The Cultural and Historical Background of the Corpus

Babylonian versus Assyrian Literature

It has sometimes been asserted that the Assyrians possessed no literature, although it would be truer to say that they adopted the Babylonian literature as their own. This fact must be stressed at the outset, since it is critical for the bi-cultural nature of the contents of the present volume as well as its lack of linguistic uniformity in contrast to the other volumes in the series. Interest in the literature from the South is well attested on the part of Assyrian kings from the Middle Assyrian period on, and this was only one aspect of a multi-faceted cultural borrowing. Already in Middle Assyrian times the Babylonian calendar replaced the original Assyrian one. Gods of Sumero-Babylonian origin infiltrated the Assyrian pantheon, or were equated with Assyrian gods. In many cases (cf. text no. 38 in the present corpus) the drive to introduce originally Babylonian ritual practices into Assyria is made explicit. By the Sargonid period a long and complicated history of Assyrian-Babylonian affairs on the political and cultural planes had also transpired and many of the texts here edited reflect aspects of this history. The prestige of the Babylonian language and literature in particular manifested itself in various ways. Assyrian kings corresponded with many Babylonians in Babylonian, although at times Aramaic was not even allowed in the return correspondence. The military annals of the Sargonid kings were composed in Babylonian, albeit with frequent Assyrianisms. The Assyrian interest in Babylonian literature reveals itself above all in the collections of the libraries of Assurbanipal (see below).

Alasdair Livingstone

Alasdair Livingstone, 'The Cultural and Historical Background 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 [http://oracc.org/culturalandhistoricalbackground/]

 
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