Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Book Review: Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 1, Part 2

The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol 1, Part 2: Early History of the Middle EastThe Cambridge Ancient History, Vol 1, Part 2: Early History of the Middle East by I.E.S. Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This volume was every bit as fascinating as the first one. The huge book covers a number of areas, from Early Dynastic Egypt and later to the myriad of Mesopotamian countries with stops at Palestine, Syria, Persia, Cyprus, Crete and early Greece. The journey though the past is an intriguing mosaic, looking at the ties leading from one place to another and following the paths of pottery shards and shapes as well as building styles and burial rights to link cultures through influence and invasion.

This is the true start of 'history' as recorded events, and with it begins the cult of personality as well. We know names of rulers who lived and died five thousand years ago, glancing at their moments of glory and bringing them back to life for a moment before they are consigned again to the pages of history books. Names like Scorpion King from Egypt (yes, there really was one) to Sargon of Agade stand out for a moment or two. Empires rise and fall -- sometimes mysteriously fall, in fact, with a line of destruction traced, but no sign of the true enemy.

The depth of information in this book is incredible, of course, as well as impossible to absorb in its entirety. I knew that, having read these early books years ago, and this is the reason I decided to own the books, rather than borrow. I want these on hand and to be able to go and find the tidbits of information I want at any hour. I have found so many odd moments of inspiration in these books that I think I could write for the rest of my life and never run out of ideas.

I purposely slowed down while reading this volume. I would have had it done months earlier, otherwise. However, these are expensive books, and I can't afford to buy a new one each month. I did now want to finish one and then have to wait for the next one.

Below are quotes from this book.

Page 6 -- The distinction of completing the conquest and of uniting the two kingdoms belongs, in all probability, to Narmer, who is thought to have ben Scorpion's immediate successor. (Early Dynastic Egypt)

Page 35 -- At death, when a new incarnation of Horus had succeeded to the throne, the deceased king surrendered the right to his Horus-titles; for this reason the New Kingdom royal lists consistently enumerate the kings under their personal names, to which the nbyt-title had generally been prefixed in contemporary inscriptions. (Early Dynastic Egypt)

Page 54 -- That such works were compiled appears likely from numerous passages in the Pyramid Texts of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties referring to practices and conditions which were out of date at that period, and from the priestly title 'Scribe of the God's Book' found on early dynastic vases. (Early Dynastic Egypt)

Page 71 -- The peculiar conditions of Mesopotamia -- a country without natural boundaries and not, at first, ruled by kings -- preclude the clear demarcation of a new beginning in its recorded history; instead of a single monarchy, we find autonomous city states, each linking its present to a legendary past. (Last Predynasitc Babylonia)

Page 92 -- The word for king (lugal) is not found before Early Dynastic times. The words for 'elder' and 'assembly' do occur, however on 'Proto-literature' tablets and it seems, therefore, likely that local autonomy found expression in a system which feeble traces are found far into historical times and which assigned ultimate authority to the assembly of all free males presided over by the elders. (Last Predynasitc Babylonia)

Page 102 -- There follows the story of Oannes and his brethren, fabulous monsters which came up every day from the sea and 'instructed mankind in writing and various processes of the arts, the formation of cities and the founding of temples. He also taught them the use of laws, of bounds and of divisions, also the harvesting of grains and fruits, and in short all that pertains to the mollifying of life he delivered to men; and since that time nothing more has been invented by anybody.' (Cities of Babylonia)

Page 125 -- The boundary between Lagash and Umma was marked by an important canal, which It was an aggression to cross or divert. (Cities of Babylonia)

Page 144 -- The fall of Lugalzaggisis and of this Third Dynasty of Uruk makes no more than one ordinary transition in the king-list, but the break was wider and far more significant than before. It marks a complete change of interest, and with the utmost distinctness it ends an age. The Early Dynastic period is over, and after it the face of Babylonian history changes. (Cities of Babylonia)

Page 172 -- IN the Westcar Papyrus, Hordedef appears as the sponsor for the magician Djedi. (Old Kingdom Egypt)

Page 182 -- On the south wall of Sahure's court was pictured Seshat, the Goddess of Writing, recording the numbers of sheep, goats and cattle captured in a raid on the Libyan tribes of the Western Desert. (Old Kingdom Egypt)

Page 202 -- Although the texts are difficult to understand one cannot fail to be stirred by the breadth and sweep of the early conception of a bright celestial afterworld in which the dead become the indestructible stars. (Old Kingdom Egypt)

Page 225 -- It is significant that the Canaanite word for 'flour' was borrowed by the Old Kingdom Egyptians to designate a kind of bread, qmhw. (Palestine Early Bronze Age)

Page 243 -- Nevertheless, there are good reasons for claiming the alluvial mud deposits which have been observed at Ur and at Kish in houses, and at Farah (Shuruppak), correspond with the one (flood) described in the Gilgamesh epic and transmitted, perhaps through Canaanite mythology, to the Old Testament record. (Early Dynastic Mesopotamia)

Page 278 -- (Nippur) Before 2000 B.C. it was the centre to which the princes of Sumer repaired in order to receive the crown and scepter of kingships -- the regalia which were the authentic symbols of dominion over the entire land and entitled the holder to a place on the canonical list. (Early Dynastic Mesopotamia)

Page 285 -- (Royal tombs of Ur) No one who was present at the time of that discovery is likely to forget the ghastly scene of human sacrifice, a crowd of skeletons so gorgeously bedecked that they seemed to be lying on a golden carpet upon which gold and silver vessels, head-dresses, jewellery and a multitude of other treasures rested undisturbed, a dream of a cave far richer than Aladdin's come to life. (Early Dynastic Mesopotamia)

Page 318 -- Political unity was only rarely and ephemerally imposed by the outside, and commercial rivalry led to bitter warfare between neighbours. (Syria Before 2200 B. C.)

Page 322 -- (Mesopotamians) It is clear that it was not military glory, in the first instance, which drew them so far from their homes, but a real combination of political, and above all, economic necessities. They needed to have access to the 'Upper Sea', the Mediterranean, just as they had access to the 'Lower Sea', the Persian Gulf. (Syria Before 2200 B. C.)

Page 349 -- That the sacred pillar (djd) of Osiris was originally a lopped conifer has been doubted, but there are many similarities between the deities Osiris, Adonis and Tammuz-Marduk in his most ancient form and it may be that the worship of Osiris was linked with a Syrian tree-cult from very early, perhaps prehistoric times. (Syria Before 2200 B. C.)

Page 366 -- (Carinated bowls with concave sides) The latter are paralleled no only in contemporary north-west, but also in various cultures of the southern Balkan Peninsula (Gumelnita, Salcuta, Vinca, Larisa), thus for the first time establishing firm chronological contacts with Eastern Europe. (Anatolia, C. 4000-2300 B. C.)

Page 383 -- Nevertheless, there are traces of violent upheaval in the north- and south-west of the country, where the Troy I culture was destroyed and the north-western culture now spread over the former south-western province, after the burning of Beycesultan XVIIa. These two events are undoubtedly connected and it is tempting to link them with the instruction of local Early Bronze Age cultures in Thessaly and Greece, neither of which can possibly be regarded as local developments from the previous Late 'Neolithic' cultures. (Anatolia, C. 4000-2300 B. C.)

Page 402 -- A special feature of this culture is the care bestowed on the elaboration and decoration of hearths, such as one could expect in the bitterly cold country where the snow often lies for six months on end. (Anatolia, C. 4000-2300 B. C.)

Page 429 -- For the present purpose, the most significant feature in these is the recurrence of Purushkhandra(r) in the later text which purports to tell, with many mythical accompaniments, how the Empire of Naram-Sin was invaded by a demoniac horde which made that town the first conquest, as though tit had been the most distant bound of the Akkadian possessions. (Dynasty of Agade)

Page 446 -- And even if the name be admitted as adapted to later conditions, as the name of Akkad in the same passage doubtless is, the underlying cause of hostility is the same, whether the western invaders are called Akkadians, Amorites, or Arameaans -- they were all needy strangers attracted by the wealth and refinement of the ancient cities of the south, and against these barbarians the contempt and hatred of the citizens was unvarying. (The Dynasty of Agade)

Page 480 -- As the Horus Netjeryhedjet he claims mastery over the traditional foreign enemies of Egypt, called collectively the 'Nine Peoples of the Bow', or, more simply, the 'Nine Bows' . . . . (The Middle Kingdom of Egypt)

Page 486 -- Despite the activates of the nomarchs of Thebes and the early rulers of the Eleventh Dynasty Nubia aat the time of Nebhepetre's accession was apparently an independent nation with its own dynasty of kings, descended perhaps from a renegade Egyptian official of the late Old Kingdom or Heracleopolitan Period (The Middle Kingdom of Egypt)

Page 508 -- (Execration Texts) These texts, written in hieratic or small pottery bowls and mud figures of bound captives, which were broken and buried near the tombs of the dead at Thebes and Saqqara, consist of lists of persons and things regarded as actually or potentially dangerous to the tomb-owner and his king; and include, besides a variety of general evils, the names of deceased Egyptians, whose malevolent spirits might be expected to cause trouble, and the names of numerous foreign princes and peoples who, unless brought under control, might constitute a threat to the safety and prosperity of Egypt. (The Middle Kingdom of Egypt)

Page 532 -- The Asiatics took advantage of this state of affairs to make their way in force into the Eastern Delta and to wander through its pastures with their flocks. (Syria and Palestine c. 2160 - 1780 B. C.)

Page 545 -- Moreover, since external trade was a royal monopoly, Egyptians rarely left their country on private business. (Syria and Palestine c. 2160 - 1780 B. C.)

Page 572 -- There were never any pots in the Dagger type tombs, nor any weapons in the Pottery type tombs. (Syria and Palestine c. 2160 - 1780 B. C.)

Page 591 -- It received the new influences of the nomadic groups which had strong metallurgic tradition (perhaps comparable with that of the modern 'tinkers' who in the East are very similar to the gypsies), and out of this amalgam it fairly rapidly produced a new urban civilization. (Syria and Palestine c. 2160 - 1780 B. C.)

Page 610 -- How slight a confidence was inspired by this victory is shown by the decision to build a defensive line against a fresh advance of Amorites, a measure of doubt, if not despair, whether in Babylonia, in China or in Britain, when the limits of power are thought to have been reached, and barbarians are to be fenced off, no longer subdued in their own haunts. (Babylonia, C. 3220- 1800 B. C.)

Page 626 -- These intruders were regarded with distaste by the native Babylonians, who looked upon them as barbarians, had many scornful things to say about their manner of life, and even regarded their territorial god Amurru as a crude nomad who had not so much as a house when he came towards the civilized districts. . . . (Babylonia, C. 3220- 1800 B. C.)

Page 660 -- The Elamite expression ruhusak still presents a problem. As it corresponds with mar ahati in Akkadian diplomatic language, its principal meaning out to be 'sister's son', and this is doubtless connected with the Elamite system of succession through the female branch. (Persia c. 2400-1800 B.C.)

Page 662 -- Typical of these Elamite characteristics is a reverence for the female element in magic and in powers of the underworld, together with a particular preference for the worship of serpents. At all times Elamite religion had a strong savor of the magical and the uncanny, which impressed even the hard-tempered Assyrians. For Mesopotmia, Ealm was always the land of witches and demons. (Persia c. 2400-1800 B.C.)

Page 681 -- We have seen, as the end of the second Early Bronze Age approached, a sequence of migratory movements culminating in a great invasion, perhaps of Indo-European newcomers, which divided the peninsula diagonally into two almost equal parts, causing immediate and unmistakable changes in the south and the south-western regions. (Anatolia, c. 2300-1750 B.C.)

Page 708 -- State monopolies of the copper trade existed in most ancient Near-Eastern countries. (Anatolia, c. 2300-1750 B.C.)

Page 736 -- Rarely was a Babylonian king interested in 'widening the bounds of his country'; with the exception of some Kassites who were influenced by Assyrian ideas, they did not use titles such as sar kissati, 'King of the universe', sar kibrat erbettim, 'king of the four regions (of the world)' etc. (Assyria, c. 2600-1816 B.C.)

Page 752 -- That they, like subsequently the merchants in Asia Minor, came from the city of Ashur can be inferred from the typical reference ina alim, 'in the city (par excellence), a manner of speaking about the city of Ashur which is familiar not only from the documents of Asia Minor but also from the Shamshi-Adad correspondence excavated at Mari. (Assyria, c. 2600-1816 B.C.)

Page 767 -- When Tiglath-pileser I and others allude to the sanctuary of the 'Old Lord' (belu labiru), they obviously refer likewise to the weather-god of the former Subarian population with, however, using for this Hurrian deity the Sumerian name Enlil. (Assyria, c. 2600-1816 B.C.)

Page 785 -- At Lerna the debris of the House of the Tiles must itself have formed a huge mound. Here a strange thing happened. People carried away a vast amount of the fallen matter, leaving only a low, convex tumulus circular and c. 19 metres in diameter, to mark the place of the great building. A ring of stones was set at the border, and for some time -- decades perhaps -- nobody encroached upon the awesome ground within it. (Greece in the Early Bronze Age)

Page 806 -- Fleeing before an invasion, a number of the former might well seek refuge in a kindred land, themselves too poor and wretched to make a conspicuous impression at the moment, but bringing with them some of their former customs and a measure of the enterprise and imagination and grace that were soon to appear so brightly on the soil of Crete. (Greece in the Early Bronze Age)

Page 823 -- A people is said to live in or to form such a continuum when its constituent tribes or other linguistic subdivisions live near enough to each other, or otherwise are I sufficiently close contact, for linguist changes to spread through them all. (Immigrants from the North)

Page 857 -- The ancient tradition cited by Herodotus that the Phrygians were of Thracian origin thus appears to be true. (Immigrants from the North)

Page 874 -- However, possession of well-trained horses may itself have given the northern peoples sufficient military advantage. (Immigrants from the North)

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