11320Re: [ANE-2] PERSIA: Is Nehemiah depicted at Persepolis?
- Aug 31, 2009This is an intriguing idea and one worth investigating further. I am not an expert on Persian royal iconography/propaganda but I am knowledgeable on Neo-Assyrian iconography and presented a paper on the topic several years ago at an ASOR meeting. To your point #2, I would add a few comments:
First, your post seems to imply that the Persian artists had only three "ethnic" groups that they could or would portray visually: Persians, Medes, and Jews. Is this, in fact, true? Can we prove that, by showing that no other ethnic groups were or might be depicted in the iconography at Persepolis? Did the Persians thus divide all peoples in their empire into these three groups? I don't know personally, but it seems that before you can argue that the cupbearer is Jewish, you must prove that he can't be anything else, or you must provide inscriptional evidence from the iconography at Persepolis that individuals dressed and presented as the cupbearer is were, in fact, Jewish. What would be nice is a picture of people dressed and depicted like the cupbearer with an inscription that says "Jews heading back to their homeland" or such. In that way, we could be pretty certain that Jewish people were indeed depicted in the same way as the cupbearer.
Second, if you could show visual evidence that Jewish people were depicted in the same garb and such as the cupbearer, you would have to also show that no other "ethnic" groups were. I don't know about Persian artists, but Neo-Assyrian artists tended to be pretty generic in the drawings and often depicted different ethnic groups (based on the locations mentioned in an inscription on the relief) with the same garb as those in other areas. A good example is the depiction of "Judeans" on the Lachish battle reliefs of Sennacherib. The people being led off have a certain headdress and clothing, and some scholars have argued that these individuals show us exactly what Judeans really looked like. However, there are other reliefs of Sennacherib that show individuals throughout the Fertile Crescent with the same headdresses and garb. So these depictions of "Judeans" are not necessarily exact representations of what Judeans looked and dressed like, but merely
generic depictions of conquered foreigners. Coming back to the cupbearer on the reliefs at Persepolis, does he really depict a Jewish person or just a generic foreigner or some other generic individual?
These are some questions and issues that are worth pursuing. Good luck with it!
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