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The Myth of Girra and Elamatum

  • Christopher Walker

Dr. Barnett has long taken an interest in the recovery of Mesopotamian mythology, and many is the time that he has suggested to us that the enigmatic scene on a cylinder-seal represents “a myth now lost”. It is a pleasure therefore to dedicate to him the first edition of a newly recovered fragment of an Old Babylonian myth concerning the fixing of the destiny of Girra, the god of fire and giver of light to man, after his defeat of Elamatum.

BM 78962 (Bu 89-4-26, 257) is one of a collection of tablets purchased by E. A. W. Budge in Baghdad, and said by him to include tablets from Sippar and Tell ed-Der. The collection includes the Old Babylonian Atrahasis tablets BM 78941 and 78942, the provenance of which has been discussed by Lambert and Millard. It seems reasonable to assume that BM 78962 like them comes from Sippar or Tell ed-Der and to date it on palaeographical grounds to the reign of Ammisaduqa or thereabouts. The content of the tablet was quite obscured by dirt and salt until 1973 when it was baked and cleaned by Mr. C. A. Bateman.

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1 I am indebted to S. M. Dalley, I. L. Finkel, W. G. Lambert, and C. Wilcke for their comments on a preliminary copy and transliteration of the text. The responsibility for accepting or ignoring their good advice, especially in the enigmatic lines 1–11, is my own.

2 Lambert, W. G. and Millard, A. R., Atra-ḫasīs: the Babylonian story of the Flood (Oxford, 1969), 31–3.

3 The example of the later Poem of Erra, in which tablets I–IV have from 150 to 190 lines each but tablet V has only 61, shows that wide variations from this estimate are possible.

4 Groneberg, B., RA 75 (1981), 127 and 129, Ag II vii 7–22, and Foster, B. R., “Ea and Saltu”, in Essays on the Ancient Near East in memory of J. J. Finkelstein (Hamden, 1977), 7984.

5 Compare the reference to the Elamites in the astral-mythological commentary BM 55466 i 9 and 22 (King, L. W., Seven Tablets of Creation (London, 1902), I 208–15 and II pl. 68–72, translated by Landsberger, B. in AfK 1 (1923), 6978).

6 For a contemporary OB reference see the brick inscription of Me-Kūbi dedicated to Inanna (Ištar) at Susa (Scheil, V., MDP 14, 2425; Sollberger, E. and Kupper, J. R., Inscriptions Royales Sumeriennes et Akkadiennes (Paris, 1971), 257 IV02a). See also the later astrological references cited in n. 14 below.

7 See Farber, W., “Lamaštu”, in RLA VI, 439.

8 von Soden, W., Or. N.S. 25 (1956), 142–3; translation by W. G. Lambert, op. cit., 162.

9 Meier, G., Die assyrische Beschwörungssamlung Maqlû (Berlin, 1937), 33, 120–3.

10 van Dijk, J. J., “Fremdsprachige Beschwörungstexte in der Sudmesopotamischen literarischen Überlieferung”, in Mesopotamien und seine Nachbarn, ed. Nissen, and Renger, (Berlin, 1982), 97110.

11 Dossin, G., RA 32 (1935), 180–3, AO 6769 lines 17–19; English translation by Oppenheim, A. L., AnBi 12 (1959), 295–6. For current identifications of Babylonian stars and constellations see Reiner, E. and Pingree, D., BiMes 2/2 (Malibu, 1981), 1016, and the relevant entries in the CAD.

12 Šilejko, V. K., IRAIMK 3 (1924), 144 ff; republished by von Soden, W., ZA 43 (1936), 305308, and Dossin, G., RA 32 (1935), 179–80.

13 CAD Q 149, 151 and 155 gives references to Elamite bowmen in the first millennium B.C., but bows as such are nowhere described as Elamite.

14 CT 33, 2 Mul-Apin I ii 7; Schroeder, O., KAV 218 (Astrolabe B) i 15, ii 16 and 19, transliterated in Reiner, E., BiMes 2/2, 82. In 5 R 46, 23 the Bow (MUL.BAN) is identified with Ištar of Babylon. In fact the bow is a standard attribute of Ištar in Mesopotamian iconography. Note that in the Epic of Creation VI 86–92 Anu calls the bow with which Marduk had conquered Tiamat his daughter and names it as the “Bow in the sky”.

15 The eventual restoration of lines 38–41 could conceivably alter this interpretation.

16 Identification of mušhuššum with MUL.MUŠ (Hydra) (Gössman, P., Šumerisches Lexicon IV/2 no. 284) is plausible but not proven; the same identification has been suggested for basmum (CAD B 141–2).

17 Reiner, E., BiMes 2/2, 4041 III 11a–c. See also Gössman, P., Šumerisches Lexicon IV/2 no. 312.

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Anatolian Studies
  • ISSN: 0066-1546
  • EISSN: 2048-0849
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