Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire
Letter 716


DESCRIPTION

Language: Akkadian
Medium: clay tablet
Length: 55 lines of writing:
Obverse 1–28
Reverse 1–27
Genre: Letter
Sender: Nabulbalatsuibki
Recipient: Ashurbanipal?
Approx. Date of Letter: BCE
Place of Discovery: Kouyunjik, Iraq
(ancient)
Date of Discovery: c. 1900?
Discoverer:
Current Location:
Inventory Number: Harper K. 31
Tablet Number: RCAE 716
Harper VII. 716 (1902)

Ashurbanipal on horseback with bow




TEXT
TRANSLITERATION
(from Waterman 1930:4)
TRANSLATION
(adapted from Waterman 1930:5)
OBVERSE
1 To the king, my lord,
2 [from] your servant Nabulbalatsuibki.
3 May Nabu and Marduk be gracious to the king, my lord.
4 May Nabu, the lord of the tablet stylus, the god who takes possession of heaven and earth,
5 cause your reign to extend to old age.
6 Why have I come before
7 the king, my lord, once or twice and no one has inquired of me?
8 If the name of the land of Akkad is odious before the king, my lord, and I had committed
9 an offense against the king, my lord—as for me
10 I have not committed an offense against the king. Prior to "the hostility" when I came,
11 I declared the king's word to Arrabi, saying
12 "My message is for the palace."
13 He was not afraid. He confiscated my possessions.
14 When he seized (them), he put me in his power. And now
15 before all the people, when I come, I prostrate myself
16 at the feet of the king, my lord; I bow down
17 my face today unto death—the people
18 who are dead are at rest.
19 Since the time that no one would give me my necessary food,
20 hunger and thirst have befallen me.
21 I would come, and from a well of waters
22 I would drink and bathe my feet and do service, and the watch
23 of the king, my lord, I would keep. There they stand at his head when I write
24 to the king, my lord. I have sent (a message),
25 saying, "The men there are my enemies,
26 because without (consulting) the king they shut me up,
27 and because they speak a word of violence before the king,
28 urging the king to kill me.
REVERSE
1 Two men have received gold to destroy me.
2 Daily to kill
3 and destroy me, there is plotting (and) because they have caused a word of violence
4 to come near before the king, my lord, may the king, my lord, understand it."
5 A second matter is before the king that is not good.
6 Sharruludaru stated this as the king's word, saying,
7 "No one who is not weak sends the tribute of the land of Akkad."
8 The one whose daughter is (married) to a Babylonian,
9 the son of a shepherd, is guilty of an offense
10 against the king, my lord, more than all the lands.
11 I sent; and when I restored a field,
12 he gave it away. The minister and the sartenu-official
13 the king appointed in the land, saying, "Judge (according to) truth
14 (and) righteousness in my land. Judge according to the established facts."
15 Before they appointed Sharruludaru to the city prefecture,
16 the sartenu-official exercised judgment.
17 When Sharruludaru arrived, he overthrew
18 As soon as he had seized the power of imprisonment, he released the servants of my father's house.
19 justice. Behold the servants are scattered
20 in terror and I am dying of hunger and thirst.
21 I have spoken against him, and there are twenty or thirty
22 ikkata, which I have not seen
23 or heard of nor known about since that time.
24 He has appointed over me one who constantly plots against me in the assembly of the servants
25 of the king, my lord, and goes about.
26 May Marduk whose strength is the tempest strike him with lightning. I wait, being weak. You are the lord of kings.
27 According as the sartenu-official divided my property
28 and the property of my father's house, let them give it back. And, as a consequence, my he fear the king.
NOTES
To the king. The king's name is not mentioned anywhere in the letter; but this was not uncommon. Waterman deduces that the king addressed here is Ashurbanipal, based on the use of the epithet "lord of kings" in line R26.
Nabulbalatsuibki. He is also the sender of the letter RCAE #176. Waterman translates his name as "Nabu has commanded his life."
Nabu. One of the primary deities of Assyria. One of his epithets was "Ruler of the whole of heaven and earth" (see RCAE #1105, R7).
Marduk. One of the primary deities of Assyria. One of his epithets was "King of the gods, lord of the lands" (see, e.g., RCAE#1105, R6).
"Heaven and earth."
Akkad.
"The hostility." This may refer to the Assyrian war with Babylon.
"The king's watch."
Gold. As a commodity of trade between individuals, it was rare. So it may be that Nabulbalatsuibki is speaking metaphorically about payment..
Sharruludaru. This is an official of the highest rank since the year 664 BCE was his "eponymn year" (the Assyrian practice of naming a year after a senior official, since they didn't have a numbered calendar).
Tribute.
Babylonian.
Sartennu-official.
"The established facts." Literally this metaphor is "tablet to tablet."
"Truth and righteousness."
City prefecture.
"Hunger and thirst."
Ikkata.
Lord of kings. Waterman identifies this as a indicator that Ashurbanipal is the king addressed in this letter, since that epithet is used predominantly for him..




DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Describe the two key issues that Nabubalatsuikbi raises in his letter to the king.
2. What are Nabubalatsuikbi's accusations against Arrabi and Sharruludaru? How does he want these situations resolved?
3. Why does Nabubalatsuikbi raise the issue of judging by "truth and righteousness" and "according to the established facts"?
4. What elements of the Assyrian social hierarchy can be established based on this letter alone? What can one conclude about Nabulbalatsuibki's social status relative to Arrabi and Sharruludaru?
5. What functions do the gods Nabu and Marduk serve in this letter?




SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
Albright, W. F. "Akkadian Letters." In Ancient Near Eastern Text Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard, 482-90. 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Oppenheim, A. Leo. Letters from Mesopotamia. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1967.
Waterman, Leroy. Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire: Translated into English, with a Transliteration of the Text and Commentary. University of Michigan Studies. Humanistic Series 18. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1930.


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Last Modified: 11 April 2009