How do we know about Esarhaddon's covenant of 672 BC? There are a lot of sources about that: letters from the vault of correspondence, the inscriptions of Esarhaddon. But the most important source are the manuscripts of the actual covenant. I'll show you one, here. In contrast to the replicas that we've used so far, they were always smaller than the actual objects. This now is different. The actual object would be about this size. So this is blown up. And this is one of eight manuscripts found in the city of Kalḫu during the excavations in the 1950s headed by Max Mallowan. He is best known unfortunately, because he was of course one of the most important archaeologists of his day, but he's best known as the husband of Agatha Christie, the crime novelist, who also was on site in Kalḫu at the time. So this was found in the 1950s. Lots and lots of pieces of course, the tablets had been broken into hundreds of fragments. And in 2009, another tablet was found in a completely different place in the ancient city of Kullania, that's the site of Tell Ta'yinat on the Orontes river in the Hatay region of Turkey, quite close to the Mediterranean Sea. So we've got nine more or less complete copies of individual covenant tablets. And then, there is one fragment from the city of Assur. So, the covenant tablets were stored in various parts of the empire. And that's clear already from the fact that in this part, it is mentioned that different contract partners swore the oath. So these are client rulers and the provincial governors of the empire, most importantly. And they took the oath on behalf of all the people that they were in command of. I’ll read some passages to you from this very, very long document. It's more than 670 lines arranged in eight columns, but we’ll only look at some in order to highlight what Esarhaddon wanted to achieve with this. So first of all, he wanted to make sure that his son Ashurbanipal, would succeed him as the king of Assyria when he died. And so it says in the document, “On the day that Esarhaddon king of Assyria your lord, passes away, on that day Ashurbanipal, the great crown prince designate, the son of Esarhaddon your lord, shall be your king and your Lord. He shall abase the mighty, raise up the lowly, put to death him who is worthy of death, and pardon him who deserves to be pardoned. You shall hearken to whatever he says, and do whatever he commands, and you shall not seek any other king or any other lord against him.” So, this in a very succinct way, of course tells us that the king of Assyria has absolute power. And as soon as Esarhaddon is no more, Ashurbanipal will be in this role. And everyone who takes the oath agrees to this, years before this scenario is meant to take place, of course. And you will remember that Esarhaddon came up with the idea to impose the covenant shortly after his wife, Ashur-hamat, had died, when he was it seems very, very aware of the fact that he too would die at one point. So, he wanted to make provisions. And the situation during his reign were of course a bit special because he had come to the throne in a succession war. There were his brothers who had killed their father Sennacherib. And while Esarhaddon was able to retake the capital city of Nineveh, he was not able to capture his brothers. They fled. And they fled to the enemy kingdom of Urartu in the mountains. And therefore, there are provisions in this document that bind the oath-takers to the promise that they will never support any other pretenders from the royal family. Because everyone of course, who was part of this royal clan had in theory, the right to be king. And if they managed to come to the throne, they were legitimate simply by being members of that royal family. Killing your predecessor was in theory, not problematic. It just showed, if you succeeded that Aššur had chosen you. But Esarhaddon wanted to make sure that the people of Assyria would not lend support to any other pretender to the throne. And therefore, it says here, “you” (that's the people taking the oath), “shall not help anyone from among Ashurbanipal's brothers, his uncles, his cousins, his family, or members of his father's line. Whether those are in Assyria, or those have fled to another country.” So, very explicitly of course, referring to the fact that there are members of the Assyrian royal family in another country. So, the covenant very, very, much is meant to make sure that Ashurbanipal and also his brother, Šamaš-šumu-ukin who is appointed as crown prince of Babylon, will succeed to the throne without any trouble. A seamless transition of power is what is Esarhaddon has in mind here. And this is what this covenant is meant to signify to whoever looks at the tablet. So I'm looking at this tablet, and I notice these interesting images right here. What are these? These are the seal impressions of three seals that belong to the god Aššur. This one is the youngest. It said, that time maybe 10, 15, years old, was created during the reign of Esarhaddon's father, Sennacherib. This one is much older. That's 700 years old at that point, was created by one of the predecessors of Esarhaddon who already was king of Assyria. And this is older still, this is more than 1,000 years old at the time. This is from before the time that there was a kingdom of Assyria. This is when the city of Assur was the entity that was important. And so, we've got three seals that are personally, in a sense, owned by the god Aššur. And they are impressed here. And this is also mentioned on the top of the tablet. So, this is the only line that you are meant to read like this following the entire width of the tablet. And I'll read what it says here. It says, “sealing of the god, Aššur, king of the gods, lord of the lands, not to be altered. Sealing of the great ruler, father of the gods, not to be disputed.” So the entire document is put under the god's protection by virtue of being sealed with his seal. We've talked about seals before, and private people in Assyria owned seals and whenever they impressed their seal, the transaction was linked to them. They gave their permission. They showed that they were there. The act of sealing creates this very direct relationship between the object that is being sealed and the person whose seal is being used, in this case, the entity who possesses the seal, god Aššur. So the tablet is more than just an ordinary tablet. It's imbued with the power of Aššur. Aššur guarantees that nothing that is in this covenant will be violated, will be disputed, will be altered in any way. And it gives the covenant a special power, and that covenant text refers to this when it says, you, being the people taking the oath, you shall guard this covenant tablet, which is sealed with the seal of Aššur, king of the gods, and set up this tablet in your presence like your own god. So, if it's suggesting that you're to set it up like a god, does that mean that we were to worship it? And if so, how did that work? Yeah. Well, to set up this tablet like your own god very clearly refers to the fact that people were meant to worship it. And when these manuscripts in Kalḫu who were found this puzzled historians very much. How would that work? What does it even mean? In 2009, as I said, another copy of the covenant was found in the provincial capital of Kolonia, and there, the tablet was found inside a small temple with an altar. In the back of the temple, there where normally you'd expect to have the statue of the deity put in place, but instead of a statue, there was a covenant tablet. So the covenant was exhibited like a statue in this temple, and people were meant to come, and not just pay homage to it, but really pray to it - worship it like a deity. And in Assyrian texts, the covenant tablet is always written with the divine symbol. It is a special cuneiform character that signifies that the name that follows is that of a deity. So this sign is used for the covenant and in legal texts dating to the period after Esarhaddon's succession arrangement came into force when he died in 669 when the whole thing proved successful, legal tablets often include a clause that was meant to protect the transaction, the business transaction against violation and that clause is “the covenant of the king may take revenge” on whoever contravenes the transaction. So people started to really believe in this deity, in the covenant. So it was then conceived as a deity that would protect arrangements, legal arrangements, oath and so on and would take revenge if they were violated. And since the find in Tell Tayinat in ancient Kullania, we now know that the copies of the covenant that were given to the treaty partner were then really put on public display in dedicated temple structures. And that of course is very interesting in a world where it is impossible to ever take the god Aššur out of his city and his temple in Assur, because these covenant tablets were so very, very closely associated with the god Aššur by means of the sealing. And so in a sense, this allowed the god Aššur to be more, much more present in people's lives than ever before.