A song of praise to Amurru
Artifact: Clay tablet
Period: Old Babylonian Period (ca 1900-1600 BC)
Current location: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK (Ashm 1923-766)
Text genre, language: Literary; Akkadian
Description: This intriguing work of Akkadian religious poetry sings the praises of Amurru, a god of the steppe. According to one plausible interpretation, our text dates to the reign of Rim-Sin (1822-1763 BC), who ruled for sixty years over the southern Mesopotamian city of Larsa until his defeat at the hands of king Hammurabi of Babylon in 1763. If the attribution to Rim-Sin is correct, then "Amurru and his crook" is currently one of the oldest extant works of Akkadian literature. The technical skill evinced in our poem's carefully balanced verse, which is designed to be heard rather than read, suggests that Akkadian compositions such as these had a longer history than our limited sources allow us to see. In previous centuries, according to our evidence, Sumerian had been the literary language of choice. One of the most popular Sumerian genres was the hymn: a brief song of praise addressed to a god, at the end of which a king would request divine favour or thank the god for having granted his favour previously. There is some evidence to suggest that under the kings of Larsa, among which Rim-Sin was prominent, Sumerian literature in general began to decline, and that hymns in particular began to be composed in Akkadian. This development was to produce some of the early masterpieces of Akkadian literature under the dynasty of king Hammurabi of Babylon. While our text is no such masterpiece, it is nevertheless artfully composed and exhibits many phrases and grammatical features that are characteristic of high literary Akkadian. The religious outlook of "Amurru and his crook" is typically Mesopotamian: the singer praises Amurru both for his importance among the other gods of the pantheon and for the generosity and clemency he shows to mankind. The crook - the symbol of Amurru, who seems to be a pastoral god of the Western steppe - has the power to "give life to the people", as the hymn says. This may involve a pun on the word meaning "crook" (Akkadian: gamlum) and a similar-sounding word meaning "to be kind" (Akkadian: gamalum). (Christopher Metcalf, University of Oxford)
Lineart: OECT 11, 001
Edition(s): Gurney, O.R. 1989. Literary and miscellaneous texts in the Ashmolean Museum. Oxford Editions of Cuneiform Texts 11, Oxford, 15 - 9.