Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The purpose of Mesannepadda’s diplomatic mission was to tighten the bonds between Ur and Mari. Clouds were gathering to the west where the king of Ebla (present day Tell Mardikh) posed a serious threat. This fearsome monarch had made vassals of his neighbors, and had conquered many more distant areas. The king of Mari was clearly anxious to show the importance he attached to the visit of the Sumerian envoy. Offerings from his own treasury had been prepared for burial beneath the new palace’s foundations: copper, gold, silver bracelets, silver pendants, and a series of cylinder seals from the city’s workshops. There were also two statuettes of goddesses sent by a king of Syria, one of ivory, the other silver. Both were naked- shocking to a Sumerian. To this hoard of treasures were added to the cylinder seals and pendants of lapis lazuli from Ur. All were placed in a large jug which was buried beneath the courtyard. The act symbolized for the benefits of the gods, the splendor of the king of Mari, and the scope of his international relations.
Religion at Mari differed in some important ways from that practiced at Ur. Images at the cylinder seals found at the site depict the Sun god, patron deity of Mari, at the prow of a serpent shaped vessel brandishing a leafy branch. The god is sailing the celestial ocean which was believed to span the world and feed the Earth’s rivers. He reined the Universe as the master of all life, in particular of plants. In this capacity he was also the patron of ploughmen, and plough was depicted at his side. U’s patron deity, the moon god Nanna, was represented in amore down to earth fashion. Nanna was the highest in a hierarchy of gods; each deity had a particular sphere of influence and wielded his or her power through spirits who fulfilled specific roles.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
In the dry uplands of the Euphrates, Mari loomed like an oasis, irrigated by networks of canals leading off the great river. A dyke protected the city from flooding, and ramparts of unbaked brick fortified its walls. The envoy was greeted at the gates by royal officials and conducted to the newly erected palace. In the great visitors’ courtyard, the envoy awaited an audience. At the appointed time, a grouped of dignitaries arrived scribes, army officers, and relatives of the king- followed by the king himself. The king’s costume was no different from that of his entourage, consisting mainly of goatskin from waist to ankle, but he was distinguished by the arrangement of his long hair, plaited in a diadem around his head with a double bun above the nape of the neck.