The Sardanapalus Legend in Aramaic from Egypt

Tawny Holm (Pennsylvania State University)

The Sardanapalus Legend in Aramaic from Egypt The Aramaic legend of Sardanapalus developed in the original Eastern Mediterranean setting that frames it. The story of an Assyrian king who immolated himself in a palace fire is based on 7th-century BCE historical events. Traditions depicting the eastern monarch as a sexual hedonist spread across the Mediterranean from the 5th century onward; e.g., Herodotus, Ctesias per Diodorus Siculus, Cicero, etc. (Schneider 2000; Burkert 2009; Monerie 2015). The 4th-century BCE version in p. Amherst 63 xviii-xxiii, written in Aramaic using Demotic Egyptian script, instead presents a royal family tragedy involving two brother kings and their sister (Holm 2020; Holm in press). It does not sexualize or “other” the East, it portrays wealth but not decadence, and it makes the sister the lead protagonist, as it is she who predicts and even decrees one brother’s fiery death as punishment for his revolt against the other.

Bibliography Burkert, Walter. 2009. “Sardanapal zwischen Mythos und Realität: Das Grab in Kilikien.” Pp. 502-31 in Antike Mythen: Medien, Transformationen und Konstruktionen, ed. Ueli Dill and Christine Walde. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Holm, Tawny. 2020. “Royal Women Sages in Aramaic Literature: the Unnamed Queen in Daniel 5 and Saritrah in the ‘Revolt of Babylon.’” Pp. 151-74 in From Mari to Jerusalem and Back: Assyriological and Biblical Studies in Honor of Jack Murad Sasson, ed. Annalisa Azzoni et al. University Park: Eisenbrauns. Holm, Tawny. In press. Aramaic Literary Texts. Writings from the Ancient World. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Monerie, Julien. 2015. “De Šamaš-šum-ukin à Sardanapale: histoire d’un mythe de la décadence.” TOPOI 20: 167-85.  Schneider, Maridien. 2000. “ΣΑΡΔΑΝΑΠΑΛ(Λ)ΟΣ / Sardanapal(l)us: Gleanings from ancient Assyria in Cicero.” Acta Classica 43: 119-27.