- Mesopotamian kings since the Early Dynastic periodwere keen to transmit records of their achievements for posterity. They furnish some of the most important sources for Mesopotamian history. The earliest examples of such texts consist only of a few lines to record the name and title of the king, perhaps with a mention of his most important conquest. They are generally couched in the first-person singular as personal testimony. Since it was a royal responsibility to repair city walls and temple buildings, the kings commemorated such activities on building inscriptions that were deposited within the architectural structure of the edifice. The royal inscriptions of kings from the Akkad Dynasty were engraved on stone monuments and set up in the courtyard of the Enlil temple at Nippur. Some of them were written in both Sumerianand Akkadianand enumerate the campaigns of the kings, as well as their building activities, and they include lengthy references to the gods of Sumer and Akkad, who were said to have entrusted kingship to the rulers. Such passages of ideological content can already be found in inscriptions by some of the Early Dynastic rulers. The royal inscriptions of the Akkad kings were studied by later generations of scribes, and extant examples are mainly Old Babylonian copies of the originals. They were to serve as models and inspiration for future generations of scribes who had to compose royal inscriptions. Not all such texts became part of the scribal tradition. The beautifully worded inscriptions of Gudea, the ruler of Lagash, for instance, were deposited in the temples of Girsu and left there. The kings of the Third Dynasty of Urpreferred a different style in which the king was addressed in the third person. Such texts are known as “royal hymns.”The Assyrian kings, too, gave a special form to the genre and developed annals that were royal inscriptions composed annually to record the mainly military achievements of the monarchs. Annals are also written in the first person. Other Assyrian royal inscriptions were engraved on palace wall reliefs to accompany the visual representations. They deal not only with conquest but also with civic projects, such as the building of aqueducts, or the royal hunt. The Assyrian inscriptions abound in detail and observations and can comprise hundreds of lines of texts. The Neo-Babylonian examples concentrate on the kings’architectural projects, such as the works in Babylon under Nebuchadrezzar II or at Harran by Nabonidus.
Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. EdwART. 2012.
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