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9. Memories of Sennacherib in Aramaic Tradition

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Chapter Summary

The Assyrian king Sennacherib was both revered and reviled in ancient Aramaic literary traditions. Mentions of Sennacherib in Aramaic literature span more than a millenium, from the fifth-century B.C.E. Story and Proverbs of Aḥiqar, written in Egypt. Some of the Aramaic references to Sennacherib rely on the limited biblical accounts of his activities in 2 Kings, Isaiah, and Chronicles. In the Syriac text of Aḥiqar, Sennacherib and Esarhaddon's roles are reversed. Sennacherib is the ruler who is tricked into believing that his minister Aḥiqar has committed treason, and Esarhaddon is merely allotted the role of Sennacherib's father and otherwise has no further part to play in the narrative. Furthermore, in the Syriac text, Sennacherib, son of Sarḥadum, "king of Assyria and Nineveh", is not an unsympathetic figure, but someone who tries to protect Aḥiqar's property from Nadan, and who is very sorrowful over his minister's presumed perfidy.

Keywords: Aḥiqar; Aramaic literary traditions; Assyrian king Sennacherib



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