Hello, I am Claudia Posani and I am very glad to write an article for the CREWS blog. I am interested in Hittitology, with a particular focus on Syro-Anatolian Iron Age history and on hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions.
I spent two months as a Visiting Fellow with the CREWS project. During May and June 2022, I worked on multilingual inscriptions of the so-called Neo-Hittite states (around 11th-8th centuries BC). These inscriptions include bilingual and also trilingual texts written on different supports, such as statues, steles and orthostats. They belong to the textual category of “royal inscriptions”, namely they express the voice of kings or rulers who speak in first person in the texts narrating their enterprises.
The main feature of these documents consists of offering the same text written in two or more languages. The texts I was dealing with were written in Hieroglyphic Luwian, Phoenician, Aramaic and Assyrian. These different languages (Luwian belonging to the Indo-European, the other to the Semitic language family) were written adopting different writing systems. Consequently, we can read on the same support the same text written in hieroglyphic script, cuneiform characters and alphabetic signs.
Multilingualism in Syro-Anatolian states is certainly connected to the historical background of these polities, which were strongly characterised by mutual contacts and cultural hybridity. Nevertheless, one point captured my interest: could textual multilingualism/multiscriptalism be connected to royal propaganda and to the intention of presenting a specific image of the king?
I worked on a main group of six multilingual inscriptions:
1) KARATEPE 1 (hieroglyphic Luwian and Phoenician)
2) ÇINEKÖY (hieroglyphic Luwian and Phoenician)
3) İVRİZ 2 (hieroglyphic Luwian and Phoenician – not published yet)
4)İNCIRLI (hieroglyphic Luwian, cuneiform Assyrian and Phoenician)
5) ARSLANTASH 1 and 2 (hieroglyphic Luwian, cuneiform Assyrian and Aramaic)
6) TELL FEKHERIYEH (Assyrian and Aramaic)
By analysing these texts with respect to their materiality, I could highlight one aspect: all of them, in fact, include both text and figures. Therefore, their communicative value is very strong. It derives not only from the content of the text, but also by the figurative apparatus of the monument and by its being positioned within a specific archaeological context.
One feature is worth exploring in more detail. Multilingualism/multiscriptalism appeared to be often connected to monuments placed in the area of the city gates. In ancient cultures city gates had a complex role. Besides being a bulwark of defence, they were also highly symbolic places where political power displayed its messages addressed to those arriving from outside. In addition, ritual ceremonies were most probably performed at the city gates, connecting a mythological past to the present and the future by means of cultic performances. In other words, city gates were meant to keep the memory of the past alive, but at the same time to emanate strong performative messages.
Thus, I think that the use of multilingualism/multiscriptalism could be interpreted accordingly. In other words, multilingualism would have been a tool for giving value to local memory, which might have been represented by the use of one language/script, in historical frameworks characterised by political changes and imbalances of power. For sure the audience played an important role in the choice of using multilingualism: as it is well known, Neo-Hittite kingdoms were populated by different ethnic-linguistic groups. But the question needs to be considered taking into account the historical framework of that choice. Multilingualism and multiscriptalism are in my opinion connected to a desire to preserve memory of the past, embedding it in a new political framework. Accordingly, those rulers who opted for writing multilingual inscriptions wanted not only to reach a multilinguistic audience, but also to preserve for some reason memory of the past, perhaps to reassure part of the audience about cultural continuity. Some aspects of the content of the inscriptions seem to provide clues to this hypothesis, but the question needs to be further studied. I really hope to have the possibility to further develop the research I have undertaken during my stay at Cambridge.
I would like to spend a few words to describe my experience with the CREWS project at the University of Cambridge. I had a wonderful stay. The Library of the Faculty of Classics and the University Library were very well-stocked and the services fast and efficient. Research meetings with the P.I. and the other members of the project were occasions for stimulating discussions. The scientific rigour did not prevent me from always feeling comfortable.
~ Claudia Posani