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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. The University of Chicago presents the intellectual adventure of ancient man programmes dealing with the good life in ancient Mesopotamia. These programs are read by Joshua Taylor and are based on the book the intellectual adventure of ancient man. They are adapted by Thorkild Jakobsen of the Oriental Institute University of Chicago. Mr. Yacob son wrote the original text to the ancient Mesopotamians the world in which they lived was a great cosmic state in which mighty superhuman powers the gods held sway in a civilization which sees the whole universe as a state. Media and must necessarily stand out as a prime virtue for a state is built on obedience on the unquestioned acceptance of authority. It can cause No wonder therefore to find that in Mesopotamia the good life was the obedient life. The individual stored at the center of ever wider circles of authority which delimited is freedom
of action. The nearest and smallest of these circles was constituted by authorities in his own family father and mother older brother and older sister. We possess a hymn which describes a coming golden age and we find that age characterized as one of obedience as days when one man is not insolent to another. When a son reveres his father days when respect is shown in the land when the lowly honor of the great When the younger brother respects his older brother when the older child instructs the younger child and he abides by his decisions. The Mesopotamian is constantly admonished. Pay heed to the word of the mother as to the word of thy God revered older brother. Pay heed to the word of thy older brother rest of the word of thy father or anger not the heart of the older sister. But obedience to the older members of one's family is merely a beginning beyond the family like other circles.
Other authority is the state and society. There's the foreman where one works there's the bailiff who oversees agricultural works in which one takes part and there's the king. All these can and must claim absolute obedience. The Mesopotamian looked with disapproval and pity but also with fear on the crowd which had no leader. Soldiers without a king are sheep without a shepherd. A crowd with no leader to organize and directives is lost and bewildered like a flock of sheep without a shepherd. It's also dangerous. It can be destructive like waters which break the dams that hold them and submerge fields and gardens at the canal and Specter is not there to keep the dam and repair workmen without a foreman or waters without a canal inspector. Finally in a leaderless an organized crowd is useless and unproductive like a field which brings forth nothing if it is not plowed. Peasants without a bailiff are a field without a ploughman. Hence an orderly world is
unthinkable without a superior authority to impose its will. The Mesopotamian feels convinced that authorities are always right. The command of the palace like the command of a new cannot be altered. The king's word is right. His utterance like that of a god cannot be changed. And as there are circles of human authority and family in society and states to circumscribe the freedom of the individual. So there are circles of divine authority which may not be trespassed upon. Here again we find more immediate and more remote ties of Allegiance. For the ties of the individual to the great gods were at least in the third millennium of a somewhat remote character. He served him as a member of his community rather than as an individual. He worked their estates for them with his neighbors and compatriots who obeyed their laws and decrees and he took part in their yearly festivals as a spectator but just as the serfs rarely had intimate personal relations with the Lord of the manor. So the individual in Mesopotamia looked upon the great guards as remote forces to whom he could appeal only in
some great crisis and then only through intermediaries. Close and Personal relations relations such as he had had to the authorities in his family and his mother and father older brother and sister. The individual had only to one deity to his personal God the personal God was usually some minor deity in the pantheon who took a special interest in the man's family or had taken a fancy to the man himself. In a sense and probably this is the original aspect the personal God appears as the personification of a man's luck and success. Success is interpreted as an outside power which infuse itself into a man's doings and makes them produce results. It is not man's own ability which brings results. For man is weak and has no power to influence the course of the universe to any appreciable degree. Only a god can do that. Therefore if things come out as man as hoped or even better it must needs be that some God has taken an interest in him and his doings and has brought him
success. He has to use the Mesopotamian expression for success. Acquire the god of this original aspect of the personal God has the power behind a man's success stands out quite clearly in such sayings as without a personal God. Man cannot make his living. The young man cannot move his arm heroically in battle. And in the way the personal god is linked with forethought and planning where now just plan ahead die God is dying. Well now does to not plan ahead. God is not dying that is to say. Only when you plan ahead do you have a chance to succeed. Only then is your God with you. Since the personal God is the power which makes a man's actions succeed it's quite natural that he or she should also carry the moral responsibility for those actions. When you go soggy easy the ruler of Omagh had attacked and partly destroyed the city of LA gosh. The men of Lug placed the blame unhesitatingly on Lugo's argosies deity
made his personal deity the god as Nadar the bearer of this crime on her neck that is made of proper divine authority as a rule of the universe. Hold her responsible for what she has aided and abetted to this personal God then before any other a man owed worship and obedience in every house there was a small chapel for the personal God where the owner of the house worshipped and brought his daily offerings. A man must truly proclaim the greatness of his God. A young man must wholeheartedly obey the command of his God. Now if this monotonous theme of obedience to family to rulers to gods was the essence of the good that is the correct life an ancient Mesopotamia. What we may ask did Bande stand to gain by leading the good life. Yeah answers best given in terms of Mesopotamian world view in terms of man's position in the cosmic state. Man you will remember was created to be the slave of the
gods. He is their servant. Now a diligent and obedient servant can call on his master for protection. A diligent and obedient servant Moreover can expect to be promoted to receive favors and rewards from his master. A slaughter for disobedient servant on the other hand going home for none of these things. That's the way of obedience of service and worship is the way to achieve protection and it is also the way to earthly success to the highest values Mesopotamian life health and long life honored standing in the community. Many sons and wealth. When we view the Mesopotamian universe from the aspect of what the individual can gain for himself the personal God becomes a pivotal figure. He is the individuals link with the universe and its forces. Here's the arc a median point from which it may be moved. For the personal God is not remote and also unlike the great gods
he is near and familiar and he cares. One can talk to him plead with him work on his pity. In short use all the means which a child uses to get his way with his parents. The character of the relationship may be exemplified by a letter from a man to his God for the Mesopotamians frequently wrote letters to their gods. Perhaps the thought that one could not always be certain to find the God at home when one call Rose the god would be sure to look at his correspondence. Again it may often have been because the writer was too ill to come in person and therefore had recourse to a letter. In the case of the letter which we shall quote It would appear that the writer refrained from coming in person because he is sulking his feelings are hurt because he thinks his god neglects him. He hints that such neglect is very unwise on the part of the God for faithful worshippers are hard to get and difficult to replace. But if the god will only comply with his wishes then he will be there right away and adore him. Finally he works on the God's pity that God must consider that there is not only himself but that he has a pool as a family
and poor little children who also suffer from him. The letter reads to the God my father speak thus servant why have you neglected me. Who is going to give you one who can take my place. Write to the god Marduk who is fond of you that he may break my bondage. Then I shall see your face and kiss your feet. Consider also my family grown ups and little ones. Have mercy on me for their sake and let your help reach me. The bondage of which the letter speaks is some illness or illness of any kind was seen as an evil demon who had seized the victim and held him captive. Such a case actually goes beyond the powers of the personal god the personal God can help a man in his undertakings can give him standing in respect in his community but he is not strong enough to tear him from the clutches of an evil lawless demon. However and this is the most wonderful thing about
having connections with those in high places. The personal God has influential friends. He moves in the circles of the great gods. He knows them well. So now when his ward has been seized by an evil demon it's time to use whatever influence he has to set the cumbersome machinery of divine justice in motion right to the god Marduk was fond of us as our letter. Now we live in a modern state. Take for granted that the machinery of justice courts judges and police is at the disposal of any man who considers himself wronged. But that is a very modern notion. We need go back only to medieval England to find a state in which it could be very difficult to get the king's court to take up one's case and the earlier Mesopotamian States upon which the cosmic state was patterned was a far more primitive caste in medieval England. In this primitive state there was as yet no developed executive machinery to carry out the verdict of the court. Execution was left to the winning party. And for that reason a court would not touch a case unless it was certain that the plaintiff had
power behind him a powerful protector who would guarantee that the judgment would be executed accordingly. The first step for the personal God was to find such a protector among the great gods. Usually the God of the Sweet Waters was willing to undertake the protector ship. But it was so august and remote that the personal God would not approach him directly. He would go to Ayers son Mark Duke and then Mark who would urge his father to act. If they agreed to act he would send His messenger a human incantation priest to go with the personal God to the Court of the gods where the messenger would appeal on his behalf that the Son God the Divine Judge accept this particular case for judgment. This appeal was directed to the rising sun in an impressive ceremony in the temple after praising the son as judge as able to give legal relief against all kinds of demons and to heal the afflicted. The priest continued SunGard to relieve them
power dust substrates conflicting testimonies as if one statement. I am the messenger of A for the relief of the plague man here sent me hither and the message which I gave I have repeated to thee as for the man the son of his God judges case pronounced sentence for him and drive off the evil illness from his body through the decision of the Sun God guaranteed by the mighty the evil demon was thus constrained to release his hold. The cases in which the personal God was asked to use influence to procure divine justice are among those most typical of his usefulness. But naturally he was asked do you to use it for general well-being and advancement. He used to say a good word for his ward whenever he can. The ruler and to me now for example prays that his personal God be allowed to stand forever before the great god injures or petitioning for health and long life for and to Maina. If we sum up then what our text tell us
about the rewards for the good life we find life to be a pretty arbitrary affair. Through obedience and service man may win the goodwill of his personal God the personal God may use his influence with the higher gods to obtain favor for his protege from them. But even Justice is such a favor it cannot be claimed. But it is obtained through personal connections personal pressures through favoritism even the most perfect good life held out but a promise not a certainty of tangible rewards. You have heard of the first program in the series the intellectual adventure of ancient man. These programs are based on the book of the same title published by the University of Chicago Press. The ocular Yakob professor in the university's Oriental Institute is a consultant for the series which is taken from the text. This program was read by Joshua Taylor a professor in the College of the department of Art University of Chicago.
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Intellectual adventure of ancient man
Mesopotamian civilization, part one
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The first program in this series describes how obedience to authority was at the center of Mesopotamian culture.
Series Description
This series, based onThorkild Jacobsen's book, "The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man," seeks to describe the "good life in ancient Mesopotamia."
Broadcast Date
Media type
Narrator: Taylor, Joshua C. (Joshua Charles), 1917-1981
Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Writer: Jacobsen, Thorkild, 1904-1993
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-13-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:40
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Chicago: “Intellectual adventure of ancient man; Mesopotamian civilization, part one,” 1955-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Intellectual adventure of ancient man; Mesopotamian civilization, part one.” 1955-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Intellectual adventure of ancient man; Mesopotamian civilization, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from