kula’ūtam epēšum Gender Ambiguity and Contempt in Mesopotamia

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Ilan Peled



Several terms encountered in Mesopotamian sources stand for titles of persons who served either in the palace or in the temple and displayed ambiguous gender qualities. Some of these persons, albeit being males, were characterized by feminine traits and were therefore considered by their society to be effeminate. One of the terms related to these gender-ambiguous persons was kulu’u, whose exact meaning has never been fully determined, mainly because of the scarcity of its textual attestations. On several occasions this term is mentioned in contexts expressing scorn and contempt and was thus used as a pejorative expression. This paper aims at elucidating this phenomenon by clarifying the nature of the vague term kulu’u and subsequently the reasons for its use as a derogatory term.

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