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The Royal libraries of Nineveh: New evidence for king Ashurbanipal's Tablet Collecting

  • Grant Frame and A. R. George


The two tablets published here for the first time, BM 45642 and BM 28825, are edited together for good reason, for the historical background of both texts is very probably the same episode in King Ashurbanipal's drive to acquire scribal learning. Where BM 28825 concerns the reception of the Assyrian king's demand for tablets among the citizens of Babylon, BM 45642 deals with the reaction of scholars of nearby Borsippa to a similar royal message. BM 45642 is the better preserved of the two tablets, and allows a fuller understanding of both texts' formal characteristics and of the contextual background. Consequently we present it first.

The text inscribed on BM 45642 (81-7-6, 35) is a letter, though not a typical one. It begins with an extremely deferential address to Ashurbanipal (11. 1–4). Following a series of standard royal epithets, the address pays homage to the Assyrian king as the divinely appointed suzerain of Assyria and Babylonia. It goes on to record Nabû's patronage of the king, and to acknowledge his skill in Nabû's special field of writing, an expertise already well known from Ashurbanipal's own inscriptions. These clauses are chosen with care, for the writer is evidently a scholar from Borsippa, Nabû's cult-centre. With them he invokes a certain feeling of mutual fellowship. The name of the sender is expected at the end of the address, but although the end of 1. 4 is broken there does not seem to be a name there, and we have restored instead nilt[apra umma] “we send word as follows”. In this the text departs from normal Neo-Babylonian usage, perhaps because it is not a regular letter but, as becomes clear, a formal and collective communication on behalf of all the scholars of Borsippa.



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