CCP 4.2.D - Therapeutic D

Catalogue information
National Museum of Iraq
IM 74382
W 22307/35
UrukUruk, Ue XVIII/1 Schnittgraben, südl. Hä.
SpTU 1 47
Uruk Foto Nr. 13052

Frahm, 2011E. Frahm, Babylonian and Assyrian Text Commentaries. Origins of Interpretation. Ugarit-Verlag, 2011.: 396-404

Clancier, 2009 (GKAB)

Hunger, 1976H. Hunger, Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk. Teil I. Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1976.: 57-58 no. 47

MedicalTherapeutic texts


Base text: 
Commentary no: 
Tablet information
obv 21, rev 6
6,0 × 7,7 × 1,8 cm
Achaemenid (5th cent - 331 BCE) (Uruk, Anu-ikṣur / Nippur / Babylon)
Anu-ikṣur d. Šangû-Ninurta, junior āšipu

CAD M/1 351b[On line 10]

CAD M/2 125a[On line 7-8]

CAD M/2 234b[On line 2]

CAD M/2 235a[On line 3]

Bácskay, 2014A. Bácskay, Interpretation of a medical commentary text BAM 401, in Studies in Economic and Social History of the Ancient Near East in Memory of Péter Vargyas, Z. Csabai Department of Ancient History, University of Pécs - L'Harmattan, 2014, pp. 503-520.
[On line 2-4]
: 504-505

Clancier, 2009P. Clancier, Les bibliothèques en Babylonie dans le deuxième moitié du 1er millénaire av. J.-C. Ugarit-Verlag, 2009.
[Descendants Šangû-Ninurta]
: 388

Frahm, 2010eE. Frahm, Akkadische Texte des 2. und 1. Jt. v. Chr. 6. Kommentare zu medizinischen Texten [Texte zur Heilkunde], in Texte zur Heilkunde, B. Janowski and Schwemer, D. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2010, pp. 171-176.
: 172-173

Frahm, 2011E. Frahm, Babylonian and Assyrian Text Commentaries. Origins of Interpretation. Ugarit-Verlag, 2011.: 33, 51, 99, 109, 232-33, 291, 335-36, 396-404

Gabbay, 2012U. Gabbay, Akkadian Commentaries from Ancient Mesopotamia and Their Relation to Early Hebrew Exegesis, Dead Sea Discoveries, vol. 19, pp. 267-312, 2012.
[On line 2-5: Šulak]
: 290-291

Gabbay, 2014aU. Gabbay, Actual Sense and Scriptural Intention: Literal Meaning and Its Terminology in Akkadian and Hebrew Commentaries, in Encounters by the Rivers of Babylon: Scholarly Conversations between Jews, Iranians, and Babylonians, U. Gabbay and Secunda, S. Mohr Siebeck, 2014, pp. 335-370.
[On line 2-5, 10-11]
: 354, 358-359

Gabbay, 2016U. Gabbay, The Exegetical Terminology of Akkadian Commentaries. Brill, 2016.: 98 (13, 13–14), 201 (1–5), 239 (5), 254 (10–11), 74, 118 (6), 99, 222 (14–15), 99, 211–212 (2–5)

Genty, 2010aT. Genty, Les commentaires dans les textes cunéiformes assyro-babyloniens. MA thesis, 2010.
: 393

George, 2015A. R. George, On Babylonian lavatories and sewers, Iraq, vol. 77, pp. 75-106, 2015.
[On line 2-5: Šulak]
: 89

Heeßel, 2000N. P. Heeßel, Babylonisch-assyrische Diagnostik. Ugarit-Verlag, 2000.
[On line 2-5]
: 304 fn. 7

Hunger, 1976H. Hunger, Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk. Teil I. Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1976.
: 57-58 no. 47

Reiner & Civil, 1990E. Reiner and Civil, M. , La linguistica del Vicino e Medio Oriente, in Storia della Linguistica. Volume I, G. C. Lepschy Il Mulino, 1990, pp. 85-118.
[On line 5-6: Šulak]
: 110

Salin, 2016S. Salin, Transmission and Interpretation of Therapeutic Texts. Šumma amēlu muḫḫašu umma ukāl: a Case Study, Distant World Journal, vol. 1, pp. 117-132, 2016.: 121-127

Clancier, 01/2009 (ATF Transliteration)
Clancier, 01/2009 (Lemmatization)
Frahm, 05/2015 (Translation)
Frahm, 05/2015 (Annotation)
Frahm, 05/2015 (Introduction)
Jiménez, 05/2015 (Adaptation)
Jiménez, 08/2016 (Commentary markup)
Fadhil & van Ess, 10/2017 (Museum number)
By Eckart Frahm |
Cite this edition
Frahm, E. , “Commentary on Therapeutic (CCP no. 4.2.D),” Cuneiform Commentaries Project (2017), at (accessed October 22, 2017)
Make a correction or suggestion

The present tablet explains the tenth section (pirsu) of the series Šumma amīlu muḫḫašu ummu ukâl. Its (ṣâtu-type?) subscript is mostly lost, but the text commented on, apparently SBTU 1, 46 from the same library, begins with a line that is identical with the catchline of SBTU 1, 44, a manuscript of the ninth pirsu of this series. The commentary includes some interesting examples of creative philology, especially in the passage exploring the nature of the rābiṣ musâti, the “demon of the lavatory” (obv. 2-5). For a detailed discussion, see the remarks below. An intriguing mistake can be found in obv. 10; its implications for the question of whether SBTU 1, 47 may have been a new composition will be discussed below. A colophon informs us that the commentary was written by Anu-ikṣur, and that whoever feared Gula (, the divine patroness of medicine, should handle it with care.

This text seems to be an ad hoc composition. As stated above, a tablet with a portion of the text commented upon, SBTU 1, 46, was found in the immediate vicinity of the commentary, and a closer look reveals that the latter, wherever it quotes words or passages from its base text, renders them, with one small exception, in exactly the same orthography that is used in this tablet.1 The correspondences even include a mistake. In obv. 10, the commentary quotes (and glosses) the word ur-qaga-at-tú and equates it with bušqītu (w)urqītu) “vegetation.”2 In SBTU 1, 46, the writing ur-ga-at-tú is indeed attested (line 17), but we know from another manuscript, AMT 79/4: 2, that it is incorrect; it should have been ur-ta-at-tú “he stares.” The mistake is undoubtedly due to the graphic similarity between the signs ga and ta. That SBTU 1, 46 and 47 share a conspicuous scribal error makes it very probable that Anu-ikṣur’s commentary was a new composition, written in response to a manuscript that was in his (or perhaps rather his father’s) possession.3 Such a scenario is supported by the fact that SBTU 1, 47 has no ḫepi-glosses.4 It is true that the commentary also discusses material not attested in SBTU 1, 46, but it is quite possible that Anu-ikṣur had yet another tablet at hand when writing down the commentary, or knew some relevant additional medical lore by heart.

The mistakes found in SBTU 1, 46 and 47 are indicative of one of the main reasons why commentaries gained such an importance during the first millennium. Their base texts, now regarded as essentially unchangeable, became increasingly difficult to understand for the scholars who read, studied, and applied them.


The present commentary provides various types of explanations: philological notes on difficult words (e.g., obv. 1-2), factual information on the ingredients of the drugs described in the base text (e.g., obv. 6), and theological speculation on the metaphysical agent of the illnesses the text deals with (obv. 2-5, 14-15). This combination of different explanatory strategies is not untypical of Mesopotamian commentaries, especially of the Late Babylonian period. It is worth pointing out that several difficult terms from the base text, for instance the names of the medical ingredients listed in obv. 11-12, as well as the abracadabra incantation in obv. 21-26, are not commented on at all. Note, furthermore, that the commentary explains a number of passages that are not included in SBTU 1, 46, the apparent base text (see the pertinent remarks on obv. 11ff.).


A photo of the obverse of the tablet was kindly provided by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. The transliteration below makes use of an ATF transliteration prepared by Philippe Clancier for the GKAB project. Thanks are expressed to Philippe Clancier and Eleanor Robson.


[Adapted from E. Frahm, Babylonian and Assyrian Text Commentaries. Origins of Interpretation. Ugarit-Verlag, 2011. Pp. 232-233, 335-336, 396, and 401]

  • 1. The exception concerns the word iṣappar, which is written i-ṣap-par in SBTU 1, 46 (line 16) and i-ṣa-par in SBTU 1, 47 (obv. 8). It should be noted that the signs ṣap and ṣa look quite similar.
  • 2. Both words were apparently regarded by the commentator as derivations of the root *wrq.
  • 3. SBTU 1, 46 does not have a colophon, but it belongs to the same tablet series as SBTU 1, 44, which was owned by Šamaš-iddin, Anu-ikṣur’s father.
  • 4. Note that SBTU 1, 46 has no such glosses either. The Enūma Anu Enlil commentary Sm.683 (CCP 3.1.21) from Nineveh might represent a similar case. It shares a scribal mistake with K 270+, a manuscript of its base text.

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SpTU 1, 047

o 1 o 1

* NA EME-šú eb-ṭe-et-ma : e--ṭu : na-pa-ḫu 1

(o 1) If a man’s tongue is cramped (= SpTU 1 46 1): “to cramp” (actually means) “to swell”; “to cramp” (means) “to get large.”

o 2 2

e--ṭu : ra-bu-ú : MAŠKIM mu-sa-a-ti : dŠU.LAK 2

(o 2) The demon of the lavatory (= SpTU 1 46 8) (is) Šulak. “He should not enter the lavatory, (or) Šulak will strike him.” Šulak (this is) what is said (about him): šu (means) “hand,” la (means) “not,” and (means) “clean.” (Thus), if he enters the lavatory, his hands will not be clean this is said about (him).

o 3 3

a-na É mu-sa-a- KU₄ub : dŠU.LAK SÌG-su 3

o 4 4

dŠU.LAK šá Eú : ŠU : qa-tu₄ : la : la-a : : el-lu 4

o 5 5

ana É mu-sa-a- KU₄ub ŠÚ-šú NU ana UGU qa-bi

o 6 6

lu-ur-pa-ni ki-i na₄ZA.GÌN-ma ZÁLAG ta-kip šá-niš lu-ur-pa-ni : IM..LU 5

(o 6) The lurpânu-mineral (= SpTU 1 46 10) is like lapis lazuli, but dotted with bright spots; second: lurpânu (refers to) (yellow) kalû-paste.

o 7 7

mi-šit- : ma-šá-du : ma-ḫa-ṣu : mi-šit- : šá in-šu-ú 6

(o 7) Stroke (= SpTU 1 46 16) “to strike” (means) “to beat.” “Stroke” someone who forgot his writing skills has been affected by a stroke.

o 8 8

šá-ṭar-šú im-ta-šid mi-šit- : IGI-šú i-ṣa-par : BAR : ṣa-pa-ru 7

(o 8) He winks his eye (= SpTU 1 46 16) bar (means) “to wink” (and) bar (means) “to twist.” 9-10 ur-GA-at-tú (instead of ur-ta-at-tú “He stares) and cannot sleep (= SpTU 1 46 17) urqattu (means) “vegetation” (bušqittu).

o 9 9

BAR : za-a-ru : ur-GA-at- la it-ta-na-a-a-al 8

o 10 10

ur-gaGA-at- : bu---it- : muš-šu-da : muš-šu-ʾu 9

(o 10) To rub (muššudu) (= SpTU 1 46 18) (means) “to massage” (muššuʾu) (this is) with regard to the craft of the exorcist (mašmaššūtu), as one says.

o 11 11

áš-šú maš-maš-ú-tu ki-i qa-bu-ú : Ì.UDU šimGIG šá Ì.GIŠ ú-kal-lu 10

(o 11) “Tallow” of the kanaktu-tree, which holds oil you pound (the wood of) the kanaktu-tree until the oil comes out. The Tallow-of-the-erištu-plant (is identical with/equivalent to?) the Tallow-of the kurītu-plant. In a goat’s šipku-hide šip-ki (means) to attach.

o 12 12

šimGIG SÚD EN Ì.GIŠ Èa : Ì.UDU e-riš-ti : Ì.UDU ku-ri-tu₄

o 13 13

ina KUŠ ÙZ šip-ki : šip-ki : ṭu-ub-bu : MAŠKIM KA uṣ-ṣab-⸢bit 11

(o 13) A rābiṣu-demon has seized a man’s mouth (= SpTU 1 46 27) the rābiṣu-demon has the face of a goat.

o 14 14

MAŠKIM : pa-ni ÙZ šá-kin : A šá Eú : ina ŠÀ-šá MAŠKIM mu-sa-⸢a⸣-[ti] 12

(o 14) Well water (= SpTU 1 46 28, 32) (this is) what is said about it: The rābiṣu-demon of the lavatory is Šulak, Šulak is truly associated with the lavatory.

o 15 15

dŠU.LAK : lu-ú dŠU.LAK šá mu-sa-a-[ti]

o 16 16

ina KUŠ ši⸣- : ina KUŠ ta-šap-pi : ši-⸢pi? [(x)] x [x]

(o 16) “Wrap (it) in a hide” (is equivalent to?) You shall wrap (it) in a hide (cf. SpTU 1 46 15); wrap (ipt.) [...].

o 17 17

AL.ÚS.SA : ši-iq : ṭa-ba-a- [x x x x] 13

(o 17) al-ús-sa (means) “garum,” (which is equivalent to?) vinegar [......].

o 18 18

GURUN úKUR.RA : NUMUN úKUR.RA : SAG.DU [x x x x x]

(o 18) Fruit of the nīnû-plant (cf. SpTU 1 46 30) seed of the nīnû-plant. The head [......] of the constellation “Swallow” (sim-maḫ, lit., “large swallow”) ((which) is equivalent to) Venus. sim (means) “swallow” [...] ... nundum Nin... [...] ... [... ...].

o 19 19

šá mulSIM.MAḪ : ddele-bát : SIM : si⸣-[nu-un-] 14

o 20 20

[x x x x] x NUNDUN : dNIN-⸢x [x x x x (x)] 15

o 21 21

[x x x x x] x x x x (x⸣) [x x x x x (x)]

(rest of obverse missing)
r 1' r 1'

x [...]

(r 1') ... [...] ... [...]

r 2' 2'


r 3' 3'

ṣa?⸣-[a?-? ù? šu?-ut? KA? šá? * NA? EME?]-⸢šú? 16

(r 3') Lemmata (ṣâtu) [and oral explanations relating to (the tablet) If a man’s tongue] is cramped. [Lecture (malsûtu) of Anu]-ikṣur, [junior]-exorcist, [descendant of Šangî]-Ninurta.

r 4' 4'

eb?-ṭe?⸣-[et?-ma? mál?-sutₓ(BÁN)? md60-ik]-ṣu-ur

r 5' 5'


r 6' 6'

pa-liḫ dME.ME li₆-šaₓ(DI)-qirₓ(KA) 17

(r 6') May he who respects Gula hold (this tablet) in esteem.

1obv. 1: DIŠ amīlu lišānšu ebṭetma, the incipit of the base text, serves as a kind of headline of the commentary. The equation ebēṭu = napāḫu is also attested in the Sa-gig 4 commentary CT 51, 136: 9-10 (CCP 4.1.4.B) and the botanical commentary CT 41, 45: 17 (CCP 6.5).

22: For more information on the rābiṣu-demon, see RlA 7, 454-55.

33: In this line, the commentator provides an unmarked quotation derived from the hemerological text KAR 177 (and duplicates). His goal, it seems, is to demonstrate that the equation of the “demon of the lavatory” with Šulak is based on the authority of an established text. Some thoughts on the connection between demons, lavatories, and strokes (mišittu, explained later in the commentary) have been contributed by Stol (1993, 76), who points to a widely held belief, known also from Jewish, Islamic, and Christian sources, that “exposed as he is in the bathroom, man can easily fall victim to demons.” A prominent example is the story of San Gimignano, the patron saint of the Italian city of the same name, whose fame came from having managed to overcome the devil when he encountered him on the way to the toilet.

44: A (pseudo-)etymological analysis of the name Šulak, based on Sumerian words (šu, kù) as well as on Akkadian (lā). See Parpola 1998, 319.

56: The first statement about the lurpânu-mineral is reminiscent of similar descriptions of stones in the compendium Abnu šikinšu (Schuster-Brandis 2008, 17-47), but is not attested in the preserved portions of that series. The equation of lurpânu with kalû-paste is probably inspired by lexical entries (in ḪAR-ra and ḪAR-gud) that equate kalû-paste with illur-pāni “rouge (for facial makeup)(?).”1881 The commentary entry thus associates lurpânu, somewhat confusingly, with three different colors: blue (uqnû “lapislazuli”), red (illurpā ni), and yellow (kalû-paste).

67-8: The noun mišittu “stroke” is explained through a reference to the infinitive of its verbal root, which is, in turn, equated with a synonym. The following commentary entry is difficult. Hunger transliterates šá in-šu-ú / šá TAR-šú, apparently taking the TAR-sign as a logogram. My own reading and interpretation, provided above, are tentative, but seem, on the whole, to make better sense, especially when we consider the importance of writing in the world of first millennium Mesopotamian exorcists. Yet, while the loss of one’s ability to write can certainly be the symptom of a stroke, it must be admitted that the Mesopotamian medical texts known so far mention forgetfulness only in connection with spoken words, never with regard to writing skills. Note that the verbal form inšû is derived from mašû, which is phonetically similar to mišittu and mašādu.

78-9: The equations provided here seem to derive from a Sumero-Akkadian word list, but are so far not attested in any.

89-10: The commentator abstains from correcting the erroneous ur-GA-at-tú of his base text and, quoting the incorrect form, provides an explanation that makes no sense whatsoever in the context in which the word appears there. For a more detailed discussion of this entry and the philological manipulations informing it, see the pertinent remarks in 9.2.

910-11: The commentator, basing himself again on phonetic similarities, claims that the terms muššudu (“to rub”), muššuʾu (“to massage”), and mašmaššūtu (“the exorcist’s craft”) are also semantically related. The goal of the entry is to establish a link between a specific symptom from which the patient suffered, and the exorcist as the professional who was able cure it.

1011-13: The passage beginning with ì-udu šim-gig and ending with ṭu-up-pu is not attested in SBTU 1, 46, the commentary’s apparent base text. Its key elements are, however, known from BAM 523, iii 3’-8’ (and the duplicate passage BAM 174, obv. 1’-4’), a short recipe against the immobilization of a man’s mouth and lips and the aphasia that derives from this condition (DIŠ na ka-šú nundum-su ana zag kub-bu-ul-ma da-ba-ba la ªi¬-[le-ʾe]).1884 The recipe mentions “tallow of the kanaktu-tree, which holds oil,” the Tallow-of-the-erištuplant, and a “goat’s šipku-hide.” That it is the subject of the commentary passage at hand has already been recognized by Köcher, BAM 6, XV. BAM 523 joins with AMT 76/5 + 77/1 + 77/5 + 79/4 + 82/2, forming with these other pieces a large tablet that has a number of additional parallels with SBTU 1, 46. It is possible that Anu-ik‚ur knew the passage commented on in this section from a tablet comparable to BAM 523+, but we cannot be certain. As already pointed out by Hunger, ì-udu = lipû, lit., “tallow,” seems to be the first element of the names of a number of trees and plants; ì-udu e-riš-ti, for instance, is elsewhere equated with the aššultu-plant.1885 The explanatory remarks seem to indicate, however, that the commentator took ì-udu šim-gig as a term for the sap of the wood of the kanaktu-tree, and not as a plant name.

1113: Hunger read ME KI instead of šip-ki and declared he did not understand this entry. The correct reading of ME KI was established by Farber (1979, 303), who pointed to the writing kuš.ši-ip-ki in BAM 398, rev. 35. As demonstrated in CAD Š/3, 71, šipku designates a type of leather − yet whether the commentator was actually aware of this seems highly questionable. Perhaps, he rather took the word as a non-grammatical imperative of šapāku, in the sense of “to pour.” Such an understanding is suggested by the commentarial equation of šip-ki with ṭu-uB- Bu. Hunger transliterated the latter as ṭu-ub-bu, in which he is followed by CAD Ṭ, 35a (s. v. ṭâbu). But a translation “to make pleasing” or “to repair” makes little sense in the context at hand. It is more likely that ṭu-uB-Bu represents an infinitive D of ṭepû, which means “to assign, attach, apply.” The word is attested in several medical texts, among them Šamaš-iddin’s copy of the ninth section of Šumma amīlu muḫḫašu ummu ukâl (SBTU 1, 44: 79). The entry may, then, provide yet another example of the commentator’s limited philological competence.

1214: The commentator was probably prompted to his statement that the rābiṣu has a goat-like face by the reference to the “goat’s hide” in obv. 13. Elsewhere, the rābiṣu-demon is credited with lion-like features instead (see RlA 7, 455). 14-15: Being the demon of the lavatory, Šulak was associated with water, a link that may explain why the commentator mentions him again after quoting the base text’s reference to well water. 16: As already pointed out by Farber (1979, 303), Hunger’s suggestion that the ŠI shortly before the break serves as a logogram for šapû seems unlikely; it is preferable to restore ši-p[i and to assume that the commentator’s goal was to elucidate the difficult writing ši-pí(BI). The passage commented on in this entry is probably not SBTU 1, 46: 15, since this would violate the sequence of the text; moreover, ina kuš ta-šap-pi seems to be an explanation (of ina kuš šipí) and not a quotation from the base text. At the end of the line, a possible restoration is: ši-p[i : tašappi] “‘wrap’ (ipt.) [(corresponds to) ‘you shall wrap].’

1317: The logogram al-ús-a (= šiqqu) is not attested in SBTU 1, 46.

1419: The equation SIMmušen = sinuntu is attested in various lexical lists, among them Ea (II 299c) and ḪAR-ra (XVIII 246); see CAD S, 295a. Why the constellation “Swallow” (the western fish of Pisces with some of the western part of Pegasus) is mentioned here remains unclear, but it should be noted that astral medicine had become quite popular in the Late Babylonian period.

1520: nundum (= šaptu “lip”) might have been adduced here to open up additional etymological dimensions of the word sinuntu “swallow,” which would have been segmented, in this case, as si-nuntu. But this is not certain; it is likewise possible that the commentary refers to an immobilization of the lips as described in BAM 523, iii 3’ (see the note above on obv. 11-13). The theonym after nundum could be read as d.⸢nin⸣-[t]u (the name of the birth goddess), which sounds similar to nundum.

16rev. 3’-5’: The restoration of the badly damaged subscript and colophon follows SBTU 1, 49, another medical commentary written by Anu-ikṣur. Whether it is correct cannot be established with absolute certainty, but the traces support it.

176’: Gula is the patron goddess of medicine, so the reference to her comes as no surprise. Note the cryptographic writing of the last word, which is based on the values DI = sá and KA = kir₄.