On the Present Edition

Purpose and Scope

The aim of the present edition is to make the correspondence of Sargon available both to the specialist and the general reader in a reliable, well-organized and thoroughly indexed edition. Although every effort has been made to make it as adequate and functional as possible, no claim is laid to absolute perfection. This can be achieved only after the texts have been subjected to a detailed and thorough analysis and their contents has been fully integrated with other contemporary evidence, which is out of the scope of the present edition.

Texts Included and Excluded

As indicated by its title, the present edition contains all Assyrian letters published or identified to date that can with reasonable certainty be assigned to the correspondence of Sargon and were written by persons stationed in the central and western provinces of Assyria. The problems and methods involved in the selection process have been reviewed in ARINH p. 1 18-134 and will not be further discussed here. As pointed out there, it is possible that some of the letters assigned to Sargon may actually date from the beginning of the reign of Sennacherib (c. 705-704 BC).

Organization of the Material

The primary criterion for arranging the texts is prosopographical, so that all letters by the same sender appear together. The individual letter dossiers are arranged geographically. Within each dossier, individual texts are arranged topically. Wherever possible within the limits of this arrangement, letters displaying similar orthographies, introductory formulae and other unifying features have been put together. No attempt at a chronological ordering of the material has been made.

Texts from Assyria start with letters by the central administration and continue with letters from the major urban centres of Assyria. Senders whose seats of office cannot be determined and ones with only one or two extant letters are arranged in alphabetic order under "Miscellaneous Letters". The general order of the western letters is from West to East.

The evidence and criteria for assigning letters with lost sender name to definite senders are too complicated to be detailed here. Briefly, the identifications presented here are based on a computer-aided distinctive-feature analysis encompassing the whole Sargon correspondence, the results of which have been checked through a careful study of the scribal hands in connection with the collation of the originals. Entries in the critical apparatus like "hand of PN" always imply that the relevant scribal hand has been checked and that the assignation can be considered certain.

Transliterations and Translations

The primary purpose of the transliterations and translations is to establish a reliable standard text. All the texts edited have been specifically collated for this volume, those in the British Museum by the editor in September 1986, and those in Baghdad by J.A. Black in April 1987. Exclamation marks invariably indicate results of collation and mainly imply correction of incorrect readings found in earlier editions and/or copies. Definite scribal errors corrected in the transliteration are indicated with double exclamation marks and the readings of the original are given in the critical apparatus.

Restorations and emendations have in general been made very sparingly. All restorations are enclosed within square brackets both in the transliteration and translation. Uncertain and conjectural restorations and translations are indicated by italics. Scribal omissions and interpretative additions to the translation are enclosed within parentheses. Badly broken passages are generally translated only if the isolated words occurring in them yield some meaningful information.

The translations seek to render the original tenor and meaning of the letters in readable English. Personal, divine and geographical names are rendered in the conventional way if a well-established and functional English or Biblical equivalent exists (e.g., Sargon, Hamath, Nineveh); otherwise, the name is given in transcription with length marks deleted. Month names are rendered by their Hebrew equivalents (Nisan, Kislev), with Roman numerals in parentheses indicating the place of the month within the lunar year. Weights and measures are whenever feasible rendered by their Biblical equivalents (mina, shekel, homer, seah, with metric equivalents occasionally supplied within parentheses). If no suitable equivalent exists, a modern approximation is used (qa = litre, homer = hectare). The rendering of professions is a compromise between the use of accurate but impractical Assyrian terms and inaccurate but practical modern or classical equivalents.

Each letter has been furnished with a heading summanzing its contents the briefest possible way. A complete list of these headings, meant to facilitate a quick scanning of the texts from a topical point of view, is included among the indices at the end of the volume. Asterisks indicate badly fragmentary texts.

Critical Apparatus

The purpose of the critical apparatus is to support the readings and translations established in the edition, and it consists chiefly of references to copies of collated signs and passages published at the end of the volume. Earlier collations by others have been systematically checked and the results communicated in the apparatus. Readings verified are not included among the copies at the end of the book but a mere short reference to the relevant publication is given (e.g., W 82, meaning a collation communicated in Waterman's RCAE III p.82 has been checked and found correct).

The critical apparatus does contain some additional information relevant to the interpretation of the texts, but it is no commentary. While references to related or associated texts are meant to facilitate the study of the texts until a true commentary is available, they are by no means exhaustive. Comments on individual names and lexical items are kept to a minimum and generally limited to new words and/or forms not to be found in the standard dictionaries or even specialized literature.

Glossary and Indices

The Assyrian glossary and most of the indices in this book have been automatically generated from the data base also serving as the source of the transliterated text and are for all practical purposes complete. The glossary contains all the occurrences of even the most common words arranged in alphabetic order under the relevant lemmas. Verbal adjectives are listed under verbs. The forms listed are not arranged semantically, and generally only the basic meanings of the words are given. The lemmas are given in Assyrian form (e.g., uṣû not aṣû), with cross-references under corresponding Babylonian forms. A complete list of logograms with their Assyrian readings precedes the glossary.

The name indices are styled like the glossary. To enhance their utility, identifications are consistently given (in parentheses) for every name whenever possible.

The English subject index has been automatically generated from the translations and includes all the words occurring in them, with the exception of particles, common verbs and adjectives and Assyrian names included in the name indices. Singular and plural forms have been often listed separately to obviate unnecessary checking.

Simo Parpola

Simo Parpola, 'On the Present Edition', The Correspondence of Sargon II, Part I: Letters from Assyria and the West, SAA 1. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1987; online contents: SAAo/SAA01 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 [http://oracc.org/onthepresentedition/]

 
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