Technical terms

These are the technical terms used in the translation of the letters, queries, and reports.


The fifth month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , equivalent to July-August in the modern calendar.
A literary composition in which the first syllables of each line together spell out the name of the author, or another hidden message.
The twelfth month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , equivalent to February-March in the modern calendar; could be intercalated TT .
To command someone as if they were under oath.
A semi-precious stone TT  which naturally forms stripes of different colours; see eye-stone TT .
[1] The New Year festival, performed over 11 days at the spring equinox TT , and featuring the gods' renewal of the king's right to rule. [2] Also the name of a temple outside the walls of a city, in which part of the akitu festival was performed.
A canonical TT  series of physiognomic TT  omens TT ; that is, drawing portents from an individual's appearance.
Another word for allocation or ration.
An annual forecast of celestial events; here a synonym of hemerology TT .
Almonds were one of the earliest domesticated trees in the northern Middle East, in the third millennium BC, because they grow reliably from seed.
A white mineral compound of potassium, aluminium and sulphur, which can occur as crystals on the surface of weathered rocks. An astringent and antiseptic, it was widely used in medicine, cosmetics, food preservation, and glass manufacture in the ancient world.
An object thought to have healing powers, often with an image or inscription on it, and usually worn round the neck or attached to a person's clothes.
An unusual, defective, or otherwise ominously significant new-born, either human or animal, also translated malformed birth TT ; see also Šumma izbu TT .
An incantation TT  or ritual TT  in which two performers take it in turns to sing or chant; correctly, antiphon.
The divine powers and authority of the great sky-god Anu PGP .
Anu stars
The stars which rise due east, +/– 17o, named after the god Anu PGP ; the Enlil PGP  stars rise to the north, the Ea PGP  stars to the south.
An inability to put thoughts into words.
Preventative, designed to ward off unfavourable events foretold by omens TT  or oracles TT ; a synonym of prophylactic TT .
[1] The first time in the lunar cycle that the new moon is visible on the horizon TT  of the western night sky as the sun sets, usually a night or two after Disappearance TT , signalling the beginning of a new month TT . [2] Also used to describe the first (heliacal) rising of a planet TT : see Evening first/last TT  and Morning first/last TT .
The wild apple is native to China and central Asia and was not domesticated extensively until about two millennia ago. However, dried apples were imported into Mesopotamia from at least the third millennium BC.
A beam above a doorway.
Arû = To Lead
An unknown lexical list TT , presumably named after its first line.
A type of demon TT , thought to look like a mad dog, and the illness caused by it.
A medicinal mineral stone TT , perhaps arsenic.
As Illil Heard the Word of the Gods
The first line of the sixth tablet TT  of the Epic of Creation TT .
The upper bone of the ankle, on which the tibia rests; animal astragals were used as gambling dice.
A scholar TT  responsible for reading and interpreting omens TT  from the positions of the stars, planets TT , and other heavenly bodies, as well as the weather; literally, "Scribe of Enuma Anu Enlil TT  ", the canonical TT  series TT  of celestial TT  omens. See Celestial and terrestrial divination.
In Assyrian times, astrologers TT  divined the gods' intentions for the future of the state through observing the movements of the heavenly bodies and reading celestial TT  omens TT  from them; they did not cast personal horoscopes on the basis of a client's birth date. See Celestial and terrestrial divination.
A Substitute to/for Ereškigal
A medical ritual TT  against death, in which a substitute is given to Ereškigal PGP , queen of the Underworld TT , in place of the patient.
Atrophied part
In extispicy TT  a fortuitous marking TT  whereby part of one of the exta TT  is withered or shrunken.
A diviner TT  who reads omens TT  from the flights of birds in the sky.
Carrying a good omen TT .
Another word for indigenous or native-born.


In extispicy TT , the convex surface of the lung TT ; see also Cavity TT .
Barbers shaved the heads and beards of priests and others seeking cultic purity TT ; they may also have performed simple surgical procedures.
Base of the Throne
In extispicy TT , a part of the liver TT  between the gall bladder TT  and the Finger TT , probably the renal impression where the right-hand kidney is attached. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver []
The fibre just under the bark of a tree or plant, such as flax TT , hemp, or date palm TT , often used to make ropes, mats, and padding.
Bearded courtier
An uncastrated male courtier; not a eunuch TT .
Begone, Evil Hultuppu
An incantation TT  against the disease-inducing hultuppu TT  demon.
A form of epilepsy TT .
A gemstone forming hexagonal crystals that may be transparent, blue, or green (emerald) in colour; like many stones TT  it was considered to have healing powers.
In extispicy TT , the branching of a part of the exta TT  into two or more pieces.
A translation of the Assyrian word šatammu, the senior administrator of a temple; also translated prelate TT .
A species of wild ox, distinct from the North American buffalo, formerly common across Europe and the Middle East but which is now almost extinct; also a type of demon TT .
Bit rimki
Literally "Bath house", a royal purification TT  ritual TT ; carried out by the king during an eclipse TT , while a substitute king TT  reigned in his place. See Lamentation and ritual.
Bit sala' me
Literally "Shower house" or "House of sprinkling water", a purification TT  ritual TT  like Bit rimki TT .
The heavier fractions of crude oil, which in Assyrian times were collected from springs, for instance at Itu'u PGP  on the Euphrates PGP , and used for waterproofing, adhesive, medical, and ritual TT  purposes.
In omens TT , black was often considered an unfavourable TT  colour, portending death and disaster; but if an unfavourable object was black that could bode well. See also red TT , white TT , and yellow TT .
Black headed
A traditional term used to describe the human population of Assyria and Mesopotamia more generally.
An uncastrated male pig, often used as a metaphor for testosterone-driven young men.
In extispicy TT , certain exta TT  could be described as tightly bound to the other internal organs; the opposite term is Loose TT .
A deciduous thorny shrub, related to deadly nightshade, which thrives in dry, slightly salty conditions and wose fruit, bark, and leaves were used for medicinal purposes in ancient times.
A slow-growing evergreen shrub or small tree native to Europe and the Middle East, which was commonly used in manufacturing furniture, writing boards, and other everyday objects because of its density and strength.
A metal vessel for burning fuel for heating or incense TT  offerings.
In extispicy TT , the part of the exta TT  examined after the lungs TT ; it could be "thick TT ", "blunted", or "split TT ".
A chest infection; the Assyrian term literally means "constriction of the insides", so it may refer to some other illness.
One of several reed-like plants of the marshes which form dense clusters of flowers, either spheres of several centimetres in diameter or upright cylinders up to 40 cm long and 4 cm across.


Another word for chalky.
An area where reeds grow densely, usually along riverbanks or in marshes.
The hemp plant was cultivated for medicinal purposes, as well as for its fibre, in the northern Middle East from at least the early first millennium BC. The English term cannabis is derived from the Akkadian qunubu.
The main collections of omens TT , such as Enuma Anu Enlil TT , Šumma izbu TT , and Šumma alu TT , were organised into very long canonical (standardised) series TT , but scholars TT  could also draw on non-canonical omens or omens that did not occur in those series, or on interpretations that came "from the mouths of scholars"; that is, from oral tradition.
In extispicy TT , a term for a part of the lung TT , possibly the apical lobe.
A reddish-brown semi-precious stone TT , chemically related to agate TT  and much prized by the Assrians for jewellery.
A tree that is native to the Mediterranean and Middle East which produces large seeds in long pods, now also known as locust beans; used as a sweetener, and as a medicinal laxative.
A tree that is native to Arabia and the east coast of Africa, whose aromatic bark was traded as a valuable spice and medical ingredient; a close relative of cinnamon.
In extispicy TT , the concave surface of the lung TT ; see also Back TT .
Cedar trees are native to the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, especially the area of the Lebanon mountain range; while the strong yet flexible wood was sought after for building work, cedar resin was commonly used in Assyrian times as an aromatic component of incense TT  for rituals TT .
Of the skies or heavens, including (for the Assyrians) the weather.
The main shrine of a temple, where the statue of the god stood.
A stone or metal bowl, or an enclosed container with holes pierced in it, which is used for burning incense TT ; in Assyrian rituals TT  it was often paired with a torch TT .
The senior official who ran the domestic aspects of the royal palace, literally "head of household"; also translated Major-domo TT .
A scholar TT  who was responsible for performing propitiatory (soothing, or apologetic) rituals TT  with chanting and kettledrums TT  to calm the gods' mood after unfavourable TT  omens TT  were portended, with the object of reversing the gods' decision; also translated Lamenter, Lamentation priest TT . See Lamentation and ritual.
Charge of the Lady of Cults
A way of describing a royal baby being cared for in the temple of a goddess, possibly Ištar PGP .
A protective deity with both human and non-human features; Akkadian kuribu, from which the English word "cherub" derives.
Chief Cupbearer
A very senior official (magnate TT ) in the king's personal retinue; the title is archaic and does not reflect the role's powerful administrative and military functions. There was an Assyrian province under the command of the Chief Cupbearer (see Land of the Chief Cupbearer PGP ). See King's advisors.
Chief of trade
A senior official (magnate TT ) in the Assyrian state administration, responsible for the organization of imports and exports on behalf of the crown.
A general description for any cultic personnel who was permitted to enter the cella TT  of a temple.
Cohort commander
A military official; the Assyrian term translated here as "cohort" does not indicate the size of the unit, but as a lower ranking military official is called the "commander of a unit of fifty men" it must be a unit of at least double that size.
In extispicy TT , the coils of the colon TT  were counted after examination of the breast-bone TT ; there were usually 10-16.
Outside Nineveh PGP , astrologers TT  worked in groups of ten, led by a Commander-of-Ten TT , who communicated with the royal court.
In extispicy TT , the coils TT  of the colon (part of the large intestine) were counted after examination of the breast-bone TT ; there were usually 10-16.
A very senior official (magnate TT ) in the king's personal retinue; the title is archaic (literally meaning "second in rank") and does not reflect the duties of this official, who had high military and administrative functions. There was an Assyrian province under the command of the Commander-in-Chief. See King's advisors.
The leader of a collegium TT  of ten astrologers TT  working in a provincial city of the Assyrian empire.
Complete the day
In astrology TT , when the moon is predicted to "complete the day" it is another way of saying that the month TT  will be 30, not 29 days long.
A woman in a regular sexual but non-marital relationship with a man of higher status, usually as part of the man's extended household. Children of the union could only inherit if formally "adopted" by their father.
When two or more heavenly bodies (stars, planets TT , the sun, the moon) appear to be in the same place in the sky, from the observer's perspective. A conjunction of the sun and moon is an eclipse TT ; the opposite of conjunction is opposition TT .
A cluster or group of stars that are thought to form a pattern in the sky. In Assyrian times seventeen constellations through which the moon moved formed a basic set of astrological TT  reference points; by about 500 BC they had been reduced to the twelve zodiacal signs that are still in use today.
A form of taxation through manual labour that every subject of the Assyrian king who owned land (or a stand-in) had to perform for a fixed number of days each year; this included military service and public construction work; see also ilku-duty TT .
Cough with Phlegm
A canonical TT  series TT  of medical recipes against coughs, colds, and chest infections.
Rituals TT  and incantations TT  performed to undo the effects of witchcraft TT . See also Maqlu TT  and Šurpu TT .
A large, water-dwelling tropic reptile, not native to Assyria but which may have been imported as an exotic novely from, for instance, Egypt.
In extispicy TT , a fortuitous marking TT  that occurred only on the liver TT ; with three component lines (in the shape of the letter Y) rather than four and generally considered unfavourable TT . Also the symbol of the god Nabu PGP  and the crown prince TT .
Crown of Splendour
A name for a lunar halo TT  - when light, high clouds refract the light of the moon they create a dark band around it, surrounded by a much narrower ring of light.
Crown prince
The prince nominated by the reigning king to succeed him, not necessarily his eldest son (or indeed any son). At least in the seventh century BC, the Assyrian crown prince fulfilled key administrative and representative functions and had a residence at Tarbiṣu PGP , close to Nineveh PGP . See The Royal Family.
In extispicy TT , a part of the liver TT  on the ventral lobe, closely associated with the Path TT .
[1] A unit of measure based on the forearm, about 50-55 cm; [2] in the sky, a small length measure of 30 fingers TT , equivalent to about 2o 30' in modern angular measure.
A star or planet culminates when it reaches its highest point in the sky from the observer's point of view.
A complex system of writing made of wedge-shaped impressions, usually made by a stylus TT  in the surface of a clay tablet TT  or a waxed writing-board TT . Cuneiform had many hundreds of different signs, which could take on different meanings depending on their context. See Cuneiform script and Writing materials, as well as the Cuneiform Revealed section of the website.
A senior official of the Assyrian court and empire (see The king's advisors).
A tall and elegant evergreen conifer tree, which grows natively across much of the northern Middle East, including Assyria. Its wood was used as a building material, while its aromatic resin was a popular ingredient of incense TT .
In extispicy TT , a fluid-filled abscess or growth on any of the exta TT ; a fortuitous marking TT .
Cystic duct
In extispicy TT , the duct linking the gall bladder TT  to the bile duct.


A raised platform which serves as a base for a throne, altar, or statue.
Date palm
Date palms were commonly cultivated in Assyria and Babylonia PGP , both for their very sweet fruit (the syrup of which was used as a sweetener instead of the much rarer honey TT ) and for their fronds, fibres, and trunks which all had practical uses. Because the trees were hand-pollinated they became a symbol of fertility; see also tamarisk TT .
Day of the Watch
An incantation TT , exact identity unknown.
Demons were considered to be the agents of death and illness. They were not fully under the control of the gods, and could move easily between the divine and human worlds. Many were visualised as composite beings, composed of body parts from a variety of creatures. See also genie TT .
In extispicy TT , a fortuitous marking TT  on the surface of the Finger TT  or Path TT  of the liver TT  or on the lungs TT , whose exact appearance is unknown.
A raised canal bank which prevents flooding.
The last time in the month TT  that the crescent moon is visible on the horizon TT  of the eastern morning sky, just before sunrise; see also Appearance TT .
Either the public lying in state of the body of a deceased individual, or a display of grave goods (or, quite possibly, a combination of both).
A scholar TT  who reads the gods' intentions from omens TT ; see also astrologer TT , augur TT , exorcist TT , and haruspex TT . See The king's advisors.
An Assyriological abbreviation for "unknown divine name".
In extispicy TT , an unidentified part of the Outside TT  of the lung TT .
[1] A measurement of time (about 2 modern hours) and therefore the distance walkable in 2 hours on earth (c. 11 km); [2] or the distance traversed by a star in the night sky in the same time (c. 30o in modern angular measure).
In Assyrian thought, a hybrid supernatural creature, composed of elements from the snake, lion, and eagle.
A one-humped camel, native to Arabia, which was domesticated perhaps four millennia ago, but which first appears in the Assyrian historical record only in the early first millennium BC and was still a rare sighting in Assyria in the 7th century.
Dug = Earthenware
The tenth tablet TT  of the lexical list TT  Ura = hubullu TT , which gives Sumerian and Akkadian names for different types of vessels and containers.


Ea, Šamaš, Asalluhi
Many healing incantations TT  begin by invoking the names of the great gods Ea PGP , Šamaš PGP , and Asalluhi PGP , so it is not possible to determine exactly which one is meant here.
In extispicy TT , an unidentified part of the liver TT .
The Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates converge to the north and east of Mesopotamia, resulting in occasional minor earthquakes in the Taurus PGP  and Zagros PGP  mountains.
The divine powers and authority of the great sky-god Ea PGP .
Every five or six months TT , the earth comes between the sun and the full moon, preventing the moon from reflecting the sun's rays back to earth. Two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse, the moon may come between the earth and the sun, preventing its rays from shining on the earth. (Thus a solar eclipse is a type of occultation TT ). Depending on the observer's position on the earth's surface, an eclipse may appear as full or partial, or not visible at all. In Assyrian times astrologers TT  could predict the possibility of an eclipse quite well but did not know for certain whether or not it would be visible from Assyria. Both lunar and solar eclipses had powerful ominous TT  meanings, depending on their position, timing and duration.
Some cultic personnel received messages from the gods not through the observation or induction of omen TT  but through direct communication while in a trance-like state. Ecstatic trances could be induced (for instance by drugs or ritual TT  actions) but could also overwhelm any individual unexpectedly.
In extispicy TT , an ominous TT  description of parts of the exta TT , for instance the Station TT  or the Path TT  of the liver TT .
egalkura ritual
Literally "Entering the Palace". A ritual TT  series TT  popular in Assyria, concerned with improving the chances of success when approaching the authorities.
A mixture of gold and silver, which occurs naturally in western Anatolia (modern-day western Turkey) but which the Assyrians also knew how to make artificially too.
The sixth month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , which could be intercalated TT ; roughly August-September.
One of the first types of wheat to be domesticated in the Middle East nearly 10,000 years ago. It copes well with poor soil, but is not as tolerant to salty soil as barley is, and is these days rarely cultivated.
The high priestess of a major deity; an archaic term no longer current in Assyrian times but still found in omens TT .
Enuma Anu Enlil
The standard series of celestial TT  omen TT , named after its first line literally "When the gods Anu PGP , Enlil PGP  (and Ea PGP  established in council the plans of the sky and earth)". Sometimes it was simply called "the Series". Tablets 1-14 – the moongod Sin PGP  in its first crescent; Tablets 15-22 – the moongod in middle of the month, lunar eclipses TT ; Tablets 23-36 – the sungod Šamaš PGP : haloes TT , parhelia (bright spots appearing either side of the sun), solar eclipses TT ; Tablets 37-49/50 – the weather god Adad PGP : lightning, thunder, rainbows, clouds, earthquakes TT , winds; Tablets 50/51-70 – planetary signs: their positions with respect to other stars or planets, first and last morning visibilities; evening risings; luminosity, colour; fixed stars. The portents are almost all matters of institutional concern – the king and his army; the country and its enemies; floods, crop failure, pestilence, and disease.
Enuma Eliš
The ancient title of the Epic of Creation TT , after the first words of the first line - literally "When above".
Epic of Creation
The Epic of Creation existed in two forms. The Babylonian version describes how the heroic god Marduk PGP  defeated the monstrous sea Tiamat and her evil army in a cosmic battle, created the world from her body, and thereby became head of the divine pantheon. The Assyrian version replaces Marduk with Aššur PGP . It was performed on the fourth day of the akitu TT  festival. The ancient designation was Enuma Eliš TT .
The abdominal wall above the belly-button; its identification here is uncertain.
Although it is often difficult to equate ancient descriptions of illnesses with modern disease types, the characteristic symptoms of epileptic seizures are so clearly described in Assyrian medical texts that its identification is almost certain. See also bennu TT .
In the Assyrian empire, years TT  were not counted but named after the king, high officials and provincial governors, until the late 8th century BC in a standard order. Scribes TT  maintained standard reference lists of eponyms, which are now invaluable resources for understanding Assyrian chronology.
Twice a year TT , daytime and nighttime are of equal length. In the modern dating system the spring and autumn equinoxes fall on or near to 20 March and 23 September. In Assyrian times the first Appearance TT  of the moon after the spring equinox signalled the new year (see akitu TT ).
A type of cultic lament, usually in Sumerian, and/or its associated ritual TT ; sometimes translated as penitential psalm TT .
A feast day, perhaps for the gods Nabu PGP  and Tašmetu PGP .
A castrated man, usually a palace courtier; see The Assyrian Royal Family.
Evening first/last
The first, brief sighting of a planet TT  on the eastern horizon TT  at sunset before it sets again (Venus PGP  and Mercury PGP  only); or the last (any planet).
Evil day
In ominous TT  calendars (see hemerology TT  and menology TT ) the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days of every month TT  were considered to be evil. On these days almost all activity was forbidden by the gods, except those relating to mourning and penitence. They were related to the key moments of the lunar cycle - the day before the full moon, the day before Disappearance TT , and the two half-way points in between. It has also been suggested that the nineteenth day acquired its dangerous character from that fact that it was 7 x 7 = 49 days since the previous Appearance TT  of the new moon.
Evil of (a Stroke of) Lightning
A ritual TT  to avert the evil portended by a lightning strike.
Excluding Evil from a Person's Home
An apotropaic TT  ritual TT , performed by an exorcist TT  and designed to do exactly what the title says. On the first three days figurines TT  of protective genies TT  were constructed; on the fourth the figurines were brought into the client's house, which was ritually cleansed with a torch TT  and censer TT ; on the fifth day, the house was swept and the sweepings thrown into the river TT . Finally, the figurines were buried in appropriate places around the house.
A traditional translation of a type of scholar TT  called āšipu in Assyrian. The 129 letters from at least 8 different exorcists that survive from the 7th-century royal court show that their intellectual interests ranged much more widely than the prognosis and ritual TT  healing of illnesses. See Medicine and Healing and Lamentation and Ritual.
The internal organs of a sacrificed animal, analysed by a haruspex TT  for their ominous TT  significance in the following order - liver TT , lungs TT , breast-bone TT , heart TT , coils TT  of the colon TT , and vertebrae TT .
Divination through the observation of anomalies and fortuitous markings TT  in the exta TT  (entrails) of a sacrificed sheep or ram TT . See Sacrificial Divination
A mineral form of silica, nowadays called agate, typically comprises different-coloured stripes or bands. When cut into a sphere or hemisphere, the bands appear as concentric circles, taking on the appearance of an eye. Assyrian scholars TT  considered that such stones TT  had beneficial apotropaic TT  powers.


The title adopted by the real king while the substitute king TT  was on the throne.
Omens TT  were considered either favourable or unfavourable; never both and never neutral. But in hemerologies TT  and menologies TT  days could be evil TT  independent of their favourable/unfavourable character.
A restraining handcuff or shackle worn by prisoners around the ankles to stop them from escaping.
Many rituals TT  involved the manufacture of small models, or figurines, of supernatural beings — either apotropaic TT  genies TT  to ward off evil, or the demon TT  or witch TT  thought to be the cause of the misfortune. Apotropaic figurines were preserved and ritually buried; maleficent figurines were ritually destroyed, sometimes by throwing them into a river TT .
In extispicy TT , the exta TT  may appear to be filled with, held by, or connected by, threads called filaments. This was usually considered unfavourable TT .
[1] In astrology TT , a very small distance in the sky, equivalent to about 0o 5' in modern angular measure. [2] In extispicy TT , the caudate lobe of the liver TT , which could be atrophied TT  or thick TT . View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
An evergreen conifer, distinguished by its upright cones which is native to much of the Middle East and beyond, and which the Assyrians used for building materials.
Fish-eye stone
See eye-stone TT .
A hybrid demon TT  or genie TT , half man and half fish, which was often associated with Adapa PGP  and the sages TT  from before the Flood TT .
In extispicy TT , a common fortuitous marking TT  describing a split in the surface of any of the exta TT . A fissure was generally considered unfavourable TT .
An annual crop with beautiful blue flowers, native to the Middle East and beyond. It is grown for its fibrous stalks, which are woven into linen, and for its highly nutritious seeds, from which linseed oil is made.
Assyrian scholars divided past time into a mythical, primeval era and more recent human history, demarcated by a great flood. As well as one human family, rescued by the great god Ea PGP , seven sages TT  - half-human, half-fish - survived to bring the ancient arts of civilisation to contemporary humanity.
Many rituals TT  involved the sprinkling of flour in a circle around the performer or the client.
In extispicy TT , a fortuitous marking TT  in the shape of a foot, usually on the liver TT , gall bladder TT , or lungs TT  and generally considered favourable TT .
Fortuitous markings
Extispicy TT  included the examination of a sacrificial animal's exta TT  for holes, marks, and abrasions such as the Weapon-mark TT , Foot-mark TT , Hole TT , Fissure TT , Request-mark TT , Cross TT , Atrophied part TT , Cyst TT , Filament TT , Bifurcation TT , and Design TT .
Someone who hunts wild birds, such as duck and geese, for food.
Foxes featured often in Mesopotamian fables and proverbs, as symbols of both cunning and cowardice.
Fumigant, fumigation
Certain aromatic woods or resins, such as cedar TT  or juniper TT , were burnt in censers TT  as part of cultic and medical rituals TT . The cleansing smell of the smoke was considered to purify TT  the ritual space and/or the performers or client of the ritual.


Gall bladder
In extispicy TT , an ominous TT  feature of the liver TT , divided into top, middle and bottom parts. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
Gate of the Palace
In extispicy TT , the umbilical fissure of the liver TT . View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
See stone TT .
A supernatural being who was considered to protect human clients from demons TT  and other malevolent forces.
An archaic term to describe an official temporarily attached to another institution on secondment; no longer current in Assyrian times but still found in omens TT .
A type of boiled and clarified butter which can be stored for without refrigeration, so long as it is kept in an airtight container.
Many illnesses were considered to be caused by "the hand of a ghost", specifically the shades of people who had died in unfortunate circumstances, or who had no descendants to leave them offerings, and were therefore unsettled in their Underworld TT  afterlives. Healing rituals TT  against ghosts were designed to return them to whence they came, leaving the sufferer in peace.
Gi = Reed
The eighth tablet TT  of the lexical list TT  Ura = hubullu TT , which listed Sumerian and Akkadian names for different types of objects made of reed.
Giving a Person's Substitute to Ereškigal
See A Substitute to/for Ereškigal TT .
Grasshopper, locust
Plant-eating insects, widespread in the Middle East and beyond, which can cause substantial damage to crops and trees when migrating in large swarms. There are several species to which the ancient Assyrian words might refer; their exact identification is uncertain.
Greeting of the Temple
A religious rite TT , in which the king usually participated.
A modern Iraqi Arabic word for a large circular boat made of basketwork and waterproofed with bitumen TT , that were in use on the Tigris PGP  from ancient times until at least the 1970s AD.
Gurhub = Large Basket
The ninth tablet TT  of the lexical list TT  Ura = hubullu TT , which lists Sumerian and Akkadian names for different types of objects made of reed.
An unidentified semi-precious stone TT .
A very soft stone, made of calcium sulphate, found widely in the Middle East and beyond, and which the Assyrians used to make plaster and as a cheap building material.


When light, high clouds refract the light of the sun or moon they create a dark band around it, surrounded by a much narrower ring of light; a lunar halo was sometimes known as a Crown of Splendour TT .
A cuneiform sign that looks like a six-pointed star; in extispicy TT , a fortuitous marking TT  on the exta TT  that looks like this sign.
A prayer whose performance involves raising one's hands to heaven.
Harem governess
The female head of the women's quarters of the palace.
Haruspex, haruspices
Diviner(s) TT  from the exta TT  of sacrificed sheep or rams; those who carry out extispicy TT . The Assyrian term is bārû.
Head Lift
In extispicy TT , a part of the lung TT  that may reach or pierce the wind-pipe TT .
Presumably cultic personnel with responsibility for ritual TT  purity TT ; exact meaning and function unclear.
In extispicy TT  the heart was the last organ to be examined, after the colon TT . In every surviving case, it is described simply as "normal".
He Created Stations for the Great Gods
The first line of the fifth tablet TT  of the Epic of Creation TT .
[1] Rituals (and legal transactions) often involved binding significant objects into the hem of the client's garments; [2] a piece of an individual's hem could be used in extispicy TT  to establish that person's credibility.
An ominous TT  calendar which specifies favourable TT  and unfavourable days for particular activities, as well as evil days TT  on which as little as possible should be carried out; see Inbu bel arhi TT  and menology TT .
Theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts.
A cultic prostitute; that is, a woman who served as a sex worker in the temple of the deity to whom she was dedicated.
In extispicy TT , a commonly occurring fortuitous marking TT  that describes a perforation anywhere on the exta TT ; invariably unfavourable.
Holy Cow
An incantation TT  to induce a successful childbirth, recalling how the moongod Sin's PGP  favourite cow had delivered a healthy calf after a difficult labour.
Literally a "donkey load". [1] An area measure equivalent to about 1.8 ha; [2] also a large capacity measure, equivalent to about 80-100 litres.
Honey, or perhaps rather date TT  syrup, was often used as a ritual TT  ingredient.
Many key astrological TT  observations were made on the western horizon at sunset or the eastern horizon at sunrise - for instance the first Appearance TT  of the new moon, the planets TT , and the constellations TT  at sunset, and their final Disappearance TT  at sunrise.
At the latitude of Nineveh PGP , the crescent moon appears almost horizontal, as though it were a pair of bull's horns.
An evil demon TT  who was considered to be a cause of illness.


A form of taxation through manual labour that every subject of the Assyrian king who owned land (or a stand-in) had to perform for a fixed number of days each year; this could be military service or other labour for the public welfare, such as construction work or the maintainance of the irrigation canals; see corvée TT .
A group of minor deities.
The divine powers and authority of the great sky-god Enlil PGP , also known in Assyrian as Illil PGP .
Inbu bel arhi
Literally, "New moon, lord of the month TT ", an ominous TT  calendar (menology TT ) describing the favourable TT  and unfavourable times for various royal acts.
Words spoken or chanted in ritual TT  context to communicate with a deity, demon TT , or genie TT .
A mixture of aromatic plant products, for instance from cedar TT  resin, juniper TT , kanaktu TT , etc., designed to be burnt in a censer TT  to release fragrant smoke during rituals TT ; see also fumigation TT .
In extispicy TT , the papillary process of the liver TT . View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
Intercalary month, intercalate
Because the year TT  of twelve lunar months TT  amounts to 354 days but the solar year is 365 1/4 days long, every three years or so the scholars TT  informed the king that an extra lunar month needed to be inserted (intercalated) after the sixth month, Elul TT , or the twelfth month, Adar TT , to return the two cycles to harmony.
The teeth or tusks of elephants or Egyptian hippopotami. Elaborately carved and inlaid ivory objects, from tiny boxes to thrones and bedsteads, were highly prized by the Assyrians. Large quantities of decorated ivory have been found by archaeologists in Assyrian palaces, much of which seems to have been plundered as booty from other cities.
The second month TT  of the Assyrian year TT ; roughly April-May.


An opaque semi-precious stone TT , similar to carnelian TT . It varies in colour from green to yellow to red to brown.
An evergreen tree or shrub with needle-like leaves and aromatic berries, often used as a medical ingredient or in incense TT .


An aromatic tree resin used in incense TT , exact identity unknown.
The tenth month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , equivalent to December-January in the modern calendar. A festival in this month; also called kinunu TT .
Perhaps mustard or licorice.
Literally, "Saying, utterance". A canonical TT  series TT  of omen TT , compiled on one tablet, taken from the things people say.
A modern Ottoman Arabic word for a wooden raft made buoyant by inflated goatskins TT , in common use on the Tigris PGP  river well into the 20th century AD.
Chanters/lamenters TT  used enormous hemispherical drums in their ritual TT  performances to appease divine anger. The drums, made of oxhide and bronze, were themselves ritually constructed.
In extispicy TT , the haruspex TT  counted the number of kidneys present in the exta TT  but did not examine them for abnormalities.
See Kanunu TT .
The ninth month TT  of the Assyrian year TT ; approximately November-December.
A Babylonian capacity measure, equivalent to about 300 litres.


A benevolent goddess or genie TT  in the form of a human-headed bull or lion, thought to bring good fortune and protect against evil.
Lamenter, lamentation priest
A scholar TT , Assyrian kalû who was responsible for performing propitiatory (soothing, or apologetic) rituals TT  with chanting and kettledrums TT  to calm the gods' mood after unfavourable omens TT  were portended, with the object of reversing the gods' decision; also translated Chanter TT . See Lamentation and ritual
Lapis lazuli
An intensely blue semi-precious stone TT  from Afghanistan that was highly valued in Assyria. Sparkling yellow flecks on the stone's surface were thought to resemble the twinkling stars in the night sky.
In extispicy TT , it was generally considered favourable TT  to find that the left side of the exta TT  was marked, damaged or abnormal; and unfavourable to find that the left side was normal or healthy.
Leprosy, leprous
A chronic infectious disease, characterised by skin lesions and the loss of nerve sensation. Although it is often difficult to equate ancient descriptions of illnesses with modern disease types, the characteristic symptoms of leprosy are so clearly described in Assyrian medical texts that its identification is almost certain.
Lexical list
Scribal training invariably included the copying and memorisation of long, standardised lists of cuneiform signs, words and phrases, usually with both Sumerian and Akkadian spellings. See also Ura = hubullu TT .
Libate, libation
Rituals TT  often included the sacrifice of a liquid offering to a god or supernatural being. The libation, usually wine but sometimes also beer or milk, was poured into the ground from a special libation bowl.
Lift of the Head
See Head Lift TT .
A sequence of prayers or statements which uses repetition to powerful effect.
The standard Assyrian capacity measure for beer and other liquids was approximately a litre (about two pints).
The haruspex's TT  main focus of an extispicy TT ; special attention was paid to the parts called the Station TT , Path TT , Crucible TT , Strength TT , Gate of the Palace TT , Well-being TT , gall bladder TT , Pouch TT , Path on the left of the gall bladder TT , Base of the Throne TT , Finger TT , Increment TT , and Yoke TT . See Sacrificial Divination. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
See Grasshopper TT .
In extispicy TT , certain exta TT  could be described as loosely attached to the rest of the internal organs; its opposite is Bound TT .
Loss of Flesh
A medical ritual TT , against wasting illnesses.
The second organ to be examined in an extispicy TT , after the liver TT ; special attention was paid to the parts known as the Middle Finger TT , Cap TT , Cavity TT , Back TT , and Head Lift TT . Most of these zones have not yet been identified.
Purification TT  throughritual TT  washing.
A strongly astringent liquid made of water and ashes or other alkaline plant matter, used especially for wahing and purification TT .


A storeroom or warehouse.
Literally "Great One". A designation for one of the Assyrian king's senior political or military advisors. See Chief Cupbearer TT , Commander-in-Chief TT , and sartinnu TT .
An iron ore with magnetic properties, used for medical purposes as it was considered to have healing powers; see stone TT .
The senior official who ran the domestic aspects of the royal palace, literally "head of household"; also translated Chamberlain TT .
An parasitic disease carried by mosquitoes, causing anaemia, flu-like symptoms, fever, coma, and even death. Its identification with ancient descriptions of illness is not certain.
Malformed birth
Unusual births, ranging from deformed foetuses of humans and animals, to unexpected colours of otherwise healthy newborns, were considered ominous TT . The canonical TT  series TT  of birth omens was called Šumma izbu TT . Also translated anomaly TT .
A series of rituals TT  and incantations TT  against witchcraft TT ; literally "Burning". The ritual was to be performed from sunset to sunrise at the client's house and involved the creation and destruction of a figurine TT  of the witch TT  who was causing the client's suffering; see also Šurpu TT .
The eighth month TT  of the Assyrian year; approximately October-November.
Marduk [...] the Word of the Gods
The first line of the sixth tablet TT  of the Epic of Creation TT  (Babylonian version), fully "When Marduk PGP  heard the word of the gods"; see also As Illil Heard the Word of the Gods TT  and Illil PGP .
An alkaline plant whose seeds were used in medical recipes, exact identity unknown.
In extispicy TT , an unidentified part of the lungs TT .
A building that houses a tomb or a memorial to the dead. Anachronistic when applied to ancient Assyria, as the term is derived from king Mausolos of Halikarnassos (377-353 BC) whose splendid tomb was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World in antiquity.
Either the representative of a city (or a city quarter, as in Assur PGP ) or a temple (like the temple of Nabu PGP  in Kalhu PGP ); chosen by the king from among the local population.
A fruit like a small brown apple, grown on trees cultivated extensively across the ancient Middle East. They are very hard and bitter when first picked, and need to be stored until their insides are pulpy to become edible. Alternatively, they can be cooked into jelly.
A month-by-month TT  ominous TT  calendar, such as Inbu bel arhi TT ; see also hemerology TT  and evil day TT .
A small object that enters the earth's atmosphere from outer space, which burns up as it falls to earth.
Middle Finger
In extispicy TT , the accessory lobe of the right lung TT , usually described as either Loose TT  or Bound TT .
Possibly saltpetre (potassium nitrate).
A weight measure of 60 shekels TT , roughly equivalent to 0.5 kg.
See stone TT .
Literally "falling"; an illness whose exact identity is unknown. See epilepsy TT .
The Assyrian word for the tail of a meteor TT .
A small carnivorous mammal that feeds on rodents and reptiles; kept as a pet in Assyria.
Assyrian months began with the first appearance TT  of the new moon at sunset and were thus either 29 days or 30 days long. 30 days was the ideal.See Complete the day TT .
Morning first/last
The first, brief sighting of any planet TT  on the western horizon TT  at sunrise before it sets again; or the last (Venus PGP  and Mercury PGP  only).
A ritual TT  for inaugurating a divine statue, whereby the statue becomes an incarnation of the deity.
Mul Apin
Literally, "Plough star", a canonical TT  series TT  of observations, calculation rules, and omens TT  about the celestial TT  bodies in two standard tablets TT .
Mural crown
A crown resembling a fortified or crenellated city wall, typically worn by the queens of Assyria.
A variety of stone TT , identity unknown, that was considered to have healing properties.
Wood from Magan (modern Oman), perhaps dalbergia (Indian rosewood) which is renowned for its hardness and suitability for making furniture.
A sticky, highly aromatic resinous sap from a tree which is native to Yemen and East Africa. It was a valued ingredient of incense TT .


Namullu = Plank Bed
The sixth tablet TT  of the lexical list TT  Ura = hubullu TT , which gives Sumerian and Akkadian words for various tools and objects made of wood.
A naturally occuring mixture of minerals often found in dried-out salt marshes such as those in southern Iraq. In ancient times it was used as a soap and antiseptic, as well as for making blue glass and glazes.
Perhaps a person who has been disposessed or is homeless; exact meaning unclear.
A type of priest particularly associated with Enlil's PGP  temple in Nippur PGP ; exact function unknown.
Nether world
Another expression for the Underworld TT .
New Year
See akitu TT .
A type of cloud, probably cumulus (fluffy white clouds with flat bases).
A canonical TT  series of omens TT  in two tablets TT , which infers portents from the physical appearance of the client.
Probably a variety of the spurge plant, considered to have healing properties.
The first month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , which began at the first appearance TT  of the new moon after the spring equinox TT . Its first ten days comprised the akitu TT  festival. Approximately March-April.
Exact meaning unclear; perhaps "stone block".
An Assyriological abbreviation for "unknown name".
When scholars TT  quoted omens that were not listed in the standardised (canonical TT ) series TT , they were always careful to describe them as "external" or "outside".
Nullifying the Curse
A ritual TT  designed to cure illness caused by curses; see also counterspells TT .


Someone who dedicated their life to the service of a god without becoming a priest; more prosaically, a temple dependent.
Oblong tablet
A cuneiform TT  tablet TT  on which the writing is parallel to the long side. The subjects of extispicy TT  queries TT  were written on such tablets, or on papyrus TT , and placed before the sungod Šamaš as part of the extispicy ritual TT .
In fact a musical instrument of uncertain identity, perhaps woodwind, perhaps percussion.
Black volcanic glass, created when lava cools without forming a crystalline structure, which can be given a very sharp cutting edge.
When a large celestial TT  object passes in front of a smaller one, completely hiding it from the observer's sight, for instance when Jupiter disappears behind the moon (but planets TT  may also occult stars); see also eclipse TT  and transit TT .
Omen, ominous
Assyrian omens take the form, "If X is observed, then Y will happen", where X is any event or phenomenon in the sky, on earth, or on a person's body. The outcome Y (which could be favourable TT  or unfavourable) was not inevitable but could be averted by sacrifices TT , penitential psalms TT , and/or rituals TT  performed by expert lamentation priests TT . Specialist diviners TT  such as astrologers TT , augurs TT , exorcists TT , and haruspices TT  were responsible for reading and interpreting ominous TT  signs by means of canonical TT  collections of omens.
A large, yellow-flowered herb that grows throughout the northern Middle East. Its dried sap was used in incense TT  and medical preparations.
When two celestial bodies are in opposite parts of the night sky as viewed from the earth; the opposite of conjunction TT . The Assyrian scholars TT  used this term especially of the sun and moon (at full moon) but also of planets TT .
Oracle, oracular
A message from the gods, usually sent to a prophet TT  through a dream or ecstatic TT  trance; but it can also mean the divine answer to an extispicy TT  query.
In extispicy TT , a part of the lungs TT  closely associated with the Cap TT ; also called the Outer Finger.


A covered chair or bed, carried on poles by servants, to transport wealthy or important people.
An early form of paper, made from the pith of the papyrus reed that grows in the Nile valley, and imported into Assyria from Egypt PGP . The subjects of extispicy TT  queries TT  were written on papyrus, or on oblong clay tablets TT , and placed before the sungod Šamaš PGP  as part of the extispicy ritual TT .
In Assyria the parasol was as much a status symbol as it was a sun-shade. In palace bas-reliefs showing outdoor scenes, the Assyrian king is fequently depicted standing or sitting under a parasol, held aloft by a personal servant.
It is not known exactly what this very rare word designates.
In extispicy TT , a crease on the liver TT  at right angles to the Station TT ; probably the part now called the abomasal impression (made by the impression of the adjacent stomach). The Path could be effaced TT , have a Bifurcation TT  or be duplicated, but only one was expected to be present under normal conditions. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
Path on the left of the gall bladder
In extispicy TT , a crease on the surface of the liver TT  to the left of the gall bladder TT  and the Pouch TT  and above the Base of the Throne TT ; expected to be present under normal conditions.View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
Penitential psalm
A lament performed by a lamentation priest TT  to soothe the angered gods after an unfavourable TT  omen TT . Sometimes left untranslated as eršahungu TT .
Another word for amulet TT .
In the Assyrian court, a scholar TT  with particular responsibility for the physical wellbeing of the royal family; Assyrian asû. There are 24 extant letters from at least four different physicians addressed to the Assyrian king. See Medicine and healing
Relating to the facial features or outward appearance of a person. There were several canonical TT  series TT  of omens TT  relating to the physical appearance of a scholar's client, including Alandimmu TT , Nigdimdimmu TT , and Kataduqqu TT .
A highly infectious epidemic illness; almost certainly not the Plague or Black Death of the Middle Ages, which was caused by the bacillus Yersinia pestis.
In modern terms, any of the large celestial TT  bodies that revolve around the sun; for Assyrian scholars, the five celestial bodies, visible to the naked eye, that moved against the background of the stars. The inner planets, Venus PGP  and Mercury PGP , appear in the sky only in the evening after sunset or in the morning before sunrise; the outer planets, Mars PGP , Jupiter PGP , and Saturn PGP , may be visible throughout the night but appear to retrograde TT  at certain moments of their journey across the sky.
Plant of life
A medicinal plant, exact identity unknown.
A variety of weasel with a long brown body, short legs, a white face, and a bushy tail.
A writing-board TT  with several waxed writing surfaces hinged together.
Another word for omen TT .
In extispicy TT , a crease on the surface of the liver TT  between the gall bladder TT  and the Path on the left of the gall bladder TT ; expected to be present under normal conditions. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
A soft, warm bandage, often containing medications, that is applied to the surface of a patient's body to relieve discomfort or suffering; see also salve TT .
A right to a share in a temple's income, whether from offerings or from its estate.
Prelate, prelacy
The senior priestly administrator of a temple; the office of prelate. Sometimes translated bishop TT .
Prophet, prophetess, prophecy
An individual who receives messages from the gods through oracles TT . They can be attached to a temple.
Preventative, designed to ward off unfavourable events foretold by omen TT  or oracles TT ; a synonym of apotropaic TT .
Boding well; lucky; said of a favourable TT  omen TT .
Vomiting and/or diarrhoea, usually medically induced.
Purification, purity
Purity TT  is not just about physical cleanliness, but has religious, mental, moral, and social implications too. For the Assyrians, ritual TT  purification was an important means of destroying or preventing evil and/or gaining the favour and support of the gods. Conversely, impurity or uncleanliness was considered contagious and could potentially jeopardise ritual actions. Thus haruspices TT  asked the gods to disregard accidental impurity during extispicies TT , exorcists TT  performed rituals to purify their client's houses as well as their bodies (see Excluding Evil from a Person's Home TT ), and the king underwent the Bit rimki TT  ritual to wash away the impurity portended by a solar eclipse TT . See Medicine and healing and Lamentation and ritual
Purification of the Field
A ritual TT  designed to avert the evil portended by an ominous TT  event, such as lightning, in the field concerned.


A sacred enclosure by the river TT  in which royal rituals TT  were performed; see also reed hut TT .
Queen mother
[1] The widow of the preceding king; [2] the ruling king's mother.
In extispicy TT , a written question posed to the sungod Šamaš PGP , to which he was expected to send a yes/no answer through the configuration of exta TT  in a sacrificed sheep or ram TT ; see also Report TT .


A type of demon TT , literally "bailiff", who might carry a sick person off to the Underworld TT .
rab mugi
A high military official; "strategist", as the Greek equivalent is strategos according to a Greek-Aramaic bilingual text from the third century BC.
An uncastrated male sheep, the preferred offering in royal extispicy TT  rituals TT .
A large black bird of the crow family; also the Raven PGP  star.
In omen TT , the colour red often signified abundance and plenty; but that abundance could be either unfavourable—for instance a plague—or favourable TT , depending on the context. In some healing rituals TT , it was specified that the performer(s) should wear red garments. See also black TT , white TT , and yellow TT .
Reed hut
Some royal rituals TT  were performed in a temporary structure built of reeds, within a sacred qirsu TT  enclosure on the bank of a river TT .
In extispicy TT , a written description of the configuration of the exta TT  in a sacrificed sheep or ram TT , with the question to which it pertains and the sungod's answer (favourable TT  or unfavourable); see also Query TT .
In extispicy TT , a scholar TT  accompanying the haruspex TT  who writes down the extispicy report TT .
In extispicy TT , a fortuitous marking TT  of unknown appearance, usually found on the liver TT  and generally considered favourable TT .
From the observer's point of view on Earth, the sun, moon, planets TT , and stars appear to move east-west across the sky. Every now and again, the three visible outer planets—Mars PGP , Jupiter PGP , Saturn PGP —appear to stop (see Station TT ) and then drift westwards for a while before stopping again and resuming the original direction of travel. We now know (but the Assyrian scholars TT  did not) that this retrograde motion occurs when the Earth "overtakes" the outer planets, as it orbits the sun rather faster than them. Retrograde motion was considered ominous TT  by the Assyrian scholars.
A drinking cup in the shape of an anmal's head, such that the beer or wine was poured in through a large opening at the back or top, and was drunk through a small hole in the animal's mouth.
In extispicy TT  it was considered favourable TT  to observe that the right-hand side of the exta TT  were normal or healthy and unfavourable if they were marked, damaged, or otherwise abnormal.
Rite, ritual
At its simplest, a ritual is a socially agreed set of symbolic actions and/or utterances, performed in a stylised way. Rituals may be performed at set times or as the need arises. In Assyria rituals could have any combination of religous, magical, political, social, or healing significance; they could be perfomed by scholars TT  or priests on behalf of a client (such as the king). The word "rite" is usually reserved to describe predominantly religious rituals. See Lamentation and ritual
Rituals of the 'Overseer's Wife'
Rituals TT  associated with the planet TT  Venus PGP ; translation very uncertain.
[1] In rituals TT , rivers were often used as a line of communication with the Underworld TT , in particular for returning evil supernatural forces to their place of origin. [2] Alternatively, the River Ordeal could be used to test a suspect's innocence or guilt: the gods saved the innocent from drowning but took the guilty down to the Underworld for divine judgement.


The ritual TT  offering of food or drink (see libation TT ) to the gods, often accompanied by prayers, which Assyrians understood the gods to consume though their sense of smell.
A wise person; in Assyria, one of the seven semi-divine scholars TT  from before the great flood TT , who brought wisdom and learning to humankind; see also Adapa PGP .
A healing ointment applied to the surface of a patient's body to soothe and relieve; see also poultice TT .
A very senior official (magnate TT ) in the king's personal retinue. The title is archaic (probably derived from the Hurrian language) and no longer reflects the duties of that official, who decided high-profile lawcases on the king's behalf and held high administrative functions.
A rod or staff presented to the king by the gods as a symbol of kingship and authority.
The Assyrian court employed a variety of learned, literate men to advise the king on his relationship with the gods. The scholars TT  included astrologers TT , augurs TT , exorcists TT , haruspices TT , lamenters TT , and scribes TT . Such roles, and the specialist education they entailed, were often handed down within families.
Celestial TT  objects may appear to twinkle, especially when close to the horizon TT , under certain atmospheric conditions. The Assyrian astrologers TT  considered such scintillation ominous.
Scorpion man
A protective genie TT  with a human upper body, a bird's lower half, and a scorpion's tail.
A professionally literate person, who may have been as lowly as a secretary or as eminent and powerful as the king's senior scholar TT . Scribes might write on papyrus TT  or writing-boards TT  as well as, or instead of, clay tablets TT . Astrologers TT  were called "Scribes of Enuma Anu Enlil TT ".
A capacity measure of about 10 litres TT , used especially for grain and beer.
Seal, sealing
Tablets TT , writing-boards TT , papyri TT , and other objects could be sealed with clay, either to prevent unauthorised access to them or to mark them with the symbol of the official or individual responsible for them. The sealing official either impressed the clay with a stamp-seal, or rolled out the inscribed or decorated surface of a cylinder-seal, and left it to dry before releasing the object.
In extispicy TT , one or more parts of the liver TT  closely associated with the Path TT . View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
Sedan chair
A chair that is carried on poles by servants, front and back, often used in Assyrian times for public processions of royalty and gods.
A collection of scholarly works into a canonical TT  sequence of chapter-like tablets TT . See especially Enuma Anu Enlil TT .
A stone TT  with the appearance of snakeskin and, in Assyrian thought, the ability to protect from snake-bites.
Sesame was a staple crop in Assyria, where its nutritious seeds were crushed for cooking oil. The modern word comes from the Assyrian šama(n)šammu, literally "plant oil".
Shaved; shaving
A shaven head was a symbol of ritual TT  purity TT ; barbers TT  shaved the heads and beards of priests, as well as the clients of purification TT  rituals.
The eleventh month TT  of the Assyrian year TT ; approximately January-February.
The leader of a tribe; in Assyrian, the term is reserved for the Chaldaean PGP  rulers of southern Mesopotamia.
A weight equal to a sixtieth of a mina TT , approximately 8.3 grammes.
Signet ring
A finger ring bearing a person's seal TT ; literally, a ring for signing with.
The third month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , approximately June-July.
A foundation platform for a throne, statue, or altar.
Either the shortest day of the year (around 21 December in the modern calendar) or the longest (around 21 June); see also equinox TT .
Sorcery, sorceror, sorceress
See witch, witchcraft TT .
A celestial length measure equal to half a cubit TT  or 15 fingers TT ; approximately 1o 15' in modern angular measure.
A small rod, weighted at one end, which is used to spin fibres into thread by dropping and twisting it; a common symbol of femininity.
Another translation of Fissure TT .
A trusted royal servant who carried the king's sceptre TT  for him.
[1] In astrology TT , the position in the night sky at which one of the outer planets TT  appears to change direction to or from retrograde TT  motion. [2] In extispicy TT , a crease on the surface of the liver TT  now known as the reticular impression; expected to be present under normal conditions. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
Stele, stelae
A standing stone monument of substantial size, carved with inscriptions and/or images.
Stipulated term
In extispicy TT , the haruspex TT  could set an expiry date on the validity of an omen TT , during which it must come to pass - otherwise the threat of misfortune could hang over the client for the rest of his life. In astrology TT , omens were considered to expire too. The stipulated term was usually 30 days for extispicy and 100 days for astrology.
Many semi-precious stones, gems, and minerals were considered to have healing properties or other special powers. Scholars copied and compiled listed of special types of stone for use in cultic and healing rituals. See also ašgiku TT , beryl TT , eye-stone TT , gusigu TT , muṣu TT , serpentine TT , and zaginduru TT .
In extispicy TT , a crease on the surface of the liver TT  near the Gate of the Palace TT  and close to the Crucible TT ; expected to be present under normal conditions. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
A pointed writing implement, the size and shape of a pen, used to impress cuneiform TT  signs on the surface of a tablet TT  or a writing-board TT .
A broad-leaved shrub or tree that produces benzoin, a resin commonly used in incense TT ; its identity here is uncertain.
Substitute king
A noble or commoner, often a criminal, who was ritually TT  installed as king to rule for the duration of an unfavourable solar eclipse TT . He was put to death at the end of the stipulated term TT , usually of 100 days, and the real king, who had meanwhile taken on the identity of a farmer TT , was returned to the throne.
A personal ornament or cultic symbol shaped like the sun, usually gold in colour.
Supporter of Evil
The name of an Underworld TT  demon TT .
Synodic revolution
In modern terms, the time taken for a planet to make a full orbit of the sun. For Assyrian scholars, the time taken for a planet to reappear in the same position in the night sky - for instance between first Appearances TT .


An ornamental ring made of stone TT .
The third month of the Elamite PGP  year TT .
Šita = Weapon
The seventh tablet TT  of the lexical list TT  Ura = hubullu TT , which gives Sumerian and Akkadian names for weapons, tools, and measures.
Šumma alu
Literally, "If a city (is set on a height)", the canonical TT  series TT  of terrestrial TT  omen TT , in at least 120 tablets TT , named after the first line of the first omen in the collection.
Šumma izbu
Literally, 'If an anomaly TT ", the canonical TT  series TT  of omens TT  drawn from unusual,malformed TT , and otherwise portentous births. It consisted of 24 standard tablets TT  and was named after the first line of the first omen in the collection.
A series of rituals TT  and incantations TT  against witchcraft TT ; literally "Combustion". The ritual was to be performed from sunset to sunrise at the client's house and involved the creation and destruction of a figurine TT  of the witch TT  who was causing the client's suffering; see also Maqlu TT .
A rare verb, "to be belittled"; here perhaps part of a quote from a physiognomic TT  omen TT .

A sort of poultice TT ; exact meaning unknown.


[1] Most simply, a document made of clay, on which cuneiform TT  writing was impressed with a stylus TT ; [2] also a standardised chapter in a canonical TT  literary work.
A weight measure of 60 minas TT , equivalent to about 30 kg.
A small shrubby tree which is very tolerant of salt soils and dry conditions. With the date palm TT  it was one of the most important native trees of Mesopotamia, and often used in rituals TT .
A sheep bred and slaughtered for extispicy TT  rituals TT .
The fourth month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , named after the god Tammuz PGP ; approximately June-July.
A wad of absorbent material inserted into a wound or orifice to absorb blood or other bodily discharge.
The tenth month TT  of the Babylonian year; aproximately December-January. In Assyrian the month is called Kanunu TT .
See Clergyman TT .
See Stipulated term TT .
On the earth; in omens TT , used to describe events and portents in the human world as opposed to celestial TT  omens. See also Šumma alu TT .
In extispicy TT , various parts of the exta TT  may be described as thick; this was generally considered favourable TT .
Third Man
A member of a chariot team, ogether with "Master of the chariot" and the driver (literally "Holder of the reigns"). His role was primarily defensive; he protected the "Master of the chariot", who fought with either bow and arrow or spears, with a shield.
The seventh month TT  of the Assyrian year TT , approximately September-October.
A bitumen TT -soaked wooden rod or bundle of reeds, carried as a source of light; in Assyrian rituals TT  it was often used with a censer TT .
When a small celestial TT  object passes in front of a larger one, for instance when Venus PGP  or Mercury PGP  appears to cross the surface of the sun.
In extispicy TT , an unidentified part of the lung TT .


Not having been ritually TT  purified TT .
The realm of the dead, ruled by the deities Nergal PGP  and Ereškigal PGP  and policed by demons TT .
Another name for the ritual Nullifying the Curse TT .
See favourable TT .
Said of male animals, such as bulls or rams TT , which have not had their testicles removed.
A type of flour TT , sometimes made from emmer TT  wheat, used in offerings and rituals TT .
Ura = hubullu
A lexical list TT  in twenty-four tablets TT , which lists Sumerian and Akkadian names for a large variety of objects, grouped according to their material of manufacture, and also different sorts of place names.
The right to use property that is owned by someone else, and to generate income from it. For instance, the Assyrian king often granted courtiers the usufruct of agricultural land that remained royal property but which the courtier could farm in order to generate an income.


Verily you are Evil
An exorcistic TT  incantation TT  taken from the ritual TT  series TT  "Evil Demons TT ".
Native or local language or dialect; in this case Assyrian.
In extispicy TT , the vertebrae (bones of the spine) were examined after the colon TT .
A very senior official (magnate TT ) in the king's personal retinue, who held high administrative functions within the empire and commanded a border province of key strategic importance. The primary office holder is sometimes called the "grand vizier", in order to distinguish him from his deputy, the "second vizier".
Votaress, votary
A woman or man dedicated (often by a patron or senior family member) to a deity, to work and/or worship for them in perpetuity.


A seasonal river TT  that flows only during times of high rainfall but for much of the year is a dry bed.
Assyrian scholars TT  divided the night into three equal parts, however long the night itself. Particularly important were the evening watch (around sunset) and the morning watch (around sunrise) as these were the times when Appearances TT  and Disappearances TT  could be observed on the horizon TT .
The skins of goats and other animals could be cleaned, cured and sewn up to make water containers. Their flexibility and lightnss made them much more suitable for travel than pottery vessels.
In extispicy TT , a common fortuitous marking TT  in the shape of an arrowhead, which may appear anywhere on the exta TT  and was generally considered unfavourable TT .
In extispicy TT , a crease on the surface of the liver TT  between the Gate of the Palace TT  and the cystic duct TT , very close to the gall bladder TT ; expected to be present under normal conditions. View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
The ominous TT  meaning of the colour white depended on the context in which it was observed, but white spots on the exta TT  of a sacrificed ram TT  were usually considered unfavourable TT . White clothes had to be worn during the performance of certain rituals TT .
In extispicy TT , the wind-pipe is noted only when a part of the lungs TT , or a fortuitous marking TT  on them, affects it.
Wiping of the Mouth
A medical procedure in the treatment of illnesses of the mouth, carried out with plant and mineral ingredients.
Witch, witchcraft
Men and women were thought to be able to conjure demons TT  to bring illness and misfortune on their enemies through casting spells on them. Anti-witchcraft rituals (or counterspells TT ) such as Šurpu TT  and Maqlu TT  were used to ward off witches and to drive away their evil influence.
In ancient and pre-modern time, the grey wolf was native across much of the Old World, including the northern Middle East. As a large predator of livestock it was widely feared and hated.
Scribes TT  often wrote on wooden boards which were covered in a thin layer of wax. The wax could be warmed to smooth the surface and erase the writing on it. Writing-boards had the advantage of being more portable than tablets TT  and could be hinged together to form polyptychs TT . Fortunately for modern scholarship, in Assyrian times the perishable writing-board never completely replaced the relatively indestructible tablet TT —or we would have almost no surviving written evidence to work with.


In Assyria, the cultic year comprised 354 days of 12 lunar months TT . It was thus necessary to intercalate TT  an extra lunar month every three years or so to keep the lunar year in step with the solar year of 365 1/4 days.
The ominous TT  significance of the colour yellow depended on its context, but in extispicy TT  yellow spots on the exta were considered unfavourable TT . See also red TT , white TT , and black TT .
In extispicy TT , the omasal impression of the liver TT . View diagram of ominous zones of the liver [~/images/essentials/liver.gif]
You, River, Creator of Everything
An incantation TT  used in anti-witchcraft TT  rituals TT , addressed to the river TT  which removed evil to the Underworld TT .


A type of lapis lazuli, a semi-precious blue or green stone TT  that the Assyrians imported from Afghanistan. As well as being very beautiful, it was valued for its healing properties.
The uppermost point of the night sky, from the observer's point of view.
A stepped tower in or near a temple precinct and itself a place of worship as well as a major landmark and symbol of a city's prestige.
Literally "throat-cutting", a magical ritual TT .

Content last modified: 17 Jan 2017.

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