CCP 3.5.22.A.b - Ālu 22-23 A

Catalogue information
British Museum
BM 129092
Fs Leichty (CM 31) pp. 165-166

Freedman, 2006aS. M. Freedman, BM 129092: A Commentary on Snake Omens, in If a Man Builds a Joyful House: Assyriological Studies in Honor of Erle Verdun Leichty, A. K. Guinan, Ellis, MdeJ. , Ferrara, A. J. , Freedman, S. M. , Rutz, M. T. , Sassmannshausen, L. , Tinney, S. , and Waters, M. W. , Eds. Brill, 2006, pp. 149-166.

Freedman, 2006bS. M. Freedman, If a City is set on a Height. The Akkadian omen series šumma ālu ina mēlê šakin. Volume 2: Tablets 22-40. The University of Pennsylvania Museum, 2006.: 6-17, 34-49

DivinationTerrestrial omens (Šumma Ālu)

ṣâtu 7c

Base text: 
Ālu 22-23
Commentary no: 
Tablet information
Complete tablet
obv 30, rev 25
10,47 × 7,30 cm
Chaldean / early Achaemenid (late 7th / 6th cent) (mostly "Sippar Collection")
Na’id-Enlil s. Šamaš-aḫḫē-iddin d. m.DIR-U-T[U?]

Biggs, 2011R. D. Biggs, Review of If a Man Builds a Joyful House [Fs Leichty], Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 70, pp. 101-102, 2011.
[On line obv. 28, rev. 19: ūmi ri-qí rather "holiday," BAR-šú rather uššuršu "releases it / lets go of it."]
: 101-102

Frahm, 2011E. Frahm, Babylonian and Assyrian Text Commentaries. Origins of Interpretation. Ugarit-Verlag, 2011.: 52, 54, 80, 194, 196-97, 200, 296, 303-04

Frahm, 2018bE. Frahm, The Perils of Omnisignificance: Language and Reason in Mesopotamian Hermeneutics, Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, pp. 87-105, 2018.
[On line 42]
: 113

Freedman, 2006aS. M. Freedman, BM 129092: A Commentary on Snake Omens, in If a Man Builds a Joyful House: Assyriological Studies in Honor of Erle Verdun Leichty, A. K. Guinan, Ellis, MdeJ. , Ferrara, A. J. , Freedman, S. M. , Rutz, M. T. , Sassmannshausen, L. , Tinney, S. , and Waters, M. W. , Eds. Brill, 2006, pp. 149-166.

Freedman, 2006bS. M. Freedman, If a City is set on a Height. The Akkadian omen series šumma ālu ina mēlê šakin. Volume 2: Tablets 22-40. The University of Pennsylvania Museum, 2006.: 6-17, 34-49

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. , Eds. Mohr Siebeck, 2014, pp. 335-370.
[On line 28-30]
: 353

Gabbay, 2015U. Gabbay, Specification as a Hermeneutical Technique in Babylonian and Assyrian Commentaries, Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel, vol. 4, pp. 344-368, 2015.
[On line 29-30, 32, 42-43, 17: Readings and interpretations, cited as "BM 129029"]
: 350-351, 352-354, 355, 355 fn. 42

Gabbay, 2016U. Gabbay, The Exegetical Terminology of Akkadian Commentaries. Brill, 2016.
[59, 74 (12, 14, 20), 75 (14), 85 (r 19), 110 (r 17), 112 (r 13–14), 113 (r 16), 115 (25), 118 (18), 145 (22–23), 147 (29–30), 154 (7–8), 162 (r 11–12), 223 (r 18–19), 233 (17), 74, 75 (r 5), 97, 145 (13–14), 107–108 (r 7, r 8, r 9, r 11, r 15, 19, r 21, 23), 107, 147 (14–15), 116, 117 (r 2), 74, 75, 77 (10), 64, 107–108 (13), 75, 107–108 (r 10), 134, 147–148 (r 12–13), 27, 66, 80, 210 (12–13)]

Genty, 2010aT. Genty, Les commentaires dans les textes cunéiformes assyro-babyloniens. MA thesis, 2010.
: 416

Heeßel, 2001N. P. Heeßel, ''Wenn ein Mann zum Haus des Kranken geht.." Intertextuelle Bezüge zwischen der Serie Šumma ālu und der zweiten Tafel der serie SA.GIG, Archiv für Orientforschung, vol. 48/49, pp. 24-49, 2001.
[BM 129092, r.23: Statt di-na gir-ru-ú lies am Ende di-na gi-ru-ú ŠUB-[ut]; r.24: Statt 3 DIR šu-ut lies 23 mál-su-ut und statt URU ana SUKUD lies URU ina SUKUD, diese Änderungen auch auf S. 330 unter Tafel 23 und 24;]
: 24a

Heeßel, 2007N. P. Heeßel, Divinatorische Texte I. Terrestrische, teratologische, physiognomische und oneiromantische Omina. Harrassowitz, 2007.: 40 ad I 6', 41 ad III 6', 50 ad 38

Peterson, 2009J. Peterson, Godlists from Old Babylonian Nippur in the University Museum, Philadelphia. Ugarit-Verlag, 2009.
[On line o 25: muš = niraḫu]
: 68

Rutz, 2016M. T. Rutz, Anti-witchcraft Prescriptions from Ḫattuša and Nippur, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, vol. 106, pp. 42-61, 2016.
[On line 28-29]
: 58a

von Weiher, 1998E. von Weiher, Spätbabylonische Texte aus dem Planquadrat U 18. Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1998.
[Edition of a duplicate]
: 76-77

Whiting, 1984R. M. Whiting, Six Snake Omens in New Babylonian Script, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 36, pp. 206-210, 1984.: 206 fn. 2

Jiménez, 10/2014 (Transliteration)
Jiménez, 10/2014 (Translation)
Jiménez, 10/2014 (Collation)
Jiménez, 10/2014 (Introduction)
Jiménez, 01/2015 (Collation)
Gabbay, 03/2015 (Suggestions)
Jiménez, 06/2017 (Commentary markup)
By Enrique Jiménez | Make a correction or suggestion
How to cite
Jiménez, E., 2014, “Commentary on Ālu 22-23 (CCP 3.5.22.A.b),” Cuneiform Commentaries Project (E. Frahm, E. Jiménez, M. Frazer, and K. Wagensonner), 2013–2024; accessed July 18, 2024, at DOI: 10079/zgmsbr9
© Cuneiform Commentaries Project (Citation Guidelines)

This commentary is preserved in two virtually identical manuscripts from two different cities. The first one, SpTU 5 259 (CCP 3.5.22.A.a), was found during the German excavations at Uruk. The second, BM 129092 (CCP 3.5.22.A.b), was bought by the British Museum in 1937, according to the information in the online catalogue of the British Museum from a Mme. Luiz de Sousa Barbosa: its provenance is in all likelihood Nippur.1 The two manuscripts are identical sign by sign, and apportion the same number of lines to the obverse and reverse. The colophon of BM 129092 mentions Na’id-Enlil, son of Šamaš-aḫḫē-iddin descendant of mdir.u.t[u], as its scribe: the same person copied another commentary tablet probably from Nippur, CCP 3.5.59.

The text contains commentaries on the 22nd and 23rd chapters of the divinatory series Šumma Ālu, both of which are devoted to omens derived from the observation of the behavior of snakes. The commentary is divided into two sections, each dedicated to one chapter: the first one ends in a rubric citing the incipit of Šumma Ālu 22 (l. 26). Curiously enough, only 73 of the 92 omens of that chapter are commented upon. The second section ends with line 51, and is followed by a two line rubric. This rubric refers not only to the previous section but to the entire commentary: after stating that the tablet is a ṣâtu 7c commentary on Šumma Ālu 22 and 23, it describes it as the 23rd “reading” (malsûtu) of the series and provides the catchline of Šumma Ālu 24.


Several kinds of comments are encountered in this text. First, glosses explaining basic aspects of philological interpretation occur on several occasions. Thus the defective writing ú-še-di-ma (ŠĀ 22 21) is rendered fully as ú-šá-am-de-e-ma (l. 15) and the logogram mud-su is rendered syllabically as ú-gal-lit-su (l. 50).

Another common type of explanation is introduced by a relative pronoun (ša), which explains the behavior either of the snake or of the man that features in the omen. This explanation can be based on a philological equivalence. For instance, line 13 explains the omen “(Snakes) intertwine” (iktapilū) (ŠĀ 22 20) as referring to “(the snake) that crosses the (man’s) neck,” a fanciful rendering of the first part of the equation gú ì-ak-a = kitpulu in the lexical list Ḫḫ II 288. Alternatively, comments introduced by ša may may provide a more nuanced interpretation of the omen without any apparent philological basis. So, e.g., in line 50 the omen “If a snake enters a man’s house” (ŠĀ 23 105) is said to refer to (the snake) “which enters a man’s house while he is with a group of people.” Similarly, in l. 15 the verb šupšuqu, “to suffer,” is said to refer to “he who is hungry and thirsty” (note that here the explanandum is only inserted after the explanation, an uncommon phenomenon).

A related hermeneutical technique in this commentary attempts to reinterpret omens by specifying what are, in fact, general statements. Thus line 17 interprets the common apodosis eklet namrat, lit. “it is dark, it is bright,” as “referring to a humble man” (ana muškēni qabi), i.e. as an oblique reference to the rise in society of a humble person. The exegete also tries to justify some of his interpretations by appending a gloss to them. Thus a particularly fanciful rendering of an apodosis is justified by means of the equation dumu = bušû “a son is a possession” (probably a metonymy).


In other cases the commentary tries to prove that the omens are consistent, i.e. that their apodoses can be “deduced” from their protases. An example of this can be found in ll. 24-25, an explanation of the omen “If a snake falls on a man’s shoulder, he who backs up a man shall die” (diš muš ana bu-di na šub-ut mu-kil ku-tál-li na ug₇, from ŠĀ 22 73). The term “shoulder” (būdu) from the protasis is connected with “back” (kutallu) from the apodosis and this connection is justified in line 25 by means of a series of equations, the precise significance of which remains unclear.

Occasionally the commentary provides alternative explanations for omens. For instance, lines 19-20 explain the line diš na? muš gaz-ma ti-ma ana šà ḫabrud* ku₄ first as “referring to (the man) who kills a snake, carries it and buries it,” stating that ti means “to take” (leqû, understood as a synonym of “to carry”). This interpretation is followed by an alternative one: since ti also means “to live,” the omen can refer to the snake that “survives and slips into a hole.” Both interpretations are, according to the ancient commentator, equally possible.

Some termini technichi used in the text, besides the aforementioned ša, are aššu, šanîš, and ša iqbû.

This commentary contains two previously unrecognized citations from Babylonian literature. The first and most straightforward one occurs in the explanation of the omen “If a man sees a snake and kills it, his fears will not approach that man” (ŠĀ 23 9). This prognosis is said to be applicable to “[a day] which is propitious to kill”; then an aššu clause explains which day that is. It refers, we are told, to the 20th of Ayyāru, a day that in the Babylonian Almanac is said to be propitious for killing snakes2.

The second quotation occurs in what is probably the most sophisticated commentarial note of this text. It aims at explaining a conflicting prognosis: in the base text, the fact that a snake “coils around the door and bolt (sikkūru) of a man’s house” is said to foretell either the expansion or the abandonment of the house. The commentary then explains that one of these prognoses refers to the noble and the other to the humble (line 43), an explanation justified by the commentator by means of a clause beginning with the terminus technicus aššu, “because.” This clause is in fact a quotation from an incantation that refers to another uncrossable threshold, the “strong magic circles (šutukkū dannūtu) of Ningirzida.” The aššu line is probably intended to support the commentator’s bold attempt at explaining both the positive and the negative prognosis as applicable to different social classes. To do so he refers to another line where there is an uncrossable threshold, an incantation that describes a magic circle in which the “bolt” (sikkatu) together with the “noble” (dannu = kabtu, cf. Izbu Gurru Mahīru 71) and the “humble” (šutukku, which is said to mean sikkatu, whose logogram, gag, is contained in maš.en.gag), are mentioned.


In some cases the preserved manuscripts display a better reading than that of the Vorlage of the two copies of the commentary. This is the case with e.g. l. 21, where the commentator explains the apparently meaningless bušāšu -šú as bušāšu izzibšu, “(his possessions) shall abandon him,” and equates the verb ezēbu with , an equation unattested elsewhere. The preserved manuscripts of Šumma Ālu 22 read here either tùm-šú or, more convincingly, tag₄-šú,3 thus revealing that the origin of the equation of and ezēbu was the commentator’s familiarity with the corpus of divination. Another case in which the text’s Vorlage was defective appears in line 22: there the difficult uštāniḫ-ma, “it is dejected” (said of a snake) from the only preserved manuscript of Šumma Ālu 22 47-48 appears in both copies of our commentary as a meaningless uš-ta-aḫ-ma, which is then explained with the equally meaningless ú-ši-iḫ-ma.

In line 13 the base text is cited by means of the terminus technicus ša iqbû. However the explanation was apparently missing in the Vorlage, a fact that the author indicates by means of the unusual expression “it was not preserved in the tablet” (ina ṭuppi ul šalim).

The tablet was collated in January 2015.


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Commentary A on Šumma Alu 22-23

11SAG.DU-su ú-ḫar-ra-ár : x [x x x] SAG.DU [x x x x] x [x x] x

(1) “He should hollow out his head” (Šumma Ālu 22 1) means, [] “head” []. “He should shave his cheeks” (Šumma Ālu 22 1) means ditto both his cheeks;” “cheek” []. “He will suffer for three months” (Šumma Ālu 22 1) means [] hardship [].

22[TE]-MEŠ-šú ú-gal-lab : TE-MIN!(A-)šú KIMIN?<(ú-gal-lab)> [:"] le-e-tu x x x : 3* [ITI]-MEŠ -[ta-pa-áš-šaq]
33x x x MEŠ x x x-lu?-ma pu-- im-šu?-x [x x] x x x x : [x x x x]
44x x x [x x x x] NA ŠUB šá it-ti MUŠ.SAG.[KAL x x x] x ŠÀ an [x (x)]

(4) “It falls in a man’s [] (cf. Šumma Ālu 22 5-10) (refers to the snake) that together with the ṣarṣaru-snake [].

55[x x x x x x NA] BI GISKIM* giš : ina gišNA? [x x x (x) :] MÚRU [DAM u DAM]

(5) The “ominous signs of the bed” (Šumma Ālu 22 11) means [] in the bed. “Between husband and wife” (Šumma Ālu 22 13) means “between [].” KUD-MEŠ NU TI-MEŠ (Šumma Ālu 22 13) means “They will be separated from one another and then die.”

66MÚRU [x x x x x KUD]-MEŠ NU TI-MEŠ : ip-[par-ra-su-ma] ul i-bal-lu-ṭu1
77UKKIN AL*-[GAZ : pu-uḫ-ru x x] x-ku? : GAZ : ḫe-pu-ú : BEma GIG BEma is-sal-la-

(7) UKKIN ALGAZ (Šumma Ālu 22 14) means [“a meeting ],“ (since) GAZ means “to break.” In “he will either fall ill (GIG) or sicken” (Šumma Ālu 22 16), GIG [means to sicken]; “he will sicken” means “he will fall ill.”

88GIG [: (x x) sa-la-]-ú : is-sal-la- : i-mar-ru-uṣ : * ina itiBÁRA TA U₄ 1.KAM

(8) In “If in the month of Nisannu, from the 1st day [until the 30th day] a snake turns (isḫur) from a man’s right to a man’s left, that man will be carried away by hardship in the land of his enemy” (Šumma Ālu 22 17). “It turns” (isḫur) (is written with the sign) ḪUR, (which can also mean) “it draws;” alternatively, (it can mean) “it crosses;” thirdly, (it can mean) “it goes,” since GIŠ.ḪUR, read /gišḫaš/, means [], which means “to go.” “Hardship” (dulu) (Šumma Ālu 22 17) means “weeping.”

99[EN U₄ 30.KAM] MUŠ ina SILA TA! ZAG ana GÙB is-ḫur BI ina KUR KÚR-šú du-lu₄ GIG TÙM
1010[(is-ḫur) : GIŠ].ḪUR : e-ṣe-ri šá-niš i-ti-iq šal-šiš il-lik : GIŠgi-.ḫa-ášḪUR* : ḫa-x-(x)-x : a-la-[ku?]2
1111[du-lu₄ :] bi--tu₄ : MUŠ ina SILA -te-eṣ-bi-šú : šá ú-man-du IGI-ma MUŠ la ig-lu-ut3

(11) “If a snake in the street stares fixedly at him (Šumma Ālu 22 19) (refers to the snake) that a man spots and looks at, but does not fear the snake. In “It deprives him (KAR-šú) of his dignity (TÉŠ.BI) (Šumma Ālu 22 19), TÉŠ.BI means “dignity,” “dignity” means “appearance;” KAR means “to abandon.” Alternatively, what it says, “He is deprived of his dignity,” (means) (, it is not preserved in the tablet).

1212šu TÉŠ.BI KAR-šú : TÉŠ.BI : bal-tu₄ : bal-tu₄ : bu-nu : KAR : e-zeb šá-niš šu TÉŠ.BI KAR-šú
1313šá Eú ina ṭup-pi ul šá-lim: ik-tap-pi-lu <:> ì!(MIN-)ak-a : kit-pu-lu : šá it-ti-qu4

(13) (Snakes) intertwine” (iktapilū) (Šumma Ālu 22 20), (since) gú-min-ak-a means “to intertwine” (kitpulu), (it refers to the snake) that crosses the neck; alternatively, (it refers to) two snakes, on account of the quarrel.

1414šá-niš 2 MUŠ-MEŠ -šum ṣa-al-tu₄ : 3 ITI šú-nu-ti -ta-pa-šaq-ma : ina ITI šá ana da-li-x ṭa-a-bi5

(14) “He will suffer for those three months” (Šumma Ālu 22 21) means “in the month that is good for (delivering) the news. He who is hungry and thirsty, he is the sufferer. “He will recognize” (ušeddī-ma) (Šumma Ālu 22 21) means “he will recognize” (ušeddī-ma). “He will seek out” (ušeʾʾû-ma) (Šumma Ālu 22 21), the logogram KIN.KIN means “to seek out” (šiteʾʾû), i.e., “to look for” (buʾʾû).

1515šá i-bir-ru-ú u i-ṣa-am-mu-ú šu-ú šup-šu-qu : ú-še-di-ma : ú-šá-am-de-e-ma
1616ú-še--ú-ma : KIN.KIN : ši-te--ú : bu--ú : ina -reb EN.TE.NA : dan-na- : ku-ṣu

(16) “In the middle of the winter” (Šumma Ālu 22 33) means (in the middle of) hardship,” (i.e.), (in the middle of) the cold.”

1717ek-let nam-rat : a-na muš-ke-ni qa-bi : šá-lum-mat : bal-tu₄ : du-ú-tu₄ : bal-tu₄6

(17) “It is dark, it is bright” (Šumma Ālu 22 33-35) refers to the humble man. “Radiance” (Šumma Ālu 22 36) means “dignity;” “virility” means “dignity,” whence “virility” (can also) mean “appearance.”

1818du-ú-tu₄ : bu-nu : nam-ḫa-ra DIR-ma : ki-ma dugA.GÚB.BA tu-ka-ni-ma

(18) “You should take (water) in a namḫāru-vessel” (Šumma Ālu 22 36) (means) “you should set it up like a holy water vessel.”

1919* NA? MUŠ GAZ-ma TI-ma ana ŠÀ ḪABRUD* KU₄ : šá MUŠ i-du-ku-ma -šu-ú iq-bi-ri : TI :* la-qu-u7

(19) “If a man kills a snake, takes (TI-ma) (the corpse) and introduces it in a hole” (Šumma Ālu 22 37) refers to (a man) who kills a snake, carries it and buries it; since TI means “to take.” Alternatively, (it can mean), (a man tries to kill it), but it survives and slips into a hole,” since TI means “to live.”

2020šá-niš! ib-luṭ-ma ana ŠÀ ḪABRUD* KU₄ : TI : ba-la-ṭu : NÍG.ŠU-šu -šú KIMIN<(NÍG.ŠU-šu)> -šú DUMU-šú GU₇ : NÍG.ŠU-šú -šú :

(20) In “NÍG.ŠU-šu -šú or DUMU-šú GU₇” (Šumma Ālu 22 38), NÍG.ŠU-šu -šú means iz-zíb-šú, i.e., (his possessions) shall abandon him” (izzibšu), since means “to abandon” (ezēbu). DUMU-šú GU₇ means “he will eat his possessions,” since DUMU means “possession.”

2121iz-zíb-šú : iz-zib-šú : : e-ze-bu : DUMU-šú GU₇ : bu-šu-šú ik-kal : DUMU : bu-šu-ú8
2222x : ṣe- : lem-nu : -ta-aḫ-ma : ú-ši-iḫ-ma : UR₅ta : šu-a- : ina KI.KAL DU₈-šú9

(22) (Šumma Ālu 22 unknown) means “enemy” (ṣerru), i.e., “evil man.” It has been made to grow (uštāḫ-ma)(Šumma Ālu 22 46-47) means it increased (ušīḫ-ma). UR₅-ta (Šumma Ālu 22 48) means “that.” “He gets rid of it (sc. the snake) with difficulty” (Šumma Ālu 22 49) (is said) on account of (the snake) that lingers long time on top of him.

2323[]-šum šá ma-diš ina muḫ-ḫi-šú i-ku-šú : im-ṣur : im-šur : il-lik : i-tak-kal : DU.DU : it-ku-lu10

(23) (The word) imṣur (Šumma Ālu 22 58) means imšur, i.e., “it goes” (illik). “It will devour itself” (itakkal) (Šumma Ālu 22 61)(can be written) DU.DU, (which) means itkulu (= akālu Gt); DU.DU also means “to fight with each other.”

2424[DU].DU : mit-ḫu-ṣu : * MUŠ ana bu-di NA ŠUBut mu-kil ku-tál-li NA UG₇ : bu-di : ku-tal-la11

(24) In “If a snake falls onto a man’s shoulder, he who backs up a man shall die” (Šumma Ālu 22 73), the “shoulder” (būdu) (in the protasis) (is connected with) the “back” (kutallu) (in the apodosis). In “he who backs up a man” (mukīl kutalli amēli), the word “back” (ku-tal, understood as ṣi-ri) means “divine snake” (MUŠ.dMUŠ) is the “little snake” (nirāḫu), i.e., the snake that has no hands. There is much after (this).

2525[mu]-kil ku-tál-li NA : ku-tal : MUŠ : dMUŠ : ni-ra-ḫu : MUŠ ŠU-MIN NU GAR ma-gal ár-ki12

262622 * URU ina SUKUD GARin NU AL.TIL

(26) (Tablet) 22 of “If a City is Set on a Height,” not finished.

2727[*] MUŠ ana UGU NA šá di-na ge-ru-ú ŠUBut di-in-šu GÍD.DA GÁL : iṣ-bur-ma : is-si-ma

(27) “If a snake falls upon a man who is litigating, his lawsuit will be long” (Šumma Ālu 23 1). (If a snake) twitters” (Šumma Ālu 23 6) means “shouts,” because zi.zi, which means “to twitter, said of a bird” (quotation from Nabnītu IX 48 or 49 ?), and “bird” zi.zi means “shout, said of a bird” (quotation from unknown source).

2828ZI.ZI : ṣa-bar šá iṣ-ṣur : MUŠEN ZI.ZI : ši-si- šá iṣ-ṣur : U₄mi ri- : U₄ 29.KÁM13

(28) “Empty day” (Šumma Ālu 23 8) means the 29th day of the month, the day when the moon is not visible.

2929[U₄mu] šá d30 la ú-šu-uz-zu : * MUŠ NA IGI-ma GAZ-šú NA BI a-di-ra-tu-šú NU TE-MEŠ-šú14

(29) “If a man sees a snake and kills it, his fears will not approach that man” (Šumma Ālu 23 9) [(i.e.), if on a day which is] propitious to kill he sees it and kills it, (this is said) on account of the 20th of Ayyāru (i.e., a day which in the Babylonian Almanac is said to be propitious for killing snake).

3030[ina U₄mi šá] a-na da-a-ku ṭa-a-bu IGI-ma i-duk : -šum U₄ 20.KÁM šá itiGU₄15
3131i-ta-dar : ip-ta-làḫ!(DIR) : šá [x x x x x] x : ši-gu-ú DUG₄si-ma NAM.BÚR*.BI* DUG₄?si?16

(31) “He is afraid (of the snake) (Šumma Ālu 23 10) means “he is terrified,” it refers (to the snake) that []. [“That man will appease Marduk” (Šumma Ālu 23 10)] (means) that he will recite aloud a šigû prayer and will recite a namburbû prayer []. []. [“Const]antly all the time” (Šumma Ālu 23 12) means during the day, while the sun is out. (The snake) constantly lies accross” (Šumma Ālu 23 12) [].

3232[x x x x x x x x gi]-na-a .A.BI : U₄mu ma-la dUTU nap-ḫi
3333[x x x x x x x ú]-ḫab-ba-ab : ḫa-ba-bu : ḫa-ṣa-nu : ḫa-ba-bu : na-šá-qa17

(33) [ (If a snake)] hisses” (Šumma Ālu 23 14), “to hiss” means “to take care,” hence “to hiss” also means “to kiss.” [] noise was made.

3434[x] x x mi na-áš-kun ri-gim : MUŠ rit-ti GAR-ma GIM UR.MAḪ i-ram-mu-um18

(34) “If a snake has (šakin-ma) a paw (rittu) and roars like a lion” (Šumma Ālu 23 27) refers (to the snake) that makes (šakin-ma) noise, (since) riṭṭu (an otherwise unknown word) means “noise.”

3535      ri-gim šá-kin-ma : ri-iṭ-ṭu : ri-gim : ana ŠÀ TÚG KU₄ : a-na ŠÀ -eḫ-ṣi šá-niš19

(35) (The snake) enters inside of the garment” (Šumma Ālu 23 40) means “inside of the fabric;” alternatively, it means “the place where the wrist is.” That reporter will have a SAG.TUK” (Šumma Ālu 23 41) means “he will have a life-granting spirit.”

3636[a]-šar ši-si-ti šak-na-ti : EN UMUŠ* BI SAG.TUK ba--ṭi TUKši : mu-kil re- ba-la-ṭu TUKši : ḫa-ṭi-*20

(36) “Fault” (Šumma Ālu 23 44) means “evil omen;” (as in?) “evil of the entrails, disastrous, frightening, dire and unauspicious” (quotation from the šuʾila Marduk 26 41 = Mayer OrNS 68 [1999] p. 151] ?). “Continuously stands” (Šumma Ālu 23 46) refers to (the man) who is enrolled into service and not exempted.

3737le-mut- : ḪUL UZU-MEŠ ḫa-ṭu-tu₄ pár-du- ḪUL-MEŠ NU DÙG.GA-MEŠ : GUB.GUBaz : šá ú-šu-uz-zu-ma la zak-ku-ú21
3838[*] MUŠ ina É ŠUB-ma DU.DUak : šá a-na ḪABRUD*-MEŠ u É-MEŠ la ir-ru-bu : NUNUZ* -tak-na : 22

(38) “If a snake falls in a man’s house and slithers around” (Šumma Ālu 23 49) refers to (the snake) which does not enter the holes or the houses.
“It lays an egg” (Šumma Ālu 23 50?-52?) refers to (the snake) which gives birth in the man’s house. BÚN.BÚN-ah (Šumma Ālu 23 53) means “it hisses.” i-ziz-eš means “by being furious,” (ezēz-iš) which refers (to the snake) which shouts angrily or, alternatively, to the snake which shouts loudly. “As indemnity” (Šumma Ālu 23 56) means “as a compensation.”

3939šá ina É ul-la-du : BÚN.BÚNaḫ : ú-nap-pa-aḫ : i-ziz- : e-ze-zi-23
4040šá ez-zi- i-šá-as-su-ú šá-niš šá šá-- i-šá-as-su-ú : ana kiš-šá-tu₄ : ana sa-ár-
4141up-ta-nar-rad : šá ÉRIN!-MEŠ ina bi-ri a-ḫa-meš ú-par-ra-du -šum ga-la-tu₄ šá ÉRIN!-MEŠ

(41) “Constantly causes fear” (Šumma Ālu 23 57) refers (to the snake) which frightens a whole army, on account of (the line) “to be afraid, said of soldiers” (quotation from an unknown lexical list). [Alternatively,] “constantly causes fear” means “constantly terrifies.”

4242[šá-niš] up-ta-nar-rad : up-ta-na-al-làḫ : * MUŠ ina É NA gišIG gišSAG.KUL NIGIN-ma

(42) “If a snake coils around the door and bolt of a man’s house and does not allow him to open it, that house will be expanded (alternatively, it will be abandoned) (Šumma Ālu 23 59): (this means that) it is a good (prognosis) for a noble man, but a bad one for a commoner, because of (the line) “the strong magic circles of Ninĝirzida” (quotation of K.10380 8′ // BM 35321 11′), where “circle” (šutukku) means “peg” (sikkatu, a part of the lock).

4343[a]-na? BADe NU SUMin É BI DAGAL KIMIN<(É)> BI ŠUBdi : ana kab-tu dum- ana MAŠ.EN.GAG lum-nu
4444-šum šu-tuk-ku dan-nu-tu₄ šá dNIN.GÍR.ZI.DA : šu-tuk-ku : sik-kát* : * MUŠ-MEŠ GIL-MEŠ : it-gu-ru-24

(44) “If several snakes are intertwined (GIL-MEŠ) (Šumma Ālu 23 75?-78?): GIL-MEŠ means “intertwined.” PÉŠ (Šumma Ālu 23 unknown) means “mouse.” “If a snake goes hunting in a man’s house” (Šumma Ālu 23 81), refers to (the snake) whose wings [].

4545PÉŠ* : ḫu-si-ri : * MUŠ ina É bu-ʾu-ra : šá mim-ma šá kap-pi sag-[x x x]-ru25
4646i-dam-mu-um : šá ši-si-ti <<:>> ma-a-du : dul-la : bi-ki-tu₄ : dul-la : ta--ḫi26

(46) (The snake) wails” (Šumma Ālu 23 84) refers to screaming loudly. “Hardship” (ibid.) means “weep,” it can also mean “moaning.” “Continuously” (Šumma Ālu 23 87?) means “constantly.” “If a snake is seen in the house of a man” (Šumma Ālu 23 88), refers to (the snake) which grows legs. “To do regularly” (Šumma Ālu 23 88) means “permanent.” Anta (Šumma Ālu 23 97-99) means “friend.”

4747gi-nam-ma : ka-a-a-ni- : * MUŠ ina É IGI : šá GÌR-MEŠ-šú ú-še-eṣ-ṣa-a27
4848sa-da-ru : ka-a-a-nu : an-ta : tap-pu-ú : * MUŠ MUNUS ina a-sur-re-e ina la e-de-e28

(48) (In) “If a woman catches a snake inadvertently in a waterspout and then lets go of it, that woman will have luck,” (Šumma Ālu 23 105) what it is said, (this is) because the snake and the woman, their

4949      DIBsu-ma BAR-šú MUNUS BI DINGIR TUKši šá Eú -šum MUŠ u MUNUS ud-dim-šú-nu29
5050* MUŠ ana É KU₄ šá ina UKKIN UN-MEŠ ana É i-ru-bu : MUD-su : ú-gal-lit-su

(50) (In) “If a snake enters a man’s house” (Šumma Ālu 23 105) refers to (the snake) which enters a man’s house while he is with a group of people. “MUD-su (ibid.) means “startles him.”

5151* MUŠ ina UGU giš iṣ : šá ir-bi-ṣu-ma la it-bu-ú : ÉŠ-su-nu : áš-lat-su*-nu*30

(51) (In) “If a snake is lying down on a man’s bed” (Šumma Ālu 23 110) refers to (the snake) which is lying down and does not stand up. ÉŠ-sunu (Šumma Ālu 23 115) means “their mooring rope.”

5252ṣa-a- šu-ut pi-i u maš-a-a-al- šá KA um-man-nu šá ŠÀ <*> ina itiBÁRA U₄ 1.KÁM la-am

(52) Lemmata, oral explanations, and (materials for) a “questioning” by a (master-)scholar, relating to (the text with the incipit) “<If> on the first day of Nisannu (I), before a man has set his foot on the ground” (= Šumma Ālu 22) and “If a snake falls onto a man who has begun a lawsuit” (= Šumma Ālu 23). 23rd reading of “If a City is set on a Height,” not finished. “If a snake is sitting on a man’s bed” (= Šumma Ālu 24, catchline).

5353      GÌR-šú ana KI GARnu ù * MUŠ ana UGU NA šá di-na ge-ru-ú ŠUB[ut]
545423 mál-su-ut * URU ina SUKUD GARin NU AL.TIL * MUŠ ina UGU giš?? [NA iṣ]

1The base text (K.1355+ o 22) reads at this point KUD*-MEŠ NU TI-MEŠ, not “TATTAB-MEŠ” as assumed by Freedman OPKF 19 (2006) p. 8 l. 13.

2The sign before the one but last colon, read by Freedman NE?, is a clear HUR. However the decipherment of the one but last word of the line is not entirely certain: the reading /ḫaš/ of the sign ḪUR is in fact elsewhere unattested.

3The restoration of the first word is uncertain. umandû is a D stem of edû.

4gú-MIN-ak-a = kitpulu is a quotation from Ḫḫ II 288 (gú-(ì)-ak-a = kitpulu). The subsequent “etymological” rendering is based on the equation ak.ÀKA = itqu, “fleece.”

5The rationale behind the first explanation of the line is uncertain. At the end ana dalīli is a possibility, but the traces in MS b do not seem to support it.

6It is also possible that šalummat refers to the previous explanation: the situation is unclear because of the lacunas in the base text.

7The sign transliterated and copied by Freedman as DU₆ and by von Weiher as KI is rather a LB ḪABRUD (with Heeßel KAL 1 (2007) p. 40 ad i 11'-12').

8Both DÙ = ezēbu and DUMU = bušû are seemingly elsewhere unattested. For the former compare perhaps Diri II 22 {laḫ}DU.DU = ezēbu. The latter is probably a case of metonymy, perhaps to be translated as “a son is a posession.” The sign at the end is clearly DUḪ, not GABA, pace Freedman and von Weiher (who however copy it correctly).

9No logogram for the word ṣerru, “enemy,” seems to fit the traces in MS a. Note that the preserved manuscripts of the base text read uštāniḫ-ma.

10The verb i-ku-šú is taken here as kâšu, as against the previous editions, which parsed it as akāšu G: the snake “lingers” on the man, hence the “difficulty” in getting rid of it. DU.DU = itkulu is elsewhere unparalleled. It is based probably on the phonetic similarity between alāku, “to go;” and akālu, “to eat.”

11DU.DU = mitḫuṣu is elsewhere unattested, but cp. Ea I 123 sag-du-du LAGAB׊ITÁ-tenû = maḫāṣu ša dabdê. On the phrase kutalla kullu, “to support,” see Durand Florilegium Marianum 7, p. 40.

12The first preserved sign in MS b ends in a vertical an cannot be reconciled with the signs of MS a (MS a needs collation at this point). Since the equation MUŠ.dMUŠ = nirāḫu is actually attested in Ḫḫ XIV 9, the reading of MS b (MUŠ.dMUŠ) is preferred here to that of MS a (MUŠ : dMUŠ). As opposed to von Weiher’s transcription, there is no li after ku-tal (ku-tal MUŠ) in his copy of SpTU 5 259. The rationale of the explanation relies perhaps on the fact that the signs ku-tal could also be read as ṣi₉-ri, i.e., “snake.” The last two words could also be considered part of the commentary, and not a paratextual note, as von Weiher’s edition and U. Gabbay (personal communication) propose. It would then mean “a thin snake that is very long” (MUŠ qát-nu šá ma-gal ár-ki).

13The source of the equation MUŠEN ZI.ZI : šisītu ša iṣṣūri is unknown.

14On the connotations of the 29th day of the month or bibbulu (new moon day), see CAD B 299 and Böck BPOA 3 (2007) pp. 176-177. ušuzzu is the N/LB stative of izuzzu (GAG §107e).

15The aššu clause is surely citing the Babylonian Almanac, which contains for the 20th of Ayyāru the prognosis “he should kill a snake, then he should take the first place.”

16i-ta-dar!(DIR) in MS a needs collation. The second part of the line surely refers to Šumma Ālu 23 10, NA BI dAMAR.UTU ú-sal!-lam-ma, which is to be interpreted, pace Freedman OPKF 19 (2007) and Heeßel KAL 1 (2007) p. 37 ii 10'f, with Marduk as the object of the verb, not as the subject: “that man will appease Marduk.”

17Note that the verb ḫabābu is frequently used as an euphemism for sexual intercourse, see George Gilgameš Epic (2003) p. 796-797 and Cooper Gs Finkelstein (1977) p. 43 fn. 22.

18It is uncertain whether the first part of the line still refers to Šumma Ālu 23 14 or to a different line.

19The commentator states that the fact that a snake “has” (šakin-ma) “a paw” (rittu) means that she “has” (šakin-ma) “noise” (rigim). The word “noise” is doubly justified: first, it is written with one of the signs of the original protasis (ri-GIM); on the other, the comentator observes that a word homophonous with rittu, the otherwise unknown sustantive riṭṭu, means “noise,” which must be a quotation from an unknown list.

20The line is probably corrupt. The preserved exemplars of the text read EN UR.BI at this point (see Heeßel KAL 1 [2007] p. 38 and 50 ad loc.), an expression of uncertain meaning. The interpretation EN DIB!, proposed by Geller apud Freedman Fs Leichty (2006) p. 161, is an emendation (the sign is clearly KU). Moreover, Geller’s statement (ibid.) that “EN.DIB is used for mukīlu in magical texts” could not be confirmed. On SAG.TUK = mukīl rēši, see Wilcke apud George CUSAS 17 (2011) p. 112 ad 12.

21ušuzzū-ma and lā zakkû are probably specific legal terms, used by the commentator to give an alternative meaning to the prognosis. Šumma Ālu 23 44 is probably to be read as ina ḫa-di-tim (Freedman OPKF 19 [2006] p. 40 reads ina ḫa-di-e; Heeßel KAL 1 [2007] p. 45 l. 41 ina ḫa-di-x, but in his copy p. 162 tim seems possible).

22“Holes” (thus in the tablet, pace Freedman) and “houses” are two places frequently mentioned in Šumma Ālu 23 in which a snake can enter. A hendiadys would make good sense here (“the holes of the house”), but it is hardly possible in the language of the omens. The sign NUNUZ is clear on the tablet (Freedman’s reading, e-zib, is certainly wrong). If this protasis is not contained in any of the partially broken lines of Šumma Ālu 23 50-52, it represents perhaps a different tradition of Šumma Ālu 23 51, which reads: “if a snake deposits its droppings (kabūssu iddi) in a man’s house.”

23The Vorlage of the commentary probably had i-BE- at this point, for which the commentarist provided an ad hoc explanation. The explanans, however, does not fit the text of the known manuscripts of Šumma Ālu 23 53, which read i-bi- and ib-be- (see Freedman OPKF 19 [2006] p. 42 ad loc).

24On the writing dNIN.GÍR.ZI.DA, see Freedman CM 31 (Fs Leichty) p. 163, who assumes a confusion, perhaps a hypercorrection, between Ninŋišzida and Ninŋirsu. The phrase šutukkū dannūtu ša Ninŋišzida is attested in an unpublished exorcistic incantation cited by Finkel apud CAD Š/3 412a: in fact, the line in the present commentary is probably a quotation from that incantation (note the technical term aššu introducing it). The aššu line is probably intended to support the commentator bold attempt at explaining both the positive and the negative prognosis as applicable to two different social classes. To do so, he refers to another line where there is an uncrossable threshold, an incantation that describes a magic circle, in which the “bolt” (sikkatu) together with the “noble” (dannu = kabtu, cf. Izbu Gurru Mahīru 71) and the “humble” (šutukku, which is said to mean sikkatu, whose logogram, GAG, is contained in MAŠ.EN.GAG) are mentioned.

25On winged snakes, see Radner WZKM 97 (2007) pp. 353-365.

26The colon after šisīti might have been erased.

27According to Heeßel KAL 1 (2007) p. 41, ginâm-ma might have appeared in the first part of Šumma Ālu 87, now broken.

28The base text has ina lā mūdû.

29According to Biggs JNES 70 (2011) p. 101f, BAR-šú is to be read as uššuršu “releases it / lets go of it.” The key of the explanation might lie in the fact that there is a happy outcome for both the woman and the snake.

30The last equation explains, perhaps in a fanciful way, a difficult word from Šumma Ālu 23 110, left untranslated by Heeßel KAL 1 (2007) p. 35, 38 and 41 iv 9.

Photos by Enrique Jiménez

Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum