Skip to content

Kingship in Syria-Palestine: Some Comments Regarding a Recent Publication

Emanuel Pfoh

Pages 283 - 292


Buenos Aires

1 See the recurrence, for example, in A.H. Layard, Discoveries among the Ruins of Niniveh and Babylon; with Travels in Armenia, Kurdistan, and the Desert: being the Result of a Second Expedition undertaken for the Trustees of the British Museum (2nd edn, New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1854); and in A. Mariette, Outlines of Ancient Egyptian History (2nd edn, transl. M. Brodrick; London: John Murray, 1892).

2 See P. Burke, The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School 1929-2014 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015). Yet, one of the founder of the school, Marc Bloch, even wrote a brilliant study centred on the attributed powers of the French and English kings: see his Les Rois thaumaturges. Étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué à la puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre (Paris: Librairie Istra, 1924).

3 Cf. already M. Liverani, “Problemi e indirizzi degli studi storici sul Vicino Oriente antico”, in Cultura e Scuola V/20 (1966), 72–79; and further the discussions and evaluations in M. Van de Mieroop, “On Writing a History of the Ancient Near East”, in Bibliotheca Orientalis LIV 3/4 (1997), 285–305; idem, “Recent Trends in the Study of Ancient Near Eastern History: Some Reflections”, in Journal of Ancient History 1/1 (2013), 83–98; D. E. Fleming, “Chasing Down the Mundane: The Near East with Social Historical Interest”, in Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 1/1 (2014), 5–20.

4 A. Gianto and P. Dubovský (eds.), Changing Faces of Kingship in Syria-Palestine 1500–500 BCE (AOAT 459; Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2018).

5 One should attend as well to another recent anthology, exploring a wider context for state formation in the Near East, relevant for the present one under review for comparative purposes: R. Kessler, W. Sommerfeld and L. Tramontini (eds.), State Formation and State Decline in the Near and Middle East (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2016).

6 See further E. Pfoh, Syria-Palestine in the Late Bronze Age: An Anthropology of Politics and Power (CIS; London: Routledge, 2016).

7 On the characteristics of the Egyptian kingship, see further N. Grimal, Les termes de la propagande royale égyptienne: De la XIXe dynastie à la conquête d'Alexandre (Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Nouvelle Série, Tome VI; Paris: Imprimerie Nationale/Diffusion de Boccard, 1986); and D. O'Connor and D. Silverman (eds.), Ancient Egyptian Kinship (PdÄ 9; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995).

8 Cf. e.g. O. Keel and Ch. Uehlinger, Göttinnen, Götter und Gottessymbole: Neue Erkenntnisse zur Religionsgeschichte Kanaans und Israels aufgrund bislang unerschlossener ikonographischer Quellen (Fribourg: Academic PressFribourg, 2010), 401–406.

9 I retain the transliteration of place names as used by each author in the volume under review.

10 On the problems this terminology represents, see the discussion in E. Pfoh, “Feudalism and Vassalage in Twentieth-Century Assyriology”, in A. Garcia-Ventura and L. Verderame (eds.), Perspectives on the History of Ancient Near Eastern Studies (University Park PA: Eisenbrauns / PSU Press, in press).

11 de Martino, “Political and Cultural Relations”, 41.

12 de Martino, “Political and Cultural Relations”, 42.

13 de Martino, “Political and Cultural Relations”, 43.

14 de Martino, “Political and Cultural Relations”, 43.

15 de Martino, “Political and Cultural Relations”, 43.

16 de Martino, “Political and Cultural Relations”, 46.

17 Cf. M. Liverani, Assiria: La preistoria dell'imperialismo (Cultura Storica; Bari: Laterza, 2017), 239-241.

18 Niehr, “Kinship in Sam'al”, 61. Here, one may compare the operative socio-politics of this term of subordination with other historical examples, like the Islamic mawāli, which also makes reference both to an overlord and a subordinate, depending on the context of the relationship. For a comparison between the Old Babylonian muškēnum and the Arabic mawāli, see W. von Soden, “muškēnum und die Mawāli des fruhen Islam”, in Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 56 (1964), 133-141. I would argue that all these terms could be interpreted as denoting a patron-client (rather than a suzerain-vassal) relationship.

19 Niehr, “Kinship in Sam'al”, 61-62.

20 Niehr, “Kinship in Sam'al”, 65. On the socio-politics of patrimonial language, see in extenso J. D. Schloen, The House of the Father as Fact and Symbol: Patrimonialism in Ugarit and the Ancient Near East (SAHL 2; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2001).

21 Cf. Pfoh, “Feudalism and Vassalage”.

22 See conveniently N. P. Lemche, “Doing Sociology with Solomon”, in L. K. Handy (ed.), The Age of Solomon: Scholarship at the Turn of the Millennium (SHCANE 11; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997), 312-335; I. Finkelstein, “A Great United Monarchy? Archaeological and Historical Perspectives”, in R. G. Kratz and H. Spieckermann (eds.), One God – One Cult – One Nation: Archaeological and Biblical Perspectives (Berlin. W. de Gruyter, 2010), 3-28; M. Liverani, “The Chronology of the Biblical Fairy-Tale”, in P. R. Davies and D. V. Edelman (eds.), The Historian and the Bible: Essays in Honour of Lester L. Grabbe (LHBOTS 530; London: T & T Clark, 2010), 73-88.

23 Dubovský, “Changing Mechanisms”, 81.

24 Dubovský, “Changing Mechanisms”, 102.

25 See also on this issue E. A. Knauf, “The Glorious Days of Manasseh”, and D. A. Warburton, “The Importance of the Archaeology of the Seventh Century”, both in L. L. Grabbe (ed.), Good Kings and Bad Kings: The Kingdom of Judah in the Seventh Century BCE (LHBOTS, 393 / ESHM, 5; London: T&T Clark International, 2005), 164–88 and 317–35 respectively.

26 Cf. Pfoh, “Feudalism and Vassalage”.

27 Oggiano, “At the Courts”, 143 n. 12.

28 Markl, “Deuteronomy's ‘Anti-King‘”, 165.

29 Oggiano, “At the Courts”, 155.

30 See E. Pfoh, “Socio-Political Changes and Continuities in the Levant (1300-900 BCE)”, in Ł. Niesiołowski-Spanò and M. Węcowski (eds.), Change, Continuity, and Connectivity: North-Eastern Mediterranean at the Turn of the Bronze Age and in the Early Iron Age (Philippika – Altertumskundliche Abhandlungen 118; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2018), 57-67.

31 To refer here to perhaps the most popular treatment on the topic in the last decades, see I. Finkelstein and N. A. Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: Facts on File, 2001).

32 See the discussion in E. Pfoh, “On the Prospects for Writing a Social History of Iron Age Palestine”, in Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 45/2 (2019), 103–120.

33 Lipschits, “The Changing Faces of Kingship”, 129.

34 Oggiano, “At the Courts”, 140; following M. Liverani, “Stati etnici e città-stato: una tipologia storica per la prima età del ferro”, in M. Molinos and A. Zifferero (eds.), Primi popoli d'Europa. Proposte e riflessioni sulle origini della civiltà nell'Europa mediterranea (Firenze: All'Insegna del Giglio, 2002), 33–47.

35 See the discussion in O. Loretz, “Ugaritisch 'bd ,,Sklave, Diener, Vasall”: Eine Studie zu ug.-he. 'bd 'lm || bn âmt (KTU 1.14 III 22-32a et par.) in der juridischen Terminologie altorientalischer Verträge”, in Ugarit-Forschungen 35 (2003), 333–384.

36 Cf. F. Briquel-Chatonnet, “Expressions et représentations du pouvoir royal dans le Proche-Orient ouest sémitique ancien”, in M. Molin (ed.), Images et représentations du pouvoir et de l'ordre social dans l'Antiquité. Actes du colloque, Angers 28-29 Mai 1999 (Paris: De Boccard, 2001), 129–136, esp. 129–130; see also P. Bordreuil and A. Caquot, “Les textes en cunéiformes alphabétiques découverts en 1978 à Ibn Hani”, in Syria 57 (1980), 343–373; and the discussion in L. K. Handy, Among the Host of Heaven: The Syro-Palestinian Pantheon as Bureaucracy (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994), 111–113.

37 See already M. Liverani, “La royauté syrienne à l'âge du Bronze Récent”, in P. Garelli (ed.), Le palais et la royauté. XIXe RAI (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1974), 329–356, esp. 347–356. On the “collective powers” confronting internally the monarchy or speaking towards the outside in lieu of the king in the Late Bronze Age, see P. Artzi, “'Vox Populi' in the El Amarna Tablets”, in Revue d'Assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale 58 (1964), 159-166; and B. Solans, Poderes colectivos en la Siria del Bronce Final (Barcino Monographica Orientalia 2; Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, 2014).

38 Cf. E. Pfoh, “Dealing with Tribes and States in Ancient Palestine: A Critique on State Formation Theories in the Archaeology of Israel”, in Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 22/1 (2008), 86–113.

39 Cf. for instance the descriptions and analyses in P. C. Salzman, “Tribal Chiefs as Middlemen: The Politics of Encapsulation in the Middle East”, in Anthropological Quarterly 47 (1974), 203–210; R. T. Antoun, Low-Key Politics: Local Level Leadership & Change in the Middle East (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1979); G. Baer, “The Office and Functions of the Village Mukhtar”, in J. S. Migdal (ed.), Palestinian Society and Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 103– 123. Other useful socio-anthropological readings for thinking comparatively about kingship in Syria-Palestine are M. Banton (ed.), Political Systems and the Distribution of Power (London: Routledge, 1965); P. Clastres, La société contre l'État: Recherches d'anthropologie politique (Collection Critique; Paris: Minuit, 1974); T. K. Earle, How Chiefs Come to Power: The Political Economy in Prehistory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997); A. T. Smith, The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

40 Cf. N. P. Lemche, “Justice in Western Asia in Antiquity, Or: Why No Laws Were Needed!”, in Chicago Kent Law Review 70/4 (1995), 1695–1716; H. Niehr, “The Constitutive Principles for Establishing Justice and Order in Northwest Semitic Societies with Special Reference to Ancient Israel and Judah”, in Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 3 (1997), 112–130; Pfoh, “Dealing with Tribes and States”.

41 See for instance in this direction, some important recent antecedents in Schloen, The House of the Father, passim; B. Routledge, Moab in the Iron Age: Hegemony, Polity, Archaeology (ACS; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004); D. E. Fleming, The Legacy of Israel in Judah's Bible: History, Politics, and the Reinscribing of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), esp. 179–192, 239–289; B. C. Benz, The Land before the Kingdom of Israel: A History of the Southern Levant and the People Who Populated It (HACL 7; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2016).


Export Citation