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The Dialogue Between Two Scribes (1.184)

(956 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; School Dialogues Commentary This provisionally fragmentary1 composition focuses on the competition between two scribes, one being more advanced than the other, and using his seniority to bully and insult the younger one — after which the teacher, apparently a stickler for school tradition, takes the side of the senior student (the “Big Brother”). But in the meantime we learn a number of practical and meth…

Dumuzi-Inanna Songs (1.169)

(302 words)

Author(s): Sefati, Yitschak
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Love Poems Commentary The three poems translated below belong to the Sumerian love poetry composed during the Third Dynasty of Ur and early Old Babylonian periods (ca. 2100–1800 BCE). This poetry which is mainly cultic deals with the love affair and marriage of the divine couple, the gods of love and fertility, Dumuzi (the Sumerian name for Tammuz) and Inanna (the Sumerian name for Ishtar). This symbolic mar…

Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (1.170)

(1,525 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Thorkild
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Epic Commentary The story of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta begins in legendary times, before many of the inventions of civilization — such as written communication by letter. Enmerkar ruled in Uruk as “priest-king” (en), and was the human husband of Inanna, with whom he united yearly in the rite of the sacred marriage. The lord of Aratta ruled in the fabled city of Aratta which lay in the mountains far away to the east. He also was the sp…

Love by the Light of the Moon (1.169C)

(1,151 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Love Poems Commentary This poem1 is a dialogue between Inanna and Dumuzi/Ama-ushumgalanna, who woo each other as a young couple prior to their marriage. The song opens with Inanna’s monologue, in which she tells of her chance meeting with Dumuzi and about Dumuzi holding her hand and embracing her (obverse lines 1–8) when spending the previous day in song and dance. Then a dialogue with Dumuzi develops (obverse lines 9–22): Inan…

The Song of the Hoe (1.157)

(1,956 words)

Author(s): Farber, Gertrud
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary The ancient scribe seemingly had a humorous purpose in mind when composing this text. It should probably be categorized as a satirical school text composed for use in the Edubba (= school) and for other learned people.1 The composition has no coherent topic or theme. The thread winding through the whole text is the syllable /al/ which is a Sumerian logogram meaning hoe but which also occurs as part of other words or as a gra…

From “Evil Spirits” (1.168)

(328 words)

Author(s): Hallo, W. W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Incantations Commentary The formation of systematic (“canonical”) series of incantations began as early as Old Babylonian times in the case of the “Evil Spirits” (UDUG-HUL = utukku lemnūtu). Again, the concern was with improper burial and its baneful consequences. The present example is a brief incantation out of a reconstruction of second millennium forerunners running to nearly 1000 lines, and these in t…

The Sacred Marriage of Iddin-Dagan and Inanna (1.173)

(3,119 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Thorkild
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Royal Hymns Commentary This hymn was apparently written under Iddin–Dagan, the third king of the dynasty of Isin, for he is mentioned by name in it. It may even be that it was meant for use at the yearly rite of the sacred marriage in which the king took on the identity of the god Ama–ushumgal–anna and as such married Inanna, who was almost certainly incarnated in the reigning queen, as shown by the epithet N…

“Man and His God” (1.179)

(1,742 words)

Author(s): Klein, Jacob
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pious Sufferer Compositions Commentary This Sumerian poem, of about 140 lines, tells a didactic story of a righteous sufferer who remains faithful to his personal god and ultimately is rehabilitated and restored to his former happy status. The poem opens with a brief didactic exhortation, that a man should faithfully praise his god, soothing his heart with lamentations, for “a man without a god would not …

The Disputation Between Ewe and Wheat (1.180)

(2,014 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Disputations Commentary This composition is presently the most accessible of the group of poetic disputations, a genre which was very popular in the Old Babylonian scribal schools and, according to the texts themselves, also at the royal court. This piece is remarkable for three reasons: it starts with a very long “cosmogonical” introduction,1 it is apparently occasioned by a festival (a banquet at harvest time?), and it is a prime example of a consci…

To Nanshe (1.162)

(4,058 words)

Author(s): Heimpel, Wolfgang
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Hymns To Nanshe (1.162) Subject: Num 28:26; Deut 19:14; 27:17; Lev 19:35; Deut 25:13–16; Amos 8:5; Mic 6:10; Prov 11:1; 20:10; Lev 19:15; Exod 22:21; Deut 10:18 Is it not the city, is it not the city, are its divine powers not proclaimed?Is it not the city Nina, are its divine powers not proclaimed?Is it not the city, the pure city, are its divine powers not proclaimed?Is it not a mountain carried above water, the city, are its divine powers not proclaimed? 5 Does not the day of the goo…

Proverbs Quoted In Other Genres (1.175)

(638 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Proverbs Commentary The proverbs quoted in the Sumerian proverb collections are usually devoid of context indicative of the situations to which they were normally applied. Yet, in some lucky cases, the proverbs listed in the proverb collections coincide with those quoted in literary compositions.1 On the other hand, a number of proverbs found in literary compositions, in particular in Shuruppak’s Instructions (cf. below), were not included in…

Enki and Ninmaḫ (1.159)

(2,537 words)

Author(s): Klein, Jacob
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary This archaic and still partly incomprehensible myth praises Enki, the god of the subterranean fresh waters, wisdom and magic, for having planned and directed the creation of mankind and for having devised ways in which the physically handicapped could adjust to society. The myth seems to consist of two originally independent stories. The first part tells the story of the creation of man rat…

School Dialogues (1.SU.C.6)

(287 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus 6. School Dialogues This section has been included for a very special reason. The Scriptural parallels here might be are few in number, and inherently vacuous, if not nugatory. And that is precisely the point: the rich ‘school literature’ in Sumerian from Old Babylonian Mesopotamia shows a striking and very meaningful contrast between the two cultures. In the Mesopotamian case the perception, ordering and…

The Eridu Genesis (1.158)

(1,377 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Thorkild
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary The fragment here translated was written at some time around 1600 B.C. It constitutes the lower third of a six–column tablet, the upper part of which, containing roughly some 36 lines per column, is lost. The content of the lost sections can be restored to some extent from other versions of the same tradition, most of which are of later date. By the time of the Assyrian Empire the tradition…

The Blessing of Nisaba By Enki (1.163)

(1,153 words)

Author(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Hymns Commentary This hymn in honor of Enki, “the crafty god” (Kramer and Maier 1989), seems to commemorate his blessing of Nisaba, perhaps on the occasion of her (annual?) visit, in the guise of her statue, to his sanctuary at Eridu. As the personification of both reed and grain, Nisaba was patron-goddess of both scribal art and agriculture, and both characteristics are celebrated in this hymn. The Blessing of Nisaba By Enki (1.163) Subject: Prov 9:1; Job 33:6; 1 Kgs 7:23; 2 Chr 4:2; Ju…

The Dialogue Between A Supervisor and A Scribe (1.185)

(1,143 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; School Dialogues Commentary This piece is not unlike the preceding one in that it consists of an altercation between a senior and a junior member of the Eduba. Still, the relationship is subtly different: the senior one is not just a more mature student, but a regular supervisor (an UGULA). He submits the pupil, who is obviously aspiring to higher things at this moment, to a kind of examination which dea…

Shuruppak (1.176)

(1,024 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary In addition to the standard version of this composition, dating around 1900–1800 BCE, an Early Dynastic version dating as early as 2600–2500 BCE, and two partly preserved Akkadian translations, one dating around 1500 BCE, and one dating around 1100 BCE, are known. The excerpts translated here are from the standard version, attested in approximately 80 fragments from Nippur and Ur…

Inanna and Enki (1.161)

(2,974 words)

Author(s): Farber, Gertrud
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary The exact date of the origin of this composition is unknown. It has come down to us in only very few sources, all of which stem from the Old Babylonian scribal school of Nippur.1 The main topic of the myth is the love goddess Inanna’s attempt to increase her city Uruk’s and her own power and influence. She therefore wants to bring into her possession the ME, the cultural norms which are the basis of Sumerian civilization and all aspects of life.2 These cultural norms…

The Exaltation of Inanna (1.160)

(2,340 words)

Author(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary This is one of three hymns to the goddess Inanna attributed to Enheduanna in its own text. All three are listed together at the beginning of a literary catalogue, with this composition last (Cohen 1976:131f.). The cycle is a counterpart to The Collection of the Temple Hymns, another cycle attributed to the same author (Sjöberg and Bergmann 1969). If the latter reflects on Sargon, the autho…

Gilgamesh and Akka (1.171)

(1,608 words)

Author(s): Katz, Dina
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Epic Commentary The short narrative describes a conflict between two Mesopotamian cities Kish and Uruk. Akka, the ruler of Kish, demanded of the Urukeans to dig wells. Gilgamesh, Akka’s dependent lord of Uruk, determined to rebel, ignored the advice of Uruk’s assembly of elders and, with the support of his army, freed Uruk from the dominance of Kish and established himself as the independent ruler of Uruk. T…
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