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Radner, Karen (3. December 2019): Neo-Assyrian treaties as a source for the historian: bonds of friendship, the vigilant subject and the vengeful King’s Treaty. In: Lanfranchi, G.B. (ed.) : Writing Neo-Assyrian History: Sources, Problems and Approaches. State Archives of Assyria Studies, Vol. 29. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. pp. 309-328 [PDF, 1MB]

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What opportunities and challenges does the relatively limited body of extant Neo-Assyrian treaties present to the modern historian? In this chapter, we will briefly review the terminology and character of the Neo-Assyrian treaty (§1) before discussing the extant copies, a mix of chancellery texts (presumably used for reference) and valid “treaty tablets” who were thought to bind the treaty partners through divine agency to their agreement (§2). We will highlight the long shadow cast by the only treaty whose text is preserved more or less in full, the succession treaty imposed by Esarhaddon in 672 BC. It is crucial to stress, as we will in §3, that this particular treaty, with its focus on demanding and enabling vigilance of the individual subject, cannot be considered typical in many respects, especially when it comes to the impact of dialogue and negotiations between the treaty partners on drafting the agreement. This focus on diplomacy and more broadly political and cultural dialogue as a tool of Assyrian statecraft leads us to a discussion of the extent and the limitations of the Assyrian treaty system (§4); not everyone “gets it”, as shared cultural values and especially religious concepts necessarily underpin the binding force of the treaty. We close with an analysis of the emergence in the mid-7th century BC of the King’s Treaty as an avenging entity that transcended the sphere of statecraft and became widely popular in private contractual law (§5).

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