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Raven Shaw

The statues of mesopotamian rulers were usually idealized, with intent to make them look as god-like and attractive as possible. The images were meant to embody their ruling power long after death. Campaign ads were carved to show the rulers defeating nature and their enemies and bringing fertility to the land they ruled. The rulers also contracted large temples to be built, to inspire awe in their subjects and associate themselves with the gods. Amazing feats of architecture were used to dazzle subjects and visitors, such as arches and gates that people pass through to get near the ruler or enter the ruler’s city.

In the Stele of Naram-sin, the ruler is depicted as much larger than his army men or his enemies, to show how he’s much more important. All the eyes of the small people are focused on Naram-sin, to draw the viewer’s eyes toward him.

Nebuchadnezzar associated himself with Marduk, and gentrified his city by having the Ishtar gateway built for it. It was coated in Lapis colored glass that shown in the desert, and covered in regularly arranged lions, cattle, and a type of dragon that looked like a primitive memory of cat/snake. The gateway was made of several parts, one of which 100 feet tall.

Gudea showed that the land was prosperous during his rule by holding a vase overflowing with the Tigris and the Euphrates in one statue. He marketed himself as pious and virtuous, showing concern for his subjects and building temples to various gods. Most statues of him were small, but made from the hardest stone so that they would last. It is also interesting that his statues show him wearing a shepherd’s hat instead of a crown. Gudea was one of the first kings to have a realistic bust of himself carved. This may have been a mental change within himself from immersion in group identity to recognition of individual identity, connected to his concern for his subjects.

In modern times, ancient Mesopotamian art has been either rebuilt by rulers to reclaim the power of ancient gods, or torn down in an effort to erase any previous civilization.

During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein thought that American troops would not risk damaging the Ziggurat of Ur, so he parked his fighter jets next to it. Turns out he was wrong. Saddam also had a small version of the Ishtar Gate built for his own museum.

ISIS practiced cultural cleansing by destroying temples, artifacts, shrines, and art, in an effort to wipe out polytheism and leave nothing but Islam behind. Ironically though, they also stole artifacts to sell on the black market to fund their military actions.