Ancient History & Civilisation


Notes to Chapter 1: About this Book

1. one George Smith … A readable account of the background to this heart-stopping episode and the man himself is Damrosch 2006; Smith’s own writings on all this (especially Smith 1875 and 1876) are by no means too antiquated to be worth a look today.

2. ‘Izdubar’ … Cuneiform signs, as we will see, can often be read in more than one way, and the correct interpretation of ‘Izdubar’ as Gilgamesh was only established about fifteen years later (in great exhilaration) by Theophilus Pinches, one of Smith’s successors as British Museum Assyriologist (Pinches 1889–90). Difficulties in understanding this ancient and famous name persist to this day; Andrew George devoted a twenty-page chapter of modern cuneiform exposition to the question in George 2003, Vol. 1: 71–90.

3. E. A. Wallis Budge … Quoted after Budge 1925: 152–3. Budge, a very complex character, has been brought to convincing life in Ismail 2011, with further insight by Reade 2011.

4. London, 1872 … An account of the occasion was published in The Times newspaper on the following day, 3 December 1872, while Smith wrote up the full details in two impressive articles published by the host society as Smith 1873 and 1874.

5. where he had lived … See Damrosch 2006: 75–6.

6. answering public enquiries … In the author’s department in the British Museum (successively the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities, the Department of the Ancient Near East, and now the Middle East Department), which covers the whole of the Middle East, the demand for curatorial identification of objects has come to diminish over recent years. In earlier times there were frequent visits from auctioneers, dealers and collectors but the significant progress that has been made in inhibiting the trade in antiquities illegally exported from the Middle East has meant that today we tend only to see objects with legitimate provenance.

7. a few interesting specimens … Eight cylinder seals were purchased for the British Museum, now numbered BM 141632–141639.

8. what was emerging … He knew therefore that his Ark was round (discovering which, I nearly fell off my chair); he allowed me to describe it on television (a cameo appearance in The Truth Behind the Ark, Zigzag Films, 2010, produced by Alex Hearle), and he permitted me to discuss it with journalists (Maeve Kennedy wrote a full-page article in the Guardian newspaper, Friday 1 January 2010, entitled ‘The animals walked round and round: Relic reveals Noah’s Ark was circular’, while Cathy Newman gave a brief account in the National Geographic Magazine for February 2011 under the title ‘Hark the Round Ark’).

Notes to Chapter 2: The Wedge between Us

1. The Wedge Between Us … This title derives from a series of broadcasts on Radio 4 in 1992 designed to recruit Assyriologists from the public at large. Cuneiform studies today are as open-ended and exciting as Latin and Greek were in the eighteenth century and, as I argued then, should probably be introduced at secondary school on a national level, as there are so many marvellous tablets to be deciphered. So far this policy seems not to have been adopted.

2. other symbols for numbers … Numbers evolved right alongside writing and quickly reached a remarkable level of sophistication, as clearly explained in Nissen, Damerow and Englund 1993.

3. The eye sees  … Interesting here are two rare specimens of cuneiform writing in ink where the Assyrian scribe accurately imitates the cuneiform signs as they look in clay when written with a stylus, but using a brush and ink; a photograph is given in Reade 1986: 217; see, for the implications, Finkel forthcoming (a).

4. destroy  … this verb has sometimes been translated ‘flee’, but the idea is that the boat is made out of the house materials.

5. spiky … The Dutch word for cuneiform is Spijkerschrift which seems to me to convey incidentally much of the nature of cuneiform writing – if not some of its devotees – ‘having spikes’, ‘being ill-tempered’ or ‘characterised by violent or aggressive methods’.

Notes to Chapter 3: Words and People

1. the city, Ur  … During the last invasion of Iraq, a high-flown American official, interviewed on the radio about damage to archaeological sites on which military installations had been imposed, referred to this city as ‘Umm’, evidently confusing one convention for ‘I can’t think what to say’ with another.

2. the library at Alexandria … For the likelihood that the Alexandrian library was influenced by that at Nineveh see Goldstein 2010.

3. Arlo Guthrie … The quotation is from the original full recording of Alice’s Restaurant, a work that cannot be beaten.

4. allow us to eavesdrop … A good collection of letters from this point of view, all translated into English, is Oppenheim 1967.

5. Assyrian political treaty … The whole text, from the reign of King Esarhaddon (680–669 BC), is translated in Parpola and Watanabe 1998 as no. 6; these are lines 643–5.

6. Shuruppak … The long-running work of wisdom literature known to us as the Instructions of Shuruppak was handed down by a famous father, himself son of Ubar-Tutu, supposedly the last king to rule before the Flood; see Alster 2005: 63.

7. classic of Babylonian wisdom literature … The Dialogue of Pessimism, as translated in Lambert 1960: 147.

8. could even read inscriptions … This is the colophon that was added to many of Assurbanipal’s library copies, making unambiguously clear the king’s personal literary abilities; translation after Livingstone 2007: 100–101.

9. needed even less … Recent works such as Charpin 2010; Wilcke 2000 and Veldhuis 2001 are good on this important subject.

10. hard it is to write religious history … A. L. Oppenheim wrote in his influential book Ancient Mesopotamia that a history of Mesopotamian religion could never be written, which was all that was needed to goad his Harvard opposite T. Jacobsen into producing one called Treasures of Darkness. While a mass of documentary evidence relevant to cuneiform religion has since become available with detailed studies of specific rituals, aspects of temple administration or the history of individual gods, there has been no subsequent attempt at an overview.

11. for the whole universe … This translation of the Sumerian is the work of Piotr Michalowski, quoted from his article about Sumerian liver divination, Michalowski 2006: 247–8.

12. but not always … Invaluable here is Civil’s 1975 overview of what can be learned from cuneiform dictionaries.

13. one unique discussion … See Oppenheim 1974. This remarkable text seems hardly to have been appreciated for what it is.

14. drawings on clay … See the examples in Finkel 2011.

15. Greeks learning Babylonian … For lots about the remarkable ‘Graeco-Babyloniaca’ tablets see Geller 1997 and Westenholz 2007.

16. human diseases … Discussed in Geller 2001/2002; the tablet of game rules is explicated in Finkel 2008.

17. have got away with quite a lot … A good example is the so-called Greek invention of the gnomon or sun-dial, the construction of which is fully explained on a cuneiform tablet in the British Museum which was once in a library at Babylon. It is widely attributed to Anaximander but even Herodotus knew better; Pingree 1998: 130.

Notes to Chapter 4: Recounting the Flood

1. Many scholars … The following interesting books, written long in advance of internet resources, have been concerned with this material: Frazer 1918; Riem 1925; Gaster 1969: 82–131; Westermann 1984: 384–406; Bailey 1989 and Cohn 1996. See also Dundes (ed.) 1988.

2. the biblical Flood itself … The main writings then were Peake 1930; Parrot 1955; Mallowan 1964; Raikes 1966.

3. versatile pen … Woolley 1954, 1982; Watelin 1934: 40–44; Moorey 1978.

4. in their footsteps … It is with such matters that the internet is beyond challenge. I have looked at Anderson 2001; Wilson 2001.

5. if not beyond … For echoes of post-cuneiform Gilgamesh see George 2003, Vol. 1: 54–70.

6. Atrahasis Epic … Lambert and Millard 1969 is the first serious treatment; a fine translation with useful references is Foster 1993, Vol. 1: 158–201; important also are George and al-Rawi 1996, and the tablet published in Spar and Lambert 2005, referred to on p. 220 above.

7. have been excavated … The tablet is CBS 10673, translated in Civil 1969: 142–5; discussed in Alster 2005: 32–3.

8. the god Enki … The tablet is MS 3026, known to me only in photograph.

9. kings who lived before the Flood … For more details, see Lambert and Millard 1969: 17–21; Alster 2005: 32.

10. a corking opera … Mesopotamian mythology has, in fact, provided inspiration to composers such as George Rochberg, who wrote the song-cycle Songs of Inanna and Dumuzi for contralto and piano based on Sumerian poems. Similar influence on literature has been examined in Foster 2008 and Ziolkowski 2011.

11. fractious baby … Useful quietening spells for this purpose are collected and translated in Farber 1989.

12. Ipiq-Aya … His story is told in van Koppen 2011.

13. I will try out the join … The fragment C1 is BM 78942+; C2 is MAH 16064. Translations: Lambert and Millard 1969: 88–93 [source C]; Foster 1993: 177–9.)

14. how to accomplish it … The tablet is MS 5108, translated in George 2009: 22.

15. the same lines … See Chapter 13, this page.

16. from other versions … The tablet is Aleppo Museum RS 22.421, translated in Lambert and Millard 1969: 132–3 (source H); Foster 1993, Vol. 1: 185.

17. University Museum, Philadelphia … The tablet is CBS 13532, translated in Lambert and Millard 1969: 126–7 (source I); Foster 1993, Vol. 1: 184.

18. described in Chapter 3 … The tablet is BM 98977+, translated in Lambert and Millard 1969: 122–3 (source U); Foster 1993, Vol. 1: 184.

19. Daily Telegraph newspaper … The tablet is DT 42, translated in Lambert and Millard 1969: 129 (source W); Foster 1993, Vol. 1: 194.

20. Penguin Classic … Originally a slim, composite translation in Sandars 1960, which has been in every way replaced by George 1999.

21. something of an afterthought … Translated in George 2003, Vol. 1: 704–9, which renders previous editions superfluous.

22. Berossus according to … These two passages are quoted after Lambert and Millard 1969: 134–7. For a long time scholars had to be content with Cory 1832; later this was replaced by Jacoby 1958. An interesting study of Berossus is Gmirkin 2006, with whose conclusions I cannot agree; see Drows 1975; see now also De Breucker 2011. Geller 2012 has a highly original suggestion about the Berossus work, that it was first written in Aramaic, not Greek.

23. from the Koran … Koranic translations into English given here are those of Haleem 2004

Notes to Chapter 6: Flood Warning

1. a message dream … Mesopotamian dreams make very interesting reading in Oppenheim 1956; otherwise Butler 1998 and Zgoll 2006.

2. Tablet of Sins … For this fragmentary but suggestive story see Finkel 1983a.

3. We are to conceive … Lambert and Millard 1969: 11–12.

4. wetland marshes of southern Iraq … Fulanain 1927; Salim 1962; Thesiger 1964, Young 1977 – with Nik Wheeler’s excellent photographs – and Ochsenschlager 2004.

Notes to Chapter 7: The Question of Shape

5. No one had ever thought of that … Florentina Badanalova has recorded an oral Bulgarian tradition in which ‘Noah the cooper was told to build a barrel rather than an Ark, where he and his family and all the animals were to live while the Flood covered the Earth for years instead of days’; Badalanova Geller 2009: 10–11.

6. and probably German … For a history of European model Noah’s Arks of painted wood see Kaysel 1992.

7. A circle within a square … This Old Babylonian diagram of a circle within a tight-fitting square exemplifies how a circle might be said to possess equal length and breadth. It comes from a Babylonian teacher’s geometrical textbook with drawings that is always on exhibition in the British Museum and tends to engender a shudder in visitors when they realise that it is ‘something to do with maths.’ A scribal tour de force, it is of about the same date as the Ark Tablet, and gives a sequence of about forty problem questions, each illuminated by a diagram. These show squares within squares, with circles, triangles and other divisions within them, and grow progressively more complex as the student works down the tablet, laboriously calculating the areas of the varous subdivided sections. To try all the classroom problems yourself consult Robson 1999: 208–217; Robson 2008: 47–50. Some of the most complex shapes in the textbook have no counterpart in our geometry and we have no convenient names for them in English although the Babylonians did (Kilmer 1990). On translating lines 6–9 of the Ark Tablet for the first time I thought at once of this particular diagram.

8. a hand reaching down … According to one Jewish tradition God showed Noah with his finger how to make the Ark; another states that all the necessary information was included in the book called Sefer Razi’el, a copy of which was given to Noah by the angel Raphael.

9. Draw the design on the ground … Miguel Civil told me of an unpublished Old Babylonian Sumerian Schooldays story that he had been working on which explains how the boys were taught cuneiform signs. They are drawn on a large scale in freshly swept sand in the courtyard for the pupils to copy down on their tablets before the signs got trodden on. Thus the lack of a blackboard was neatly circumvented by the black-headed people, as the Sumerians called themselves.

10. Jeffrey Tigay … See Tigay 2002, and, for much useful textual information on the Atrahasis side, Shehata 2001.

11. coracles from India … For coracles of the world, consult Badge 2009; Hornell 1938 and Hornell 1946.

12. standard works on ancient Mesopotamian boats … For example, Salonen 1939; Potts 1997; Carter 2012 and Zarins 2008.

13. Legend of Sargon … This legend has been well known since the nineteenth century, when George Smith and William Fox Talbot (pioneer Assyriologist and pioneer photographer) squabbled about the translation; the most recent treatment since Lewis 1980 is Westenholz 1997: 36–49.

14. I think we can conclude … Since making this brilliant discovery I discovered from Carter 2012: 370 that M. Weszeli had already made the same point in 2009: 168.

15. a direct textual parallel … Compare the final words of the Ark Tablet, ‘Caulk the frame of her door!’

16. the smallest specimen ever made … Chesney 1853: 640.

17. reed boats  … skin-covered coracles … Like the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary the historian A. K. Grayson (Grayson 1996), translated this passage as ‘reed rafts’ and ‘rafts (made of inflated) goatskins’, but both interpretations are incorrect. Giant rafts were made of wood lashed together resting hovercraft-like on inflated animal-skin balloons but this is not what is meant by Shalmaneser’s archivist. The Babylonian word for raft, only attested in the plural, is *ḫallimu; ancient Mesopotamian rafts are often called by their modern Turkish name kelek in the literature. For notes by someone who knew about Iraqi rafts see Chesney 1850: 634–7.

18. which way was up … Hornell 1938: 106 is rather sceptical concerning the reliability of the Herodotus account but Badge 2009: 172–3 defends his testimony with parallel practices from elsewhere, and I think does so rightly.

19. Tigris barcarii … The observation that these men, listed in the Notitia Dignitatum, were guffa specialists is that of Reade 1999: 287 (see Holder 1982: 123).

20. boat called a ṭubbû … Quoted after Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Ṭ 115, where the Babylonian tablet in which this otherwise unknown word occurs, here given in photograph, has recently been referred to (BM 32873); ṭubbû thus parallels tēvāh in another way, attested to twice in only one document!

21. conceivably even ultimately ancestral … The origins of the word tub earlier than in Europe of the fourteenth century AD are lost to scholarly enquiry.

22. A remarkable kind of boat … This and the following quotations are from Chesney 1853: 636–9.

23. Patai writes … See Patai 1998: 5.

Notes to Chapter 8: Building the Arks

1. what a shipyard would do … See Potts 1997: 126.

2. abbreviation, the sign PI … This is not quite the same as our writing ‘p’ in ‘20p’, even though ‘p for parsiktu’ is a good way to remember the word.

3. These types of wood … For such matters see Powell 1992.

4. the cosmic Apsû … See Horowitz 1998: 334–47.

5. Bitumen is thus applied … For modern Iraqi boat-building bitumen practice see Ochsenschlager 1992: 52.

6. some scrappy records … Leemans 1960.

7. a tool called girmadû … This term is borrowed from Sumerian giš.gìr-má-dù, where giš is the determinative for ‘wood’, gìr means ‘foot’ and má means ‘boat’, although dù is a verb with many possible meanings. Its Sumerian origin is reflected in the mixed Sumerian and Akkadian-style spelling gi-ir-MÁ.DÙ.MEŠ in Gilgamesh XI: 79. Since it is a roller for applying a waterproof coating, the sign DÙ probably stands for the homonym DU8, which means ‘to seal’, or ‘to caulk’.

Notes to Chapter 9: Life on Board

1. category of ‘clean’ … Foster 1993, Vol. 1: 178–9 sees Atra-hasīs as slaughtering these clean and fat animals but sacrifices were hardly needed to smooth the way for an activity carried out on direct divine orders.

2. two by two … Anyone who stumbles across the early study of our Middle Babylonian Nippur, Hilprecht 1910: 49, 56–7, will find he has gratuitously restored the expression ‘two of everything’, but without any single part of any of the needed signs being preserved on the document!

3. I loaded aboard it … This much-reiterated and possibly tension-building phrase in Gilgamesh XI may well be an indication of oral literary technique but grates now in printed context in much the same way as when politicians repeat a phrase like ‘and the next thing we are going to do is …’ five or six times while they think up a string of impressive-sounding promises. It is tantalising that we cannot know whether Old Babylonian Atrahasis 30–31, which begins in the same way as Gilgamesh XI 82–3, also concerned material wealth. I like to think that it did not.

4. occurred to me … I later discovered, of course, that others have already done such things with the ark narrative, such as Parrot 1955: 15–22 (which is a first-rate book), Bailey 1989, Chapter 6, and especially Westermann 1984, but not reaching the same conclusions.

5. The statistics … as retrievable from the internet.

6. Sumerian UR = Akkadian, kalbu, ‘dog’ … Words sometimes function differently between Sumerian and Akkadian; ‘lioness’, in Akkadian, is a specific noun, nēštum; in Sumerian ‘lioness’ is written with three cuneiform signs that etymologically mean ‘female exalted dog’, although the combination means ‘lioness’ not ‘female exalted dog’. The etymology disappears into the word. To compare the order and content of the Mesopotamian ‘living-things’ lists in Urra = hubullu – which certainly aimed at completeness – with later classificatory systems would be very interesting.

7. what the entries would have been … This translation depends on decades and mountains of philology by many valiant cuneiformists. The original tablets are available in the series Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon (MSL 8/1 and 8/2) and brilliantly accessible (in German) in Landsberger 1934; the English translations of all the words given here follow the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. Older cuneiform sources exist than have been used here, as well as ancient explanations of the entries.

8. the right nuance … Foster 1993, Vol. 1: 179 translates this, ‘While one was eating and another was drinking.’

9. at least one was a vet … There was veterinary as well as human medicine in ancient Mesopotamia, especially dedicated to horses. An ancient catalogue of cuneiform medical works now in the Oriental Institute Collection in Chicago puts horses and women in the same category!

10. laden with ripe meanings … In addition to the discussion in George 2003, Vol. 1: 510–12, see George 2010.

Notes to Chapter 10: Babylon and Bible Floods

1. not the first time … See Smith 1875: 207–22; Smith 1876: 283–9; Driver 1909; Bailey 1989: 14–22; Best 1999; George 2003, Vol. 1: 512–19. Westermann 1984: 384–458, on this whole thing, is a tour de force and absolutely fascinating.

2. most powerful writing … Read it all at your leisure in George 1999: 88–99 or George 2003, Vol. 1: 709–13.

3. whole literary episode … See George 2003, Vol. 1: 516–18.

4. the great flies … According to Ann Kilmer, the wings of these flies might have some translucent connection with the rainbow image (Kilmer 1997: 175–80).

Notes to Chapter 11: The Judaean Experience

1. deriving from a shared ancestor … This view has been promoted more than once by W. G. Lambert, who considers the story as common Middle Eastern property; see most recently Lambert 1994. Millard 1994 is careful on the subject. Finds of Gilgamesh tablets in 2nd millenium BC Middle Eastern sites such as Megiddo in Israel reflect the spread of cuneiform by Mesopotanian teachers as described on this page above, not widespread familiarity with the full Gilgamesh Epic.

2. Nebuchadnezzar’s Chronicle … See Grayson 1975: 99–102. Such records were kept accessible long after their time. In Ezra 4, a sabotage letter sent to the Persian king Artaxerxes in Babylon by persons wishing to stop the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem could well refer to this very Chronicle:

we send and inform the king, in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste …

The answer confirmed that a:

search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid.

3. Before long … There was a very considerable flurry of media interest and internet response to the Nebo-Sarsekim tablet. I myself got into hot water through trying to explain over the telephone how amazing Jursa’s discovery was in quietly proving that one named individual mentioned in the Bible who was not a king really did exist, which ended up as Curator claims Bible is true after all headline; a second blunder was describing the size of the tablet as about ‘equal to a packet of ten cigarettes’, which provoked a different kind of outcry. The tablet has been treated by the discoverer in Jursa 2008; see also Becking and Stadhouders 2009.

4. Nebuchadnezzar’s five highest-ranking officers … These very high-ranking Babylonians were in the Middle Gate at Jerusalem as the city burned and the women screamed. The Judaean chronicler was anxious to name each with his title to establish responsibility for their blasphemous deeds for posterity. The unfamiliar names and words are recorded by ear and the recorder got flustered. The Court Calendar of Nebuchadnezzar, compiled in the king’s seventh year (shortly before the first campaign), lists all high court officials by name and office. In this document (Jursa 2010: Da Riva (forthcoming)) nearly all the officials named by Jeremiah are to be found:

Nergal-Sharezer, samgar

In Babylonian he is Nergal-šar-uṣur, better known as Neriglissar, who himself twenty-six years later became king of Babylon, ruling from 560–556 BC by murdering his predecessor Amel-Marduk, Nebuchadnezzar’s son and heir (and also his own brother-in-law). The Hebrew term samgar has sometimes been understood as a place name (hence the common translation ‘of Samgar’), but it reflects the Babylonian simmāgir, ‘district governor’, which was Nergal-šar-uṣur’s title at the time according to the Court Calendar.

Nergal-Sharezer, rab mug

This title, conventionally translated ‘a high official’, also reflects a real Babylonian word, rab mungi, the commanding officer for chariots and cavalry.

These separate titles, simmāgir and rab mungi, are erroneously applied in the Hebrew text to one name, Nergal-Sharezer; we know that Nebuchadnezzar’s rab mungi at this time was called Nabu-zakir, and his name should properly have been entered here.

Nebo-Sarsekim, rab sarīs

The title conventionally translated ‘chief officer’ literally means ‘chief eunuch’, and is the Hebraised form of Babylonian rab ša-rēši, which was a high political title. As indicated above, we can identify Jeremiah’s Nebo-Sarsekim rab sarīs with the Babylonian Nabu-šarrussu-ukin, rab ša-rēši, The Judaean chronicler again transcribed the unfamiliar name for posterity as best he could.

Nebuzaradan, rab ṭabāḫīm

In Babylonian this is Nabu-zer-iddin. His title is the equivalent of Babylonian bēl or rab ṭābiḫī. This title is found in the Court Calendar but the name of the official himself is broken away in the tablet. It means literally ‘Chief Slaughterer’, but we know from other texts that the ‘slaughterers’ were the royal guard. At Jerusalem he is very clearly in charge of Nebuchadnezzar’s crack punitive war units.

The Court Calendar does mention a Nabu-zer-iddin in a different line of text, where he has the title rab nuḫatimmī, ‘Chief Cook’, with whom the Jeremiah official Nebuzaradan has sometimes been identified. This title can have nothing to do with warmongering, and the likelihood is that there were two people called Nabu-zer-iddin at the top in Babylon, rather than the ‘Chief Cook’ having been soon reappointed as ‘Commander of the Royal Guard’. The Jeremiah passages seem to be in no doubt who Nebuzaradan was and what he did; he is the only official to be named in Jeremiah 52.

Nebushazban, rab sarīs

In Babylonian the name is Nabu-šuzibanni, but here again there has been a mix-up in the text. Since we know that Nabu-šarrussu-ukin was Nebuchadnezzar’s rab sarīs, Nabu-šuzibannim must have had a different title, but he is not attested in the Court Circular and for the present we cannot identify him in a cuneiform source.

5. brief, nine-verse episode … Before the Babylon Myth and Reality exhibition opened in November 2008 we had resolved to print the text of Genesis 11:1–9 on a panel because a preliminary ‘public’ survey had suggested that a majority of individuals were either altogether unfamiliar with the story or unaware that it occurs in the Old Testament. In the flurry of interviews that attended the first few days, a journalist read over the Tower of Babel quotation on the panel among other panel texts and agreed, apparently without irony, that we had a good team of writers at our disposal.

6. run out in the early stages … The traveller in the Middle East today will commonly see inhabited houses where corner poles of scaffolding stick up high above the building as if the owner is planning on, or hoping for, another storey in due course.

7. issues of oil, barley … For this extraordinary evidence that King Jehoiachin’s party were alive and well in Babylon see Weidner 1939; Pedersén 2005a and Pedersén 2005b.

8. personal names … Here the great expertise of Ran Zadok has borne fruit; for a useful survey of this work see Millard 2013.

9. little theological text … see Pinches 1896: 1–3; Lambert 1964; Parpola 1995: 399.

10. Noah … I like especially what Berossus has to say on this point (translation after Burstein 1978: 29):

Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the deluge in happiness. He died after having lived nine hundred and fifty years. Let no one as a result of comparing life now and the fewness of the years which we live with that of the ancients think that what is said about them is false, judging that they did not live to such an age because no one now does. For they were dear to God and his own creatures; also as their food was more favourable to longer life, it is reasonable to suppose that they lived so great a number of years. Then also God permitted them to live longer because of their excellent character and the usefulness of their discoveries, astronomy and geometry, since, unless they lived six hundred years – for so long is the period of a great year – they could not have made accurate predictions.

11. the Genesis Great Ages tradition … For such literature see Hess 1994; Malamat 1994; Wilson 1994.

12. upright character and behaviour … For traditions as to Noah’s character, Lewis 1978 is interesting.

13. miraculous beginnings … The unknown-parent-for-heroes device has been applied to major historical figures in many world literatures, and the specific topic of baby exposure is often central. Evidence for this is given in Lewis 1980, where some seventy passages are collected – aside from those in Babylonian and Hebrew – that make use of this idea, written in Arabic, Greek, Latin, Indian, Persian, German, Icelandic, English, Irish, Albanian, Turkish, Chinese, Malayan and Palaung.

14. acculturated to Babylonian life … This point has been made about the Assyrians doing the same thing earlier in Parpola 1972: 34; Finkel (forthcoming [b]).

15. Great ages of man … This tablet is ME40565 in the British Museum; see Finkel 1980: 65–8. It shows the ŠÁR signs discussed on p. 308.

16. curricular tablets … A valiant study of these difficult texts, which are often in untidy beginner’s script and full of errors, was published in Gesche 2000.

17. This Baby Sargon tablet is ME47449 in the British Museum; see Westenholz 1997: 38–49.

18. people of the book … See Jullien and Jullien 1995.

19. crystallising into permanence … It is an interesting matter for reflection that the precarious Judaean religion which arrived out of the smoke of Jerusalem, surrounded by the mighty gods of the Egyptians and the Babylonians and all the other powers of the ancient Middle Eastern world, is the only one of them all to survive, as it has, into modern times.

20. round the country … According to Jewish tradition, certain Judaeans were settled at this time at Nehardea, a walled town at the junction with the Euphrates and the Malka River, with a synagogue built using stones and earth brought from the Temple site; this, in due course, became one major centre of Talmudic scholarship and the seat of the Exilarch.

21. their documents … An archive of more than one hundred cuneiform tablets from this crucial archive is to be published by Cornelia Wunsch and Laurie Pearce.

22. Survival of Babylonian ideas and practices … loanwords: Kwasman (forthcoming); medicine: Geller 2004; divination by dreams: Oppenheim 1956; by necromancy: Finkel 1983b; textual exegesis; Lambert 1954–6; Lieberman 1987; Cavigneaux 1987; Frahm 2011: 369–83; Finkel (forthcoming [b]).

Notes to Chapter 12: What Happened to the Ark?

1. The map in question … A recent book that covers some aspects of the Babylonian Map of the World is Horowitz 1998. Many writers who have discussed this map criticise its ‘inaccuracies’ or other supposed failings, which shows that they have never understood anything at all about it.

2. earliest known map of the world … It should be pointed out that an early crossroads-type ‘sketch map’ on a mid-third-millennium-BC tablet from the site of Fara is considered by Frans Wiggermann to be a forerunner of this map; I am unconvinced; see Wiggermann 2011: 673.

3. writing something … This duly appeared as Finkel 1995.

4. the following evening … The date of the broadcast was 1 September 1995, my forty-fourth birthday! I feel it also necessary for some reason to record that I submitted the manuscript of this book into the hands of my publisher exactly eighteen years later, on 1 September 2013.

5. written with the determinative for river … The word marratu is not the ‘real’ Babylonian word for sea; it was borrowed during the first millennium from a Chaldean dialect.

6. regions or districts … See Horowitz 1988: 27–33.

7. Very Hairy One … This type of character is known to guard important cosmic gates, and the whole family has been interestingly laid bare in Wiggermann 1992: 164–5.

8. (giant?) flightless birds … Ostriches were well known in ancient Mesopotamia; they were often depicted and their shells put to good use from as early as the third millennium BC; here the point is likely to be that while everyone knew that some so-called birds couldn’t actually fly, these Nagû III specimens were also on a giant scale, with unimaginable eggs …

9. ancient name Urartu … See Marinkovi´c 2012.

10. prefer Mount Niṣir … The argument for Nimuš over Niṣir is based on the personal name Iddin-nimuš, supposedly of a workman of north Mesopotamian origin, in which the name of the mountain functions like that of a god (Lambert 1986). We know, however, that Niṣir was locally called Kinipa, and surely that is the form which would have been used in a local name.

11. Ashurnasirpal starts … Quoted after Speiser 1928: 17–18.

12. Eutychius, Patriarch of Alexandria … Quoted after Crouse and Franz 2006: 106.

13. Gertrude Bell described … See Bell 1911.

14. Translations after Grayson 1991: 204–5.

15. On my fifth … and Like a fierce bull . . . Grayson and Novotny 2012.

16. contemporary Assyrian incantation … This tablet is in a rather idiosyncratic script and does not resemble those of Assurbanipal in the Nineveh Library; it could well come from Sennacherib’s period. It is part of an exorcistic manual against bad dreams and has not yet been published.

17. Mt Nipur … This name is not to be confused with the southern Mesopotamian city of Nippur, already mentioned.

18. murdered their father Sennacherib … On this murder and the identity of the culprits see Parpola 1980. Sennacherib was killed at Dur-Sharrukin, his father’s new palace.

19. Traditions about … Montgomery 1972 and Bailey 1989 can be recommended to anyone who is tempted to wander among these narratives.

20. an uncanny – and usually unexplained – resemblance … On the similarity issue see most recently Zaccagnini 2012.

Notes to Chapter 13: What is the Ark Tablet?

1. we find this narrative … As already mentioned, the length of the full Flood Story in Gilgamesh XI is undeniably disproportionate for the unfolding of the plot as a whole and its satisfactory dénouement. It can be seen as the device of telling a tale within a tale to keep the audience enthralled, but the length is nevertheless considerable for people who want to find out what happened in the end, and its inclusion might also mean that the redactors themselves just liked the story, and dropped it in with the minimum of alteration. Perhaps the whole of Gilgamesh XI formerly had an independent existence. We need new sources to bring new light, as always.

2. long convinced themselves … Interesting remarks on this issue are given in Cooper 1992.

3. to interest inattentive schoolboys … There is a closer parallel from the end of the first millennium BC when advanced pupils in a school at Babylon studying old and new cubit measurements were set to measure the dimensions of the giant ziggurat that could be seen from every vantage point of the city; see George 2008: 128, Fig. 109.

Notes to Appendices

1. Ancient Babylonian scholars … A full discussion of what is otherwise known about this sign and many questions to do with the eṭemmu spirit is given in Steinert 2012: 309–11.

2. Tablet I … I have translated these lines afresh, but with the benefit of many previous translations and discussions, for they have often been studied; Lambert and Millard 1969: 58–9; Foster 1993:165–6; George and Al-Rawi 1996: 149–50. The idea that Akkadian eṭemmu can mean both ‘spirit’ – as in ‘ghost’ – and ‘human spirit’, exactly like our own word, seems not to have been recognised, but it makes simple sense of this otherwise obscure passage.

3. The Descent of Ishtar … quoted after Foster 1993: 404.

4. Ur-Shanabi … For everything else that can possibly be needed concerning this name see George 2003, Vol. 1: 149–51.

5. the diameter of the Ark … one might imagine that the larger size of the Ark derives from the substitution of a larger unit in a lighterman’s song about boat building.

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