Stephen: Blog Post – Week 2

king assurnairpal

The piece of prehistoric art that I chose to examine is King Assurnasirpal II hunting lions (c. 883-859 B.C.). While this piece may not have a lot of symbolism regarding the relationship between the living and the dead specifically, it has to be said that death is the main theme of the relief. The lion on the left of the relief is giving chase to two men on a chariot, and is completely surrounded by armed soldiers. Truthfully, the lion is in a pretty tough spot here. The lion is having to exert an enormous amount of effort to reach soldiers who have the high ground, while also being flanked from the rear. This really illustrates a lion who should not present much of a threat. While this may be true, it is obvious that the lion still presents a significant amount of danger to the soldiers. I think that the lion symbolizes those who threaten the rule of King Assurnasirpal II. It illustrates that sometimes, the only way to completely remove a threat, is to end its life, as the king and his soldiers are doing to the lion. Thus, the only way to really assure one safety and power, is to make sure the only one’s who would seek to take it for themselves are the dead.

The text makes it very clear the King Assurnasirpal’s reign was one marred with cruelty and bloodshed. Thus, it makes sense that the people of Assurnasirpal’s kingdom would associate power, and to some extent peace, with bloodshed. Even in times such as these, peace, and protection of what is valuable are all things very important to the common man or woman, and reaffirmation of these ideas as reality could have been very important to the people of the time.

My cultural context varies widely from those who lived in ancient times, but that being said I did find some commonality. I grew up Christian, and I still am, and so I do definitely believe in the afterlife. Looking over the works presented in the text really got me thinking about what it would be like to live life believing in a different view of the afterlife. So much of what we do in life is based on what happens after we die, and it is amazing how changing this one point of one’s worldview can completely change the way that they live life. A good portion of our society has a view of life after death that is very positive. At funerals, you hear people saying “they are in a better place now,” and things of this sort because it gives hope to those still left after others have passed. Personally, I think this is the correct view, and this cultural context definitely forms the way that I view the the relationship between the living and the dead. So yes, my cultural context definitely did influence the way that I viewed the works presented in the text, as it made me think of what it would be like the have a less positive view of the living/dead relationship.

I chose to do outside research on the Ziggurat of Ur. Having spent a good deal of time working in construction, I am always fascinated by how these ancient structures were built and how it was done with little governmental oversight. In modern times, there are thousands upon thousands of pages of rules for how you can and can’t build things. In ancient times, things were built based on experience. You built things the right way because you wanted them to last, and if you didn’t the consequence was an inferior product, rather than thousands of dollars in fines. This allowed for so much creativity and experimentation, and thus, some of the most celebrated structures ever made now stand to this day.

Another thing that I found interesting was that the Mesopotamians of the era felt that the god that the shrine was built for had physical needs just like they did. The could not see or know this being, but for some reason believed that he needed a bed. What drove them to this assumption is beyond my knowledge, but nevertheless it is very interesting.

Works Cited:

D. (2014, June 17). The Great Ziggurat of Ur. Retrieved from http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-asia/great-ziggurat-ur-001767

5 thoughts on “Stephen: Blog Post – Week 2”

  1. I think it’s interesting that you mention that bloodshed is somewhat necessary for power and peace. How much “bloodshed” do you think is needed until the violence outweighs the peace of the kingdom?

    I’m glad you also decided to study on the Ziggurat of Ur. I also found that the shrine for Nanna was interesting where it included a bedchamber. I think this is very similar to how some people place out cookies for Santa the night before. Obviously, Santa is not a god, but compared to the people back then, by placing out cookies/milk/notes for Santa, is a lot like creating a bed, and having a kitchen for preparing food.

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    1. So to be clear, I think that is what the painting, and the cultural context behind it are saying. I definitely do not ascribe to those beliefs.

      The comparison to leaving cookies for Santa is definitely a good one! Can’t believe believe I didn’t think of that. Its crazy how much commonality you can find with ideas that seem so foreign.

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      1. It seems like in a lot of cultures, gods are believed to be the reason for anything unknown. The weather, sun, and other explainable things are believed to be in the control of the gods. Now, for younger children, Santa is the reason why gifts “mysteriously” appear under the tree.

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  2. I thought your explanation of how the image of “King Assurnasirpal II hunting lions” was very well done. The connection of death being a large part of relief is a solid point. I like how you made your blog post more personal and explaining about your own faith. You brought up an interesting idea of how death is associated as being positive. It is true that we do use phrases that are happy and uplighting to comfort loved ones. It is very interesting and eye-opening learning how other cultures view the afterlife and how much it changes the decisions they make in life. The idea of architects being able to have creative freedom without fearing being fined would be amazing! I am glad you enjoyed studying about the Ziggurat of Ur!

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  3. I think you have an interesting perspective and interpretation on the piece for sure! Your statement about the only way to cease a threat is to cease it’s life, and I made a connection to what you said about as a Christian believing in the afterlife. This may seem a bit off topic, but I just watched the movie Coco. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a great little pixar movie about The Day of the Dead celebration. In the movie the dead literally come and visit their families to check in and see how things ar going because the living families chose to honor and offer to the dead. I wonder if with putting threats to death, the king ever thought about the afterlife, and kind of a “what if” they come back and visit after being killed? Do you think that would change “putting threats to death” to maybe “isolating threats”? Just a thought! 🙂

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