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At the Cleaners


At the Cleaners is a complete text dating to the Old Babylonian period (c.2000-1600 BC). The genre of text is more difficult to establish however, as it appears to belong to a small class of documents created solely for entertainment. Gadd (1963) compares this style of text with a "Dialogue of Pessimism" (see Spieser, JCS 8, 98). He believes both to be types of comedic skits meant for performing, especially given the apparent stage directions in lines 27 and 36. Furthermore, the lack of introduction at the beginning of the tablet lends credence to the idea that this text may be an actor’s script. If so, this passage may be part of a much longer piece.

The structure of the text is designated as verse with single and double sentences corresponding to common poetic structure. However, this tablet does not appear to be organized into longer strophes (see von Soden in A. Falkenstein, Sumerische Hymnen, Einfuhrung 40; Held, M., JCS 15 (1961) 3; Oesa, P.F., Das Era-Epos 73).

Outside of its entertainment value, this tablet offers insight into the socio-economic structure present in the Old Babylonian period: citizen classes, specialization of labor, method of payment, etc.

Transliteration and translation


1. al-kam LU2-TUG2 lu-wa-h,i-ir-ka-a-ma su-ba-ti zu-uk-ki :: Come on clothes washer, I shall give orders to you so that you may clean my garment!

2. sza u-wa-h,i#-ru#-ka la ta-na-ad-di-i-ma :: that (which) I will order you, you shouldn't ignore and,

3. sza-at ra-ma-ni-ka la te-ep-pe-esz :: that of your own you shouldn't do.

4. si2-is-si2-ik-tam qa2-ap-si-da-am ta-na#-ad-di :: You will lay out the fringe and hem,

5. pa-nam a-na li-ib-bi-im tu-ta-aq#-qa2-ap :: the front you will beat inwards,

6. qa2-szi-it#-tim ta-la-aq-qa2-at :: the bits you will pick off.

7. me-eh,-h,a-am qa-at,-nam ta-ra-as-sa-an :: A think paste(?) you will soak,

8. i-na# ma-asz-h,a#-li-im ta-sza-ah,-h,a-al :: with a strainer you will strain it,

9. zi-zi-qa2-at qa2-ap-si-ti-im tu#-pa-at,#-t,a#-ar :: the hem of the coat you will open,

10. i-na me-e na-am-ru-tim ta#-di-ik#-x :: with clean water you will sprinkle(?) it.

11. ki-ma ki-im-di-im-ma# xx pa#-ar u3 te#-er# :: When it is limp you will …

12. i#-na# pi2-it-tim ta xx ki-ma# szu-tu xxx bi x :: Immediately you will … and when …

13. [i]-na# me-is#-qi2#-ir-tim# xx al#-ta# … :: in a boiler …

14. x-ku te#-[pa-as,] IM-BABBAR tu# xxx al# :: ?

15. x x UD sza al#….. :: ?

16. i#-na# te#-er-h,i-im ta-da#-ar-x :: in a vessel you will …

17. pi2#-qa2# zi-im-tam te-me#-s,i# … u3 tu-na … :: No matter if you … the appearance(?), and you …

18. i#-na# GISZ#.PA#-ma-nu tu-ta-ar# … :: With a stick of eru-wood you will …

19. sza#-ga#-am na-pa-al-sa3-ah,-tam tu … :: the fallen … you will …

20. szu-ta-am szi#-ip-ra#-am i-na {gesz}SZI-KAK# … ir :: … the work with a …comb(?) …


21. zi-zi-ik-tam ta-sza-at-ta-ak u3 tu-pa-asz-sza-ah, :: the hem you will trim off and spread(?) out.

22. i-na s,i-it li-li-im tu-ub-ba-al :: At the wind's rising you will dry it,

23. ki-ma szu-tu-um la usz-ta-ak-ka-zu :: (and) when the south wind does not … it

24. i-na sza-ad-di-im i-na pi-it-ni-im ta-sza-ak-ka-x :: in the east wind you will put(?) it on a frame.

25. lu-pu-usz-szu-uh,-kum bi-lam u2-h,a-ad-da-ka ma-di-isz h,u-um-t,a-am :: I will spread(?) you food, I will make you happy very quickly;

26. a-na bi-tim tu-ba-lam-ma BAN2.SZE a-na su2-ni-ka i-sza-ap-pa-[ak] :: you will bring (the finished work) to (my) house, and a seah of barley will be poured into your lap.

27. LU2#-TUG2 i-pa-al-szu asz-szum e2-a be-el ni-im-qi2-im sza u2-ba-la-t,u-[ni] :: The Cleaner answers him: By Ea, master of craftsmanship, who preserves me,

28. e-zi-ib la ia-ti sza ta-qa-ab-bu-u2 um-mi-ni u3 mu-sza-x :: no excepting me (to anybody), what you are talking is stuff and nonsense.

29. sza ki-ma ka-a-ti li-ib-ba-am i-ra-asz-szu-u2-ma# :: Anybody like you who has the heart (to conceive)

30. szi-ip-ra-am ri#-ta-szu i-ka-asz-sza-da u2-la i-ba-asz-szi :: and whose two hands can accomplish (this) work, doesn't exist;

31. sza tu-wa-h,i#-<ra>-an#-ni szu-un-na-am da-ba-ba-am :: The order you are giving me, to repeat (and) say over,

32. qa2-ba-am u3 tu-ur2-ra-am u2-la e-li-i :: to speak and to recite, I haven't the power.

33. al-kam e-li-nu-um a-li-im i-na li-it a-li-im :: Come now, upstream of the city, at the edge of the city,

34. ma-ah,-tu-tam lu-ka-al-li-im-ka-ma-me :: I'll show you a washery;

35. ma-na-h,a-tim ra-bi-tim sza i-na qa2-ti-ka i-ba-asz-szi-a i-na ra-ma-ni-ka szu-ku-un-ma :: the big job which you have in hand, do it by yourself.

36. na#-ap-ta-nu-um la i-ba-a it-ru#-ba-am-ma :: He does not come to the meal but goes in.

37. la#-ki-e LU2-TUG2 ma-du-tim pu-szu-ur :: Cleaner, relax (your) extreme …

38. szum#-ma la at-ta li-ib-bi-ka tu-na-ap-pa-asz :: If you don't cool off your heart

39. LU2-TUG2 sza i-na-ah,-h,i-t,a-kum u2-la i-ba-asz-szi :: (then), Cleaner, there's nobody who (can) breathe (a word) to you.

40. i-me-esz szu-ni-iq-qum-ma li-ib-ba-ka-mi :: Oil has spilled over your middle,

41. ih,-h,a-am-ma-at, u3 te-er-szi-tam :: it has become hot, and with …

42. pa-ga-ar-ka sza-mi-it :: your body is stained.



*Charpin, Clergé 431-432 *D'Agostino, Testi Umoristici 139-148 *Gadd, UET 6, 414 *Gadd, Iraq< 25 (1963) 181-188 *George, Iraq 55 (1993, 73-74 *Livingstone, AOAT 220 (1988) 175-183 *Reiner, E., AOAT 240 (1995) 407-411

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at_the_cleaners.txt · Last modified: 2016/11/22 19:33 by englund
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