30 May 2010
The so-called Tomb of Midas in Gordium
King Midas of Phrygia is best known from Greek legend: the story about the drunken Silenus, the story about “the Midas touch”, the story about the donkey ears, and several others, including a nice parallel to the Roman story about the Lacus Curtius.
Yet, the Greeks also remembered him as a real king, the first to send presents to Delphi. This Midas had fought against the Cimmerians, had been defeated, and had committed suicide. He is almost certainly identical to the Mit-ta-a of Muški mentioned in the Annals of the Assyrian king Sargon II.
I’ve made a new page, which you can find here.
30 August 2009
Statue of Šalmaneser III from Aššur (Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul)
I did not intend to write about the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE, but when I was again forced to refer to the clash between the Assyrian king Šalmaneser III and a coalition of some twelve Syrian states, this time in a piece on the Nabataeans that I find more important, I decided to put online a page, if only to get rid of it. Of course, when I was occupied with the subject, I started to like it.
Well, “like it”: it remains warfare, which is a dirty job. Šalmaneser himself says that he filled the plain of Qarqar (in northwestern Syria) with the corpses of his dead enemies, that he “made the blood of his defeated enemies flow in the wadis”, that “the field was too small for laying flat their bodies,” that “the broad countryside had been consumed in burying them,” and that he “blocked the Orontes river with their corpses as with a causeway”.
There is some reasonable doubt whether the Assyrians really overcame their enemies. In fact, they appear to have been on the defensive during in the next years. Yet, in 841, they reached Damascus and king Jehu of Israel offered tribute. Qarqar may not have been the decisive Šalmaneser claims it had been, but it surely marked the beginning of the end of independent Syria.
One of the coalition members, by the way, was king Ahab of Israel, who is better known as one of the archvillains of the Bible. During the battle, he commanded one of the largest units. You can read more about the battle here.
28 August 2009
Edom and its neighbors
Edom was one of the Iron Age states adjacent to the kingdom of Judah. It is already mentioned during the reign of pharaoh Merenptah (1213-1203); Edomite nomads were allowed to cross the Sinai and enter Egypt. It is better known, however, from the first centuries of the first millennium BCE, when it was sometimes subject, sometimes at peace, and sometimes at war with the Judaeans. The books of Samuel and Kings are important sources, and so are the Assyrian documents.
During the Babylonian Exile of the Jews, the Edomites conquered the southern part of Judah, perhaps expelled from their own country by the Nabataeans, who were, since the fourth century, certainly in control of the original homeland of the Edomites. The new country of the Edomites is usually called Idumea, and was forcibly converted to Judaism by the Hasmonaean leader John Hyrcanus (r.134-104).
More about Edom can be found on this new webpage.