Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ashurbanipal


"Ashurbanipal", by Saadya

in the “Paper Heroes” exhibition
Jaffa Museum, Israel
October 5 – December 30, 2017

Curator:  Ilan Garibi

Strap your sword upon a hero's thigh...” (Psalms 45: 3)

This king is not my hero. He is, however, the hero of my hero.

My hero is a Jewish poet who lived in the 7th century BCE in exile in Babylon, then moved to Jerusalem: one of the early Zionists. The poetry he wrote in both locations was to shape Jewish religious experience down through the ages, and many of his verses, whole and in fragments, have made their way into central portions of the Hebrew prayerbook. In their own day too they influenced contemporary Hebrew literary productions such as the Book of Jonah. Yes: a hero of mine, all around.

His hero — so he describes him in a poem written for him in 663 BCE, in Nineveh — was King Ashurbanipal: the last great ruler of the Assyrian Empire, and by his own account the first truly literate one, who