Printer Friendly

Proche-Orient ancien; Temps vecu, temps pense: Actes de la Table-Ronde du 15 novembre 1997 organisee par l'URA 1062 [much less than]Etudes Semitiques.[much greater than].

Proche-Orient ancien; Temps vecu, temps pense: Actes de la Table-Ronde du 15 novembre 1997 organisee par l'URA 1062 [much less than]Etudes Semitiques.[much greater than] Edited by FRANCOISE BRIQUEL-CHATONNET and HELENE LOZACHMEUR. Antiquites Semitiques, vol. 3. Paris: JEAN MAISONNEUVE, 1998. Pp. 238, maps, illustrations. FF 260.

A large dictionary will indicate several meanings for English 'time,' French 'temps,' German 'Zeit,' etc., and dozens of idiomatic usages. In none of the ancient Semitic languages that I know, however, is a word attested designating the abstract concept of 'time' as "indefinite and continuous duration regarded as that in which events succeed one another" (part of the first gloss in the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd unabr. ed., 1987). There are, of course, words for units of time as defined by the movements of the moon and of the sun ('day,' 'month,' 'year'; 'week,' which does not correspond directly to a lunar or solar cycle, came into use much later than these); for repetitions ("he did it three times"--note that the participants in the French discussion would not have had to consider this aspect of time because their word for this 'time' is not 'temps' but 'fois'); for the undefined future and past (e.g., [subset]olam in Hebrew); and for time as a specific moment (e.g., [subset]et in Hebrew). In an epilogue, M. Sznycer discusses this absence in Northwest Semitic, and proposes that no such word is attested before z[contains] man was borrowed, ultimately from Old Persian, in the first millennium B.C. For this reason, the aspects of 'time' as an element of life and of reflection addressed by the various essays in this collection are primarily practical, having to do with man's attempts at placing his acts in a temporal context. The principal topic treated, in terms of space allotted, is that of various dating systems, functioning either in the short term (e.g., the fixing of a ritual to a day of the month or the dating of documents in terms of a king's regnal years) or in the long (e.g., attempts to retrace the history of a dynasty or a succession of dynasties). There is only one specifically lexicographic study, on Arabic terms attested in the Koran as having to do with time (pp. 211-22).

The weakness of this presentation of "time in the ancient Near East" is not that of the individual presentations, all of which are characterized by erudition and deep reflection, but that of incompleteness of coverage. One cannot expect a one-day round-table to discuss all aspects of the topic, but as one reads, one does note here the extreme spottiness of treatment of the earlier periods: all of Mesopotamian culture is treated in a single presentation, the second-millennium cultures of Anatolia-Syria-Palestine are represented by a single treatment (of the Ugaritic prose texts--there is nothing on what the texts of other types from Ras Shamra or those from Mari, Ebla, Emar, Hatti, etc., tell us about time), Egypt at all periods is absent, the Bible gets only spotty treatment (apocalyptic time and the chronological system of the Book of Daniel are discussed, and there is a very detailed presentation of the dating formulae attested in first-millennium texts from Palestine, among which are included those of the Bible), and Aramaean cultures of the pre-Christian era are absent. Because of these omissions, the evolution from "temps vecu" to "temps pense" is not charted as clearly as it might have been.

After a preface by H. Rouillard-Bonraisin (pp. 9-21) and a preamble by J. Teixidor (pp. 23-27), there are eleven presentations by twelve authors: B. Andre Salvini, "La conscience du temps en Mesopotamie" (pp. 29-37); J.-P. Vita, "Datation et genres litteraires a Ougarit" (pp. 39-52); A. Lemaire, "Les for mules de datation en Palestine au premier millenaire avant J.-C." (pp. 53-82); A. Caquot and A. Serandour, "La periodisation: de la Bible a l'Apocalyptique" (pp. 83-98); S. Ribichini, "Quelques remarques sur le 'temps' phenicien" (pp. 99-119); C. J. Robin, "Decompte du temps et souverainete politique en Arabie meridionale" (pp. 121-51); M. Tardieu, "Le cycle duodecennal des revelations manicheennes et la datation de la chute du Hatra" (pp. 153-76); M. Debie, "Temps lineaire, temps circulaire: chronologie et histoire dans les chroniques syriaques" (pp. 177-96); F. Briquel-Chatonnet, "Le temps du copiste: notations chronologiques dans les colophons de manuscrits syriaques" (pp. 197-210); A. Miquel, "Le temps d ans le Coran" (pp. 211- 22); P. Hoffmann, "Le temps comme mesure et la mesure du temps selon Simplicius" (pp. 223-34). M. Sznycer's conclusion noted above is entitled "En guise de conclusion: Note sur le terme designant le 'temps' dans les langues ouest-semitiques" (pp. 235-38).

There is not much here to comment on for someone whose principal interests are in epigraphy and philology of the second and early first millennia B.C. A few remarks on these areas may, however, be deemed appropriate.

The absence of a system for dating legal and other documents at Ugarit is striking and underscored by Vita's treatment here. It becomes all the more so when one considers that a rudimentary system of dating, which consisted of naming each year of a king's reign by an important event occurring therein, was exploited by urbanized Amorite scribes at Mari half a millennium earlier. It is now known that Zimri-Lim, king of Man, visited Ugarit in the eighteenth century, but this and other contacts between the two cities seem not to have incited the scribes of Ugarit to adopt a similar system. If the Old Babylonian system was ever in use at Ugarit, it was abandoned by as early as the fourteenth century-- which appears to me to be an even more astounding hypothesis than that of its never having been adopted.

It is not that the Ugaritians did not have a sense of their own history. At least the reigning dynasty did, for a partially destroyed tablet was discovered in 1961 that at one time bore a list of the names of the kings of Ugarit back to the foundation (probably historical, though perhaps legendary) of the dynasty some six centuries earlier. [1] It is not without interest that this outline of the dynastic history is expressed in religious terms: each king's name is preceded by the word II, apparently expressing his postmortem deification, and the text on the other side of the tablet, though badly damaged, may be of a ritual nature. As it happens, most of the data regarding the micro-dating system of the Ugaritians also come from religious texts: the ritual texts are organized chronologically according to numbered days of lunar months. It appears certain that at least one ritual covered two months (RS 1.003/RS 18.056). [2] The fact that several rituals are assigned to specifically named months may be taken as an indication that there existed a liturgical calendar for the (solar) year, but nothing approaching the liturgical calendar(s) visible in the Bible may yet be reconstructed for Late Bronze Ugarit. Moreover, though the concept of a continuous cycle of seven-day weeks is clearly absent, a higher incidence of cultic activity at the quarters of the moon constitutes a step in that direction dictated by the lunar cycle itself (i.e., four roughly seven-day quarters followed by a hiatus until the appearance of the next new moon).

As one might expect, if people at Ugarit counted the days of the lunar month for liturgical purposes, they must have done so in many other life contexts as well. This was clear from the poetic texts, where the literary motif of the seven-day progress, sometimes broken down into sub-units of four days followed by three days, is well attested. We now have a non-literary example of such counting of days. In an unpublished letter from the queen of Ugarit to an official named Urtenu (RS 94.2406), the former says:

3) hlny. ank. b ym: I was at sea

4) k ytnt [.] spr: when I "gave" this

5) hnd. [[blank].sup.[subset]]mk. w b ym: letter for you. Today

6) hwt. dnk. b mlwm: in MLWN

7) btt w. [[blank].sup.[subset]]lm: I lodged, on the morrow

8) ddnyh. B tlt: at [[blank].sup.[contains]]Adaniya, on the third (day)

9) sngr. b [rb.sup.[subset]]: at SNGR, on the fourth (day)

10) ung. w [d.sup.[subset]]: at [[blank].sup.[contains]]UNG. Take note.

Among other things, Ugaritologists will find here a proof-text for the meaning of "tomorrow" for [[blank].sup.[subset]]lm (it has in the past been debated whether it has that meaning or simply "next" within a daily sequence of acts). The formulation for the first day (lit. "and in this day I in MLWN did lodge"), may also reflect the definition of the day as beginning at evening, i.e., the speaker is referring to what in English would be expressed as "last night."

A final Northwest-Semitic observation, in this case having to do with the correct analysis of one of the earliest attested expressions of the concept of the lunar month in a Canaanite dialect: in his brief presentation of the "Gezer Calendar" as reflecting a device for expressing time in terms of the agricultural tasks appropriate for the various lunar months, Lemaire retains an explanation of the form {yrhw}, "two months" (which appears in contrast with {yrh}, "one month," according to which the (w) "marque tres probablement le duel a l'etat construit" (p. 54, n. 5). The implausibility of such an historical development must be stressed: it would require that the nominative dual ending /a/ had been retained, in its appropriate Canaanite form /o/ and in its true dual function, well into the tenth century B.C. and that the vowel /o/ be indicated by a mater lectionis {w}. Classifying the language of the inscription as the Philistine version of whatever Canaanite language the Philistines had adopted, as does Lema ire, [3] is of no help for such an hypothesis, for no known Canaanite language retained at this period either the nominative dual form or the productive dual (defined as the ability to express any common noun as singular, dual, and plural). The speakers from whom the Philistines would have adopted such a usage remain, therefore, to be discovered. On the other hand, it was appropriate in early Phoenician to note the third-person masculine singular suffix on a plural (or historically dual) noun by (w} and the same suffix on a singular subject-noun of which the historical case vowel was short by {[theta]}. [4]. The most plausible morphological analysis of the forms {yrhw} and {yrh} as each consisting of the noun to which the pronominal suffix is attached requires the syntactical analysis of each phrase as nominal with proleptic suffixation; e.g., {yrhw [[blank].sup.[contains]]sp} means literally, "Its two months (are) ingathering," where the referent of the suffix is the following noun. Such proleptic usages are known in Phoenician, whereas in Hebrew they are attested primarily in the later biblical books. Phoenician remains, therefore, a more plausible candidate for the identification of the language of the Gezer inscription than Hebew. [5] Now, whether the language of the inscription is Phoenician used by a Phoenician or represents Philistine usage of a Canaanite dialect, it remains impossible to say, for the dialectal features that distinguish texts written by Philistines from known Canaanite languages/dialects are still scanty and the texts from which they are abstracted too few [6] to enable anyone to say with confidence what Philistine Canaanite was or how many variant forms of Philistine Canaanite may have existed. [7] For the present, however, the "Philistine" isoglosses line up better with Phoenician than with any of the inland languages/dialects--as is to be expected historically.

(1.) The text is RS 24.257; for a detailed discussion, see my Les Textes para-mythologiques (Paris, 1988), ch. V.

(2.) See my forthcoming new edition of all the ritual texts, Les Textes rituels, Ras Shamra-Ugarit XII (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations).

(3.) This is not the first time that Lemaire has proposed this historico-linguistic identification: cf. Bibliotheca Orientalis 55 (1998): 487.

(4.) See, for example, J. Friedrich and W. Rollig, Phonizischpunische Grammatik. 3. Auflage, neu bearbeitet von Maria Giulia Amadasi Guzzo, unter Mitarbeit von Werner R. Meyer. Analecta Orientalia 55 (Rome, 1999), 65-66, [ss]112.

(5.) This grammatical analysis and this linguistic identification were proposed in a footnote to my review of J. C. L. Gibson's collection of Phoenician inscriptions (Oxford, 1982) that appeared in JNES 46 (1987): 139, n. 20; there H. Ringgren (Oriens 2 [1949]: 127-28) and P. Skehan (known to me from a reference to an oral communication by F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, Early Hebrew Orthography [New Haven, 1952], 47, n. 11) were credited with the correct grammatical analysis of the Gezer inscription. These arguments were repeated in my article on the Gezer Calendar in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East (New York, 1997), 2: 400-401, where two additional predecessors were credited with the correct analysis of {yrhw} (A. M. Honeyman, JRAS 1953: 53-58, and A. F. Rainey, JBL 102 [1983]: 629-34). The linguistic classification was repeated in my review of J. Renz' Handbuch der althebraischen Epigraphik (Darmstadt, 1995) that appeared in WO 28 (1997): 216-20. Though with some errors (the /o/ of the Hebrew phrase [hay.sup.[contains]][to.sup.-w] [[blank].sup.[contains]], Gen. 1:24, cannot be a proleptic suffix, for [[blank].sup.[contains]]eres is a feminine noun!) and incomplete bibliographical data, D. Sivan has recently returned to these morphological and syntactic analyses now half a century old, but, unacquainted with my proposals, did not address the question of the classification of the language in which the Gezer Calendar is expressed (IEJ 48 [1998]: 101-5). His attempt to align the {w} of Gezer {yrhw} morphologically with the orthographic {w} of various Hebrew phrases such as the one just cited must, however, be rejected, for the Hebrew {w} in all cases cited by Sivan, whether correctly or not, represents the suffix on a singular, not a dual or plural, noun! Hence the syntactic parallel is, in some cases at least, a valid one, whereas the morphological difference speaks in favor of a different linguistic classification of the Gezer text. If one wishes the text to be Hebrew, one must admit th at tenth-century Hebrew orthography was identical to Phoenician orthography; in Judaean Hebrew of a later period, the third-person masculine singular suffix was indeed written with {w} on dual and plural nouns and on singular nouns that ended in a long vowel (cf. {[r.sup.[subset]]w} in the Siloam Tunnel inscription), but {h} denoted that suffix on subject-case singular nouns of which the protovowel between the stem and the suffix was short, not (O) as in classical Phoenician. Of course the possibility remains open that the language of the Gezer Inscription was early Samarian Hebrew, for the orthography/morphology of this pronominal suffix in that dialect is as yet unknown.

(6.) See Lemaire's footnote cited above for the basic bibliography.

(7.) It may be noted that the only specifically Hebrew feature claimed for the Ekron inscription by V. Sasson as part of his recently published identification of Philistine Canaanite as having "mixed Phoenician and Hebrew features" and being a "hybrid dialect" is a lexical one (i.e., the verb SMR), a notably slippery class of isoglosses for linguistic identification ("The Inscription of Achish, Governor of Eqron, and Philistine Dialect, Cult and Culture," Ugarit-Forschungen 29 [1997]: 627-39, quotations from pp. 629, 630).
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Oriental Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Review
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Previous Article:Ancient Egyptian Science: A Source Book, vol. 3: Ancient Egyptian Mathematics.
Next Article:Das Goldland der Pharaonen: Die Entdeckung von Berenike Pancrisia.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |