It Seems Simple Enough

I’m trying to write a couple of paragraphs on dšamaš (dUTU) – Shamash. Here’s what I have so far,
Shamash was the solar deity sun sun god sun
Am I trying to resolve a distinction without a difference? Did the ancient Mesopotamians understand the sun as that bright thing that comes up in the morning and brings light and heat much as we do? Did they then attribute some additional less obvious (to us) features like ‘judge of the heavens and the underworld’ much as we attribute features like ‘star at the approximate center of our solar system’? Yes, I know Akkadian often used šamšu to refer to just the obvious features of the sun or sun light. But even then, they often wrote it dUTU. There are even a couple of cases where šamšu fairly unambiguously means Shamash. ša-aš-šu bēlu rabiu, “Great Lord Shamash” (CAD Š1 337). Don’t worry about the missing /m/. bēlu rabiu is a fairly common epithet for Shamash (and other gods).
If I hadn’t written on “When Gods And Ghosts Were Not Supernatural” the other day, I might be able to get a little more done on this task. I have quite a few notes to build on.

2 thoughts on “It Seems Simple Enough”

  1. Yeah, I think about this a lot, actually. I don’t think we can fully conceptualize “deity” in the ANE. It’s hard to imagine what they imagined. So many people just assume that our concept is their concept. Not likely, in my opinion.
    But I think it’s reasonable to say the identification between the god and the sun, in this case, was fairly close. It’s the conceptualization of that identification that fascinates me. You know what I mean?

  2. Yeah, I think the problem of conceptualization in this neighborhood is rather severe. Take what we might think of as a purely economic text, one that makes no mention gods or goddesses, something like, “11 sheep / 9 goats / 5 jars of wine.” Does such a thing sometimes (always) entail an oath? If so, is there a sacred quality to text itself or to the transaction or even, and you may think I have lost my mind here, to the sheep, the goats and the wine?

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