December 22, 2012

Ancient Mesopotamia Online

Charles Jones and Charles Halton tell us that A. Leo Oppenheim’s Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization is now available free online. Written by Oppenheim in 1964 and, based largely on Oppenheim’s notes, revised by Erica Reiner in 1977, this work is a classic. In this work Oppenheim brought this “dead civilization” back to life.

My abnormal interest in the impact of Mesopotamian divination traditions on other cultures was largely motivated by Oppenheim’s words,

One salient characteristic of all ancient collections is the predominance of scholarly over literary texts, and, within the scholarly texts, the predominance of texts which Assyriologist call “omen texts.” Such omen collections consist of endless systematically arranged, one-line entries, each describing a specific act, a well-defined event, the behavior of feature of an animal . . . Each case is provided with a prediction that refers to the welfare of the country or to that of the individual with respect to whom – such is the basic assumption – the en=vent happened, if it was not purposefully provoked to obtain information about the future. The library of Assurbanipal contained more than three hundred tablets, each holding eighty to two hundred entries of the nature just described. (Ancient Mesopotamia, 16)

My unreflect question was, if a small body of Mesopotamian mythological and epic literature influenced Biblical and Classical traditions, why didn’t the much larger body of divination literature influence those traditions? My more reflected answer is that it did.

Posted by Duane Smith at December 22, 2012 2:05 PM | Read more on Akkadian |

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