National Geographic : 1951 Jan
Queen Mother Naqiya-Zakutu Nips a Revolt inthe Bud IN 809 B. c., when Shamshi-Adad V was as yet too young to discharge his duties as king of Assyria, the Queen Mother took over as regent for four years. So impressed were her contemporaries with the perform ance of this woman-a feat unprecedented in the notably masculine social order of the Assyrians-that the fame of this queen, Sammuramat by name, eventually spread to distant lands. The Greeks made of her a composite char acter of some fact and much fable and handed her name down to posterity as Semiramis; but even their ready inven tiveness failed to endow Semiramis with achievements equal to those of a later Assyrian queen, Naqiya-Zakutu. We can tell from her name that Naqiya-Zakutu, one of the wives of Sennacherib, was of Canaanite origin, a native apparently of Palestine or Phoenicia. It may have been this marriage to an outsider that was responsible for Sennach erib's estrangement from his father Sargon. At any rate, Naqiya-Zakutu caused her royal husband to by-pass his older heirs by another wife, and appoint her own son, Esar haddon, as crown prince. For this favoritism Sennacherib paid with his life. His mother's counsel, however, helped Esarhaddon to crush the rebellion and later to extend Assyrian influence into another continent, by subjugating Egypt. Nor did her amazing exploits cease with the death of her son. Her power reached down into the third generation, when her favorite grandson, Ashurbanipal, ascended the throne, once again ahead of an older heir apparent. It is tempting to speculate on what the matchless portrayer of Israelite King Saul or aGreek writer ofgenius might have done with a history of Naqiya-Zakutu's life and times. Our scene brings together four members ofthe royal family in the palace garden, aplace made familiar bythe reliefs. The seated pairare Shamash-Shum-Ukin (the Saos duchin of the Greek sources), regent ofBabylon, and his sister, the Princess Sherua-Eterat. They have been sur prised by their grandmother, who isfollowed bytheir brother, King Ashurbanipal, asthey were plotting the murder of their hated sovereign. The dowager queen will know how to put an endtosuch schemes. Ashurbanipal is well known tousfrom his major reliefs, but there is also a less familiar plaque which shows usthe two brothers together. The king's dress displays the rich embroidered folds of thenorth, whereas the regent wears the plainer garb of theBabylonians, characterized byits straight lines. Both men have mustaches, following afashion established in the preceding century.Their earrings, as well asthose of the women, have been selected from among the many specimens of that period,for these ornaments changed with the times no less than other items ofdress. The attire of the women has been pieced together from sundry monuments. The features ofthe dowager queen had to be derived fromimagination, which cannot but be stirred and stimulated bythe fantastic career and the evident power and personality ofthe foreign-born queen, who could assert herself over threegenerations ofkings that rank among the most illustrious monarchs ofhistory.