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An Iranian name in duplicate.

The archive of Bel-remanni contains various duplicates, (1) among which are the tablets CTMMA 3 89 and VAS 4 113. (2) The text is a receipt for silver, which Bel-remanni, son of Musibsi-Marduk, descendant of Sangu-Samas paid to Nabu-balassu-iqbi, son of Nabu-sumaukin, descendant of Sa-nasisu. The text is dated 4 March 514 B.C. One of the parties in the receipt is Balatu, on whose behalf Nabu-balassu-iqbi most probably acts. (3) Consequently Balatu is the creditor.

It is this person's father on whom this discussion focuses. Unexpectedly his name is spelled differently in the two tablets: [.sup.m.Mi]-it-ra-a-a in CTMMA 3 89:4 and [.sup.m.Mi]-hi-ra-a-a in VAS 4 113:3. [.sup.m.Mi]-it-ra-a-a is clearly the Babylonian rendering of a Median name *Mi[theta]raya-, (4) a hypocoristic form of a short name containing the theophoric element Mi[theta]ra-. [.sup.m.Mi]-hi-ra-a-a, however, cannot render such an Iranian form. (5) As all signs are clear, one cannot emend the spelling. (6) Consequently these two names contradict each other from an onomastic point of view, although the same individual is certainly meant by them. With regard to this problem two solutions have been put forward.

First, it might be that the reading of the Iranian patronymic is correct in CTMMA 3 89 and wrong in the other text. Damage to the original text, from which both texts have been copied, could be responsible for the spelling [.sup.m.Mi]-hi-ra-a-a. It would have to be postulated that the result of the damage was that only the HI-part of the sign IT was visible, so that the scribe of VAS 4 113 wrote [.sup.m.Mi]-hi-ra-a-a instead of [.sup.m.Mi]-it-ra-a-a, (7) a spelling which theoretically could reflect *Mi[theta]raya-. The second possibility is to invoke the reading of the sign HI as ta, which would bring one to a spelling [.sup.m.Mi]-ta-ra-a-a. (8) Although both solutions seem acceptable at first sight, objections can be made against them.

In order to be able to comment on Jursa's assumption one must reconstruct what happened at that particular moment when CTMMA 3 89 and VAS 4 113 were drafted. Both tablets were written by the same scribe, Bel-etir, son of Bel-uballit, descendant of Amil-Ea. Two possibilities come to mind. The scribe may have damaged the original text after he copied CTMMA 3 89 and before he copied VAS 4 113, which seems quite unlikely but of course not entirely impossible. Alternatively he may first have written VAS 4 113 (duly copying the visible HI-part of IT; the original text was already damaged at that time). Suddenly the idea may have come to him that the name could not be [.sup.m.M]ihraya, but had to be [.sup.m.M]itraya, and as a result he wrote [.sup.m.Mi]-it-ra-a-a in CTMMA 3 89. The latter proposal is more plausible than the former, but yet not plausible enough. The main objection is that the scribe would either have to have known the Iranian language to some extent, which is not very likely, or have been a specialist in onomastics, which again is not credible.

The solution of von Dassow is less plausible than that of Jursa for two reasons. First of all, signs containing -t- are used only very rarely to render Iranian sounds. In fact there are only two such spellings attested: [.sup.m.Si]-tu-nu and [.sup.m.Si]-tu-u-nu, both rendering Ir. *Stuna-, "column." (9) Secondly, the reading ta for HI is only attested in the Old Babylonian period. (10) It is thus impossible to read [.sup.m.Mi]-ta-ra-a-a.

One solution should be ruled out, while the other is rather implausible. There is, however, also a third possibility for dealing with this problem. Old Iranian Mi[theta]ra- evolved in Middle Iranian to Mihr- (Parthian myhr, Persian mihr), (11) and precisely this historically more recent form is also attested in Achaemenid Babylonia, next to Mi[theta]ra-. There are two examples:

*Arbamihra-, spelled [.sup.m.Ar]-ba-mi-ri (OECT 12 A 124:1, 4) in Babylonian. (12) The older form *Arbami[theta]ra- is also attested in Achaemenid Babylonia and is spelled [.sup.m.Ar]-ba-[.sup.(d).mit]-ri (FuB 14 17-18, no. 7:3, U.E. 2). (13) This clearly indicates that both the original and the evolved form of an anthroponym could exist next to each other. It is interesting to see that the recent form is attested in a text predating the attestation of the older form.

*Bagamihra-, spelled [.sup.m.Ba]-ga-mi-ha- (BE 9 50:8, R.), [.sup.m.Ba]-ga-mih- (BE 9 23:22) and [.sup.m.Ba]-ga-mi-hi- (BE 9 50:1, 10) in Babylonian. (14)

With this in mind, it is logical to retain the original reading of the name and to propose a reading *Mihraya- for the Babylonian spelling [.sup.m.Mi]-hi-ra-a. *Mihraya- is nothing more than the evolved form of *Mi[theta]raya-. In this way both spellings render the same name and person. Both names could very well exist next to each other, as proven by *Arbami[theta]ra- and *Arbamihra-. The scribe simply used both forms, as he heard the name pronounced in both ways.

An objection to this hypothesis is the date of the text, 514 B.C. This seems extremely early to find an attestation of the shift /[theta]r/ > /h/, which is typical for Middle Iranian. Yet the other Achaemenid attestations of *mihra- date from the time of Xerxes onwards and prove that the Achaemenid period was to some extent transitional between the Old Iranian and the Middle Iranian stages of the Iranian languages. The occurrence of contractions (e.g., /aya/ > /e/ or /iya/ > /i/) and monophthongizations (e.g., /ai/ > /e/ or /au/ > /o/) in Babylonian and Elamite renderings of Iranian words and proper names only supports this theory. (15)

The anthroponym *Mihraya- is no isolate. It is attested in Ptolemaic Egypt. A certain *Mihraya- (demotic Mhry) appears as the father of the bridegroom in a marriage contract from 287 B.C. (16)

This example of an Iranian name occurring in both its Old Iranian and Middle Iranian forms and belonging to a single individual is hitherto unique for the Achaemenid period, but it throws an interesting light on the linguistic development and the status of the Iranian languages during that time.



1. See M. Jursa, Das Archiv des Bel-Remanni (Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-archaeologisch instituut te Istanbul, 1999), 13-19, for a detailed study of the duplicates in this archive.

2. M. Jursa, Das Archiv, 261, lists some of the differences between the two tablets. Below follows a complete list.
 VAS 4 113
 Line Text

1 2 nu-uh-hu-tu
2 3 A-su sa
3 3 [.sup.m.Mi]-hi-ra-a-a
4 4 ina muh-hi
5 5,9 []ANGA-[.sup.d.U]TU
6 8 [.sup.m.Sa]-na-si-su
7 9 []-re-ma[]-ni
8 14 [.sup.m.Re]-mut-[.sup.d.EN] A-su sa

 CTMMA 3 89
 Line Text

1 2 nu-uh-hu-tu
2 3 DUMU sa
3 4 [.sup.m.Mi]-it-ra-a-a
4 4 sa ina muh-hi
5 6,11 []ANGA-[.sup.d.U]TU
6 7 [.sup.m.Sa]-[]-si-su
7 7 []-re-man-n[i]
8 12 [.sup.m.Re]-mut A-su sa

3. E. von Dassow, "Archive F," in I. Spar and E. von Dassow, Private Archive Texts from the First Millennium B.C. (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2000), 183.

4. The Old Persian form of this name would be *Micaya-.

5. Attested in an Elamite context as Mi-[.sup.[??].tar.sup.[??]]-ra-[.sup.[??].ia.sup.[??]]; see M. Mayrhofer, Onomastica Persepolitana: das altiranische Namengut der Persepolis-Tafelchen (Vienna: Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1973), 206, no. 8.1160; W. Hinz, Altiranisches Sprachgut der Nebenuberlieferungen (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1975), 168; J. Tavernier, "Iranica in de Achaemenidische periode (ca. 550-330 v. Chr.). Taalkundige studie van Oud-Iraanse eigennamen en leenwoorden, die geattesteerd zijn in niet-Iraanse teksten" (Ph.D. diss. Leuven, 2002), 525, no. 8.2.1087. The Greek equivalents are [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; see F. Justi, Iranisches Namenbuch (Marburg: Elwert, 1895), 213-14. On Mithra-names generally, see R. Schmitt, "Die theophoren Eigennamen mit altiranisch *Mi[theta]ra-," Etudes Mithriaques: Acts du 2e Congres International, Teheran, du [] au 8 septembre 1975 (Tehran and Liege: Bibliotheque Pahlavi, 1978), 395-455.

6. Collation Dr. J. Marzahn (May 27, 2004).

7. M. Jursa, Das Archiv, 261.

8. von Dassow, "Archive F," 183.

9. [.sup.m.Si]-tu-nu: BE 10 117:R, 129:16; TuM 2/3 148:15, U.E. [.sup.m.Si]-tu-u-nu: BE 10 117:3, 4, 11. See R. Zadok. "Iranians and Individuals Bearing Iranian Names in Achaemenian Babylonia," IOS 7 (1977): 109 and n. 223; M. A. Dandamayev, Iranians in Achaemenid Babylonia (Costa Mesa, Cal.: Mazda, 1992), 119; Tavernier "Iranica," 367, no. 6.2.49.

10. W. Rollig and W. von Soden, Das akkadische Syllabar (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1991), 45.

11. On the shift /[theta]r/ > /h/, see C. Salemann, "Mittelpersisch," in Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, ed. Chr. Bartholomae, W. Geiger, and E. Kuhn (Strasbourg: Trubner, 1895-1901), 261; P. Tedesco, "Dialektologie der westiranischen Turfantexte," Le Monde Oriental 15 (1921): 198-99; W. Lentz, "Die nordiranischen Elemente in der neupersischen Literatursprache bei Firdosi," Zeitschrift fur Indologie und Iranistik 4 (1926): 258-59; W. Sundermann, "Westmitteliranische Sprachen," in Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, ed. R. Schmitt (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1989), 108; Tavernier, "Iranica," 294.

12. W. Eilser, "Eine mittelpersische Wortform aus fruhachamenidischer Zeit?" ZDMG 91 (1936): 173 n. 1; Hinz, Sprachgut, 35; Zadok, "Iranians," 95 and n. 41; Dandamayev, Iranians, 30; Tavernier, "Iranica," 402, no. 8.2.81.

13. Zadok, "Iranians," 98; Tavernier, "More Iranian Names in Late Babylonian Sources," NABU 2001/25, no. 1, and "Iranica," 402, no. 8.2.82.

14. Eilers, "Eine mittelpersische Wortform," 175n.; Hinz, Sprachgut, 57; Zadok, "Iranians," 101; Dandamayev, Iranians, 55; Tavernier, "Iranica," 423, no. 8.2.251.

15. The contraction /iya/ > /i/ is also attested in inscriptions of Darius and Xerxes:

(1) abijavayam (XPf 40) / abiyajavayam (XPg 9)

(2) marika (DNb 50, 55, 59) / *mariyaka

(3) nisadayam (XPh 34-35) / niyasadayam (DNa 36)

(4) nistaya (XPh 52-53) / niyastaya (XPh 50).

16. Text edited by S. Allam, "Un contrat de mariage (Pap. demotique Caire J. 68567)," Revue d'Egyptologie 35 (1984): 3-21. For the name itself, see G. Vittmann, "Fremde im spaten Theben," WZKM 89 (1999): 262.
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Author:Tavernier, Jan
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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