Introduction

The bulk of the texts edited in the present volume have seen three major editions previously. C. H. W. Johns's fundamental Assyrian Deeds and Documents (ADD) from the turn of the century made practically the entire legal corpus from Nineveh available to scholars in cuneiform copy, and in addition presented many of the texts in (summary) English translation along with extensive commentaries.[[1]] For all its merits, this editio princeps is, of course, longe since outdated, and the need of a more comprehensive critical edition was already felt early. In 1913, Josef Kohler and Arthur Ungnad published their Assyrische Rechtsurkunden (AR), a full edition of the entire Neo-Assyrian legal corpus known at the time, giving the texts in transliteration and German translation along with an index of personal names and an analysis of the corpus from the legal point of view. This edition, superb for its time, is still very useful today, but later additions to the corpus as well as advances in Neo-Assyrian studies have rendered it too obsolete in the course of times.[[2]] Specifically, a critical English edition has been a desideratum for a long time. The need of such an edition was somewhat alleviated, yet by no means removed, by the appearance of Kwasman's Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents in the Kouyunjik Collection of the British Museum (NALK, 1988), which presents about two-thirds of the corpus in English translation and a new transliteration based on extensive museum work.

Apart from its obvious significance to the study of the legal practices in the Assyrian empire, the Ninevite legal corpus is a most important historical source in other respects as well. It derives from the palace area of the Assyrian capital at the apex of its power and largely relates to business conducted by the ruling class of the empire; practically every document in the corpus is closed by a list of witnesses, many of whom belonged to the ruling elite itself, and, in sharp contrast to other contemporary texts, practically all them are (or once were) precisely dated by day, month and eponym year. It is obvious that such a body of texts is of paramount importance to the study of the prosopography, chronology and socio-economic history of the period.

Though the importance of the corpus was recognized quite early, the unique prosopographical and historical information it contains is still far from having been fully exploited.[[3]] The reason for this is largely to be sought in the organization and constitution of the available editions. In both ADD and AR, the texts are arranged according to their legal and juridical content, which of course is ideal for the legal historian but completely obscures the chronological and archival structure of the corpus. Using these editions in more generally oriented research has proved extremely cumbersome and time-consuming, since texts related from the archival point of view are widely separated from each other and no adequate indices are included in the editions.[[4]]

In NALK, an attempt was made to arrange the material by archives and thus to bring associated texts more adequately together. However, since the overwhelming majority of the 'archives' (as defined in NALK)[[5]] consist of one or two (duplicate) texts only, and since the order in which the 'archives' are presented is alphabetical by archive holder, not chronological, the situation is not significantly improved.[[6]] It is hoped that the present volume, which presents the texts in a new, differently organized critical edition, will make the important evidence they contain better accessible and easier to use in historical research.



1 Vol. I of ADD, containing the copies of 716 texts (not all of them legal), appeared in 1898; vols. II and III, with more cuneiform copies, an introduction and an edition of four major groups of texts (money loans, legal decisions, deeds of sale and slave sales), in 1901; vol. IV, with edition and discussion of further groups of texts (sales of houses and landed property, leases, votive offerings etc.) and a glossary, appeared posthumously in 1923. Further legal texts from Nineveh not included in ADD I-II were also copied by Johns and published after his death as ADD 1152-1281 in the journal AJSL (vol. 42 [1925/6], pp. 170ff and 228ff).

2 See in general S. Parpola, Assur 2/1 (1979), p. 1f.

3 The personal names of the texts published by Johns were analyzed by K. Tallqvist in his Assyrian Personal Names (Helsinki 1914), the eponym dates by Ungnad in RlA 2 (1938), 440ff. Both studies are badly out of date today.

4 While ADD does contain a glossary, this is extremely selective and wrought with innumerable mistakes. The name index included in AR likewise contains numerous 'ghost names' and does not differentiate between different persons bearing the same name. There is also no way of telling from the references listed in the index at what time a particular individual lived.

5 NALK p. xvii. Cf. Central Persons.

6 Another major drawback in this otherwise carefully prepared edition is the total lack of indices and the fact that the witness lists and dates are left untranslated throughout. Since most of the names are written logographically, these essentially important parts of the texts (and the many new readings contained in them vis-a-vis ADD and AR) are unfortunately bound to remain beyond the reach of most users of the book.

Simo Parpola

Simo Parpola, 'Introduction', Legal Transactions of the Royal Court of Nineveh, Part I: Tiglath-Pileser III through Esarhaddon, SAA 6. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1991; online contents: SAAo/SAA06 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 [http://oracc.org/introduction/]

 
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