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Tag: Ancestors

Lenzi: Authority Rooted in Divinity

“As for the political aspect of the agenda, there are at least three points that require attention. First, we know that the locus of scholarship had shifted from court to temple, thereby removing (as far as we can tell) scholars from regular influence within the centers of political power.

 (See, e.g., Francesca Rochberg, “The Cultural Locus of Astronomy in Late Babylonia,” in Die Rolle der Astronomie in den Kulturen Mesopotamiens: Beiträge zum 3 Grazer Morgenländischen Symposium (23-27 September 1991), ed. Hannes D. Galter, Grazer Morgenländische Studien 3 (Graz: Graz, 1993), 31-45, here 44.)

Invoking the association of scholarship with memorable kings and their mythical sages or famous human scholars in the ULKS attributes to the Seleucid-era scholarly professions a venerable history, which in turn implies the scholars deserved a higher level of political influence or support than in fact they were enjoying at the time (see also the discussion of line 21 below).

Second, by emphasizing their historical connection to the antediluvian sages—the agents of Ea—the scholars were granting themselves authority rooted in divinity, a particularly difficult kind of authority to dispute.

Less systematic formulations of this genealogical idea in earlier materials provide us with the evidence to see that these Seleucid-era scribes were not inventing something new. Rather, their systematic and explicit formulation demonstrates their concern to make their position well-understood.

Map of the Main Cities of Sumer and Elam

<br /> Based on Wikipedia content that has been reviewed, edited, and republished. Original image by Phirosiberia. Uploaded by Jan van der Crabben, published on 26 April 2012 under the following license:<br /> Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike.<br /> This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.<br />  <br />  http://www.ancient.eu/uploads/images/359.png?v=1431034297

Map of the Main Cities of Sumer and Elam


Based on Wikipedia content that has been reviewed, edited, and republished. Original image by Phirosiberia. Uploaded by Jan van der Crabben, published on 26 April 2012 under the following license:
Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

http://www.ancient.eu/uploads/images/359.png?v=1431034297

No longer wandering the halls of the palace at a time when scholarship’s importance went without saying, these men could assume nothing was self-evident. The fact that Berossus includes something of the same idea in his work, which was probably written during the reign of Antiochus I, points to this conclusion as well.

The scholars, it seems, were deploying a mythmaking strategy to elevate their position and importance in society, even if achieving imperial-level influence was not their ultimate goal.

Third and finally, the genealogy suggests a position of both antiquity and prominence and thus implicitly authority to Sin-leqi-unnini, the first human ummânū in the list and ancestor of the scribe who copied the present tablet.

I doubt that it is a coincidence that this same figure is the eponymous ancestor of the scribe writing the tablet.

(For a discussion of scribal ancestors and their four clans in Uruk, see Lambert, “Ancestors, Authors, and Canonicity” and “Ancestors, Authors, and Canonicity (JCS XI, 1-14): Additions and Corrections.”)

In its present form, therefore, alongside the more general points of exalting the cult of Anu and attributing importance to scholars, we note for the sake of completeness that this list is clearly biased toward the Sin-leqi-unnini scribal clan.

(See likewise van Dijk, “Inschriftenfunde,” 50. It would not be surprising to someday find a list contemporary with the ULKS that places a rival ancestor/clan, Ekur-zakir, for example, in a similarly prominent position.

From Ronald Wallenfels, Apkallu-Sealings from Hellenistic Uruk, 1993.  Seal number 3. A fish-apkallu, a paradu-fish apkallu, depicted on a personal seal.  https://www.academia.edu/1368825/Apkallu-Sealings_from_Hellenistic_Uruk

From Ronald Wallenfels, Apkallu-Sealings from Hellenistic Uruk, 1993.
Seal number 3. A fish-apkallu, a paradu-fish apkallu, depicted on a personal seal.
https://www.academia.edu/1368825/Apkallu-Sealings_from_Hellenistic_Uruk

It is interesting that a number of members of the Ekur-zakir clan actually owned apkallū-seals. So it is clear that the apkallū tradition was utilized by other scribal clans. See Ronald Wallenfels, “Apkallu-Sealings from Hellenistic Uruk,” Baghdader Mitteilungen 24 (1993), 309-24 and Tafeln 120-23.)

But are the scholars who created and copied this list really trying to manipulate the Seleucid court? Are they trying to insinuate that the traditional association of kings and scholars should continue under a non-native king?

From Ronald Wallenfels, Apkallu-Sealings from Hellenistic Uruk, 1993.  Seal number 23. A fish-apkallu, a paradu-fish apkallu, depicted on a personal seal.  https://www.academia.edu/1368825/Apkallu-Sealings_from_Hellenistic_Uruk

From Ronald Wallenfels, Apkallu-Sealings from Hellenistic Uruk, 1993.
Seal number 23. A fish-apkallu, a paradu-fish apkallu, depicted on a personal seal.
https://www.academia.edu/1368825/Apkallu-Sealings_from_Hellenistic_Uruk

Although this is possible, it is difficult to imagine how the scribes would ever have acquired an audience for their ideas. Moreover, the identification of the person in the last line of the text before the colophon indicates a negative answer to these questions and suggests a more subtle tactic from the scholars.

As is often the case, the culmination of an Akkadian list occurs in its final line where matters are summarized or its telos obtained. Thus, as van Dijk already recognized, the contemporary purpose of the ULKS probably rests precisely here.

(“Inschriftenfunde,” 45-46, 52. Concerning the reading of the last line, see also van Dijk’s later comments in his brief note “Die Tontafelfunde der Kampagne 1959/60,” Archiv für Orientforschung 20 (1963), 217.)

Unfortunately, the last line of our text is extremely frustrating. Unlike previous lines naming kings and scholars, all we have in this line is a break hiding one or two signs, a broken IŠ sign, and a name.

No one has yet been able to provide an acceptable restoration for the beginning of the line. The following interpretation, therefore, must remain tentative.”

Alan Lenzi, The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian ScholarshipJANER 8.2, Brill, Leiden, 2008. pp. 161-3.

Lenzi: The Antediluvian Medical Tablet from Ashurbanipal’s Library (K.4023)

“As is well-known, antediluvian knowledge had special significance in Mesopotamia. (For other examples of antediluvian knowledge (though sometimes in a broken context), see the examples gathered by Lambert, “Catalogue of Texts and Authors,” 72 at the note on VI 15.)

The most important example of this fact for the purposes of this study comes from an oft cited colophon of a medical tablet from Ashurbanipal’s library, AMT 105,1 (K.4023), lines 21-25.

AM-102 ; No. #1 (K4023) British Museum of London 

Tablet K.4023  COL. I  [Starting on Line 38] . . .  Root of caper which (is) on a grave, root of thorn (acacia) which (is) on a grave, right horn of an ox, left horn of a kid, seed of tamarisk, seed of laurel, Cannabis, seven drugs for a bandage against the Hand of a Ghost thou shalt bind on his temples.  FOOTNOTES:  [1] - The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 54, No. 1/4 (Oct., 1937), pp. 12-40; Assyrian Prescriptions for the Head By R. Campbell Thompson 

 http://antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/Assyria/K4023.htm

AM-102 ; No. #1 (K4023)
British Museum of London 

Tablet K.4023
COL. I
[Starting on Line 38] . . .
Root of caper which (is) on a grave, root of thorn (acacia) which (is) on a grave, right horn of an ox, left horn of a kid, seed of tamarisk, seed of laurel, Cannabis, seven drugs for a bandage against the Hand of a Ghost thou shalt bind on his temples.
FOOTNOTES:
[1] – The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 54, No. 1/4 (Oct., 1937), pp. 12-40; Assyrian Prescriptions for the Head By R. Campbell Thompson 


http://antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/Assyria/K4023.htm

This colophon shows not only the association of antediluvian sages and a human sage but also the “mythology of scribal succession” in action.

(For the original copy of the tablet, see R. Campbell Thompson, Assyrian Medical Texts (London: H. Milford / New York: Oxford University Press, 1923; reprinted, Osnabrück: Otto Zeller Verlag, 1983), 105,1 (=K.4023, col. iv, and thus probably from Nineveh).

I have cited the text according to Hermann Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, Alter Orient und Altes Testament 2 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag / Kevelaer: Verlag Butzon and Bercker, 1968), no. 533, with corrections from Yaakov Elman, “Authoritative Oral Tradition in Neo-Assyrian Scribal Circles,” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 7 (1975), 19-32, here 31.)

Salves (and) bandages: tested (and) checked, which are ready at hand, composed by the ancient sages from before the flood, which in Suruppak in the second year of Enlil-bani, king of Isin, Enlil-muballit, sage of Nippur, bequeathed.

Although the number of apkallū is unspecified in this text, the indication of plurality of sages and the antediluvian time frame strongly suggest an association with the seven sages known from traditions such as Bīt mēseri and the ULKS.

The fact that the tablet claims the apkallū composed these recipes bolsters the authority (by invoking these beings associated with Ea) and legitimacy (by asserting antiquity) of the recipes contained in the text.

This depiction of a fish-apkallū of the parādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.  A fish's head can be seen on the apkallu's head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.  It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type. Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE.  From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London). Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg) http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

This depiction of a fish-apkallū of the parādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.
A fish’s head can be seen on the apkallu’s head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.
It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type.
Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE.
From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London).
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg)
http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

But I do not think that is its primary purpose. The claim is not made in the context of a ritual; so it does not primarily function to create ritual power.

Rather, the claim occurs in a colophon, a label that communicates something about the tablet for other would-be readers/users of it. The invocation of the apkallū and a claim to antediluvian knowledge in a colophon intends therefore to affect the social situation in which the tablet is used.

In this case the colophon credentials a human being as the possessor of antediluvian knowledge (i.e., medical recipes). Revealed by primeval apkallū, mediated to the human sage Enlil-muballit, and transmitted, presumably, by means of various copyists to the present possessor, AMT 105,1 implies the same notion of succession as the ULKS.

A similar idea is probably attested in KAR 177, obv. iv 25-32, a text containing hemerologies, which reads:

Favorable days. According to the seven s[ages(?)].
Duplicate of a tablet from Sippar, Nippur, Babylon, Larsa, Ur, Uruk, and Eridu.
The scholars excerpted, selected, and gave it to Nazimuruttash, king of the world.

(The tablet is from Assur and presumably the NA period. The text and restorations follow W. G. Lambert, “Ancestors, Authors, and Canonicity,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 11 (1957), 1-14, here 8.

Lambert also gives the remainder of the colophon, rev. iv 1-3 (8), which is of no interest in this context, and sets out von Soden’s readings in a follow-up note (“Ancestors, Authors, and Canonicity [JCS XI, 1-14]: Additions and Corrections,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 11 [1957], 112).

It seemed highly unlikely to the editor (Lambert) that the seven cities named in the text represented the seven exemplars from which the scribe worked. In other words, it seems unlikely that the scribe was looking at seven different copies while writing his own tablet.

Instead, Lambert proposed that the seven cities represent a succession of exemplars. Each of the exemplars was written by one of the seven sages one after another thereby creating a line of succession for the present tablet that extends back into earliest times.

The claim of this colophon, therefore, is that the tablet of hemerologies over which the ummânū labored goes back to the apkallū and ultimately originated in Eridu, the home city of Ea.

This again demonstrates an example of the “mythology of scribal succession” and an implicit assertion of antediluvian knowledge.”

Alan Lenzi, The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian ScholarshipJANER 8.2, Brill, Leiden, 2008. pp. 149-51.

Different Categories of Paradise

” … In the sacred books of India a number of Paradises are referred to. No human beings, however, entered the Paradise of Varuna, who resembles the Sumerian Ea-Oannes.

The souls of the dead found rest and enjoyment in the Paradise of Yama, while “those kings that yield up their lives, without turning their backs on the field of battle, attain,” as the sage told a hero, “to the mansion of Indra,” which recalls the Valhal of Odin. It will thus be seen that belief in immortality was a tenet of the Indian cults of Indra and Yama.

It is possible that the Gilgamesh epic in one of its forms concluded when the hero reached the island of Pir-napishtim, like the Indian Yama who “searched and spied the path for many.” The Indian “Land of the Pitris” (Ancestors), over which Yama presided, may be compared to the Egyptian heaven of Osiris. It contains, we are told, “all kinds of enjoyable articles,” and also “sweet, juicy, agreeable and delicious edibles … floral wreaths of the most delicious fragrance, and trees that yield fruits that are desired of them.”

Thither go “all sinners among human beings, as also (those) that have died during the winter solstice”–a suggestion that this Paradise was not unconnected with the Tammuz-like deity who took up his abode in the spirit land during the barren season.

The view may be urged that in the Gilgamesh epic we have a development of the Tammuz legend in its heroic form. Like Ishtar, when she descended to Hades, the King of Erech could not return to earth until he had been sprinkled by the water of life. No doubt, an incident of this character occurred also in the original Tammuz legend. The life of the god had to be renewed before he could return.

Did he slumber, like one of the Seven Sleepers, in Ea’s house, and not awake again until he arrived as a child in his crescent moon boat–“the sunken boat” of the hymns–like Scef, who came over the waves to the land of the Scyldings?”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915.

Snake Kings

“The myths of the heroes of Athens, from Cecrops to Theseus, show them as kings, that is as functionaries, and, in primitive times, these functionaries assume snake-form. The daimon-functionary represents the permanent life of the group.

The individual dies, but the group and its incarnation the king survive. Le roi est mort, vive le roi. From these two facts, of group permanency and individual death, arose the notion of reincarnation, palingenesia.

Moreover, since the group included plants and animals as well as human members, and these were linked by a common life, the rebirth of ancestors and the renewed fertility of the earth went on pari passu.

Hence the Intichiuma ceremonies of Central Australians, hence the Revocation of ghosts at the Athenian Antkesteria. Gradually, as the group focussed on its king, the daimones of fertility, the collective ancestors, focussed on to an Agathos Daimon, a spirit of fertility, again figured as a snake.”

Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis–A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, 1912. P. xiv.

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