The Nature and Content of the Corpus

Poetical Compositions in Neo-Assyrian Dialect

The following is a list of the "Court Poetry" referred to above that constitutes the core of the present corpus.

Text no.ContentFind spot
8Praise of the city of ArbelaHuzirina (Sultantepe)
9Adulation of UrukNineveh
10Hymn to the city of AssurHuzirina
12Righteous sufferer's prayerHuzirina
14Nabû/Tasšetu love lyricsunknown
15A woman dies in childbirthNineveh
16Collection of short elegiesHuzirina
48Incantation/ritual for birthNineveh

This short list includes genres of considerably varying character, and it is highly unlikely that these individual and specialized texts existed in isolation. There must have been much more poetical material in Neo-Assyrian, oral literature not yet reduced to writing at the time of the collapse of the Assyrian civilization, written on perishable materials, or simply not yet discovered.

Indeed, this assertion is proved by the fact that one of the Sultantepe tablets listed above clearly presents excerpts; the texts from which the excerpts were made are not yet known. This text, no. 16, consists of a series of only thematically related sections ruled off from each other by the ancient scribe. The same considerations would apply to the Na'id-Šihu (prose ) composition in Middle Babylonian tinted with Assyrianisms (no. 50). Copied on the same tablet as a composition in Middle Babylonian dialect with which it has no thematic relation, it is obviously an excerpt from a historical epic.

So, rather than presuming to discuss "Neo-Assyrian literature", the aim here will be to put the more significant texts included briefly into their context and in so doing to illustrate how they give various dimensions to the theme of the present book: literature produced at or for the Sargonid court. Firstly, however, a discussion of the language of the other texts, and an excursus on the problem of intertextuality are given.

Alasdair Livingstone

Alasdair Livingstone, 'The Nature and Content of the Corpus', Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea, SAA 3. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1989; online contents: SAAo/SAA03 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 []

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