Hostname: page-component-59f8fd8595-gtxf7 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-22T20:59:17.371Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Tablets from the Sippar Library VII. Three wisdom texts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2014


The present article in the series begun in Iraq 52 and continued in Volumes 56–8 offers three tablets from the Sippar library which add to our knowledge of the genre of Babylonian literature known today as “wisdom”: a manuscript of Tablet I of Ludlul bēl nēmeqi (The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer), a copy of the great Šamaš Hymn, and a tablet inscribed with a small collection of proverbs.

Since W. G. Lambert's edition of Ludlul in Babylonian Wisdom Literature several further sources for Tablet I of this text have been identified. Most notable of these is the manuscript from Nimrud, which plugged the gap between lines 12 and 41 and partly filled out the fragmentary end of the text. Being complete save for a few lines either side of its bottom edge, the new Sippar tablet provides further improvements in both places. It contains 11. 1–50 on its obverse and 62–120 on its reverse. The scribe failed to judge his spacing accurately, with the result that towards the end of the tablet he was forced to double up a whole sequence of lines, the twelve lines 105–16 occupying only six lines on the tablet. But even this was not enough, and 11. 117–20 and the catchline (=II 1) had to be written on the top edge of the tablet. Unfortunately this left no room for a colophon, unless one is inscribed on the left edge. For the moment we are unable to ascertain whether this might be so. The tablet came from Niche 1 D of the library — that is the fourth from the ground in the row furthest left on the south-east wall; it measures 14.7 × 7.5 × 3.1 cm.

Research Article
IRAQ , Volume 60 , 1998 , pp. 187 - 206
Copyright © The British Institute for the Study of Iraq 1998

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Tablets from the Sippar library are published by generous leave of the University of Baghdad and the Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage, Baghdad. The authors also record their gratitude to the British School of Archaeology in Iraq for its continued financial aid in support of Dr Al-Rawi's work.

2 Wiseman, D. J., “A new text of the Babylonian Poem of the Righteous Sufferer”, AnSt 30 (1980), pp. 101–7Google Scholar (11. 1–46, 91–120). Wiseman's copy has been republished, along with photographs and Black's copy of a previously unpublished fragment of the same tablet (11. 48–68, 69–85), as Text No. 201 in Wiseman, D. J. and Black, J. A., Literary Texts from the Temple of Nabû (CTN 4; London, 1996)Google Scholar; see also pp. 29–30. To the latter go our thanks for allowing us to use his copy in advance of publication. Other sources of Ludlul I identified since 1960 include BM 61433, an exercise tablet published by Leichty, E., Finkelstein Mem. Vol., p. 145Google Scholar (11. 88–92); 79–7-8, 225 (11. 26–30, 97–100), of which some lines were quoted by Moran, W. L., “Notes on the hymn to Marduk in Ludlul bel nēmeqi”, JAOS 103 (1983), pp. 255–60Google Scholar; and, all unpublished, K 1757 + 18963 (11. 51–5), BM 66345 (11. 6–21), BM 68444 (11. 38–53), BM 73592 (11. 21–38, 85–100), and the exercise tablet BM 93079 (11. 55–8). The most recent translations are those of Soden, W. von, “Der leidende Gerechte”, in Römer, W. H. Ph. and Soden, W. von, Weisheitstexte 1 (TUAT III/1; Gutersloh, 1990), pp. 110–35Google Scholar, and of Foster, B. R., Before the Muses (Bethesda, Md, 1993), pp. 308–25Google Scholar, repeated in id., From Distant Days (Bethesda, Md, 1995), pp. 298–313. Foster's translation was revised in the light of the tablet published here for the second edition of Before the Muses (Bethesda, Md, 1996), pp. 306–23Google Scholar; also in Hallo, W. W. and Younger, K. Lawson Jr (eds.), The Context of Scripture I. Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World (Leiden, 1997), pp. 486–92Google Scholar.

3 See the photographic panorama of the library chamber published by the late Walid al-Jadir in Meyer, L. De and Gasche, H. (eds.), Mésopotamie et Élam (CRRA 36; Ghent, 1991), p. 196Google Scholar, Fig. 2b. In the case of this niche a little information about its contents is already available. Apart from the piece of Ludlul I published here, manuscripts of the following compositions or genres were among those stored there (see Iraq 52 [1990], p. 1491CrossRefGoogle Scholar): Ea I, V and VIII; the bilingual of Nebuchadnezzar I; SB Atra-ḫasis IV (see Iraq 58 [1996], pp. 147–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar; note that the library's copies of Tablets I, II and V of this text came from another niche, 6 A); lung omens (šumma ubān ḫašê); and šumma ālu-type omens.

4 Apparent dittography from the line above.

5 Sippar: my.

6 Sippar: me.

7 Literally: “Namtar”, i.e. the Angel of Death.

8 I.e. plague.

9 Nimrud MS: “lighten”.

10 Sultantepe MS: “flew away”. Other MSS: “my rank was cut off and fled by the sun-screen”. “Protection” and “sun-screen” both translate Akk. tarānu, a structure which kept the sun out of the house, perhaps a temporary roof over the courtyard.

11 Literally: “like his guardian spirit”.

12 As an experiment, we have brought forward this line from its traditional place five lines later in order to maintain the composition's regular succession of quatrains.

13 Sultantepe MS (corrupt): “constantly” instead of “for bloodshed”.

14 Sippar (corrupt?): “my best friend making my life a misery”.

15 Sippar (corrupt?): “carbuncle” instead of “dove”.

16 Literally: “I talked like salt”.