Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Flirting with Deification

The monarch was the supreme human being in Assyrian thought, since he was god’s anointed, but he was a mere mortal all the same, and this is in contrast again to Sumer and Babylonia where deification of the ruler was known. The Assyrians were, of course, aware of this southern phenomenon, and they flirted with the idea of the apotheosis of their own king, but it never achieved full official recognition in Assyria. It surfaces, nonetheless, in various forms. In the royal epithets there is sometimes ambiguity as to whether the king or the deity is described, and there were titles and adjectives (such as dandannu, ‘almighty’) which were applied only to god or monarch. The royal images (salmu), statues and reliefs of the king, are another case in point; in texts where these images are mentioned the word salmu is preceded by the divine determinative, and the personal name ‘The-Divine-Image-of-the-King-Has-Commanded’…is well attested. This last fact brings to mind the custom practised at Guzanu (Tell Halat) of concluding contracts before the images of gods including the ‘divine image of the king’. None of this evidence justifies a conclusion that official sanction was given to the worship of the Assyrian king or his images, but it does underline the fact that he was generally regarded as being on a plane closer to the gods than other mortals. In popular thought no doubt people went one step further and regarded the king as at least partially divine, and uneducated Assyrians probably believed that the offerings placed on a table before a royal image in a temple were offerings to the image itself rather than offerings to be presented by the king portrayed to the god.

The Cambridge Ancient History, volume III, part 2, p. 195