عنوان مقاله [English]
In ancient cultures, there is no precise equivalent for many concepts which have been created in modern times and are rooted in the development of ontological aspects of human being. In addition, many of the concepts which are common both in modern and ancient societies are rather homophone and in fact not the same in terms of meaning. “Art” is a concept in modern culture which has not accurate equivalent in ancient Mesopotamian culture. Art, as a unique concept that represents an ontological aspect of human existence and lacks a purpose beyond itself, is a very contemporary concept. Therefore, it is clear that we can’t investigate the reality of ancient Mesopotamian art using modern concepts and we are not authorized to impose our schema on ancient Mesopotamian works, because such practice distorts the reality of ancient Mesopotamian attitudes and only repeats what lies in the western culture.
Hence, for studying ancient art in general and study Mesopotamian art in particular, we need to establish a new approach. Due to the lack of such an exact approach, it is suggested that ontological concepts be considered as a model for finding main patterns of the ancient Mesopotamian art. In fact, ontological aspects of human existence have always challenged human mind and have resulted in the production of important pieces of art in various cultures.
Perhaps, thinking about death is one of the most important drives among those that have amused human mind in every time and place; it has always engaged human creativity and as a type of incentive, it has brought about diverse material and immaterial achievements. Death attracts human life and ideals and human desires are formed in association with it.
Death is intertwined with life and leads human thoughts and potentials; accordingly, death and what happens after death were the main concern of humanity especially in ancient world in which man was not surrounded by multiple belongings that confuse his thoughts about existence. Death obtains its meaning in relation to a network of beliefs and it can be pleasant or unpleasant; it is pleasant, if it is considered as an end to dark days, and it is unpleasant if it is considered as a starting point of adversity. In ancient Mesopotamia, death was an unpleasant phenomenon for human beings and nobody could have changed it.
Man had been created to be servant of gods and death was an end to this job. Gilgamesh, who was one-third human and tried very hard to escape death, could not overcome it, because of the same one-third of his being. Those kings and elites of ancient Mesopotamia who wanted to abscond such fate, tried hard to create a new universe for themselves; a universe in which they enjoy eternal happiness.
To earn such goal, they invented two practices: first, they would have become gods and leave humanity; this is depicted in Narāmsin monument. In the second method, they would not become gods; rather they would stand in the threshold of gods and would gain a status which would protect them from death. This method has been portrayed in “Investiture” painting in Mari. In the pictorial evidences which have been repeated in various eras and have changed during time, some elements are related to overcoming death. The most important among them are: vases from which water flows, the presence of a king or elites in the threshold of a god, and a king receiving a rod and ring from god.
These motifs must be interpreted in relation to eternality; a perpetual life without any grief which is prohibited for usual people. In other words, these motifs have been allocated to special group and accordingly, they indicate the royal nature of Mesopotamian art. Therefore, we can’t talk about public art in this type of culture widely, because the main works of art and fundamental motifs survived of such art are often designed for a special group.