The Poor Man of Nippur

"The Poor Man of Nippur" is a humorous tale written in Akkadian, unique in his genre in Mesopotamian literature. It narrates the misadventures of Gimil-Ninurta (lit. "Ninurta's revenge"), who seeks the favour of the mayor of Nippur, fails to get it, but finally gets his own back. The composition, which is 160 lines long, may be divided into 5 episodes, each of them being similarly structured.

The story in itself is humorous, and appears to be a satire on society, rulers as well as healers. But the humour also results from many situational trick, role reversal being the most predominant, as well as the characters' naivety. The composition also contains a lot of wordplay, using many ambiguous words or expressions that can be understood in different, often contradictory, ways.

The fullest recension of this composition comes from Huzirina. Only two other brief and fragmentary manuscripts, both dating from the first millennium, have been found in Nippur and Nineveh. The colophon of the Huzirina manuscript clearly implies that the composition was used in scribal training, as it was copied by the young apprentice Nabu-rehtu-uṣur PGP , pupil of Nabu-ah-iddin.

Further Reading

Marie-Françoise Besnier

Marie-Françoise Besnier, 'The Poor Man of Nippur', The Geography of Knowledge, The GKAB Project, 2019 []

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