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The First (and Possibly Last) Eisenbrauns
Ancient Near Eastern Valentine Contest

Love is in the air! We went looking for a few good scholars to display both eros and erudition in our first (and possibly last!) Ancient Near Eastern Valentines contest.

We asked for no more than three original compositions or original interpretations in any ancient Near Eastern language (we bent the rules to allow Greek), accompanied by an English translation. Music and artwork were similarly welcome. We memorized the entire corpus of Near Eastern poetry, and watched for cheating.

You amazed us. You made us laugh. You made us smile. You made us cringe. (Any further contests will come with a strict "PG-13" rule. Oy!) You submitted Valentines with footnotes, references, and errata. After much deliberation, we're proud to present this year's winners.

We did our best to match prizes to the entries; we figured a free book in the entrant's area of interest was more valuable than a more expensive free book of something else. There were, of course, exceptions.

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And now, without any further ado, four (very) honorable mentions, and three prizewinners.


Honorable Mention

Hieroglyphic Luwian Valentine
by Annick Payne
Würzburg, Germany



Honorable Mention

Hurrian-Hittite Dialog
by Olivier Lauffenburger



Honorable Mention

Sumerian Valentine
by Jan Keetman


mušen ŋiša hea
ku ida hea
diŋir ea hea
lila edena hea
jen Arattaki zae mamuda igi hedu    
ŋae zae ŋišnomea ne gasub

niŋkas dub saŋaka hea
nade ka amazaka hea
o gemeam ŋi ninam
ŋenu ŋenu
tuŋu ŋenu
nin šaŋa ku

May the bird be in the tree,
May the fish be in the river,
May the God be in the temple,
May the ghost be in the desert,
May the Lord of Aratta see you in a dream,
I will kiss you in our bed!

May the calculation be on the tablet of the Sanga,
May the advice be in the mouth of your mother!
The day is a maid, the night is the queen!
Come, come,
Come my dove,
Come in, queen of my heart!



Honorable Mention

To What May Love Be Likened?
by Jane Lo
Undergraduate in Religious Studies, University of British Columbia


To what may love be likened?

To a song in the midst of silence —
And stillness in the storm.
A torch in the darkness of night —
And shade in the heat of summer.

I am blind and I am foolish,
But you are to me sight and understanding.

I am hungry and I am bitter,
But you are my bread and my honey.

To what may love be likened?



Third Place

The Cyprosyrian Girl
Music by John Curtis Franklin
Dept. of Classics, University of Vermont
Artwork by Anne Glynnis Fawkes

Download the MP3 here. (No, we're not kidding.)



Judge's comments:
John and Glynnis made an awful lot of work for the judge—racy artwork, unorthodox entries, and unbridled enthusiasm. But in the end, I have to acknowledge the quality and originality of their efforts.

Those interested in getting the whole CD can find more information on this song and others here.

The Prize:
Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs The Cat's Guide to Famous Lovers

by Helga Dudman
Carta, Jerusalem, 2002. Paper. English.


Second Place

The Medinet-Hubbu Cippus:
Towards a preliminary description
by Justin Mansfield
Grad Student, PAMW, University of Chicago

Judge's comments:
Justin's rosy Rosetta Valentine appealed to me with it's dry humor, effective use of multiple languages, and his faint note of pleading when he submitted it nearly two hours past the deadline.

His discovery raises an important question: Why would a girl need a valentine in three languages?

The Prize:
Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs Love Songs in Sumerian Literature
Critical Edition of the Dumuzi-Inanna Songs

by Yitzhak Sefati
Bar-Ilan University Press, 1998. Cloth. English.

Additional comments, February 18, 2008:
The risk of asking a question is to have it answered. Several people have set fort their theories as to the need for a trilingual Valentine:

"Need" is hardly the point when giving out valentines. "Be charmed by" is more like it. And really, who wouldn't be charmed by a multilingual valentine? Especially one with birds. And snakes.

As to why a girl would need a tri-lingual valentine, the answer should be obvious, particularly to enamoured academic-language-geeks: to show erudition, of course! What the colorful male plumage is to the bird, multilingual valentines are to....

Now you know, as do I. —A. K.


First Place

Egyptian Love Poem
by Sophie Harvey and Olivier Holmey
Undergraduates in Egyptology at Oxford


I love you.
I’m going to steal your heart
Because I am hungry for your love.
There is no other woman in my heart.
Unloose the bolt to your heart.
Dance with me till the land brightens.
You are my first, my end, my everything.

Heaven on earth is being in your embrace.
You are beautiful of face.
Your body is carved in alabaster.
I adore you like a flower or a star.
You are my first, my end, my everything.

I taste your lips and they are like a soft breeze.
I smell your perfume.
You are a goddess to me.
I was blind but with you I see.
I will take away your clothes
Because we wish to make love.
I breathe upon your body,
Making you tremble with exultation.
I kiss every place of your body.
You fill me with desire.
I will obey your every command.
I can’t stop loving you.
I love you.


Judge's comments:
What set this entry apart was the marvelous, hand-drawn (and, I suspect, hand burned) manuscript. As for the prize, Sophie and Olivier, you'll have to share—but if you're writing this sort of thing together, we suspect that won't be a problem.

The Prize:
Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs

by Michael V. Fox
Wisconsin, 1999. Paper. English.

That's all for this year, folks. Enjoy the day!

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