Early Neo-Assyrian State Ideology



By: Mattias Karlsson
June 2015
Uppsala University
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789150623635
392 Pages, Illustrated
$89.50 Paper original


This study aimed at identifying and discussing Early Neo-Assyrian state ideology through focusing on relations of power in the inscriptions and iconography of Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III. The relationship between the Mesopotamian deities (“the great gods”), the Assyrian king, and the foreign lands was highlighted in this analysis. Through a close reading of all the epigraphic and iconographic sources of the two kings, i.e. the “major primary sources”, using basic philological and art historical methods as well as theories such as critical theory and post-colonial theory, the results of the study were reached, presented mainly in chapters 3-5. In chapters 6-9, the below described results of the analysis formed the basis of discussions on ideological development within the reigns, local state ideology and regional politics, ideological comparison between the two kings, and a historical-ideological contextualization of the identified Early Neo-Assyrian state ideology.

The great gods were imagined as the masters and the conquerors of the foreign lands. The Assyrian king presented himself as the representative, priest, servant, master builder, and warrior of the great gods. The great gods had ordered the Assyrian king to implement their world dominion. On this divine mission, the Assyrian king was confronted by various hinderances such as the wild foreign landscape and its wild animals. By the act of conquering, the named chaotic elements of Otherness became a part of Order. The relationship between the Assyrian king and the foreign deities was portrayed as characterized by mutual respect. The religious imperialism of the two kings was not of an iconoclastic character. The foreign elites and people had the choice to submit and pay tribute and then be shepherded, or to resist and then be annihilated or enslaved. In times of confrontation, polarizations and dichotomies centred social classes (“elites”) and not nations or nationalities.