Book of Judith: Confusion of Names

Judith of Bethulia [interpret 2]


Damien F. Mackey

“When Josephus named Nebuchadnezzar as builder of the [hanging] garden, both he and his readers would have been confused between Nineveh and Babylon, and between Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, because at the time they were reading his account, the Book of Judith was already in circulation”.


What a terrific book! I read it in one go.

I am referring to Stephanie Dalley’s The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced (OUP, 2013). Apart from her unscrambling of the Classical texts on the subject of the Seven Wonders of the World, and being able to conclude that it was not Nebuchednezzar II the Chaldean, but rather the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who created the ‘hanging’ gardens that became so famed in antiquity, Dalley provides an abundance of important information on Assyro-Babylonian technology, art and architecture.

Despite the necessary technicalities, this book, written by a most disciplined researcher – “a world expert on ancient Babylonian language” – is easy to read and enjoyable.

In Chapter 6, “Confusion of Names”, Dalley makes this important point (p. 107):


Several confusions have been identified. It would be satisfactory if we could account for them, to strengthen yet further the argument that the Hanging Garden was built by Sennacherib in Nineveh rather than by Nebuchadnezzar or Semiramis in Babylon. Four distinct pairs of names are relevant for tracing the story of the legendary garden: ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ named for Sennacherib, the city name ‘Babylon’ used for Nineveh, the river ‘Euphrates’ named instead of the Tigris, and ‘Semiramis’ confused with other queens and with ‘Nitocris”. For each of them an explanation can be given.


[End of quote]


When reading Dalley’s account here of name confusion, I was immediately reminded of the situation right at the beginning of the Book of Judith, about which I have written much. And, indeed, the point has not been missed on Dalley either. For she writes on the next page (p. 108), referring to Judith as a “late” text (but I would prefer to say a late copy of the original):


Sennacherib was evidently confused with Nebuchadnezzar in several late texts. In the opening words of the Book of Judith the two kings are confused: ‘It was the twelfth year of Nebuchadnezzar who reigned over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh’. When Josephus named Nebuchadnezzar as builder of the garden, both he and his readers would have been confused between Nineveh and Babylon, and between Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, because at the time they were reading his account, the Book of Judith was already in circulation.

[End of quote]



For my own reconstruction of the Book of Judith’s magnificent drama as belonging entirely to the C8th BC time of Sennacherib of Nineveh, and not to the C6th BC Nebuchednezzar II of Babylon, see e.g. my articles:


Book of Judith Suggests Sargon as Sennacherib


“Nadin went into everlasting darkness”


Continuing with Stephanie Dalley’s intriguing and helpful Chapter 6, “Confusion of Names” (The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced (p. 120):

An accretion of legends is attached to the name ‘Semiramis’ in Greek texts, and the use of the name for more than one woman can be explained through that concept. She was variously credited with leading campaigns with her husband ‘Ninus’, and with building works in Babylon, among them the famous Hanging Garden: Diodorus Siculus wrote that she founded a large city in Babylonia on the Euphrates including the temple of the Babylonian Zeus and the Hanging Garden (he does not actually name the city), and Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote that Semiramis, not Bel, founded Babylon.

[End of quote]


An original ‘Semiramis’ is posited by some writers to have been contemporaneous with Nimrod and the Tower of Babel, obviously long before the days of Queen Sammu-ramat (Semiramis) (see below) of the neo-Assyrian era.

According to:’sHistoryfromAdamtoAbraham.pdf

…. Hislop identifies Ninus as Nimrod, the great hunter that defied God and built the Tower of Babylon and his wife Semiramis and son Tammuz as the great trinity who were worshipped all over Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Greece and Rome and other cultures around the world.


Whilst Roy Schulz – as we can read at the same site – takes Semiramis back to pre-Flood times: “Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and sensual love. She was actually a harlot or prostitute! Venus was the wife of Vulcan in pre-Flood times and so is the Semiramis of post-Flood history. She was actually a very distasteful type of person”.


Queen Sammu-Ramat and Naqia


Stephanie Dalley, referring to who she thinks to have been the “original ‘Semiramis’”, tells of this Queen Sammu-ramat (p. 121):


The original ‘Semiramis’ was a historical queen at a time when Nimrud, not Nineveh, was the main royal residence. If you were an Assyrian early in the 8th century BC you would have known about Sammu-ramat, daughter-in-law of Shalmaneser III, wife of Shamsi-Adad V, and mother of Adad-nirari III, because she was the most powerful woman in the world at that time. You would know that she in person, contrary to the custom of queens at that time, joined her son in a campaign to Arpad in the vicinity of modern Aleppo with the result that her own name was inscribed on a royal stela, as partner in heroism with her son the king. That stela was set up on the border of Assyrian territory on the upper Euphrates, and was discovered in recent times.


Dalley thinks that this real event may have inspired the campaigns attributed to ‘Semiramis’ by the later writers: “The inscription shows without a doubt that Sammu-ramat campaigned with her son, which suggests that the campaigns later ascribed to Semiramis by Ctesias and others may have had some link, however tenuous or garbled, with a genuine event”.

Two documents similarly connect, now Sammu-ramat, now Naqia, to great Assyrian kings. Dalley continues here:


The extent of [Sammu-ramat’s] fame during her lifetime is confirmed by the existence of another stela, inscribed only with her name and titles, found during excavations in the city of Ashur on the Tigris, and first published in 1913:


Statue … of Sammu-ramat the palace woman [means ‘queen’, ‘official consort’: Dalley] of Shamsi-Adad king of the universe, king of Assyria, mother of Adad-nirari, king of the universe, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Shalmaneser, king of the four quarters ….


[End of quotes]


Compare this text with one that Dalley now gives for Queen Naqia (on p. 124):


Naqia, the palace woman of Sennacherib king of the universe, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Sargon king of the universe king of Assyria, mother of Esarhaddon king of the world, king of Assyria … a palace befitting royalty for Esarhaddon my beloved son ….


[End of quote]

Based on my article:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib


I would immediately have to query here the mention of “Sargon”, whose name I have shown to have been – in at least one case – unjustifiably inserted by Assyriologists into a gap in a text.


Continuing on now with Dalley’s account of this latter queen, we read on the same page:


Naqia was closely associated with Nineveh because her husband built two palaces there and made the city his capital. Many letters were written directly to her, and we have a document recording the loyalty oaths that she imposed on members of her family, requiring them to support her two royal grandsons. Another text particularly relevant here is that which records the building work she undertook at Nineveh on behalf of her son Esarhaddon, who ruled vast territories including Babylonia ….


That is the text quoted (in small print) above.

Dalley continues, drawing a further connection of Naqia with ‘Semiramis’:


Here, then, we have a group of material that indicates attachment of Naqia’s deeds to the name ‘Semiramis’. As second wife of Sennacherib, she bears comparison with the historical Sammu-ramat for having her name on inscriptions written during her lifetime, and for supporting publicly first her husband and then her own son, both as kings. There was every reason, therefore, to conflate the two great queens, two great builders, Naqia would be the wife of the later Assyrian king to whom Diodorus referred when he wrote: ‘the Hanging Garden, as it is called, which was built, not by Semiramis, but by a later Syrian [a Greek reference to Assyrian: Dalley] king …’ His account that ‘Semiramis alongside a Ninus founded ‘Babylon’ on the Euphrates gives details that are applicable to Nineveh: two palaces, technical details of water supply, walls adorned with hunting scenes.



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