Neo-Assyrian Royal Women and Male Identity: Status As a Social Tool. - The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Neo-Assyrian Royal Women and Male Identity: Status As a Social Tool.

By The Journal of the American Oriental Society

  • Release Date - Published: 2004-01-01
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: The Journal of the American Oriental Society
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Neo-Assyrian Royal Women and Male Identity: Status As a Social Tool. The Journal of the American Oriental Society read online review & book description:

For the three centuries between approximately 900 and 600 B.C., Assyria was the major power of the Near East, ruling over the largest empire the world had ever seen. Having become rich with the spoils of war and tribute of subject nations, Assyrian kings built cities, palaces, temples, and public works as expressions of their power. The abundant monuments and textual records from this period reveal a male-oriented society in which politics, military affairs, religion, and commerce belong primarily to the male sphere of influence. As a result, we are relatively well informed about these kings, the events of their reigns, and the officials who served them, but the women of the period remain obscure. Most Assyrian texts, which were created by men for the public expression of royal ideology (itself inherently male), belong to well-established categories and thus follow strict formulae. Assyrian ideology pervades most textual material and tends to subsume the individual personalities of both men and women in the stock roles it creates for them. (1) With few exceptions, women of the royal household appear in official sources only tangentially. Not only are we denied any access to women as individuals, but even their appointed roles are difficult to discern clearly. For this reason, it is necessary to identify both how the Assyrians ranked women within the domestic quarters, and the way they publicly expressed the status of royal women, before we can determine how women's status acted as a function of royal ideology and a social tool. The Neo-Assyrian kings enjoyed enormous wealth and used it to build--among other things--palaces for themselves and their dependents. The king maintained residences at various cities in Assyria and most of these contained a separate court complex for women. Textual evidence attests to women's quarters in palaces at Nimrud, Nineveh, Kilizi, Tarbisu, Khorsabad, Assur, Ekallate, and numerous other cities around the empire. (2) Some of these palaces have been excavated, but it is the artifacts recovered in them, rather than distinctive architectural features, that allow us to identify the women's quarters. Domestic quarters have been located with some certainty at the southwest palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh, the northwest palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, and the ekal masarti at Nimrud. (3) It was common for Assyrian kings to have multiple residences in a single city, as at Nimrud during the ninth century, where Shalmaneser III occupied two palaces (northwest palace and the arsenal, "Fort Shalmaneser"), each of which included a special area for women; or at Nineveh, where, roughly half a century later, Sennacherib kept three royal palaces, each with its own special women's area. (4)

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