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The Famine Stela (1.53)

(3,441 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pseudepigrapha Commentary The inscription is carved in thirty–two columns on the face of a granite rock where it was given the shape of a rectangular stela. The rock face is split by a broad horizontal fissure, which already existed when the inscription was carved. After the carving, further ruptures occurred in the rock, and they have caused a number of textual lacunae. Above the text is a relief scene…

Fragment of A Wisdom Text (?) (1.81)

(211 words)

Author(s): Beckman, Gary
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Other Wisdom Literature Commentary The type of composition to which this small piece of a tablet belongs is uncertain. Fragment of A Wisdom Text (?) (1.81) [If a city is in ruins (?)], then [the builders] will build [it a second time]. If a rhyton [is cracked (?), then] the artisans [will cast] it a second time, [and] they will renew it a second time. [If someone damages] a plated horse chariot, then its owner [will repair] it [a second time]. [If] a flood carries off an orchard (!…

The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage: The Admonitions of Ipuwer (1.42)

(4,124 words)

Author(s): Shupak, Nili
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; “Prophecy” Commentary The “Admonitions” was composed during the First Intermediate period (c.a. 2000 bce) or the late Middle Kingdom.1 The text is preserved on Papyrus Leiden 344, dating to the 18th or 19th Dynasty (1580–1200 bce). The original composition contained a narrative frame which has been lost, and which established the setting of the utterances of the sage as a council at the royal court, in a manner similar to that of the “…

Shuruppak (1.176)

(1,024 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary In addition to the standard version of this composition, dating around 1900–1800 BCE, an Early Dynastic version dating as early as 2600–2500 BCE, and two partly preserved Akkadian translations, one dating around 1500 BCE, and one dating around 1100 BCE, are known. The excerpts translated here are from the standard version, attested in approximately 80 fragments from Nippur and Ur…

The Two Brothers (1.40)

(4,367 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Narratives Commentary This is a complex and vivid tale, rich in motifs that have parallels in later literatures. The two protagonists have some connection with a myth of the two gods, Anubis and Bata, that was told as a tradition of the Seventeenth Nome of Upper Egypt. The myth is preserved in a late form in the Papyrus Jumilhac (see Vandier 1962). More important than the mythological connection is the …

The Disputation Between Summer and Winter (1.183)

(2,640 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Disputations Commentary As far as we know, this altercation between the two most natural opposites imaginable, was the longest of all Sumerian disputations.1 But it is in a much worse state of preservation than the previous three pieces.2 Here also there is a mixture of generic features: the text starts with a long list of “destinies” or proprieties allotted to the contestants by the gods. It is obvious from the start that basically th…

Sinuhe (1.38)

(5,660 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Narratives Commentary The numerous, if fragmentary, copies of this work testify to its great popularity, and it is justly considered the most accomplished piece of Middle Kingdom prose literature. The two principal manuscripts are: (1) P. Berlin 3022 (abbr., B) which dates from the 12th Dynasty. In its present state, it lacks the beginning of the story and contains a total of 311 lines; (2) P. Berlin 10499 (abbr., R) which contai…

Instructions to Priests and Temple Officials (1.83)

(4,206 words)

Author(s): McMahon, Gregory
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary This text is preserved in at least eight copies, several of which have been reconstructed through multiple joins of tablet fragments. The tablets are to be found in both the Istanbul and Ankara tablet collections. The copies date to the Empire period, but the text itself seems to go back to the pre–New Hittite period, before the reign of Šuppiluliuma I. The main text is KUB 13.4, a large well preserved four column tablet with the tops of colu…

The Legend of the Possessed Princess (“Bentresh Stela”) (1.54)

(1,808 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pseudepigrapha Commentary A stela of black sandstone, 2.×.09 m, found in 1829 in a small, no longer extant, Ptolemaic sanctuary near the temple of Khons erected at Karnak by Ramses III. The stela was brought to Paris in 1844. The scene in the lunette shows King Ramses II offering incense before the bark of Khons–in–Thebes–Neferhotep. Behind the king, a priest offers incense before the smaller bark of Kh…

“At the Cleaners” (1.156)

(483 words)

Author(s): Livingstone, Alasdair
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Humorous Texts “At the Cleaners” (1.156) (1) “Come on fuller, let me give you instructions! Wash my garment! Don’t ignore my instructions anddon’t carry out your own methods!You should set the hem and the lining in place; ( 5) you should stitch the front to the inside; you should pick the thread of the border;you should soak the thin part in beer;you should carry out a filtering operation with a sieve;you should loosen the hem of the lining; ( 10) you should … it in clean water; you sho…

Proverbs Quoted In Other Genres (1.175)

(638 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Proverbs Commentary The proverbs quoted in the Sumerian proverb collections are usually devoid of context indicative of the situations to which they were normally applied. Yet, in some lucky cases, the proverbs listed in the proverb collections coincide with those quoted in literary compositions.1 On the other hand, a number of proverbs found in literary compositions, in particular in Shuruppak’s Instructions (cf. below), were not included in…

Ur-Ninurta (1.177)

(559 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary This composition is best known from a tablet found at Tell Ḥarmal (Baghdad), with two small duplicating fragments from Nippur and two of unknown provenance. The main source is written in a very difficult syllabic orthography, which makes the interpretation of a non–stereotype composition such as this one very difficult. The translation provided here is therefore very tentative. …

The Dialogue Between Two Scribes (1.184)

(956 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; School Dialogues Commentary This provisionally fragmentary1 composition focuses on the competition between two scribes, one being more advanced than the other, and using his seniority to bully and insult the younger one — after which the teacher, apparently a stickler for school tradition, takes the side of the senior student (the “Big Brother”). But in the meantime we learn a number of practical and meth…

Instruction of Any (1.46)

(3,379 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary The Instruction of Any has long been known through a single manuscript: Papyrus Boulaq 4 of the Cairo Museum, which dates from the 21st or 22nd Dynasty. Of the first pages only small fragments have remained, and the copy as a whole abounds in textual corruptions due to incomprehension on the part of the copying scribe. The introductory sentence of the work is preserved on a table…

The Dialogue Between An Examiner and A Student (1.186)

(892 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; School Dialogues Commentary In this composition we again have a dialogue, but now it takes the form of a viva voce examination. One might say that it looks like a final examination, wherein the student may be said to try for graduation. Apparently it takes place before an external examiner: the student keeps referring to his teacher. In a second part, not translated here, the piece takes on the format of…

Dialogue Between A Man and His God (1.151)

(643 words)

Author(s): Foster, Benjamin R.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Just Sufferer Compositions Commentary This is the earliest Akkadian treatment of the problem of theodicy, the theme of the just sufferer that reaches a literary climax of sorts in the Biblical Book of Job. The present treatment is known from a single text of Old Babylonian date. Like later ones, it is primarily concerned with suffering in the form of illness, assumed to be punishment for sins known or unk…

Hippiatric Texts (1.106)

(1,831 words)

Author(s): Cohen, Chaim
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary The Ugaritic hippiatric texts, dating from the fourteenth to the twelfth centuries bce, have been known to the scholarly world since 1934, when the first two fragmentary copies (here referred to as B,C) were published by C. Virolleaud. Only in 1968, however, when the best preserved copy (here referred to as A) was first published in Ugaritica V, did it become clear that all three texts we…

Sumerian Proverb Collection 3 (1.174)

(4,064 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Proverbs Commentary This collection of Sumerian proverbs is known from 40 duplicating cuneiform tablets, most of which come from Nippur, and they (i.e., the tablets, not necessarily the proverbs) date ca. 1900–1800 BCE. As is the case with other major Sumerian proverb collections, this one is known from fragments of multicolumn tablets inscribed with a complete collection, as well as from tablets only c…

Excerpt From the Hurro-Hittite Bilingual Wisdom Text (1.82)

(1,069 words)

Author(s): Beckman, Gary
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Other Wisdom Literature Commentary The recent discovery at Bogazköy/Ḫattuša of a multi-tablet composition in Hurrian with Hittite translation is very important for the study of the former language, which is still poorly understood. This text is also of significance because the genre of wisdom literature was previously only scantily represented at the Hittite capital. This translation is based primarily on the Hittite text. Excerpt From the Hurro-Hittite Bilingu…

The Disputation Between Bird and Fish (1.182)

(2,410 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Disputations Commentary This composition is remarkable not only because it stresses the importance of pleasant and beautiful things in life over dour seriousness,1 but also because of its peculiar format. It intentionally mixes the generic features of the disputation with those of a fable.2 Since fish is unable to win by force of argument, it attempts to do so by force tout court. Fish’s violent attack introduces an element of narrativity wh…
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