Sample texts from the ancient near east ‰

Sample texts from
the ancient near east
Overview
a Sampling of
ancient near
eastern texts
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A Sampling of Ancient Near Eastern Texts
Overview of Ancient Near Eastern Texts
Cuneiform Writing System
Hieroglyphic Writing System
Alphabetic Writing Systems
Cooking a Big Goose: Egypt, Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1730 B.C.E.)
“I have been roasting
since
the beginning
of time —
I have never seen the
like of this goose.”
The Rock Tombs of Meir, Vol. 3,
pl. 23, as shown in Mark Collier,
How To Read Egyptian
Hieroglyphs, 1998 (rev. ed.
2003).
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Education of a Sumerian Scribe: Composition from Nippur c. 2000 B.C.E.1
Master: Schoolboy, where did you go
from earliest days?
Boy: I went to school.
Master: What did you do in school?
Boy: I read my tablet, ate my lunch,
prepared my tablet, wrote it, finished
it; then…Upon the school’s dismissal,
I went home, entered the house,
(there) was my father sitting.
I spoke to my father of my hand
copies, then read the tablet to him,
(and) my father was pleased; truly I
found favor with my father.
“I am thirsty, give me drink; I am
hungry, give me bread; wash my feet,
set up the bed, I want to go to sleep;
wake me early in the morning, I must not be late, (or) my teacher will cane me.”
When I awoke early in the morning, I faced my mother, and said to her: “Give me my
lunch, I want to go to school.” My mother gave me two ‘rolls’…I went to school.
In the tablet-house, the monitor said to me: “Why are you late?” I was afraid, my heart
beat fast. I entered before my teacher…my ‘school-father’…caned me.
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
From a related tablet: A Father’s Concern for His Son’s Education2
Father: “Where did you go?”
Son: “I did not go anywhere.”
Father: “If you did not go anywhere, why are you late? Go to school, stand before your
teacher. Read your assignment, open you school-bag, write your tablet, let your big
brother (i.e. teacher’s assistant) write your new tablet for you. After you have done
your assignment, after you have reported to your overseer, come, please, to me. Do not
wander about in the street, return to me. Do you know what I said to you?”
Son: “I know, I will tell it to you.”
Father: “Come, repeat it to me.”
Son: “I will repeat it to you.”
Father: “Tell it to me.”
Son: “I will tell it to you.”
Father: “Come, tell it to me.”
Son: “You told me to go to school, to read my assignments, to open my school-bag, to
write my tablet, my big brother will write my new tablet; after I have done my
assignment, to proceed to my job and, after I have reported to my overseer, to come to
you, you told me.”
Father: “Come now, indeed, be a man. Do not stand about in the public square, do not
wander about in the boulevard; when walking in the street, do not look all around. Be
humble, show fear before your overseer; when you show terror, your overseer will like
you.”
Self-Praise of Shulgi, King of Ur, for His Education: (Shulgi, 2094–2047 B.C.E.)3
As a youth, I studied the scribal art in the edubba, from the tablets of Sumer and Akkad,
Of the nobility, no one was able to write a tablet like me,
In the place where the people attend to learn the scribal art,
Adding, subtracting, counting and accounting—I completed all (their courses);
The fair Nanibgal, Nisaba [patron goddess of the scribal art, fn. 58]
Endowed me generously with wisdom and intelligence.
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What To Do with a Crying Baby? Babylonian Baby-Incantations4
Old-Babylonian Incantation (c. 2000–1500 B.C.E.):
Baby, that dwelt in the ‘House of Darkness’—
Indeed you have just come out, you have beheld the light of the sun!
Why do you cry; why do you scream?
Why didn’t you cry there?
You have disturbed the house-god; the kusarikkum has been awakened:
“Who has disturbed me? Who has startled me?”
The baby has disturbed you. The baby has startled you.
Like upon wine-drinkers, like upon those who linger at feasts,
May sleep sink upon it!
Incantation, to calm a baby.
Neo-Babylonian Incantation (c. 1000–600 B.C.E.):
Baby, that has made his father nervous / who has caused tears to fall from the eyes of
his mother / at whose screaming, at whose noise of crying / the kusarikku became
frightened and Ea awoke / indeed, Ea awoke, and is unable to get back to sleep / (thus
also) Ishtar receives no sleep / May one give him sleep like unto a sleepy fawn! / May
(the young) of a steppe-gazelle / give you sleep like to one who is on a journey
[underway on path and road]!
Speak this incantation over oil, rub it into the aforementioned baby;
afterwards recite the incantation over the baby:
Then it will be quiet.
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
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Love: Sumerian Style [The following Sumerian poems date from ca. 2000 B.C.E.]
The Ecstasy of Love5
Last night, as I, the queen, was shining bright,
Last night, as I, the queen of heaven, was shining bright,
As I was shining bright, as I was dancing about,
As I was uttering a song at the brightening of the oncoming night,
He met me, he met me,
The Lord Kuli-Anna met me.
The Lord put his hand into my hand,
Ushumgalanna embraced me.
“Come now, wild bull, set me free, I must go home,
Kuli-Enlil, set me free, I must go home,
What shall I say to deceive my mother!
What shall I say to deceive my mother Ningal!”
“Let me inform you, let me inform you.
Inanna, most deceitful of women, let me inform you:
‘My girl friend took me with her to the public square,
She entertained me there with music and dancing,
Her chant, the sweet, she sang for me.
In sweet rejoicing I whiled away the time there’—
Thus deceitfully stand up to your mother,
While we by the moonlight indulge (our) passion,
I will [prepare] for you a bed pure, sweet, (and) noble,
Will while away the sweet time with you in joyful fulfillment.”
The Women’s Oath6
My “dear,” my “dear,” my “dear,”
My “darling,” my “darling,” my honey of the mother who bore her,
My sappy vine, my honey-sweet, my mellifluous mouth of her mother.
Your eyes—their gaze delights me, come my beloved “sister”! ...
Your lips—their kiss delights me, come my beloved “sister”! ...
Your charms, my “sister,” [are irresistible]…my beloved …
You, the Princess…my…
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
“Brother” of the open country…you will take an oath for me,
You will take an oath for me that you did not […] (your) head on a strange woman.
Your right hand on my nakedness should be placed,
Your left hand on my head should be laid;
When you have brought your mouth close to my mouth,
When you have seized my lips in your mouth,
By so (doing) you will take an oath to me,
Thus is the “oath of the women,” oh my “brother” of beautiful eyes! …
My blossoming garden of apple trees, / sweet is your allure! …
[Compare Song of Songs 2:6 & 8:3—“Let his left hand be under my head and his right
hand embrace me.” There is an image from Egypt, c. 1750 B.C.E. in a private collection
in Basel, Switzerland showing a couple on a bed in this position.7 On “apple trees,” see
Song of Songs 2:3, 8:5]
The Garden8
My garden is lettuce well-watered,
Gakkul-lettuce I crushed,
May the lord eat that lettuce!
[Compare Song of Songs 4:15–16:
You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water,
And streams flowing from Lebanon. …
May my beloved come into his garden and eat its choice fruits!]
The Luxuriant Couch9
My bridegroom, let us embrace!
On the luxuriant couch let us lie together!
[Compare Song of Songs 1:16:
How handsome you are, my beloved, and so pleasant!
Indeed, our couch is luxuriant!]
The Lover’s Quarrel10
…Without father Suen, you would become a ceaseless wanderer in the dark paths of the
steppe, …
Without my brother, Utu, you would become a ceaseless wanderer in the dark paths of
the steppe, …
“Young Lady, do not provoke a quarrel,
Inanna, let us talk it over!
Inanna, do not provoke a quarrel,
Ninegalla, let us take counsel together!
My father is also equal to your father,
Inanna, let us talk it over! …
The words they spoke were words toward desire,
With the provoking of quarrel—his heart’s desire (is also aroused).
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Love: Egyptian Style
From the Cairo Love Songs [19th–20th dynasties, ca. 1320–1069 B.C.E.]11
(My) sister has come, my heart rejoices, my arms are open to embrace her.
My heart is as happy in its place as a fish within its pond. …
I’ll embrace her: her arms are opened …
I’ll kiss her, her lips are parted—I am happy without beer.
[On the “intoxicating” power of sexual love, compare Song of Songs 5:1:
I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends; drink and become drunk on love!
(not as some translations: “imbibe deeply, O lovers.”) See also Proverbs 5:19; 7:18.]
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
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Lovesickness. [Transcription from Papyrus Chester Beatty I—Late New Kingdom,
20th Dynasty, Thebes, ca. 1186–1069 B.C.E.]12
Seven whole days I have not seen (my) sister.
Illness has invaded me,
My limbs have grown heavy,
and I barely sense my own body.
Should the master physicians come to me,
their medicines could not ease my heart.
The lector-priests have no (good) method,
because my illness cannot be diagnosed.
Telling me: “Here she is!”—that’s what will revive me.
Her name—that’s what will get me up.
The coming and going of her messengers—
That’s what will revive my heart.
More potent than any medicine is my (sister) for me;
she is more powerful for me than The Compendium [fn. a medical text].
Her coming in from outside is my amulet [fn. or “my well-being”].
I see her—then (I) become strong.
She opens her eyes—my limbs grow young.
She speaks—then I become strong.
I hug her—and she drives illness from me.
But she left me for seven days.
[See Song of Songs 2:5:
Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, because I am lovesick.]
The Power of Love. From Papyrus Harris 500 [Late New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, ca. 1320–
1200 BCE].13
(Girl): My heart is not done with your love, my wolf cub! Your liquor is your
lovemaking. I will not abandon it until blows drive me away to spend my days in the
marshes…I will not listen to their advice.
(Boy): I will lie down inside, and then I will feign illness. Then my neighbors will enter
to see, and then my sister will come with them. She’ll put the doctors to shame, for she
(alone) will understand my illness.
(Girl) …your love captured me…I am excited by your love alone. My heart is in balance
with your heart. May I never be far from your beauty!
I have departed [from my brother]. [Now when I think of] your love, my heart stands
still within me. When I behold sw[eet] cakes, [they seem like] salt. Pomegranate wine,
(once) sweet in my mouth—it is (now) like the gall of birds. The scent of your nose
alone is what revives my heart. … Could I see you with every glance, it would be
better for me than to eat or to drink.
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Sumerian Proverbs [ca. 2600–2000 B.C.E.]14
To have and insist on more is abominable. [1.23]
What has been spoken in secret will be revealed in the women’s quarters. [1.82]
Marry a wife according to your choice! Have children according to your heart’s desire!
[1:146]
Girl! Your brother does not choose for you, whom do you choose? [1.148, compare
Genesis 24:57: “We will call the girl and consult her wishes.”]
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
He who does not support a wife, he who does not support a child, is not raised to
prosperity. [1.153]
Marrying is human. Getting children is divine. [1.160, compare Psalm 127:5 “Behold,
children are a gift of Yahweh.”]
To be sick is (relatively) “good,” / to be pregnant is bad, / to be pregnant and sick is too
much. [1.193+194]
You’re a scribe and you don’t know your own name! Shame on you! [2.37]
When the scribe knows every entry, when his hand is good, he is indeed a scribe! [2.38]
When a singer knows every song, when his performance is good, he is indeed a singer!
[2.39]
A scribe whose hand can keep up with the mouth, he is indeed a scribe! [2.40]
A scribe who does not know Sumerian, what kind of scribe is he? [2.47]
If the scribe does not know Sumerian, how will the translator succeed? [2.49]
When an ox is afflicted with diarrhoea, its dung makes a long trail. [2.92]
For his pleasure, he got married. On thinking it over, he got divorced. [2.124]
He who shaves his head gets more hair. And he who collects barley gets more and more
grain. [2.134]
A mother who has given birth to eight youths lies down in weakness. [2.141]
A house in which a spouse does not speak, in which a father does not utter joyful words,
one finds no rest there. [2.146]
“Let me go today” is what a herdsman says; “Let me go tomorrow” is what a shepherd
boy says; but “Let me go” is “Let me go,” and the time passes. [3.6]
To serve beer with unwashed hands, to spit without trampling upon it, to sneeze without
covering it up with dust, to kiss with the tongue at midday without providing shade, are
abominations to Utu. [3.8]
He who insults is insulted. He who sneers is sneered at. [3.69]
A fool has a (boasting) mouth. [3.103]
Before the fire has gone out, write your exercise tablet. [3.132]
The time passed, what did you gain? [3.157]
Putting unwashed hands in one’s mouth is disgusting. [3.161]
The anus emits flatus, and talking excessive words. [4.62]
A loving heart builds houses. [11.147]
Don’t choose a wife during a festival! [11.150]
Love and caressing are vitality. [MDP 27, 107]
Let your eye be your eye; Let your knees walk. [MDP 27, 110]
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Egyptian Execration Texts
“From the Old Kingdom through the Roman era, priests performed official ritual cursings
of the potential enemies of Egypt. The ceremonies included the breaking of red pots and
figurines inscribed with formal “Execration Texts” against Nubians, Asiatics, Libyans,
living and deceased Egyptians, as well as generally threatening forces.”15
Compare Jeremiah 19.
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Mesopotamian River Ordeal
In the Mari archives (1800–1750 B.C.E.) and the Hammurapi Law Code (1792–1750
B.C.E.) there is reference to a “river ordeal” which was used judicially to determine one’s
guilt or innocence in a case of insufficient evidence. A person was cast into the river
(typically, but not necessarily, the Euphrates) and the safe resurfacing of the person
indicated that person’s innocence. (See Hammurapi Law 2).
Compare Jeremiah 51:59–64.
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
Maps of the
near east
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Modern Map:
Composite Ancient/Modern Map:
Major Archives to note: Nineveh, Mari, Hattusa, Ugarit
Kinds of Writings: Myths (e.g. Creation myths), Epics (e.g. Gilgamesh and
Flood accounts), Collections of Laws (Mesopotamia and Asia Minor:
Hammurapi, Middle Assyrian Laws, Hittite Laws), Treaties, Historical Texts
(military campaigns), Inscriptions (tombs, monuments), Rituals, Incantations,
Festival texts, Hymns and Prayers, Fables and Proverbs, Oracles and Prophecies,
Lamentations, Secular Songs and Poems, Letters and Correspondence,
Administrative and Accounting texts, etc.
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
Cuneiform Writing System
The earliest writings we possess were written in wedge-shaped signs created by
pressing a reed stylus into soft clay. The clay was left to harden into tablets. This
writing is known as “cuneiform” (= “having the shape of wedges,” from the Latin
cuneus, wedge).
This system was used especially by the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians. The
Sumerian and Babylonian languages are not at all related to each other, although
they use the same writing system. Early Babylonian writing is also known as
Akkadian, which later split into Babylonian and Assyrian branches.
The wedge-shaped signs stand for syllables, not individual consonants.
That means there are hundreds of individual signs that have to be learned
in this writing system.
These were the basic types of wedges:
Horizontal I
Oblique L
“Winkelhaken” (“Corner-hook”) Vertical
J
These signs combine in various configurations to form syllables and words. It is
thought that the configurations of signs evolved from earlier pictographic
representations, as shown below.16
Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) is a Semitic language related to Hebrew
and Arabic. Once one learns its basic grammatical structure, translating Akkadian
texts involves a 3-step process:
(1) associating each sign-combination with its syllabic value (transliteration)
(2) combining those syllabic values into pronounceable words (normalization)
(3) translating the text
There are standards works available to facilitate these tasks, such as
comprehensive sign-lists (for transliteration), grammars, and dictionaries. Below
is a sample entry of the standard sign-list, a German work.17 The sign shown can
have the sound “an.” In some words this sign is a syllable connected with other
syllables to build words. It can also stand by itself for the word “god.”
Sometimes it is left untranslated and is used to signal that the following word is
the name of a deity (in this function, “an” is called a determinative).
Cuneiform
writing system
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
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Sample Cuneiform Text: Hammurapi Law 1
šum - ma
a - wi - lum
a - wi - lam
ú - ub - bi - ir- ma
ne - er - tam
šumma awīlum awīlam ubbirma nērtam
e - li - šu
id - di - ma
la
uk - ti - in - šu
mu - ub - bi - ir - šu
elišu iddīma la uktînšu mubbiršu
id - da - ak
iddâk
Translation:
If a man accused a[nother] man,
and he has brought against him [a charge of] murder,
and he has not convicted him,
his accuser will be executed.
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Cuneiform Text Forms
Far Left: Stela of Hammurapi.
Diorite. 2.25 meters high.
Discovered 1901–02 at Susa.
Contains a prologue, enumeration of
282 laws, and an epilogue.
Left top: Prism of Esarhaddon.
Historical record. 22 cm high.
Left bottom: Clay tablet of
Gilgamesh epic (Flood account). 15
cm high.
Top: Cuneiform tablet with a clay
envelope in which it was sealed.
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
Hieroglyphic Writing System
The word “hieroglyphics” comes from two Greeks words “hieros” = “holy,
sacred” and a verb “glyphein” = “to carve, inscribe,” so called since the earliest
writings were found mostly inscribed on temple walls.
Hieroglyphics were used in Egypt since around 3000 B.C.E. At first they were
used for writing lists of names of kings, then titles, then sacrificial offerings, and
eventually whole sentences.
Egyptian signs can stand for single words, which they pictorially represent, or
they can stand for syllables or sounds using the “rebus” principle (common in
many word games).
Example: The Egyptian sign
can be pronounced paru meaning “house”, or
it can stand for the combination of consonants p-r with various vowels, such as
per, apr, epr, epra etc. in words that have nothing to do with the word “house.”
The discovery of the “Rosetta stone” in 1799 helped scholars decipher
hieroglyphics. Here are some basic points relating to the Rosetta stone:
ƒ Discovered 1799 in Nile Delta region by
French soldiers
ƒ Black basalt stone: 118 cm high, 77 cm wide,
30 cm thick, 762 kg
ƒ 3 scripts: Hieroglyphic, Demotic, Greek
ƒ Transferred to British Museum 1802; still
there
ƒ Inscription dates to Ptolemy V Epiphanes, 196
B.C.E.
ƒ Final decipherment: Jean-François
Champollion
ƒ Breakthrough by identifying names of Ptolemy
and Cleopatra in “cartouches” = oval figures
enclosing royal names
The breakthrough in deciphering the hieroglyphs came when the cartouches for
the names Ptolemy and Cleopatra were deduced. The cartouches below are for
the name Ptolemy (read right to left).
Egyptian hieroglyphics come in various categories:
About 26 signs that stand for single consonants (“alphabetic” hieroglyphs)
About 80 signs that stand for two consonants (“biliterals”)
About 70 signs that stand for three consonants (“triliterals”)
A large number of other signs.
Vowels were not written, so the pronunciation of ancient Egyptian is a
complicated matter.
hieroglyphic
writing system
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
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Egyptian Single Consonant Signs18
Some Determinatives
Gods’ Names
A commonly used writing material in Egypt was papyrus. The pith of the papyrus plant
was cut vertically into thin slices. The slices were then laid in a criss-cross pattern, some
horizontally, some vertically. The slices were moistened, pressed, dried, then cut into
sheets. The sheets could then be glued together to form a scroll.
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
Alphabetic Writing Systems
Somewhere around 2000 B.C.E. writing systems were developed that represented
each consonant by a single sign. The total number of signs required to write
anything was reduced to around 30 or fewer signs.
What may turn out to be the oldest alphabet known was discovered in the “Valley
of Horrors” (Wadi el-Hol) in Egypt in June, 1999. An article is soon to be
released. See the West Semitic Research Project web site for updates. Date
estimates: 19th–18th cent. B.C.E.
Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite inscriptions date from ca. 16th–15th cent.
B.C.E. (possibly 18th?)
Ugaritic
A cuneiform alphabetic language known as Ugaritic was discovered in the early
20th century in Ras Shamra in Syria. It dates from ca. 1400–1200 B.C.E.
Ugaritic Alphabet
Ugaritic Alphabet Tablet, Picture from the Ugarit-Forschungsstelle web site:
http://ugarit.uni-muenster.de/default.htm
alphabetic
writing systems
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
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Sample Ugaritic Text19
1 al . t›l
prdmn . (bd , ali[yn]
b(l . sid . zbl . b(l
ar‡ . qm . yt(r
5 w . yšl¹mnh
ybrd . td . l pnwh
b ¹rb . ml¹t
q‡ . mri . ndd
y(šr . w yšqynh
10 ytn . ks . bdh
krp[[m]]nm . b klat . ydh
bk rb . (±m . ridn
mt . šmm . ks . qdš
l tphnh . att . krpn
15 l t(n . atrt . alp
kd . yq¹ b ¸mr
rbt . ymsk . b mskh
qm . ybd . w yšr
m‡ltm . bd . n(m
20 yšr . ›zr . ªb . ql
(l . b(l . b ‡rrt
‡pn . ytmr . b(l
bnth . y(n . pdry
bt . ar . apn . ªly
25 b[t . ]rb . pdr . yd(
[yd](t . im . klt
Translation20
…do not…
2
He serves Mightiest 3Baal, / Waits on the Prince, Lord 4of the Earth.
He rises, arranges, 5and offers him food, /
6
Slices a breast before him, / 7With a salted knife, 8a cut of fatling.
He stands, 9serves, and offers him drink, /
10
Puts a goblet in his hand, / 11A goblet in his two hands:
12
A large vessel great to behold, / 13A container for mighty men;
A holy cup women 14may not see, / A goblet 15Ahirat may not eye.
A thousand 16pitchers he draws from the wine, / 17Mixes a myriad in his mixture.
18
He rises, chants, and sings, / 19With cymbals in the singer’s hands.
With a sweet 20voice the hero sings, / 21Over Baal on the summit of 22Sapan.
Baal sees 23his daughters, /
Eyes Pidray, 24Daughter of Light, / Then Tallay, 25[Daughter] of Rain.
Pidru knows …
Phoenicians
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
The Phoenicians developed an alphabetic system about the 11th cent. B.C.E. This
alphabet is the ancestor of all alphabets of western civilization.
The earliest Hebrew inscription dates from ca. 10th cent. B.C.E. The history of
the alphabet is continually being refined. In broad strokes, note the following
excerpt from Semitic Writing, by G. R. Driver, revised edition 1976, pp. 196–
197):
The conclusion of the matter then is this. The Sumerians invented writing on
clay by means of pictographic signs and devised a method of using these to
render syllables; they also accidentally isolated four of the five vowels. The
Babylonians developed the use of these signs for syllables and employed this
syllabic script in continuous texts of every kind, interspersed with
ideographs; the Persians invented the simplest form of syllabic script based
on the cuneiform system. The Egyptians had early devised their own system
of hieroglyphs which they carried forward through the hieratic and demotic
stages of cursive writing; they also adapted their signs for occasional use as
syllables and even as consonants but never used them so in continuous texts
except for a brief experimental period. It was the merit of the western
Semites that they saw the importance of this discovery and, discarding the
whole cumbrous machinery of ideographic and syllabic scripts and providing
that each sound was represented by only one sign, made a simple alphabet
the vehicle of written thought. Who first took this step is and may always
remain unknown; all that can be said is that he or they were sprung in all
probability from one or other of the Semitic peoples who came into contact
with the Egyptians c. 2500–1500 B.C. and that it was taken in or near Egypt,
and that the invention was developed in Palestine and perfected on the
Phoenician coast. At this early stage three types of alphabetic script were
evolved, a mixed pictographic-linear, a cuneiform, and a true linear script;
the two former soon died out while the latter survived to be carried by the
Phoenicians overseas to Greece, where separate signs were devised and
whence the completed alphabet passed to all the nations of the western
hemisphere — one, and only one, of the gifts of the Semites to mankind.
Chart of Letter Forms
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
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SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
READING SUGGESTIONS
Anthologies of Ancient Near Eastern Texts:
Set 1:
James Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1969.
James Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.
Set 2:
William Hallo, ed. The Context of Scripture. Leiden: Brill.
Vol. I: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, 1997.
Vol. II: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, 2000.
Vol. III: Archival Documents from the Biblical World, 2002.
Set 3:
Society of Biblical Literature: Writings from the Ancient World Series
Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East, Marti Nissinen, C. L. Seow, Robert
K. Ritner, 2003.
Hittite Prayers, Itamar Singer, 2002.
Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, Dennis Pardee, 2002.
Hittite Myths, 2nd ed., Harry A. Hoffner, Gary M. Jr., editor, 1998.
Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 2nd ed., Martha Tobi Roth,
Piotr Michalowski, editor, 1997.
Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, Simon B. Parker, editor, Mark S. Smith, translator 1997.
Hittite Diplomatic Texts, Gary M. Beckman, Harry A. Hoffner, editor, 1996.
Hymns, Prayers and Songs: An Anthology of Ancient Egyptian Lyric Poetry, Susan
Tower Hollis, editor, John L. Foster, translator, 1995.
Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt, William J. Murnane, Edmund S. Meltzer, editor,
1995.
Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters, Kent Harold Richards, editor, James
M. Lindenberger, translator, 1994.
Letters from Early Mesopotamia, Piotr Michalowski, Erica Reiner, editor 1993.
Letters From Ancient Egypt, Edmund S. Meltzer, editor, Edward F. Wente, translator,
1990.
Set 4:
Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Vol. I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms, 1973.
Vol. II: The New Kingdom, 1976.
Vol. III: The Late Period, 1980.
On the History of Writing:
Series: Reading the Past. British Museum Publications:
Cuneiform; The Early Alphabet; Egyptian Hieroglyphs; Etruscan;
Greek Inscriptions; Latin Inscriptions; Linear B; Maya Glyphs; Runes
A comprehensive survey is found in:
Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, eds., The World’s Writing Systems.
New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
SAMPLE TEXTS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
17
Notes:
1
Adapted from Samuel Noah Kramer, “Schooldays: A Sumerian Composition Relating to the
Education of a Scribe,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 69, 4 (1949): 205. The
image of the cuneiform tablet is Plate I between pp. 214 and 215. The article is a good
example of how an ancient text that existed in multiple but incomplete copies is analyzed and
published. The Sumerian word for school was é-dub-ba “tablet-house,” the pupil was dumu-édub-ba, “son of the tablet-house,” and the trained professional scribes dub-sar “tablet-writers”
(pg. 199 of the article).
Kramer, “Schooldays,” 208–210, adapted from Kramer and G. R. Driver in Semitic Writing:
From Pictograph to Alphabet (London/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 235.
2
Jacob Klein, The Royal Hymns of Shulgi King of Ur: Man’s Quest for Immortal Fame
(Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1981): 15.
3
Walter Farber, Schlaf, Kindchen, Schlaf! Mesopotamische Baby-Beschwörungen und –
Rituale (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1989: 35, 45–47.
4
James Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed.
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969): 639–640. A newer translation is provided in
Yitschak Sefati, Love Songs in Sumerian Literature: Critical Edition of the Dumuzi-Inanna
Songs (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press: 1998): 187–188.
5
Yitschak Sefati, Love Songs in Sumerian Literature: Critical Edition of the Dumuzi-Inanna
Songs (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press: 1998): 129–130.
6
Othmar Keel, Deine Blicke sind Tauben: Zur Metaphorik des Hohen Liedes (Stuttgart:
Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk GmbH, 1984): 173, Abb. 94.
7
8
Sefati, Love Songs in Sumerian Literature, 277.
9
Sefati, Love Songs in Sumerian Literature, 283.
10
Sefati, Love Songs in Sumerian Literature, 196–197.
Michael Fox, The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs (Madison: The
University of Wisconsin Press, 1985): 32.
11
12
Fox, Song of Songs, 55.
13
William Hallo, ed. The Context of Scripture, Vol. I (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 126.
14
Bendt Alster, Proverbs of Ancient Sumer, 2 Vols. (Bethesda: CDL Press, 1997).
15
William Hallo, ed. The Context of Scripture, I, 50.
C. B. E. Walker, Reading the Past: Cuneiform (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of
California Press/British Museum, 1987), 10.
16
Rykle Borger, Assyrisch-babylonische Zeichenliste, 3rd ed. (Neukirchen-Vluyn:
Neukirchener Verlag, 1986), 60.
17
18
Mark Collier, How To Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs, 1998 (rev. ed. 2003), 3, 5, 11.
Transliteration from Manfried Dietrich, Oswald Loretz, Joaquin Sanmartin, The Cuneiform
Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places, 2nd enlarged ed. (Münster:
Ugarit-Verlag, 1995), 10 [= KTU 1.3].
19
Simon B. Parker, Ugaritic Narrative Poetry. Writings from the Ancient World, Vol. 9
(Scholars Press, 1997), 105–106.
20
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