Als Konig Abi-Esuh Gerechte Ordnung Hergestellt Hat

Last week, my friend, Jad, who is studying Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Toronto, contacted me, asking if I could translate something from German for him. This wasn’t exactly a surprising turn, since materials on the ancient Near East and Classical world are fairly evenly split between French, English, and German, and while he speaks English just fine and his French is good enough to slog his way through what he needs to, his German is completely nonexistent. (Lest you think I’m insulting him, he’s also native bilingual in Arabic, can read Syriac, and is as good as me in Latin and Imperial Aramaic, and his French is awesome considering the late start he got on it.) My response was that I could do it, but it’d be pretty slow because of my relative inexperience in German. Still, it was only six pages long, so I got crackin’ and, although it took longer than it should have because I kept second-guessing myself, I got it back to him in time for his presentation on the material, and I think I did a fairly good job on it. Good enough, in fact, that I feel like publishing my translation here. The original article is entitled “Als König Abi-ešuh Gerechte Ordnung Hergestellt Hat” Eine Bemerkenswerte Altbabylonische Prozessurkunde by Michael Jursa, published in the Revue d’Assyriologie et d’Archéologie Orientale volume 91 issue 2 © 1997 Presses Universitaires de France, translated and reprinted for reference and educational purposes, used without permission.

Before I begin, I would like to mention that I have not reproduced Dr. Jursa‘s footnotes herein. The majority of them are bibliographic information, which is probably best utilized untranslated, as it refers to works originally in French and German, and which are probably most easily found using their original titles. (One is a quote from a French work; it is not necessary to understand this article, although it may be helpful. Nevertheless, the work from which it is taken is also included in the bibliographic information.) I will include the numbering, however, so that, should you look up the original, you will be able to use my text to find the appropriate bibliographic information in Jursa’s footnotes.

A transliteration of the original Old Babylonian text is included near the beginning of the article; I have redacted this for the following reasons:

  1. Jad didn’t need it since he had the original article. This part wasn’t in German, and it’s not like German uses a different orthography from English, so there was no point in reproducing it myself.
  2. Transliteration of cuneiform languages (Hittite, Sumerian, Akkadian and its decedents) tends to use the old English-based transliteration system, utilizing diacritics such as carons and acute and grave accents in order to indicate which of several possible characters formed a given sound and to indicate sounds which in English tend to use multiple letters with a single character to avoid confusion (for example, since the sound indicated in English by “sh” exists in Akkadian, but an “s” sound followed by an “h” sound does as well, the character “s-with-caron” (š) tends to be used instead). These characters are not common in any of the Unicode systems I have installed, so I’d have to go searching the character map for them, and I’m just not that patient.
  3. I don’t know Old Babylonian myself (although I do have a learning grammar; I should get around to reading it someday), so it really means absolutely nothing to me.
  4. The redaction will be obvious. There were also footnotes concerning the text itself. As these were commentaries on the source material (similar to what anyone who has translated Greek or Latin should be familiar with as endnotes or stand-alone texts such as the Bryn Mawr Commentaries series) and therefore useless unless one is actually engaged in translating the Old Babylonian text, these have been redacted as well. (They followed immediately after the original text and will be included in the redaction.) The pages immediately following the original text contain a reproduction of the tablet (with lacunae filled in where possible); as this drawing is not my work and I have no reason to modify it, out of respect for the copyright holders, I will not reproduce it here. If you have sufficient interest in such things to desire to see the transliteration and/or reproduced cuneiform, you should also have sufficient access to scholarly journals to look it up yourself given the bibliographic information I have provided above. If you don’t, comment and I’ll see that you get a copy of the original.

    Finally, in both the translation of the Old Babylonian text and within the article itself, Jursa uses a combination of brackets, parentheses, italics, quotes, and ellipses in ways that seem partly interchangeable, and certainly randomly chosen. This makes it hard to insert my own comments on passages that were problematic for me; I’ve tried to make it clear by placing my own words between asterisks. Also, because I am including Jursa’s footnote numbers, my own footnotes are indicated by Roman numerals. (Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t get along with the Roman numeral option for the <ol> tag, so you’ll just have to translate.)

    Now, on with the show:

    I can’t make <HR> work for some reason.

    Review of Assyriology and Oriental Archaeology
    French Universities Press
    91st volume –No. 2—1997

    “When King Abi-Ešuh Gave the Righteous Order”: A Remarkable Old Babylonian Document
    by Michael Jursa

    The largely well-preserved document BM 16764, which will be printed here with the friendly approval of the trustees of the British Museum, puts before us a number of interesting philological and (obvious) historical problems.

    BM 16764 (92-5-16, 300)

    “Geme-Asaluhi, the daughter of Ubānānum, whom Adad-mullabit, the son of Ibni-Adad, married (and) who at the instruction of the palace, due to her father Ubānānum, was being held in prison—When King Abi-ešuh gave the righteous order, Geme-Asaluhi came out of imprisonment and, because Adad-muballit, her husband, had married another, and because of the two slaves, her gifts (?), … raiment (?), two shekels of gold and the household, which Ubānānum gave her, a suit was brought, for which the overseer of the merchants and the magist[rate of Larsa] were approached. These approved the affair, and Adad-mullabit thus spoke: ‘The two slaves which were given to me died… and the household of which Geme-Asaluhi spoke … Ubānānum…’

    “… (Geme-Asaluhi) [should bring] witnesses and the tablet for the dowry. Geme-Asaluhi […] brou[ght] witnesses, who had been present at the (transfer)] of the dowry, [and] these gave witness thusly: ‘We remember the transfer of the dowry, but that was some time ago, and we no (longer) [remember] the (exact) event in detail.’

    “Because the tablet recording the dowry was not presented, Abum-waqar, the overseer of the merchants, and the magistrate of Larsa made the following judgment: ’Adad-mullabit will thus swear in the temple of Šamaš of Larsa by the NetzI (?) : «The two slaves, which Ubānānum, your father, gave to you, have truly died ; I have truly not sold them. Your household really consists of 5 (ordinary) vestments, 1 iɔlu-garment, 10… (perhaps : he[adbands]), 2 shekels of gold, one copper pot of 2 sūtu capacity and 4 bronze scrapers ; and I really have, because of the situation for which you were ‘packed [off],’ paid in entirety 2 2/3 minasII, 8 shekels of silver for your release.» So will he swear by the Netz (?) in the temple of Šamaš.’

    “As the overseer of the merchants and the magistrate of Larsa ordered, they went to the temple of Šamaš, and the šangû-priest and the tīru-officials of the temple of Šamaš were called in. They came to an agreement amongst themselves, and Adad-mullabit, as he did not swear before Šamaš, gave into the hand of Geme-Asaluhi, the nadītuIII of Marduk, the slave Adad-dumqī, and 10 shekels of silver. In the future Adad-mullabit may marry any woman he wishes, and Geme-Asaluhi will not complain ; and Geme-Asaluhi may marry any man she wishes, and Adad-mullabit will not complain–(this) they swore by Šamaš, Marduk, and King Abi-ešuh.

    “[Before Annum/Etel-p]î-Šamaš, the šangû-priest; before Awīl-[gn…]; [before…] a-a, before A[…]; before […], the scribe.

    “[seal of Ilšu]-ibnīšu, the overseer of the professional soldiers (signed: Ilšu-ibnīšu, son of Inbūša, servant of Ea).

    “28.7.1 Abi-ešuh.”

    The nadītu of Marduk, Geme-Asaluhi, was thus, for her father’s sake—one supposes, because of her father’s debts—imprisoned at the whim of the palace, apparently for a long time; at least, long enough for her husband, Adad-mullabit, to marry anew in the meantime. As a result, when released by royal pardon, she sued her husband before a panel consisting of the overseer of the merchants and the magistrate of Larsa for the return of her dowry, including the two slaves, several garments, a house, and two shekels of gold.

    In the course of this process, Adad-mullabit claims the two slaves are dead. The verification of the value of the dowry is equally difficult, as the witnesses brought by Geme-Asaluhi, although they could remember that a dowry had been given, could not recall the exact details needed for this matter. The original documentation for the dowry is not available. Adad-mullabit was therefore sentenced to testify in the temple of Šamaš of Larsa: He would swear that he had not sold the two slaves, and that the value of the dowry of Geme-Asaluhi had been repaid as specified. Furthermore, he was to swear to the fact that there was a considerable quantity of silver—2 minas, 48 shekels—to have been paid for his wife’s release. From this, one can infer that Geme-Asaluhi accused her husband of not having paid for her release (she was thus left to remain imprisoned, and he married another woman in her place); Adad-mullabit, in turn, apparently claimed that he had paid much silver to this end. His assertion is naturally suspect, since Geme-Asaluhi was really freed only as a result of a royal pardon; in principle it appears remarkable that there could be any doubts about this at all.

    Later, Adad-mullabit forebore to make an oath before the functionaries of the temple of Šamaš. They agreed on a compromise; Adad-mullabit must pay Geme-Asaluhi a slave and 10 shekels of silver; the marriage was thereupon definitively dissolved; both parties were free to marry as they wished (which in the case of Adad-mullabit had already been done). The husband is obviously viewed as the “guilty” party; therefore, he must render a replacement for the dowry. However, there can be no question that he returned the entire worth of the dowryIV, as would be the case in a divorce in which the wife is not at fault for a lack of expected children.1

    The problem with polygamy in Old-Babylonian times has been discussed in detail by Westbrook.2 Polygamy was permitted by Marduk-nadītus under certain specific circumstances3; however, in several cases there were unforeseen circumstances—whether for reasons of principle or because the second wife was held as equal by the nadītu.4 The dissolution of the first marriage is apparently a foregone event; only the manner of dissolution is discussed.

    Until now, there has been no completely clear attestation of a royal pardon in the first year of Abi-ešuh’s reign; only the year name provides a corresponding reference.5 Lieberman supposed that the Kraus’ish [?]*I’ll repeat that ?* “Edict X” could be attributed to Abi-ešuh.6 Our text now clearly proves the existence of such a decree. The decree must (u. a.) have arranged for the freeing of debt prisoners. §20 of the edicts of Ammi-saduqa thus follows: “If a free man of Numhia a free man of Emut-balum, a free man of Ida-maraz, a free man of Uruk, a free man of Isin, a free man of Kisurra, a free man of Malgûm has ‘bound’ a debt obligation, and he (consequently) has given even himself, his wife, or [his children] in easement or as collateral for silver—because the king is restoring justice to the land, let him be set free, his freedom restored.”7 The list of place names in §§ 20 f. of the edicts of Ammi-saduqa is, as Charpin has shown8, anachronistic, as the listed extraterritorial holdings no longer belonged to the Babylonian kingdom, it reflects the expansion of Babylonian dominion up to the end of the reign of Hammu-rapis or at the outside the beginning of Samsu-iluna’s reign. This, together with the fact that the same provisions (in fragmentary form) are also found in the edict of Samsu-iluna,9 proves at least that §§ 20 f.(just as §§ 10) of the edicts of Ammi-saduqa was taken from an older edict without consideration to actual political conditions. Therefore, it is quite probable that the edict of Abi-ešuh also contained this paragraph and one may see an application of § 20 of the edict of Ammi-saduqa corresponding to the same place in the edict of Abi-ešuh.

    The basic problem before us in BM 16764 is the origin of the document. The judgment panel consists of the overseer of the merchants and the magistrate of Larsa; the oath is supposed to take place in the temple of Šamaš of Larsa (not explicitly in Larsa). One would not hesitate, then, to name Larsa as the country of origin, nor are written sources from this city, nor from the south in general from the time of Samsu-iluna 11V completely unheard of; one would suppose that Larsa, as around Uruk, was largely abandoned at this time, and destroyed *?* and not under the control of Babylon.10 Our document, then, came thence, proving not only the continued existence of local authority and institutions—which isn’t really surprising—, but also the affiliation of the city with Babylonian rule—over a quarter century after Samsu-iluna 11. As alternative theories remain just theories, you have to deal here with a group of exiles, refugees from Larsa, who are elsewhere, at least in the north, so well-established there that they retain elements of their own jurisdiction and the location of the cults of Larsa in their new home and even erect a “temple of Šamaš of Larsa” in another place than Larsa, I cannot otherwise demonstrate this, but there is more than one parallel: D. Charpin showed that the flight from Larsa could have transplanted the cult of Šarrat-Larsa to Babylon.11 Recently, Cl. Wicke wrote a long treatment on the “q” year of Abi-ešuh, in which the circle of refugees originates from Uruk. Wilcke makes the tablet itself from Babylon.12 Here one finds the “magistrate of Uruk,” who was apparently active in Babylon—an analogue to the “magistrate of Larsa,” if our text does not hail from this city. Another indication is the fact that in Larsa nadiātu of Marduk (line 41) does not seem to be found; in contrast to the northern cities of Babylon and Sippar.13

    The prosopographyVI fails, so far as I can see, as the criteria for the decision is unfortunately between two possible interpretations; I cannot verify the actors from another location.14 The collection 925-16 of the British Museum, from which comes our text, was purchased by Homsy & Co. They should come from Tell ed-Dēr15 and contain all of the truly numerous Old-Babylonian texts from “Sippar,” especially from the nadītu archive.16 VII There should be no Larsa texts, or at least not many. This would speak more easily against our tablet’s Southern origins; however, one can only speculate on the composition of already-purchased museum collections.

    The publication of Dombradi’s essay on Old-Babylonian documents (FAOS 20) allows an investigation of the form of our text for similarities to simultaneous documents from the north (due to all being given “Sippar” as a source) and some other texts from Larsa. We go in order through the clauses in the text.VIII

    The language of the documents from Larsa is (with one exception) Akkadian, as is the rule in the north: Dombradi, FAOS 20/1, 18+60.

    The judgment panel, consisting of the overseer of the merchants and the magistrate of Larsa (lines 10, 23, 36) is not mentioned again in this composition, but one finds in the documents from Larsa in the time of Samsu-ilunas, rather, the overseer of the merchants as “the magsistrate of Larsa”: Dombradi , FAOS 20/2, 10 f. 36; FAOS 20/1, 241 for the laws in Larsa at this time.

    sanāqu as a technical term for “court proceedings” (line 10) is previously only testified in “Sippar”: Dombradi FAOS 20/1 68, 305+1944.

    awātīšunu īmurū, said by the magistrate (line 11), to introduce evidentiary procedures is likewise customary in “Sippar,” but also occurs sometimes in Larsa: ib 77+344.IX

    saparru “Netz” (?) “God’s weapon”, by which one swears is otherwise not mentioned; in Larsa šen.tab.ba, patš “ax”, na4, abnu “stone” (?) and huhāru “bird trap,” in this function; also explicit as “ax/stone/bird trap of Šamaš” (Dombradi, FAOS, 20/2, 92 Anm. 424, 426; TCL 10, 4a/4b, and 34, CAD H, 225).

    šangû and tīr bīt Šamaš (line 38): a šangû of Šamaš occupies a judiciary function in Larsa (J. Renger, Investigations into the Priesthood in Old-Babylonian Times. Part 2, ZA 59 (1969), 107); a tīr bīti was previously seen as a temple functionary only in Sippar in der Rationeliste CT 45, 85: 5, found (vgl Renger, ZA 59, 197); it stands there next to gala-mah.

    The document (line 38) is nowhere else expressed with the Š-stem of magāru. In “Sippar,” the Gt-stem of magāru is used with the subject part *particle?*. (Dombradi FAOS 20/1, 96+498.)17

    The accompanying unilateral version of action waiverX (lines 43 and 45) is often found in northern texts, but only in two documents from Larsa (ib. 125+711; other documents from Larsa use the nu-gi4-gi4-type: ib. 125+713). This can, however, be random, and the tradition is not very helpful.18

    The oath by Šamaš and Marduk (and the king) which is found in the “Sippar” documents very commonly (39 times) is not really typical for Larsa,19 occurring only twice more: Dombradi, FAOS 20/1, 141 table 21.

    The official of ugula *? * uku.uš says (line 53) is found in Larsa (s. z. B. BIN 7, p. 11 s.v. E-im-si-um) but also in Sippar (PBS 7, 61 = AbB 11, 61 Rs. 3´).

    The outer edge of the tablet and the design of the seal (where it is preserved) corresponds to documents of the same period; compare the photos from BBVOT 1, 23 by Wilcke, AOAT 247, 427 ff.

    The orthography offers one final argument: tu for (line 33) is uncommon in the south.20

    In conclusion, we show that the document, in respect to its formal characteristics in some points seems to be more a product of the northern writing tradition than the southern and that on the other hand no indication speaks clearly against the theory that this text comes from the north; a clear “Larsa Tradition” is in no way proven. There is, of course, the time period to take into account, between which the last known southern text and our own text lie: In that time between the laws and writing traditions could have changed quite drastically.

    Thus, the questions of the origin of my texts cannot be currently answered with certainty. Whether it is from Larsa or whatever currently seems likely, from the north and therein perhaps “Sippar,” hopefully it will be through prosopographic comparison.XI

    Michael Jursa

    Institute for Orientalism

    Spitalgasse 2-4

    1090 Vienna, Austria

    I can’t make <HR> work for some reason.

    Thus ends the translation. My own footnotes follow:

    1. The German word “bei” is ambiguous in the same way as is the English word “by.” I assumed that it meant “by” as in “in the vicinity of” (which is why I said “near” in my original translation), but I determined from later in the article that it is actually meant to be “by” as in “to swear an oath by a holy object.” Also, the word “Netz” I assume is a German translation of the Old Babylonian, but I can’t tell what it’s actually supposed to mean. “Net,” perhaps, supported by the reference to a bird trap, but it seems unlikely given the reference in the same paragraph to an axe and a holy weapon.
    2. Keep in mind that money in the ancient Near East was given in the format of “weights of material”, hence the constant reference to “shekels of silver” (although silver was the most common material used to refer to the shekel, leading to its eventual adoption as the name of a currency, much like a pound of silver eventually becoming the Pound Stirling. I haven’t mentioned this before because I expect most people to be familiar with shekels as a currency (which is essentially their use here), but a more detailed explanation is needed here. A shekel’s weight was approximately 11 grams. The mina (the point of this footnote) was a unit of weight approximating 1.25 pounds. It’s actually older than its better-known cousins, shekels and talents, both of which are based on the mina in the usual Sumerian/Babylonian divisions of 60: 60 shekels per mina, 60 minas per talent. The mina is referenced a few times in the Bible (Hebrew מנה, “mâneh”; Aramaic מנא, “mnê”) and in Herodotus’ History (Greek μνᾶ, “mnâ”), which, had I not read, I might have been tempted to translate the German “Mine” as the English word “mine”, which would have made no sense when Jursa later does the math to lump all the currencies together.
    3. Nadītu is a reference to a liminal social class for women in Babylonian society, probably untranslated because there isn’t really an equivalent in German (nor in English). Wikipedia actually has a fairly good explanation of what this means. Geme-Asaluhi is referred to as nadītu because her familial status is in question. She went to prison on her father’s behalf, but is not his dependent because she was married at the time, but has been freed, meaning she is not dependent on the palace, and her husband has remarried, meaning that she is not his wife. Due to her independence of any patriarch, she is allowed to own property, specifically her dowry, and as per ancient divorce procedures, her ex husband must render unto her (or her father, were she still considered part of his household) the dowry given to him at their wedding, or goods of equivalent value, which is the point of the court proceeding here described. This is particularly tricky because the ancient world recognized that slaves could be worth more than their price due to the value of the work done by them, which is why Adad-mullabit must furnish a slave in addition to the value of the dowry. I’m not entirely certain why Geme-Asaluhi was only awarded 10 shekels of silver and one slave when her claim was for 2 shekels of gold, 2 slaves, and a number of useful and festive items. Possibly it was a compromise based on the fact that Adad-mullabit claimed to have paid for her release (even if he refused to swear to it) and on the fact that she was granted complete independence and the ability to choose her own husband (a fairly remarkable payoff in that culture, actually).
    4. As I mentioned in footnote II. Jursa supports my theory that the full value of the dowry was not returned, possibly as payment to Adad-mullabit for ensuring the divorce was complete and final.
    5. The eleventh? A textual reference? A smudged II?
    6. “Prosopography,” while connected to many historical fields, is of particular interest to scholars of the ancient Near East because we still don’t know exactly where a lot of the tablets collected in central locations actually came from. Also, we still don’t know where the Sumerians came from; our usual evidence is linguistic, and Sumerian is a complete language isolate. For reference, Wikipedia’s entry on prosopography.
    7. “The nadītu archive” presumably refers to a cache of tablets specifically pertaining to nadītu or perhaps found in a nadītu community, as they tended to live together in monastery-like buildings. (This is as opposed to Sumerian nadītu, which were a variety of slave allowed to own property.)
    8. From here on out there are a lot of inline attributions. I can’t tell what’s important and what’s not, and I don’t know what the abbreviations mean, so a lot of it I left unchanged, including its formatting. That was a little annoying when I typed the Word document for Jad. It’s hellish in HTML. Nevertheless, here’s my attempt. You also see what I mean about interchangeable punctuation, with some attributions in parentheses, others following colons, and for some reason some including a +# in superscript. Maybe Jad knows what those mean (and good for him if he does), but I’ve never seen the like in all the Classical articles I’ve read.
    9. I think that “ib.” means ibid, but I’m not sure.
    10. I couldn’t figure out a better idiomatic translation for this one. Hopefully someone better versed in ancient Near Eastern archaeology will know what it’s supposed to mean.
    11. In other words, the article proves nothing and is essentially pointless. I’m pretty sure Jad needed the legal and cultural information more than the lackluster prosopographic conclusions, though.

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