Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Scepter by Any Other Name

One of the most consistently viewed pages on this blog is the Symbology of Scepters, which gets looked at a few times each month without pause or interruption in its popularity. Recently, I've been reading a lot of Mesopotamian history and literature and I've come upon something I felt I should make public—

Scepters don't go back to Greece. Those long king-tall rods are even older.

The scepter is one of the meh handed down by Enki in the very dawn of time to the people of Eridu. The list of the meh includes:

  1. Enship
  2. Godship
  3. The exalted and enduring crown
  4. The throne of kingship
  5. The exalted sceptre
  6. The royal insignia
  7. The exalted shrine
  8. Shepherdship
  9. Kingship
  10. Lasting ladyship
  11. "Divine lady" (a priestly office)
  12. Ishib (a priestly office)
  13. Lumah (a priestly office)
  14. Guda (a priestly office)
  15. Truth
  16. Descent into the nether world
  17. Ascent from the nether world
  18. Kurgarra (a eunuch, or, possibly, ancient equivalent to modern concepts of androgyne or transsexual [6])
  19. Girbadara (a eunuch)
  20. Sagursag (a eunuch, entertainers related to the cult of Inanna [7])
  21. The battle-standard
  22. The flood
  23. Weapons (?)
  24. Sexual intercourse
  25. Prostitution
  26. Law (?)
  27. Libel (?)
  28. Art
  29. The cult chamber
  30. "hierodule of heaven"
  31. Guslim (a musical instrument)
  32. Music
  33. Eldership
  34. Heroship
  35. Power
  36. Enmity
  37. Straightforwardness
  38. The destruction of cities
  39. Lamentation
  40. Rejoicing of the heart
  41. Falsehood
  42. Art of metalworking
  43. Scribeship
  44. Craft of the smith
  45. Craft of the leatherworker
  46. Craft of the builder
  47. Craft of the basket weaver
  48. Wisdom
  49. Attention
  50. Holy purification
  51. Fear
  52. Terror
  53. Strife
  54. Peace
  55. Weariness
  56. Victory
  57. Counsel
  58. The troubled heart
  59. Judgment
  60. Decision
  61. Lilis (a musical instrument)
  62. Ub (a musical instrument)
  63. Mesi (a musical instrument)
  64. Ala (a musical instrument)

So we can see that the scepter springs from ostensibly the oldest civilized times when it was wielded by sacred kings of Sumerian city-states. The Greeks must have picked it up from the Mesopotamians; whether before or after the Anabasis is hard to say, but I'd wager they got it some time during the Archaic Period, because Homer talks about the rods of kings. Whether Agamemnon really had a rod of rulership is impossible to know, but Homer or roughly contemporary poets must have had the idea about the rods (scepters) by their time.

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