Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter May 25, 2017

An “Egyptianising” Underworld Judging an Assyrian Prince? New Perspectives on VAT 10057

  • Alexandre Alexandrovich Loktionov ORCID logo EMAIL logo


This article makes the case for an Egyptian connection in the Neo-Assyrian tablet VAT 10057, commonly known as the Underworld Vision of an Assyrian Prince. It opens with a discussion of past work on this tablet, a synopsis of the text, and a survey of the evidence for Egyptian people and culture in the Neo-Assyrian Empire. It then proceeds to analyse specific lines of the composition which may reveal signs of what is termed “Egyptianising” influence. One description in particular, featuring a god standing atop a crocodile, is highlighted as especially convincing on the basis of a very close match with contemporary Egyptian iconography of the god Horus. In the light of this principal evidence, other possible but less definitive examples are put forward. The article also discusses the nature of the “Egyptianising” elements, assessing the possibilities of both purely descriptive and conceptual connections with Egyptian culture, and what this might indicate about the people behind the text. The “Egyptianising” elements are also located in the broader context of the composition, and their place in a complex Mesopotamian text also incorporating some Elamite elements is considered. Overall, the article aims to demonstrate that some sort of Egyptian connection was present, although it concedes that its scale and nature are perhaps impossible to gauge. It is hoped that this piece will encourage other scholars to pursue connections between Egypt and Assyria with renewed vigour, demonstrating that textual analysis may prove fruitful in this area.

Funding statement: Robinson College, Cambridge, (Grant/Award Number: ‘N/A’) St. John’s College, Cambridge, (Grant/Award Number: ‘N/A’) Arts and Humanities Research Council, (Grant/Award Number: ‘AH/L503897/1’).


I would like to thank Dr. Martin Worthington of St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, for invaluable advice during the initial preparation of this paper. My thanks also go to the Division of Archaeology of the University of Cambridge, which provided an excellent environment for conducting this research. Finally, I am grateful to St. John’s College, Cambridge, and Robinson College, Cambridge, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for their financial support.


Abdi, K. 2002. An Egyptian Cippus of Horus in the Iran National Museum, Tehran. JNES 61(3): 203–210.10.1086/469023Search in Google Scholar

Ataç, M. A. 2004. The “Underworld Vision” of the Ninevite Intellectual Milieu. Iraq 66: 67–76.10.1017/S0021088900001650Search in Google Scholar

Barnett, R. D. 1960. Assyrian Palace Reliefs and Their Influence on the Sculptures of Babylonia and Persia. London: Batchworth Press.Search in Google Scholar

Borger, R. 1956. Die Inschriften Asarhaddons Königs von Assyrien. AfO Beiheft 9. Graz: E. Weidner.Search in Google Scholar

Brandon, S. G. F. 1958. A Problem of the Osirian Judgement of the Dead. Numen 5(2): 110–127.10.1163/156852758X00076Search in Google Scholar

Carson, R. A. G. 1980. Principal Coins of the Romans: Volume II: The Principate 31BC-AD296. London: British Museum Press.Search in Google Scholar

Civil, M. 1998. “Adamdun,” the Hippopotamus, and the Crocodile. JCS 50: 11–14.10.2307/1360027Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, M. E. 1973. The Identification of the Kušû. JCS 25(4): 203–210.10.2307/1359222Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, M. E. 2011. An English to Akkadian Companion to the Assyrian Dictionaries. Bethesda: CDL Press.Search in Google Scholar

Day, J. 1985. God’s Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea: Echoes of a Canaanite Myth in the Old Testament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ebeling, E. 1931. Tod und Leben nach den Vorstellungen der Babylonier. Berlin: De Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar

Eyre, C. 1976. Fate, Crocodiles, and the Judgement of the Dead: Some Mythological Allusions in Egyptian Literature. SAK 4: 103–114.Search in Google Scholar

Farber, W. 1974. Von Ba und anderen Wassertieren: testudines sargonicae? JCS 26(4): 195–207.10.2307/1359441Search in Google Scholar

Faulkner, R. O. 1962. A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.2307/3855708Search in Google Scholar

Faulkner, R. O. 1985. The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. London: British Museum Press.Search in Google Scholar

Feldman, M. H. 2004. Nineveh to Thebes and Back: Art and Politics between Assyria and Egypt in the Seventh Century BCE. Iraq 66: 141–150.10.1017/S002108890000173XSearch in Google Scholar

Foster, B. R. 2005. Before the Muses. Bethesda: CDL Press.Search in Google Scholar

Glare, P. G. W. 1982. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Godley, A. D. 1920. Herodotus: Books I-II. Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.Search in Google Scholar

Hinz, W. 1965. The Elamite God D. Gal. JNES 24(4): 351–354.Search in Google Scholar

Hornung, E. M. and T. Abt. 2007. The Egyptian Amduat: The Book of the Hidden Chamber. trans. David A. Warburton. Zurich: Living Human Heritage Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Huber, I. 2006. Von Affenwärtern, Schlangenbeschwörern und Palastmanagern: Ägypter im Mesopotamien des ersten vorchristlichen Jahrtausends. Pp. 303–330 in Altertum und Mittelmeerraum: Die antike Welt diesseits und jenseits der Levante: Festschrift für Peter W. Haider, ed. R. Rollinger and B. Truschnegg. Stuttgart: F. Steiner.Search in Google Scholar

Johnson, J. H. 1975. Appendix B: Hieroglyphic Text. Pp. 143–150 in Excavations at Nippur: Eleventh Season, ed. M. Gibson. OIC 22. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kahn, D. 2004. Taharqa, King of Kush and the Assyrians. Journal of the Society of the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 31: 109–128.Search in Google Scholar

Kinnier Wilson, J. V. 1972. The Nimrud Wine Lists: A Study of Men and Administration at the Assyrian Capital in the Eighth Century, BC. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq.Search in Google Scholar

Koch, H. 1995. Theology and Worship in Elam and Achaemenid Iran. Pp. 1959–1969 in Civilizations of the Ancient near East, ed. J. M. Sasson. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Search in Google Scholar

Köcher, F. 1957–58. Zum Assur-Fragment der Serie igi.duḫ.a=tāmartu. AfO 18: 86–88.Search in Google Scholar

Kousoulis, P. 1999. Magic and Religion as Performative Theological Union: The Apotropaic Ritual of Overthrowing Apophis. PhD dissertation (University of Liverpool).Search in Google Scholar

Kvanvig, H. S. 1981. An Akkadian Vision as Background for Daniel 7. Studia Theologica 35:85–89.10.1080/00393388108599999Search in Google Scholar

Labat, R. and M.-L. Florence. 1994. Manuel d’épigraphie akkadienne. 6th ed. Paris: Société Nouvelle Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner.Search in Google Scholar

Landsberger, B. 1962. MSL. Vol. VIII/2. Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico.Search in Google Scholar

Levi, A. C. 1948. Hadrian as King of Egypt. The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society 6th Series VIII: 30–38.Search in Google Scholar

Livingstone, A. 1989. Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea. SAA 3. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Loktionov, A. 2014. Kušû: Crocodile after All? Nabu 2014(4): 164–167.Search in Google Scholar

Onasch, H.-U. 2010. Ägyptische und assyrische Alabastergefässe aus Assur. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz-Verlag.Search in Google Scholar

Oppenheim, A. L. et al. (eds.) 1965. The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Vol. 2: B. Chicago: Oriental Institute. Cited as CAD 2.Search in Google Scholar

Pedersén, O. 1986. Archives and Libraries in the City of Assur: A Survey of the Material from the German Excavations II. Studia Semitica Upsaliensis 8. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.Search in Google Scholar

Pedersén, O. and L. Troy. 1993. Egyptians in Nineveh. Nabu 1993(2): 39.Search in Google Scholar

Rackham, H. 1967. Cicero XIX: De Natura Deorum Academica. Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.Search in Google Scholar

Radner, K. 1999. Ein neuassyrisches Privatarchiv der Tempelgoldschmiede von Assur. Studien zu den Assur-Texten 1. Saarbrücken: Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag.Search in Google Scholar

Radner, K. 2000. Die neuassyrischen Texte der Münchner Grabung in Assur 1990. Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 132: 101–104.Search in Google Scholar

Radner, K. 2009. The Assyrian King and His Scholars: The Syro-Anatolian and the Egyptian Schools. Pp. 221–238 in Of God(S), Trees, Kings, and Scholars: Neo-Assyrian and Related Studies in Honour of Simo Parpola, ed. M. Luukko et al. StOr 106. Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society.Search in Google Scholar

Radner, K. 2012. After Eltekeh: Royal Hostages from Egypt at the Assyrian Court. Pp. 471–479 in Stories of Long Ago. Festschrift für Michael D. Roaf, ed. H. D. Baker, K. Kaniuth and A. Otto. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 397. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag.Search in Google Scholar

Radner, K. 2015. Ancient Assyria: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/actrade/9780198715900.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Reiner, E. 1958. Šurpu: A Collection of Sumerian and Akkadian Incantations. AfO Beiheft 11. Graz: E. Weidner.Search in Google Scholar

Ritner, R. K. 1989. Horus on the Crocodiles: A Juncture of Religion and Magic in Late Dynastic Egypt. Pp. 103–116 in Religion and Philosophy in Ancient Egypt, ed. J. P. Allen. YES 3. New Haven: Yale Egyptological Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Sanders, S. L. 2009. The First Tour of Hell: From Neo-Assyrian Propaganda to Early Jewish Revelation. Janer 11/2009 9(2): 151–169.10.1163/156921109X12520501747831Search in Google Scholar

Seele, K. C. 1947. Horus on the Crocodiles. JNES 6(1): 43–52.10.1086/370811Search in Google Scholar

Śliwa, J. 1974. Some Remarks Concerning Victorious Ruler Representations in Egyptian Art. Forschungen und Berichte 16 (Archäologische Beiträge): 97–117.10.2307/3880745Search in Google Scholar

Speiser, E. A. 1969. A Vision of the Nether World. Pp. 109–110 in Ancient near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 3rd ed., ed. J. B. Pritchard. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Spieser, C. 2010. Cartouche. Pp. UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology in ed. E. Frood and W. Wendrich. Los Angeles. in Google Scholar

Tadmor, H., B. Landsberger, and S. Parpola. 1989. The Sin of Sargon and Sennacherib’s Last Will. SAAB 3/1: 3–51.Search in Google Scholar

Thomason, A. K. 2004. From Sennacherib’s Bronzes to Taharqa’s Feet: Conceptions of the Material World at Nineveh. Iraq 66: 151–162.10.1017/S0021088900001741Search in Google Scholar

van Buren, E. D. 1939. The Fauna of Ancient Mesopotamia as Represented in Art. Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico.Search in Google Scholar

van Koppen, F. and K. van den Toorn. 1999. Humban. Pp. 432–434 in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2nd ed., ed. K. van den Toorn et al. Leiden: Brill.Search in Google Scholar

von Soden, W. 1936. Die Unterweltsvision eines assyrischen Kronprinzen. ZA 43: 1–32.10.1515/zava.1936.43.1-4.1Search in Google Scholar

von Soden, W. 1985. Akkadisches Handwörterbuch. Band I. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz-Verlag. Cited as AHw 1.Search in Google Scholar

West, M. L. 1997. The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Wiggermann, F. A. M. 1997. Mischwesen A. Pp. 222–246 in Reallexicon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie: 8. Band: Meek-Mythologie, ed. D.-O. Edzard. Berlin: de Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar

Wilkinson, R. H. 2003. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson.Search in Google Scholar

Zamazalová, S. 2011. Before the Assyrian Conquest in 671 B.C.E.: Relations between Egypt, Kush and Assyria. Pp. 297–328 in Egypt and the near East – the Crossroads. Proceedings of an International Conference on the Relations of Egypt and the near East in the Bronze Age, Prague September 1–3, 2010, ed. J. MynárͮOvá. Prague: Charles University in Prague.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2017-5-25
Published in Print: 2017-6-27

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter Inc., Boston/Berlin

Downloaded on 28.9.2023 from
Scroll to top button