1st Edition

Being a Man
Negotiating Ancient Constructs of Masculinity

Edited By

Ilona Zsolnay

ISBN 9781138189362
Published August 15, 2016 by Routledge
300 Pages

USD $165.00

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Book Description

Being a Man is a formative work which reveals the myriad and complex negotiations for constructions of masculine identities in the greater ancient Near East and beyond. Through a juxtaposition of studies into Neo-Assyrian artistic representations and omens, biblical hymns and narrative, Hittite, Akkadian, and Indian epic, as well as detailed linguistic studies on gender and sex in the Sumerian and Hebrew languages, the book challenges traditional understandings and assumed homogeneity for what it meant "to be a man" in antiquity. Being a Man is an indispensable resource for students of the ancient Near East, and a fascinating study for anyone with an interest in gender and sexuality throughout history.

Table of Contents


Ilona Zsolnay (University of Pennsylvania)

1. Categorizing Men and Masculinity in Sumer

Joan Goodnick-Westenholz and Ilona Zsolnay

2. Men Looking At Men: The Homoerotics of Power in the State Arts of Assyria

Julia Assante (Münster)

3. Wisdom of Former Days: The Manly Hittite King and Foolish Kumarbi, Father of the Gods

Mary R. Bachvarova (Willamette University)

4. Female trouble and troubled males: Roiled Seas, Decadent Royals, and Mesopotamian Masculinities in Myth and Practice

J. S. Cooper (Johns Hopkins)

5. Mapping Masculinities in the Sanskrit Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa

Simon Brodbeck (Cardiff University)

6. Mesopotamia Before and After Sodom: Colleagues, Crack Troops, Comrades-in-Arms

Ann K. Guinan (University of Pennsylvania) and Peter Morris (Philadelphia)

7. Shaved Beards and Bared Buttocks: Shame and the Undermining of Masculine Performance in Biblical Texts

Hilary Lipka (University of New Mexico)

8. Happy is the Man who Fills His Quiver with Them (Ps. 127:5): Constructions of Masculinities in the Psalms

Marc Brettler (Duke University)

9. Relative Masculinities in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Martti Nissinen (University of Helsinki)

10. The Masculinity of Male Angels on the Make: Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Nineteenth Century Gothic Imagination

Steven W. Holloway (James Madison University)

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Ilona Zsolnay (University of Pennsylvania, Lecturer and Consulting Scholar) specializes in ancient Near Eastern religion(s) and gender theory. She is the author of several articles which investigate the intersection between deities, clergy, and the body politic. She is also the ANE area editor of Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Gender (ed. Julia O'Brien, 2014).


"This important book, both fascinating and instructive, seems to be the first of its kind in probing masculinity and masculinities in a wide range of societies of the ancient world that lay outside the orbit of Graeco-Roman culture." 

- David J.A. Clines, Professor of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, UK

"Ilona Zsolnay, the editor of the book, and all the authors who took part in it deserve our congratulations for producing this welcome addition to gender studies and to ancient Near Eastern studies in a broad sense... [W]ith its intrinsic diversity, Zsolnay’s volume of the study of masculinities constitutes a welcome addition to a field that is still largely unexplored. I agree with her diagnosis of why this is so: “the negotiation and maintenance of certain constructions of masculinities, as they are today, form a, if not the, keystone of societal organization” (p. 5). In this scenario, then, there is no doubt that approaching ancient masculinities as a research topic may help us to assess (or re-assess) some of our current views on masculinities and femininities."

- Bryn Mawr Classical Review