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Eblaitica: Essays on the Ebla Archives and Eblaite Language, Volume 4
Edited by Cyrus H. Gordon and Gary A. Rendsburg
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The fourth and final volume in the series Eblaitica: Essays on the Ebla Archives and Eblaite Language embodies eight cogent essays by a variety of specialists. Of particular interest in this issue is the second part of Michael Astour's history of Ebla. Contributors include Alfonso Archi, Michael C. Astour, Cyrus H. Gordon, Gary A. Rendsburg, Robert R. Stieglitz, and Al Wolters.
Publication date: 2002
Bibliographic info: xvi + 269 pages
This fourth and final volume of Eblaitica contains eight essays by six authors, the essays varying in length from 2 to 139 pages.
Alfonso Archi begins with survey of prepositions in Eblaite (1@21). The second essay in the volume, also by Archi, is entitled "Ses?II?ib: A Religious Confraternity" (23@55). Members of the ses?II?ib took part in official cultic acts, and their role and composition are fully considered from all relevant texts. Most of the article (31@55) is taken up with indexes of the names of all members of the ses?II?ib, gods in whose cult they were employed, places where they received gifts and the list of passages in which names of ses?II?ib occur. They appear to have served in pairs (as witnessed by the sign ?II? within the designation) and remained in service for various lengths of time. They were not in the service of any single deity and should not be described as priests. Some ses?II?ib took part in an annual cultic journey in honor of the deity Nidabal of Luban.
The next article, "A Reconstruction of the History of Ebla (Part 2)" by Michael Astour, continues an article, "An Outline of the History of Ebla," that appeared in Eblaitica 3 in 1992. With its bibliography, this mammoth sequel runs from pages 57@195, contains 764 footnotes, and occupies more than half of the volume (which, moreover, supplies the indexes to both parts 1 and 2 of the article). It thus merits particular attention. The principal subjects of the article are the date of the destruction of Palace G at Ebla (58@76), Ebla in the Mardikh IIB2 Period (76@133), and King Mekum and the end of Ebla IIB2 (133@71).
On the date of the destruction of Palace G, that is, the date of the end of the Ebla Archive and the end of the Ebla IIB1 Period, Astour surveys the various positions that have been advanced (destruction ca. 2500, destruction by Naram?SIn ca. 2250, destruction by Sargon), finding each to be wanting and concluding: "the conflagration of Palace G at Ebla preceded not only the fall of Mari to Sargon but even that of Kis of Lugalzagesi. It must also be noted that the chronological position that we have established for the end of Palace G excludes the possibility that Pepi I and Sargon were contemporaries" (73). Astour prefers a date around 2290 for the conflagration and disputes the view that the fire must have been part of a hostile attack on the palace (75).
Various sources must be used for the history of the next period (Ebla IIB2), and the author discusses at length a fragment of an Old Babylonian copy of an inscription of Su?Sin. Then by considering our knowledge of nine locations during the Ur III period, he gives a picture of the breakup of the Ebla Empire.
The discussion of King Mekum and the end of Ebla IIB2 identifies the first term in the phrase Me?gu?um ensi Eb?laki on an Ur III tablet as a proper name, not a title. This figure is held to be the same as Meki in the Hurrian?Hittite bilingual Song of Manumission, which is then considered. Using criteria for historical plausibility, Astour concludes that the song is a valuable witness to this period of Ebla's history and argues powerfully against those who relate the contents of the song to the time of the Hittite kings Hattusilis I or Mursilis I (154). Thereafter the author surveys 19 sites to show how the destruction of Ebla IIB2 fits with the pattern of a wave of destruction of north Syrian cities at the end of the Early Bronze IVB.
Besides these broad themes the article is also replete with minor geographical or textual discussions. Publication delay has meant that the most recent items in the bibliography are from 1998.
Next in the volume is a brief note by the late editor Cyrus Gordon: "Gnostic Light on Genesis 1 and 2 via Massa'" (197@98), which is characteristically eccentric and entertaining.
The fifty essay is Gary Rendsburg's "Eblaite and Some Northwest Semitic Lexical Links" (199@208). This follows the author's established approach of connecting Eblaite with Amorite and Aramaic in a Sprachbund called "Syrian Semitic" (199). Six of the twelve connections that he suggests show "a high degree of coherence between Eblaite and Aramaic" (207). Not all the connections proposed are equally plausible. The Eblaite lexeme ma?i?at "100,000" (alongside Eblaite mi?at "100") might, as suggested, be related to Ugaritic miyt of KTU 1.16 iii 4 (though the passage is obscure). However, this does not really support the way Rendsburg takes up a suggestion of Cyrus Gordon (in Eblaitica 2:127) that Eblaite ma?i?at should be related to the Kethib twyam of 2 Kgs 11:4, 9, 10, and 15. The suggestion that m'ywt in this connection means "hundreds of thousands" rather than simply "hundreds" has nothing to recommend itself from an exegetical point of view, and the comparison between the Hebrew Kethib and Eblaite is utterly unenlightening.$FL
Next, Robert Stieglitz considers "Divine Pairs in the Ebla Pantheon" (209@14). He proposes that a list is headed by the pair Adanu and Belatu (obviously related to the words for "lord" and "lady," respectively), who "may well be the formal heads of the Eblaite pantheon" (211). Stieglitz is also the author of "The Deified Kings of Ebla" (215@22), which includes an examination of what he designates the "Ebla King List."
Finally, Al Wolters conducts a study entitled "Metrological PRS-Terms from Ebla to Mishna" (223@41). He finds that there are two basic terms running through a range of Semitic languages: parisum, a unit of capacity, and parsum, a unit of weight (a half-mina). The former is attested in Eblaite, and the latter may be posited for that language.
P. J. Williams, University of Cambridge CB3 9DA, UK, RBL 05/2003
Although the tablets from Ebla are mainly in Sumerian logographic script, the language in which they are written, conventionally termed "Eblaite," is actually an ancient Semitic language, perhaps the oldest attested. Classifying the position of Eblaite within the Semitic languages remains difficult because the texts "provide only limited information of a grammatical nature" (Rendsburg, p. 208; cf. Wolters, p. 224). The volume under review, edited by Gary Rendsburg and his late mentor, Cyrus Gordon, is the last in a series. The first three volumes appeared in 1987, 1990, and 1992, respectively. Fortunately, the book does not feel dated. The latest bibliographical entry is R.'s reference (p. 201) to Abraham Tal, A Dictionary of Samaritan Aramaic (HO 50; Leiden: Brill, 2000).
The longest article in the present connection, Michael Astour, "A Reconstruction of the History of Ebla (Part 2)" (pp. 57-195), when taken together with Part 1 (pp. 3-82), published in Eblaitica 3, provides a book-length history of Ebla. The editors of the present volume have thoughtfully provided a comprehensive index by Gregg A. Serene to both Astour articles as well as to all the texts cited in the present volume (pp. 250-69). Alfonso Archi contributes "Prepositions at Ebla" (pp. 1-21) and "SES-IIB: A Religious Confraternity" (pp. 23-55). Robert Stieglitz also contributes two pieces: "Divine Pairs in the Ebla Pantheon" (pp. 209-14) and "The Deified Kings of Ebla" (pp. 215-22). Of great interest is Al Wolters's essay, "Metrological PRS-Terms from Ebla to Mishnah" (pp. 223-41). There is a brief piece by the co-editor, Cyrus Gordon, "Gnostic Light on Genesis 1 and 2 via Massa (pp. 197-98). Gary Rendsburg has once more taken upon himself the daunting task of providing comparative Semitic links between Eblaite and related languages in "Eblaite and Some Northwest Semitic Lexical Links" (pp. 199-208). -- S. David Sperling, Hebrew Union College in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 65, 2003.
"To sum up, the book under review has been prepared with utmost care and scholarly precision . . . Astour's article still represents the most complete overview of the history of Ebla. The book is also provided with a valuable index of the texts cited in the publication, which are not limited solely to Eblaite. It is hardly necessary to stress the importance of this monumental work of four volumes, which offer the reader a view into many different aspects of the language, society, religion and history of Ancient Ebla."--Jana Mynarova in Archiv orientalni 71 (2003).
"This volume of Eblaitica, which the lamented senior editor, Cyrus Gordon, did not live to see in published form, is announced to be the final volume of the series. Gordon and Rendsburg have rendered Ebla studies a great service with the four volumes they have produced."
--Robert D. Biggs, The University of Chicago, in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 64/2.
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