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Old Testament Essays

versão On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versão impressa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.28 no.3 Pretoria  2015

http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2312-3621/2015/v28n3a19 

BOOK REVIEWS BOEKRESENSIES

 

 

Martin Zimmermann. Gewalt: Die dunkle Seite der Antike. München: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 2013. 411 pages. Cloth. Price 25.00 Euro ISBN 978-3-421-04471-6.

This semipopular study of violence as the "dark side" of the ancient world starts in the introductory chapter with a survey of the relationship between humans, violence and culture. In the second chapter Zimmermann, ancient historian at the University of Munich, addresses violence in the ane ("Brutale Könige im Alten Orient," pp. 56-86). He discusses violence as the source of all order in society as part of the ane worldview (pp. 56-59), the Gilgamesh Epic as an example of violence in early poetic texts (pp. 59-65) and Assyrian kings as inebriated with murder ("Der assyrische König im Rausch des Mordens," pp. 65-71). Zimmermann offers an analysis and explanation of the reports of Assurbanipal and depictions of utter violence committed by Salmanassar III. and Sargon II. The public character of such executions and punishments in itself and its dissemination in text and depiction was primarily intended to demonstrate and emphasise the unassailable authority and power of the king. Executions in front of the walls of hostile cities and in enemy territory likewise served as a deterrent and establishment of power (p. 68). Zimmermann draws on the instructive study of Andreas Fuchs.1 The accounts of violence,

lassen sich demnach mit der besonderen Rolle des assyrischen Königs in Verbindung bringen und als Medien einer speziellen Herrschaftsrepräsentation verstehen. Der König stand unangefochten zwischen den Göttern, die seine Stellung legitimierten, und den Menschen, die er kontrollieren musste. Da der König selbst nicht göttlich war, versuchte er seine Allmacht dadurch zu unterstreichen, dass er die uneingeschränkte Fähigkeit hatte, Menschen rücksichtslos zu töten. Im Falle von Rebellionen wurden die Aufständischen massakriert, um diese Macht buchstäblich greifbar und für jedermann sichtbar zu machen. Selbst in einfachen Schreiben an Amtsträger drohte der König, bei Nichtbefolgen des Befehls werde der Empfänger getötet, ein unbotmäßiger Weisungsempfänger in seinem eigenen Haus gepfählt" (p. 68).

At the same time, Zimmermann notes:

Wir können nicht sagen, wie oft auf solchen Befehl tatsächlich eine Hinrichtung folgte. Es spricht viel dafür, dass es bei den Drohgebärden blieb. Dennoch war die öffentliche Hinrichtung für diese Form der Herrschaftsrepräsentation von eminenter Bedeutung, denn sie beglaubigte in ihrem ganzen Schrecken sie schriftlich, mündlich und bildlich behauptete Gewaltbereitschaft (p. 68-9f).

Zimmermann also describes the rhetorical and social function of the threats of violence in Assyrian legal documents.

The portrait of violence and its use by Assyrian kings is then compared to violence in the early history of Rome and to violence in Egypt. In closing Zimmermann also examines violence in Persian contexts. The remainder of the volume examines violence in Ancient Greece (including in Homer), in Greek theatre, in Herodotus and Thucydides, in the Hellenistic world, in its particular Roman form in military conquest but also in the arena. The volume closes with a brief discussion of the references to violence and extreme torture in the acts of early Christian martyrs (pp. 369-375).

Zimmermann's instructive summary throws interesting light on many OT references to the violence and cruelty of neighbouring nations in narratives and prophetic oracles and their literary function but also on acts of violence within Israel itself or the threat of violence in the legal tradition, including covenant stipulations, as part of this large ANE context. Also the detailed account of the martyrdom in 4 Mace 5:1-12:19 should be seen in this wider context. Other than seven references to 2 Maccabees (7:1-42; 9; 12:13-16; 14:46 and 15:33ff), the OT does not appear in Zimmermann's study. There are a number of references to Josephus (Antiquities and War) and to early Christian authors (Augustine, Lactantius, Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis, Prudentius and Tertullian).

Prof. Dr. Christoph Stenschke, Biblisch-Theologischen Akademie, Forum Wiedenest, Eichendorffstr. 2, 51702 Bergneustadt, Germany. Professor extraordinarius, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa (Pretoria). E-mail: stenschke@wiedenest.de.

 

 

1 Andreas Fuchs, "Waren die Assyrer grausam?" in Extreme Formen von Gewalt in Bild und Text des Altertums (ed. Martin Zimmermann; München: Herbert Utz, 2009), 65-119.

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