Titles of the Assyrian Queens
GAŠAN, MI2.LUGAL and UN.GAL as well as “šarratum” (I.J.Gelb, Glossary of Old Akkadian, The University of Chicaqo Press, Chicaqo 1957, p. 289; CAD Š II: 72) are all titles with the meaning “queen”. The Old Assyrian title “rubātum” also has this meaning when it refers to Anatolian queens. The titles “rubātum” and “šarratum” have the same meaning, when occurring in some texts, although they can be used to indicate a difference in terms of status between types of queen, due to the political power of the kingdom they represented. In other words, when “rubā’um” was used for a sovereign/independent king and “šarrum” was used for vassal king, it is understood that also “rubātum” would refer to a queen of an independent country. Conversely “šarratum” was probably used about the queen of a vassal country. A similar approach can be seen during the Neo-Assyrian period. In that period, “šarratum” was used to refer to a tribal foreign female leader or goddess (In addition, the use of the “šarratum” form is common in the standard Babylonian and Neo-Babylonian dialect. However, it is seen in the royal inscriptions and religious texts of the same dialectic that “malkatum” and “rubātum” were also used to express “queen”. See Svärd 2012: 90 and footnote 279). For example, the Arabian queen mentioned in the annals of Esarhaddon was called “šarratum” (S.C.Melville, “Neo-Assyrian Royal Women and Male Identity: Status as a Social Tool”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.24, No.1, 2004, p.43).
It has been determined through both cuneiform documents and archaeological evidence that Sumerian MÍ.É.GAL and the Akkadian equivalent “sēgallu” were terms used for the title “queen” in the Neo-Assyrian period. In Sumerian, MI2 means “woman”, and E2.GAL means "palace". Hence MI2.E2.GAL means woman of the palace. In its translation into Akkadian this title becomes issi (from Old Babylonian: iššu , “woman”), and “issi ekalli” (woman of the palace) when used with É.GAL. The term “sēgallu” originated from this combined form (issi ekalli˃sēgallu=MI2.E2.GAL) (S.Parpola, “The Neo-Assyrian Word for “Queen””, SAAB II/2, 1988, p.74; K.Radner, “The Seal of Tašmētum-šarrat, Sennacherib’s Queen and Its Impressions”, In G.B.Lanfranchi at al (ed.), Leggo! Studies Presented to Frederick Mario Fales, Leipziger Altorientalische Studien 2, Wiesbaden 2012, s.687; S.Teppo, Women and Their Agency in The Neo-Assyrian Empire, Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2005, p.35; S.Teppo, “Agency and The Neo-Assyrian Woman of the Palace”, Studia Orientalia 101, 2007, p.389).
Most spouses of Neo-Assyrian kings holding the title of queen were also called woman of the palace. The king may have had more than one spouse, whose primary responsibility was giving birth to heirs. The success of a woman was determined by her ability to produce heirs. This gave her a place in the hierarchy and in the eyes of other women and the king . Other Sumerian and Akkadian terms refer to the female relatives of a king as follows:
DUMU MI2 LUGAL marat šarri “daughter of the king”
MI2.NIN LUGAL ahat šarri “king's sister”
AMA LUGAL ummi šarri “queen mother”
MI2.E2.GAL issi ekalli/sēgallu “wife of the king/queen” (Melville 2004: 38).
To date, the names of ten Neo-Assyrian queens have been identified. Unfortunately, we only have detailed information regarding three of these: Naqī’a/Zakūtu, Libbāli-šarrat and Sammu-rāmat. For the other queens, we often know nothing beyond their names (Teppo 2005: 35; Teppo 2007: 389).
Women with the title MI2.E2.GAL appear to have held an important position in the Neo-Assyrian Empire. There could only be one queen holding this title in the time prior to the Assyrian king Sennacherib. It was a title the queen continued to hold all her life until her death, even after the king, her husband, died. This changed after Sennacherib. Therefore, 705 BC is a turning point (Svärd 2012: 91).