Here are the response write-ups I’ve received so far. These are presented anonymously, without comment, and as submitted.
Reading: Ishtar and the Bull of Heaven
The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of earth’s oldest stories that details the journey of King Gilgamesh in his quest to essentially become a better person and King. Throughout the Epic he encounters the Gods. Tablet 6 starts with Ishtar, the goddess of war and fertility, asking Gilgamesh for her hand in marriage. Gilgamesh goes on to mock her and goes into length about her past relationships and how poorly she treated them when they only treated her well. He insults her so terribly that she decides to go to father, Anu, and ask if she can have the Bull of Heaven to get revenge on Gilgamesh and his city, Uruk. Anu gives her the bull and proceeds to start destroying the city, but Gilgamesh and his partner Enkidu, vanquish the bull. Gilgamesh mocks and insults Ishtar more and then goes back to his palace to celebrate his conquest.
The author is writing this epic as a story for the people of Sumer and the surrounding area. The author gives insight into how humans can relate to the Gods and how they have humanistic features. The Epic shows how the people don’t need to think of the Gods as all-power beings and are worth total worship, as Gilgamesh outwardly mocks Ishtar to her face when he is just a human. The author wants to show how humans can stand up to the Gods. One example is when Gilgamesh says, “Come, let me tell [you the tale] of your lovers:” and then proceeds to annihilate her and all her past relationships to her face (Gilgamesh, 44). Just in the way he speaks to her he uses a condescending and brash tone, showing the lack of respect he has towards her. The author who is deciding the words he wants the people to read, chooses these specific types of words to show people how they can interact with the gods. It illuminates the power of free will humans have with the gods and how personal the relationship can be. In other civilizations the Gods can sometimes be overwhelming and of another realm, but here in Sumer the Gods are interconnected with humans.
The unpredictable nature of the Sumer Gods is something important to note. The people viewed the Gods as the direct representation of nature, which is very unpredictable. Nature can be a terribly destructive force that punishes people for how they treat it. If people abuse the land, nature will turn its back on the people and create famines and droughts, which can both be caused by man, but nature can also just be erratic with no sense of purpose like with floods. Having the Gods be a representation of nature creates the stories of how Gods act of emotion and unpredictability. Even when humans did everything right the Gods could still punish them like Ishtar and her past relationships, for example, “You struck him and turned him into a wolf,
now his very own shepherd boys chase him away,and his dogs take bites at his haunches” (Gilgamesh 61-64).This also creates distrust between people and the Gods and shows the difficult relationship they can have. The Gods are known to be cruel and hurt people on a whim whenever they so choose. When the Gods are cruel for no reason and act out of emotion it makes it difficult for people to keep their faith in them which is why worship to Gods in Sumer was ever changing.
This Epic also shows how humans and Gods can influence each other. It’s always thought that the God’s can influence the people anyway they so choose and that is true here. They send Gilgamesh Enkidu which very much helps Gilgamesh and in conjunction helps the people of Uruk to make him into a better leader. Also, how the Bull of Heaven comes down and can cause destruction to the people. This type of behavior from the Gods is interesting to see how they can go back and forth but what is more interesting is to see how humans can influence the Gods. Gilgamesh with his beauty is able to get a God like Ishtar to ask to marry her, which is a very impressive feat. She even goes as far to explain how perfect he would be treated and how everyone would praise him, “Kings, courtiers and nobles shall kneel before you, produce of mountain and lowland they shall bring you as tribute!” (Gilgamesh 16-17). That is a God talking to a man in this way showing how the Gods are able to succumb to human influence. More importantly however, is how much Ishtar takes her rejection to heart. She immediately goes to Heaven to ask for the bull over the opinion of a man. She needs to enact revenge on Gilgamesh for how he scorned her and destroy the city. The author depicts her words as “Father, give me, please, the Bull of Heaven,so in his dwelling I may slay Gilgamesh!”(Gilgamesh 94-95). The bull and the way Ishtar acted all stem from how highly she viewed Gilgamesh for his looks and might, but she is the Goddess of War she doesn’t need the approval of a man. It shows her human-like qualities and how connected the two worlds really are.
The Epic of Gilgamesh shows the people of Sumer how they can act with the Gods. The author wants to depict how people can become better and stand up for themselves and their community. Ishtar, a goddess, didn’t have the might to vanquish Gilgamesh, a mere man, showing how strong humans can be. The unpredictability of the Gods is important to note as it shows people not to put all their faith into the Gods. Gilgamesh is a guide for humans to better themselves and shows the rocky relationship humans have with the Gods.
Reading: Poem of the Righteous Sufferer
The tablets of the righteous sufferer are the series of poems that explains a man’s feelings while he is going through the natural atrocities of life. He questions why God is the way he is. He explains God to be merciful and loving while he also describes him to be scary and powerfully relentless when he is in wrath. Throughout the tablets the man doesn’t understand why he is suffering; he feels that he does not deserve to suffer because of good deeds that he has committed throughout life. The man sees god as a paradox, an entity that is the worst enemy yet the best healer. The man speaks of being humbled by god and losing his dignity in the face of god. He explains how quickly god can change a person’s life for the better or worse.The excerpt, although derived from ancient times, is timeless in the explanation in which humans will always face obstacles when dealing with something bigger than ourselves. God is the force which serves us karmic justice or disaster. As a student, I interpreted the passage as a man who lost everything to learn a lesson, but also to learn to be grateful. The man learned that material items or the love for oneself to an extent can be in opposition to what god stands for. He learned that something that can be good solely for oneself can be “abominable” to god. He started to understand that he was being punished for a reason, for spreading a superficial word to others.
To summarize the excerpt, people in ancient mesopotamia were polytheistic, worshiping many gods. It was understood that gods would interfere with people’s fate based on someone’s faithfulness and good or bad karma.With all gods being forgiving, they felt no man should truly suffer. According to tablet 1 of the righteous sufferer Marduk is the lord of wisdom, he is explained to be paradoxical in nature.God is capable of being everything and is seen with duality. The sufferer within the story explains that God is both “furious in the night and calming in the daylight.” He explains that when God is upset with someone his wrath is gruesome and he is extremely powerful. But when God is on good terms with you he is the most kind and gentle forgiving and nurturing existence. God is so powerful that even the sky can not contain him.When the god of wisdom is merciful he can heal people from near to death, but when he is angry he has the ability to kill.
A merciful god feels pain for his children like a mother at birth. No one in civilization understands lord marduk’s actions because he has the power to control the thoughts. When it was the man’s turn to face judgment by the lord he knew he was being punished. He received judgment abruptly. He then learned to fear god and thought anyone who doesn’t fear god is oblivious. The man explains that God took everything away from him, his home, his woman, his angel, his dignity and his manhood. The man explains the fear he felt when he feels that seven gods have all joined together to express their rage for him, and nothing he could do would appease them. The man expresses “my mouth once proud was muzzled, my lips which used to discourse became those of a dead man.” I interpret this saying as the man who was once a bragger or someone who held himself higher than others, now is forced to be in the position where he feels like nothing.
In conclusion, eventually the man starts to pray. He starts to hope everything will become better for him eventually. He has already spent a whole year entirely miserable approaching the second tablet. He was unable to come into any good luck and fortune and he also felt anyone who tried to help him also fell into poverty and misery. He felt anyone who opposed him was luxurious and blessed. He felt personally targeted by the gods, until he then started to tell the community to fear god.During tablet 2 the man felt the most low on earth that he could possibly feel it almost can be compared to how a homeless person on the street would be. Sleeping in his own feces, sick, infected, and mentally unwell, with no friends, family, barely any faith. After the man suffered horribly. During tablet 3 it is explained that a representation of a god and a goddess visited him in his dreams sent by Marduk to deliver him from his misery. He had officially paid his dues to the god. The man explains that with ease god fixed all of his issues, removed his disease, mentally illness, hunger, loss of hearing, taste, filth, and all that was wrong with him. Then the story ends.
Reading: Divination Among the Hittites
As we discussed in class, religion in the ancient world was complex. Although there were local gods bound to their respective lands, through the increased contact of different people’s, their presence was found in many different places. With the spread of gods to different places, certain characteristics of gods were tweaked. But generally speaking, many different gods seemed to reflect similar topics of the human experience, like agriculture, conflict,wisdom, love, etc. A good example of how people interacted with various gods on a grand scale was when they were subjects of an empire. Conquerors included gods of others within their own religious pantheon. They also had their subjects pay homage to those different gods. For example, for the Romans, people had their local gods that watched over their families and lands. But, when they were contributing to the Roman empire through civil service, they were expected to complete their duties effectively because a properly functioning society would be what the gods desired. The order and stability that followed would represent the gods.
Like the Romans, the Hittites admired many gods from their conquered groups, the Hurrians and the Hattians. Since there were so many divinities, the ways in which they were seeked varied. One method that was common amongst the Hittites was bird divination. In this week’s reading, we read the primary source, “ Divination Among the Hittites”. Within this document we were able to see how this method was used as a form of fortune telling. ( Divination Among the Hittites, last section, lines 11-32). A group of servants known as the augurs or the Old Woman ( a priestess or exorcist) would go into different places and observe the movement of birds. Upon seeing the movements of these birds, they would make a detailed account of their findings and return it back to whoever had sent them.
But what was truly fascinating about this was that not all places gave clear answers. In other words, sometimes the birds were not cooperative. For example, in the document at one point, the augurs say, “ Since you, Your Majesty, my lord, were in Kasasa, we situated ourselves in Panāta. But when you, Your Majesty, my lord, marched, since the bird refused to give us an answer, we drove back to Kasasa, and the birds began refusing to give us an answer [in] Kasasa as well.” ( Divination Among the Hittites, The Second Section, lines 6-11) The augurs going to other places when one doesn’t give results shows how they viewed the gods. Sometimes the gods don’t answer the questions clearly and the reason for this varies. Perhaps they don’t want to answer the question, or the way they answer things is not understandable by humans. Regardless of the reason, people were willing to keep their options open. If one God didn’t respond, they went to another God. Doing this shows that the Hittites didn’t trust the Gods. If they did, they wouldn’t seek the opinion of many gods to confirm a particular result.
Another thing that stood out about bird divination was the particular purpose it served. In the document, all the instances in which this method was used was to seek the fate of relatively important individuals. For example, the document says, “ The queen has written to Ḫalpa-ziti, from wherever he wrote this, reporting a disturbing dream that she had experienced, in which her daughters had suffered a beating. The queen asked Ḫalpa-ziti to use oracles to determine from the gods whether this dream actually portended harm for the princesses.” ( Divination Among the Hittites, Section three description) I don’t know if this was just by chance, or maybe the main purpose of this process was to get the gods more involved in personal affairs. Perhaps people in high positions believed that the fate of their loved ones was a serious state affair, especially the Queen’s children. Therefore, they found it justifiable to call upon these gods. The last thing I wanted to say about the purpose of this divination is that going to different places and observing birds expands its popularity throughout the empire. This also may be a way of extending the prominence of one aspect of the state religion on conquered groups. This would be the equivalent of the civil service expectation that the Romans had as I mentioned earlier.
The final thing I wanted to point out about bird divination was that other methods were used simultaneously to ensure solid results. The other method that is mentioned in this document is the “Paths Ritual”. From what I understand, the ritual is not as “intensive” as bird divination. The Hittites would open up a space for friendly divinties to come and answer their inquiries. ( Divination Among the Hittites, Section 3 Description). Although not much is given about what exactly goes on in the ritual, what’s interesting about it is that it doesn’t require a physical medium like birds, a bone from an animal, etc., to connect with the Gods. There is a direct open place for the gods and the people to communicate. I think this demonstrates the Hittites desire to want to reach out to the Gods in a way that mitigates the possibility of natural error. For example, the birds could make fast and sudden movements that can be misinterpreted. However, if you are directly communicating with the Gods, there’s nothing that can be subject to error. Having rituals like this reflected people’s desire to want to be confident in the communication they had with the gods. They wanted a stable relationship and strong communication with the gods because their individual and territorial prosperity depended on it.
Reading: The First Civilized Man
The First Civilized Man is the title of Chapter 2 from the Avesta, the sacred text of Zoroastrianism. The first section follows the story of Yima, the first king and founder of civilization who is instructed by Ahura Mazda to deliver his law to the people of the world. In the story Yima refused, so Ahura instead tasks him with developing the world, by nurturing life on it. The second part is a classic cataclysm story about Yima preparing the people and planet for its destruction and rebirth. Despite both chapters being from the same source, the first reads as if it’s from the perspective of Ahura Mazda, while the second chapter is written from a third person perspective. The first Chapter in doctrinal terms, seems to be establishing for practitioners that their God of good is a provider, but importantly will provide humanity the means to thrive. The second chapter, similarly to the Noah’s Ark story from The Old Testament, isn’t merely the tale of how Ahura Mazda saved humanity from a cataclysm. The chapter gives many clues as to the values and beliefs of early Zorostrians.
In the first chapter, the most interesting part about the story, was instead of Ahura Mazda, creating the lush and bountiful world, capable of supporting the ever growing flocks of animals and men, Yima the human was the one who performed the acts. Ahura Mazda gives him a ring though, presumably a way for Ahura Mazda’s otherworldly power to affect the material world. Additionally, it isn’t clear where the agency in the use of Ahura Mazda’s power lies. In Exodus for instance, it’s clear that Moses’s staff works because God wants it too, and God frequently tells Moses when to use it. Ahura Mazda seems to work through Yima in a completely different way. He gives Yima a ring capable of extraordinary feats, but it seems that Yima is capable of using it freely of Ahura Mazda’s will. Throughout the text the phrase “Yima made” appears whenever Yima performs a miraculous act, with no reference made to Ahura Mazda. Additionally Ahura Mazda never orders Yima to perform these miracles, he suggests them. This is a stark contrast to the Old Testament where God is an actor in the story not just a guide. It seems that Ahura Mazda as a deity is more interested in fostering humanity’s initiative to solve problems. He gives Yima a magical tool, capable of amazing miracles that can benefit humanity but attempts to leave it up to Yima when to use it.
From my analysis of the second chapter, the most striking feature was the complete rejection by Ahura Mazda of physically deformed people. This fascinates me because through all my history classes I have always heard the terrible way club foots, lepors and generally deformed people were treated. But I have never seen a religious text so outwardly cast them aside. I understand there were always superstitions around these people and I find it interesting how it seems these superstitions seeped into Zorostrian religious doctrine. In chapter 2 Ahura Mazda explicitly orders Yima that “There shall be no humpbacked, none bulged forward there; no impotent, no lunatic; no poverty, no lying; no meanness, no jealousy; no decayed tooth, no leprous to be confined, nor any of the brands wherewith Angra Mainyu stamps the bodies of mortals”. This is detestable from a modern point of view, but to a people with no concept of genetics or germ theory, an easy explanation for the unlucky misfortune those people receive would be their damnation by the God(s). Additionally when people around them start dieing or contracting similar afflictions(in the case of leprosy) it could easily be explained as a curse, not to mention leprosy leaves visible and grotesque scars on those afflicted. Beyond trying to analyze why these people were shunned, the quoteregardless shows that in Zorostrian society, these people were not welcomed. Ahura Mazda explicitly ordered their complete abandonment and inevitable doom.
The final feature of The First Civilized Man that caught my interest was the striking similarities with elements of The Old Testament and elements of Christianity, as seen with my frequent comparisons above. One comparison that I haven’t brought up was the presence of sacred birds, just like the dove in The Bible. At the end of the second chapter Ahura Mazda briefly mentions Karshipta, the king of the birds and the voice of the gods. This similarity isn’t just shared with The Bible, but by this point many of the sources we discuss online mention the sacredness of birds. My question is why? Was it simply due to the awe and exoticness of their ability to fly? And why from ancient Assyrian oracles to Greeks in Syria were birds revered to the extent they were. Another commonality with religions of the region is the theme of a cataclysm story with a central character tasked with saving humanity. In Zoroastrianism Yima saves humanity from a frost, which is super interesting and shows the effect that geography has on these various religions. In Mesopotamian lore the cataclysm is brought by a great flood, but in Zoroastrianism which comes from mountainous Iran a winter is what brings the cataclysm. This makes perfect sense as people living in a mountainous region would surely have to contend with unusually cold winters and rapid snow melts/floods in the spring.
The First Civilized Man is a fascinating glimpse into Zorostrian culture, the time period and the relationship between contemporary religions in time and geography. It describes the interesting way Zorostrians believed Ahura Mazda interacts with the world, they seem to place more agency with the mortals, as seen with Yima and his use of the ring. It shows how ancient the discriminatory attitute toward disfigured and disabled people goes, with they exlusion from salvation. It displays the most pressing natural challenges for the people of Iran, with their cataclysm being an intense winter coupled with rapid spring floods. Lastly these texts show the interconnectedness of religious thought during the time. Many religious themes present in The First Civilized Man were seen in past weekly excerpts like the story of a cataclysm.
Reading: Abraham and Isaac #1
In the sign up topic I did which was Abraham and Issac, we see that main protagonists which are Abraham, and Sarah. They are both very old and have been unable to bear a child because of Abraham’s old age and Sarah not being able to have children. However, this all changes when Yahweh, Hebrew God, appears to Abraham and Sarah and blesses them with a child. We see that Abraham and Sarah are completely grateful to Yahweh because of this. However, as the story progresses, Yahweh asks Abraham something that any human being especially even a parent would question and even go against. This deed that Yahweh askes Abraham to do is to sacrifice his son, Issac, who Yahweh had given Abraham and Sarah. Without any second thought, Abraham agrees to it and takes Issac to where Yahweh wanted him to do the sacrifice at. The whole time that they are going and even arrive to the place Abraham doesn’t tell Issac and continues to keep him comfort. Issac ven says “ My Father” and Abraham replies with, “Here I am, my son”. However, at the very end when he is about to sacrifice Issac, an angel sent by Yahweh stops Abraham says that now he knows he fears God and that he didn’t hold back on sacrificing his only son. So instead, Abraham sacrifices a lamb instead of Issac.
This story displays many different beliefs and ideas on how religion played a big role in this event. One belief that was shown was th belief of human sacrifice. For many polytheistic religions, human sacrifices was always something done to really please the gods and help bring good fortune to the community. This was done in many communities and in very lareg quantities too. However, in Abraham and Issac, we not only see our first look at a monothesitic religion, but also we see that the belief of human sacrifices being needed for good fortune and to please the gods was completely scraped away. This is shown when Yahweh stopped Abraham from sacrificing Issac and just sacrificing a lamb. Even though it shows that human sacrifices was removed as an overall need and was seen as horrible and still also showed how animal sacrifices still play a big role even in a monotheistic religion.
An idea that we see the author of this stroy was showing was the idea of the traits that we see throught the passage. These different traits being loyalty, faith, and fear. These three traits were traits that God used to try to examine Abraham and see what kind of man he truly was. In the passage, we see loyalty being tested the entire time of the reading. Since the beginning when after Issac was born, Abraham circumcised Issac just as Yahweh had told him. We see faith come to happened when Yahweh tells Abraham that Sarah and him will have a child even though both of them are very old and Sarah was unable to have a child in the first place. Lastly, we see fear come to be at the every end of the passage when Abraham is told Yahweh to sacrifice Issac and Abraham doesn’t even question or even try to go against Yahweh’s command and actually almost sacrifices Issac but, is stopped because an angel sent by Yahweh stops him. This is soemthing even the angel says to Abraham after stopping, “Do not put forth your hand to the youth, nor do anything to him, for now I have known that you are fearing God, and have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me.” The author specifically details this moment to show that Yahweh was indeed trying to see if he had fear in Him and if he would disobey or go against him if he told Abraham the one thing his wife and him wanted the most and was given to them by Him.
The final key detail that was spoken about in this story is Abraham abandoning his another son, Ishmael. This happened shortly after the birth of Issac and it just shows how important God truly was to Abraham to the point that he would even abandoning his family just to devote himself to God and to do everything to satisfy him especially after God gave him and Sarah the child they had wanting, Issac, and after this miracle happening Abraham decided it was best that to fully devote to God and his wills. This also can show why Abraham was such obedient to Yahweh and why he did the things he did which was to please God and at the very end it helped make his family grow in propersity because of his faith in Yahweh and doing everything for him.
Reading: Abraham and Isaac #2
The story of Abraham and Isaac is been told for thousands of years and is an important story to the 3 major faiths in the world Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The narrative has Yahweh deciding that it was time for Abraham to move from his Mesopotamia home to Canaan live among those who had different practices to worship gods who he would may somewhat be familiar with. When Yahweh asked for his son life this show his faith and loyalty to him as main deity over the influences of his neighbors. The journey to the place and the attempt by Abraham must have been an awkward journey back home. Yahweh stops Abraham killing Isaac and he kills a ram instead. There are many interpretations, but I will discuss 3 here.
The first interpretation I would say the author of this story is that this was a polemic against the Canaanites religions and practices. The Canaanites used to sacrifice their children in most extreme case but still were done to ask the gods to intervene for example like war, famine or on the brick on death you would want to consult the gods. It showed also that Yahweh being the only true god and no pantheon to challenge him or dethrone him. Yahweh would have been just any deity at the time if Isaac sacrifice would have went through but this shows Yahweh uniqueness in which he himself intervenes to stop the sacrifice and then provides an animal. This showed that Yahweh intervenes while you have other deities who may or may not answer you with you losing a child. Abraham after calls the place “Yahweh-Jireh” which means Yahweh provides showing that this deity is not like these other Canaanites deities. The Hebrew bible is riddle with not worshiping idols who don’t serve you so this could be the beginning of the polemic against the Canaanites religions.
The second interpretation I would say the author of this story could of took it is Yahweh promise about Isaac and Abraham finally getting it. The wife of Abraham separates Ishmael and Isaac because Ishmael was Abraham not trusting God and not waiting for his promise for Sarah to conceive a child so he took matters to his own hands and took Sarah maid/slave so he can in a sense hurry the promise. This to me leads to why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because already showed he rather rush Gods timing then have faith in Yahweh bringing about his promise. Sarah separated Ishmael because when Abraham finally got Isaac, the maid/slave wasn’t valued no more, in which Sarah convinces Abraham that Ishmael and the maid weren’t part of the covenant and should go on to find their way in Which Yahweh sees this as an evil and saves the maid and Ishmael creates the nation that always had a problem with Israel. You can say Abraham was in danger of turning Isaac into a idol where now that he has his son, what purpose would you need Yahweh. This was Yahweh seeing if Abraham respected, had faith and was loyal to him regardless on what he asked for. Yahweh replies to Abraham stopping him from the sacrifice and says “Do not put forth your hand to the youth, nor do anything to him, for now I have known that you are fearing God, and have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me.”.
The third interpretation is Yahweh doing this as an overall test like he would any of people. You can say Yahweh putting people in uncomfortable situation as a test to see how they would react or act. I feel like this interpretation makes Yahweh become part of just another Canaanite deity and wouldn’t really show his uniqueness if Yahweh overall goal was just to test him and say okay you pass, the next test might actually giving up your son. Does this make Yahweh immoral I wouldn’t go that far but it would make him similar to the other practices of the Canaanites. I wonder if Abraham would continue to worship and be loyal to Yahweh if he say this as Yahweh just testing him just because Yahweh felt like it.
Overall the 3 interpretations show this story could have been anyone of these but the class and me saw that these were the takeaways for the story. It is either a polemic against the Canaanites deity in which the author is seeing their practices evil and showing who the true god who wouldn’t make you sacrifice your child. You have Abraham faith in which would forget what Yahweh did for him and basically make Isaac like a idol. You also have Yahweh testing Abraham just because he felt like it and he was god in which makes him similar to the other deities in the area. This was a fascinating read to see the background of Canaan and Israel being part of that world.
Reading: The Papyrus of Ani
“In my culture, death is not the end. It’s more of a stepping off point. You reach out with both hands and Bast and Sekhmet, they lead you into the green veld where… you can run forever.”1. First composed in the 13th century BCE, the Papyrus of Ani, also referred to as Ani’s Book of The Dead, is an amazing example of Egyptian funerary texts and beliefs. Often used help manuever through the dangers of the underworld, such funerary text were originally reserved only for the Pharaohs and those of nobility, but in time were accessible to those who could afford to own one. Composed specifically for the aforementioned Egyptian scribe Ani who lived in the Egyptian city of Thebes, the papyrus will be a very handy tool for our hero as he traverses throughout the Egyptian underworld, in an attempt to reach Aaru, also known as the Field of Reeds, the Egyptian afterlife. In this writing, I will attempt to examine three major points of the papyrus that the class and I have discussed for the week.
The first major point is the declaration of purity ritual. Almost immediately upon reaching the underworld, Ani is met by twin female deities, the twin sisters of truth and righteousness in the Hall of the Two Truths. In this first trial, Ani is tasked with proving his purity, which he does by stating approximately 38 sins he has not committed. Among these declarations of purity, Ani claims “I have committed no evil upon men. I have not oppressed the members of my family. I have not wrought evil in the place of right and truth.”2 among others. The excessive need to prove ones innocence is a vital part in ancient Egyptian culture, coinciding with the belief in Ma’at, the concepts of order, peace and justice.Ma’at was vital not just in death life as well. In the world of the living, the Eyptians had come to believe the concept of Ma’at was present in everyday life. For example, the primordial sun God Ra/Re was tasked with putting the Pharaoh unto earth, who in turn was tasked in enforcing Ma’at himself, (or herself in several occasions) being the physical embodiment of another Sun God Horus while alive. To enable oneself worthy of the afterlife, they must have led a righteous and pure life, being one with Ma’at, which will play a vital role later. While some of these may be false declarations, Ani is let forward to face his next set of trials regardless.
The second major point of Ani’s Book of The Dead is the naming of the 42 assessor gods and confessions of sins Ani did not commit while in the world of the living. In this next examination, Ani is tasked with confronting a total 42 gods and as previously mentioned, is tasked with also stating 42 sins he has not committed. If he can prove his innocence, he will be allowed to continue his journey. Among these negative confessions, Ani claims that he has not lied, has not succumbed to anger, and has not polluted the Nile 3. Did Ani really live such a pure and perfect life? Most likely not. In another version of this tale I had previously come across, it is mentioned that in the process of preparing Ani’s body for the afterlife via the mummification ritual, Ani would have been buried with a Heart-Scarab amulet in his tomb. This amulet, inscribed with the words “do not stand as witness against me”4 would help Ani with this task.
This amulet, placed for the specific purpose as to not let Ani’s heart betray him through his trials, had helped Ani through this trial, and he was able to continue towards the final challenge. The task of formally addressing each of the 42 assessor gods by their respective names holds more weight than at first glance. During Ani’s time, the Egyptians believed that the name of an individual or deity was not only a descriptive title, but spiritual force as well. The Egyptians believed that the name held the essence of ones spirit, therefore of great importance to said individual or deity.
The final major point is also the final task Ani must face, the weighing of the heart ritual.
As the name entails, the weighing of the heart ritual is the process in which the heart of the deceased person is weighed against the feather of Ma’at upon the scale of Anubis, Jackal-headed god death and funerals. If their heart is of equal balance to the feather, the person is let into the afterlife. However, if the heart is heavier than the feather, the deceased persons soul is eaten by Ammit, a monster with the head of a crocodile, the front legs of a lion, and the backside of a hippopotamus, and they would cease to exist..forever. Luckily for our protagonist, his heart is judged pure. As previously mentioned, being one with Ma’at is vital for entrance into the afterlife. In the text, it written “This shall be said by the deceased after he has been cleaned and purified, and when he is arrayed in apparel, and is shod with white leather sandals, and his eyes have been painted with antimony, and his bodya has been anointed with oil, and when he offers oxen, and birds, and incense, and cakes, and beer, and garden herbs. Behold, you will draw a representation of this in color upon a new tile molded from earth upon which neither a pig nor other animals have stepped. And if you do this book on it, the deceased shall flourish, and his children shall flourish, and his name shall never fall into oblivion, and he shall be as one who fills the heart of the king and his princes.”5
In conclusion, the Papyrus of Ani is an amazing piece from a civilization that unfortunately has long disappeared. While the beliefs and customs may no longer be as practiced as they were in their prime, we can still study and learn from them. As for Ani himself, while we will never know for certain what happened to him after his death, if his Book of The dead is a piece that holds true, we can hopefully picture him tending to his crops in the ever bountiful Field of Reeds, along with his deceased relatives, for all eternity.
Reading: Minoan Religious Imagery
This week was about the Minoan’s religious imagery, in which we saw some figures about how the Minoan people used to “worship” their deities, Unfortunately, we do not have too much information about the Minoans, but And that leaves us to use our mind to connect with what we had, in the images How they were shaking a tree, in another picture we saw a figure of a person clinging on a rock and other images that were not so simple to describe, here I will describe the online discussion and interesting things the class talked about How we draw conclusions about what did the Minoan people use to do as also What it seems to be a ritual or a tradition.
In the online discussion, I talked about that probably the people who shake the Tree and the sleepers may be “ prophets of their community and religion, and They were trying to connect with the divine and that they begin to notice things That may be related to the “divine realm” or “ a spiritual world” sort of getting Visions besides, there was a female figure that may be a “goddess”, however I Conclude that it may be another person a mortal that may be part of a ritual in Order to connect with the divine.
Going through the online discussion Naya had an interesting comment Naya said That the stones used by the sleepers were like the doors to have visions and how In those visions there were people who saw a manifestation of the deity as also The deity itself and makes her question herself about many things, like ¿does It has to be only one tree or it could be any tree in order to do the ritual, are the Trees the houses of the deities if so by moving them you are not molesting the Deity? Another interesting thing that Naya said was that being in physical Movement while shaking the tree could be a way to connect with the deity And that relates to what Jhonny said that shaking the tree could be a way of Getting the attention of the deity and Jhonny also had a good question it was ¿Did Minoans had outside influence? That would leave more dots to connect Because of the lack of information about the Minoans, however, there will be More information about the Minoans, but trying to understanding their customs Can drive us to a close answer at least like what Henry said about how trees in Religions are the center and that we can breath because of the oxygen they Produce and eat what they also produce and the tree being a symbol of life. I also liked what Seydou said about women being the closest being to a god, Because of the reason for giving birth and bringing life, from my point of view This goes along with what Jack said, that they may be worshiping a “ goddess of Fertility”, because of the female figure shown in the images.
In the end, I believe that we all conclude that the Minoan people were Worshiping their deities and it seems to be wanted to approach the divinity And get a close connection with the deities they believed in and by that they had Their own customs and what seems to be a type of rituals that allowed them to Have visions, even with the lack of information we come to a lot of conclusions And questions about the Minoans based in what we saw, I hope that our Conclusions are not to far from what the Minoan Society was, because if not it Would only leave more questions.
Reading: The Death of Patroclas #1
The Greeks viewed a protege as passing on what was learned and achieved to the future. Achilles’ stubbornness prevented that from happening as it led to the death of his protege Patroclos. Achilles held resentment towards King Agamemnon for taking the girl he claimed as his own while conquering the city. That alone made Achilles not want to fight and instead sent Patroclos on his behalf with his armor but gave Patroclos orders to only protect the ships, so he won’t steal all the glory from Achilles. However, Achilles only accepted to help fend off the Trojans in the chance that they would send back gifts and the girl they took from him. The consequence of his selfishness is felt by the fall of the friends and family in the raid.
Many of the gods have mortal children who they bless in battle. This can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on which side you’re on. Zeus valued the man Sarpedon more than any man, as Apollo liked the Trojans. The gods had the power to control other mortals how they wished. For example, although Patroclos killed Sarpedon in battle Zeus wanted him to continue fighting. Zeus made Hector fear the battlefield and sent him running back to the city with his men following. On the other hand, Zeus gave Patroclos the boldness to chase after the trojans. This was against the instructions given to him by Achilles. However, it does show the reader how the gods can tamper with any mortals conscious. Apollo on the other hand put fear in Patroclos making him stop his attempts to attack the city. He also gave Hector the courage to go after Patroclos. This also shows how gods can change the commands of other gods at any moment.
The gods are present in the battlefield through the use of nature and through a host but cannot change the fate of the mortals, even Zeus the superior god had to follow this rule. Zeus debated to do this when he noticed Sarpedon was to fall in battle by contemplating whether to let him go back to his country to save himself or to let Sarpedon die by the hands of Patroclos. He made the choice to let him die on the battlefield with the council of Hera. it was the right choice, because if he saved Sarpedon then their view of fate will no longer exist as other gods will now start saving their sons from the battlefield. This also would have led to the other gods taking revenge on the family of Sarpedon. There were gods taking part on both sides during this war and the only reason peace was kept between the gods was because Zeus was to remain neutral.
I think Homer believed the way battles were fought during these times felt like a reflection of what the gods were going through. Their division is what some claim caused the downfall of the Bronze Age through anarchy and destruction. They used their powers to move the mortals like ponds and punished the best and loyalist of men in order to teach a stubborn man a lesson
Reading: The Death of Patroclas #2
The story The Death Of Patroclus within The Iliad is a short story revolving around the death of Patroclus, caused through direct intervention by the Olympic gods themselves. But while the gods fickle and petty desires is what spurs their actions, the selfishness of the Bronze Age Greeks contributes just as much to the death of Patroclus. The story begins with Achilles selfishly rejecting the pleas of Patroclus to join in the fight against the Trojans, citing his anger at Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, for taking the woman Bhrisies whom he had claimed during the war. Patroclus suggests wearing Achilles armor to fool the Trojans into thinking he has rejoined the battle. Achilles agrees but tells Patroclus to immediately return after clearing Trojan forces from their ships and not to fight onward on his own. Patroclus wears the armor, leads the Myrmidons into battle, and defeats the Trojans with intimidating strength. Patroclus even manages to kill Sarpedon, leader of the Lycian spearmen fighting for Troy and son of Zeus. Zeus is conflicted and wants to save his son, but is directly told by Hera that such actions would anger other gods, starting more conflict. Although Zeus lets sarpedon be killed, he uses his divine power to instill within Patroclus an anger and temper that pushes him to chase the retreating forces into their city, ignoring Achilles instructions. When his armor is stripped off by a strike from Apollo, Patroclus is killed, his dying breath telling of the inevitable death of Hector at the hands of Achilles.
The Iliad is meant to be a criticism of the Bronze Age Greeks and the failures that caused their collapse, but the story of the death of Patroclus has its own messages about the flaws of the gods and the mortals. Despite the divine power of the Pantheon, they are deeply human in how greedy, jealous, and unfair they can be. They will do whatever they want in order to pursue their own agendas, no matter who they have to hurt or deceive. When Zeus is torn between saving Sarpedon and letting him die, he consults Hera. Rather than telling him he should act because it is the right thing to do, she tells him how his actions will affect his relationship with the other gods. “Do as you like; but you cannot expect the rest of us gods to approve.” Hera tells Zeus to frame his actions around what is best for the gods over the mortals. Zeus then facilitates Patroclus’ downfall by filling Hector with fear, causing him to flee to Troy and Patroclus with anger, causing him to give chase. “At last he thought it best that Patroclos should kill yet more; and drive Hector back to the city walls. So first he made Hector’s courage fail. Hector entered his car and turned to retreat, calling on the Trojans to follow.” Several members of the pantheon have already taken sides in the war between the Trojans and the Greeks, one of whom is the god Apollo. A god who will happily fight against and torment the mortals who worshiped him. After the leader of the Trojan forces, Hector, retreats back to the city of Troy, it is only through the help of Apollo that the city isn’t conquered. “Apollo appeared by his side, in the form of a lusty young fellow Asios…’’Why have you left the battle, Hector? You ought not to do it.…” Apollo even joins the battle and his actions directly lead to Patroclus’ death. “Patroclos did not see him coming, for the god was hidden in Host. He stood behind Patroclos, and he slapped him between the shoulders with the flat of the hand. The helmet was knocked from his head, and went rolling and rattling under the horses’ feet; the plumes were dabbled in blood and dust.… Patroclos felt the spear in his hand broken to pieces”
Although the author of The Iliad is clearly trying to put the selfishness of the gods on display, he is attempting to do the same for the mortal Greeks. The petty selfishness of Achilles is the first thing we see when starting this story. He refuses to help his own people fight against the Trojans, knowing they will die without him, and rejecting the pleas of his best friend to reconsider, simply because he feels wronged by Agamemnon. “The girl that the army chose out for my prize, whom I made my own by force of arms when I took that city—that girl my lord King Agamemnon tore from my hands as if I were a foreigner without any rights!…” The death of Patroclus in this story is meant to show what the gods will do to serve their desires, as well as punish Achilles for his selfishness, a trait that led to the failure of the Bronze age Greeks.
There are multiple different interpretations of this story that speak to the culture that created it. Seydou Diarra points out the use of deception in the war being an advantage. She uses the example of Patroclus using Achilles armor to fool the Trojans, a plan that works and causes the Trojan forces to break form. This use of deception as a war tactic in the story how the Greeks viewed it as a viable and effective strategy. Another interesting point comes from Sanjeda Sultana. Who describes the gods as character driven. It can indeed be interpreted that the different gods display distinctly different traits that make up their character, with Hera being jealousy, Apollo being rage, and Zeus being selfishness or deception. These are the negative traits that would have caused the Bronze Age Greeks to fall. One final interpretation comes from John Byrne, who directly points out how the Greeks believed the gods play a direct role in influencing the lives of everyday people by having the gods actions affect the characters in the story.
Reading: The Etruscan Discipline
The reading on the Etruscan Discipline is difficult and has three parts that give the reader an understanding of Etruscan culture. The Etruscans were taken over by the Romans and their religion had an influence on the Romans. We see Ciero’s interpretation or thoughts on divination. The Etruscans believed in divination and the story as to how the people began to believe in it is that one day a person ploughed the ground so deep. That Tages came forth and spoke to him, had the appearance of a boy and the wisdom of a seer. Then civilians came to witness this being and listened to what it had to say. This was the understanding of what was left of Etruscan culture. Cicero’s understanding of this is that this is not possible. That a human can’t survive underground, and even if he did how would he learn all this information to teach people? That the logic of the understanding of human beings and life can not apply to this idea of divination and that it was impossible for this to have occurred.
The Etruscans gods are closely connected with nature and how they understand the land. We see this in the eleven gods they have and their characteristics of having lighting bolts; some of these gods were incorporated in Roman religion. That the divine realm is split in 16 parts these locations are split from north, west, east and south.
One idea or interpretation that was in the discussion was the idea of thunder bolt and the divine begin seen as having a connection. Most likely the reason for this interpretation is that lightning comes from the sky and the heavens reside in the sky giving a divine relationship between thunder bolts and heaven. It is possible why many of the gods have a lighting attribute even a god who sends lightning bolts at night and during the day. This perpetuates the idea of nature and the divine.
Another idea that was in the discussion was that Ciero was trying to make a logical connection between the tages and what the etruscan believe to be divine. And that cicero failed to make the connection of the divine and nature. In the text it states that the tages came from underground and changed into a human being and had the wisdom of a seer. And Ciero’s interpretation is that this is impossible because humans can survive underground and if they were underground how did they amass such a knowledge. What Ciero does not take into account is that this is a divine being and its being in existence is supposed to contradict human way of living. That is why if it did or didn’t happen it can only occur if a divine being does it. HE took away a very important aspect from the story in order to fit his idea of what the truth is when in reality all religions, and mythologies have divine beings doing things humans can’t do or understand.
Another idea that was in the discussion about the nine gods and the eleven kinds of lighting. That there was a connection between the lighting and thunder. And that the etruscans place high value in these natural occurrences. Connecting religion and nature which was a common occurrence with ancient religions and mythology at the time which would have a strong correlation with the nature of that area.
I believe that the etruscans were not much different from many of the civilizations that existed during this time period. That it was unfortunate that the Romans had suppressed the Etruscans culture because it does not allow for us to truly learn and understand who the Etruscans were. How their religion affected their daily life.