The Roving Other: Shepherds, Ungovernable Spaces, and Imperial Authority in First-Millennium Mesopotamia
Much of the literature on pastoralists and empire concerns mobile tribes and often focuses on imperial schemes of resettlement, or tribal thwarting of state initiatives. This submission argues that in mid-first-millennium BCE Babylonia, large bureaucratic temples stood between the imperial state and Babylonia’s mobile class of shepherds. This article then explores this dynamic further, focusing on the use of administrative information as a point of imperial contestation, examining issues of local control and clashing hierarchies as the shepherds served an imperial obligation in the Mesopotamian hinterland, and finally argues that the pastoral dynamic presented here is of a piece with the larger political role of the temple in Babylonian life—both urban, familiar, and central and at the same time distant, other-like, and enigmatic.
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