The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East

by Hermann Hunger
The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East
Hermann Hunger
Journal of the American Oriental Society
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 Reviewed work(s): The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East by Mark E. Cohen A review by M. Dietrich of this volume appeared in Ugarit-Forschungen 24 (1992): 500ff. For the sources from the Ur III period there is now the very detailed investigation by W. Sallaberger, Der kultische Kalender der Ur III-Zeit (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1993). Remarks on details: P. 4. A first sighting of the new crescent can take place only in the evening. P.6. Apart from conflicting evidence for the year 381/380 B.C., the nineteen-year-cycle can now be seen as beginning around 500 B.C. (J.P. Britton, "Scientific Astronomy in Pre-Seleucid Babylon," in Die Rolle der Astronomie in den Kulturen Mesopotamiens, ed. Hannes D. Galter [Graz: rm-Verlag, 1993], 62). I do not understand why, at the equinoxes, "the sun and the moon vied with each other for time in the sky." At an equinox, the full moon is above the horizon as long as the sun; at the winter solstice, the full moon is in the sky about as long as the sun at summer solstice, and vice versa. But the equinox will only rarely coincide with the full moon; on the other days of the month, the time the moon is visible is not in an obvious relation to the season; its time above the horizon depends much more on its age (what the day of the month is). If anything vies for time, it could be day and night, both of which depend on the sun only. It is not easy to determine which is the day of the equinox without a reliable clock, and the same applies to the solstices. In addition, since the Mesopotamian year was lunar, phenomena depending on the sun could not occur on the same calendar date every year. For this reason, the dates of the ritual. Sp. I 131 (p. 319) are unlikely to refer to solstice dates; in fact, the text only says that in the months Du'uzu and Tebetu the nights are short and long, respectively. Pp. 12f. Some paragraphs on these pages are repeated almost literally on pp. 248, 269, and 303f. While the sections repeated fit the context of these later pages, literal repetition is probably due to the use of modern text processing machines (there are more examples of this in the book, e.g., pp. 260f. = 459f.). Pp. 120ff. For the reading of the month name se-KIN-[ku.sub.5] cf. Sallaberger, Der kultische Kalender, 9, n. 24. Pp. 131 ff. Here the author discusses the changes which occurred in the calendars of Ur and Drehem during the Ur III period. In my article "Kalender" in RlA 5:300, the calendar of Ur is erroneously listed as beginning with the month mas-da-ku (instead of se-KIN-[ku.sub.7]); apart from this, many changes in the calendars are not documented in that article which are now much better known. M. Cohen proposes to abandon the term "Reich-skalender" for the Drehem (and Ur) calendar because it is not used in all cities of the Ur III state; only with the shift of the capital to Isin is one calendar in use everywhere, that of Nippur. Sallaberger (Der kultische Kalender, 8, n. 19) considers the term appropriate because this calendar is used in at least a number of cities, and especially in documents of the central administration. Pp. 178ff. The terms "astronomy" and "astrology" (which are, of course, modern) do not easily fit the situation in antiquity. While there is no doubt that the sky was observed in Sumerian times for the purpose of omens and probably also in connection with cultic actions, this is not astronomy, which involves measuring and computing.  P. 180. I find it misleading to mention the zodiac (and its subdivisions), which was invented around 400 B.C., in connection with the term "house" of the moon, since the meaning in the older texts is clearly not the same as in the younger. Even if the passages quoted refer to places in the sky, they could not be defined by fixed stars, because the moon is not in the same place on the same calendar date each year. Also, e-[u.sub.4]-7 seems to me to mean "house of day seven" and not "seventh house." And that could be a building on earth, as are the other "houses of the moon" mentioned. P. 183. The month name [pa.sub.4]-kus-e is read [pa.sub.4]-u-e by Sallaberger, Der kultische Kalender, 256; but he does not propose a translation for it. P. 185, n. 1. The term GUR is discussed by Sallaberger, Der kultische Kalender, 255f. Pp. 189ff. AO 6040 is treated by Sallaberger, Der kultische Kalender, Tabelle 87. In lines iii 5 and 10, the copy in TCL 5 does not show ar in ga-ar, but [murub.sub.4]; in vi 9 and 23, the copy has gestin, not lal. Pp. 198ff. SNSAT 409 is also treated by Sallaberger, Der kultische Kalender, Tabelle 88; the transliterations do not always agree. W. Heimpel, "83:ne-sag," NABU 1994: 72, signals disagreement with both authors while discussing the word ne-sag which he takes to be an "architectural unit." P. 239, n. 2. Here Subat-Enlil is identified with Chagar Bazar, but the correct identification with T. Leilan is found on p. 255. P. 244, nn. 5-6. The book on Old Assyrian religion by H. Hirsch is Untersuchungen zur altassyrischen Religion (AfO Beiheft 13-14), which appeared in 1961 (second ed., 1972). P. 239, n. 3. The son of Samsi-Adad who was succeeded by Zimri-Lim was Yasmah-Adad, not Isme-Dagan. P. 328. A slightly different translation of ABL 42 is given by Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, vol. 2 (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1971), 324 and now Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars (Helsinki: Helsinki Univ. Press, 1993), no. 98. P. 331. It seems to me difficult to derive a month name of the "Standard Babylonian Calendar" which was introduced before 1500 B.C. (p. 302) from Old Persian, which reached Mesopotamia only in the first millennium. P. 333. A ritual for days three and four of Kislimu in Esagil was recently published by G. Cagirgan and W. G. Lambert, "The Late Babylonian Kislimu Ritual for Esagil," JCS 43-45 (1991-93): 89ff. Pp. 346ff. For the festivals at Emar, see now D. E. Fleming, The Installation of Baal's High Priestess at Emar (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992). P. 401. I am not convinced of the existence of the "equinox-year," for which MU.AN.NA is suggested as a possible term. As far as I can see, MU.AN.NA means "year" in the usual sense. The idea of the moon and the sun vying for time in the sky should have found expression in some cultic or mythological text, if it were such a dominant concept in the cultic calendars. I know of no such competition between Sin and Samas. If the akitu-festival was celebrated at Nippur and Adab in the fourth and twelfth month, it was not a semi-annual event there. P. 421. A. George, "Exit the 'House of Which Binds Death'," N.A.B.U. (no. 43) 1993: 34-35, has cast doubts on the reading of the temple name, "House-That-Fetters-Death," occurring in an inscription of Sennacherib, and although the matter is disputed (cf. A. Livingstone, "Reintrat 'House Which Binds Death'," N.A.B.U. [no. 76] 1993: 60), a connection with Bel's release in the Marduk ordeal text seems unlikely. M. Cohen has chosen a rather large and complicated topic for his book. He had to survey a vast amount of cuneiform material, most of which is not easily accessible (i.e., not translated). Naturally, certain points are given more attention than others (the discussion of the calendars of the third millennium takes up more space than all others combined, because the author was more familiar with them. This does not mean that other areas are neglected, however, and we have here a mine of information both on calendars and on many aspects of the cult. The book shows the wide-ranging knowledge of the author, and we have much reason to thank him for his work. HERMANN HUNGER UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA COPYRIGHT 1996 American Oriental Society 

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