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Forsight, Forecasting, and the Future in Ancient Mesopotamia

Thursday, November 21st at 7:00pm 43 months ago
Royal Ontario Museum, Eaton Theatre, Level 1B 100 Queens Park, Toronto, ON
Images uncovered from splendid palaces at Nineveh and Nimrud, coupled with vivid accounts in the Bible where Assyria was reviled by the prophet Isaiah, give us something of the face Assyria presented to the outside world. A more behind the scenes look at the internal workings of this first of all empires, however, takes us to the systematic institutional implementation of foresight by Assyrian kings. State sponsored divination by the stars and by the liver of a sacrificial sheep were the techniques employed by kings to know the future and gauge their chances of success. Because those in power have perhaps the most to gain through a judicious use of foresight, it is not surprising that the written remains of one of the most powerful, indeed the first, of ancient empires trained and employed teams of experts in the art and science of looking forward. Ancient Assyrian kings were invested in the art of anticipating the future in the realms of politics and economics, much as we ourselves are invested in projecting and preparing for the future in our modern realms of business, government, and science. From cuneiform tablets produced by the diviners of the 7th century BC Assyrian court, we are afforded an intimate look at the Assyrian Empire, and gain insight into the context, practice, and purpose of Assyro-Babylonian divination and its role in the earliest and most fully documented cultivation of foresight.
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