We are concerned in this segment of our MOOC with the relationship between the King of Assyria and the divine world. We've already discussed that the king is the instrument of the god, Aššur, has a special connection with the god, Aššur, and he's acting on behalf of the god, Aššur. But Aššur is, of course, not the only god in the realm and the king, as the leader of the people, is the most important person holding together the state, had a duty to also take into account what the other gods might be thinking and that's what divination is all about. Divination is the discipline or the disciplines that deal with finding out what the future has in store and every leader, of course, has to plan for the future and has to take the future into account. So now, we want to look at which ways the Assyrian King employed to this end. There are two, we'll start with divination. In this image here, you see two diviners at work. They are leaning over the body of a sheep, a sheep that had been sacrificed before, the head has already been removed and, as you can see, they seem to be staring intently at the belly of that sheep. One of them is holding the legs apart while the other one seems to be investigating the belly area of the sheep. What are they doing? They are reading the liver of the sheep. Now, the context in which this happens is quite important. If we look at the slab of stone wall decoration on the whole, then you can see that this is happening as part of a campaign scene. It is taking place inside the Assyrian war camp, here down there in that corner. This is a typical depiction of the Assyrian camp and the point that is being made when ever this is shown in the context of war scenes is while there are chaotic scenes of conquest and battle very close by, not in our scene here however, the life in the camp is quiet, is ordered, is well-organised and corresponds very much to life in the Assyrian heartland. Even when the Assyrian king is on a campaign, he takes order with him and he is the person who guarantees this order, this balance even in the most extreme conditions such as in war. So, that's why life in camp is always shown as ultimately pleasant. We see people cooking here, serving food, so the living standards of the army are said or shown to be very high. The animals are treated well, we see the horses drinking and being cleaned. And here in the corner, we have our two diviners. And they stand for the fact that even at war, even in the chaotic scenario of warfare and battle, the king will take care to make informed decisions. Ultimately, we don't know why the sheep liver was seen as significant and why it offered a direct link into the minds of the gods, but Piotr Steinkeller came up with an interesting suggestion. He argued that the body of the sheep could perhaps be seen as the envelope of a letter that the gods offered to their human questioners and that the liver inside the envelope would be the letter in which their message was inscribed. That's an attractive idea. Whether it's correct - we don't know because the Assyrians do not discuss the belief system that stands behind it. In any case, the liver was seen as the message that the sun god wished to communicate to whoever had asked him a question. The context is a very important one. The sheep was sacrificed to the god and, therefore, blessed, of course. And it was only opened after it had been sacrificed, so if one thinks that the god, Šamaš, is in a position to modify the liver, and that clearly seems to be the idea that stands behind that, then he would only do that after the sacrifice had happened and after the ownership of the sheep had been transferred to him. So, it was at this point his liver, his divine message, and the diviners are reading it here, yeah? Okay, so the way this worked was that someone, in our context, the king asked the question and it had to be a yes-no question. The diviners did not know the content of the question but what they knew was that they had to produce either a positive or a negative answer and this is how they did it. They looked at the liver in a set sequence and investigated 13 points on the liver. There was a huge body of literature at that point assembled over more than a millennium and this data identified different observations in these particular spots as either positive or negative. So, that's what they did, they knew all this information and then they said, One is positive, two is negative, three is negative and so on, then arriving, therefore, at either a positive assessment or a negative assessment. If, of the 13 points six were negative and seven were positive, the overall answer was yes. If nine were negative, for example, and four were positive, the answer was no. And this answer would be communicated back to whoever had asked the question - in our case, the king who funded all of this because, as you can imagine, this is quite expensive. You have specialists that are versed in this huge body of literature and they have to work under these very specific conditions and you had to have many of them. It wasn't just one group working with the king. There were others that accompanied branches of the army and were in places where they were needed. And that's what our image with the camp scene was meant to highlight. So, this is how the King asked the sun god Šamaš for his opinion and, of course, this is a very flexible means of inquiring about the future. The king could phrase his question any way he liked, any time he liked, he had to invest the sheep, of course, and that makes it something that is, on the whole, out of the reach of most people. Because the sheep was lost to you, the sheep was given over to the king and while this form of divination was not at all exclusive to the king, it was routinely practitioned only in the context of the state. Other people would, maybe once or twice in their life perhaps, think about doing something like that when they had to make really really tough decisions but would not routinely employ diviners and divination. Okay, the other form of inquiring about the future is something that we can relate much more easily to, it's astrology. Mesopotamia is the place of origin of astronomy, of watching the stars and, to this end, all of the star signs that we are using today are derived from star signs identified in ancient Mesopotamia, familiar also to the Assyrians. The Assyrian king had scholars in his employ that read the stars and they read heavenly writing, as the Assyrians called it, because that was their word for the constellations on the sky. By reading the heavenly writing, they could get a sense of what the gods wished to communicate to humankind. And in contrast to divination, where one asked a very specific question and got either a positive or a negative answer back, watching heavenly writing, reading the star signs is much, much more open ended and basically required watching the stars every night and recording what was going on and then trying to extrapolate opinions, trends from this. Certain constellations were very, very strongly associated with the king, with the kingdom of Assyria and when observations were made about these specific constellations, they were thought to intimately concern the fate of the king and the state and, therefore, reported back to the king who adjusted his decision-making in order to suit this. So the two forms of divination that we've discussed: astrology and extispicy (reading the liver) are the two favourite disciplines that the king used in order to make decisions. They are not the only ones that were practitioned but they are the two most important ones for the business of the Assyrian state for running the empire.