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State Archives of Assyria (vol. X)

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State Archives of Assyria (vol. X)

May-19-2001 at 00:03 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

State Archives of Assyria (vol. X)
Passages from Letters From Assyrian And Babylonian Scholars
Simo Parpola

Parpola first mentions about a letter (#160) which a certain author sent to the king, in which the names of twenty able scholars (ummni leti) whom he considered fit for royal service were listed in. These were experts in their fields which included; astrologer/scribe, diviner, exorcist/magician, physician, and lamentation chanter. These five scholarly professions are mentioned several times in this correspondence and elsewhere. These able scholars formed a close-knit professional group intimately associated with the concept wise man who served the palace and lived in the city as a group. Not anybody in such profession was designated as scholar, rather, it was only those who excelled in their trade to the extent that they were in command of more than one branch or discipline, if not the entire extent of the Wisdom.
The technical lore of the Five Disciplines underlines the strong religious and metaphysical orientation of Mesopotamian scholarship: astrology, magic, divination and mystical philosophy, matters rejected today as pseudo-scientific, played a prominent part in it. True enough, mathematics, astronomy and linguistics also played an important role in Mesopotamian scholarship; but these exact sciences too were harnessed to the service of the predominantly religiously and philosophically oriented Wisdom.
Isaiah, in predicting the fall of Babylon, writes as follows (47:10):
Your wisdom (hakmatek) and your knowledge (datek) preverted you, and you said in your heart, I am, and none else beside me.
What the prophet meant by wisdom and knowledge appears in the following verses (47:12-13):
Stand now with your enchantments, and with the multitude of your sorceries, wherein you have laboured from your youth: perhaps you will profit, perhaps you will prevail ! You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; let now the viewers of the heavens, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up and save you from what will come upon you !
The same idea recurs in the prophecy of Nahum on the fall of Nineveh (3:17):
You have diviners like locusts, and astrologers like grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun arises they flee away.
These two passages, scornful as they are, reveal the great respect which the Mesopotamians had for the experts in divination, magic and astrology, and one may get an idea of why the study of the pseudo-sciences was appreciated above everything else. Insight into the supernatural or numinous was considered the greatest wisdom of all, the foundations of which were believed to have been laid by the gods themselves.

The general dogmas of Mesopotamian Wisdom were epitomized in an esoteric diagram called the Tree of Life, circulated among initiates only. A stylized version of the diagram, depicted as an elaborate palmette-crowned tree trunk surrounded by a garland of palmettes, pine-cones or pomegranates, served in Assyrian imperial art as an ideological symbol providing the legitimization for Assyrias claim to world dominion.

In Assyrian iconography, mythical sages are represented as three kinds of composite creatures symbolizing their supernal and wisdom and saintliness crystallized in the figur of Adapa: as fish-cloaked men, as eagle-headed winged creatures with human bodies, and as winged human figures wearing horned crowns. The fish-garb symbolized their connection with Apsu, the Ocean of Wisdom. The head and wings of the eagle symbolized their connection with heavens; and the horned crowns, indicating divine status, symbolized their transformation from humans to saints after death. Ritual texts state that the sages were dressed in white garments, clearly symbolizing the purity of their souls. These representations recall the transformed celestial appearance of Enoch in Jewish mystical tradition.

Much of the effort of the contemporary astrologers appears to have been directed towards predicting astronomical phenomena in advance, evidently with an eye to capitalizing on the kings desire to attach to his service the best prognosticators available. Some of these predictions can be shown to have been based on primitive methods directly derived from the Scriptures, but many turn out to involve more sophisticated methods not to be found in the Scriptures. The astronomical knowledge making such predictions possible can only have been acquired through systematic and intensive study and recording of astronomical phenomena. Systematic collection of observational data had already been prescribed for practicing astrologers in the treatise Mul Apin dating from the second millennium BC; and there can be little doubt that the drive for further research was much intensified in the Sargonid period owing to the vehement scholarly competition for court positions at that time. This development continued under the Neo-Babylonian kings, and eventually led to the birth of mathematical astronomy at the turn of the 5th century BC.

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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
» Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
» Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
Assyrian \ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)   1:  descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur   2:  the Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.  These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the Christian Era.  No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control, religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a criterion of nationality.   3:  the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya, Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean, Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu, Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye, Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   1:  a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.   2:  has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.

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