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Nergal and Ereskigal.

Nergal and Ereskigal. By SIMONETTA PONCHIA and MIKKO LUUKKO. State Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts, vol. 8. Helsinki: THE NEO-ASSYRIAN TEXT CORPUS PROJECT, 2013. Pp. cviii + 82. $44 (paper). [Distributed by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Ind.]

This new edition of Nergal and Ereskigal includes an introductory essay followed by the transliteration, translation, and notes on the Middle Babylonian version from Amarna, a list of symbols and abbreviations, and a select bibliography. Next come the composite computer-generated cuneiform text of the first-millennium copies (one from Huzirina/Sultantepe in NA script and the other from Uruk in LB script), composite transliteration and translation, commentary to the text edition, and a comparison between these two manuscripts. Finally, there is a list of logograms and their readings, glossary, index of divine names, and a sign list.

The focus of the book is on the first millennium, although the MB version is briefly discussed. The authors explain that even though the SAACT series is devoted mainly to the publication of texts from Assurbanipal's library, the inclusion of Nergal and Ereskigal is based on the possibility that the famous library at Nineveh had housed copies of this composition that went missing. The decision is most appropriate and the book is welcome.

The introduction contains a table showing the differences and similarities in the plots of the Amarna and the first millennium versions, and discusses topics pertaining to the place of Nergal and Ereskigal in the literary, erudite, and ideological context of the NA period. There is a subheading on the motifs and narrative techniques, although the analysis concentrates on the divine protagonists. The authors present a wealth of information regarding the attestations of both gods in various Assyrian sources. The section about Nergal is naturally lengthier because he was recorded more extensively. The evidence is supported by rich bibliographic references. Regrettably, the select bibliography excludes titles that had been cited in the introduction and commentaries. Similarly, the addition of a list of previously published cuneiform copies, transliterations, and translations, such as has been included in other volumes of the series (e.g., SAACT 6, pp. xii-xiii), would have contributed to the thoroughness of the work.

The authors offer a number of new readings and interpretations, which are thoroughly explained in the commentary. In what follows, I provide selected notes on the text edition and translation. In the MB version, lines r. 5-8 and r. 26-31 (p. xcv), the names ending in the accusative should be given in the nominative case in the translation: Muttabriqu, Sarrabtu, Rabisu, Bennu, Sldanu, Ummu, and Libu. In the first-millennium composite, the second divine name in 1. 51 is reinterpreted as na-as-(AN).KUG. GA = Nas-same-elluti, which is explained as a new reading not corresponding to a usual divine epithet (p. 36). The editors further think that the pair Engur and Nas-same-elluti may represent a learned way to refer to the Anunnaki and the Igigi gods (pp. 36-37). This differs from the previous explication of the signs as dna-as <ili> elli (KU.GA), where the divine name is understood as possibly a debased form of the name Nanse, followed by an apposition (see, e.g., Gurney 1960, 110-11, 1. 41'; and Pettinato 2000, 76-77, 1. 41). Other attestations are needed to determine which of these two interpretations (or another) is correct. Note that in both cases the logogram dingir/an is considered a scribal omission.

The section from 1. 61 to 1. 75 is restored from parallels from the same composition, as indicated in the note on p. 14. Lines 103-4 (p. 15) are interpreted anew: 103[d]E.A an-ni-tu ina se-me-su zik-ra it-ta-mi ana SA-III, [.sup.104]u[l-t]e-pi-is-ma mih-ra a-ga-a u sa-h[a?]-a-r[a], "Hearing this, Ea conceived a logos-man in his mind, and had a duplicate, an axe, and a net made" (p. 25). The rendering of the first line, as the editors explain (p. 40), is based on possible parallels with passages from Inana's and Istar's Descents, where creatures were created to save the goddess by distracting and deceiving Ereskigal.

The authors maintain that "[t]he term zikru, the same used in Istar's Descent (1. 91), is ambiguous, because it may mean 'male/man' and 'word' and was perhaps used in that text to interpret the Sumerian myth, where a kurgarru and a galatura were Enki's creatures" (p. 40). But note that in Istar's Descent 11. 91-92 zikru, even if a pun might have been intended, does not mean "man" (= zikaru) but a "concept," or more loosely an "idea" (zikru < zakaru), thus: Ea ina emqi libblsu ibtani zikru, ibnlma Asusu-namir assinnu, "In his wisdom Ea conceived an idea and created Asusu-namir, the assinnu-man" (see CAD Z s.v. zikru B 2, p. 116b; for zikru < zakaru see von Soden's translation "Personen"--but not man, male--for the SB dialect in AHw sv. zikru, p. 1527b). In spite of the allusions to Istar's Descent, I still prefer the less creative and more conventional translation "(Ea) said to himself" for the sentence zikra ittami ana libblsu (e.g., Gurney 1960, 113, 1. 21'; Pettinato 2000, 81, 1. 21, Foster 2005, 515, 1.21').

Line 104 has alternative readings for every word. But what is the meaning of the newly interpreted sentence "And (he) had a duplicate, an axe and a net made"? Granting that we accept the restoration of the verb and the reading mih-ra, I do not see why one should translate agu as "axe" (a rare meaning mostly attested in lexical texts; note also the use of hasslnnu in 1. 111), and why change the previously suggested sa-pa-a-r[a] for sa-h[a?]-a-r[a]? The authors acknowledge that "the interpretation of the partially broken saharu (sic)... is tentatively interpreted as net" (p. 40). But this is problematic because the noun, as the authors correctly listed it in the glossary, is saharru, which leaves the extra/a/ vowel unexplained.

The interpretation from context of 1. 103 is extended to the following and the editors comment that I. 104 "completes the preceding line and the description of the creature conceived by Ea" (p. 40). It is also peculiar that this creature is not mentioned again, at least in the extant texts. The suggestion that the objects in 1. 104 (i.e., "duplicate," "axe," and "net") may be among those that Nergal carries in

II. 377-82 cannot be currently proven because those lines are partially broken and the items unreadable. Other observations relate to minor technical matters. The double exclamation mark (!!) is missing from the list of symbols on p. ciii. The same is the case with the exclusion of () to indicate the omission (usually expressed by < >) of the sign AN in 1. 51. Similarly, the asterisk (*) used after LU in 1. 129 is not listed.

There are inconsistencies in certain transcriptions and translations; for instance: the verb isih in 1. 398 is quoted without vowel contraction (p. 63) (siahu) and then listed as sahu (p. 72) in the glossary; abbuttu is translated as "tresses" in 1. 401, but rendered as "head hair" in the glossary (perhaps "coiffure" is more generic than "tresses" and less general than "head hair"); certain nouns are cited in the genitive instead of the nominative case, for instance me (in the glossary and in the list of logograms: A [right arrow] me, A.MES [right arrow] me), same elluti (in the list of logograms as the Akkadian translation of AN KUG. GA).

One may not always agree with Ponchia and Luukko's interpretations, but the care they have put into preparing a new edition of this important text is commendable.


REFERENCES Foster, B. 2005. Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press. Gurney, O. R. 1960. The Sultantepe Tablets (continued). AnSt 10: 105-31.

Pettinato, G. 2000. Nergal ed Ereskigal: Il poema assiro-babilonese degli inferi. Rome: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.
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Author:Seri, Andrea
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2017
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