Of Priests and Kings: The Babylonian New Year Festival in the Last Age of Cuneiform Culture


Editing and examining source-critically for the first time the Late Babylonian ritual texts dealing with the New Year Festival, this book proposes an incisive re-interpretation of the most frequently discussed of all Mesopotamian rituals. The festival’s twelve-day paradigm is dissolved in favor of a more historically dynamic model, with the ritual texts being firmly anchored in the Hellenistic period. As part of a larger group of texts constituting what can be called Late Babylonian Priestly Literature, they reflect the Babylonian priesthoods’ fears and aspirations of that time much more than an actual ritual reality.

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Dr. Céline Debourse is a Mandel-Scholion postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has published articles on the NYF and LB Priestly Literature (together with M. Jursa). Her research focus lies on history, religion, and cult in Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Babylon.
List of Figures and Tables

1 Introduction
 1.1 Definitions and Conventions
 1.2 Contents of the Book

2 Status Quaestionis
 2.1 History of Scholarship
 2.2 History of the Babylonian New Year Festival
 2.3 The Reconstructed Twelve Days
 2.4 Function and Meaning
 2.5 If There Are Altars, There Must Be Gods: Problems and Questions

3 Textual Sources for the Babylonian New Year Festival During the First Millennium BCE
 3.1 The Neo-Assyrian Period
 3.2 The Neo-Babylonian and Early Persian Period
 3.3 Hellenistic Babylon
 3.4 Summary and Outlook

4 The New Year Festival Texts
 4.1 NYF1: DT 15
 4.2 NYF2: DT 114
 4.3 NYF3: BM 32485+DT 109
 4.4 NYF4: MNB 1848
 4.5 NYF5: BM 41577
 4.6 NYF6: BM 32655//BM 32374

5 Analyses
 5.1 Philological Analysis
 5.2 Analysis of the Paratextual Notes and Material Aspects
 5.3 Analysis of the Ritual Instructions
 5.4 Analysis of the Prayers
 5.5 Conclusion

6 The Historical and Textual Framework of the NYF Texts
 6.1 A Concise History of the Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Periods (484 BCE–80 CE)
 6.2 Temple Ritual Texts
 6.3 Astronomical Diaries
 6.4 Chronicles
 6.5 Historical-Literary Texts
 6.6 Summary

7 Conclusion

Appendix 1: Correlation NYF2–3//NYF4
Appendix 2: Glossary of Akkadian Words in the NYF Texts
Referenced Sources
General Index
Geographical Locations
Temples and Temple Features
Deities and Divine Beings
Stars, Planets and Constellations
Akkadian and Sumerian Terms
The book primarily addresses scholars of Ancient Near Eastern studies, i.e. Assyriologists, but is also relevant for biblical scholars, Egyptologists, scholars of religion and ritual, and historians of the Hellenistic period.
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