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The Sargonic Victory Stele from Telloh

  • Benjamin R. Foster

Extract

The Sargonic victory stele from Telloh is one of the most celebrated works of art from third millennium Mesopotamia. Two fragments, one inscribed (AO 2679 = Pl. III) and one with relief (AO 2678 = Pl. II), have been known since 1893, and all who have examined them agree that the two fragments very probably belong to the same monument. Because of the incomplete inscription, the monument has generally been dated on art historical grounds to sometime between the reigns of Sargon and Naram-Sin. The purpose of this study is three-fold: to publish a newly identified fragment of this stele, to offer a new interpretation for the entire monument, and to propose a precise dating and historical context for it.

YBC 2409 is of white limestone, and was at least twice reused (in antiquity ?) as a door socket. As a result, the stone is heavily damaged. To judge from its accession number, the piece was acquired by Yale before 1915. Remains of three bands of inscription are found on one side. A glance at the photograph (Pl. IV) will show that this stone is strikingly similar in appearance to AO 2679. Samples of AO 2679 and YBC 2409 were analysed by Catherine Skinner, Yale University (see Appendix II).

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1 Heuzey, , Déc. Chal. I, 198 ff.; RA 3 (1893), 113 ff.; the inscription was edited by Thureau-Dangin, , Revue Sémitique 1897/1895, 166173; cf. SAKI, 171. The stone was presented to France by the Sultan in 1896.

2 I have examined both the Louvre fragments side by side. AO 2678 is smoother and slightly yellower in colour, owing perhaps to its long period of public display. AO 2679 has a greater tendency to flake. I would herewith express my warmest thanks to Béatrice André-Leicknam, curator of Near Eastern inscriptions at the Louvre, for allowing me to study the Louvre pieces, and for patiently dealing with my numerous inquiries. I am grateful to the Griswold Fund of Yale University, which paid my travel costs. My initial study of the piece was greatly assisted by J.-P. Grégoire, who generously sent me detailed measurements and sketches of the Louvre fragments.

3 Strommenger, E., Fünf Jahrtausende Mesopotamien (Munich, 1962), Pl. 117: “Reichsakkadisch II/III”; Moortgat, A., The Art of Ancient Mesopotamia, trans. Filson, J. (New York, 1969), 49: “must, on stylistic grounds, be older than Naram-Sin's victory stele … and yet on the other hand it is clearly later than the Sargon stele from Susa … It must therefore belong to the second Akkadian generation, that of Enheduanna and Maništusu.” Much the same observations were already made by Heuzey, , RA 3 (1898), 117. Parrot, A., The Dawn of Art: Sumer (New York, 1961), 172 dates the piece to the time of Rimuš. For a full bibliography and remarks, see Börker-Klähn, J., Altvorderasiatische Bildstelen und vergleichbare Felsreliefs (Mainz am Rhein, 1982), 130 f. The most detailed iconographical study of the relief is Amiet, P., L'Art d'Agadé au Musée du Louvre (Paris, 1976), 25 f., to which I owe many insights.

4 I am grateful to Ulla Kasten for drawing this stone to my attention, and to William VV. Hallo, Curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection, for permission to publish it. I thank also Karen Polinger Foster for some valuable suggestions, and for preparing Figs. 1 and 2.

5 ABW, Urn. 51; cf. Cooper, , SANE, 2/1 (1983), 13 and 44 f.

6 UET i, 276 rev.iii(?). See Foster, B., “The Siege of Armanum,” JANES 14 (1982), 2736.

7 Rimuš b5 viii 3 ff. = Hirsch, , AfO 20 (1963), 61; cf. collations in Foster, , Umma in the Sargonic Period (Hamden, 1982), 48 f.

8 This was first observed by Karen Polinger Foster and confirmed by Béatrice André-Leicknam who studied the monument with this in mind after my departure.

9 For garments in Akkadian art, see Strommenger, , Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica 2 (1971), 42 f., with reference to this stele.

10 L'Art d'Agadé, 25 f.; cf. Diakonoff, , Šumer, 178 ff.

11 MO A xii 5 f., 13 f.

12 While there is nothing in the iconography of the smaller figure to suggest that he was a ruler, the Sargonic royal inscriptions attribute death or capture of opposing rulers to the king himself.

13 First mentioned by Heuzey, , RA 3 (1893), 116, though the following argumentation is my own. Note also the remarks of Hallo, , Royal Titles, AOS 43 (1957), 23 f.

14 The two best known examples are the Maništusu Obelisk ( = Scheil, , MDP 2 (1900), 1 ff.) and the Sippar stone (= Gelb, , RSO 32 (1957), 83 ff.). For general remarks on monuments of this type, see Gelb, , Studi in Onore di Eduardo Volterra (Rome, 1969), 6: 137154.

15 Foster, , Copenhagen Studies in Assyriology 9 (1982).

16 Exceptions are mere curiosities; see Gelb, , Festschrift Johannes Friedrich (Heidelberg, 1959), 183 ff.; Foster, , JANES 6 (1974), 84 note 32.

17 See note 15.

18 See note 15.

19 This belongs to the Me-ság archive, for which see Foster, , ZA 72 (1982), 6. This comes from a site between Umma and Lagash, but within Lagash province; see Bridges, S. J., The Mesag Archive: A Study of Sargonic Society and Economy (dissertation, Yale University, 1981). The figures should read: (1) 1,080,000 + 108,000 LAL (2 × 1800)/(2) (2 × 18,000) + (4 x 18000)/(3) (5 × 108,000)/(4) 1,080,000 + (6 × 108,000) + [2] × 18,000 + [1800].

20 Sargon b 1.41 ff. (Sumerian) = Hirsch, , AfO 20 (1963). 35 (collated); cf. also Sargon b 4.26 f. = Hirsch, , AfO 20 (1963), 40.

21 Cf. Sargon b 1.41 ff. (Akkadian) = Hirsch, , AfO 20 (1963). 35.

22 Foster, , Umma, 47 ff.; Westenholz, , AfO 23 (1970), 2731.

23 Rimuš b 2.32 ff. = Hirsch, , AfO 20 (1963), 56 (collated). Note that two rulers are mentioned as, I have argued, portrayed on this stele.

24 Goetze, , JAOS 88 (1968), 54.

25 Amiet, , L'Art d'Agadé, 26.

26 For discussion of the historical significance of the Obelisk, see Diakonoff, , ŠSumer, 69 ff., 230; Tyumenev, , VDI 1946, No. 4, 33 ff., the latter effectively refuted by the former.

27 Foster, op. cit., n. 15, 110.

28 Foster, , ZA 72 (1982), 22 f.; op. cit. note 15, passim.

29 Lambert, M., Or An 13 (1974), 1 ff.; RSO 49 (1975), 159 ff.

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