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- The Babylonian Story of the Deluge - 2/8 -


decipherment of cuneiform inscriptions in the Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian languages, and form the foundation of the science of Assyriology which has been built up with such conspicuous success during the last 70 years.

Ashur-bani-pal, Book-Collector and Patron of Learning.

Ashur-bani-pal (the Asnapper of Ezra iv, 10) succeeded his father Esarhaddon B.C. 668, and at a comparatively early period of his reign he seems to have devoted himself to the study of the history of his country, and to the making of a great Private Library. The tablets that have come down to us prove not only that he was as great a benefactor of the Library of the Temple of Nebo as any of his predecessors, but that he was himself an educated man, a lover of learning, and a patron of the literary folk of his day. In the introduction to his Annals as found inscribed on his great ten-sided cylinder in the British Museum he tells us how he took up his abode in the chambers of the palace from which Sennacherib and Esarhaddon had ruled the Assyrian Empire, and in describing his own education he says:

"I, Ashur-bani-pal, within it (i.e., the palace) understood the wisdom of Nebo, all the art of writing of every craftsman, of every kind, I made myself master of them all (i.e., of the various kinds of writing)." [3]

These words suggest that Ashur-bani-pal could not only read cuneiform texts, but could write like a skilled scribe, and that he also understood all the details connected with the craft of making and baking tablets. Having determined to form a Library in his palace he set to work in a systematic manner to collect literary works. He sent scribes to ancient seats of learning, e.g., Ashur, Babylon, Cuthah, Nippur, Akkad, Erech, to make copies of the ancient works that were preserved there, and when the copies came to Nineveh he either made transcripts of them himself, or caused his scribes to do so for the Palace Library. In any case he collated the texts himself and revised them before placing them in his Library. The appearance of the tablets from his Library suggests that he established a factory in which the clay was cleaned and kneaded and made into homogeneous, well-shaped tablets, and a kiln in which they were baked, after they had been inscribed. The uniformity of the script upon them is very remarkable, and texts with mistakes in them are rarely found. How the tablets were arranged in the Library is not known, but certainly groups were catalogued, and some tablets were labelled. [4] Groups of tablets were arranged in numbered series, with "catch lines," the first tablet of the series giving the first line of the second tablet, the second tablet giving the first line of the third tablet, and so on.

Ashur-bani-pal was greatly interested in the literature of the Sumerians, i.e., the non-Semitic people who occupied Lower Babylonia about B.C. 3500 and later. He and his scribes made bilingual lists of signs and words and objects of all classes and kinds, all of which are of priceless value to the modern student of the Sumerian and Assyrian languages. Annexed is an extract from a List of Signs with Sumerian and Assyrian values. The signs of which the meanings are given are in the middle column; the Sumerian values are given in the column to the left, and their meanings in Assyrian in the column to the right. To many of his copies of Sumerian hymns, incantations, magical formulas, etc., Ashur-bani-pal caused interlinear translations to be added in Assyrian, and of such bilingual documents the following extract from a text relating to the Seven Evil Spirits will serve as a specimen. The 1st, 3rd, 5th, etc., lines are written in Sumerian, and the 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc., lines in Assyrian.

The tablets that belonged to Ashur-bani-pal's private Library and those of the Temple of Nebo can be distinguished by the colophons, when these exist. Two forms of colophon for each class of the two great collections of tablets are known, one short and one long. The short colophon on the tablets of the King's Library reads:--"Palace of Ashur-bani-pal, king of hosts, king of the country of Assyria" and that on the tablets of the Library of Nebo reads:--"[Country of ?] Ashur-bani-pal, king of hosts, king of the country of Assyria." See on the Tablet of Astrological Omens, p. 22. The longer colophons are of considerable interest and renderings of two typical examples are here appended:--

I. Colophon of the Tablets of the Palace Library. (K. 4870.)

1. Palace of Ashur-bani-pal, king of hosts, king of the country of Assyria, 2. who trusteth in the god Ashur and the goddess Blit, 3. on whom the god Nebo (Nab) and the goddess Tasmetu 4. have bestowed all-hearing ears 5. and his possession of eyes that are clearsighted, 6. and the finest results of the art of writing 7. which, among the kings who have gone before, 8. no one ever acquired that craft. 9. The wisdom of Nebo [as expressed in] writing, of every kind, 10. on tablets I wrote, collated and revised, 11. [and] for examination and reading 12. in my palace I placed--[I] 13. the prince who knoweth the light of the king of the gods, Ashur. 14. Whosoever shall carry [them] off, or his name side by side with mine 15. shall write may Ashur and Blit wrathfully 16. sweep away, and his name and his seed destroy in the land.

2. Colophon of the Tablets of the Library of Nebo. (RM. 132.)

1. To Nebo, beneficent son, director of the hosts of heaven and of earth, 2. holder of the tablet of knowledge, he who hath grasped the writing reed of destinies, 3. lengthener of days, vivifier of the dead, stablisher of light for the men who are perplexed, 4. [from] the great lord, the noble Ashur-bani-pal, the lord, the approved of the gods Ashur, Bl and Nebo, 5. the shepherd, the maintainer of the holy places of the great gods, stablisher of their revenues, 6. son of Esarhaddon, king of hosts, king of Assyria, 7. grandson of Sennacherib, king of hosts, king of Assyria, 8. for the life of his souls, length of his days, [and] well-being of his posterity, 9. to make permanent the foundation of his royal throne, to hear his supplications, 10. to receive his petitions, to deliver into his hands the rebellious. 11. The wisdom of Ea, the precious priesthood, the leadership, 12. what is composed for the contentment of the heart of the great gods, 13. I wrote upon tablets, I collated, I revised 14. literally according to all the tablets of the lands of Ashur and Akkad, 15. and I placed in the Library of E-Zida, the temple of Nebo my lord, which is in Nineveh. 16. O Nebo, lord of the hosts of heaven and of earth, look upon that Library joyfully for years (i.e., for ever). 17. Of Ashur-bani-pal, the chief, the worshipper of thy divinity, daily the reward of the offering-- 18. his life decree, so that he may exalt thy great godhead.

The tablets from both Libraries when unbroken vary in size from 15 inches by 8 5/8 inches to 1 inch by 7/8 inch, and they are usually about 1 inch thick. In shape they are rectangular, the obverse being flat and tile reverse slightly convex. Contract tablets, letter tablets and "case" tablets are very much smaller, and resemble small pillows in shape. The principal subjects dealt with in the tablets are history, annalistic or summaries, letters, despatches, reports, oracles, prayers, contracts, deeds of sale of land, produce, cattle, slaves, agreements, dowries, bonds for interest (with impressions of seals, and fingernails, or nail marks), chronography, chronology, Canons of Eponyms, astrology (forecasts, omens, divinations, charms, spells, incantations), mythology, legends, grammar, law, geography, etc. [5]

George Smith's Discovery of the Epic of Gilgamish and the Story of the Deluge.

The mass of tablets which had been discovered by Layard and Rassam at Nineveh came to the British Museum in 1854-5, and their examination by Rawlinson and Norris began very soon after. Mr. Bowler, a skilful draughtsman and copyist of tablets, whom Rawlinson employed in making transfers of copies of cuneiform texts for publication by lithography, rejoined a considerable number of fragments of bilingual lists, syllabaries, etc., which were published in the second volume of the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, in 1866. In that year the Trustees of the British Museum employed George Smith to assist Rawlinson in sorting, classifying and rejoining fragments, and a comprehensive examination of the collection by him began. His personal interest in Assyriology was centred upon historical texts, especially those which threw any light on the Bible Narrative. But in the course of his search for stories of the campaigns of Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashur-bani-pal, he discovered among other important documents (1) a series of portions of tablets which give the adventures of Gilgamish, an ancient king of Erech; (2) An account of the Deluge, which is supplied by the Eleventh Tablet of the Legend of Gilgamish (in more than one version); (3) A detailed description of the Creation; (4) the Legend of the Descent of Ishtar into Hades in quest of Tammuz. The general meaning of the texts was quite clear, but there were many gaps in them, and it was not until December, 1872, that George Smith published his description of the Legend of Gilgamish, and a translation of the "Chaldean Account of the Deluge." The interest which his paper evoked was universal, and the proprietors of the "Daily Telegraph" advocated that Smith should be at once dispatched to Nineveh to search for the missing fragments of tablets which would fill up the gaps in his texts, and generously offered to contribute 1,000 guineas towards the cost of the excavations. The Trustees accepted the offer and gave six months' leave of absence to Smith, who left London in January, and arrived in Msul in March, 1873. In the following May he recovered from Kuynjik a fragment that contained "the greater portion of seventeen lines of inscription belonging to the first column of the Chaldean account of the Deluge, and fitting into the only place where there was a serious blank in the story." [6] During the excavations which Smith carried out at Kuynjik in 1873 and 1874 he recovered many fragments of tablets, the texts of which enabled him to complete his description of the contents of the Twelve Tablets of the Legend of Gilgamish which included his translation of the story of the Deluge. Unfortunately Smith died of hunger and sickness near Aleppo in 1876, and he was unable to revise his early work, and to supplement it with the information which he had acquired during his latest travels in Assyria and Babylonia. Thanks to the excavations which were carried on at Kuynjik by the Trustees of the British Museum after his untimely death, several hundreds of tablets and fragments have been recovered, and many of these have been rejoined to the tablets of the older collection. By the careful study and investigation of the old and new material Assyriologists have, during the last forty years, been enabled to restore and complete many passages in the Legends of Gilgamish and the Flood. It is now


The Babylonian Story of the Deluge - 2/8

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