Bad News For A King Or Prince

In case you are a king or a prince, I thought you might like to know the following:
“If a king or a prince rides a chariot and the right wheel – the one on [his right] – collapses or the horse on the right splits open his head and blood flows – hand of Šamaš and Ištar; Šamaš and Ištar will cause him to mourn(?); a harsh imprisonment will befall him and in illness . . .”
Or
“If ditto (i.e. a king or a prince a chariot) rides and the left wheel or the horse on the left splits open his head and blood flows – the hand of Marduk and Ištar will cause him to mourn(?); the place (heaven?) of Marduk and Ištar will visit him.”
This is my working translation of CT 40 35-37:1-7. By “working” I mean “tentative” and subject to change without notice and perhaps without memory. For the uninitiated, the ideogram complex KI.MIN is generally rendered “ditto” as I have done here. “Ditto” is very common in omen series but occurs in other genres of Akkadian (and Sumerian) literature. Sometimes it’s a little hard to know the range of the ditto but in this case it’s fairly clear that the scribe or his source intended us to understand this ditto in terms of the previous omen – “a king or prince (rides) a chariot.” Presumably, the horse on the right or left splits open the head of the king or prince who fell from his chariot. In any case, having a wheel collapse or a horse split open one’s head is bad news. Who would have guessed?
The section of omens from which I selected these two deal with issues that arise in the use of chariots. There are 35 or so chariot omens before the tablet takes up omens that deal with the activities of horses without chariots.
I continue to work on these omens as background activity but they sure are abnormally interesting.

3 thoughts on “Bad News For A King Or Prince”

  1. Anthony,
    I’m not completely sure I understand your question. The tablet from which these omens come is from the Assurbanipal library in Nineveh. How much older than that the omens themselves may be is anyone’s guess.

  2. What got my attention was the mentioning of the chariot. Lately I’ve been thinking about the time the chariot became the new mean of war in the Near East. But yes, you are right we couldn’t know when that omen was first written.

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