" . . . The general historical trend to the world state was not altered by the change of central power when the Persians became leaders after the Mesopotamians. The Persians had been students of the Assyrians in the several hundred years that they had taken to move into Iran, and they or their allies the Indo-European Scythians had been mercenaries of the Assyrians.
**The refined culture and science of the long established civilisations of Syria and Mesopotamia merged with the vigour and technical innovations of the warlike Aryan invaders from the north.**
Dix writes that Zoroastrianism, Mithraism and the solar monotheism of Akhenaten “appear” to have been born under Syriac influence. Perhaps they would “appear” thus to a Catholic monk, who believed the myths of Moses, but “appear” betrays nothing other than an opinion.
**When the myths of the Jewish scriptures are recognized as fiction then Judaism can no longer rival Zoroastrianism in antiquity and proper priorities can be established.**
**A world state was the way of enforcing stability and was obviously welcomed by most people, but especially trading peoples and those making specialized products for trade. Besides the use of military and administrative means of control, such empires depended on the propagation of a universal religion. The Assyrian universal state that the Persians took over, with the brief interlude of Babylon, had a god called Ashur (Asshur, Assur) who was depicted as a man rising from a winged solar disc and shooting a bow or offering a ring, often thought to be a diadem or coronet but probably symbolising a bond (like a wedding ring) or covenant such as we find often in the Hebrew scriptures. The Persian god, Ahuramazda, was depicted in a similar way as a man rising head and shoulders above a solar disc also offering a ring, or sometimes apparently a blessing.**
Ahura is the Persian rendering of Vedic asura which is uncommonly like Ashur, though the Assyrian language was Semitic. J H Moulton, who knew something about these things, agreed with Dr Martin Gemoll who proposed in 1911 that Ahuramazda was the same god as Ashur.
John A Tvedtnes, in an article in J Near Eastern Studies 40 (1981) rejected the long-accepted statement of Herodotus (Histories 7.63) that “Syrian” was the Greek way of saying “Assyrian”. Tvedtnes proposed that Syria is derived from Hurri, an old Egyptian word for the Hurrians, which in Coptic would have changed to Suri. Richard N Frye says the vocalization of the word Syria and the supposed Middle Egyptian word “Suri” do not favour the hypothesis.
Both Tvedtnes and Frye can be right in a sense if Syrian equates with Assyrian as Herodotus says but both of them are at source the same as Hurrian. The Greeks first used the term Syrian at the beginning of the seventh century BC for the people of Cilicia and Cappadocia. Herodotus says that Syrians are called Cappadocians by the Persians. Cappadocia is in Anatolia not Assyria or Syria. It is the centre of the area settled by the tribes called Hurrians who were the same race as the Mitanni whose brief empire was centred in Syria, near Harran.
There seems probable philological connexions between Assyria, Syria, Surya (Indic sun), Assur, Asura, Ahura, Hurri and biblical Horites and Hivites. All might be connected with the sun or brightness, and Lordship, and perhaps hills and highlands, sun worship being often conducted in high places.
The solar nature of the disc is clear in the picture of Ashur offering the ring but, in the picture of him with a bow and in the picture of Ahuramazda, the ring is plainly a symbolic girdle, presumably the equivalent of the Zoroastrian Kusti girdle. Did Assyrians have the same custom of wearing a girdle as the Persians? A tasselled cord is plain on their depictions of people. Ahuramazda is said to wear the heavens as his Kusti girdle and in the depictions of him it will be the circle of the ecliptic, the circle of the zodiac. Since the Indians also wear a sacred cord, it seems that the Assyrians had adopted Aryan customs, presumably from an earlier Aryan invasion—perhaps the Hurrians or Mitanni.
Already in the first century of the second millennium BC, the kings of Assyria were being called Ashur and were adopting the bow and arrows as a sign of office and the handed-over-ring as a sign of favour by gods and goddesses. A god called “Assara Mazas” has been noted in Assyrian lists of gods. Mazda appears in the names of Medes from about 700 BC.
Ashurbanipal took the hands of Sin and Ninku at Harran, according to a royal inscription. It echoes the practice of the monarch taking the hand of Bel Marduk at the Babylonian new year ceremonies and copied by Cyrus. These observations hint at syncretic tendencies in these religions, and it is interesting to speculate whether Bel-Marduk, the god of Babylon, had also begun to take on universal characteristics at this time.
Cyrus accused the king of Babylon of neglecting Marduk, the great universal god. Of course, Cyrus was intent on giving universal qualities to all of the principle gods of his conquests, and this was perhaps merely the start of it for Marduk, but the earlier Babylonian kings might have seen Marduk in a similar light. Berosus says Medes ruled Babylon for up to 200 years giving some credence to the idea, but Berosus was not reliable in his lists of kings.
The Assyrians, in the west, at any rate, seemed to regard Sin as a universal god. S W Holloway claims the “locally manufactured glyptics symbolizing the cult of Sin at Harran proliferated in the western arm of the Fertile Crescent” showing that the Assyrians must have been promoting the spread of the cult.
It is historically probable that the spread of the moon god cult of Harran by Assyria was a self-conscious act of imperial statecraft, designed to foster the acceptance of a cult whose pantheon was understood as protecting and legitimizing Assyrian interests in the West…
**The equivalent of the cross, Constantine’s “in hoc signo vinces” for the Assyrian kings in the West was the lunar crescent of the moon god.**
This lunar crescent symbol had been found by 1993 at fourteen stratified sites in Palestine and Transjordan—at Hazor, Tell Kosan, Tell es Samak, Megiddo and Tell Doshan, Samaria, Gezer, Tell en Nasbeh, Tell Jemmah, Horbat Uzza, Nebo and Taliwan. An unstratified example of a seal stamp was found at Gezer, showing a lunar crescent and a pendant star, datable by eponym to 649 BC and declared as belonging to Netanyahu, a name indicating the god Yehouah.
**Religion was used for political purposes by ancient kings in the near east. Indeed, that probably is its purpose!**
In reorganizing the cult, the king sought to bring the total life of the nation under the domain of the national deity. The king built a temple for the nation’s god and constructed a palace for himself as the god’s earthly regent. He established sanctuaries as cultic and administrative centers and created other structures for storage and security. He appointed private and other civil servants to implement royal policy, and deployed military personnel. He fixed the religious calendar and fulfilled the cultic duties of the head of state. Thus “religion was an arm of royal administration”.
Carl D Evans here summarises, in a few sentences, Gosta Ahlström’s Royal Administration and National Administration in Ancient Palestine, ending with a quotation from it that epitomizes the work and what should have been obvious to all historians. Yet, Steven W Holloway who has carefully studied the Assyrian cults in a biblical connexion declares that the Assyrian foreign service were not interested in the cultic practices of their vassals and their provinces, unless they might have political consequences.
Since it would be hard to know whether there was a political implication in cultic practices without first taking an interest in them, we can assume that they were interested in them all, initially, and only lost interest in those that offered no likely challenges. The Urartians or Chaldians in the hills to the north of the Assyrian steppes had shown they were a danger to the Assyrians who accordingly had a keen interest in stopping the Chaldians from using their temple to their god Chaldi at Musasir. A puppet king Urzana was appointed to Musasir with instructions not to let the officials and the king of Urartu use the temple.
**Richard Frye of Harvard (The Heritage of Persia) thought the Persian kings had a concept of “One World” and the “fusion of all people and cultures” in one “Oecumen” was their important legacy, inherited by Alexander, the Romans and the Arabs. In ancient times “culture” essentially was religion.**
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