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All Books and Software: Ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylon, Persia, Assyria): Mesopotamia - Literature

Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography

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Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography

by Wayne Horowitz
Second printing with correction of 1998 edition. 8
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Table of Contents


For purchasers of the 1998 edition of this book, download a list of changes and addenda that are included in the 2011 printing here.

In this comprehensive study, Horowitz examines all of the extant Mesopotamian texts (both Sumerian and Akkadian) relating to the ideas of the physical universe and its constituent parts (Heaven, Earth, subterranean waters, underworld). The author shows that the Mesopotamian view of the universe was at once cohesive as well as discordant and deficient, while remaining fairly constant over more than 2,500 years.

Horowitz first surveys the various sources for Mesopotamian cosmic geography, including various mythological and literary texts, as well as the famous "Babylonian Map of the World" and various astrological and astronomical texts. The universe was built by the gods in earliest times and was thought to be held together by cosmic bonds. Given this general notion, there is nevertheless significant variety in the inclusion or omission of various elements of the picture in texts of different genres and from different periods. In addition, the available evidence leaves a number of problems unsolved. What are the bounds of the universe? What is beyond the limits of the universe? In the second section of the book, Horowitz then discusses each of the various regions and their names in various locales and time periods, drawing on the disparate sources to show where there is coherence and where there is difference of perspective. In addition, he discusses all of the names for the different parts of the universe and examines the geographies of each region.

Of importance for both Assyriologists and those interested in the history of ideas, particularly the cosmologies of the ancient Near East.

Product Details

Publisher: Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2011
Bibliographic info: xvi + 418 pages + 10 plates
Language(s): English


Cover: Paper
Trim Size: 7 x 10 inches



"Horowitz' work constitutes an important contribution to the wider understanding of Mesopotamian religion. Not only does he make available copious amounts of information to a wider audience, but, through his choice of topic and mode of presentation, he also alerts nonspecialists to some of the messy realities involved in rendering holistic pictures of Mesopotamia's immense diversity. The author is to be applauded for fulfilling both of these requirements in this significant contribution to the history of ancient thought."--Philip Jones, University of Pennsylvania in The Jewish Quarterly Review(XCI, Nos. 3-4, Jan.-Apr. 2001)
"This book is a welcome and valuable resource both for Assyriologists and for scholars in the broader field of intellectual history. The author's extensive research sheds much new light on ancient Mesopotamian cosmography and focuses attention on many sources that have previously been underexploited."--F.S. Reynolds, University of Helsinki in Journal of the American Oriental Studies(121.1, 2001)
"The strengths of this study are Horowitz's demonstrated familiarity with the available Sumerian and Assyrian texts relevant to the Mesopotamian perceptions of the physical structure of the universe and its constituent parts, and his meticulous and intelligent presentation of them in an attractive and accessible format. Indeed, it is a handsome book, of the high quality typical of Eisenbrauns. Advanced students and scholars whose interests lie in Mesopotamian cosmography and who wish to explore it further will find this work to be an indispensable resource."--Marilyn M. Schaub, Duquesne University in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly(61, 1999)

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