Middle Babylonian Letters


The Middle Babylonian period (1500-1000) is divided into two successive dynasties:

The Kassite dynasty (ca. 1500-1150) and the 2nd Dynasty of Isin (1157-1025).

90% of all the tablets from the Kassite period, amounting to more than 12,000 tablets, come from Nippur. Nippur was a provincial capital and the seat of Enlil, the most important god during the Kassite period.

The archives mostly stem from the second half of the Kassite dynasty (ca. 1350-1150).

Small numbers of Middle Babylonian documents originate in Babylon, Dūr-Enlilē, Dūr-Kurigalzu, Tell Baradān, Tell Imlihiye, Tell Muḥammad, Tell Zubeidi and Ur. Even less stem from the cities Uruk, Larsa, Kiš and Adab.

Overview of corpus

More than 600 letters are preserved from excavations in Nippur. Nearly all of them contain administrative content.

The majority of these letters is stored in two collections: Roughly one half is in the Eski Ṣark Museum, Istanbul, whereas the other half is in the University Museum of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Of some of these letters only fragments are preserved.

To a lesser extent there are Middle Babylonian letters from Nippur in the Hilprecht collection in Jena. Additionally a few letters can be found in the collection of the British Museum, London, and in the Louvre, Paris.

Apart from Nippur 1 Middle Babylonian letter was found in Tell Imlihiye, and 7-9 letters were found in Babylon. Furthermore 6 Middle Babylonian letters from Dūr-Kurigalzu and 11 letters from Dūr-Enlilē are published so far.

Additionally 350 international letters (including inventories) from the Middle Babylonian period were found in Akhetaten (el-ʿAmārna), which was the capital of Egypt for a short period of time. 14 of the Amarna letters were exchanged between the rulers of the Kassite empire and Egypt.

Basic Typology

The Kassite letters were sent between high officials of the Kassite empire.

The biggest part of these administrative documents are ardu-letters. ardu-letters are reports by lower ranking officials to higher ranking officials. They begin with the form of address and greeting formula ÚRDU-ka NN a-na di-na-an be-lí-ia lu-ul/lul-li-ik/lik.

In a number of aḫu-letters the governors of the provinces, who were equal in rank, exchanged letters as well, addressing each other as “brothers”. The form of address is usually a-na NN qí-bí-ma um-ma NN ŠEŠ /a-ḫu-ka-ma, sometimes with an additional ša a-ra-a-mu. Additionally the greeting formulas a-na ka-ša lu(-ú) šu-ul-mu or DINGIR.MEŠ ša ON nap-ša-tik-ka li-(iṣ)-ṣu-ru are used.

There are also bēlu-letters, which contain orders by higher ranking officials to lower ranking officials as well as a small number of šarru-letters sent by the king.

The bēlu-letters use a-na NN qí-bí-ma um-ma NN as the form of address.

In šarru-letters the same form of address is used, the only difference to bēlu-letters being the sender: a-na NN qí-bí-ma um-ma LUGAL-ma. Furthermore um-ma-a a-na NN can be added.


BE 17, 84
Obv. 1. a-na IIn-na-an-ni qí-bí-maSpeak to Innannu:
2. um-ma I dMAŠ-IBILA-ŠÚM-na-maNinurta-apla-iddina (says) the following:
3. ŠEGEŠ.Ì ša ḫa-za-an-na-a-tiDo not agree to take the sesame seeds of the mayors!
4. la ta-ma-ḫa-ar
5. at-ta-ma-an-nu ŠEGEŠ.ÌWhoever it is (lit. Whoever you are), he may press the sesame seeds himself.
6. li-iṣ-ḫu-tu-ú-ma
7. Ì.GEŠ a-na É na4DUB li-še-ri-buMay he let the oil enter the (sealed) storehouse.
8. ù at-ta ŠEGEŠ.Ì-kaAnd you: Do press your sesame seeds as well and let the oil enter the (sealed) storehouse!
9. ṣu-ḫu-ut-ma Ì.GEŠ
10. a-na É na4DUB šu-ri-ib
11. ù ṭe-em ŠE.BAR And (furthermore): The report about the barley – whatever it is – you never (lit. do not) send me any report (lit. anything)!
12. mi-im-ma ul ta-áš-pu-ra
13. ù IḪa-áš-marAnd (regarding) Ḫašmar,
14. ša áš-pu-rak-kuwho I wrote to you about:
Rev. 1. NINDA ù KAŠ a-na pi-iGive (him) bread and beer according to (the number of) his men!
2. a-mi-li-e-šu i-din
3. ù NINDA.KASKAL-šu! ša a-diAnd procure for him bread for his journey, (which lasts until he is) by my side!
4. li-tu-ú-a
5. e-pu-uš

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Introductory Literature

Aro, J. and I. Bernhardt: Mittelbabylonische Briefe in der Hilprecht-Sammlung. In: WZJ 8, 565-574, pl. I-XV.

Parpola, S.: Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal (AOAT 5/2, 1983). Neukirchen-Vluyn.

Salonen, E.: Die Gruss- und Höflichkeitsformeln in babylonisch-assyrischen Briefen (SO 38, 1967). Helsinki.

Sassmannshausen, L.: Beiträge zur Verwaltung und Gesellschaft Babyloniens in der Kassitenzeit (2001). Mainz am Rhein.

Waschow, H.: Babylonische Briefe aus der Kassitenzeit. In: MAOG 10/1, 3-70.

middle_babylonian_letters.txt · Last modified: 2017/01/25 18:02 by lynn
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