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Tag: Lugal

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.

On the Mullilu, the “cleaner,” the Purification Instrument of the Apkallu Exorcist

Apkallu Attributes

“–mullilu, “purification instrument” (literally: “cleaner”).

When it is agreed upon that a word denoting the cone, the most common object in the hands of the bird-apkallū and the fish-apkallū, must appear among the terms denoting objects held by the apkallū in ritual I/II, this word can only be mullilu.

The identification of mullilu as denoting the cone is based on the observation that the cone on reliefs, seals and in the Kleinplastik never occurs as the only object held by an apkallū; thus e’ru, libbi gišimmari, and urigallu, the other objects held by an apkallū, are excluded.

Klengel-Brandt (FuB 10 34, cf. Rittig Kleinplastik 215) thinks mullilu denotes “eine Art kurzen Wedel … der hauptsachlich zum besprengen mit Wasser benutzt worden ist“, and indentifies it with the cone. Correctly, but without justification, Parker (Essays Wilkinson 33) states that mullilu, “purifier”, “may be the cone-shaped object carried by the genii”.

Umu-Apkallū in the characteristic act of purification, sprinkling sacred water from the Banduddu bucket with the Mullilu cone.  From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal. AO 19845

Umu-Apkallū in the characteristic act of purification, sprinkling sacred water from the Banduddu bucket with the Mullilu cone.
From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal.
AO 19845

Unclear is BBR 26 v 39ff. (restored from 28:9, quoted by CAD M/2 189a), where the king carries a mullilu in his right and in his left hand. Never, on seals, reliefs or as a statue, does a figure carry a cone in both his left and his right hand.

The identity of the cone is still being debated: male inflorescence of the date-palm, or cone of a coniferous tree (cf., with previous literature, Stearns AfOB 15 2443). In a recent study, the second option is hesitantly favoured (Bleibtreu, Flora 61f., 93f., 123f.).

A bird-apkallu with mullilu and banduddu.  Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad.

A bird-apkallu with mullilu and banduddu.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad.

The Akkadian term mullilu does not give a clue. From a philological point of view the fir-cone (terinnu) is preferable to the male inflorescence of the date-palm (rikbu, cf. Landsberger Date Palm 19): terinnu is attested as an instrument bringing about the release of sin (Maqlû I 24, cf. Landsberger Date Palm 14) and thus resembles the other objects carried by the apkallū. For rikbu no such use is known.

Regarding cone and bucket, we conclude with the following:

  • The bucket is always carried in the left hand. The other hand may be empty, or may carry a variety of objects, such as the sprig (Kolbe Reliefprogramme Type VI), which occur also in the hands of figures not carrying buckets. The value of the bucket in the ritual cannot be dependent on the objects held in the other hand. The bucket, or rather its content, is effective simply by being present.
  • One object, the cone, appears only when the figure in question carries a bucket in its left hand. The value of the cone must in some way be dependent on the value of the bucket.
  • The texts indicate that the bucket contained holy water effectuating “release”. As was proposed before, the dependent cone “purifier”(mullilu) held in the right hand activated the holy water: it was a sprinkler (Klengel-Brandt, Rittig, CAD M/1l 189a).
  • The figures carrying buckets (and cones) are engaged in a purification ritual. As will be seen below, this accords well with their function of apkallū.
  • Figures carrying cones point their cone at the sacred tree, the king, or courtiers (Stearns AfOB 15 64f.). Figures standing in doorways and apparently pointing their cones at nothing, are perhaps best thought of as pointing their cones at passing visitors, just as the weapons and the gestures of greeting are directed at the visitors, and not at the building.
  • The sacred tree benefits from the activities of the genii, the genii do not need the tree, cf. Stearns AfOB 15 70ff. It is not necessary to understand the meaning of the tree in order to understand the meaning of the figures with bucket and cone.
  • For the tree we refer to Porada AASOR 24 108ff., Madhloon Sumer 26 137ff., Stearns AfOB 15 70ff. Genge AcOr 33 321ff., Hrouda BaM 3 41ff., Kolbe Reliefprogramme 83ff., Bleibtreu Flora 37ff., and passim, Parker Essays Wilkinson 38. For a doubtful connection with the texts, cf. van Dijk Syncretism 175 f., and Lugal 1 10 ff. (see below 000).”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 67.

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