufseher, die Errich-
tung von Gebuden quer ber eine Strae oder das Hineinragen von Bal-
konen in den Straenbereich zu verhindern. In diesem Falle begrenzt also
die Strae als ffentliche Sphre den privaten Raum.
Nicht immer, wenn Eindeutigkeit wnschenswert war, gab es ununter-
brochene Begrenzungslinien, die sogleich als solche ins Auge fielen. Damit
verschiedene Funktionen des stdtischen Lebens ihrem jeweiligen Bereich
zugewiesen werden und berwacht werden konnten, war es insbesondere
erforderlich, den Bereich der Agora, des Marktplatzes, zu definieren.17 Da
die Unbestimmtheit seines Umfanges leicht zu juristischen Auseinander-
setzungen htte fhren knnen, markierte man diesen ffentlichen Raum
durch Grenzsteine, sogenannte Horoi, die durch ihre Aufschrift keinen
Zweifel daran lieen, wo der Bereich der Agora lag.18 Ein bei dem Rund-
bau der Tholos aufgestellter, nach Osten gewandter Grenzstein verkndet
seinem Betrachter: h Ich bin die Grenze der Agora.19
Etliche dieser Markierungen sind noch erhalten, wenn auch berwiegend
nicht in situ.20
Wie in der politischen Struktur, so spielten Grenzsteine auch im sakra-
len Bereich eine Rolle. Fr die Ausbung kultischer Handlungen war es
erforderlich, Heiligtmer in der stdtischen Topographie zu kennzeichnen
und dadurch vom profanen Gebiet abzusetzen. Auch hier bediente man
15 Plat. Phaidr. 227a; Parm. 127b.
16Aristot. Ath. pol. 50,2.
17 Zur stdtebaulichen Anlage der Agora siehe die Abbildungen bei Travlos 1971 (mit
den Plnen auf Seite 22f.); zu den schriftlichen Zeugnissen Wycherley 1957; Goette / Ham-
merstaedt 2004, 98146.
18Lalonde et al. 1991.
19Agora 19, 27 (H25). Die Stele wurde um das Jahr 500 aufgestellt.
20Darber hinaus sind einige Markierungen der Trittyen aufgefunden worden, die
jedoch nicht als eigentliche Grenzsteine dieser Einheiten betrachtet werden knnen. Man
geht heute davon aus, da sie bei Versammlungen den Aufstellungsplatz fr die Angeh-
rigen der einzelnen Trittyen markierten. Lalonde et al. 1991, 1416.
ich bin die grenze der agora

sich solcher Grenzsteine, auf denen zumeist festgehalten wurde, welcher
Gottheit der jeweilige Bezirk geweiht war. Auf einem im Sdwesten der
Agora gefundenen Markierungsstein, der um das Jahr 400 gesetzt worden
ist, heit es beispielsweise: h/ h / // / Grenze des
Heiligtums des Apollon Xanthos.21 Entscheidende Bedeutung konnten
Horoi in sakralrechtlicher Hinsicht erlangen, wenn jemand, der sich eines
Vergehens schuldig gemacht hatte, von verschiedenen sakralen Hand-
lungen und auch von den Heiligtmern und der Agora ausgeschlossen
wurde.22 Die sakrale Weihe des Bezirks war berdies an Weihwasserbek-
ken, den perirrhantria, kenntlich, die an den Grenzen der Agora aufge-
stellt waren.23 Dann hatten diese Markierungen im Gelnde und der durch
sie konstituierte Raumeindruck empfindliche praktische Konsequenzen
fr das Verhalten der Betroffenen im Stadtraum. Ebenso wie die Heiligt-
mer lieen sich ferner Bezirke wie die einem Heros geweihte Akademie,
aber auch Straenverlufe durch Markierungssteine kenntlich machen.24
Dem Athener, der sich durch seine Stadt bewegte, wurde also immer
wieder angezeigt, da sie nicht allein von ihrem Umland abgegrenzt war,
sondern auch intern in verschiedene Bereiche strukturiert wurde. Wie die
Beispiele gezeigt haben, handelte es sich nicht einfach um eine topogra-
phische Binnengliederung nach physischen Gegebenheiten, sondern um
eine funktionale Differenzierung, die ein klares Bewutsein dafr voraus-
setzte, da es auf einer Skala zwischen privaten und ffentlichen Rumen
verschiedene Kategorien gab.
Wie wir gesehen haben, konnten bauliche Markierungen relativ klar
bestimmte stdtische Bezirke definieren und erlaubten es so, diese je fr
sich als eine topographische Einheit zu betrachten.25 Auch wenn keine
21Agora 19, 23f. (H10) (ca. 400 v. Chr.); weitere Horoi von Heiligtmern Lalonde et al.
1991, 2227.
22And. 1, 71 und 76; Demosth. or. 24,60. Thompson / Wycherley 1972, 117119.
23Aischin. Ctes. 176:
, ,
Der Gesetzgeber verbannt den, der keinen Wehrdienst leistet,
den Feigling und den Fahnenflchtigen auen vor die Weihwasserbecken der Agora und
erlaubt nicht, da sie bekrnzt werden und zu den ffentlichen Opfern gehen. Vgl. Aristot.
Ath. pol. 57,4; Demosth. or. 20,158, 22,77, 24,60.
24Akademie: IG I3 1091 (ca. 500 v. Chr.); ffentliches Propylon: IG I3 1097 (vor Mitte
5. Jh. v. Chr.); Quelle: IG I3 1098 und 1099 (ca. 420 v. Chr.); Straenverlufe: Agora 19, 29
(H3235); IG I3 1093, 1094, 1094bis. Genaue Bezeichnungen der Straen, etwa ihres Ziel-
punktes, sind hierbei nicht obligatorisch.
25Dies gilt etwa auch fr die topographisch herausgehobene und durch eine Mauer
umfate Akropolis, die als stdtischer Raum in den Texten unzhlige Male erwhnt wird.
Siehe nur Thuk. 2,15; And. 1,42; Aristot. Ath. pol.. 18,3.
210 jan stenger
Nachrichten darber vorliegen, wie die Athener etwa die Horoi wahrnah-
men, kann man davon ausgehen, da diese augenflligen Zeichen dazu
beitrugen, das mentale Stadtmodell zu formen, indem sie eine Vorstel-
lung davon vermittelten, welchen Umfang und welche Form ein Bezirk
hatte sowie in welcher Relation er zu anderen Bezirken der Stadt situiert
war. Whrend die mentale Reprsentation eines Dorfes oder einer kleinen
Polis eine recht geringe Binnendifferenzierung aufgewiesen haben drfte,
konnte ein Athener ziemlich przise Bezirke mit ihren eigentmlichen
Funktionen unterscheiden26 und anhand der Begrenzungen angeben, in
welchem Bezirk sich ein Objekt befand. Der soeben angefhrte Passus
aus Platons Lysis demonstriert in seiner bemerkenswerten Przision, wie
mehrere stdtische Bezirke in der Kognition zueinander in Beziehung
gesetzt werden konnten.
Die Prsenz von sichtbaren Grenzmarken darf freilich nicht zu der
Annahme verleiten, jeder stdtische Bezirk sei durch klare Begrenzungen
definiert worden. Selbst wenn man einen Horos plaziert hatte, mute
nicht an jeder Stelle erkennbar sein, wo ein Bereich anfing oder endete.
Denn diese Markierungen dienten weniger dazu, lckenlos einen ganzen
Bezirk abzustecken, als vielmehr der allgemeinen Lokalisierung des Are-
als. Teilweise waren die Angaben relativ vage, wie etwa bei einer Inschrift
aus dem Pirus: [ ]/[ ] [h]/[][] [ ]/ [] / []/
[]/[]/ [] Von dieser Strae an ist das gesamte Gebiet bis
zum Hafen ffentlich.27 Zudem war es, wenn nicht gerade administra-
tive oder sakrale Vorschriften berhrt wurden, nicht unbedingt relevant,
exakte Begrenzungen anzugeben. Wem es lediglich darauf ankam, seinem
Hrer oder Leser eine ungefhre Vorstellung zu vermitteln, wo sich ein
Objekt befand oder ein Ereignis zugetragen hatte, der konnte sich damit
begngen, auf einen stdtischen Bezirk durch die Erwhnung des ein-
schlgigen Namens zu verweisen. In den attischen Gerichtsreden versu-
chen die Sprecher immer wieder, ihrem Publikum einen Raum vor Augen
zu stellen, indem sie etwas beispielsweise auf der Agora oder im Stadt-
viertel Kerameikos lokalisieren.28 Damit seine Hrer wissen, wo sich ein
26Insbesondere kommt dies zum Ausdruck in verschiedenen Funktionsbezeichnun-
gen, mit denen einzelne Areale auf der Agora differenziert wurden. Sie orientierten sich
primr an den dort jeweils feilgebotenen Waren. In Xen. oik. 8,22 bemerkt Ischomachos,
da man allgemein wisse, in welchem Teilbereich der Agora man welche Gter finde, da
es deutlich definierte Pltze gebe. Vgl. auch Plat. leg. 915d. Wycherley 1957, 185206.
27IG I3, 1110 (ca. Mitte 5. Jh. v. Chr.); vgl. auch 1109.
28Agora: Antiph. 6,39; And. 1,45; Kerameikos: Isaios 5,26; 6,20. Ebenso rekurriert
Platon immer wieder auf die Agora als ffentlichen Raum (Plat. Mx. 234a; Parm. 126a;
ich bin die grenze der agora

Reitunfall zugetragen hat, gibt Andokides in seiner Verteidigungsrede an,
der Schauplatz sei das Kynosarges gewesen.29 Eine genauere Definition
dieses Bezirks stlich vor den Toren der Stadt am Ilissos, der durch ein
Heiligtum des Herakles und ein Gymnasion ausgezeichnet war, erbrigte
sich, da sie erstens fr den Sachverhalt nicht relevant war und zweitens
die athenischen Richter wuten, wo sich dieser Bezirk befand. Wie exakt die
mit solchen Angaben evozierten mentalen Raummodelle waren, lt sich
nicht ermitteln. Bei namentlich benannten Stadtvierteln30 oder Arealen
vor der Stadtmauer haben wir es demnach mit Bezirken zu tun, deren
Rnder unscharf waren, da sie weder eine spezifische bauliche Struktur
noch sichtbare Markierungen besaen, sondern eher eine mentale Gre
bildeten, eine kognitive Kategorie, mit deren Hilfe der Wahrnehmende
sein Raummodell strukturierte, um sich zurechtzufinden.31
Wenn man jemand anderem einen Ort innerhalb der Stadt bezeichnen
wollte und eine exaktere Angabe erwnscht war als ein nur ungefhr defi-
nierter Bezirk, lag es nahe, auf bestimmte Punkte in der urbanen Topogra-
phie zu verweisen, die in der Regel aus materiellen Objekten bestanden.
Weil es in den hier untersuchten Texten das Anliegen ist, einem Rezi-
pientenkreis eine Vorstellung davon zu vermitteln, wo eine Entitt, die
nicht vor Augen prsent ist, lokalisiert ist, rekurrieren die Autoren selbst-
verstndlich auf Punkte, die den Adressaten vertraut sind. Nur dann ist
der Rezipient imstande, das relevante Objekt in seinem mentalen Raum-
modell mit dort abgespeicherten Informationen zu verknpfen und es in
dieses Bild zu integrieren.
Als architektonisch ausgezeichnete und somit Aufmerksamkeit auf sich
ziehende Punkte der stdtischen Topographie kamen insbesondere Heilig-
tmer in Frage.32 Sie erfllten wichtige Funktionen fr das religise Leben
der gesamten Stadtgemeinde, bildeten immer wieder Orte, an denen man
Tht. 142a) oder auf den Kerameikos (Plat. Parm. 127c); ferner Aristoph. Ach. 1722 (Pnyx
und Agora).
29And. 1,6: Spter,
als ich im Kynosarges auf einem Fohlen, das mir gehrte, ritt, kam ich zu Fall.
30Siehe Wachsmuth 1874/90, 1.347357; Judeich 1931, 175177.
31Das im Nordwesten Athens gelegene Stadtviertel Kerameikos war allerdings durch
Horoi markiert. Agora 19, 28 (H30 und 31). Zudem wurde es durch die hindurchlau-
fende Stadtmauer deutlich sichtbar in zwei Bereiche, einen inneren und einen ueren,
32Anschaulich illustriert dies auch Thukydides (2,15), wenn er wichtige und altehrwr-
dige Heiligtmer des Gebietes sdlich der Akropolis aufzhlt, um seine These zur Lage der
frheren Stadt Athen zu untermauern (Heiligtmer des olympischen Zeus, des pythischen
Apollon, der Ge und des Dionysos an den Teichen; ferner der Brunnen Enneakrunos).
212 jan stenger
sich zu Kulthandlungen einfand und in greren Gruppen versammelte,
so da sie durch die regelmige Praxis im kollektiven Bewutsein ver-
ankert waren.33 Erst recht die groen Tempel und Bezirke wie der Par-
thenon, das Theseion und das Heiligtum des olympischen Zeus prgten
durch ihre Lage, ihre Dimensionen und ihre aufwendige Gestaltung die
Silhouette Athens und waren als Orientierungsmarken prdestiniert. In
den literarischen Texten und in Reden wird daher hufig auf sie, aber
ebenso auf kleinere Heiligtmer Bezug genommen, wenn ein Ereignis
oder ein Objekt im Stadtraum situiert werden soll. In der bereits erwhn-
ten Rede paraphrasiert Andokides einen Ratsbeschlu, demzufolge sich
bewaffnete Athener unter anderem bei dem nrdlich der Akropolis gele-
genen Theseion und beim Anakeion einfinden sollten.34 Platon benutzt
in seinen Dialogen mehrfach Heiligtmer als Referenzpunkte, um andere
Gebude oder Begebenheiten zu lokalisieren. Zu Beginn seines Phaidros
beschreibt der titelgebende Dialogpartner das Privathaus eines gewissen
Epikrates als nahe beim Tempel des olympischen Zeus gelegen.35 In glei-
cher Weise setzt Demosthenes die Unterrichtssttte des Lehrers Elpias
zum Theseion in Beziehung.36 Solche Stellen zeigen, da die Autoren
Objekte, deren Lage nicht allgemein bekannt ist, nur ungefhr in der
urbanen Topographie situieren wollen, damit ihr Publikum eine vage
rumliche Vorstellung gewinnt. Ginge es darum, die Privathuser exakt
zu lokalisieren, wren weitere Angaben erforderlich.37
hnlich wie Heiligtmer knnen auch profane Gebude als Referenz-
punkte dienen, sofern ihnen eine grere Bedeutung fr die ganze Brger-
schaft innewohnt. In Inschriften wie literarischen Zeugnissen wird oft das
an der Agora gelegene Rathaus, das Buleuterion, erwhnt, das aufgrund
33Siehe Deubner 1932; Giovannini 1991.
34And. 1,45. Bei dem Anakeion handelt es sich um einen Tempel fr die Dioskuren
auf der Nordseite der Akropolis (Paus. 1,18,1). Als weitere Versammlungspltze erwhnt
Andokides an dieser Stelle die Agora, den Hippodamischen Markt im Pirus, die Akropolis
und die Tholos.
35Plat. Phaidr. 227b; And. 1,16; siehe auch And. 1,111 (Eleusinion); Antiph. 6,39
(Parthenon); Plat. Charm. 153a (Heiligtum der Basile); Xen. equ. 1,1 (Eleusinion); Isaios
8,35 (Dionysosheiligtum in Limnai).
36Demosth. or. 18,129:
Er war Sklave bei Elpias, der beim Theseion Lesen und Schreiben unterrichtete. Siehe
auch Thuk. 6,61,2; Aischin. Ctes. 13. In spterer Zeit bezeichnet der Geograph Strabon das
Theseion ausdrcklich als fr Athen signifikanten, geradezu emblematischen Punkt der
Topographie (9,1,16). Wycherley 1957, 113119.
37Vgl. etwa auch Lys. 3,11, wo lediglich zwei Privathuser zueinander in Relation
gesetzt werden, ohne da ihre Lage im Stadtraum spezifiziert wird; ferner Demosth. or.
59, 39.
ich bin die grenze der agora

seiner ffentlichen Funktionen einen zentralen Ort des stdtischen Lebens
markierte.38 Ferner bilden unter anderem das am Sdabhang der Akropo-
lis gelegene Odeion39 oder auch das Gefngnis40 solche Anhaltspunkte
der Raumkognition. So lokalisiert der Redner Antiphon den Voragon der
Groen Dionysien, bei dem sich die Tragdiendichter mit ihren Stk-
ken prsentierten, in dem unter Perikles errichteten Odeion, und Platon
setzt bei seinen Lesern die Lage des Gefngnisses oder die der Knigs-
halle, der Stoa Basileios am Nordrand der Agora, als bekannt voraus:
, , ,
; Was hat sich Neues
ereignet, Sokrates, da du deine Beschftigungen im Lykeion aufgegeben
hast und dich jetzt hier bei der Halle des Basileus aufhltst?41 Anders
als die oben erwhnten Heiligtmer trugen diese ffentlichen Gebude
nicht unbedingt Namen im eigentlichen Sinne, an denen sie identifiziert
werden konnten. Im Falle des Rathauses und des Gefngnisses diente
die Funktionsbezeichnung anstelle eines Eigennamens dem Zweck, das
Gebude zu kennzeichnen und von anderen abzuheben. Gemeinsam ist
beiden Mglichkeiten der Identifikation, da nicht allein der Punkt an
sich bezeichnet und damit erkennbar gemacht wird, sondern auch Wissen
ber die Funktionen dieser Orte im stdtischen Kontext vermittelt wird.
Whrend groe Heiligtmer, das Buleuterion, das Prytaneion und die
Tholos durch ihre Dimensionen und Gestaltung sowie ihre stdtebauli-
che Lage die Wahrnehmung des athenischen Stadtbildes prgten, waren
kleinere Objekte wie Statuen und Brunnen optisch nicht gleichermaen
auffllig, konnten jedoch gleichwohl als Anhaltspunkte fr die Orien-
tierung dienen, zumal sie bisweilen eine exaktere Lokalisierung ermg-
lichten. Platon situiert die Szenerie seines Lysis in der Eingangspartie
des Dialogs bei einem Tor, dessen Lage er durch den Hinweis auf den
Brunnen des Panops definiert.42 Sofern ihm hier daran gelegen ist, da
38Siehe beispielsweise Thuk. 8,92,6; 8,93,1; Antiph. 6,45; And. 1,95; Plat. Mx. 234a/b;
Aristot. Ath. pol. 53,4; Aischin. Tim. 92; IG II2, 120.25f. (358/7 oder 354/3 v. Chr.); IG II2,
298.4f. (vor 336/5 v. Chr.); SEG 12.87.25f. (= Agora 16, 73) (337/6 v. Chr.).
39Xen. hell. 2,24,2; Aischin. Ctes. 67.
40Plat. Phaid. 59d: [...]
[...] wir kamen morgens im Gericht zusammen, wo auch
der Proze stattgefunden hatte; denn es befand sich nahe beim Gefngnis.
41Plat. Euthyphr. 2a. Zur Halle des Basileus, welche die Funktion eines Gerichtsgebu-
des hatte, siehe auch Aristoph. Eccl. 684f.; And. 1,82; Plat. Tht. 210d; Aristot. Ath. pol. 7,1f.;
IG I2 115,48. Siehe Wycherley 1957, 2125; Thompson / Wycherley 1972, 8390.
42Plat. Lys. 203a; Lokalisierungen durch die Angabe von Toren und Pforten auch Xen.
hell. 2,4,8 (hier allerdings im Pirus); Demosth. or. 47,26; Isaios 6,20.
214 jan stenger
seine Leser tatschlich ein rumliches Bild vor Augen haben, setzt er also
voraus, da ihnen die stdtebauliche Situation einigermaen gelufig ist.
Freilich ist fr das Verstndnis des Dialogs die exakte Lage nicht weiter
von Belang. In einem juristischen bzw. politischen Kontext indessen ist es
weitaus wichtiger, mglichst exakte topographische Angaben zu machen.
Insbesondere bei der Publikation von Gesetzestexten und anderen offizi-
ellen Dokumenten kann nicht darauf verzichtet werden, genauer zu spe-
zifizieren, wo die jeweilige Bestimmung eingesehen werden kann. Damit
jedermann imstande ist, das Gesetz zu konsultieren, mu der Ort ber-
dies allgemein zugnglich und als Archiv fr solche Beschlsse etabliert
sein. Fr diese Publikationen ist der zentrale ffentliche Platz Athens, die
Agora, angemessen. Hufig begegnen wir Hinweisen, da Gesetzesstelen
in diesem ffentlichen Raum aufgestellt werden, wobei durch einzelne
Punkte spezifiziert wird, an welcher Stelle dieses groen Bereichs die
Stelen zu finden sind. Neben der Stoa Basileios als Ort der Publikation43
wird vor allem das Buleuterion44 genannt, teilweise ergnzt durch eine
Przisierung.45 Dort wurden Antrge auf Gesetzesnderung ffentlich
angeschlagen, damit jeder Brger die Mglichkeit hatte, sich in der Ange-
legenheit kundig zu machen. Um den Standort deutlicher zu kennzeich-
nen, markiert ihn etwa Aristoteles, indem er auf die Statuen der zehn
Phylenheroen verweist, die sich auf der Agora befanden.46 Auch offizielle
43And. 1,8385. Hierbei handelte es sich nicht um separate Stelen, sondern um Inschrif-
ten, die an der Wand der Stoa angebracht wurden. Hansen 1995, 170f.
44And. 1,95.
45Die Funktion eines Staatsarchivs erfllte sonst das Metroon, das in den Texten wie-
derholt in dieser Eigenschaft genannt wird: Demosth. or. 19,129; 25,99; Lykurg. 1,66; Dein-
arch. 1,86; IG II2 140,35 (353/2 v. Chr.). Es befand sich in direkter Nhe zum Buleuterion.
Goette / Hammerstaedt 2004, 113117.
46Aristot. Ath. pol. 53,4:
, ,
[] , ,
Frher wurden die Epheben bei
ihrer Einschreibung auf geweiten Tafeln festgehalten, und zu ihnen wurde der Archon
geschrieben, unter dem sie eingeschrieben worden waren, und der Namengeber, der im
vergangenen Jahr als Schiedsrichter amtiert hatte; jetzt aber werden sie auf eine Bronze-
tafel eingetragen, und die Tafel wird vor dem Buleuterion neben den Namengebern (der
Phylen) aufgestellt. Das Monument der eponymen Heroen befand sich gegenber dem
Metroon, wobei die Angaben der antiken Textzeugnisse nicht ganz einheitlich sind. Mit
einer Lnge von ber 18 m bildete es einen aufflligen Orientierungspunkt. Vgl. Paus. 1,5,1.
Wycherley 1957, 8590; Thompson / Wycherley 1972, 3841; Travlos 1971, 210212 (mit
ich bin die grenze der agora

Texte verwenden diesen Orientierungspunkt, wie ein bei Demosthenes
zitierter Beschlu zeigt:47

, <>
Vor der Volksversammlung soll jeder Athener, der will, vor den Namenge-
bern (der Phylen) schriftlich die Gesetze aufstellen, die er vorschlgt, damit
in Relation zur Menge der vorgeschlagenen Gesetze das Volk ber die fr
die Gesetzgeber angemessene Frist entscheidet. Wer das neue Gesetz vor-
schlgt, soll es auf eine weie Tafel schreiben und tglich vor die Namenge-
ber stellen, bis die Volksversammlung tagt.
Hier markieren also mehrere Punkte auf einem ffentlichen Platz ein
Areal, das dann als eigener Raum wahrnehmbar ist und dem eine eigene
Funktion zugeschrieben wird. Die Bezirke, von denen oben die Rede war,
lassen sich also ihrerseits weiter in kleinere Einheiten strukturieren. Sol-
che Przisierungen liegen auch vor, wenn ein bestimmter Altar auf der
Agora erwhnt wird48 oder sich die Autoren nicht mit der Nennung eines
Gebudes als einer Markierung begngen, sondern den exakten Platz zu
kennzeichnen versuchen.49 Bei einem umbauten Raum wie dem Buleu-
terion bietet es sich an, auf den Eingang des Gebudes zu rekurrieren, um
die Lage eines Objekts zu bezeichnen. In einer im Jahre 337/6 gesetzten
Inschrift heit es, da Gesetzesstelen am Zugang zum Areopag, einem
durch seine erhabene Lage topographisch ausgezeichneten Bezirk, aufge-
stellt werden sollen, und zwar dort, wo man ins Buleuterion eintrete.50
Wir haben bereits bemerkt, da mit bestimmten stdtischen Bezirken
oder Gebuden spezifische Funktionen verknpft waren, die implizit auch
in der Referenz auf die rumlichen Gegebenheiten vermittelt wurden. In
der Zuschreibung von Funktionen kommt auch eine Hierarchie der std-
tischen Topographie zum Ausdruck, da der wiederholte Rekurs auf einige
ffentliche Bezirke oder Gebude sie aus der Masse des urbanen Raumes
47Demosth. or. 24,23; ebenso 20,94; 24,18; And. 1,83; Aischin. Ctes. 39.
48Agora 16, 225.19f. (224/3222/1 v. Chr.): []
([...] auf der Agora neben dem Altar der Artemis Bulaia aufzustellen).
49Antiph. 6,45 (Heiligtum des Zeus Bulaios und der Athena Bulaia im Buleuterion, an
dessen Eingang; vgl. Paus. 1,3,5).
50SEG 12, 87, 2227 (= Agora 16, 73): /
/ /
/ , /.
216 jan stenger
heraushebt. Agora, Theseion oder Buleuterion werden immer wieder als
Orientierungspunkte genutzt, weil sie im ffentlichen Leben der Athener
eine wichtigere Rolle spielen als andere Pltze und Orte.51 Darber hinaus
lt sich einigen Lokalisierungen entnehmen, da Punkte im Stadtraum
nicht allein deshalb markant waren, weil sie baulich ins Auge fielen, son-
dern auch aufgrund der ihnen innewohnenden symbolischen Bedeutung.52
Als im Jahre 314/3, also kurz nach dem hier untersuchten Zeitraum, die
Athener den makedonischen Satrapen von Karien Asandros durch einen
Volksbeschlu ehrten, erlaubten sie ihm unter anderem, als Zeichen sei-
ner Selbstdarstellung eine Reiterstatue von sich berall auf der Agora
aufzustellenmit einer signifikanten Einschrnkung:53
[]/[] [ ]/
[]/ []/ []/
/ / /
/ []
[...] ihm auch die Speisung im Prytaneion zu gewhren und die Prohedrie
in allen stdtischen Agonen, auch dem jeweils ltesten seiner Nachfahren;
es soll ihm auch gestattet sein, eine eherne Statue von sich auf einem Pferd
aufzustellen, wo immer auf der Agora er will, auer bei Harmodios und
Die beiden Statuen der Tyrannenmrder Harmodios und Aristogeiton dienen,
oberflchlich betrachtet, dazu, in diesem offiziellen Dokument einen urbanen
Bezirk nher zu definieren, indem sie innerhalb der Agora einen Teilraum
konstituieren, ebenso wie die eponymen Phylenheroen.54 Gleichzeitig
markieren sie jedoch eine symbolische Struktur, die dem athenischen
Stadtraum eingeschrieben ist. Denn im kollektiven Gedchtnis des demo-
kratischen Athen nahmen die beiden Mnner, die unter Einsatz ihres
Lebens das Ende der peisistratidischen Tyrannis eingeleitet hatten, einen
zentralen Platz ein. Bei dem Raum, den die Standbilder auf der Agora
abstecken, handelt es sich mithin um einen Erinnerungsort der gesamten
Brgerschaft, dessen symbolische Bedeutung man nicht dadurch schm-
51Dies erlaubt freilich nicht den Umkehrschlu, da topographische Punkte, die in den
Textzeugnissen nicht oder nur selten erwhnt werden, keine Bedeutung fr die Raum-
wahrnehmung der Athener besessen htten.
52Zur symbolischen Dimension der Topographie und stdtebaulichen Gestalt Athens
Hlscher 1991.
53IG II2 450 fr. b 312.
54Harmodios als Orientierungspunkt auf der Agora etwa bei Aristoph. Eccl. 681683;
Lys. 631634; Lykurg. 51.
ich bin die grenze der agora

lern will, da man dort die Aufstellung weiterer Statuen genehmigt.55 Das
mentale Stadtbild ist ohne eine solche Bedeutung, die auch emotional
besetzt ist, berhaupt nicht denkbar. Es lt sich nicht auf rein topogra-
phische Informationen reduzieren.56
Die hier vorgestellten Punkte, die selbstverstndlich nur eine Auswahl
aus der Raumkognition der Athener reprsentieren, sind, wie angedeu-
tet wurde, mit bestimmten Praktiken des ffentlichen Lebens verknpft.
Jeder athenische Brger, der am ffentlichen Leben partizipiert, sucht
die Agora und die dort befindlichen Bauwerke auf oder begibt sich zu
bestimmten Gelegenheiten zu den stdtischen Heiligtmern. Um diese
Orte auf einem mglichst effizienten Weg zu erreichen, greift er auf sein
mentales Bild der Stadt zurck und setzt verschiedene Punkte zueinan-
der in Beziehung. Mit der modernen Stadtsoziologie kann man von einer
Syntheseleistung sprechen, insofern der Mensch in seiner Kognition Bau-
ten, Objekte, Personen, aber eben auch Funktionen und Bedeutungen zu
einem Ganzen, seinem mentalen Stadtmodell, zusammenfgt.57 Damit
die Orte tatschlich miteinander verknpft sind und das Modell zur Ori-
entierung gebraucht werden kann, bedarf es zahlreicher Wege, die durch
den Stadtraum gelegt sind. Whrend wir in den literarischen und den
epigraphischen Dokumenten zahlreiche Hinweise auf Rume und Punkte
finden, sind Angaben zu solchen Wegen weitaus seltener.58
Die Nennung bestimmter Straen anhand einer gebruchlichen
Bezeichnung ist in einer Zeit, in der es keine offiziellen Straennamen
gibt, ohnehin nicht zu erwarten. Da der Komdiendichter Aristophanes
einmal eine Myrmex-Gasse erwhnt, deren Name offensichtlich gelufig
55Die Bedeutung der Statuengruppe fr die kollektive Identitt der Athener erkannte
der Perserknig Xerxes und lie sie deshalb als Beute abtransportieren. Um diesen Erin-
nerungsort wieder erfahrbar zu machen, lie man eine neue Gruppe fertigen, und erst
in hellenistischer Zeit kehrten die Originale aus Persien zurck (Paus. 1,8,5). Im brigen
wich man im Einzelfall auch von dem Grundsatz, die Tyrannenmrder allein auf der Agora
stehen zu lassen, ab, so, als man den Diadochen Antigonos und seinen Sohn Demetrios im
Jahre 307 auszeichnen wollte (Diod. 20,46,1f.).
56Lynch 1960, 46 erkennt zwar an, da die mentale Reprsentation (image) fr den
Wahrnehmenden eine praktische oder emotionale Bedeutung (meaning) hat, schliet
diese jedoch aus seiner Untersuchung aus.
57Lw 2001, 158161.
58Fr die Terminologie und die Realien der athenischen Wege und Straen immer
noch ntzlich Wachsmuth 1874/90, 2.279303; Judeich 1931, 178189. Vgl. die Bezeichnun-
gen im kaiserzeitlichen Lexikon des Pollux (1,220; 9,19). Zu den athenischen Straen jetzt
Greco 2008 und besonders Ficuciello 2008 (mit einem Katalog der Bezeugung von Straen
in literarischen Texten und Inschriften).
218 jan stenger
ist,59 ist eine Seltenheit. Wenn berhaupt einmal ein Weg durch die
Stadt oder vor der Stadt beschrieben wird, gibt man seinen Verlauf an,
indem man ihn relativ zu anderen Orientierungspunkten und Begren-
zungslinien situiert. Die Sprecher in Platons Dialogen erklren mitunter
ihren Gesprchspartnern, auf welchen Wegen sie zu bestimmten Punkten
im Stadtgebiet gelangt sind, doch ist es nicht ihre Absicht, den Verlauf
des Weges in allen Einzelheiten zu beschreiben. Whrend Phaidros im
gleichnamigen Dialog lediglich erklrt, er gehe auerhalb der Stadtmauer
spazieren,60 markiert Sokrates im Lysis, wie wir oben gesehen haben,
seinen Weg immerhin durch die Angabe des Anfangs- und des Zielpunk-
tes sowie durch eine Station und eine Grenzlinie, zu der sein Weg parallel
verluft (Pl. Ly. 203a). Er sei, so gibt er Auskunft, von der Akademie direkt
zum Lykeion marschiert, und zwar auf dem Weg auerhalb der Mauer,
der direkt unter der Mauer liege; auf seinem Weg habe er auch das kleine
Tor am Brunnen des Panops passiert. Bisweilen bemht sich der Histo-
riker Xenophon, seinen Lesern eine rumliche Vorstellung von Trup-
penbewegungen zu vermitteln, indem er Mrsche der Soldaten durch
das Stadtgebiet anhand von Referenzpunkten definiert.61 Beispielsweise
erwhnt er Straen, die vom Lykeion zur Stadt oder aus der Stadt zum
Pirus fhren, und zeichnet einen Marsch durch das Athener Weichbild
mit Hilfe von Zielpunkten nach, wobei als Ausgangspunkt lediglich allge-
mein die Stadt benannt wird:
Die anderen begaben sich
aus der Stadt zum Hippodamischen Markt und stellten sich geordnet auf,
so da sie die Strae fllten, die zum Heiligtum der Artemis von Munichia
und zum Bendis-Heiligtum fhrt.62 Allein wo es der Kontext gebietet,
erachtet Xenophon eine detaillierte Wegbeschreibung fr ntig. Als er in
seiner Schrift ber den Reiterfhrer ber einen Prozessionsweg spricht,
versucht er selbstverstndlich, diesen so nachzuzeichnen, da seine Leser
59Aristoph. Thesm. 100. An der Stelle ist der Name zwar eher bildlich zu verstehen,
der Lexikograph Hesych bezeugt jedoch, da es im Bezirk Skambonidai eine Strae dieses
Namens gegeben habe ( 1904).
60Plat. Phaidr. 227a. In 229a bezeichnet Sokrates den Verlauf seines Weges mit dem
Flu Ilissos, der im Sden Athens in sdwestlicher Richtung flo.
61Xen. hell. 1,1,33; 2,4,8; 2,4,10; 2,4,27; 2,4,31.
62Xen. hell. 2,4,11. Die hier von Xenophon erwhnte Strae lt sich aufgrund des
archologischen Befundes lokalisieren; siehe Goette / Hammerstaedt 2004, 280f.
ich bin die grenze der agora

die Prozession anhand von Wegmarken in ihr mentales Stadtbild zu inte-
grieren vermgen.63

, ,
[ ] .

. ,

. .
. ,
, , .
Die Prozessionen drften meiner Ansicht nach fr die Gtter und fr die
Zuschauer am geflligsten sein, wenn sie zur Ehre der Gtter, die Heiligt-
mer und Kultbilder auf der Agora besitzen, um jene im Kreis [um die Agora
und die Heiligtmer] herumziehen, wobei sie mit den Hermen beginnen.
Auch bei den Dionysien sorgen die Chre fr zustzliche Ergtzung, indem
sie bei den brigen Gttern und bei den zwlf Gttern tanzen. Sobald sie
aber bei dem Umzug wieder an den Hermen angelangt sind, ist es darauf pas-
send, wie mir scheint, wenn die Pferde nach Phylen angeordnet im Galopp
bis zum Eleusinion hinaufreiten. Und nicht werde ich auer acht lassen,
da die Lanzen der Reiter einander mglichst nicht berkreuzen drfen. Es
soll sie nmlich ein jeder zwischen den Ohren seines Pferdes halten, wenn
die Kavallerie furchterregend und gut unterschieden sein und zugleich zahl-
reich erscheinen soll. Sobald sie aber den raschen Galopp beendet haben, ist
es passend, wenn sie nunmehr im Trab zu den Heiligtmern reiten, wo sie
auch zuvor gewesen sind (Xen. hipp. 3,2f.).
Nur wenig Niederschlag hat die wichtige Prozessionsstrae der Panathe-
nen vom Dipylon diagonal ber die Agora zur Akropolis in den Texten
der klassischen Zeit gefunden. Zwar ist dieser sog. Dromos auch inschrift-
lich bezeugt,64 der genaue Verlauf hingegen lt sich aus den Angaben
nicht erschlieen.65
Mitunter definieren auch epigraphische Texte Wege durch Anfangs-
und Endpunkte, was freilich ebensowenig etwas ber den Verlauf aussagt.66
63Zur Bedeutung von Prozessionswegen fr die Struktur des ffentlichen Raums Hl-
scher 1998, 7483; Greco 2008.
64IG I3 507 (ca. 565 v. Chr.), 508 (ca. 562558 v. Chr.) und 509 (ca. 550 v. Chr.).
65Thuk. 6,57. Auch die sptantike Beschreibung bei Himerios or. 47,12 vermittelt keine
genaue Vorstellung. Vgl. den Lageplan bei Travlos 1971, 318.
66Agora 19, 114 (P26, Z. 453f.) (Strae vom Heiligtum des Herakles Alexikakos zur
Agora; 342/1339/8 v. Chr.); IG I3 1095 (Strae nach Eleusis), 1096 (Strae nach Eleusis)
(ca. 430 v. Chr.); SEG 12.100.11f. und 21f. (Strae zum Daidaleion) (367/6 v. Chr.).
220 jan stenger
Es kommt allein auf die Lokalisierung eines Objekts an der jeweiligen
Strae an, nicht auf die Beschreibung eines Weges fr einen Ortsunkundi-
gen. Zuweilen wurde ein Athener auch durch einen Horos auf einen Pro-
zessionsweg aufmerksam gemacht, wie es etwa bei dem Zug der Pythais
vom Pythion am Nordwesthang der Akropolis zum Apollonheiligtum in
Delphi der Fall ist. Neben der sakralen Funktion der Strae bezeichnet der
Markierungsstein lediglich allgemein den Zielort Delphi.67
Nur selten versucht man, das Raummodell durch die Angabe von Ent-
fernungen so zu przisieren, da die Rezipienten die Relationen genauer
vor Augen haben. In literarischen Beschreibungen spielen mebare Ent-
fernungen selbstverstndlich nur eine untergeordnete Rolle, bei einer
offiziell gesetzten Markierung einer ffentlichen Strae hingegen erfllt
eine entsprechende Angabe den praktischen Zweck, dem Reisenden die
Einschtzung rumlicher Verhltnisse und Distanzen zu ermglichen, wie
es in der folgenden Inschrift zu lesen ist: [ ] <>[ ][]
/ [...] [ ]<> [] / [...]
/ [ ] Die
Stadt hat mich aufgestellt den Sterblichen zum verllichen Zeichen, da
ich das Ma der Reise anzeige: Die Distanz zum Zwlfgtteraltar betrgt
vom Hafen aus sechsunddreiig Stadien.68 Fr solche aus der Stadt aufs
Land fhrenden Straen bildete der Zwlfgtteraltar auf der Agora den
Ausgangspunkt, von dem aus die Distanzen gemessen wurden.69 Inner-
halb der Stadt existierten vergleichbare Hinweise nur ausnahmsweise,70
das heit, die Raumkognition der Athener orientierte sich weitgehend an
den Erfahrungen der Fortbewegung zu Fu.
Aus den bisher besprochenen Texten geht hervor, da Objekte im
Stadtraum entweder so bekannt waren, da sich eine genauere Lokali-
sierung erbrigte oder weniger bzw. nicht allgemein bekannte Objekte
in Relation zu solchen Orientierungspunkten beschrieben wurden. Im
zweiten Falle liegt demnach ein Verhltnis zwischen einer Figur und
einem Hintergrund vor, insofern eine prototypisch kleinere (und etwa
67Agora 19, 29 (H34) (4. Jh. v. Chr.): / / / /
. Zu diesem Prozessionsweg Ficuciello 2008, 2633.
68IG I3 1092bis (ca. 440430 v. Chr.).
69Hdt. 2,7,1f. Den Altar hatte der jngere Peisistratos im Jahre 522/21 errichten lassen
(Thuk. 6,54,6f.). Goette / Hammerstaedt 2004, 98f.
70Eine in der zweiten Hlfte des vierten Jahrhunderts an der Akropolis aufgestellte
Inschrift informierte darber, da die Lnge des Umfahrungsweges fnf Stadien und acht-
zehn Fu betrug (IG II2 2639).
ich bin die grenze der agora

bei Inschriftenstelen bewegliche) Entitt zu einer greren in Beziehung
gesetzt wird, und zwar durch einen Relator, der im Griechischen hufig
in einer Prposition besteht.71 Dem Rezipienten wird also keine absolute
Lokalisierung ermglicht, sondern nur eine relative, die freilich verschie-
den exakt ausfallen kann. Wenn der genaue Ort nicht weiter von Belang
ist, gengt es, eine Relation zwischen zwei Gebuden anzugeben; bei offi-
ziellen Regelungen indessen kann auch durch die Erwhnung mehrerer
Referenzpunkte eine mglichst exakte Lokalisierung angestrebt werden.
<> []/
[...] und da der Pchter ber den Graben und das Regenwasser verfgt,
soweit es zwischen dem Dionysosheiligtum und dem Tor fliet, wo die
Mysten zum Meer hin ausziehen, und soweit zwischen dem ffentlichen
Gebude und dem Tor, das zum Bad des Isthmonikos hinausfhrt.72
Diese relativen Ortsangaben, die keine Aussage ber die absolute Lage
des Objekts treffen, sind weitaus zahlreicher zu finden als Hinweise auf
einen absoluten Referenzrahmen, nmlich auf die Himmelsrichtungen.73
Immerhin wird bisweilen in epigraphischen Zeugnissen auf diese abso-
luten Bezugspunkte rekurriert wie in dem folgenden frhhellenistischen
Beispiel: /[], , /
, / [...] dem von Norden
her ein Garten benachbart ist, von Sden das Grundstck des Olym-
piodoros, vom Sonnenaufgang (Osten) her eine Strae, vom Sonnenun-
tergang (Westen) her das Grundstck des Olympiodoros.74 Obgleich die
Griechen in der Lage waren, bei der Lokalisierung sowohl einen relati-
ven als auch einen absoluten Bezugsrahmen zu verwenden, machten sie
71Die Terminologie von Figur und Hintergrund wird in der linguistischen Forschung
zur sprachlichen Darstellung rumlicher Relationen verwendet und ist der Gestaltpsy-
chologie entlehnt. Daneben finden sich in der Kognitiven und der Psycholinguistik auch
andere Begriffe wie etwa trajector und landmark oder Locatum und Relatum. Talmy 2000,
Bd. 1, 311344.
72IG I3 84,3437 (418/7 v. Chr.).
73Siehe Thuk. 2,15,3 (Gebiet sdlich der Akropolis).
74IG II2 1241,912 (300/299 v. Chr.). Siehe auch IG II2 1579 (Anfang 4. Jh. v. Chr.); SEG
12, 100, 912 (367/6 v. Chr.); Agora 19, 75 (P4, Z. 10) (370/69 v. Chr.); aus dem 3. Jahrhun-
dert Agora 19, 177f. (L4b, Z. 1118). Um die rumlichen Relationen zu bezeichnen, wird in
den Inschriften hufig der Ausdruck (benachbart) verwendet.
222 jan stenger
in der Regel von dem relativen Gebrauch.75 Offenbar empfanden sie die
Angaben der Himmelsrichtungen jedoch als exakter, da sie unabhngig
vom Betrachterstandpunkt sind, weshalb sie im juristischen Kontext auf
diese zurckgriffen.
In dieser Praxis drften sich die Athener der klassischen Zeit kaum
von westlichen Stadtbewohnern der Moderne unterschieden haben, die
fr gewhnlich ebensoselten Himmelsrichtungen fr eine absolute Lokali-
sierung zu Hilfe nehmen und stattdessen Relationen zu bereits bekannten
Orientierungspunkten verwenden, wenn sie einer anderen Person die Ori-
entierung in der Stadt bzw. das Auffinden eines Objekts erleichtern wollen.
3.Das mentale Stadtbild und seine Bedeutungsebenen
Unsere Analyse von literarischen Texten und Inschriften der klassischen
Zeit lt erkennen, da die Athener zum einen ber ein differenziertes
mentales Modell ihrer Stadt verfgten, zum anderen mit Hilfe verschie-
dener Kategorien in der Lage waren, ihre Raumkognition anderen mit-
zuteilen. Nach Ausweis der schriftlichen Zeugnisse konstituierte sich
das mentale Raumbild durch Grenzlinien, die Bereiche definierten und
voneinander unterschieden, durch eben diese stdtischen Bezirke wie
Stadtviertel oder Pltze, durch markante Orientierungspunkte von ganz
verschiedenen baulichen Dimensionen sowie durch Wege, die bis zu
einem gewissen Grade eine Orientierung innerhalb der urbanistischen
Topographie widerspiegeln. Sofern der kursorische und keineswegs voll-
stndige Durchgang durch die Texte nicht trgt, spielten Punkte und Berei-
che in der Raumkognition der Athener eine wesentlich grere Rolle als
die brigen Kategorien. Whrend die Autoren hufig auf Orientierungs-
marken wie Heiligtmer, das Buleuterion und Statuen oder Areale wie
die Agora und den Kerameikos rekurrieren, begegnet man Beschreibun-
gen von Wegverlufen relativ selten. Auch haben wir festgestellt, da
Markierungssteine offenbar nicht dazu aufgestellt wurden, Grenzlinien
mglichst kontinuierlich im Gelnde zu kennzeichnen, sondern vielmehr
allgemein die Lage eines Bezirks signalisierten. Informationen, die fr ein
Zurechtfinden in der Stadt relevant wren, also genaue Richtungs- und
Distanzangaben, scheinen die Ausnahme zu sein. Gleichwohl erlaubt die
75Ausfhrliche Bemerkungen zur Unterscheidung zwischen intrinsischen, relativen
und absoluten Bezugsrahmen in der Raumkognition und ihrer sprachlichen Reprsentation
findet man bei Levinson 2003, 2461.
ich bin die grenze der agora

mentale Reprsentation Athens verschiedene Grade der Przision, die je
nach dem Kommunikationszusammenhang aktualisiert werden knnen.
Falls in einer ffentlichen Angelegenheit die exakte Lokalisierung eines
Objekts von Belang war, lieen sich, wie gerade die Inschriften illustrie-
ren, mehrere Referenzpunkte bezeichnen und Himmelsrichtungen als
absoluter Bezugsrahmen angeben.
Eingangs wurde betont, da die Texte hier weniger als direkter Ausdruck
der Raumwahrnehmung verstanden werden denn als Kommunikation der
Raumkognition. Intention des Sprechers oder Autors ist es jeweils, einem
Adressatenkreis eine rumliche Vorstellung zu vermitteln. In diesem
Kommunikationsproze erfllen die Konstituenten des mentalen Stadt-
bildes verschiedene Funktionen. Grenzlinien, Bezirke und Punkte, deren
Kenntnis bei den Rezipienten vorausgesetzt werden kann, mssen nicht
durch Bezug auf andere Entitten lokalisiert werden. Es gengt, die Akro-
polis, die Agora oder den Areopag zu nennen, damit der Rezipient wei,
wo sich diese Elemente der stdtischen Topographie befinden. Wenn hin-
gegen ber kleinere Entitten oder Ereignisse gesprochen wird, noch dazu
ber eventuell bewegliche oder mehrfach vorhandene Objekte, so werden
diese in der Regel durch rumliche Relatoren, die sprachlich zumeist als
Prpositionen realisiert sind, zu den allgemein bekannten Orientierungs-
punkten in Beziehung gesetzt. Um ein Privathaus oder eine bestimmte
Herme zu lokalisieren, ist es erforderlich, eine Relation zu einem bekann-
ten Objekt zu bezeichnen, damit die Adressaten die betreffenden Entit-
ten in ihre mentale Reprsentation der Stadt zu integrieren vermgen. Es
besteht dann eine Relation zwischen einer Figur und einem Hintergrund,
die impliziert, da nach der Ansicht des Sprechers und der (vermuteten)
seiner Rezipienten bestimmten Elementen der urbanen Topographie eine
grere Signifikanz innewohnt als anderen. Fr die Ausbildung des men-
talen Stadtmodells bedeutet dies auch, da sich der Informationsumfang
stndig verndert. Der Athener, der seine Stadt wahrnimmt, speichert die
perzipierten Objekte in seiner Raumvorstellung, wobei er ihnen gem
der Signifikanz auf einer Hierarchieskala einen Platz zuweist. Erhlt er
nun durch einen Text wie einen Volksbeschlu oder eine Gerichtsrede
neue Informationen, gehen diese in sein Stadtmodell ein und werden zu
den bereits gespeicherten Entitten in Beziehung gesetzt. Die Autoren rei-
chern demnach potentiell die mentale Reprsentation ihrer Rezipienten
mit neuen Informationen an, indem sie dort mutmalich bereits gespei-
cherte Informationen mit neuen Angaben verknpfen. Es handelt sich bei
der Raumkognition also um einen dynamischen Proze, nicht um einen
statischen Wissensbestand.
224 jan stenger
Aus diesen Beobachtungen lt sich schlieen, da die Stadt in der
mentalen Reprsentation eine relationale Anordnung von Objekten (und
Menschen) bildet, also einen Raum, der durch Beziehungen zwischen
einzelnen Elementen konstituiert wird. Die Athener nehmen ihre Stadt
als eine differenzierte Struktur wahr und stellen in der Kognition eine
Synthese her, indem sie Pltze, Objekte, Menschen und Verhaltensweisen
miteinander verknpfen und einander zuordnen. Durch diesen kogniti-
ven Akt werden mehrere Elemente zu Einheiten zusammengefat und als
Teilbereiche innerhalb der gesamten Topographie wahrgenommen. In der
Wahrnehmung wird also der Stadtraum strukturiert, und zwar keineswegs
allein aufgrund der stdtebaulichen und architektonischen Gegebenhei-
ten, sondern auch durch die Zuschreibung von Funktionen und die mit
diesen einhergehenden Praktiken. So bildet die Stoa Basileios auch des-
wegen einen Teilbereich der Agora, weil in ihr offizielle Dokumente publi-
ziert werden. Diese Funktion, die bestimmte Verhaltensweisen nach sich
ziehtwer ein Dokument einsehen will, mu diesen Ort aufsuchen,
unterscheidet sie von anderen stdtischen Orten, macht also gewisserma-
en die Identitt des Ortes aus. Die Relationen zwischen Objekten beru-
hen demnach sowohl auf stdtebaulichen Zusammenhngen als auch auf
funktionalen Entsprechungen, Analogien, Differenzen und Oppositionen.
Aus den Informationen der Texte lt sich in keinem Falle, nicht ein-
mal bei grter Przision, ein auch nur halbwegs detailliertes, geschweige
denn ein vollstndiges mentales Stadtbild gewinnen. Stets prsentieren
die Autoren lediglich kleine Ausschnitte, gleichsam Inseln der Aufmerk-
samkeit, aus der urbanen Topographie, die nur einzelne Punkte enthalten,
ohne eine im engeren Sinne rumliche Vorstellung vermitteln zu knnen.
Da die Texte selektiv verfahren, viele Leerstellen enthalten und keine
groe Anschaulichkeit erreichen, hngt zum einen damit zusammen, da
wir wie erwhnt keinen unvermittelten Zugang zur Raumkognition der
Athener finden, sondern auf deren sprachliche Reprsentation verwiesen
sind. Wir sind folglich immer mit dem Problem konfrontiert, da sich
Kognition niemals eins zu eins in sprachliche Mittel transferieren lt.
Keine noch so detaillierte Beschreibung knnte einen Raumeindruck,
der durch visuelle Wahrnehmung und krperliche Erfahrung zustande
gekommen ist, erschpfend wiedergeben. Von vornherein erlegt also das
Sprachsystem dem Material Restriktionen auf. Zum anderen sind die hier
analysierten Texte nicht zu dem Zweck niedergeschrieben worden, einem
modernen Leser mglichst vollstndige kognitive Karten zu berliefern.
Welche Informationen ber die stdtische Topographie ausgewhlt wer-
den, wird in mehrfacher Hinsicht durch den jeweiligen Kontext bedingt.
ich bin die grenze der agora

Der Verfasser beschreibt den stdtischen Raum mit einer bestimmten
kommunikativen Intention, weshalb er nur dafr relevante Angaben auf-
nimmt; er hat ein bestimmtes Publikum vor Augen, dessen Vorwissen er
bercksichtigt; er schreibt gem den Konventionen einer literarischen
Gattung, die ihm bestimmte Beschrnkungen vorgeben. So bedeutet es
einen erheblichen Unterschied, ob der Rat von Athen einen offiziellen,
rechtsetzenden Text fr die Brger der Stadt