Erechtheion › Ereshkigal › Cuneiform Lexical Lists » Origins and History

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  • Erechtheion › Ancient History
  • Ereshkigal › Who Was
  • Cuneiform Lexical Lists › Antique Origins

Ancient civilizations › Historical places, and their characters

Erechtheion › Ancient History

Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 03 December 2012
Erechtheion ()
The Erechtheion (or Erechtheum) is an ancient Greek temple constructed on the acropolis of Athens between 421 and 406 BCE in the Golden Age of the city in order to house the ancient wooden cult statue of Athena and generally glorify the great city at the height of its power and influence. The Erechtheion has suffered a troubled history of misuse and neglect, but with its prominent position above the city and porch of six Caryatids, it remains one of the most distinctive buildings from antiquity.


The project to replace the damaged buildings of the acropolis following the Persian attack on the city in 480 BCE was begun in 447 BCE, instigated by Pericles, supervised by Pheidias, and funded by surplus from the war treasury of the Delian League.The results would include the Parthenon and new Propylaea on the Acropolis itself and an Odeion and the Temple of Hephaistos. The final piece to complete the magnificent complex of temples on the acropolis was the Erechtheion, begun in 421 BCE during the so-called Peace of Nikias. However, the project was interrupted by resumption of hostilities between Athens and Sparta (the Sicilian expedition), and the temple was not finally completed until 406 BCE under the supervision of the architect Philocles.


The Erechtheion, named after the demi-god Erechtheus, the mythical Athenian king, was conceived as a suitable structure to house the ancient wooden cult statue of Athena, which maintained its religious significance despite the arrival of the gigantic chryselephantine statue within the nearby Parthenon. The building also had other functions, though, notably as the shrine centre for other more ancient cults: to Erechtheus, his brother Boutes - the Ploughman, Pandrosos, the mythical first Athenian king Kekrops (or Cecrops) - half-man, half-snake, and the gods Hephaistos and Poseidon.
As with the other new buildings on the acropolis, the Erechtheion was built from Pentelic marble which came from the nearby Mt. Pentelicus and was celebrated for its pure white appearance and fine grain. It also contains traces of iron which over time have oxidised, giving the marble a soft honey colour, a quality particularly evident at sunrise and sunset.
Erechtheion Floor Plan

Erechtheion Floor Plan


The precise original plan of the building has been difficult to reconstruct due to the changes made to it over the centuries. In any case, the asymmetrical nature of the building also presents a rather confused architectural assembly in stark contrast to the precise symmetry of its neighbour the Parthenon. The situation is not helped by the markedly uneven slope of the foundation rock; indeed the floor of the building is over three metres lower at the northern end in respect to the eastern side.However, certain elements are agreed upon by scholars. The cella measures some 22.22 mx 11.16 m and is divided into four chambers, of which the most eastern and largest chamber housed the diiepetes, the olivewood statue of Athena Polias (of the city-state ), clothed in the specially woven robe which was carried in the Panathenaic procession, held in the city every four years. In front of the statue stood a gold lamp designed by Kallimachos which had a bronze palm shaped chimney and an asbestos wick which burned continuously. The sacred serpent ( oikouros ophis ), which was believed to be an incarnation of Erechtheus, dwelt in one of the western chambers and acted as guardian to the city. Well looked after, it was regularly fed with honey cakes.
The other chambers of the building housed various religious and historical paraphernalia such as a wooden statue of Hermes, a chair said to be made by the great architect Daedalus - he of the Labyrinth of Minos fame - and various relics from the Persian wars. Six Ionic columns on the eastern facade (6.58 m tall including base and capital) present the principal entrance (4.88 mx 2.42 m). On the north side is the porch sacred to Poseidon Erechtheus (a local version of the god) and site of the trident strike which tapped the god's salt spring (the Erechthian Sea). Here also was an altar and precinct sacred to ZeusHypatos, as it was also believed to be the spot where Zeus struck down Erechtheus with a thunderbolt (in revenge for killing Poseidon's son Eumolpos), hence the ceiling has an aperture. Around the precinct there are another six Ionic columns (7.63m tall) which, as with the Parthenon columns, incorporate the feature of entasis - that is, thicker bases which taper as the column rises - giving the effect that the columns stand absolutely straight. The Caryatid porch is on the south side.
The Erechtheion, Athens

The Erechtheion, Athens


The whole building was originally surrounded by a 63 cm high Ionic frieze, but this has been so badly damaged that it has been impossible to determine even the general theme of the piece. What is known is that it was carved from Paros marble and attached to a dark blue (or grey) background of Eleusinian marble. Pediment roofs of wood and tiles protected the cella and north porch, while the south Caryatid porch had a flat roof. To the south-west of the building stood the sacred olive tree, a gift from Athena, for which she became the patron deity of the city.
The real stars of the Erechtheion are without doubt the Caryatids or korai as they were known to the ancient Greeks. The finely-sculptured figures are not unique to the building as other examples exist in the architecture of the Archaic period, particularly in Treasury buildings at sacred sites such as Delphi and Olympia. Their clinging Doric clothes ( peplos and himation ) and intricately plaited hair are rendered in fine detail. Their bold stance and the firm set of the straight standing leg give the impression that the task of bearing the weight of the porch entablature and roof is effortless. Rather cleverly, the straight leg also creates folds in their clothing remarkably similar to the flutes on an ordinary Ionic column. Originally, the figures raised slightly their robe with one hand and held shallow libation vessels ( phialai ) with the other. This may have been in reference to the fact that it was believed that the tomb of the mythical King Kekrops lay under the building, and perhaps the libations poured by the Caryatids replicate the practice of pouring libations into the ground as an offering to the dead. The Caryatids now on the acropolis are exact copies; five of the originals reside in the Acropolis Museum of Athens and the other is in the British Museum, London.
Erechtheion Roof Detail

Erechtheion Roof Detail


Like many classical buildings, the Erechtheion has suffered a chequered history. Damaged by fire only ten years or so after its completion, it was repaired in 395 BCE. In the 6th century CE it was converted into a Christian church, the Franks made it into a small palace, and in c. 1460 CE the Erechtheion suffered the indignity of being used as a harem for the pleasure of the Turkish governor. In 1801 CE Lord Elgin gained permission from the Turkish authorities to remove any sculpture or carvings that took his fancy, and amongst his booty was one of the Caryatids and one of the eastern columns. However, in 1833 CE systematic excavations began on the acropolis, and from 1836 until 1842 CE the Erechtheion was partially reconstructed.Further excavations and restorations were carried out in 1885 CE and throughout the late 20th century CE.

Ereshkigal › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 11 January 2017
Queen of the Night (Trustees of the British Museum)
Ereshkigal (also known as Irkalla and Allatu) is the Mesopotamian Queen of the Dead who rules the underworld. Her name translates as 'Queen of the Great Below' or 'Lady of the Great Place.' The word 'great' should be understood as 'vast,' not 'exceptional' and referred to the land of the dead which was thought to lie beneath the Mountains of Sunset to the west and was known as Kurnugia ('the Land of No Return'). Kurnugia was an immense realm of gloom under the earth, where the souls of the dead drank from muddy puddles and ate dust. Ereshkigal ruled over these souls from her palace Ganzir, located at the entrance to the underworld, and guarded by seven gates which were kept by her faithful servant Neti. She ruled her realm alone until the war god Nergal (also known as Erra) became her consort and co-ruler for six months of the year.
Erishkigal is the older sister of the goddess Inanna and best known for the part she plays in the famous Sumerian poem The Descent of Inanna (c. 1900-1600 BCE). Her first husband (and father of the god Ninazu) was the Great Bull of Heaven, Gugalana, who was killed by the hero Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Her second husband (or consort) was the god Enlilwith whom she bore a son, Namtar, and by another consort her daughter Nungal (also known as Manungal) was conceived, an underworld deity who punished the wicked and was associated with healing and retribution. Her fourth consort was Nergal, the only mate who agreed to remain with her in the realm of the dead.


There is no known iconography for Ereshkigal or, at least, none universally agreed on. The Burney Relief (also known as The Queen of the Night, dating from Hammurabi 's reign of 1792-1750 BCE) is often interpreted as representing Ereshkigal. The terracotta relief depicts a naked woman with downward-pointing wings standing on the backs of two lions and flanked by owls.She holds symbols of power and, beneath the lions, are images of mountains. This iconography strongly suggests a depiction of Ereshkigal but scholars have also interpreted the work as honoring Inanna or the demon Lilith.
Although the relief most likely does depict Ereshkigal, and there are other similar reliefs of this same figure with varying details, it would not be surprising to find few images of her in art. Ereshkigal was the most feared deity in the Mesopotamian pantheonbecause she represented one's final destination from which there was no returning. In Mesopotamian belief, to create an image of someone or something was to invite the attention of the subject. Statues of the gods were thought to house the gods themselves, for example, and images on people's cylinder seals were thought to have amuletic properties. A statue or image of Ereshkigal, then, would have directed the attention of the Queen of the Dead to the creator or owner, and this was far from desirable.


Ereshkigal is first mentioned in the Sumerian poem The Death of Ur-Nammu which dates to the reign of Shulgi of Ur (2029-1982 BCE). She was undoubtedly known earlier, however, and most likely during the time of the Akkadian Empire (2334-2218 BCE). Her Akkadian name, Allatu, may be referenced on fragments predating Shulgi's reign.
By the time of the Old Babylonian Period (c. 2000-1600 BCE) Ereshkigal was widely recognized as the Queen of the Dead, lending support to the claim that the Queen of the Night relief from Hammurabi's reign depicts her. Although goddesses lost their status later in Mesopotamian history, early evidence clearly shows the most powerful deities were once female.
Inanna (later Ishtar of the Assyrians) was among the most popular deities and may have inspired similar goddesses in many other cultures including Sauska of the Hittites, Astarte of the Phoenicians, Aphrodite of the Greeks, Venus of the Romans, and perhaps even Isis of the Egyptians. The underworld in all these other cultures was ruled by a god, however, and Ereshkigal is unique in being the only female deity to hold this position even after gods supplanted goddesses and Nergal was given to her as consort.


Although Ereshkigal was feared, she was also greatly respected. The Descent of Inanna has been widely - and wrongly - interpreted in the modern day as a symbolic journey of a woman becoming her 'true self.' Written works may be interpreted in any reasonable way only insofar as that interpretation can be supported by the text. The Descent of Inanna certainly lends itself to a Jungian interpretation of a journey to wholeness by confronting one's darker half, but this would not have been the original meaning of the poem nor is that interpretation supported by the work itself. Far from praising Inanna, or presenting her as some heroic archetype, the poem shows her as selfish and self-serving and, further, ends with praise for Ereshkigal, not Inanna.
Inanna/Ishtar is frequently depicted in Mesopotamian literature as a woman who largely thinks only of herself and her own desires, often at the expense of others. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, her sexual advances are spurned by the hero and so she sends her sister's husband, Gugulana, The Bull of Heaven, to destroy Gilgamesh's realm. After hundreds of people are killed by the bull's rampage, it is killed by Enkidu, the friend and comrade-in-arms of Gilgamesh. Enkidu is condemned by the gods for killing a deity and sentenced to die; the event which then sends Gilgamesh on his quest for immortality. In the Gilgamesh story, Inanna/Ishtar only thinks of herself and the same is true in The Descent of Inanna.
Ishtar's Descent into the Underworld Inscription

Ishtar's Descent into the Underworld Inscription

The work begins by stating how Inanna chooses to travel to the underworld to attend Gugulana's funeral - a death she brought about - and details how she is treated when she arrives. Ereshkigal is not happy to hear her sister is at the gates and instructs Neti to make her remove various articles of clothing and ornaments at each of the seven gates before admitting her to the throne room. By the time Inanna stands before Ereshkigal she is naked, and after the Annuna of the Dead pass judgment against her, Ereshkigal kills her sister and hangs her corpse on the wall. It is only through Inanna's cleverness in previously instructing her servant Ninshubur what to do, and Ninshubur's ability to persuade the gods in favor of her mistress, that Inanna is resurrected. Even so, Inanna's consort Dumuzi and his sister (agricultural dying and reviving deities) then need to take her place in the underworld because it is the land of no return and no soul can come back without finding a replacement.
The main character of the piece is not Inanna but Ereshkigal. The queen acts on the judgment of her advisors, the Annuna, who recognize that Inanna is guilty of causing Gugulana's death. The text reads:
The annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her
They passed judgment against her.
Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death
She spoke against her the word of wrath
She uttered against her the cry of guilt
She struck her.
Inanna was turned into a corpse
A piece of rotting meat
And was hung from a hook on the wall
(Wolkstein and Kramer, 60)
Inanna is judged and executed for her crime, but she has obviously foreseen this possibility and left instructions with her servant Ninshubur. After three days and three nights waiting for Inanna, Ninshubur follows the commands of the goddess, goes to Inanna's father-god Enki for help, and receives two galla (androgynous demons) to help her in returning Inanna to the earth. The galla enter the underworld "like flies" and, following Enki's specific instructions, attach themselves closely to Ereshkigal. The Queen of the Dead is seen in distress:
No linen was spread over her body
Her breasts were uncovered
Her hair swirled around her head like leeks
(Wolkstein and Kramer, 63-66).
The poem continues to describe the queen experiencing the pains of labor. The galla sympathize with the queen's pains, and she, in gratitude, offers them whatever gift they ask for. As ordered by Enki, the galla respond, "We wish only the corpse that hangs from the hook on the wall" (Wolkstein and Kramer, 67) and Ereshkigal gives it to them. The galla revive Inanna with the food and water of life, and she rises from the dead. It is at this point, after Inanna leaves and is given back all that Neti took from her at the seven gates, that someone else must be found to take Inanna's place. Her husband Dumuzi is chosen by Inanna and his sister Geshtinanna volunteers to go with him; Dumuzi will remain in the underworld for six months and Geshtinanna for the other six while Inanna, who caused all the problems in the first place, goes on to do as she pleases.
Marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi

Marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi

The Descent of Inanna would have resonated with an ancient audience in the same way it does today if one understands who the central character actually is. The poem ends with the lines:
Holy Ereshkigal! Great is your renown!
Holy Ereshkigal! I sing your praises!
(Wolkstein and Kramer, 89)
Ereshkigal is chosen as the main character of the work because of her position as the formidable Queen of the Dead, and the message of the poem relates to injustice: if a goddess as powerful as Ereshkigal can be denied justice and endure the sting then so can anyone reading or hearing the poem recited.


Ereshkigal reigns over her kingdom alone until the war god Nergal becomes her consort. In one version of the story, Nergal is seduced by the queen when he visits the underworld, leaves her after seven days of love-making, but then returns to stay with her for six months of the year. Versions of the story have been found in Egypt (among the Amarna Letters ) dating to the 15th century BCE and at Sultantepe, site of an ancient Assyrian city, dated to the 7th century BCE; but the best-known version, dating from the Neo-Babylonian Period (c. 626-539 BCE), has Enki manipulating the events which send Nergal to the underworld as consort to the Queen of the Dead.
One day the gods prepared a great banquet to which everyone was invited. Ereshkigal could not attend, however, because she could not leave the underworld and the gods could not descend to hold their banquet there because they would afterwards be unable to leave. The god Enki sent a message to Ereshkigal to send a servant who could bring her back her share of the feast, and she sent her son Namtar.
When Namtar arrived at the gods' banquet hall, they all stood out of respect for his mother except for the war god Nergal.Namtar was insulted and wanted the wrong redressed, but Enki told him to simply return to the underworld and tell his mother what happened. When Ereshkigal hears of the disrespect of Nergal, she tells Namtar to send a message back to Enki demanding that Nergal be sent so she could kill him.
The Queen of the Night Reconstruction
The Queen of the Night Reconstruction
The gods confer on this request and recognize its legitimacy and so Nergal is told he must journey to the underworld. Enki has understood this would happen, of course, and provides Nergal with 14 demon escorts to assist him at each of the seven gates of the underworld. When Nergal arrives, his presence is announced by Neti, and Namtar tells his mother that the god who would not rise has come. Ereshkigal gives orders that he is to be admitted through each of the seven gates which should then be barred behind him and she will kill him when he reaches the throne room.
After passing through each gate, however, Nergal posts two of his demon escorts to keep it open and marches to the throne room where he overpowers Namtar and drags Ereshkigal to the floor. He raises his great axe to cut off her head, but she pleads with him to spare her, promising to be his wife if he agrees and share her power with him. Nergal consents and seems to feel sorry for what he has done. The poem ends with the two kissing and the promise that they will remain together.
Since Nergal was often causing problems on earth by losing his temper and causing war and strife, it has been suggested that Enki arranged the entire scenario to get him out of the way. War was recognized as a part of the human experience, however, and so Nergal could not remain in the underworld permanently but had to return to the surface for six months out of the year.Since he had posted his demon escorts at the gates, had arrived of his own free will, and been invited to stay as consort by the queen, Nergal was able to leave without having to find a replacement.
As in The Descent of Inanna, the symbolism of The Marriage of Ereshkigal and Nergal (either version) touches on the same themes as the Greek story of the Demeter, goddess of nature and bounty, and her daughter Persephone who is abducted by Hades. In the Greek tale, having eaten of the fruit of the dead, Persephone must spend half a year in the underworld with Hades and, during this time, Demeter mourned the loss of her daughter. This story explained the seasons in that when Demeter and Persephone were together, the world was in bloom, but when Persephone returned to the underworld, nothing would grow and the earth was cold. The Descent of Inanna corresponds directly while The Marriage of Ereshkigal and Nergalexplains the seasons of war since conflicts were waged only in certain seasons.


Ereshkigal is always represented in prayers and rituals as a formidable goddess of great power but often in stories as one who forgives an injustice or a wrong in the interests of the greater good. In this role, she encouraged piety in the people who should follow her example in their own lives. If Ereshkigal could suffer injustice and continue to perform her tasks in accordance with the will of the gods, then human beings should do no less.
Her further significance was as the ruler of the underworld by which she was understood to reward the good and punish the evil, of course, but more importantly to keep the dead in the realm where they belonged. The seven gates of the underworld were not constructed to keep anyone out but rather to keep everyone who belonged there in. A cult of the dead grew up around Ereshkigal to honor those who had passed into her realm and continue to remember and care for them. Since the dead had nothing but muddy water to drink and dust to eat, food was placed and fresh water poured on tombs, which was thought to trickle down to the mouth of the departed. Scholar EA Wallis Budge writes:
The tears of the living comforted the dead and their lamentations and dirges consoled them. To satisfy the cravings of the dead these offerings were sometimes made by priests who devoted their lives to the cult of the dead, and the kinsmen of the dead often employed them to recite incantations that would have the effect of bettering the lot of the dead in the dread kingdom of Ereshkigal...The chief object of all such pious acts was to benefit the dead but underneath it all was the fervent desire of the living to keep the dead in the underworld. The living were afraid lest the dead should return to this world and it was necessary to avoid such a calamity at all costs. (145)
Ereshkigal, as with all the gods of Mesopotamia, maintained order and stood against the forces of chaos. Those souls who had left the world of the living were not supposed to return, and Ereshkigal made certain they remained where they belonged.If a ghost should come back to haunt the living, one could be sure it was for a good reason and with Ereshkigal's permission.As in other cultures, the main reasons for a haunting were improper burial of the dead or impious acts which had gone unpunished. As queen and guardian of the dead, Ereshkigal stood as a potent reminder to the living to observe the proper rites and rituals in their lives and to act in the best interests of their immediate and larger communities.

Cuneiform Lexical Lists › Antique Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by William Brown
published on 05 May 2016
Lexical lists are compilations of cuneiform signs and word readings written on clay tablets throughout Mesopotamia. From the late 4th millennium BCE up to the 1st century CE, scribal communities copied, modified, and passed on these cuneiform lexical lists and preserved them for as knowledge for a variety of purposes. Just as today people pass on and embrace the knowledge of scientific discoveries, lexical lists were the knowledge and intellectual material of the day when cuneiform writing emerged in the 4th millennium BCE. Including unpublished lexical lists, over 15,000 tablets exist. For the duration of the cuneiform lexical tradition, the meaning, purpose, and significance between world lists was in flux and development.
Cuneiform Clay Tablet

Cuneiform Clay Tablet


In the simplest form, lexical lists may be divided into two categories: sign lists and word lists. The first primarily presents an inventory of signs along with their proper use. The second organizes cuneiform by semantics, which is the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning, and is typically written in a thematic organization. Of course, some contain elements of both sign lists and word lists, indicative that we must permit a certain amount of fluidity when attempting to define lexical lists.Over time and with greater cultural interactions, they were further added upon with two columns, and sometimes three, in different languages in order to operate as transmitters of language for future generations. Although this description makes lexical lists seem mundane and pointless, they, in reality, can be used to understand historical developments and reconstruct the cultural landscape and ideas of the ancient Near East.


In c. 3200 BCE, archaic writing of cuneiform was developed. During this period, the technology of writing was novel. Niek Veldhuis comments on the historical significance of archaic lexical lists: "The invention of a writing system is to be seen in the context of the development of standardized mass production and organized labor" (27). Consequently, a new class of society emerged, namely the scribal class, and lexical lists became a tool for constructing social identity within early scribal communities.
Moving into the 3rd millennium BCE, cuneiform lexical lists spread unevenly, which prevents strong conclusions from being made. Up to the Old Akkadian and Ur III periods (c. 2230 – 2004 BCE), lexical lists were primarily based in single locations, though not spread across Mesopotamia. In the Old Akkadian and Ur III periods, "the lexical material is reduced to a trickle" (Veldhuis, 142). Thus, for the duration of the 3rd millennium BCE, we only have evidence that lexical lists were primarily tools of authority, power, and leadership, not teaching within scribal communities. Importantly, in both the archaic lexical lists and those within the third millennium, there is great conservativeness, with many of the same texts being copied and written, with minor adjustments.


At the dawning of the second millennium, the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000 – 1600 BCE), traditional texts from the archaic period and third millennium began to dwindle and new word lists and sign lists began to emerge. This period is extremely important in reconstructing the development of scribal practices and lexical lists because we see the establishment of an Old Babylonian scribal curriculum. Many of the texts from the archaic period became "teaching texts that introduced pupils to the invented tradition of a glorious Sumerian past" (Veldhuis, 218). Additionally, the new lexical lists, such as grammatical lists, found association with divinatory and mathematical literature rather than the scribal school. Third, we see the emergence of lexical lists oriented towards speculative philology, or the isolation of Sumerian symbols to translate them into Akkadian. This third category for usage of lexical lists is important because it marks the foundation of the social class of scholars. All in all, the developments during this period fit within the broader societal changes, namely the emergence of Babylonian elites.
Transitioning into the International period (c. 1600 – 1000 BCE), the late 2nd millennium, also known as the Late Bronze Age, Middle Babylonian, Kassite, Amarna, or Middle Assyrian periods, "saw an unprecedented spread of cuneiform writing and Babylonian written culture over the entire ancient Near East" (Veldhuis, 226). Reception of lexical lists during the period varied diversely because of different attitudes towards the cuneiform and the lexical tradition. During the International period, lexical lists began to splinter into various traditions, meaning that one could place two of the same lexical lists side by side and find variations. Most significant in terms of reception of lexical lists is Assyria ’s, who reacted with conservatism and embraced their Babylonian cultural heritage.
Overlapping with the International period, the early history of Assur, the heart of ancient Assyria, treated the Babylonian cultural heritage like holy writ, thereby redefining the character of scribal practice. With the acquisition and high value of this intellectual tradition, lexical lists became the literary technology in the Middle Assyrian period, which justified and cemented Assyria into a respected and ancient tradition. The fluidity of lexical lists during this period decreased and became objectified, frozen in time as a sort of canon. They were considered so because, to a certain extent, lexical lists symbolized primordial knowledge and "came to play a role in the management of power and legitimation of a world empire " (Veldhuis, 391).
Cuneiform Clay Tablet

Cuneiform Clay Tablet

Finally, in the Neo- and Late Babylonian period, scholarship, and thereby lexical lists, became the property and responsibility of temples and elite families in charge. Many of these late lexical lists include dedication prayers, indicative that writing and education were closely associated with temples and political leadership. Additionally, unlike the Old Babylonian period, lexical traditions ceased becoming the primary focus of scholarship; rather they became integral to further other areas of scholarship, such as celestial sciences and horoscopy.
Unfortunately, many lexical lists which possibly existed in the 1st century CE are now absent because the scribes chose to write with a different cultural medium brought by Hellenization, namely writing on parchment or other surfaces rather than clay tablets.


From the archaic period up to the 1st century CE, roughly 3,300 years, the tradition of lexical lists developed into a source of knowledge and a political legitimation tool. Yet, during this long period of time, lexical lists maintained an important position within the cultural landscape because they represented the increasingly valuable technology of writing, a technology which eventually became associated with primordial knowledge. Through a lengthy reception history, many of the lexical lists from the archaic period were still utilized in the 1st century CE, a remarkable time for any literature to be remembered and well-received. In a world that takes writing and reading for granted, though, we would do well to remember that scribal practice, writing, and reading are all technologies and potential mediums for social, political, and religious change.


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