Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, c2200 BCE

Naram-Sin was king of the Akkadian Empire ca. 2254-2218 BCE.  He was the fourth Akkadian king and grandson of Sargon, founder of the empire.  The Akkadian empire united the Sumerian and Semitic peoples, covering Mesopotamia, the Levant, and parts of Iran.  During Naram-Sin's reign the empire grew to its greatest extent and Naram-Sin was the first Mesopotamian king to claim divinity for himself.  This stele, created sometime during Naram-Sin's reign, shows the king in his divine status as he leads his army to victory over the Lullubians.  Naram-Sin appears far larger than anyone else and wearing a horned helmet that symbolized divinity.  The king ascends this mountain, literally crushing his enemies underfoot, while his army follows behind.  Every figure in this scene looks toward Naram-Sin, even a Lullubian on the far right who flees in terror and awe.  The order and discipline of Naram-Sin's army is contrasted with the chaos of the Lullubians who are shown in gruesome defeat (one man is thrown from the mountain while another has a spear in his neck).  Naram-Sin himself, in addition to his size, is depicted with nobility and strength; his pose is resolute and deliberate as he ascends toward the heavens to join the gods, represented here by the Star of Shamash, the sun god.  This monumental piece (about 6.5 feet tall) is the first known Mesopotamian monument to depict a continuous scene, rather than splitting the action into several horizontal registers.  The artist unified the action to commemorate the glory of Naram-Sin, just as Naram-Sin is shown as the universal monarch, known as "King of the Four Regions".

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