To Be or Not to Be (Divine)

Waters, Matt. 2021. To be or not to be (divine): The Achaemenid king and essential ambiguity in image, text, and historical context. In: Karen Sonik (ed.), Art/ifacts and ArtWorks in the ancient world, 159–181. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

This chapter concerns itself with ideological expressions or, better, intimations of royal divinity during the Achaemenid Period (559–330 BCE). It is a foray into not only art historical matters but also subjects that have their own well-developed methodologies beyond their application in Near Eastern studies, particularly ideology and ambiguity. It takes as its case study a series of deliberately ambiguous portrayals of the Achaemenid king, primarily from the reign of Darius I, that blur the already vague line between king and god, and it briefly considers the impetus and implications for these.