Printer Friendly


The study under review, which is compact and handsomely produced, consists basically of two parts. First we have a general introduction, presenting the tale and discussing succinctly the history of publication, the literary structure, the materials of the plot and textual problems. Somewhat more detailed are discussions of three topics the author deemed of special importance: the historicity of the composition, the literary traditions concerning the war, and the governmental institutions and their historicity. The introduction ends with a brief literary and chronological evaluation. The second part of the book is devoted to the text. After a list (which regrettably does not describe the manuscripts) we find a detailed discussion of the affiliation of the manuscripts; then the text is presented in transliteration and translation, with a notice of variant readings and half a page of commentary. The book ends with a bibliography and a glossary.

On the whole the language is clear and adequate, although there are a number of solecisms and not quite idiomatic turns of phrase that might have been avoided; for example, the strange title of section 6: "The historicity of the composition,"(1) and what, if anything, is "exact literal meaning" (p. 4 n. 13)? Typographic errors are few: I have noted "followes" on p. 3; "occurence" on p. 6; "foudation" on p. 9; "scholing" on p. 19; "an usurper" on p. 31 (twice).

The text is presented as a composite, based mainly on MSS a and b, but there are a few pages of eclectic remarks on variant readings. This editorial policy is acceptable on the ground that, as the author says, a and b seem to represent the same tradition (p. 38), which, as J. Cooper pointed out ("Gilgamesh and Agga," JCS 33 [1981]: 224-39), is superior to the other manuscripts. Yet the provenance of MS a is unknown; it does not look like a Nippur text and it is in any case not identical to MS b. Unfortunately this policy results in some places in nonexistent lines (see below ad 1.42). These things may not always be very important, but they might have been clearly noted in the presentation of the text and not just relegated to the commentary on pp. 46-48, which does not always give sufficient information (and is sometimes misleading: see the comments on p. 47 ad 1. 42, and compare with my remarks below ad 1.42). Furthermore, where MSS a and b disagree, it is not made clear why in some instances MS a is preferred over MS b or vice versa (compare 1.42 to lines 94-95). In the absence of a score, or a discussion of the relevant variants, the following notes might be useful.

In 1.1 it would have been more prudent to say that MS c has ak-<[ka.sub.3]> rather than "aka for ak-[[ka.sub.3]]" (p. 46 ad 1.1); furthermore, MS d has either [[-gi.sub.4]]-a <ak->-ka, or -[[gi.sub.4]] a-ka, or, possibly, [-a] a-ka. In 1.2 there seems to be no reason for not reading [[re.sub.6]] for [DU] in MS c. In 1. 3, I read [[]]-[na]-[se.sub.3] in MS f. In 1. 6 (re)collation seems indicated for MS d: on the copy the third sign looks like a clear TI, but the one following looks like TIL; the erasure and the spelling in the next line argue for TI.TI corrected into TIL.TIL, with incomplete erasure of the first TI. In 1. 8 MS a has an unequivocal ga-[am.sub.3]-ma-[sig.sub.3]-ge-en-[de.sub.3]-en. In 1.10 MS a has mu-na-ni-[[ib.sub.2]]-[gi.sub.4]-[gi.sub.4]. In 1.17 no text has nu-umma-[gid.sub.2]; the [UM] in MS a is possible, but not certain. Conforming to the author's stated policy (p. 46 fn. 1), I propose to read nu-um-[gid.sub.2] with MS b. In 1.24 the "restoration" of RA after dGilgames should be indicated as dGilgames<-ra>, since no MS has the space for [-ra]. In 1.27 note that the signs for HAS and ANSE are nearly identical to UNUG and KIS in the Old Babylonian script (I owe this observation to Niek Veldhuis). In 1. 29 the arguments are convincing, but it might have been indicated more clearly that no MS has this (correct) text. In 1.33 us a seems to have had a few signs after -a-ba-. In 1.39 us c has more traces, as indicated by Romer(2) (and see C. Wilcke, Kollationen zu den sumerischen literarischen Texten aus Nippur. . . . Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1976, ad loc.); they might be i-na-[an] [[be.sub.2]][-?]. In 1.41, it is probably all right to say that Ms a has omitted [sag.sub.4]-ga-ni an-[hul.sub.2], but it should be indicated clearly that no MS has the line as printed in the composite text; the same applies to 1.42, the score of which is:


In 1. 44 MS a has more probably [he.sub.2]-mi-[[ib.sub.2]]-[], and c has certainly [-me.sub.3] <[a.sub.2]->zu-[se.sub.3]. In 1. 47 MS a has [dim.sub.2]-ma-ni, as have all other MSS. In 1.52 again no MS has this text as such; the correct plural infix is only in MS a; but the corresponding dative plural is only complete in MSS c, d and f, of which two have the verb muna-[de.sub.2]-e! In 1.55, no MS has bir-hur-tur-re. In 1. 58 I would propose to read MS d as [dim.sub.2]-ma-ni-ir! and galga-ni-ir!. In 1.63 the verb in Ms h (only MS to preserve the verb) looks more like SUM. Lines 72-73 may again involve a sign play: HUS and ALIM are nearly identical signs (courtesy Niek Veldhuis). In 1. 82 MSS f reads mu-[ni]-ib-[sig.sub.3]-[ge-[sig.sub.3]-ge-ne], which is either a (proleptic) mistake by the scribe, or to be interpreted as [[sig.sub.3]]-[sig.sub.3]-ge-ne. In 1.86 [bi.sub.2]-in-si is well preserved in MSS h and i. In 1.99a MS b has clearly en[]-ga-[ke.sub.4]. In 1. 108 MS b has now a clear -a-ba at the end.(3) In 1. 110 MS b has a clear [mugi.sub.4]-ma-ab. Finally, the colophon of Ms h should have been indicated ([][im-[gid.sub.2]-da] [lu.sub.2]-kin-[gi.sub.4]-a ak-[ka.sub.3]).

With these small corrections the text as given is adequate, and certainly an improvement on what is found in Romer's edition. The author does not give a score since "a full score edition of the text can be found in Romer 1980" (p. 46 n. 1).(4) We can sympathize with this decision; but in view of the inadequacy and the often misleading character of Romer's score edition, already cited in review by J. Cooper and P. Michalowski, respectively, in JCS 33 (1981): 224-39 and BSOAS 45 (1982): 577-78, we would have welcomed a more elaborate discussion of variants. At the very least there should have been a separate transcription of those tablets which appear only as photographs in Romer's edition (N 4236 and CBS 15164). Had there been a complete score we would have seen that the "best" version of the text consists of a Nippur text (b) and a text from elsewhere (a);(5) both are superior to the rest of the Nippur tablets.

This brings us to the author's useful presentation of the relationship among the manuscripts (pp. 33-38). I will limit my observations to the stemma as presented on p. 38, keeping in mind that the ecdotics (or the calculus of variants) are not easily applicable to cuneiform philology, especially for the Old Babylonian period. Thus, to say that "The variations found in the texts are mostly of an orthographic or grammatical nature, and a thorough analysis of these variations might result in a distinction between the different branches of the written Old Babylonian tradition of the text" (p. 34) seems to me to ignore the characteristics of the Sumerian writing system, as far as the first adjective ("orthographic") is concerned. We should give much more attention to such issues as tablet formats, text divisions, and scribal hands than to these orthographic variants, unless some systematic local or individual usage can be shown to exist independently from any individual composition. Having said this, I find it hard to place confidence in a stemma which, in a somewhat automatic manner, derives genetically a manuscript which contains lines 1-82 (MS f: the left hand edge, preserved on the Jena fragment, clearly states 82 [lines]) from a tablet which has lines 61 -end (MS h), and which has a parallel descendant manuscript which contains lines 1-56 (the possibility that it ran on to 61 is excluded, since we have 1. 1). us f, according to the proposed stemma, would in turn have engendered both us c - which, however, reverts to the more normal caesura at 1. 61 - and MS g, which at least seems to have had the same format (4-10//47-57). In short, Katz proposes that three manuscripts, which vary significantly as to their format, descend from an "ancestor" which has only about twenty lines in common with its derivations. Explained by only a few stray common features of orthography (and possibly grammar), the proposal seems to me unconvincing. Much more reasonable is to suppose that Ms c and its near duplicate MS g represent the "first volume" of a two tablet recension, of which MS h is the second tablet; that Mss d and i form another (nearly complete) two-tablet recension; and that MSS e and f are again the first segments of a recension on two tablets of which the second one is now lost (if it was ever written). In the case of us e this second tablet would be a bit longer than the first one; in the case of MS f we have only about thirty lines left for the second tablet. This may seem awkward, but still, thirty lines would just about cover a single "normal" obverse. Any further examination of relationships among the various manuscripts will need to recognize these physical features.

Katz's translation of Gilgamesh and Akka is more than adequate. It shows little or no trace of the deplorable tendency towards so-called "literal" or "grammatical" translation, and I have only a few trivial remarks to make. The expression [has.sub.2] - [dab.sub.3] (1.27) is translated as "to hold back"; this might surely be all right in a general sense, as also argued by Michalowski (quoted on p. 49). But why not simply read [zib.sub.2] = appatu for [has.sub.2] (see now B. Alster, Proverbs of Ancient Sumer, SP 3.1 [Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press], h 78 and II: 376, referring to MSL 17, 183 = Antagal A 37 and to CAD s.v. appatu)? The expression [zib.sub.2] - dib is then simply "to hold the reins." In 1.36 "smasher of heads" would seem more natural. In 11.45 and 85, with T Jacobsen (The Harps That Once . . . [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1987], 350), I prefer "fiery halo" for me-[lam.sub.2]-ma, in view of the development of the story. In 1.56 the brackets (and said) are unnecessary, and even somewhat misleading: the verb [za.sub.3]-[mi.sub.2] - [dug.sub.4]/e means "to say praisingly." In 1.62/83 the translation "gave (him) a thorough beating" is perhaps a bit too general. Cooper's "from head to toe" is nearer the original sukud-du-ni "all his length." In 1.65/84 Jacobsen's "armourer" is to be preferred to the "cup-bearer."

The general introduction Katz offers is eclectic. Although literary structure is mentioned, it gets short shrift, and much more attention is given to a discussion of the historical value of the tale and related matters. This program is, of course, the privilege of the author; but I would suggest that the poem has little if any value as a "historical document" in the accepted sense of a work from which we derive knowledge about a certain political event. The possible, but unlikely, historicity in this sense is, moreover, irrelevant. The tale may have preserved a memory of a liberation movement against a northern overlord; but, as is the case in the Sumerian King List, the memory will have had ideological rather than historical import.(6) The piece is thus on a par with other heroic tales about the Uruk rulers, and is therefore probably part of Ur III courtly saga material. "History" such as it is, is here merely the backdrop of poetry, much as "historical fiction" operates in our days. A subsidiary section on the scholarship pertaining to the Sumerian-Semitic conflict (pp. 18-21) is very competently handled, but the conclusion that there is no trace of such a conflict in our text may seem a bit like flogging a horse long dead.(7) The author is very interested in the matter of the bicameral structure of authority in Uruk. This is deftly handled, as we were led to expect by her earlier work. Yet there is an aspect which she seems to have overlooked: to my mind the double request for legitimation (elders and soldiers) is first and foremost a literary or narrative plot-motif. It reoccurs in the later Gilgamesh tradition as an introduction to his expedition to the cedar forest. We also meet it in classical literature: the first episode leading up to Alcibiades' Sicilian venture is structured in the same way and has the same outcome.(8) It must be repeated: our poem's only mode of existence, and therefore its potential as a vehicle for meaning and for relevant historical contents, is that of a remarkably well-wrought literary artifact. On this premise should follow many if not all attempts to explain its characteristic features.

A number of these features necessarily shape its meaning, and therefore are open to difficulties in interpretation. Some of these problems are discussed as "textual problems" (pp. 4-11). The solution of the problem of the final part (who speaks the nomination formula, and the blessing and liberation formula?) proffered by Katz is undoubtedly correct in dividing the passage 102-112 into three parts and ascribing the nomination formula to Akka, the blessing and liberation formula to Gilgamesh. The story makes sense only in this way (in fact this interpretation was already defended by Cooper [1981] and the reviewer [1986]). Yet a major problem remains: exactly how did Gilgamesh win his victory? Klein (1983) correctly took 1. 99 as meaning that Akka was captured and subsequently released by the magnanimous victor - an interpretation now accepted by all students of the poem. But how this happened is not fully solved. Katz speaks of a trick (p. 7), but does not clarify how the trick worked. Indeed, it would be hard to do so, for there is nothing in the text which can be plausibly construed as a trick. Furthermore, Gilgamesh is not, and has never been, known as a trickster. Why would the poet be so coyly reticent on this point? Rather than inventing a resolution, I would read what the text says. In an earlier study, "Towards a Reading of 'Gilgamesh and Akka'," Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica 17 (1986): 33-50, I pointed out that there is a mirroring of motifs, themes, stratagems, and even passages in each of the two parts of the poem. In this case, we should pay attention to what is found in lines 46/85 and 90if. There, it is said that Gilgamesh's "fiery halo" - at which nobody, not even his own citizens (1. 85), can look without being thrown down in paralyzed awe - strikes down the enemy. This is a widespread motif in much later narratives: chivalry stories, from Alexander the Great onwards, abound in helmets, shields, and armor that dazzle and destroy the enemy.9 In my reading of the story, it is the hero's fiery halo that confounds Kish's host, and enables Gilgamesh to capture its king.

In conclusion, while I regret that we as yet do not have a full edition of "Gilgamesh and Akka," I found this book thoroughly satisfying, well thought out, well written, and a pleasure to use. Dr. Katz is to be congratulated on her labor, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

This is a review article of: Gilgamesh and Akka. By DINA KATZ. Library of Oriental Texts, vol. 1. Groningen: STYX PUBLICATIONS, 1993. Pp. viii + 55. HF1 39.50 (paper).

1 The historicity of the composition can hardly be doubted, since we have it, and no one has ever suggested that it is a fake. What is meant is either its value as a historical document, or the historicity of the events related in the tale.

2 W. Romer, Das sumerische Kurzepos "Bilgames und Akka." Neukirchen 1980.

3 Steve Tinney has discovered the missing right hand top corner (N 3591) of the tablet which is us b, consisting of: CBS 10355 = FTS 29, Romer's edition C; + N 1250, semi-published in Cooper's review of Romer's edition (see Vanstiphout in "Gilgames and Akka, Fgt. X (N 1250)," NABU 1989/99: 73-74); + Ni 2334 = SRT 38; + N 3591 (the new piece). This new piece reads approximately as follows (the doubly underlined signs show perfect overlap between CBS 10335 and N 3591): Obv. 1: [] en-me-barag-[ge.sup.4]-si-[ke.sub.4]/2: [][ki]-[se.sub.3] mu-un-si-[re.sub.7?]-[]/3: []-ki?-[ke.sub.4]?/4; []-kin-e/4; []-[til]-le-da/5: []-[le]-da/6: []-[le]-da/7: [] [nam-ba]-an-[sig.sub.3]-ge-[en]-[]/8: []-[ka]; Rev. 1[prime]: [] (illegible)/2[prime]: [][-e-ne-[ke.sub.4]]/3[prime]: []-a?-ba?/4[prime]: [][-gar-ra]-a-ba?/5[prime]: [] [mu [gi.sub.4]]-ma-ab/6[prime]: []-bi-ta e-ra-an-[gi.sub.4]/7[prime]: []-[ni-in-ba]/8[prime]: []-[[]-[ke.sub.4]]/9[prime]: []-[ga-[am.sub.3]]. I thank S. Tinney, curator of the Babylonian section of the University Museum, for allowing me to quote this fragment. There is now yet another unpublished MS: N 3563 containing 11. 14-25 and 26-43. A complete and up-to-date edition of all the manuscripts is therefore indicated.

4 Perhaps it would be better, and less misleading, to adopt generally M. Civil's term "textual matrices." (See his The Farmer's Instructions [Barcelona: Ausa, 1994].) In any case, his policy of separating the Nippur tradition(s) from the others seems to me to be imperative.

5 Text a, by the way, seems interesting in its own right. To mention only one detail: on this tablet, the provenience of which is unknown, the forms of the signs [DIM.sub.2], GAR, MA, MU, [ME.sub.3], and KIS are consistently unconventional!

6 In this respect it is somewhat strange that, when discussing the relation to the Sumerian King List, the author duly mentions Jacobsen's unsurpassed edition and some later studies, but omits Michalowski's seminal treatment ("History as Charter," JAOS 103 [1983]: 237-48), which is particularly relevant for the matter at hand.

7 Or is it? See A. Westenholz, "The World View of Sargonic Officials," in Akkad: The First World Empire, ed. M. Liverani (Padova: SARGON Ed., 1993), 157-69.

8 I omit references to other parallels between the young Alcibiades and the young Gilgamesh, though some are obvious. Apparently these have not been picked up even by M. West (The East Face of Helicon [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997]); so there still seems much to be discovered.

9 For the later periods we have Elena Cassin's La Spendeur divine (The Hague: Mouton, 1968). The fact that this halo is manufactured at Gilgamesh's request (lines 45-46) is an intriguing detail. The motif may be related to the Medusa (and hence, of course to Huwawa!), and it deserves a thorough investigation.
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Oriental Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Review
Author:Vanstiphout, Herman L. J.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1999

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters