S16 – Akkadian Literature


  1. Richard E. Averbeck (Trinity International University)
  2. Stéphanie Anthonioz (Université catholique de Lille)
  3. Rocio Da Riva (Universitat de Barcelona) and Nathan Wasserman (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
  4. Eckart Frahm (Yale University)

Paper Titles with Abstracts

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Historical Cultural Reception and Transformation of Mesopotamian Creation Traditions
Richard E. Averbeck (Trinity International University)

Ancient Mesopotamian creation traditions are known from texts in Sumerian and Akkadian, and from iconographic sources. Sumerian traditions tend to highlight Enlil’s separation of heaven from earth, sometimes referred to as the Enlil/Nippur tradition. This is the primary background for the so-called “three level universe” that appears in Ugaritic and the Hebrew Bible (see also Egypt). It finds its way through the ANE world into later traditions, largely through the influence of the Hebrew Bible in Christian (western) and Islamic (eastern) cultural heritage. The three level universe is, in fact, a most natural way for humans anywhere and anytime to speculate about creation and the cosmos. Although different cultures have configured it in diverse ways, from ancient to modern times, people have experienced their world primarily on three levels: what is above us, what is below us, and where we live, in between the two.
Akkadian traditions naturally bear the same three level universe into their speculations, but also highlight the creation by battle motif. We find both of them, for example, in Enuma Elish. This is often referred to as the Enki/Eridu tradition. This element of the Mesopotamian creation tradition is also part of our ongoing cultural heritage from the ANE through the Leviathan serpentine motif in Ugaritic and the Hebrew Bible and from there into western and eastern cultural traditions up until today.
Both the three level universe motif and the creation by battle motif are transformed in their journey from the original Mesopotamian cuneiform world through the larger ANE world overall, and into later civilizations. Some of these transformations are traceable to religious, cultural, philosophical, and/or scientific variations the traditions encounter through ancient and modern history. The paper will engage with the important recent discussions of science and philosophy in ancient Mesopotamia.

Enūma eliš and the Priestly Narrative: Influences and Divergences
Stéphanie Anthonioz (Université catholique de Lille)

Enūma eliš and the Priestly narrative (found in the books of Genesis to Leviticus) are often compared. However, no systematic analysis of such a comparison has ever been done so that the influence of the one over the other or its independence are best assumed. This contribution aims at proposing such an analysis with two special lines of analysis, a structural comparison (concerning the narratives and their trajectory) and a thematic one (with special attention to the themes of creation, the flood and the sanctuary). It will propose few cases of particular dependence and argue that not only scribal practices were shared during the exilic period but also traditions and religious dogmas.

Divine Love Lyrics: New Edition, New Perspectives
Rocio Da Riva (Universitat de Barcelona) and Nathan Wasserman (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Divine Love Lyrics (DLL) form a thematically coherent corpus of some fifty 1st millennium texts, stemming from Assyria and Babylonia. These texts – first studied by W. G. Lambert in 1975 – were probably related to religious rituals celebrated in and around the temple of Eturkalamma in Babylon. Building on Lambert’s ground-breaking work, our project will systematically tackle these difficult texts, of which more were discovered, and present them in a book-form, including a complete edition, philological commentary and thematic introduction.
The texts describe complex rituals and ceremonies involving Marduk, his wife Zarpanitu and Marduk's lover, the formidable Ištar-of-Babylon. This corpus is variously connected to the disparate and chronologically far-reaching category of compositions dealing with divine love, from the Old Akkadian to the Hellenistic times. This particular group, however, offers something substantially different, even unique: more than love per se, the topic of these texts is amorous and sexual jealousy. One might more aptly call them “Jealousy Lyrics” – but we maintain Love Lyrics, in order to avoid terminological confusion. The feelings of the betrayed Zarpanitu are verbalized through salacious and offensive language, and sexual activities are described in an unprecedentedly vivid way. Indeed, the language of the texts is exceptional: it is direct, blunt, but at the same time metaphorical and highly poetic. The literary qualities of the corpus would constitute one of the main topics in our project.
Another topic is that of gender. There is no question that the DLL texts should be analyzed from this perspective too, as parts, if not all, of this corpus may have belonged to “women’s rituals,” which allowed for the expression of female sexual desire within a predominantly patriarchal society.
A third and no less important question in the study of this corpus is its elusive performative aspect. We argue that the turbulent emotional story of the divine triangle of Marduk, his wife Zarpanitu and his lover Ištar of Babylon, was enacted in public in different locations in the city of Babylon.
The project is a joint research project of the University of Barcelona (Da Riva) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Wasserman).

The Protagonist of the Underworld Vision of an Assyrian Prince
Eckart Frahm (Yale University)

One of the most enigmatic literary-religious texts from the Neo-Assyrian period is the so-called Underworld Vision of an Assyrian Prince. It is known from only one manuscript, excavated in 1909 in a small library in Ashur (N6). The text has been discussed several times, but a comprehensive modern edition is still missing. Recent studies have explored potential links with apocalyptic literature, the text’s “mystical” dimensions, and the possibility that it was influenced by Egyptian models. This paper will focus on two central issues for which no consensus has yet been reached: the date of the text and the identity of its protagonist. Not least because of the damaged state of the tablet, no firm answers can be given, but some suggestions will be put forward.

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