On the Present Edition

With well over 200 Nimrud Letters excavated in 1952, we have a remarkably representative body of politically important letters, extant from all points of the compass. This fact may suggest an ancient and possibly highly selective "preservation policy" for these tablets. Perhaps the palace scribe, or another influential official who was responsible for old letters in the palace, chose with his assistants a suitable selection of letters - from the reign of Tiglath-pileser III and the early and mid-reign of Sargon II - to be kept in Calah; many others may have been transported to Nineveh via Dur-Šarruken whereas others could have been recycled on purpose.[[249]] If such a practice ever existed, it must have been carried out during the reign of Sennacherib at the latest; its motivation may not necessarily have been political but was perhaps also based on practical factors. Still, it is worth pointing out that it was originally within someone' s power to have these letters kept instead of allowing them to be discarded, even if they were later used as filling material.[[250]] In the first instance, this choice of preserving the letters may be ascribed to an official of the same generation that produced them. It is clear, however, that these letters have successfully stood the test of time: first, until the end of the Assyrian empire which collapsed a hundred years or so after the Nimrud Letters were written (roughly the time span of four to six successive generations of ambitious administrators), before falling into an oblivion lasting more than 2,500 years, until their discovery in 1952.

In Assyriology, it is not common for another volume to be published only ten years after the editio princeps[[251]] particularly if the second book is based solely on the material treated in the first one. Therefore, the decision to publish this volume ought to be defended somehow and this section is an excellent place for it.

Saggs' Copies and Collations

In his The Nimrud Letters, 1952, H. W. F. Saggs prepared cuneiform hand copies which were not only aesthetically beautiful but also for the most part very accurate. His skills as epigraphist are to be admired as he drew sign forms which follow closely the actual sign forms on the tablets. This is important, especially in the present situation in which the corpus is split between two collections and the other half of the tablets lie beyond collation, as it makes it possible, to a certain extent, to compare individual hands with one another. I have been able to confirm the accuracy of his copies by collating c. half of the letters, i.e., the half of the corpus that nowadays belongs to the collections of the British Museum.[[252]]

It should probably be emphasized that in the case of the letters that Saggs had previously published in the journal ,Iraq, he did not just reprint them in CTN 5 but, in many details, provided clearly advanced interpretations of these letters, based on his improved copies of the letters.[[253]] This important point has been missed by some of our colleagues who have been quoting these letters. A slightly unfortunate fact of CTN 5 is that Saggs did not speak about his improvements or about the different phases involved in the making of his volume. For example, he mentioned his progress only sporadically in the case of individual letters; note e.g., the helpful use of photographs.[[254]] Note also his mention of an unpublished, inadequate copy of a lost tablet.[[255]] In any case, not only are his copies in CTN 5 good but his descriptions of tablets are also very vivid and useful; they are more generous than those usually given in the field. All in all his merits are undeniable and we are all in his debt.

Saggs' edition, however, did not fulfil all expectations (cf. also the section "Transliterations and Translations" below). Despite Saggs' excellent copies, the collations at the British Museum have produced a lot of improvements. One reason may be that some of the tablets have been cleaned (better?) since CTN 5 was published, or at least since Saggs himself checked them for the last time.[[256]] There are only a few minor points of critique concerning Saggs' hand copies: one is that he often standardized , like so many others, some of the features of tablets that do not have to do with the signs or their forms, but with the form and proportion of tablets, and sometimes this practice gives misleading information about the tablets. In Saggs' copies, a specific example of this is any instance where the reverse of a tablet is not nearly fully written , yet the last line of the reverse is often misleadingly drawn to appear close to the top.[[257]] Another point of critique is that, at times, he may have considered broken passages near the edges to be of lesser importance and mostly did not try to restore them, even if these contained rather common phrases in Neo-Assyrian.

It may be repeated that it has not been possible to collate all the Nimrud Letters but only those kept in the British Museum. The following are the only former BSAI tablets, nowadays part of the collections of the British Museum, which I have not been able to see in London, as they are apparently in poor condition and, therefore, in "semi-permanent" conservation: nos. 83,258 198,[[259]] and ND 2353.[[260]] Unfortunately the other half of the corpus, kept in the Iraq museum in Baghdad, remains uncollated. Collating or studying them or any high-quality photographs of these letters would certainly appear to be instructive and helpful. In any case, for the present edition, it is fortunate that on the whole the Nimrud Letters in Baghdad represent the better preserved part of the lot. In practice, this means that the number of improved readings by collations might remain rather limited compared with the tablets in London. Nevertheless, this is not certain as long as these tablets have not been collated properly.

As such, perhaps a fruitless but somewhat interesting topic is the possible damage to the tablets incurred during the excavations. The fact that there is only a low number of small fragments and flakes among the Nimrud Letters may suggest that some of the tablets accidentally suffered a rather rough treatment in 1952 when they were found. Saggs himself hints at this in his edition. [[261]] (The difference is conspicuous in comparison with the letters unearthed in Nineveh, as these abound with flakes and other small pieces having a K-number.[[262]]) Be that as it may, we should not forget that he may have been busy putting small pieces together as many tablets result from being rejoined from two or several pieces.[[263]] In addition, the condition of the letters is of course related to and dependent on the find context.

Texts Included and Excluded

Altogether 244/3 separate documents or fragments thereof were published or discussed by Saggs in CTN 5. These included 109 previously unpublished Neo-Assyrian and 23 Neo-Babylonian[[264]] letters or letter fragments plus 105 letters or letter fragments which Saggs had previously edited in the journal ,Iraq during 1955-1974. These contained 99, or actually 98 (cf. SAA 15 83 in the list of recent joins, below), Neo-Assyrian and 6 Neo-Babylonian[[265]] letters. However, 244 is not the correct number of letters in the corpus. The number can be slightly reduced and the number of letters published in this volume is 229. That the number of letters is lower than 244 is determined by a number of joins and documents other than letters which are not included in the present volume.

Joins. Since the publication of CTN 5, it has been possible to join 4 pieces to one another or at least to confirm that this should indeed be done. For example, the small fragment ND 2747 in the British Museum certainly joins a bigger piece ND 2481 in Baghdad that forms the main part of a report on work allotments concerning the making of the bricks (no. 52). It is somewhat surprising that ND 2648 + ND 2658 (no. 39), about grain taxes by Šarru-emu- ranni, deputy governor of Isana, were not rejoined earlier (even though the ND numbers of the two pieces are close to one another) as they form a fine, physical join. Note, however, that no. 39 may not be sent from the west but from the central Assyria as the location of the province of Isana is disputed.[[266]] Further, because of Sep-Assur, who was also governor of Dur-Sarruken, without more explicit evidence a date in Sargon's reign may be as plausible as that of Tiglath-pileser' s. Most of an important NB letter, no. 14 7, reporting on the unrest in Dilbat probably during the Mukin-zeri rebellion, can now be made up from two separate pieces; however, both pieces are in Baghdad. No. 206 (ND 2724 + ND 2756) adds a previously unknown sender to the corpus, Qizalayu or Q/Kinzalayu, whose letter is so badly broken that Saggs did not edit the lower part (ND 2756) of this tablet in his volume. Also, already earlier on, Simo Parpola published two separate pieces as SAA 15 83 (= ND 2359 ( +) ND 2777); these pieces do not physically join but only about one line, that has been broken away, separates them from one another.

Non-letters and previously unpublished letters. CTN 5 also included 8 documents (or fragments) that are not letters:

Except for ND 2479, all the documents listed above were written in Neo-Assyrian but this group of texts is not published here since they are not letters. However, this volume includes previously unpublished letters since nos. 7, 32, 58, 64 (copy: CTN 5 pl. 37), 204 that were either mentioned or briefly discussed by Saggs in CTN 5[[267]] are now edited for the first time. Therefore, the total number of Nimrud Letters in this volume is 229 (20 1 Neo-Assyrian and 28 Neo-Babylonian letters), although it remains uncertain whether no. 188 really is a letter and not an administrative document. In addition, ND 2087 and ND 2353 , mentioned by Saggs, may be letters but remain unpublished since they are either lost (ND 2087) or too damaged to be published (obviously ND 2353 ).

The Order of the Texts

The letters are arranged according to the same principles as in the previous State Archives of Assyria volumes. All identifiable letters by the same sender have been grouped together into dossiers, and the dossiers have been ordered principally according to geographical criteria (the provenances of the letters), with letters from central Assyria (especially royal letters) coming first, followed by those from the west, north, east and south; unassigned letters appear last. In general, there is no attempt at a chronological order within dossiers, but it is of course crucial to assign a letter either to the reign of Tiglath-pileser III or Sargon II wherever possible. However, as the majority of datable letters belong to the reign of Tiglath-pileser III, we have also placed a significant number of undatable letters within his reign, although, as a rule, letters that are not included in TABLE II (see above) might also originate from Sargon' s reign (or even from Shalmaneser's much shorter intervening reign). The only exception to chronological details is constituted by the letters of some of the main dossiers in which the chronological order of events may sometimes be detected. Another guiding principle worth mentioning is that, within a dossier, intact letters often precede fragmentary ones.

Transliterations and Translations

The transliterations that Saggs provided in CTN 5 include numerous errors and, correspondingly, problems are rife in his translations, also from the grammatical point of view; it is not uncommon for him to offer ungrammatical solutions for more difficult passages. Many of these problematic passages have been disentangled and every effort has been taken to make both transliterations and translations as accurate as possible. In addition, an extraordinary decision of CTN 5 was to publish the letters without sequential numbers, a detail which has made referring to the volume a cumbersome task.

The transliterations, addressed to the specialist, render the text of the originals in Roman characters according to standard Assyriological conventions in the customary SAA style. Results of collation are indicated with exclamation or question marks. Single exclamation marks indicate corrections to published copies, double exclamation marks, scribal errors. Question marks indicate uncertain or questionable readings. Broken portions of the text and all restorations are enclosed within square brackets. Parentheses enclose items omitted by ancient scribes. Numbers that appear at the edge of a break where part of the number might be missing are followed by " [+X" or preceded by "X+]," and it must be borne in mind that "X" may be zero. Unlike in CTN 5, the line counts on the obverse and the reverse are always separately numbered. Uncertain or conjectural translations are indicated by italics. Interpretative additions to the translation are enclosed within parentheses. All restorations are enclosed within square brackets. Untranslatable passages are indicated by dots.

Month names are rendered by their Hebrew equivalents, followed by a Roman numeral (in parentheses) indicating the place of the month within the lunar year. Personal, divine and geographical names are rendered by English or Biblical equivalents if a well-established equivalent exists (e.g., Mero-dach-baladan, Tiglath-pileser, Calah); otherwise, they are given in transcription with length marks deleted except for circumflex in the final position (e.g., Nabû, Ašipâ, etc.). The normalisation of West-Semitic names follows PNA. The rendering of professions is a compromise between the use of accurate but impractical Assyrian terms and inaccurate but practical modern or classical equivalents.

Critical Apparatus

The critical apparatus has been considerably expanded over what has been the norm in the previous letter volumes of the series because of the importance of these letters and their recent edition by Saggs. Since, at the time of publication of this volume, CTN 5 (200 1) is not more than eleven years old, extra effort has been put into the critical apparatus of this volume in order to substantiate arguments and readings that deviate from Saggs' edition. Nevertheless, the mistakes that appeared in CTN 5 are not systematically listed, although occasionally these may be pointed out. It should be noted that the purpose of the critical apparatus is not to list or collect errors that appeared in CTN 5; in practice, it would appear pointless and counterproductive, resulting in a non-user friendly edition.

The primary purpose of the critical apparatus is to support the readings and translations established in the edition, and as in the previous volumes, it contains references to collations of questionable passages, scribal mistakes corrected in the transliteration, alternative interpretations of broken and difficult passages, and parallels available for restoring broken passages. Collations given in copy at the end of the volume are referred to briefly as "see coil."

The critical apparatus does contain some additional information relevant to the interpretation of the texts, but should not be considered a commentary and this volume is not a comprehensive study of these letters. For the convenience of the reader, references to studies of individual letters and related letters in the Nimrud Letter corpus are given, with no claim to completeness. Comments are mainly devoted to problems in the text, e.g., to the discussion of difficult passages, and the historical and technical information contained in the texts is generally kept to a minimum.

Glossary and Indices

The electronically generated glossary and indices, prepared by Parpola and checked by the editor, follow the pattern of the previous volumes. Note that in contrast to the basic dictionaries, for technical reasons verbal adjectives are mostly listed under the corresponding verbs, with appropriate cross-references.

The references to professions attached to the index of personal names have been provided by a computer programme written by Parpola. It is hoped that these will be helpful in the prosopographical analysis of the texts, but it should be noted that the programme omits certain deficiently written professions and the references are accordingly not absolutely complete.

250 Now see also http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ sargon/essentials/archives/thenimrudletters/.

251 Although CTN 5 was not the editio princeps for 105 letters which were already published in the journal Iraq between 1955 and 1974.

252 Among the originally published 105 NLs, the following 4 1 are in the British Museum: NL 10, 15, 17,2 1-22, 24, 36, 40, 43,48-52, 54-57,61 (+) 63, 64-84.

253 For example, he provided new copies of nos. 15 (NL 24) and I 14 (NL 81), but, more importantly, in CTN 5 he improved almost every single copy of a previously published letter with an NL number.

254 For photographs mentioned in CTN 5, see p. 16 for no. I 33, p. 57 for no. 127, p. 95 for no. I 93 and p. 221 for SAA l 110 (NO 2765). I was able to locate Nimrud photographs in England but so far all attempts to see them have been unsuccessful. However, it is possible that these photographs will become available in the not too distant future. If this should happen, it would be desirable to update the editions of the letters published in this volume (wherever necessary) online (e.g. at http://oracc.org/saao/corpus).

255 NO 2087, briefly discussed in CTN 5 p. 237. The location of the inadequate copy of this tablet is not known to me.

256 Even if the improvements are often minor, no. 24 seems to be an example of a tab let that has been cleaned since the publication of CTN 5.

257 E.g., see ND 2665, pl. 25 (no. 207); NO 2686, pl. 30 (no. 23); NO 2715, pl. 31 (no. 22); ND 2725, pl. 6 (no. 18); NO 2759, pl. 38 (SAA 1 1), etc., in CTN 5.

258 See CTN 5 pl. 8, p. 47.

259 See CTN 5 pl. 26, p. 237.

260 Neither published in CTN 5 nor he re (no copy available); for the description of the tablet, see CTN 5 p. 239

261 CTN 5, pp. 43, 138, 149.

262 See however the critical apparatus on no. 102 r.4-9 and note that NO 2747 joins to NO 2481 (no. 52).

263 See CTN 5 p. 21 (ND 2632), p. 28 (ND 2663), p. 29 (ND 2630), p. 32 (ND 241 8). p. 70 (ND 2358), p. 76 (NO 2407), p. 84 (ND 2456), p. 89 (NO 2641), p. 92 (NO 2667), p. 93 (NO 2725), p. 101 (NO 2070), p. 106 (NO 2380+). p. 109 (NO 2427), p. 141 (NO 2701), p. 148 (NO 2798). p. 157 (NO 2715), p. 167 (NO 2737), p. 191 (NO 2759) , p. 20 I (NO 2719), p. 211 (NO 2734+), p. 212 (NO 2769). p. 248 (NO 2387), p. 253 (NO 2404), p. 261 (NO 2428), p. 264 (NO 2436), p. 265 (NO 2472), p. 279 (NO 2627). p. 292 (ND 2683), p. 296 (ND 2698+), p. 309 (ND 2756).

264 Nos. 4, 99, 117, 122, 124, 131 , 135, 137-143. 145-150, 201,203. This adds up to only 221etters, but note the recent join no. 147, reducing the number by one.

265 Nos. 130 (NL 7), 133 (NL 6) 134 (NL 83), 136 (NL 82, 144 (NL 38), 202 (NL 84).

266 Cf. the province's location in Radner, RIA II (2006) 44,46 versus Helsinki Atlas, Map 2 D4.

267 See CTN 5 p. 320f

Mikko Luukko

Mikko Luukko, 'On the Present Edition', 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/onthepresentedition/]

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