CLAS 370 Lecture Notes - Venus Figurines, Kubaba, Hadad

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Published on 16 Oct 2011
School
McGill University
Department
Classics
Course
CLAS 370
Professor
The Ancient Near East
January-11-11
12:57 PM
Civilizations of Mesopotamia
The chief civilizations; Sumeria: city states often at war with one another, Babylonia and Assyria. 3rd
and 2rd millennia BCE
Written sources
Spoke different languages, wrote the same general way
o Cuneiform: generally on clay, written with wedge shape stylus. Lots about women
Law codes: govern marriage, treatment of women, expectations, responsibilities of women.
o Sumerian laws of Ur-Namma of Ur (2100 BCE).
o Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (1750 BCE)
Literature:
o Epic of Gilgamesh: Sumerian in origin, becomes generalized near eastern epic. Can see ideas
about women
Private letters and other documents
o Greeks did not write letters in same way, not a lot of private documentation from classical
Greece. Letters by women, about women, to women, marriage contracts
Art and artefacts
o Belonging to women, art that portrays women
Goddesses and Royalty
January-11-11
1:46 PM
Women elevated to positions of importance, not hidden from public life
We know lots more about women at the top
People tend to think of certain qualities as being associated with female deities like sexuality and
fertility and love
Innana/Ishtar (Sumerian/Babylonian, Assyrian)
o Chief goddess, most important goddess
o Portrayed naked
o Surrounded by symbols of power: standing on two lions (power of natural world and goddess
of war)
o Looks part animal, has wings and bird feet
o Depiction of fertile female - Venus figurines. Able to identify as a particular goddess at this
point
o Goddess of fertility, sexuality, love. Associated with Mesopotamian myth of the dying god.
Deity that undergoes a form of death and is then resurrected. Persephone is the closest Greek
example (symbolic death by inhabiting the underworld), is a myth of vegetation. Cycle of
fertility and growth in natural world is embodied in deities.
o Innana's Journey to Hell (Sumerian): decides she will descend to the underworld, must pass
through several gates and give up a piece of clothing at each gate. By the time she gets to the
ruler of the dead she is naked, and is then turned into a rotten piece of meat being hung on a
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Document Summary

The chief civilizations; sumeria: city states often at war with one another, babylonia and assyria. Spoke different languages, wrote the same general way: cuneiform: generally on clay, written with wedge shape stylus. Law codes: govern marriage, treatment of women, expectations, responsibilities of women: sumerian laws of ur-namma of ur (2100 bce), babylonian code of hammurabi (1750 bce) Literature: epic of gilgamesh: sumerian in origin, becomes generalized near eastern epic. Private letters and other documents: greeks did not write letters in same way, not a lot of private documentation from classical. Letters by women, about women, to women, marriage contracts. Art and artefacts: belonging to women, art that portrays women. Women elevated to positions of importance, not hidden from public life. We know lots more about women at the top. People tend to think of certain qualities as being associated with female deities like sexuality and fertility and love.