Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

4. 'I Swear that these are no Lies, it is Indeed True!' On the Role of the Individual in Early Mesopotamian Historiography

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

Gebhard Selz [+-]
University of Vienna
Gebhard J. Selz is Professor emeritus of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Oriental Archaeology at the University of Vienna. His main research interests are the intellectual heritage of third millennium Mesopotamia, especially the role of the cuneiform writing systems. He has published numerous articles and books on the intellectual, religious, and economic history of the period, a summary of which appeared as Sumerer und Akkader: Geschichte, Gesellschaft, Kultur (3rd ed. 2016: C. H. Beck).

Description

In ancient Mesopotamia historiography is grounded on two concurrent perceptions of time: the sequential order of specific events remains framed by the underlying notion of the cyclical nature of time. Historiography evolves around these different conceptions, framing all historical interpretations. As much as specific events might be understood as an actualization of mytho-historical narratives, this concept is challenged by the Mesopotamians’ striving after renown and fame, kleos. To make a name for themselves was a salient means of acquiring a “lasting life”, well beyond physical death. This conflict is reflected in manipulations of historical memories as well as in the epistemic prefiguration of historical records. The chapter focuses on 3rd millennium sources, discussing the conflict between mytho-historical narration and the recording of individual deeds. The following topics are addressed, mainly through commemorative inscriptions and literary texts: 1. The fictional framing of historical records and the historiographic aims of literary texts; 2. The roles of the omniscient narrator and the hidden narrator; cultural memory, the individual, and the creation of authority; 3. Creation and reassertion of cultural identities by alteration, manipulation, and omission (deletion) of historical events in both fictional and nonfictional narration.

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Citation

Selz, Gebhard. 4. 'I Swear that these are no Lies, it is Indeed True!' On the Role of the Individual in Early Mesopotamian Historiography. Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 55-68 Jun 2019. ISBN 9781781796566. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=33720. Date accessed: 14 Dec 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.33720. Jun 2019

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