Gods and Kings
How did the faiths of the Near Eastern world influence the world views of the Eastern Mediterranean? What was the relationship between gods and kings, empires and religious belief?
In the second millennium B.C.E., the civilizations of Egypt and the Ancient Near East experienced a dramatic transformation due to the growth of new empires. This was accompanied by the cultural assimilation of different peoples that affected nearly the entire Eastern Mediterranean. During the Iron Age, the Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Persians became the dominant empire-builders. In the case of Persia, under Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius, the first invasions of the Greek mainland began. Although the Persians were eventually defeated by the Greeks, their influence on Greek culture cannot be underestimated.
- Akhenaton's Hymn to the Aton
The New Kingdom pharaoh, Akhenaton, revolutionized Egyptian religion by the exclusive worship of Aton, the physical sun disk.
- The Great Inscription of Darius as Behistun (c. 500 B.C.E.)
Engraved 300 feet from the base of a 1700 foot cliff, this inscription details the perils Darius had overcome and how he wished others to perceive him in the future.
- An Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar (c. early 6th century B.C.E.)
In this inscription the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, boasts of his glory and mighty deeds.
- Assyrian Inscription of Tiglath-Pileser I (c. 1100 B.C.E.)
Recorded on four clay cylinders, this inscription relates the self-praise, glorification of the gods, cruelty, and victories of the king who built the Assyrian empire.
- Zarathustra and the Doctrine of Dualism
Three thousand years ago the Persian prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster) saw the universe as the result of a struggle between "truth" and "lie" and that man had the responsibility of making his own choice between the two.
- Minoan Bull Leaping, The Toreador Fresco, Knossos Palace, Crete, c.1500 B.C.E.
Minoan bull jumping, practiced by both boys and girls, served as a Minoan test of athleticism, courage, and ability.