Different Types of Introductory Formulae

Within the Nimrud Letter corpus it is possible to distinguish different introductory formulae, the most common being ana šarri bēlīya urdaka PN Lū šulmu ana šarri bēlīya "To the king my lord: your servant PN. Good health to the king my lord! " This is also the most common formula in SAA 1, SAA 5 and SAA 15, and thus the standard Neo-Assyrian opening during the reigns of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II. The second most frequent formula, rare in comparison to the above , is the same but without a greeting: ana šarri bēlīya urdaka PN "To the king my lord , your servant PN ." This formula is also present in SAA 1, SAA 5 and SAA 15, but in notably fewer examples.

Among the letters from Nimrud there are also other formulae, less frequently used than the preceding pair, and it is for this reason that they throw an interesting light on certain authors or their places of origin. For example, the formula ana dinān šarri bēlīya lullik "I would gladly die for the king, my lord! " [[34]] is typical of letters from Babylonia. This formula, which mainly appears in letters written in Babylonian (also in SAA 17 letters), may , or more likely may not, refer to the ghastly ritual of the "substitute king" (šar puhi). [[35]]

If the mention of dinan šarri "a substitute of the king" demonstrates the religious sentiment typical of Babylonia, the concern for security on the frontier areas is manifested in the opening formula reporting on the condition of the forts in these regions. For instance, in the typical formula of letters from the north [[36]] the phrase šulmu ana bīrāti (ša šarri bēlīya) "The forts (of the king, my lord,) are well" is well attested.[[37]] This is most notable in SAA 5 (letters from the north), but in some letters in SAA 15 (letters from Babylonia and the eastern provinces) this phrase also appears in the introductory formula. 38 The same phrase is also part and parcel of the introductory formula of the Assyrian crown prince (see below).

The Nimrud Letter corpus has 19[[39]] letters with introductory formulae containing invocations to specific deities, above all to the supreme national gods of Babylonia (and Assyria): Nabû and Marduk.[[40]] The blessing by Nabû and Marduk is not characteristic of any particular region as it appears in letters from Babylonia (this volume[[41]] and SAA 17), from Assyria and the west (SAA 1) and from the north (SAA 5). The formula, still sparingly used in the eighth century BC, became standard in the letters of the seventh century BC.[[42]] In this corpus, geographically more helpful in detecting the origin of the sender are the rare and more "marked" examples in which gods other than Nabû and Marduk are invoked in the blessing of the opening of a letter; letters with these blessings were sent by Aššur-nirka-da''in, governor of Assur, who blessed the king by Aššur and Mullissu (no. 164), Dummuqu, certainly from Cutha, who turned to Nergal and Las (no. 138), and governor of Nippur (no. 139), whose broken blessing can be restored to include Enlil, Ninurta and Nusku. In geographical terms, a less specific blessing appears in no. 68, a letter from Assyria or from a recently annexed area sent by Šamaš-ila'i who invokes Aššur and Šamaš, the most powerful gods of Assyria. The location of the sender, possibly Halzi-atbar, has to be inferred from other details of the letter and beyond it

The Nimrud Letters also contain another characteristic introductory formula; this formula identifies the sender/author as the crown prince of Assyria and was used by both Ululayu (Shalmaneser V) and Sennacherib:[[43]] "To the king , my lord: your servant PN. Good health to the king, my lord. It is well with the land of Assyria, it is well with the temples. It is well with all the forts of the king my lord. Let the heart of the king my lord be glad."[[44]] Nevertheless, in the seventh century BC, crown prince Assurbanipal used a different formula when addressing his father Esarhaddon.[[45]] This change of introductory formula may reflect other changes concerning the role of the crown prince at the time.

All the royal letters of the corpus written in Neo-Assyrian begin with abat sarri ana ... "The king' s word to ... "[[46]] No. 4 , the only royal letter in Neo-Babylonian within this corpus and presumably from Tiglath-pileser III to Amurru-šumu-iškun, uses the traditional Babylonian letter opening which is also attested in other royal letters written in Babylonian in the late eighth century BC;[[47]] it says ana PN qibīma umma šarrumma "Say to PN: thus says the king ," but it is without the greeting šulmu yāši libbaka lū ṭābka " I am well, you can be glad." On the other hand, the letter contains an encouragement almost immediately after the address, lā tapallahma nakutti lā taraššu "But fear not and don't be afraid of him (=Mišaru-naṣir)" no. 4:8f. Among the Neo-Babylonian letters of the corpus, nos. 124 and 147 may have the same opening, IM/ṭuppi PN ana PN2/profession "A tablet of PN to ... ,"and this is also the case with private letter no . 144; the same formula may be restored in no . 202 whereas in no. 143 the Assyrian introductory formula is used.

34 Literally, " I would go as substitute (in death) for the king, my lord!". See nos. 99, 122, 13 1, 134-142 and 201.

35 Historically, the same clause is already attested in Old Babylonian Mari, then widely used in MB, and its variant is common in MA letters; for attestations and discussion, see e.g., CAD D 148f (where the lexical section provides the evidence that the meaning of dinānu is more or less equal with pūhu) and Cancik-Kirschbaum, BATSH 4 (1996) 56, 58f.

36 See B. J. Parker,Iraq 59 (1997) 79.

37 With some variation in nos. 48 (Aššur-iIa'i, probably from the west); 61 and 63 (Duri-Aššur); 69; 79 (Nabû-šumu-iškun); 94 (Nergal-ašared).

38 SAA 15, nos. 155-156, 158 , 16 1- 162, 164, 166, 174 , 239; except for the last one all appear in the letters from Il-yada'.

39 Nos. 65, 98, 103-107, 113, 164,225 and SAA 1 110 (ND 2765; exceptionally after an inserted clause about the festival celebrated) as well as 99, 134-139 and 202 in NB.

40 In no. 164, the governor of Assur, Aššur-nirka-da"in , invokes Aššur and Mullissu. These deities are also mentioned in the greeting formulae of Ṭab-ṣill-Ešarra , likewise governor of Assur, SAA 175-80, 82-85 , 87-94, 96-97, 102- 104, 106-107 and 109; cf. Luukko Variation p. 240 n. 10. V.

41 Nos. 65 (Nabû-eṭiranni); 98 (Nabû-nammir together with Šamaš-bunaya); 103-105, 107 (all by Nabû-nammir); 106 (Nabû-nammir[?]); 113 (Ašipâ); SAA 1 110 (ND 2765, Marduk-remanni); in NB: 99 (presumably Nabû-nammir, Šamaš-bunaya and the Babylonians); 134 (Nabû-damiq); 135-137 (all by Nabû-balassu-iqbi); 202 (NN to his "brother").

42 E.g., in the letters of SAA 16.

43 No. 158 and SAA I 32 (ND 2608) and SAA I 29-3 1, 33-40 and SAA 5 281.

44 NOS. 8- 11.

45 Assurbanipal used the standard formula but blessed his father either by Aššur, Bel and Nabû (SAA 16 14-15 and 17-18) or by Nabû and Marduk (SAA 16 19-20).

46 This cannot of course be confirmed in the case of royal letters whose opening is broken away.

47 See SAA 17 2-3 and fragmentary SAA 17 6. Note, e.g., that Esarhaddon used the opening amat šarri ana when addressing Babylonians in the seventh century (SAA 18 1-2).

Mikko Luukko

Mikko Luukko, 'Different Types of Introductory Formulae', The Correspondence of Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II from Calah/Nimrud, SAA 19. Original publication: Winona Laka, IN, Eisenbrauns, 2012; online contents: SAAo/SAA19 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2021 [http://oracc.org/saao/saa19/differenttypesofintroductoryformulae/]

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