International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 B.C.

By Mario Liverani | Go to book overview

1
Inner vs. Outer Territory

The notion of a homogeneous, qualitatively indifferent space, viewed as the geometrical locus of reciprocal positioning among objects, which in consequence is unchanging from any point of observation, is an abstraction which is appropriate only to particular fields of analysis. In political activity, and more generally in human relations, however, space or territory has hardly ever been viewed as homogeneous. This is so today because, while we are ‘Euclidean’ and rational beings when dealing with problems of geometry or physics, we are not when facing other persons or other political communities. This was even more true in the period which is the subject of this study, when ideas and symbols in official texts found a free application that in modern political documents tends to be less obvious partly hidden by rewriting in the terms of hegemonic rational thought. 1

Qualitative differentiation in territorial perception is based on obvious psychological impressions, basically centred on the quest for security. The most influential approach in the past stemmed from theorizing about ‘mythical’ (or even ‘primitive’) thought, 2 which also found its way into studies of the ancient Near East. 3 The prejudice to be removed is that all this applies only to the ‘primitive’ and ‘archaic’ mind, while ‘our’ thought is normal and rational a pretty mythical idea in its turn. 4 Once this prejudice is eliminated, the studies of mythical thought retain a great deal of heuristic value and are still commonly employed in the phenomenology of religion and related fields. 5 We do not need to analyse here the psychological roots of the differentiated appreciation of space. Suffice it to state that they find a concrete application in preferring the known to the unknown, the light to the dark, the enclosed to the open, the solid to the weak, the compact to the scattered, the fixed to the moving, the familiar to the unfamiliar, and so on. The concentration of all the positive qualities

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