SYMBOLS OF POWER: FIGURATIVE ASPECTS OF ESARHADDON'S BABYLONIAN POLICY (681-669 B.C.) (ASSYRIA)

BARBARA NEVLING PORTER, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria was marked by unusually peaceful relations with Babylonia. Despite plotting and occasional incidents of violence, no full-scale revolts broke out in Babylonia in Esarhaddon's time. The creation of a public relations program designed to lessen tensions and encourage a closer relationship between the two states helped to produce this change. The tools of this public relations program included ritual, royal titulary, and building projects, as well as theological revision and written (and probably verbal) propaganda. An analysis of inscriptions and archeological evidence suggests that Esarhaddon's public relations program underwent changes as the reign progressed. In early years, the program focused on the king's public image. In Babylonia, Esarhaddon was presented as a legitimately Babylonian ruler, enacting Babylonian royal ritual, using Babylonian royal titles, and claiming that he was made king by Babylonia's gods. In Assyria, by contrast, Esarhaddon presented a strongly Assyrian image. The evidence suggests that the documents in which these differing royal personae appear were presented to contemporary audiences. In Babylonia, the Babylonian image of Esarhaddon was reinforced by extensive temple building. In Assyria, a similar program reinforced his Assyrian image, while additional construction of palace/arsenal complexes there emphasized his commitment to Assyria. Late inscriptions show new emphasis on the image of the two nations as one people. They address the two national audiences as one, alternating items of interest to each and referring to the gods of each with equal emphasis. In some texts, this idea of unity is strengthened by a theological revision: the Babylonians' patron god Marduk, whose statue was being repaired in the temple of the Assyrian god Assur, is said to be being "reborn" as Assur's son--thus joining the Assyrian pantheon. These efforts contributed to the success of Esarhaddon's Babylonian policy, which brought an end to warfare between Assyria and Babylonia in his time. Although the Babylonians eventually revolted again, the twenty-eight years of peace which the nations enjoyed under Esarhaddon and his heirs are a tribute to Esarhaddon's skillful use of symbol and ideology to affect political behavior.

Subject Area

Ancient civilizations

Recommended Citation

PORTER, BARBARA NEVLING, "SYMBOLS OF POWER: FIGURATIVE ASPECTS OF ESARHADDON'S BABYLONIAN POLICY (681-669 B.C.) (ASSYRIA)" (1987). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8714110.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8714110

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