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The Worlds Oldest Literature

Culture and History of the

Ancient Near East
Founding Editor

M.H.E. Weippert

Thomas Schneider

Eckart Frahm, W. Randall Garr, B. Halpern,

Theo P.J. Van Den Hout, Irene J. Winter


The Worlds
Oldest Literature
Studies in Sumerian Belles-Lettres


William W. Hallo


This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hallo, William W.
The worlds oldest literature : studies in Sumerian belles-lettres / by William W. Hallo.
p. cm. (Culture and history of the ancient near east ; v. 35)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-17381-1 (acid-free paper)
1. Sumerian literatureHistory and criticism. I. Title.
PJ4045.H35 2009

ISSN 1566-2055
ISBN 978 90 04 17381 1
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To Nanette

Bibliographic References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii
Introduction: William Hallo and Assyriological, Biblical and
Jewish Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxiii
part i

1. New Viewpoints on Cuneiform Literature 1962 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2. The Cultic Setting of Sumerian Poetry 1970 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
3. Problems in Sumerian Hermeneutics 1973 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
4. Toward A History of Sumerian Literature 1975 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
5. Assyriology and the Canon 1990 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
6. Sumerian Religion 1993 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
7. The Birth of Rhetoric 2004. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
part ii

catalogues and other scholia

1. On the Antiquity of Sumerian Literature 1963 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
2. Another Sumerian Literary Catalogue? 1975 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
3. Haplographic Marginalia 1977 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
4. Old Babylonian HAR-ra 1982 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
part iii

royal and divine hymns

1. Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity 1963. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175
2. The Coronation of Ur-Nammu 1966 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
3. New Hymns to the Kings of Isin 1966 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
4. The Birth of Kings 1987 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
5. Nippur Originals 1989 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239


part iv

1. Individual Prayer in Sumerian: The Continuity of a Tradition
1968 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255
2. Letters, Prayers, and Letter-Prayers 1981 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287
3. Lamentations and Prayers in Sumer and Akkad 1995 . . . . . . . . . . 299
4. Two Letter-Prayers To Amurru 1998 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319
part v

royal correspondence
1. The Royal Correspondence of Larsa: I. A Sumerian Prototype
for the Prayer of Hezekiah? 1976 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333
2. The Royal Correspondence of Larsa: II. The Appeal to Utu
1982. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353
3. The Royal Correspondence of Larsa: III. The Princess and the
Plea 1991 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 369
4. A Sumerian Apocryphon? The Royal Correspondence of Ur
Reconsidered 2006. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 385
part vi

1. Beginning and End of the Sumerian King List in the Nippur
Recension 1963 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 409
2. Sumerian Historiography 1983 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 419
3. New Directions in Historiography (Mesopotamia and Israel)
1998. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 431
4. Polymnia and Clio 2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453
5. Sumerian History in Pictures: A New Look at the Stele of the
Flying Angels 2005 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 471
part vii

myths and epics

1. Lugalbanda Excavated 1983 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
2. The Origins of the Sacrificial Cult: New Evidence from
Mesopotamia and Israel 1987 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 517
3. Disturbing the Dead 1993 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 529



4. Enki and the Theology of Eridu 1996 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 539

5. Urban Origins in Cuneiform and Biblical Sources (Founding
Myths of Cities in the Ancient Near East: Mesopotamia and
Israel) 2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 547
part viii

1. The Lame and the Halt 1969 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 575
2. Nungal In The Egal: An Introduction To Colloquial
Sumerian? 1979 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 583
3. Biblical Abominations and Sumerian Taboos 1985 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 589
4. Proverbs Quoted in Epic 1990 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 607
5. Proverbs: An Ancient Tradition in the Middle East 2004. . . . . . . 625
part ix

1. Back to the Big House: Colloquial Sumerian,
Continued 1985 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 635
2. More Incantations and Rituals from the Yale Babylonian
Collection 1999 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 645
part x

sumerian literature and the bible

1. Sumerian Literature. Background to the Bible 1988 . . . . . . . . . . . . 661
2. Compare and Contrast: The Contextual Approach to Bibliocal
Literature 1990 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 677
3. The Concept of Canonicity in Cuneiform and Biblical
Literature: A Comparative Appraisal 1991 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 699
4. Sumerian Literature 1992 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 717


Ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, and Classical Texts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 729
Biblical and Rabbinical Texts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 739
Subjects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 743
Personal Names . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 747
Divine Names . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 753
Geographic Names, Ethnica, and Names of Sanctuaries . . . . . . . . . . . . 755
Akkadian and Sumerian Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 759


I. Programmatics
New Viewpoints on Cuneiform Literature. Israel Exploration Journal 12 (1962):
The Cultic Setting of Sumerian Poetry. Actes de la XVIIe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Brussels, Belgium, June 30-July 4, 1969 [published
1970], 116134.
Problems in Sumerian Hermeneutics. Perspectives in Jewish Learning 5 (1973):
Toward a History of Sumerian Literature. In Sumerological Studies in Honor of
Thorkild Jacobsen, edited by S.J. Lieberman, 181203. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1975.
Assyriology and the Canon. The American Scholar 59 (1990): 105108.
Sumerian Religion. Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University 1
(1993): 1535.
The Birth of Rhetoric. In Rhetoric before and beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol
S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, 2546; 231237. Albany: State University
of New York, 2004.

II. Catalogues and Other Scholia

On the Antiquity of Sumerian Literature. Journal of the American Oriental Society
83 (1963): 167176.
Another Sumerian Literary Catalogue? Studia Orientalia 46 (1975): 7780.
Haplographic Marginalia. Memoirs of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences:
Essays on the Ancient Near East in Memory of Jacob Joel Finkelstein, edited by M.
de Jong Ellis, 101103. Hamden: Archon, 1977.
Notes from the Babylonian Collection, II: Old Babylonian HAR-ra. Journal
of Cuneiform Studies 34 (1982): 8193.


bibliographic references
III. Royal and Divine Hymns

Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 17 (1963):

The Coronation of Ur-Nammu. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 20 (1966): 133
New Hymns to the Kings of Isin. Bibliotheca Orientalis 23 (1966): 239246.
The Birth of Kings. Love and Death in the Ancient Near East: Essays in Honor
of Marvin H. Pope, edited by John H. Marks and Robert M. Good, 4552.
Guilford: Four Quarters Publishing Company, 1987.
Nippur Originals. DUMU-E2-DUB-BA-A: Studies in Honor of ke W. Sjberg
(1989): 237247.

IV. Letter-Prayers
Individual Prayer in Sumerian: The Continuity of a Tradition. Journal of the
American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 7189.
Letters, Prayers and Letter-Prayers. Proceedings of the Seventh World Congress of
Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, Israel: August 714, 1981, 1727.
Lamentations and Prayers in Sumer and Akkad. In Civilizations of the Ancient
Near East, edited by Jack M. Sasson, 18711881. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1995.
Two Letter-Prayers to Amurru. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 273 (1998): 397410.

V. Royal Correspondence
The Royal Correspondence of Larsa: I. A Sumerian Prototype for the Prayer
of Hezekiah? In Cuneiform Studies in Honor of Samuel Noah Kramer, Kramer
Anniversary Volume, edited by Barry L. Eichler, 209224. Kevelaer: Butzon
& Bercker, 1976.

The Royal Correspondence of Larsa: II. The Appeal to Utu In Zikir Sumim:
Assyriological Studies Presented to F.R. Kraus on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday,
edited by G. Van Driel, Th.J.H. Krispijn, M. Stol, and K.R. Veenhof, 95
109. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1982.
The Royal Correspondence of Larsa: III. The Princess and the Plea. Marchands, diplomates, et empereurs: tudes sur la civilization msopotamienne oertes
Paul Garelli, edited by D. Charpin and F. Joanns, 377388. Paris: Editions
Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1991.
A Sumerian Apocryphon? The Royal Correspondence of Ur Reconsidered.
Approaches to Sumerian Literature: Studies in Honour of Stip (H.L.J. Vanstiphout),
edited by Piotr Michalowski and Niek Veldhuis, 85104. Leiden: Brill, 2006.

bibliographic references


VI. Historiography
Beginning and End of the Sumerian King List in the Nippur Recension.
Journal of Cuneiform Studies 17 (1963): 5257.
Sumerian Historiography. History, Historiography and Interpretation, edited by H.
Tadmor and M. Weinfeld, 920. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1983.
New Directions in Historiography (Mesopotamia and Israel). Studien zur
Altorientalistik: Festschrift fr Willem H. Ph. Rmer, edited by M. Dietrich and
O. Loretz, 109128. Mnster: Ugarit Verlag, 1998.
Polymnia and Clio. Proceedings of the XLV e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale
(2001): 195209.
Sumerian History in Pictures: A New Look at the Stele of the Flying
Angels. An Experienced Scribe who Neglects Nothing: Ancient Near Eastern Studies
in Honor of Jacob Klein, edited by Y. Sefati et al., Bethesda, MD: CDL Press,

VII. Myths and Epics

Lugalbanda Excavated. Journal of the American Oriental Society 103 (1983): 165
The Origins of the Sacrificial Cult: New Evidence from Mesopotamia and
Israel. Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, edited by
P.D. Miller, Jr. et al., 313. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987.
Disturbing the Dead. Minhah Le-Nahum: Biblical and Other Studies Presented to
Nahum M. Sarna in Honour of His 70th Birthday, edited by Marc Brettler and
Michael Fishbane, 183192. London: Sheeld Academic Press, 1993.
Enki and the Theology of Eridu. Journal of the American Oriental Society 116
(1996): 231234.
Urban Origins in Cuneiform and Biblical Sources (Founding Myths of Cities
in the Ancient Near East: Mesopotamia and Israel). Mites de Fundaci de
ciutats al mn antic (Mesopotmia, Grcia i Roma) (2001): 3750.

VIII. Proverbs
The Lame and the Halt. Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical
Studies 9 (1969): 6670.
Notes from the Babylonian Collection, I: Nungal in the Egal: An Introduction to Colloquial Sumerian? Journal of Cuneiform Studies 31 (1979): 161165.
Biblical Abominations and Sumerian Taboos. The Jewish Quarterly Review 76
(July 1985): 2140.
Proverbs Quoted in Epic. Lingering over Words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern
Literature in Honor of William L. Moran, edited by Tzvi Abusch et al., 204217.
Atlanta, Scholars Press, 1990.
Proverbs: An Ancient Tradition in the Middle East. Foreword to A Culture
of Desert Survival: Bedouin Proverbs from Sinai and the Negev, by Clinton Bailey,
ixxvi. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.


bibliographic references
IX. Incantations

Back to the Big House: Colloquial Sumerian, Continued. Orientalia 54 (1985):

More Incantations and Rituals from the Yale Babylonian Collection. Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives: Ancient Magic and
Divination, 1 edited by Tzvi Abusch and Karel van der Toorn, 275289.
Groningen: Styx Publications, 1999.

X. Sumerian Literature and the Bible

Sumerian Literature Background to the Bible. Bible Review 4 (June 1988):
Compare and Contrast: The Contextual Approach to Biblical Literature.
The Bible in the Light of Cuneiform Literature, edited by William W. Hallo, Bruce
William Jones, and Gerald L. Mattingly, 130. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen
Press, 1990.
The Concept of Canonicity in Cuneiform and Biblical Literature: A Comparative Appraisal. The Biblical Canon in Comparative Perspective: Scripture in
Context IV, edited by K. Lawson Younger, Jr., William W. Hallo, and Bernard
F. Batto, 119. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.
Sumerian Literature. The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 6 Si-Z, edited by
David Noel Freedman, 234237. New York: Doubleday, 1992.


The author would like to acknowledge the following companies and

institutions for allowing him to reproduce his material:
Israel Exploration Society
Tel Aviv University
Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Schools of Oriental Research
Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten (NINO)
University of Pennsylvania Press
The American Academy for Jewish Research
Ugarit-Verlag Company
American Oriental Society
Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Yale University Press
Despite my eorts we have not been able to trace all rights holders to
some copyrighted material. The publisher welcomes communications
from copyrights holders, so that the appropriate acknowledgements can
be made in future editions, and to settle other permission matters.

In 1960 and 1961, while serving as instructor and then assistant professor of Bible and Semitic Languages at Hebrew Union College
Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, I spent two summers at the
Yale Babylonian Collection (YBC) in New Haven. My principal object
was to find unpublished texts illustrating my theory on the Sumerian amphictyony (the so-called bala-system) which I had presented
at the meeting of the American Oriental Society in Toronto in 1955
and was later to publish in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies (vol. 14,
1960). Opening drawer after drawer, I became so familiar with the typical physical appearance of the bala-texts that I ended up identifying
no less than twenty of them, plus the Hartford seminary textnow
at Andrews University in Terrien Springs, Indianawhich clinched
my whole argument. At the same time I learned to appreciate the
enormous extent and diversity of the YBC, or rather the various subcollections constituting the YBC. I also became acquainted with Ferris
J. Stephens, the Curator of the Collection and, to a lesser extent, with
Albrecht Goetze, the Laan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian
The following year, Professor Goetze invited me to Yale as assistant
professor of Assyriology and associate curator of the Collection, succeeding Stephens who was about to retire. Although my six years in
Cincinnati had been extremely happy, I knew I could not pass up this
opportunity to move into the big time (to quote T. Cuyler Young, Jr.,
whom by chance I encountered around then in New York). I received
warm congratulations from my assyriological colleagues, none more
meaningful than those of Samuel Noah Kramer. When you get there,
he told me, be sure to look into the Sumerian literary texts. He knew
whereof he spoke, for some years earlier he had been invited to the
Collection by Goetze to catalogue and identify its Sumerian literary
texts. This he did to perfection, leaving behind a hand-written checklist
in many pages enumerating and identifying some hundreds of literary
texts in Sumerian or, occasionally, Sumerian and Akkadian. Apart from
scattered publications in early volumes like BIN 2 (1920) and BRM 4



(1923), none of these had been published, with the notable exceptions
of hand-copies prepared by Stephens and included by Kramer in his
editions of Gilgamesh and Huwawa (JCS 1, 1947), Inannas Descent
(JCS 4, 1950), and the Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur (1940),
and by Adam Falkenstein in his editions in Sumerische Gtterlieder (1959)
and Sumerische religise Texte (Shulgi A in ZA 50 for 1952). The
rest thus represented arguably the largest hoard of Sumerian literary
texts remaining to be published from any one collectionand more
than any one copyist could handle. For the record, I list here some of
the texts I did publish, as far as they are not included in the present
volume: The Exaltation of Inanna (YNER 3, with J.J.A. van Dijk, 1968);
Obiter dicta ad SET (Jones AV = AOAT 203, 1979); More Incantations and Rituals from the YBC (1999); A Model Court Case Concerning Inheritance (Jacobsen AV, 2002). Occasionally, I also prepared
copies for incorporation in editions being prepared by colleagues, such
as The Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur by Piotr
Michalowski (1989, fig. 11).
Given my interest in literary texts with historical significance (see
my Polymnia and Clio, VI.4 in the present volume) in general, and
my specific involvement with royal hymns in particular (see my Royal
hymns and Mesopotamian unity, here: III.1), I decided to concentrate
on Sumerian royal hymns and related genres in the YBC, which
became the working title of the volume I embarked on, confident that I
could finish it in relatively short order. But as so often, it proved easier
to find a title for the volume than to complete it, and it was only my
retirement from forty years of teaching at Yale in 2002 which enabled
me to do so. In this, I was significantly assisted by Torger Vedeler,
(PhD., Yale, 2006) under a Mellon Research Grant arranged by Yales
Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty, its director Dr. Bernard Lytton,
and its executive assistant Ms. Patricia Dallai. The texts in question
will be published or republished in that volume with the generous
permission of Benjamin Foster, my successor as Curator and Laan
But even while concentrating on my chosen genres, I did not forget Kramers injunction. Though never formally my teacher, he was
inevitably a model and inspiration for me as for anyone with any interest in Sumerian literature. I therefore deliberately opened the Collection to former students and to other collaborators who had left behind
half-finished manuscriptsthat is another story, for which see briefly
for now my preface to Litkes An=Anum (TBC 3, 1998)but also to



my own students and to colleagues from all over who had never been
to the Collection but who seemed willing and able to prepare the handcopies so urgently called for. Their main reward was to be permission
to edit the texts they copied or to include them in the editions they
were preparing on the basis of duplicate texts or relevant parallels in
other collections. The following list of the results is not meant to be
exhaustive. It is based in part on the catalogue of canonical texts which
I prepared for the Collections forthcoming on-line catalogue under the
direction of Ulla Kasten, Associate Curator of the Collection. Lexical texts are generally not included here. Dates refer to publication
dates; undated texts remain to be published (AV = anniversary volume).
Alster, B., Disputation between two scribes (ASJ 15, 1993); Proverbs (1997);
Dialogue 7 (between two scribes) and other wisdom texts.
Beckman, G. and B.R. Foster, Assyrian Scholarly Text (Sachs AV, 1988).
Bodine, W., A Model Contract (RAI 40/1, 2001).
Civil, M., The farmers instructions (1994; pls. xiiif.); dialogue between two
women, disputation between bird and fish, disputation between pickaxe and
plow; Dialogue 3 (Enki-mansum and Girini-ishag); Dialogue 4 (The scholar
and his assistant) and other wisdom texts.
Cohen, M., Another Utu hymn (ZA 67, 1977); Balags (CLAM, 1988).
Cooper, J., The Curse of Agade (1983).
Farber, W., Lamashtu amulet (Kantor AV, 1989).
Honer, H.A., K.GAL = abullu (MSL 13, 1971).
Jacobsen, Th. and B. Alster, Ningishzidas boat-ride to Hades (Lambert AV,
Klein, J., Three Shulgi Hymns (1981).
Kutscher, R., a-ab-ba hu-luh-ha (YNER 6, 1975); Utu Prepares for Judgment
(Kramer AV = AOAT 25, 1976).
Michalowski, Sin-iddinam and Ishkur (Sachs AV 1988); Lamentation over
Sumer and Ur (1989); Hymn to Gibil, Kusu et al. (Hallo AV, 1993); The
Royal Correspondence of Ur; Fable of raven and goose.
Reisman, D., Hymn to Enlil (Two neo-Sumerian royal hymns, 1969); Nisaba
Shaeer, A., hymn to Utu.
Sefati, Y., Love Songs (1998).
Sjberg, A., in-nin sha-gur-ra (ZA 65, 1975); A father and his perverse son
(JCS 25, 1973).
Van Dijk, J: A Ritual of Purification (Boehl AV, 1973); an en-ne (Kramer AV =
AOAT 25, 1976); lugal-e (1983); incantations and rituals (YOS 11, 1985).
Veldhuis, N., Elementary Education at Nippur (1997, HAR-ra V).



In addition to those already mentioned, many other persons deserve

thanks for bringing this book into being. In the first place I wish
to mention Eckart Frahm, our new colleague in Assyriology at Yale.
He cheerfully and whole-heartedly accepted the role of editor for this
project, and went far beyond the traditional duties of an editor in so
doing. In spite of the demands of a growing family and his heavy
teaching and administrative obligations in the Department of Near
Eastern Languages and Civilizations, he was unstinting in the time and
eort he lavished on the project. The publisher left me free to select
and arrange those of my previously published articles germane to the
volumes theme, and then scanned the reprints I furnished, a process
which has the advantage of producing a continuous text in uniform
type but the disadvantage of misreading quite a number of letters in
the originals. Thus intensive proof-reading was required, in which I was
greatly aided by Robert William Middeke-Conlin, a graduate student
in Assyriology at Yale.
Two of my finest former students agreed to write an introduction to
this volume: I am grateful to Peter Machinist and Piotr Michalowski for
jointly responding to this challenge.
It is customary in these endeavors to include ones spouse among
those without whom . . .. In this case that is no mere formality. Nanette Stahl was, as always, counted on for any questions involving
Jewish sources for which I myself did not have the answers. Beyond
that she saw me through a critical time in the state of my health, and
enabled me to shrug o the physical impediments to my work. The
dedication of this book to her is only a small token of my gratitude.
Last but not least, I am happy to acknowledge my debt to Leiden
and to the Netherlands. I spent the academic year 19501951 as a
Fulbright Exchange student at the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden. There I
took courses with masters of Near Eastern studies such as Professors
F.M.Th. de Liagre Boehl (Assyriology), T. Jansma (Aramaic), J.H. Kramers (Arabic), A. de Buck (Egyptology), and P.A.H. de Boer (Ugaritic),
and enjoyed the stimulating company of teaching assistants and fellowstudents like R. Frankena, S.A. Bonebakker, J. Hoftijzer, R. Borger,
P. Lettinga, and others.
In Leiden I also made my first acquaintance with the truly venerable
publishing firm of E.J. Brill, chiefly through their antiquariaat or
second-hand bookstore located in the heart of the city. It was housed
in an authentically antique building at the intersection of two canals
(one of them the Old Rijn), and was an easy walk from the University,



then still concentrated on the stately Rapenburg. The University has

long since expanded and spread all over Leiden and its environs, and
Brill too moved to much enlarged quarters on the southern edge of
the city. It is now accessible by bicycle from the suburban railroad
station or, in my case, from the house of my niece. I stopped both
with her and with Brill on my many subsequent visits to my Dutch
alma mater (Prof. Boehl having rewarded my eorts with a candidatus
litterarum Semiticarum degree in 1951). It is a pleasure to include what
has meantime become de koninklijke Brill in these tributes.
Briefly, some guides to the reader may be indicated here. It should
be noted that, given the scanning method mentioned above, the essays
included herein appear unchangedexcept for paginationfrom the
form in which they were first published. For permission to reprint the
essays in this volume, see the section on Acknowledgments above.
Although the essays appear, as stated, unchanged, they feature two
user-friendly improvements. First, cross-references within the volume
have been carefully and exhaustively indicated (by section and chapter,
rarely by page). Second, a topical index identifies, by page, recurrent
thematic concepts which have not or not yet become the subjects of
my individual inquiries, such as the pattern of usurpation, the high
Sargonic period, or the classical phase of Mesopotamian civilization.
The essays routinely lack the hand-copies of the Sumerian texts
edited therein, but this lack is systematically compensated for by their
nearly simultaneous publication or republication in the forthcoming
volume entitled Sumerian Royal Hymns and Related Genres in the Yale Babylonian Collection, which is to appear in the Yale Oriental SeriesBabylonian Texts (YOS).
Hamden, Connecticut
April 23, 2009
William W. Hallo


William Hallos achievements in the field of Assyriology and the

broader ancient Near East, of which the present volume gives ample
and wide-ranging testimony, have roots early in his life.1 They began
with the Hebrew Bible, and Jewish studies more generally, interest in
which pervaded the home in Kassel, Germany, where he grew up until
the familys forced departure in 1939 because of Nazi anti-Jewish pressure. This interest owed a great deal to his father, Rudolf Hallo, whose
multifaceted training and career centered on Jewish scholarship. The
fathers studies of the art history of European, especially German, Jewry
were among the pioneering eorts in this arena, and his involvement
in the work of his fellow Kasseler, the great Jewish philosopher and
educator, Franz Rosenzweig, led to his succeeding Rosenzweig, upon
the latters medical incapacitation, as the head for a short time of the
famous school of adult Jewish education that Rosenzweig had established in Frankfurt a.M. in the 1920s, the Freies jdisches Lehrhaus.
Rudolf Hallo died too early in his sons lifeat the age of 36 in 1933
in Germanyto have been directly involved in it. But his example
remained, encouraged by his wife, and William Hallo from an early
age had Hebrew instruction. After his departure from Germany on one
of the Kindertransporte, Hallo spent a year in England, then moved on,
1 This biographical information is based on oral knowledge from William Hallo as
well as the following published sources: William W. Hallo, Suche nach den Ursprngen, in Wolfdietrich Schmied-Kowarzik, ed., Vergegenwrtigungen des zerstrten jdischen
Erbes. Franz-Rosenzweig-Gastvorlesungen, Kassel 19871998 (Kassel: Kassel University Press,
1997), pp. 139146; idem, in Hebrew College Alumni 3/2 (Fall 2003/5763); S. David Sperling, with Baruch A. Levine and B. Barry Levy, Students of the Covenant. A History of
Jewish Biblical Scholarship in North America (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992), pp. 9092, 107
108: nn. 1118; S. David Sperling, Hallo, William, Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed. vol. 8
(Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), p. 282; Joel Kraemer, Hallo, Rudolf, ibid.,
p. 282; David B. Weisberg, William W. Hallo. An Appreciation, in Mark E. Cohen,
Daniel C. Snell, and David B. Weisberg, eds., The Tablet and the Scroll. Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William W. Hallo (Bethesda: CDL, 1993), pp. ixx (Hallos bibliography
through 1992, pp. xixvi).


assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies

with his mother and sisters, in 1940 to the United States. There he continued his Hebrew and Jewish education during his high school years in
New York City, especially at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and then
in Boston, at the Hebrew College, while he was an undergraduate at
Harvard University concentrating in another area of antiquity, Roman
Subsequently, Assyriology became Hallos major focus in graduate
study, first at the University of Leiden as a Fulbright scholar in 1950
1951, where he received the degree of Candidatus litterarum semiticarum, and then at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
(M.A. [1953] and Ph.D. [1955]). His M.A thesis, The Ensis of the Ur III
Empire, was never published, but many have had access to it and it
remains an important contribution to this day; indeed one might say
that it has never been superseded, even if the large number of cuneiform tablets from the period that have been published in the subsequent half century require an updating of the data collection. Hallos
doctoral dissertation, subsequently published as Early Mesopotamian Royal
Titles: A Philologic and Historical Analysis,2 already demonstrated his deep
interest in synthetic historical work. And his many teachers at the Oriental Institute helped him hone his broad intellectual interests with a
concomitant focus on the analytical collection of data. Working under
the direction of I.J. Gelb, he combined his historical interests with the
study of administrative documents, leading him to explore their use in
the reconstruction of political as well as economic systems, and not simply as texts to be mined for lexicographical purposes.
Hallos first faculty appointment was at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati (HUC) (19561962), where he taught a broad range
of subjects, covering Assyriology, Biblical and Jewish Studies. He now
began what would be a consistently abundant writing program that
has lasted to this day. His first publications naturally derived from his
thesis work; they centered on early Mesopotamian historical inscriptions and administrative texts, including pioneering studies of Ur III
administrative texts that sought to analyze their structure and purpose
and to elucidate their technical terminology. After six years at HUC,
Hallo was called to Yale, as successor to Ferris J. Stephens, where he
moved up the ranks from Associate through Full Professor of Assyriology and then, in 1976, to Laan Professor of Assyriology and Babylo-

American Oriental Series 43. New Haven: The American Oriental Society, 1957.

assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies


nian Literaturepositions that altogether he would hold for forty years

until his retirement (19622002). The Yale positions allowed Hallo to
concentrate more fully than at HUC on Assyriology, with a particular
focus on Sumerian studies. In addition to teaching a range of graduate
courses in Assyriology, and occasionally in other areas of the ancient
Near East especially for undergraduates, Hallo served as Curator of
the Yale Babylonian Collection, where he had access to a rich mine
of cuneiform tablets from all periods of Mesopotamian history. Indeed,
when he became first assistant and then senior curator, the latter in
1963 a year after his arrival at Yale, there was still a large proportion of
the approximately 40,000 manuscripts that had never been published,
including an important set of well-preserved Sumerian literary pieces.
The challenge of dealing with these stimulated Hallos broad range of
interests, and expanded the topics of his publications into the area of
Mesopotamian literature, combining a larger view of the intellectual
history of the times with the editing and analysis of specific poems, usually chosen from the collections at Yale.
The year 1963 was a watershed in Hallos public career. Just after
assuming the curatorship at Yale he published articles that very much
set the tone for his entire career. In New Viewpoints on Cuneiform
Literature, the very first in the present collection (I.1), he reviewed
authoritatively major aspects of Mesopotamian literature with a view
toward their value for non-Assyriologists, especially those who deal with
the Hebrew Bible. In Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity (III.1),
he oered an overview of the genre of Sumerian royal hymns, and in
the process introduced two major themes that he would explore over
the following decades: the political and cultural aspects of literature
and the concept of generic criticism. The two other studies from 1963
that are reprinted in this volume, On the Antiquity of Sumerian Literature (II.1) and The Beginning and End of the Sumerian King List in
the Nippur Recension (VI.1), introduce still another facet of his work:
the selective publication of manuscripts from the Yale collection and
elsewhere. But rather than simply publish tablets with a lexicographical
commentary, Hallo used each article as a pretext for a more interesting study. The Antiquity of Sumerian Literature article is particularly
important, as it included a unique Ur III catalog of royal hymns and
therefore shed light on a formative, but hitherto barely documented
period of literary activity in Sumerian.
Other text publications have dealt, inter alia, with prayer; and in
the present volume, they are represented by five studies on prayers


assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies

of individuals to deities that are in the form of letters (Nos. IV.1,2,4;

V.1.2). Two of these articles are noteworthy here (IV.1; V.1). At their
core are editions of hitherto unpublished Sumerian letter-prayers, one
to the god Enki and the other to the goddess Ninisina, both editions
using, among others, manuscripts from Yale. But, once more, the two
articles are much more than text editions. They aim above all to define
and delineate a literary genre, in this instance the letter-prayer, and
especially in the earlier of the two articles, on Individual Prayer in
Sumerian: The Continuity of a Tradition (IV.1), to describe the middle
position of the letter-prayer in a Mesopotamian literary tradition that
for Hallo derived from secular letter-orders for material goods of the
Ur III period at the end of the third millennium bc, and eventuated
in the ershahunga penitential prayer form of the later second and first
millennia bc, distinguishing it from what he termed congregational
laments. The Individual Prayer article, it may be observed, has been
groundbreaking in Assyriological scholarship: a significant impetus to
further work on this and related literary genres, and to the inevitable
modification of some of its conclusions.3 Hallo would return to this
genreand the concept of genre is central to much of his thinking
about ancient literaturesover the years, providing broad syntheses
of Mesopotamian literary epistolography, and editing, with full literary
and historical analysis, the Sumerian compositions belonging to what
he called The Royal Correspondence of Larsa. Intimately related
to this topic was the first doctoral thesis Hallo directed on Sumerian
literature, Raphael Kutschers 1967 dissertation on the compositional
history of a congregational lament, as well as the 1979 dissertation by
Piotr Michalowski on The Royal Correspondence of Ur. One could say
that the chain of influence has reached further down, to Nicole Brischs
2003 University of Michigan doctoral thesis on the court poetry of the
Larsa kings, written, in turn, under Michalowski, which is concerned,
in part, with the Royal Correspondence of Larsa, oering new editions
and analysis that build on Hallos pioneering work on this material.4 It
3 See, e.g., Piotr Michalowski, On the Early History of the Ershahunga Prayer,
Journal of Cuneiform Studies 39 (1987), pp. 3748, who there publishes a new ershahunga
prayer, dating to the Old Babylonian period and thus earlier than the ershahungas
known to Hallo when he wrote Individual Prayer. Further refinements, and a fullscale analysis of the genre, were presented by Stefan M. Maul, in his Herzberuhigungsklagen. Die sumerisch-akkadischen Ershahunga-Gebete. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1988.
4 Raphael Kutscher, Oh Angry Sea (a-ab-ba-hu-luh-la): The History of a Sumerian Congregational Lament. Yale Near Eastern Researches. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975;

assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies


should be added that Hallos focus on Sumerian literature and on the

holdings of the Yale Babylonian Collection continues to this day, as he
works to finish a volume of hand copies of all Sumerian literary tablets
from Yale.
The articles we have been discussing, as well as the others in the
present volume, are mainly directed to Mesopotamia, and particularly
to the literary character of its written sources. But Hallo does not
neglect the wider ancient Near Eastern ramifications, particularly those
concerning the Hebrew Bible. Something of this is evident, as noted
above, in Hallos 1963 article on New Viewpoints on Cuneiform Literature. The two prayer articles just mentioned develop the biblical
connections more directly, if briefly. Building here on a detailed and
critical knowledge of previous scholarship, Hallo oers the illuminating suggestion that the Mesopotamian letter-prayer tradition helps to
understand the character and function of Biblical prayers of individuals to God. In particular, in the article on The Royal Correspondence of Larsa: I. A Sumerian Prototype for the Prayer of Hezekiah?
(V.1), he developsand nuancesthe proposal of his former Leiden
professor, F.M.Th. de Liagre Bhl, that the psalm of King Hezekiah
of Judah in Isaiah 38 actually serves as a kind of letter-prayer asking God to cure his illness (cf. also another article in the present collection, X.2, on which see further below). What is finally noteworthy,
throughout his Biblical-Mesopotamian comparison, is Hallos restraint:
he resists the easy claim that the Biblical texts grew directly out of the
Mesopotamian letter-prayer tradition, because explicit evidence is lacking. At the same time, he is able to lay out, in this tradition, a compelling early Mesopotamian model (V.1, 213) for what the Biblical
prayers are doing.
Besides particular Mesopotamian texts, a number of articles in the
present volume study a variety of cultural, including religious, phenomena: thus, the question of literary canons (I.1,5, X.3), rhetoric (I.7),
historiography (VI), proverbs (VIII), lamentations and prayers (IV.3),
kingship (III.4), origins of cities (VII.5), and religion, including cult and
impurity (I.6, VII.2,3,4, VIII.3). Here again, while Mesopotamia is the

Piotr Michalowski, The Correspondence of the Kings of Ur: The Epistolary History of an Ancient
Mesopotamian Kingdom. Mesopotamian Civilizations 15. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, in
press; Nicole Maria Brisch, Tradition and the Poetics of Innovation: Sumerian Court Literature
of the Larsa Dynasty (c. 20031763 bce). Alter Orient und Altes Testament 339. UgaritVerlag, 2007.


assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies

main focus, it is not without wider, especially Biblical concerns. An

illuminating example is the paper on The Concept of Canonicity in
Cuneiform and Biblical Literature: A Comparative Appraisal (X.3).
This is the principal and largest of several studies, mostly collected
in the present volume, that focus or touch on canon (besides I.1,5,
see I.4 and IV.1, the latter, on Individual Prayer, discussed above).
The paper begins with a concise review of definitions of canonicity as
they have been used for the Hebrew Bible and classical Jewish literature, with briefer reference to the early Christian and Classical sources.
Hallo finds here a spectrum of meaning for canon, from the narrow,
viz., a single fixed corpus of divinely inspired authoritative literature,
to the broad, viz., a range of recognized corpora, invested with diering degrees of authority that do not have to be divinely inspired. More
important, he notes, with Nahum Sarna, that even when divine inspiration was used as a criterion in antiquity, it was not the only one;
more visible was what one might call (the term is the present authors,
not Hallos) the bibliographical treatment of texts that the ancients
regarded as canonical, e.g., the notation of line counts and of a standard ordering of texts and their parts in sequence. It is this bibliographical treatment that Hallo applies to the study of the Mesopotamian
materials, which is the main focus of his article. Here Hallo discusses a
series of twelve features characterizing those Mesopotamian texts, and
the corpora to which they belonged, that were regarded, at least in
scribal circles, as authoritative and so canonicalthe latter term being
used by Hallo without reference to the criterion of divine inspiration.
Hallo then returns to the relevance of these features to the understanding of the canonization process in the ancient Jewish and Christian traditions, at the same time not neglecting the dierences, particularly the
more closed definition of a canonical corpus that eventually came to
be recognized for the Bible. The results of Hallos analysis, in this and
his other publications, have become widely known and referred to, but,
to be sure, not everywhere accepted, some critics still seeing an excessive reliance on Biblical models of exclusiveness and authority for the
understanding of the Mesopotamian situation.5 But such critiques have
not always reckoned adequately with the nuances of Hallos analysis,
5 The most extensive critique is by Victor Avigdor Hurowitz, Canon and Canonization in MesopotamiaAssyriological Models or Ancient Realities? Proceedings of
the Twelfth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division A: The Bible and Its World [Jerusalem:
World Union of Jewish Studies, 1999], pp. 1*12*.

assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies


particularly as formulated in his The Concept of Canonicity article,

which allows, as we have noted, for a range of similarities, but also for
dierences between the Biblical/Jewish/Christian traditions and those
of Mesopotamia. In any case, Hallos delineation of the twelve features
involved on the Mesopotamian side remains the most comprehensive
and systematic we have in contemporary scholarship on the scribal
production of texts, and thus a benchmark for any further work on
the subject and its possible canonical significance.
The papers of Hallos we have been discussing are, even if they consider wider ramifications, rooted in particular analyses, whether of individual texts or of individual cultural phenomena. One other group of
papers in the present volume, however, is deliberately oriented more
broadly, either as surveys of Mesopotamian literature, or as discussions
of what makes up the comparative study of cultures (I.1,3,4; X.1,2,4).
In this group, the paper that combines both orientations most extensively is Compare and Contrast. The Contextual Approach to Biblical Literature (X.2). Hallo begins here with a discussion of method.
Since for him classical literary- or source-critical study of the Hebrew
Bible involves a high degree of speculationthere remaining little hard
and direct evidence of the underlying sources posited for the present
(Tiberian Masoretic) Biblical textone must go beyond the Bible for
evidence that will help to understand the history of the Bibles composition and its meaning. The comparative study of cultures, thus, is
a necessary part of Biblical scholarship. But, Hallo goes on to warn,
comparison that focuses only or largely on similarities with the goal of
compiling a list of parallels between Biblical and other ancient Near
Eastern literatures is much too one-sided and misleading. It needs to be
balanced by a consideration of contrasts, which can often prove to be
just as, if not more, illuminating in making sense of the nature of the
phenomena at issue, as well as the cultures from which they come. But
even more than a balance between similarities and contrasts, comparative study must, argues Hallo, remain sensitive to the contexts of what
is being compared: context here involving both the immediate Biblical surroundings and the wider cultural and societal settings in ancient
Israel and the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean world as a
whole. Equally, comparison must ask, if the phenomena reflect actual
historical connections, how they are to be construed: are they derived
from a common source, or borrowed one from the other, but then is
Israel the borrower, or the lender? To illustrate these directives, Hallo
turns to a series of particular comparisons gathered from a range of


assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies

scholarship, very much including his own. The comparisons focus on

literary matters, involving common motifs and genres; the use of sealing imagery to express love (Song of Songs 8:6), the curses at the end
of Deuteronomy (2829), and descriptive rituals (Numbers 7, etc.) are
among the variety of instances considered. While some of the comparisons are more convincing than others, still, when gathered in such
number and diversity, they do make the case for the crucial illumination Mesopotamian literature provides toward the meaning, function,
and structure of Biblical literaturewhere the latter more often than
not is insucient in itself to explain its own features.
The focus on comparative studies in not exhausted by the present
collection. Among numerous other illustrations, we may point to the
four summer seminars led by Hallo at Yale, with the support of the
National Endowment for the Humanities. These were explicitly devoted to the Hebrew Bible in comparative ancient Near Eastern perspective, and the essays from them were edited by Hallo and his associates into four published volumes.6 In addition, Hallo was the driving
force and main editor of the three volumes, The Context of Scripture (Brill,
19972002), which represent a major new collection of English translations of texts from all over the ancient Near East that have interest
for Biblical studies. The volumes have already begun to replace the old
standby, James B. Pritchards Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old
Testament.7 Finally, one cannot forget the volume, Origins. The Ancient Near
Eastern Background of Some Modern Western Institutions, which Hallo published in 1996 (Brill). As its title indicates, this moves, in its comparative
thrust, well beyond Mesopotamia and the Bible to take up a whole set
of phenomena in the Western tradition, institutional and otherwise, for
which Mesopotamia, but also the broader ancient Near East, provide
the foundations.

Carl D. Evans, William W. Hallo, and John B. White, eds., Scripture in Context:
Essays on the Comparative Method. Pittsburgh Theological Monograph Series 34; Pittsburgh: The Pickwick Press, 1980; William W. Hallo, James C. Moyer, and Leo G. Perdue, eds., Scripture in Context II: More Essays on the Comparative Method. Winona Lake:
Eisenbrauns, 1983; William W. Hallo, Bruce William Jones, and Gerald L. Mattingly,
eds., The Bible in the Light of Cuneiform Literature: Scripture in Context III. Ancient Near Eastern Texts and Studies 8; Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press,
1990; and K. Lawson Younger, Jr., William W. Hallo, and Bernard F. Batto, eds., The
Biblical Canon in Comparative Perspective: Scripture in Context IV. Ancient Near Eastern Texts
and Studies 11; Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.
7 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press) in three editions (1950, 1955, 1969).

assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies


Characterizing all of this work, Assyriological sensu stricto and comparative, is its bibliographical thoroughness: nothing of the ancient
textual sources, and nothing of the voluminous and often widely dispersed modern scholarship appear to have escaped Hallos eye. Then,
too, Hallo has never been content with an older style of Assyriological investigation, which often could not venture beyond the philological examination of a text. As we have seen, even in his philological
investigationspainstaking in the best of the earlier traditionhe has
always asked larger questions, about literary form and tradition, and
cultural setting and profile, and done so very much aware of, though
not obsessive about, wider, non-Near Eastern scholarship in literature,
philosophy, history, and the like. This wider orientation has become
much more common now, as the earlier, basic work of decipherment
and organization of the field has been achieved, but Hallo, it may fairly
be said, was one of its early proponents.
Finally, whether it is a biblical text or a Mesopotamian that is a
later legendary composition, Hallo has wanted to be open and generous to the possibility that such texts can serve as historical witnesses
to the events, institutions, and the like which they describe. Of course,
Hallo is not oblivious of the distortions and even outright inventions
of Biblical and Mesopotamian texts in these instances. But he is just
as, even more, impatient with scholars who would easily dismiss the
historical footing of the texts or the chance for meaningful comparisons of texts and other artifacts across the cultures of the ancient Near
East, especially Biblical Israel and Mesopotamia. As he put it, at the
end of his Compare and Contrast article, What counts is that, in
the understandable revulsion against parallelomania, we not subject the
biblical data to an equally unbridled parallelophobia. In this regard,
as he himself noted in another of the papers reprinted in the present
volume, Problems in Sumerian Hermeneutics (I.3),8 his work represents an eort to deal with the famous 1926 lecture/publication of one
of his Chicago professors, Benno Landsberger, on Die Eigenbegrifflichkeit der babylonischen Welt.9 Landsberger in that lecture called
8 Thanks to Bill T. Arnold for reminding one of us (Machinist) of Hallos remarks in his Problems article concerning Landsberger: see Arnold, Assyriology
and Biblical Studies: Time for Reassessment?, Bible and Interpretation [2005], on-line at
9 Benno Landsberger, Die Eigenbegriichkeit der babylonischen Welt. Islamica II
(1926/reprinted 1974) (August Fischer Festschrift), pp. 355372. Reprinted: Landsberger-Von Soden, Die Eigenbegriichkeit der babylonischen Welt (Benno Landsberger); Leis-


assyriological, biblical, and jewish studies

for a focus on understanding a culturein his instance, the culture of

ancient Babyloniafrom the cultures own evidence and language(s),
not, at least in the first instance, from comparison with other cultures.
The eect of Landsbergers lecture, even if it may have gone beyond his
ultimate intent, was thereafter to push many Assyriologists, though by
not means all (cf., e.g., Ephraim A. Speiser), away from active comparative work especially with the Bible. In Hallos work, on the other hand,
we may observe an eort to take account of Landsbergers important
strictures, but to restore a balance: to say that comparison is indeed
necessary as a means of enlarging the context in which the study and
understanding of a culture must proceed.
Peter Machinist
Piotr Michalowski

tung und Grenze sumerischer und babylonischer Wissenschaft (Wolfram von Soden) (Libelli 142;
Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1965), pp. 118; Nachwort, p. 19. Translated: Benno Landsberger, The Conceptual Autonomy of the Babylonian World, trans. T. Jacobsen, B. Foster, and H. von Siebenthal, with introduction by T. Jacobsen (Monographs
on the Ancient Near East 1/4); Malibu: Undena, 1976.



What was the appearance of a biblical book? How was it conceived,

edited, published? How was it transmitted from age to age, and by what
manner of means was it changed in the course of that transmission?
These are questions which ought to occupy the prolegomena of biblical
exegesis, for anything less than certainty on these points renders any
theory as to the history of a specific biblical text doubly tenuous.
In fact, however, they are questions that, at least outside Israel, are
largely disregarded.1 Palestinian archaeology can oer little comfort,
and internal evidence is hard to come by except perhaps in the case of
a Jeremiah. It is partly for this reason that modem biblical criticism
has achieved such relatively few really permanent results that may
be described as universally accepted. Instead, we have the classical
Wellhausenist school, content to divide the received text into more
and more component sources, not one of which is ever in danger of
being recovered; the generation of the Gattungsforscher, seeking at least to
classify the probable genres of biblical literature according to presumed
but always hypothetical motives or occasions; and the myth and ritual

This paper was read to the Third World Congress of Jewish Studies held in
Jerusalem in 1961. The following abbreviations have been used in this article:

J.B. Pritchard, ed.: Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Princeton, 1950.

Anatolian Studies.
Archiv fr Orientforschung.
Archiv Orientln.
Bibliotheca Orientalis.
W.G. Lambert: Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Oxford, 1960.
Hebrew Union College Annual.
Journal of Cuneiform Studies.
W. von Soden: Das Problem der zeitlichen Einordnung akkadischer
Literaturwerke, Mitteilungen der deutschen Orientgesellschaft, 85, 1953.
Revue dAssyriologie.
Zeitschrift fr Assyriologie.

Cf. J.Ph. Hyatt: The Writing of an Old Testament Book, BA, 6, 1943, pp. 7180.

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

school, disclaiming the relevance of formal textual history altogether

with its emphasis on a fluid, oral prehistory.2
There is, however, one approach which seems to oer some prospect
of objective, verifiable data against which to test biblical hypotheses,
and that is the so-called comparative method. As in so many other
areas of biblical scholarship, we find that, in the area of literary techniques, the evidence from the literate neighbours of ancient Israel is
not only relevant to the biblical problems, but also enjoys a scholarly
consensus based on a maximum of facts and a minimum of theories.3
I would like to address myself to two special problems of literary
techniques in the cuneiform area, particularly in Akkadian, leaving it
largely to others to draw the inevitable comparisons for the biblical
situation. The two problems I have in mind are the creative impulse
and the process of canonization in cuneiform literaturetwo opposite
poles of one larger question which may be described as the formal
aspect of textual history.
Creativity implies first of all authorship, and cuneiform literature, at
least in its principal Sumerian and Akkadian manifestations, is notorious for its anonymity. This anonymity is not the least of the dierences that separate it from literary prophecy in Israel, and from subsequent western literature. In fact, there are only two Akkadian compositions (and at most one Sumerian one) which incorporate explicit references to authorship, and these exceptions seem merely to prove the
rule.4 In the so-called Theodicy,5 a certain (E)saggil-knam-ubbib has
revealed his name in an acrostic which reads: I, Saggil-knam-ubbib,
am a (loyal) servant of god and king. Apparently he means thereby to
protest his religious and political innocence in face of the rather daring views expressed in his composition. But the fact that he hides his
name in the acrostic seems to indicate clearly enough that it was only

To these well-known schools may now perhaps be added the interesting new view
advanced by S. Sandmel: The Haggada within Scripture, JBL, 80, 1961, pp. 105122.
3 Almost the only attempt at source analysis in Akkadian of which I am aware
is P. Koschakers division of Codex Hammurabi into pre-Hammurabian and Hammurabian elements; cf. especially Rechtsvergleichende Studien zur Gesetzgebung Hammurabis.
Leipzig, 1923, and Beitrge zum babylonischen Recht, ZA, 35, 1924, pp. 199212, esp.
pp. 205 . For Sumerian, one may mention T. Jacobsen: The Sumerian King List. Chicago,
4 W.G. Lambert: Ancestors, Authors and Canonicity, JCS, 11, 1957, p. 1.
5 Latest edition by W.G. Lambert, BWL, ch. 3.

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

the unusual circumstances of the case that prompted him to break the
usual pattern of anonymity even to this extent, and, though we have
half a dozen further examples of acrostics in Akkadian literature,6 none
of the others include an authors name.
The Epic of Irra7 was composed by Kabti-ilani-Marduk. This we
learn from the final chapter of that book. But again the circumstances
under which this information is provided are exceptional. For we are
told that the presumed author received the text of the epic in its entirety
from the deity, and it is precisely in order to tell us this that his name
is included in the composition at all. Moreover, as Lambert has seen,8
the reference to divine inspiration is simply a way of denying Kabtis
authorship of the epic and implying that he received it from an earlier
In both of these cases, the evidence for authorship, such as it is, is
incorporated in the texts themselves. There is, however, new and additional evidence which we owe to the Akkadian penchant for drawing
up lists. We possess certain lists and catalogues of authors, or of literary
compositions and their authors, which have recently been studied by
von Soden and Lambert.9 It is from one of these that we know of the
author of the Gilgamesh Epic as Sin-liqi-unninni. Lambert has shown
that this name and a number of the others go back to Kassite times,
the earliest datable one being from the fourteenth century.10 True, in
(of ) the mouth of in these catalogues does not imply authorship in
the strict modern sense,11 for even if we date the canonical version
of Gilgamesh to the Kassite period, it is clear that it built on earlier
versions and that the Kassite author was in part simply an adaptor.
However, the far-reaching changes which we can trace precisely in this
composition in the passages where both the Old Babylonian and the

6 Ibid., p., 67; cf. W. Hallo: Isaiah 28

913 and the Ugaritic Abecedaries, JBL, 77,
1958, p. 328 and n. 11.
7 Last complete edition by Father F. Gssmann: Das Era-Epos. Wrzburg, 1956. The
many important reviews of and additions to this edition have been summarized and
augmented by B. Kienast, ZA, 54, 1961, pp. 244249.
8 JCS, 11, 1957, p. 1.
9 MDOG, pp. 1617; Lambert, JCS, 11, 1957, p. 5, with a new fragment of the same
10 Ibid., pp. 24 and appendix, p. 112.
11 According to Lambert, ibid., p. 6, (
sa) p identifies either the oral source or the

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

neo-Assyrian versions are preserved12 show that the adaptation was at

the same time the work of a creative genius whose name was worthy of
being remembered.
The Kassite period is, however, not the upper limit for recorded
authorship in these and similar catalogues. At least one composition,
Etana, is associated with an author from Ur who must be assigned
to the Old Babylonian period at the latest and probably to the neoSumerian period.13 Traditions of such hoary antiquity of authorship
merge imperceptibly with others which speak of unnamed ancient
sages, usually the seven antediluvian apkallus, and blend at last with
another Akkadian conception, that of divine authorship. It may come
as something of a surprise to find divine authorship an explicit tenet
of the Assyrians already, but again Lambert has provided us with the
unequivocal evidence in the form of an unpublished catalogue assigning various canonical books to dierent deities.14 To this may be added
from a published source, albeit a late one, the statement in the verse
account of Nabonidus that the divine Adapa, sometimes regarded as
first of the seven sages, authored the series UD.SAR Anu Enlil.15
Thus the Akkadian bibliographers were aware of the problem, of
authorship, and the old theorem that anonymity implied authority16 has
to be revised for them: in fact, antiquity of authorship implied authority, with divine authorship implying the greatest authority. Though we
cannot, of course, regard these claims as historical, they are not without value for, conversely, divine authorship must have been conceived,
rightly or wrongly, as high antiquity of authorship.17
12 Cf. P. Garelli, ed.: Gilgame
s et sa lgende, tudes recueillies loccasion de la VII e Rencontre
Assyriologique Internationale, (Paris1958), Paris, 1960, especially J.R. Kupper: Les direntes
versions de lpope de Gilgames, pp. 97102.
13 Lambert, JCS, 11, 1957, p. 7.
14 W.G. Lambert: Divine Authorship of Works of Babylonian Literature, paper read to the
American Oriental Society, New Haven, 1960; cf. JAOS, 80, 1960, p. 284.
15 So at least in the translation of Landsberger and Bauer; see A.L. Oppenheim,
ANET, p. 314. The series is, however, otherwise unknown to me. For Adapa, the
apkallus, and their works, see H.G. Gterbock: Die historische Tradition und ihre
literarische Gestaltung bei Babyloniern und Hethitern, ZA, 42, 1934, pp. 910.
16 So still von Soden, MDOG, p. 16.
17 It certainly cannot be denied that the Old Babylonian period was a time of
intense creative activity. Lambert (BWL, pp. 79) has even explained it in ethnic
terms: the peripheral Amorite or Semitic areas were hotbeds of reform in matters
literary, while the scribal quarters of the old Sumerian centres like Nippur preserved
the received tradition until Hammurabis unification subjected the whole country to
their conservatism.

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

Ocial recognition of authorship, human, sage, or divine, is only the

first ingredient of the mechanics of creativity in Akkadian literature.
We have already alluded to the creative role of the presumed Kassite
adaptor of the Old Babylonian Gilgamesh epic. The same role has
been posited for the Middle Babylonian period generally in the history
of Babylonian literature.18 But it would be wrong to conceive of the
origin of Akkadian literature in terms of a single, organized reworking
of Old Babylonian models, a once-and-for-all process that left no room
for individual traits. Rather, the evidence gradually accumulating shows
that this view has to be considerably modified.
Let us take first of all the case of the omen literature, for this is quantitatively the most important genre in Akkadian literature, forming, in
Oppenheims estimate, some 30 per cent, of what he calls the stream of
tradition.19 A comparison of Old Babylonian and neo-Assyrian omina
shows important dierences in content20 as well as in form, for the later
omina love to enlarge on a given theme, exhausting all the possible and
impossible variations conceivable for a given protasis or condition.21 It
has therefore often been thought that the greater part of the late omen
literature was completely artificial, that the vast accretions to the earlier
18 MDOG, p. 22. We know a number of Middle Babylonian redactors by name, e.g.
Esguzi; cf. J.V. Kinnier Wilson: Two Medical Texts from Nimrud, I, Iraq, 18, 1956,
pp. 136140.
19 A.L. Oppenheim: Assyriologywhy and how?, Current Anthropology, 1, 1960, p. 412.
Since Oppenheims provocative study is not everywhere available, it may be useful to
summarize his estimate of the original size and composition of Assurbanipals library

Omen texts: about 300 tablets,

Lexical texts: about 200 tablets,
Bilingual incantations and prayers: about 100 tablets,
Conjurations, epics, fables, proverbs, etc.: about 100 tablets,
unclassified (?): about 200 tablets,
lost or not yet identified: 300600 tablets.
This total of 12001500 tablets is considerably below Weidners estimate of 5000 in AfO,
16, 19521953, p. 198.
20 The older omina were chiefly derived from inspection of the liver and entrails of
sheep (extispicy), the younger ones from a variety of phenomena; cf. e.g. A. Goetzes
Introduction to: Old Babylonian Omen Texts (= Yale Oriental Series, 10). New Haven,
21 In the case of monstrous births, for example, the Old Babylonian series considers
the appearance of a foetus with two tails (ibid., No. 56 i 10), while the neo-Assyrian
series adds cases with three to nine tails (Ch. Fossey, Babyloniaca, 5, 1914 and Dennefeld,
Assyriologische Bibliothek, 22, 1914, passim). The cat of nine tails, be it noted, is a biological

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

corpus were simply generated by the scribes, and that they displayed as
little originality in their creative work as they did in their slavish copying of older models.
New discoveries force a revision of this view. The British excavations
at Kalah have turned up, among other magnificent finds, an entirely
new category of cuneiform inscriptions: instead of clay tablets, the slime
at the bottom of a deep well had preserved intact wooden and ivory
writing boards covered with wax. These boards were then fastened
together in harmonica fashion to produce a true book. This book
contained, interestingly enough, the astronomical omen series, enuma
Anu Enlil. As the excavators saw, these omina were apparently recorded
from actual, patient observation of celestial phenomena night after
night. They therefore could not employ a writing surface like clay,
which hardens quickly and makes additions and alterations impossible.
The wax surface of the wooden writing boards was ideally suited for
keeping a cuneiform record over a prolonged period of time, and at the
same time entitles us to suppose that much, if not all, of the late omen
literature was likewise a creative, experimental venture, albeit directed
towards ends far from scientific.22
A similar conclusion can be reached in the case of the great lexical series, such as ana ittisu and HAR-ra = hubullu, which are increas
speculation. In this case
ingly recognized as based on observation, not
the object of observation consisted of the actual Sumerian of the neoSumerian and Early Babylonian periods, or at least its written survivals.23 Nor did the philological spirit die out thereafter, for the commentaries of the later and latest periods represent a scribal innovation
that took many dierent forms.24


For the writing boards from Kalah, see M.E.L. Mallowan: The Excavations at
Nimrud (Kalhu) 1953, Iraq, 16, 1954, pp. 94110 and D.J. Wiseman: Assyrian Writing
Boards, ibid., 17, 1955, pp. 313 and Margaret Howard: Technical Description of the
Ivory Writing-Boards from Nimrud, ibid., pp. 1420. For the general question, cf.
H.Th. Bossert: Sie schrieben auf Holz, Minoica (= Sundwall Anniversary Volume, Berlin,
1958), pp. 6719.
23 This conclusion was reached independently by H. Limet: Le Travail du mtal au
pays de Sumer. Paris, 1960, p. 190 (sub 1) and by J.B. Curtis & W.W. Hallo: Money and
Merchants in Ur III, HUCA, 30, 1959, p. 136.
24 Some of these mukallimatu themselves became parts of the canon, while others
have all the appearance of ad hoc aids prepared by or for private readers of the classical
texts. All show many striking similarities with the so-called synonym lists, and there may
be an organic connection between the two genres. On commentaries, see most recently
E.F. Weidner: Ein Kommentar zu summa izbu, AfO, 19, 19591960, pp. 151152.

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

In other genres, too, we have new evidence of the creative impulse in

the later periods of Mesopotamian history, periods which are contemporary with the presumed date of composition of most of biblical literature. The process of adapting older literary models did not cease in the
Middle Babylonian period. A comparison of the neo-Assyrian version
of the myth of Nergal and Eresh-kigal, recently edited by Gurney, with
the previously known Middle-Babylonian version of el-Amarna, shows
far-going changes in spite of the retention of the basic outline.25 But a
far more important outlet for the literary talents of the later scribes was
constituted by the royal inscriptions.26 At the courts of the neo-Assyrian
and neo-Babylonian monarchs, these found their true apogee. Many of
these inscriptions, it is true, succumbed to the stereotyped phrases, wild
exaggerations, and progressive distortions which their royal patrons
apparently wanted to hear, and their historical value suers as much
as their literary merit as a result.27 But others, on the contrary, display a high degree of objectivity, of immediacy, and of sensitivity. Most
notable in this respect is the lengthy report in the form of a letter, by
a scribe or scribes of Sargon II of Assyria, describing the events of his
eighth campaign. In a new analysis of this text, Oppenheim has discovered its Sitz im Leben: it was read to the assembled citizens of Assur
immediately upon the return of the royal army. It is attuned to its audience, and its many descriptive details, some of them almost lyrical, not
only delighted this audience, but gave free rein to the scribes powers of
observation and expression.28
In still another unexpected quarter, Oppenheim has discovered a
major departure from the fixity of wording previously associated with
Akkadian literature.29 Inserted in the midst of a most unlikely context
a standard invocation of the gods of the nighthe has found a passage of high poetic quality in which the lone ociating priest surveys

25 Cf. O.R. Gurney: The Myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal (= The Sultantepe Tablets
VII), An. St., 10, 1960, pp. 105131.
26 MDOG, pp. 2425.
27 We can assess their historical value best when we have two or even three independent reports of the same event, as in the case of Sennacheribs siege of Jerusalem
or, to take a new example, the battle of Dr in 720; cf. W. Hallo: From Qarqar to
Carchemish, BA, 23, 1960, pp. 53, 59.
28 A.L. Oppenheim: The City of Assur in 714 bc, JNES, 19, 1960, especially pp. 143
29 A.L. Oppenheim: A New Prayer to the Gods of Night, Oriens Antiquus (= Studia
Biblica et Orientalia, 3 = Analecta Biblica, 12, 1959), pp. 282301.


i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

the sleeping city and countryside from the roof on which he is conducting his ritual, and paints this picture in an almost impressionistic
manner. The phrases used by the priestly poet are not in themselves
new. Indeed, Oppenheim has traced a number of them back in different combinations and contexts to Old Babylonian times. But their
employment here shows that some of the scribes, at least, had command of what Oppenheim calls topoi and could draw on them at will.30
Such topoi can be found also scattered through Sumerian31 and Akkadian32 literature, and at least one runs through both.33 The discovery
of the topos in Akkadian poetry thus reveals a situation not unlike one
sometimes associated with the biblical psalmsa stock of phrases, lines,
and even whole stanzas at the disposal of a school of poets who created
from them ever-new combinations.34
The reason why the evidence for the last point is relatively meagre is
to be sought in yet another factor, the last that can be considered in this
connection. The literary texts which are preserved for us tend to come
from palace or temple libraries and schools, and thus implicitly bear
the stamp of ocial acceptance. They are overwhelmingly dedicated to
30 Ibid., pp. 290298. As far as I can see, the term was first applied to the cuneiform
field by B. Landsberger: Jahreszeiten im Sumerisch-Akkadischen, JNES, 8, 1949, p. 281.
For a useful definition of the term, cf. G. Bradley: The topos as a form in the Pauline
Paraenesis, JBL, 72, 1953, p. 240.
31 Cf. the frequent topos of fertility to which A. Falkenstein has called attention in
ZA, 50, 1952, p. 78 and Sumerische and Akkadische Hymnen and Gebete. Zrich, 1953, p. 361.
32 Lambert, BWL, p, 315, finds lines 143147 of the Counsels of Wisdom paraphrased
in Harper, Assyrian arid Babylonian Letters, No. 614 Rev. 8 f.
33 The famous line, Who is tall enough to ascend to heaven, who is broad enough to
embrace the earth? occurs in more or less identical form first in the Sumerian wisdom
literature, then in the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living, then
in the Old Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, and finally in the neo-Assyrian poem of the
Obliging Servant; cf. ANET, p. 48, lines 28 f., p. 79, lines 5, and p. 438, lines 86 f.
In the last case, the quotation is dearly intended as the very type of a platitude; cf.
E.A. Speiser: The Case of the Obliging Servant, JCS, 8, 1954, p. 105, n. 21; dierently:
Lambert, BWL, pp. 140141, 148, 327.
34 Needless to say, the biblical topos is not limited to the Psalms. A comparison of
Hos. iv, 9 with Isa. xxiv, 2, for example, or of Gen. xix, 19 with Judges xix, 1425,
shows the same tendency to repeat or enlarge a given theme in a given manner. The
whole problem of such internal parallels in the various separate ancient Near Eastern
literatures is worthy of investigation. For some Egyptian examples, see W.K. Simpson:
Allusions to The Shipwrecked Sailor and the Eloquent Peasant in a Ramesside Text, JAOS,
78, 1958, pp. 5051. For the related question of citations, see R. Gordis: Quotations
as a Literary Usage in Biblical, Oriental and Rabbinic Literature, HUCA, 22, 1949,
pp. 157219 and Quotations in Wisdom Literature, Jewish Quarterly Review, 30, 1939
1940, pp. 123147. Cf. also n. 2 above.

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature


matters of practical concern to these institutions and rarely stray into

pure belletristic, particularly in the later periods.35 But this does not
exclude the possibility that such literature existed, if it was ever reduced
to writing and if we can but find it.36 The excavations at Sultan Tepe
have for the first time turned up a sizeable cache of literary tablets from
what may be considered a purely private library roughly contemporary
with the great public collections at Nineveh and Assur, and of a type
whose existence had previously been deduced from internal evidence.37
And here indeed, besides the ocial texts, there was found such a
delightful piece as the Poor Man of Nippur.38 Though the library
of Assurbanipal contained a fragment of the same text, a far more
interesting parallel to it turns up in the Arabian Nights. It is probably
just in the area of folk tales and popular maxims that this unocial
literature found its freest expression, and we are not to suppose that
the dearth of preserved Akkadian proverbs relative to Sumerian is due
to the loss of a sense of humour: they were simply relegated to the p
matim, the vernacular.39 Another outlet for popular, or oral literature
was the realm of legend, which explains why the same tales might be
associated with dierent heroes by successive ages.40

35 Even apparently literary texts such as Adapa frequently end in practical incantations and probably owe their survival to this fact. Cf. Oppenheim, op. cit. (above,
n. 19), p. 413.
36 Oppenheim, ibid., p. 414, suggests that this literature may have been written in
Aramaic, or on perishable materials, or in palaces like that of Babylon which have
so far defied excavation. That there was ever a sizeable body of oral literature in
Mesopotamia seems unlikely; cf. J. Laesse: Literacy and Oral Tradition in Ancient
Mesopotamia, Studia Orientalia Ioanni Pedersen septuagenario. . . .dicata. Copenhagen, 1953,
pp. 205218.
37 Cf. MDOG, p. 15; E. Weidner: Die Bibliothek Tiglatpilesers I., AfO, 16, 1953,
p. 198; idem: Amts- und Privatarchive aus mittelassyrischer Zeit, V. Christian Anniversary
Volume (= K, Schubert, ed.: Vorderasiatische Studien. Wien, 1956), pp. 111118; W.G. Lambert: The Sultantepe Tablets: a review article, RA, 53, 1959, p. 121.
38 O.R. Gurney: The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur (= The Sultantepe Tablets V),
An. St., 6, 1956, pp. 145162 and addendum, ibid., 7, 1957, p. 136; cf. E.A. Speiser:
Sultantepe Tablet 38 73 and Enuna Elis III 69, JCS, 11, 1957, pp. 4344.
39 For the Akkadian proverbs, cf. BWL, ch. 9, for the Sumerian proverbs, E.I. Gordon: Sumerian Proverbs (= Museum Monographs. Philadelphia, 1959) and previous literature
cited there, pp. 552553.
40 Cf. Especially H. Lewy: The Babylonian Background of the Kay Ks Legend,
Ar. Or., 17/2, 1949, pp. 28109, and Nitokris-Naqa, JNES, 11, 1952, pp. 264286. For
the Babylonian background of the book of Daniel, cf. W. von Soden: Eine babylonische
Volksberlieferung von Nabonid in den Danielerzhlungen, Zeitschrift f. Alttestamentliche
Wissenschaft, 53, 1935, pp. 8189.


i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

So far the elements of creativity in Akkadian literature. What can

be said about the opposite but complementary technique of collecting, selecting and preserving that which had previously been created?
Here too, recent discoveries have contributed new insights. It is by now
common knowledge that the literary cuneiform textsas distinguished
from the monumental building and votive inscriptions on the one hand
and the so-called economic or archival tablets on the otherare often
preserved in numerous dierent copies, sometimes going back to different periods and places. A critical edition of such a text demands
from the Assyriologist that he combine all such copies, duly noting
attested manuscripts and variant readings in an apparatus criticus,
exactly as in the case of a Greek or Latin author. Indeed, Assyriology is now in the happy and exciting period of textual reconstruction
in which the humanists of the Renaissance found themselves when they
were recovering their classical heritage. What is less well known is the
precise manner by which these various copies came into being. Who
determined what texts were to be copied? How many were made? In
what order were they arranged? These apparently mechanical questions have an interest not only for Assyriology but for ancient literary
techniques in general.
Consider first the question of the number of copies of texts in
circulation. The seemingly numberless fragments that enter into the
reconstruction of almost any substantial Akkadian or Sumerian text
have sometimes led to the feeling that there was an original abundance
of complete copies in each of the great public tablet collections. One
could picture a reader dictating to a whole scriptorium full of scribes,
and indeed this process was employed in some periods for some of the
commoner royal inscriptionsthose, at least, which, because of their
shape, it was not possible to print with a brick stamp. But there is
no evidence for such mass-production methods in the case of literary
texts. On the contrary, the abundance of fragments and separate tablets
belonging to the same composition at a single site disappears when
one begins to assign the fragments to a single tablet on the basis of
their expected position, and to assign successive tablets to a single
exemplar of one multi-tablet series on the basis of certain technical
and orthographic characteristics. In this manner, it has been deduced
by von Soden that even Assurbanipals library at Nineveh contained
at the most only three complete copies of any one composition, and

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature


of some only one.41 Much the same situation can be demonstrated for
the Old Babylonian copies of Sumerian texts: few discrete exemplars
of even the more popular compositions. It is true that, as Oppenheim
suggests, the methods of the scribal schools may have encouraged their
graduates to construct and maintain small libraries of their own, but as
far as the decisive public collections were concerned, i.e. those of the
temple, palace, or school, our evidence to date suggests a very limited
edition of complete literary texts at any given site in spite of their wide
geographical and chronological attestation.
The situation is dierent, however, when we consider the brief excerpts generally referred to as exercise tablets. These are indeed attested in great abundance. What interests us about them here is a
new type of exercise tablet which has recently come to light. Two
small tablets from Assur published by Lambert42 show extracts, not just
from two or three compositions,43 but from ten dierent series, all of
them identifiable as standard books in the neo-Assyrian stream of tradition. What is even more significant, the compositions are excerpted
in exactly the same order in both tablets, in fact in each case the
lines quoted in the one tablet follow immediately those quoted in the
other tablet when compared with the full version of the texts involved.
What this seems to imply is the existence of an accepted list of classical
texts, and the emergence or a standard order in which they were to be
read or studied.44 In keeping with this hypothesis is the fact that lexical
texts head the list and that omen texts make up the greatest part of
41 W. von Soden: Zur Wiederherstellung der Geburtsomenserie summa izbu, ZA, 50,
1952, p. 182 (cf. on this series also P.C. Couprie, Bi Or., 17, 1960, p. 187). As von Soden
points out, the reconstruction of the separate exemplars of a given series is a neglected
but valid part of lower textual criticism in Assyriology. (Oppenheim, loc. cit. [above,
n. 19] counts up to six copies of some Nineveh texts.)
42 BWL, Pl. 73 and pp. 356357.
43 An interesting example of this variety of extract (Akkadian nishu) tablet is Baby the Lipit-Ishtar
loniaca, 9, pp. 19 f. and Pl. 1, which has, on the obverse, extracts of
hymn translated by A. Falkenstein, in Sumerische und akkadische Hymnen und Gebete. Zrich,
1953, No. 28, followed by Codex Hammurabi par. 7, and, on the reverse extracts of
paradigms. The tablet is now in Geneva; cf. E. Sollberger: The Cuneiform Collection
in Geneva, JCS, 5, 1951, p. 20 sub 6.3. Cf. also D.O. Edzard: Die zweite Zwischenzeit
Babyloniens. Wiesbaden, 1957, n. 463.
44 Akkadian id (NG.ZU) is the material to be known (i.e. by heart), and tamartu
(IGI.DU8.A) is the material to be glanced at for reference only. The latter term is
commonest in the colophons of Assurbanipals personal (?) library; both occur in the
curriculum of the incantation priest (below, n. 49).


i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

Lambert himself hesitates to draw this conclusion, and in another

context he has specifically warned against viewing the editorial work
of the Babylonian and Assyrian scribes as canonization in the sense
in which this word is applied to the Bible.45 Yet we know that many
Akkadian works had assumed a fixed form by neo-Assyrian times,
and that their division into tablets, and in the case of longer series
into groups of tablets (pirsu) was fully standardized.46 When we add
to this the new evidence for the fixed order of the separate series, we
have some of the essential ingredients of a canon. If the process of
canonization was not completed in the case of the cuneiform literature,
it was only because political events intervened.
There have, indeed, long been indications of the emergence of a
standard order of cuneiform texts, though they have not always received the attention they deserved. One is the existence of catalogues
of titles or incipits,47 either of the various tablets (i.e. chapters) of long
series,48 or of successive series.49 Now some of the latter may, it is true,
be simply inventories prepared by zealous librarians.50 But others may
have the further significance of recording the order in which the texts
were supposed to follow each other. This view is in accord with another
45 JCS, 11, 1957, p. 9. I refer only to the element of standardization, not to the claim
of inspiration attaching to the term.
46 The notion that a cuneiform series (i
skaru) corresponds to a (biblical) book and a
tablet (.tuppu) to a chapter readily suggests itself. It is harder to find an exact equivalent
for the pirsu.
47 Called DUB.SAG.(MES)
or, in neo-Assyrian texts, SAG.DUB.(MES),
head or top (of ) the tablet; cf. Kinnier Wilson, op. cit. (above, n. 18), pp. 135136.
In neo-Sumerian, SAG.DUB seems to identify the person named at the beginning of a
ration or wage list; cf. T. Jacobsen, Studia Orientalis Ioanni Pedersen septuagenario . . . dicata.
Copenhagen, 1953, p. 181.
48 Such a sub-catalogue, or perhaps we should say table of contents of a single
series was recently found at Nimrud-Kalah (ND 4358) and published by Kinnier
Wilson, op. cit. (above, n. 18), pp. 130 . We also have such catalogues for, i.a., enuma Anu
Enlil (cf. Weidner: Die astrologische Serie Enma Anu Enlil, AfO, 14, 1942, pp. 184189)
and the omen series summa lu (KAR 394).
49 Some typical cuneiform catalogues may be noted here: (a) Sumerian: I. Bernhardt
and S.N. Kramer, Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Friedrich Schiller Universitt Jena, 6, 1956,
pp. 389395, and the parallels there cited (lyrics); cf. now also S.N. Kramer: New
Literary Catalogue from Ur, RA, 55, 1961, pp. 169176. (b) Akkadian: KAR 158 (lyrics);
H. Zimmern, ZA, 30, 19151916, pp. 204229 (masmasutu); Kraus, AfO Supplement,
3, 1939, No. 51 (physiognomic omina) and the texts quoted above, n. 48. (c) Hittite:
E. Laroche, Ar. Or., 17/2, 1949, pp. 1423. In the Bible, Psalm lxviii is a list of incipits
according to W.F. Albright: A Catalogue of Early Hebrew Lyric Poetry, HUCA, 23,
19501951, pp. 139.
50 So e.g. at Hattusha; cf. Laroche, Ar. Or., 17/2, 1949, pp. 2223.

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature


fact, long signalized by Landsberger,51 that the last tablets of certain

series have, as their catchline, the first line of another series.52 This too
points in the direction of a standardized order of the canonical texts.
Other criteria for the canonizing process include the collecting, selecting and editing of texts. Evidence for these activities is better known,
though some of it is subject to dierences of interpretation.53 Here there
is only room to consider one final question: who was responsible for the
entire process? The answer seems clear. It was the scribal schools. Only
such an institution, with its continuing, corporate character can explain
the wide extent and long endurance of cuneiform literature in the face
of its limited circulation,54 and only such an institution possessed the
resources, the discipline and at the same time the practical need to
produce a canon while limiting its own creative impulses to the form
described earlier.55 We now know a good deal about these schools,
their organization and terminology56 thanks especially to the essays
about school life at Nippur dating from the Old Babylonian period

Materialien zum sumerischen Lexikon, 1, 1937, p. vii.

Note also that sometimes two or more distinct compositions appear in a kind of
series, as for example the Silbenalphabet and Atrahasis; cf. C.J. Gadd: The Infancy
and J. Laesse, The Atrahasis
of Man in a Sumerian Legend, Iraq, 4, 1937, pp. 3334,

Epic: a Babylonian History of Mankind, Bi. Or., 13, 1956, pp. 9899.
53 Cf. the divergent interpretations of the important colophon of Nazimaruttash
(c. 13131288) by von Soden, MDOG, pp. 2223, and Lambert, JCS, 11, 1957, pp. 8
9, or the colophon of the newly found catalogue of the series sa-gig (above, n. 48) by
Kinnier Wilson, op. cit., pp. 136 . and Lambert, ibid., p. 6.
54 Lambert, ibid., p. 7 considers the possibility that Kassite scribal schools descended
straight from Old Babylonian ones. It is true that, according to one tradition, the
scribes and learned priests fled to the Sealand at the end of the Old Babylonian period;
cf. B. Landsberger: Assyrische Knigliste und Dunkles Zeitalter, JCS, 8, 1954, pp. 68
69, n. 174. But the Sealand itself may have restored them to Nippur, for its kings
revived the tradition of Sumerian royal names (ibid., p. 69 and n. 175) and, possibly,
of Sumerian royal hymns (cf. below, n. 61). Lambert, op. cit., pp. 34 further holds that
scribal families [or guilds] were responsible for transmitting Akkadian literature from
the Kassite period onwards, i.e. after the demise of the old-style schools. For a similar
evaluation of Hittite scribal organization, cf. Laroche, op. cit., (above, n. 49), pp. 9
55 The canonical order, in fact, reflects or represents the curriculum of the schools,
which may have begun with the texts mentioned in n. 52, then passed on to the primer
of Assyriology, the so-called Syllabary A, then to the other syllabaries and vocabularies
before turning to the connected literary and scientific texts; cf. n. 56 below.
56 For the Old Babylonian period see B. Landsberger: Babylonian Scribal Craft and
its Terminology, Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Orientalists, 1954, pp. 123
126. Interesting terms from the later period are to be found in the sa-gig colophon
(above, n. 53) and in the lexical series L-sa.


i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature

and studied among others by Kramer, Gadd, and van Dijk.57 But the
existence of comparable institutions and techniques in later periods and
at such diverse places as Assur and Hattusha is implied by the analysis
of their libraries.58 In the library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh, the scribal
traditions of Mesopotamia found a fitting climax, whether we can still
speak here of a school or not.
The schools, however, did not exist in a vacuum. Behind them stood
at all times some form of higher authority. Usually, this was the state,
in the form of the monarch; more rarely it may have been the temple.59
This can be demonstrated by a variety of indications from various
periods. Most obvious is the personal connection between school and
court: scribal training was, at least in some periods, the necessary and
sucient basis for any public career, administrative, priestly, or military,
and even royal princes were honoured to bear the title of scribe.60 For
the neo-Sumerian and Old Babylonian periods, I have tried to establish
a link between successive Babylonian dynasties and the Sumerian poets,
probably of Nippur, which seems to have involved the honouring of
certain kings in the hymns in return for the patronage of the scribal
schools by royal favour.61 The antiquarian interest of certain of the
later kings is well known,62 and some of them were equally patrons
of literature. There can be little doubt that the scribal schools or guilds
existed with the active consent and support of the state. It seems hardly
too far-fetched to suppose that the work of canonization, if it really was
their work, reflected the needs of the monarchy.
S.N. Kramer: Schooldays, JAOS, 69, 1949, pp. 199 . (= Museum Monographs, 1);
C.J. Gadd: Teachers and Students in the Worlds Oldest Schools, London, 1956; J.J.A. van Dijk:
La Sagesse sumro-accadienne. Leiden, 1953, pp. 2127. Cf. A. Falkenstein: Der Sohn des
Tafelhauses, Die Welt des Orients, 1, 1948, pp. 172186.
58 Cf. Weidner, op. cit. (above, n. 37), pp. 197215; Laroche, op. cit. (above, n. 49),
pp. 723, and, for a very general survey, A.A. Kampman: Archieven en bibliotheken in het
oude Nabije Oosten. Leiden, 1942.
59 That the scribes came under the direct patronage of the temples from Middle
Babylonian times on as Lambert suggests (BWL, p. 14) may perhaps be questioned in
the light of the specific exclusion of the secret, i.e. more advanced, texts of certain
priestly techniques (the so-called nis. irtu; cf. R. Borger, Bi Or., 14, 1957, pp. 190195) from
the scribal canon. On the contrary, the omina, prayers, rituals, etc. are full of specific
applications to the kings.
60 Cf. already V. Scheil: Princes Scribes, Recueil des Travaux, 37, 1915, pp. 127128.
61 W. Hallo: Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity, paper read to the 171st meeting of
the American Oriental Society, Philadelphia, 1961, here: III.4.
62 Cf. most recently G. Goossens: Les Recherches historiques lpoque no-babylonienne, RA, 42, 1948, pp. 149159.

i.1. new viewpoints on cuneiform literature


To sum up, then, recent discoveries in Assyriology have provided new

insights into the sources of the creative impulse and into the mechanics of canonization. The possibility thus presents itself of tracing the
growth of a Mesopotamian literary composition through two millennia,
from its first written fixation, through its creative adaptation to new
forms and even new languages, to its final, orderly incorporation into
an ocial canon. Without this basic knowledge, all higher literary criticism remains hopelessly hypothetical. With it, the foundations are laid
for a comparative approach to biblical criticism.


A. Introduction*
Three years ago I announced the identification, in the Yale Babylonian Collection, of a nearly complete hymn to the goddess Nisaba of
which only a few lines were otherwise known from duplicates, and I
promised to deal with it at a future date.1 This paper represents an
attempt to redeem that pledge. But an edition of the hymn with the
traditional philological apparatus no longer appears, to me, either a
necessary or a sucient approach to the task. It is no longer necessary
because the pioneering work of Adam Falkenstein and his disciples has
provided ample evidence for most of the textual, structural and lexical problems raised by the hymns to deities in general. It is no longer
sucient because we are now ready to raise some larger questions concerning this genre to see, if we can, what place it had in the life, and
particularly the religious life, of the culture that produced it. For reasons
that will become apparent, the hymn to be presented here contains
what may be some particularly valuable clues toward resolving these
The cultic setting of religious poetry is not, admittedly, a question of
interest solely to Sumerologists. It could be investigated with profit for
the first millennium when, indeed, elaborate ritual calendars explicitly
prescribe the particular festivals and other occasions for the recitation
of specific compositions.2 And of course criticism of the Biblical Psalms
has, since the days of Herrmann Gunkel, insisted on the determination
of the Sitz im Leben for each genre isolated by the so-called Gattungsforschung. In a recent study of Individual Prayer in Sumerian,
I attempted to apply similar form-critical criteria to Sumerian religious

* This portion of the paper was presented to the 17th Rencontre Assyriologique
Internationale, Brussels, July 2, 1969, and is reproduced here without change.
1 JCS 20 (1966), 91 n. 14.
2 JAOS 88/I (= AOS 53, 1968), 72 n. 7, here: IV.1.


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

poetry in order to test for a hypothetical Sumerian psalter.3 At the

same time I wished to satisfy some methodological prerequisites for
a meaningful comparison between the neo-Sumerian material and its
potential analogues in later compositionspost-Sumerian, Akkadian,
and Hebrew. It is only a logical extension of this approach to test for
the life situation of the genres isolated in the neo-Sumerian corpus, not
only of religious poetry but of canonical literature generally.
As is well-known, this literature deals in overwhelming measure with
just two subjects: gods and kings;4 for good measure we may add
and scribes as a third, and distinctly tertiary, focus of interest. This
objective observation provides an essential first hint, for it follows with
some likelihood that the physical setting for most of the neo-Sumerian
compositions dealing with gods, kings or scribes was, respectively, the
temple, the court, or the school. Leaving aside the last, which is fairly
self-evident, we may concentrate on palace and temple, while keeping
in mind that royal and priestly roles intersected at numerous points.
In trying to identify the particular occasion, secular or religious, for any
given genre, it should be remembered that these genres are valid only if,
and to the extent that, our modern classifications correlate with ancient
designations. Thus, e.g., myth has no place in my scheme, since in
the sense of a purely fictitious narrative usually involving supernatural
beings, actors, or events5 it does not constitute a literary class by itself
in Sumerian, but either appears in the guise of a hymn of praise (zm) to a deity or else serves as the introduction to other genres such as
incantations6 or disputations.
Instead, my brief and necessarily hypothetical survey will begin with
the disputations themselves. This is a well-defined genre in the neoSumerian canonalthough sometimes confused with the fable
designated there as adaman-duga, or dialogue, and as a sub-category
of the balbal-e, or antiphonal recitation. Its setting in the royal palace
is explicit in at least one instance,7 and it is not dicult to picture
Ibid. 7175.
Cf. JCS 18 (1964), 84 n. 76.
5 The Oxford Universal Dictionary (3rd ed., 1955). Theodore H. Gaster (orally; cf.
now p. xxiv of his Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament, 1969) prefers an
anthropological definition according to which myth presents a legendary occurrence as
a paradigm for a continuing human experience, i.e., myth uses the punctual to explain
the durative.
6 Though not as often as is sometimes suggested by the published examples, as
pointed out by Lambert, JCS 13 (1968), 108 and n. 2.
7 HUCA 33 (1962), 29 n. 214.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


the entire genre as a form of courtly entertainment, with the king

playing the role of royal or divine arbiter between the disputants. There
are even indications that the latter donned masks or costumes for the
Another essentially secular form of entertainment is represented by
the so-called epics, more specifically by the heroic tales of the First
Dynasty of Uruk. These were perhaps directed at a wider audience
than the disputations, for the incipit of the Gilgamesh cycle invites the
whole country to hear or learn9 of his feats, at least in the neo-Assyrian
version. But they surely originated under royal patronage, presumably
achieving their canonical form under the kings of the Ur III dynasty,
who stressed their connection to Uruk in general, and to its first dynasty
in particular.10 It is more dicult to specify the genre and occasion of
these tales, for their endings nearly all remain to be recovered. Where
preserved they seem to be treated as hymns in praise of the longdeceased royal heroes.
From here it is only a short step towards the hymns in praise of the
living king, collectively known as n-du-lugal, royal songs.11 As recent
research has emphasized, these are royal hymns in the strict sense,
addressed to and/or spoken by the king himself. They lack any liturgical notations and were probably at home in the courtly ceremonial
rather than the temple cult.12 Proportionately they are better represented at Ur, the political capital, than at Nippur, the religious center.13
They deal with such matters as the coronation of the king, his proclamation of justice and law, his intellectual and physical prowess, and his
military achievements. They are, in short, a poetic record of his secular
role. But they cannot be treated in isolation from the songs which commemorate his religious functions, or those which celebrate, as it were,
the sacraments of the royal lifetime.
Such songs are essentially hymns to deities, but include formal references to the king at specific junctures. All are set in the cult, as
their numerous liturgical notations indicate, but more study is required
before their specific sub-categories are properly characterized. Already
it can be stated that the most common forms in which they are cast

Cf. JAOS 87 (1967), 63 (1).

Cf. the restoration of Gilg. I 1 in CAD I, 33d.
JCS 20 (1966), 136 f, here: III.2.
JAOS 83 (1963), 174; BiOr 23 (1966), 240 n. 13, here: IV.1.
Falkenstein, ZA 50 (1952), 91.
BiOr. 23 (1966), 241 f. Here: III.3.


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

are the adab and tigi, named after two kinds of musical instruments.14
These are structurally identical except for the short prayer (uru) appended to the adab.15 They seem to constitute prayers on behalf of the
king in a variety of situations and cannot necessarily be equated with
any one given ceremony. Purely as a hypothesis, it may be suggested
that they were commissioned for occasions such as the installation of a
high priest or priestess (who was often a son or daughter of the king) or
the presentation of a royal votive oering.16
But there are other genres where the cultic role of the king is clearer.
At least some of the balbal-e compositions cast him in the role of
Dumuzi, that is as the male partner in the sacred marriage,17 and such
compositions typically treat, or entreat, the nation-wide fertility that is
supposed to ensue.18 The kings real marriage is perhaps reflected in
another antiphonal genre, the lum-a-lam-a, if we may follow Buccellatis suggestion with respect to the so-called Marriage of Martu.19
The birth of the royal heir was no doubt a fit subject for hymnography
as was, demonstrably, the death and burial of the king.20
If we now consider all these literary reflections of the royal role in
and out of the cult, they will be seen to add up to a kind of hymnic
biography of the monarch. This can already be demonstrated for Ur
Nammu and Sulgi,
for whom we have a particularly impressive corpus
of royal hymns of all kinds. The same two kings also have left the
largest numbers of royal inscriptions from their dynasty, and both of
these facts can hardly be unrelated to the lengths of their reigns.21
There are striking and sometimes even literal parallels between the
date formulas and the royal inscriptions,22 between the date formulas
and the royal hymns,23 and between the royal hymns and the royal
14 Henrike Hartmanns doubts on this point (Die Musik in der Sumerischen Kultur, p. 197)
are now dispelled by Kramer, JCS 21 (1967 [1969]), 116, line 186.
15 BiOr. 23 (1966), 241, here: III.3.
16 Hartmann, p. 206, suggests that the adab belongs to the royal meal that followed
the processional of the gods and the sacred marriage of the New Years celebration.
The fixing of fate for king and country may have followed.
17 BiOr. 23 (1966), 244, here: III.3.
18 Ibid, 241 (4).
19 Amorites of the Ur III Period, p. 339.
20 Kramer, Goetze Volume = JCS 21 (1967 [1969]), 104122.
21 HUCA 33 (1962), 8.
22 Cf. eg. AOS 43 (1952), 92 (Amar-Sin).
23 Cf. eg. JCS 20 (1966), 139, here: III.2, and n. 80 (Ur-Nammu); Falkenstein, ZA

50 (1952), 82 f. (Sulgi).
Cf. also van Dijk, JCS 19 (1965), 18, who correlates, and in
part reconstructs, the date formulas of Nur-Adad of Larsa on the basis of VAT 8515
lines 195 .

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


inscriptions.24 I am therefore inclined to reconstruct an annual or biennial ceremony,25 perhaps related to the New Years celebration, in which
one and the same event was memorialized in three discrete formulations: at its most concise in the ocial proclamation of the date formula; more fully in an appropriate royal building or votive inscription; and at its most elaborate in the royal hymns.26 The nature of
the eventcultic or secularmay have determined the precise genre
of the hymn and the place of its promulgation.
While this recurrent cultic pattern must remain a hypothesis, there is
more solid evidence for the special and extraordinary occasions which
brought the kings to the temples. Kings and commoners alike could
address petitions directly to the gods, by means of letters deposited
at the feet of their statues.27 Sometimes the addressee was himself a
deceased and/or deified king, as in the case of the elaborate letterprayers of Sin-iddinam addressed to the statue of his father Nur-Adad
for transmittal to the sun-god.28 But the living kings were also invoked
as objects of prayer, and a whole category of such prayers has been
identified, characteristically ending each time in, Oh NN my king
(RN lugal-mu).29 In at least one case, such a prayer to Rim-Sin involved
a religious processional through the sacred precincts at Ur, with halts
for sacrifices at the locks and gates of each structure, and can be
directly paralleled by archival texts from Ur detailing the sacrificial
expenditures involved.30
It remains now to consider those genres which are wholly at home
in the priestly sphere and do not explicitly involve royal participation in
the cult. Here the clearest case is, perhaps, provided by the lamentation
(balag) for the destruction of a temple. As Jacobsen has seen, a classic
example of the genre such as The lamentation over the destruction of
Ur was not composed during the catastrophe, nor even in response to

See below, notes 48 and 49.

Cf. already JCS 20 (1966), 139 and n. 81, here: III.2.
26 Note that the Sin-iddinam hymn CT 42:45 = UET 6:98 as edited by van Dijk,
JCS 19 (1965), 21 f., refers to the New Years festival in Line 10 and to the year-name in
line 23 and perhaps in the last line; cf. Hallo, JCS 21 (1967 [1969]), 96 and 98 f.
27 JAOS 88 (1968) 79, and n. 74, here: IV.1.
28 van Dijk, JCS 19 (1965), 125. Note he suggests the meaning to place in the
mouth for ka-s or ka-sg (ad line 45).
29 Hallo, JCS 21 (1967 [1969]), 96; v. Dijk, MIO 12 (1966), 63. The genre seems to be

cf. Kramer, UET 6/1, p. 10 ad Nos. 102106.

called sudx(KAxSU)-d-dingir;
30 Levine and Hallo, HUCA 38 (1967), 1758: esp. 48 n. 24.


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

it, but at the time of the reconstruction.31 It represented, in fact, a liturgical apology to the deity for completing the razing of the sanctuaries
as a necessary preliminary to their rebuilding.32 Much the same can be
said for other lamentations.33 The actual dedication of the completed
new temple was presumably the occasion for more joyous expressions,
speciflcally perhaps the class of poems generally referred to as temple
hymns. Their finest representative is certainly Gudeas hymn in praise
of the rebuilding of the Eninnu at Lagash. But the genre did not begin
with him, since the great cycle of hymns to all the temples of Sumer
and Akkad is attributed, on the strength of its own colophon, to Enheduanna, the daughter of Sargon.
Where, then, do hymns to deities fit into this picture? This is the
question which I posed at the outset, and which we must consider now.
Divine hymns are considerably more common than either congregational laments or temple hymns, and they are generally shorter. In
both of these respects they are, rather, more like the royal hymns of
all sorts. Thus the specific cultic events which occasioned them must
have occurred more frequently than the reconstruction of a temple
if indeed they were occasioned by such events. From all that has been
stated already, it should follow that they were, and it is here suggested
that the specific event involved may well have been the dedication of
a cult-statue of the relevant deity. In a significant number of divine
hymns, the deity is apostrophized precisely in terms of the characteristics associated with the statue, notably the tiara and cloak which radiated the divine splendor. This is true whether we view this splendor in
an abstract sense, as has recently been proposed by Elena Cassin,34 or
maintain the physical interpretation of such terms as n, su-zi, me-lm,
etc., as I am inclined to do, following Oppenheim.35 The latter scholar
has also drawn attention to the fundamental importance of the statue in

31 AJSL 58 (1941), 22 f. Cf. p. 221: It must have been written no more than seventy
or eighty years after the destruction.
32 This seems preferable to the suggestion that the Ur Lament was recited on the
anniversary of the destruction or on the return of the statue of Ningal, as suggested by
Yvonne Rosengarten, RHR 174 (1968), 122.
33 At least of the Old Babylonian period; cf. R. Kutscher, a-ab-ba-hu-luh-ha: The

History of a Sumerian Congregational Lament, Yale University Ph.D. Thesis (unpubl.,
pp. 110. For late and elaborate prescriptions in this regard, see e.g. A. Sachs apud J.B.
Pritchard, ANET 339342: Ritual for the repair of a Temple.
34 Elena Cassin, La Splendeur Divine (= Civilisation et Socits, 8, Mouton, 1968), 133 pp.
35 Akkadian pul(u)h(t)u and melammu, JAOS 63 (1943), 3134.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


the Babylonian cult.36 In line with this importance, many if not all of the
neo-Sumerian hymns to deities were perhaps originally commissioned
together with statues, and first recited at their dedication. If so, they
anticipated the later techniques of endowing these man-made objects
with their supernatural powers by means of elaborate rituals known as
mouth-washing and mouth-opening37 (The latter concept was already
known at this time even if not in ritual form).38
The divine hymn was not, however, simply used at the dedication
of the statue, and then forgotten, any more than the statue remained
forever sheltered from general view in the niche of its sanctuary. On the
great festivals, the statue left its throne-dais and was carried in public
procession to be admired by all,39 and on these occasions, it may be
suggested, the mouth of the statue was once more formally opened40
and the hymn in its honor again recited.41 In this manner, a text that
began as a dedicatory inscription, of virtually monumental character,
was transformed into a canonical composition, copied and recopied in
temple and school.42

36 The golden garments of the gods, JNES 8 (1949), 172193. The care and
feeding of the gods, in his Ancient Mesopotamia (1964), 183198. Cf. also ANET 342 f.,
for the Program of the Pageant of the Statue of the God Anu at Uruk. But cf. also
note 76 below.
37 Cf. e.g. IV R 25: inim-inim-ma. . . ka-duh--da-kam and Ebeling, Tod und Leben
(1931), pp. 109122. Important new texts are in preparation by C.B.F. Walker of the
British Museum. Note also STT 2: 198201.
38 Cf. below, note 40 (ka-du -ha); note 56 (bursuma-gal 53: ka gl(a)-tag ); note 52 f
(nin-mul-an-gim 4: ka-ba-a). For washing of statues see Laesse. bit rimki, pp. 15 f. and
n. 20. Note that in the Irra-epic, the divine craftsmen (apkallus?) are needed to breathe
life into the divine statue; Reiner, Or. 30 (1961), 9 f.
39 Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia, 187 and below, Section D, comment to line 7. Cf.
also the hymn to Nintu (TMH n. F. IV 86 and duplicate) which I plan to edit elsewhere
cf. also note 36 above. Here: III.5.
40 Cf. M. Civil, JNES 26 (1967), 211, who lists Ur III texts from Lagash recording the
repeated mouth-opening of the statue of the deified (and deceased) Gudea.
41 New hymns and even myths may also have been composed when the statue visited
another city on special occasions; cf. v. Dijk, JCS 19 (1965), 21 f. and literature cited
there. For divine journeys in general, see now H. Sauren, Or. 38 (1969), 214236; .W.
Sjberg, RLA 3 (1969), 480483.
42 It may be noted in passing that the annual (or perhaps even monthly) recitation
of enuma elis (at the annual New Years festival) was addressed to the statue of Marduk
(Lambert, JCS 13, 1968, 106 f.). Given its epilogue (ib. 107 f.) this text has a better claim
to be regarded as a hymnic exaltation of Marduk (YNER 3, 1968, 66 f.; cf. already
v. Dijk, Sagesse, 1953, 39 n. 47) than as an epic of creation (a title better reserved
for Atar-hasis). Thus it constitutes late evidence for the perpetuation of the cultic life
situation here suggested for the divine hymns.


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

This hypothetical literary process can be paralleled in the history of

other canonical genres, as this is gradually coming to light. It is well
known that a number of these genres go back to archival prototypes,
notably the collections of letters,43 of contracts,44 and of legal formulas45
tradited in the schools, while others derive from monumental prototypes. Among the latter, the late copies of royal inscriptions are most
familiar. Similarly, the clay tablet copies of the Code of Hammurapi,
which were written out in the schools as late as neo-Babylonian times,
ultimately go back to one of the stone steles on which this text was originally promulgated46 (granted that the stone-cutters may have consulted
some such pre-monumental draft-tablet as PBS 5: 93).
It now seems that the canonical Code of Lipit-Ishtar also had its
monumental prototype for it is closely paralleled by fragments of a
stele from Nippur.47 Other steles at Nippur constitute a cadastre of the
Ur III empire, and were copied out on clay tablets, as Kraus has shown.
The monumental origin of such cadastres goes back even further, for a
new duplicate to the Frontier of Shara" dated by Sollberger to the
time of Lugalzagesi, has been identified on a stone tablet in the Yale
Babylonian Collection. But even royal hymns seem to have originally
graced stone steles, as was demonstrated for Hammurapi by Sjberg.48
And the elaborate style of the royal inscriptions of dynasties such as
Lagash and Larsa make it unlikely that the two genres were entirely
unrelated, albeit they observed certain stylistic distinctions.49
In view of all this evidence, it seems unwarranted to deny out of
hand any possibility of a monumental origin for the canonical genre
of divine hymns. And in fact the Nisaba hymn to which I alluded
at the beginning underlines that possibility. When its opening lines
were published among the literary texts and catalogues50 from Ur, it
Cf. e.g. Kraus, AfO 20 (1963), 153 and JEOL VI/16 (19591962), 1639.
I plan to treat these in a future study.
45 Cf. HAR-ra = hubullu III and ana itti
su, here: II.5.

46 Cf. most
recently J.J. Finkelstein, RA 63 (1969), 2527.
47 R. D. Biggs, AS 17 (1968) 14 f. ad no. 49.
48 It has been suggested for Isme-Dagan *11 (= SRT 13 Rev.) by Rmer; cf. SKIZ
p. 18. On the contrary Finkelstein, JCS 21 (1969), 42 n. 5 now suggests the possibility
that the prologue [of CH] was an adaptation of an already known Hammurapi hymn
for the monumental purpose of the stela.
49 Cf. also the designation 4 na-r-a, 4 steles, at the end of the Louvre Catalogue
of literary texts. For Kramers latest proposal regarding this enigmatic colophon, see
WZJ 6 (1956/7). 393 n. 3.
50 JCS 20 (1966), 91.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


was quickly recognized by the reviewers51 that they largely duplicated

the text of a curious stone tablet from Lagash published long ago by
Thureau-Dangin.52 There are a number of dierences between the
Lagash stone, which probably dates to about the time of Gudea, and
the Ur tablet, which dates some 300 years later,53 and also between both
of these and the more complete Yale text. Some of these changes have
theological significance, others are merely orthographic. But the text
of all three versions is essentially the same set of Nisaba epithets, and
is quite dierent from the combinations of epithets chosen to describe
the goddess in other compositions apostrophizing her. These include a
dedicatory vase,54 the hymn Great alderwoman55 (bursuma-gal),56 the
hymn Lady of wide understanding (nin-gest-s),57 an incantantion
song (? sir-nam-su-ub dNisaba),58 the hymn to the Temple of Nisaba
in Eres,59 and the hymn to Enlil-bani of Isin.60 We may thus safely
Ibid.; cf. Falkenstein, BiOr 22 (1965), 282; Edzard, AfO 21 (1966), 87.
RA 7 (1910) 107 and apud Cros, NFT (1910), 171176. For the particulars of the
find-spot, cf. Cros, ib. 148 f. Both authors describe the tablet. Cros: convex on one
side only, like the dedication tablets [foundation stones?] and pierced sideways from
side to side, in the thickest part of the convex side, permitting it to be suspended.
Thureau-Dangin (p. 176) calls attention to the same special feature which distinguishes
it from the numerous stone tablets of the same plano-convex shape recovered in the
excavations: at the middle of the lower edge is a hole (trou) which diagonally crosses the
slightly concave part of the reverse. The raison dtre of this hole is not clear. It hardly
seems likely, given its position, that it was destined for a thread for hanging it from;
perhaps it served, by means of a little peg (fiche) of wood or metal, to keep the tablet
upright (my translations).
53 JCS 20 (1966), 92.
54 BRM 4:46. Previously published by Scheil, OLZ 7 (1904), 254.
55 I retain this term in spite of the critique of Landsberger, Symbolae. . . M. David 2
(1968), 90 f., which is wide of the mark in every detail, as I hope to show in another
connection. The hymn is listed in second place (after ours) in the longer Ur catalogue
(above, note 50).
56 OECT 1 pl. 3639; Chiera, AJSL 40 (1924), 265 f.; Ni. 9622; Ni. 4425. To be edited
by D. Reisman.
57 NBC 11107 (unpubl.).
58 VS II 65; PRAK II C. 39: cf. Bergmann, ZA 56 (1964), 4 f.
59 Cf. for the present Zimmern, ZA 39 (1930), 274 f. A new edition by Sjberg is in
60 A. Kapp, ZA 51 (1955), No. 87; add UET 6:89. Cf. also Enki and the World
Order, lines 410415; von Soden, SAHG, No. 80 (Akkadian; republished CT 44: 35).
Note also the Akkadian fable of Nisaba and wheat which ends in a pure hymn
in praise of Nisaba (Lambert, BWL, 1960, 168). The unpublished Sumerian hymn
to Nisaba which Landgon listed RA 16 (1919), 67 b. 1, as Ni. 4588 in Philadelphia is

actually CBS 4588 and represents the conclusion of Sulgi

A according to information
kindly supplied by . Sjberg.


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

exclude the possibility that we are merely dealing with a conventional

repertoire of Nisaba epithets. The Lagash stone tablet is in fact a
monumental prototype of the canonical copies found at Ur and in the
Yale Babylonian Collection.61 I continue with a rendition of the latter
version, and hope that it will vindicate some of the more far-fetched
proposals made in the course of my introduction.

B. The Blessing of Nisaba by Enki (nin-mul-an-gim)

1. Texts

YBC 13523, six-sided prism; copy by Shin Theke Kang.

Istanbul . . ., stone tablet in two columns, reverse blank, publ. ThureauDangin, RA 7 (1910), 107111 and apud Cross, NFT ( 1910), 171176; from
one-column tablet, publ. Gadd and Kramer, UET 6/1 (1963), Nos. 66 +
71 (for the join cf. Hallo, JCS 20, 1966, 91n. 14); from Ur.62
six-column tablet, publ. UET 6/2 (1966), No. 388; bilingual; from Ur;
joins D1.
UET 6/3 (in prep.), No. 6; joins D. Copied by Aaron Shaer.63
six-column (?) tablet, publ. UET 6/2, No. 389; bilingual; from Ur.64
UET 6/3 (in prep.), No. 250. Cited on the basis of a preliminary
transliteration by Aaron Shaer. (Note that none of the Ur texts have
excavation numbers.)

2. Catalogue Entries

UET 5: 86 No. 17.

UET 6: 123 No. 1

61 Whether the tablet was once intended to be placed in the statues mouth (cf. n. 28
above) by way of giving it life in anticipation of the later mouth-opening ceremonies
cannot be answered here. My student, Miss Tikva Frymer, suggests the analogy this
would have in the mechanics of the Golem. A nearer parallel may be provided from
the ancient Egyptian cult of the deceased king, a main feature of which consisted
of rituals performed in front of his statues to make them live and partake of food
oerings (W.K. Simpson, unpubl. MS). Cf. also the references in A.L. Oppenheim
Ancient Mesopotamia (1964), 364 n. 10; van Dijk, Falkenstein Volume (1967), 239 n. 33.
62 The physical join was confirmed and eected during a visit to the British Museum
in July, 1969.
63 I am grateful to Dr. Shaer for allowing me to study his copy in advance of
64 D and E are dealt with briefly by . Sjberg, Or. 37 (1968), 239 f.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


3. Distribution of Exemplars

complete (157)
18 (omits 7)
16, 5257
ii (obv.): 18; iii: 2829; iv (a): 3235; v (b): 4047; vi: 5154
120, 4357

Division into columns (i etc.) and cases (/) based on A.

Division into verses based on duplicates where available ((i) etc.), hypothetical elsewhere ([21] etc.). Division into stanzas (I etc.) hypothetical.
Text from A; restorations from duplicates not indicated as such; conjectural
restorations bracketed.

4. Transliteration
i (1)

nin-mul-an-gima/bdar-ab /cdub-za-gn su-du8d

s-ef tu-da
segbarx (BAR + NISABA)g naga-k-gah/ga-zi/k-a
gi-dii /imin-ej /ka-ba-a
me-gal/ninnu-ek/su-du7 -a
nin-mu /1-nun-gl /-kur-ra
B: a. omits c. new line e-e. GAL.TR f-f. uras-s g. GI h. ge i. sid j.
na k. omits 1. a
C: d. du7 g. seg8
F: d. du7
h: b-b. EN (urux?)

ii (10)

usumgal/ezen-e / dalla --aa

A-ru-rub kalam-ma /im-tac/dka-ka du11

ki-gar a-sedx(MUS.DI)-d/
kur hi-nun-ta/m-zi/du11-ga

? /kur-gal-e /tu-da
m-zi dub-sar-mah-an-na/sa12-sug5/dEn-ll-l

gal-zu /igi-gl /dingir-re-e-ne


B: a-a. omits b-b. A-rux-rux (EN.EN) c. da d. new line

F: b-b. dA -ruX-ruX(EN.EN)

(14) ab-sn-na /se-gu /m-m-d
(15) dasnan/nam-en-na/u6-di-d
(16) bra-gal/imin-e /m-zi-dam


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

(17) gu-zi-zi-dam /se-zi-zi-dam

(18) eburx(SIBR)
[i-na e-bu-ri-i]m/[. . . P]A.A
iii (19) nam-nun /-gal-la-n /bSU ! nam-mi-in-su-ubb
(20) tg-ma6-k /s-ge /nam-mi-in-lc
D: a. kam
F: a. kam (!) b-b. [su-su-ub nam]- mi -in-di (?) c. mu4


nidba(PAD.dINNIN) /nu-gl-la /g-g-d

ne-sag-gal /kurn-na /d-e- d
[x] /dEn- x / hun-e-d
snan / hun-e-d
dK-z arhu
s -s /dA

en-gal/mu-un-hun-e/ezen mu-unhun-e

en-gal/kalam-ma /m-ma-hun-e

ki-sikil dNisaba/sudx(KAxSU)-d

iv [28] nidba /sikil-la /si nam-mi-in-s

ni-i[n-da-ab-ba-am] /el-[la-am us-te-se-ir]

(29) -GEST.
/dNISABA-ke4/gl nam-mi-in-tag4
bi-[it . . .]
[30] dub-za-gn /du10-na /nam-mi-in-gar
[31] dub-mul-an-k-ta/s im-ma-ks-
(32) arattaki/-za-gn-na/ su -ni- s mu-un-gar
i-na [. . .]/bi-tim [. . .] /q-ti-i-sa i[s-kun]
(33) ereski / hi-nun-na /mua-d--nam
e-ri-is i-na

D: a. mu-un-

(34) sig4-NISABA /du13-du13-l /ki-gar-ra
i-na li-bi-it-t[i . . .] /el-le-tim a-na a[s-ri]ta-sa-ak-ka-a[n]
(35) gist /nama-galam-ma /sag-e-es /rig7- ga
ru-bu [
(36) abzu men ?-gal/eriduki/s-hal-ha-la
v [37] n[un. . . . . .] nun-hal-ha-la

[38] engar-gal nam-nun-na/-n-gr-ru/nagar
[39] lugal su-luh-luh-ha-ke4/en-ms-en-gal-la/dEn-ki-ke4

D: a. nun ! (over eras ?)

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


(40) -engur-ra /ki-tus-a-n
[-en-g]u-ur i-na wa-sa -bi-su
(41) abzu eriduki-gaa/d-d-a-n
[ap]-zab-amc de-ri-dud /i-na ee-pe-si-i-su
(42) hal-laf-k/s-ks--da-n
ha-al g-la-an-kuh /i-na mi-it-lu-ki-su
(43) -gistu
bi-it ti i-is-kaj-ri-in-ni-im /i-na su-pe- el -ti-i-su
(44) NUN.ME /sg-bar-ra-du8-a-n
ab-gal-lum sak pe-re-et-zu /a-na wa-ar-ki-i-su /i-na wu1-usm-su-ri-im
(45) n- gist -gao/gl-tag4-a-n
(46) gis -ig- gist -gap sila-ba gub-baq-n
(47) lilis ?-gal/giserin-a rti-las-n
[li]- li-is ra-bi-is /[. . .-e]l-li
(48) xt gisgismmar /su-du8u-a-n
(49) bv-bav[. . .]/KU.[. . . ?]PA sg-[ga]-a-n ?
A: v-v. balag ? ?
D: a. omits f. an h. BA k. omits n. lines 4546 followed line 47 (?) r. new.
line s. la!-a
E: b. [z]u c. um d-d. NUN.KI e. omits f. an g. omits i. di j. ga l.
m. omits? n. lines 4546 followed line 47 (?)
F: n. lines 4546 follow line 47 o. KA.[x] p. ka q. a t. lilis?-DU?? u. du7

vi (50) dNisaba/um-me- gal ?-gal-la/ x -7 mu-una-na-du11 b
(51) dNisaba/m-zi/m- sa6 -ga/m kur-ree tu-da
(52) dNisaba /tr-rad h-me-en /eamas-af ga h-me-en
si-im/ lu- sa-am-nu-um
at-ti/[i-na] su-pu-ri-im/
[dNisab]a i-na ta-ar-ba.
lu- l]i-is- du -um /a[t-ti]
(53) -n-gag-ra /kisib-glh h-me-en

[. . . . . .]-im/[. . . . . .]-su/[at-t]i
(54) -gal-la / agrig ]-zi h-me-en

(55) gur7-du6/gur7-mas-a/gur
7-gur -gur h-me-en.

C: e. new line f. omits g. gar h.l i. g

D: b. e
F: a. omits b. e c. ra d. ra-a e. new line f. omits h. l i. g

(56) nun-e /dNisaba-ra /m-du11-ga
(57) a-a dEn-ki/z-m-zu/du10-ga-m
Colophon in A
u4 ]-[x-kam]
traces of a Samsu-iluna (??) date


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

5. Translation

Oh Lady colored like the stars of heaven, holding the lapis lazuli tablet,
Nisaba, born in the great sheepfold by the divine Earth,
Wild kid nourished (as) on good milk with pure vegetation,
Mouth-opened by the seven flutes,
Perfected with (all) the fifty great divine attributes,
Oh my lady, plenipotentiary of Ekurra


Dragon, emerging brightly on the festival,

Mother-goddess of the nation, biting o a piece from the clay,
Pacifying the habitat with cold water,
Providing the foreign mountain-land with plenty,
Born in wisdom by the Great Mountain (Enlil),
Honest woman, chief scribe of Heaven, record-keeper of Enlil,
All-knowing sage of the gods


In order to make grain and vegetable grow in the furrow,

So that the excellent corn can be marvelled at,
That is, to provide for the seven great throne-daises
By making vegetables shoot forth, making grain shoot forth,
At harvest, the great festival of Enlil,
She in her great princely role has verily cleansed (her) body,
Has verily put the holy priestly garment on (her) torso.


In order to establish oblations where none existed

And to pour forth great libations of wine
So as to appease s-x, to appease En-x
To appease merciful Kusu and Asnan
She will appoint a great high priest, will appoint a festival
Will appoint a great high-priest of the nation.
Oh virgin Nisaba, he blesses you in prayer.


He has verily prepared the pure oblation,

Has verily opened the House of Learning of Nisaba,
Has verily placed the lapis lazuli tablet on (her) knee.
Taking counsel with the holy tablet of the heavenly stars,
(As ?) in Aratta he has placed the Ezagin at her disposal,
Eres he has constructed in abundance.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


34. She is created out of pure little bricks,
35. She is granted wisdom in highest degree.
36. In the Abzu, the great crown (?) of Eridu, (where) sanctuaries are apportioned.
37. [In
], (where) oces (?) are apportioned,
38. The great princely plowman of the resplendent temple, the craftsman of
39. The king of lustrations, the lord of the mask of the great high-priest,

The Engur-house when he occupies it,

The Abzu of Eridu when he builds it,
The Halanku when he takes counsel in it,
The house of the box-tree when he fells it,
The sage when his hair is loosened behind him,
The house of learning when he opens it,
The door of learning when he stands in its street,
The great kettle-drum of cedar when he finishes (?) it,
The . . . of date-palm when he perfects (var.: holds) it.
The drum of . . . when he strikes it with the . . .

50. On Nisaba, the great . . ., he invokes seven [blessings?]

51. O Nisaba, honest woman, good woman, woman born in the mountain,
52. O Nisaba, in the stall may you be the fat, in the pen may you be the
53. In the treasure-house may you be keeper of the seal,
54. In the palace may you be the honest steward,
55. In the grain depots may you be the heaper of heaps of grain !
56. For the fact that a blessing was invoked on Nisaba by the Prince,
57. Oh father Enki, your praise is sweet!

C. Literary Parallels
Line 1: In her votive inscription (note 54), Nisaba is called the brilliant
woman (munus mul-mul-la). She consults with her lapis lazuli tablet
in her temple hymn (note 59), in Hymn C (note 57), and in the Enlil-


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

bani hymn (line 53) (note 60). Note also the holy (or silver) tablet of
Nisaba in a list of divine symbols (PBS 13:60:11). Cf. also below, ad
lines 3031.
Lines 25: Note what appears to be a progression of metaphors in these
analogous lines: birth, suckling, weaning, perfecting. The repertoires
of royal epithets compounded with divine names follow comparable
patterns; cf. Hallo, Titles (1957), 132142.
Line 3: This familiar theme is applied with variations to both gods and
kings. Thus, Ningirsu, for example, is a fawn nourished on good milk
by a deer (TCL 8, pl. LIV 5 ii 4; SGL 1:116); Lulal (= Latarak)65 is the
fawn of a deer who feeds on the good milk of the mountain beasts

(HAV 5:6 f.; ZA 57:81); Sulgi

is the impetuous leopard nourished on
good milk (MBI 3:11; cf. Heimpel, Tierbilder p. 332). Cf. also TMHnF
IV 66 and UET 6:69:7.
Line 8: Cf. im-DI.DU-da dNisaba-ke4 KA m-da-b in Hymn C
where DI.DU may be an Akkadian gloss (.ti-.t). As J. van Dijk kindly
pointed out to me, the existence of a verb KA . . . -dun-ud (Falkenstein,
NG 3:9) has been disproved by collation (Claus Wilcke, Lugalbandaepos
1. 264 and p. 193). However, there remain both ka-a . . . d-ru-ud (NG
3:126) and KA.KA . . . K (YNER 3:16 line 27 and p. 80 s.v.) in the
meanings eat, feed on, peck at which fit the present context well. Cf.
also Enki and Ninhursag (UET 6/1: 1 and duplicates) line 13: dilmunkl ugamusen KA.KA nu-mu-ni (ib)-b in Dilmun, the crow (raven)
did not peck.
Line 9: Cf. line 9 of the Temple Hymn: im-gara-sedx-da kus-du8.
Line 11: For the theme of the birth of a deity in (or by ?) the mountain
(kur or hur-sag) cf. Falkenstein, SGL 1 (1959), 116 f. with reference to

Ningirsu, Suen, Inanna, Numusda; BE 29 iii 37 (Ninurta ?); TMHnF 4:

86:2, 4 (Nintu), and line 51 of our poem.
65 For the equation cf., in addition to SL
2:330:34, also UET 5:253:7: Da-dLU-LL
for which the (brothers?) seal inscription has Dan-dLa-ta-ra-ak? Elsewhere the two divine
names are kept separate, if juxtaposed, as in bit meseri II 211 f. (G. Meier, AfO 14, 1942,
150 f.) and in the Gttertypentext KAR 298 Rev. 13 f. (O.R. Gurney, AAA 22, 1935,
70 f. and n. 4). Cf. also Kramer, JCS 18 (1964) 37 f., note 11.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


Line 12: These epithets recur in whole or in part in the votive inscription (note 54)66 and in the Lipit-Istar hymn *24 (Rmer, SKIZ p. 24),
line 19.
Line 14: For grain and vegetable in parallelism, cf. e.g. JNES 18 (1959),
55 f. and 60 f. With the reduplicated verb grow they recur in a-ab-ba
hu-luh-ha (note 33) line *220 = CT 42:26:32 (and duplicates) and in CT

Line 16: For nam-en-na as a qualification of plants and animals, cf.
CAD s.v. bitr (adj.).
Line 17: See ad line 14.
Line 18: The identical line recurs on the lower edge of HAV 16 (reference courtesy T. Jacobsen).
Line 1920: For the periodic cleansing of the divine statue, cf. note 40.
For its daily washing and dressing ceremony, cf. Oppenheim, Ancient
Mesopotamia (1964), 193. For su-ub-(su-ub), to cleanse, and thenot
surprisingsequence of ritual washing and dressing, cf. van Dijk, Falkenstein Volume (1967), 246 ., and UET 6:101:18.
Line 20: Cf. e.g. VS 10:199 iii 19, cited by Falkenstein, ZA 44 (1938),
7: tg-ma6-k kus-m mu-ni-in-l. For the priestly (elsewhere royal)
character of the ma6-garment, cf. Renger, ZA 58 (1967), 127.
Line 22: For nisag (first fruits, etc.) see in detail van Dijk, JCS 19 (1965),
1824; for ne-sag as a possible phonetic spelling of the same word, ib.
24. For ne-sag with d (pour, libate) cf. Rmer, SKIZ 194.
Line 24: Kusu and Asnan are virtual personifications (or deifications) of
the grain, and appear together in a number of passages; cf. Bergmann,
ZA 56 (1964), 25 f.; Falkenstein, An. Or. 30 (1966), 80 n. 5; Krecher, SKly
( 1966), 132134. At other times, k-s(g) is an epithet of Asnan (ib.).

66 Restoring lines 12 f. as [sa ]-su !-mah [ d]En-l[l-l] (collated). She is thus not the
sister of Enlil (Falkenstein, An. Or, 30, 1966, 110 and note 7 on the basis of this passage)
but, to judge by our text (cf. lines 11 and 51), his daughter.


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

Lines 2526: Apart from the numerous references to the installation of

the high priest(ess) in neo-Sumerian date formulas, note oerings by (?)
the ensi for the occasion (en-hun-d) in NBC 331 (to be published as

BIN 3:352) and, in a literary context, en gi6parx-e mu-ni-ib-hun (UET

Line 29: For the -gest of Nisaba, cf. Falkenstein, ZA 49 (1949), 143 f.,
and add Enmerkar 322 (also with gl(a) . . . tag4) and UET 6:101:3.
Lines 3031: These lines are strikingly reminiscent of Gudeas dream as
interpreted by Jacobsen apud Oppenheim, Dreams (1956), 245 f. There,
Nisaba puts the tablet of the heavenly stars on her knees and consults
it, while Nindub holds a tablet of lapis lazuli in his hand and sets down
(thereon ?) the plan of the temple (Gudea Cyl. A iv 26-v 4; v. 23-vi 5).
Lines 3233: For the Ezagin as the residence of Nanibgal67 in Eres,
cf. Civil, JNES 26(1967), 204 f. line 46. That the distant Aratta, the
prime source of lapis lazuli, also had its lapis lazuli house (for the
generic sense of this term, cf. Falkenstein, SGL I 43), seems implied by
Enmerkar 559 f., where her house in Aratta is in parallelism with her
lapis lazuli house.
Line 34: Cf. the same phrase in the hymn to the temple of Nisaba in
Eres (note 59) and Zimmerns comments ad loc., ZA 39 (1930), 274.
Line 39: For the association of the king with lustrations, cf. van Dijk,

Falkenstein Volume (1967), 233268, esp. 246 f.; Sulgi

Letter A, 21 in F.A.
Ali, Sumerian Letters (University Microfilms, 1964) p. 28. For the association of the high priest(ess) with the mask,68 cf. Falkenstein, SGL 1 (1959),
96 f.; J. Renger, ZA 58 (1967), 127 and notes 106 f.


I am indebted to Professor Jacobsen for this extract from 3 N-T 299 (unpubl.):

6. dHA.NI



For this translation of ms or ms cf. the study announced above, note 39.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


Line 42: For the hal-la-k (variant: hal-an-k; Akkadian ha-(al)-la-an-ku)

cf. Sjberg, Or. 37 (1968), 239 with reference to our exemplars

D and E
and to UET 6:101:3. It is translated by apsm in YBC 5026 (cited CAD
A 2:194a).
Line 44: This peculiar phrase, with its Akkadian parallels going back
to the Old Assyrian incantation from Kanis, has been discussed by
Sjberg, Goetze Volume, (JCS 21, 1961 [1969]), 278. For the root of pertu
(Semitic pr) cf. most recently Landsberger, WO 3 (1964), 70 n. 83. Since
cuneiform comparisons with the Song of Deborah are currently in
fashion (cf. P.C. Craigie, JBL 88 [1969], 253265; H.-P. Miller, VT 16
[1966], 446459, esp. 454), one may even compare Judges 5:2: when
locks were loosened in Israel (contra Craigie, VT 18 [1968), 397399).
Line 45: For the opening of the house of learning by Nisaba, cf. Gudea
Cyl. A xvii 16 and above, ad line 29.
Line 50: The understanding of this transitional line is based on line 56.
There, the explicit dative postposition indicates that m-du11 is used,
not as a compound verb with the meaning kunn, care for, but in its
more literal sense of speaking favorably to. As such it is parallel to
determine a good fate for (nam-du10-tar) e.g. in TLB II 2 ii 814 as
translated by Sjberg, Nanna-Suen 33 note 23. The translation of m-du11
by caress (van Dijk, Bi. Or. 11, 1954, 86; Kramer,. The Sacred Marriage
Rite, 1969, 64) or lick (van Dijk, Falkenstein Volume, 1967, 259 f.) does
not fit our context.
Line 51: Nisaba is the good woman also in her votive inscription
(note 54), For the other epithets, cf. above, ad lines 1112.
Line 52: This is a common enough topos, though the association of
the (sheep)-fold (tr) with fat and of the (cattle)pen (amas) with milk
is not always so precise; cf. e.g. Isme-Dagan *18 as re-edited in BiOr
23 (1966), 244 f [here: III.3]. In the early iconography, either cattle
or sheep (though not both together) emerge from structures that are
clearly related to the pictographic precursors of the later signs for
tr and tu(d/r); cf. P. Delougaz, JNES 27 (1968), 184197. The sign
amas has no demonstrable forerunners before Old Babylonian times;
cf. Landsberger, MSL 2 (1952), 105 f.


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

Line 53: For the treasure-house, frequently in juxtaposition with the

principal (temple) court (kisal-mah), cf. Falkenstein, SGL 1 (1959),

62; An. Or. 30 (1966), 131. It also occurs in bursuma-gal (note 56)
line 40 and in the Code of Lipit-Istar xix 51 (cf also UET 6:192:1). The
variant spelling should be added to those noted by Krecher, SKly (1966),
128, n. 384. For kisib-gl as a professional name in Old Babylonian
economic texts cf. e.g. UET 5:191, 535 f.; as a divine title it occurs in
UET 6: 101:7 (Haia).

Line 55: This common topos recurs with Nisaba in Hymn C (note 57)
and CT 42: 4 iii 3; cf. Kramer; PAPhS. 107 (1963), 501503. Cf. also
Falkenstein, ZA 56 (1964), 51; CAD B s.v. bitr.
Lines 5657: That a hymn to one deity address another in the doxology
is paralleled not only by UET 6:101 (cf. Kramers comment ib., p. 10
and n. 36) and perhaps by the Sumuqan hymn (UET 6: 75) with its
doxology for Nungal, but also in a sense by all those adab, tigi and
other royal hymns in the wider sense where the blessings for the king
are invoked in the context of a prayer to the deity. The parallels suggest
that in divine hymns like ours, the doxology to the greater deity invokes
his blessings on the lesser deity.

D. Cultic Setting
We may now attempt to reconstruct the cultic setting of our hymn on
the basis of its own allusions and of its literary parallels with other
compositions. But in this attempt, we should distinguish between the
original Lagash version and its later duplicates. To some extent the
latter simply updated the theological conceptions of the former. Thus in
line 1, for example, there is a change from metaphor to simile, and from
the relatively crude anthropomorphism of holding the tablet (in this
case still employed also in the Yale version) to the vaguer perfecting
of it.69 In line 2, an apparently paternal Earth70 becomes maternal
69 Note the same substitution (?) of the more or less homophonous su-du for su-du
in passages like JCS 4:138 (= SGL 2:108):17.
70 Before tu-da, born, the postposition -e normally identifies the mother, rarely
the father as in Gudea Cylinder A ii 28: (Gatumdu) nin-mu dumu an-k-ge tu-da; cf.
also above, comment to line 11. The postposition -s identifies only the father, to judge
by SLTN 89 iii 16: a-zi kur-gal-la-s (variant: kur-gal-e) dNin-ll-le tuda, (Ninazu) good

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


and deified.71 In line 3, the earlier version attempts to reconcile two

dierent facets of Nisabas personality, her patronage of the arts and
writing in the guise of the reed, and her identification with cereal and
vegetation; the later ones substitute a simple clich from the standard
hymnic repertoire. But the addition of line 7 may be more significant
from our point of view, reflecting an actual dierence in the cultic
use to which the original poem and its later, expanded versions were
put. The stone tablet from Lagash may well be a unique survival of
the original cultic occasion, while the other exemplars may have been
recited at subsequent festivals. As such they added a reference to their
festal setting in the form of line 7, as well as, most probably, lines 18
(see comment ad loc.) and 25. Without these three lines, the original
structure of the hymn can be tentatively restored as made up entirely
of six-line stanzas (except for the 10-line chorus in stanza VII) plus
a two-line doxology. The proposed strophic structure is based in the
first instance on the sense, secondarily on such other considerations as
the changing syntactical patterns, the number of cases or lines, and the
division into columns in Exemplar A. If correctly restored, the poem
divides into two halves roughly equal in length if not in content, the
first (stanzas IIV = columns iiii in exemplar A) comparable to the
sa-gd-da, the second (stanzas VVIII = columns ivvi) comparable to
the sa-gar-ra of an adab or tigi composition. The doxology, replacing
the urubi prayer of these royal hymns, suggests that Enki has granted
the blessing besought by Nisaba (for the coming year ?) much as in texts
relating the journeys of other deities to their divine fathers or sovereigns
(note 41).72
It would be dicult to be more specific yet as to the original or
subsequent cultic setting of our particular hymn. But it may be worth
noting that Gudea, about the time that Exemplar B was inscribed,

seed born to the Great Mountain (Enlil) by Ninlil; cf. van Dijk, SGL 2 (1960), 16 and
77 for a slightly dierent translation. (It hardly seems possible that in the earliest version
of our text, uras-s is a kind of syllabic spelling for uras-e.) For Uras as a male deity see
most recently Gadd, UET 6/2 (1966), p. 7 n. 34.
71 For the fluctuation between uras and duras, cf. Falkenstein, ZA 52 (1957), 72 f., SGL
1 (1959), 57.
72 Note that in UET 6:101, the very similar doxology (lines 56 f.) is in fact labeled
ux-rux-bi-im. But for its one line antiphone, this composition is exactly as long as ours.
It even may have had the same number of stanzas, if the figure 8 inserted over the
line count means anything!


i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry

dedicated a statue of himself (?) to Nisaba73 and that, in Falkensteins

interpretation, there was even a temple of the mouth-opening ceremony in Ur III Lagas containing, among other statues, one of Gudea.74 At the same time, it needs to be stressed again that all the known
statues of Gudea, and indeed virtually every known example of the
most expensive type of votive, the statue, clearly depicts the worshipper, not the deity.75 Recently it has even been argued that there is no
explicit evidence, archaeological or textual, of statues of the deity in
Mesopotamia before the second millennium, and much evidence to the
contrary.76 The most numerous and conspicuous literary parallels seem
to be with other compositions in honor of Nisaba77 and her consort
Haia,78 as is understandable. But there are significant parallels also to

the temple hymn of Gudea of Lagas,79 and to hymns and myths relating the visit of one deity to another to receive his blessing, as well as
allusions to priests, festivals and ceremonies usually associated with the
divine statue. Thus the cultic setting of our hymn may have been, originally, the building of a temple, the dedication of a statue, a journey
from Lagas to Eridu to obtain the blessing of Enki for Nisaba or her
royal devotee, or even the installation of her high priest. Its subsequent
setting may have been a harvest festival of Enlil or some other festive
occasion which, at least for the time being, must remain hypothetical.
To p. 27 n. 52: Another text with a similar (?) hole for attachment is the Fall
of Lagash; cf. E. Sollberger, International Congress of Orientalists 22 (1957) 32.
To p. 32, line 3: Jacobsen suggests that segbar here is simply a misreading of
the earlier GI. Van Dijk compares gisseg9, which varies with gissinig in Wilcke,
Das Lugalbandaepos (1969) 126 f., line 402, and is thus here coordinate with naga
-k-ga. For segbar as a mythical monster, cf. now van Dijk, Or. 38 (1969) 544 f.

Falkenstein, An. Or. 30 (1966), and n. 9, Statue T.

Ib. 151 and notes 67. Dierently, Civil, above, note 40, here: IV.1.
75 JAOS 88 (1968), 75. Here: IV.1. Cf. already HUCA 33 (1962), 13 f.
76 Agnes Spycket, Les Statues de Culte dans les textes Msopotamiens des origines la I re
Dynastie de Babylone = Cahiers de la Revue Biblique 9 (1968).
77 Cf. comments to lines 1, 7, 9, 34, 53, 55.
78 Notably UET 6:101; cf. comments to lines 1920, 2526; 29, 42, 44 (!), 53, 5657,
and above, note 1.
79 Cf. comment to lines 1, 3031, 45, and 50.

i.2. the cultic setting of sumerian poetry


To p. 32, lines 8f: Translate perhaps rather: . . .chatting with the clay, taking
counsel with the earth . . . and cf. MSL 12 ( 1969) 122: 33: inim-du11-du11(=
i-nim-du-ut.-t.u) = a-ma-nu-; note also AHw s.v. mustam (ref. court. van Dijk).
To p. 33, line 50: Cf. the seven blessings which Gudea bestows (silim . . .
sum) on the newly built Eninnu in Cylinder A xx 24-xxi 12. Restore here
perhaps silim . . . du11/e for which cf. most recently YNER 3 (1968) 89 s.v.


Benno Landsberger, the late dean of Assyriological studies, proposed

that at least in intellectual terms, ancient Mesopotamia constituted a
world to itself. In a 1926 article, intended to be programmatic for subsequent studies in the field, Landsberger enunciated what he termed the
Eigenbegriichkeit (conceptual autonomy) of ancient Mesopotamian
culture.1 Forty years later, while reviewing the subsequent development
of Assyriology, Landsberger found that the Eigenbegriichkeit had been
followed more in theory than in practice. Nevertheless, the programme
had served its purpose. It established the autonomy of Assyriology as a
field of study. By freeing Assyriology from its heretofore simplistic role
as an auxiliary tool in comparative Biblical studies, Landsbergers innovation encouraged scholars to study and evaluate Mesopotamian phenomena on their own terms. Only once the autonomy of Assyriology
became well established did the danger of its slipping back into being
a handmaiden to Biblical studies lessen and the possibility of its climbing into an ivory tower of splendid isolation increase. I suggest that the
time has now come to delineate the major outlines of substantive interconnections throughout the Biblical world in which both cuneiform
and West Semitic evidence may play their proper part. I shall attempt
to strengthen the credibility of my suggestion by discussing it from a
variety of perspectives.
The archaeological perspective is basic to Assyriology. It is both independent of textual evidence and, if need be, prior to textual evidence.
It embraces both the extra-historic and the pre-historic realms: In this
area, the most far-reaching new development is the clarification of the
chronology of Old World archaeology in general, and the extent and
subdivisions of the so-called Bronze Age in particular. From a bewildering mass of independent excavations throughout the Mediterranean
basin, the realization has finally emerged that much of the inhabited
1 Benno Landsberger, Die Eigenbegriichkeit der babylonischen Welt, Islamica 2
(1926) 355372; reprinted as vol. 142* of the series Libelli (Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, 1965) 119.


i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics

world quickly shared in the major developments and innovations of

material culture. The evidence suggests that large areas of the Near
East and even of southern Europe were in some sort of contact with
one another, and that it is no longer necessary, or even proper, to treat
each cultural region in isolation.
Similar insights to those gained through archaeology are now emerging in a second arearecorded history. The ever growing abundance
of textual materials and their increasingly sophisticated analysis and
integration, makes it possible to claim that large portions of the Near
East moved in a common rhythm from the beginning of history, some
five thousand years ago. Repeatedly, the two extremities of the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and Mesopotamia, have been the natural foci of
imperial concentrations of power, destined to aspire to rule the entire
Near East. These imperialistic triumphs repeatedly gave way before the
onslaughts of crasser and more bellicose elements from the less hospitable environments bordering on the Fertile Crescent. This collapse
of these Empires at either extremity, provided the recurrent opportunity for the middleIsrael or Syriato assert itself.
Given this sort of basic unity of artifactual chronology and political
determinants, it should not be surprising to find some major common
axes on the more detailed level of specific institutions. One must avoid
what has aptly been called parallelomania, and be prepared to seek
contrasts as well as comparisons.2
It is significant that Mesopotamians, Egyptians and Israelites frequently posed similar questions, even if they arrived at somewhat diverse, even incompatible, answers. For example, in the very crucial
area of the cult, or organized religious practice, we can usefully extend
A. Leo Oppenheims description. He called it the care and feeding of
the gods, (to which we may add: and of their worshippers by comparison to Egyptian prayers for food from oerings to the gods).3 The
importance of the cult-statue of the Mesopotamian gods, which Oppenheim has rightly stressed, takes on a new dimension when its Akkadian
designation, s. alam ilani (ili), is compared with the Hebrew cognate, s. elem
elohm which, by contrast, is most often applied to man who is made in
the image of God.4
Samuel Sandmel, Parallelomania, Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962) 113.
A. Leo Oppenheim. Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization (Chicago and
London, The University of Chicago Press, 1964), esp. pp. 183198.
4 Ezekiel, however, uses the Hebrew term in its Akkadian sense. Contrariwise, the

i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics


Lest it be argued that the history of religion is a quicksand upon

which it is treacherous to base any correlations, I want to immediately indicate that there is an equally strong case for so sober a
manifestation of mundane matters as the field of juridic practice and
legal formulation. Yohanan Mus study of deeds of conveyance from
all over the Ancient Near East demonstrated with admirable precision what this approach can achieve. The demonstrably comparable
environmentsin this case, the conveyance of property by gift, sale, or
cession (relinquishment)makes it possible to extend comparison from
simple cognates and loan words to loan translations, and opens new
vistas for plotting the borders of specific cultural borrowings.5
This new appreciation of the significance of loan translations can
lead right down to the lexical level, the minimal unit of meaningful
textual evidence. Numerous lexical cuneiform texts translate individual terms from one language into another in parallel columns. Sometimes they even add a third or fourth column for additional languages,
particularly in regions outside or between the great centers of the literate civilizations. Thus they provide us with raw material for lexical comparisons between the dierent cultures. Of course, their equations cannot all be accepted uncritically. But fortunately they can be
checked against contextual references in bilingual, trilingual, and multilingual texts. These include international treaties such as those from
the Amarna Age, as well as royal inscriptions and literary texts from
many dierent periods. Together with lexicographical advances in each
of the separate languages, they provide potential functional or conceptual equivalents to test against the previously mentioned doctrine of
conceptual autonomy. This leads me to the next area, both the most
promising and the most dangerous for the comparative approachthe
literary level.
Of all cultural institutions, literature is perhaps most inherently subject to adaptation and naturalization to its own habitat. Yet the interconnections between the Bible and the literatures of the Ancient Near
East, and among the several Ancient Near Eastern literary corpora
themselves, are so patent that they demand investigation. I have concerned myself for some time with the many questions raised both by
king (or an outstanding priest) is occasionally called the image of the deity (s. alam DN)
in neo-Assyrian; cf. CAD S 85c.
5 Yohanan Mus, Studies in the Aramaic Legal Papyri from Elephantine (Leiden, E.J. Brill,


i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics

and against those who would relate any significant part of Biblical literature to its Ancient Near Eastern setting, particularly Mesopotamia.
First I investigated two aspects of cuneiform literature in general
creativity and canonization i.e., the mechanics by which a traditional literary creation was put into the ancient equivalent of a published book. These two aspects can be investigated profitably on the
cuneiform side, where the evidence is ample, and applied with caution
on the Biblical side, where it is almost nonexistent.6 Subsequently, I
reversed the equation and used the form-critical method, which has
scored so many notable successes in the study of Biblical literature,
to investigate cuneiform literature, where it rarely has been invoked.
The method seemed fruitful with at least two cuneiform genres. The
first I chose to call Akkadian apocalyptic,7 and the second individual prayer.8 From this point it was only a short step toward applying
another cardinal tenet of Biblical and more particularly of Psalm exegesis to the cuneiform corpus, namely, the investigation of the cultic
or other setting of the various poetic genres, or their so-called Sitz im
Leben. Even without definitive proofs, a deeper understanding of the
texts seemed to emerge when they could be tentatively assigned to a
setting in palace or temple respectively or to a specific cultic occasion
such as the dedication of a divine statue, or to a ceremonial occasion of
state e.g., the naming of a new year.9
These illustrations of the potential value of applying methods of Biblical scholarship to the cuneiform corpus and vice versa, raised anew
the possibility of the actual interdependence between the two literatures. For a long time, the academic battle-lines had been clearly
drawn on this fundamental issue. On one side stood the phalanx of
the comparativists, armed with all the weaponry of, to them, almost
self-evident parallels between the vocabulary, the topoi, the very stories in cuneiform and Hebrew respectively. On the other side, there
were a smaller but no less passionate band of skeptics, challenging
the comparativists to prove that these parallels between two cultures

6 W.W. Hallo, New Viewpoints on Cuneiform Literature, Israel Exploration Journal

12 (1962) 1326, here: I.1.
7 Id. Akkadian Apocalypses, Israel Exploration Journal 16 (1966) 231242.
8 Id. Individual Prayer in Sumerian: The Continuity of a Tradition, Journal of the
American Oriental Society 88/1 (=Essays in Memory of E.A. Speiser, 1968). 7189, here: VI.1.
9 Id. The Cultic Setting of Sumerian Poetry, Actes de la XVII e Rencontre Assyriologique
Internationale (Brussels, 1969) 116134, here: I.4.

i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics


separated by such a gulf of space, time and fundamental outlook are

anything more than fortuitous. They demand to know the mechanics
by which the borrowing might have occurred, the date at which it took
place, even the direction in which it went in any given case. Morton
Smith most vehemently advocates their position. He suggests that the
Hebrew Bible belongs to a people wholly at home in an Iron Age context, who before then were primitive barbarians without demonstrable
connections to Mesopotamia, and whose closest parallels should therefore be sought among the Doric invaders of post-Mycenaean Greece
and their culture.10 A choice example of this polemic is his parody of
the comparativists position which may be worth quoting here. Abraham, he accuses them of implying, was a theologian as well as a merchant prince; his donkey caravans could barely stagger along beneath
his library of cuneiform tablets.11
I find Smith unconvincing. To reduce his argument ad absurdum,
one need only grant his parallelbut draw the opposite conclusion,
i.e., that Greek history be reconstructed and Greek literature evaluated
according to the Hebrew parallel instead of vice versa. It then follows,
e.g., that the Doric invaders were not Iron Age newcomers to Greece,
but that they were returning there after an extended Late Bronze
exile in Thessaly, having originally entered Middle Bronze Anatolia,
which they fled in the upheavals of the Old Assyrian period! Any
archaeological or literary evidence in conflict with this theory would
be dismissed as irrelevant or tendentious respectively. One could even
cite the ancient myth of the Return of the Heraclidae12 to support
some such absurd hypothesis. If we avoid extremes, the challenge posed
to the comparative method can be met on a more serious basis. We
should neither exempt Biblical literature from the standards applied
to other Ancient Near Eastern literatures, nor subject it to standards
demanded nowhere else. On this basis, Israelite traditions about its own
past Bronze Age, though these traditions were written down in the Iron
Age, have to be given as much credence as Middle and Neo-Assyrian
notions about the Old Assyrian past. I do not mean to pursue this

10 Morton Smith, The present state of Old Testament studies, Journal of Biblical
Literature 88 (1969) 1935.
11 Ibid. 26.
12 Lord William Taylour, The Mycenaeans (1964) 175; C.H. Gordon, Ugaritica 6 (1969)
278; Studies and Texts I (1963) 4.


i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics

analogy here, for I have done so elsewhere13 and I will admit that not all
the mechanics, dates and directions of literary borrowings are now, or
may ever be, amenable to conclusive demonstration. In a recent paper,
I have tested these criteria with respect to a particular set of common
traditions; namely, those concerning the antediluvian kings, patriarchs,
culture-heroes, and particularly cities.
My conclusion is that the antediluvian traditions are native to Mesopotamia. They appear to have begun with the antediluvian cities of
Mesopotamia, of which only traces are preserved in the Biblical version. The growth of this tradition to include antediluvian kings and
culture-heroes also took place in Mesopotamia while the Biblical recasting of these individuals into patriarchal figures took place in the context of Amorite sedentarization early in the second millennium, when
genealogical interests reshaped Mesopotamian historiographical conceptions. Since of all conceivable genres, the genealogical record is
most obviously a medium of oral historiography, and since comparable
cuneiform sources of the Amorite period (the Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty, the Assyrian King List, etc.) likewise betray a fluid,
oral background, it is reasonable to assume they then moved westward,
in oral form.14
To return from this particular example to the more general issue: I
do submit that both Israel and Mesopotamia each had its own highly
developed techniques for preserving those texts which were central to
their separate traditions with more or less fidelity and that this provides
one of the necessary pre-conditions for arguments in favor of literary
inter-connections. In Israel, these techniques (known best from later
times) include the Masorah, the Midrash, the liturgical use of the text,
the refusal at first to translate the text and perhaps most important, the
ultimate willingness to change the meaning of the text either by interpretation or by interpretive translation precisely in order to preserve the
integrity of a received text while accommodating it to the needs of a
constantly changing world view. These are the distinguishing features

13 William W. Hallo and William K. Simpson, The Ancient Near East: a History (New
York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971) esp. pp. 113117 (The Emergence of Assyria);
W.W. Hallo, article Mesopotamia, Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 16(1971) 14831508; esp.
1500 f.
14 William W. Hallo, Antediluvian Cities, Journal of Cuneiform Studies 23 (1970) 57

i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics


that constitute what I have described elsewhere as the Jewish perspective in Biblical studies.15
On the Mesopotamian side, too, there are a number of very distinct
and well documented patterns of literary survival or preservation. Each
of them deserves brief attention if we are to meet the chronological
challenge to the comparative method.
The most obvious, and in some ways most remarkable kind of literary preservation in the cuneiform tradition, is the case of direct survival. A most telling example of this sort is provided by the famous
laws of Hammurapi. This celebrated code (which is not really a code
at all) actually began as a monument, but its literary merits quickly
became evident to the Mesopotamians themselves. They incorporated
it in the curriculum of their scribal schools, and copied it faithfully, not
to say slavishly, for over a thousand years after its promulgation even
though its legal contents had long since become a dead letter. This
example is taken from Akkadian, a language which remained alive in
Mesopotamia all during that millennium. Even more instructive is the
situation concerning Sumerian which became a dead language soonafter Hammurapi, though it continued to survive as a learned and
sacred language (like Latin in the Middle Ages and today). There are
numerous examples of Sumerian literary texts whose composition dates
back to the neo-Sumerian period (the end of the third millennium)
which were learned and copied out in the schools of Hammurapis
time early in the second millennium, with careful attention to liturgical
notations (even when these, as in the Biblical psalms, were no longer
understood), and to Masoretic details such as variant readings or the
numbers of lines. When the Old Babylonian schools came to an end,
the traditional texts and the surviving Sumerian-speaking scholars are
thought to have found refuge in extreme southern Mesopotamia where
(even to this day) one may find many curious survivals of ancient Sumerian patterns of living among the so-called Marsh Arabs. Be that as it
may, the Kassite conquest of the southern Sealand late in the second
millennium reunited it with Babylonia and retrieved the old learning.
Then, the newly formed scribal guilds of this feudal age took up where
the earlier scribal schools had left o. They selected a portion of the
surviving Sumerian literary corpus, provided it with a literal translation
into Akkadian and preserved the ancient learning for both Babylonia
15 Id. Biblical Studies in Jewish Perspective, in Leon A. Jick, ed., The Teaching of
Judaica in American Universities, (Association for Jewish Studies, 1970) 4146.


i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics

and Assyria well into the first millennium. Much of the original corpus
was lost in the process, and what survived was often badly misunderstood, so that the modern scholar can often demonstrate that the translation into Akkadian is too liberal or simply wrong. But the Sumerian
text itself was preserved.
A familiar example of this process is provided by the great myth
of the warrior-god Ninurta, called Lugal-e. This example can be multiplied by many other myths about and hymns to the great gods of
the Sumerian pantheon, whose worship continued without interruption even after Sumerian ceased to be a living language of daily intercourse in all but (at most) the extreme south of the land. Indeed,
the survival of Sumerian as a learned religious language was in some
part surely connected with the desire to describe and apostrophize the
Sumerian deities, so to speak, in their native tongue. On the linguistic level, however, an important distinction must be added. While the
myths about and incantations to the gods continued to employ the
main dialect of Sumerian after the Old Babylonian period, the surviving hymns addressed to the gods, in common with individual prayer
resorted almost exclusively to the Emesal dialect.16 By the same token as
the second millennium wore on, the kings of Mesopotamia increasingly
favored the more intelligible Akkadian as a vehicle for royal encomiums
and self-predications. Next to the gods these kings were the favorite protagonists of cuneiform literature as well as its principal patrons. (The
two factors are, again, apt to be related.) The recent discovery that
King Shulgi of Ur is the hero of an Akkadian prophecy (or apocalypse as I would prefer to call it) shows that royal taste even dictated the resurrection of Sumerian predecessors in Akkadian format.17
But not exclusively! The classical Sumerian epic cycle dealing with the
lords of Uruk and Aratta survived intact into the libraries of the neoAssyrian kings in some cases, for example the Lugalbanda Epic. True,
the late exemplars of this text are accompanied by an interlinear Akkadian translation; they represent only two out of the forty exemplars
used in the latest reconstruction of the composition, and one of these
two has been known since 1875!18 But Wilckes edition plainly shows

Joachim Krecher, Sumerische Kultlyrik (1966) p. 18.

R. Borger, Gott Marduk und Gott-Knig Sulgi

als Propheten. Zwei prophetische
Texte, Bibliotheca Orientalis 28 (1971) 324.
18 IV R 14:1; republished CT 15:41 f. together with the other late copy, ib. 43.

i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics


how closely the late text adhered to models a thousand years older19
and also provides precious evidence for the durability of epic literature
in Mesopotamia. When and if a history of Sumerian literature is written, that will surely be the occasion to revert to this neglected point.
In this hurried survey, I can pause only briefly to consider the socalled wisdom literature. It is the most durable of all the genres, and
probably also the most genuinelyand literallypopular one. It centers less on gods and kings than on mortals and commoners, particularly on the scribe or, more generally, the wise man. It owed some of
its longevity to oral transmissionin this respect again diering from
the ocial canons of temple and palaceand thus survived not only
the transition from Sumerian to Akkadian but also from Akkadian to
Aramaic, as evidenced by the figure of the wise vizier Ahiqar, and from
Aramaic to Arabic, as was shown by O.R. Gurney in his edition of
The Poor Man of Nippur.20
The very first examples of intelligible Sumerian literary eorts belong to the wisdom genre and date from the Fara period in the middle of the third millennium. They are proverbs, and among them are
a number which were still being written out in the first millennium.
This is true not only of the old saw about celibacy to which a brief
note by W.G. Lambert first called attention,21 but also of others with
enough Old Babylonian bilingual versions to indicate at least part of
the process of transmission.22 More recently, the Abu Salabikh discoveries have opened an entirely new vista on the Sumerian literature of the
Fara period.23 Among these striking finds is a piece of Wisdom called
the Instructions of Shuruppak, (i.e. the Sumerian Noah, or his son)
whose name is identical to, or confused with, the ancient Sumerian
name of the city of Fara. Published fragments of this composition now
include an Old Sumerian version, a neo-Sumerian one of Old Babylonian date, and an Akkadian one of Middle Assyrian date.24 It is too
early to characterize the last as a literal translation. If it proves to be
Claus Wilcke, Das Lugalbandaepos (1969) pp. 90 and 92, and his comments p. 23.
Anatolian Studies 6 (1956) 145164.
21 Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 169 (1963) 63 f.
22 M. Civil and R.D. Biggs, Revue dAssyriologie 60 (1966) 57.
23 R.D. Biggs, The Ab
u Sal
abkh Tablets: a preliminary survey, Journal of Cuneiform
Studies 20 (1966) 7388; idem., An archaic . . . hymn from Tell Abu Sal
abkh, Zeitschrift
fur Assyriologie 61 (1972) 193207.
24 Cf. the latest (partial) translation by R.D. Biggs apud J.B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient
Near Eastern Texts 3 (1969) 594 f.


i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics

so, it would constitute almost the only exception to the curious, but
little-noted fact that such translations otherwise never appear except in
the form of bilinguals, i.e., in the company of their Sumerian originals. The other chief exception to this rule is the twelfth tablet of the
canonical Gilgamesh Epic. But this truly proves the rule, given the special circumstances operative there. A late redactor, not satisfied with the
eleven tablets or chapters of the Akkadian epic, though they formed a
harmonious whole, felt compelled to add a twelfth and for this purpose resorted to straight translation of one of the Sumerian Gilgamesh
episodes which had not been employed in the Akkadian adaptation at
This leads me to the second and somewhat less obvious manner in
which cuneiform literature survived over the centuries; namely, through
organic transformation and creative adaptation. In the case of the Gilgamesh Epic, the vehicle for these processes was translation into Akkadian, though I am not yet prepared to say in just what order the
various steps proceeded. It has usually been assumed that the Sumerian Gilgamesh episodes were received in disjointed form and that
the creation of a unified epic composition was first achieved in Old
Babylonian times, together with the creation of an Akkadian version
which drew freely upon Sumerian models rather than slavishly translating from them. It is further assumed that the Middle Babylonian
period produced the expansion of the Akkadian text which we know (so
far) mostly in neo-Assyrian copies.25 These presuppositions have been
briefly examined by Hope Nash Wol 26 and at greater length by Jerey
H. Tigay, who concludes that the character and role of Enkidu constitute the integrating factors in the epic; that these factors are lacking
in the extant Sumerian episodes but are conspicuously present in the
Akkadian versions of the same (Old Babylonian) date, as now known
in substantial numbers; and that the integration was presumably, if not
demonstrably, contemporary with the process of translation.27
In any case, translation was not the only vehicle for the creative
adaptation of Sumerian literature. Knowledge of Sumerian was preserved and transmitted at the schools by the professors of Sumerian
25 Cf. e.g. L. Matous, Les rapports entre la version sumerienne et la version
akkadienne de lpope de Gilgames, apud P. Garelli, ed., Gilgames et sa Lgende (1960)
26 Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the heroic life, JAOS 89 (1969) 392398, esp. 393 n. 2.
27 Literary-Critical Studies in the Gilgamesh Epic, (University Microfilms) (Yale, unpublished Ph.D. Thesis 1971) esp. pp. 8496: The Origin of the Integrated Epic.

i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics


(to use Landsbergers translation of dub-sar eme-gir) who, in turn, may

have drawn on (and help to demonstrate) the survival of spoken Sumerian in the Sealand during the second millennium. In any case, such
knowledge suced for the continuous creation of new Sumerian compositions, albeit along lines well marked out by older traditions and
in a decadent Sumerian which frequently helps one date the texts.28
A good example is provided both by the public and private laments.
The former, comparable to the congregational lament of the Hebrew
Psalter, began as ritual apologies for the demolition of temple ruins
which was the necessary precondition for rebuilding them upon their
sacred sites, and included specific allusions to the historical circumstances that had caused the temple to fall into ruins in the first place
usually the attack of an enemy who, it was hoped, would pay the
penalty incurred in the sacrilege implied in completing the demolition.
From here they gradually developed into formalized complaints for the
inexorable decay or destruction of any shrine from any cause in any
place, until it became quite impossible to connect the genre with any
actual destruction or any actual rebuilding of a given sanctuary. Similarly, the private prayer, comparable to the individual laments among
the Psalms, has a long and organic development in form-critical terms.
Its earliest attested format is a letter to the deity, written in standard
Sumerian prose and deposited at the feet of the statue of the god with
the petitioners specific request or complaint. From here it was gradually transformed into a stylized petition, sung to the deity by the professional chanter using the aforementioned Emesal dialect, the so-called
thin or wailing dialect of Sumerian, and ultimately abandoning the formal elements of the letter such as the salutation, identification of the
petitioner, and stereotyped closing while continuing to reflect the original epistolary structure.29
Another way in which cuneiform literature could bridge the millennia was by means of the later Mesopotamians rediscovery of their own
past. One should not forget that the cuneiform system of writing spans
more than half of recorded history. Scholars of the library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh during the time of Manasseh and Josiah, for example,
were as far in time from the first Mesopotamian written texts as we
are from Assurbanipal. Along with his neo-Assyrian predecessors and


A. Falkenstein, MDOG 85 (1953) 113.

Above, n. 8.


i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics

his neo-Babylonian successors, Assurbanipal had just as lively an interest in Mesopotamian antiquities as modern Assyriologists. Therefore,
one should not be surprised that there was an active search for ancient
monuments and clay tablets, especially in the old land of Sumer, in the
south, and that these royally inspired searches were often crowned with
success. Thanks to some recent publications, one such success story can
now be told.
The story begins with a cliche of cuneiform literary history. For
some twenty-odd years it has been considered axiomatic that certain
genres of Sumerian literature disappeared from the canon in the course
of the second millennium because they had become irrelevant to the
ideologies of a new age. Prominent examples of this process of attrition
were the hymns to deified kings and hymns to gods with prayers for
the deified kings. These genres are obviously more suitable to an age
in which mortal kings were still worshipped. In the native hymnic
terminology such hymns were typically classified as adab or tigi-songs,
depending upon the musical instrument used to accompany them.
Some two dozen dierent compositions so classified were identified
among the then known (1949) examples of Sumerian literary texts
by Adam Falkenstein.30 Though often composed much earlier, all of
them came from Old Babylonian copies, dating approximately from
Hammurapis time. Almost as many more were known by title from
a Middle Assyrian literary catalogue; i.e., a document listing various
compositions by their opening words and then classifying them by their
literary genre.31 But these titles, though dating from the late second
millennium, remain just that: titles. Not one of the compositions so
catalogued has yet turned up in its own right. One suspects, therefore,
that the catalogue is the product of a learned antiquary of the library
of Tiglath-Pileser I (c. 11151077) rather than a true reflection of the
literary tastes of the turn of the millennium, at least at this point
(col. iii).32 As has recently been shown, other sections (col. viii) may
have a much more living status.33 This is in contrast to a catalogue
composed some four or five centuries earlier which includes half a




ZA 49 (1949) 8791 (Nos. 117) and 102 (Nos. 17).

Ibid. 91 (Nos. 1821) and 103 (Nos. 826).
For the date of the text see E. Weidner. Archiv fr Orientforschung 16 (1953) 207 (No.
David Wulstan, The Earliest Musical Notation, Music and Letters 52 (1971) 365

i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics


dozen identifiable compositions among its thirty-odd tigi and adabhymns.34 Indeed, when one returns to Falkensteins list, one finds that
the two genres mentioned have completely disappeared from the neoAssyrian corpus and all the vast literary treasures of the library of
Assurbanipal, now mostly housed in the British Museum, have not a
single example to oer; rather, they have only a single example.
The sole example cited by Falkenstein was a drum-song (tigi) to the
god Ninurta of which little more was preserved than the colophon (the
equivalent of our title-page though it comes at the end of the composition) and pitiful remnants of the last five lines of the hymn. Still, even
this tiny fragment was tantalizing, for the colophon could be restored
on the basis of parallels to read (copy?) of Nippur written out according to its old prototype and (checked against the original.) Now Nippur had been precisely the center of Sumerian learning in the Old
Babylonian period, and the place where royal hymns were composed
whenever the local priesthood deemed a king worthy of the honor. It
was therefore with some interest that I opened a new volume of Sumerian literary texts from the Old Babylonian period at Nippur only to
discover a nearly complete drum-song the last line of which was literally identical with the last and only well-preserved line of the neoAssyrian fragment.35 My interest thus aroused, I searched for additional
fragments of the neo-Assyrian version among the publications of the
British Museum and located no fewer than five others. All six of them36
exactly corresponded to the Old Babylonian prototype, and I was convinced that they would join to form a single tablet. My curatorial colleague in London confirmed my suspicions and wrote me the following:
Congratulations on a brilliant join. The six fragments join exactly as
you predicted, although the shape of the fragments is not quite what
Langdons . . . copies made them appear. As you say, it would be very
nice to find the missing fragments, and Walker is going to have a go
at it. You will be receiving the photographs as soon as they can be
34 TMH n.F. 3:53. For the identifications sec I. Bernhardt and S.N. Kramer, Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift . . . Jena 6 (19561957) 392 f.
35 S.N. Kramer and I. Bernhardt, Sumerische Literarische Texte aus Nippur 2 (1967)
No. 86.
36 S. Langdon, Babylonian Liturgies (1913) Nos. 95, 97, 102, 107, 111 and 127. Four of
these fragments were identified also by . Sjberg, Orientalia 38 (1969) 355 in his review
of op. cit. (n. 35).
37 Letter of February 26, 1969 from Dr. E. Sollberger.


i.3. problems in sumerian hermeneutics

The missing fragments were never found (it would be easier to find
a very small needle in a very large haystack), but the photographs
arrived. I have read the original in London and will make a handcopy of it for publication in due course. In the meantime, a German
colleague collated the old Nippur text, which was located at the University of Jena in East Germany, for me. All this careful review has
disclosed that the hymn is addressed not to the warlike god Ninurta but
to the goddess Nintu, patroness of childbirth. She is apostrophized here
for putting her talents at the disposal of Enlil the chief executive of the
gods, by giving birth to the king and the high priest, oces which it is
the function of Enlil to assign to his favorite mortals. [Here: III.5.]
The content of the hymn however, is of less interest than the fact
that the Old Babylonian prototype from Nippur, dated at perhaps
1750 bce, is as faithfully reproduced as the colophon claims in a neoAssyrian copy made more than a thousand years later. In the interval,
the ideology which inspired it had completely disappeared and with it
the genre which was its vehicle. It is therefore all the more impressive
that the text was resurrected intact, with as much devotion to accuracy
and objectivity as a modern copyist would bring to the task. It allows
us to infer a more general principle: the rediscovery of lost texts may
be added to the preservation or adaptation of surviving texts as means
whereby the literary heritage of the Bronze Age passed into the Iron
Age within Mesopotamia. Thus the comparative approach to Biblical
studies, by which I mean a restrained and disciplined application of the
cuneiform parallels, can stand up to the challenge which the skeptics
have raised on the issue of chronology.
Authors Note
The substance of these remarks was originally presented in the series Perspectives in Jewish Learning, Spertus College of Judaica, Chicago, April 18, 1971.
The printed version oered herewith incorporates a considerable number of
stylistic changes by the editor, and was not reviewed by the author either in
manuscript or proof. For appropriate addenda and corrigenda, the reader is
invited to consult my forthcoming article, Toward a History of Sumerian Literature. [Here I.4.] The point of departure for the original version was provided by James Muilenberg and others, Problems in Biblical Hermeneutics,
Journal of Biblical Literature 77 (1958) 1838; cf. ibid. 3951, 197204; 78 (1959)

To Thorkild Jacobsen, with warmth and respect

Literary history is a stepchild of literary criticism. More often than not,

leading histories of literature are either histories of civilization or collections of critical essays. One type is not a history of art; the other,
not a history of art.1 And even while proposing remedies for this situation, Wellek and Warren relegate their suggestions to the end of their
Theory of Literature. Twenty years later, that is still the position Georey
Hartman assigns to the proposals he addresses Toward Literary History.2
In such circumstances, extensive apologies are hardly necessary for
the rudimentary state of Sumerian literary history.3 The recovery of
Sumerian literature, though it began a century ago (1873),4 is an ongoing process that is today far from complete; every year brings first editions of newly recovered or newly reconstructed works. The only systematic attempt to subject this growing corpus to some kind of chronological order5 is today in need of major revisions on linguistic and
other grounds.6 Indeed, the prospect of writing a literary history of
Mesopotamia seems only slightly less dim7 than that of describing its
religion in the opinion of the fields more skeptical spokesmen.
1 Ren Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature (New York, 1948; 3d ed., 1963)
p. 253.
2 Georey H. Hartman, Beyond Formalism (New Haven, 1970) pp. 356386.
3 See the Bibliography below.
4 This date is chosen, somewhat arbitrarily, as marking the first appearance of
Franois Lenormants tudes accadiennes (Lettres assyriologiques, seconde srie [Paris,
18731879J). In three volumes Lenormant oered full editions of substantial numbers
of bilingual Sumero-Akkadian texts, most of them previously unedited.
5 A. Falkenstein, Zur Chronologie der sumerischen Literatur, CRRA II 1230;
MDOG, No. 85 (1953) pp. 113.
6 See e.g. M. Civil, Remarks on Sumerian and Bilingual Texts, JNES, Vol. 26
(1967) p. 201: the presence alone of late grammatically incorrect forms in a text is an
unreliable criterion for placing its [original] composition at a late date.
7 A.L. Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (Chicago, 1964) p. 255: The literary history
of Mesopotamia cannot be more than outlined, and it is open to serious doubtand


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

For all that, it is not too early to assay a history of Sumerian literature on strictly literary grounds, not only for the sake of a better appreciation of Sumerian literature, but also in the service of the history of
literature. For Sumerian literature meets the criterion of basic linguistic
unity which has now been reinstated as a principle of literary history.8
But beyond that it can claim distinction on the basis of three remarkable superlatives: it leads all the worlds written literature in terms of
antiquity, longevity, and continuity.9 Its beginnings can now be traced
firmly to the middle of the third millennium bc.,10 and native traditions
would have it that it originated even earlier, with the antediluvian sages
at the end of the fourth millennium.11 Its latest floruit occurred at the
end of the pre-Christian era, and at least one canonical text is dated
as late as 227 of the Seleucid Era and 163 of the Arsacid (Parthian)
Era (or 85 bc.).12 And in the long interval between these extreme terminals, much of it was copied and preserved with a remarkable degree of
textual fidelity.
A single linguistic and literary tradition spanning two and a half or
even three millennia surely deserves to be studied in terms of its own
history. Moreover, it should be fairly easy to avoid some of the major
pitfalls of conventional literary history13 in connection with Sumerian
literature. We are not tempted to use it for the reconstruction of national or social history given the fact that the last two millennia of Sumerian
literature were produced in the admitted absence of a Sumerian nation
or society and that, even before that time, the very existence of a

I am inclined here to side with the skepticswhether enough material is available to

embark on the venture of writing such a history.
8 Hartman, Beyond Formalism, pp. 356386.
9 For the nearest competition, see Hellmut Brunner, Grundzge einer Geschichte der
altgyptischen Literatur (Darmstadt, 1966). See also the reviews by V. Wessetzky, BiOr
XXIV (1967) 156157 and by G. Bjrkman, BiOr XXIX (1972) 178.
10 R.D. Biggs, The Ab
u Sl
. abakh Tablets: A Preliminary Survey, JCS XX (1966)
7388; M. Civil and R.D. Biggs, Notes sur des textes sumriens archaques, RA LX
(1966) 116; and below, n. 36. For the chronological question, see Hallo, The Date
of the Fara Period, Or, n.s., Vol. 42 (1972) pp. 228238. The definitive edition of
the literary and lexical texts from Abu Sal
. abkh (and parallels from Fara) has now
appeared; see R.D. Biggs, Inscriptions from Tell Abu S. alabkh (OIP XCIX [1974]).
11 Hallo, On the Antiquity of Sumerian Literature, JAOS, Vol. 83 (1963) pp. 167
176, esp. 175176, here: II.1.
12 G.A. Reisner, Sumerisch-babylonische Hymnen nach Thontafeln griechischer Zeit (Berlin,
1896) No. 55. No. 49 may even be dated four years later. See also below, n. 46.
13 Wellek and Warren, Theory of Literature, p. 253.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


recognizable Sumerian ethnic group has been challenged.14 Nor are we

prone to oer, in the guise of literary history, a series of disconnected
essays on individual authors, given the fact that the vast majority of
Sumerian literary works are anonymous or at best pseudonymous in
We are thus virtually forced to devote our attention to the proper
concerns of literary history, beginning with the establishment of the
exact position of each work in a tradition.15 From there it is a logical
step to the morphological approach, that is, the history of genres
or the problem of the development of a type.16 Finally the extensive
perspective aorded by our corpus leads naturally to a meaningful
periodization which, while embedded in the historical process,17 is
based in the first instance on the cumulative evidence of major periods
of creativity, adaptation, and consolidation of the literary material.
So ambitious a programme can at this stage be tackled only by
means of illustrative examples. But by selecting the examples widely
from a representative genre, it is intended to validate the general approach and to encourage more systematic eorts along similar lines.
In the long history of transmission, each genre tended to undergo
dierent treatment. If these dierent treatments are to be compared, it
must be done according to some common scale. Admittedly there will
inevitably be a subjective bias in the choice of such a scale. The one
chosen here is that of fidelity to the received text. On this basis, it is
possible to grade the genre histories from an extreme of slavish fidelity
on one hand, via various degrees of organic expansion and creative
adaptation, all the way to total suppression or displacement. As we
shall see, however, the extremes join in the case of the occasional late
recovery of an early text that had not survived in the tradition. I will
begin my survey with a rather extreme example of textual fidelity in the
context of a continuing tradition.
The Exploits of Ninurta is the name currently given to the composition
known anciently by its incipit as lugal-(e) u4 me-lm-bi nir-gl. Modern
14 F.R. Kraus, Sumerer und Akkader, ein Problem der altmesopotamischen Geschichte (Amsterdam, 1970), esp. ch. vii. J.S. Cooper, Sumerian and Akkadian in Sumer and Akkad,
Or, n.s., Vol. 42 (1973) pp. 239246.
15 Wellek and Warren, Theory of Literature, p. 259.
16 Ibid., p. 261.
17 Ibid., p. 265. See in this connection Fawzi Rasheed, Sumerian Literature: Its
Character and Development, Sumer XXVIII (1972) 915.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

classifications assign it to the genre of myth, since its protagonists

are drawn from the divine realm, and its story, however interpreted,
clearly presents a legendary occurrence as a paradigm for a continuing
experience, whether in the human sphere or in nature. But in the native
system, it figures rather as a hymn of praise to the deity, concluding
with the requisite doxology: Oh Ninurta, it is good (or, in the late
version: exalting) to praise (z-m) you, and this is true of all the texts
to be considered in this section.
The text of the composition, virtually complete in over 700 lines, has
been reconstructed by J. van Dijk from some 130 exemplars.18 Nearly
two-thirds of these date from the Old Babylonian scribal schools at
Nippur and (to a lesser extent) Ur, which flourished in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries, respectively. At least three bilingual texts from
Assur may belong to the library of Tiglath-Pileser I (11151077 bc.),
according to Weidner.19 The rest date from the first millennium, particularly the royal Assyrian libraries in the seventh century. A comparison of the three versions is instructive. In the overwhelming majority of
cases, the late text reproduces the early text with no more orthographic
variants than can be found among various exemplars of the early text
itself. In other cases, the original sense of the text has been lost, and the
later version substitutes a wholly new one in both Sumerian and Akkadian. In those relatively few instances where all three periods are represented, the Middle Assyrian versions vary with the later and against the
Within limits, a similar situation characterizes the shorter epic of
Ninurta called Angim. The edition by J. Cooper shows, however, that
the late version is occasionally closer to the early version than is the
intermediate version.20
In attempting to account for the striking tenacity of this particular
textual tradition, it is necessary to pursue the literary history of the two
compositions further back than their earliest written manifestations in
Old Babylonian times. Both deal with Ninurta; both allude in mythological terms to campaigns against the mountains. In Lugale, the
18 I am indebted to him for his transliteration in manuscript form. The first 180 lines
are preserved on the large Yale tablet YBC 9867 (Old Babylonian).
19 E.F. Weidner, Die Bibliothek Tiglatpilesers I., AfO XVI (19521953) 197215.
20 Chiefly KAR, Nos. 12 and 18. I am indebted to Professor Cooper for an advance
copy of his revised working text (May, 1973) of the edition. As he points out in his
introduction (May, 1975), however, the only fully preserved subscript of the composition
labels it a sr-gd-da of Ninurta.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


victory of Ninurta is reconstructed in detail; in Angim, this victory is

presupposed and, in its aftermath, the spoils of war are donated in
Nippur. It is dicult to escape the conclusion that real historical events
provide the background.21 Already Hrozny had argued that Lugale
contained an explicit allusion to Gudea (XI 1316 = lines 475478 of
the combined text) in the context of (the so-called ki-a-nag) oerings to
the statues of deceased rulers and grandees.22 Several almost verbatim
correspondences between Lugale and the inscriptions of Gudea of
Lagash have been noted and the same can be said for Angim.23 Given
the historical datum of Gudeas campaigns against Anshan and Elam,
we may well have before us the mythological version of these events.
The compositions probably owe their incorporation into the Nippur
curriculum to the substitution of Ninurta of Nippur for his Lagashite
equivalent Ningirsu24 and their preservation beyond Old Babylonian
times precisely to the sublimation of specific historical allusions into
mythological forms.
What is here suggested then is that these (and possibly other)25 myths
to Ninurta were commissioned in their original form at the court
of Gudea, or at least inspired by his exploits shortly after his reign,
and that they helped to perpetuate his memory thereafter.26 The suggestion cannot be proved as yet, but it can be buttressed by various
Cf. Hallo and Van Dijk, The Exaltation of Inanna (YNER, Vol. 3 [1968]) p. 66.
Friedrich Hrozny,
Sumerisch-babylonische Mythen von dem Gotte Ninrag
(Ninib), MVAG, Vol. 8/5 (1903) p. 64. Cf. A. Falkenstein, in CRRA II 14; Die Inschriften
Gudeas von Lagas I (AnOr, Vol. 30 [1966]) pp. 45, 139; RLA, Vol. 3 (1971) p. 677.
23 Note especially the reference, by name, to the divine weapons sar-gaz, sar-r, etc.,
in both Angim (e.g. ll. 129 f. = III 24 f.) and Gudeas date formulas and inscriptions;
see simply Falkenstein, AnOr, Vol. 30, p. 111, n. 4. For other correspondences, see
B. Landsberger, Einige . . . Nomina des Akkadischen, Wiener Zeitschrift fr die Kunde
des Morgenlandes, Vol. 57 (1961) p. 12. Note that the same weapons still occur in the
inscriptions of Esarhaddon.
24 Such substitutions therefore have greater significance than is assigned to them
by B. Alster, Dumuzis Dream: Aspects of Oral Poetry in Sumerian Myth (Copenhagen, 1972)
p. 44, and Ninurta and the Turtle, UET 6/1 2, JCS XXIV (1972) p. 120 and n. 2.
For Ninurta in connection with both Nippur and Lagash, cf. already SLTNi, No. 61 (ed.
M.E. Cohen, in WO VIII [1975] 2236) 11. 5887, esp. 1. 64.
25 Cf. also TMH NF IV, No. 49 and Alster, in JCS XXIV 120125. This text reads
more like a parody than a serious hymn to Ninurta, though A.J. Ferrara, Nanna-Suens
Journey to Nippur (Rome, 1973) p. 4, n. 7 calls it Ninurtas Journey to Eridu. See also
M.E. Cohen, in JCS XXV (1973) p. 208 f., n. 29, for multiple allusions to Ninurta myths
in late Ninurta balag-laments.
26 Cf. Falkenstein, AnOr, Vol. 30, p. 45: although the passage [above, n. 22] does
not mention Gudea by name, it was clear to anyone familiar with Babylonian history
to whom it alluded (translation mine).


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

considerations. Gudea appears as patron of Sumerian literary (and

artistic) creations of the highest order (the Cylinders of Gudea; the
statue inscriptions, etc.).27 He enjoyed posthumous worship in the Ur III
period in the form of ki-a-nag oerings;28 and he figured in the Old
Babylonian canonical literature of Nippur29 and Larsa.30
Royal patronage of Sumerian literature did not, however, begin with
Gudea. As early as the Sargonic period, not only can we point to Sargon or Naram-Sin as probable patrons but we can identify the author
whom they commissioned. Enheduanna, daughter of the former and
older contemporary of the latter, claimed the authorship of two significant cycles of hymns, and there is little reason to deny the claim. For
although pseudepigraphical attribution is not a priori to be excluded,
it is noteworthy that Enheduannas principal contemporary monument
was still standing in Old Babylonian Ur as is evident from the copy
identified by Sollberger,31 thus making her an unlikely candidate for
legendary status at that time. Moreover, there is increasing evidence
for women, and especially royal princesses, as authors of major Sumerian literary works. Thus, the widow of Ur-Nammu has been proposed
as the author of the hymn memorializing his death and burial,32 and
the daughter of Sin-kashid of Uruk is the author of an important
Falkenstein, AnOr, Vol. 30.
N. Schneider, Die Urkundenbehlter von Ur III und ihre archivalische Systematik, Or. n.s., Vol. 9 (1940) p. 23, and above, n. 22.
29 Hymn to Nanshe (SLTNi, No. 67 and duplicates); tigi-hymn to Ba"u (STVC,
No. 36): cf. Falkenstein, AnOr, Vol. 30, pp. 4445, and Hallo, Royal Hymns and
Mesopotamian Unity, JCS XVII (1963) 115, here: III.1; Temple Hymn No. 20: cf. C.
Wilcke, Der aktuelle Bezug der Sammlung der sumerischen Tempel-hymnen und ein
Fragment eines Klageliedes, ZA, Vol. 62 (1972) pp. 4849. Cf. now also G. Gragg,
The Fable of the Heron and the Turtle, AfO XXIV (1973) 5172, 1. 19.
30 E. Sollberger, The Rulers of Lagash, JCS XXI (1967) 282, 11. 198199. This
text, which Sollberger dates to the middle Old Babylonian (i.e., Larsa) period, is clearly
a kind of polemic against the canonical Sumerian King List as tradited at Nippur,
which ignored both Lagash and Larsa. It thus accomplished for Lagash what the
W-B 62 recension (Langdon, OECT II, Pl. VI) did in its way for Larsa, and both
documents presumably originated from the latter city. That Gudea himself ruled over
Larsa was still unknown to Falkenstein, AnOr, Vol. 30, pp. 4246, but is now highly
probable in light of the new French excavations, which have turned up a brick to
Nanshe and a clay nail to Ningirsu inscribed by Gudea on the site; see D. Arnaud,
Nouveaux jalons pour une histoire de Larsa, Sumer XXVII (1971) 4344.
31 RA LXIII (1969) 180 (ad UET I, No. 289).
32 C. Wilcke, Eine Schicksalsentscheidung fr den toten Urnammu, CRRA XVII
86. For her identity, see either Sollberger, Ladies of the Ur-III Empire, RA LXI (1967)
69 (Watartum?) or Civil, Un nouveau synchronisme Mari-IIIe dynastie dUr, RA LVI
(1962) 213 (Taram-Uram; cf. Hallo, in RLA, Vol. 4 [1972] pp. 13 f.).

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


letter-prayer to Rim-Sin of Larsa.33 In addition, there are various love

songs and lullabies purportedly sung to the kings of Ur III (notably
Shu-Sin) by their wives or mothers.34
The two Enheduanna cycles are related to each other, although different in character. The first, consisting of Inanna and Ebih, in-nin sgurx-ra, and The Exaltation of Inanna, constitutes hymns of praise to
Inanna, patron deity of the Sargonic kings, in which their triumphs
over foreign enemies and internal rebellions are thinly disguised as
the res gestae of the goddess. In the second, the temples of Sumer and
Akkad are apostrophized in a manner calculated to put royal solicitude for them in the best possible light: having triumphed in war and
crushed Sumerian political aspirations, the Sargonic kings are nevertheless depicted as defenders of the traditional Sumerian faith.35 This conception of Enheduannas work as glorifying her king in war and peace
can be compared, in the visual arts, with the famous Standard of Ur
from the Royal Cemetery at Ur some three centuries earlier. It also provides a model for the anonymous Ninurta hymns dated (above) nearly
two centuries later, since Lugale focuses on military exploits and Angim
on their cultic consequences. Yet the actual history of the Enheduanna
corpus was quite dierent from that of the latter.
This history begins as early as ca. 2500 bc. at Abu Sal
. abkh, among
whose literary tablets, R.D. Biggs has identified not only an archaic
Sumerian version of the Kesh Temple Hymn36 but also fragments of
briefer temple hymns more closely related to the later cycle of Enheduanna.37 She is expressly described as the compiler of the cycle in its
colophon, and it thus seems reasonable to suppose that she adapted
and incorporated, at least in part, pre-existing hymns to individual temples such as those from archaic Abu Sal
. abkh. But the colophon also
credits her with creating what no one has created (before), using the


Hallo, The Royal Correspondence of Larsa (forthcoming), here: V.1.

S.N. Kramer, in ANET (3d ed., 1969) pp. 644645, 651652.
35 Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation, ch. i; C. Wilcke, in ZA, Vol. 62, pp. 3561. Wilckes
study, like mine of 1970 (below, note 49), investigated the Sitz im Leben of Sumerian
poetry and concluded (by a process of elimination) that the Temple Hymns survived in
the courtly ceremonial as implicit praise for any given king who was solicitous of the
36 R.D. Biggs, An Archaic Version of the Kesh Temple Hymn from Tell Abu

. abkh, ZA, Vol. 61 (1971) pp. 193207.
37 Ibid., p. 195 f.; cf. . Sjberg and E. Bergmann, The Collection of the Sumerian Temple
Hymns (TCS III [1969]) p. 6.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

terminology of child-bearing, as does The Exaltation of Inanna,38 to

describe the process of poetic creativity. Presumably, it was the composition of the cycle as a whole that represented her creative contribution.39
The oldest actual exemplar used in reconstructing the temple hymn
cycle is dated by Sjberg to the Ur III period.40 At this period, the text
was still apparently to some degree in flux: a Sargonic date for its original composition can be reconciled with its form in the Old Babylonian
version only on the assumption that, in the interim, it was expanded to
admit the inclusion of hymns to temples built in neo-Sumerian times.
This is particularly evident in the case of Temple Hymn No. 9 in
honor of the palace of Shulgi. The internal development of the cycle
of Enheduannas hymns to Inanna is somewhat dierent. All known
exemplars date from Old Babylonian times, and variants among them
are relatively minor.41 In the case of Innin-sagurra, some of the later
Old Babylonian exemplars are written in syllabic Sumerian and include
an interlinear translation into Akkadian.42
What both cycles have in common, however, is their complete disappearance from the canon after Old Babylonian times. Unlike the
Ninurta hymns, it may be argued, they failed to sublimate their historical particulars suciently to qualify for enduring and universal interest
in the cuneiform curriculum. Though their allusions may be obscure
enough to lead to very dierent modern interpretations,43 they did not
end as proper myth. At best it can be said that one of their themes,
the exaltation of Inanna to equal rank with An at the head of the
pantheon, was taken up in very dierent form in the bilingual poem
Ninmah-usuni-girra. Traditionally, this poem is ascribed to TaqshaGula, a lamentation-priest and scholar of Nippur,44 who is said to date

Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation, pp. 6162.

Sumerian KA-ks-da, compiler, is used of Enheduanna in the colophon of the
Temple Hymns just as kas. iru, its Akkadian equivalent, is used of the author of the Erra
Epic; cf. Sjberg, TCS III 150.
40 Sjberg and Bergmann, TCS III 6; see copies, Pls. XXXVII f.
41 For some of the more significant ones, see Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation, pp. 41
and 97 f.
42 J.J.A. van Dijk, Textes divers du Muse de Baghdad, Sumer XI (1955) 110, PL VI,
and Sumer XIII (1957) 6979.
43 Compare, e.g., the interpretation of The Exaltation of Inanna oered in Hallo
and Van Dijk, Exaltation, with that of Kramer, in ANET (3d ed., 1969) pp. 579582.
44 W.G. Lambert, A Catalogue of Texts and Authors, JCS XVI (1962) 7576.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


back to the time of Abi-eshuh in the late Old Babylonian period.45 But
its extant exemplars date from the seventh to the fourth centuries bc.46
and show little evidence of pre-Kassite origins.
At best; but the suggestion just oered is much better illustrated
in another instance. If we have so far dealt with the two extremes of
textual preservationslavish fidelity and total obliterationwe must
consider now the large intermediate area within which preservation
was achieved by means of a greater or lesser degree of adaptation. We
may begin with The Curse of Agade, since this composition, like the
cycles already considered, arose out of a specific historical context. It
too dealt with the Sargonic dynasty; it too formally constituted a hymn
of praise to Inanna; it too dates back to Ur III times on the evidence of
several of its exemplars47 and then enjoyed considerable popularity in
the Old Babylonian curriculum. Beyond that, its history ran a middle
course between the extremes illustrated above. It was neither totally
eliminated from the canon nor simply perpetuated. Instead it was
creatively transformed to meet the ideological requirements of a new
age, the vehicle for (or at least concomitant of ) the transformation
being, in this case, translation into Akkadian. Specifically, the historical
viewpoint and major outlines of the plot of the original composition
(which seem most at home in a neo-Sumerian milieu) are reproduced in
the fragmentary Weidner Chronicle, with certain significant alterations.
Notably they substitute Babylon and Marduk for Nippur and Enlil as
the aggrieved city and its avenging deity respectively.48 But both agree
that Naram-Sin was the victim of the divine retribution (though in
point of historical fact he probably was not), and the Gutian hordes
its instrument.

Van Dijk, UVB XVIII (1962) 51 ad line 15.

B. Hruska, Das sptbabylonische Lehrgedicht Inannas Erhhung, ArOr, Vol. 37
(1969) pp. 473522. I fail to see the basis for Hruskas statement (p. 477) that one of
the exemplars, which he dates to 316 bc, is the latest bilingual literary text known (see
above, n. 12). Cf. also W.G. Lambert, Lexaltation dIshtar, Or. n.s., Vol. 40 (1971)
pp. 9195.
47 A. Falkenstein, Fluch ber Akkade, ZA, Vol. 57 (1965) p. 44.
48 Hallo, Gutium, RLA, Vol. 3 (1971) p. 709. Similarly the steles version of the
prologue to the Laws of Hammurapi has substituted Babylon and Marduk for Nippur
and Enlil in the version published by D.J. Wiseman, The Laws of Hammurabi Again,
Journal of Semitic Studies VII (1962) 161172. The latter version preserves the oldest
formulation according to R. Borger, Babylonisch-Assyrische Lesestcke II (Rome, 1963) 7;
cf. also A. Finet, Le Code de Hammurapi (Paris, 1973) pp. 3132.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

The Weidner Chronicle pursues the theme of divine intervention in

the fate of empires by applying it in turn to the Gutians themselves.
Although this topic is beyond the scope of The Curse of Agade, it has
a corresponding model in the inscription of Utu-hegal of Uruk, which
is equally a literary document, albeit less well attested. Here too, the
Sumerian Enlil is replaced in the Akkadian text by Marduk, but the
human agent remains the same Utu-hegal. These examples illustrate
the same ideological modernizing within a documented textual tradition which was posited above for the transition from an assumed and
perhaps oral original from Lagash dealing with Ningirsu to an attested
written version, chiefly of Nippur, centered on Ninurta. They show that
specific historical allusions were not, as such, an insuperable obstacle
to the preservation of literary materials provided their mythical settings
were updated.
Having thus constructed in some detail a paradigm for the category
of history into myth, we may deal more briefly with that of history
into legend, or what in modern terms is generally regarded as epic.
Again, however, it should be remembered that the modern distinction
is not observed in the ancient texts themselves. Rather these end, as do
myths with the typical hymnic doxology except that now the praise is
addressed, not to the deity, but to the deceased heroic mortal.49
As is well known, the principal subject of the Sumerian epic tales is
the First Dynasty of Uruk, to be dated in the Early Dynastic II period
(ca. 27002500 bc.), probably in its second quarter (ca. 26502600).50
The lords of distant Aratta and the last kings of the First Dynasty of
Kish also figure in the epics, while other literary sources, notably the
History of the Tummal, reveal the links of both Uruk and Kish with
the First Dynasty of Ur.51
The common distinctive feature of the Sumerian epic corpus is that
it deals with heroic rulers of a distant past, in a form reduced to writing
Hallo, The Cultic Setting of Sumerian Poetry, CRRA XVII 117, here: I.2. Cf. the
listing by W. Heimpel in JAOS, Vol. 92 (1972) p. 290, n. 8. Note that some exemplars
of the Lugalbanda epic write his name with the divine determinative: C. Wilcke, Das
Lugalbandaepos (Wiesbaden, 1969) pp. 5152.
50 Hallo and Simpson, The Ancient Near East: A History (New York, 1971) p. 47. Note
that Sollberger dates (En)mebaragesi of Kish about 26302600 bc (Inscriptions royales
sumriennes et akkadiennes [Paris, 1971] p. 39). In my scheme, the latter is contemporary
with Gilgamesh (Hallo and Simpson, The Ancient Near East, p. 46).
51 Hallo and Simpson, The Ancient Near East, p. 46; cf. Sollberger, The Tummal
Inscription, JCS XVI (1962) 40 .

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


long after the events described, most likely in the Ur III period, and
very conceivably on the basis of a pre-existing oral tradition. It is
this feature that best accounts for the considerable range of variation
in dierent Old Babylonian recensions of given epics52 and for their
preservation, beyond Old Babylonian times, in much the same variety of ways as already detailed for the mythology. Specifically, these
ways include: (1) more or less literal transmission into neo-Assyrian
times together with a verbatim interlinear translation into Akkadian
(Lugalbanda epic);53 (2) scattered allusions in later Akkadian and classical sources (Enmerkar cycle);54 (3) organic transformation of the original
Sumerian episodes into components of new Akkadian compositions on
the same themes. This last characterization applies in the first instance
to the bulk of the material dealing with Gilgamesh.55 A special case is
represented by the twelfth chapter (tablet) of the canonical Akkadian
Gilgamesh epic, which is a literal translation of one of the pre-existing
Sumerian episodes, and as such the principal exception to the general
rule that straightforward Akkadian translations of Sumerian originals
(outside the area of wisdom literature)56 appear only in the form of
bilinguals, that is, in combination with their Sumerian originals.57
It is debatable whether any of the Dumuzi material fits into this
category. In the first place, it is not certain whether Dumuzi reflects


Notably, e.g., in the case of Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living. See in detail
H. Limet, Les chants piques sumriens, Revue belge de philologie et dhistoire L (1972)
324, esp. 89.
53 CT XV, Pls. 4143, edited by Wilcke, Das Lugalbandaepos, pp. 9098. See pp. 2328
for the textual history of this epic.
54 See the references collected by T. Jacobsen, The Sumerian King List (AS, No. 11
[1939]) pp. 8687, n. 115. For the apkallu text cited there, see more recently E. Reiner,
The Etiological Myth of the Seven Sages, Or. n.s., Vol. 30 (1961) pp. 111.
55 The classic study on this subject is Kramers The Epic of Gilgames and Its
Sumerian Sources, JAOS, Vol. 64 (1944) pp. 723. Since then the material has been
reviewed by Aaron Shaer, Sumerian Sources of Tablet XII of the Epic of Gilgames
(Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1963), and by J.H. Tigay, Literary-Critical
Studies in the Gilgames Epic (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1971).
56 Cf. e.g., E.I. Gordon, A New Look at the Wisdom of Sumer and Akkad, BiOr
XVII (1960) 127, n. 46, and 129 f., n. 57.
57 This rule has been generally overlooked, except by W. von Soden (Zweisprachigkeit
in der geistigen Kultur Babyloniens [Graz, 1960] p. 9), who noted that the Akkadian translator die bersetzungen in der Regel nicht fr sich allein, sondern zusammen mit dem

sumerischen Original abschrieb. See now also W.G. Lambert, DINGIR.S.DIB.BA

Incantations, JNES, Vol. 33 (1974) p. 270: though it is common to find Sumerian texts
with interlinear Akkadian translations, the translations did not usually circulate alone.
Lambert oers another exception to the rule.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

the Urukian ruler of the King List tradition or the antediluvian king of
Bad Tibira. Second, the bulk of the Dumuzi texts are generically cultic
songs according to their subscripts. Only The Descent of Inanna ends,
like the epics, with the z-m notation, and this is addressed, not to
Dumuzi, but to Eresh-kigal.58 At best we can regard the Akkadian myth
of The Descent of Ishtar (and possibly that of Nergal and Eresh-kigal)
as preserving elements of a Sumerian tradition which may have dealt
in epic fashion with the exploits of a historic ruler of Uruk.
We have so far dealt with hymns of praise (z-m), which can be argued
to have recast recent history into cosmological terms (myth) or more
remote events into heroic ones (epic), in both cases inextricably interweaving the human and divine realms of experience. But this is not
intended to deny that the hymnic genre was equally capable of concentrating on either one of these realms in its own right. As long ago as
1944, Kramer collected and classified Sumerian mythology into myths
of origins, myths of Kur (the netherworld), and miscellaneous myths.59
As he interpreted them, these myths took place almost entirely in the
divine sphere, though of course often with an etiological motive, that
is, to account for a continuing situation observed in the human condition, preferably in terms of its origins. From the point of view at issue
here, what is most striking about these and similar myths is that almost
without exception they have no literary history at all. They appear in
fixed form in copies (sometimes numerous copies) datable to a relatively
short span of time, normally within the Old Babylonian period,60 occasionally earlier.61 Only rarely are the themes of these myths taken up
in recognizably similar forms in Akkadian; in the most striking case,
that of the Flood Narrative, it has even been implied that the Sumerian
UET VI/l, No. 10 rev. 14 f.; cf. Kramer, in PAPS, Vol. 107 (1963) p. 515.
Sumerian Mythology (Philadelphia, 1944; rev. eds., 1961, 1972).
60 Notably the myths of Enlil and Ninlil, Enki and Ninhursag, Enki and Inanna, and
The Marriage of Martu. Note, however, that the last text is, generically speaking, an
antiphonal poem (lum-a-lam-a) and may reflect a princely wedding or other historic
event; cf. Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation, p. 84, and G. Buccellati, The Amorites of the
Ur III Period (Naples, 1966) p. 339.
61 For the Old Sumerian myths of Enlil and Ninhursag (MBI, No. 1) and Enlil and
Ishkur (S.N. Kramer, From the Tablets of Sumer [Indian Hills, 1956] p. 106, Fig. 6A), see
Sjberg and Bergmann, TCS III 7 with notes 7 and 8. For the mythical fragment
Urukagina 15, see most recently Hallo, Antediluvian Cities, JCS XXIII (1970) 65 f.;
Wilcke, Das Lugalbandaepos, p. 132; B. Alster, En-ki nun-ki: Some Unobserved Duplicates, Ni 4057, etc., RA LXIV (1970) 189190.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


version may be later than and dependent on the earliest Akkadian

one.62 Even rarer is the transmission of the Sumerian text, intact and
with an Akkadian translation, into the first millennium, as exemplified
best by the myth of Enlil and Sud.63 Two of the principal themes of the
older mythology, the loves and travels of the Sumerian deities, apparently ceased to interest the later periods by and large, while the third,
etiology, was worked into the cosmological preamble (the prologue in
heaven, as it were) of genres such as incantations more often than it
was left in independent hymnic form. Only the traditions surrounding
Dumuzi continued to exercise their full fascination on later audiences.
The history of royal hymnography is equally instructive. For fully
five centuries (ca. 21401640 bc.), some seven successive dynasties were
apparently rewarded for their cultic deference to the national Sumerian
shrines at Nippur through hymns composed in their honor by the Nippur priesthood and tradited wherever Sumerian scribal schools adopted
the Nippur curriculum.64 These hymns included many essentially divine
hymns with only incidental mention of the king (chiefly in the context of short prayer-refrains invoking the divine blessings on the ruler
then controlling Nippur), which were most likely at home in the temple liturgy:65 of these more presently. Here we are concerned with the
royal hymns properly speaking, that is, those concluding with the typical z-m doxology, spoken by, to or of the living king in first, second
or third person. In the last case, the formal analogy with epics about
the deceased rulers of Uruk is particularly clear, and it is conceivable
that these epics served as models for what, in sum, added up to virtual
hymnic biographies of the contemporary rulers.66 Like the epics, these
compositions lack all liturgical notations and were most likely at home
not in the temple, but in the courtly ceremonial, where they may well
have functioned in the context of the ocial (biennial?) proclamation
of the royal date formulas.67 Given all these links to specific historic and
62 M. Civil apud W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hass: The Babylonian Story of

the Flood (Oxford, 1969) pp. 138145.

63 O.R. Gurney and P. Hulin, The Sultantepe Tablets II (London, 1964) Nos. 151154;
see the partial edition by M. Civil, in JNES, Vol. 26, pp. 200205. Note also the myth of
Enki and Ninmah, for which see most recently Carlos A. Benito, Enki and Ninmah
and Enki and the World Order (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1969).
64 Hallo, in JCS XVII 112118, here: III.1.
65 Hallo, New Hymns to the Kings of Isin BiOr XXIII (1966) 239247, here: III.3.
66 Hallo, The Coronation of Ur-Nammu, JCS XX (1966) 135, here: III.2.
67 Hallo, in CRRA XVII 118119, here: I.2. A dierent conclusion was reached
by Daniel Reisman (Two Neo-Sumerian Royal Hymns [Ph.D. diss., University of


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

political situations, it is a tribute to the literary taste and cosmopolitanism of the Old Babylonian schools that they tradited the royal
hymns at all, regardless of their current dynastic aliation.68 It should
cause little surprise that later ages, with their wholly new ideologies
of kingship, ceased to preserve these compositions.69 Even the genre as
such can at most claim a remote successor in the Akkadian poems celebrating the achievements of the Middle Assyrian kings.
It was somewhat otherwise with the royal hymns in the wider sense
(Rmers Type A),70 that is, the liturgical hymns of various genres. Two
of these, the adab- and tigi-genres, were particularly favored vehicles
for incorporating prayers on behalf of the reigning king in the context
of hymns to deities. These genres survived at least to the extent of occupying a prominent place in two literary catalogues of Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian date (ca. 1500 and 1100 bc.), respectively.71
The earlier catalogue listed by title (incipit) and deity up to eleven
tigi-hymns (the individual entries are, however, largely lost) and fifteen
adab-hymns; among the latter, three titles72 can be identified with reasonable assurance as the opening words of adab-hymns for Nanna in
honor of the city of Ur,73 for Nergal in honor of Shu-ilishu of Isin,
and for Ninurta in honor of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin.74 The later catalogue75
listed at least four collections (is-ka-ra-a-tu) comprising numerous tigisongs (za-ma-rumes te-ge-e) (though the eighteen incipits actually preserved
remain so far unidentified) and five Sumerian adab-songs (forming)

Pennsylvania, 1969] pp. 3940), who regarded hymns of type B (including some addressed to deities without explicit reference to any king) as also belonging to the temple
cult, though perhaps used at royal coronations and the like.
68 Hallo, in JCS XVII 117 with notes 9599, here: III.1.
69 Daniel Reisman, Kramer Anniversary Volume (AOAT, in press) has identified
OECT I, Pls. 3639 (and duplicates) as a royal hymn of the z-m type (though in
some respects intermediate between types A and B) dedicated to Ishbi-Irra of Isin,
and M. Civil has identified 4R, Pl. 35, 1. 7 as a duplicate (see Reisman). But in spite
of its Kuyunjik number (K. 4755), it may be questioned whether the fragment is neoAssyrian.
70 SKIZ, pp. 5 f., Cf. my review in BiOr XXIII 240 f. Here: III.3.
71 Hallo, in JAOS, Vol. 83, p. 169, Nos. 9 and 10, here: II.1.
72 TMH NF III (1961) No. 58, 11. 62, 70 and 67; see the edition by I. Bernhardt and
S.N. Kramer, Gtter-Hymnen und Kult-Gesnge der Sumerer auf zwei KeilschriftKatalogen in der Hilprecht-Sammlung, WZJ, Vol. 6 (19561957) p. 392.
73 SLTNi, No. 58, edited by Sjberg, MNS I 3543. Add now ISET I 157, Ni. 4467.
74 Nos. *4 and *26 in SKIZ, ch. 3 and pp. 69, respectively.
75 KAR, No. 158; see the partial edition by A. Falkenstein, Sumerische religise
Texte, ZA, Vol. 49 (1949) pp. 91 and 103.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


one collection (5 za-ma-ru il-ti-a-at GIS.GR

a-da-pa su-me-ra). Of the
latter, one title belongs to a hymn for An in honor of Ur-Ninurta of
Thus, cultic hymns associated with the early kings of Isin were
preserved into the second half of the second millennium, even though
there is no evidence whatever for any interest in such relatively obscure
kings as Shu-ilishu, Lipit-Ishtar or Ur-Ninurta at this late date.77 But
the explanation for this seeming paradox is not far to seek. So far from
preserving specific biographical data like the true royal hymns, these
cultic hymns allude to the king, when at all, only in the most general
terms. The royal name is, in fact, of such secondary importance in
these contexts that it is very often abbreviated almost beyond the point
of recognition.78 It may well be that such abbreviations, or the generic
term for king (lugal), once substituted for the proper name, freed the
composition of any vestige of historical or political particularism and
smoothed its entry into the general curriculum. And another genre
used in this connection, the antiphonal song (bal-bal-e), provides yet
another model for the same process: the antiphonal song for Inanna
which, in a Louvre version, invokes blessings on Ishme-Dagan of Isin,79
in a Yale version substitutes a reference to Dumuzi, suggesting that it
was suitable for any king performing the role of Dumuzi in the sacred
marriage rite.80
For such reasons, then, the royal hymns of Type A survived longer
than those of Type B, but not by much. The libraries of the first
millennium have not preserved cultic compositions with the traditional
generic labels (tigi, adab, bal-bal-e, sr) with one apparent exception: a
tigi-song for Ninurta mentioned on a small fragment from the library
of Assurbanipal at Nineveh.81 But this exception only proves the rule,
for the fragment involved has been successfully joined to five others

76 SKIZ, No. *31, edited on pp. 1017, and see p. 58, n. 16; Falkenstein, ZA, Vol. 49,
p. 88, No. 2 and n. 2; Hallo, in BiOr XXIII 242 and n. 44, here: III.3.
77 There is, for example, no trace of the Laws of Lipit-Ishtar in copies of post-OldBabyionian date. The only Isin kings recalled in the late historical tradition are Irraimitti and Enlil-bani.
78 Hallo, The Road to Emar, JCS XVIII (1964) 67, n. 11. Add possibly the spelling
Sa (for Samsu-iluna) in a literary catalogue (UET V, No. 86, entry No. 6) according to
Bernhardt and Kramer, in WZJ, Vol. 6, p. 394, n. 4.
79 SKIZ, No. *18, edited on pp. 2129.
80 Hallo, in BiOr XXIII 244245, here: III.3.
81 Ibid., p. 242 with notes 35 f., referring to S. Langdon, BL, No. 97.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

published in the same volume82 on the basis of a comparison with an

Old Babylonian duplicate from Nippur published in 1967.83 And the
two versions, whose breaks can be largely restored with each others
help, prove that the late text is a reliable copy from the older one (or
from a duplicate of it), and that we may in essence accept the statement of its colophon which can be restored on the basis of parallels to
read [copy] of Nippur written out according to its old prototype and
[checked against the original]. We need only correct the subscript:
it should have read tigi-song for Nintu, not Ninurta. The hymn thus
recovered, nearly in its entirety, is interesting in its own right: it apostrophizes Nintu, patroness of childbirth, for putting her talents at the
disposal of Enlil by giving birth to the high priest and the king,84 so
that the chief executive of the gods can assign these oces to his
favorite mortals.85 This is the traditional ideology of kingship, already
on the wane when the Old Babylonian copy was written.86 Yet the neoAssyrian copyist resurrected the tigi-genre which was its vehicle and,
more than a millennium later, copied the text with all the accuracy and
objectivity that a modern Assyriologist would bring to the task. This
example allows us to derive a more general principle: that the rediscovery of lost texts may be added to the preservation or adaptation of
surviving texts as means whereby the literary heritage of the third and
second millennia passed into the first within Mesopotamia.87

BL, Nos. 95, 102, 107, 111, 127: my letter of February 17, 1969, to Dr. Sollberger,
who confirmed the joins by letter of February 26, 1969.
83 TMH NF IV (1967) No. 86; cf. Sjberg, in Or, n.s., Vol. 38 (1969) p. 355, who
independently identified this text with four of the Langdon fragments.
84 Assuming that lagal/lagar is a mistake for lugal in the Old Babylonian version;
so Gertrud Farber-Flgge, Der Mythos Inanna und Enki (StP, Vol. 10 [1973]). The neoAssyrian copyist mistook the sign for si; see my forthcoming edition of the text.
85 An edition of the combined text is in preparation. Here: V.3.
86 For the unique addition of a prayer for the ruling king at the end of a late bilingual
su-l-la composition, see J.S. Cooper, A Sumerian su-l-la from Nimrud with a Prayer
for Sin-sar-iskun, Iraq XXXII (1970) 5167, For other late bilingual and Akkadian
hymns, prayers and rituals of various kinds with blessings for reigning (neo-Assyrian)
kings, see, e.g., W. von Soden in Falkenstein and Von Soden, Sumerische und akkadische
Hymnen und Gebete (Zurich, 1953) passim; more recently R. Borger, Baurituale, in
M.A. Beek, et al., eds., Symbolae. . . de Liagre Bhl (Leiden, 1973) pp. 5055.
87 On the implications of this principle, also for comparative biblical studies, see my.
Problems in Sumerian Hermeneutics in Byron L. Sherwin, ed., Perspectives in Jewish
Learning V (Chicago, 1973) 112, here: I.3. See also below, note 96, for an example of
an Old Babylonian literary text rediscovered and copied (according to its colophon) in
neo-Babylonian times.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


The literary histories we have traced to this point, selected from the
hymnic genres, already point to at least one useful generalization: although the original creative impulse most often arose out of and in
response to a specific historical situation, the long process of canonization (that is, the incorporation of the text in fixed form in the generally
accepted curriculum of the scribal schools) tended to suppress allusions
to these situations. If a composition resisted such sublimation or ideological updating, it tended to disappear from the canon. Thus, the
history of Sumerian hymnography repeatedly illustrates the conversion
of history into myth or, more generally, the triumph of religious over
historical interests. The same process can be seen at work in the various kinds of prayer in Sumerian. This is not the place to repeat the
long history of individual prayer in Sumerian, which has been traced
elsewhere,88 nor that of collective prayer as illustrated by the congregational laments.89 Suce it to say that both histories involve the
transformation of specific petitions or celebrations of particular onetime occasions into recurrent cultic services or commemorations. Consistent with the increasingly cultic orientation of Sumerian literature in
the first millennium, the corpus of laments and prayers, both individual (r-s-hun-g) and collective (balag, r-sem-ma, su-l-la), tended not
only to preserve material dating as far back as the very beginning of the
second millennium90 but also to grow by imitation and new additions to
the very end of the first.91
Nor is this the place to review the arguments recently advanced
in favor of the oral prehistory of much of Sumerian literature, based
inevitably, as they largely are, on a combination of hypotheses and
analogies from later, in part much later, world literature.92 Rather, the
object here, while remaining within the limits of the written evidence,
is to extend the scope of the inquiry beyond the confines of canonical
literature in order to gain a fuller picture of both the creative impulse
and the process of canonization. Elsewhere, I have already assembled

88 Hallo, Individual Prayer in Sumerian: The Continuity of a Tradition, JAOS,

Vol. 88 (1968) pp. 7189, here: IV.1.
89 SKly; R. Kutscher, A-ab-ba hu-luh-ha: The History of a Sumerian Congregational Lament (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1966; to appear as YNER, Vol. 6).
90 J. Krecher, Zum Emesal-Dialekt des Sumerischen, HSAO, p. 88, and Die
sumerischen Texte in syllabischer Orthographie, ZA, Vol. 58 (1967) pp. 1922 ad
NFT, Nos. 202212.
91 M.E. Cohen is preparing new editions of the balag and r-sem-ma compositions.
92 See especially Alster, Dumuzis Dream.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

some of the evidence to show the large variety of monumental genres

which found their way into the canon, among them cadastres, law
codes and royal inscriptions.93 (The copying of such monuments from
the original steles is now in fact known to have been a prescribed part
of the scribal curriculum.)94 And I used this evidence to argue that
the typical royal, divine and temple hymn may often go back to a
monumental origin as well. Indeed, this origin is implicit or explicit in
a growing number of cases.95 Even incantations on occasion originated
on stone steles.96
What deserves special attention at this time, however, is the creation
of canonical literature out of archival prototypes. On the most basic
level, this involved the orderly abstraction of lexical entries, grammatical forms and legal formulations from documentary sources to form
the core of the perennial cuneiform lexical tradition. This was then
assimilated to the hymnic genre by the simple device of appending
a concluding doxology addressed to Nisaba (and sometimes her consort Haia) as divine patron(s) of the scribal art. While the meaning of
z-m in this connection is closer to glory or praise (Akk. tanittu)
than to hymn (Akk. samm),97 the generic connotation may not have
been totally excluded, for example, at the end of various collections
of model contracts.98 These contracts with their specific tallies, prices
and personal names strongly suggest that they were copied from actual
archives. They dier from functional documents only in two respects:
they are arranged on Sammeltafeln in a conscious order, probably
for didactic purposes, that foreshadows later compendia of legal formulations such as ana ittisu; and they substitute for the original list of
witnesses and date the notations its witnesses, its date (literally: year).
These clues help to illuminate the evolution of somewhat more genuinely literary genres, such as the collections of letters and related documents. Whether dealing with the royal houses of Ur, Isin or Larsa, they
In CRRA XVII 121, here: I.2.
Sjberg, In Praise of the Scribal Art, JCS XXIV (1972) 129 ad Examination
Text D, 1. 15.
95 E.g., UET VIII, Nos. 62, 65 and 79, with Sollbergers comments in the Descriptive Catalogue.
96 B. Alster, A Sumerian Incantation against Gall, Or. n.s., Vol. 41 (1972) pp. 349
97 Both equivalents are attested; see H. Hartmann, Die Musik in der sumerischen Kultur
(Frankfurt, 1960) pp. 7173.
98 Ist.Ni. 10194, 10570. Dierently NBC 7800: til[sic]-la dNisaba dHa-i (cf. YOS I,
No. 28 end: ti-la dNisaba dHa-i). An edition of the whole genre is in preparation.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


concentrate on a single thread of interest running through them. In the

Ur correspondence, this is the relation of the king to one of his high
ocials,99 in that of Isin, the dispute with Larsa over water rights,100
in that of Larsa a variety of political and personal problems involving chiefly Sin-iddinam and Rim-Sin.101 While these particular collections went out of fashion with the end of the Old Babylonian schools,
another survived: the corpus of scribal letters revolving around high
ocials at Nippur in neo-Sumerian times was still taught at Ugarit and
Hattusha in the middle of the second millennium.102 The many prosopographic interconnections among these scribal letters, as also among
certain compositions usually classed with the wisdom literature (e.g. the
Message of Lu-dingira to His Mother and the Pushkin Elegies), suggest
that we have here the makings of, as it were, several novellas of family life in aristocratic circles at Nippur; though perhaps never actually
put into this form, such novellas can almost be reconstructed with their
In much the same way, the Old Babylonian copies of neo-Sumerian
royal inscriptions seem to concentrate by preference on the triumphal
inscriptions104 of Shu-Sin of Ur as if in preparation for a connected
history of his campaigns in the East. In the event, this too proved to be
beyond the interest or capacity of Babylonian writers, and it remained
for Assyrian historiography to exploit the potential of the genre.
To sum up: even a cursory glance at the Sumerian texts defined in the
native sources as hymns shows the possibilities inherent in a historical approach to Sumerian literature. The approach could and should

The royal correspondence of Ur is the subject of a forthcoming Ph.D. thesis by

P. Michalowski (Yale).
100 See for now Letter Collection B in F.A. Ali, Sumerian Letters, (Ph.D. diss.,
University of Pennsylvania, 1964). Cf. also M.B. Rowton, Water Courses and Water
Rights in the Ocial Correspondence from Larsa and Isin, JCS XXI (1967) 267274.
101 Above, note 33.
102 J. Nougayrol et al., Ugaritica V (1968) 23, ad No. 15; cf. Krecher, Schreiberschulung in Ugarit: die Tradition von Listen und sumerischen Texten, UF, Vol. 1 (1969)
pp. 131158, esp. 152154.
103 For a modern reconstruction, see e.g. Hallo, The House of Ur-Meme, JNES,
Vol. 31 (1972) pp. 8795.
104 For this useful addition to the typology of royal inscriptions, see J.-R. Kupper, Les
inscriptions triomphales akkadiennes, Oriens Antiquus X (1971) 91106; cf. E. Sollberger
and J.-R. Kupper, Inscriptions royales sumeriennes et akkadiennes (Paris, 1971) pp. 3233. The
suggestion is criticized by G. van Driel, On Standard and Triumphal Inscriptions,
Symbolae. . . de Liagre Bhl (Leiden, 1973) pp. 99106.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

be extended to other broad categories slighted or ignored above. It

promises new insights and implications for all cuneiform literature and
for the history of literature in general. Here there is room only for a
general hypothesis about the periodization of the literary process.
Employing a variety of cultural criteria which cannot be defended in
detail here, the nearly two and a half millennia of Mesopotamian literary history referred to at the outset may be conveniently divided into
eight equal installments of three centuries each and labelled according to their dominant cultural factor as follows (all dates are approximate):
25002200 bc
22001900 bc
19001600 bc
16001300 bc
13001000 bc
1000700 bc
700400 bc
400100 bc

Old Sumerian (OS)

Neo-Sumerian (NS)
Old Babylonian (OB)
Middle Babylonian (MB)
Middle Assyrian (MA)
Neo-Assyrian (NA)
Neo-Babylonian (NB)
Late Babylonian (LB)

In order to fit the Sumerian component into this framework, one must
also take into account the bilingual and dialectal (Emesal) traditions,
which directly reflect Sumerian models, and the unilingual Akkadian
tradition, which often reflected them indirectly. Nor should one lose
sight of the possible existence, at all times, of an oral tradition. All these
traditions deserve fuller study in their own right.105 I have previously
suggested four distinct canons of cuneiform literature, of which three
involved Sumerian;106 the examples given above may now be used as a
starting-point to elaborate on the suggestion.

Dialectal Sumerian has been studied in some detail by Krecher: SKly; in HSAO,
pp. 87110; in ZA, Vol. 58, pp. 1665; Die pluralischen Verba fr gehen und stehen im Sumerischen, WO IV (1968) 252277; Verschlusslaute und Betonung im
Sumerischen, Lisan mithurti (AOAT, Vol. 1 [1969]) pp. 157197. On Sumero-Akkadian
W. von Soden, Zweisprachigkeit in der geistigen Kultur Babyloniens
bilingualism, see in general
(Vienna, 1960). For the earliest Akkadian literary originals, see Hallo and Simpson, The
Ancient Near East, p. 62, n. 68; and add now the alleged prototype of A Naram-Sin Text
Relating to Nergal edited by W.G. Lambert, BiOr XXX (1973) 357363. For what may
be the earliest monumental text in Akkadian, see Sollbergers remarks on UET VIII,
No. 2 (p. 1). The text AO 5477, described by F. Thureau-Dangin (RA VIII [1911] 139) as
the oldest bilingual, is a copy of a Sargonic monumental text, probably of Old Babylonian date; see H. Hirsch, Die Inschriften der Knige von Agade, AfO XX (1963) 13,
sub Rimus b 12 (2).
106 Hallo, in JAOS, Vol. 88, p. 72, here: IV.1 and JAOS, Vol. 83, p. 167, here: II.1.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


The Old Sumerian canon drew on the literature created from the
Fara period to the end of the high Sargonic age (ca. 25002200 bc).
This period included the pre-Sargonic dynasties of Lagash (Lagash I),
where the literary dialect achieved an early flowering as a vehicle
not only for monumental inscriptions but also for mythology and wisdom.107 This first canon was adapted in neo-Sumerian times which,
for literary and linguistic purposes, includes the late Sargonic or
Gudea period (Lagash II), the Ur III period, and the early Isin period
(ca. 22001900 bc.). The process of adaptation may be illustrated by the
expansion of the Cycle of Temple Hymns to include references to structures built under the Ur III kings (above). In Old Babylonian times
(ca. 19001600 bc), the portions of the Old Sumerian corpus deemed
fit to survive were given their final fixed form in the schools, that is,
the corpus became a canon in the limited sense in which the latter
term is employed here. In the process, some texts were already provided with translations into Akkadian. These early examples of (noninterlinear) bilinguals, notably from the realm of wisdom literature,
include both proverbs and instructions (na-ri-ga) going back to Fara
and Abu Sal
. abkh. They are also (apart from lexical texts) the only Old
Sumerian materials that survived in any form after their canonization
in Old Babylonian times. The Kesh Temple Hymn, though of equal
antiquity, and the cycles of hymns attributed to Enheduanna in the
high Sargonic period are more typical of this corpus in that they did
not survive.
The neo-Sumerian canon preserved the creations of the neo-Sumerian period (as defined above). Again some of the finest literary Sumerian
of the period originated at the court of Lagash, but Shulgi of Ur,
who claimed the founding of the great scribal schools at both Ur and
Nippur, was also a devoted patron of literature and the arts. In this he
was emulated by his successors both at Ur and among the early kings of
Isin. The rich materials of this neo-Sumerian corpus provided the bulk
of the curriculum for the Old Babylonian schools, which freely adapted
them in one of two ways. Either a received tradition, conceivably still
in oral form, was modernized to make it more congenial to the
current Nippur theology, as has been argued above for the myths about
Ninurta. Or, if the text was already received in fixed, written form, and
yet needed updating, as in the case of The Curse of Agade/Utu-hegal
107 Above, n. 61; see now Biggs, Pre-Sargonic Riddles from Lagash, JNES, Vol. 32
(1973) pp. 2633.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

sequence, it might be recast completely by a free rendering or loose

imitation in Akkadian. The same technique, whether the source or
the result of the concomitant beginnings of the Akkadian canon (see
presently), is illustrated by the earliest Akkadian episodic tales about
Gilgamesh, which go back to Old Babylonian times when the Sumerian versions were still being copied in the schools. The canonization
of the neo-Sumerian corpus presumably took place in Middle Babylonian times, specifically during the period of the First Kassite Empire
(ca. 16001300 bc).108 This is the likeliest setting for the illustrious ancestors who were claimed as eponymous founders by the later scribal
guilds or families. It was also a time when Akkadian came fully into its
own, even assuming an international importance. Scribal schools as far
away as Hattusha, Alalakh, Ugarit, Megiddo and Amarna taught the
standard Mesopotamian curriculum.109 It was in these circumstances
that the neo-Sumerian corpus took its final form. We may picture the
Kassite scribes as weeding out whatever had failed to undergo suitable
adaptation at the preceding stage and providing the rest with a literal,
interlinear translation into Akkadian. At the same time they must have
begun to introduce such external structural features as chapters, sections, incipits, explicits and the like. The myths of Ninurta may again
serve as examples here, as well as the epics of Lugalbanda.
The Old Babylonian period, so active in both canonization of the
Old Sumerian heritage and adaptation of the neo-Sumerian tradition,
was not demonstrably a creative period in its own right, as far as Sumerian is concerned. True, new compositions clearly originated in this
period, for example, royal hymns and other genres involving the kings
of Larsa and, to a lesser extent, of Babylon. In the case of Larsa, one
may suspect a substantial contribution from Lagash, whose traditions
were somehow kept alive in Old Babylonian Larsa,110 and which thus
for the third time contributed significantly to the Sumerian literary
K. Jaritz, Die Geschichte der Kassitendynastie, MIO VI (1958) 202225.
See Jerrold S. Cooper, Bilinguals from Boghazky, ZA, Vol. 61 (1971) pp. 122;
Vol. 62 (1972) pp. 6281, for examples of Old Babylonian unilingual Sumerian texts
provided with Akkadian (and sometimes Hittite) translations at Hattusha, as well as
examples of new bilingual compositions going back at most to Kassite times. In his
Introduction (ZA, Vol. 61, pp. 18), Cooper surveys the history of Sumerian literature
from this vantage point.
110 I hope to demonstrate this more fully in another connection. See for now Hallo
and Simpson, The Ancient Near East, pp. 9293, and above, n. 30. See also Hallo,
Choice in Sumerian, Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University,
Vol. 5 (The Gaster Festschrift, 1973) p. 110.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


scene. But the new texts are so completely cast in the familiar neoSumerian molds that they represent the epigone of that canon rather
than the herald of a new one. The Old Babylonian period deserves
instead to be regarded as the source of the principal Akkadian literary
canon. Previously Akkadian had been considered fit only for administrative texts, for royal monuments (chiefly translations or imitations
of Sumerian prototypes), and for the merest handful of literary fragments (see n. 105). Now, however, a whole new literary dialect was created for Akkadian, and its products freed from excessive dependence
on Sumerian models.111 The resulting corpus probably followed a pattern not unlike its Sumerian precursors, being adapted and greatly
enlarged in Middle Babylonian and especially Middle Assyrian times
and organized by fixed text and sequence in the great libraries of the
neo-Assyrian kings.112
There was, however, a final flowering of Sumerian literature, or
rather of bilingual texts. This is the corpus which Falkenstein has
described as post-Old-Babylonian (see n. 5) and which I prefer to
label simply post-Sumerian (see n. 106). It is readily distinguished from
the earlier canons by both form and content. Its language violates
many known standards of classical Sumerian and often reflects the
native Akkadian speech of its author when it is not in fact actually
a secondary translation from the Akkadian. It displays an increasing
tendency to employ dialectal (Emesal) Sumerian, even substituting it for
the main dialect of the ancestral text-type, as when the earlier letterprayers were replaced by the r-s-hun-g laments. Religious texts in
general and cultic texts in particular assumed a dominant place in this
canon, with congregational laments especially prominent. This corpus
presumably originated after the fall of the Old Babylonian dynasty of
Babylon, when Sumerian scholars and scholarship apparently fled to
the Sealand, and the great scribal schools of Nippur and Babylon were
closed. But the Kassites, determined to assimilate the ancient culture
that they conquered, encouraged the new scribal guilds to take up the
111 See most recently Rmer, Studien zu altbabylonischen hymnisch-epischen Texten, HSAO, pp. 185199, JAOS, Vol. 86 (1966) pp. 138147, WO IV (1967) 1228.
112 Merely to illustrate the constant additions to this dossier: the Middle Assyrian
laws have hitherto been known only in copies from Assur of Middle Assyrian date
(ca. 1100 bc), but a fragmentary duplicate, presumably from Nineveh and presumably
of neo-Assyrian date, has now been discovered and demonstrates, for the first time, a
historical dimension for this particular tradition; see J.N. Postgate, Assyrian Texts and
Fragments, Iraq XXXV (1973) 1921.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

task, and the result, though inferior, kept some knowledge of Sumerian
alive for another millenium and a half. Although the intervening stages
are not clearly attested, it is this late bilingual corpus which served as
the canon of the very latest surviving cuneiform scriptoria in Uruk,
Babylon and perhaps other Babylonian centers of the Seleucid and
Arsacid periods.
With all due allowance for the shortcomings of such a schematic
representation, the above may be charted as a point of departure for
future refinements (Fig. 1).










Late Babylonian


canonized adapted




canonized adapted







Middle Assyrian


Old Babylonian





Middle Babylonian


Old Sumerian Neo-Sumerian Akkadian (Post-Sumerian)
Literature Literature

Old Sumerian

Approximate Cultural
Date (bc)

Fig. 1. Tentative Periodization of the Canons of Sumer and Akkad.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

Selection of Literary Works and Genres Cited

a-ab-ba hu-luh-ha
ana ittisu
An-gim dm-ma
bal-bal-e hymns
Curse of Agade
Descent of Inanna
Descent of Ishtar
Dumuzi texts
Enki and Inanna
Enki and Ninhursag
Enki and Ninmah
Enlil and Ishkur
Enlil and Ninhursag
Enlil and Ninlil
Enlil and Sud
Enmerkar cycle
Exaltation of Inanna
Exaltation of Ishtar
Exploits of Ninurta (lugal - e)
Flood narrative
Gudea cylinders
Gudea statue inscriptions
Inanna and Ebih
in-nin s-gurx-ra
Kesh temple hymn

lexical texts
Lipit-Ishtar laws
Love songs
Lugalbanda epic
Marriage of Martu
Message of Lu-dingira
Model contracts
Nanshe hymn
Nergal and Eresh-kigal
nin-mah usu-ni gr-ra (see Exaltation of Ishtar)
Ninurta and the Turtle
Pushkin Elegies
Rim-Sin letter-prayer
royal correspondence
Rulers of Lagash
scribal letters
Temples of Sumer and Akkad
triumphal inscriptions
Tummal history
Ur-Nammus death and burial
Utu-hegal inscription
Weidner Chronicle

A useful survey of Sumerian literature, with some attention to historical considerations, is provided by D.O. Edzard and Claus Wilcke in the sixteen articles
on as many dierent genres listed below; an earlier survey, by M. Lambert,
recognized fifteen major, but only partially comparable, genres. In English,
the material has been assembled at regular intervals by S.N. Kramer, notably
in the articles listed below. The standard chronology of Sumerian literature is that of Falkenstein, and I have dealt with various aspects of the subject.
Edzard, D.O. Der Leidende Gerechte. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon IV, col. 1176
1177. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Beschwrungen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 2109
2110. Zurich, 19651971.

i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature


. Sumerische Briefe an Gtter und vergttlichte Herrscher. Kindlers

Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 21102111. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Fabeln. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 2116. Zurich,
. Sumerische Gebete. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 21162117. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Gesetzessammlungen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col.
21172118. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische historische Kompositionen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI,
col. 21182123. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Sprichwrtersammlungen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI,
col. 21502151. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Unterweisungen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 2154
2155. Zurich, 19651971.
Edzard, D.O., and Claus Wilcke. Sumerische Mythen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 21422147. Zurich, 19651971.
Falkenstein, A. Der sumerische Gilgames-Zyklus. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon III,
col. 804807. Zurich, 19651971.
. Inannas Gang zur Unterwelt. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon III, col 2475
2479. Zurich, 19651971.
. Zur Chronologic der sumerischen Literatur. CRRA II 1230. Leiden,
. Zur Chronologie der sumerischen Literatur, Die nachaltbabylonische
Stufe. MDOG, No. 85 (1953) pp. 113.
Hallo, William W. New Viewpoints on Cuneiform Literature. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 12 (1962) pp. 1326, here: I.1.
. The Royal Inscriptions of Ur: A Typology. HUCA XXXIII (1962)
. Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity. JCS XVII (1963) 112118,
here: III.1.
. On the Antiquity of Sumerian Literature. JAOS, Vol. 83 (1963) pp.
167176, here: II.1.
. New Hymns to the Kings of Isin. BiOr XXIII (1966) 239247, here:
. The Coronation of Ur-Nammu. JCS XX (1966) 133141, here: III.2.
. Individual Prayer in Sumerian: The Continuity of a Tradition. JAOS,
Vol. 88, pp. 7189. Published simultaneously as AOS, Vol. 53. New Haven,
1968, here: IV.1.
. The Cultic Setting of Sumerian Poetry. CRRA XVII 116134. Hansur-Seure, 1970, here: I.2.
. Problems in Sumerian Hermeneutics. In Byron L. Sherwin, ed.,
Perspectives in Jewish Learning V 112. Chicago, 1973, here: I.3.
Kramer, S.N. Sumerian Literature: A General Survey. The Bible and the
Ancient Near East: Essays in Honor of William Foxwell Albright. Ed, by G.E.
Wright. Garden City, New York, 1961.
. Literature: The Sumerian Belles-Lettres. The Sumerians: Their History,
Culture and Character. Chicago, 1963.


i.4. toward a history of sumerian literature

Lambert, M. La littrature sumrienne, propos douvrages rcents. RA LV

(1961) 177196, LVI (1962) 8190, 214.
Wilcke, Claus. Sumerische Epen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 21112116.
Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Knigshymnen. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 2123
2126. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Kultlieder. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 21262135.
Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Lehrgedichte. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 21352142.
Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Schulsatiren (Schulgedichte). Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI,
21472150. Zurich, 19651971.
. Sumerische Streitgedichte. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon VI, col. 21512154.
Zurich, 19651971.


The academic scene is rife with delicious ironies. In the midst of an

information explosion, largely of American making, we are warned to
beware of the closing of the American mind. In an increasingly secular
climate, the Bible is assuming a new centrality in literary study. And in
the face of growing disenchantment with established traditions of scholarship, new disciplines are clamoring for admission to the traditional
I would like to address all three of these paradoxes, but from the
perspective of Assyriology, a privileged sanctuary immune to scholarly
fashions, in the eyes of its practitioners, or an ivory tower blind and deaf
to the changes agitating other areas of study, according to its critics. But
defenders and detractors will agree that the cuneiform inscriptions, for
all that they may be an arcane and exotic specialty, also represent a
last refuge of the generalist. They cover half of the five-thousand-year
span of mankinds recorded history, and for much of this first half
of history they constitute the main or even the only written sources
anywhere on the globe. These inscriptions span the whole spectrum
of human expressionfrom the minutest details of everyday record
keeping, through the res gestae of kings, to the kaleidoscopic concerns
enshrined in creative literature. And they do all of this on a scale quite
unsuspected by outsiders.
The cuneiform sources are precious clues to the origins of many
institutions that are with us to this day. Such everyday conveniences
and conventions as writing, the alphabet, the calendar, the week, and
the era-system of dating years all originated in the Ancient Near East.
Fundamental innovations, such as the domestication of plants and animals, the invention of pottery, the urban revolution, or the institution
of kingship are first attested there and frequently best documented
in cuneiform. Profound confrontations with such issues as life and
death, the nature of the divine, or the role of the individual were first
broached in Sumerian texts, or later those in Akkadian, Hittite, and


i.5. assyriology and the canon

Thus Assyriologists cannot aord to specialize. Few in number and

confronted by a daunting and still increasing body of texts on a bewildering variety of topics and in a considerable diversity of genres, Assyriologists must, like Daniel, master the script and language of the Chaldeans (Dan. 1:4)but beyond that prepare to follow wherever their
sources lead, from astronomy to zoology. At the very least, they must
seek the collaboration of specialists in other fields. They may therefore
be pardoned if they cannot themselves be specialists in all the periods,
genres, and topics of their diverse texts.
One of the areas where Assyriology provides a curious anticipation
of current concerns is precisely on the academic scene. Modern readers
may well wonder that the pre-classical world had an academe at all,
and indeed that word is of Greek origin, originally identifying the
groves of the heroic or divine Akademos in a suburb of Athens where,
in the fourth century, Plato and his pupils gathered to perpetuate the
Socratic method or, as enshrined in Platos imaginative reconstructions,
the Socratic dialogue. This involved a method of teaching that was
essentially obstetricthat is, by means of question and answer to draw
out of the pupil the dawning recognition of eternal truths. The Romans
therefore called this method of teaching educatio, which means literally
a nurturing or raising, as of plants and animals, but by assonance
and perhaps by derivationa leading or drawing out. The Greeks,
with their earthier view of matters, called it maieutike, meaning literally
the method of the midwife. In any event, it represented an essentially
spoken method of teaching and learning.
The older learning of the pre-classical Near East, however, was
essentially written learning. Whether in the hieroglyphics of Egypt or
the cuneiform of Mesopotamia, pre-alphabetic writing required the
mastery not of twenty or thirty signs, but of hundreds. There was no
royal road to this mastery. Rather, scribal schools were called for, complete with large scriptoria where pupils took dictation on papyrus or
clay tablet. The very name for the scribal school in the cuneiform tradition was tablet-house (or possibly house of the A-tablet, referring
to the first primer used in instruction). Such tablet-houses were spread
across the entire Near East, including Egypt, by the end of the preclassical age; thus we may legitimately confine ourselves here to the
cuneiform tradition (while admitting that the hieroglyphic tradition has
its own fascination).
The cuneiform tradition as handed down in the scribal schools and
in the scribal guilds that succeeded them was firmly anchored to a

i.5. assyriology and the canon


curriculum of written textsor rather to several successive curricula,

given the millennial history of the tradition. It is possible to identify four
such curricula within ancient Mesopotamia. The two oldest were in the
Sumerian language, the next in Akkadian (a Semitic language related
to Hebrew and Arabic), the last in bilingual Sumero-Akkadian form. In
the rest of the Ancient Near East, these curricula were adopted along
with the cuneiform script, and often accompanied by translations into
the local vernacular or, as in Anatolia, by new curricula in the native
Within these chronological and geographical variations, the four curricula demonstrate a remarkable uniformity over wide stretches of time
and space. Thus, for example, the Old Sumerian lexical lists were used
to organize knowledge and propagate the newly invented cuneiform
writing system from the beginning of the third millennium on; they
are found as far from the Mesopotamian source of that invention as
Ebla in Western Syria in about the twenty-fourth century bc, together
with incantations, which represent some of the earliest literary compositions attempted in the new medium. Or again, the neo-Sumerian
hymns in honor of long-deceased rulers of dynasties, such as those of
Ur and Isin, were dutifully copied even in schools of such cities as Uruk
and Larsa, which had been their bitter rivals. Portions of the Akkadian
epics about Adapa (the Babylonian Adam?), Gilgamesh, and Sargon
were studied and copied in the middle of the second millennium as
far away as El-Amarna in Egypt, Megiddo in Palestine, and Hattusha
in Anatolia (modern Turkey). Sumero-Akkadian myths and lamentations about such age-old divine couples as Enlil and Ninlil or Dumuzi
and Inanna were still being translated with almost slavish fidelity to the
received text in the late first millennium bc. The use of cuneiform, by
now chiefly for astrology, came to its final end only in the first century
of the Christian era.
Such fidelity to and tenacity of a written tradition, or what has
sometimes been called a stream of tradition, commands our respect.
It also demands a descriptive label for that tradition, preferably the
translation of a native term in line with the widely advocated preference
for describing an ancient culture in its own terms. None such having
been identified in this case (unless it be pi ummani, literally, the mouth
that is, authorityof the scholars), some Assyriologists have taken to
referring to the cuneiform literary tradition as a canonor, better,
four successive canonsand to the individual texts that comprise any
one of these canons as canonical. Other Assyriologists have strenuously


i.5. assyriology and the canon

objected. In Ancient Near Eastern studies, they argue, canon invariably

evokes the image of the biblical canon with its overtones of religious
A recent symposium at the National Humanities Center in North
Carolina devoted to The Hebrew Bible in the Making: From Literature to Canon wrestled with just this issue. Narrowly construed, the
biblical canon is indeed limited to those texts that any given community of faithJewish, Catholic, Protestantconsiders as of divine inspiration and authority. But a broader concept of canon has also been
emerging in biblical studiesone that extends beyond divinely inspired
texts, indeed beyond biblical texts in much the same way that the traditional Jewish concept of Torah (literally law, instruction) grew from
identifying only the Pentateuch, then to the entire Bible (the written
law), ultimately to the whole range of post-biblical explication and
exploitation of the Bible (the oral law) in the Rabbinic academies
of the early Christian era. In Jacob Neusners words, Each Judaism
defines what it means by the Torah, or the canon, and . . . various
Israels (groups of Jews) have defined their canons in diverse ways,
Much the same could be argued of other faiths.
This wider sense of canon, then, would justify its application equally
to the cuneiform as to the Hebrew corpus. More to the point, it would
be in line with the original sense of the term that, once more, we owe
to the Greeks. The Greek kanon, originally a rod or bar, then a rule,
came in the sophisticated vocabulary of the great library and museum
of Alexandria, which were founded about three hundred years before
the Christian era, to refer to the accepted, authoritative collection of
books by any given author, and eventually the booksby whatever
authorthat found a place in the library and in the curriculum of the
schools. We still speak today in this sense of the Alexandrian canon.
As applied to subsequent literature, the term canon has generally been
used in both of these meanings by literary critics. Thus the Chaucer
canon, for example, is generally understood to refer to those compositions whose attribution to Chaucer is beyond serious question. More
interesting, and certainly more under current discussion, is the other
meaning of the term. When critics and educators speak of the canon
today, they are referring to the whole body of writings that, by a kind
of common consent, constitutes the intellectual equipment of the educated person. In other words, they are once again equating canon and
curriculum, just as the Alexandrians did in the first place, and as some
argue the cuneiform scribes did before them.

i.5. assyriology and the canon


The reasons why, in this usage, the concept of canon is the subject
of so much current discussion are at least twofold. One is that the common consensus has broken down. The canon may be equated with an
ideal curriculumbut the real curriculum, at least of the typical American college, has left it far behind. Critics of American higher education, such as Allan Bloom, regard this discrepancy as an unmitigated
disaster. He would like nothing better than to see the curriculum once
more equated with the canonand both of these equated with the
Great Books. By this he seems to mean essentially the great philosophers, from Plato to Nietzsche, or to Heidegger. In spite of the wide
appeal of Blooms critique, it is unlikely that many universities will buy
his prescription, either in its general or its particular form. From the
Assyriologists point of view, it suers from a double irony. For one,
it advocates the very technique of education that was the essence of
scribal training in the cuneiform traditionthat is, the close reading
of a common core of classical textswhile at the same time excluding
from this core every component of the cuneiform tradition. Secondly,
it implies the primacy of philosophy in education, when this is the one
humanistic discipline that truly had few or no antecedents in the preclassical world. Yet we have much to learn from the Ancient Near East
in such diverse disciplines as history, literature, religion, art, and even
science. One cannot deny a general disenchantment with philosophy
in its modern guise as one discipline among many, not in its original
sense of the love of learning as such. The restoration of a canon or
curriculum limited to Plato and his epigones would not restore the
But disenchantment with the particular curriculum advocated by traditionalists does not necessarily entail a rejection of canon as such. On
the contrary, another school of critics of the current academic scene is
attacking the canon precisely because, presumably, it is worth reforming and saving in their eyes. That is the second reason why the canon is
under siege today. The canon must in this view be changed, expanded,
opened in order to survive. It must cease to be exclusively Western,
male, elitist, and start to admit components of third world, feminist,
and black literature. From the vantage point of the Ancient Near East,
more ironies! The Near East belongs to the Western traditionindeed
it is ancestral to that tradition, yet with the exception of the Bible is
routinely omitted in surveys of Western civilization or, what amounts
to much the same thing, is passed over quickly in the opening pages
of a survey or the first hour or two of a course. Assuredly pre-classical


i.5. assyriology and the canon

antiquity and todays students deserve better. A few illustrations must

The figure of Gilgamesh is celebrated in lengthy poems in Sumerian,
Akkadian, Hurrian, and Hittite that evolved over many centuries into
an integrated epic narrative that is at the same time an essay on
the theme of human mortalitythe frontiers, in eect, of the human
potential. Such was the appeal of the epic that ancient extracts from
it have been excavated at sites as far from Babylonia as Megiddo
in Israel and Hattusha, the ancient Hittite capital, in Turkey. The
appeal continues to this day, as attested by modern adaptations in
poetic or dramatic form. But Gilgamesh was only the latest and most
familiar of the semi-legendary rulers of the First Dynasty of Uruk (the
biblical Erech) to be celebrated in cuneiform literature. There are epics
about earlier members of the dynasty that describe their campaigns
against the rival city-state of Kish and the distant land of Aratta, the
latter located far to the east, in Iran or even Afghanistan. And there
are whole cycles of poems about Dumuzi, the ruler-turned-deity who,
as embodiment of the dying and reviving fertility of field, fold, and
orchard, was the subject of moving lamentations and, as partner in
the sacred marriage with the goddess Inanna, was the object of much
highly erotic love poetry.
Inanna was also celebrated in the worlds oldest non-anonymous
poetrythe work of a Sumerian poetess of the twenty-third century
called Enheduanna. A princess, priestess, and prophetess into the bargain, this daughter of King Sargon of Akkad has left a considerable
body of compositions of a very high caliberseventeen centuries before
Sappho. Her portrait has survived and her biography can be reconstructed in outline. Her work is finding its way into modern anthologies
of womens poetry, and it does not stand alone. Other Sumerian compositions, including dirges, lullabies, love songs, and letter-prayers can
be attributed to later princesses.
For the roots of black literature, we may turn to Egypt, which assuredly in one sense forms a part of the African tradition. A recent
New York Times Magazine article may have overstated the case when
it described many of the words of Solomon as borrowed from the
black Pharaoh Amen-En-Eope. In fact, Proverbs 22:17 through 24:22
are attributed by the Bible to unnamed sages (Prov. 22:17) and compared by Egyptologists to the thirty wise sayings of Amen-em-Ope(t),
who was neither a pharaoh nor demonstrably black; there is even some
disagreement as to the direction of the borrowing. But the basic point

i.5. assyriology and the canon


remains: if the curriculum is expanded to include a proper representation of Ancient Near Eastern literature, it can by that very fact begin to
open up to non-Western (or at least pre-Westem), feminist (or at least
feminine-authored) and black (or at least African) components.
In fine, for all its apparent and splendid isolation, Assyriology (along
with Egyptology) can contribute some suggestions for helping to resolve
the paradoxes with which we began. It can help open the study of the
biblical canon to the literary approach. It can help liberate the curriculum from a too exclusive preoccupation with Greek philosophy and its
interpreters. And it can expand the canonnot only in ethnos, gender,
and race but also in time, providing the perspective of a continuous
literary and linguistic tradition that was already as venerable in Platos
time as Plato is today.


The following study was originally presented to the annual meeting of the
American Oriental Society (Atlanta, Georgia, March 26, 1990). It was oered
for the panel on Sumerology organized by Jack Sasson in honor of the 100th
birthday of Benno Landsberger. It is here dedicated to the memory of Raphael
Kutscher, whose life was committed to religion and Sumerology in extraordinary measure, but cut short far too soon after his 50th birthday. I am proud
to have been his teacher, and humble to have been his friend. (See Addenda,
pp. 110111, for further updates).

Is there such a thing as Sumerian religion? Thorkild Jacobsen, arguably

our greatest living expert on the subject, does not seem to think so. His
seminal article of 1963 is entitled Ancient Mesopotamian religion: the
central concerns.1 And nearly twenty-five years later, his authoritative
Treasures of Darkness (1976) is subtitled: a history of Mesopotamian
religion.2 The implication is that the religion of Sumer, Babylonia and
Assyria is a seamless continuum and that language alone is no clue to
where one leaves o and the other begins.
An analogy of sorts might be the case of Biblical religion. While
there may be those who can delineate the border between Israelite
and Judaean History (to quote the title of a major work on the subject by John H. Hayes and J. Maxwell Miller, 1976), there are precious
few who can confidently say where Israelite religion ends and Judaism
begins (see Sperling 1986 for a recent attempt), and the standard histories of Biblical religion tend to be called the History of Israelite Religion whether by Yehezkel Kaufmann (19371956) or by Georg Fohrer
(1968). Certainly no one would venture to divide this particular continuum on linguistic lines, with Hebrew texts defining Israelite religion
and Aramaic texts Judaism.
When all is said and done, however, we are still left, on the Sumerian side, with more than just a linguistic phenomenon. If there is a


Jacobsen 1963, rep. in Jacobsen 1970: 3946, 319344.

Cf. also Rmer 1969 (below, p. 94 n. 16).


i.6. sumerian religion

Sumerian language (eme-girx) there is also a Sumerian literature written

and transmitted by Sumerian scribes (dub-sar eme-girx);3 there is a land
of Sumer (ki-en-gi(r))4 and a governor (gar-ensi2) of Sumer at least as
early as the Fara period;5 En-shakushanna of the second dynasty of
Uruk (and perhaps Ur) is lord of Sumer (en-ki-en-gi);6 Lugal-zagesi
of the third dynasty of Uruk prevailed over all the sovereigns of
Sumer (bara2-bara2-ki-en-gi);7 Utu-hegal of the fifth dynasty of Uruk
claimed to have recaptured the kingship of Sumer (nam-lugal-ki-engi-ra) from the Gutians;8 and beginning with Ur-Nammu of the third
dynasty of Ur, there is a king of Sumer (and Akkad) (lugal-ki-en-gi kiuri).9 There are citizens of Sumer (dumu-ki-en-gi-ra10 or dumu-gi(rx))11
and even sheep of Sumer (udu-girx or uligi) as contrasted with sheep of
the mountains or of the foreign lands (udu-kur-ra).12 In Claus Wilckes
felicitous formulation, no one would translate udu-girx with sheep that
bleat in Sumerian.13
All of these phenomena are lexically attested in Sumerian.14 They are
not mere abstracts imposed on the data by our modern imagination,
but realities grounded in native self-perception. They thus meet the
crucial test of what used to be referred to as the phenomenology of
the ancient Near Eastern world by Landsberger.
So why not a Sumerian religion? I will try to justify the reality of
that phenomenon here, even absent a clear lexical equivalent, and I
will do so in terms of the latest studies both of details and of the
ensemble, bearing in mind that such authorities as Jan van Dijk15 and
W.H.Ph. Rmer16 have had no qualms about reconstructing a Sumerian religion and even tracing its history. It is the historical dimension

Cf. e.g. Gordon 1959: 207 (4).

RGTC 1 s.v. Ki"engi.
5 Ibid. (TSS
627 v 8).
6 Ibid.; cf. Hallo 1957: 4 f.; 1962: 7 with nn. 50, 52.
7 PSD B 141c.
8 IRSA 130132; cf. Rmer 1985.
9 Hallo 1957: 7788.
10 Wilcke 1974: 216 f.
11 Ibid. 221223, 230.
12 Hallo 1979a: 5 and n. 21.
13 Da die Schafe nicht gut auf Sumerisch geblkt haben knnen: Wilcke 1975: 42;
cf. Wilcke 1974: 218 f.
14 Gordon 1958: 7275.
15 Van Dijk 1968; 1971.
16 Rmer 1969 albeit in quotation marks (e.g. p. 118).

i.6. sumerian religion


that I too will seek to tracenot, however, ab ovo, but beginning at the
point where Sumerian religion can conceivably be distinguished from
Akkadian. I therefore pass over the archaeological and textual evidence
through Early Dynastic times, however suggestive it may be, and commence with Sargon and the Sargonic period.
The founder of the Sargonic dynasty was at pains to wed Sumerian
and Akkadian traditions, including religious traditions. To this end he
equated his Semitic patron deity, the warlike goddess Ishtar, with the
Sumerian goddess of love and fecundity, Inanna of Uruk, and exalted
her to equal status with An, patron deity of Uruk and head of the
Sumerian pantheon.17 He also honored the shrines of all the great
deities, Akkadian and Sumerian, north and south. His programme was
spearheaded by his daughter Enheduanna for whom he newly created
the post of high-priestess of the Sumerian moon-god Nanna at Ur and
who, if her mother was in fact a Sumerian priestess as suggested in
the reconstruction of Enheduannas life and works, was well situated to
advocate her fathers programme in her mothers language.18
The harmonization of Sumerian and Akkadian religious traditions
thus aimed at did not long survive Enheduanna. Although she apparently lived and served as high priestess into the reign of her nephew
Naram-Sin, this grandson of Sargon had other aspirations. He was the
first Mesopotamian king to be deified. According to a revealing passage on the inscribed statue of Naram-Sin newly discovered in Bassetki
in northern Iraq, this deification took place in direct response to the
expressed wishes of the city of Akkad.19 But it brought two unexpected
religious consequences in its train. One of these was the disaection of
Enlil who, as eective head of the Sumerian pantheon, issued a command or word from his shrine of Ekur in Nippur which, according
to a recent study by D.O. Edzard, led Naram-Sin, first, to a sevenyear suspension of all activity and, ultimately, to his fateful decision
to raze Ekur, thus bringing down the curse of Agade on his own
city.20 This succession of events, associated in the Sumerian literary tradition with Naram-Sin himself, probably telescopes matters which took

17 For Inanna as lady of battle (nin-m) in Gudea, see Steible 1989: 512. For new
evidence of the elevation of the goddess see Sjberg 1988, esp. p. 166.
18 Hallo and Van Dijk 1968: 111. The full extent of Enheduannas life and works
has recently been characterized by Joan Goodnick Westenholz 1989.
19 Jacobsen 19781979: 12 and n, 45; cf. Hallo 1980: 190 and n. 18.
20 Edzard 1989; dierently Jacobsen 19781979: 14.


i.6. sumerian religion

much longer to transpire. Almost certainly the actual destruction of

Agade did not ensue for another 25 years at least, until after the death
of Naram-Sins son and successor, Shar-kali-sharri, and the period of
anarchy that followed.
But there was a second consequence of the deification of both kings
that has only recently been adequately recognized. By raising the king
to divine status, the Akkadians threatened that fine balance between
the secular and sacred power that the Sumerians had worked out in
the Early Dynastic Age.21 To restore the balance, the religious establishment as represented by temple and priesthood resorted to an ingenious stratagem: they invested the great gods with royal status! Two
steps were taken, if not at once then by late Sargonic or early NeoSumerian times,22 to achieve this end. One involved a change in temple
architecture: the older bent-axis layout was replaced by the so-called
straight-axis design whereby the worshipper approached the cella of
the deity by a doorway now set in the shorter wall at the opposite end
from the cella, i.e. the temple assumed essentially the appearance of
the contemporary palace.23 The second change was intimately related
to the first: once arrived at the cella, the worshipper was confronted
by a life-size, seated statue of the deity looking for all the world like
an enthroned king! The emergence of the cult statue in Mesopotamia
has been carefully studied by Agnes Spycket and dated to the Sargonic
period.24 It was not, however, the consequence of the changes in temple
architecture, as she thought; rather, in my opinion, both developments
were reactions to the deification of the king.
The modifications of the Spycket hypothesis, which I have advanced in two recent papers,25 can be buttressed by appeal to two other
lines of art-historical evidence, relief and glyptic. For while surviving
examples of divine statues are few and far between, there is reason
to consider the seated figure of the deity on steles like that of UrNammu and on innumerable cylinder seals as representing, not some
kind of abstract conception of the divine, but a concrete image of
the cult-statue. And such images begin precisely in the high Sargonic



Hallo and Simpson 1971: 3454.

For the date of the changes see Hallo 1983: 6 f., 1988: 59 f. and n. 37.
Hallo 1988: 59 f. n. 37; for a dierent sketch of the development see now Jacobsen
Spycket 1968; 1981.
Hallo 1983a; 1988.

i.6. sumerian religion


period,26 i.e. with Naram-Sin.27 An alleged example of a standing statue

of a deity on a seal going back to the ED III period28 can be better
explained as the figure of a king, since it lacks a horned crown, and is
not necessarily a statue.
The ED III seal was cited by Jacobsen in a recent study which
rearmed his long-held opinion that two ED II statues from Eshnunna
represent deities, not worshippers. I have questioned that opinion both
in print29 and in previous meetings of the American Oriental Society
and will not repeat the counter-arguments here, but only add that it
is firmly rejected by Eva Braun-Holzinger in her authoritative study of
Early Dynastic votive statues.30
The conception of a deity as not just anthropomorphic but what
can best be described as basilomorphic31 can, then, be described as
a distinctly Sumerian reaction to the Akkadian experiment with royal
deification. The new conception survived even though the experiment
itself fell into temporary disuse and disrepute in the late Sargonic
period. And it had significant consequences for the Sumerian cult in
its own right.
In the first place, the divine statue became the focus of the sacrificial cult. That cult had originated, according to an imaginative aetiology embedded in Sumerian epic, to justify and sanctify a supposed
switch from vegetarianism to meat consumption.32 But now the concept of consumption, already well-developed at pre-Sargonic Lagash,33
was wedded to the concept of the anthropomorphic and basilomorphic
deity to create a new fiction: the notion that the statue of the deity
consumed the oerings, both meat and cereal, brought to the temple
by the faithful. What A.L. Oppenheim called the care and feeding
26 For the concept of the high Sargonic period as consisting of the reigns of NaramSin and Shar-kali-sharri see Hallo 1980: 191, 1981: 255. Cf. Charpin 1987: 94, who
considers the two reigns la priode sargonique classique. Contrast Zhi 1989: 4,
where the time of Shar-kali-sharri is described as the late Sargonic period.
27 For the glyptic evidence see e.g. Boehmer 1964, 1965; Nagel and Strommenger
1968; Buchanan 1981.
28 UE III No. 387, cited Jacobsen 1988: n. 11.
29 1983a: 8 f.; 1988: 57 f.
30 1977. Note that the statues in question appear as nos. 1 and 2 in her survey of
votive statues. Cf. also her survey of Anzu-representations (1987) which notably omits
the figure on the socle of the male statue; she considers it simply an eagle with head
broken o (oral communication, 10-28-89).
31 Hallo 1988: 60 n. 39.
32 Hallo 1983b, here: VII.1, 1987b, here: VII.2.
33 Rosengarten 1960.


i.6. sumerian religion

of the gods34 became an elaborate charade of presenting these oerings to their statuesand then distributing to the king, the clergy and
the favored worshippers what the statue graciously deigned to leave
uneaten. Both literary35 and archival36 texts aver that the deity consumed the best part of the oerings, but we may doubt this. That the
oerings brought in and the distributions brought out of the cella bore
an uncanny resemblance to each other is not only inherently probable
but has been mathematically demonstrated, at least for Old Babylonian37 and Neo-Babylonian times.38
Although now focused on the divine statues, the sacrificial cult was
readily extended to other physical elements of the temple precincts,
which acquired divine status in their own right as evidenced not only
orthographically (they began to be written with the divine determinative) but also by the naming of years after their construction and
the composition of hymns commemorating their dedication. Beginning
with the throne39 of the seated statue and proceeding to the deitys
chariot,40 boat,41 bedstead and temple as a whole, the whole physical apparatus of the religious establishment thus participated in the
cult. Nowhere is this development more dramatically illustrated than
in oerings made not just at but to the temple gates of Ur, more particularly to their bolts.42 The evidence for this particular rite comes from
Old Babylonian times, in the form of descriptive rituals, as we call
the genre of archival texts which attests to the practice,43 but no doubt
reflects earlier usage as well.44
A second consequence of the emergence of the cult statue was its
employment in the so-called journeys of the gods. Such journeys involved a kind of courtesy-call by one deity on another, perhaps
on an annual basis, either to receive the host-deitys blessings on the
Hallo 1983b: 176 II.375 f. (ng-su-du11-ga . . . dulo-ga-bi), here: VII.1.
36 Birot 1980: 146 (res srim).
37 Sigrist 1984; previously 1981, esp. 179 f.; cf. Hallo 1979b: 104 f.
38 McEwan 1983. Cf. now Beaulieu 1990 for the royal share of the divine left-overs
(rehtu) in the first millennium.
39 Sigrist 1989: 501 seems to imply that only the deceased kings throne received
sacrifices, but the gods throne clearly did; cf. Schneider 1947.
40 Cf. e.g. Civil 1968.
41 Cf. e.g. the hymn Shulgi R, for which see now Klein 1990.
42 Levine and Hallo 1967.
43 Hallo 1990b, nn. 3944, with previous literature, here: X.2.
44 Cf. e.g. Sigrist 1989: 501 and n. 4.

i.6. sumerian religion


visiting deity and that deitys city, or for other reasons.45 They were
recorded in descriptive rituals and celebrated or commemorated in
such compositions as The Blessing of Nisaba by Enki (nin-mul-angim).46 Glyptic and other art also recorded the events.
Finally, the cult-statue became a natural addressee for petitions deposited at its feet or put in its mouth for transmittal to an even higher
deity. The literary genre which evolved to serve this purpose is the
letter-prayer, and I will not here enlarge on my extensive publications
of and about the genre,47 except to note that this function of the divine
(and royal) statue has now been traced as far back as Gudea.48
As the last-mentioned observation indicates, the royal statue shared
some of the emerging function of the newer divine statue. This is most
conspicuously so in the case of the statues of deceased kings. Deceased
royalty, including not only kings but their wives and progeny, had been
the objects of cultic oerings and other marks of veneration throughout
the Early Dynastic period, almost certainly in the form of statues,49 but
also of some of their accoutrements such as, notably, their thrones.50
But now the statues of deceased rulers were themselves deified, thus
conferring a kind of posthumous apotheosis even on kings who had laid
no claim to divine status in their lifetimes. Thus we find oerings to
the deified statues (lammassatu) of both Sargon and Naram-Sin as far
away as Mari in the Old Babylonian period51 and as late as the NeoBabylonian period in Sippar.52 A broken statue of Sargon was carefully
repaired and given oerings when recovered by Nabonidus.53 Similarly,
Gudea of Lagash, i.e., presumably, his deified statue, enjoyed oerings
under ocial auspices during the Ur III dynastyeven though that
dynasty had conquered his dynasty.54
How, then, are we to evaluate the Ur III dynasty in regard to the
questions raised here today? Did it in fact usher in a neo-Sumerian
renaissance as long averred but never adequately demonstrated and
Sauren 1969; Sjberg 1969; Al-Fouadi 1969.
Hallo 1970a, here: I.2.
47 Cf. Hallo 1982 with previous literature, here: V.2.
48 Klein 1989, esp. p. 295 (C2); cf. Winter 1989: 581.
49 Hallo in press a.
50 Sigrist 1989: 501 with n. 7.
51 Birot 1980; cf. van de Mieroop 1989: 400 with nn. 55 f. For Manishtushu see Hallo
1980: 190 and n. 16.
52 Kennedy 1969.
53 Lambert 19681969: 7 11. 2936.
54 Cf. most recently Winter 1989: 575 f. and n. 7.


i.6. sumerian religion

more recently seriously questioned by Andrea Becker?55 Or does it

rather represent, at least in religious terms, a reversion to Sargonic, i.e.
Akkadian, precedent? After all, its second member, Shulgi, sometime
within the first half of his long reign of forty-eight years, allowed himself to be deified like Naram-Sin and Shar-kali-sharri of Akkad nearly
two centuries earlier.56 This time, however, the religious establishment
did not feel threatened. Assuming that the changes outlined above
had already occurred, its defenses were in place. By now, the religious
capital at Nippur rivalled the political capital at Ur in importance.
Nippurs location midway between the Sumerian south(-east) and the
Akkadian north(-west) was ideally suited to reunite Sumer and Akkad
after the bare half century of petty-statism that had followed the death
of Shar-kali-sharri.57 The endorsement of its priesthood was crucial if
any king was to claim the restoration of the Sargonic imperial idea
and the resumption of divine status.58 This endorsement depended not
only on the ability to wrest Nippur itself from any other claimant, by
force of arms if necessary, but more particularly on the rebuilding and
maintenance of its great temples and the provisioning of its extensive
clergy. Ur-Nammu met all these requirements, as did his successors.
They were duly crowned in a ceremony involving both Nippur and
Ur, and a third city (Eridu or Uruk respectively) for good measure.59
A whole new literary genre, the royal hymn, was developed to celebrate these and other sacraments of the royal lifetime, including the
birth of the king, his marriage, his coronation, his major achievements
in war and peace, even his death and burial.60 Other hymns, though
ostensibly addressed to this or that deity, invoked divine blessings on
the ruler in their concluding doxology and at other key points of the
poem. This kind of royal hymn has long been traced to the immediately preceding second dynasty of Lagash and its most famous ruler,

Becker 1985.
Hallo 1957: 60 f.
57 Cf. below, p. 103. For the chronological assessment of the late Akkadian (or
post-Akkadian or Gutian) period see Hallo 1971: 713 f.
58 Hallo and Simpson 1971: 83. With reference to this concept, Wilcke 1974: 188
n. 30 wrote Worauf sich die Ansicht W.W. Hallos . . . sttzt, da die Priesterschaft von

Nippur es Sulgi
gestattet habe, die Gttlichkeit zu beanspruchen, wei ich nicht. The
answer (for now) is the evidence of the royal hymns; see Hallo 1963b, esp. p. 113.
59 Hallo 1966: 136, here: III.2; cf. now also Wilkinson 1986; Sigrist 1989. For the
critique of my position by Civil 1980: 229 see for now Hallo 1990a: 187.
60 Hallo 1966, esp. p. 135, here: III.2.

i.6. sumerian religion


Gudea.61 More recently, it has been shown that not only the genre as
such but numerous details of its structure, contents, diction, and even
orthography were indebted to Gudea.62 But the neo-Sumerian kings of
Ur (and their successors at Isin) certainly developed both kinds of royal
hymn to their fullest potential. Partly to this end, they and in particular Shulgi patronized the scribal schools of both Nippur and Ur.63 In
addition, they created a unique system whereby all central provinces of
their Sumero-Akkadian empire assumed responsibility for the upkeep
of the Nippur shrines on a rotational basis tied to the calendar such
that each month was assigned to one or more provinces on the basis
of their ability to contribute from their agricultural wealth. That this
system can be aptly described as a Sumerian amphictyony64 I would
maintain against the recent reinterpretation by Piotr Steinkeller.65
Thus we can almost speak of a concordat by which religious and
secular interestsor, if one prefers, Sumerian religious traditions and
Akkadian political traditionswere kept in balance during the neoSumerian period. As if to seal the entente, Ur-Nammu revived the
ancient Sumerian cult of the sacred marriage between the king representing the god Dumuzi and the queen representing the goddess
Inanna, and rededicated it to the end of conceiving the royal heir.66
This at least is the testimony of the royal hymn, Shulgi G, commissioned by that heir to assert his own claim to divine status as the
ospring of a union consummated in the temple at Nippur in which
his earthly parents represented the divine couple.67 This particular
hymn, whose interpretation has exercised the ingenuity of half a dozen
Sumerologists, is soon to be definitely edited by Klein.68
A new threat to the entente was posed by the death of the aged
king and the succession of one of his numerous sons which may have

Hallo 1963b: 115, here: III.1. Note references to Gudea also in 11. 3638 of the
great Nanshe-hymn for which see Heimpel 1981: 84 f.; Jacobsen 1987: 129 and n. 11.
62 Klein 1989. For another example of such intertexuality, cf. Gudea Cyl. A xii if,
( u4-d ma-ra-ab-d-e, gi6-e ma-ra-ab-m-m) with the myth of the Pickaxe 1.36
(u4-d al-d-e gi6-(a) al-m-m) (ref. courtesy T. Frymer-Kensky).
63 Hallo 1989: 237 with n. 9, here: III.5; Klein 1989: 299 f. with n. 67.
64 Hallo 1960; cf. Tanret 1979.
65 1987, esp. 2729.
66 Hallo 1987a, here: III.4.
67 The notion that he was already deified as (crown-)prince was refuted already in
Hallo 1957: 61 f. and n. 1.
68 See for now Klein 1981: 40 n. 72.


i.6. sumerian religion

involved assassination of the former and usurpation by the latter according to scattered clues in the later historiographic tradition.69 The
rightful heir, Shu-Sin, claimed divine status from birth in the later
literature70 if not in the contemporary inscriptions.71 He had already
served as vice-roy of Uruk and heir apparent in his fathers lifetime;
when he finally took the throne in his own right, he demanded more.
Hitherto deification of the king had meant only partial assumption of
divine status: the royal name was preceded by the epithet divine and
sometimes followed by a title such as god of his country;72 in the
iconography, the king and his kin were represented as wearing either
the horned cap or the flounced garment, but never both these hallmarks
of divinity.73 Above all, there was no worship of the living king as there
was of the statue, throne, and other memorials to the deceased king.
Shu-Sin, however, demanded just that. At least four temples were built
in his honor, in Lagash, Adab, Ur and Eshnunna, as we know from
their building inscriptions.74 These have exactly the form of building
inscriptions for temples to the gods, except that the deitys name and
epithets are replaced by those of the king, and the name and titles
of the royal builder are replaced by those of the local governor! In
one case, moreover, we have more than just the building inscription:
at Eshnunna, the Shu-Sin temple itself survives. Its floor-plan perfectly
illustrates the accommodation of temple architecture to the earlier style
of palace architecture.75 It is probably no coincidence that Shu-Sin is
of all neo-Sumerian rulers the one most abundantly documented in the
literature of the sacred marriage and of erotic poetry generally.76
The fall of Ur at the end of the second millennium, and the succession of Isin to the hegemony of Sumer and Akkad did not at once
alter the terms of the concordat. But Sumerian was beginning to die
out as a spoken language. The unity of Sumerian religious traditions,
hitherto assured by the supremacy of the scribal school at Nippur and
its curriculum, became harder to maintain as the possession of Nippur
Michalowski 1977; Hallo in press b with nn. 7994.
ANET 496.
71 Hallo 1957: 61 and n. 8.
72 Ibid. 5662.
73 Cf. already Porada 1948: 35; van Buren 1952: 93, 101.
74 Hallo 1962: 18 with nn. 152 f.
75 Frankfort, Lloyd and Jacobsen 1940.
76 See e.g. Jacobsen 1987 Part Two: Royal Love Songs, esp. pp. 8589, 93, 95 f.;
previously Kramer, ANET 496, 644; 1969: 9295.

i.6. sumerian religion


passed from Isin to Larsa and back again in the dizzying competition
between these two dynasties.77 As the long peace78 of the twentieth
century bc gave way, about 1897 bc, to the period of the warring kingdoms and of maximum political turmoil79 in the nineteenth, at least
three distinct ideologies or theologies began to compete in the SumeroAkkadian sphere.
I delineated these ideologies briefly in my presidential address to the
American Oriental Society, and more fully in the published version of
my remarks,80 so a summary may suce here. The dominant ideology
remained that of Nippur, and was espoused especially by the first
dynasty of Isin, which considered itself the legitimate successor to the
third dynasty of Ur, as that regarded itself the heir to the first five
dynasties of Uruk. Since Uruk and Ur were the southern, or Sumerian,
counterparts to Kish and Agade in the Akkadian north, and since
Nippur formed the hub of Sumer and Akkad (in the words of the
Temple Hymns line 28 your right and your left hand are Sumer and
Akkad), this Nippur theology thus incorporated the traditions of all
four cities and claimed that they all merged in Isin. This viewpoint
is expressed most explicitly in the Nippur recension of the Sumerian
King List,81 and somewhat more subtly in the rest of the Nippur scribal
curriculum, replete as it was with myths about and hymns to all the
deities of the Sumero-Akkadian pantheon, beginning with Enlil, with
epics about the early rulers of Uruk and Kish, with copies of the royal
inscriptions of Akkad,82 and with compositions in honor of the kings of
Ur and Isin.
But as Isins control of Nippur was challenged by Larsa throughout
the nineteenth century, so too a rival ideology can be detected at Larsa
to challenge that of Nippur. Because it drew heavily on the traditions
of Lagash, Larsas ancient neighbor, it may be called the Lagash
theology. In this scheme, the deliberate omission of both Lagash and
Larsa from the Sumerian King List was made good in one of two
ways. Either an antediluvian section was prefixed to the Nippur version
and made to include a wholly spurious dynasty of Larsa,83 or a virtual

Loding 1973; Sigrist 1977; Frayne 1989.

Hallo and Simpson 1971: 8792, esp. 92.
Ibid.; Hallo 1963b: 118, here: III.1.
Hallo 1990, here: X.2.
Cf. Hallo 1963a, here: IV.1.
On these see most recently Kutscher 1989 ch. 1; Oelsner 1989.
Hallo 1970b, esp. p. 63.


i.6. sumerian religion

parody was created in the style of the Sumerian King List but limited
entirely to the rulers of Lagash.84 Myths and hymns were composed
in honor of such southern deities as Ningirsu and Bau of Lagash,
Nisaba and Haia of Umma, and Utu and Sherda (Aya) of Larsa.85 In
addition to royal inscriptions and royal hymns, a new subgenre of royal
letter-prayers was associated with the kings of Larsa.86
In the end, however, both the dynasties of Isin and Larsa bowed to a
third power, that of Babylon. And with them, the theologies of Nippur
and Lagash yielded to a third, that of Babylon. Marduk, the chief deity
of Babylon, became the son of Enki, the traditional rival of Enlil at the
head of the Sumerian pantheon, as his city Eridu was the ancient rival
of Nippur.87
We may therefore regard this third and latest ideology as the theology of Eridu. In its conception of the King List, Eridu was the first
of all cities. In its mythology, Enki played the major role.88 More importantly, he became the patron of the age-old tradition of incantations,
which was taken over almost intact by later Babylonian tradition. It
may thus be said that, while the Nippur theology survived Old Babylonian times only selectively, and Lagash theology not at all,89 the millennial Sumerian tradition of incantations and conjurations passed via
the Eridu theology into the Akkadian tradition of divination to provide these twin bases of the later Mesopotamian Weltanschauung.90
And with this merging of the surviving Sumerian religion into Akkadian tradition I beg rest my case.91
Al-Fouadi, A. Enkis Journey to Nippur: The Journeys of the Gods (PhD. Thesis, U. of
Pennsylvania, 1969).
Allen, James P. Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts
(= Yale Egyptological Studies 2, 1988).
Sollberger 1967.
On the last of these divinities, see now Powell 1989.
86 Cf. most recently Hallo 1982, here: V.2.
87 Cf. especially Kramer 1970.
88 Cf. now Kramer and Maier 1989.
89 Except as it was reshaped to fit the Nippur point of views; cf. e.g. Hallo 1981.
90 Cf. most recently van Dijk, Goetze and Hussey 1985.
91 For a comparable situation in Egypt, with its successive (if not competing) theologies of Heliopolis, Memphis and Thebes, see most recently Allen 1988, esp. pp. 62 f.

i.6. sumerian religion


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p. 94 n. 13 Cf. now also Herbert Sauren, Trois tablettes . . ., OLP 20
(1989) 8 for a measure called sla-eme-gi7.
p. 95 n. 25 For an extensive discussion of the issues, see now Gebhard J. Selz,
sa: ein Beitrag zum
Eine Kultstatue der Herrschergemahlin Sa
Problem der Vergttlichung, Acta Sumerologica 14 (1992) 245268.
p. 97 n. 27 Cf. now also Martha Haussperger, Die Einfhrungsszene (=
Mnchner Vorderasiatische Studien 11, 1991) esp. pp. 69 f.
p. 97 n. 31 Cf. now A. Wendell Bowes, The basilomorphic conception
of deity in Israel and Mesopotamia, in The Biblical Canon in
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Younger, Jr., William W. Hallo and Bernard F. Batto (= Ancient
Near Eastern Texts and Studies 11, 1991) 235275.
p. 97 n. 32 For a measured endorsement of this interpretation, see now
C. Wilcke, Lugalbanda, RLA 7 (19871990) 117132, esp.
pp. 122 f.
p. 98 n. 34 Akkadian formulations of the conception, late but telling, are
preserved in the Instructions of Shube-awilim (Hallo 1979:
105 f.; cf. now M. Dietrich, Der Dialog zwischen S
und seinem Vater, Ugarit-Forschungen 23 (1991) 3368, esp.
pp. 48 f. top) and in the hemerologies the king should set his
food oering (kurummassu.) before his god (and) goddess, and it/he
will be accepted, his prayer will be answered (CAD I 273c, CAD
K 579c).
p. 98 n. 38 Moshe Eilat reminds me that the remainder of the meal
oering (e.g. Lev. 2: 3, 10) and what remains of the blood
(and meat oering) (Lev. 5: 9) are functional equivalents of the
rehtu in the Levitical legislation of the Bible.
a new edition of the relevant texts, and a critique of ours,
p. 98 n. 43 For
see Dominique Charpin, Le clerg dUr au sicle dHammurabi
(Genve/Paris, Droz, 1986) 307318.
p. 98 n. 44 On deified temples, cf. most recently D.T. Potts, Notes on
some horned buildings in Iran, Mesopotamia and Arabia,
RA 84 (1990) 3340.

i.6. sumerian religion


p. 97 n. 47 Add now W.W. Hallo, The royal correspondence of Larsa:

III. The princess and the plea, in Marchands, Diplomates et
Empereurs: tudes. . . . oertes Paul Garelli, ed. by D. Charpin
and F. Joanns (Paris, ditions Recherche sur les Civilisations,
1991) 377388, here: V.3.
p. 99 n. 49 Now published in Sha"arei Talmon; Studies . . . Presented to
Shemaryahu Talmon, ed. by Michael Fishbane and Emanuel Tov
(Winona Lake, Ind., Eisenbrauns, 1992)381401.
p. 101 n. 68 See now Jacob Klein, The coronation and consecration of
Shulgi in the Ekur (Shulgi G), Scripta Hierosolymitana 33 (=
Tadmor AV, 1991) 292313; previously idem, The birth of a
crownprince in the temple: a neo-Sumerian literary topos, in La
Femme dans le Proche-Orient Antique, ed. by J.-M. Durand (= RAI 33,
1987) 97106.
p. 102 n. 69 Now published in Scripta Hierosolymitana 33 (= Tadmor AV, 1991)
p. 104 n. 86 See above, ad p. 99 n. 47.
p. 104 n. 88 Cf. already J. van Dijk, Le motif cosmique dans la pense
sumerienne, Acta Orientalia 28 (1964) 159, for le systme
(thogonique) dEridu (pp. 9, 11) and la thologie dEridu
(p. 11). Note also that Eridu replaced Nippur at the head of the
traditional list of cities, e.g. in the Cycle of Temple Hymns as
compared with the archaic z-m hymns from Abu Salabikh.


Rhetoric, long thought of as an invention of classical Greece, has

for some time been held to have had a prior existence in ancient
Israel. A whole school of rhetorical criticism has grown up in biblical studies since at least 1969,1 while individual scholars have analyzed specific biblical texts from a rhetorical perspective.2 Assyriologists
(and Egyptologists)3 have been somewhat slower to take up the challenge.
Some basic problems beset a rhetorical approach to cuneiform literature: how to distinguish fiction from nonfiction,4 how to identify a
usually unknown author,5 how to divine his (or her!)6 intention,7 how
to assess the impact on a presumed audience.8 Cuneiform literature
does not, as in the case of classical literature, provide us with a neatly
prepackaged corpus of theoretical prescriptions or practical illustrations
of the art of persuasion in public speaking. It does not, as in the case of
biblical prophecy, preserve impassioned orations inspired by firm belief,
addressed to the innermost circles of power, and transmitted in virtually

* This is an updated version of the chapter by the same name in William W. Hallo,
Origins: the Ancient Near Eastern Background of Some Modern Western Institutions (Studies in
the History and Culture of the Ancient Near East 6) (Leiden/New York/ Kln: Brill,
1996), 169187. For details of documentation, the reader is referred to this book, cited
hereinafter by short title (Origins), page and footnote number. (The original version of
this paper was presented to the First African Symposium on Rhetoric: Persuasion and
Power, Cape Town, July 12, 1994, Yehoshua Gitay presiding.)
1 Dozeman and Fiore 1992. Add especially Jackson and Kessler 1974.
2 Gitay 1981; 1991.
3 Michael V. Fox, Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric, Rhetorica 1 (1983), 922; John Baines,
Feuds or Vengeance: Rhetoric and Social Forms. Pp. 1120 in Studies Wente (below,
p. 236) (1999).
4 Origins 169170.
5 Ibid. 144148.
6 Ibid. 262270.
7 Pearce 1993.
8 Barbara N. Porter, Language, Audience and Impact in Imperial Assyria, in
S. Izre"el and R. Drory, eds., Language and Culture in the Near East (Israel Oriental Studies
15) (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 5172.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

stenographic transcripts by secretaries such as Baruch son of Neriya,9

whose seal impression, recently recovered (albeit from un-provenanced
context), lends new historicity and authenticity to Jeremiahs words.10
The preserved literature of Sumer and Akkad would not yield readily to the pioneering analyses of the prophetic art of persuasion by
Yehoshua Gitay,11 nor to the whole line of biblical exegesis that goes
by the name of rhetorical criticism,12 and that has most recently been
conveniently surveyed by Watson and Hauser.13 It would not answer
to a forensic understanding such as newly and eectively applied by
Edward Greenstein to the Book of Job,14 or to the narratological analyses advanced by him15 and such other literary critics as Adele Berlin.16
It would not resonate to the combination of narratology and rhetorical
analysis championed by Meir Sternberg17 and Mary Savage,18 nor yet
to a novel thesis on the power of the word put forward by the late
Isaac Rabinowitz.19
The reasons for these negative assessments are inherent in the nature
of the cuneiform evidence, which diers fundamentally from both the
Classical and the biblical models. Whether we look at the literature
in Sumerian and Akkadian as I intend to do, or in Hittite and in
Ugaritic, each follows its own canonsand forms its own canons, as
we shall see. For all that, some tentative eorts have been made, in
the fairly recent past, to subject portions of the cuneiform canons to
rhetorical analysis. I will review them here briefly, before attempting a
programmatic statement of further possibilities.
It will not, I trust, be considered unduly immodest if I begin the
survey with myself ! In 1968, in collaboration with J.J.A. van Dijk, I
published a first critical edition of a Sumerian poem that we entitled
The Exaltation of Inanna.20 It is expressly attributed to the first

For this patronymic in the inscriptions see previously David Diringer, Three
Early Hebrew Seals, Archiv Orientln 18/3 (1950), 6667; Emit G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn
Museum Papyri (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), No, 13:6.
10 Origins 146147, n. 12 and 268; J.H. Tigay in COS 2 (2000) 197198.
11 Above, n. 2.
12 Cf. above, n. 1.
13 Watson and Hauser 1993.
14 Greenstein 1996.
15 Greenstein 1981; 1982.
16 Berlin 1986; 1994.
17 Sternberg 1983; 1985.
18 Savage 1980.
19 Rabinowitz 1993.
20 Hallo and van Dijk 1968. Latest translation by Hallo in COS 1 (1997), 518

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


non-anonymous author in Mesopotamian history, perhaps in all of

history: the princess Enheduanna (ca. 22852250 bce), known also by
other poetic works and by monumental remains.21 The poems division into 153 lines represents a feature original to the composition,
for these line divisions agree in all of the poems numerous exemplars,
and the total is carefully counted in the colophon of at least one complete recension.22 In our edition, we grouped these lines into eighteen
stanzas and three rhetorical parts and defended these groupings in
a literary analysis without claiming that they too necessarily represented original feature(s) of the composition.23 The rhetorical parts
we called exordium (or proemium),24 the argument, and peroration respectively and equated them with stanzas iviii (lines 165),
ixxv (lines 66135) and xvixviii (lines 136153). Fifteen years later,
I applied a similar rhetorical analysis to the first Epic of Lugalbanda
(Lugalbanda in the Cave of the Mountain).25
While these examples have not been widely followed, it is at least
worth noting that the term proem has been used to describe the first
two stanzas of another Sumerian hymn to the goddess Inanna in its
latest translation by Thorkild Jacobsen26 and the first three lines of an
Akkadian prayer to the god Nanna as translated by William Moran.27
And at the sixth biennial conference of the Rhetoric Society of America
held in May 1994 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, a
paper was presented on Enheduannas The Exaltation of Inanna:
Toward a Feminist Rhetoric.28 The author of the paper, Roberta
Binkley, has since then completed a doctoral dissertation on this subject
at the University of Arizona.
To return to my survey, in 1973 Stanley Gevirtz found evidence of
Canaanite rhetoric in the Amarna letters. While heavily indebted
to West Semitic (Ugaritic and Hebrew) models, these letters at least
introduced rhetorical flourishes into Akkadian.29 In 1978, Adele Berlin
522. Latest edition by Annette Zgoll, Der Rechtsfall der En-hedu-Ana im Lied nin-me-sara
(AOAT 246) (Mnster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1997).
21 Hallo and van Dijk 1968, ch. 1. See in detail Origins 263266.
22 Hallo and van Dijk 1968, 35.
23 Ibid., 45.
24 Ibid., 53.
25 Origins 172, n. 145.
26 Jacobsen 1987: 113.
27 Moran 1993: 117; cf. below, at note 39.
28 Origins, n. 148.
29 Stanley Gevirtz, On Canaanite Rhetoric: the Evidence of the Amarna Letters


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

explored shared rhetorical features in biblical and Sumerian literature.30 She was not concerned with any one composition or genre,
but with the whole gamut of Sumerian poetry, and particularly with a
feature it shares with biblical poetry, namely parallelism. Within this
broader technique, she noted especially two rhetorical features, one
the particularizing stanza and the other an ABAB word order pattern.
In his 1980 dissertation, Robert Falkowitz chose to define rhetoric
still more widely. Rather than the prevalent classical definition of rhetoric as the art of persuasion in oratory, he preferred the medieval conception in which rhetoric formed a trivium, with grammar and dialectic, within the seven liberal arts, and as such applied to poetry and
epistolography as well as to preaching. It was, in short, intended to
inculcate the ability to communicate in a lofty idiom distinct from common parlance, let alone colloquialism,31 and was therefore a proper
subject of instruction in the schools. By this criterion, the curriculum
of the scribal schools of Old Babylonian Mesopotamia could likewise
be described as an exercise in rhetoric. That curriculum first required
the Akkadian-speaking students to master the intricacies of cuneiform
writing and the basic vocabulary of Sumerian by means of primers constituting syllabaries and vocabularies. But it then went on to connected
texts in Sumerian and these typically began with the proverb collections, which Falkowitz accordingly renamed The Sumerian Rhetoric
Piotr Michalowski uses rhetoric almost synonymously with stylistics
in discussing negation as a rhetorical and stylistic device.33 Historians
of Mesopotamian art have expanded the definition even more, freeing
rhetoric of its verbal associations entirelyfor better or worseand
extending it to the realm of nonverbal communication.34
More recent studies have tended to return to a narrower definition
of rhetoric and to its epistolary setting. Thus Jack Sasson has singled
out the emissaries of Zimri-Lim, the Old Babylonian king of Mari
from Tyre, Orientalia 42 (1973), 162177. For some of these models, cf, Moshe Held,
Rhetorical Questions in Ugaritic and Biblical Hebrew, Eretz-Israel 9 (1969), 7179.
30 Berlin 1978.
31 See below at notes 3944 and 129.
32 Falkowitz 1982.
33 Piotr Michalowski, Negation as Description: the Metaphor of Everyday Life in
Early Mesopotamian Literature, Aula Orientalis 9 (1991), 134.
34 Winter 1981.

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


(ca. 17801760 bce) for reporting to their sovereign individually, massively, and often. Their letters contain dozens of long lines and, in
rhetoric, can match the best of biblical prose, full of vivid phrasing,
lively pacing, and a terrific sense of structure.35 Richard Hess has studied the longest letter of the many sent by the Egyptian pharaoh at
Amarna to his restless vassals in Asia during the Amarna period, He
concludes that its elaborate argument and stylistic sophistication constitute a creative use of rhetorical persuasion in order to counter the
arguments of a vassal and set forth the pharaohs case.36 He has also
applied rhetorical standards to the Amarna letters from Shechem and
Kirk Grayson has termed Assyrian rhetoric a conquering tactic,
citing both biblical and Assyrian evidence.38 Moran documents the
classical preference for the plain style or what in Greek is called
ho ischnos charactr and in Latin subtilis oratio or genus tenue to signal its
use in an Old Babylonian prayer to the moon-god.39 This plain style
should not, however, be confused with colloquialism. Moran regards
the justly famous letter of a schoolboy to his mother (Zinu) as probably
showing colloquial speech in Akkadian.40 It has also been detected
in Sumerian, both in wisdom literature41 and in an incantation,42 in
Akkadian depositions in court,43 and in biblical Hebrew.44
The most recent attempt to apply the canons of classical rhetoric to cuneiform literature is also the most massive one. In a doctoral

Jack M. Sasson, The King and I: a Mari King in Changing Perceptions, Journal
of the American Oriental Society 118 (1998), 458; For an example from the third millennium,
cf. Benjamin R. Foster, The Gutian Letter Again, N.A.B.U. 1990:31, No. 46.
36 Hess 1990.
37 Richard Hess, Smitten Ant Bites Back: Rhetorical Forms in the Amarna Correspondence from Shechem, in J.C. de Moor and W.G.E. Watson, eds., Verse in Ancient
Near Eastern Prose (AOAT 42, 1993) 95111; idem, Rhetorical Forms in the Amarna
Correspondence from Jerusalem, Maarav 10(2003), 221244.
38 A.K. Grayson, Assyrian Rule of Conquered Territory in Ancient Western Asia,
CANE 2 (1995), 961; for the parallel see already H.W.F. Saggs, Iraq 17 (1955), 47; 18
(1956), 55; Hallo, From Qarqar to Carchemish: Assyria and Israel in the Light of New
Discoveries, BASOR 23 (1960), 59.
39 Moran 1993; cf. Origins 173, n. 155.
40 ANET 629.
41 Hallo 1979, here: VIII.2; cf. Ibid., n. 157.
42 Hallo 1985, here: IX.1; cf. Ibid., n. 158.
43 Hallo, The Slandered Bride, in R.D. Biggs and J.A. Brinkman, eds., Studies
Presented to A. Leo Oppenheim (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1964), 9697. For b innam as a
colloquialism or an idiomatic locution see CAD A/1:377d and B 216 f. respectively.
44 Below, n. 130.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

dissertation written at the Hebrew University under the direction of

Aaron Shaer, Nathan Wasserman has discussed Syntactic and Rhetorical
Patterns in Non-Epic Old-Babylonian Literary Texts (1993). In nine chapters,
he treated in detail the techniques of hendiadys, merismus, rhyming
couplets, geminatio, gradatio, hypallage, enumeratio, the hysteronproteron sequence, zeugma sentences and extraposition sentences. Ten
years later, he published an expanded version of the first three phenomena, adding epic texts and discussions of similes (cf. already Wasserman 2000) and two other rhetorical devices which he identified by
their Akkadian and Arabic names as damqam-inim and tamyiz respectively (Wasserman 2003).
One should also take note of some recent studies that investigate
essentially rhetorical aspects of cuneiform literature without actually
using the term. Thus Dietz Edzard has dealt with monologues in Akkadian literature.45 Laurie Pearce has addressed the question of authorial intention, or why the scribes wrote.46 Barbara Porter has raised
the issue of impact on a presumed audience with respect to neoAssyrian royal inscriptions.47 The possible Mesopotamian background
of specifically political rhetoric has been investigated by Claus Wilcke
for older Babylonia and by Peter Machinist for later Assyria. Wilcke
regards rhetorical forms as just one subject among many others
in the scribal-school curriculum, which he, like me, equates with the
canon (pp. 66 f.); Machinist alludes to rhetoric early and often (pp. 77,
88, 103) and defends the wider sense of political (pp. 103 f. and
383 f.).48
Even this hasty survey, which has undoubtedly sinned by omission,
suggests that there are, after all, some potential insights to be gained
by a rhetorical approach to cuneiform literature. In what follows, I will
attempt to identify some other directions that this approach might usefully take. I will not stop to dwell on the peculiarities of cuneiform documentation, except to emphasize at the outset how it can best be classified.49 Using both formal and functional criteria, it can be divided into
Edzard 1990.
Pearce 1993.
47 Above, n. 8.
48 C. Wilcke, Politik im Spiegel der Literatur, Literatur als Mittel der Politik im
alteren Babylonien, in Kurt Raaflaub, ed., Anfnge politischen Denkens in der Antike,
(Schriften des Historischen Kollegs, Kolloquien 24, 1993), 2975; P. Machinist, Assyrians on Assyria in the First Millennium bc, ibid., 77104.
49 For the most recent defense of my taxonomy, see Hallo in COS 2 (2000), xxixxii.

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


archives, monuments, and canons. Archives include a vast corpus of

letters, accounts, contracts, and other documents of daily life preserved
on clay tablets in the hundreds of thousands and constituting some 80
percent of the surviving documentation. Although they play a crucial
role in the reconstruction of ancient society and of the well-springs
of our own contemporary institutions, these documentssometimes
disparagingly referred to by Assyriologists as laundry listsqualify
for rhetorical analysis only in the case of certain letters.50 A smaller
corpusperhaps 10 percent of the documentationconsists of royal
and other inscriptions that serve us as building blocks in the reconstruction of ancient history. Such texts are typically inscribed on monuments and can be regarded as monumental. In the best of circumstances, such as the royal inscriptions of the neo-Assyrian empire, they
may qualify as examples of rhetoric.51 The remaining 10 percent of the
documentationinscribed on clay surfaces of various shapes and often
recovered in multiple copiesis literary in the broad sense of the term
and has its place in the formal curriculum of the scribal schools where,
after the primers and the proverbs referred to earlier, the students
learned to read and copy out the entire received canon of Sumerian
(and later Akkadian) texts of diverse genres that creatively captured the
whole range of human experience and the reaction of human beings to
the world about them. These texts were literary in the narrower sense
but not by any means always belletristic, for they included religious, scientific, philological, and other genres not intended simply to edify or to
entertain but first of all to educate. Since the curriculum embodied at
any given time all those textsand only those textsthat were thought
necessary and proper to this pedagogic end, I have argued long and
hard in favor of labelling these texts as canonical and their totality at
any given period of history as the canon of that era.52 I would now be
prepared to suggest that they might equally well be labelled rhetorical, using that term in the broader, medieval connotation cited earlier,
but extending it far beyond only the proverb collections that stand near
the beginning of the school curriculum.
Proverbs are only one genre among the several that are collectively referred to, on the analogy of the biblical example, as wisdom


Cf. above, nn. 29, 3538.

See above, n. 8.
For details, see Origins 144153, esp. p. 151.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

literature. That literature was concerned with common mortals, not

with gods or kings, and it often oered practical instructions in agriculture and other common human pursuits. Much of it is clearly oral in
origin, and intended for oral delivery. Among the wisdom genres that
would particularly lend themselves to a rhetorical analysis are three
that are usually classified by Assyriologists as dialogues, diatribes, and
disputations respectively.53 Dialogues tend to take place between scribes
or between scribal students and their masters or parents;)54 diatribes
may involve men or women of various walks of life outdoing each
other in inventive invective.55 (Some scholars consider dialogues and
diatribes a single genre.)56 Disputations are the most artful of the three
genres, and the only one identified as such in the native terminology;
the Sumerian term a-da-man (Akkadian tes. tu. or das. atu) recurs in cultic
and archival texts, indicating the occasions when the disputations were
The disputations pit two parties against each other in formal debate.58 The parties are typically antithetical phenomena from the natural or social environmentsummer and winter, bird and fish, silver
and copper, hoe and plow, for example. Each party rehearses its advantages first and then the shortcomings of the antagonist in a series of
arguments and rebuttals that may reach three or more rounds before
the final judgment is rendered by the deity or, occasionally, the king,
depending apparently on whether the setting of the disputation was
conceived of as the scribal school attached to the temple or as the
palace.59 Typically (though not invariably) the palm goes to the party
that, at the outset, might have appeared the weaker, as if in recognition of the persuasiveness of its argumentation. (My colleague Victor
Bers reminds me of the fifth-century clich regarding the victory of the
weaker argumenthetton logosover the strongerkreitton logos, supposedly a mark of sophistic skill and immorality.) Thus the lowly hoe
triumphs over the lordly plow, perhaps even receiving a token gift for

Alster 1990; cf. Origins 175, n. 164.

Ibid., n, 165; Herman L.J. Vanstiphout Disputations and School Dialogues,
in COS I (1996), 575593. Cf. below, n. 127.
55 Cf. e.g. Sjberg 19711972.
56 E.g. Vanstiphout 1991:24 and n. 4.
57 Hallo apud Alster 1990: 13.
58 See in detail Vanstiphout 1990, 1992; Brock 2001.
59 Origins 176, n. 170.

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


his pains in what van Dijk described as an anticipation of the enigmatic qesi.tas and gold rings awarded to Job at the end of his disputation.60
It seems, then, that the disputations have a stronger claim than the
proverbs to be regarded as true exercises in rhetoric. In the view of
H.L.J. Vanstiphout, one of their principal current interpreters, they
developed out of the abstract and neutral debate situation primarily as an exercise in rhetorical skill . . . the debate, as a literary and
rhetorical form, is in itself and as such the primary reason for being.61
And in most cases the victor wins on rhetorical points: he is the cleverest debater.62 Hypothetically, we can reconstruct a kind of dramatic
presentation in which two speakers (or actors or rhetors) assumed the
respective roles. The preserved texts represent the libretti; their contents consist almost entirely of spoken parts, and the narrative interpolations constitute little more than stage directions.
Much the same could be said of some of the other genres that
followed the wisdom literature in the scribal curriculum and which,
unlike that literature, focused on kings and gods. What then are some
of the rhetorical and stylistic devices that can be detected in these
genres? I will confine myself to epic (including myth), not only because
it is evidently omitted from Wassermans aforementioned thesis (though
included in his book), but also because, of all cuneiform genres, this is
the one that, even in translation, continues to have the widest appeal.63
Who has not heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh?
What is perhaps less familiar is that to this day we still do not
have any complete recension of the epic! Its rediscovery began in
1872 with the publication of The Chaldaean Genesis by George Smith,
which included much of the story of the Flood in what proved to be
Tablet XI of the epic; it created so much excitement in England that
the Daily Telegraph supplied Smith with the funds to return to Kuyunjik
(which turned out to be a part of ancient Nineveh, and included the
royal libraries) and find many more fragments of the epic. But in
60 Job 42: 11; cf. van Dijk 1957. For later survivals of the genre, see G. J. Reinink and
H.L.J. Vanstiphout, eds., 1991: Dispute Poems and Dialogues in the Ancient and Mediaeval Near
East (OLA 42); S. Brock, The Dispute Poem: from Sumerian to Syriac, Journal of the
Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 1 (2001), 310.
61 Vanstiphout 1991: 24, n. 5; previously H.L.J. Vanstiphout, On the Sumerian
Disputation Between the Hoe and the Plough, Aula Orientalis 2, (1984) 249250.
62 Vanstiphout 1990: 280.
63 Origins 177, n. 174.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

spite of more than 130 years of additional discoveries, the epic remains
fragmentary. Even its very first line is broken and subject to dierent
restorations and translations. The latest suggestion is based on a join
made in 199864 that yields the first significant new evidence for the
opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh to appear since . . . 1891 65 and
leads to the translation: He who saw all, (who was) the foundation
of the land66 or, alternatively, He who saw the Deep, the countrys
foundation.67 Earlier renderings included: Let me proclaim to the
land him who has seen everything68 and Him who saw everything,
let me make known to the land,69 thus inviting the audience to listen.70
And indeed here and in the next four lines, the audience is tempted
by the inducement of sharing in the knowledge of someone who had
travelled widely in the world and experienced muchlike Odysseus
polutropon hos mala polla . . . (I) (1). In the next line, this geographical
breadth is matched by chronological depth, for Gilgamesh is said to
have brought back information from before the flood.71
But Gilgamesh is not alone among Akkadian epics in thus anticipating classical epic by attempting to attract the attention of a presumed audience at the outset. Claus Wilcke has studied the exordia
of Akkadian epics and identified at least four other examples in which
the poet steps forward to announce in the first person (typically in the
cohortative mood) his intention to sing of a certain subjecta veritable arma virumque cano (Aeneid I) (1)often followed by exhortations to
the audience to listen.72 Among them are Old Babylonian examples
thought to be hymnic-epic celebrations of Hammurapis campaigns

64 T. Kwasman, A New Join to the Epic of Gilgames Tablet I, N.A.B.U. 1998/3:

89, No. 99.
65 A.R. George, The Opening of the Epic of Gilgames, N.A.B.U. 1998/3:90,
No. 100.
66 Ibid.
67 Idem, The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1999),
68 CAD N/1:111.
69 J. Tigay, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1982), 141.
70 Origins 177, n. 175.
71 Ibid., n. 176.
72 Claus Wilcke, Die Anfnge der akkadischen Epen, ZA 67 (1977), 153216; cf.
Wolfram von Soden, Mottoverse zu Beginn babylonischer und antiker Epen, Mottostze in der Bibel, Ugarit-Forschungen 14 (1982), 235239.

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


against the north73 and the south,74 and a hymn to Ishtar as Agusaya,
the mad dancer in battle.75 Only one example dates from the late
period, namely the canonical Anzu Epic).76
Still others of the later compositions substitute for this exordium
a circumstantial temporal clause that sets the stage for the narrative
to follow, a kind of fairy tale beginning with once upon a time.
The Akkadian conjunction is enuma/inuma/inumi, when, which breaks
down etymologically into in umi, on the day that, and as such is a
throwback to the Sumerian u4...a-a, on the day that; when, which
is such a standard incipit of Sumerian epic and other genres that it
became the preferred form of the personal names that identified the
antediluvian sages with the works of literature attributed to them.77 In
its Akkadian form it is most familiar from the incipit of the so-called
Epic of Creation, enuma elish.78 Other examples include the muchdebated incipit of the (Late) Old Babylonian flood story of Atar-hasis,79
and the Middle Babylonian myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal.80
A third rhetorical solution to introducing epic is to begin with a hymnic apostrophe to the royal or divine protagonista useful reminder
that myth and epic do not constitute separate genres in cuneiform but
only a subset of hymns to kings or gods.81 With Wolfram von Soden
(inspired by Benno Landsberger), it has therefore become customary to
describe the Akkadian of early examples of the subset as the hymnicepic dialect.82 The Epic of Erra and Ishum, for example, begins with
a hymnic apostrophe to Ishum.83 Rarest of all is the epic that begins in
medias res, as in the case of the story of Etana, both in its Old Babylonian and its late recensions.84
Origins 178, n. 178.
Ibid, n. 179.
75 Ibid., n. 180.
76 Wilcke 1977: 175179; most recent edition Hallo and Moran 1979; latest translations by Foster 1993: 469485, 1995: 115131.
77 Hallo 1963: 175176, here: II.1.
78 Wilcke 1977: 163175; latest translation by B.R. Foster in COS 1 (1997), 390402.
79 Wilcke 1977: 160163. Latest translation by Foster in COS 1 (1997), 450453.
For the incipit see B. Groneberg, Archiv fr Orientforschung 26 (19781979), 20 (with
previous literature); M.-J. Seux, Atra-hasis I, I, 1,: RA 75 (1981), 190191; von Soden,
Mottoverse, 235236.
80 Wilcke 1977: 159; latest translation by Stephanie Dalley in COS 1 (1997), 384389.
81 Cf. above, n. 63.
82 Origins 179, n. 186, and above, notes 7375.
83 Origins 179, n. 187; latest translation by Dalley in COS 1 (1997), 404416.
84 Origins 179, n. 188; latest translation by Dalley in COS 1 (1997), 453457.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

But enough of the proems of Akkadian epics. Let us look also at

their perorations, and let us begin once more with the Epic of Gilgamesh. It has twelve chapters, or tablets, a pleasingly round number
in Mesopotamian tradition. Perhaps that is why a twelfth chapter was
added to the epic, for length of composition, whether in terms of chapters or of lines, was a significant factor in cuneiform poetry. Not only
was it one of the few data regularly recorded in the otherwise laconic
colophons,85 but compositional lengths of 200, 480, and 1080 lines may
not be wholly accidental.86
In fact the twelfth tablet is an inorganic appendage to the epic
proper, as E. A, Speiser put it.87 C.J. Gadd88 and S.N. Kramer89 had
recognized it long ago as the straightforward translation of a Sumerian
original, a virtually unique occurrence in the long history of SumeroAkkadian bilingualism.90 Shaers edition91 shows, in detail, how its
151 lines correspond to the second half of the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld92 This second half, as we now
know, is represented by two exemplars newly excavated in the Jebel
Hamrin area, one of which ends with the incipit of another Sumerian
Gilgamesh episode, namely Gilgamesh and Huwawa (Gilgamesh and
the Land of the Living).93
The latest study on the subject argues otherwise, contending that the
twelfth tablet is an organic part of the epic, a necessary epilogue . . .,
and a final armation of the truth of what has been revealed, i.e.
Gilgameshs essential humanity.94 But this study fails on at least two
counts. For one, it overlooks the fact that, outside the epic if not within
Origins 179, n. 189; cf. above, note 22.
Ibid., n. 190. Cf. perhaps the 200 lines of Lamentations 13 according to the
calculations of D.N. Freedman and J.C. Geoghegan, Quantitative Measurement in
Biblical Hebrew Poetry, in R. Chazan et al., eds. Ki Baruch Hu: . . . Studies in Honor of
Baruch A. Levine (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 229249, esp. pp. 232233.
87 ANET 97.
88 Origins, n. 192.
89 Ibid, n. 193.
90 Ibid. 160.
91 Ibid. 179, n. 194.
92 Ibid, n. 195.
93 Ibid. 180, n. 196; see now Antoine Cavigneaux and Farouk al-Rawi, La fin de
Gilgames, Enkidu et les enfers daprs les manuscrits dUr et de Meturan, Iraq 62
(2000), 119; Gianni Marchesi, -a lllumx -luh-ha s-s: on the incipit of the Sumerian
Poem Gilgames and Huwawa B, in S. Graziani, ed., Studi . . . dedicati alla memoria di
Luigi Cagni (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 2000), vol. 2:673684.
94 Vulpe 1994. For dissenting opinions see Kilmer 1982 and Parpola 1993:192196.

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


it, Gilgamesh does achieve a measure of immortality, albeit as god of

the netherworld. As Tzvi Abusch has shown, the twelfth tablet (along
with the sixth) was added to the epic precisely to make that point.95
Moreover, there is ample and incontrovertible evidence for the gradual
growth of the epic over time.
In point of fact the Gilgamesh epic in the final form that is the basis
of most modern translations is the product of a millennial evolution,
an evolution that has been conveniently traced by Jerey Tigay.96 At
an earlier stage, it undoubtedly concluded with Tablet XI for, to quote
Speiser again, the last lines of Tablet XI are the same as the final lines
of the introduction of the entire work (I, i 1619).97 The eect is one of
framing the entire composition with an invitation to inspect the great
walls of Uruk built, as we know from elsewhere, by Gilgamesh himself.98
Such a framing eect, or inclusio, familiar in the Bible from the Book of
Job (and elsewhere), is lost by the addition of Tablet XII.99
But the frame is not an original part of the epic either! The incipit
of its Old Babylonian recension is supreme above kings (sutur eli sarri)
as should have long been seen from the colophon of Tablet II but in
fact was not realized until the discovery of a new fragment of Tablet I
at Kalah and its publication by Donald Wiseman.100 There, as noted
by Shaer, the words in question occur at the beginning of line 27 of
the first column.101 That implies that the first 26 lines of the canonical
recension, including the entire passage about the walls of Uruk, were
not originally part of the proemiumnor, probably, of the peroration.
The oldest recoverable recension of the Akkadian epic began, not with
the bard speaking in the first person and addressing the audience in the
second, but with a standard hymnic introduction of the protagonist in
the third. This hymnic introduction typically begins with epithets and
keeps the audience in supposed suspense before revealing the hero by
his proper name. It is thus an example of the rhetorical device that we

Origins 180, n. 198.

Ibid., n. 199.
97 ANET 97.
98 Origins, n. 201; cf. R.J. Tournay, Inscription dAnam, roi dUruk et successeur de
Gilgamesh, in H. Goedicke, ed., Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William Foxwell Albright
(Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971), 453457.
99 Origins 180, n. 202.
100 Ibid., n. 203.
101 Ibid., n. 204; cf. also C.B.F. Walker, The Second Tablet of tup
. senna pitema, JCS
33 (1981), 191195, esp. p. 194.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

noted earlier and to which Berlin has given the label of particularizing
parallelism.102 It is a device much favored at the beginning of Akkadian
and especially of Sumerian poems.
What this rapid survey of the evolution of the Akkadian Gilgamesh
Epic suggests is that it involved such essentially rhetorical devices as
self-introduction of the speaker, invitation to the audience, hymnic
apostrophe to the protagonist, partial repetition of the proemium to
achieve a frame eect and closure, and mechanical addition of an
extraneous addendum to arrive at a preferred length. The evolution of
the composition thus proceeded, at least in part, by successive expansions at its borders. This is a process with possible analogues in the
evolution of the biblical corpus, notably in the case of literary prophecy
as proposed by David Noel Freedman.103 I have similarly advanced the
notion of a central core of Deuteronomy which gradually grew by
accretion at both ends in what can almost be described as concentric
circles.104 Of course it was not the only means of expansion. A comparison of Old Babylonian and neo-Assyrian recensions of Gilgamesh
and other compositions shows expansion likewise in the interiornot
always with an equally happy result from a modern esthetic point of
view105 as well as juxtaposition of originally discrete compositions to
form a greater whole.106
But we have not yet traced the evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic back
to its earliest stages. In fact the unified epic was preceded by a series of
discrete, episodic tales not, as yet, organized around the central theme
of human mortality. Whether these discrete episodes were already unified in the earliest Akkadian recension remains a matter of debate, with
Tigay favoring this view of matters107 and Hope Nash Wol questioning
it.108 What has hitherto been beyond dispute is that the earlier Sumerian episodic tales were not integrated. The new evidence from MeTuran raises the possibility that they were beginning to be.109 We have
already encountered one-half of one of them pressed into service for


Above, note 30.

Freedman 1991, esp. pp. 5755; 1984.
Origins, n. 207.
Ibid, n. 208.
Ibid, n. 209.
Ibid. 182, n. 210.
Wol 1969.
Above, note 93.

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


Tablet XII of the Akkadian epic.110 But with the exception of Gilgamesh and Agga and The Death of Gilgamesh,111 the others too
were bequeathed to the Akkadian poet, not in the form of mechanical
or slavish translations but creatively adapted to fashion an entirely new
The technique of blending discrete compositions into a larger cycle
did not necessarily involve adaptation of a Sumerian original in a
new Akkadian context, nor did it begin with Gilgameshthough it is
easier to recognize it there. But let us return where we began, to the
princess-poetess Enheduanna. She is said to be the author of, among
other compositions,112 at least three hymns to the goddess Inanna, each
with its own theme. We have already encountered The Exaltation
of Inanna, which commemorates the earthly triumphs of her father
Sargon over his enemies within Sumer and Akkad, and sublimates
them into cosmic terms. The poem Inanna and Ebih does the same
for Sargonic triumphs over enemies on the northeastern frontier as
symbolized by Mount Ebih (Jebel Hamrin).113 Finally, the poem StoutHearted Lady (in-nin s-gur 4-ra) tells of the submission of the whole
world to Sargonic hegemony as symbolized by its acknowledgement of
Inannas supremacy in every field of endeavor.114 In this sequence, we
move from Sumer and Akkad to the frontier and thence to the whole
world. If we reverse the sequence, we can see the action coming ever
closer to home, in a manner worthy of an Amos.115 And it is precisely
this reverse order in which all three compositions are listed together at
the beginning of a literary catalogue of Old Babylonian date.116
If, then, the three great hymns by Enheduanna in honor of Inanna
are taken as forming an integrated cycle, then they constitute a thematic counterpart to her other principal work: the cycle of short hymns
to all the temples of Sumer and Akkad.117 For while the former may be
said to celebrate the theme of the king at war, the latter reflects the
king at peace, solicitously caring for the temples of all the country in a
Origins 182, n. 213.
Ibid., n. 214.
112 For the Enheduanna texts not further treated here, see Origins 263266.
113 Ibid. 182, n. 216. Cf. now Pascal Attinger, Inana et Ebih, ZA 88 (1998), 164195.
114 Origins 182, n. 217.
115 Ibid. 183, n. 218.
116 Mark E. Cohen, Literary Texts from the Andrews University Archaeological
Museum, RA 70 (1976), 131132, lines 13.
117 Origins 183, n. 220. For a dierent view, see now J.A. Black, En-hedu-ana not the
composer of The temple hymns, N.A.B.U. 2002:24.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

major attempt to satisfy the traditional requirements of Sumerian religion.118 It achieves in exalted poetry what the Standard of Ur, found
by Sir Leonard Woolley in the Royal Cemetery, had achieved in pictorial terms some three centuries earlier. This precious object, variously
interpreted as a wooden box,119 a desk or lectern120 or, most recently, as
the sound-box of a harp, has four inlaid panels, of which the two largest
show the king at war and at peace respectively, presiding over battle on
one side and over libations on the other.121 It thus shows the king at
war and in peace or, to put it another way, the ruler as king (lugal) and
high-priest (en), his two principal roles,122 and one could claim for the
beginning of the Mesopotamian record, as Irene Winter has said of the
end, that royal rhetoric embraced art as well as literature.
In conclusion, it must seem somewhat audacious to defend the notion of the birth of rhetoric in Mesopotamia, given that the more
conventional view looks for the origins of rhetoric in classical Greece.123
And indeed, I admit that this notion, or at least this title, was Professor Gitays, not mine.124 But I am prepared to defend it, along with the
related notion that the idea of humanitas goes back to Sumerian precedent. It has been said that the humanities were born in a rhetorical
manger. The first recorded use of the word humanitas is in the Rhetorica ad Herrenium, a text roughly contemporaneous with Cicero.125 But
Latin humanitas may fairly be described as a kind of calque or loan
translation of Sumerian nam-l-ulu6, an abstract noun formed from the
Sumerian word for man, human being (l) perhaps via its Akkadian

118 Hallo, Sumerian Religion in A.F. Rainey, ed., kinatt

utu sa darti: Raphael Kutscher Memorial Volume (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv Univ. Institute of Archaeology, 1993), 1535,
esp. 17, here: I.6.
119 Origins 183, n. 222.
120 Ibid., n. 223; cf. J.-C. Margueron, Ltendard dUr": recit historique ou magique? in Collectanea Orientalia . . . tudes oertes en hommage Agnes Spycket (Neuchatel/Paris:
Recherches et Publications, 1996) 159.
121 Ibid.
122 Donald P. Hansen, Art of the Royal Tombs at Ur: A Brief Interpretation, in
R.L. Zettler and L. Horne, eds., Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Art and Archaeology and Anthropology, 1998),
123 See e.g. Thomas Cole, The Origins of Rhetoric in Ancient Greece (Baltimore/London:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); I. Worthington, ed. Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in
Action (London/New York: Routledge, 1993). On the possible Mesopotamian background of specifically political rhetoric, see above, n. 48.
124 See above, unnumbered note.
125 Origins 184, n. 226.

i.7. the birth of rhetoric


loan translation amelutu. Like the Latin abstract, the Mesopotamian

terms have a double meaning, referring both to humanity in the
sense of humankind in the aggregate, and to humanity, humanism,
in the sense of that special quality of breeding and deportment that distinguishes the educated person from the masses.126 A single quotation
among many may serve to illustrate. A dialogue127 in which a father
berates his perverse son for nearly all of its 180-odd lines, includes this
couplet: Because you do not look to your humanity, my heart was carried o as if by an evil wind / You are unable to make (your) words pay
any attention to your humanity.128 The first recorded use of the Sumerian term antedates Cicero by two millennia, but shares one of his firm
convictions: linguistic ability was at the heart of the scribal curriculum
of Hammurapis Babylonia, as much as it was to be the essence of the
Roman rhetoricians facilitas.
I cannot resist ending with a saying from the Jerusalem Talmud cited
by Richard Steiner in a study of colloquial Hebrew.129 In Megilla 71b
we read that Greek is good for singing, Latin for warfare, Aramaic
for lamentation, and Hebrew for (divine) speech.130 Had the sages, like
Daniels friends, mastered the literature and script of the Chaldaeans
(Dan. 1: 4), they might well have added that Sumerian and Akkadian
are good for rhetoric!
Works Cited (either Explicitly or by Reference to Origins)
Alster, Bendt, 1990: Sumerian Literary Dialogues and Debates and their
Place in ancient Near Eastern Literature. In E. Keck et al., eds., Living
Waters: . . . Studies Presented to Dr. Frede Lkkegaard (Copenhagen: Museum
Tusculanum), 116.
Berlin, Adele, 1978: Shared rhetorical features in biblical and Sumerian literature. Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 10:3542.
, 1986: Narrative Poetics in the Bible. Prooftexts 6:273284.
, 1994: Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative. Reprint. (Winona Lake,
IN: Eisenbrauns).

126 Van Dijk 1953; cf, Henri Limet, Peuple et humanit chez les Sumriens,
G. van Driel et al., eds., zikir sumim: Assyriological Studies Presented to F.R. Kraus . . .
(Leiden: Brill, 1982), 258267.
127 For this genre see above, n. 54.
128 Origins 184, n. 228.
129 Steiner 1992.
130 Origins, n. 230.


i.7. the birth of rhetoric

Brock, S., 2001: The Dispute Poem: From Sumerian to Syriac. Journal of the
Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 1, 310.
Cole, Thomas, 1991: The Origins of Rhetoric in Ancient Greece (Baltimore/London:
Johns Hopkins University Press).
Dozeman, Thomas B, and Benjamin Fiore, 1992: Rhetorical Criticism,
Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York etc.: Doubleday) 5:712719.
Edzard, Dietz O., 1990: Selbstgesprch und Monolog in der akkadischen
Literatur. In T. Abusch et al., eds., Lingering Over Words: Studies. . . in Honor of
William L. Moran (Cambridge: Harvard Semitic Studies 37), 149162.
Falkowitz, Robert S., 1982: The Sumerian Rhetoric Collections (Ann Arbor, MI:
University Microfilms).
Foster, Benjamin R., 1993: Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature (2
vols.). (Bethesda, MD: CDL Press).
, 1995: From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia
(Bethesda, MD: CDL Press).
Fox, Michael V., 1983: Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric. Rhetorica 1:922.
Freedman, David N. 1991: The Unity of the Hebrew Bible (Ann Arbor: University
of Michigan).
, 1994: The Undiscovered Symmetry of the Bible. Bible Review 10/1
(February) 3441, 63.
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Honor of Baruch A. Levine (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns), 229249.
George, Andrew, 1999: The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation (New York:
Barnes and Noble).
Gevirtz, Stanley, 1973: On Canaanite Rhetoric: The Evidence of the Amarna
Letters from Tyre. Orientalia 42:162177.
Gitay, Yehoshua, 1981: Prophecy and Persuasion: A Study of Isaiah 4048 (Forum
Theologiae Linguisticae 14) (Bonn: Linguistica Biblica).
, 1991: Isaiah and his Audience: The Structure and Meaning of Isaiah 112.
(Studia Semitica Neerlandica 30) (Assen/Maastricht: van Gorcum).
Greenstein, Edward L., 1981: Biblical Narratology. Prooftexts 1:201216.
, 1982: An Equivocal Reading of the Sale of Joseph. In Kenneth
R.R. Gros Louis, ed., Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives, vol. 2 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon), 114125 and 306310.
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Haran (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns), 241258.
Hallo, William W., 1963: On the Antiquity of Sumerian Literature, Journal of
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Researches. 3) (Repr. New York: AMS Press, 1982).
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Assyriological Studies
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et al., eds., Zikir Sumim:

Assyriological Studies Presented to F.R. Kraus... (Leiden:
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catalogues and other scholia


In setting up a chronological scheme for Sumerian literature, Falkenstein1 distinguished two major periods of creativity which we may describe as neo-Sumerian (ca. 21151815 bc)2 and as late or post-Sumerian (ca. 15001100 bc) respectively. The assumed floruit of postSumerian creativity can be supported by a number of arguments. It
was contemporary with a very flourishing period of Akkadian literary
activity;3 it is attested by nearly contemporary copies as well as by later
copies which continue almost to the beginning of the Christian Era;4 it
coincides with a posited revival of Sumerian learning after the sack of
Babylon and the end of the Babylonian Dark Ages.5
But the presumed date of neo-Sumerian creativity precedes both the
assumed date of the first major period of Akkadian literary output and
the attested date of nearly all copies of neo-Sumerian literature hitherto
published,6 for both of these categories can be dated approximately
to the period 18151665 bc,7 particularly to the time of Hammurapi,
Samsu-iluna and Abi-eshuh of Babylon.8 By contrast, such evidence as
The substance of this paper was presented to the 173rd meeting of the American
Oriental Society, Washington, D.C., on March 27, 1963.
1 A. Falkenstein, Zur Chronologie der sumerischen Literatur, Compte Rendu de
la seconde Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (= CRRAI ) 2 (1951) 1227; Mitteilungen der
deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft (= MDOG) 85 (1953) 113.
2 Or 20501750 in the low chronology employed by Falkenstein, ibid., 1.
3 Ibid., 12. Cf. also W. von Soden, Das Problem der zeitlichen Anordnung akkadischer Literaturwerke, ibid., 1426, esp. p. 22.
4 Falkenstein, ibid., 2 and notes 46.
5 Cf. W. Hallo, New viewpoints on cuneiform literature, Israel Exploration Journal
(= IEJ) 12 (1962) 24 f., note 54 and, for the problems of literary creativity in cuneiform
generally, ibid., 1421, here: I.1.
6 Some copies of incantations may be dated to the Ur III period on the basis
of their script; cf. e.g. J. Nougayrol, Conjuration ancienne contre Samana, Archiv
Orientln 17/2 (= Symbolae Hrozny 2, 1949) 213226; Falkenstein, LSS nF 1 (1931) 2, note 1
and CRRAI 2 (1951) 19. Cf. also F.R. Kraus, ZA 50 (1952) 49 ad SLTN 48 and 138, and
E.I. Gordon, Bibliotheca Orientalis 17 (1960) 124, note 19.
7 17501600 in Falkensteins terms; he refers also to some copies dated under Ammis.aduqa (16461626).
8 It may be noted in passing that at least some Old Babylonian copies are dated


ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

we possess of the long tradition of Old Sumexian literature which

preceded and gave way to the neo-Sumerian canons consists entirely
of contemporary copies: the lexical lists which go back all the way to
the beginnings of writings at Uruk;9 the proverb tablet from Fara;10 a
hymnal fragment attributed to Urukagina;11 the Sargonic cylinder from
Nippur12 and the Gudea cylinders from Lagash.13
Of course, much of the neo-Sumerian literature in Old Babylonian
copies concerns itself with the royal house of Ur and with such of their
predecessors as Gudea of Lagash,14 Naram-Sin of Akkad,15 his highpriestess Enheduanna,16 and perhaps even Eannatum of Lagash.17 And
other internal indices abundantly support an early date for the origin
to the reign of Rim-Sin II; cf. TRS 50 (Shulgi B) and YBC 7159 and 4661
(Lamentation over the destruction of Ur, unpublished).
9 Of these, the most striking example is a particular version of a list of nomina professionis which is attested throughout the third millennium over a wide area embracing
Uruk, Ur, Shuruppak, Lagash and Susa; cf. A. Deimel, Zur ltesten Geschichte der
sumerischen Schultexte, Orientalia o. s. 2 (1920) 5153; Falkenstein, Archaische Texte aus
Uruk (1936) 45, and UET 2 (1935) Nos. 14, 264, 299301.
10 A. Deimel, Schultexte aus Fara, No. 26. This text even finds echoes in the neoSumerian literature, as shown by T. Jacobsen apud E.I. Gordon, Sumerian Proverbs (1959)
11 F. Thureau-Dangin apud G. Cros, Nouvelles Fouilles de Tello (1910), [180], AO 4153;
cf. E. Sollerger, Le Systme Verbal (1952) 174.
12 G.A. Barton, Miscellaneous Babylonian Inscriptions (1918) No. 1; cf. Falkenstein, CRRAI
2, 19.
13 One may regard these cylinders either as the earliest examples of the neo-Sumerian category of temple hymns (cf. Falkenstein, CRRAI 2, 14, bottom), or as the climax
of a long tradition of Old Sumerian literature which is gradually coming to light
(ibid., 18). Note also the predilection for cylinders among the scribes of the lexical and
literary texts of the Agade-Gutian period.
14 E. Chiera, STVC No. 36, translated by Falkenstein, Sumerische und akkadische Hymnen
umd Gebete (= SAHG) (1953) No. 16.
15 Notably the Curse of Agade to be edited by S.N. Kramer; cf. the references in
Gelb, MAD 22 (1961) 201 sub Late Legends 12.
16 She is the author of the Collection of Temple Hymns (cf. H. Zimmern, ZA
39 [1930] 249, J.J.A. van Dijk, Sumerische Gtterlieder (= SGL) 2 (1960) 24, note 44), and
figures prominently in at least two major hymns to Innin; cf. provisionally van Dijk,
Sumer 13 (1957) 65. The Yale Babylonian Collection possesses a complete text of the
shorter of these in three tablets which have been copied for publication.
17 Cf. below, note 46. For the cycle of epics dealing with the First Dynasty of Uruk,
cf. Falkenstein, CRRAI 2, 2427. It is unlikely that the composition of any of the poems
mentioned antedates the neo-Sumerian period (cf. ibid., 22); that they were created in
the Ur III period itself finds additional support in the fact that this dynasty introduced
a cult of deified rulers including such predecessors dynasts as Sargon, Manishtushu and
Naram-Sin of Akkad (cf. H. Hirsch, Archiv fr Orientforschung 20 [1963] 5, 16) and Gudea
of Lagash.

ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature


of these and other hymnic compositions, which some hitherto unpublished copies from Ur and Nippur will eventually confirm. Meanwhile,
however, it is possible to add to this evidence the testimony of a neoSumerian inventory of forty-two hymnal incipits found in the course
of cataloguing the Yale Babylonian Collection. Of these incipits, some
may, with more or less certainty, be identified with titles of compositions
previously known from Old Babylonian copies or Old Babylonian catalogues, or both. The inventory in question is thus by some two or three
centuries the oldest witness of its kind to the antiquity of any major
works of neo-Sumerian literature. It is inscribed in four columns on a
large, well-preserved tablet18 which was thoroughly baked, apparently
in antiquity. In outward appearance it resembles an Ur III name list,
and its signs have precisely the form current in Ur III economic texts.
A terminus post quem is provided by two of the titles which apostrophize
the deified Shulgi.
The subscript of the new catalogue also supports an Ur III dating.
The last line reads, in eect: p-da n--rum. Although one might interpret this as personal name (Pada)19 +title,20 a more likely rendering is
(tablets) found (or recovered) by Ni"urum. The verb p(d) is used in
apparently this sense in another Ur III catalogue,21 in the court judgments,22 and in accounts23 of the Ur III period. Ni"urum is, moreover,
attested as a personal name in Ur III texts,24 interestingly enough at
least once as an archivist.25
We are dealing, then, with the oldest example yet found of what
is by now an impressive number of Sumerian literary catalogues and
inventories. I have been able to count in all seventeen lists of this type,
eight of them identifying works of neo-Sumerian literature and nine
chiefly those of the post-Sumerian group (see the Table). We owe our
YBC 3654 (80 132 mm.).
In Ur III texts, Pada almost always occurs as a merchant; cf. N. Schneider,
Orientalia o. s. 23 (= Das Drehem- und Djohaarchiv 4/1, 1926 f.) 175 f.
20 For n--rum (variant: n-u -rum) DN as a royal epithet, cf. most recently A.
Kapp, ZA 51 (1955) 86; Jacobsen, ZA 52 (1057) 131 f., note 90 (6).
21 Below, Table, No. 2. Though as old as our text, this inventory includes no titles
that can, as yet, be identified with known compositions.
22 Falkenstein, Neusumerische Gerichtsurkunden 3 (1957) 151.
23 Ibid. 2 (1956) 392 top; cf. A.L. Oppenheim, Catalogue of the . . . Eames Collection (=
AOS 32, 1948) 132 and 249 (ad S 1).
24 Cf. e.g. Schneider, op. cit. (note 19), 38, s.v. Gar--as.
25 M.L. Hussey, Harvard Semitic Series 4 (1915) 23 iii 3 (Shulgi 48). For sa (G)-dub-ba
= sandabakku, archivist, see Falkenstein, op. cit. (note 22) 159.


ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

knowledge and understanding of the neo-Sumerian, Old Babylonian

and Middle Babylonian catalogues chiefly to Kramer,26 while Ungnad
has dealt briefly with the neo-Assyrian ones.27 The Middle Assyrian
catalogue has often been cited in the literature,28 the neo-Babylonian
one almost never.29 The Old Babylonian lists dier formally from all the
later ones in that they seem to exhibit no single consistent sequence or
system of classification; the later lists not only classify the texts by genre
but, as is shown by the existence of duplicate copies in at least two
cases (Nos. 1112, 1516), apparently arrived at a canonical version of
the catalogues themselves, as in the case of the contemporary Akkadian
catalogues and tables of contents.30
Table. Cuneiform Catalogues of Sumerian Literary Texts
Museum No.


Provenience Location

Place of Publication

YBC 3654



Published herewith

2. HS 1360




Pohl, TMH nF 1/2

(1937) 360; Kramer and
Bernhardt, ibid. 3 (1961) 55

3. ?

Old Babylonian


Kramer, RA 55 (1961)

4. ?

Old Babylonian



Figulla and Martin, UET 5

(1953) 86


Old Babylonian



TMH nF 3, 54; WZJ 6

(1956/7) pl. iii

6. CBS 29. 15. 155

Old Babylonian


Philadelphia Kramer, BASOR 88 (1942)



Old Babylonian


Genouillac, TCL 15 (1930)


8. VAT 6481

Old Babylonian


Zimmern, VS 10 (1913) 216

9. HS 1477

Middle Babylonian Nippur


TMH nF 3, 53; WZJ 6,

pls. iii


HS 1504

AO 5393

26 TMH nF 3 (1961) pp. 19 f. (No. 2); RA 55 (1961) 169176 (No. 3); WZJ 6 (19561957)
389395 (Nos. 49, with I. Bernhardt); cf. also Kraus, OLZ 50 (1955) c. 518 on No. 4.
27 OLZ 21 (1918) cc. 116119 (Nos. 1116).
28 E.g. T.J. Meek, JBL 43 (1924) 245252 and previous treatments there cited. For the
Sumerian entries, cf. Falkenstein, ZA 49 (1949) 91, 103.
29 S. Langdon alluded to it in Babyloniaca 3 (19091910) 248 and, more recently,
M. Weitemeyer in Archive and library technique in ancient Mesopotamia, Libri 6
(19551956) 237, note 65.
30 On these see most recently Hallo, IEJ 12, 23 f. and notes 4749, here: I.1; W.G.
Lambert, A catalogue of texts and authors, JCS 16 (1962) 5677. For an Akkadian
inventory of texts, cf. e.g. Langdon, RA 28 (1931) 136 (Rm. 150).

ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

Museum No.


Provenience Location

Place of Publication


10. VAT 10101

Middle Assyrian



Ebeling, KAR 1 (1919) 158

11. K 2529 + 3276




IV Rawlinson (1875)
60 = IV R2 (1891) 53
+ Langdon, Babylonian
Liturgies (1913) 103a

12. K 2




Bezold, Catalogue 1 (1889)

p. 1

13. BM 82-3-23, 5220 Neo-Assyrian



Langdon, Babylonian
Liturgies 151

14. K. 9618




ibid., No. 115

15. K 3141




ibid., No. 138

16. K 3482




ibid., No. 139

17. Herbert Clark



Jerusalem (?) Luckenbill, AJSL 26 (1909)


Cf. also. Langdon, RA 18 (1621) 157159 (reference courtesy F. J. Stephens)

As might be expected, the new catalogue diers considerably from all

the later ones. In purpose, it is probably closest to the other Ur III
example and represents, like that, an inventory of texts found or
recovered. In content as well as structure, it resembles rather the
post-Old Babylonian ones for, like these, it apparently limits its titles
to hymns and classifies them. In terms of identifiable titles, however, its
only parallels, with one or two possible exceptions (see nos. 8, 23 below),
are with the Old Babylonian catalogues. Even these identifications are
not always certain, for it appears that the incipits were not, as yet,
always quoted verbatim.31 Many are still entirely unknown, at least
to me. The text is oered here in copy,* transliteration, and tentative
translation in the hope that others may contribute identifications from
as yet unpublished texts or from texts overlooked here.
A number of the incipits can be identified with a reasonable degree
of assurance.
No. 2: den-ll-l [d]u11-ga-ni nu-kr, of Enlilhis command is
unchanging. This composition may be tentatively identified with a

31 In some cases it is even conceivable that our inventory identified compositions not
by their opening but by their concluding lines, their so-called u r ux (EN), for which see
last Falkenstein, ZA 52 (1957) 6972.
* This copy is not included here, but in the original article: pp. 171172, and in the
forthcoming Sumerian Royal Hymns (see above, Introduction).


ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

hymn to Enlil whose popularity can be gauged by the large number of

exemplars collected by Falkenstein, who edited it,32 and by its appearance in at least two of the Old Babylonian catalogues, where it is listed
under its opening phrase of den-ll-s-du-s. Our entry seems rather
to be based on the opening couplet which, in its fullest form, begins,
Enlil, his command is far and away the loftiest, his word (variant: his
command) is holy, a thing unchanging. One Old Babylonian exemplar
has a shorter version:

1) an-edin-zi-da dar-a
2) den-ll-l [d]u11-ga-ni nu-kr

[l]ugal an-k-ga me-te-bi

lugal den-ll-ra gub-ba
en gu4-bn-da
se-ir-zi en-da-gal
m-zi m-du11-ga
en su-l-im
ur-sag en-hus-gal
ur-sag en-me-sa-ra-tm-ma

11) lugal a[n-s-t]a hi-[li-gr]u?



nin me-e-h-du7
en inim-nun-zu
ul-gi hi-li-s
sul-gi dingir-zi
en gal-zu-an-na
lugal-mu hi-li-gru
lugal inim-sa6
ur-sag s-k-ta
lugal a-ma-ru
lugal me-lm-hus
ur-sag n-gal-gru
lugal u4-g-di
lugal gis-tg-dagal
ur-sag sul-zi-tu-da
nin hi-li-s
agrig! ?-zi-ukkin-na

Raised in the true upper steppe

Of Enlilhis command is
Oh king, the norm of holy heaven
Oh king, appointed for Enlil
Oh lord, fierce ox
Oh brilliance, lord of the south
Confidently cared for one
Oh lord, awesome splendor
Oh hero, great fiery lord
Oh hero, lord created for all the
divine ordinances
Oh king, laden with beauty from
Heavens midst
Oh lady, fit for divine ordinances
Oh lord, knower of the princely word
Oh Shulgi, adorned with beauty
Oh Shulgi, true god
Oh Lord, expert of heaven
My king, laden with beauty
Oh king, the good word
Oh hero, from the holy womb
Oh king, a flood
Oh king, fiery radiance
Oh hero, laden with awe
Lord in heaven and earth
Oh king, thunderer
Oh king, wide understanding
Oh hero, born to be a true youth
Oh lady, adorned with beauty
True steward of the assembly

32 SGL (1959) No. 1. The Yale Babylonian Collection has at least three more unpublished exemplars (YBC 4618, 4651 and 9858).

ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature


iii 29) usum-hus-an-na
30) lugal-me s-ta ur-sag-me-en

Fiery dragon of heaven

I am a king, from the womb I am a
31) nin-mu ms-za-gn-za na-dar-a My lady, who in your bright visage
ever endurest
32) en me-lm-s-s
Oh lord, adorned with radiance
32a) su-nign 32 sa-du-lugal
Sub-total: 32 royal hymns
33) lugal-en gal-di-an-na
Oh lofty king, distinguished one of
34) sag-me-en-k
Oh holy headband (?)
35) ama h-gl-la-d-a
Oh mother, created for bounty
36) gu4-e si-gar-re
Oh ox, horned one
37) nun-n -en-ku4-ra-ta
Oh prince, after entering the house
of the lord
38) u4-za-la-ra
. . .. storm
39) ur-sag pirig-hus-ru me-gal-gal Oh hero, taming (?) the fiery lion, all
the great divine ordinances
40) ur-sag s-tr
Oh hero, in the sheepfold
41) dumu-an-na
Child of Heaven
42) sahar ka-a-d-a
Boy(?), created in the mouth
43) su-nign 10 sa-du-igi-s-m
Sub-total: 10 hymns which are out of
44) p-da N--rum
Recovered by Ni"urum
(Rest of column uninscribed)

No. 2: Enlil, his command is far and away the loftiest, a thing
unchanging. For the interpretation of the subscript of this part of our
inventory, it is important to note that this hymn, while it contains no
actual mention of any specific king, is nevertheless characterized by
allusions to an unnamed king (lines 8495), and possibly refers to his
No. 8: en-su-l-im, Oh lord, awesome splendor, This reading is offered, with all due reserve, on the basis of the Middle Babylonian
catalogue from Nippur at Jena. In the last section of this catalogue,
there are listed fifteen adapu-songs (a-da-ab-me-es), five of which, alone
among the hymnal incipits of this catalogue, can be identified with titles
known from Old Babylonian copies or catalogues. Among them is a
single one to Su"en which the editors render as en-su-si-gr-ru (l. 77).
The reading su-lim is here proposed on the basis of su-lim-ma in a

Falkenstein, ibid., p. 10.


ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

Warad-Sin inscription,34 and of the Akkadian equivalent salummatum,

which may be somehow cognate.35
No. 21: lugal me-lm-hus, Oh king, fiery radiance. A hymn of King
Shu-Sin to the god Ninurta (BE 29:1) begins: ur-sag-ul gal-le-es nirgl [x-me]-lm-hus. If x is restored as [lugal] here36 it would provide
something of a parallel to our entry.
No. 22: ur-sag n-gal-gru, Oh hero, laden with awe. Our title may
possibly identify the sr-gd-da of Martu (SRT 8) whose first two stanzas, in Falkensteins scansion of the text37 begin respectively ur-sag and
No. 23: en-an-ki-a, Lord in heaven and earth. This title is virtually
identical with No. 42 of the Louvre catalogue (en-e-an-ki-a), as well as
with the beginning of iii 19 in the Middle Assyrian catalogue (en-galan-ki-a).
No. 30: lugal-me s-ta ur-sag-me-en, I am a king, from the womb
I am a hero. This is the incipit of Shulgis Hymn A, a Selbstprdikation without liturgical classification or structure. It was the
most popular of the many hymns in honor of this king, to judge by
the number of attested copies: in addition to the fourteen exemplars
employed by Falkenstein in his reconstruction,38 the Yale Collection
alone has at least seven unpublished duplicates. It occupies the first
place in the Old Babylonian catalogues of Philadelphia and probably
of the Louvre, and the fourth in the Ur catalogue recently published by
No. 31: nin-mu ms-za-gn-za na-dar-a, My lady, who in your
bright visage ever endurest. This title is the virtual equivalent

34 Thureau-Dangin, SAKI 214 f.; cf. Hallo, Bibliotheca Orientalis 18 (1961) 9 sub WaradSin 6, and Deimel, SL 2, 7, 157.
35 For the values NI = l and SI
= lim in early Sumerian, cf. Sollberger, ZA 54 (1961)
27, 146 and 42, 261. For su = salummatum, cf. B. Landsberger MSL 2 (1951) 133 vii 51; for
su-zi = salummatum cf. Falkenstein, ZA 48 (1944) 98 and CAD I/J 43b s.v. igisus. ill.
36 Falkenstein, ZA 49 (1949) 88 No. 3 restores [n u n].
37 SGL 1 No. 4.
38 ZA 50 (1952) 63 .

ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature


(expanded by two signs) of the last title in the Louvre catalogue. To

judge by its allusions, it may be a temple hymn.
No. 32: en-me-lm-s-s, Oh lord, adorned with radiance. This
could be the -LU.LU-ma-ma hymn to Nanna published by de Genouillac39 and edited by Sjberg40 whose first couplet begins en and
ends me-lm-s-s. Note, however, that me-lm-s-s could also be said
of kings.41
No. 35: ama-h-gl-la-d-a, Oh mother, created for bounty. Since
d-a, created, is virtually synonymous with tu-da, born,42 this title
may be identical with the last title but two of the Louvre catalogue
which, as collated by Kramer,43 reads ki-dg ama-h-gl-l-tu-da.
No. 41: dumu-an-na, Child of Heaven (or, of An). Although a number of deities are called dumu-an-na,44 the epithet occurs as incipit only
in an adapu-hymn to Ba"u,45 This hymn has been attributed to Eannatum = Lumma (the latter name or word occurs in the text) by Kramer.46
While there is as yet little other evidence that the tradition of royal
hymns goes back quite this far,47 the Lagashite allusions in the composition may at least point to a Lagashite ruler as its possible author,
for hymnic Sumerian had certainly attained to the level of the piece in
question by Gudeas time.
This point is of interest in connection with the two classificatory summaries found in our inventory. The first thirty-two titles are, in fact,
summarized as sa-DU-lugal, royal hymns, the other ten as sa-DU-igis-m, hymns which are out of use, or former hymns. The reading
TRS 30.
Der Mondgott Nanna-Suen 1 (1960) No. 6.
41 Cf. e.g. SRT 14 (Shulgi C), line 3.
42 The two verbs even occur as variants of each other in literary contexts; cf. e.g.
line 138 of the shorter hymn of Enheduanna (above, note 16) in SLTN 64 iv 14 (ma-ratu-ud) with YBC 7167, 38 (ma-ra-d).
43 WZJ 6, 393, note 3 (ad No. 65).
44 Sjberg, Nanna-Suen 1: 42, note 4; Falkenstein, SGL 1, 127 f.; Hallo, JNES 18 (1959)
56; J. Lewy, HUCA 32 (1961) 37, note 44.
45 CT 36, 39 f., translated by Falkenstein, SAHG No. 9.
46 Bibliotheca Orientalis 11 (1954) 172 and note 19.
47 Cf. above, notes 1417. The dating and political implications of the royal hymns
will be dealt with in a separate paper in JCS. Here: III.1.


ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

and translation of these previously unattested terms48 present some difficulty. The spelling sa-DU invites comparison on the one hand with
the group ad-sa4 = nissatum, ur-sa4 = rimmum and se-sa4 = damamum, all
expressions for vocal action, on the other with n-DU = zamaru, song.
The reading n - sa4 for this last word49 seems ruled out by the phonetic
or variant spellings en-du,50 n-di-a-ni = zamarsa,51 and n-da-ka-mu.52
The parallels thus favor, though they do not prove, a tentative reading
and rendering as sa-du-lugal, royal hymns, a category which, it has
sometimes been argued,53 was represented by Sumerian a-da-ab.
The significance of the second summary is harder to determine.
While igi-mu-s, igi-zu-s, etc., is attested in the sense of on behalf
of myself, yourself, etc., igi-s can hardly be explained in this way. It
occurs, for example, in Rim-Sin 6 and 754 in the expression du11-ga-ni
igi-s-gin which Thureau-Dangin already translated by dessen Wort
vorangeht (allen anderen),55 For igi-s in a trial document, Falkenstein proposes a translation zuerst, ohne dabei aber sichere Belege
bieten zu knnen.56 My translation former hymns attempts to parallel royal hymns in the other summation, and takes into account that
the only reasonably certain identification in this group of titles (No. 41)
is with a hymn to what is most probably a pre-Ur III ruler of Lagash.57
So far we have undertaken to date Sumerian literature from without. The Babylonians themselves, however, were not indierent to the
same problem. Indeed, a startling new document which has just been
published permits us not only to trace the Mesopotamian tradition of

48 The nearest parallel may be sa-mu-DU, variant sumu(n)-DU, cited by Falkenstein,

ZA 49, 84. Cf. ibid., 48 (1944) 94 for the correct interpretation of the alleged equation
2, 353, 25).
sa-DU = nazzu (Deimel, SL
49 Considered ibid., 85, note 3.
50 VAS 10 (1913) 182, 9 f., quoted by Sjberg, Nanna-Suen 1, 158.
51 CADZ 36a; hardly en-s-a-ni.
52 For n-du-ka-mu in ugu-mu 104, to be published in MSL 9 as an appendix to
HAR-ra = hubullu XV; reference courtesy M. Civil.
53 Practically all adab-hymns are royal compositions (Kramer, loc. cit. above, note
46) or, more precisely, they are Gtterhymnen, in welche Gebete fr einen Knig
eingestreut sind (id., WZJ 6, 391).
54 Hallo, loc. cit. above, note 34.
55 SAKI 219c vs. 5.
56 Neusumerische Gerichtsurkunden 2, 333 ad TCL 5, 6168, 18.
57 But for the fact that our text divides the sign IGI + S
(= LIBIR) over two lines,
one would also be tempted to connect the phrase with the common entry libir-m said
2, 445, 20; Jacobsen,
of animals or workers in Ur III tallies from Lagash; cf. Deimel, SL
Pedersen AV (1953) 181.

ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature


literary catalogues down to the very end of cuneiform writing and even
beyond, but also to reassess the notions which the Babylonians themselves held as to the antiquity of their literature. In the current report
of the excavations at Uruk, van Dijk has presented a late Seleucid text
in which, for the first time, the names of all the seven ante-diluvian
sages are given in their full cuneiform version, and linked with, or even
dated to, the seven ante-diluvian kings known from certain versions of
the Sumerian King List.58 These entries are followed by others in which
a selection of post-diluvian sages and scholars are similarly dated to
the reigns of more historical kings.
This unique document, when considered in combination with the
catalogue of authors and their works recently published by Lambert,59
serves to show that, in the late native view, at least three series were
thus as it were dated to the neo-Sumerian period. They were, oddly
enough, Etana,60 Irra,61 and a series known by the name of its author
as Enlil-ibni or si-d.62 These bibliographical notices are not, of course,
to be taken literally. The Babylonians regarded not anonymity (as was
once thought) but antiquity of authorship as a measure of authority.63
They therefore were not above attributing texts or versions of obviously late date to impossibly early authors or, conversely, associating a
patently late author with the time of an early king. But in this process of tendentious bibliography, they were perhaps not entirely indifferent to objective considerations of historical and literary fact. If Sinliqi-unninni could be dated to the time of Gilgamesh,64 it should not
Van Dijk, UVB 18 (= Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, Abhandlungen 7, 1962) 4452.
That the link implies an attempt to date these authors follows from the plausible
restoration [ina tars. i] at the head of each entry by van Dijk (cf. especially p. 46). For the
ante-diluvian king list section, see the articles by Finkelstein and Hallo, JCS 17 (1963)
59 Above, note 30.
60 Lu-Nanna is, according to Lamberts catalogue (vi 11), the author of the Etana
series; elsewhere he is linked to Shulgi (Lambert, note 14a). For Shulgis role as a patron
of literature, cf. e.g. van Dijk, Bibliotheca Orientalis 11 (1954) 87, note 44 = Hallo, HUCA
33 (1962) 29, note 214.
61 Kabti-il(ani)-Marduk, who is known as the author of the Epic from its own text,
and whose name can reasonably be restored in Lamberts text (iii 1 f.), is linked to [Ib]iSin in van Dijks text.
62 Cf. vi 13 of Lamberts text with line 14 of van Dijks text, where Sidu, otherwise
(known as) Enlil-ibni is dated to the reign of [Isbi]-Irra. Lambert (p. 72) conjectures
that his series may identify the Atra-hasis Epic.
63 IEJ 12, 16, here: I.1.
64 van Dijk, line 12, restored.


ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

be forgotten that the Sumerian and Old Babylonian antecedents of his

Gilgamesh Epic reach back long before his time. If the blatantly Middle
Babylonian Irra Epic could be linked to the end of the Ur III period,65
it may have been, as van Dijk points out,66 because the worship of
Irra reached its height precisely at that time. If the otherwise unknown
Series of Enlil-ibni was linked to an author of the same name under
Ishbi-Irra, it may be because, in its Sumerian form of si-d, that name
actually occurs in neo-Sumerian times.67 In short, we cannot simply
dismiss the new-found data as both pseudepigraphical and anachronistic. The long line of sages and scholars who have newly emerged from
what was once the almost proverbial anonymity of Babylonian literature stand in the middle between the works attributed to them on the
one hand and the monarchs they supposedly served on the other, and
one or the other of these correlations may need to be taken seriously in
each case.68
What is more important in this connection, however, is the onomasticon of the new-found sages themselves. True, these apkallus have long
been known for the practical role which they played in various periods of Mesopotamian history, notably as apotropaic figurines deposited
in the foundations of buildings and corners of rooms.69 In one of several rituals prescribing their construction,70 they are each given names
beginning with u4-mu. As Gterbock has seen,71 this umu may be the
Geistertier which in HAR-ra = hubullu translates UG (pirigx).72 The
names would thus reflect the grotesque appearance of such figurines
both in the prescriptions and in the actual finds. At the same time,

Above, note 61.

P. 51.
67 E.g., TCL 5, 6038 v. 4; Hallo, JCS 14 (1960) 104 (= 112), 16, 35.
68 For one of many parallel problems in Biblical criticism, cf. Hallo, Biblical Archaeologist 23 (1960) 46 and note 64: either the Jonah of II Kings 14:25 is a historical figure, and
the attribution to him of the prophetic book bearing his name is a pseudepigraphical
fiction; or the book is indeed his work, and his mention in II Kings is an anachronistic
insertion. But we need not reject both concepts.
69 For some actual examples found in situ see M.E.L. Mallowan, Iraq 16 (1954) 85
92 and pls. XVIIXX. If the curious apkallu siqla in R.C. Thompsons Reports of the
Magicians 1, 170 and 2 xviii f. is more than just an idiomatic variant for maltaktu,
clepsydra (von Soden, Orientalia 20 [1951] 163 f.), it may reflect another practical
70 Zimmern, ZA 35 (1924) 151 f.
71 ZA 42 (1934) 10.
72 Landsberger, Fauna 75.

ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature


since umu is usually written UD,73 the three ante-diluvian apkallu-names

beginning with UD may have been linked to the three post-diluvian
apkallu-names in pirig.74 But this interpretation of the new apkallu-names
in UD, even if accepted, must be regarded as secondary, as is also the
sequence of cities attached to it,75 which is wholly divergent from that of
the ante-diluvian cities with whom, through their kings, the apkalle are
now seen to be linked.
It seems much more suggestive to regard UD in these names as having its usual sense of enuma, when, one of the commonest of literary openings in both Sumerian and Akkadian.76 On this interpretation,
four of the names resemble nothing so much as: incipits! I have already
mentioned, in the case of Enlil-ibni, that a series could be named after
its supposed author. Is it perhaps equally possible that, in this section of
the tradition, an author might be identified with his presumed opus?
The fourth entry, en-me-galam-ma, suggests as much, for the name
of this ante-diluvian apkallu happens to recur as the incipit of a hymn
to Enki and king Ur-Ninurta preserved both in Old Babylonian copies
and a catalogue,77 as van Dijk has seen.78 It is less clear why he presupposes a Sumerian pronunciation udan for u4-an and thus rejects
the comparison of the first apkallu, the Oannes of Berossos,79 with
the famous astronomical series u4-an-den-ll. We already know the first
apkallu, by his more familiar name of Adapa,80 as author of the otherwise unknown series u4-SAR-an-den-ll-l from the Verse Account of
Nabonidus81 in a context with other divine symbols comparable to the


E. Reiner, Orientalia 30 (1961) 6.
75 Ur, Nippur, Eridu, Kullab, Keshi, Lagash, Shuruppak.
76 Cf. e.g. CAD I/J 160be, s.v. inuma.
77 Kramer, WZJ 6, 390 ad HS 1504, 7.
78 P. 48 ad No. 4.
79 For the identification of u -an with Oannes, see now conclusively Lambert, JCS
16, 74 and van Dijk, UVB 18, 47 f. But whereas van Dijk takes u4-an as an abbreviation
of u4-an-(na)-ad-da-p, Lambert cogently argues that u4-an is, as in Berossos, the full
name, and Adapa the epithet. In fact, the equation of the loanword adapu with -tua-ab-ba (literally born of the sea) which Lambert cites in this connection suggests
that the epithet be understood as recovered from the water (for this meaning of
p cf. above, notes 2123 and the name Tl-ta-p-da cited by Falkenstein there) and
thus linked with Berossos notices about Oannes rather than with those preserved in
the Middle Babylonian myth of Adapa, as van Dijk suggests, or with those in the
Etiological myth of the Seven Sages (Reiner, above, note 74).
80 This equation is clinched by Lamberts catalogue (i 6) and parallels there cited.
81 Lambert, p. 70 ad i 5; cf. Hallo, IEJ 12, 16 and note 15. Here: I.1.


ii.1. on the antiquity of sumerian literature

u4-SAR, lunar disc.82 His name also recurs in Rm. 618 at the head
of a catalogue of Akkadian literary works beginnings precisely with u4an-den-ll-l.83 It is thus easier to suppose that the scribe of the Verse
Account erred in his rendering of Oannes/Adapas chief work than
that he attributed to the first sage a totally obscure one. In Lamberts
list of authors, the astrological series is even attributed to Ea himself,
and both forms of the tradition thus agree in according to it the highest
possible antiquity (cf. above, note 63). That this is not solely a tendentious attribution is clear from the fact that at least one forerunner of
the series has been found on an Old Babylonian copy,84 and that its title,
in both Sumerian and Akkadian, has turned up on the Old Babylonian
catalogue from Ur published by Kramer.85
Probably the second apkallu-name in the new list, u4-an-du10-ga, also
conceals an incipit in u4 = enuma, when. The third name, en-me-du10ga, actually occurs in the neo-Assyrian catalogue of texts and authors,
oddly enough in the midst of the section of human scholars (um-mea), as author of two otherwise unknown Sumerian series.86 The last
apkallu, -tu-abzu, born of the deep, seems strangely reminiscent of
Adapa again.87 In sum, it would not be surprising if all the apkallunames turned out eventually to identify known cuneiform series. This
would vindicate the long held view of classical scholars that in Berossos
version of them they are none else than the revealed writings of the
Babylonians.88 The excerpts of Berossos preserved by later historians
may then be regarded in a sense as the last of the Sumerian literary
catalogues as the newly found Yale inventory represents, so far, the

82 Lambert, ibid. On lunar discs and related matters, cf. my review of Limits Travail
du Mtal in Bibliotheca Orientalis 20 (1963) 141 f.
83 Cf. A.H. Sayce, The literary works of ancient Babylonia, Zeitschrift fr Keilschriftforschung 1 (1884) 190 f. and C. Bezold, Catalogue 4 (1896) 1627. Note also in HABL 923: 8
apkallu (NUN.ME) UMUN.A.DA.P, the sage Umun-Adapa, (not the sage and [u]
Adapa as translated in ANET 450).
84 E. Weidner, Archiv fr Orientforschung 14 (1942) 173 f. and note 7; T. Bauer, ZA 43
(1936) 308314.
85 RA 55 (1961) 172, lines 49 f.
86 Lambert, JCS 16, 74 ad iv 11.
87 Ibid. and above, note 79.
88 H. Gelzer (1885) apud P. Schnabel, Berossos und die babylonisch-hellenistische Literatur
(1923) 27, 175.


The number of texts now identified as catalogues or inventories of

Sumerian literary works cited by their incipits continues to grow. Ten
years ago, I listed seventeen of them in JAOS 83 (1963) 169 (here:
II.1). In the same year, Cat. 3 (cited here according to my list) was
published by Gadd and Kramer as UET 6/1:123. Since then, the
same authors have published at least one and possibly three more
examples of the genre from Ur (UET 6/2:196198). In the first of
these, note that the second preserved entry resembles Entry 6 in Cat. 1
(JAOS 83:170), the fourth is probably the incipit of the Monkey Letter
(Ali Sumerian Letters, B 14), the sixth equals Entry 13 of Cat. 1, and the
eighth resembles Entry 9 of the latter.
New discoveries also suggest a revision of my view that, in contrast to
both the earlier and later catalogues, the Old Babylonian lists . . . seem
to exhibit no single consistent sequence or system of classification
(JAOS 83:168). Wilcke has published an Old Babylonian catalogue
of incantations from the John Rylands Library (AfO 24, 1973, 14 f.)
and Kramer has announced the discovery of two large catalogues of
congregational laments (r-sm-ma) from the British Museum which
appear to be equally old.1 The tradition of generic classification was
firmly established by Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian times;
the significance of the respective catalogues, Cat. 9 (TMH n.F. 3:53)
and Cat. 10 (KARI 158), for the history of Sumerian literature is taken
up elsewhere.2 The list of neo-Assyrian catalogues (Cats. 1116) should
be augmented by Rm. 2, 220, devoted to individual laments (r-s-hung) and published by Langdon, RA 22 (1925) 119125 together with new
editions of Cat. 15 (Langdon, BL 138) and Cat. 16 (ib. 139). For the neoBabylonian catalogue Cat. 17 (Luckenbill, AJSL 26:28), see now S. Levy
and P. Artzi, Sumerian and Akkadian Documents in Israel (= Atiqot 4, 1965)
No. 99.
1 29th International Congress of Orientalists, Paris, 1973. Professor Kramer kindly
informs me that his publication of these texts will also appear in the present volume,
but our contributions have been submitted independently of each other.
2 Hallo, Toward a History of Sumerian Literature, (forthcoming), here: I.4.


ii.2. another sumerian literary catalogue?

I now propose to see another Old Babylonian catalogue in CBS

14077, published in 1934 by Chiera as STVC 41. I am indebted to Peter
Michalowski for the collations marked with an asterisk and to David
Owen for a photograph. The original may have had as many as six
columns, as there are clear traces of signs (not copied) to the left of
the obverse? and to the left and right of the reverse?, though it
is not excluded that these formed the conclusion of the lines on the
other side in the first two cases. Also, the copy fails to show double
dividing-lines after obverse? 2 and 12, in the latter case followed by
the 10-mark to indicate, evidently, that ten compositions were included
between the two double dividing-lines. Note also that the bottom of the
obverse? is in fact the, edge of the tablet. On the reverse? there is
a double dividing-line after line 10.3 Since these dividing lines do not
seem to reflect any generic grouping (see presently), the guess may be
ventured that they were drawn, mechanically after every tenth entry.
The following identifications may be suggested.

Line 10: ga-sa-an-mu d-gu[r] = entry 9 in Rm. 2, 220 (RA 22: 123).
Line 13: dUtu -ma = ersemma for Utu, listed in Cat. 11 (IV R2 53) ii 26

(cf. ibid, i 5 and iii 16) and edited by Schollmeyer, Sama

s (1912) as No.
Line 14: x -gi4, -a x -[ta nam-ta-] = balag of Inanna listed in Cat.
11 i 44.

Line 2: an nam-[ . . . ]: cf. an-ne(var.: -n) nam-nir-ra (var.: gl) = Summer and Winter, catalogued in Cats. 3, 6, and 7 (RA 55:169 .;
BASOR 88:12; and TCL 15: 28 respectively) as Entries 22, 29 and
31 respectively.
Line 3: a-ba-a mu-un-ba-a[l-e] = The Coronation of Ur-Nammu as
reconstructed in my edition) JCS 20 (1966) 139, here: III.2.

Another, now erased, may have once been mistakenly inserted after line 9.

ii.2. another sumerian literary catalogue?


Line 4; me-a lu! = balbale-song of Suen, edited by Sjberg, Nanna-Suen,

No. 1, with the corrections of M. Lambert, Or. 30 (1961) 89 f. and van
Dijk, OLZ 60 (1965) 27; listed in Cat. 5 (TMH n.F. 3: 54) as Entry 2.
Line 5: me am-xra: cf. the next entry in the same catalogue (me-a am).
Line 7: [si]m-zi-da dar -ra: cf. entry 1 in the Yale catalogue. I take
this opportunity to correct the reading and translation in JAOS 83
(1963) 170 to dingir sim-zi-da DAR-a, goddes colored with eye-paint
(kohl). Admittedly, the reading gn(-na) would be expected.
Line 10: [dHend]ur?-sag xsul gi6-a du-du: cf. ISET 1: 71 Ni. 9501:1, a
hymn to Nergal beginning (if the column marked ii is in fact the
first) [ . . . su]l gi6-a du-du kur-kur tuku4-tuku4 (tutki).

F (HeimLine 11: [...]-x gu4 -gim: cf. perhaps the opening line of Sulgi
pel, Tierbilder, No. 5.68).
Granted the above identifications, the order of entries in STVC 41
would be: (obverse?) individual lament, congregational laments;
(reverse?) disputation, royal hymn, divine hymns. It would seem,
moreover, that a number of entries are shared in common by Old
Babylonian and neo-Assyrian catalogues, though these are separated
from each other by more than a millennium.


Scribal mistakes call for scribal corrections. In the vast genre of archival
texts, scribes often erred in their arithmetic and then corrected themselves by the time-honored device of an (intentional) compensating
error to arrive at a proper total.1 In literary texts, a common lapsus
calami consisted of omitting an entire poetic line. In such a case, probably detected when the scribe counted his lines and entered their total
in the colophon, a simple corrective was available; the left edge of the
tablet. This was normally blank except where the scribe had used up
the obverse, reverse, and bottom edge of the tablet and still needed
more space for additional lines.2 Otherwise he could use it to enter the
missing line, normally (as far as can be seen from the published copies)
in a downward direction relative to the point of insertion. When possible, a straight line before the entry indicated where on the obverse
or reverse of the tablet it was to be inserted. The practice in question
is already attested in Old Babylonian copies of Sumerian literary texts,
where it was discovered by Kramer a quarter of a century ago. He
Line 59, as the copy shows, was written on the left edge, since it was
accidentally omitted by the scribe who indicated by means of a short
horizontal line the exact place where it belongs. This interesting scribal
practice was relatively simple to figure out in the case of the Yale tablet
as a result of a comparison of the passage beginning with line 54 with the
parallel passages beginning with lines 30 and 45, not to mention the presence of the line in the duplicate, cf. line 327 of the restored text. There is
at least one other example of this scribal device in the published Sumerian literary texts which has remained unrecognized hitherto because of
lack of duplicating material. Thus in the all-important deluge tablet
published in PBS V 1, the signs written on the left edge are preceded
by a short line just as in the case of the Yale tablet; it is therefore

No example comes to mind at this writing.

See for example W.W. Hallo and J.J.A. van Dijk, The Exaltation of Inanna,
YNER 3 (1968) pls. 5 and 9.
3 Samuel Noah Kramer, Inannas Descent to the Nether World, Continued and
Revised, JCS 4 (1950) 206 f. n. 45.


ii.3. haplographic marginalia

not a colophon (cf. PBS IV 2, p. 63 and Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic
and Old Testament Parallels, p. 105) but a line that was accidentally
omitted between lines 5(!) and 6(!) of col. vi., which might perhaps be
restored to read; an-den-ll-li zi-u4-sudx-ra m b[-in dug4-ge-es] An and
Enlil ch[erished] Ziusudra.

Commenting, on the line from the Sumerian Flood Story, Civil stated
in 1969: Kramers suggestion to insert here the line from the left
edge of the tablet is in probability correct,4 but he assigned it the
line number 255a as an index of his hesitancy on this point.5 The
hesitation no longer seems necessary in view of the large number of
additional examples of the identical practice now available. They are
catalogued here in the context of the discussion of scribal errors in
cuneiform, the topic of the Assyriological Colloquium at Yale for
December 16, 1975.6
Kramer himself noted a third instance in CT 42 (1959) 1: the fifth
of the seven familiar heroic epithets of Enlil having been omitted
inadvertently after line 6 of the obverse, the scribe inserted the missing
line in the right edge.7 The switch to the right edge in this case may be
a function of the late date of the exemplar (on which see presently) or it
may have been prompted by the enigmatic musical notations which
pre-empted the left margin (edge?).8
The text in question is a-ab-ba hu-luh-ha, now edited by Kutscher.9

The exemplar involved is said to be Neo-Babylonian in date.10 Kutscher
called attention to a second example of the practice in the same composition, for the Old Babylonian scribe of the Yale text YBC 4659
accidentally omitted line *155 and inserted it on the left edge, with a
straight line pointing to line *156.11
The fifth example is provided by the Nippur text Ni. 4552, published by Kramer in 1963 and re-edited by Jacobsen as The Sisters
M. Civil, The Sumerian Flood Story, apud Lambert-Millard, Atra-hass (1969)

5 Civil, in Lambert-Millard, Atra-hass p. 145.

6 See Appendix to this article.

7 S.N. Kramer, CT XLII: A Review Article, JCS 18 (1964) 36 n. 1.
8 On these notations see most recently W.G. Lambert, The Converse Tablet: A
Litany with Musical Instructions, apud H. Goedicke, ed., Near Eastern Studies in
Honor of William Foxwell Albright (1971) 335353.
9 Raphael Kutscher, Oh Angry Sea (a-ab-ba hu-luh-ha): The History of a Sumerian

Congregational Lament, YNER 6 (1975) 68.
10 YNER 6 11 (quoting E. Sollberger).
11 YNER 6 107 f.; cf. the hand-copy on plate 7 (!).


ii.3. haplographic marginalia


Message.12 The text can be reconstructed with the help of an unpublished Yale duplicate.13 The omitted line is line 27 in Kramers edition
and line 11 of the restored text; it occurs at the indicated point of insertion in the Yale text as well as in the published duplicate (UM 29-16-8).
The sixth example occurs in another Nippur tablet, Ni. 4233, published on p. 74 of ISET (1969), as pointed out in my review of the
volume.14 The text is a hitherto unknown hymn to Nin-imma.
But the practice was not confined, even in Old Babylonian times, to
texts from Nippur and whatever site was the provenience of the Yale
texts. It was noted in a literary text from Ur by Kramer15 and in one
of unknown provenience by Limet.16 These examples are particularly
illuminating, the former because the omission occurred at the very end
of the obverse and before the inscribed lower edge,17 the latter because
the insertion, coming as it does at line 26 of an obverse of 34 lines, had
to continue along the bottom edge of the tablet.
A dierent solution was adopted by the scribe of MLC 1207, likewise
of unknown provenience. Here the scribe squeezed the omitted line
into two lines running down the left edge before the point of insertion
which, as usual, was marked by a straight line. That line then follows the
insert rather than preceding it.18 A simpler, if less traditional, approach
was employed at Kish, to judge by the only example from that scribal
center in which the insert comes near the end of the obverse: here the

12 S.N. Kramer in Cuneiform Studies and the History of Literature: The Sumerian Sacred Marriage Texts, PAPS 107 (1963) 524; The Sacred Marriage Rite (1969)
p. 103 f.; T. Jacobsen, The Sisters Message, The Gaster Festschrift, ANES 5 (1973)
13 NBC 10923 This text shows that our bal-bal-e began at line 17 of the published
editions with di-da-mu-d di-da-mu-d. Line 16 should, with the photograph and
against the editions, probably be restored as [bal-bal-e-dInanna]-kam; to judge by the
Yale text, it was probably preceded by Kramers text no. 11.
14 W.W. Hallo, review of g, Kzlyay and Kramer, Sumerian Literary Tablets and
Fragments in the Archaeological Museums of Istanbul 1 (1969), in JCS 18 (1971) 39
n. 1.
15 See his remarks apud C.J. Gadd and S.N. Kramer, Literary and Religious Texts:
First Part, UET 6 (1963) 35 (p. 5).
16 H. Limet, Le pome pique Innina et Ebih, Or. NS 40 (1971) 14. For the

(unknown) provenience of PUL 550, see p. 11, and Limet,

RA 63 (1969) 5.
17 The copy does not show the exact placement of the insertion, except that it is
located on the left edge.
18 J. van Dijk, Incantations accompagnant la naissance de lhomme, Or. NS 44
(1975) 6569 and n. 35. The copy will appear in YOS 11.


ii.3. haplographic marginalia

scribe simply reversed the usual direction of the omitted line and wrote
it up the left margin above the line of insertion.19
That the practice continued unabated into the first millennium, as
demonstrated by the third example (above), was clearly recognized
by C. Bezold long ago, as is amply demonstrated in his Kouyunjik
Catalogue (footnotes to pp. 543, 554 and passim thereafter). It has
been less explicitly stated in more recent treatments. Thus Lambert
noted that a Babylonian copy of a late Assyrian fire incantation adds
a whole line (III 27) in the left margin, while the duplicates have it
in the text. But, he adds, in this case it is not clear if the line was
lacking from the basic copy used by the scribe.., or if the scribe of [the
Babylonian copy] accidentally omitted it at first, but later discovered
the fact when checking the work.20 Even though the copy in question
has other scribal notations in the form of textual variants, it seems clear
that we have here another simple case of scribal correction comparable
to the Sumerian precedents from the second millennium. Note only
that, in distinction from those, the present tablet has two columns on
each side and therefore the scribe availed himself of the space between
the columns for his insertion. Moreover, his line runs up, rather than
down this space. But it begins, as usual, at the point of insertion, and
this point is clearly marked by a wedge, comparable to the straight line
in the Old Babylonian convention.
Finally, the practice can be traced even beyond Mesopotamia as far
west as Ugarit. The famous snake charm RS 24.244, first published
by Virolleaud,21 has three lines of text running down the left margin
underneath a straight line which constitutes a simple extension of the
line dividing the fifth and sixth stanzas of the text.22 Virolleaud did not
know what to make of these three lines of text,23 but Astour, who first reedited the composition, described them as a summary of an omitted
or additional incantation strophe; with it, the number of repetitions
would amount to twelve.24 More specifically, he compares the twelve
pairs of deities in the related text RS 24.241 and says the scribe of
19 Alster, Dumuzis Dream p. 165 pl. 18. Alsters note, p. 55 line 23, seems unaware
of the nature of the scribal practice involved.
20 W.G. Lambert, Fire Incantations, AfO 23 (1970) 39.
21 Ch. Virolleaud, Les nouveaux textes mythologiques et liturgiques . . . , Ugaritica
5 (1968) 567 no. 7.
22 This fact was called to my attention by David Wortman.
23 Ugaritica 5 574.
24 M.C. Astour, Two Ugaritic Serpent Charms, JNES 27 (1968) 15.

ii.3. haplographic marginalia


[RS 24.244] inserted a marginal note25 to be translated after (the

strophe on) Reseph, (insert that on) Astarte, (namely:) With Astarte in
Mari/is the incantation for the bite of the serpent 26
A minor diculty with this interpretation (from the point of view of
the Mesopotamian scribal usage) is only that the insertion seems to be
placed physically before the stanza on Resheph!
These examples should suce to establish the chronological and
geographical scope of a cuneiform scribal device intended to rectify
the omission of lines from literary texts.

The Assyriological Colloquium at Yale was conceived by J.J. Finkelstein in 1966. It continued to function under his leadership until his
death, and in his spirit since then. The original conception of the Colloquium remains as stated in the invitation of September 15 1986:
a forum for informal and extended discussion of topics and problems in Assyriology which interest any of the participants . . . limited to Assyriologists within short rail or automobile travel distance
to New Haven (and) Assyriologists from abroad or elsewhere in this
country present in the area at the time of the meetings. Finkelstein
sent invitations to A. Goetze, W.W. Hallo, T. Jacobsen, S.N. Kramer,
W.L. Moran, O. Neugebauer, A. Sachs, . Sjberg, and F.J. Stephens.
All but one (Neugebauer) of these ten attended the first Colloquium,
which since then has grown to include numbers of additional, and especially younger, participants without sacrificing its informal and intimate
character. After a decade of meetings, it seems appropriate to list briefly
the formal topics of each Colloquium in a volume dedicated to the
memory of its founder.

no set topic
W.W. Hallo, Classification of the Lexical Texts
T. Jacobsen, Comments on Oppenheims Mesopotamian Religion
A.J. Sachs, Astronomical Diaries
.W. Sjberg, Examination Text A
W.L. Moran, Peripheral Akkadian
J.J. Finkelstein, The Goring Ox
JNES 27 (1968) 21.
JNES 27 (1968) 22. Cf. now also T.H. Gaster, ANES 7 (1975) 3351.


ii.3. haplographic marginalia

S.J. Lieberman, Fragments of a Theory of Cuneiform Writing
M. de J. Ellis, Land Tenure in the Old Babylonian Period. Minor
communication: S.N. Kramer, The GIR5 Profession
B.R. Foster, Sumerian Society under Sargonic Rule. Minor communication: J. Cooper, W.W. Hallo arid A.J. Sachs, Scribal Errors in


The late Edgar J. Banks, source of so many collections of cuneiform

tablets throughout the United States, left a considerable number of clay
cones and tablets to his widow at his death in 1945. When it became
known to me in 1970 that she was anxious to dispose of them, contact was quickly made with her and with her daughter, Mrs. James
McLachlan. Over a thousand tablets thus came into the possession of
the Yale Babylonian Collection, where most of them are now accessioned among the numbers 1533916384. Subsequently a large number
of fragments were turned over to the Collection by the Banks family;
these remain to be accessioned. The cones were also examined, but
as they all proved to be duplicates of familiar examples of Lagash and
Old Babylonian royal inscriptions, only a representative sample was
retained (now YBC 1643516445) and the rest were returned to the
family and disposed of elsewhere.
Among the tablets thus newly accessioned, by far the majority were
neo-Sumerian archival texts from Umma and Puzris-Dagan (Drehem),
with a sprinkling of earlier or later date. But here and there some
canonical texts were identified in the group, for example, Inanna and
Ebih lines 121132 (YBC 16037). In some ways the most interesting of
these isolated texts is YBC 16317, presented here in transliteration.

1 See JCS 31 (1979) 161165, here: XIII 2 for the first installment in this series.
A copy of YBC 9871, the subject of the first note, has meanwhile been prepared by
Randall McCormick and is appended to this note: the copy of YBC 16317 included
here is also his work. The substance of the present remarks was presented to the 191st
meeting of the American Oriental Society, Boston, March 16, 1981.
My thanks go to Stephen J. Lieberman and Miguel Civil for reading and commenting on this paper. They do not necessarily endorse all of its conclusions.



ii.4. old babylonian har-ra



[lugal-me]- en
en-e ng
dumu -

[?] udu
ms? [?]- du8 ?
l- x
NE ? bi


Reverse uninscribed

YBC 16317 was first identified as a literary catalogue (or inventory) by

Mark E. Cohen and myself, and quickly recognized as a rather unique
example of this by now increasingly familiar genre by virtue of the
entries in its second column. These entries refer not, as elsewhere, to
literary compositions, but rather to lexical texts. The neo-Sumerian
and Old Babylonian examples of the genre so far known are devoted
almost exclusively to literary texts.2 Only a text from Ur (UET 5 86),
first identified as a catalogue by Kraus,3 includes one indubitably lexical
entry (ugu-mu in line 19)4 and two other entries that may refer to protoIzi (line 9)5 and an excerpt of Nigga (line 6)6 respectively. Column ii
of our text thus represents the oldest systematic listing of lexical texts
in any literary catalogue or inventory, hitherto known only from neoAssyrian times.7
Column i, on the other hand, lists the more traditional literary
compositions as met with also in numerous other neo-Sumerian and
2 See the most recent survey by J. Krecher, Kataloge, Literarische, RIA 5 (1980)
3 OLZ 50 (1955) col. 518; cf. Bernhardt and Kramer, WZJ 6 (19561957) 394 n. 4;
Hallo, JCS 20 (1966) 90 f, here: III.2.
4 Civil, MSL 9 (1967) 59 (1).
5 Civil, MSL 13 (1971) 9.
6 Civil, MSL 13 (1971) 9 and 92.
7 See especially W.G. Lambert. A Late Assyrian Catalogue of Literary and Scholarly Texts, Kramer AV (AOAT 25 [1976]) 313318. [Note now, however, the discovery
that BE 1773a represents a list of lexical and perhaps literary texts housed in the temple of Amurru in Nippur in Kassite times; I. Finkel and M. Civil, MSL 16 (1982) 3.
Added in proof.]

ii.4. old babylonian har-ra


especially Old Babylonian catalogues and inventories. In fact, it lists

them, in part, in the identical sequence. Thus the first four entries, if
line 1 is correctly restored, refer to the exact same compositions as the
first four entries in the Philadelphia catalogue8 and probably in the
Louvre catalogue (TCL 15 28)9 as well. The first three recur in the
Andrews University catalogue10 at the head of the second section and
the fourth as part of the first section which there, apparently, is devoted
to the works of Enheduanna. (It may be noted, in addition, that the
next entry in three of these four catalogues is the great Enlil-hymn denll-s-r-s.)11 Altogether, the relationship between column i of our text
and previously identified catalogues may be charted as follows:
Table I







5 86






6 123




lugal-me-en (s-ta)
en-e ng-(du7-e)
nam-(lugal?), nm-(nun-e?)







The extremely abbreviated form of the entries in YBC 16317 makes

the identification of incipits 913 quite problematical, and the ensuing
remarks will be confined primarily to the significance of the second
8 Kramer, BASOR 88 (1942) 14. P. Michalowski kindly showed me his manuscript
of another Philadelphia catalogue, to be published in Oriens Antiquus as A New
Sumerian Literary Catalogue from Nippur, but it has no entries in common with
those in YBC 16317.
9 Kramer, BASOR 88 (1942) 17.
10 Mark E. Cohen, Literary Texts from the Andrews University Archaeological
Museum, RA 70 (1976) 129144, especially 130133.
11 Last edited by Daniel Reisman, Two Neo-Sumerian Royal Hymns (Ph.D. diss.,
University of Pennsylvania, 1969) pp. 41102.


ii.4. old babylonian har-ra

Ductus and appearance clearly suggest an Old Babylonian date for

YBC 16317. It may therefore be doubted that, as has been suggested
by Civil,12 the first two entries in the second column refer to the
two tablets, respectively, of Syllabary B.13 For this two-tablet compendium, derived from the canonical Ea=A=nqu, replaced proto-Ea
in the scribal curriculum only in neo-Assyrian times.14 Thus the first
entry is more likely to be either the elementary primer a-a, a-a-a,15 or
proto-Ea itself, now newly edited by Civil,16 while the second entry may
be an early version of the great god-list An=Anum which, when it did
not preface the divine ancestors of Enlil as in TCL 15 10, began with
It may be noted in this connection that, at a later date, the successors to these respective series did succeed each other in at least one
arrangement in two neo-Babylonian extract tablets18 formerly in the
E.A. Homan Collection and now on deposit at Yale.19 Interestingly
enough, precisely the opening lines (from six to thirteen lines in each
case) of successive series are quoted here as follows:20
Table II

EAH 197

EAH 198 + 200


writing exercise
Syllabary A 111
Syllabary A 329340
Syllabary B I 111
Syllabary B II 111
Weidner God List 19
HAR-ra I 17

writing exercise
Syllabary A 18
Syllabary A 329343
Syllabary B I 18
Syllabary B II 113
Weidner God List 16
HAR-ra I 19


MSL 14 (1979) 166.

Edited by H.S. Schuster and B. Landsberger as Das Vokabular Sb in MSL 3
(1955) 89153; additions in MSL 9 (1967) 149153.
14 Civil, MSL 14 (1979) 166, notes that the oldest Sb texts are Middle Babylonian at
the earliest.
15 Edited by M.
g and H. Kzlyay, Zwei altbabylonische Schulbcher aus Nippur
(1959) 6676 as Silbenalphabet B.
16 MSL 14 (1979) 181.
17 J. van Dijk, Le motif cosmique dans la pense sumrienne, ActaOr 28 (1964)
159, fig. 1.
18 For the type, see most recently Hallo, JCS 31 (1979) 61 and nn. 48, here: VIII.2;
add, inter alia, KAR 40 and perhaps UET 6 251 f.
19 J.A. Maynard, A Neo-Babylonian Grammatical School Text, JSOR 3 (1919) 65 f.
20 See the summary by Borger, HKL 1 (1967) 331 ad loc. For the Weidner God List
see Lambert, RIA 3 (1969) 474; Krecher, UF 1 (1969) 140, 147149.

ii.4. old babylonian har-ra


These two tablets, which D.C. Snell has undertaken to study and
re-edit, have an unusual appearance, but one that is paralleled by
other neo-Babylonian exercise tablets (unpublished), as S.J. Lieberman
assures me.
The general order: syllabariesgod-listsvocabularies was already
followed in the Old Babylonian scribal schools according to an edubba"a-essay cited by Sjberg.21 And this order also appears in the second
column of YBC 16317. Specifically the next six entries may be compared, with varying degrees of probability, to the incipits of the Old
Babylonian forerunners to HAR-ra (better: ur5-ra) = hubullu tablets III,

of the foreVIII, XIII, XVI, XX, and XXV (L).22 The absence
runner to HAR-ra I (and II) from this list calls for some comment.
Long ago I suggested that just as ana ittisu IVI seems intended for,
or derived from, the contract literature of neo-Sumerian and Early Old
Babylonian times, so HAR-ra = hubullu, though it appears today like a
may originally have been intended
veritable cuneiform encyclopedia,
for or derived from the numerically vaster account literature of the
same periods. The character of the first two tablets of HAR-ra is
not out of keeping with this interpretation; instead of the names of
products, places, and professions, these introductory chapters seem to
explain the standard ledger entries of the account texts.23
Since this view was expressed, however, it has become clear that
in fact the first two tablets of HAR-ra may have to be regarded as
a separate composition from the rest of the series in Old Babylonian
times. Civil stated as much, albeit without documentation, in 1976:
The series HAR-ra started originally with the tree list (Tablet III of
the canonical recension). The late Tablets I and II derive from a list
of legal terms, phrases from the old collection of model contracts,24
and excerpts from Proto-Izi, but were first compiled in Old Babylonian
times. The oldest dated forerunner to HAR-ra III is from the fifteenth
year of Samsuiluna.25 Actually an unpublished Louvre forerunner (that


ix f.

A. Sjberg, The Old Babylonian Eduba, Studies Jacobsen (AS 20 [1976]) 162 f.
On HAR-ra XXV see Civil, MSL 12 (1969) 90 and 223 f.; Reiner, MSL 11 (1974)

23 J.B. Curtis and W.W. Hallo, Money and Merchants in Ur III, HUCA 30 (1959)
136; see also Hallo, New Viewpoints on Cuneiform Literature, IEJ 12 (1962) 18 and
n. 23, here: I.1.
24 See on these Hallo, Toward a History of Sumerian Literature, Studies Jacobsen
pp. 195 f. and n. 98, here: I.4.
25 Civil, Lexicography, Studies Jacobsen pp. 127 f.; see also M.T. Roth, Scholastic


ii.4. old babylonian har-ra

is, Sumerian only) dates from the first year of Samsu-iluna, according
to Arnaud (AO 7012).26 But in any case, the example of AO 779627
shows that the later HAR-ra III could constitute a single tablet in Old
Babylonian times. The fact that none of the forerunners of HAR-ra I
and II continue with excerpts from III lends weight to Civils assertion
that they constituted a discrete series.
Further grounds for Civils view may be found in his earlier remarks
on school tablets of type II/2, described as relatively long extracts on
the reverse of tablets of type II/1, each side devoted to a dierent
series,28 or at least a dierent part of the same series.29 In this connection, Civil stated, in 1971: a large number of exercise tablets of the type
II/2, emanating from the uncertain hand of beginners and containing
the opening lines of the list, typically mark the beginning of a lexical
compilation. Thus . . . the hundreds of fragments of type II/2 tablets
inscribed with the Forerunner to HAR-ra III found in Nippur clearly
show that HAR-ra started with the third tablet of the canonical series
in the OB schools.
These hundreds of fragments are as yet unpublished, and the Old
Babylonian forerunners to HAR-ra IIIV remain unedited.30 (From V
on, most of these forerunners are reconstructed separately in MSL.)
But we can already form an impression of their appearance from the
texts catalogued by Landsberger in 1957.31 It is clear that the incipit of
the Old Babylonian recension, as of the canonical HAR-ra III, was gistaskarin; see, for example SLT 149 and especially SLT 194, a II/2-type
tablet with an extract of HAR-ra XI on the obverse and a doxology
to Nisaba followed by a double dividing line and HAR-ra III 1 . on
the reverse. (In passing, it may be noted that one of the newly found
tablets from Ras Ibn Hani, the North Syrian coastal site which has also
yielded tablets in Ugaritic script and language, contains precisely HARTradition and Mesopotamian Law: A Study of FLP 1287 (Ph.D. diss., University of
Pennsylvania, 1979) 13 and nn. 31 f.
26 Arnaud, RA 69 (1975) 88. Stephen J. Lieberman, who plans an edition of HARra III, kindly informs me that AO 7012, which he is to publish, is in fact dated to
Samsu-iluna 15. He notes that it lacks a catchline to HAR-ra III or anything else.
27 C.-F. Jean, Prototype de la premire tablette HAR-ra:hubullu AO 7796, RA 33
(1936) 8590.
28 Civil, MSL 12 (1969) 27.
29 Civil, MSL 14 (1979) 5 and below ad SLT 194. Compare also, for example,
SLT 128 (HAR-ra III and X) and BIN 2 67 (HAR-ra III and Vlllf.).
30 Meantime note the compilation by Borger, HKL 3 (1975) 103 f.
31 MSL 5 (1957) 90 f.

ii.4. old babylonian har-ra


ra III 130.)32 Thus our new catalogue would bear out Civils hypothesis
if the third entry of column ii could be read as gis-taskarin. But even
if it must be read gis-gigir, it would point to Old Babylonian HAR-ra,
for that was the incipit of the second tablet in some Old Babylonian
recensions, replaced in the canonical HAR-ra V by the synonymous
gis-mar = narkabtum.
At this point it is necessary to pause and attempt to reconstruct the
structure of Old Babylonian HAR-ra as far as this is possible with
the aid of a reasonably careful survey of the grouping of passages as
revealed in MSL 511. The recensions with the largest tablets seem to
have encompassed the entire series in five tablets as follows (Roman
numerals refer to the tablets of the later, canonical recension):
(1) IIIVII, represented by LTBA 1 78 f. and possibly by Ist. Si. 53 (Sippar)
(2) VIIIXII: SLT 191 + 89
(3) XIIIXV: Copenhagen 10098; N 5547; UM 29-16-571; UM 29-16-207+;
SLT 37+SLT 46+N 5491.
(4) XVIXIX: CT 6 1114 (Sippar); AO 4304 (Telloh); SLT 233 + 234?;
SLT 217+(?)
(5) XXXXIV: N 6252.

There was also apparently a recension with a larger number of smaller

tablets, grouped approximately as follows (exemplars cited by way of
illustration only; Middle Babylonian texts from the periphery are included on the assumption that they followed the Old Babylonian pattern).
IIIIV: N 5133 (MSL 14 27); Syria 12 pl. 46 and 10 pl. 77:5 (Ugarit)
VVII: Ist. Si. 720 (Sippar); UET 7 87 (Ur)
XIXII: SLT 41; SLT 190; 3 N-T 346; UM 29-16-391+
XIIIXV: (see above)
XVIXVII: CBS 10183; SLT 76+; Ras Shamra 22.346+ and 22.337
(Ugarit); Alalakh 447
(7) XVIIIXIX: PBS 1 14+; SLT 69; KBo 1 47+ (Hattusha); Ras Shamra
20.32 + 17.03 (Ugarit)
(8) XXXXII: MSL 11 93109; UET 7 79 (Ur)
(9) XXIIIXXIV: MSL 11 109128.


Of course numerous exemplars confined themselves to the contents of

a single canonical tablet or less. But it is interesting to note that with
the exception of variant or non-canonical traditions such as UET 7
32 Jacques and Elisabeth Lagarce, Dcouvertes archologiques Ras Ibn Hani,
CRAI (1978) pp. 4565, especially p. 57; see also the same authors in UF 10 (1978) 438 f.


ii.4. old babylonian har-ra

92 (XI, XVIII, XVII, XIX) or IM 51144 (V or VIX, XVIII[?]),33

ordinarily no tablets crossed the borders of the 5-tablet recension; only
the exercise tablets of Type II/2 (see above) excerpted widely divergent
chapters of the series on obverse and reverse respectively, as follows:
III and VIIIIX: BIN 2 67 and 3 N-T 595
III and X: SLT 128
III and XI: SLT 194
XIII and XXIIIXXIV: N 5081; CBS 6115

Finally it may be noted that the grouping of the HAR-ra tablets in the
late commentary series HAR-gud was quite dierent from all of the
Given these observations, it seems safe to conclude that our inventory records the 5-tablet recension of HAR-ra as standardized in the
Old Babylonian schools and their middle Babylonian successors.35 It is
therefore the more interesting that the next entry is l, for some sort
of l-list followed HAR-ra in the canonical sequence.36 In the earlier
canon, proto-l was followed by proto-izi and proto-diri37 and that may
conceivably be the case here as well.38
Any attempt to assess the over-all significance of the new inventory
is necessarily risky. Yet one wonders whether there is not a significance
in the rough juxtaposition of literary texts in column i and lexical texts
in column ii (admittedly the columns are not precisely aligned with
each other). Civil suggested as much when he wrote me (in reference to
YBC 16317): In the introduction to the revised edition of proto-Ea in
MSL 14 . . . , I show that there is a clear relationship between what is on
the obverse of the type II exercise tablets and what is on their reverse.
I wonder if your list of lexical series reflects this situation.39 Could it
be, in other words, that our list described (or prescribed) the pairing of
33 Cf. MSL 6 144153, 7 177208. Note that Landsberger describes IM 51144 as a
dierent recension from the Nippur series (MSL 7 197). Civil also calls my attention
to two unpublished forerunners from the Oriental Institute (A 7895 and A 7896) which
follow a divergent order (XX[?], XIV, XIII and XVII [?], XIV, XIII, XI respectively).
34 Landsberger, MSL 7 (1959) 5761.
35 For tablet XX, our MS
(for ZI?). [x]-du3 diverges from the (reconstructed) a.
sa-du8 of MSL 11 97, but that may need review.
36 Civil, MSL 12 (1969) 90.
37 Civil, MSL 12 (1969) 90.
38 In ii 9, read perhaps ib(b)i bi (=qutru, smoke, incense) following MSL 13 16:7,
36:10, and 160 f.:15 f.
39 Letter of March 4, 1977.

ii.4. old babylonian har-ra


Lipit-Istar 23* (Lipit-Istar A) with the god-list, of Gilgamesh and the

Land of the Living with HAR-ra IIIIV (or VVII), of the Exaltation
of Inanna with HAR-ra VIIIXII, and so on? If so, were such pairs
standard in the Old Babylonian schools, or at the discretion of each
master? And was our text less inventory or catalogue than curriculum?
These concepts merge anyway in my view of the Old Babylonian
edubba"a.40 A preliminary check of the evidence convinced Civil of the
existence of a definite pattern which must reflect the organization of
the subject of the curriculum in a fixed succession.41 At the same time
it suggests that, for example, proto-Ea was most often paired with the
forerunner to HAR-ra XIIIXIV, that is, the third tablet of the Old
Babylonian recension, and not with bursuma-gal as in YBC 16317.42
Clearly no one explanation will suce for all the Old Babylonian
catalogues and inventories. But just as clear is their intimate link with
the curriculum of the scribal schools. By way of illustration, one may
point to BE 31 9, an Old Babylonian tablet which lists twenty lines
selected from lines 416654 of the composition Lugal-e (the equivalent
of tablets XXIV in the later recension) at, on the average, 12-line
intervals, as follows:43
Table III

BE 31 9






XI 1



Hallo, IEJ 12 (1962) 1326, here: I.1; cf, Sjberg, Studies Jacobsen pp. 162 f., and,
for a restatement of some of my views, see J. Olivier, Schools and Wisdom Literature,
Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 4 (1975) 4960.
41 MSL 14 (1979) 5 f.
42 S.J. Lieberman points out, however, that in his experience the only literary texts
occurring in more than one or two-line excerpts together with lexical texts on exercise
tablets are proverbs and Lipit-Istar B (24*), for which see n. 54 below.
43 Based on a manuscript of Lugal-e which I owe to the courtesy of J. van Dijk. Note
that only in a limited sense can the text therefore be said to catalogue Einzeltafeln of
the composition as suggested by Wilcke, AfO 24 (1973) 50 n. 2.


ii.4. old babylonian har-ra


BE 31 9







IV 1


While there may be special reasons for this choice of lines,44 the intervals thus established fall within the typical range of length of extracts
from literary texts which was regarded as the daily pensum at a certain
level of instruction as indicated by the existence of numerous tablets of
this length (Civils Type III).45 This level was presumably intermediate
between the primary stage, represented by lenticular tablets with 25
line extracts (Civils Type IV) and the advanced stage, represented by
extracts of 30 or more lines (Civils Type II/2).46 That 1030 lines were
the daily pensum is confirmed by im-gd-da or long tablets (to us they
mostly look wide because we read them at a dierent angle)47 which
carry a specific date (year, month, and day); when successive portions
of a single composition are copied on these extract-tablets by one and
the same scribal pupil, we can get an accurate estimate of his typical
daily assignment. Thus, for example, a certain Qisti-Ea copied lines 1

18 of the letter of Puzur-Sulgi

(also known as Puzur-Marduk) to Sulgi


Civil notes: The lines from Lugal-e have been chosen by the scribe as the points
where the sections about particular stones start; the fact that there is an interval of
about 12 lines simply reflects the length of these thematic sections. I prefer to see in
BE 31 9 a mnemotechnic list to help remember the order in which the stones are
confronted by Ninurta. (Letter of 7-28-81.)
45 MSL 12 (1969) 28, 152; 14 (1979) 5. See also Hallo and van Dijk, Enheduanna
(1968) 39 (5).
46 MSL 12 (1969) 27 f., 152; 14 (1979) 5; Hallo and van Dijk, Enheduanna pp. 38 f. (3
and 4).
47 But some, like UET 6 33 with 30 or more lines per side, look long even to us. Cf.
H. Hunger, Babylonische und Assyrische Kolophone (AOAT 2, 1968) p. 7; CAD L s.v.

ii.4. old babylonian har-ra


on an im-gd-da dated Samsuiluna/IX/2548 and the balance of the

text (lines 1933) on an im-gd-da dated the following day.49 Or again, a
certain Damqi-ilisu copied lines 163 of the Disputation between Cattle and Grain on an im-gd-da dated X/15 and lines 63123 of the
same composition on one dated X/25.50 If six of the intervening ten
days were spent in school,51 then he was responsible for about 10 lines
per day. Thus BE 31 9 is quite possibly a checklist of twenty successive
assignments in a scribal school covering nearly a months work, since
there were 23 and 24 schooldays in a month depending on whether it
was a hollow month of 29 days or a full month of 30.52 And YBC 16317
may similarly represent assignments of type II tablets in a school situation.
It has recently been suggested by Vanstiphout that some royal hymns
were written less to glorify the king than to provide elementary illustrations of Sumerian grammar for the instruction of scribal students.53
He was alluding to compositions like Lipit-Istar B (*24), which he has
edited,54 noting that it never occurs in the literary catalogues, while
Lipit-Istar A (*23) occurs in two of them55 or rather, as we can say now,
in five of them.56 At the same time, Sauren independently identified certain edubba"a-essays as ideally suited for instruction in Sumerian grammar, among them some, like dumu-, which are listed in the catalogues
(see above, Table 1).57 It seems, then, that the catalogues cannot be used
as criteria for the level of instruction at which a text was employed.
While lenticular school tablets probably serve to identify the most elementary levels of instruction, those of Type II seem to show connected
literary texts at an intermediate stage of the curriculum.
YBC 4654 (unpubl.).
YBC 4606. Both texts are incorporated in the edition by P. Michalowski, The
Royal Correspondence of Ur (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1976) pp. 200213.
50 UET 6 33 f.; cf. Hunger, Kolophone p. 25, who reads X/14 and X/24 and notes
another im-gd-da of 60 lines inscribed by the same scribe on X/21 (UET 6/2 131).
51 Kramer, Literary Texts from Ur VI, Part II, Iraq 25 (1963) 174; Modern Social
Problems in Ancient Sumer: Evidence from the Sumerian Literary Documents, in
Edzard Gesellschaftsklassen (CRRA 18, 1972) p. 119; Hallo, New Moons and Sabbaths:
A Case-study in the Contrastive Approach, HUCA 48 (1977) 12 f.
52 Hallo, HUCA 48 (1977) 12 f.
53 H. Vanstiphout, How Did They Learn Sumerian? JCS 31 (1979) 118126.
54 Vanstiphout, Lipit-Estars Praise in the Edubba, JCS 30 (1978) 3361.
55 JCS 31 (1979) 123.
56 See above, Table 1, sub lugal m-du -ga.
57 H. Sauren, E -dub-ba-Literatur: Lehrbcher des Sumerischen, Orientalia Lo2
vaniensia Periodica 10 (1979) 97107.


ii.4. old babylonian har-ra

YBC 16317 and its analogues (above, Table 1), serve as further evidence to this eect. As Civil has seen,58 items 13 in the new catalogue,
and perhaps the Kesh-hymn (see item 9) and the Enlil-hymn (dEn-ll
s-r-s) are the only ones (with the exception of proverbs and certain short tales) which are found in type II/2 exercise tablets. Moreover, they were apparently studied in this order, given the discovery of
exemplars of item 1 with the incipit of item 2 as catchline, and of the
Enlil-hymn with the incipit of the Kesh-hymn as catchline,59 precisely
the sequence found in the catalogues from Philadelphia, the Louvre,
and Andrews University.60 But YBC 16317 is, apart from UET 5 86, the
only catalogue to include lexical genres, and it is the first one to list
them in some kind of systematic association with the standard literary
texts of the (intermediate) scribal curriculum.

Civil, Studies Jacobsen, p. 145 n. 36.

Civil, Studies Jacobsen, p. 145 n. 36. For another example of such a catchline
see Sjberg, ZA 63 (1973) 43 (1). See also Hallo, JCS 31 (1979) 161 n. 7 for balag-texts
excerpted in the same order on excerpt tablets and in a catalogue text.
60 Above, nn. 810. In the Andrews University catalogue, I read the beginning of
line 11 as [n]m- nun -e.

royal and divine hymns


Falkenstein and Edzard have introduced the concept of Babylonian

Intermediate Periods on the analogy of the Egyptian pattern. Apparently they construe unification as the norm of Babylonian political life,
and periods of fragmentation as departures from this norm. This point
of view has been questioned in a number of reviews of Edzards otherwise exemplary book on the so-called Second Intermediate Period of
Babylonia,2 but these arguments are directed only against taking unification as the norm of political life. To quote my own review, the periods of political unity which enclose Edzards two intermediate periods are either too hypothetical (Uruk I and Kish I), too interrupted by
disunity (AgadeUr III), or too short (Hammurabi 30Samsu-iluna
9) to qualify as norms of Babylonian political achievement, even if it
can be shown (p. 3) that the Babylonians themselves regarded them as
such.3 This paper seeks to address itself to the latter question: can it be
shown that, no matter what their actual experience, the Neo-Sumerian
and Old Babylonian states of southern Mesopotamia regarded unification as a theoretical norm of their political thought, in short as a political
There are, of course, a number of well-known grounds for an armative answer to this question, foremost among which is, perhaps, the
Sumerian king list. This king list (like some of its Babylonian successors), has rightly come to be regarded as a political tract, designed
to perpetuate the perfectly transparent fiction that Sumer and Akkad
had, since the Flood, been united under the rule of a single king, albeit
that king might come at any given time from any one of eleven dierent cities.4 Second, certain royal titles and epithets were, at any given
1 The substance of this paper was presented to the American Oriental Society, in
Philadelphia, on March 30, 1961.
2 D.O. Edzard, Die zweite Zwischenzeit Babyloniens (1957).
3 Bibliotheca Orientalis 16 (1959) 235.
4 The restoration 11 [citie]s which exercised kingship at the conclusion of one
Nippur recension of the King List is now confirmed by a new fragment of a duplicate
text from Nippur; cf. Hallo, JCS 17 (1963) 56, here: VI.1.


iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity

time, the prerogative of just one dynasty, though the authority which
the title implied might be quite as fictitious as the unity it was supposed
to suggest. Thus the title King of Ur, or epithets like supporter/husbandman/herdsman of Ur were claimed by the kings of Isin from the
collapse of Ur III through the early years of Enlil-bani, that is some
eighty years after Isin had, perhaps peacefully,5 ceded actual control of
Ur to Larsa. Nor was this claim, so far as is known, challenged during
that time.6 Other titles, too, had a character that lifted them above local
significance and were held by only one city or dynasty at a time7 and,
what is equally revealing, some altogether unexpected epithets recur in
totally dierent dynasties.8
Third, the amphictyonic league which I have tried to reconstruct
for the Ur III period9 implies a specific kind of ideal unity far antedating the establishment of Urs hegemony under Ur-Nammu and
Shulgi,10 and outlived it at least in the sense that the members of the
amphictyony also constituted, by and large, the separate kingdoms of
the Early Old Babylonian period, kingdoms which, it can be argued,
preserved the internal peace of the Ur III period for more than a century.11 Fourth, the installation of his daughter as high-priestess of the
moon-god Nanna at Ur seems to have been the prerogative of whatever king controlled the city of Ur at the time. At least five dynasties
succeeded each other in the almost unbroken succession of these royal
appointments that has now been established for the interval from Sargon of Akkad to Rim-Sin of Larsa12 and, whatever the basis of the
prerogative may have been, there is no evidence for rival claimants to
it even during periods of political upheaval. Indeed, the uniformly long
tenures of these high-priestesses, from Enheduanna13 to Adad-guppi of

5 E.I. Gordon, Lipit-Ishtar of Isin, Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin (Oberlin, Ohio) 14/1 (1956) 20 f.
6 Hallo, AOS 43 (1957) 1618; JNES 18 (1959) 57.
7 AOS 43: 150155.
8 Ibid., 156; note especially the early Lagash epithet kur-g-gar-gar DN revived by
Nur-Adad of Larsa (ibid., 137).
9 JCS 14 (1960) 88114.
10 Cf. especially Thorkild Jacobsens arguments for an early Kengir league in
ZA 52 (1957) 99109.
11 Hallo, Bibliotheca Orientalis 16 (1959) 238.
12 Edmond Sollberger, AfO 17 (19541956) 2329, 45 f.
13 The special case of this daughter of Sargon must be considered separately in the
light of her hymns to Innin; cf. for the present Adam Falkenstein, RA 52 (1958) 129131.

iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity


Harran,14 can only be explained on the assumptionmost clearly validated in the case of Enannatumma15of their immunity to dynastic
Finally, we may briefly mention certain significant indications of
national consciousness. There is, on the literary level, the perpetuation
of the historical tradition,16 including the historical allusions in the
omen literature,17 both serving to unify the separate traditions of the
individual city-states. On the political level, there is the tendency to
revive traditional royal names such as Sharruken and Naram-Sin. And
on the religious level, the worship of the deified Gudea of Lagash in
Ur III18 and of the deified Ur III kings in the Isin period19 attests
to a feeling of temporal unity and implies a sense of spatial unity in
Mesopotamian political thought.
To this fairly impressive array of arguments, I would like to add
another, from the so-called royal hymns. The term will be used here
somewhat loosely to include all those Sumerian hymns which honor,
pray for or otherwise commemorate specific kings, as well as certain
related Sumerian texts such as laments, letters to gods and political
correspondence mentioning kings. A significant number of these compositions expressly or indirectly attest to a kind of cosmic conception of
Mesopotamian unity or, following Jacobsens analysis, they picture the
assembly of the gods at Nippur as conferring supreme executive power
(illilutu) on one of their number so that this deity might then confer its
earthly equivalent on the king or e n s of his or her city.20 That city was
thus recognized, at least by the religious poetry, as prima inter pares and
it should therefore be of interest to see which cities and dynasties were
thus honored.
The royal Sumerian hymns, in the narrower sense, have lately received a great deal of attention, and as a result we now know of over
a hundred examples of this genre, though the number may decrease
14 Cf. most recently C.J. Gadd, The Harran inscriptions of Nabonidus, Anatolian
Studies 8 (1958) 3592.
15 Gordon, loc. cit.
16 H.G. Gterbock, ZA 42 (1934) 1 .
17 Albrecht Goetze, JCS 1 (1947) 253265.
18 Nikolaus Schneider, Orientalia 9 (1940) 1724, with the reservations of Sollberger,
AfO 17 (19541956) 33, note 124 and Falkenstein, Neusumerische Gerichtsurkunden 1 (1956) 6,
note 7. Admittedly all the evidence comes from Lagash itself so far.
19 TCL 15: 18 (AO 5374); cf. Falkenstein, ZA 49 (1949) 83.
20 Apud H. and H.A. Frankfort, Before Philosophy, 207213; ZA 52 (1957) 105 f. In other
cases, supreme power is withdrawn in the same manner.


iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity

slightly as fragmentary passages are shown to belong to single compositions. Seventy-three separate compositions were identified by Falkenstein in a survey of the genre in 1952.21 Some thirty additional examples
can already be added to the list, chiefly from more recent publications.
These are indicated in the ensuing footnotes which may serve as a provisional complement to Falkensteins list and to Lamberts survey of
Sumerian literature22 in which the royal hymns receive only scant attention.23 The bulk of these 100-odd compositions may be assigned to four
major dynasties, with Ur and Isin boasting some forty each, and Larsa
and Babylon up to ten each. Of these dynasties, only Ur is represented
by all its kings, and these in rather divergent numbers, though the
proportions are comparable to those established for the Neo-Sumerian
royal inscriptions.24 Thus for Ur-Nammu, at least seven separate compositions can now be identified,25 for Shulgi some thirty,26 and for ShuSin four.27 Although Falkenstein no longer regards BE 29:1 iii f. as a

ZA 50 (1952) 6163 with notes 210 (p. 61) and 17 (p. 62).
M. Lambert, RA 55 (1961) 177196; 56 (1962) 8190.
23 Ibid., 81. Cf. also the brief notice by S.N. Kramer in The Bible and the Ancient Near
East (= Albright AV, 1962), 263 f., notes 6670.
24 Hallo, HUCA 33 (1962) 8.
25 The published texts listed by Falkenstein, ZA 50:61, note 2 have now been edited
by G.R. Castellino, ZA 52 (1957) 1757; 53 (1959) 106131. ke Sjberg has identified
TCL 15:38 as a syllabically written duplicate to SRT 11; cf. Orientalia Suecana 10 (1961)
311. Add CT 44 (1963) 16, previously published by Stephen Langdon, PSBA 40 (1918)
45 . and unpublished texts from Istanbul (cf. Orientalia 22 191) and Jena (cf. WZJ 5
761, Nos. 3, 24, 89, 116).
26 Using Falkensteins sigilla (ZA 50: 62 f.), Shulgi A can now be augmented by
J.J.A. van Dijk, Sumer 13 (1967) 79B, and Shulgi D by Kramer et al., Orientalia 22
(1953) pls. xlviiif. (1st. Ni. 4571; cf. Falkenstein, Iraq 22 [1960] 146 f.). Shulgi I (BE 31: 54)
belongs to the genre of royal correspondence; cf. Kramer, JAOS 60 (1940) 253, note 60,
and note 1A-wi-il-la-sa in 1. 16the name is frequent in this genreand the concluding
catchline or colophon dI -bi-dEN.ZU lugal-mu-[ra -na-a-du11(?)]. Shulgi S (STVC 58) is
not a hymn either; cf. below, note 32. Van Dijk, SGL 2 (1960) 1315 has shown that
Langdon, Babylonian Liturgies (1913) 195B is a hymn (a - d a - a b) for Shulgi, while
Erica Reiner, Orientalia 30 (1961) 10, holds likewise for the bilingual text PBS 1/1 (1911)
11. New are CT 42 (1959) 40 (with duplicate SLTN 52) edited by Falkenstein, Iraq 22
(1960) 139160, and TLB 2 (1957) 2, edited by van Dijk, Bibliotheca Orientalis 11 (1954)
8588. Finally, at least two hitherto unknown titles of Shulgi-hymns appear in a Yale
catalogue of royal hymns to be published by the writer; here: II.1. Among unpublished
pieces are one each from Jena and Philadelphia (cf. Bernhardt and Kramer, WZJ 5 762
No. 33not a hymnand 6 393, note 2 ad no. 26) and 11 from Istanbul (cf. Orientalia
22 191).
27 To Falkensteins list, ZA 50 61, note 4, add now Kramer et al., Belleten 16 (1952) pl.
lxvi and pp. 360363 = University Museum Bulletin 17/2 (1952) 3133 (Ni. 2461). Like

iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity


hymn to Amar-Sin,28 that ruler figures in the royal correspondence of

Ur III29 as do Shulgi, Shu-Sin, and Ibbi-Sin.30 In addition, the Ur III
kings figure prominently in other literary categories such as law-codes
(Ur-Nammu),31 disputations (Shulgi32 and Ibbi-Sin),33 love-songs34 and
collections of royal inscriptions35 (Shu-Sin), and laments (Ibbi-Sin).36
At Isin, eight out of the first ten rulers, including all of the first seven,
are represented by royal hymns, as follows: Ishbi-Irra: 5;37 Shu-ilishu: 2;38
Iddin-Dagan: 3;39 Ishme-Dagan: 14;40 Lipit-Ishtar: 5;41 Ur-Ninurta: 6;42

SRT 23, this text is really a love-song rather than a hymn; both texts carry the native
designation b a l - b a l - e, dialogue (?). Three other Shu-Sin pieces are signalized
from Istanbul and Jena.
28 Below, note 43.
29 Orientalia 22, pl. xl (Ni. 3803).
30 At present still largely unpublished; cf. most recently F.R. Kraus, AfO 20 (1963)
31 Kramer and Falkenstein, Orientalia 23 (1954) 4051 and pls. ivvii.
32 Van Dijk, Bibliotheca Orientalis 11 (1954) 83, note 1 and 87, note 44.
33 Id., La Sagesse (1953) 46 f. (Summer and Winter).
34 Above, note 27.
35 See especially Edzard, AfO 19 (19591960) 132 and pls. iiv. For other late copies
of Ur III inscriptions, see HUCA 33: 24 . sub Ur-Nammu 7 iii, 27 ii, 37; Shulgi 4 ii, 54;
Amar-Sin 3 ii; Shu-Sin 20 ii; Ibbi-Sin 910.
36 ZA 50 61, note 5.
37 Ibid., note 7; add one unpublished piece each from Yale and Istanbul (Orientalia
22 191).
38 Ibid., note 8.
39 Ibid., note 9. To the famous sacred marriage text, add now Kramer et al.,
Orientalia 22 (1953) pls. xliiixlvi (Ni. 9802 + 4363) and Turk Arkeoloji Dergisi 8 (1959)
pl. vii (Ni. 9635). Cf. also below, notes 96 f.
40 ZA 50 61, note 10. Add: Langdon, Babylonian Liturgies 196 (cf. van Dijk, SGL 2
15 f.), HS 1594 (unpublished), Orientalia 22 (1953) pl. li (Ni. 4105, Ni. 4391) and three
other texts (ibid., p. 191). Note that SEM 112 duplicates TCL 15: 9 (Edzard, op. cit., 80,
note 391). SRT 36 has now been edited by Castellino, RSO 32 (1957) 1330.
41 ZA 50 62, note 1. Add: HS 1557 (unpublished); Kramer et al., Belleten 16 (1952)
pls. lixf. (Ni. 9695), whose incipit recurs in the catalogue TMH n. F. 3 (1961) 53 67,
and eight other Istanbul fragments copied by Mme. Kizilyay (Orientalia 22 191). With
TCL 16: 48, lines 77 f., cf. the school-text Babyloniaca 9 (1926) 19, lines 1 f. (cf. Hallo,
Israel Exploration Journal 12 22 f., note 43, here: I.1). To TCL 16:87 etc. (cf. Falkenstein,
SAHG No. 27) add Kramer, University Museum Bulletin 17/2 25, fig, 12; the schooltext UET 1:296 duplicates TCL 16:87 v lines 6 f. (= lines 120 f. in SAHG 27). Note also
the letter PBS 13:46 ii. Cf. also below, note 96.
42 ZA 50:62, note 2. VAT 9205 has now been edited by Falkenstein, ZA 52 (1957)
5875. Add: van Dijk, Sumer 11 (1955) 110, no. 9 (with duplicate SLTN 137); VAT 8212
(cf. Falkenstein, ZA 49 149), and VAS 10:199 ii-9iii 7 following Kramer, Belleten 16
(1952) 358, note 10 and Bibliotheca Orientalis 11 (1954) 172, note 19. The incipit of the
latter composition recurs in the catalogue TMH n.F. 3 (1961) 54, line 11.


iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity

Bur-Sin: 2.43 These are the very same Isin kings as are memorialized
in certain Dumuzi liturgies between the kings of Ur III and an as yet
unidentified dynasty or dynasties.44 The tradition resumes, and then
just as abruptly stops again, as noted by Edzard,45 with Enlil-bani (2
hymns).46 Interestingly enough, it is precisely to the time of Enlil-bani
that we may date the first royal hymn in honor of a king of Larsa,
an unpublished one to Nur-Adad;47 for the last eleven years of NurAdads reign coincide with, the first eleven of Enlil-banis. The kings
of Larsa continue to monopolize the poets attentions, though in much
smaller measure than their predecessors, with Sin-iddinam represented
by at least four compositions,48 Sin-iquisham by one,49 and Warad-Sin
by one.50 Rim-Sin is the subject of a letter to a god51 and of a hymnlike incantation.52 Then the poets focus shifts to Babylon, where not
only Hammurapi, the conqueror of Rim-Sin I,53 but also his first two
successors, Samsu-iluna54 and Abi-eshuh,55 are found in this context.

So far, it is clear, we have a virtually unbroken succession of royal

hymns from Ur-Nammu to Abi-eshuh that is, from about 21001700 bc,

and during these four hundred years, there is no evidence that more
than one dynasty successfully competed for the poets attention at any
one time even while they frequently succeeded in winning a share of the
political hegemony. Admittedly this is an argument from silence. But it
43 BE 29:1 iii 37-iv 38 should be assigned to Bur-Sin of Isin; cf. Falkenstein apud
Edzard, op. cit., 137, note 724. Another text of the same king is at Yale (unpublished).
Here: III.3.
44 Cf. Edzard, ibid., 138140 and above, note 19.
45 Ibid., 142 top.
46 ZA 50 62, note 3. OECT 1:1012 has now been edited by A. Kapp, ZA 51 (1955)
47 ZA 50 62, note 5; Edzard, op. cit., 145.
48 CT 42 (1959) 45; UET 5:86 (catalogue of hymns includes one to Sin-iddinam),
and two Yale texts (unpublished).
49 VAT 8531 (unpubl.), translated by Falkenstein, SAHG 23; photo of obverse ibid.,
pl. 9.
50 The catalogue UET 5:86 lists one hymn to Warad-Sin.
51 TCL 15:35, edited by Raymond Jestin, RA 39 (19421944) 9194. On this genre,
see Falkenstein, ZA 44 (1938) 125; Analecta Biblica 12 (1959) 6977; Kramer, ANET
(1955) 382.
52 Gadd, Iraq 22 (1960) 157165.
53 ZA 50 62, note 7. Add Orientalia 22 (1953) pl. lii (Ni. 4225) and one other
Istanbul text (ibid., p. 191). Sjberg has shown that TLB 2:3, hymne autolaudatoire
de Hammurabi, is a copy of part of a bilingual stele of which numerous fragments
have been published as UET 1:146 and YOS 9: 3961; ZA 54 (1961) 5170.
54 ZA 50 62, note 7. Add PBS 10/2:11 (Falkenstein, Archiv Orientalni 17/1 214).
55 ZA 50 62, note 7. Cf. now also CT 44 (1963) 18.

iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity


is worth pursuing, for we have not yet exhausted the roster of royal
compositions and must now consider five somewhat isolated examples
which do not or may not belong to the dynasties already mentioned.
The first is a hymn to Ba"u56 which Falkenstein translated in Sumerische und Akkadische Hymnen und Gebete as No. 9.57 It is designated as an
a-da-ab hymn, a category that almost always includes references to a
king, and indeed a king appears several times in it. But this king, in
Falkensteins translation at least, is nameless, and all that can be said
with some certainty is that he was a ruler of Lagash. It is possible that
the poem is incomplete in its present form.58 For the ur-bi prayer which
otherwise always closes the a-da-ab compositions (and only these) and
which always includes the kings name, is missing from this particular
text, an omission which may be due to lack of space.59 On the other
hand Kramer has found the kings name in this text too, for he regards
the lum-ma occurring repeatedly in it not as an epithet but rather as
the well-known Tidnum-name of Eannatum.60 There is no need to
choose here between the two positions, except to point out that there
is nothing in the present text to suggest any extraordinary antiquity.61
It resembles the standard royal hymns in both form (except as noted)
and content,62 and if it really refers to Eannatum it may be simply a
late attempt to create a hymn in the new style for the long-deceased
The first ruler definitely known to have been honored in a royal
hymn in this style is Gudea of Lagash, and it is to him that I would be
inclined to date the origin of the genre. The reference here is not to
the Cylinders of Gudea, which may be regarded as the climax of a long

CT 36:39 f., republished by Anton Deimel, Sumerische

Grammatik 2 (1939) 236 f.
Other treatments ibid., 238243; Maurus Witzel, Keilinschriftliche Studien 5 (1925)
159170. For a rather dierent rendering, cf. Margarete Riemschneider, Augengott und
Heilige Hochzeit (1953) 174 f.
58 Falkenstein, ZA 49 (1949) 89, note 1.
59 Ibid., 92 and SAHG p. 364. For the uru-bi, see most recently ZA 52(1957) 69 . For
the only uru-bi which mentions a city, not a king, see Sjberg, Der Mondgott Nanna-Suen
(1960) 42 top.
60 Bibliotheca Orientalis 11 (1954) 172, note 18. On the name Lumma (or Humma)
see most recently Jacobsen, ZA 52 (1957) 131 f., note 90 (6) and Edzard, Genava8 (1960)
249 f., superseding Zwischenzeit 9, note 39 and therefore, in part, my critique of Hartmut
Schmkel in JAOS 78 (1958) 307, note 8.
61 Cf. my forthcoming paper On the antiquity of Sumerian literature in JAOS 83
(1963), here: II.1.
62 Cf. above, note 20.


iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity

tradition of Old Sumerian literature,63 but rather to a short hymn

to Ba"u64 which answers the description given by Jacobsen (above) and
resembles the preceding Ba"u hymn in other details as well.
The third text that must be mentioned here is a short Gottesbrief,
or letter addressed to a god, in this case Meslamtae"a, by Sin-kashid,
king of Uruk.65 In contrast to the contemporary building inscriptions
of this king, his name here is written with ka, not k(GA). But even
without this index, the script alone proves beyond doubt that what we
have here is a school-copy, later by far than the time of Sin-kashid. In
other words, he had also entered the select circle of rulers canonized by
the scribal tradition. Whether this isolated example is evidence that he
had met whatever requirements this claim to canonization implied may
be left open here. But this question could be answered armatively
without upsetting the scheme that has been suggested. For the date of
Sin-kashid, though still uncertain, cannot have been far from either
Enlil-bani of Isin or Nur-Adad of Larsa.66 One may even propose that
his brief patronage of the Sumerian poets, if such it was, fell between
the similar claims of those two rulers.
A more dicult problem is posed by the newly published hymn
to Anam of Uruk,67 whose activities date to the first years of RimSin of Larsa. This hymn, however, is not patterned after the standard
royal hymns in structure; it was found at Uruk and, though its specific
historical setting seems to be an action in favor of the citizens of Nippur,
it may well be doubted whether it enjoyed more than local circulation.
Anam, still a shadowy figure in spite of the new finds from Uruk,
broke with inscriptional canons in other ways: his private building
inscriptions are unparalleled in the millennial tradition of this genre,68
as is his studious avoidance of the royal title both in his inscriptions69
and in the hymn. In distinction from all the rest of the Sin-kashid
Cf. note 61.
STVC 36 (from Nippur), translated by Falkenstein, SAHG No. 16.
65 TCL 16:58. Here: V.3.
66 Cf. Edzard, op. cit., 153, and now the detailed exposition by Falkenstein, Baghdader Mitteilungen 2 (1963). Nur-Adad and Enlil-bani were contemporaries from 1860
1850 and Sin-kashids reign includes this period. Note also that Enlil-bani was the last
ruler of Isin to mention Uruk in his titulary (AOS 43:7 f.; Edzard, op. cit., 77, note 375),
and that this is the only city other than Isin which the Larsa kings never took over into
their titles or epithets.
67 Falkenstein, Baghdader Mitteilungen 2:8082 and pl. 13.
68 Ibid., 36; cf. Hallo, HUCA 33 (1962) 1, note 4.
69 AOS 43: 111.

iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity


dynasty, he chose a Sumerian name for himself 70 and for Irdanene his
son,71 and the solicitude of both rulers for the citizens of Nippur72 may
also betoken a special predilection for Sumerian traditions.
The last text to be considered is a small fragment from Nippur
copied by Mme. Cig73 and described by Kramer.74 It mentions Damiqilishu and has therefore been assigned to the last king of the Isin
dynasty by Edzard.75 Since there is little doubt of the hymnic character
of the fragment, this attribution, if correct, would tend to disprove my
argument from silence, and to show that a dynasty could re-enter the
orbit of the Sumerian national poetry even after its preeminence
had already passed to another city. Now it is true that Isin unfolded
considerable strength in its last years, and Damiq-ilishu himself sparked
a resurgence that led to his recapture of Isin for over ten years.76
However, the possibility also exists that we are dealing with a hymn
to the Damiq-ilishu, not of Isin, but of the Sealand Dynasty. True,
this kings name is spelled Damqi-ilishu in the date formulas of Ammiditana which are the only contemporary indices for the writing of his
name.77 But this is equally true of the Isin king in some Larsa date
formulas,78 and is in any case not a compelling argument as was shown
by the case of Sin-kashid of Uruk (above). On the other hand, there
is some reason to believe that the Sealand did indeed consider itself
the heir of the defunct Isin dynasty79 and of Sumerian traditions in
general.80 Damiq-ilishus successors all took ever more ponderous and
archaizing Sumerian names,81 and the presence of a separate professor
of Sumerian at the Nippur schools of Hammurapi and Samsuiluna82
implies some ignorance of the language by the general run of students
Falkenstein, Baghdader Mitteilungen 2:35, note 155.
This relationship is now revealed by a date formula, ibid., 19,.
72 Ibid., 37.
73 Orientalia 22 (1953) pl. lii (Ni. 4428).
74 Ibid., 193.
75 Op. cit., 142, note 747.
76 Hallo, JNES 18 (1959) 58 f.; Bibliotheca Orientalis 16 (1959) 238.
77 Benno Landsberger, JCS 8 (1954) 69, note 178. Cf. also Barbara Morgan, Manchester Cuneiform Studies 2 (1952) 52.
78 Cf. e.g. YOS 5:223.
79 Schmkel, Geschichte des alten Vorderasien (1957) 112.
80 Ibid., 5. For a general estimate of the history and culture of the Sealand, see
R.P. Dougherty, The Sealand of Ancient Arabia (= YOSR 19, 1932).
81 Landsberger, JCS 8:69 f. and notes 175180.
82 Idem, International Congress of Orientalists 23 (1954) 125; Gadd, Teachers and
Students (1956) 18.


iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity

and teachers, and a source of native speakers from outside of Babylonia

which may well have been the Sealand. Indeed, Landsberger has put
forth the suggestion that Sumerian learning fled to the Sealand from
about the time of Ammi-ditana to about the time of Agum II, i.e., in
the middle portion of the Sealand Dynasty.83 This suggestion, based
on the cryptic recipe for glassmaking fictitiously dated to the reign of
Gulkishar, seems to find a legendary echo also in the Irra Epic.84
Later than this it would be unrealistic to look for true Sumerian royal
hymns, for the post-Sumerian literature which begins about 1500 bc85 is
conspicuously lacking in those categories which, in the neo-Sumerian
literature, owed their Sitz im Leben to the cult of the deified king.
Thus Chieras proposal to see in PBS 1/2:94 and 134 a hymn to
the Kassite king Enlil-amah,86 i.e., Kadashman-Enlil,87 is inherently
are duplicate versions of an Old Babyloimprobable. In fact these texts
nian Gottesbrief.88
Thus we find the royal hymns and related genres attested for Gudea
of Lagash, all five kings of Ur III, the rulers of Isin through Enlil-bani,
possibly Sin-kashid and Anam of Uruk, the rulers of Larsa from NurAdad on, Hammurapi, Samsu-iluma and Abi-eshuh of Babylon, and

possibly Damiq-ilishu of the Sealand. It could, of course, be argued

that the royal hymns were first composed, not in the lifetime of these
kings, but more or less posthumously. This must indeed be the case,
for example, with PBS 10/2:6, the Ur-Nammu composition which
details his death and burial. But the apparent duplicate HS 145089 preserves the last line of this text and suggests that it actually belongs
to the category of lamentations90 or liturgies for the dead.91 In spite
of occasional anachronisms, there are strong indications that at least
some of the hymns were contemporary with the rulers they honored,
most notably where their incipits are preserved in contemporary catalogues,92 or where the texts we possess can be shown to have been


JCS 8 70, note 181.

Notably in the passages quoted by Miss Reiner, Orientalia 30 (1961) 9 f.
Falkenstein, MDOG 85 (1953) 113.
AJSL 39 (1922) 40.
F.M. Th. Boehl, AfO 5 (1928) 248 f.
Falkenstein, ZA 44 (1938) 1; SAHG No. 41 (translation).
Castellino, ZA 53 (1959) 131.
Kramer cited ibid.
So Lambert, RA 55 (1961) 196 ad No. 74.
Above, note 26.

iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity


copies93 or duplicates94 of stele inscriptions. For it is dicult to imagine

that later generations would go to the length of newly incising on stone
hymns to deceased rulers.
It can also be argued that local and historical considerations intervened in the selection of royal hymns for the libraries and the scribal
curriculum.95 In other words, there may have been extra-canonical
compositions adhering more or less to the standards of style and format set at Nippur but circulating only in the scribal centers directly
controlled by the relevant dynasts. Such compositions might explain
the possibly concurrent appearance of hymns to Enlil-bani and Damiqilishu (but see above) of Isin at Nippur and of texts devoted to Sinkashid and Anam of Uruk or to the kings of Larsa from Nur-Adad
to Rim-Sin, none of which have hitherto appeared on Nippur copies.
What must be pointed out, however, is that even within this hundredyear period, the hymns to the earlier Isin kings continued to form part
of the scribal curriculum, not only at Nippur, but also at a variety of
scribal centers not subject to Isin, as revealed by newly identified schooltexts with short extracts of Isin hymns from Larsa,96 Uruk,97 Ur98 and an
unidentified site.99
If then all the proposed attributions and dates are granted, the extent
of our genre can be said to cover close to five hundred years and as
many as seven dierent dynasties. At no time is there a certain gap of
even so much as a generation between the rulers or dynasties commemorated in the genre. The biggest assured gap lies within the dynasty of
Isin, where the absence, to date, of Sumerian compositions mentioning Lipit-Enlil and Irra-imitti (18731861) may be connected with the

93 So the Ur-Nammu hymn TCL 15:12 according to Falkenstein, Iraq 22 (1960) 147,
and the Ishme-Dagan hymn SRT 13 according to Sjberg, ZA 54 (1961) 70.
94 Above, note 53.
95 Lambert, RA 56 (1962) 81; but the case in point cited there illustrates the hazards
of this line of reasoning, for the discovery that SLTN 137 duplicates the new Ur-Ninurta
hymn Sumer 11:110 (above, note 42) invalidates the contention that pour une raison
qui reste dterminer, Nippur a probablement banni de ses rayons le nom de ce
96 Falkenstein, Baghdader Mitteilungen 2:42, note 190.
97 Ibid., 41 f. and note 190.
98 Above, note 41.
99 Above, note 41. Cf. also Falkensteins conclusion dass damals im Kreise der
sumerisch gebildeten Priesterschaft, und generell aller literarisch Gebildeten, die alten
Knigshymnen gelufiger geistiger Besitz gewesen sind, Archiv Orientln 17/1 (1949)


iii.1. royal hymns and mesopotamian unity

breach of the long peace between Isin and Larsa after 1897.100 Yet, at
the same time, there is no certain case of contemporaries from dierent dynasties being honored simultaneously by what may be regarded
as the canonical tradition of hymnography, although the century of
maximum political turmoil (ca. 18651763) may perhaps be reflected by
a temporary breakdown in the hegemony of the canonical tradition.
It is this relatively brief period, including as it does the upheavals further north and involving also Eshnunna, Assur and Mari, which can
truly be described as the period of warring kingdoms101 or even, if
one wishes, as an intermediate period. For the rest, the Early Old
Babylonian hymnography supplies a powerful argument in favor of the
theoretical concept of Mesopotamian unity, recognizing a single dynast
as the earthly holder of a divinely granted primacy over his fellowrulers, be these kings or enss, in times of imperial unification as well
as of petty-statism. Whether this recognition depended on the possession of Nippur102 or on some other factor is a question which cannot be
answered here. But this much seems clear: the Early Old Babylonian
period was not a departure from the norm, but as true an expression of
the amphictyonic ideal as the age of Shulgi that it followed or the age
of Hammurapi that it ushered in.


Above, note 11.

Cf. Bibliotheca Orientalis 16 (1959) 238, note 27.
Thus, at least tentatively, Edzard, op. cit., 103.


The brief but brilliant literary productivity of Ur is second, as of now,

only to that of Nippur in the Old Babylonian age, and it is therefore of particular interest to compare the oeuvre of the Ur school
with that of other centers, and especially Nippur.1 It exhibits on the
one hand striking similarities and on the other impressive dierences,
both in its roster of compositions and in its treatment of the traditional texts.2 To illustrate the latter point, I wish to compare the new
Ur-Nammu hymn from Ur (UET VI/1: 76 f.) with an unpublished parallel from the Yale Babylonian Collection.3 While there is no intention
to anticipate the edition of the Ur copies (to which the coauthors of
UET VI/1 rightfully have the priority), it is hoped that this juxtaposition will underline the fact that the fixation of many neo-Sumerian
texts was a continuing process which was far from having run its course
when the Ur exemplars were prepared. At the same time, it should
help to show that literary texts may contain significant historical material.
The Yale text has a perfectly balanced structure which is entirely
lacking in the Ur versions. It begins4 and ends with two five-line stanzas in which Ur-Nammu is spoken of in the third person as if by a
chorus, followed (respectively preceded) by two couplets addressing UrNammu (?) in the second person. Its central and major portion is a
self-predication recited by Ur-Nammu in the first person. As such, it is

comparable to Sulgi
A and other royal hymns of self-praise which share
a common absence of liturgical classification (other than z - m ) and
are therefore attributed by Falkenstein to the courtly ceremonial rather

1 Presented, in substance, to the 175th meeting of the American Oriental Society,

Chicago, April 14, 1965.
2 Cf. my review of UET VI/1 JCS 20 (1966), pp. 8993.
3 YBC 4617; provenience unknown, but the orthography is strictly Nippurian.
The copy will be included in a projected volume of Sumerian royal hymns and related
genres from the Yale Babylonian Collection.
4 Actually 6 lines but an error may be assumed.


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu

than to the temple cult.5 The following paraphrase is based on the Yale
version, with restorations from the Ur versions.6
In the introduction, the poet (or chorus) asks; Who will dig the
canal which purifies the reservoir and cleanses the ditches?7 and answers: Divine Ur-Nammu, the wealthy one, will dig it, the eective
youth,8 the rich one, will dig it. He (or it) then turns to Ur-Nammu
and acclaims him king by Enlil (and) the lord Asimbabbar.
The body of the hymn begins with Ur-Nammu describing his election to kingship in Nippur by Enlil: I am chosen in Sumer and Akkad,
in Nippur, the mountain of life, he has made my fate good for me, I
have looked upon his shining forehead, kingship has been given to
me. Next, the king describes his investiture in Ur, ticking o the standard regalia:9 throne, crown,10 scepter, sta and crook. The third step
in this process, preserved only in the Yale text, is a fragmentary reference to confirmation by the divine triad of Sin (Asimbabbar), Enlil and
The rest of the self-predication consists entirely of a variation on the
theme of royally inspired fertility.12 Ur-Nammu, having dug a canal of
abundance for Ur, and given it a name, now boasts of his city as one
whose watercourses13 are fish and whose overflow is fowl, whose canals
ZA 50 (1952) 91.
For complete transliteration and translation, see appendix.
7 i -pa (B: p ? ) - b i - l u h. Actually this is a name rather than an epithet (cf. line 24).
It recurs in CT 15: 16: 13930: 6 in parallelism with Tigris and Euphrates; cf. A. Falkenstein, Sumerische und akkadische Hymnen und Gebete (1953) 81:56 and . Sjberg, Der Mondgott
Nanna-Suen (1960) 46:6, where line 3 can perhaps be restored as i 7 - [ ( g i s ) k e s d a - k - g ] e
8 S
u l - z i. This epithet, which is also applied to Ur-Nammu in SRT 11: 43, was converted by the Ur scribe into d s u l - g i in a mistake which, however, tends to confirm the

reading of the royal name. For SUL

- z i as a variant spelling of s u - z i, cf. Falkenstein,
Bi. Or. 6 (1949) 54.
9 For the first three, cf. Falkenstein, Ar. Or. 17/1 (1949) 221.
10 Omitted in the Yale version, perhaps metris causae, since it disturbs the strict
strophic parallelism of the two central stanzas (3/2/2/2/2/2 each).
11 The end of line 19 can perhaps be restored with the help of UET VI/1: 76, though
the traces in the Yale version look more like i - b a - T [ E - . . . ] than like i - b a - e - [ n e ],
they bestow. For i - with - b a cf. HUCA 33 (1962) 16 f., notes 132, 146.
12 For this topos and the related one of divinely inspired fertility, cf. Falkenstein,
ZA 47 (1942) 197200; AfO 16 (1952 f.) 60; Sumerische und akkadische Hymnen und Gebete
(1953) 101 and 361; SGL 1 (1959) 23 f.; Landsberger, JNES 8 (1949) 281, note 110;
Kramer, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 107 (1963) 501 (= CT 42 ii 19-iii
4) and correct my reference in Israel Exploration Journal 12 (1962) 19, note 32, here: I.1
13 a - r - a - ( b i ), variant: a - r - b i = alaktu. (I owe this suggestion to my student

iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu


produce grass and honey, and are filled with carp, whose cows eat in
the canebrake and whose fields grow grain like a forest. He concludes
with the hope that his canal may continue to produce. Now the chorus
replies to Ur-Nammu in a somewhat obscure couplet which mentions
Eridu, and then concludes with a mosaic of royal titles and epithets, a
reference to the kings brilliance,14 and the usual closing doxology: Oh
divine Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, your praise is sweet.
So much for the Yale version. Space prevents me from detailing all
its divergences from the Ur versions.15 But they may be illustrated by
the concluding stanza, for this has a particular significance. Of the five
titles and epithets attributed to Ur-Nammu in this passage, only the
first, king of the four quarters, survives more or less intact in the
Ur version. The rest are wholly or largely changed. They thus may
legitimately serve to date the Vorlagen of the respective exemplars, at the
same time that they underline the danger of using Sumerian literary
texts to reconstruct the history of the Mesopotamian titulary.16 Let us
look first at the Yale version, which reads: King of the four quarters,
who satisfies the heart of Enlil, divine Ur-Nammu, provider of Nippur,
sustainer of Ur.
The divine determinative was used, in their lifetime, by all the kings
of Ur and Isin except Ur-Nammu, while the title king of Ur was
borne by all the kings of the Third Dynasty (ca. 21112004 bc), passed

from them to the early kings of Isin (Su-ili

su to Lipit-Istar, ca. 1984
1924), and from these to the middle kings of Larsa (Gungunum to
Abisare, ca. 19321895).17 But the other titles and epithets had a much
more limited usage in the same span of time.18 The title king of
the four quarters was not employed by Ur-Nammu at all, and by
Raphael Kutscher.) One could also translate; Whose increase is fish, whose surplus
is fowl, taking a - r - a = alaktu in the mathematical sense of multiplication factor,
14 The notion that the king brings light to the country (both day and night?) is also
a frequent topos, if less thoroughly elaborated than that of fertility; cf. eg. CH i 4044:
ki-ma dUTU a-na SAG. GI6 wa- s. e-em-ma ma-tim nu-wu-ri-im.
15 See below, Appendix. Note the partly syllabic orthography of the Ur version,
especially in its second half. For another syllabically written Ur-Nammu hymn, cf.
Sjberg, loc. cit, (below, note 32).
16 My methodological reluctance to do so in Early Mesopotamian Royal Titles (=
American Oriental Series 43, 1957) seems vindicated against the implied or expressed
objections of some of its reviewers; cf. especially J.J.A. van Dijk, ZA 55 (1963) 270272.
17 Cf. simply the summaries in Hallo, Titles, 150156.
18 s - d e n - l l - l - d u
10 is not considered a title or epithet here. For the (otiose?) - e n
in d u 10 - g e - e n, cf. now possibly J. Krecher, ZA 57 (1965) 29 f.


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu

Isme-Dagan of Isin alone among Early Old Babylonian rulers.19 The

epithets provider of Nippur and sustainer of Ur were peculiar
to Isme-Dagan, and only the former was revived briefly by the later
Larsa kings in two rather curious inscriptions.20 It thus seems wholly
reasonable to conclude that the prototype of the Yale version of this UrNammu hymn dates back to the time of Isme-Dagan of Isin (ca. 1953
1935); obviously it is blithely indierent to the proper titles of UrNammu himself.
It is less easy to date the prototype of the Ur exemplars by this
means. These read: king in heaven (and) the four quarters, favorite
of Enlil, provider of Sumer and Akkad, beloved of Enlil. The epithet
favorite of Enlil recurs only in a late copy of an Ammi-ditana inscription,21 while provider of Sumer and Akkad is entirely unknown in
the monumental texts.22 Beloved of Enlil is an epithet attested, in

its Sumerian and Akkadian forms, no less than four times for Su-Sin
of Ur, and for no other king in the late third or early second millennium. But it does not appear to be original here, following as it
does on the Enlil epithet of the preceding line. It would therefore be
rash to conclude that the prototype of the Ur exemplars dates back

to the reign of Su-Sin,

or even that it antedates that of the Yale text
at all. Perhaps most revealing in this connection is the absence of the
king of Ur title in the Ur versions, for until the breach of the long
peace between Isin and Larsa after 1897 bc,24 this had been an undisputed part of the Mesopotamian titulary for over two hundred years
(see above.) Hardly less significant is the consistent omission of the
determinative of divinity before Ur-Nammus name, for this usage
was maintained in all the royal inscriptions of the later neo-Sumerian
and Early Old Babylonian periods except in part for those emanating
from the successors of Gungunum of Larsa.25 On this evidence it would

19 Hallo, Titles 5254, where the reference to Isme-Dagan 9 (YOS 9: 25 and Sumer
13:182), implied on p. 152, should be added.
20 Ibid. 147, note 2.
21 Ibid. 139 f. (LIH 100).
22 Its substitution for provider of Nippur in the Yale text is interesting in the light
of the conclusion that the possession of Nippur was the basis of the title king of Sumer
and Akkad; ibid. 8385, 126 f.
23 Cf, Su-Sin

1, 2, 5 and 14 in my bibliography of Ur III royal inscriptions, HUCA 33

(1962) 2343.
24 JCS 17: 118, here: III.1.
25 Hallo, Titles, 6063.

iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu


therefore appear that the Ur versions originated in the latter part of

the nineteenth century bc, perhaps as much as a century after the Yale
All this does not mean, however, that the hymn I have described
and others like it are totally worthless as a historical source.26 On the
contrary, the hitherto available Ur-Nammu hymns can all to some
extent be correlated with independent evidence from archaeological,
monumental, or other literary sources and thereby shown to contain an
authentic historical kernel. These hymns already add up to something
like a poetic biography of the monarch.27 In the poem that apparently
opens the cycle,28 Ur-Nammu is referred to exclusively by his early
title of king of Ur. He is first called to lordship ( n a m - e n - n a );
he is given the royal title ( m u - d u10 ), he establishes justice, and for
good measure he is also credited with taming the Gutians. That UrNammu, alone among Ur III kings, claimed the lordship of Uruk is
confirmed by his inscriptions, though their exact date and significance
is in dispute.29 The allusion to his role as lawgiver is paralleled from his
contemporary inscriptions30 and now substantiated by the discovery of
his lawcode31 which, analogy suggests, was promulgated very early in
his reign. The warfare against the Gutians, unrecorded in his preserved
date formulas, must also fall into the early part of his reign, or even
into the period of his vassal status as governor of Ur under Utuhegal of Uruk, the conqueror of the Gutians (see below). All these

events certainly antedate Ur-Nammus rebuilding of the Ekur, the great

temple of Enlil at Nippur, an achievement commemorated in another
hymn,32 and amply attested also by contemporary inscriptions datable
to the latter part of Ur-Nammus reign.33 The concluding chapter of
Ur-Nammus poetic biography is represented by a composition which
26 So Gadd, CAH I2 fasc. 28, (1965) 6: But the style of boast and flattery . . . which
swelled these courtly compositions . . . is destitute of real information upon the actual
events of the reign or upon the personality of the monarch.
27 Cf. the brief summary by Gadd, ibid. For bibliographical details, cf. JCS 17: 113,
note 25, here: III.1 and add Chiera, Catalogue of the Babylonian Cuneiform Tablets in the
Princeton University Library (1921) p. 28 No. Ex 389 = SRT p. 23 ad No. 11.
28 TRS 12, edited by G. Castellino, ZA 53 (1959) 118131.
29 Hallo, Titles, 7 and notes 13; cf. van Dijk, ZA 55 (1963) 270 f.
30 Ur-Nammu 28.
31 Cf. below, note 73.
32 SRT 11; cf. Castellino, ZA 53 (1959) 106118; Falkenstein, SAHG 17; ke Sjberg,
Orientalia Suecana 10 (1961) 311.
33 Hallo, Titles, 82; Ur-Nammu 3 and 16 in my bibliography (above, note 23).


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu

describes his death and burial.34 Even this event is archaeologically

confirmed in the sense that the discovery of the massive hypogaeum of
the neo-Sumerian kings at Ur suggests an equally elaborate ceremonial
Into this sequence it is less easy to place the two newly republished Ur-Nammu hymns copied by Pinches.36 But our own hymn fits
into it readily. In spite of its apparent preoccupation with irrigation
and agriculture, it is really concerned with Ur-Nammus coronation,
based on his contributions (perhaps out of pocket) to the building
of canals at Ur, and the resulting fertility of the city. The coronation and enthronement of Ur III kings is attested by both literary and
archival texts. Thus the well-known hymn to Enlil called d e n - l l - s d u - s commemorated a royal enthronement according to Falkenstein,
who edited it.37 It shares with our hymn the subscript your praise is
sweet/exalted,38 and the alternation between (first,) second and third
persons, almost as if dierent persons were speaking or addressed in
turn. And Edmond Sollberger has edited a number of archival texts
from the reign of Ibbi-Sin which refer to the coronation of that king.39
This is celebrated in Nippur, Uruk and Ur,40 presumably because Nippur is the religious center, Ur the political capital and Uruk, from all
indications, the ancestral home of the dynasty (see below). Such multiple coronations are familiar from later usage both within and beyond
It is therefore instructive to note that three cities also figure in our
coronation hymn. Two of them, Nippur (line 12) and Ur (line 14
and, in another context, lines 2234), are the same, but Uruk is replaced by Eridu.42 The chief deities of Nippur, Ur and Eridu, and these

PBS 10/2:6 (and HS 1450), edited by Castellino, ZA 52 (1957) 1757; cf. ZA 53

(1959) 131 f.
35 Cf. Woolley, Antiquaries Journal 11 (1931) 345359 and pls. xlixlv; 12 (1932) 357363
and pls. lix f.
36 CT 44: 16. 37. Cf. lines 5 f.
37 Sumerische Gtterlieder 1 (1959) p. 10.
38 Ibid. 7 f., 107.
39 JCS 7 (1953) 4850; 10 (1956) 1820.
40 Jacobsen, JCS 7 (1953) 36, note 2.
41 Cf. e.g. the coronation of Assyrian kings in Nineveh and Harran to which J. Lewy
has called attention in HUCA 19 (1946) 456 .
42 Perhaps Uruk was still too closely identified with Ur-Nammus late sovereign, Utuhegal, while Ur-Nammus coronation signalled the transfer of the hegemony from Uruk
Ur (see below).

iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu


alone,43 figure in our hymn and each of them under two names or
aspects: Enlil of Nippur also as Nunamnir, Sin of Ur44 also as Asimbabbar, and Enki of Eridu also as Nudimmud.45 The association between
Enlil and Sin (Asimbabbar) is particularly stressed,46 reflecting the common hymnic conception according to which Enlil, as chief executive
of the divine assembly at Nippur, confers a portion of his Enlilship
(illilutu) on the god of a particular city (in this case the moongod of Ur)
so that the latter may in turn pass it on to the mortal he has chosen as
What, then, does the new hymn add to our knowledge concerning
the circumstances of Ur-Nammus accession? To answer this question,
we must first review what is already known on this subject from the
other literary sources, and also from the monuments and archives. As
is well-known, the inscriptions of Ur-Nammu after his accession are so
laconic that they reveal next to nothing directly about his rise to power
except that, early in his reign, he declared Urs independence48 by the
classic device of building the walls of the city49 and, a little later, occupied himself, more than any other neo-Sumerian king,50 with irrigation.51 Indirectly, Ur-Nammus royal inscriptions demonstrate his close
connection with Uruk, as does the evidence of the literary texts. Thus,
Ur-Nammu invokes Ninsun of Urukor, more precisely, of Uruk-


If Utu occurs in UET VI/1:77:12, it is only in the sense of daylight like i t i x (UD.
for moonlight in the corresponding line of the Yale version.
44 Note that the moongod does not appear as Nanna in the text.
45 Note that the Ur versions again lack this structural virtuosity.
46 Lines 7 f., 18 f.
47 Cf. JCS 17:113 and note 21, here: III.1.
48 On the pattern of usurpation, cf. my remarks in JNES 15 (1956) 221, 18 (1959)
55; Bi. Or. 16 (1959) 237 f. Still another element in the pattern is the change of theo
phoric names like Puzur-Sulgi
to Puzur-Numusda at Kazallu, i.e. from such as honor
the sovereign to ones honoring the local deity; cf. Gadd, CAH I2 fasc. 28 (1965) 21.
49 Cf. the date formula of RTC 269 and ITT IV 7547 (Sollberger, AfO 17:12) and
the inscription Ur-Nammu 9 (SAKI 186b etc.). For the early date of these bricks, cf.
Hallo, Titles, pp. 79, 82.
50 The only other inscriptionally attested project of this kind in Ur III is the reservoir

(g i s - k s - d u) of Sulgi
at Adab (Sulgi
8 = OIP 14:3739). Cf. also J. Nougayrol, RA 41
(1947) 2326, for the reservoir of Ugme of Lagas.
51 Cf. Ur-Nammu 2224, 2728 (HUCA 33:26 f.) and the date formulas g (=

2 or 3 according to Kraus, Or. 20 [1951] 392394, but against this hypothesis cf.
now, in addition to Sollbergers arguments, also Goetze, Iraq 22 (1960) 156 iii) and h;
Sollberger, AfO 17 (19541956) 12 f. Cf. also Hallo, Titles, 82, and on the whole question,
Th. Jacobsen, The waters of Ur, Iraq 22 (1960) 174185 and pi. xxviii.


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu

Kullabas his personal deity ( d i n g i r - r a - n i ).52 Similarly, in hymns to

both Ur-Nammu and Sulgi,

Gilgames of Uruk-Kullab is referred to as
friend and brother, and Lugalbanda and Ninsun are addressed as father
and mother.53 Moreover, the composition of a whole cycle of epics concerning the First Dynasty of Uruk, appropriately termed La Geste
dUruk by Maurice Lambert,54 can probably be dated to the Third
Dynasty of Ur: the exclusive preoccupation of Sumerian epic literature
with Uruk can hardly be explained other than on the assumption that
the court at Ur considered Itself the legitimate successor to Uruk. For
this pattern recurs at least twice: the dynasty of Agade provided much
of the inspiration for the Akkadian historical tradition, probably created under the First Dynasty of Babylon, and the Third Dynasty of Ur,
in its turn, seems to have absorbed the attention of the poets of Isin,
whose royal patrons regarded themselves as heirs of Ibbi-Sin.

52 Ur-Nammu 15 = UET I 47. The intensely personal nature of the relationship

implicit in this epithet is clear from the fact that each king applied it to only one deity,
while he called numerous deities his king or queen. Note, e.g., for the periods here
under discussion, these kings and their personal deities as culled from the monuments,
cited in part according to my bibliographies in HUCA 33 and Bi. Or. 18:

Gudea: Ningizzida (passim)

Ur-Nammu: Ninsun (Ur-Nammu 15)
Sin-kasid: Lugal-banda (Sin-kasid 8)
Ur-dukuga: Dagan (Ur-dukuga 1)
Damiq-ilisu: Martu (Damiq-ilisu 2)
Rim-Sin: Nergal (Rim-Sin 12)
In private ex-votos inscribed on behalf of the king, it is not always certain whether the
deity invoked is the personal god of the king or of the donor:
Nammahni: Nin-subur (Dc. en Chalde pl. 44bis 5)

Ibbi-Sin: Meslamtaea (Ibbi-Sin 4)
Gungunum: Dagan (Gungunum 2)
Hammurapi: Martu (Dussaud, Monuments Piot 33 [1933]1)
Note that Ninsun is the only goddess in the above list, and that Ur-Nammu elsewhere
(cf. the next note) refers to her as his mother. It thus seems possible to extend the
concept of the personal deity to goddesses referred to, in the inscriptions, as mother
of the king and, by extension, to widen the above list by regarding the royal d u m u
DNx epithet as identifying DNX as the personal god or goddess of the king. (For these
deities see Hallo, Titles, 134136.) Note also that, in Sin-kasid 8, the expressions Lugalbanda his god and Ninsun his mother stand in parallelism.
53 Falkenstein, ZA 50 (1951) 7377 ad Sulgi

A 7; cf. also the Ur-Nammu lawcode

(below note 73), where Ur-Nammu is called dumu-tu-da-dnin-sun.
54 RA 55 (1961) 181 f.

iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu


The actual circumstances of Ur-Nammus accession, however, must

be reconstructed from texts that antedate it, notably from fragments
of two limestone steles55 dedicated on behalf of Utu-hegal by a person

whose name and title were restored as Ur-[Nammu], governor (GR.

[NITA]) of Ur, by Gadd and Legrain,56 followed by Jacobsen.57 It has
even been suggested that Ur-Nammu was a son or other close relative
of Utu-hegal, and for this reason his governor at Ur, much as the

military governors (sakkanakkus) at Uruk (and elsewhere) in the Ur III

period were drawn from among the innumerable progeny of the kings
of Ur.58 Certainly the two cities had a venerable history of dynastic and
administrative union behind them.59
Other inscriptions of Utu-hegal also bear on the problem. Apart

from the late and almost hymnic versions of his fight against the Gutians, these inscriptions are all clay cones commemorating what appears to be a single event: the revision of the boundary between Ur
and Lagas in favor of Lagas.60 The longest version refers to the ruler
or governor of Ur as the man of Ur, but this need not have been
Ur-Nammu, as Gadd insists.61 It could have been the Lusaga whose
boundary cone62 seems to have tried to assert the independence of
Ur by the more modest device of acknowledging only the Moongod
of Ur,63 not Utu-hegal or any other sovereign, as his king, rather than

by claiming the royal title for himself;64 this Lusaga, in turn, may or
may not have been identical with the donor of a private ex-voto to Bau
UET I 30 f.
Ibid., p. 7.
57 The Sumerian King List (= AS 11, 1939) 202, note 31.
58 Sollberger, AfO 17 (19541956) 12, note 8. Cf. also Hallo, Titles, 105, where note 2
should be corrected to read YOSR IV/2: 31 and note 2; 33 and note 3, and BIN V
316 added to the documentation.
59 To the evidence adduced in Hallo, Titles, 420, one may possibly add the cases of
Kuruda and Ur-Utu, two rulers of the Fourth Dynasty of Uruk in the King List who
may or may not have been identical with, respectively, a priest of Innin at Ur (YOS IX
10) and an e n s of Ur under Naram-Sin (RTC 83; cf. Sollberger, AfO 17:30; H. Hirsch,
AfO 20:24, note 256).
60 These clay cones exist in three versions; to the exemplars listed by Sollberger,
AfO 17:12, note 7, add now Edzard, Sumer 13 (1957) 175: 2 (8 and 9 line versions). Note
also YOS IX 112 and B. Schwartz, New York Public Library Bulletin 44:807 .:16 f.
61 CAH I2 fasc. 28 (1965) 4.
62 Edzard, Sumer 13 (1957) 181.
63 Even the governor of another city (Enlila-isag, ens of Nippur) dedicated an
inscription at Ur to Nanna, king of Ur, presumably at this time (UET I 87).
64 For this practice, cf. the references above, note 49, especially Bi. Or. 16:237. For
the Florentine parallel there cited, and others, see now M. Treves, Velus Testamentum 10


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu

of Lagas.65 Or again, the man of Ur in the Utu-hegal cones could

have been the Namhani who appears under this designation in an

archival text66 and who, in his turn, may or may not be identical with
the homonymous governor ( e n s ) of Umma in the time of Iarlagan of
Gutium67 and with the Nammah(a)ni, governor ( e n s ) of Lagas, whose

inscriptions are known, in at least one instance,68 from Ur itself.

This Nammahni is almost certainly the last independent gover
nor of Lagas;69 his viceroy was Ur-abba,70 son of Utukam the overseer ( u g u l a ).71 Ur-Nammu defeated Nammahni,72 but retained Ur
abba as governor of the defeated city, as shown by his early dateformulas.73 Probably it was at this time that virtually all the monuments of Nammahni at Lagas were systematically defaced, with a spe
cial eort to erase the defeated rulers name, as well as that of his wife
Ninhedu; the eort was so nearly successful that it has escaped notice

so far. As sovereign of both Lagas and Ur, Ur-Nammu emphatically

restored in Urs favor the border which Utu-hegal had redrawn for

Summing up, then, we may say that Ur under Ur-Nammu was heir
to a long history of dynastic and administrative union with both Uruk
and Lagas, a partnership in which Ur had fallen to a low estate vis(1960) 430 f. For another Old Babylonian example, cf. S. Simmons, JCS 14 (1960) 26,

where Bel-gasir is addressed as king of Saduppm.

65 YOS I 9.
66 S.L. Langdon, Babyloniaca 7 (1923) 67: N a m - h a - n i AB.SE

- a (early neoSumerian).
67 YOS 113. Cf. C.H. Johns, PSBA 38 (1916) 199 f.
68 According to Burrows, Antiquaries Journal 9 (1929) 340, on a brick Nam-mah-ni of
Lagash is for the first time represented at Ur.
69 Sollberger, AfO 17: 31 f. Note, however, that a slight revision of the genealogy
proposed there seems required on the combined evidence of Golenishev No. 5 (see next
note) and SAKI 62: 13, as follows:

70 V.K. Shileico, Zapiski vosto

cnogo otdlnija . . . 25 (1921) 138 f. No. 2 (= Golenishev
71 G. Cros, NFT241.
72 According to his lawcode; cf. Kramer, Or. 23 (1954) 4048. For the problem of the
spelling of his name there, cf. Falkenstein, ibid., 49.
73 Sollberger, AfO 17:11 f. Dierently Kraus, Or. 20 (1951) 396.
74 Ur-Nammu 28; partial translation by Jacobsen, Before Philosophy (1949) 210 f.

iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu


-vis both. Ur-Nammu may have been a loyal vassal of Utu-hegal of

Uruk during that kings short reign of seven and a half years when
Sumer as a whole was occupied with the expulsion of the Gutians. But
at Utu-hegals death, if not before (see above), he asserted his complete

independence by the classical devices of building the walls of Ur, dating

by his own date formulas, dedicating his inscriptions to his personal
gods and the gods of his own city,75 and other elements of the pattern
of usurpation. In the early stages of his independence, he could not
yet count on the loyalty of the whole land; before assuming the title
of king of Sumer and Akkad, therefore, he was known simply as
strong man (that is, we might almost say, independent ruler) and King
of Ur. As such he built, besides the walls of Ur, only the temples of
his personal (Urukian) deities,76 the great terrace - t e m e n - n - g r u,
the wall of the temenos area - k i s-n u - g l, and perhaps the temple
of Enki at Eridu. Only later did he begin the construction of the great
monuments to the patron deities of Ur, the network of canals in its
vicinity, and the complex of temples to Enlil at Nippur.77
What, then, does the new hymn add to this evidence? Taking the
hymn at its word, we find: (1) Ur desperately needs hydraulic development; (2) Ur-Nammu stands ready to supply this, perhaps from his
own resources; (3) he is accordingly invested with the symbols of kingship in a ceremony involving the sanctuaries and deities of both Nippur
and Ur, and possibly also Eridu; (4) he carries out the needed improvements at Ur; (5) Ur is blessed with the resulting abundance; (6) UrNammu is acclaimed by new titles and epithets.
If we were to refer these allusions to Ur-Nammus original accession as independent king of Ur, they would stand in hopeless contradiction to the facts as reconstructed from the contemporary records
above. Even discounting much of (3) and (5) as clichs of royal hymnography, the fact remains that Ur-Nammu could claim neither the kind
of economic improvements which are the theme of this hymn, nor the
allegiance of Nippur, and in consequence of Sumer and Akkad,78 at
the very outset of his independent reign. If the hymn contains a historic kernel at all, it must be this: sometime after his accession at Ur,
Above, notes 49 and 65.
For the temple of Ninsun (above note 53), cf. also the date formula RTC 265
(Sollberger, AfO 17:11).
77 Hallo, Titles, 7783.
78 Above, note 22.


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu

Ur-Nammu launched two great building programs, the irrigation projects around Ur and the reconstruction of the temples of Nippur. In consequence he was crowned king of Sumer and Akkad in a ceremony
which symbolized and constituted the definitive transfer of national
allegiance to the new dynasty. On the testimony of the date formulas, this ceremony can hardly have taken place earlier than his fourth
year,79 and there is on the face of it no reason to doubt the possibility
that our hymn or its prototype was originally composed for it. Indeed,
the correlation between neo-Sumerian regnal years on the one hand
and royal hymns on the other is a high one both in terms of numbers80
and in terms of content.81 It almost leads one to suppose that all the
hymns were originally commissioned annually (or biennially) for such
occasions as were also commemorated in the date formulas. The conclusion, at any rate, imposes itself: the literary tradition can be used to
fill the lacunae of Sumerian history, but only where the contemporary
monuments and archives have provided the framework.

Transliteration of YBC 4617 (= A)
Variants from UET VI/1: 76 (= B) and UET VI/1: 77 (= C)
1) [ a - b a - a m u - u n - b ] a - a l - e a - b a - a m u - [ u n - b a - a l - e / i 7 ]
a-ba-a mu-u[n-ba-al-e]
23) [ i 7 - k e s d a - k ] a - b a - a m u - u n - b a - [ a l - e ] / i 7 a - b a - a
4) [ i 7 - p a 5 - B I ] - l u h a a - b a - a m u - u n - b a - a l - e / i 7 a - b a - a b
5) d U r - d N a m m u a k - t u g m u - u n - b a - a l - e b
6) s u l - z i a n - t u g m u - u n - b a - a l - e b
7) l u g a l - m u b r a - z a d e n - l l - l e e n - d a s - m - b a b b a r
8) s u l - d s u e n b r a - z a d e n - l l - l e e n - d a s - m - b a b b a r
9) l u g a l s - z i - t a a n a m - t a r - r a n a m - n i r - r a s a g - l
10) d U r - a N a m m u a s u l - i g i - l - l a k u r - [ g a l ] b d e n - l l - l e

79 According to Sollberger, AfO 17:14, the fourth year date semble consacrer la
royaut dUr-Nammu sur Sumer-Akkad.
80 JCS 17:113 and note 24, here: III.1.
81 Cf. e.g. ZA 51 (1952) 91. Is it too daring to suggest that each date formula was
formally introduced together with a new hymn?

iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu


11) d n u - n a m - n i r - r e a k i - e n - g i k i - u r i - a b g - e c m u - u n suh-end
12) n i b r u k i - a a h u r - s a g n a m - t i - l a - k a n a m - m u b
i m - m i - i n - d u 10 c
13) s a g - k i z a l a g - g a - n i m u - u n - s i - i n - b a r n a m - l u g a l
ba -an- s
14) u r m k i - m a a - m u d - k u r - r a - k a b
15) g i [ s - g u - z ] a - m a s u h u s - [ b i i m - m i - i n - g ] i - e n b
15a) ( a g a - m e - l m m e - t s n a m - l u g a l - l a s a g - m i m - m i - g l )
16) g i d r i a - k u k - s [ r s i s i - e - s s u - m i m - m i - i n - s ]
17) s i b i r - b u r u x ( s i b r ) u k - d a g a l - l u - a . . . h [ - l a h 4 - l a h 4 e]
18) e n - d a s - i m - b a b b a r a - k e 4 z i - u 4 - s - [ . . . ]
19) d e n - l l - l e - b i - d a i - b a - e ! - [ n e ]
20) m u - d a - r m u - d u 11 - g e - d [ u 7 . . . ]
21) d e n - k i - k e 4 g i s - t g g e s t u g - d a g [ a l . . . s ] a g - e - e s
22) g - e u r u k i - m i 7 - [ h - g l - l a m ] u - b a - a l / i 7 - k e s d a k mu-sa4
23) [ u r ] m k i - m a i 7 - h - g l - l a m u - b a - a l / i 7 - k e s d a k
24) m u - d a - r d u 11 - g e b a - a b - d u 7 - m i 7 - p a 6 - B I - l u h
m u s e
25) g - e u r u - m a - r - a - b i k u 6 - m d i r i - b i m u s e n - m
26) u r m k i - m a a - r - a - b i k u 6 m d i r i - b i m u s e n - m
27) g - e i 7 - m - l l - e m u - u n - d s u h u r k u 6 - e m - s i - e
28) u r m k i - m a - l l - e m u - u n - d s u h u r k u 6 - e [ m ] - s i - e
29) g - e u r u - m g i - z i - b i l l - m [ ? ] / b - e h a - m a - k - e
30) u r m k i - m a g i - z i - b i l l - [ m ? ] / b - e h a - m a - k - e
31) g - e [ . . . ] - x k u 6 h u - [ ]
32) u r m k [ i - m a ]
33) g - e i 7 - m a - [ r - a - b i h u - m u ] - u n - [ t m ] / g i s - d u s u - e
34) u r m k i - m a i 7 - m a - r - a h u - m u - u n - t m / g i s - d u s u - e
35) l u g a l - b i l u g a l - e r i d u k i - g a p a - a - z u s u d - m
36) d n u - d i m - m u d l u g a l - e r i d u k i - g a p a - a - z u s u d - m
37) l u g a l a n - u b - d a l i m m u - b a s d e n - l l - l d u 10 - g e - e n
38) d U r - d N a m m u - a n i b r u k i s a g - u s u r m k i - m a
39) i t i x ( U 4 - d N A N N A ) - s k a l a m u r m k i - m a - s
40) s i l 5 - a u 4 m i - n i - i b - z a l - z a l - l e - d
41) d U r - d N a m m u l u g a l - u r m k i - m a z - m - z u d u 10 - g a - m

4) aB: i 7 - g i s - B I - ( . . . ] ; bB: a - b a .
5) aB: U r - d N a m m u ; bB: + a - b a m u - u n - b a - a l - e .


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu





B: d s u l - g i ; bB: + a - b a m u - u n - b a - a l - e .
B omits.
B omits.
aB: - d a .
aB: U r - d N a m m u ; bB: + - z a l a g .
aB: d n u n - n a m - n i r ; bB: u r i - e ; cB: m e - m ; dB:
m u - u n - RI - e
aB: - e ; bB: n a m ; cB: m i - i m - m i .
B omits.
aB: - e ; bB: - k a m .
aB: - a - n i ; bB: omits - e n .
from B; A omits.
aB: g i
restoration from B; rest of B obverse lost.
B reverse 16 inserts a four-line stanza here as follows:
[ - k i s - n ] u - g l s a g - g e g l - l [ a ? ]
[ - t e m e n - n - g ] r - r u k i - t u s s - h l - l a / [ . . . ] - d a r - b i
[ g i s n ? - g i ? - r i n ? - n ] a - k a m g - d a - a m b i - l ? !
[ . . . k ] - g i ! (C!) k - b a b b a r - r a g u b - b a - m / i m - m i - i r - m i re
B, C: n a r i - m u u d - h - g l - l a b a l a - u b - b a / i 7 - k e s d a - k
m u - s e
B and C omit.
B, C: m u - d a - r i d u 11 - k e d u - a - b a i 7 - p - B I - l u h
m u - s e
B, C: g u r u k i - m a - r - b i k u 6 - a b / t e - l i - b i
m u - s e - n a
B, C: i 7 - k e s d a - k u r u k i (c omits) - b i k u 6 - a b / t e - l i - b i
m u - s e - n a ( C : m u - s i g 5 )
i 7 - p - B I - l u h a - r - b i k u 6 - a b / t e - l i - b i m u - s e - n a ( C :
Cf. B rev. 14 = C rev. 8: g - g - b i ( C : - m u ) . I T 4 ( C :
i t i ! t s - a )
l-a (C: -) -ll-e k-e
Cf. B rev. 13 = C rev. 7: h - g l - b i k u 6 h u - m a - r a - a b - t m
- k i s - n u - g l - s
B and C add: a - g r g a l - b i s e - g u - n u m - m g i s - t i r - g i m
lam!-lam!- ma-x
B and C omit.
B (breaks o here) and C: l u g a l a n - n u b - d a l i m m u - b i
s e - g a d e n - l l - l
C: [ U r ] - d ! N a m m u ! - a k i - e n - g i k i - u r i - e k i - g a
C: [ g ] a - n a - g a r u r m k i - m a - k e 4 i t i s i l - a d u t u
mi-ni-in-[?]/za-e-en-za-e-le za-e-me-en
C: U r - d N a m m u l u g a l - m u - d a - a - r i z - m - z u d u 10 - g a

iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu



Who will dig it, who will dig it, the canalwho will dig it?
The Keshdaku-canalwho will dig it, the canalwho will dig it?
The Pabiluh-canalwho will dig it, the canalwho will dig it?
Divine Ur-Nammu, the wealthy one, will dig it.
The true youth, the prosperous one, will dig it.
Oh my king, on your throne by Enlil (and) the lord Asimbabbar!
Oh youth of Suen, on your throne by Enlil (and) the lord Asimbabbar!
I, king from the true womb (on), (whose) destiny (is) lifting the head
proudly in leadership,
(I,) Ur-Nammu, the youth who is pleasing to Enlil the great mountain.
Am chosen in Sumer and Akkad by Nunamnir.
In Nippur, the mountain of life, he has made my fate good for me.
Looked upon me with his shining forehead, given me the kingship.
In Ur, in the Mudkurra-temple,
He has made the foundation of my throne firm for me.
He has placed the crown peculiar to kingship on my head,
Has pressed the holy scepter for guiding all the people in my hand,
The sta and crook for directing the numerous people.
The Lord Asimbabbar a life of long days
Together with Enlilthey bestow.
Enduring years worthy of praise
(And) extensive wisdom Enki has donated.
As for me, in my city I have dug a canal of abundance, have named it
the Kesdaku-canal.
In Ur I have dug a canal of abundance, have named it the Kesdakucanal.
An enduring name worthy of praise, the Pabiluh-canal I have named
As for me, my citys watercourse is fish its overhead is fowl.
Urs watercourse is fish, its overhead is fowl.
As for me, in my canal one produces honey plants, it is filled with
In my city one produces honey-plants, it is filled with suhur-fish.
As for me, my citys zi-reeds are honey, the cows will surely eat it.
Urs zi-reeds are honey, the cows will surely eat it.
As for me, my citys . . . may. . . fish,
Urs . . . may. . . fish,
As for me, my canals watercourse will surely bring it, will suspend it
for him from a carrying-board,
In Ur, my canals watercourse will surely bring it, will suspend it for
him from a carrying-board.
Its king is king of Eriduyour oce is long,
Nudimmud is king of Eriduyour oce is long.


iii.2. the coronation of ur-nammu


King of the four quarters, who satisfies the heart of Enlil,

Ur-Nammu, provider of Nippur, sustainer of Ur,
By moonlight the nation for Ur.
In rejoicing will ever pass (its) days.
Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, your praise is sweet!


On present evidence, the development of Sumerian literature passed

through three major stages which may for convenience be labelled Old,
neo- and post-Sumerian respectively.1 Most of its principal genres are
attested in more than one of these stages, and some in addition survived in the form of Akkadian translations or adaptations. Proverbs and
incantations, for example, are known from all periods; neo-Sumerian
myths and epics were tradited or adapted in Akkadian in the postSumerian period, and hymns to gods and lamentations continued to be
composed, to some extent on earlier Sumerian models, in both Sumerian and Akkadian, to a very late date. But each stage of Sumerian
literary creativity also knew certain genres of its own, and for the neoSumerian stage, one of the most characteristic genres was certainly the
royal hymn. Such hymns, whether invoking gods on behalf of kings,
or addressed to the kings or, as it were, recited by the kings themselves,
were composed and tradited in Mesopotamia only while the kings were
objects of worship in their own right. Into this period (notably ca. 2100
1800 bc in the middle chronology) fall nearly all the attested examples
of the genre, with the exception of a few disputed forerunners, and a
number of epigonic imitations,2 and within this period the genre was
studied in all schools professing to teach Sumerian, even as far away
as Susa,3 without regard to political or dynastic aliation. The royal
hymns are thus an important source of specifically neo-Sumerian history and institutions, while the very fact of their being studied in this
period is in itself important testimony to the religious and scribal support of Mesopotamian unity in a period when that unity was more
often an ideal than a reality.

* W.H. Ph. Rmer, Sumerische Knigshymnen der Isin-Zeit. Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1965 (8vo,
XII + 292 pp.).
1 Cf. W.W. Hallo, On the Antiquity of Sumerian Literature, JAOS 83 (1963) 167, here: II.1.
2 Cf. Hallo, Royal hymns and Mesopotamian unity, JCS 17 (1963) 112118, here: III.1.
3 Cf. MDP 27 (1935) 220222 for three exemplars of Sulgi

A not utilized by
A. Falkenstein in his edition of the text in ZA 50 (1952) 6391.


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin

Nowhere is this more strikingly illustrated than in the royal hymns of

the first dynasty of Isin, which continued to be copied out in the schools
of Uruk after that city had won its freedom from Isin,4 of Ur, Larsa

after the hegemony of Sumer had passed from Isin

and Saduppum
to Larsa, and of Nippur after the dynasty of Babylon had succeeded
to both. This is clear not only from the surviving texts recovered in
these and other centers, but also from the literary catalogues of Ur and
Nippur which provide us with systematic information as to the scribal
curriculum of these centers.6
The hymns to the kings of Isin form about 40 % of the corpus of
neo-Sumerian royal hymns,7 and this important body of material has
now been made the subject of a monograph by W.H. Ph. Rmer, a
disciple of the school of Adam Falkenstein which has done so much
for the recovery of neo-Sumerian hymns and prayers. His Sumerische
Knigshymnen der Isin-Zeit is, from the philological point of view, an
exemplary work. All the relevant material is, to begin with, collected
in a useful bibliography,8 and then a sizeable portion of the textual
material is presented in more or less definitive editions.9 No study of the
genre, or of the specimens selected for treatment here, will henceforth
be able to ignore Rmers exhaustive presentation.
The diculty of editing Sumerian literary texts is, as is well known,
due in no small measure to the lack of a proper Sumerian dictionary in the sense of Erman and Grapows Wrterbuch der gyptischen
Sprache. There is not even as yet a glossary of the type of Friedrichs
Cf. JCS 17: 117 end, and notes 9699, here: III.1.

Ibid.; for Ur cf. also below, note 8 (*32); for Saduppum

(in the former kingdom of
Warium = Esnunna), cf. Ur-Ninurta *31b = van Dijk, Sumer 11 (1955) pls. XIIIXV.
6 Cf. Hallo, review of UET VI/1 in a forthcoming issue of JCS.
7 Cf. my tentative survey in JCS 17: 113115, here: III.1.
8 Pp. 2 f.; the bibliography is complete with respect to published texts with the
exception of UET VI/1: 89, which should be added as an Ur duplicate to *32. For
additional unpublished Yale material see below. No doubt for greater ease of citation,
Rmer abandoned the system of sigla such as introduced by Falkenstein for the royal

hymns of Sulgi
of Ur. This is to be regretted, since the latter system provides for
additions to the corpus, and reserves Arabic numerals for royal inscriptions while citing
royal hymns by capital letters. As to whether *34 (Damiq-ilisu) belongs in the list, cf. my
reservations, JCS 17: 116 f, here: III.1.
9 Pp. 655 (transliteration and translation only); pp. 77278 (full editions). The apparatus criticus could have been relieved of numerous notations of the type [duplicate
exemplar]: wohl auch so, etc.a judgment of the textual evidence which is really selfevident. It would have been more to the point if the passages in questionindeed all
the principal textshad been collated, but apparently this was feasible only in the case
of those from the Louvre (p. [IX]).

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


Hethitisches Wrterbuch. The author thus found himself under the necessity of defending nearly every line of his translation either by reference to the latest studies of the relevant idioms by his colleagues, or by
extended collections of Belegstellen assembled by himself. It is fair to
say that perhaps 90 % of his commentary is thus largely lexicographical. An extensive index of Sumerian words, prepared by M. Dietrich
and H. Hunger, (pp. 279287) helps the reader to find his way to the relevant discussion; indeed, this index will remain an indispensable tool in
the absence of the much-desired glossary. The separation of text, commentary and footnotes renders the process somewhat cumbersome, and
one might almost have wished that the author had assembled all his lexicographical discussions in one simple alphabetical order at the end of
the book.10 But such methodological observations should be understood
as detracting in no way from the truly monumental extent or the substantive philological contributions of Rmers work, which is singularly
free from errors of omission or commission.11
On pp. 5 f., Rmer proposes a classification of royal hymns which
represents a refinement of Falkensteins system.12 The latter, in basic
accord with the native designations, distinguished between hymns to
gods described in their own colophons as adab of D(ivine) N(ame)
or tigi of DN and containing, as it were, incidental allusions to the
reigning (?) king, on the one hand, and royal hymns proper on the
other. The latter are addressed to the king throughout, or are spoken
by him, and carry no native designation, though they usually end in
a doxology, your/my praise (z-m) is sweet/good/exalted, which
almost has generic force.13 It may be useful to correlate the native
designations, as far as preserved, with Rmers classification in tabular

10 It might even be desirable in future treatments of this kind if the passages cited to
establish the meaning of a word were more often quoted in full, even when they have
been located and cited by previous investigators, whose contributions would not receive
any the less credit by this procedure.
11 Of the neglible typographical errors not already noted in the corrigenda appended to the volume, only a few are worth noting here: p. 60 n. 96: Der numinose
Begri . . . ; p. 104 line 10: z-til-(la); p. 204 n. 59: SLTNi 71, 3, p. 283 m-(m): 194 f.:
p. 286 uk-ta--a: 69296; umus: 69290.
12 Falkenstein, ZA 49 (1949) 1481 f.; 50 (1952) 91.
13 For EN (S)-du-lugal(a)

as an earlier native designation of royal hymn, see

Hallo, JAOS 83: 174, here: II.1.


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin






[. . .]
(ki-ru-g composition)
[. . .]
tigi of Nan

special class (but like A la)

A Ic
A Ic(?)
see below



adab of Nergal
[adab of An]

A Ia
A Ia(?)



sr-nam-ur-sag-g of Ninsianna

adab of Ninezen

A Ia



adab of Baba
(ki-ru-g composition)
(copy of royal inscription?)
[. . .]
[. . .]
[adab of Nergal?]

[adab] of Enlil
bal-bal of Inanna
[. . .]
[. . .]
bal-bal-e of Enki
[. . .]
[. . .]

A Ib
A Ia
A Ia
A Ia
A Ia
A Ia



(z-m-mu du10-ga-m)
RN z-m
adab of An
adab of Ninurta
[. . .]
sr-nam-gala of Ninisina
[. . .]

A Ic
A Ia



(ki-ru-g composition)
tigi of Enki
adab of Ninurta
adab of Inanna
adab of An
[adab of Iskur]

A Ic
A Ia
A Ia
A Ia
A Ic



adab of [Ninurta]
[adab of Enlil?]

A Ia
see below


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin






(z-m composition?)14
[. . .]




[. . .]

A Ia(?)



Note that the classification A I includes: all adab and tigi-hymns as well
as some of the bal-bal and ki-ru-g compositions.
On pp. 655, Rmer illustrates the structure of the various subtypes of royal hymnsas classified by himby extensive transliterations and translations of well-preserved examples. In this analysis, he is
chiefly guided by the content of the poems rather than by their formal
structure, relying for the latter on the pioneering discussions by Falkenstein in 1949 and subsequently.15 Since the Isin texts are particularly
rich in classificatory and structural notations, and since the available
material has grown somewhat in the interval, a review and recapitulation of Falkensteins conclusions may be attempted here on the basis of
the Isin material.
1. The adab16 structure in its fullest form consists of:

one or more bar-sud and s-ba-tuk sections in pairs;

sa-gd-da and its antiphone (gis-gi4-gl);
sa-gar-ra and its antiphone,17 and

2. The tigi in its most complete form diers from this scheme only in
the absence of the urubi-section and, so far, of the antiphone to the sagar-ra.18 More often than the adab, it also lacks the initial bar-sud/sba-tuk stanzas,19 but the case of *3a (see below) now shows that this was
14 Read the closing doxology as: dub-sar umn?!-aka -dubba-a -na-ri-kalamma-ka z-m-zu g-la nam-ba-an-dag-ge and cf. Falkenstein, Welt des Orients I (1947)
15 ZA 49 (1949) 85105; SAHG (1953) 2028; ZA 52 (1957) 58 f. Cf. also the useful
summary by Henrike Hartmann, Die Musik der Sumerischen Kultur (1960) 197244 which,
however, does not seem to go beyond Falkensteins conclusions.
16 Already in Falkensteins survey, ten out of sixteen adab-hymns can be shown to
belong to the Isin dynasty; cf. ZA 49: 8791.
17 Cf. e.g. *31c and Falkenstein, ZA 49: 92 and 98(b) against SAHG p. 20. Cf. now
also *31d (below).
18 Cf. however the fragmentary lines following the sa-gar-ras of *14 and *17, and the
12 unlabelled (so Falkenstein, ZA 49: 104) lines which conclude *28.
19 Present in eight out of fourteen well-preserved adabs, in one out of six tigis.


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin

not an essential dierence between the two categories, as Falkenstein

was still inclined to think.20
3. Ki-ru-g-compositions are represented by at least two and possibly
more genres among the royal hymns of Isin. Thus *6 is designated a srnam-ur-sag-g of Nin-sianna, and *26b as a sr-nam-gala of Ninisina,
In *2 and *27, the designations are lost, while *10 represents only a
single ki-ru-g of a longer text whose subscript is likewise unknown.
As far as preserved, all these compositions share a common division,
simpler than that of adab and tigi, into stanzas of unequal length
separated by the rubric ki-ru-g no. X. Sometimes these rubrics are
followed by short antiphones,21 and in two cases, these antiphones are
in turn followed by a s-ba-tuk of one or two lines.22 It may be noted
here in passing that the ki-ru-g structure is also attested for another
type of sr-composition, namely the sr-nam-sub-DN.23 Although the
other examples of this genre24 do not contain the rubric ki-ru-g, they
display a similar strophic structure by virture of their dividing lines or
4. That bal-bal-(e) compositions had a place in the canon of royal
hymns in the wider sense was already known, for Ur III, on the basis

of the song of a priestess to Su-Sin

which is designated as a bal-bal-e
of the goddess Bau.26 More recently, Kramer published a fragmentary

and he is inclined to
bal-bal-e of Inanna, also in honor of Su-Sin,
connect at least two other bal-bal-es of Inanna with this same king.28
In the light of Isme-Dagan *18 and *21, the genre must now be given
a definite place among the royal hymns of Isin as well. The former is,
according to the Yale duplicate (see below) a bal-bal of Inanna, while
the latter is described as a bal-bal-e of E[nki].29 Poems of rather diverse
ZA 49:104; SAHG pp. 20 f., followed by Hartmann, 204 f.
*6 after ki-ru-g 1, 8, and 10 (= last); *2 after ki-ru-g 5; *26b after k. 3 and 4 (=
last); *27 after k. 2, 3, and 7.
22 *6 (= Rmer, p. 132), line 131; *26b, line 2.
23 Cf. VS II 68 = A. Sjberg, Nanna-Suen No. 7.
24 SLTN 61; VS II 65; CT 42: 13; ib. 22; KAR 15 f.; JCS 16:79: HSM 3625.
25 For a balag-DN in ki-ru-g form, cf. CT 36: 3538.
26 SRT 23, translated by Falkenstein, Welt des Orients (1947) 4350 and SAHG
No. 25, by Kramer, ANET (1950) [496] and by Jacobsen, JCS 7 (1953) 46 f.
27 PAPhS 107 (1963) 508 and 521.
28 Ibid. 508 f., No. 9 and 510, No. 11.
29 The restoration of the divine name is based on the context.

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


character belong to this genre,30 although a significant number of its

representatives treat, in whole or in part, some aspect of the theme
of fertility.31 The genre normally has no structural indicators, but this
does not always imply a lack of strophic structure, as a glance at IsmeDagan *18 (below) indicates. Note also that in Isme-Dagan *21, the last
lines seem clearly designated as an antiphone.32
5. The royal hymns in the strict sense, i.e. those addressed to and/or
spoken by the king himself (Rmers types B I and B II respectively)
generally end with a doxology in z-m (praise) by which we may
designate the entire genre.33 Such z-m compositions lack the specific
rubrics of the genres previously discussed, but often display an equally
intricate strophic structure. This is perhaps less clear from Rmers
exposition (pp. 2355) than from a brief but symmetrical Ur-Nammu
hymn edited elsewhere.34 The absence of terminological rubrics in
the royal hymns proper thus does not reflect an absence of strophic
structure but is rather due, as Rmer implies (p. 5), to their being part
of the courtly ceremonial and not of the temple liturgy. This conclusion
raises a further question of more than passing interest.
If the notations of those genres at home in the temple ritual were
primarily liturgical stage-directions, what validity do they also possess
for the strophic structure? Rmer (p. 5 and passim) takes them to apply
to the entire preceding section, so that the poems of Class A are composed entirely of such labelled sections. It is, however, worth considering an alternative possibility, namely that the respective notations
identify and designate only the immediately preceding line or lines.
The neo-Assyrian copy of a tigi to Ninurta35 from Nippur36 seems to
recognize this possibility by placing the notation sa-gar-ra-m on the
same line as the text. And the adab to Bau which is probably the earliest representative of the entire genre37 is clearly seen to be structured

SAHG p. 22; cf. Hartmann, 227 f.

Ibid. Cf., in addition to the texts already mentioned, especially SAHG No. 1; van
Dijk, Sagesse, ch. IV; Sjberg, Nanna-Suen No. 1.
32 Cf. SRT 5 where the antiphone follows the generic rubric; for the antiphonal
character of the last couplet in *18 see below.
33 Cf. the chart above, pp. 208209; Hartmann, pp. 212215.
34 Cf. Hallo, The Coronation of Ur-Nammu, in a forthcoming JCS, here: III.2.
35 Langdon, BL 95; cf. Falkenstein. ZA 49: 103 no. 26. Here: III.5.
36 Cf. the corrected copy of the colophon, BL pl. LXXIV.
37 CT 36: 39 f.; cf. SAHG No. 9 and my remarks JCS 17:115, here: III.1.


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin

in two stanzas of six strictly parallel pairs of strophes each,38 provided

the one-line sa-gd-da, its two-line antiphone, and the one-line sa-garra39 are set apart from the poem as such. Although there are perhaps
no equally telling examples among the Isin hymns,40 it may be worth
noting that in the few instances where extracts from these hymns are
inscribed on a single tablet or Sammeltafel, the sections so excerpted
do not begin and end with the notations under discussion. This is in
contrast to the situation with ki-ru-g compositions, extracts of which
regularly feature one or more complete ki-ru-gs. It is also interesting to note that, at least at Nippur, extract tablets sometimes correspond to meaningful units of those royal hymns which lack any structural notations. Thus STVC 78, for example, represents the introduction of Lipit-Istar *24 (Rmer, p. 23) plus the first line of the second
section by way of a catch-line. SLTN 69 contains precisely the succeeding king and wisdom section of the same poem (Rmer, p. 24);
its reverse is uninscribed. The case of the bar-sud and s-ba-tuk is less
clear, but it may at least be noted that there are explicit instances of
one-line s-ba-tuks,41 just as there is now42 a one-line sa-gd-da. While
therefore the liturgical notations may sometimes (and in the case of
the ki-ru-g always) occur at the end of a stanza, they should not
be regarded as necessarily or originally designating the stanzas themselves.43
On pp. 5557, Rmer discusses the question of the deification of
kings, and on pp. 143149 the problem of the sacred marriage, both
of which subjects loom large in the conceptual sphere of the royal
hymns. With these brief exceptions, the more general implications of
the texts dealt with are not the subject of the work under review. It is
to be hoped that the author, now so intimately acquainted with the
idiom of his genre, will devote himself to the fuller sense behind it

Cf. Hartmann, p. 200, note 1.

Lines 30, 31 f., and 55 respectively in Falkensteins numbering, lines 31, 33 f., and
58 in Hartmanns. The designation sa-gar-ra is missing from the end of the text, but
justifiably supplied by Falkenstein, SAHG 9: 55; the urubi-section, which would have
contained the royal name, is also missing at the end of the tablet.
40 Note however in *31d (below) that the strophic triplets are best preserved if Rev.
810 are treated as a one-line sa-gar-ra and its two-line antiphone.
41 Cf. e.g. *6 line 131.
42 *3a: 24 (see below).
43 Note that the scribe of *31b in the Harmal exemplar seems to have indicated
some kind of strophic structure by means of line counts after lines 37, 63, and 71.

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


in future studies. This is also the reviewers intention. It would, for

instance, be important to consider such questions as these: what was the
relationship between the royal hymns and the royal inscriptions? Were
the royal hymns always composed in the lifetime of the king honored or
also posthumously, as in the case of Ur-Nammus Death and Burial,
perhaps even long after their death? If not, did they continue to be
used cultically after the death of the ruler honored, or were they solely
preserved in the schools? If the latter, why were the liturgical notations
of the hymns of type A so carefully preserved, at least at Nippur?
Why, on the other hand, did the Ur curriculum preserve, as it appears,
primarily hymns of type B, i.e. royal hymns from the courtly sphere
(viz.: *7, *12, *23, and *32; *22a, *26b and *26c are too fragmentary to
permit classification)? And why, in turn, did the Sumerian curriculum
of Middle Assyrian times in Assur preserve precisely an adab of An for
Ur-Ninurta44 to the apparent exclusion of all other royal hymns? Which
deities were honored, or addressed, most often in the royal hymns?45
Important as they are, these questions cannot be answered here.46
Here, rather, it seems more appropriate to supplement Rmers material with the aid of eight unpublished texts in the Yale Babylonian Collection of which the author was, necessarily, largely unaware.47 The
material, which will appear in copies in a forthcoming YBT volume,
may be listed in accordance with Rmers system as follows:
YBC 9859
YBC 4609 (B)
NBC 7270 (= T); YBC 7155 (= U); YBC 7168a (= V); YBC 7196 (= W);
MLC 1839 (= X)
*31d. NBC 9034.


As will be seen by a comparison of Rmer s bibliography (pp. 2 f.), two

of these texts are entirely new; the others duplicate known compositions. They will be dealt with here in chronological order.

Cf. Rmer, p. 58, note 16 ad *31.

A glance at the list above, pp. 208209, will show six male and six female deities so
honoredthe latter once each. Note that Enlil, Enki and Nergal are each represented
twice on the list, and An and Ninurta no less than three timesbut never for the same
46 Cf. for the present my study in JCS 17:112118, here: III.1, which did not reach
the author until his work was nearly complete (Rmer 58, note 1).
47 See preceding note.


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin

I. 3a. Hymn to Nan with prayer for Isbi-Irra

A. Classification. According to its own subscript, the new hymn is a tigi

of Nan. Hymns to Nan are anything but common48 and tigis to her
are so far entirely unknown. But the use of the tigi as a royal hymn
in the wider sense, i.e., as a hymn to a god with invocation of blessing
on the deified king, though not as universal as in the case of the adabcompositions, is attested,49 though only once more for the Isin dynasty
B. Structure. The new hymn is complete in 35 lines of text and eight
lines of liturgical notations whose significance in terms of the tigi-genre
has already been indicated above (p. 209211). Applying the conclusions
reached earlier (pp. 211 f.), we may divide the hymn into two balanced
if not completely equal halves, each of which is, in turn, made up of
a long opening section extolling the goddess, and a shorter concluding
section in praise of the king. The basic strophic unit of the poem is the
couplet, occurring eleven times; there are also three triplets and one
quatrain. The last line of each of these strophes begins with the name of
the goddess or king respectively.50 This analysis may be studied in detail
in the transliteration and translation that follow. It could be applied

without essential modification also to Su-ili

su *4 (Rmer ch. III), which
is the most carefully structured adab-composition in the Isin repertoire.
C. Transliteration.
(upper edge) DIS dNisaba

[n]in-me!-nun-na u4-gim dalla- hi-li-zi-da ul-s p-da

dna-na-a me-te -an(a)-ka in-nin-ra tm-ma
gal-zu nu-u8-gig-ge nin-kur-kur-ra zi-d-es-s p-da
dna-na-a kalam -an(a)-ka igi-gl-s-mu ba-e-zu (bar-sud-m)
an-gim-sa6 m-sag-ms nin-dal-dal-le-e-du7
dna-na-a k-dinanna-ke zi-d-e
s umn-aka

Cf. SLTN 71 for a fragmentary example.

Cf. Falkenstein, ZA 49 (1949) 102, nos. 1, 6, 7; Hartmann, op. cit. 207209.
50 Thus, at least, on the assumption that the long passage here numbered lines 21
22 is in fact to be divided over two lines. For their disposition on the tablet, see the
forthcoming copy. Note that the ends of both line 22 and, it is assumed, line 19 are
written into the blank second half of the notational lines that follow them.

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin



m-mul-an h-me-a nin-k-zu n-nam-s gl-la

m-zi s-s-r nin inim-s gl- la -bi -zal-le-s
umus k-dInanna-ke4 aka nu-u8-gig-e ki-ga
dna-na-a di-kuru -gal dingir dr-mah ki-unugki-ga ti-la (
m-zi es-bar-du10-kalam-ma-kam di-di-bi gal-zu
dna-na-a si-s[-u]ru-uk-lu-a igi-gl
m-maha inim-k du11-g[e-d]u7 nin hi-li-a tm-ma
dna-na-a sag-l -an(a)-ka l-inim?-
sa6 -ge kalam-ma (bar-sud-2-[kamma-]m)
15) an-e igi-sa6 kalam-ma lugal -kur-kur-ra-[. . .]
16) dna-na-a kalam -an(a)-[. . .] hi-li [. . .]
17) sul sipa-zi dumu-dnu-nam-nir-re in-[. . .]
18) dis-bi-r-ra me gal-di [. . .] gu [. . .]
19) dna-na-a s-ud-s a-ra-zu-ni kurun-gim su-ub-x / en-LI-zi-da-na-ka an-na-kam (sa-ba-du-ga)
20) dis-bi-r-ra sag-us ms-nu-tm-mu - an-na (sa-gd-da-m)
21) sa-mu-du-p dna-na-a kalam-ma nu-u8-gig-e / ki-ga-zu
22) dis-bi-r-ra ul-s l-inim-sa6-ga-ni / h-me-en (gis-gi4-gl-bi-im)

nin-gal s-ki-zi-s-gl-tm-ma nu-u8 -gig-e di-bi su-g-g

me-kirix (KA)-zal su-dagalxxx nu-u8-gig-e ma-ra-an-s
dna-na-a nin-gal
s-ki-zi-s-gl-tm -ma nu- u8 -gig-e di-bi s[u-g]-g
uk-e dis-bi-r-ra lugal sipa -bi-me-en
dna-na-a inim-d[u -an-na-ta nin]-kur-kur-ra za-e-me-en
s-e kul-aba4 . . . in- . . . sa-mu-na-ab-b
uk-e za-ra s-bi i[m-mi-ni]gn si-im-da-ab-b-en
dna-na-a m-zi MU.H.SA
6 sag-gi6-ga-me-en
inim-k-zu-zu in-nin-na-ra zal-le-es im-ma-sa6
sul hi-li-a p-da nu-u8-gig-e dumu dEn-ll(a)-ke4
dna-na-a in-nin me-k-zu KA?

34) [ki]-n-s igi-zi nam-ti-la za-e NE? hu-mu-ni-in-du8

35) [di]s-bi-r-ra sul hi-li-a p-da (sa-gar-ra-m) tigi-dna-na-a-kam

D. Translation
1) Lady of the princely attributes, emerging brightly like the day (light),
eternally summoned in appropriate beauty,
2) Nan, ornament of Eanna, created for the goddess (Inanna),


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin

3) Omniscient one, appropriately summoned as queen of all the lands by

the Hierodule (Inanna),
4) Nan, you teach the nation science in Eanna, (barsud)
5) As good as An, woman of the pure head (?), fitting for the flying lady
6) Nan, properly educated by the holy Inanna,
7) Heavenly shining woman that you verily are, wise lady who is available
for everything,
8) Righteous, long-suering woman, because you pass (the day) in being
available at the command of Inanna(?),
9) Counseled by the holy Inanna, beloved by the Hierodule (Inanna),
10) Nan, great judge, deity who occupies the high throne of the sanctuary
of Uruk. (sabatuk)
11) Righteous woman who is the favorable verdict of the nation, who
knows all its lawsuits,
12) Nan, who understands justice for city and scattered people,
13) Lofty woman honored by holy command, lady created in beauty,
14) Nana, pride of Eanna,. . . of the nation (2nd barsud)
15) By An, the benevolent eye of the nation, the king of all countries,
16) Nan, in Eanna . . . beauty. . .

The hero, the righteous shepherd, the son of Nu-namnir (Enlil), has . . .,
Isbi-Irra . . .,
Nan for length of days his prayers like liquor. . . (2nd sabatuk)
Isbi-Irra, ceaseless povider of Eanna (sagida)
Summoned in song (?), your Nan who is beloved by the nation and the
Hierodule (Inanna),
22) Isbi-Irra, eternally may you be the one who makes her words good.
(Its antiphone)

23) Great queen, created in the place of sustenance, counseled (?) by the
Hierodule (Inanna),
24) Luxurious attributes have been generously given to you by the Hierodule,
25) Nan, great queen created in the place of sustenance, counseled (?) by
the Hierodule.
26) Of (!) the people, oh Isbi-Irra, you are their king (and) shepherd,
27) Nan, you are the queen of all the countries [by Ans] spoken command.
28) In the chapel, in Kullaba,. . . he verily declares it,
29) The people turn their hearts towards you, you verily address them,
30) Nan, righteous woman, you are the. . . of the blackheaded ones.
31) Your wise word is brightly made good for the goddess (Inanna),

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


32) The hero summoned in beauty by the Hierodule, the son of Enlil (IsbiIrra).
33) Nan, the goddess has verily caused your holy attributes to grow . . . for
34) You have verily opened the righteous eye of life upon (his) bedstead,
35) Isbi-Irra (is) the hero summoned in beauty. (sa-gara)
Drum-song of Nan

II. *18. Hymn to Inanna with Prayer for Isme-Dagan as Dumuzi 51

A. Texts: TRS 97 (= ll. 126; A), edited by Rmer, pp. 21 f. and notes
179185 (p. 64); YBC 4609 (ll. 136; B).52
B. Classification: bal-bal-dinanna-kam (according to B).
C. Structure: As usual with this genre, the poem has no structural
indicators, but is clearly structured nonetheless, especially in its fuller
form (B). This can best be made clear from the following transliteration
which assumes two stanzas of four quatrains each,53 followed by a kind
of antiphone (though not labelled as such) constituting, like the urubi
of an adab, a prayer for the king in A, in B a reference to Dumuzi
for which, conceivably, the appropriate royal name was meant to be
substituted. The careful structuring of the poem extends even to a
strophic parallelism, as may be seen from a comparison of, e.g.,
strophe 3 with 7 or 4 with 8.
D. Transliteration of B; variants, emendations and most restorations
from A.
1) ab-g du11-ga amar-g-s(d)-ra
2) ain-nin -tr-ra n-nign-na-me-ena
3) l-ki-sikil anu-un-du9-na-ama
51 This interesting identification seems imposed by the variant conclusions of the two
versions (cf. esp. line 34).
52 I am indebted to my student Raphael Kutscher for the identification of B with
TRS 97 and for a number of suggestions in regard to its reading.
53 Line 25 does not fit into this scheme, but as it is identical with line 28, at least in
B, it may probably be regarded as secondary. Line 8a occurs only in A.


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


inanna dugsakr-e g h-em-me

sakr anita-dam-a zu b g h-em-me
sakr ddumu-z[i] g h-em-me
dinannaa dug
sakr-e [g] h-em-mea
sakr d adumu-zi g h-em-mea
br-rua dugsakr-ra g[a]-mu-ra-anb-tugc-md
dinanna ur -re gaa-mu-u b-hl-l[e]c
sakr k-ge g x sa -mu-na-a[b-b]
dnin--gal ur -re ga-mu-u -hl-[le]
sipa-zi l- i -lu-du10-ga-[ke4]
ur-sa4-ma i- lu sa-mub-ra-ni-i[b-b]
in-nin ai- lu an ku7-ku7 -[da]
s- zu h-ema- hul -[le]


in-nin a-tr-ra ku4-[ra]- zu-d

inanna tr sa-mu-[u8a-da-hl-le]
nu-u8-gig amas-a ku4- ra-zu -[d]
dinanna ama
s sa-mu-u8- da -[hl]- le a
- ubur a-ra-ka ku4-ra- zu -d
u8-u8-[zi]-d asa-mu-ra-an-bra-gea
nita- dam-zu dama-usumgal-an-na
gaba-k-z[a A.A]N.MA al h-em-me
amas-k-ge ki ha-ra-s-e
u5 -s-e ga -s-e
dinanna ur -re
amas-k-ge ha-ra-s-e
dnin--gal ur -re
lugal-s-ge-ne-p- da -zu
ddumu-zi dumu-d en-lil -ra
-tr-e -ga ah-en-da-ab-ba
[a]mas-ea kirix (KA)-zal-la bh-en-da-ab-bb


[sip]a-zi-dama u4-da- ni hb-s-ud

a[si]pa-zi ddumu-zi-d u -nam-h-a-ke a
amu-bi 35a
Variants from A: 2. a-ain-nin-e tr-e gin-na-e. 3. a-au4-um-du--nam. 5.
a-anitadam (US,
M.DAM); b-ke4 added. 6. Omitted. 7. a-aOmitted. 8.
a-aOmitted. 9. a-br; b-ab; c-tg?; domitted. 10. ah; b-e-; c-e. 1112. Omitted. 14. aOmitted: bomitted. 15. a-an-nam-ma, 16. a-mu-e. 17. aOmitted.
18. a-u8-mu-. 20. a-e. 21. a-bu-. 22. a-asu-mu ba-ra-gi-nam. 2324. Omitted. 25. a-ab-x-. 2631. Omitted. 32. a-amu-ra-ab-di!-et!?.

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


33. a-a; b-bh-s. 34. a-a dIs-me-dDa-gan; bomitted. 35. a-au8-e sil-b m-zi-did. 36, Omitted. 37. a-a26.

A adds catchline (?): nitadam(M.US.DAM)-mu

u6 du10-ge-es h-i-i.

E. Translation of B.

Cow of the good voice, calf of the far voice,

You are the goddess who encompasses everything in the stall.
Virgin who is a lip,
Inanna, may you call to the churn!
To the churn may your husband call!
To the churn may Dumuzi call!
Inanna, to the churn may you call!
To the churn may Dumuzi call!
Inanna . . .
Let me be the one who gets the churning of the churn for you.
Inanna, let me make the reins glad.
To the holy churn ca[ll!] I will verily say to him.
Ninegal, let me make the reins glad.
The righteous shepherd, the man of sweet song
Will verily recite a song of (lit: which is) jubilation, for you.
Goddess who sweetens everything (in) song.
Inanna, let your heart be glad.


Goddess, when you enter the stall,

Inanna, you will verily make the stall glad with me.
Hierodule, when you enter the sheepfold,
Inanna, you will verily make the sheepfold glad with me.
When you enter the house of the udder,
I will verily make all the mother sheep spread out for you.
Your husband Ama-usumgal-anna
On your holy breast he craves . . .
By the holy sheepfold may fat be extensive for you.
The herdsman will make it extensive for you, he will make milk extensive.
Inanna, I will verily make the reins glad,
By the holy sheepfold may fat be extensive for you,
Ninegal, I will verily make the reins glad.
For your king who is called in their hearts,
For Dumuzi the son of Enlil,
By the stall decree fat and milk!
By the sheepfold decree fertility!


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin



To him who is the true shepherdmay his days be long

To the true shepherd, Dumuzi, to days of abundance
It is a balbale of Inanna.
Its lines: 35.

III. *23. Self-Predication of Lipit-Istar

This text was reconstructed by Rmer in its entirety from nineteen different exemplars and fragments (pp. 2938).54 Three unpublished pieces
from the Jena collection could not be utilized. These exemplars are
now augmented by five duplicates from the Yale Babylonian Collection which may be labelled in continuation of Rmers sigla as follows:

NBC 7270 (prism; orig. complete in 4 cols.)

YBC 7155 (ll. 4677) (orig. ca. 4180)
YBC 7168a (ll. 5367) (orig. ca. 4180)
YBC 7196 (ll. 6386) (rev. uninscribed)
MLC 1839 (ll. 82105) (orig. ca. 70-end)

This composition was clearly the most popular in the whole repertoire,
attested in copies from Kis (M, N) and Ur (R, S) as well as Nippur, and
employed at an early stage of instruction as shown by a brief extract on
a practice tablet (Q) containing also quotations from other texts, and by
its presumable occurrence in the Ur curriculum.55 The new exemplars
oer numerous variants from Rmers edition, but many of these are
purely orthographic and do not aect the sense of the hymn. Only the
more significant revisions in the translation, as suggested by the new
variants, will therefore be mentioned here.
56. T, U, V: inim-sa6-sa6-ge (T: -gim?) den-ll hun-g-me-en, I am
appointed/installed (according) to the favorable dictates (of ) Enlil.
62. U, V: MURUB-tm -babbar nu-ub-dab-b-me-en, I am one who
does not carry o the . . . brought into Ebabbar.
54 For two of these (O and P), only the notes of Kramer, BiOr 11: 17636 were available
to the author.
55 Cf. my review of UET VI/1 in a forthcoming JCS.

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


T: US-tm
g! nu-dg-bi-me-en, by conflation with l. 66 (T: [eridu]ki
-ta g nu-dg-ge-bi-me-en); cf. also l. 58 (T: g la nu-dg-ge dnusku
69. T, W: zi-s-gl uruki-ni-s al-di(T omits)-me-en, I am the one who
desires sustenance for his city, or I am the sustenance desired for his
71. T, U, W: lugal m-s ku-kur-du7-du7-me-en, I am the king who
charges into battle (like) a flood. Cf. now A. Sjberg, AS 16 (1965) 66.
78. W: ur-sag igi-zalag-ga ka-kesda-ge-na-me-en, I am the hero with
the shining eyes, the firm regiment. For ka-kesda in parallelism with
ugnim (cf. l. 77), cf. Enheduanna A (nin-me-sr-ra) 46 f.: ugnim-bi nibi-a ma-ra-ab-gin-gin-e / ka-kesda-bi ni-bi-a ma-ra-ab-si-il-le. For kakesda with ge-na, cf. RA 12 f. 73 f. (Exaltation of Istar) 11 f.: ka-kesda-ma ge-ne-da-zu-d = ki-s. ir ta-ha-za ina kun-ni-ka!- (ref. courtesy van Dijk).
Ts reading (ur-sag igi-zalag-ga ka-kesda nu-du8-a-me-en) is based on
conflation with 1. 72.
79. W: dLi-pi-it dumu dEn-ll-l-me-en. For such abbreviations of the royal
name in hymns and elsewhere, cf. my remarks in JCS 18 (1964) 67 and
notes 11 f.

zi-d-es KAL-me-en;
80. T: kus-eden a-sedx(MS.DI)-d
W: kus-a-eden-l a-zi KAL-a-me-en, I am the one who . . . the
waterskins eectively with cold water (var.: with eective water). For
the life-giving water of W (so also A?!), cf. e.g. Emes and Enten (van
Dijk, La Sagesse 49) 297; for a-zi-(da) in the sense of good seed, cf.
Rmer p. 249.
81. T, W: igi-gl-kaskal-la (T: -e) an-dl ern-na-me-en, I am the observer of the campaign, the protection of the soldier. For the king as
protector, cf. van Dijk, La Sagesse, p. 82 ad Dumuzi and Enkimdu 73.
83. T, W, X: s-dugud-da inim-s-gl-la-me-en, I am the heavyhearted (i.e. serious-minded) one available for / at the word. For
this variant, cf. already S. For the construction, cf. Rmer p. 124 ad *4:
62. The line thus properly excludes any reference to justice.


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin

84. T, W, X: dim-ma galga-s (T adds: -e) a-r-e kin-g-me-en, I

am the one who has mastered planning, counsel and calculation.
Again, the intrustive moral tone can be eliminated. For kin-g, cf. most
recently Goetze, Iraq 22 (1960) 151 f., Falkenstein, ZA 56 (1964) 61.
87. (T omits this line.) X: na4 ?? br-u-da uk-ta--a, I am the one
who emerges from the people (like) mint (from) the stone. Admittedly
this dubious translation fits neither into the context of the king and
wisdom (ll. 8286), nor into that of the king and justice (ll. 88
96. T, X: kala-ga-me-en (X: n-gi ) pa bi--a, I am the strong one who
has appeared (var. who has made justice appear). As a royal title, kalaga has virtually the sense of sovereign, legitimate. The longer variant
may be preferable here, or it may be due to conflation with 1. 106.
98. T, X: -gal nam-lugal (X adds: -la) ki-tus-k du10?-du10 -ga-me-en,
I am the one whose holy dwelling has been made pleasant (?) in the
royal palace.
99100. T, X: nitadam-mu k-dinanna-ke4 / gis-gu-za-g suhus-bi mani- in-gi My spouse the holy Inanna has made the foundation of my
throne firm for me. These two lines belong together as one couplet.
They represent a clich of royal hymnography.
101103. These lines represent only two lines in fact. Note that their
order is reversed in K, while in S the end of the first line seems to
have been wrongly joined to the end of 1. 100. The dierent exemplars
appear to represent successively more expurgated versions, with T
at one extreme and A at the other. For convenience, all the textual
witnesses will be recorded here.

s-daa u4-ul-bl-a-asb cg-dac hu-mu-dni-ld / ki-ne n-du10 nf-s-hl-lagkah, For length of days she embraces me (var. ever lies . . . with me) / On
the bed (var. seat) of pleasure and rejoicing. a-aK: s(d)-r. b-bSo X; T:
d-dSo A; T: un-n-n

-l-m; K: -l-e-s; A: -a-as. c-cT: AS.AM.DU.X.

eA: -tu
s. X omits, So T, S; A, K: -le-. So S; A: -da.

iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin


IV. *31d. Hymn to [Enlil(?)] with Prayer for Bur-Sin

A. Classification. Although the rubric is lost, the composition is almost
certainly an adab, since the concluding sagarra is followed by an antiphone and an urubi.
B. Structure. Only about half of the text is preserved, but it may be
supposed that at or near the end of the obverse, which is concerned
with the deity, there was a sagidda. The notations sa-gar-ra, gis-gi4-glbi-im and ur[urux-bi-im] are preserved on the reverse and edge. There
is no trace of bar-sud or s-ba-tuk notations, but these are occasionally
absent in adab-compositions. Quite apart from such notations, however, the preserved lines show a clear triplet arrangement to judge by
their content.
C. Transliteration.
R. 1)
4 )
5 )
9 )

a]n-ki-s as(a)-ni-s
sag -[rib s-a]s-sa4 da-nun-ke4-ne
ka-t[a]--a-ni sg nu-[?]
dnu-nam-nir e
s-bar-du11-ga nu-kr- ru
sag-k-gl n-su-zi-ri-a
as-a-ni-s sag-il nun-gal-e-ne
s -nibruki dur-an-ki-a-ka
-kur -nam-tar-tar-re-da
[?] ku-za-gn-na dr b-in-[gar]
[k]-dnin-ll kur-gal-da z-[?]
[ ] g-da -mu-ni-in-l.
rest of obv. and beg. of rev. lost
uru- -g -[
ka-kesda-bi [
den-ll-me-en du -ga-[zu ma]h-m
dingir na-me nu-mu-e-da- br -re
[na]m i-ri-tar pa- ga-mu-ra-ab-diri
[na]m-ti-zu nam-ti ga-mu-ra-ab-dah
d utu-gim u -zu ga-ra-ab-s-s-ud
[k]ur-kur-ra dingir-bi za-e-me-en sa-gar-ra-m
en-nam-tar-re . . . -me-en
dbur-dEN.ZU gi
skim- lugal mu-e-ti-le-en gis-gi4-gl-bi-im
n- zi ni-gi-na pa b A- kus-kalam-ma mu- su-ub


iii.3. new hymns to the kings of isin

Lower edge

12) [
]-utu--ta utu-s-us-e
mu-zu h-im- hl
13) [
s]ag-zu h-ni-in-l
14) [
s]ag-bi-s h-p
Left edge

[urux -bi-im a-da-ab den-ll-l-kam]

D. Translation.
R. 1)

Uniquely . . . towards heaven and earth,

First among equals of (all) the Anunna,
Whose utterances are not overturned,
Nunamnir, who does not alter the decrees (once) pronounced,
Chief canal inspector who is clothed with awesome splendor.
Uniquely lifting the head most proudly of (all) the Igigi,
In Duranki, the sanctuary of Nippur,
In the Ekur, the house where fates are to be determined,
In the house of precious metal and stone he has made his dwelling.
Holy Ninlil, equal in rank with the great mountain (Enlil),
When she embraces him in . . .
The city instructions . . .
Its regiments . . .
You, oh Enlil, your pronouncements are lofty,
No god whatever can . . . with you.
When fate is determined I will make it appear more brightly for you,
To your life(span) I will add life for you,
I will make your days long like the Sun for you.
You are the god of all the (foreign) lands (sagara)
You are the lord who determines fate . . ...
(For) divine Bur-Sin you are the royal support (Its antiphone)
Righteousness and justice have appeared, the body of the nation has . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . from sunrise to sunset may your name rejoice!
. . . . . . . . . . . . may you lift your head!
. . . . . . . . . . . . may he summon (you) at their head!
(urubi) [adab of Enlil]


Love is strong as death. This defiant challenge from the Song of

Songs, which Marvin Pope made the motto and Leitmotif of his monumental commentary, was also the starting-point of Franz Rosenzweigs
essay on Revelation, or the Ever-Renewed Birth of the Soul, the
center-piece of his programmatic synthesis of religious philosophy, with
its grammatical analysis of the Song of Songs according to which
the analogue of love permeates as analogue all of revelation.1 For
an Assyriologist who has spent many profitable hours studying both
authors, it would therefore be intriguing and rewarding to trace the
theme of love and death in the cuneiform sources. But this would have
to be done in terms of kings (or gods), the preferred focus of cuneiform
The reason for these preferences is not far to seek. Palaces and
temples were the chief patrons of both arts and letters in Sumer and
Akkadand then as now, he who pays the piper calls the tune. As a
result we unfortunately know less than we would like about the common man: his concerns, his aspirations, his reactions to life. These matters figure in literature only or chiefly in proverbs and other types of socalled wisdom texts, numerically a relatively small literary genre. And
in the plastic and other representational arts, Mesopotamia preserves
little to rival the revealing vignettes of the lot of the average man or
woman provided in Egypt by funerary deposits and tomb paintings. By
contrast we know almost too much about the kingtoo much at any
rate to convey in the span of a brief article. I will not attempt to do

* The substance of these remarks was delivered to the symposium on Kingship

in the Ancient Near East, Brooklyn Museum, October 24, 1976, organized by Madeline I. Noveck and chaired by Edith Porada. The full version, including a transcript
of the ensuing discussion, will appear in the forthcoming proceedings of the Symposium. The footnotes incorporate references to the illustrations included as slides in the
original presentation.
1 Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption (William W. Hallo, trans.; Boston, Beacon
Press, 1972): Part Two, Book Two, esp. pp. 156, 199, 201204.


iii.4. the birth of kings

so here, nor even to summarize the lifetime of a typical Mesopotamian

king by constructing a kind of biographical collage derived from all
the abundant documentation of the third and second millennia bc.
Such a composite portrait would properly begin with a study of the
mystique surrounding the royal birth, and grappling with this question
has convinced me that it deserves, all by itself, all the time at my
disposal. It has the advantage of highlighting the dierences between
royalty and commoners and whatever (if anything) lies in between.
Then too, it involves also the royal parents, so that it covers much of
the royal lifetime anyway. And finally, it touches on a basic problem
of any political system, namely the mechanics of transferring power
from one administration to the next. Even in our day, the presidential
succession continues to be the subject of constitutional amendments
how much more acute the problem is in authoritarian governments
around the world. This is obvious from a look at the headlines: China
yesterday, Yugoslavia today, Russia tomorrowall confront problems of
succession, and so did early Mesopotamian monarchy. I will therefore
reject Shakespeares invitation For Gods sake let us sit upon the
ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings2 and focus instead
on the generally happier tales of their birth and accession.
The birth of the royal heir, la naissance du dauphin as it is put
in a recent French treatment,3 has an elemental importance in the
whole ideology of kingship whenever and wherever that oce is hereditary. It was not always so. At the dawn of Mesopotamian history lies
what archaeologists call the Jemdet Nasr periodone of the most fruitful and inventive cultural phases of all. I equate it with what native
historiographic traditions call the antediluvian period, that legendary
time when eight shadowy kings ruled five ancient cities until all were
swept away by the Great Flood.4 In the various Babylonian versions
of this tale, the kings in question were not connected to each other as
father and son; they were not even necessarily consecutive. That view of

Richard II, Act III, Scene 2, line 155.

Herbert Sauren apud Paul Garelli, ed., Le Palais et La Royaut (= Rencontre
Assyriologique Internationale 19 [1971], 1974): 457471. This volume is an excellent
survey of the current state of studies on Mesopotamian kingship. (Hereinafter cited as
RAI 19.)
4 For a convenient if schematic chart of the literary evidence, see W.W. Hallo and
W.K. Simpson, The Ancient Near East: a History (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch,
1971): 32 (fig. 6). (Hereinafter cited as ANEH.)

iii.4. the birth of kings


the matter was injected into the antediluvian traditions, perhaps under
Amorite influence, in their biblical recasting in Genesis 4 (Adam to
Naama) and Genesis 5 (Enosh to Noah).
After the flood mankind was vouchsafed a second chance. Once
more, according to native Mesopotamian historiography, kingship was
lowered from heaven and this time it was entrusted to a single city,
Kish. We may therefore call the period after the first dynasty of Kish,
and I equate it, in archaeological terms, with the First Early Dynastic Period (ca. 29002700).5 A dozen names of kings are recorded in
one form of the native traditions but they are of no importance
mere names without associations (other than thosee.g., animals or
totemsconjured up by the meanings of the names themselves) and
without family connections to each other. But another tradition is more
significant: it begins kingship with a certain Etana of Kish, and weaves
a long legend around his lengthy eorts to secure an heir. This legend is known in fragments of neo-Assyrian, Middle Assyrian and Old
Akkadian date. Thus it represents one of the most persistent, not to
say perennial concerns of Mesopotamian arts and letters: how to insure
male issue.6
Recent discoveries of new fragments have made a somewhat better
understanding of the epic or legend of Etana possible. As interpreted
by an Assyriologist who is also a historian of medicine, the new fragments are said to show that Etana married a certain Mu-dam, whose
very name is pregnant with meaningto wit she is the one who gives
birth (mud-m)!7 But her first pregnancy ended badly, almost disastrously.8 Fortunately, the queen had a dream which revealed the means
needed to overcome her obstetrical problems: Etana had to get her the
plant of life. Unfortunately that was easier said than done and the next
ANEH 41 (fig. 7).
Ibid. 40, note 29, for literary allusions to Etana, to which add M.E. Cohen, ZA
65 (1977): 3, note 6 (ad 14, line 78); G. Komorczy, Acta Antiqua 23 (1975): 46 f. and
notes 2734.
7 J.V. Kinnier Wilson, Some Contributions to the Legend of Etana, Iraq 31 (1969):
817; idem, Further Contributions to the Legend of Etana, JNES 33 (1974): 240. This
reading and interpretation is, however, far from certain in any of the three fragmentary
passages involved (Sm 157+, first and last lines; K9610, last line), nor is the attribution
of either of the fragments to Etana conclusively proven, according to W.G. Lambert,
JNES 39 (1980): 74, n. 1.
8 Kinnier Wilsons restorations and translations of the fragmentary passage (JNES
33:239) are, however, quite problematical and it is not even clear that the two fragments
on which they are based belong either to each other or to Etana; cf. Lambert, ibid.


iii.4. the birth of kings

three chapters (or tablets) concern Etanas complicated and adventurous quest for this rare pharmaceutical, including one or more flights
to heaven on the wings of an eagle, the theme most often illustrated in
the Old Akkadian Etana seals.9 But despite at least one crash landing, his eorts were crowned with success, or so we may surmise. For
one thing the Sumerian King List preserves the name of Balih, Etanas
son and successor, together with the royal descendants of his successor.
For another the newly identified fragments of the legend describe just
how a shoot from the plant of life was used, like a poultice, to relax the
uterus at the first signs of labor-pains; and a painless delivery followed.10
The legend I have just excerpted has many other interesting features
and can be understood on many levels. A recent interpretation, for
instance, regards it as an elaborate astral allegory.11 The portions I have
quoted might lead one to consider the tale as a paradigm for obstetrical complicationsindeed, it may owe its long survival and apparent
popularity to the fact (demonstratable in other myths and epics, though
not here) that its recitation was prescribed as a prophylactic measure
against the illness or other evil narrated in it. And the device of attaching the paradigm to the figure of a king would be of a piece with the
vast majority of Sumerian and Akkadian belles-lettres generally.
That still entitles us to ask why this particular legend was attached
to this particular king, the first king of all (after the Flood) according
to its own version of history. My answer would be that the ancient
author was deliberately trying to explain the origin of royal succession,
and in the process to give it the highest possible antiquity and therefore also authority. Even heaven was not too far to go when it came
to facilitating the birth of the royal heir, and this was established by
the very first king. Nor was it possible to substitute a concubine for the
proper queen (although admittedly the passage in question is very fragmentary). Much the same theme inspired the Ugaritic epic of Keret,
sometimes thought to be the Kirta who was regarded as the founder or
eponymous ancestor of the royal house of Mitanni. Depending on how
the text is interpreted, Kerets diculties began when a succession of

9 For one of many examples, see Andr Parrot, Sumer: the Dawn of Art (New York:
Golden Press, 1961): 188 (fig. 226).
10 Iraq 31 (1969): 15 f.
11 Sauren (N 3).

iii.4. the birth of kings


disasters wiped out either all his children12 or all his intended brides.13
Here the main quest is for a new wife of royal blood, but the birth of
the heir is again the goal of the exercise.14
But for all assurances of the legend, neither hereditary kingship nor
Mesopotamian unity was securely established by Etanas alleged precedent. For as we move into the Second Early Dynastic Period (ca. 2700
2500 bc), we see the rule of the country divided between several competing city-states, and the succession passing from father to son only
intermittently.15 In fact, this is the heroic age of Mesopotamias early
history, enshrined forever in the Sumerian epics about Gilgamesh16 and
the other lords of Uruk in the south and their antagonists at Kish in
the north and in Aratta far to the east The charismatic leader, chosen
for his prowess in battle or his skill in diplomacy, characterized this age,
and immortality (if we credit Gilgamesh and the land of the living as
well as the later Akkadian epic of Gilgamesh) was sought not through
progeny but by heroic and memorable exploits leading to lasting fame
(zikir sumi). Election to kingship was by vote of an assembly of armsbearing citizens, and royal birth was evidently neither necessary nor
sucient to secure that election.
This pattern changed by the middle of the 3rd millennium, in what
archaeology likes to describe as the 3rd (and last) of the Early Dynastic periods (ca. 25002300).17 Actually it is only now that we are really
entitled to speak of true dynastiesat least if we mean by that term a
succession of kings who claimed the right to rule by virtue of birth (or,
occasionally, of marriage) into a given family. This was achieved by a
new alliance of royal and ecclesiastical interests: the king endowing ever
more lavish temples and their growing complements of priests and tenants, and in return having his claims to the reins of government legitimized by the priesthood. Already in the heroic age, some rulers had
claimed divine descent: Meskiaggashir and Enmerkar of Uruk from
Utu according to the Sumerian King List and the epics respectively,

So most persuasively, not to say ingeniously, Joshua Finkel, A Mathematical

Conundrum in the Ugaritic Keret Poem, HUCA 26 (1955): 109149.
13 So most recently B. Margalit, The Ill-fated Wives of King Krt (CTA 14:1421a)
UF 8 (1976): 137145.
14 Herbert Sauren and Guy Kestemont, Keret, roi de Hubur UF 3 (1971): 181221;
M.C. Astour, A North Mesopotamian Locale for the Keret Epic? UF 5 (1973): 2939.
15 ANEH 47 (fig. 8).
16 See Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 186 f. (figs. 223225), for what are generally taken to be
Old Akkadian representations of Gilgamesh.
17 ANEH 52 f. (fig. 9).


iii.4. the birth of kings

Mesilim of Kish from the mother-goddess Ninhursaga according to his

own inscription. Beginning with the great Eannatum of Lagash, every
ruler now explicitly proclaimed his divine descent. In the famous Stele
of Vultures,18 Eannatum even calls himself the seed-implanted-in-thewomb of Ningirsu or, again, says that Ningirsu implanted the seed
of Eannatum in the womb and [Ninhursage or Ba"u] bore him.19 His
two immediate successors were regarded as sons of Lugal-uru(b) and,
presumably, of Inanna, his divine spouse.20 The last Lagash rulers in
this period (Lugalanda and Urukagina) were respectively sons of the
goddesses Nanshe and Ba"u, while their contemporary and conqueror,
Lugalzagesi of Umma, had Nisaba for a divine mother.
The new ideology did not content itself with the impregnation and
gestation by a divine father and mother respectively. Throughout the
pre-natal and post-natal period, the gods attended the pre-ordained
successor. This is stated most explicitly in the royal epithets. To illustrate, we may revert to the stele of Eannatum, which describes him as
king of Lagash, endowed with strength by the god Enlil, nourished
with life-giving milk by the goddess Ninhursaga, named with a good
name (throne-name?)21 by the goddess Inanna, endowed with understanding by the god Enki, hearts choice of the goddess Nanshe, and
so on and so forth.
Of course, not all Mesopotamian kings were born to the purple.
New dynasties were founded, and old ones toppled, when usurpers
seized the throne. In such cases, legitimation came of necessity after
the fact, not beforein part, for example, by the very name assumed
on accession, which defied all challenges, as in the instance of the
most celebrated usurper of all, Sargon of Akkad,22 whose Akkadian
name has been interpreted to mean the king is legitimate. As if
Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 135 (fig. 164).
ke W. Sjberg, Die gttliche Abstammung der sumerisch-babylonischen Herrscher, Orientalia Suecana 21 (1973): 8789; T. Jacobsen, Kramer Anniversary Volume (=
AOAT 25, 1976; hereinafter abbreviated as Kramer AV ): 251 and note 13, now favors
20 See below, note 66.
21 Literally sweet name, as in Hittite myths of Hurrian derivation; see H.A. Honer, JNES 27 (1968): 201 f. Is a loan-translation involved? Cf. Hittite sweet sleep (ibid.,
notes 36 and 39) with Sumerian -du10-ku-ku. I hinted at the sense throne-name in my
Early Mesopotamian Royal Titles (= AOS 43, 1957): 133 f. Sjberg, however, sees mu-nam-enna as the throne-name; Abstammung (N 19): 112.
22 Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 171 (fig. 206). But the head may equally well picture his
grandson Naram-Sin.

iii.4. the birth of kings


to make up for his lack of divine parentage and innate endowments,

posterity surrounded Sargons birth with an extraordinary profusion
of legends, the most famous of which is no doubt that according to
which his mother was a high-priestess (and thus either not free to bear
children or possibly specializing in the procreation of royalty!)23 who
therefore exposed him in a basket of rushes in the Euphrates where,
like Moses, he was rescued and raised by a foster-parent. This tale
recurs in one form or another all over the world; the general tendency
is to regard the Moses tale as modelled on the Sargon legend, or both
as derived from a common original. A third possibility is too often
overlookednamely that the tale of Sargon is modelled on that of
Moses! For its earliest textual witnesses date from the seventh century,
and there are no internal indices requiring us to suppose a date of
composition appreciably closer to the events of the late 24th century
which it describes.
The considerable family of Sargon managed to extend its sway
over all the high political and priestly oces of Mesopotamia, a land
which thus experienced its first truly imperial unification.24 But Sargons
two oldest sons and first successors were (in my reconstruction) born
before this unification had been achieved, and they too could not claim
divine parentage. Indeed, their birth may have been complicated by a
statistical rarity. Although it is only, so far, a learned guess, they may in
fact have been twins. This is indicated on the one hand by the tradition
that the succession passed first to the younger of the two, and on the
other by the very name of the elder brother, Man-ishtushu,25 which
means who (is) with him? and may be an abbreviation (to judge by
parallel Sumerian names) of either who compares with him? or who
comes out with him?26
It was only with the son of this Manishtushu that the dynastic
ideology could be fully applied to the Sargonic kings. Naram-Sin the
great, in my opinion really the greatest member of the dynasty, actually

23 On a possible son of Enheduanna and on the question whether the en-priestess

was allowed to have children (inside or outside the sacred marriage), see the discussion
by J. Renger, ZA 58 (1967): 131 and H. Hirsch, AfO 20 (1963): 9 and note 79.
24 ANEH 58 (fig. 10).
25 Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 178 (figs. 214 f.).
26 ANEH 59; previously T. Jacobsen, AS 11 (1939): 112n. 249. The nearest Sumerian
equivalent is a-ba-an-da- or a-ba-(in)-da-(an)-, for which cf., e.g., MSL 13:87:40 and
NRVNI 14, and which C. Wilcke apud D.O. Edzard, BiOr 28 (1971): 165 n. 8, regards as
a possible twin-name.


iii.4. the birth of kings

claimed divine status for himself (the first Mesopotamian king to do

so),27 as did his son Shar-kali-sharri after him. The latter in addition
claimed divine parentage again after the manner of the Early Dynastic
But the empire forged by the great Sargonic kings collapsed in anarchy after the death of Sharkalisharri, and the country reverted to its
characteristic pattern of small to medium-sized city-states.29 Culturally,
the pendulum swung back to the south, where Lagash enjoyed a renaissance under the house of Ur-Ba"u. But a curious phenomenon characterized the succession here. Ur-Ba"u was blessed with a large number
of daughters, and presumably no sons. So it appears that the throne
passed successively to no less than three of his sons-in-law.30 Of these
the most famous was certainly Gudea,31 whose own humble origins
are only lightly concealed behind his telling autobiographical note: I
have no mother: you (oh goddess Gatumdug) are my mother; I have no
father: you (oh Gatumdug) are my father.32
With the accession of Gudea begins what I like to designate as
the classical phase of Mesopotamian civilization, a half millennium
(ca. 21001600), roughly coterminous with the Middle Bronze Age in
the rest of Western Asia, when the cultural traditions crystallized into
their most typical form. I will therefore spare you a detailed history
of the separate stages in the evolution of the ideology of royal birth
and present instead an overview of the legacy which this entire age
bequeathed to posterity. This is the easier because the period as a whole
is amply documented and, in particular, a new literary vehicle, the royal
hymn (and to a lesser extent the royal correspondence) emerged now to
give formal expression to the details of the royal ideology. Combined
with the older but intimately related genres of royal date formulas and
royal inscriptions, the testimony of the hymns allows us to generalize
with some assurance.
Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 175177 (figs. 211213).
Sjberg, Abstammung (N 19): 91 f. and note 1.
29 ANEH 66 (fig. 12).
30 Renger, The Daughters of Urbaba: Some Thoughts on the Succession to the
Throne During the 2. Dynasty of Lagash, Kramer AV (1976): 367369.
31 Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 204217 (figs. 251266).
32 Cylinder A iii 6 f. and the related passage in The rulers of Lagas, for which
see E. Sollberger, JCS 21 (1967) [publ. 1969]): 286 and note 80. At the same time the
physical description in the next line of the Cylinder implies divine birth; cf. Jacobsen,
Kramer AV (1976): 251, note 15; A. Falkenstein, Die Inschriften Gudeas von Lagas (AnOr 30,
1966): 2 f.

iii.4. the birth of kings


Perhaps the most significant new development is a solution of the

mechanics of divine birth. It may have occurred to you to wonder how
the concept of divine parentage was reconciled with a basic reluctance
to regard the royal ospring himself as a deitya reluctance the more
conspicuous by contrast with Old Kingdom Egypt.33 Though two of
the Sargonic kings and (after Ur-Nammu) all those of Ur and Isin in
the classical phase claimed divinity of sorts, only one king (Shu-Sin
of Ur) actually permitted himself to be worshipped like a real god
in temples dedicated to his worship in his own lifetime,34 a practice
which was apparently particularly abhorrent to the many Amorite
dynasties which divided the rule of Mesopotamia among themselves
about 1900 bc, a century after the fall of Ur. I would like to propose
here a new solution to the paradox: that the divine parentage of the
future king was achieved or symbolized in the cultic rite of the so-called
sacred marriage or, in other words, that the (or at least an) object of
that rite was to produce a royal heir and to establish his divine descent.
In all the recent spate of discussions on the sacred marriage, this
point of view has barely been considered.35 Let me therefore give you
first a brief description of the institution as now known. It was a ceremony in the temple precincts in which a king and what is generally
taken to be a priestess36 consummated a sexual union to the accompaniment of oerings and hymns or prayers by the clergy. The prayers
make it abundantly clear that the union was, at least on one level, a
symbolic one. The king symbolized a god and his partner a goddess.
Most often the divine couple were perceived as Dumuzi and Inanna

33 Cf. Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1948):
301, who grapples with the Eannatum pasages (above, note 19) in this connection.
34 ANEH 84 and Hallo, The Royal Inscriptions of Ur: a Typology, HUCA 33
(1962): 18. For other possible indications of emperor-worship in Ur III times, see
Claus Wilcke, RAI 19 (1974): 179 f. with notes 3058 (pp. 188192).
35 J. van Dijk, BiOr 11 (1954): 84, note 9, at least raised the question: It is not at all
certain that the sacred marriage had any relation to procreation (translation mine). Cf.
also Rengers reference to children of an en-priestess who (at least in part) sprang from
the union in the sacred marriage, ZA 58 (1967): 131 (translation mine). Sjberg ponders
whether the royal ospring could have been engendered in the sacred marriage, and
Inanna thus regarded as divine mother as specified (only) in the case of Anam of Uruk;
see Or 35 (1966): 289 f.
36 Cf., e.g., S.N. Kramer, RAI 17 (1970): 140: And who, finally, played the role of the
goddess throughout the ceremony? It must have been some specially selected votary of
the goddess, but this is never stated . . . .


iii.4. the birth of kings

respectively, but other pairs were possible depending on local circumstances.37 The prayers also suggest a variety of symbolic meanings for
the act: as the basis for the royal partners own claim to divinity,38 as a
guarantee of fertility for the country as a whole,39 as a ritual enactment
of an astral myth, as proof (or refutation) of the belief in a seasonal resurrection of Dumuzi, as a possible part of the annual new years ritual40
or, alternatively, as a unique element in the coronation ritual once at,
or near, the beginning of each reign.41
Apart from the obvious lack of clarity in the sources themselves
reflected in these partly divergent interpretations as to the significance
of the sacred marriage, it must be emphasized that they all confine
themselves to its symbolic level. They ignore the real act and its reality level. If we stop to consider what actually transpired, it was, after
all, the consummation of a sexual union. This is explicitly stated in the
texts, and may be deduced also from innumerable artistic representations, if not in quite the measure that earlier interpretations suggested.42
I would like therefore to propose that on the real, as against the symbolic level, the sacred marriage in the classical phase served to engender the crown prince, thus bridging the gap between the cosmic and
the earthly which had been left open by the earlier ideology. For the
king, this is expressed tellingly by substituting for his name the name

37 A novel illustration of such local variations comes from Emar, where the sacred
marriage was consummated in an annual (?) seven-day ritual between the high priestess
(entu) and the storm-god (Baal); see for now D. Arnaud, Annuaire de lcole Pratique des
Hautes tudes (Ve section) 84 (19751976): 223 f.
38 So especially Frankfort, Kingship (N 33): 295299.
39 Here as elsewhere (see below, note 41), one interpretation is not necessarily mutually exclusive with another. According to Kramer, the very purpose of Ninsuns giving
birth to Shulgi was to assure the fertility of the country; see RAI 19 (1974): 165.
40 See especially van Dijk, La fte du nouvel an dans un texte de Sulgi,

11 (1954): 8388; W.H.Ph. Rmer, Sumerische Knigshymnen der Isin-Zeit (= DMOA 13,
1965): cf. IV.
41 Renger, RLA 4 (1975): 257. In fact, the coronation may have been scheduled
to coincide with the New Years ritual, but previous commentators seem to have
overlooked this possibility.
42 Frankfort, Sculpture of the Third Millennium bc from Tell Asmar and Khafajah (= Oriental
Institute Publications 44, 1939): pl. 112, fig. 199. Line drawing by Johannes Boese,
Altmesopotamische Weihplatten (= Untersuchungen zur Assyriologie . . . [ZA Suppl.] 6,
1971): pl. IV, fig. 1 (AS 4). This, together with some half dozen seals, is the only
representation of an erotic scene considered a remotely possible candidate for a sacred
marriage depiction by J.S. Cooper, Heilige Hochzeit. B. Archologisch, RLA 4 (1975):
259269, esp. p. 266.

iii.4. the birth of kings


of Dumuzi (or another god) in certain sacred marriage texts;43 for the
priestessif the feminine partner was a priestessit is explicit in her
very title (or one of them: nin-dingir) which means the lady who is a
deity (not the lady of the god),44 a point underlined by the statue of
a high priestess of the moon-god at Ur which has attachments for the
horned cap symbolizing divinitywith this attachment (now lost), the
statue represents the moon-gods heavenly consort (Ningal), without it
the priestess who dedicated the inscription to her.45 And just as mortal king and human priestess are god and goddess in the rite, so the
product of their union emerges as divinely born without forfeiting his
essential humanity. A solution has been found for uniting a transcendent conception of divinity with an immanent conception of kingship,
and the solution is congenial to the Mesopotamian world-view.
But if this solution is so genial, it may be asked why it has not been
proposed before. One reason may be the ambivalent role of Inanna,
whose multifarious roles conspicuously minimize the maternal one,46
another the relative silence of the sources. They seem to dwell in loving
detail on the physical aspects of the sacred marriage on the one hand,
and on the divine birth of the royal heir on the other, without ever
linking the two events explicitly. It would not be dicult to account
for the silence: marriage and birth were sacraments of the royal lifetime which were celebrated in an elaborate liturgy, but the gestation
period which intervened was not. It therefore was not the cultic stimulus for commissioning a textual genre. Moreover, the silence of the
texts is more apparent than real. Besides the frequent references in
Hallo, BiOr 23 (1966): 244 f., here: III.3.
Falkenstein, Inschriften Gudeas (N32): 2, note 8; cf. Renger, ZA 58 (1967): 134 f., 144.
45 L. Legrain, Museum Journal 18 (1927): 223229. Hallo, Women of Sumer, apud
D. Schmandt-Besserat, ed., The Legacy of Sumer (Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 4, 1976): 32 f.
and fig. 16.
46 F.R. Kraus, WZKM 52 (1953): 53 f. She is invoked as mother only by two or three
minor deities, notably Lulal (Kramer, JCS 18 [1964]: 38, note 13; but elsewhere Lulal
seems to be regarded as son of Ninsun: Sjberg, Or. Suec. 21 [1972]: 100 and note 1),

9; otherwise only in Anzu I iii 77, for which see Hallo and Moran, JCS
31 [1979]: 84 f.), and Sutitu (BRM 4:25:44; but in An-Anum IV 135, Sutitu is herself
a manifestation of Inanna), and only by one king (above, note 35). In the Descent
of Inanna, Shara and Lulal are both spared by Inanna but not identified as her
sons; Kramer, JCS 5 (1951): 13:312330. Curiously, the logogram for mother-goddess
(protective goddess) is AMA.dINANNA, but here dINANNA has its generic sense of
(any) goddess; cf. CAD s.vv. amaltu, istartu; J. Krecher, HSAO (1967): 89, note 2. The
frequent reference to Inanna as kiskil (ardatu) refers to her youthfulness and (relative)
childlessness, not to her virginity.


iii.4. the birth of kings

hymns and elsewhere to the paternity of Mesopotamian kings in the

royal epithet seed of kingship or seed of the gods,47 at least one of
these kings, Ur-Nammu of Ur,48 seems to refer to his maternal descent
with the epithet seed of the high-priestess or high-priesthood.49
And, indeed, the very solution proposed here had been adumbrated
by Thorkild Jacobsen.50 Writing on early Mesopotamian political development in 1957, he analyzed the liturgical abab-hymn51 now known
as Shulgi Hymn G. Jacobsen concluded one is led to interpret (it) as
meaning that Shulgir was engendered on an entu priestess of Nanna
in Nippur, presumably during the celebration of the sacred marriage
between Nanna and the entu, in which Ur-Nammuk as king embodied
the divine bridegroom, Nanna.52 But except for a single and somewhat ambiguous remark in my own history of the Ancient Near East,53
and a generally negative critique by Sjberg,54 this suggestive insight
has not been followed up, even by Jacobsen himself. In his Religious
Drama in Ancient Mesopotamia55 and even more fully in his recently
published history of Mesopotamian religion,56 Jacobsen returned to the
problem of the sacred marriage with never a hint of the engendering
of the crown-prince. S.N. Kramer came up with a dierent analysis

W.G. Lambert, The Seed of Kingship, RAI 19 (1974): 427440.

Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 228, fig. 281.
49 Claus Wilcke, RAI 19 (1974): 180 and 194, note 72. Lambert, however, translates
one of the two passages involved seed of lordship (Seed [N 47]: 428). (Note that en
can mean either lord or priest[ess].)
50 Previously, Adam Falkenstein spoke obliquely of the Gotteskindschaft des Knigs,
die aus der Stellvertretung eines Gottes . . . durch den Knig bei der Gtterhochzeit
erwachsen ist in BiOr 7 (1950): 58.
51 Published by Gadd as CT 36:26 f.
52 Thorkild Jacobsen, ZA 52 (1957): 126 f., note 80; reprinted in his Towards the Image
of Tammuz (= Harvard Semitic Series 21, 1970): 387 f., note 80.
53 ANEH, 49: The crown prince, born of the sacred marriage between the king
and the priestess of a given god, was considered the son of that god and subsequently
invoked him as his personal patron. Whether or not this state of aairs can be projected back into the Early Dynastic III period as proposed there, it is here maintained
that, by the classical phase, the crown-prince became, rather, the son of the god represented by the king and the goddess represented by the priestess.
54 Or 35 (1966): 287290.
55 Apud Hans Goedicke and J.J.M. Roberts, eds., Unity and Diversity (= The Johns
Hopkins Near Eastern Studies 7, 1975): 6597.
56 The Treasurers of Darkness (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1976): esp. 3237. At the
same time Jacobsen returned to the theme of the birth of the hero (i.e., king) without
explicitly referring to the sacred marriage; see Kramer AV (N 19); previously: JNES 2
(1943): 119121.

iii.4. the birth of kings


of the Shulgi hymn,57 which he entitled Sulgi,

Provider of the Ekur:
His Divine Birth and Investiture. He has also contributed an entire
monograph on the sacred marriage rite58 as well as numerous editions
of new sacred marriage texts;59 nowhere does he mention any human
birth resulting from it. Wilcke interprets the same Shulgi-hymn to mean
that immediately upon his birth in the Ekur, the temple of Enlil at Nippur, Shulgi was recognized as crown-prince by Enlil in the lifetime of
his father Ur-Nammu, but without suggesting a sacred marriage in this
connection.60 Renger, who summed up the textual evidence on the institution for the authoritative Reallexikon der Assyriologie in 1975, mentions
Jacobsens suggestion in passing only to reject it.61 For good measure
he attributes a similar opinion to Adam Falkenstein,62 but it is not true
that Gudea is said by the latter to have sprung from a union of priestess
and male partner anlsslich einer H[eiligen] H[ochzeit]. On the contrary, Falkenstein twice emphasizes that the nature of the cultic setting
to which Gudea alludes is unknown!63
The new conception of divine birth as here proposed involves of
necessity also a clarification of the royal fathers role. He had now
for the first time to be regarded as the husband of the goddess, and
the royal titulary duly reflects this. Beginning with Amar-Sin of Ur,
and consistently with nearly all the kings of Isin, he is styled the
(beloved) spouse of Inanna.64 The attempt to trace this usage back
to Eannatum of Lagash65 was already rejected by me in 195766 and the

57 S.N. Kramer, CT XXXVI. Corrigenda and Addenda, Iraq 36 (1974): 9395; idem,
RAI 19 (1974): 165 f.
58 Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite (Indiana University Press, 1969). Cf. idem, The
Dumuzi-Inanna Sacred Marriage-Rite: Origin, Development, Character, RAI 17
(1970): 135141.
59 Kramer, Cuneiform Studies and the History of Literature: the Sumerian Sacred
Marriage Texts, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 107 (1963): 485527; idem
apud J.B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (3rd ed.; Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press,
1968): 637645.
60 Wilcke, RAI 19 (1974): 181 and 195, note 76.
61 Renger, Heilige Hochzeit A. Philologisch, RLA 4 (1975): 258.
62 Ibid.; cf. idem, Daughters (N 30): note 16.
63 Falkenstein, Inschriften Gudeas (N 32).
64 Hallo, Royal Titles (N 21): 140 f.; cf. idem, JNES 31 (1972): 88.
65 Renger, Heilige Hochzeit (N 61): 258 f.; Wilcke, RLA 5 (1976): 80 f., even wants
to extend the usage back to Mesannepada.
66 Hallo, Royal Titles (N 64); similarly Sjberg, Abstammung (N 19): 90, and Sollberger
and Kupper, Inscriptions Royales Sumriennes et Akkadiennes (= Littratures Anciennes du
Proche-Orient 3, 1971): 55.


iii.4. the birth of kings

alleged reference to it under Naram-Sin of Akkad67 is from a late copy

where its authenticity must be at least questioned.
Somewhat more ambiguous is the role of the female partner in the
new conception of the sacred marriage. Was she exempt from the interdiction of childbirth such as we posited in the case of Sargons mother?
Could she have been the high-priestess of the moon-god as Jacobsen
suggested, given the fact that this oce was, during the classical phase,
regularly filled by the daughter of the king himself ? Or was she some
other member of the royal family, as in the case of many other highly
placed priestesses? Was she, or did she become, the wife of the king?68
Or was she, at least sometimes, the sister of the king, as has been suggested in the case of the last king of Ur, Ibbi-Sin?69 If the woman did
not prove to yield a male heir, was she allowed to try again, or not?
In other words, was the sacred marriage performed only one time
or as many times as proved necessary? Was it performed in only one
place, or were a number of cities privileged to have their temples conduct the ceremonyas seems indicated by the fact that the new king
later regarded dierent deities as his parents in dierent cities of his
kingdom. Did a consistent ideology emerge which defined a dynasty
as a succession of kings sharing the same divine parents, and identified a change of dynasty as a change of divine parents?70 What about
sons born to the king before his accession, i.e., presumably outside
the framework of the sacred marriage? Were they excluded from the
succession? These and other intricacies involved in the intertwining of
heavenly and dynastic relationships remain to be resolved by further
study of the royal hymns and other relevant sources.
Such studies will also yield significant new data on the further career
of the crown-prince after his birththe solicitude of his mother or
wet-nurse as expressed in royal lullabies,71 the education of the prince
in such diverse fields as scribal skills, music, athletics, hunting and
67 Renger, Heilige Hochzeit (N 65), based on F. Thureau-Dangin, RA 9 (1912): 34 f.
Cf. also Wilcke (N 65): 80 f.
68 Cf. notes 8491 to the Discussion (above, note*).
69 Jacobsen, The Reign of Ibbi-Suen, JCS 7 (1953): 37 n. 6; cf. N. Schneider,
Die Knigskinder des Herrscherhauses von Ur III, Or 12 (1943): 190, who suggests
rather that Ibbi-Suens queen and (his!) daughter may have been namesakes. Jacobsens
reference to Schneider, Gtternamen (AnOr 19): 202, appears to be in error.
70 So most explicitly, it would seem, according to The Rulers of Lagas; see Sollberger (N 32): 275291, esp. 279, note 5.
71 Kramer apud Pritchard ANET, 651 f. For additional literature, see my Women of
Sumer (N 45): 32, note 68.

iii.4. the birth of kings


warfare,72 his service in the administration as viceroy of the ancestral domains,73 his own (earthly) marriage, his coronation,74 his actual
reign,75 his death,76 and his afterlife in the cult77 and memory78 of the
Here there is time only for a short look at what became of the concepts I have already discussed after the classical phase. The phase I
have described included (in one sense indeed climaxed in) the reign
of Hammurapi of Babylon.79 For after him a period of decline set in
terminating with the sack of Babylon about 1600 and the ushering in
of the Babylonian Dark Ages or Middle Ages. One often characterizes
the period beginning with Hammurapi as marked by a gradual breakdown of the older religious values, more specifically as a time of secularization.80 But that is not entirely fair. More to the point may be again
Jacobsens characterization of the late second millennium in terms of
the rise of a personal religion, as a period, that is, in which the individual turned directly toward his own personal deity rather than, through
the mediation of priests and kings, to the awesome great gods of the
older pantheon.81 And he approached them, not as subject to ruler,

See especially G.R. Castellino, Two Sulgi

Hymns (bc) (= Studi Semitici 42, 1972).
See my The Princess and the Plea, (forthcoming), here: V.3.
74 Hallo, The Coronation of Ur-Nammu, JCS 20 (1966): 1341, here: III.2. For
parallels to the text edited there, see now Wilcke, Kollationen . . . Jena (= Abhandlungen
der Schsischen Akademie . . . 65/4, 1976): 47 f. On the coronation ceremony, see now
A.K. Grayson, Babylonian Historical-Literary Texts (1975): ch. 7, with literature cited, 78
n. 2.
75 See especially Kramer, Kingship in Sumer and Akkad: the Ideal King, RAI 19
(1974): 163176.
76 Kramer, The death of Ur-Nammu and His Descent to the Netherworld, JCS
21 (1967 [publ. 1969]): 104122; Wilcke, RAI 17 (1970): 8192; Kramer(N 71): 659; Piotr

Michalowski, The Death of Sulgi,

Or 46 (1977): 220225.
77 See, e.g., Josef Bauer, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlndischen Gesellschaft Suppl. 1
(1969): 107114; Ph. Tallon, RA 68 (1974): 167 f.
78 As expressed particularly in the onomasticon. Cf. on this point already Hallo,
JNES (1956): 220 n. 4 and now H. Klengel, Hammurapi und seine Nachfolger im
altbabylonischen Onomastikon, JCS 28 (1976): 156160 (ref. courtesy R. Kutscher).
For Shulgi as private name see R. Frankena AbB (1966): 65 (LIH 2:83) 24.
79 Parrot, Sumer (N 9): 305307 (figs. 373375).
80 Rivkah Harris, On the Process of Secularization under Hammurapi, JCS 15
(1961): 117120; eadem, Some Aspects of the Centralization of the realm . . . , JAOS 88
(1968): 727732, esp. 727 f. For the emergence of seals dedicated to the king instead of
the deity or his temple (ibid.) see more specifically Hallo, Royal Inscriptions of Ur
(N 34): 1820.
81 Jacobsen, Treasures (N 56): ch. 5: Second millennium metaphors. The Gods as
parents: rise of personal religion.


iii.4. the birth of kings

but as child to parentcapricious still like all the Mesopotamina gods,

but potentially at least loving and caring like a parent.82 In so doing,
however, he was merely following in the footsteps of royalty: the kings
of the earlier era had already discovered the divine parent in the
ideology of kingship. Now the common man claimed the same privilege
for himself. Perhaps, then, we should characterize the Late Bronze
Age not so much in terms of secularization as of democratization.
Whether this prepared the Mesopotamian citizen adequately to cope
with the emerging ideology of Assyrian kingship I will leave for others
to decide.83

82 On some of the problems involved, such as the number, gender, and character of
the personal deities, see Achsa Belind apud Yvonne Rosengarten, Trois Aspects de la Pense
Religieuse Sumrienne (Paris: de Boccard, 1971): 156159. See now in detail H. Vorlnder,
Mein Gott (= AOAT 23, 1975).
83 For Middle Assyrian notions of divine parentage (of the king) see Peter Machinist,
Literature as Politics: the Tukulti-Ninurta Epic and the Bible. CBQ 38 (1976): 455
482, esp. 465468. For the sacred marriage in the first millennium, see CAD and AHw
s.v. hasadu; dierently Renger, RLA 4 (1975): 258 24.


ke Sjberg, who has devoted so much of his scholarly eort to Sumerian literature, has also provided an authoritative description of the Old
Babylonian scribal schools which created and transmitted it.1 He was
puzzled by the ancient designation of the scribal school as -dub-baa, a problem only made thornier by van Dijks reading of the gloss
to it as e-pe-s-ad-bu2 Perhaps he will accept the etymology house of
the A-tablet, which I proposed a quarter of a century ago, and now
bring out of its obscurity in his honor.3 The reference is presumably to
one of the three primers with which instruction in the scribal schools
began, i.e. either Proto-Ea = naq, whose incipit is = A, or the socalled Silbenalphabet B whose incipit is a-a, a-a-a.4 The importance
of the latter primer was proverbial for, in Sjbergs translation, an old
saw held that a fellow who cannot produce (the vocabulary beginning
with) a-a, how will he attain fluent speech?5 The further notion that
a-a was in exclusive use at Nippur, and replaced outside Nippur by the
Silbenalphabet A (incipit me-me, pa4-pa4)6 seems less likely in view
of the reference to both series together in an Edubba-essay known in

.W. Sjberg, The Old Babylonian Eduba, in Sumerological Studies in Honor

of Thorkild Jacobsen, AS 20, 159179. This paper was presented to the 35e Rencontre
Assyriologique Internationale, Philadelphia, July 11, 1988.
2 AS 20, 159 n. 1; cf. J.J.A. van Dijk, VAS 24, 9 ad 6 iii 2=MSL 12, 97:133 and
112:133. Previously B. Landsberger Brief 75. In the discussion M. Civil pointed out that
the expression is not a genitive. C. Wilcke cited an unpublished etymology suggested by
D.O. Edzard: house which distributes the tablets; cf. meantime AfO 23 (1970) 92 n. 5.
For the standard Akkadian translation bt .tuppi see e.g. Sjberg, ZA 64 (1975) 140: 2, 4.
3 W.W. Hallo, Mesopotamia, [Education in] apud Martin M. Buber and Haim
Y. Ormian, eds., Educational Encyclopedia Vol. 4: History of Education, cc. 3946,
esp. c. 41 (in Hebrew).
4 Sjberg, AS 20, 162. The third, and perhaps most elementary, primer was called
5 AS 20, 163.
6 B. Landsberger apud M.
g and H. Kzyay, Zwei altbabylonische Schulbcher
aus Nippur, Trk Tarih Kurumu Yayinlarindan, 7th Series No. 35, 98.
H. Behrens, D. Loding, and M.T. Roth, Dumu-E2-Dub-Ba-A: Studies in Honor of Ake
W. Sjoberg, 1989, pages 237247. Reprinted with permission of the University of
Pennsylvania Press.


iii.5. nippur originals

exemplars from Ur7 as well as Nippur.8 That the Nippur school set the
standards in scribal education is, however, indisputable, and it is to it
that I wish to turn.
The great scribal school at Nippur was founded by Shulgi of Ur if we
may interpret lines 272332 of his hymn B to this eect,9 and it was here
that the neo-Sumerian corpus of literature was adapted10 and shaped to
the needs of the scribal curriculum. The preeminence of Nippur in this
enterprise was a corollary of the prestige of the temple of Enlil and
its priesthood. It was the ambition of successive or rival kings to rule
Nippur, to win the allegiance of this priesthood, and to commission
hymns in their honor from the graduates of the scribal school.11
The curriculum thus developed at the scribal school of Nippur became normative (perhaps even in its most elementary stages)12 for scribal schools of Old Babylonian date wherever found and it influenced
those of Middle Babylonian date in the periphery as well. Much of
the belletristic in Sumerian and even in Akkadian dealt with high life
and low life at Nippur, be that vignettes of aristocratic life associated
with figures like Ludingirra13 or the House of Ur-meme,14 or more
popular entertainments like The Poor Man of Nippur.15 As far as
the personal names mentioned in them can be identified with historical
personages, they can be firmly dated to the (later) Ur III and (early) Isin
periods (ca. 20501900 bc.); this lends some semblance of credibility to
the tradition that attributes a late medical text to an apkallu of Nippur
in the time of Enlil-bani of Isin.16
Sjberg, AS 20, 162 f. (UET 6/2, 167:14 f.); cf. already D.O. Edzard, review of
UET 6/2 in AfO 23 (1970) 93.
8 Sjberg, review of UET 6/2 in OrNS 37 (1968) 232241, esp. p. 235 (Nr. 167).
9 Hallo, JCS 20 (1966) 92, n. 33, here: III.2; The Ancient Near East: A History 83;

G.R. Castellino, Two Sulgi

Hymns (bc), Studi Semitici 42, 19, 223 f.; Hallo, AS 20, 198,
here: I.4.
10 Hallo, AS 20, 198, here: I.4.
11 Hallo, Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity, JCS 17 (1963) 112118, here:
III.1; Hallo and W.K. Simpson The Ancient Near East: A History 37 f., 78, 83, 86.
12 Cf. above, notes 68.
13 Cf. most recently Sjberg, The first Pushkin Museum elegy and new texts,
JAOS 103 (1983) 315320; J.S. Cooper, New Cuneiform Parallels to the Song of
Songs, JBL 90 (1971) 157162.
14 Cf. most recently R.L. Zettler and M.T. Roth, The Genealogy of the House of
Ur-me-me: A Second Look, AfO 31 (1984) 114.
15 Cf. most recently M. dej. Ellis, A New Fragment of the Tale of the Poor Man of
Nippur, JCS 26 (1974) 88 f., with the first Nippur fragment of the tale (neo-Babyonian).
16 Hunger Kolophone No. 533; Lambert, JCS 11 (1957) 2 n. 8.

iii.5. nippur originals


What was the floruit of the Nippur school? The answer to this question is not as simple or obvious as might be expected. To my knowledge, there is not a single dated literary or school text from Nippur
among the thousands already published, a fact not previously remarked
upon. There are, however, half a dozen other lines of evidence that can
be drawn upon. The first is paleography. Broadly speaking, the bulk
of the Nippur canonical texts belong in the Old Babylonian period to
judge by their writing, with only occasional survivals in neo-Sumerian
script and, thus, presumably of Ur III date.17 Secondly, literary texts
from other sites often enough do carry Old Babylonian dates, ranging
from the reign of Rimsn to that of Ammis.aduqa,18 i.e., at a maximum, from 18221626 bc. in the middle chronology. But the second
half of this two-century span can eectively be eliminated from consideration in light of a third factor, the evidence of dated archival texts
from Nippur. These occur more or less continuously throughout the
neo-Sumerian and Early Old Babylonian periods,19 but cease abruptly
in 1720 bc., the thirtieth year of Samsu-iluna.20 Fourthly, while a royal
hymn,21 and perhaps one other composition,22 was still written in Sumerian for and under Abi-esuh, the immediate successor of Samsu-iluna

(17111684), neither of them occur on tablets from Nippur. Fifth, the

native traditions confirm, however allusively, that Sumerian learning
disappeared from Babylonia and fled to the Sealand until that was


E.g., two joining fragments of e2-u6-nir; cf. Sjberg, The Collection of the Sumerian Temple Hymns, TCS 3, 6 and 16, and pls. xxxvii f. Among the Nippur texts
assigned to Yale (3 N-T, 4 N-T and 5 N-T) are a number of Ur III exemplars of literary
texts; they were copied by A. Goetze and will be published by the Oriental Institute.
For 6 N-T texts of Ur III date, cf. M. Civil, OrNS 54 (1985) 33 f.
18 Sjberg, TCS 3, 6.
19 See e.g. for the interval from Lipit-Enlil of Isin to (the twenty-eighth year of ) RimSin of Larsa (18731795 bc) R. Marcel Sigrist, Les sattukku dans lEsumesa durant la
priode dIsin et de Larsa, BibMes 11, esp. p. 7.
20 Elizabeth C. Stone, Economic crisis and social upheaval in Old Babylonian
Nippur, in L.D. Levine and T.C. Young, Jr., eds., Mountains and Lowlands: Essays
in the Archaeology of Greater Mesopotamia, BibMes 7, 267289, esp. 270 f.
21 TCL 16, 81, for which see J. van Dijk, Lhymne Marduk avec intercession pour
le roi Abi-"esuh, MIO 12 (19661967) 5774.
for which see Hallo, JCS 17 (1963) 115 n. 55, here: III.1 and JCS 19
22 CT 44, 18,
(1965) 57, here: III.1, has now been edited by B. Alster and U. Jeyes, A Sumerian Poem
about Early Rulers, Ac.Sum. 8 (1986) 111, but col. rev. i line 5 which E, Sollberger
apparently read igi A-bi-e-su!-u[h...], parallel to igi dUtudx [...] in the preceding line,

e mah[...]and left untranslated in the new

is read uhhur (i.e. uhhur3 = IGI.A)-bi



iii.5. nippur originals

reunited to Babylonia,23 presumably under the Kassite king Ulamburiash (ca. 1420 bc.).24 Finally, the general pattern of cuneiform archives
and libraries is that they are best preserved from the century (or half
century) immediately preceding their destruction. Combining all these
lines of evidence, we may tentatively assign the bulk of the Sumerian
literary texts from Nippur, and hence the floruit of its scribal school, to
the century from 18201720 bc.
In the three hundred years that followed (17201420 bc) under the
rule of the Sealand Dynasty, Nippur was unoccupied.25 Under Kassite
rule, it became the seat of a gu2-en-na (= sandabakku,26 or gu"ennakku27),
with or without special privileges.28 Whether its scribal school reopened
is not known, for there are few if any copies of Sumerian literary texts
that can unambiguously be dated to the Kassite period and attributed
to Nippur.29 What is apparent is that its literary heritage was not
lost entirely. Already in the reign of Nazi-maruttash (ca. 13071282),
a collection of hemerologies copied at Assur includes one with the
famous colophon which, in W.G. Lamberts translation, reads30 Dies
fas according to the seven a[pkall?], originals(s) of Sippar, Nippur, Babylon, Larsa, Ur, Uruk, and Eridu. The scholars excerpted, selected,
and gave to Nazi-maruttas, king of the world etc. Although Lambert
and Hermann Hunger31 dier on the significance of this colophon for
the history of canonization in cuneiform,32 both agree that it provides
23 Hallo, JCS 17 (1963) 116 f, here: III.1. Dierently J.D. Muhly, JCS 24 (1972) 179,
who questions the assumed migration of the scribal tradition from Babylon to the
Sealand in the 28th year of the reign of Samsuiluna.
24 J.A. Brinkman, Materials and Studies for Kassite History 1, 31 and 318 f.
25 McGuire Gibson apud Stone, BibMes 7, 270 n. 9.
26 B. Landsberger, Das Amt des sandabakku (GU .EN.NA) von Nippur in Lands2
berger Brief 7577, Brinkman, The Monarchy of the Kassite Dynasty, CRRAI 19,
395408, esp. 406 f.
27 So CAD G s.v.; cf. MSL 12, 97:135, and John F. Robertson. The Internal Political
and Economic Structure of Old Babylonian Nippur: the Guennakkum and his House,
JCS 36 (1984) 145190.
28 Brinkman, CRRAI 19, 408, and n. 83.
29 For the alleged case of PBS 10/2, 3 see now P. Michalowski, JCS 39 (1987) 42, who
considers it neither Kassite nor from Nippur. For PBS 10/4, 12 (Hunger No. 40) see
below, n. 81. For Rimut-Gula and Taqis-Gula as Nippur scholars and authors at this(?)
time cf. Lambert, JCS 16 (1962) 75 f.
30 JCS 11 (1957) 8. S.J. Lieberman informs me that, according to collation, the text
but not 7 ap-[kal-li] (forthcoming).
can be restored as 7 um-[ma-ni] or 7 DUB.[MES]
31 Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, AOAT 2, 6 and no. 292.
32 Cf. Hallo, The Concept of Canonicity in Cuneiform and Biblical Literature: A
Comparative Appraisal, (in press), here: X.3.

iii.5. nippur originals


early evidence for the recovery of literary texts from Nippur in Kassite
The same may be argued for Tukulti-Ninurta I (12441208 bc.), who
plundered the libraries of Babylonia and kidnapped their scholars to
begin some kind of renascence of learning in Assyria33and no doubt
Kassite Nippur was one of his targets. (Note that after Adad-sumaus.ur [12181189], no major restorations were undertaken at Nippur
until the time of Assurbanipal.)34 Certainly the library founded at Assur
by Tiglath-Pileser I (11151077) incorporated copies of actual Nippur
originals, as their colophons testify. These have been conveniently catalogued by Hunger and include exemplars of ana ittisu tablets III35 and
VI36 as well as two exemplars of a bilingual sir-nam-sub to Nin-Isina,37
which Hunger describes as the oldest examples of originals attributed to
a private owner.38 What is particularly noteworthy about this composition is that it is duplicated by an Old Bablonian exemplar (presumably
in Sumerian only) to which Mark Cohen has called attention in his edition of the text.39 It oers at most only one variant of more than trivial
significance, but since it is fragmentary and unpublished, it is not the
best candidate for my argument.
For this purpose I prefer to move on to the neo-Assyrian period,
when under royal auspices the public and private libraries of Babylonia
were again searched in order to stock the royal libraries of Assyria,
this time at Nineveh. This was true in particular of Assurbanipal (668
627 bc), who is widely regarded as the author of the well-known rescript
to the governor of Borsippa ordering the confiscation of all kinds of
literary works both from temple and private libraries for inclusion in
the Ninevite libraries.40 As Lieberman has pointed out, the text is not
a letter but a school text in two (identical) copies; if at all the word


Peter Machinist, Literature as Politics: The Tukulti-Ninurta Epic and the Bible,
CBQ 38 (1976) 455482. The plunder of the libraries is detailed in vi rev. B 29
(p. 457); the kidnapping of the scholars remains for now a hypothesis on my part. Cf.
Machinist, The Epic of Tukulti-Ninurta I (unpub. Ph.D. diss., Yale Univ., 1978), 128 f.,
34 Maximilian Streck, Assurbanipal, VAB 7, lxiv.
35 Hunger Kolophone No. 58.
36 Hunger Kolophone No. 43A.
37 Hunger Kolophone No. 44.
38 Hunger Kolophone 7.
39 JAOS 95 (1975) 611 n. 20.
40 Simo Parpola, JNES42 (1983) 11, based on CT22, 1.


iii.5. nippur originals

of a king, there is no demonstrable connection to Assurbanipal, for it

was bought together with tablets from Sippar(?).41 However, there is
other evidence that Assurbanipal followed closely in the footsteps of
Tukulti-Ninurta I: as Simo Parpola has recently shown, he followed up
his triumph in 648 bc. over Babylonia (which had rebelled under his
brother Shamash-shum-ukin), by demanding or requesting well over
2,000 canonical tablets from private owners in Babylonia, and then
carefully cataloguing them.42 Among these accessions, two are specifically said to be from Nippur, including a single tablet belonging to
Aplaia and a collection of 125 tablets belonging to another exorcist,
Arrabu.43 The tablets in question are, presumably, all parts of the late
canon of omens, exorcisms, laments and the like.
But the library of Assurbanipal also preserved examples of Sumerian
literary texts that originally formed part of the neo-Sumerian canon.44
Ordinarily these had been continuously handed down in the stream
of tradition, and provided with an interlinear Akkadian translation.
Nippur may have played a part in this transmission, to judge by the
substitution of Nippur deities like Ninurta for what may have been
originally Ningirsu in cases like lugal-e and an-gim.45 But what of the
recovery of a Nippur original that had been lost in the intervening
We actually possess a parade example of a Sumerian literary text
copied, according to its colophon, from a Nippur original, and of which
this original, or a duplicate, has turned up in the modern excavations.
I refer to the drum-song (tigi) in honor of the goddess Nintu in her
guise as Aruru. This text is known both in an Old Babylonian exemplar recovered by the original University of Pennsylvania excavations
at Nippur and now part of the Hilprecht Sammlung at Jena and in a
neo-Assyrian copy preserved in six separate fragments from Nineveh
in the Kuyunjik collections of the British museum. The Old Babylonian exemplar was published by Bernhardt and Kramer in 1967,46

41 S.J. Lieberman, Why Did Assurbanipal Collect Cuneiform Tablets?, paper read
at AOS meeting, March 20, 1988.
42 Assyrian Library Records, JNES 42 (1983) 129.
43 JNES 42 (1983) 14.
44 P. Michalowski, JCS 39 (1987) 38 f. and nn. 49.
45 Hallo, AS 20, 183185, 198, here: I.4; JAOS 101 (1981) 253257.
46 TuM n.F. 4, 86; collations in Wilcke Kollationen 85.

iii.5. nippur originals


the neo-Assyrian fragments by Stephen Langdon in 191347separately,

even though Bezold had already suggested more than twenty years earlier that two of them (BL 95 and 102) belonged together.48 One of them
(BL 95) was translated by Langdon49 and Witzel.50 Four of the fragments (BL 95, 97, 102 and 127) were identified as belonging to our text
by ke Sjberg in 1969,51 and these were duly employed in the edition of the text in 197652 by Claus Wilcke, who had also collated the
Jena text in the same year.53 Independently, Jacobsen had noted two
of Langdons fragments (BL 9554 and 97) as duplicates of the Jena text
in 1973 in his comprehensive Notes on Nintur.55 Herbert Sauren has
also provided me with a detailed strophic analysis based on my transliteration, and J. van Dijk with extensive comments on my preliminary
My own study of the text appeared in 1973, albeit in a context not
readily accessible to colleagues.56 I identified two further fragments in
Langdons volume (BL 107 and 111) and asked Edmond Sollberger to
join all six. He confirmed the join by letter of February 28, 1969,
and I prepared a hand copy on the occasion of a visit to the British
Museum in 1971. It is published below, together with a photograph
made in 1969, with the kind permission of C.B.F. Walker and the
Trustees of the British Museum. In 1976, I again dealt with the text,
and its implications for the history of Sumerian literature.57 The new
edition promised there is now superfluous, since it would dier only
to a limited extent from that published at the same time by Wilcke,
but it is worth noting the colophon of the rejoined exemplar. Although
still heavily damaged, enough remains of the first line and the ends

BL Nos. 95, 97, 102, 107, 111 and 127.

Bezold Cat. vol. 2 sub K. 2489 and K. 6110.
49 BL 53 f.
50 M. Witzel, AnOr 10, No. 70.
51 OrNS 38 (1969) 355 (review of TuM NF4) and TCS 3, 153 (ad line 267).
52 AS 20, 235239; cf. already idem, Kindlers Literatur-lexikon 5 (19651971) 2127
top (stanzas A-B).
53 Above, note 46.
54 He wrote 75 by mistake.
55 OrNS 42 (1973) 296. See p. 288 and more recently idem, JQR 70 (1985) 45 and
n. 10 for possible etymologies of Aruru.
56 Problems in Sumerian Hermeneutics, Perspectives in Jewish Learning 5 (1973)
112, here: I.3.
57 AS 20, 193, here: I.4.


iii.5. nippur originals

of the last four lines to make a complete restoration possible. The first
line clearly reads: Copy of Nippur, written and collated according
to its original.58 The next six lines can be restored on the basis of
one of the standard colophons of Assurbanipal59 though the precise
form restored here recurs only once more, on the inscription of Agumkakrime,60 as follows: tablet of Assurbanipal, king of the universe,
king of Assyria, who relies on Assur and Ninlil. He who trusts in you
will not be shamed, oh king of the gods, Assur! Whoever carries o
(the tablet) (or) writes his name (on it) in place of my name, may
Assur and Ninlil angrily and furiously overthrow him and destroy his
name (and) his seed in the land! In my article of fifteen years ago,
I cited this example to elucidate one of the problems in Sumerian
hermeneutics, namely the survival of Sumerian literature from Old
Babylonian times to neo-Assyrian times and beyond, when they could
conceivably have exercised some influence, however indirect, on other
literatures, including the Bible. By the side of direct survival and what I
called organic transformation and creative adaptation including but
not limited to translation into Akkadian, I saw our text as testimony to
the Mesopotamians rediscovery of their own past,61 and concluded
the rediscovery of lost texts may be added to the preservation or
adaptation of surviving texts as means whereby the literary heritage of
the Bronze Age passed into the Iron Age within Mesopotamia.62 The
preservation of traditional texts and the degree to which their wording
was respected in later versions has often been studied, most recently by
Mark Cohen in connection with the lamentations.63 Adaptation can be
studied, e.g., by means of the evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic.64 But
rarely has any attention been paid to the case of the recovery of literary
texts in antiquity in this connection.
At this time, I would like therefore to consider the extent to which
the late copy of our composition did or did not adhere to the Nippur

Entered (in part) by Hunger Kolophone as No. 538.

Type e in VAB 6, 358 f.; Hunger Kolophone No. 319e.
60 5R 33.
61 Perspectives in Jewish Learning 5 (1973) 8, here: I.3.
62 Perspectives in Jewish Learning 5 (1973) 10, here: I.3.
63 Mark E. Cohen, Sumerian Hymnology: The Ersem-ma, HUCA Supplements 2,
esp. 110138: Ersemmas preserved in both OB and First Millennium copies.
64 Jerey H. Tigay, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic; cf. Jerey H. Tigay,
Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism.

iii.5. nippur originals


original, referring thus, somewhat loosely, to the sole surviving Old

Babylonian exemplar. We are already familiar with late copies made
from monumental texts and some of these, especially of neo-Babylonian
date when royalty itself set an example of antiquarian interest, show
remarkable fidelity, even in ductus, to their prototypes,65 though others just as clearly do not.66 There are also imitations of Sumerian
monumental inscriptions, including one from Nippur by Assurbanipal
so authentic looking that Hilprecht published it as an inscription of
the Kassite king Meli-Shipak.67 Even archival texts were occasionally
recopied;68 typically such copies were characterized by nail markings
which appear on the edges.69 So it should occasion no surprise to find
the same true of literary texts. Let us see what dierences they display. The poem is carefully structured into three three-line stanzas in
the sagarra70 each echoed by a stanza identical except for the prefixing to the stanza of the name of the goddess (sometimes prefaced by
mother), so the following survey will deal with two lines at a time.
Of these dierences, the greater part are purely orthographic (see
figure 1). They occur in Old Babylonian texts as well and could easily
have occurred in the Old Babylonian original from which the neoAssyrian copyist worked. This applies to items 1, 2, 3, 7, 11, 12 and 16.
Simple scribal lapses are involved in items 14, 15 and probably 4, new
scribal conventions in items 9 and 17. No dierences are registered for
items 10 and 13. That leaves only four significant dierences. In item 5,
the late scribe seems genuinely to have been unfamiliar with the sign
LAGAR. (For an example in neo-Assyrian see the colophon of Irra I

Cf. e.g., MLC 2075, noted in Hallo, Royal Inscriptions of Ur: A Typology,
HUCA 33 (1962) 143 sub Ur-Nammu 7 iii; other examples HUCA 33 (1962) sub

Ur-Nammu 27 ii and 37; Sulgi

4 ii and 54; Amar-Sin 3 ii; Su-Sin
20; Ibbi-Sin 910;
Hallo, Bibliography of Early Babylonian Royal Inscriptions, BiOr 18 (1961) 414 sub
Isbi-Irra 2, Iddin-Dagan 2; Isme-Dagan 10, 12; Ur-Ninurta 2; Warad-Sin 9 ii and 26
28; Sin-kasid 8 ii; D.O. Edzard, RlA 6, 64 f.; CT 44, 2; M. Civil, OrNS 54 (1985) 40;
A.R. George, Iraq 48 (1986) 133146.
66 Cf. e.g. UET 1, 172 (= Amar-Sin 3 ii) and D.O. Edzards comment in RIA 6, 64 f.
67 BE 1, 82; cf. VAB 6, lxiii f.
68 Cf. e.g. E. Leichty, A Legal Text from the Reign of Tiglath-Pileser III, Studies . . .
Reiner, AOS 67, 227229.
69 AOS 67, 229; JCS 36 (1984) (= TBC 1) 2 f.
70 This strophic structure has been studied by Wilcke in his edition, but note an
identical structure in the sagidda of Ibbi-Sin C, edited by Sjberg, OrSuec 1920 (1970
1971) 147149, 155157, 166170. (Complete lines 79 of Sjbergs edition accordingly,
that is, to agree with lines 24, not with line 5.)


iii.5. nippur originals

in KAR 168, rev. ii 33.) It is hard to make sense of his substitution; the
best I can do is suggest that he conceived of en and si as somehow the
constituent parts of the oce of ensi.71
Figure 1
Item Stanza

Line(s) Line(s) OB Original

(subscript) 45


NA Copy

kur-kur-ra- ka

[mu-u]n?- na-ab -be2


d[ur2-ku3 gir]i4-zal-la


a. 7 only.
b. 17 only, 14 omits.
c. Restore e2-gal (with Sauren) or tug2-ma8(ME)
with RlA 4, 257. But note traces of sign.


lines 1819 written as one line


edur -ku e giri -zal-la


lines 4344 written as one line


d. 29 only, 33 omits:
ee. 36 only, 40 omits.
f. 37 only, 41 ama.
g. 38 only, 42 omits.

In item 6, the late scribe again seems to have misunderstood his

prototype. Unfamiliar with the concept of the divine birth and descent
of kings,72 he simply had the goddess seat the king on the holy thronedais (parakku).

71 For a similar suggestion in another context see S.N. Kramer, ANET3 (1969) 574
n. 12, but see on this B. Alster, Sum. nam-en, nam-lagar, JCS 23 (1978) 116 f., esp.
n. 1213. For another possible explanation, see Hallo, AS 20, 193 n. 84, here: I.4. In
the discussion, M. Civil pointed out that LAGAR is routinely written like SI in late
72 Cf. Sjberg, OrSuec 21 (1972) 97 for Nintu-Ninhursaga in this connection, notably
a clue to the date of our text?
as the mother of Hammurapi and Samsu-iluna. Is this
Cf. also Sjberg, TCS 3, 142 f.

iii.5. nippur originals


In item 8, the late scribe may have been unfamiliar with the asseverative preformative, and simply omitted it. Its occurrence in late texts is,
at best, rare.73
The most significantindeed surprisingvariant is the final item.
Where the original describes the composition, quite properly, as a
drum-song (tigi) of Nintu, the copy calls it a drum-song of Ninurta.
Now it is true that we know of no other tigis to Nintu, while we
already have recovered five to Ninurta. In addition to the four listed
by Wilcke,74 see now what must be a tigi for Ishme-Dagan;75 admittedly the rubric is lost, but the presence of the notation sagiddarev.
2and its gis-gi4-galrev. 3and the absence of barsud and sabatuk
makes that seem likelier than an adab.76 And it is also true that Ninurta enjoyed particular veneration in Assyria beginning with TukultiNinurta I in Middle Assyrian times.77 But our poem is so obviously
about the goddess and her obstetric role that it is hard to account for
a confusion with the warlike Ninurta. Moreover, the literature about
Nintu as Aruru was also extensive, and much of it survived into the late
period. It deserves treatment in its own right; here I will content myself
with cataloguing it. (See Appendix.)
Thus the goddess Nintu in the guise of Aruru was no stranger to the
late scribes, even though more often in the context of laments than of
hymns. The subscript of the Nineveh exemplar presumably represents
an outright error in comparison with its Nippur original.
Assyrian access to the surviving literary heritage of Nippur may have
been eased somewhat by that citys role as a haven of pro-Assyrian loyalty in the tumultuous last decades of the empirea loyalty for which
Nippur paid dearly even before the empire fell,78 and probably even
more thereafter. Nevertheless, Nippur continued to furnish originals,
now for Babylonian copyists, including another hemerology of uncertain provenience.79 By Achaemenid times, it had certainly regained
its commercial, if not its religious or cultural prominence, as is clear
from the records of the house of Murashu and similar enterprises, and
A. Falkenstein, ZA 48 (1944) 73.
AS 20, 290 f.
75 Sjberg, OrSuec 2324 (19741975) No 2.
76 Cf. Hallo, BiOr 23 (1966) 246, here: III.3; Wilcke, AS 20, 258.
77 Cf. H.W.F. Saggs, The Greatness that was Babylon 336.
78 Cf. Oppenheim, Siege Documents from Nippur, Iraq 17 (1955) 6089; Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (2nd ed.), 161.
79 CT 4, 6; cf. Hunger Kolophone No, 480; Jensen, KB 6/2, 42 .


iii.5. nippur originals

Akkadian, as well as Sumerian, texts continued to be copied there.80

So it is that, even as late as Seleucid times, Nippur is still the source
of literary originals. The latest known colophon to this eect,81 on
an undated tablet said to have been found at Uruk, but more likely
originating in Nippur, occurs on the ritual of the kal priest.
With this rapid survey I have done no more than remind all of us
that the recovery of neo-Sumerian literature from Nippur as a royal
objective probably began as early as Kassite times, is well attested in
Middle Assyrian and neo-Assyrian times, and continued under private
or priestly auspices into Seleucid times. The modern excavations at
Nippur, begun a century ago, which have done so much for the rediscovery and restoration of Sumerian literature, have thus resumed a process with a millennial ancestry.
Hymns to Nintu as Aruru
In addition to our own hymn, the roster includes:
1. An ersemma entitled egi2-mah-dA-ru-ru, listed in the Kuyunjik

catalogue first published as 4R2 53 (No. 69 in Cohen Ersemma

11). The text is unknown but it is unlikely to be our tigi-hymn,
which begins nin (or egi2)-dA-ru-ru.
2. A lamentation entitled ul4-ul4-la mu-un-gin, published by John
A. Maynard from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection
(No. 112) in JSOR 3 (1919) 1418. The YBC possesses a copy made
of this text by Vaughn Crawford in July 1957 and a transliteration
and translation prepared by T. Jacobsen.
3. An OB lamentation (no rubric!) (CT 36, 4750) newly edited by
Kramer, Kes and its Fate in Gratz College AV (1971) 165175
and entitled a-dA-rux-rux, (EBUR) e-dA-rux-rux, photo: Kramer,
RA 65 (1971) 182 f.
] Emesal lament(?) from
4. [ a-s]i-ir-zu mu2-ab-ba-si-[
Brussels? published by Speleers as Speleers Recueil 189; cf. Zimmern, ZA 32 (19181919) 56 f. Krecher Kultlyrik 119 . has shown
that part of this text is paralleled in VAS 2, 25 ii 815 (specifically,
cf. 11. 3 f. with VAS 2, 25 ii 13 and 12, 11. 7 f. with ii 14 f.)

Hunger Kolophone No. 40(!), 119123; cf. J. Oelsner, RA 76 (1982) 94 f.

Hunger Kolophone No. 110; cf. Thureau-Dangin, RA 16 (1919) 155.

iii.5. nippur originals


5. The third and fourth stanza (ki-ru-gu2) of a balag to dMah begin

ning edin-lil2-la2 sa3-mu lil2-la2, edited by Scheil in RA 17 (1920)
4550 and by Witzel in AnOr 10 as no. 18. The fourth stanza
begins a e2 a e2 dA-ru-ru edin-lil2-la2.
6. PBS 10/2, 115117 edited by Langdon there and by Witzel, AnOr
10, No. 34.
7. Zimmern, VAS 10, No. 173.
8. Genouillac Kich 2, C 56.
9. TCS 3, No. 7 (hymn to the e2-kes3 of Aruru).
10. Genouillac Kich 1, B471.
11. Speleers Recueil No. 203 (cf. Zimmern ZA 32 [19181919] 57 f.) (cf.
Krecher Kultlyrik 81 .).
12. KAR 73 rev. // Langdon OECT 6, pl. XVI (Sm. 679 + 110), cf.
pp. 56 f.
13. The Kesh temple hymn (Gragg, TCS 3).
14. Ashmolean 1930.362 (reverse?), Emesal lament to Aruru?



I. A Sumerian Psalter?
Since the first Psalm studies of Hermann Gunkel at the beginning of
this century, the exegesis of the Biblical Psalter has accorded an ever
more prominent place to the comparison of the hymns and prayers
of the cuneiform tradition of ancient Mesopotamia.2 As early as 1922,
Stammer ventured to point out numerous Sumero-Akkadian parallels
to the structure of Biblical psalms3 in a study which, admittedly, found
little favor with Assyriologists.4 In the 1930s at least three dierent
monographs reverted to the theme, Cumming comparing The Assyrian and Hebrew Hymns of Praise, Widengren the Akkadian and
Hebrew Psalms of Lamentation,5 and Castellino both The lamentations and the hymns in Babylonia and in Israel.6 All these studies
retain their usefulness but, with the exception of Castellinos, they suer
from a common defect: they tend to exempt the Mesopotamian material from the very Gattungsforschung which, following Gunkel, they
accept as axiomatic for Hebrew psalmody.
This is the more strange since the Akkadian material comes provided
with its own generic classifications, and with specific indications of its
cultic Sitz im Leben. Often enough, it is cited by title only, and incorporated within elaborate cultic calendars or ritual prescriptions and
1 Originally presented, under the title of The Psalter of the Sumerians, to the
Philip W. Lown Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies, Brandeis University, November 2,
2 For exhaustive bibliographies of current psalm exegesis, cf. the periodic surveys
in Theologische Rundschau n.F. 1 (1929, by M. Haller), 23 (1955, by J.J. Stamm). For a
comprehensive historical survey, cf. K.-H. Bernhardt, Das Problem der Altorientalischen
Knigsideologie (= VT Supp. 8, 1961) chs. 13.
3 Bernhardt, op. cit., 83 n. 5.
4 Cf. the review by B. Landsberger, OLZ 28 (1925) 479483.
5 Bernhardt, loc. cit.
6 Le lamentazioni individuali e gli inni in Babilonia e in Israele (1939).


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

thus clearly secondary in importance to its context.7 Indeed, Gunkel8

and Mowinckel9 relied on these aspects of the Mesopotamian material
to justify a parallel approach to the Psalms, and Begrich10 had drawn
elaborate comparisons between the individual laments of the Bible and
the private prayers of Mesopotamia as early as 1928.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the comparative study of the Psalms turned
most of its attention, perhaps understandably, to the newly discovered
Ugaritic texts which were evidently so much closer to the Psalms in language, style and imagery than any other Ancient Near Eastern parallels
yet unearthed. Pattons monograph on the Canaanite parallels in the
Book of Psalms was followed by the briefer treatments of Coppens and
OCallaghan, and a number of penetrating contributions by Albright.11
Yet the fact remains that the Ugaritic texts adduced in all these studies
are neither hymns nor prayers, and thus can only indirectly serve to
illuminate the categories of Biblical psalmody as such.
The present decade has, happily, witnessed a reassertion of the relevance of the Mesopotamian material while recognizing the need to
confine the assessment of parallels within comparable Gattungen, at
least to begin with. Thus E.R. Dalglishs valuable study of Psalm 51 in
the light of Ancient Near Eastern Patternism12 is a deliberate attempt
to meet the methodological standards first demanded of Stammers
book forty years earlier: to compare this unique subspecies of individual lament with the comparable penitential categories in cuneiform.
Bernhardt has reviewed the entire history of Psalm exegesis with special reference to the so-called royal psalms, and evaluated these in
the light of the Ancient Near Eastern ideology of kingship without,
however, limiting himself to a specific cuneiform genre.13 More recently

No adequate study of literary types in the vast Akkadian liturgy has yet appeared although as compared with the Psalter, the Babylonian texts promise a
much larger body of definite results, as in many cases not only the liturgical texts are
preserved in writing, but also the order of the ceremony in which they were sung or
recited, W.G. Lambert, AfO 19 (19591960) 47. Cf. already S. Langdon Calendars of
liturgies and prayers, AJSL 42 (1926) 110127.
8 cf. e.g. Gunkel-Begrich, Einleitung in die Psalmen (1933) 1.3 1.5.
9 Cf. now D.R. Ap-Thomas, An appreciation of Sigmund Mowinckels contribution to Biblical studies, JBL 85 (1966) 315325.
10 Bernhardt, loc. cit.
11 Ibid.
12 (Leiden, 1962), with notes by A. Falkenstein. Cf. the review by Castellino, VT 15
(1965) 116120.
13 Op. cit. (note 2).

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


still, Mitchell Dahoods commentary on Psalms 150 in the Anchor

Bible has returned to the Ugaritic parallels with a vengeance, in part
out of an understandable disenchantment with the excesses of the older
Mesopotamian comparisons.14
But to say that recent Psalm criticism has more accurately recognized the limits of the comparative method is not to imply that it has
everywhere reached them. For if the rich spectrum of Mesopotamian
religious poetry was not monolithic in terms of its genres, neither was
it a single unchanging canon throughout the nearly three millennia of
its attested existence. Quite the contrary, I believe we can distinguish
at least four dierent cuneiform canons within Mesopotamia, each
the product of a very dierent age and set of religious presuppositions,
and each thoroughly transformed before it was accepted into the next
canon. Of these, only the two latest ones have hitherto been systematically invoked in any comparative study of the Biblical Psalter: on
the one hand, that is, the Akkadian canon which, originating in Old
Babylonian times, was expanded and organized in Middle Babylonian
times and enshrined in the great libraries of the neo-Assyrians and, on
the other hand, the late bilingual Sumero-Akkadian tradition of Middle
Babylonian times which, elaborated in those same libraries, received its
final form in the epigonic schools of Seleucid and Parthian Babylonia
long after the demise of a native Akkadian body politic.14a
But there were at least two other recognized bodies of cuneiform literature which preceded these. One of these is the Old Sumerian canon
whose beginnings go back, it would seem, almost to the beginnings of
writing itself, and which may well have been gathered into an ocial
corpus under the Sargonic kings of Agade. Much of this literature is
only at this moment beginning to yield to the spade of the excavator
and the cryptographic skills of the decipherer, and it is still too early to
assess its true import.15
But there is a more substantial body of Sumerian literature, which
I would like to call neo-Sumerian and which, at least since the Second World War, has absorbed the attention of ever more Assyriologists.
This literature, chiefly created under the dynasties of Agade, Ur III
14 M. Dahood, Psalms I (150), (The Anchor Bible, New York, 1966). Cf. the review
by D.A. Robertson, JBL 85 (1966) 484486.
14a Cf e.g. the numerous parallels considered by G.R. Driver, The Psalms in the light
of Babylonian research, apud D.C. Simpson, ed., The Psalmists (1926) 109175.
15 Hallo, JAOS 83 (1963) 167, here: II.1; M. Civil and R.D. Biggs, Notes sur des
textes sumriens archaques, RA 60 (1966) 116.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

and Isin I, was organized into a scholarly curriculum in the Old Babylonian period. It attained a high degree of literary excellence and to
some extent survived the destruction of the Old Babylonian schools to
influence, as I think, also the literary products of later ages. Up to now,
this neo-Sumerian literature has been almost completely neglected by
comparative Biblical studies, at least as far as the comparative study
of the Psalms is concerned. Yet I hope to show that we now know it
well enough to attempt to compare it, not only with the Akkadian and
bilingual religious poetry of later Mesopotamia, but also with Biblical
In order to do so within the bounds of the methodology already
set forth, it is necessary in the first place to essay a generic classification of neo-Sumerian religious poetry. Only then will it be possible
to match the resulting categories with the corresponding genres in the
later material, whether Babylonian or Biblical. Finally, a single genre
from the several canons will be subjected to closer scrutiny in order to
weigh specific comparisons and contrasts in the balance.
The concise bibliography of neo-Sumerian literature compiled by
Maurice Lambert may serve as a starting-point for our classification.16
His survey recognizes fifteen separate genres. Two of these, myths and
epics, fall outside the purview of religious literature in the narrow
sense at issue here, i.e. hymns and prayers. This is also true of the
three types of wisdom literature which Lambert distinguishes17 even
though, of course, a few examples of wisdom compositions may be
found among the neo-Sumerian hymns just as they found their way
into the Hebrew Psalter. A similar ambiguity surrounds the so-called
love-poems on the one hand, and on the other the catalogue texts
which have an analogue in Ps. 68 if Albrights interpretation of the
latter text18 is correct. Finally, we must eliminate from consideration the
genre of Learned and Scientific Texts which are largely or wholly
prose in form and non-literary (i.e. monumental or archival) in origin.
That leaves us with seven genres of neo-Sumerian religious poetry, to
wit: lamentations, hymns to gods, hymns to temples, liturgies, royal
hymns, compositions devoted to the philosophy of history, and those
on religious philosophy,seven prima facie components of an assumed
neo-Sumerian psalter. Let us see whether they warrant the label, first

La littrature sumrienne . . . , RA 55 (1961) 177196, 56 (1962) 8190, 214.

For a more detailed subdivision, cf. E.I. Gordon, Bi. Or. 17 (1960) 124.
HUCA 23/1 (19501951) 139.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


collectively on the basis of their common treatment and canonical

arrangement, and then individually on the basis of their distinguishing
To begin with, then, can we speak of the seven genres, taken together, as a canonical19 collection in the sense of the Biblical Psalter?
The usual criteria here would seem to be an authoritative text, a
reasonably fixed number and sequence of individual compositions, and
the grouping of these compositions into recognizable books or subdivisions.20 Recent discoveries at Qumran have warned us not to apply
these tests too rigorously even to the Biblical Psalter, and the evidence is
even more tenuous in the case of the Sumerian texts. But it does suce
to show that some of them, at least, are met there as well. Duplicate
exemplars of single compositions, for instance, show a large measure
of agreement even when found at widely scattered sites, not only in
wording but also in textual details that may be described as masoretic
such as line counts, strophic structure, classification and so forth. Or
again, compositions of the same genre, or of closely related genres, were
often collected on single tablets in an order which seems to have been
more or less fixed. We are not yet in a position to restore this order
in anything like its entirety, nor the major groupings of the corpus
as a whole, but the analogy of the later canonizations of cuneiform
literature suggests that the Old Babylonian schools were busy fixing
both order and grouping. In short, we will not be adjudged terribly
premature if we already operate with the hypothesis that the religious
poetry of the neo-Sumerian tradition constituted the materials of what,
in eect, may be described as a complete Psalter from the literary point
of view.
Let us now turn more specifically to the individual genres as isolated
above, beginning with the hymns, a category which by virtue of its
importance gave its name to the entire Biblical Psalter, and which
survived it as a living form in the Hodayoth of Qumran and the psalms
of Sirah if not of Solomon. The same category is also well-represented
in the neo-Sumerian corpus, in all of its diversity. There are, first of
all, the hymns to various deities, corresponding to the Biblical hymns
to God in several respects. For one thing, they are the most numerous
of the hymns. More important are the structural parallels, the natural
19 I am concerned here only with the literary sense of the term, not its religious or
cultic connotations.
20 Cf. Hallo, IEJ 12 (1962) 2126, here: I.1.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

consequence of the essential nature of hymns, which, by their very

definition, were laudatory. Thus the invocation of the deity in the
vocative is followed (or, in the Sumerian, initially preceded) by one or
more epithets in apposition to the divine name, and by long recitals
of the deitys attributes, and of his achievementspast, present and
futurein mythology and history, whether these are properly objects of
praise, or awe or outright terror. The public recital which provided the
setting for the hymn is frequently alluded to in its very text by repeated
exhortations to the soloist or chorus to sing the deitys praises or to
respond to them antiphonally. The typical hymn concludes with a final
doxology phrased in one of a relatively limited number of stereotyped
formulas. All these characteristics apply equally to the Biblical as to the
neo-Sumerian examples of the genre.
The more specialized hymnal genres of the Psalter are also represented in Sumerian. Thus the Zion songs may be likened to the more
elaborate hymns to temples and sacred cities in the neo-Sumerian corpus, while the royal hymns21 resemble that class of Sumerian hymns
to a deity which include, or conclude with, a prayer on behalf of a specific king. These hymns have been described as royal hymns in the
wider sense, and had a place in the public worship of the temples.
They must be distinguished from Sumerian royal hymns in the stricter
sense, in which the kings praises are put into his own mouth in the first
person, or addressed to him in the second. Such hymns have no liturgical annotations or classifications; they have few references to the deity
nor pray to him on behalf of the king, but rather emphasize the kings
merits. Presumably they belonged in the courtly ceremonial rather than
in the temple service, and it is harder to find their analogue in the Biblical Psalter, though a relatively secular poem such as Ps. 45 might be
cited for comparison.
Conversely, it is dicult to find a precise Sumerian equivalent to the
much-debated accession hymns of the Psalter. For while the ideology
of Mesopotamian kingship may have somehow influenced the latter,
it is there applied to God in a fundamentally dierent sense. This is
true also in large measure of such minor Biblical categories as pilgrim
songs, congregational thanksgivings, legend and wisdom psalms.
Liturgies on the other hand, are represented in the neo-Sumerian
corpus by a number of examples.
21 Cf. W.H. Ph. Rmer, Sumerische Knigshymnen der Isin-Zeit (1965) and my review, Bi.
Or. 23 (1966) 239246, here: III.3.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


Turning next to the congregational laments, this relatively minor

Psalm genre, to which most of the Book of Lamentations should be
added, corresponds to the rather substantial body of lamentations over
the destruction of cities in the neo-Sumerian corpus. In both cases, it is
clear that real historic events, and more specifically national disasters,
inspired the compositions. But both tended to sublimate the events
into vague and involved allusions to the flight of the divine presence
or the breakdown of cultic processes. As a result, there is sometimes
uncertainty in both as to just what historic event is intended, the more
so as there seems to have been no great reluctance about applying older
allusions to more recent events. On the Mesopotamian side, it is clear
from the number of Sumerian examples; from their intricate strophic
structure and liturgical glosses; and from their survival in other forms
into later periods, that the public laments represented a thoroughly
institutionalized, temple-centered response to the recurrent trauma of
wholesale destruction which was visited on the Mesopotamian citystates and empires throughout their history.22 What then of the prayers
of the individual which form the largest single quotient of the Biblical
psalter? Oddly enough, individual, or at any rate private, prayer is very
poorly represented in Sumerian literature.23 In part this may be because
the ocial cult concentrated on the king, and had little use for the
private individual, who relied more often than not on a popular religion
to which the ocial religious literature bears little direct testimony, or
on the intercession of his personal protective deity with the great gods
of the ocial pantheon. Indeed, our chief examples of private prayer
in early Mesopotamia come not from canonical texts at all, but from
the monuments.24 The ubiquitous seal cylinders of the neo-Sumerian
and adjacent periods typically show the private seal owner led before
the great god by his personal deity. And the typical purpose of private
votive objects (as of royal ones) was to forward to the deity the prayer
which doubled as the name of the object by leaving the object, with
its inscription, on permanent deposit in the cella of the temple, close
to the niche which held the statue of the deity. Such inscribed votive
22 Cf. R. Kutscher, a-ab-ba hu-luh-ha: the history of a Sumerian congregational lament (unpubl. Ph.D. thesis, Yale, 1966); J. Krecher, Sumerische Kultlyrik (1966); T. Jacobsen, PAPhS
107 (1963) 479482.
23 Cf. A. Falkenstein, Das Gebet in der sumerischen Ueberlieferung, RLA 3 (1959)
156160, where prayers contained within other literary genres are also listed.
24 Cf. Hallo, The royal inscriptions of Ur: a typology, HUCA 33 (1962) 143 esp.
pp. 1214.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

objects were, then, considered as taking the place of the suppliant, and
relieving him of the need to proer his prayer in his own person, orally
and perpetually. This is stated in so many words by many of the votive
inscriptions, and is implied also by the fact that the most expensive
type of votive, the statue, clearly depicts the worshipper, not the deity.
Other types of votive objects such as steles, bowls, and replicas of tools
and weapons from the petitioners daily life, were simply more modest
means to attain the same end. But even such objects were made of
semi-precious stones or precious metals and thus beyond the means of
most worshippers, and there was consequently the need for a less costly
method of written communication with the divine. Apparently, then, it
is out of this essentially economic context that there gradually arose a
canonical literary genre as a vehicle of individual prayer. At first it took
a form which was less literary, or canonical, than economic, or archival.
For the formal choice fell upon the letter, a form abundantly familiar
to the neo-Sumerian scribes for straightforward economic purposes.
Presently, the bare outlines of the archival letters were elaborated to
create what constituted, in content if not in form, true prayers, albeit
in prose, and ultimately they freed themselves entirely from the style of
the letter to develop into poetic parallels of the Biblical laments of the
individual. It will be my purpose to examine this particular genre, its
literary history, and its later anities, more closely.

II. The Neo-Sumerian Letter-Prayers

Let me begin my presentation of the genre with a translation of one of
its shorter and more familiar examples (B6):25
Speak to my king with varicolored eyes who wears a lapus lazuli beard
Say furthermore to the golden statue born on a favorable day,
(to) the sphinx raised in the holy sheepfold, summoned in the pure
heart of Inanna26
(to) my lord, the prince of Inanna:
You in your form are a child of Heaven,
Your command like the command of god is never equalled (var.: is not
rebutted by the foreign lands)
Your words are a storm-wind (to be) rained down from heaven, having
none to count them (var.: shepherd them)

Cf. below, (V), for a bibliography of the genre and previous treatments.
For an Ur III example of a lapus lazuli sphinx cf UET 3:415:2.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


Thus speaks Ursagga your servant:

My king has watched over my person,
I am a citizen (lit.: son) of Ur,
If my king is (truly) of Heaven,
Let no one carry o my patrimony,
Let no one destroy the foundations of my fathers house.
May my king know it.

This brief but fairly representative example may suce for the moment
to indicate that, formally, our genre belongs to the category of Sumerian letters. As such, its literary analogues are of several kinds. There
are, first of all, the preserved examples of royal correspondence in
which the reigning king (not, as here, the statue of the deified king)
is addressed by, or addresses himself to, one of his servants. Such letters are known to us so far only in the form of literary imitations of
assumed originals allegedly emanating from the chancelleries of Ur and
Isin.27 As such they share some of the flourishes and other stylistic characteristics of our genre. Secondly, the school curriculum has preserved
a small number of private letters, in Sumerian as well as Akkadian, as
mundane in style as in content, which served as models of everyday
correspondence for apprentice scribes.28 Their purely fictional character may be judged by the fact that one of them is supposedly written by
none other than a monkey.29
If, however, we wish to find the origin of our genre in the real
world, we have to go back of all these literary letters of the Old
Babylonian period to the archival documents of the neo-Sumerian
period. Several hundred Ur III letters are known, and in their most
characteristic form they constitute drafts, or orders to pay in kind,
drawn on the great storage-centers of the royal economy in favor of
the bearer, usually the representative of the king or of some high, royal
ocial.30 Such documents, while letters in form, are orders in function,
and have therefore been aptly designated as letter-orders.31 The texts

Cf. F.R. Kraus, Altmesopotamische Quellensammlungen zur altmesopotamischen Geschichte, AfO 20 (1963) 153155.
28 See below (V), sub B , M, O, and P for Sumerian examples. For Akkadian
examples, cf. F.R. Kraus, Briefschreibbungen im altbabylonischen Schulunterricht,
JEOL VI/16 (19591962) 1639. To all appearances, the pitifully executed Akkadian
examples come from a much more rudimentary stage of the curriculum.
29 Below, V, sub B .
30 Cf. E. Sollberger, The Business and Administrative Correspondence under the Kings of Ur [=
TCS 1, 1966).
31 A.L. Oppenheim, AOS 32 (1948) 86 ad H 24 et passim; Hallo, HUCA 29 (1958)


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

we are here considering, while essentially identical to them in form,

function as prayers. I therefore propose to call them letter-prayers.32
The seven or eight separate examples in ten to twelve copies of the
genre recognized until recently33 can now be more than doubled by
newly published exemplars from Ur and by unpublished material from
the Yale Babylonian Collection.34
Let us first consider the structure of the newly-named genre. It
begins with a salutation to the divine addressee which employs the
basic terminology of the archival letters: to my god speak, thus says35
NN, your servant (so I; cf. B14, B19, M, O, P), but usually elaborates on
it in two significant ways. In the first place it nearly always modifies
the adressees name with a longer or shorter succession of laudatory
epithets in the form of appositions (F, G, J). In the second place,
it frequently adds a second salutation, including further epithets and
ending to him say furthermore (B1, B8, C2, D, H, K, L).36 On one
occasion there is even a third salutation ending to him (say) for the
third time, (B16)37 while other letters content themselves with additional
epithets or predicates at this point (B6, B17, C, E).
The message itself now follows, and its length varies considerably.
In the longest example so far attested (H), it runs to about 45 lines,
or five times the length of the salutation. But in other instances, the
message is little longer than the salutation, and in a number of cases
it is shorter. Indeed, there are two instances where, at least as far as
preserved, the texts ends with the salutation (E, C) and one of these
even lacks the phrase thus speaks NN (E). The body of the letter
has no recognizable structural subdivisions like the salutation. However,
most of its sentiments can be classified as expressing (1) complaint
97100. For neo-Babylonian letter-orders, cf. Oppenheim, JCS 5 (1950) 195 ad UET 4:
32 This term seems preferable to F. Alis letters of petition (Ar. Or. 33: 539), or
Falkensteins Gottesbrief which is dicult to translate. The genre is here taken to
include letters to deities, as well as those to kings and other mortals couched in the
elaborate style of some of the letters to deities.
33 A. Falkenstein, OLZ 36 (1933) 302; Ein sumerischer Gottesbrief, ZA 44 (1938) 1
25; Ein sumerischer Brief an den Mondgott, Analecta Biblica 12 (1959) 6977; J.J.A. van
Dijk La sagesse sumro-accadienne (1953) 1317.
34 See below, V.
35 na-ab-b-a. So always except in J which has nu-ub-b-a ub-be-a! Once na-b-a in
PBS 1/2:93:3 (= B14).
36 -ne-d-dah; for the reading cf. Falkenstein, ZA 44:11 but note now the apparent
-di! -a-d-dah in L.
37 -na (yar. ne)-de-pes.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


(2) protests (3) prayers and (4) formal reinforcements of the appeal,
though not necessarily in that order.
The conclusion of the letter-prayers (when preserved) may occasionally consist of a vow to repay the kindness besought in the body of
the text. More often it consists of a brief stereotyped formula either
borrowed from the language of secular letters or peculiar to the genre
itself. We will consider the various formulations in due course. For now,
let us turn to the contents of the various letter-prayers, following the
structural outline already presented.
To begin with the addressees, they include five of the great gods, and
two goddesses. No discernible principle governs the choice of the male
deities, but two of them appear to be from the circle of Nergal, the
lord of the netherworld, if not Nergal himself (C, G), which seems to
bespeak a special concern with the threat of death. The others are Utu
(D2), Nanna (E), Enki (H), and Martu (J). The goddesses invoked can be
described more consistently. They are both healing goddesses, in one
case (B17) Nintinuga, and in two or three others (F, D4) Ninisina.38 In at
least two of these cases, the choice of addressee is clearly dictated by the
contents of the letter, for they are petitions for relief from sickness.
The letters addressed simply to my god (I)39 or (my) king (B1,
B6, B8, K) pose more of a problem since, on the one hand, gods
were sometimes addressed as my king even within the context of the
letter-prayers (J) and, on the other hand, the deified (and/or deceased)
king could be addressed as my god. In at least one case, it is clear

that the letter-prayer is addressed to King Sulgi

of Ur (B1), and there
is another text which, though not formally a letter-prayer, has been
described as a letter or prayer to the deified Rim-Sin of Larsa.40 But
where neither royal name nor divine name is mentioned, it is dicult to
decide the exact status of the recipient, whether addressed as god or
king. Perhaps the question is of secondary importance, for both were
petitioned in similar terms (albeit for dierent ends?), and in similar
guise (i.e. in the form of their cult statue; cf. B6, K),
For the sake of completeness, I will mention here also two letterprayers addressed neither to gods nor to kings but to private persons,
or at most to ocials (B16, L). One of them is from a priest of Enlil to
38 Kraus, JCS 3 (1949) 78 n. 30 recognizes a whole sub-genre of letters to healing
39 Cf. also JCS 8:82; CT 44:14.
40 Falkenstein, Analecta Biblica 12 (1959) 70, n. 1 ad TRS 35.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

his son, the other from a scribe to his relative or colleague (gi-me-aas). Both are stylistically identical with the authentic letter-prayers, and
not with the simple literary practice-letters between private persons
(B19, M, O, P). Perhaps they represent an intermediate stage in the
development from secular letter-order to letter-prayer.41
The epithets applied to the various addressees in all these letterprayers are drawn freely from all the rich storehouse of attributes available for embellishing Sumerian religious and monumental texts in general. But the choice was not wholly a random one, for in most instances
there was a decided emphasis on those qualities of the addressee which
were crucial for the substance of the petition that followed in the
body of the letter. Thus the letters which prayed for the restoration
of health praised the healing goddess for her therapeutic skills (B17, D4,
F); one which asked for legal redress stressed the unalterableness of the
divine command (B6); one of those concerned with scribal problems
(H) addressed Enki as the lord of wisdom. In one of the two private
letter-prayers, a father apostrophizes his son, among many other things,
as the son who is available for his god, who respects his father and
mother (var. mother and father) (B16).42
Our next question concerns the character of the presumed writers
of the letter-prayers, as far as these may be identified by their personal
names or professional titles. This is not always possible, for a name like
Ursagga in B6 (above) is common enough, the virtual equivalent of our
Goodman or Everyman. Whether the Gudea of I is a private person
or one of several city-rulers of that name is not clear. Here as in other
cases (J), there is only indirect evidence for the question. However, by
far the largest number of letters are clearly written by scribes (C, F, G,
H, K, L). Even where the writer claims a more specialized title in the
salutation (B1), he may still refer to himself as a scribe in the body of the
text. This state of aairs is readily explained when we remember the
origin of the letter-prayers genre in the context of the scribal schools.
As in the case of the school essays, the scribe found in his own life
and circumstances the materials for exercising his stylistic talents.
One of these scribal letter-prayers (C) is even penned by a woman
scribeand thus becomes, incidentally, a rare bit of evidence for the
existence of such women at this time. It is not the only letter-prayer
41 Note that some of the same personal names occur in dierent kinds of literary
letters. Cf. B16 and B7,8 B16 and B19, K and M.
42 dumu dingir-ra-(a)-ni-ir gub-ba/a-a-ama-a-ni (var. ama-a-a-ni)-ir n-te-g.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


from a woman (cf. B17) but it is the only one which reveals her status,
not only professionally but socially, for it seems (the passage is however
broken) that she is further identified as a daughter or retainer of Sinkasid, king of Uruk. As a matter of fact, we possess one example of
a letter-prayer written by a king himselfin this case Sin-iddinam
of Larsa, a later contemporary of Sin-kasid (D4). It may be noted
in passing that the Akkadian tradition of (royal) letter-prayers is first
attested, at Mari, only a generation or two after this.43 So much for the
writers, real or fictitious, of the letter-prayers. Let us now consider their
actual messages: the petitions which were the subject of the letters, and
the sentiments employed to convey them.
The complaint with which the body of the letter often begins may
refer to either the causes or the consequences of ones suering. One of
the favorite stylistic devices is to describe ones life as diminishing
(B1)44 or as ebbing away in cries and sighs (B17).45 One petitioner
seems already to foresee his bones carried o by the water to a foreign
city (K).46 Another form of complaint is to stress the loss of friends and
protectors: those who know me, my friends, are on a hostile footing
with me (B17);48 those who know me no longer approach me, they
speak no word with me, my own friend no longer counsels me, he
will not set my mind at rest (H below).49 The loss of protection or
patronage is expressed both plainly: I have no protector (B17, B1, L)50
and metaphorically: like a sheep which has no faithful shepherd, I am
without a faithful cowherd to watch over me (I);51 I am an orphan
(lit, the son of a widow, B1)52 which recalls Gudeas moving plaint to
Gatumdu: I have no motheryou are my mother; I have no father
you are my father.53
43 G. Dossin, Syria 19 (1938) 125 f. Cf. also Van Dijk, Sagesse 13 f.; E.A. Speiser,
Omens and Letters to the Gods, AOS 38 (1955) 6067 = Oriental and Biblical Studies
(1967) 297305; and below nn. 96 f.
44 zi-mu ba-e-tur; the variant (YBC 6458) has, however, ba-i.
45 im-ma-si im-ma-diri-ga-ta zi al-ir-ir-re. For a slightly dierent translation, cf.
Rmer, SKIZ 113, end. Cf. also H 23 below.
46 gr-pad-du-mu s-uru-kr-ra-s a nam-ma-an-tm.
48 zu-a kal-la-mu gr-kr mu-da-an-gin; var, ba-an-db-b-es (cf. Civil, Iraq 23:167).
49 Cf. the same topos in the individual laments of the Psalter, e.g, Ps. 31:12, 38:12,
41:10, 55:1315.
50 l-n-tar-(re) la-ba-(an)-tug (nu-un-tug).
51 udu-gim sipa-gi-na nu-tug na-gada-gi-na nu-mu-un-tm-tm-mu. Cf . Sjberg,
Bi. Or. 20 (1963) 46 f.
52 dumu-nu-mu- (un) -zu-me-en.
53 Cyl. A iii 6 f.; cf Ps. 27:10.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

The petitions of the letter-prayers concern, in the first instance, the

same problems as their complaints. Relief from sickness is thus one
of them; in the letters to healing goddesses, it is phrased typically as
may she remove from my body (interrupt) whatever sickness demon
may exist in my body54 (B17, D4), and is followed by the hope for
restoration of complete health: may you place my feet in the station of
life (B17);55 may Damu your son (oh healing goddess) eect my cure
(D4).56 Letters addressed to deified kings typically seek divine or royal
protection where other friends and protectors fail: oh my king, may
you be my protector (B1, B8; cf. B6).57 But some of the same texts go
further and their petitions may be more specific than their complaints
had been. One seeks to be confirmed in the claims to his patrimony
(B6, above); another prays for his freedom, perhaps from debt-slavery
(B1).58 This is also true of the two letter-prayers addressed to private
persons. In one, a father seems to be pleading with his son for support
in his old age (B16); in another, a scribe asks his colleague or relative for
preferment to a higher post and other favors (L). Thus the letter-prayers
were clearly the vehicle for expressing a variety of human needs.
In addition to the complaint and the petition, the body of the letterprayer is usually reinforced by protestations of past merits and present
deserts on the part of the suppliant. He argues his moral innocence or
ignorance, his cultic piety, his unswerving loyalty to the god, or simply
his high political or social status: I do not know my guilt (B8);59 I do
not know my sin, of my sin I have no knowledge (K);60 I observed
(all) your festivals and oerings61 or, negatively phrased, my proper
devotions (?) I have not withheld from you (J),62 or both together: I
performed (or sent) the regular prayers, the sacrifices and the oerings
generously (mah-bi) to all the gods, I did not withhold anything from
them (D4).63 To emphasize his loyalty, the penitent may insist I do not
-zg su-m gl-la su-m b-ta-an-zi; var. g-la ha-ba- an-dag -ge (SEM 74: 14).
Cf. van Dijk, Sagesse 15 f.
55 Ib.
56 dDa-mu dumu-zu nam-a-zu-mu h-ak (SEM 74: 16).
57 lugal-mu n-(mu) h-tar-re; var. hu-mu-un-tar-re.
58 ki-ama-mu (var. -bi)-s h-im-mi-b (ib) -gi -gi .
59 sul-a-lum nu-zu.
60 nam-tag-mu nu-zu nam-tag-m gest la-ba-si-gl.
61 ezen-sizkur-zu-us x ba-gub-bu-da-gim, (SEM 74 = D ?)
62 n-sa -ga-tuku-mu la-ba-e-si-ks.
63 dingir-re-e-ne-ir mah-bi inim-sa -sa -gi-nam-ma / sizkur-ra nidba(PAD. dINNIN)6
bi i-kin-en/n-nam nu-mu-ne-ks.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


speak hostile (foreign) words (I),64 perhaps even that he has not sworn
by a foreign king (G).65 On the contrary, he asserts, I am a citizen of
Ur (B6)66 or I am a scribe (H, B1).67 One letter lists the past military
and other service of the writer in detail (B1). Apparently the recital of
past achievements or present rank is supposed to qualify their bearer
for future favors.
To persuade the deity to act on his behalf, however, the penitent
does not rely solely on his own past merits and present status. Rather,
in time-honored fashion, he seeks to persuade the deity or king to act,
as it were, for the sake of thy name, as well as to sway him by promise
of future benefits. The element of suasion is typically (and somewhat
provocatively) phrased as the protasis of a conditional sentence: If my
queen is truly of heaven (B17, D4); if my king is truly of heaven
(B6).68 Note that the latter expression also occurs in the letters to living
kings.69 The vows of the letter-prayers are even less subtle: if his or
her petition is granted, the writer says, I will surely be your slave-girl,
will serve as court sweeper of your temple, will serve in your presence
(B17)70 or dwell in your gate and sing your praises . . . and proclaim
your exaltation (H; cf. D4: J),71 preferably in public.72 Perhaps the most
persuasive oer that the petitioner can dangle before the deitys eyes
is to endow him or her with yet another epithet, based on their latest
kindness: When I have been cured, I will rename my goddess the one
who heals (?) the cripples (B17, cf. also G 46).73
So much for the body of the letter-prayers. Their conclusion is much
briefer, but it includes, in at least two instances, another important clue
to the cultic situation of the entire genre, for reference is made there to
(my) letter which I have deposited before you (H [variant], G). This,
together with the fact that it is a statue which is actually addressed (B6)
shows clearly that our letters reflect a practice of leaving petitions in the
dingir-mu l-kr-di nu-me-en (Falkenstein, OLZ 1962:373.)
lugal-kr-ra mu-ni nu-mu-un-p-d.
66 dumu urKI-ma-me-en.
67 dub-sar-me-en.
68 Falkenstein, ZA 44:22.
69 E.g. Sulgi

to Irmu 3, 30; L.B. 2543 (unpubl.).

70 g-e geme-zu(var.-ni) (h)-me-en -za-a (var. -a-ni) kisal-luh-bi h-me-en igizu(var.-ni)-s h-gub Cf. Gadd, Ideas of Divine Rule 27 n. 3, who compares Ps. 84:10 [=
84:11 in the Hebrew version].
71 KA-tar-zu ga-si-il (D ); palil?-e? KA-tar-zu h-si-il-e me-ts numun h-i-i (J).
72 Cf. e.g. Ps. 22:23; 26:12; 35:18 and below, note 92.
73 Van Dijk, Sagesse 15 f. (line 20).


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

temple, at the feet of the cult statue or at least in its own cella.74 But
the brief concluding formulas are also crucial for assigning the genre its
proper place in Sumerian literary history. For of these formulas some,
like may my king know it75 (B6), it is urgent (B10)76 or do not be
negligent (O),77 are clearly borrowed from the older clichs with which
the secular letter-orders and royal letters of Ur and Isin closed. Others,
as befits our genre, are more florid: at the command of Enlil may
(my) eyes behold your face (B17).78 But the most common conclusion:
may the heart of my god (or king) be appeased (B1, G, H, I) helps
to identify our genre as the lineal antecedent of the post-Sumerian
penitential psalms, to which we may now turn.

III. The Post-Sumerian Penitential Psalms

The Sumerian, penitential psalm, or r-s-hun-g,79 is first attested by
a single example from Nippur dated to the Middle Babylonian period.
The text in question, published and edited by Langdon as long ago
as 1917, was recently re-edited by the late Father Bergmann.80 It does
not actually carry any generic designation, but it ends with the typical
closing of the later, labelled ersahungas: may your heart be appeased
like that of a natural mother, like that of a natural father. This is, in

After hearing the present paper at its original presentation (above n. 1), Prof.
Jacobsen pointed out that the excavations in the Diyala region uncovered a clay
tablet in an unopened envelope lying near the base of a cult statue. As he recalled,
the envelope bore only the ascription to DN, Note also that the late (?) copy of a
votive inscription of Sin-iddinam published by van Dijk, JCS 19 (1965) 125 includes
two letters confided by the king to the statue of his father for transmittal to Utu.
75 lugal-mu h-en-zu; cf. BIN 2:53:3 which, according to Falkenstein, ZA 44:24 and
Anal. Bibl. 12:70 n. 2, is also (an extract from) a letter to a god, although that seems hard
to prove.
76 a-ma-ru-kam. For the expression, cf. Sollberger, TCS 1, p. 99 (49).
77 g-zu na-an-sub-b-en. With this closing cf. za-e nam-ba-e-se-ba-e-d-en-z-en in
the Ibbi-Sin correspondence: CADE 48b and Honer, JAOS 87 (1967) 302.
78 du -ga dEn-ll-l-ka(var. -kam!) ms-me-zu igi h-bi-du (var. ba-ab-du ). Cf. UET
6: 173 iv 6 f.: du11 dnin-in-si-na ms Iugal-m-kam igi-bi-ib-du8, which thus is clearly
also the conclusion of a letter (in spite of Kramers reservation, ib., p. 4), presumably to
a king.
79 Cf. S. Langdon, OECT 6 (1927) pp. iiix; RA 22 (1925) 119125. The Akkadian
2:579:392), ersahung (AHw 245 f.) or sig
equivalent is given variously as unnnu(?) (SL
(see refs. Dalglish, op. cit., 34 f.).
80 PBS 10/2:3, ed. by B. Bergmann, ZA 57 (1965) 3342.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


expanded form, also the typical ending of the earlier letter-prayers, but
since the Middle Babylonian example is not otherwise cast in the form
of a letter, we may see it as an early example, or at least a forerunner,
of the ersahunga.81 Its significance for our purpose lies, then, in the
fact that it provides the missing link between the neo-Sumerian letterprayers of the Old Babylonian period, and the fully developed postSumerian penitential psalms of the first millennium, whose very name
(literally lament for appeasing the heart, i.e. of the god) reflects its
concluding formula.
At first glance, the comparison may seem far-fetched. The late genre
is, to begin with, wholly poetic in style, as attested not only by the
language, parallelisms and other internal features, but also by the fact
that its lines, in distinction from the earlier letter-prayers, are now fixed
in their division and as to their number for each separate composition. In the second place, the new genre has lost all formal traces of
any epistolary origins, with one possible exception, namely the use of
the phrase your servant to refer to the penitent, whether he otherwise presents himself in the third or in the first person.82 Thirdly, it is
couched in the emesal-dialect of Sumerian, once erroneously translated
as the womans language83 but more properly described as a kind of
whining or wailing tone used by women or goddesses neither exclusively nor universally, but by them only in certain contexts, and also by
certain men, notably the singers called gala (kal) and in the context of
In these formal or external respects, then, the post-Sumerian penitential psalms clearly represent a new genre as compared to the neoSumerian letter-prayers. Indeed, if we were to confine ourselves to their
formal characteristics, we might be forced to conclude that they were
simply the later successors to the neo-Sumerian ersemma-psalms. The
ersemma, however, survived in its own right and under its old designation, albeit chiefly as a subsection of longer compositions. And when
we consider the penitential psalms from the point of view of contents

81 J. Krecher, ZA 58 (1967) 28 regards it as den Ersahunga-Liedern nahestehend

und also wahrscheinlich aus der frhen Kassitenzeit(?).
82 Cf. the references and literature cited by Dalglish, op. cit, (note 12) 31 f. n. 58. The
same usage appears to apply to the Akkadian literary prayers of the Babylonians; cf.
W.G. Lambert, AfO 19 (19591960) 47 f.
83 SAL is here rather thin, attenuated. Cf. now J. Krecher, Zum Emesal-Dialekt
des Sumerischen, Falkenstein AV (1967) 86 n. 1.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

and phraseology, a dierent picture emerges. For this aspect of their

description, we may rely largely on Dalglishs summary.84 The typical
ersahunga, then, begins with a long hymnic introduction in which the
deity invoked is apostrophized by a succession of epithets designed, in
Dalglishs words, to remind them of their special attributes, whose
exercise may have caused the distress of the worshipper or may be the
cause of salvation later to be invoked in the prayer. As such, they of
course immediately recall the salutations of the letter-prayers.
The complaint section of the ersahunga includes, like that of the
letter-prayers, a description of the penitents distress, a confession of
his sin, and a final cry of woe. The description of his distress is less
specific here than in most of the letter-prayers, and even the allusions
to sickness are more often meant metaphorically than literally. But the
other two elements often employ the phraseology of the letter-prayers
almost verbatim. Sins are typically committed in multiples of seven
in both genres,85 and in both there is an emphasis on the penitents
ignorance of his sins, or of his specific transgressions.86 The cry of
desperation in both may resemble the bleating of an animal or the
moans of a woman in child-birth,87 though the later genre adds a few
characteristic interjections of its own.
Another typical portion of each penitential psalm is the petition, or
prayer in the narrower sense. Since the distress is described vaguely as
an unknown sin or sins, or the resulting aiction, the petition too is,
naturally, less explicit than in the letter-prayers. Even so, expressions
such as free me from my sin, remit my punishment,88 or rescue
me from destruction89 can be found in both genres.
The votive formula which is so marked a part of the letter-prayers
recurs with little change in the ersahungas; both thus dier from the
84 Op. cit. (above, n. 12), pp. 2135. To Dalgishs list add now probably CT 44:14
and 24.
85 Cf e.g. I 8 f. (Kramer, TMH nF 3 p. 21) with IV E 10:45 .: na-m-tag-ga imin-ar-imin-na. Note also Jacobsen, JCS 8:86 (CNM 10099) (end): dingir-mu nam-tag-gamu imin-[ . . . ].
86 Cf. e.g. K (above, n. 60) with IV R 10:42: na-m-tag-ga n-ag-a-mu nu-un-zu-m
= anni epusu ul idi.
87 Cf e.g. B (above, note 45) with K. 3153 (OECT 6:2123; BA 5:578 f.): ib-si si-mu
zi-ir-ra = mas. i napisti tasus.
88 Cf. the gate called sul-a-lum-du -du (H 49, below) with the ersahunga-passages
cited CADE 170a.
89 Cf. H 51 f. (below) with PBS 10/2:3:7 (Bergmann, ZA 57:34): nam-da-ad-gu-ud
su-bar-zi sag-ki!-tum ZA.GI.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


more or less unconditional thanksgiving formulas of other late genres.

Compare for example the previously quoted If Damu your son eects
my cure, then I will surely sing your praises90 with the later Absolve
my sin and I will sing your praises.91 Both genres, too, stress the
favorable publicity which will redound to the deity.92
Finally, we may return to the starting point of our comparison by
considering the concluding formula of the penitential psalm. In its
fullest form it includes seven dierent formulations, but of these, only
the last two recur in virtually every instance, namely: may your heart
be appeased like that of my natural mother and father.93 Thus we
have here the closing formula of many letter-prayers expanded only to
include the specific equation between personal god and parent which
had been merely implicit earlier.94
In spite of certain formal and substantive dierences, then, the postSumerian ersahungas in striking measure perpetuate the tradition of
the neo-Sumerian letter-prayers, and Falkensteins assessment that they
derive from Akkadian conceptions needs to be reviewed.95 The formal
dierences no doubt reflect a change in the cultic situation: instead
of commissioning a scribe to deposit a clay tablet in letter form at
the feet of the divine statue, the later penitent commissioned the galasinger to recite his prayer orally. Perhaps it was feared that gods could
no longer read Sumerian, for while letters continued to be addressed
to them96 or deposited before their statues,97 they no longer served as
prayers but as royal reports or oracular inquiries respectively; and they

Above, notes 56 and 71.

OECT 6:43:49; cf. Bergmann, ZA 57:41.
92 Cf. H 53 (below) with PBS 10/2:3r8 (ZA 57:41 f.): uk-e p-h-ni-ib-b ka-na-m
93 Dalglish, op. cit., p. 32.
94 On this equation, see also Hallo, JCS 20 (1966) 136 f., n. 53, here: III.2.
95 Nach meiner Auassung trotz sumerischer Sprache sind die r-s-hun-g-Kompositionen aus akkadischen Vorstellungen herausgewachsen, apud Dalglish, op. cit., 34,
n. 72.
96 Most notably the famous report of Sargons eighth campaign; cf. A.L. Oppenheim, The city of Assur in 714 bc, JNES 19 (1960) 133147, who lists the other examples of the genre. Previously Ungnad, OLZ 21 (1918) cc. 7276. Cf. also H. Tadnor,
JCS 12 (1958) 82.
97 Referring. to Knudtzon, Assyrische Gebete an den Sonnengott, Jastrow stated long ago:
Aus Andeutungen in den Texten selbst geht. . . hervor, dass man die aufgeschriebene
Frage vor dem Gottesbild niederlegte: Die Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens 2 (1912) 175;
cf also W.W. Struve, ICO 25/1 (1962) 178.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

were now written in the vernacular, like the letter-prayers to the gods of
Anatolia,98 Egypt99 and elsewhere.100
The substantive changes too are readily explained in terms of historically attested changes in the Babylonian Weltanschauung as these
have been delineated by Jacobsen.101 Where the earlier Babylonians
worried chiefly about the divine origin of natural misfortunes and manmade disasters, the later ones were more concerned with their own
sins, known or unknown, as the causes of their aictions. The petition
of the individual accordingly witnessed a corresponding shift in emphasis: the deity was now entreated to remove, not the aiction, but the
sin; not the symptom but the assumed underlying cause. It is, however, not my purpose to dwell on these dierences, important though
they certainly are as indices of developmental stages in the history of
Mesopotamian religion. From the point of view of literary history, it is
the similarities between the earlier and the later genre that are most
impressive. They entitle us to regard the neo-Sumerian letter-prayers
as the lineal antecedents of the post-Sumerian penitential psalms, and
to throw them into the balance in any comparison with the individual
laments of the Biblical Psalter.

IV. A New Sumerian Letter-Prayer (H)

A. Texts102
YBC 4620 (= A) complete in 56 lines
YBC 7205 (= B) rectilinear extract tablet,103 ll. 115.
YBC 8630 (= C) rectilinear extract tablet;103 ll. 36-end.

98 According to Goetze, Kleinasiatische Forschungen 1 (1930) 220, the second plague

prayer of Mursili (ANET 394396?) was in the form of a Gottesbrief. (Ref. courtesy
H. Honer, Jr.)
99 G.R. Hughes, A Demotic letter to Thoth, JNES 17 (1958) 112, with other
examples of the genre.
100 Cf. the Jewish custom of depositing letter-prayers in the Western Wall, which
survives to this day.
101 Cf. for the present his Ancient Mesopotamian religion: the central concerns,
PAPhS 107 (1963) 473484.
102 Copies to be published in a forthcoming YOS volume.
103 Cf. Gordon, S. P. p. 8.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


B. Structure
The letter-prayers have no structural labels,104 but the present text, by
virtue of its great length, shows a clear strophic structure based on
meaning units and the occurrence or recurrence of certain formulas.
There is also the evidence, in exemplar A, of the line count. While the
total (56) is correct, the subtotals are too low by two for the obverse (31
for 33) and too high by two for the reverse (25 for 23). Unless they were
slavishly copied from a model (in which case it is hard to see why the
disposition of the lines would have been altered), this seems to imply
that the formulas of lines 2 and 7 were not counted as separate lines,
while the long lines 39 and 40, which in A are written over 11/2 lines
and in C over two separate lines, were in fact counted separately. On
this assumption, and with one minor transposition (moving the couplet
18 f. after line 27), the poem consists of eleven five-line stanzas plus a
concluding doxology of one line.
C. Transliteration of A105

en-ki en-z-dib-an-ki-a nam-ma-ni z nu-di -na-a-du11

nu-dim-mud nun(1)-gist-dagal-la(2) an-da nam-ba-an-tar me-zi halha(3) a(4)-nun-ke4-ne a-r-bi sg [nu-di]
5) gal-zu-mah u4--ta u4-s-us igi-gl ba-ab-s-[ga?] en-n-zu lugal-engur-ra
dingir-sag-du-ga-mu-[r] -ne-d-dah

sa-mu-h (5) dub-sar dumu Ur-dnin-[. . .] r-zu na-ab-b-a
10) u4 su mu- e (6)-du11-ga(7) nam-l-ul-us mu-e-ni-[n-. . .] mu-p-dazu-s! IM-sub li-b-ak ab-ba-gim [. . . ] ezen-sizkur-zu-us (8) gri-mu
la-ba-ni-sil lul-as -du-un-na

e-ne-s (9)n-a-na(10) b-ak-a(11)-mu di nam-tag(12)-ga(13)-mu
(14)-nam-tar-ra(15)-ke4(16) mu-DU(17) ki-lul-la l-la-en izkim
15) dingir-kr-ra nam-tag(19) (20)hu-mu-tm(21) z-bi nu-mu-da-p
u4-la-la-m -bi an-n b-du-ga.
sag-sg-s nam-tag-mu nu-me-a gaba im-ma-da-ri-e[n]

On these cf. my remarks Bi. Or. 23 (1966) 241 f, here: III.3.

With a few minor restorations based on B and C; these are not indicated as such.


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

bappir -ra-bala- bn -da-gim kisib-e ba-ab-db-b-en
ng-su-kaskal-la gis-sudun-bi-TAR-a-gim har-ra-an-na


20) ki-n -u8-a-a-e ba-n-en a-nir mu-un-si-il
alan-sa6-ga-mu g ki-s ba-l giri-s ba-tus-en
[. . .]. P.AH-mu ki ba-ni-in-l uktin-mu ba-kr
[. . .] -nu-ku gri-mu-a ab-s zi-mu ba-da-zal
u4-zalag-ga -u4-HI-da-gim im-ma-an-ak ki-tm-mu ba-an-z-ir
25) dub-sar-me-en n-mu-zu-zu a-na-m uh-s ba-ku4-re-en
su-mu sar-re-d ba-DU ka-mu inim-bal-bal im-ma-an-l
ab-ba nu-me-en gist-mu ba-dugud igi-du8-mu ba- gil -gil
gurus-ad-hal -lugal-a-ni b-ta--a-gim sag ki-a mu-tm-tm
l-zu-a-mu na-ma-te-g inim-ma na-ma-ab-b
30) ku-li-mu ad nu-mu-da-gi4-gi4 s-mu la-ba-se4-d
l-in-na su-lum-mar-s ba-ku4-re-en nam-tar-mu ba-kr-e-en
dingir-mu za-ra nir-im-ta-gl-en l-s nam-mu

a-gim ki-lul-la nam-ma-bra- g -en


lower edge

reverse gd-s -mu

la-la-bi nu-mu- gi-gi

35) -d-d-a-mu sig4-e nu-ub-tag- ge4-a
gis--tur-tur (22) ki-pl-l-m-a-gim(23) gurun(24) la-ba-l
gis-suhhus g(25)-m(26)-da-m-a-gim pa-mu la-ba-sg-sg

tur-ra-(27)me-en(28) u4-mu nu-me-a ur5-s nam-ba-du-un

sahar-ra nam-b-ib-bala-e-en
ki ama-a-a(29) nu-gub-ba(30) ba-e-dab-b-en
a-ba-a a-ra(31)-zu-mu mu-ra-ab-b-e
40) ki im-ri-a-mu g nu(32) -si-si-is z mu-e-tag-ge-en
a-ba-a kadra-mu (eras.: mu) ma-ra-ni-b-ku4(33)

dam-gal-nun-na nitalam ki-ga-zu

ama-mu-gim ha-ra-da-tm r-mu hu-mu-ra-ni-ib-ku4- ku4
dasal (34) -alim-nun-na dumu-abzu-ke
a-a-mu-gim ha-ra-da-tm r-mu hu-mu-ra-ni-ib-ku4-ku4

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


45) r-s-ne-sa4-mu hu-mu-ra-[ab]-b

r-mu hu-mu-ra-ni-ib-ku4-ku4 (35)
u4-da nam-tag (36)ga-mu-ra-tm(37) erim -ta (38)KU-mu-da(39)
(40)ki-kiruda-da-da-m(41) igi (42)-ba-e-ni-bar(43) (44) ama5mu su-te-ba-ab(45)
ki-kukk-ga-mu u4-s (46)-mu-e-ni-ku4(47)
k-sul-a-lum-du8-du8-za(48) ga(49)-ts KA-tar-zu ga-si-il
50) nam-tag-mu(50) gu-gim ga-mu-ra-si-il
nam-mah-zu ga- m (51)-du11
ki-nam-tag-dugud-da su-nigin-zu r ga-[m-. . . ] (52)
ka-gars-a(53)-ka su-bar zi sag-ki-tm(54)-mu [. . .] (55)
uk-e pa ga-ni-ib- kalam-e h-zu-z[u] (56)
dingir-mu n-te-g-zu g(57)-me-en
55) -na-a-du11 (58)mu-ra-gub-ba-mu(59) arhus(60) tuk-ma-r[a] (61) (62)
[s] dingir-mu ki-bi ha-ma(63)-gi4-gi4

D. Variants (Other than Line Divisions)


B: en-mah
B adds: -ke4
B: -hal-la
B: daB: -h
B omits
B adds: -ta
B: s !
B: a-na-m
B: -kaB omits
B omits
B: -mu
B: omits
B: e-ne ?
B: -ni-inB: -a (?)
B: ha-ma-tm
C: NE-gim ba-gub


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


C: gurumx(GAM)
C: omits
C: m-gdC: -mu
C adds -m]u
C: - be-en ?
C omits
C: nu-mu-un-[. . .]
C inverts the next two couplets, thus: 43, 44, 41, 42.
C: asal-l- HI C: omits line 45.
C: hu-mu-ra-ab-t[m]
C: KU-ma-a[b]
C: ki- ru -da-mu
C: i -ni-in-bar
C: arhus tuku-mu- da-ab
C: mi-ni-in-KU?
C omits
C: ga-anC omits
C: -anC omits line 51
C omits
C: -tmC: UN-x-y
C omits 1. 54
C: g-eC: im -ma-ra-sar
C: gisC: -ta
C inserts a line: [. . .]- mu-ra hu-mu- un-gl -[. . .]?
C: -ma-ab-

E. Translation106
1. (1) To Enki, the outstanding lord of heaven and earth whose nature is
(2) Speak!
2. (3) To Nudimmud, the prince (1) of broad understanding who determines
fates together with An,
3. (4) Who distributes the appropriate divine attributes among the Anunnaki, whose course cannot be [reversed]
4. (5) The omniscient one who is given intelligence from sunrise to sunset,

See below, IV.3 for a new translation (pp. 313315).

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


5. (6) The lord of knowledge, the king of the sweet waters, the god who
begot me,
(7) Say furthermore!
6. (8) (This is) what Sin-samuh the scribe, the son of Ur-Nin [. . .],
7. (9) your servant, says:
8. (10) Since (2) the day that you created me you have [given] me an education.
9. (11) I have not been negligent toward the name by which you are called,
like a father [. . .].
10. (12) I did not plunder your oerings at the festivals to which I go regularly.
11. (13) (But) now, whatever I do, the judgment of my sin is not [. . .]
12. (14) My fate(3) has come my way, I am lifted onto a place of destruction, I
cannot find an omen.
13. (15) A hostile deity has verily brought sin my way, I cannot find(?) its side.
14. (16) On the day that my vigorous house was decreed by Heaven
15. (17) There is no keeping silent about my sin, I must answer for it.
16. (20) I lie down on a bed of alas and alack, I intone the lament.
17. (21) My goodly figure is bowed down to the ground, I am sitting on (my)
18. (22) My [. . .]. is lifted from (its) place, my features are changed.
19. (23) [. . .] restlessness is put into my feet, my life ebbs away.
30. (24) The bright day is made like an alloyed day for me107 I slip into my
21. (25) I am a scribe, (but) whatever I have been taught has been turned into
spittle (?) for me
22. (26) My hand is gone for writing, my mouth is inadequate for dialogue.
23. (27) I am not old, (yet) my hearing is heavy, my glance cross-eyed.
24. (18) Like a brewer (?) with a junior term(?) I am deprived of the right to
107 Cf. Man and his God (Kramer, VT Suppl, 3:175) line 69. Van Dijk also calls
my attention to Ur Lament (Kramer, AS 12:36) 190: u4-HI-da ba-da-an-tab, and the
new variant from Ur (UET 6/2:137:73): u-mud!-e ba-da-an-ku4. This, and parallel
expressions like our line 48 or Reisner, SBH pl. 77:20 f., suggest a meaning day of
darkness and possibly a reading u4-mux-da for our expression.; for mud = dark(ness),
cf. u4-mud = umu da"mu. (CADD 74c), dNanna i-mud = dSin adir (CADA/1: 103b).
Note also an-usan-da = da"ummatu (CADD 123b), where USAN (USN) may have the

reading mudx (cf. USN = NUNUZ + B SA and MD = NUNUZ + B KAS).


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

25. (19) Like a wagon of the highway whose yoke has been broken (?) I am
placed on the road
26. (28) Like an apprentice-diviner who has left his masters house I am
slandered ignobly.
27. (29) My acquaintance does not approach me, speaks never a word with
28. (30) My friend will not take counsel with me, will not put my mind at rest.
29. (31) The taunter has made me enter the tethering-rope, my fate has made
me strange.
30. (32) Oh my god, I rely on you, what have I do to with man?!
31. (33)
32. (34)
33. (35)
34. (36)
35. (37)

I am grown-up, how am I to spread out in a narrow place?

My house (is) a plaited nest, I am not satisfied with its attractiveness.
My built-up houses are not faced with brick (?)
Like little (female) cedars planted in a dirty place, I(?) bear no fruit.
Like a young date palm planted by the side of a boat, (4) I produce no

36. (38) I am (still) young, must I walk about thus before my time? Must I roll
around in the dust?
37. (39) In a place where my(5) mother and father are not present I am detained,
who will recite my prayer to you?
39. (40) In a place where my kinsmen do not gather I am overwhelmed,
who will bring my oering in to you?
41. (41) Damgalnunna, your beloved first wife,
42. (43) May she bring it to you like my mother, may she introduce my lament before you
43. (43) Asalalimnunna, son of the abyss,
44. (44) May he bring it to you like my father, may he introduce my lament
before you.
45. (45) May he recite my lamentation to you, may he introduce my lament
before you.
46. (46) When I(6) have verily brought (my) sin to you, cleanse (?) me from evil!
47. (47) When(7) you have looked upon me in the place where I am cast down,
approach my chamber!(8)

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


48. (48) When(9) you have turned my dark place into daylight,108
49. (49) I will surely dwell in your(10) gate of Guilt-Absolved, I will surely sing
your praises!
50. (50) I will surely tear up my(11) sin like a thread, I will surely proclaim your
51. (51) As you reach the place of heavy sin, I will surely [sing your] praises.
53. (53) Release me at the mouth of the grave, [save me] at the head of my
53. (53) (Then) I will surely appear to the people, all the nation will verily
54. (54) Oh my god, I am the one who reveres you!
55. (55) Have mercy on(12) the letter which I have deposited before you!(18)
56. (56) May the heart of my god be restored!

F. Translation-Principal Variants

B: the lofty lord

So B. A: On
So B. A: The X of fate
C: by a long-boat
C omits
C: he
C omits
C: have mercy on me!
C omits
C omits
C omits
C: Hear
C: (which) I have written to you

G. Abridged Glossary109
ad-gi4-gi4 (30): von Soden, AHw s.v. malaku Gt (mitluku); van Dijk, SGL 2: 98.
ad-hal (28): CADB s.v. bar.
a-gim (33): von Soden, AHw s.v. kam.
an-da nam-tar (3): Falkenstein, SGL 1:99 f. ad STVC 34 iii 7.
Cf. Kramer, Two Elegies 1. 89.
Only the latest discussions are listed, and occasionally an additional reference. No

reference is made to words adequately explained in Deimel, Sumerisches

Lexikon. I am
indebted to J. van Dijk for the references marked [v. D.].


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

a-r (4): Rmer, SKIZ 108 ad SRT 12:21.

arhus-tuku (47[var.], 55): Rmer, SKIZ 264 n. 13.
e-ne-s (13): CADI s.v. inanna.
gaba-ri (17): Von Soden, AHw s.v. maharu.
gal-zu (5): CADE s.vv. ersu A, emqu.
gil-gil (27): CADE s.v. egeru.
gr-sil (12): CADH s.v. habatu A [v. D.].
gis-suhus (37): MSL 5:117:288 and 142:28.
gis- (36): Falkenstein, GSGL I 72; SAHG 153:32.
gd-s (34): Falkenstein, SGL 1:71; ZA 57:121 f.
g-ki-s-l (21): Falkenstein, ZA 57:97 f.
g-si-si (40): Rmer, SKIZ 155:28.
har-ra-an / kaskal (19): Rmer, SKIZ 178 f.
igi-gl (5): CADB s.v. bistu, bist uzni [v. D.].
igi-gl-s: van Dijk, SGL 2: 116; Hallo, Bi. Or. 23:243244, here: III.3.
im-ri-a (40): Sjberg, Falkenstein AV 202209.
Cf. also me-a-im-ri-a-mu, MSL 4:56:660e and passim as late OB PN.
IM-sub-ak (11): Jestin, Thesaurus 2:24. CADA/1:305c s.v. ahu, aham nad [v. D.].
kadra (40): von Soden, AHw. s.v. kad/tr.
ka-gars (52): von Soden, AHw s.v. karasu II.
KA-tar-si-il (49): Bergmann, ZA 56:34 ad SEM 74:17. Cf. the syllabic spelling
CT 44:14: ka-ta-ar-zu se-si-li-im.
ki-kukk-ga (48): Sjberg, Nanna-Suen 76 ad TRS 30:10.
ki-lul-la (14, 33): Castellino, ZA 52:32.
ki-pl-l (36): Jacobsen apud Gordon, S.P. 461.
kiruda (47): Falkenstein, ZA 56:128.
kisib-db (18): Oppenheim, Eames, 129, 242 ad P 18.
ki-tm/tm/tum (24, 52): van Dijk, Sagesse 62; Falkenstein, ZA 57:109.
ku4-(ku4) in sense of turn into (25, 31, 48): Hallo and van Dijk, Exaltation of
Inanna, Glossary, s.v.
l (26): von Soden, AHw, s.v. ma.t II.
la-la with (16): Sjberg, Nanna-Suen 174;
Krecher, Sumerische Kultyrik 141.
la-la-gi4 (34): ib.
l-in-na (31): Jacobsen apud Gordon S.P. p. 461.
LUL-as (12): von Soden, AHw s.v. ma"dis; UET 6:2:5.
l-zu-a (29): Civil, Iraq 23:167; JNES 23:5, ad Ludingira 6.
me-zi-hal-ha (4): Falkenstein, ZA 49:106:10; VS 2:8:26.
nam-mah-du11 (50): Hallo and van Dijk, loc. cit., s.v.
nam-mu (32): ib., s.v.; cf. Falkenstein apud MSL 4:42; Castellino, ZA 52:34.
ng-su (19): Civil, JAOS 88:13, n. 56.
nir-gl with dative (32): Falkenstein, SGL 1:103 ad STVC 34 iii 30.
pa-sg-sg (37): cf pa-sig7 = arta ban CADS.
. 139a.
sag-du (6): CADB s.v. ban.
sg-du11/di (4): Falkenstein, SGL 1:44; ZA 57:93.
sag-sg (17): van Dijk, SGL 2:30.
sag-tm-tm (28): Landsberger, MSL 4:27:11; Hallo, Oppenheim AV 97 note
23 ad OBGT III 173 .

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian


sahar-ra-bala (38): Hallo and van Dijk, loc. cit., s.v. sahar-da . . . gi4.
su-lum-mar (31): Civil, JAOS 88:8 f.
s-ki-bi-gi4-gi4 (56): Civil, Oppenheim AV 89.
2:354:121 f. [v. D.].
su-bar-zi: SL
su-du11 (10): Rmer, SKIZ 69, n. 305. AHw s.v. liptu, lipit qate [v. D.].
sul-a-lum (49): CADE s.v. ennittu.
su-te-g (47): Rmer, SKIZ 86 f.
u4-HI-da (24); Hallo, BiOr. 20:139 s.v. nig-SAR/HI-a and above, n. 106.
uktin (22): Falkenstein, An. Bibl. 12:72 no. 1; ZA 55:4 n. 8; CAD s.vv. bunabuttum,
s. ubur pan [note: Goetze, JAOS 65:225:69 reads ukkur.]
-na-a-du as noun (55): Hallo, Bi. Or. 20:142 [3]; Civil, JNES 23:7 ad Ludingira
-nu-ku (23): CADS. s.v. (la) s. alalu/ s. allu.
-u8-a-a-e (20): Krecher, Sumerische Kultyrik 114 f.
z-dib (1): Rmer, SKIZ 252.
z-p, (15): cf. Kramer, TMH 3 p. 21:9.
z-tag (40): Falkenstein Bi. Or. 22:282 n. 24; Gordon, S.P. pp. 68, 81.

V. List of Letter-Prayers and Other Neo-Sumerian Literary Letters

The letter-prayers and other neo-Sumerian literary letters were tradited
in the schools both singly and in Sammeltafeln, but apparently the
order was not entirely fixed. Many of the twenty items in Collection
B (see below) occur in dierent groupings on other Nippur tablets.
In BE 31:21, for example, B7 is followed by the catchline of B8 and
in STVC 8, B14 and B15 follow each other without a break; but in
SLTN 129, the sequence is B7, (break), B10, B14.110 B12111 and B18112 follow
each other in SLTN 131, which Falkenstein has described as einen
literarischen Sammeltext,113 and B12 recurs at the end of a collection
of model contracts.114 At Ur, one tablet (UET 6:173) has the following
sequence: B17, K, B1 B4, B8. Another (UET 6:174) begins with B7,
continues with A, and ends with B17. Note also that B14 occurs in an

110 Gordon, Bi. Or. 17 (1960) 141 (7) regards these texts as Essay Collection No. 7,
but it is clear that all the texts included in it are letters.
111 Cf. F. Ali, Blowing the horn for ocial announcement, Sumer 20 (1964) 6668.
112 F.A. Ali, Dedication of a dog to Nintinugga, Ar. Or. 34 (1966) 289293.
113 NG 1 (1956) 32.
114 NBC 7800 (unpubl.); separately also on YBC 12074 (unpubl.).


iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian

Ur catalogue text together with non-epistolary entries.115 The following

list therefore is necessarily arranged in a somewhat arbitrary order.
I. Royal Correspondence


Letter Collection A: royal correspondence of Ur; cf. for the present

F. Ali, Ar. Or. 33 (1965) 529 . Eight duplicates from the Yale Babylonian
Collection will be published in a forthcoming YOS Volume.
Letter Collection B; cf. Ali, ibid, and Ar. Or. 34 (1966) 289 f., note*. 114a
Includes the royal correspondence of Isin and the following letters more
or less in the style of the letter-prayers.

From Aba-indasa116 to (Sulgi)

Texts: UET 6:173 ii 2-iii 6; 178; 179;
YBC 6458 (unpubl.)
From Ur-sagga to my. . . king Texts: BL 5; ZA 44 pl. I; UET 6:177;
YBC 6711 (unpubl.) Translation: Langdon, BL, p. 15; revised in BE 31,
p. 25; Falkenstein, ZA 44:125; Kramer, ANET 382; above, 264 f.
From Lugal-murub to (his) king Texts: BE 31:21:118; SLTN 129 left edge
and obv.; UET 6:174a; PBS 13:46 iii. Translation: Langdon, BE 31, p. 48
From Lugal-murub to (his) king Text: UET 6:173 iv 8 .; cf. also BE 31:21
From Ur-Enlila to the ensi and sanga Texts: PBS 13:48 iii; SLTN 129 rev.
15; YBC 7175 (unpubl.); unpubl. tablet in private possession in Ohio (ref.
courtesy R. McNeill).
From Ugudulbi (the monkey) to Ludiludi his mother Texts: PBS 1/2:
92; 93; STVC 8:17; SLTN 129 rev. 66 ft Cf. also above, note 114.
Translations: Falkenstein, ZA 49:337; van Dijk, Sagesse 14; cf. Gordon,
Bi. Or, 17:141, n. 156.
From Utudug to Ilakni"id Texts: STVC 8:8; PBS I/:95; cf. Ali, Ar. Or.
33:539, n. 45.
From Lugal-murub to Enlil-massu his son Texts: BE 31:47; UET 6:175; ib.
176; YBC 7170 (unpubl.)
From Inannakam to Nintinugga Texts: PBS 1/2:94; 134; UET 6:173 i-l-4;
ib. 174e; ib. 180. Translations: van Dijk, Sagesse 15 f.; Falkenstein, SAHG
No. 41.
From Inim-Inanna to Enlil-massu. Text: PBS 1/2:91.

115 UET 6:196:4! Some of the other entries in this catalogue duplicate or resemble
entries in the Yale catalogue of royal hymns. Cf. UET 6:196:6 with Hallo, JAOS 83
(1963) 171:13, here: II.1, also UET 6:196:2 and 11 with JAOS 83:171:6 and 9 respectively.
114a After this article was completed, I obtained a Xerox copy of Alis dissertation from
University Microfilms (Ann Arbor, Michigan); to this I owe three or four corrections or
additions in the following list.
116 Perhaps identical with the Indasu whose defeat by Su-Sin

is recorded in late
copies; cf. Edzard, AfO 19 (19591960) 911, but note also J. Laesse, AS 16 (1965)
195 f.

iv.1. individual prayer in sumerian



From the daughter (?) of Sin-kasid, king of Uruk, to MeslamtaeaNergal(?) (salutations only)117 Text: TRS58
Royal correspondence of Larsa,118 including the following:
From [. . .] to Utu Text: UET 6:182 (?)
From Sin-iddinam, king of Larsa, to Nin-isina119 Texts: UET 8:70;
YBC 4705, YBC 4605 (unpnbl.); cf. also SEM 74.

II. Scribal Correspondence 120

From [. . .] to Nanna (salutations only) Text: Anal. Bibl. 12:71 f. Translations:
Falkenstein, ib., 6977; Sjberg, Nanna-Suen 104107
F From Nanna-mansi to Nin-isina Text: TRS 60 Translation (in part): Kraus,
JCS 3:77 f.
G From Nanna-mansi to [. . .] Text: BE 31:7 Translation: Langdon, ib. pp. 21
H Sin-samuh to Enki Texts: YBC 4620, 7205, 8630 (above) Translation: Hallo,
From Gudea to my god. Text: TMH n. F. 3:56 Translation: Kramer, ib.,
pp. 20 f. cf. Sjberg, Bi. Or. 20:46 f.
From Etel-pi-Damu to Martu Text: YBC 5631 (unpubl.), here: IV.4.
K From Inim-Enlila to (his) king Text: UET 6:173:514
L From Gudea-Enlila to An-mansi his relative Text: TMH n. F. 3:57.
M From [. . .] son of Inim-Enlila to [. . .] Text: BE 31:29 Translation:
Langdon, BE 31, p. 48.

III. Personal Correspondence


From Sag-lugal-bi-zu to Nur-Kabta Text: L.B. 1013, to be publ. in

From Etel-pi (?)-Enlila to Nudimmud-siga his father (?) Text: PBS 12: 32.

117 Was there a small collection of Uruk letters between those of Isin and Larsa as in
the case of the royal hymns, for which cf. my remarks JCS 17 (1963) 116? Here: III.1.
118 Cf. S.N. Kramer, JAOS 88 (1968) 108, n. 3.
119 I intend to edit this letter elsewhere.
120 E, I and J are included here only provisionally.


Over a period of years, I have defended the comparative approach to

biblical literature in a number of papers.1 At the Third World Congress
of Jewish Studies in 1961, I suggested a programmatic approach to the
possibilities of eliciting the processes of creativity and the mechanics
of canonization from Mesopotamian examples.2 At the Fourth World
Congress in 1965, again from this platform, I suggested a possible
cuneiform solution to the vexing problem of the origin of biblical apocalypse.3 In 1966, I traced the origin of individual prayer in Sumerian from its beginnings in the late third millennium to a point where
it could, conceivably, have inspired certain features of the individual
laments in the Psalter.4 Then in 1969, I attempted to apply some of
the criteria of biblical scholarship to investigate the cultic setting of
various Sumerian poetic genres.5 In 1971, I addressed some of the
chronological problems inherent in any attempt to compare Mesopotamian and biblical literature.6 And at the Sixth World Congress
in 1973, I presented a possible Sumerian prototype to the prayer of

This paper represents portions of an earlier (1974) version of remarks delivered

to the 7th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, August 10, 1977. The revised
paper, actually delivered under the title The Expansion of Cuneiform Literature, will
appear shortly in the Jubilee Volume of the American Academy for Jewish Research.
Both versions served as introductions to the second letter-prayer of Sin-iddinam, of
which a full edition is to appear in a volume in honor of F.R. Kraus, here: V.2.
2 William W. Hallo, New viewpoints on cuneiform literature, Israel Exploration
Journal 12 (1962) 1326, here: I.1.
3 Idem, Akkadian Apocalypses, Israel Exploration Journal 16 (1966) 231242.
4 Idem, Individual Prayer in Sumerian: The Continuity of a Tradition, Journal
of the American Oriental Society 88/1 (Essays in Memory of E.A. Speiser, American Oriental
Series 53, 1968) 7189, here: IV.1.
5 Idem, The Cultic Setting of Sumerian Poetry,Actes de la XVIIe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Brussels, 1969 (1970) 116134, here: I.2.
6 Idem, Problems in Sumerian hermeneutics, Perspectives in Jewish Learning 5 (1973)
112, here: I.3. Some of the points taken up in the articles listed in notes 2 and 46 were
developed further by J.H. Tigay, On some aspects of prayer in the Bible, AJS Review
1 (1976) 363379.


iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers

Hezekiah.7 The text in question is one of several letter-prayers to which

I have given the collective title of Royal Correspondence of Larsa.
Today I wish to present a second composition from the same collection,
at the same time pursuing the case for the comparative approach that
can be made on its basis.
Cuneiform literature provides us with an unrivalled opportunity for
reconstructing a literary history within the biblical world. While the
biblical scholar must rely very largely on hypotheses (including, in
one form or another, the fundamental documentary hypothesis) to
recover the pre-history of the canon, the cuneiformist disposes of documented evidence for many of the successive stages through which a
given composition passed. The antiquity of the Sumerian literary corpus has now been pushed back as far as the middle of the third millennium bc.8 The corpus grew and in part endured to the Seleucid
and Arsacid periods at the very end of the pre-Christian era.9 And in
the interval there are examples both of faithful preservation of individual texts and of their creative adaptation. When such texts are subjected to form-critical analysis, it becomes distinctly possible to attempt
to write genre-histories that take into account organic transformations
of the structure, the language, and even the function of whole genres
in response to the changing demands of evolving ideologies and historic circumstances. It is only by tracing such genre-histories down to
their later stages that one can meet the pre-conditions for possible comparisons with biblical genres; and it is only when the same histories
have been traced back to their origins that such comparisons stand to
add meaningful dimension to the insights gained from the comparative approach. I could illustrate this point from new discoveries in the
realm of Akkadian apocalyptic,10 but I prefer to confine my illustration
to the genre of Sumerian letter-prayers with special attention to royal
letter-prayers. Let me briefly review the stages by which the letter-form
was wedded to the prayer-function to produce this peculiar cuneiform

7 Hallo, The Royal correspondence of Larsa: I. A Sumerian prototype for the

prayer of Hezekiah? Kramer Anniversary Volume (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 25,
1976) 209224, here: V.1.
8 Idem, Toward a history of Sumerian literature, Sumerological Studies . . . Jacobsen (=
Assyriological Studies 20, 1976) 181203, here: I.4, esp. 182, note 10.
9 Ibid., note 12.
10 Idem, loc. cit. (above, note 1), with notes 2539.

iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers


A late fiction has left us an alleged letter (in Akkadian!) from the
first antediluvian sage Adapa (= Adam) to the first antediluvian king
(Alulim),11 but according to earlier native tradition, it was Enmerkar of
Uruk, during the Second Early Dynastic period (ca. 2600 bc), who first
resorted to a written letter.12 The first surviving example of an actual
letter is said to come from Fara at the beginning of the Third Early
Dynastic period (ca. 2500 bc).13 From the end of that period (ca. 2350
2300 bc) at least a half dozen letters have survived, all in Sumerian.14 In
the succeeding Sargonic period (ca. 23002100 bc) letters were written
in both Sumerian15 and Akkadian.16 In the Ur III period (ca. 2100
2000 bc) letter-writing really came into its own. The vast majority of
letters were written in Sumerian; they have been conveniently collected
by Sollberger17 and added to in numerous recent articles and reviews.18
Sollberger entitled his corpus of 373 neo-Sumerian letters The business and administrative correspondence under the kings of Ur.19

11 O.R. Gurney and P. Hulin, The Sultantepe Tablets 2 (1964) Nos. 176 + 185. Cf. the
remarks of M. Civil, JNES 26 (1967) 208. For other implications of the text, cf. Hallo,
Antediluvian Cities, JCS 23 (1970) 62 and note 69; for the equation see provisionally
ibid. 60 and note 36.
12 S.N. Kramer, Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (1952) lines 504507. However, the crucial phrase KA . . . gub, which Kramer hesitantly translates as set up the words, has
the technical meaning of assignment, instruction in the school-essays and proverbs.
For the preceding passage (lines 502 f.), according to which the letter was necessitated
because the herald was heavy of mouth, see Tigay, Moses speech diculty, Gratz
College Annual of Jewish Studies 3 (1974) 2942, esp. 37, note 53.
13 Cited by E. Ebeling, RLA 2 (1938) 65 s.v. Briefe, but I have been unable to find a
letter among the published Fara documents, for whose date cf. Hallo, The date of the
Fara period, Gelb Volume (Orientalia 42, 1972) 228238.
14 See the list compiled by E. Sollberger, TCS 1 (1966) p. 3 sub 6.1.2a and add
D.O. Edzard, Sumerische Rechtsurkunden (1968) No. 96 (ITT 2:5758). Cf. also J. Bauer,
Altsumerische Beitrge. 3. Ein altsumerischer Brief, WO 6 (1971) 151 f.
15 See the list complied by Sollberger, TCS 1 (1966) p. 3 sub 6.1.2b (1-1c) and add
T. Donald, MCS 9 (1964) No. 252; Edzard, Sumerische Rechtsurkunden (1968) No. 95
(Sollberger, RA 60, 1966, 71); D.I. Owen, JCS 26 (1974) 65.
16 F.R. Kraus, Einfhrung in die Briefe in altakkadischer Sprache, JEOL 24
(1976) 74104 (with complete bibliography); K.R. Veenhof, ibid., 105110. Cf. also the
bibliography by A.L. Oppenheim, Letters from Mesopotamia (1967) 201.
17 TCS 1 (1966).
18 E.g. Hallo, The neo-Sumerian letter-orders, BiOr (1969) 171175, which see also
for a description of the genre. For other additions see Owen, JCS 24 (1972) 133 f. and
note 1; Piotr Michalowski, JCS 28 (1972) 161168.
19 See Hallo, loc. cit. (above, note 18) 171 f. for a critique of this title.


iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers

And indeed, like nearly all their more occasional predecessors,20 they
are short and business-like when exchanged between private persons, or
concerned with routine administrative matters when, as was more often
the case, they involved royal chancelleries. But the growing popularity
of the letter format in neo-Sumerian times went hand in hand with
a growing standardization in epistolary style. Not only the opening
formulas21 but the message itself 22 became subject to fairly stringent
rules, a process brought to a head when letter-writing entered the
formal curriculum of the scribal schools. It is these schools which, along
with the temples, preserved the knowledge of Sumerian alive during
the Old Babylonian period (ca. 20001600 bc) while Akkadian became
the vernacular for the population as a whole. The schools continued
to teach the writing of letters in Sumerian even while nearly every
real letter (and thousands of them have survived) was being written in
Akkadian.23 (Whether they also taught Akkadian epistolography is open
to debate).24 And as models of style to this end they turned in the first
instance (as was so often the case also elsewhere in the curriculum)25 to
the examples set and left by the Third Dynasty of Ur.26

20 For a pre-Sargonic letter of more than routine interest, see Sollberger, CIRPL
sub Enz 1, translated by Kramer (after A. Poebel), The Sumerians (1963) p. 331 and by
Sollberger in his Inscriptions Royales Sumriennes et Akkadiennes (1971) pp. 7577 (report on
an Elamite raid to En-entar-zi, the future ruler of Lagash). For a comparable Sargonic
letter (report on Gutian raids by Ishkun-Dagan), see Hallo, Gutium, RLA 3 (1971)
710 and the translation by Oppenheim, Letters from Mesopotamia (1967) 71 f. (No. 2); but
this and the other Ishkun-Dagan letter (ibid., No. 1) may be literary, according to a
suggestion of P. Michalowski.
21 Sollberger, TCS 1 (1966) pp. 2 f. sub 6.1 and 6.1.1.
22 Hallo, BiOr 26 (1969) 172.
23 The huge corpus of Old Babylonian letters is being newly edited by F.R. Kraus
et al., Altbabylonische Briefe in Umschrift und bersetzung (1964 .). For English translations
of selected Akkadian letters of all periods, see Oppenheim, Letters From Mesopotamia. For
the last examples of (non-literary) Sumerian letters in Early Old Babylonian see Hallo,
BiOr 26 (1969) 175 (Nos. 388390).
24 Kraus defended this thesis in Briefschreibbungen im altbabylonischen Schulunterricht, JEOL 16 (1964) 1639 and then questioned it in his introduction to
AbB 5 (1972) vii f. For an Old Babylonian school letter from Sargon of Akkad, see now
O.K. Gurney, UET 7 (1974) 73 I 117.
25 Cf. e.g. my remarks on lexical texts, HUCA 30 (1959) 136.
26 For general surveys see Hallo, List of letter-prayers and other neo-Sumerian
literary letters, loc. cit., (above, note 4), 88 f.; C. Wilcke, Die Quellen der literarisch
berlieferten Briefe, ZA 60 (1970) 6769 with 4 tables. Earlier surveys by Edzard,
AfO 19 (19591960) 3 n. 27 and Kraus, ib. 20 (1963) 153155.

iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers


It is to this ancient scholarly interest that we owe the preservation of

the Royal Correspondence of Ur, a corpus of over twenty separate
letters between the kings of the Third Dynasty and their high ocials.
Only about half of them have been edited or translated hitherto,27 but a
new edition of most of them was the subject of a recent doctoral dissertation at Yale by Piotr Michalowski, and it is thanks to his eorts that I
can characterize the collection here briefly. All the letters touch on high
aairs of state: the defence of the country; the subservience or insubordination of local governors; the maintenance of trade in vital raw materials and foodstus; and so on. They were exchanged between the king
and some of his highest ocials; the prime minister Irmu,28 the military viceroy of the great defensive-wall of the country (bad-igi-hursanga),
Puzur-Marduk,29 the crown prince Amar-Suen, the merchant Ur-dun,
the presiding ocer of the assembly, Sharrum-bani,30 the governor
of Kazallu, Puzur-Numushda,31 and the founder of the Isin Dynasty,
Ishbi-Irra.32 When fully restored, they will throw a bright new light on
the history of Mesopotamia in the 21st century, for although our surviving examplars were written as late as the eighteenth century, there
is little need to doubt that they go back to authentic originals from the
royal archives. The events, the places, and especially the persons mentioned in them tally too well with what is known of Ur III times from
contemporaneous documents to allow any other conclusion.32a

Note especially the following (in order of appearance): A. Falkenstein, ZA 49

(1949) 5979; Kramer apud ANET (1950, 1955) 480 f.; T. Jacobsen, JCS 7 (1953) 36
47; P.v.d, Meer, Chronology2 (1955, 1963) p. 45; Kramer, The Sumerians (1963) pp. 331335;
F.A. Ali, Sumerian Letters (1964) pp. 2752; Wilcke, WO 5 (1969) 131; ZA 60 (1970) 54
69; Edzard, MDP 57 (1974) No. I; Kramer, OECT 5 (1976) ch. 2. Cited in notes 2832a,
3638, 4042 and 50 by name, date, and page only.
28 Kramer (1965) 331333; Ali (1964) 2741; Wilcke (1969) 2 f., 6 f.; (1970) 6264; cf.
also Ali, Sumer 26 (1970) 145178; Kramer (1976) 1315.
29 Wilcke (1969) 36; Note that Puzur-Marduk was previously called Puzur-Shulgi.
For the significance of the name-change for the pattern of usurpation, see Hallo,
JCS 20 (1966) 136 n. 49 and references there, here: III.2.
30 Wilcke (1969) 7 f. On the Su-Sin

correspondence see also S. Lieberman, JCS 22

(1969) 5362.
31 Falkenstein (1949) 6063; Kramer (1955) 480 f., (1963) 333335; Ali (1964) 4252;
Wilcke (1970) 6062; Edzard (1974) 934. Note that Puzur-Numushda was also called
Puzur-Shulgi; cf. above, note 29. Cf. also Ali Sumer 26 (1970) 160178.
32 Jacobsen (1953) 39 f.; Kramer (1963) 333; v.d. Meer (1963) 45; Wilcke (1970) 5559;
Edzard (1974) 934; Kramer (1976) 1518.
32a Ali (1964) 126; reprinted as Two collections of Sumerian letters, Ar.Or. 33 (1965)


iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers

The style of these royal or historical letters is straightforward

and unembellished, and diers little from the isolated examples of
actual letters on public aairs preserved in original exemplars of preSargonic and Sargonic date.33 The address is short and to the point,

e.g. Say to my king, this is what Puzur-Sulgi

the governor of Kazallu
your servant says. The conclusion is equally simple, usually either
May my king know it or (when the king is writing): Its urgent
(literally: its of a flood)dont be negligent.34 The body of the letter
may include an occasional repetition or such clichs as if my king
is (truly) of heaven,35 but on the whole sticks to the subject at issue.
When grouping the letters, the scribes generally paired the letter to
the king with his answer, in that order.36 Much the same can be said
of four letters to and from Iddin-Dagan and Lipit-Ishtar, two kings
of Isin who date from the following century (19741954 and 1934
1924 bc respectively)37 as well as of a small number of miscellaneous
letters and documents generally grouped with Letter Collection B38
and sometimes referred to as the Royal Correspondence of Isin.39
But the Ur III period also bequeathed a very dierent kind of letter
to the curriculum. This consisted of a highly stylized document which,
while epistolary in structure, was in terms of its function a true petition.
Such a petition could be addressed to an individual,40 a king,41 or a
deity;42 but regardless of the addressee, it appears that in each case it
was in egy that he or she was addressed. That is, the petition in letterform was meant to be deposited at the feet of the statuewhether that

Above, note 20.

For a-ma-ru-kam and its variants see Sollberger, TCS 1 (1966) p. 99 s.v.
35 E.g. Hallo, TLB 3 (1973) 172: 5.
36 See the charts by Wilcke, 1970, facing p. 68.
37 Ali (1964) 6379. A fifth letter of the same (?) type is mentioned by M.B. Rowton,
JCS 21 (1967 [publ. 1969]) 273.
38 Ali (1964) 1926; cf. the comments of Wilcke (1970) 6769.
39 Hallo, JAOS 88 (1968) 88 f., here: IV.1. Note, however, that the non-historical
items in this collection can mostly be identified with Ur III personages. Cf. also
M.E. Cohen, The Lu-Ninurta letters, WO 9 (1977) 1013, who claims the letter Ni
4326 + 9254: 9 . (ISET 2: 119) for Enlil-bani of Isin.
40 E.g. the letter of Lugal-MURUB to Enlil-massu, for which see Ali (1964) 130136.
41 E.g. the letters of Aba-indasa, Ursaga and Lugal-murub, for which see, Ali (1964)
5362, 8098. For other treatments of the Ursaga letter, see Hallo, JAOS 88 (1968) 75 f.
and 88, here: IV.1, (sub B6); JNES 31 1972) 94 f.
42 E.g. the letter of Inannaka(m) to Nintinugga, for which see Ali (1964) 137143 and
Hallo, JAOS 88 (1968) 89, here: IV.1, (sub B17) and JNES 31 (1972) 91 f.

iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers


was itself a votive, royal or divine statue.43 In this function, in short, the
petition served as a vehicle of communication with deceased or divine
intercessors. I have therefore designated the genre as a letter-prayer,
and assigned it a major role in the development of individual prayer in
The typical letter-prayer began with a salutation loaded and overloaded with epithets of the addressee suitable to the purposes of the
petitioner. If sickness plagued him, he might rehearse the healing powers of the deity; if unjustly accused, the kings concern for righteousness;
if promotion to higher oce was his goal, he might remind a superior of his solicitousness for underlings in general and his past favors
to the suppliant in particular. To accommodate the growing number of
invocations, the address formula was expanded into two or even three
salutations, each with its own stereotyped predicate.45
The message too assumed a more literary cast. Usually it is possible
to isolate discrete sections, devoted respectively and successively to the
recital of the addressees past beneficences, the petitioners past deserts
and present tribulations, and his promise to sing the deitys praises to
the multitudes when and if his wishes are fulfilled. The parallels that
this structure suggests to the biblical psalms of individual lament or
thanksgiving are apparent, and the millennium or more that separate
the respective genres can be largely bridged by the later development
of the letter-prayer into the ersahunga, the lament for appeasing the
heart of the angry god which became the typical vehicle for individual
prayer in Sumerian after Old Babylonian times.46 Although the generic
43 Hallo JAOS 88 (1968) 79 and note 74, here: IV.1. Even when a private individual is
addressed (above, note 40), note that he is apostrophized in terms more suitable for the
statues of the protective deities that flanked the entrance to temples and palaces (dalad,
dlamma). Note an Akkadian letter-prayer similarly addressed via the writers personal
deity (a-na DINGIR a-bi-ia) to Marduk! Lutz, YOS 2:141; cf. the edition by van Dijk, La
Sagesse . . . (1953) 13 f., and the remarks by Kraus, Ein altbabylonischer Brief an eine
Gottheit, RA 65 (1971) 36.
44 Above, note 4. See there for details of the characterization oered here.
45 The first two found their way into the Old Babylonian lexical list called izi
(M. Civil et al., MSL 13 [1971] 33 lines 487 f.) and, from there (?), all three were incorporated, oddly enough, into the late canonical lexicon of professional names called L =
sa (Civil et al., MSL 12 [1969] 106 lines 8486; cf. the collation of C.B.F. Walker, BiOr 29
[1972] 310 ad loc.). Cf. also the catchline of NBGT I (MSL 4 [1956] 147: cf. TCS 1, p. 1).
46 For recent discussions of this genre, see Hallo, JAOS 88 (1968) 8082, here: IV.1;
JCS 24 (1971) 40 ad SLTF 223; JAOS 97 (1977) 584 f. ad M.J. Seux, Hymnes et Prires
. . . (1976) 139168; W.G. Lambert, JNES 33 (1974) 267322; Werner Mayer, Studia Pohl:
Series Maior 5 (1976) 32 note 63.


iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers

designation47 does not appear in subscripts before the first millennium,

examples of the genre have been identified in Middle Babylonian copies
and perhaps even earlier.48 Moreover, there is already a reference to
bringing ersahunga-texts from Babylon to Assur as plunder in the Middle
Assyrian exemplar of the Tukulti-Ninurta Epic.49
The original date of composition of the earliest letter-prayers, like
that of the historical letters, can be traced back to Ur III times, for all
of their writers can be identified with persons prominent under that
dynasty, and specifically at the religious capital of Nippur. This assertion is made in the light of monumental and archival texts actually dating back to Ur III times, as well as of the other genres of literary texts
preserved in Old Babylonian copies, all of which preserve the same
names in the same functions.50 Indeed, one can weave the evidence of
all these diverse genres together to reconstruct an intimate picture of
the family relations and careers of the political and religious aristocracy
at Nippur in the 21st and 20th centuries. I have made an attempt in this
direction for one such family (The House of Ur-Meme) but it is not
my purpose to pursue that line here.51 Nor do I propose to trace the
evolution of the petitionary letter into a special vehicle for scribal concerns.52 Rather I wish to pursue the development of the literary letter
in another direction, namely that of the royal letter-prayer.
MSL 13 (1971) 232:15; dierently AHw s.v. ersahung.
See the edition of CNM 10099 (obv.) and duplicates by Lambert, JNES 33 (1974)
291 f., its bilingual successor ibid. 288 f., and its (exceptionally!) unilingual Akkadian version ibid. 278 f. (lines 7186). In the last, note especially line 155 (pp. 282 f. and Lamberts comment p. 305) with its seven-fold sins (for which cf. JAOS 88: 81 n. 85, here:
49 Lambert, AfO 18 (1957) 44:6. Cf. Peter Machinist, The Epic of Tukulti-Ninurta I
(Ph.D. Thesis, Yale, 1978) 128:6 and 370 f.
50 See above, notes 4042. For biographical details on Aba-indasa, see JAOS 88:88
n. 115, here: IV.1; on Ursaga, see JNES 31:94 f.; on Lugal-MURUB, sec BiOr 26:174 and
below, note 52; on Inannaka, see JNES 31:91f. As for Enlil-massu (above, note 40), note
that he is also the addressee of letter B 19 (Ali [1964] 149152), where he is described as
a pupil of the academicians (um-mi-a) Nabi-Enlil and Enlil-alsa (= Zuzu); for all three
of these individuals, see Hallo, Seals lost and found in M. Gibson and R.D. Biggs,
eds., Seals and Sealing in the Ancient Near East (= Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 6; 1977) 57 with
notes 1320.
51 Hallo, The House of Ur-Meme, JNES 31 (1972) 8795.
52 For the scribal correspondence see provisionally the list in JAOS 88:89, here:
IV.1, sub II. Its survival is attested by the bilingual version of a letter addressed to LugalMURUB (above, notes 40 f. and 50) the Nippurian (ni-pu-ri-ia; so J. Krecher, UF 1,
1969, 152 f.) and now known in more or less contemporaneous copies from Hattusha,
Ugarit and Assur; see J. Nougayrol, Ugaritica 5 (1968) 2328, 376 No. 15, and 628 Fig. 17.

iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers


Up to this point in time (i.e., ca. 1900 bc), the literary letters of the
school curriculum were of two discrete types, though both types were
grouped together, in some instances, on large single tablets. The historical letters were written by the living king, or to him by his highest ocials, while the letter-prayers were all composed by private individuals.
The letter-prayer, indeed, represented the private individuals cheapest
form of communication with the deity, for though the Mesopotamian
worshipper seems to have lived by the rule of
(Deut. 16:16; cf. Ex. 23:15, 34:20), he could rarely aord the optimal
dedicatory, or votive, oering: the statue of the worshipper set up in the
cella of the deity and inscribed with his prayer, which was conceived
thereby as proerred perpetually by the statue of the worshipper to the
statue of the deity, both statues serving as images or surrogates of their
originals.53 Less costly votives were available: usually elaborate stone
carvings and replicas of bowls, maceheads, seals and other tools and
weapons of daily life.54 Their inscriptions might proclaim their purpose
in the standard votive formulas as being for the sake of the long life
of the donor and/or designated beneficiaries such as the king, or the
donors wife and children. Or, alternatively, a specific prayer, whether
as a petition for success in a given venture, or as thanks for favors
previously asked and now granted, might be added to the basic dedicatory inscription, usually as the name of the votive object.55 Even
such objects, however, proved too expensive for the masses. As a result,
the letter was introduced as an alternate form of petition. Possibly it
required a small concomitant oering and certainly a fee to the scribe,
but no more. A letter addressed to the deity (or to the deified king)
via his statue could be commissioned from any trained scribe, and
deposited at the feet of the cult-statue much as generations of worshippers have inserted their letters to God in the chinks of the Western


The result was often a chapel filled with statues, such as those recovered by the
Chicago expeditions to the Diyala Valley cities of the Early Dynastic period; cf. e.g.
P. Delougaz and S. Lloyd, Pre-Sargonid Temples in the Diyala Region (OIP 58, 1942) 188,
fig. 149.
54 For a more detailed typology of votive objects, see Hallo, HUCA 33 (1962) 1214;
for their inscriptions, ibid., 16 f.; Sollberger and Kupper Inscriptions Royales (1971) 29 f.,
For the view that the objects should be termed dedicatory rather than votive see
A.K. Grayson, JAOS 90 (1970) 528 f.; G. van Driel, JAOS 93 (1973) 68 f.
55 See I. J, Gelb, The names of ex-voto objects in ancient Mesopotamia, Names 21
(1956) 6569.


iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers

But a more compelling analogy can be suggested, for among the

historical or biographical psalms of David preserved in the biblical Psalter are five (Psalms 5660) which share the designation MIKTAM and commemorate those events in his life which strengthened his
legitimacy as king.56 These psalms, apparently inscribed on steles, are
somehow related to the prayer of Hezekiah concerning his illness, designated as a letter (Isaiah 38:9),57 and confirm the convergence of the
letter-prayer and the royal prayer in the literary tradition of Israel. In
Sumerian literature, the convergence begins with Sin-iddinam of Larsa
(ca. 18491843 bc) and anticipates five discrete aspects of the biblical
tradition: royal attribution, historical or biographical context, special
emphasis on illness, pestilence, war or other national crisis, monumental medium, and epistolary structure or designation.
If it be argued that the chronological gap between the two traditions
is prohibitively large,58 that gap can be closed in part by intervening
evidence, such as the significant corpus of Hittite royal prayers.59 And
the discovery of ever more examples of bilingual (Sumero-Akkadian)
or trilingual (Sumero-Akkado-Hittite) hymns and prayers at the Hittite
capital and at Ugarit reveals the probable mechanisms of the transmission of Babylonian models: in the major libraries and scribal schools
of the periphery, it was customary to copy and translate the classical
texts of the Old Babylonian tradition and at the same time to create
native compositions in the local vernacular which closely followed the
Babylonian prototypes.60 When, as in the case of the hymn to Nergal, recently republished in translation by Seux, we can compare the
peripheral version of the second millennium with the canonical version
from neo-Assyrian Nineveh, we cannot help but be impressed with the
temporal and spatial extent of a literary tradition that began in Babylonia two thousand years earlier.61 And now, thanks to the discovery of
a neo-Assyrian duplicate, the literary tradition of the royal Sumerian

56 See in greater detail Hallo, The expansion of cuneiform literature, (above,

note 1).
57 Ibid., and A Sumerian prototype . . . (above, note 7).
58 On this argument in general, see above, note 6.
59 On these see Ph.H.J. Houwink ten Cate, Hittite royal prayers, Numen 16 (1969)
60 H. G, Gterbock, The composition of Hittite prayers to the Sun, JAOS 78
(1958) 237245.
61 Seux, op. cit. (above, note 46) 7881 and my comments JAOS 97 (1977) 584(1).

iv.2. letters, prayers, and letter-prayers


letter-prayer can be followed from the 19th century bc all the way to
the 7th. Therewith the potential link to the royal prayer in the Bible is

62 See above, note 1. For a possible epigraphic parallel to the cuneiform letter-prayer,
see Joseph Naveh, A Hebrew letter from the seventh century bc, Israel Exploration Journal 10 (1960) 129139; cf. Dennis Pardee, The judicial plea from Hashavyahu
(Yavneh-Yam): a new philological study, Maarav 1/1 (1978) 3366, who classifies the
document as a judicial plea in epistolary formin more traditional terms, a letter of
petition (ibid., 38; cf. ibid. 55).


The lamentations of ancient Mesopotamia are poetic responses to real

or imaginary disasters. They can be broadly divided into two groups
which, in keeping with usage in biblical criticism, can be described as
congregational (communal) and individual laments, respectively. Within
each group, the material can be further classified according to the focus
of the lament: a city or temple, a deity, or a deceased king on the one
hand; a living king or a deceased individual on the other. In keeping
with this classification, the native scribes recognized various specific
genres (literary categories), often labeling the compositions accordingly
and always adhering strictly to the traditional norms that featured a
common, distinctive set of characteristics. In the millennial history of
these genres, language is a useful index of date, with the earliest stages
generally represented by main-dialect Sumerian, followed by dialectal
Sumerian, Sumero-Akkadian bilinguals, and Akkadian unilinguals. In
the survey that follows, the compositions are organized by genre and
within each genre by language or dialect. They are cited by the titles
generally coined for them by Assyriologists, rather than by their ancient
titles, which normally consisted of their opening words or incipit.
In the conclusion, the genres are compared and contrasted with their
biblical counterparts.

Congregational Laments
Forerunners in Main-Dialect Sumerian
The earliest example of a congregational lament dates from the Old
Sumerian period and constitutes a kind of forerunner to the lamentations over the destruction of temples and cities of the Neo-Sumerian
canon. The Fall of Lagash is a unique composition, preserved on a
single clay tablet dating from, or at least referring to, Uru-inimgina
(Urukagina), the last ruler of the First Dynasty of Lagash, around


iv.3. lamentations and prayers in sumer and akkad

2350 bce. It catalogs the shrines of Lagash devastated by Lugalzagesi

of Umma and puts the blame squarely on that ruler or his patron-deity,
absolving the ruler of Lagash. Lugalzagesi went on to conquer all of
Sumer but was in turn defeated by Sargon of Akkad (Agade). The story
is related in a text better described as a legend than as a lamentation.
But the dynasty that Sargon founded came to grief in its own turn
at the hands of the Gutians. According to the Curse of Agade, the
destruction of Akkad occurred during the reign of Sargons grandson,
Naram-Sin, although other evidence suggests a later date for the event.
This highly tendentious hymn has many features in common with the
city-laments. A supposed lament for the city of Kirga is not a parody
of the genre but rather a proverbial complaint about the loss of standards (DI.IR.GA).
The linguistic evidence attests to the importance of musical accompaniment to formal lamentation. There are harps of lamentation (BALAG A.NIR.RA) and of wailing (BALAG R.RA). Reed-(pipes) of wailing (GI R.RA = qan bikti) gave rise to the technical term for ritual
wailing (GI.RA.NM = girranu). For percussion instruments see below.
City-Laments in Main-Dialect and Dialectal Sumerian
The Sargonic Empire was restored to some extent by the Third Dynasty of Ur whose own fall at the end of the third millennium was
regarded as an especially devastating sign of divine displeasure. No less
than six laments commemorated the event, and they did so in such
vivid terms that they suggest the reaction of eyewitnesses. Because of
their specific allusions to historic personages and events, they are sometimes described as historical laments. Two of them, however, mention King Ishme-Dagan of Isin, and were therefore written at least fifty
years after the disaster, and so, probably, were the others as well. In fact,
the laments were designed as liturgical accompaniments to the royal
rebuilding of the destroyed temples, which involved the inevitable razing of their remainsa possible sacrilege against their gods. Like their
forerunners, therefore, the city-laments describe the earlier destruction
in lurid detail. They seek to absolve the royal rebuilder by heaping
blame on the foreigners who caused the original devastation. But unlike
their forerunners, they were intended for liturgical use, as indicated
by their division into anywhere from four to twelve or more stanzas
designated as first genuflection (KI.RU.G), second genuflection,
and so on. Their allusions to specific destructions made them unsuit-

iv.3. lamentations and prayers in sumer and akkad


able for subsequent reuse in the liturgy, but they were adopted into
the Neo-Sumerian canon and widely recopied in the scribal schools of
mid Old Babylonian times (about 18001700). Three of them were written wholly or largely in the main dialect of Sumerian. The Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur, which may be the first in
the series, catalogs the devastation visited on all the major cities of the
Ur III Dynasty in its second stanza, while concentrating on the capital
city of Ur in the other four. The laments for Eridu and Uruk (modern
Warka, biblical Erech) bemoan the fates of these two cities in at least
eight and twelve stanzas respectively.
Three other city-laments bewailed the fate of the political capital at
Ur, the religious capital at Nippur (modern Nuar), and, in fragmentary form, the more obscure town or temple of Ekimar. They were
written wholly or largely in a dialect of Sumerian called Emesal (literally thin or attenuated speech). This dialect was aected, in literary texts, by women or goddesses and by the liturgical singers (GALA
= kal) who specialized in reciting lamentations. Females were often
described as bemoaning the fate of their cities, their husbands, or their
sons, and the theme of the weeping mother (sometimes compared to
the mater dolorosa of the Christian tradition) has been recognized in several types of laments. The kal-singers may have been castrati singing
in a kind of falsetto; in any case, they became the butt of unflattering
references, particularly in the proverbs.
Tambourine-Laments and Harp-Songs in Dialectal Sumerian
Inevitably, the Dynasty of Isin came to an end, meeting its doom at the
hands of the rival Dynasty of Larsa. The event was commemorated in a
number of compositions in which Nin-Isina (the divine Lady of Isin)
in one or another of her various manifestations laments the fate of
her city. Most often, these compositions were labeled as tambourine
laments (R.SM.MA,
from R = tazzimtu, lament, or biktu, wailing,

and SM = halhallatu, tambourine). Over one hundred compositions

recorded in two catalog texts that list their incipits
of this genre were
(i.e., the first line or first words of each). They were addressed or
attributed to a variety of deities, and probably composed during the
First Dynasty of Babylon, which, under King Hammurabi, succeeded
Isin and Larsa as the main political power of the region. At least
twenty-five of the tambourine-laments are preserved in whole or in
part; they are invariably composed in dialectal Sumerian.


iv.3. lamentations and prayers in sumer and akkad

Except for those that refer to Isin, they do not, like the city-laments,
describe a specific, historical destruction or reconstruction and can
better be regarded as ritual laments. They couched their complaints
in such generalized language that they could be reused liturgically
for many centuries. Indeed, some of the Old Babylonian examples of
the genre recur in copies of the first millennium, and new examples
were still being copied and perhaps even composed as late as the first
But the late ershemmas served a new purpose. Except when used in
certain ritual performances (KI.DU.DU = kidud), the first-millennium
ershemmas were now appended to another genre, the song of the harp
or lyre (BALAG = balaggu). Harp-songs were alluded to already in
the third millennium and are known from a dozen actual examples
in the second and from many more in the first. They included some
of the longest of all Sumerian poems. They were divided into liturgical stanzas like the city-laments, but sometimes featured as many as
sixty-five or more of them. Occasionally they were accompanied by
glosses (marginal annotations) possibly representing musical notations
or instructions. In their late form, each harp-song concluded with a
tambourine-lament, and the resulting combinations were catalogued
together as 39 lamentations of gods (literally of Enlil) and 18
lamentations of goddesses (literally of Inanna). All were written in
dialectal Sumerian, but the first-millennium recensions often added a
word-for-word translation into Akkadian, which was inserted between
the Sumerian lines in interlinear fashion.
A survey of the entire genre as well as the detailed history of particular examples shows clearly that these long compositions became
increasingly repetitive; they were filled with stock phrases; and sometimes with whole stock-stanzas. The eect is best described as litanylike. That these compositions were employed in the liturgy is clear from
cultic calendars that specified their recitation on certain days of the cultic year, sometimes in identical form for dierent deities on dierent
days. In this way, their divorce from specific historical events became

The genre known as hand-lifting laments (SU.L.LA)

consists of
late compositions in dialectal Sumerian with an interlinear Akkadian
translation. Like the tambourine-laments and harp-songs, these laments
typically seek to appease an angry deity on behalf of the city, temple,
and community. They are to be clearly distinguished from the Akkadian incantations of the lifting of the hand (see below) that deal with
individual distress.

iv.3. lamentations and prayers in sumer and akkad


Unilingual Akkadian City-Laments

Although the liturgical lamentations in dialectal Sumerian often acquired (interlinear) translations into Akkadian in the first millennium
(see above), their format and style were not much favored in new Akkadian compositions. Occasional lament-like passages were embedded in
other literary genres, as in the case of Marduks Lament over the
Destruction of Babylon found in the fourth tablet (chapter) of the Myth
of Erra, which was composed toward the end of the second millennium
(see Myth and Myth-making in Sumer and Akkad earlier in this volume). As late as the Seleucid period, an Akkadian text lamented the
destruction of the cities in Sumer and Akkad, apparently at the hands
of the Gutians. If it was alluding to the historical Gutian invasion in
the third millennium, the lament may represent a late copy of a much
earlier Akkadian original, or perhaps the Akkadian translation of a lost
Sumerian original. More likely it was using the ethnic label in a purely
geographical sense to designate any warlike enemy on the northern or
eastern frontier. The text has also been regarded as a neo-Babylonian
lament for Tammuz, the Akkadian equivalent of the ancient Sumerian
deity Dumuzi.
Ever since the domestication of plants and animals in the early Neolithic period, Mesopotamian agriculture featured a mixed economy in
which farmers and seminomadic pastoralists lived in an uneasy but
interdependent symbiosis. During the late spring and summer, when
vegetation dried up in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, cattle and
sheep were driven to the highlands in the east, where verdure continued to grow. Sumerian mythology equated these highlands or mountains (KUR in Sumerian) with the netherworld (likewise named KUR),
and the seasonal cycle with cosmic events. The desiccation of the fertile soil was thought to reflect the banishment to the netherworld of the
god of fertility. The rebirth of fertility in the winter (and early spring)
echoed his return to the world of the living. Most often this god was
called Dumuzi, whose name can mean the healthy child, but other
gods such as Damu, son of Nin-Isina, also filled the role. Dumuzi was
the son of Duttur (or Ninsun), the brother of Geshtinanna, and the
husband of Inanna. These goddesses (and others) figured prominently
as reciters of lamentations designed to assure the return of the deceased


iv.3. lamentations and prayers in sumer and akkad

deity to the world of the living. Even Inanna, who, according to the
mythology, was responsible for consigning Dumuzi to the netherworld
in the first place, participated in these appeals. The Death of Dumuzi
is recounted in a moving Sumerian lament and incorporated in a number of other compositions of a mythological character, such as The
Descent of Inanna, Dumuzis Dream, Dumuzi and the GALLAdemons, and Inanna and Bilulu.
The historical tradition knew of two mortals who also bore the name
of Dumuzi, one a shepherd and ruler of Pa-tibira (or Bad-tibira)
before the Flood, the other a fisherman and ruler of Uruk just before
Gilgamesh. On the basis of late laments in which the divine Dumuzi
is associated (or even identified) with other antediluvian kings, and of
references to him in other laments as shepherd, the earlier mortal
(rather than the later one) may have served as prototype of the deity.
Laments for Kings
The deified Mesopotamian kings of the classical period (about 2250
1750) were considered stand-ins for Dumuzi, especially in the rite of
the sacred marriage and, albeit more rarely, in the ceremonies surrounding their death and burial. The death of kings was a major
concern of Mesopotamian ideology, particularly if death was untimely
or took a bizarre form. The topic was often addressed in the historiography, particularly in its characteristically Mesopotamian form of
(historical) omens, which assumed connections between observed natural phenomena and historical events. At other times the issue was
dealt with in the liturgy, if it can be assumed that some laments for
Dumuzi were actually addressed to the newly deceased king. (See also
Theologies, Priests, and Worship in Ancient Mesopotamia in Part 8,
Vol. III, and Love Lyrics from the Ancient Near East in Part 9,
Vol. IV.)
There were also a number of compositions mentioning the king by
name. Their prototype may be The Death of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian
epic that details the legendary fate of this celebrated ruler of Uruk.
Certainly this narrative has many points of resemblance with The
Death of Ur-Nammu, a poem about how the founder of the Third
Dynasty of Ur met his death in battle, a fate Mesopotamian kings
normally reserved for their enemies. This lament composed for UrNammus burial was so moving and so personal in its language that it
has sometimes been attributed to his widow.

iv.3. lamentations and prayers in sumer and akkad


Lamenting the death of Mesopotamian royalty was also noted outside of strictly literary texts. Thus, for example, the founder of the

First Dynasty of Isin,

which succeeded the Third Dynasty of Ur, was
mourned in a great wailing (R.GU.LA) according to a simple archival text that also records a banquet for his successor. Nabonidus,
the last king of the last independent Mesopotamian dynasty, ordered
a seven-day period of mourning for his mother when, in 547 bce, she
died at the venerable age of 104. This information is recorded in a
short third-person subscript added to her lengthy autobiography, turning that monument into a funerary inscription, another genre occasionally attesting to laments for departed royalty.
Excerpt from the Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur (Fourth Stanza)
There is lamentation in the haunted city, reed-(pipes) of wailing are intoned
In its midst there is lamentation, reed-(pipes) of wailing are intoned there.
In it they (the people) pass their days in lamentation. Oh my son, you who are
its native son by your own deserts, why should you wail?
Oh Nanna [i.e., the Moon-god, patron-deity of Ur], you who are its native
son by your own deserts, why should you wail?
There is no turning back the completed judgment of the (divine) assembly!
The command of An and Enlil (heads of the pantheon) knows no overturning!
Ur was indeed given kingship (but) an eternal reign it was n