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The Akītu Festival (paperback)


Religious Continuity and Royal Legitimation in Mesopotamia


The akītu festival is one of the oldest recorded religious festivals in the world, celebrated for several millennia throughout ancient Mesopotamia. Yet, the akītu was more than just a religious ceremony; it acted as a political device to ensure the supremacy of the king, the national god, and his capital city. Using tools of social anthropology and ritual analysis, this book presents a detailed reconstruction of the festival events and its attendant rituals to demonstrate how the festival became a propagandistic tool wielded by the monarchy and ruling classes. The akītu festival demonstrates the effectiveness of religion as a political tool.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0265-1
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Mar 13,2014
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 232
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0265-1
$85.00

Religious ritual is embedded with socio-political ideologies. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the ancient Babylonian akītu, or New Year festival. The akītu festival is one of the oldest recorded religious festivals in the world, celebrated for several millennia throughout ancient Mesopotamia. Yet, the akītu was more than just a religious ceremony; it acted as a political device employed by the monarchy and/or the central priesthood to ensure the supremacy of the king, the national god, and his capital city. In first millennium B.C.E. Babylonia, when the festival was at its most advanced stage it was celebrated for twelve days involving elaborate rituals, prayers, sacrifices, royal processions of the king and of the deities, recitation of the Babylonian creation epic, and the issuance of prophecies and oracles for the upcoming year - ritualistic elements which symbolized the correct religious, social, political, and economical order of Babylon. Politics and religion in ancient Babylon were irrevocably intertwined. Myths and their supportive rituals justified social institutions and legitimized rulers, whether native or foreign.

Using tools of social anthropology and ritual analysis, this book presents a detailed reconstruction of the festival events and its attendant rituals to demonstrate how the akītu festival became a propagandistic tool wielded by the monarchy and ruling class to promote state ideology. The akītu festival demonstrates the effectiveness of religion as a political tool.

Julye Bidmead has a Ph.D. in the History and Critical Theory of Religion from Vanderbilt University. Currently on the faculty at California State University, Fresno she has previously taught at Moravian Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, and is a staff member of the Megiddo Expedition in Israel.

Religious ritual is embedded with socio-political ideologies. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the ancient Babylonian akītu, or New Year festival. The akītu festival is one of the oldest recorded religious festivals in the world, celebrated for several millennia throughout ancient Mesopotamia. Yet, the akītu was more than just a religious ceremony; it acted as a political device employed by the monarchy and/or the central priesthood to ensure the supremacy of the king, the national god, and his capital city. In first millennium B.C.E. Babylonia, when the festival was at its most advanced stage it was celebrated for twelve days involving elaborate rituals, prayers, sacrifices, royal processions of the king and of the deities, recitation of the Babylonian creation epic, and the issuance of prophecies and oracles for the upcoming year - ritualistic elements which symbolized the correct religious, social, political, and economical order of Babylon. Politics and religion in ancient Babylon were irrevocably intertwined. Myths and their supportive rituals justified social institutions and legitimized rulers, whether native or foreign.

Using tools of social anthropology and ritual analysis, this book presents a detailed reconstruction of the festival events and its attendant rituals to demonstrate how the akītu festival became a propagandistic tool wielded by the monarchy and ruling class to promote state ideology. The akītu festival demonstrates the effectiveness of religion as a political tool.

Julye Bidmead has a Ph.D. in the History and Critical Theory of Religion from Vanderbilt University. Currently on the faculty at California State University, Fresno she has previously taught at Moravian Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, and is a staff member of the Megiddo Expedition in Israel.

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Julye Bidmead

  • 978-1-4632-0265-1_FrontMatter (page 1)
  • TABLE OF CONTENTS (page 5)
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (page 9)
  • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS (page 11)
  • INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND (page 13)
    • Method and Procedure (page 15)
    • Political Ideology and Ritualization (page 20)
    • Festival and Ritual Behavior (page 24)
  • ANALYSIS OF PREVIOUS SCHOLARSHIP ONTHE AKITU (page 29)
    • Early Akitu Studies (page 29)
    • Political and Sociological Interpretations (page 36)
    • The akitu , the Bible, and Ancient Festivals (page 41)
    • Akitu Celebrations in Later Periods (page 44)
  • PHENOMONOLOGY OF THE AKITU FESTIVAL (page 51)
    • New Year Festivals (page 51)
    • Akitu and zagmukku (page 53)
    • Calendars in Mesopotamia (page 55)
    • Reconstruction of the Days (page 57)
    • Day 1 (Nisannu 1) (page 58)
    • Day 2 (Nisannu 2) (page 59)
    • Day 3 (Nisannu 3) (page 66)
    • Day 4 (Nisannu 4) (page 71)
    • Day 5 (Nisannu 5) (page 82)
    • Day 6 (Nisannu 6) (page 98)
    • Day 7 (Nisannu 7) (page 99)
    • Day 8 (Nisannu 8) (page 100)
    • Days 9 through 12 (page 105)
  • RITUALISTIC ELEMENTS OF THE AKITU (page 119)
    • General Observations (page 119)
    • When: the Timing of the akitu (page 119)
    • Rising Times (page 122)
    • Where: Temples, Shrines, and the bit akiti (page 123)
    • bit akiti (page 127)
    • Who: The Cultic Personnel (page 131)
    • Who: The Gods and Goddesses (page 134)
    • Symbolism of Water (page 138)
  • POLITICAL, HISTORICAL, ANDIDEOLOGICAL ANALYSIS (page 141)
    • Historical Overview (page 141)
    • Nabonidus and the Neo-Babylonian Period (page 142)
    • The Seleucid Kings (page 155)
    • The Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles (page 157)
    • qate DN ?abatum (page 166)
    • Symbolism of Hands (page 170)
    • qatum with verbs (page 172)
    • Role of the King (page 175)
    • Economic Situation in First-millennium Babylon (page 176)
    • Power and Authority (page 179)
  • CONCLUSION (page 181)
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY (page 187)
  • INDEX (page 225)
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