The Social World of the Babylonian Priest


In The Social World of the Babylonian Priest, Bastian Still presents a comprehensive study of the priestly community of Borsippa during the Neo-Babylonian and early Persian Empires (ca. 620-484 BCE). By examining patterns of marriage, landholding, moneylending, and friendship, he provides an intimate account of the daily life of the Babylonian priesthood beyond the temple walls and develops a more sophisticated understanding of the organisation of ancient Babylonian society as a whole. Combining the use of social network analysis, anthropological studies, and sociological concepts concerned with kinship, tie strength, social boundaries, and identity formation, Bastian Still’s interdisciplinary approach transcends the traditional boundary of cuneiform studies and enables the field of Assyriology to contribute to a more general socio-historical discourse.

“S.’s book is a valuable contribution to our growing knowledge of the Mesopotamian priesthoods in the first millennium.”
-Nathan MacDonald, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 44.5 (2020)

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Bastian Still, Ph.D. (2016), Leiden University, is currently employed as a Postdoctoral researcher at the American University of Cairo. His research focuses on the history, culture, and society of Babylonia during the first millennium BCE.
“S.’s book is a valuable contribution to our growing knowledge of the Mesopotamian priesthoods in the first millennium.”
- Nathan Macdonald, in Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2020

Figures and Tables
 0.1 State of the Art
 0.2 Research Questions
 0.3 Methodology
 0.4 Case Study: The Priestly Community of Borsippa
 0.5 The Babylonian Priest
 0.6 The Temple Hierarchy
 0.7 Main Protagonists of this Study
  0.7.1 Temple-Enterers
  0.7.2 Brewers
  0.7.3 Bakers
  0.7.4 Oxherds
  0.7.5 Reed-Workers
 0.8 Book Structure

Part 1: Social Interactions among Priests in Borsippa

1 The Hypergamous Marriage System
 1.1 Marriage in Borsippa: Sacerdotal Endogamy
 1.2 The Concept of Wife-Giver and Wife-Taker
 1.3 Visualising the Marriage Network
 1.4 Wife-Givers and Wife-Takers in Borsippa
 1.5 Hypergamy in Historical Context
 1.6 Wife-Givers and Wife-Takers in the Cult
2 Landholding
 2.1 Hanšû Estates and the Ancestral Family
  2.1.1 The Nature of Hanšû Land
  2.1.2 The Historical Origins of Hanšû Land in Borsippa
  2.1.3 The Motivations behind the Land Allotment Schemes
  2.1.4 The Identity of the Beneficiaries
  2.1.5 The Value of Hanšû Land in the Sixth Century BCE
 2.2 Land Sales and the Circulation of Property
  2.2.1 Marriage Alliances
  2.2.2 Professional Solidarity
 2.3 Tenancy and Agricultural Collaboration
  2.3.1 Unfree Tenants
  2.3.2 Tenants without Family Names
  2.3.3 Tenants with Family Names
3 Silver Lending
 3.1 Temple-Enterers
 3.2 Brewers
 3.3 Bakers
 3.4 Oxherds
 3.5 Reed-Workers
4 Circles of Trust and Intimacy
 4.1 Formal Quantification of Personal Networks
 4.2 Qualitative Analysis of Tie Strength and Friendship
  4.2.1 Ea-ilūtu-bani
  4.2.2 Ilia (A)
  4.2.3 Bēliya’u
  4.2.4 Rē’i-alpi
  4.2.5 Atkuppu

Part 2: Priests in Neo-Babylonian Society

5 Homophily and Interaction
 5.1 Spatial Distribution
 5.2 Homophily
 5.3 Understanding Rentiers and Entrepreneurs
6 Social Boundary and Collective Identity
 6.1 Affiliation to the Temple
  6.1.1 Prebend Ownership
  6.1.2 Purity and Initiation
  6.1.3 Sacrifices and Festivals
  6.1.4 Representation
  6.1.5 Priestly Families vs. the Individual Priest
 6.2 Ownership of Property
  6.2.1 Residential Property
  6.2.2 Landed Property
 6.3 Literacy and Scribal Education
 6.4 Language
7 Conclusion
 7.1 Summaries of Individual Chapters
  Chapter 1: The Hypergamous Marriage System
  Chapter 2: Landholding
  Chapter 3: Silver Lending
  Chapter 4: Circles of Trust and Intimacy
  Chapter 5: Homophily and Interaction
  Chapter 6: Social Boundary and Collective Identity
 7.2 Research Questions Revisited
 7.3 Outcomes
  The Impact of Temple-Based Regulations
  Priests as a Distinct Social Group
 7.4 Outlook
Appendix 1: Quantitative Analysis of Priestly Marriages in Borsippa
Appendix 2: Annotated List of Hanšû Land in Borsippa
Appendix 3: Property Sales in the Borsippa Corpus
  Sales of Hanšû Land
 Sales of Non-hanšû Land
 Sales of Housing Plots
Students and specialists interested in the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Empires, as well as scholars of assyriology, ancient history, old testament studies, religious studies, historical anthropology, sociology, and social network analysis.
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