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Category: Ashur-bani-pal

Marduk vs. Tiamat

Merodach advances to the fight armed with a club and bow which Anu had placed in his hand and which subsequently became a constellation, as well as with his own peculiar weapon which hung behind his back. It was shaped like a sickle, and is the αρπη or khereb with which Greek mythology armed the Asiatic hero Perseus.

The struggle was long and terrible. Tiamat opened her month to swallow the god, but he thrust a storm-wind down her throat, and the monster was burst asunder, while her allies fled in terror before the victorious deity.

The combat is represented in stone in one of the Assyrian bas-reliefs now in the British Museum. There we can see the demon as she appeared to the Assyrians, with claws and wings, a short tail, and horns upon the head.

Battle between Marduk (Bel) and Tiamat. Drawn from a bas-relief from the Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal, King of Assyria, 885-860 B.C., at Nimrûd. British Museum, Nimrûd Gallery, Nos. 28 and 29. http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2013/06/tablet-of-destinies.html

Battle between Marduk (Bel) and Tiamat. Drawn from a bas-relief from the Palace of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria, 885-860 B.C., at Nimrûd.
British Museum, Nimrûd Gallery, Nos. 28 and 29.
http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2013/06/tablet-of-destinies.html

When we remember the close parallelism that exists between this conflict of Merodach with Tiamat, and the war recorded in the Apocalypse between Michael and “the great dragon,” it is difficult not to trace in the lineaments of Tiamat the earliest portraiture of the mediaeval devil.”

A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, p. 102.

The Enuma Elish

“THE great Assyrian poem, or series of legends, which narrates the story of the Creation of the world and man, was termed by the Assyrians and Babylonians Enuma elish, “When in the height,” from the two opening words of the text.

The poem consisted of some nine hundred and ninety-four lines, and was divided into seven sections, each of which was inscribed upon a separate Tablet. The Tablets were numbered by the Assyrian scribes, and the separate sections of the poem written upon them do not vary very much in length.

The shortest Tablet contains one hundred and thirty-eight lines, and the longest one hundred and forty-six, the average length of a Tablet being about one hundred and forty-two lines.

The poem embodies the beliefs of the Babylonians and Assyrians concerning the origin of the universe; it describes the coming forth of the gods from chaos, and tells the story of how the forces of disorder, represented by the primeval water-gods Apsû and Tiamat, were overthrown by Ea and Marduk respectively, and how Marduk, after completing the triumph of the gods over chaos, proceeded to create the world and man.

The poem is known to us from portions of several Assyrian and late-Babylonian copies of the work, and from extracts from it written out upon the so-called “practice-tablets,” or students’ exercises, by pupils of the Babylonian scribes.

The Assyrian copies of the work are from the great library which was founded at Nineveh by Ashur-bani-pal, king of Assyria from B.C. 668 to about B.C. 626; the Babylonian copies and extracts were inscribed during the period of the kings of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods; and one copy of the Seventh Tablet may probably be assigned to as late a date as the period of the Arsacidae.

All the tablets and fragments, which have hitherto been identified as inscribed with portions of the text of the poem, are preserved in the British Museum.”

Leonard William King, The Seven Tablets of Creation, London, 1902. pp. xxv-xxvi.

The 11th Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Quest for Human Immortality

THE BABYLONIAN LEGEND OF THE DELUGE AS TOLD TO THE HERO GILGAMISH BY HIS ANCESTOR UTA-NAPISHTIM, WHO HAD BEEN MADE IMMORTAL BY THE GODS.

“The form of the Legend of the Deluge given below is that which is found on the Eleventh of the Series of Twelve Tablets in the Royal Library at Nineveh, which described the life and exploits of Gilgamish, an early king of the city of Erech.

As we have seen above, the Legend of the Deluge has probably no original connection with the Epic of Gilgamish, but was introduced into it by the editors of the Epic at a comparatively late period, perhaps even during the reign of Ashur-bani-pal (B.C. 669-626).

… It is … only necessary to state here that Gilgamish, who was horrified and almost beside himself when his bosom friend and companion Enkidu died, meditated deeply how he could escape death himself. He knew that his ancestor Uta-Napishtim had become immortal, therefore he determined to set out for the place where Uta-Napishtim lived so that he might obtain from him the secret of immortality.

Guided by a dream, Gilgamish set out for the Mountain of the Sunset, and, after great toil and many difficulties, came to the shore of a vast sea. Here he met Ur-Shanabi, the boatman of Uta-Napishtim, who was persuaded to carry him in his boat over the “waters of death,” and at length he landed on the shore of the country of Uta-Napishtim.

The immortal came down to the shore and asked the newcomer the object of his visit, and Gilgamish told him of the death of his great friend Enkidu, and of his desire to escape from death and to find immortality. Uta-Napishtim having made to Gilgamish some remarks which seem to indicate that in his opinion death was inevitable,

1. Gilgamish said unto him, to Uta-Napishtim the remote:

2. “I am looking at thee, Uta-Napishtim.

3. Thy person is not altered; even as am I so art thou.

4. Verily, nothing about thee is changed; even as am I so art thou.

5. A heart to do battle doth make thee complete,

6. Yet at rest (?) thou dost lie upon thy back.

7. How then hast thou stood the company of the gods and sought life?”

Thereupon Uta-Napishtim related to Gilgamish the Story of the Deluge, and the Eleventh Tablet continues thus

8. Uta-Napishtim said unto him, to Gilgamish:

9. “I will reveal unto thee, O Gilgamish, a hidden mystery,

10. And a secret matter of the gods I will declare unto thee.

11. Shurippak, a city which thou thyself knowest,

12. On [the bank] of the river Puratti (Euphrates) is situated,

13. That city is old; and the gods [dwelling] within it

14. Their hearts induced the great gods to make a windstorm (a-bu-bi),

15. There was their father Anu,

16. Their counsellor, the warrior Enlil,

17. Their messenger En-urta [and]

18. Their prince Ennugi.

19. Nin-igi-ku, Ea, was with them [in council] and

20. reported their word to a house of reeds.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 30-2.

The Library of Ashur-bani-pal

ASHUR-BANI-PAL, BOOK-COLLECTOR AND PATRON OF LEARNING.

“Ashur-bani-pal (the Asnapper of Ezra iv, 10) succeeded his father Esarhaddon B.C. 669, and at a comparatively early period of his reign he seems to have devoted himself to the study of the history of his country, and to the making of a great Private Library.

The tablets that have come down to us prove not only that he was as great a benefactor of the Library of the Temple of Nebo as any of his predecessors, but that he was himself an educated man, a lover of learning, and a patron of the literary folk of his day.

In the introduction to his Annals, as found inscribed on his great ten-sided prism in the British Museum, he tells us how he took up his abode in the Crown Prince’s dwelling from which Sermacherib and Esarhaddon had ruled the Assyrian Empire, and in describing his own education he says:

“I, Ashur-bani-pal, within it (i.e., the palace) understood the wisdom of Nebo, all the art of writing of every craftsman, of every kind, I made myself master of them all (i.e., of the various kinds of writing).”

These words suggest that Ashur-bani-pal could not only read cuneiform texts, but could write like a skilled scribe, and that he also understood all the details connected with the craft of making and baking tablets.

Having determined to form a Library in his palace he set to work in a systematic manner to collect literary works. He sent scribes to ancient seats of learning, e.g., Ashur, Babylon, Cuthah, Nippur, Akkad, Erech, to make copies of the ancient works that were preserved there, and when the copies came to Nineveh he either made transcripts of them himself, or caused his scribes to do so for the Palace Library.

In any case he collated the texts himself and revised them before placing them in his Library. The appearance of the tablets from his Library suggests that he established a factory in which the clay was cleaned and kneaded and made into homogeneous, well-shaped tablets, and a kiln in which they were baked, after they had been inscribed.

The uniformity of the script upon them is very remarkable, and texts with mistakes in them are rarely found. How the tablets were arranged in the Library is not known, but certainly groups were catalogued, and some tablets were labelled.

Groups of tablets were arranged in numbered series, with “catch lines,” the first tablet of the series giving the first line of the second tablet, the second tablet giving the first line of the third tablet, and so on.

Ashur-bani-pal was greatly interested in the literature of the Sumerians, i.e., the non-Semitic people who occupied Lower Babylonia about B.C. 3500 and later. He and his scribes made bilingual lists of signs and words and objects of all classes and kinds, all of which are of priceless value to the modem student of the Sumerian and Assyrian languages.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 15-17.

The Library of the Temple of Nebo in Nineveh

NEBO AND HIS LIBRARY AT NINEVEH.

“Nothing is known of the early history of the Library of the Temple of Nebo at Nineveh, but there is little doubt that it was in existence in the reign of Sargon II.

Authorities differ in their estimate of the attributes that were assigned to Nebo (Nabu) in Pre-Babylonian times, and “cannot decide whether he was a water-god, or a fire-god, or a corn-god, but he was undoubtedly associated with Marduk, either as his son or as a fellow-god.

It is certain that as early as B.C. 2000 he was regarded as one of the “Great Gods” of Babylonia, and in the fourteenth century B.C. his cult was already established in Assyria. He had a temple at Nimrûd in the ninth century B.C., and King Adad-nirari (B.C. 811-783) set up six statues in it to the honour of the god; two of these statues are now in the British Museum.

The same Adad-nirari also repaired the Nebo temple at Nineveh. Under the last Assyrian Empire Nebo was believed to possess the wisdom of all the gods, and to be the “All-wise ” and “All-knowing.” He was the inventor of all the arts and sciences, and the source of inspiration in wise and learned men, and he was the divine scribe and past master of all the mysteries connected with literature and the art of writing (dup-sharrute).

Ashur-bani-pal addresses him as “Nebo, the mighty son, the director of the whole of heaven and of earth, holder of the tablet, bearer of the writing-reed of the tablet of destiny, lengthener of days, vivifier of the dead, stablisher of light for the men who are troubled.”

In the reign of Sargon II the Temple of Nebo at Kuyûnjik was repaired, and probably at that time a library was housed in it. Layard found some of the remains of Nebo’s Library in the South West Palace, but it must have been transferred thither, for the temple of Nebo lay farther north, near the south corner of Ashur-bani-pal’s palace.

Nebo’s temple at Nineveh bore the same name as his very ancient temple at Borsippa (the modem Birs-i-Nimrûd), viz., “E-ZIDA.”

Ashur-bani-pal

” … The records of Ashur-bani-pal cease after 640 B.C., so that we are unable to follow the events of his reign during its last fourteen years. Apparently peace prevailed everywhere. The great monarch, who was a pronounced adherent of the goddess cults, appears to have given himself up to a life of indulgence and inactivity.

Under the name Sardanapalus he went down to tradition as a sensual Oriental monarch who lived in great pomp and luxury, and perished in his burning palace when the Medes revolted against him. It is evident, however, that the memory of more than one monarch contributed to the Sardanapalus legend, for Ashur-bani-pal had lain nearly twenty years in his grave before the siege of Nineveh took place.

In the Bible he is referred to as “the great and noble Asnapper,” and he appears to have been the emperor who settled the Babylonian, Elamite, and other colonists “in the cities of Samaria.”

He erected at Nineveh a magnificent palace, which was decorated on a lavish scale. The sculptures are the finest productions of Assyrian art, and embrace a wide variety of subjects–battle scenes, hunting scenes, and elaborate Court and temple ceremonies. Realism is combined with a delicacy of touch and a degree of originality which raises the artistic productions of the period to the front rank among the artistic triumphs of antiquity.

Ashur-bani-pal in the palace of Nineveh.

Ashur-bani-pal boasted of the thorough education which he had received from the tutors of his illustrious father, Esarhaddon. In his palace he kept a magnificent library. It contained thousands of clay tablets on which were inscribed and translated the classics of Babylonia.

To the scholarly zeal of this cultured monarch is due the preservation of the Babylonian story of creation, the Gilgamesh and Etana legends, and other literary and religious products of remote antiquity. Most of the literary tablets in the British Museum were taken from Ashur-bani-pal’s library.”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915, pp. 486-7.

Bel-Merodach Returns to Babylon

” … Babylon welcomed its new king–a Babylonian by birth and the son of a Babylonian princess. The ancient kingdom rejoiced that it was no longer to be ruled as a province; its ancient dignities and privileges were being partially restored.

But one great and deep-seated grievance remained. The god Merodach was still a captive in the temple of Ashur.

No king could reign aright if Merodach were not restored to E-sagila. Indeed he could not be regarded as the lord of the land until he had “taken the hands of Bel.”

The ceremony of taking the god’s hands was an act of homage. When it was consummated the king became the steward or vassal of Merodach, and every day he appeared before the divine one to receive instructions and worship him. The welfare of the whole kingdom depended on the manner in which the king acted towards the god.

If Merodach was satisfied with the king he sent blessings to the land; if he was angry he sent calamities. A pious and faithful monarch was therefore the protector of the people.

This close association of the king with the god gave the priests great influence in Babylon. They were the power behind the throne. The destinies of the royal house were placed in their hands; they could strengthen the position of a royal monarch, or cause him to be deposed if he did not satisfy their demands.

A king who reigned over Babylon without the priestly party on his side occupied an insecure position. Nor could he secure the co-operation of the priests unless the image of the god was placed in the temple. Where king was, there Merodach had to be also.

Shamash-shum-ukin pleaded with his royal brother and overlord to restore Bel Merodach to Babylon. Ashur-bani-pal hesitated for a time; he was unwilling to occupy a less dignified position, as the representative of Ashur, than his distinguished predecessor, in his relation to the southern kingdom.

At length, however, he was prevailed upon to consult the oracle of Shamash, the solar lawgiver, the revealer of destiny. The god was accordingly asked if Shamash-shum-ukin could “take the hands of Bel” in Ashur’s temple, and then proceed to Babylon as his representative.

In response, the priests of Shamash informed the emperor that Bel Merodach could not exercise sway as sovereign lord so long as he remained a prisoner in a city which was not his own.

Ashur-bani-pal accepted the verdict, and then visited Ashur’s temple to plead with Bel Merodach to return to Babylon.

“Let thy thoughts,” he cried, “dwell in Babylon, which in thy wrath thou didst bring to naught. Let thy face be turned towards E-sagila, thy lofty and divine temple. Return to the city thou hast deserted for a house unworthy of thee. O Merodach! lord of the gods, issue thou the command to return again to Babylon.”

Thus did Ashur-bani-pal make pious and dignified submission to the will of the priests. A favourable response was, of course, received from Merodach when addressed by the emperor, and the god’s image was carried back to E-sagila, accompanied by a strong force.

Ashur-bani-pal and Shamash-shum-ukin led the procession of priests and soldiers, and elaborate ceremonials were observed at each city they passed, the local gods being carried forth to do homage to Merodach.

Babylon welcomed the deity who was thus restored to his temple after the lapse of about a quarter of a century, and the priests celebrated with unconcealed satisfaction and pride the ceremony at which Shamash-shum-ukin “took the hands of Bel.”

The public rejoicings were conducted on an elaborate scale. Babylon believed that a new era of prosperity had been inaugurated, and the priests and nobles looked forward to the day when the kingdom would once again become free and independent and powerful.”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915, pp. 480-2.

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