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13. The First “World Event”: Sennacherib at Jerusalem

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Chapter Summary

This chapter surveys stories about Sennacherib in the seven cultural traditions, and an examination of the original formative conditions that fostered their widespread popularity in the cosmopolitan wake of the Assyrian empire. It focuses at themes which reflect the imperial(ized) societies in which the stories were set and re-told, including a new emphasis on protagonists who were non-royal; a preference for narrative development by miracles and fantastic events; and an underlying disquiet revealed in themes of flight and hiding. The chapter looks at the role these stories played in constructing social memory in an imperial age, especially through the operation of historical forgetting. Finally, it focuses back on the crucial role the event played in establishing the new historical sensibility that came to characterize the late antique Near East, in which historical change was not dispensed by gods through the agency of kings, but effected by the actions of men.

Keywords: Assyrian empire; protagonists; Sennacherib



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