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Tag: Kephalon

Lenzi: The Uruk List of Kings and Sages Renewed the Anu Cult

“Whatever the first word may be, I think van Dijk was correct to suggest that the name of the final person in the list, a certain Ini-qa-qu-ru-sù-ú, is none other than the Nikarchos (Νίκαρχος) known from the dedicatory inscription found in the Bīt Rēs temple dating back to 244 BCE.

Although some have questioned this proposed identification due to the orthography of the name on the tablet, variations in Greek names are rather common.

Indeed, a list of orthographic variations attested for Nikarchos in archival texts, provided to me by L. T. Doty, suggests his name was something of a moving target for the scribes. Thus, the identification seems quite plausible. This in turn opens line 21 to an interesting line of interpretation.

I suggest that Nikarchos, the šaknu of Uruk in the mid-3rd Century, occupies in line 21 the position of the tenth and final “king” of the ULKS.

(Nikarchos is clearly not listed as a king; notice the absence of LUGAL after his name. My interpretation suggests the placement in the text was a symbolic gesture. Although Nikarchos was a member of the Ahu’tu clan, his work on the temple would have benefited all of the scribal clans.

Ruins of the Anu Ziggurat and the White Temple. Uruk ( Present-day Warka, Iraq). c. 3300-3000 BCE.

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Ruins of the Anu Ziggurat and the White Temple. Uruk ( Present-day Warka, Iraq). c. 3300-3000 BCE.

It is therefore not surprising to see a text with a Sin-leqi-unnini bias honor him as the ULKS does. Van Dijk accepted the identification of the name with Nikarchos tentatively; but, having confused Nikarchos for Kephalon in the dedicatory inscription of 201 BCE mentioned above, he wanted to make Nikarchos the last of a long line of sage/scholars that stretched back to Adapa. Apart from the confusion, I do not think the list supports this idea.)

Associating him with ancient kings of renown and doing so by listing him in the tenth (a number of completion) and final (a place of prominence) position in the list exalts him well-beyond what one would expect from his actual civic title.

As is well-known, temple building was a royal prerogative in ancient Mesopotamia and Nikarchos had shown leadership in the re-building of the Anu temple as indicated in the dedicatory inscription of 244 BCE. The presentation here therefore is probably intended to praise and flatter Nikarchos in light of his king-like actions.

Yet there is something amiss in our line; it is uneven and unprecedented. For unlike the kings listed in the lines before Nikarchos, no scholar’s name follows his on the tablet. There is no successor to the famed Ahiqar.

Instead, there is a gap on the tablet to the end of the line. Conspicuous in its contrast to the repetitive lines that precede, the text infers with this absence that the office of scholar was unoccupied during Nikarchos’ time.

(If there had been a scholar named with Nikarchos, he would have been the eleventh post-diluvian scholar on the list since there are two scholars, Gimil-Gula and Taqiš-Gula, mentioned with king Abi-ešuh in line 15.

A Nisroc bird-Apkallu with a king.

A Nisroc bird-Apkallu with a king.

But as there are only nine post-diluvian kings in the list, Nikarchos’s scholar would be the scholar for the tenth reign. Excluding the invocation attached to the end of the tablet (line 25), the gap at the end of line 21 is the only one on the entire tablet.)

Given the norm established by the previous lines in the text, this should be viewed as an unacceptable situation for the scholars in Uruk. Contemporary scholars, the list implies, were not being properly recognized; they were not receiving their ancient due.

How could scholars respond to this situation? They did what they knew to do: they wrote a text—our text—to assert emphatically their ancient role as inheritors and perpetuators of antediluvian knowledge, to lay claim unmistakably to divine authorization of their status, and to reiterate in strong terms the importance and supremacy of their cult.

Ending as it does with Nikarchos, the text flatters the man to which they could appeal while also reminding him of the current deficiency. The scholars knew that Nikarchos was not really a king. Further, they of all people would be aware of the fact that they were not going to be imperial advisors like their predecessors to him or to the non-indigenous Seleucid kings.

But the text’s ending praises their patron for his past activity in order to induce him to take up their cause and give them the attention their ancient pedigree deserved. If imperial interests in Uruk were on the wane, Nikarchos may have been their only and best hope to further their interests.

The ULKS presents a new formulation of an old scribal genealogical idea, composed under foreign rule that showed uneven interest in things Mesopotamian, during a scribal renaissance in Uruk of archaic indigenous lore.

From these historical contextual clues it is reasonable and plausible to suggest that the Uruk List of Kings and Sages is a tendentious document written by scholars who felt the need to reassert their importance to the community leadership in order to advance their cause, the renewal of the Anu cult.

Recognizing the tentativeness of the evidence, this interpretation remains only a possibility for the time being.”

Alan Lenzi, The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian ScholarshipJANER 8.2, Brill, Leiden, 2008. pp. 163-5.

Lenzi: More on the Exaltation of the Anu Cult

“Beaulieu believes this development also provides an explanation for the great number of scholarly texts that have turned up in Seleucid-level excavations at Uruk, both traditional kinds known from elsewhere as well as those with an explicitly Urukean bias.

(See François Thureau-Dangin, Tablettes d’Uruk à l’usage des Prêtres du Temple d’Anu au Temps des Séleucides, Textes Cunéiformes du Louvre 6 (Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1922) (= TCL 6); SpBTU 1-5, BaMB 2, etc. The Uruk Prophecy is an example of a distinctively Urukean text.)

In fact, as Beaulieu explains, one colophon, attached to TCL 6 38, seems to offer justification for the new rituals of the Anu cult via the familiar “pious fraud” trick: Kidin-Anu “found” some ritual tablets in Elam, where the sinister Nabopolassar had taken them much earlier. He copied them there in order to return to Uruk and properly restore the Anu cult.

Ziggurat at Ur.

Ziggurat at Ur.

(See Beaulieu, “Uruk Prophecy,” 47 for the analysis. The text may be found in Thureau-Dangin, Rituels Accadiens, 79-80, 85-86 and Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, #107.)

The archaizing tendency was also deployed in Kephalon’s temple dedicatory inscription from 201 BCE mentioned above. (Also mentioned by Beaulieu in connection with antiquarianism (see “Antiquarian Theology,” 68).

Although not so much as hinted at in the earlier Nikarchos inscription of 244 BCE, the later inscription names Adapa himself, the first of the antediluvian apkallū, as the founder of the Bīt Rēs temple. (See Falkenstein, Topographie, 6 and van Dijk, “Die Inschriftenfunde,” 47 (improving Falkenstein) for the text.)

With this and the other two contextual points in mind, we may now attempt to answer the questions I posed at the beginning of this study.

A schematic of remains at Uruk.

A schematic of remains at Uruk.

The ULKS clearly draws upon earlier ideas to formulate its list. What I have emphasized in the foregoing is that its formulation of the list, although unique, is better viewed not as a new invention from old material, but as a very systematic and explicit formulation of an old association, one that is evidenced already in early first millennium materials.

Given the deliberate and learned antiquarian interests identified in texts by Beaulieu, it seems quite reasonable to include the ULKS in that intellectual current, too.

Thus, just as the scholars responsible for moving Anu to the head of the pantheon utilized the Kassite period An = Anum god-list for that purpose, so too they used earlier traditions about apkallūummânū relations to further their religious authority and other aspects of their agenda, especially their standing vis-à-vis political leadership.

A scrutiny of the precise manner in which the scribes behind the ULKS formulated their genealogy reveals the cultic and especially political aspects of their aspirations.

An aerial view of the Uruk ziggurat. My purpose in posting pics of the temple remains in Ur and Uruk is to compare their relative sizes and comparative majesty.

An aerial view of the Uruk ziggurat. My purpose in posting pics of the temple remains in Ur and Uruk is to compare their relative sizes and comparative majesty.

As for the cultic aspect of the agenda, it is surely significant that Nungalpirigal, the first postdiluvian apkallū, makes a bronze lyre that finds its final resting place in front of Anu. This creates a connection between our text and the renewal of the cult of Anu as discussed by Beaulieu.

But there is more to matters than this simple fact. By placing this cultic act of devotion first in the list, right after the flood, the ULKS intends to give the Anu cult prominence; the first human sage was a devotee of Anu.

Moreover, the list probably supplies an etiology for the relationship between Nungalpirigal, the Eana temple, and Anu, thus answering any would be critics of the novel idea that Anu’s house could displace Eana.”

Alan Lenzi, The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian ScholarshipJANER 8.2, Brill, Leiden, 2008. pp. 160-1.

Editorial Note on the Apkallu and the Roadmap Ahead

I am breaking the narrative stream to speak directly to the process emerging from our reading on the apkallū, the antediluvian and postdiluvian sages of ancient Mesopotamia.

If you are reading along over my shoulder, you noticed that we digressed from Martin Lang, “Mesopotamian Early History and the Flood Story,” in a post titled On the Date of the Flood.

Martin Lang wrote:

“Berossos’ own knowledge of primordial kings probably goes back to sources that were available in Hellenistic times. The Sumerian King List itself was still known in the Seleucid era, or rather versions of king lists that echo, structurally and stylistically, their ancient forerunners from the early second millennium.

In matching up the primordial kings with the seven sages, the apkallū, Berossos once again works in the vein of contemporary scholars, who demonstrably constructed lists with kings and apkallū in order to advertise their own importance, and the primordial roots of their knowledge, as Alan Lenzi has recently shown.”

I updated that post to include a link to Alan Lenzi, “The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian Scholarship,” JANER 8.2, 2008, which is serialized and linked in posts below.

I also changed the link to the Sumerian King List to point to the beautiful 1939 edition by Thorkild Jacobsen generously published by the University of Chicago Press, available for free download off the web.

We then dipped into Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Counterparts of the Biblical Nephilim,” in Francis I. Andersen, et al, eds., Perspectives on Language and Text: Essays and Poems in Honor of Francis I. Andersen’s Sixtieth Birthday, 1985, in a post titled On the Apkallū.

This is where I drilled in hard on the apkallū, incorporating bas reliefs and figurines held at the Louvre and the British Museum. Out of numerous posts addressing the apkallū, this one is well-illustrated, and lushly hyperlinked.

Moreover, Anne Kilmer synthesized the supporting research on the apkallū at the time of writing very effectively, so if you are overwhelmed by the other articles, just read this one. It goes without saying that you should not be intimidated by this academic literature. I have made it as readable and accessible as I can.

Yes, there is a lot of it. As I excavate the academic literature on the apkallū the hard way, mining references from footnote after footnote, I get a sense of what it might be like, to be an academic Assyriologist rather than an autodidact.

I do not include everything that I find. I assess and include just those pieces which accrue gravitas in that greater academic community. If you see glaring omissions, please let me know. This note is shaping up to be an academic survey of the literature on the apkallū, and it may save others treading these same paths some time.

Fair warning: our continuing digression into the apkallu will be deep.

As I complete serialization of source texts, I will include links to the posts beneath their citation below. These sources are sorted by date, so we can track the evolution of academic thinking on the apkallū. Our digression includes excerpts from:

After we complete our deep dive into the apkallu, we will return to the Sumerian King List, then resume with Berossos. This is the roadmap ahead.

Editorial note: In some cases citations above which are not followed by links in the bulleted list are internet dry holes, no digital versions are available. In other cases, links are to Google Books editions, which often limit visible pages. Google’s intent is to sell electronic versions of the texts that they scan.

Under these circumstances, I end up rekeying entire articles, at ruinous waste of time. If you have a moment, please send a sweet nastygram to Google asking them to post free and complete eBooks as they continue their vast project to digitize the entirety of human knowledge.

In other cases, I simply have not yet reviewed the articles and posted them. If you are following this project, you see that I post updates nearly every day. Stay tuned.

My purpose in publishing Samizdat is to highlight excerpts from the great books, mining synchronicities from legends and myths. As I point out in the About page, the Deluge was an historical event for the ancient Sumerians.

I now need to update that page, incorporating the research that we have already completed on the Sumerian King List, setting up a future digression into the concept of the Great Year, which Berossos associated with traditions of a Conflagration and the Deluge.

If you wondered where we were going, I wrote this for you.

 Updated 20 November 2015, 23:39 hrs.