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To Ishtar

Originally published in 1925 by F. Thureau-Dangin, "Un hymne à Ishtar de la Haute Époque Babylonienne" is "one of a small number lyrical texts from the Old Babylonian period" (Thureau-Dangin 1925, 169). Thureau-Dangin goes on to note that the most important (and famous) text in the genre is The Agushaya Poem.

It consists of fourteen strophes of four lines each, of which the last four strophes represent a prayer for the well-being of Year Names of Ammi-ditana, the ninth king of the First Dynasty of Babylon, who reigned ca. 1683-1647 BC. These fourteen strophes are then followed by a refrain or chorus, which is described by the Sumerian phrase gisz-gi-gal2-bi, a term that corresponds to Akkadian mehru(m), which is presumably the basis of Foster's translation of the term as "antiphon."

Transliteration and translation

Strophe 1

1. il#-ta-am zu-um-ra-a ra-szu-ub-ti i-la-tim
:: Of the goddess, the most fearsome of the goddesses, sing! (Notes)

2. li-it-ta-i-id be-li-it ni-szi ra-bi-it i-gi-gi
:: May the lady of the people, the most important of the Igigi, be praised! (Notes)

3. dinanna zu-um-ra ra-szu-ub-ti i-la-tim li-it-ta-i-id
:: Sing of Ishtar! May the most fearsome of the goddesses be praised! (Notes)

4. be-li-it i-szi-i ra-bi-it i-gi-gi
:: The lady of the people, the most important of the Igigi (Notes)

Strophe 2

5. sza-at me-le-ṣi-im ru-a3-ma-am la-ab-sza-at
:: The joyful one, clothed in attractiveness (Notes)

6. za-a’-na-at in-bi mi-ki-a-am u3 ku-uz-ba-am
:: Decked out in allure, seductive charm and sex appeal (Notes)

7. dinanna me-le-ṣi-im ru-a3-ma-am la-ab-sza-at
:: Ishtar, the joyful one, clothed in attractiveness (Notes)

8. za-a’-na-at in-bi mi-ki-a-am u3 ku-uz-ba-am
:: Decked out in allure, seductive charm and sex appeal (Notes)

Strophe 3

9. [sza]-ap-ti-in du-usz-szu-pa-at ba-la-ṭu2-um pi2-i-sza
:: Her lips drip with honey, her mouth is life itself (Notes)

10. si-im-ti-isz-sza i-ha-an-ni-i-ma ṣi-ha-tum
:: Laughter flourishes in her . . . (Notes)

11. szar-ha-at i-ri-mu ra-mu-u2 re-szu-usz-sza
:: She is majestic, . . . on her head (Notes)

12. ba-ni-a3-a szi-im-ta-a3-sza bi-it-ra-a-ma i-na-sza szi-it-a-ra
:: Her . . . are beautiful, her eyes are multicolored and iridescent (Notes)

Strophe 4

13. el-tu-um isz-ta-a3 sza i-ba-asz-szi mi-il2-ku-um
:: The pure one, who possesses counsel (Notes)

14. szi-ma-at mi-im-ma-mi qa2-ti-isz-sza ta-am-ha-at
:: The fate of any given thing . . . in her hand (Notes)

15. na-ap-la-su-usz-sza ba-ni bu-a-ru-u2
:: At her glance, serenity comes into being (Notes)

16. ba-asz-tum ma-asz-ra-hu la-ma-as-su-um sze-e-du-um
:: Vitality, good health, good luck and spiritual protection (Notes)

Strophe 5

17. ta-ar-ta-mi te-esz-me-e ri-tu-u2-mi ṭu-u2-bi
:: She loves obedience, mutual acts of love, and good will (Notes)

18. u3 mi-it-gu-ra-am te-be-el szi-i-ma
:: She is the one who demands complaisance (Notes)

19. ar-da-at ta-at-ta-ab um-ma ta-ra-asz-szi
:: The maiden who . . . will come into the possession of a mother (Notes)

20. i-za-ak-ka-ar-szi i-ni-szi i-na-ab-bi szu-um-sza
:: He will mention her among the women and call out her name (Notes)

Strophe 6

21. a-ia-um na-ar-bi-a3-asz i-sza-an-na-an ma-an-nu-um
:: Who can rival such immensity? (Notes)

22. ga-asz-ru ṣi-i-ru szu-u2-pu-u2 pa-ar-ṣu2-u2-sza
:: Superior strength, loftiness and the ability to make things come forth are her divine attributes (Notes)

23. dinanna na-ar-bi-a3-asz i-sza-an-na-an ma-an-nu-um
:: Who can rival the immensity of Ishtar? (Notes)

24. ga-asz-ru ṣi-i-ru szu-u2-pu-u2 pa-ar-ṣu2-u2-sza
:: Superior strength, loftiness and the ability to make things come forth are her divine attributes (Notes)

Strophe 7

25. bi-a-at i-ni-li a-ta-ar na-az-za-zu-usz
:: She is the one who . . . among the gods (Notes)

26. ka-ab-ta-at a-ma-as-sa3 el-szu-nu ha-ab-ta-at-ma
:: Her utterance is weighty, it is what hangs over them (Notes)

27. dinanna i-ni-li a-ta-ar na-az-za-zu-usz
:: Ishtar is the one who . . . among the gods (Notes)

28. ka-ab-ta-at a-ma-as-sa3 el-szu-nu ha-ab-ta-at-ma
:: Her utterance is weighty, it is what hangs over them (Notes)

Strophe 8

29. szar-ra-as-su2-un usz-ta-na-ad-da-nu si-iq-ri-i-sza
:: :: She is their queen, they discuss her commands (Foster)

30. ku-ul-la-as-su-nu sza-asz ka-am-su-u2-szi
:: :: All of them bow down before her (Foster)

31. na-an-na-ri-i-sza i-la-qu2-u2-szi-im
:: :: They go to her (in) her radiance, (Foster)

32. isz-szu-u2 u3 a-wi-lum pa-al-hu-szi-i-ma
:: :: Women and man fear her too. (Foster)

Strophe 9

rev. 1. (= 33) pu-uh-ri-isz-szu-un e-te-el qa2-bu-u2-sza szu-tu-ur2
:: :: In their assembly her utterance is noble, surpassing (Foster)

2. (= 34) a-na an-nim szar-ri-szu-nu ma-la-am asz-ba-as-su-nu
:: :: She is seated among them as an equal to Anu their king (Foster)

3. (= 35) uz-na-am ne-me-qi2-im ha-si-i-sa-am er-sze-et
:: :: She is wise in understanding, reflection, insight. (Foster)

4. (= 36) im-ta-al-li-i-ku szi-i u3 ha-mu-usz :: :: Together they make their decisions, she and her lord. (Foster)

Strophe 10

5. (= 37) ra-mu-u2-ma isz-ti-ni-isz pa-ra-ak-ka-am :: :: There they sit together on the dias (Foster)

6. (= 38) i-ge-e-gu-un-ni-im szu-ba-at re-sza-tim :: :: In the temple chamber, delightful abode, (Foster)

7. (= 39) mu-ut-ti-isz-szu-un i-lu-u2 na-zu-iz-zu-u2 :: :: The gods stand in attendance before them (Foster)

8. (= 40) ep-szi-isz pi2-szu-nu ba-szi-a3-a uz-na-szu-un :: :: Their ears awaiting what those mouths will command. (Foster)

Strophe 11

9. (= 41) szar-ru-um mi-ig-ra-szu-un na-ra-am li-ib-bi-szu-un :: :: Their favorite king, whom their hearst love most, (Foster)

10. (= 42) :: :: Ever offers in splendor his pure offerings (Foster)

11. (= 43) am-mi-di-ta-na el-la-am ni-qi2-i qa-ti-i-szu :: :: Ammiditana offers in plenty before them (Foster)

12. (= 44) ma-ah-ri-iszu-un u2-sze-eb-bi-li-i u3 ia-li na-am-ra-i-i :: :: His personal, pure libation of cattle and fatted stags. (Foster)

Strophe 12

13. (= 45) isz-ti an-nim ha-me-ri-i-sza te-te-er-sza-asz-szu-um :: :: She has asked of Anu her spouse long life hereafter for him (Foster)

14. (= 46) da-ri-a-am ba-la-ṭa-am ar-ka-am :: :: Many years of life for Ammiditana (Foster)

15. (= 47) ma-da-a-tim sza-na-at ba-la-a3-ṭi-im a-na am-mi-di-ta-na :: :: Has Ishtar rendered to him as her gift (Foster)

Strophe 13

16. (= 48) tu-sza-at-li-im dinanna ta-at-ta-di-in :: :: By her command she gave him in submission (Foster)

17. (= 49) si-iq-ru-usz-sza tu-sza-ak-ni-sza-asz-szu-um :: :: The four world regions at his feet (Foster)

18. (= 50) ki-ib-ra-at ir-be2-e-em a-na sze-pi2-i-szu :: :: She harnessed the whole of the inhabited world to his yoke (Foster)

Strophe 14

19. (= 51) u3 na-ap-ha-ar ka-li-szu-nu da-ad-mi :: :: What she desires, this song for her pleasure (Foster)

20. (= 52) ta-aṣ-ṣa-mi-su-nu-ti a-ni-ri-iszi-u2 :: :: Is indeed well suited to his mouth (Foster)

21. (= 53) bi-be-el li-ib-bi-i-sza za-ma-ar la-le-e-sza :: :: he performed for her Ea's own word(s) (Foster)

22. (= 54) na-ṭu2-um-ma a-na pi2-i-szu si-iq-ri e2-a i-pu-is-si :: :: When he heard this song of her praise, (Foster)

23. (= 55) esz-me-e-ma ta-ni-it-ta-a-sza i-re-us-su :: :: Saying, "Let him live long," (Foster)

24. (= 56) li-ib-lu-uṭ-mi szar-ra-szu li-ra-am-szu ad-da-ri-isz :: :: may his (own) king always love him (Foster)


25. (= 57) dinanna a-na am-mi-di-ta-na szar-ri ra-i-mi-i-ki :: :: O Ishtar, grant long life enduring to Ammiditana (Foster)

26. (= 58) ar-ka-am da-ri-a-am ba-la-ṭa-am szu-ur2-ki li-ib-lu-uṭ :: :: the king who loves you, (long) may he live! (Foster)

27. (= 59) gisz-gi4-gal2-bi :: :: Its antiphon (Foster)


Lines 1-10

1. <b>ra-szu-ub-ti</b> this is probably a form of raszubbatu(m) &ldquo;Schauder und Ehrfurcht erregendes Aussehen&ldquo; = &ldquo;looks that cause horror and respect&rdquo; (AHw 962b-963a), although the doubled /b/ would normally prevent a construct form like raszubti. (Return to text)

2. <b>li-it-ta-i-id</b> formally either the Gt preterite of na&rsquo;a:du(m) &ldquo;aufpassen; sich kümmern&rdquo; = &ldquo;to pay attention, to look out; worry about, take care of&rdquo; (AHw 693a-b) or the Dtn preterite of nâdu &ldquo;rühmen, preisen&rdquo; = &ldquo;to praise&rdquo; (AHw 705a-b); Foster clearly adopts the latter with his translation of the verb as &ldquo;let her be praised.&rdquo; (Return to text)

5. <b>sza-at me-le-s,i-im</b> von Soden lists me-le-s,i-im as one of only a handful of examples of me:les,u(m) &ldquo;schwellende Kraft&rdquo; = &ldquo;swelling or increasing power&rdquo; (AHw 643b); it is presumably the mapras-stem of ele:s,u(m) &ldquo;schwellen; jubeln, jauchzen&rdquo; = &ldquo;swell, increase; rejoice, shout for joy&rdquo; (AHw 200a). The mapras-stem would actually therefore suggest a translation like &ldquo;she of the joyful place/instrument.&rdquo;, an interesting ambiguity to say the least. <b>ru-&rsquo;a3-ma-am</b> ru&rsquo;amu(m) &ldquo;Liebreiz (von Frau)&rdquo; = &ldquo;charm, attractiveness&rdquo; (AHw 991a), derived from râmu(m) &ldquo;to love&rdquo;. (Return to text)

6. <b>za-a&rsquo;-na-at</b> za&rsquo;a:nu(m) &ldquo;ausgestattet, geschmückt sein&rdquo; = &ldquo;to be furnished; to be adorned, decorated&rdquo; (AHw 1499a). <b>in-bi</b> inbu(m) &ldquo;Frucht; Geschlechtskraft&rdquo; = &ldquo;fruit; sexual power, allure&rdquo; (AHw 381b). <b>mi-ki-a-am</b> mikûm &ldquo;verführerischer Reiz (einer Frau)&rdquo; = &ldquo;seductive charm (of a woman)&rdquo; (AHw 652a); apparently a hapax. (Return to text)

9. <b>du-usz-szu-pa-at</b> duszszupu(m) &ldquo;gesüßt, seh süß&rdquo; = &ldquo;sweetened, very sweet&rdquo; (AHw 179a), but as a denominative D-stem derived from diszpu(m) &ldquo;honey&rdquo;, it can simply be translated as &ldquo;honeyed,&rdquo; or more idiomatically &ldquo;dripping with honey.&rdquo; (Return to text)

10. <b>si-im-ti-isz-sza</b> Formally either si:mtu(m) (derived from sia:mu(m) &ldquo;to place, to establish,&rdquo;) or simtu(m) &ldquo;(Wesens-)Zugehörigkeit, Zugehöriges,&rdquo; = &ldquo;belonging to, appropriate to a particular entity&rdquo; derived from wasa:mu(m) and often equated with Sumerian me-te (AHw 1045). <b>i-ha-an-ni-i-ma</b> hana:mum &ldquo;reichlich anwachsen&rdquo; = &ldquo;begin to grow, grow together, take root&rdquo; (AHw 320a); note as well AHw's listing under hanna:mu &ldquo;sehr füllig&rdquo; = &ldquo;very abundant,&rdquo; which makes reference to two occurrences of ha-an-na-ma-tu-um-ma in the well-known lists of Old Babylonian lyrics: KAR 158 ii 17 (AHw 321a). Thureau-Dangin translates the line as follows: &ldquo;Sa parure excite l'admiration,&rdquo; and then offers a more literal rendering in the footnote: &ldquo;à sa parure (s')excite l'admiration&rdquo; (Return to text)

Lines 11-20

12. <b>szar-ha-at</b> szara:hu(m) AHw has two distinct entries for this form: (i) &ldquo;stolz, prächtig, herrlich sein&rdquo; = &ldquo;to be proud, splendid, majestic&rdquo; and (ii) &ldquo;herausziehen, auswählen&rdquo; = &ldquo;to pull out, to select,&rdquo; but the former seems to fit the context here. <b>ra-mu-u2</b> râmu (ass. ria:mu) &ldquo;(be)schenken&rdquo; = &ldquo;to present (a gift), to give.&rdquo; <b>szi-it-a-ra</b> szit&rsquo;a:ru(m) / tit&rsquo;a:ru &ldquo;buntfarbig schillernd (Augen)&rdquo; = &ldquo;multicolored, iridescent (eyes).&rdquo; (Return to text)

16. <b>bu-a-ru-u2</b> bu&rsquo;a:ru(m) &ldquo;Heiterkeit&rdquo; = &ldquo;cheerfulness, serenity&rdquo; (AHw 135a). basztu(m) &ldquo;Scham; Lebenskraft&rdquo; = &ldquo;shame; vitality&ldquo; (AHw 112a). maszrahu: (plural tantum) &ldquo;blühende Gesundheit&rdquo; = &ldquo;blossoming good health&rdquo; (AHw 629a), apparently a hapax legomenon. (Return to text)

17. <b>ta-ar-ta-mi</b> &ldquo;whispers&rdquo; as suggested by von Soden 1977), 279; otherwise &ldquo;mutual loves&rdquo; according to Foster (2005, 88), but CAD T takes it as a predicate, translating this line: &ldquo;she (Isztar) loves obedience, mutual love, and good will&rdquo; (sub teszmû). <b>te-esz-me-e</b> &ldquo;compliance (with a god's or ruler's will), acceptance (of prayers) CAD T, p. 374. <b>ri-tu-u2-mi</b> ritu:mu(m) &ldquo;gegenseitige Liebeserweisung&rdquo; = &ldquo;mutual or reciprocal display of love&rdquo; (AHw 991a). (Return to text)

18. <b>mi-it-gu-ra-am</b> mitga:ru(m) &ldquo;sehr günstig&rdquo; = &ldquo;very favorable,&rdquo; but written &Scaron;E.GA, which should mean something like &ldquo;agreeable, complaisant&rdquo; (AHw 661b). (Return to text)

19. <b>ta-ra-asz-szi</b> raszû &ldquo;bekommen, erhalten, erwerben&rdquo; = &ldquo;to get, to receive, to win.&rdquo; (Return to text)

20. <b>i-ni-szi</b> Foster includes a note on the line as follows: &ldquo;Construing i-ni-szi as in(a) iszszi. For iszszu without a doubled consonant, compare i-szi-i in line 4&rdquo; (Foster 2005, 88); iszszu &ldquo;Frau, Weib&rdquo; = &rdquo;woman, female.&rdquo; (Return to text)

Lines 21-30

25. <b>bi-a-at</b> With respect to this word, Foster has the following note: &ldquo;I follow here von Soden's emendation to sza!-at, ZA 40 (1931), 195 note 4. Collation shows the copy to be exact. Hecker's proposal, Epik, 79 note 2, ga!-sa!-at, seems to me less likely because of the parallelism of the lines, which resembles that of ii (Foster 2005, 88). (Return to text)

26. In a discussion of spirantization of /k/ to /h/, Moshe Held writes in reference to this line: &ldquo;For other examples [of spirantization of k] see most recently Kraus, Edikt, p. 175. Note the parallelism kabtat / habtat in the OB hymn to Ishtar (RA, 22, p. 170, lines 26, 28) kabtat amassa elszunu habtat &ldquo;Weighty is her command; she is more important than they.&rdquo; We assume that the variant habtat (for kabtat) is due to its position in the sentence (&lsquo;sandhi&rsquo;)&rdquo; (Held 1961, 12). (Return to text)


*Held, Moshe. 1961. A Faithful Lover in an Old Babylonian Dialogue. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 15(1): 1-26. *Thureau-Dangin, F. 1925. Un hymne à Isztar de la haute époque babylonienne. Revue d&rsquo;Assyriologie et d&rsquo;Archéologie Orientale 22(4): 169-177.

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