On the Present Edition

Purpose and Scope

The present volume makes available the currently known royal letters of Assurbanipal in a critical and thoroughly indexed edition. In addition, it contains 61 letters to the king sent by governors, administrative bodies, military, vassals and foreign kings. Like the other volumes of the SAA series, it is addressed both to the specialist and the general reader, and much effort has been spent to make it as adequate and functional as possible. No claim is, however, laid to absolute perfection. This necessarily remains out of the scope of the present volume, since almost a half of the texts are edited and translated here for the first time.

The Order of Texts in This Volume

The order in which the texts are presented is, in principle, the same as in SAA I. The primary sorting criterion is prosopographical, so that all letters by the same sender, insofar as identifiable, appear together. The individual letter dossiers are arranged geographically, the general order being from north to south to east. Thus the letters of Assurbanipal, sent from Assyria, come first, with missives to central, southern and eastern Babylonia and Elam appearing in this order, and are followed by letters to the king from central, southern and eastern Babylonia and Elam. The two letters from Urartu are grouped with the letters of other vassal kings. Within each letter dossier, individual texts are arranged topically, with letters displaying similar orthographies, introductory formulae and other unifying features put together. Although 15 of the letters are dated, no attempt at a strict chronological ordering of the material has been made. Senders whose identity or seat of office cannot be determined (or ones with only one extant letter) are to be found under "Varia and Unassigned."

Texts Included and Excluded

Parts of the correspondence of Assurbanipal have already been edited in earlier SAA volumes, and the following texts are for this reason not included in the present volume:

In addition, after a closer scrutiny of the 178 texts assigned to the present volume in 2005, many of which were but small fragments, 17 of them had to be excluded from the present volume for a variety of reasons:

Four tiny letter fragments (CT 54 127, CT 54 293, CT 54 345 and CT 54 356) were excluded because they didn't contain evidence specifically pointing to the reign of Assurbanipal. They will be edited, together with other additions to the published volumes, in a planned concluding volume of the series (SAA 23).

No. 109 (ABL 839), a letter from Nabû-bel-šumati, the governor of the Sealand, which actually belongs to the next volume (SAA 22), has been included here because of its Assyrian postscript, which is not part of the original message. Nos. 84, 85, 88 and 95 may not be royal letters and could have been excluded as well as included.

Transliterations and Translations

The primary purpose of the transliterations and translations is to establish a reliable standard text. All the texts have been specifically collated for this volume, some of them several times. 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 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 meaning 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, Nineveh); otherwise, the name is given in transcription with length marks deleted. The divine name Aššur is distinguished from the homophonous city name (Assur). Month names are rendered by their Hebrew equivalents (Nisan, Shebat, Adar), with Roman numerals indicating the place of the month within the lunar year added in parentheses. Weights and measures are whenever feasible rendered by their Biblical equivalents (mina, shekel, homer, with metric equivalents occasionally supplied within parentheses). The rendering of professions follows the Assyrian-English-Assyrian Dictionary and is a compromise between the use of accurate but impractical Assyrian terms and inaccurate but practical modern or classical equivalents.

Each text has a heading summarizing its contents in the briefest possible way. A complete list of these headings, meant to facilitate a quick overview of the corpus from a topical point of view, is included among the indices at the end of the volume.

Critical apparatus

The primary purpose of the critical apparatus is to support the readings and translations established in the edition. It chiefly consists of references to previous editions and/or studies of the texts and collations of difficult passages. Other essential matters covered are textual parallels, scribal mistakes corrected in the transliteration, alternative readings or translations of ambiguous passages, and discussions of grammatical and lexical problems. Restorations based on easily verifiable evidence (parallels or duplicates) are basically not explained in the apparatus, conjectural restorations only if their conjectural nature is not made explicit by italics in the translation.

Collations by the editor published in copy at the end of the volume are referred to simply as "see coll."

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.

Glossary and Indices

The glossary and 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 lemmata. The forms listed are not arranged semantically, and generally only the basic meanings of the words are given. Since the letters included in this volume are written in both Assyrian and Babylonian, the relevant word forms are often to be looked up under both Assyrian and Babylonian lemmata. E.g., occurrences of the verb *wṣī "to go out" are listed under both NA uṣû and NB aṣû, depending on the language of the text. Cross-references are provided in such cases. A complete list of logograms with their readings precedes the glossary.

The name indices are styled like the glossary. To enhance their utility, identifications are given (in parentheses) for every name whenever possible. The lemmas are given in their normalized Assyrian form (e.g., Issar, Inurta, Ninua), which is not necessarily identical with the name form used in the translations (Ištar, Ninurta, Nineveh). Cross-references are given whenever necessary.

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 often been listed separately to obviate unnecessary checking.

Sanae Ito

Sanae Ito, 'On the Present Edition', The Correspondence of Assurbanipal, Part I: Letters from Assyria, Babylonia, and Vassal States, SAA 21. Original publication:Winona Laka, IN, Eisenbrauns, 2018; online contents: SAAo/SAA21 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 [http://oracc.org/saao/saa21/onthepresentedition/]

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