Records of the Past, 2nd series, Vol. II

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Records of the Past, 2nd series, Vol. II

By A. H. Sayce

Number 3

The third text which I give is a translation of a very interesting letter or proclamation, apparently written by Assur-bani-apli, or Assurbanipal, to the Babylonians, whilst they were subject to Assyria. After the usual royal greeting, the king speaks of some rumour which had reached him, anent certain seditious words uttered by a man whom he does not name, but whom he speaks of as "the wind" (sâru), and farther on as "the lord of slander" (bel-dababi). 1 Apparently the Assyrian king wished it to be thought that he considered this man's exhortations as simply "vain, empty words," and the man himself as beneath his notice; but the letter itself indicates that he really thought both the man and his message to be of sufficient importance to counteract if he could. He therefore exhorts the Babylonians, in fairly vigorous terms, to pay no attention to "the lord of slander," and he warns them that they are responsible for the payment of the tribute due to Assyria, which they seemed inclined to pervert to the use of the enemy of the Assyrian king, or at least to raise as much for his use until they could, with his help, throw off the Assyrian yoke. Hence the king's anger, and his impatience for a reply to his exhortation. The text is made the more interesting by the fact that it not only gives the name of the eponym during whose term of office it was written, but the name of the person by whom it was sent as well. The number of the text is K 84.


The will of the king to the Babylonians.—Peace from me to your heart; may there be good to you. The words which the wind for the third time now has spoken to you, all come (to me). I have heard them. Ye cannot govern the wind. By the heart of Assur and Merodach, my gods, I swear that all the evil words, which it has spoken against me, I am treasuring up in my heart, and I have spoken them with my mouth. But artful is he—he has been artful. Thus the name of the Babylonians itself is indeed evil unto me, and I do not listen to it. Your brotherhood, which is with the Assyrians, 1 and your privileges, which I had confirmed, I have established; more than that there is—ye are near to my heart. 2 I command also, that ye listen not to his sedition. Do not make your name, which is before me, 3 and before all the world, evil; and commit not, yourselves, a sin against God.

And the equivalence of the word, which ye are treasuring up in your hearts, I know. It is this: "We will ignore the tax, it is turned into our tribute." That is no tribute; it is not that ye have equalised to my slanderer 4 the matter 5 of "corban and tax," it is that the payment of tribute 6 lies with yourselves, and failure 7 concerning the agreement is before God. Therefore now I send to you, that by these words ye may not join yourselves with him. Let me quickly see the answer to my letter. The bond which I have made with Bel, the service of Merodach—this shall not be destroyed by my hands.

Month Iyyar, 23d day, eponymy of Assur-dûra-utsur. Samas-baladh’su-iqbi has brought it.

There are several similar proclamations to this, but probably none of them are in such a perfect state of preservation, though most of them are more interesting, because they give more precise historical indications by mentioning the names of the persons to whom they refer.

The text itself contains several interesting linguistic peculiarities. In addition to the expressions already noted, the following may prove to be of interest to the student: raimani-su, "his own," for ramani-su—probably pointing to a peculiarity of pronunciation; 1 sun-kunu for sumkunu, "your name" (change of m into n before k—not uncommon in Assyrian); kutstsupakunu for kutstsupatunu, "ye are treasuring up"—a most important variant form; the interesting phrases yânu sû kî ... "it is not that …", and sû kî ... "it is that ..."; and the use of the demonstratives âgâ and âganute.

It is noteworthy, also, that in two passages the king speaks of God (Ilu), not of "the gods" (û raman-kunu, ina pan Ili la tukhadhdha, "and commit not, yourselves, a sin before God;" u khadhdhu ina lib ade ina pan Ili, "and a sin concerning the agreement is before God"), as if, at the time he was writingthese words, the One-God idea was uppermost in his mind. This was, probably, the result of a feeling inherited from the time when monotheism, more or less pure, was the possession of the Semitic race, or at least that portion of it to which the Semitic Babylonians or Assyrians and the Israelites belonged. 1

The text is published in the 4th vol. of the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, plate 52 of the old edition, plate 47 of the new. The colophon, accompanied by a translation, was published by G. Smith in his History of Assurbanipal, p. 181. The date of this interesting document is about 650 B.C.

186:1 It is not unlikely that this person was a certain Nabû-bel-sumati, a descendant of Merodach-baladan, who took part in a revolt against Assurbanipal. (See Geo. Smith's History of Assurbanipal, pp. 200–204.)

187:1 Literally "The sons of Assyria."

187:2 "Ye (are) with my heart."

187:3 Literally "which has been made before me."

187:4 Literally "lord of slander."

187:5 Literally "name."

187:6 Literally "the making of the tribute."

187:7 Or, "a sin."

187:8 The following is a transcription of the original text: "Abat sarri ana Bâbîlaa. Salîmu aasi libba-kunu; lû-dhâbu kunusi. Dibbi sa sâri salasis agâ idbubakkunusi, gabbu ittibbûni alteme-sunu. Sâru la takipa-su. Ina lib Assur, Marduk, ilania attama kî dibbi bi’sute mala ina mukhkhîa idbubu, ina libbîa kutstsupaku, û ina pîa aqbû. Alla niklu sû, ittikil umma sumu sa Bâbîlaa raimani-su ittîa lu-bais, û anaku ul asimme-si. Akhut-kunu sa itti mârani mât Assur u kitinnuta-kunu, sa aktsuru, addi. Eli sa enna sû—itti libbîa attunu. Abbittimma sarate-su la tasimmâ. Sunkunu, sa ina pania u ina pan matati gabbu banû, la tuba’asa, û ramankunu ina pan ili la tukhadhdhâ. U sazatu amat sa itti libbi-kunu kutstsupakunu, anaku idi, umma enna: Assa nittekirus, ana bilti-ni itara. p. 188 Ul biltu sî. Yânu sû kî sumu kurbanu u assa itti bel-dababia tatasizza; sû kî sakan bilte ina eli rameni-kunu u khadhdhû ina lib adê ina pan ili. Enna adû altaprakkunusi, ki ina dibbi aganute itti-su raman-kunu la tudanipa. Khandhis gabri sipirtîa lumur. Kitsru sa ana Bêl aktsur, sikipti Marduk—agâ ina qata-ya la ikhibbil.

"Arkhu Aaru, umu esrâ-salsu, limmu Assur-dûra-utsur. Samas-baladh’su-iqbi ittubil."

188:1 In other passages of the text where the word occurs, it has the regular forms, raman kunu and rameni-kunu, "yourselves." The latter is an oblique case with vowel harmony.

189:1 This question, which admits of a much fuller treatment and discussion than can be given to it here, is intimately bound up with the original significance and use of the divine names Jah and Jahveh (Jehovah).



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