Writing Victory

Universal patterns and cultural particularities in conquest records of ancient Assyrian, Chinese and Egyptian kings


Chinese sources: Yegor Grebnev, DPhil Student, Wolfson College

Egyptian sources: Marwan Kilani, DPhil Student, Queen's College

Assyrian sources: Eva Miller, DPhil Student, Wolfson College

Date: Wednesday, Week 2 (7 May), 17:00Venue: Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, OX2 6UDNo registration required. Visitors from other colleges may consider using the free Wolfson College minibus service.

One of the most widespread textual types in the Ancient World is the account of royal successes and military victories. Texts of this type demonstrate astonishing similarities in structure and content across different ancient cultures. Although such texts may serve as important historical sources, they were commonly addressed to spirits and deities; it is very easy to misinterpret them because of the lack of information about their audience and contexts. At this session, we will approach conquest descriptions as a universal textual type and demonstrate how unrelated conquest accounts from Ancient Assyria, China and Egypt provide complementary evidence for the understanding of kingship, conquest, ritual and writing in the Ancient World.

We propose a novel framework of analysis of ancient conquest accounts. This framework allows us to highlight the commonalities that are present in all three cases we have analysed as well as to understand the individual particularities of each single case. In particular, we will demonstrate the surprising similarity of textual priorities in Ancient Assyria and China, perhaps connected to a similar model of kingship in certain regions of Eurasia as opposed to a more peculiar type in Ancient Egypt. We will also show how our study has allowed us to reconsider certain ancient texts and propose more convincing interpretations informed by a broader comparative context.

Presentation will be followed by a discussion. Wine will be provided, courtesy of the Ancient World Research Cluster, Wolfson College.