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ANAHITA  August 1997

ANAHITA August 1997

Subject:

Re: Priestesses as god's wives & politics

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 4 Aug 1997 14:48:44 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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I make an apology in advance for maiming this letter to make my point about a
trend in thought:
In a message dated 97-07-09 10:03:47 EDT, you write:
<<  ....  You might take a look at Irene
 Winter's article:
   Winter, Irene J. 1987 Women in public: The disk of Enheduanna,
  the beginning of the office of en-priestess, and the weight of
  visual evidence. In J. Durand, ed., +La Femme dans le Proche
  Orient antique+.  RAI, 33, pp. 189-201.  Paris: Editions
  Recherche sur les Civilisations.
 .... while there were women in high-status roles in Early
 Dynastic and Akkadian Mesopotamia, they were usually religious roles without
 much political clout ....The status of the women that Winter is
 referring to, by the way, was based on their relationship with a male
deity.>>

Now, no one is saying that the king's role as husband in the _hieros gamos_
 with the goddess robs him of political clout or makes his power suspect.  So
why is the wife of a god insignificant?

Also, some step is missing here: Enheduanna --the first known author in
antiquity-- was an _en_ priestess, wife of Nanna, the moon god.  She was
placed in office by her father, the great Sargon of Akkad.  So one cannot say
that this office carried little political clout.  It was important to Sargon
that she be there & it was important to his successor that she be gone.  We
have no indication of the clout wielded by Sargon's daughter (or other
members of the royal family) or why he would make her Nanna's wife.

When Enheduanna was ousted & banished by Sargon's usurper, her plea for
reinstatement was written not to Nanna, but to the great Sumerian goddess
Inanna.   Enheduanna seemed to think that this was an effective avenue of
appeal & her portraits of the goddess were certainly vigorous ("dragon",
"thunderer", &c.)   So while her office may have been that of the wife of a
god, the goddess whom she worshipped was vastly more powerful, & she had a
great deal of influence, there.  Perhaps even as a demi-god speaking to a
god, or as someone in Inanna's sphere, at any rate.  So, was the base of her
power her relationship to her husband-god, or to the Goddess?  It was the
goddess she appealed to to expel Sargon's usurper & return her to her
priesthood.  (Sargon did return & form the empire of Sumer & Akkad with
Ishtar/Inanna as chief deity.)

I mention all this to make two points:

One: where do we get our "All Or Nothing" view of power?  Even in the most
tyrannical societies, all power is not in the hands of one person.
Gengis Khan didn't rule his empire alone.  Why would we distain the power
wielded by those who are not the nominal single person at the top of this
heirarchy?   Are the mayors of St. Louis & Kansas City not powerful because
they are not Governor of Missouri.  Is the Governor unable to function
because he is not President of the United States?  Isn't it important to be a
city alderman or state senator?  How formally was power defined?  How fluid
is power in oligarchic or autocratic societies?  Did their political
organization fit in any category we recognize?  Where's Waldo?  What is a
"religious" role & what is a "political" role in the societies of which we
are speaking?

And how can we say that people and civilizations turned to dust 3000 years
ago had little power or less power, or more power than, say, the Secretary of
the Army in America in 1953 or the Minister of Health in Romania in 1936 or
the sister of the Juomo Empress of Japan?  What in the WORLD are we
measuring????

Two:  Our sense of ancient rank & power is filtered through the society &
time which translated it to us, and then, secondarily through our own time.
  They are seldom speaking directly to us.  We are speaking to each other
about them.

Sheila Shiki y Michaels

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Diotima's address: http://www.uky.edu/ArtsSciences/Classics/gender.html

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