Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern by Henri Frankfort

By Henri Frankfort

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In this wider context, too, inescapable death was accepted; but it was counterbalanced by the recurring miracle of resurrection. Egypt, in accordance with its static interpretation of the cosmos, considered life to be everlasting and paradoxically denied the reality of death. The body ceased to function, but man survived. As a bird he lived in the tomb but could visit the Nile Valley at will. Or he became one of the circumpolar stars which never set. He compelled certain spirits to form a ladder so that he could reach heaven.

3 For the same reason many texts which we consider historical inscriptions exasperate us by the prevalence of generalities and clich6s and the scarceness of factual information. But the latter had little significance for the Egyptian in comparison with the satisfaction which he felt because the static order, championed by Pharaoh, was once more firmly established. We have hitherto used only battle scenes to illustrate the difference between Mesopotamian and Egyptian concepts of kingship. But it is evident that so thorough a contrast must appear in whatever context the king is shown.

If we now consider a Mesopotamian monument of an early period, we are confronted with a very different concept of the king's nature. The ruler, Eannatum, marches in front of his phalanx or rides in his chariot at the head of his infantry (Fig. 6). On the other side of the stela (Fig. 7) a large symbolical figure has caught the enemy in a net. This figure represents the god Ningirsu, who is thus, most significantly, equivalent to the figure of Pharaoh in the Egyptian design of Figure 5. The Mesopotamian king leads his people, but he is not rendered as differing in essentials from his subjects; it is the god who belongs to a different order of being.

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