Quick Thinking

KAR 174 is a large Assyrian tablet containing a rather strange assortment of sayings and anecdotes. Here’s one that makes me smile:
(KAR 174: rev. iii 19-20 [VAT 8807])
PEŠ (pi’āzu) la-pa-an šik-ke-e ina ḫur-ri MUŠ (ṣēri) e-ru-ba
um-ma MUŠ.LAḪ4 (mušlaḫḫu) iš-pur-an-ni šul-mu
A mouse, fleeing a mongoose, entered a snake’s hole
(and) said, “A snake-charmer sent me. Greetings!”
The text is from Lambert, 216. I will soon post another humorous fable from the same tablet that provides an abnormally interesting parallel to Greek fables.

Lambert, Wilfred G., Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxford University Press, 1960; reprint Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996)

2 thoughts on “Quick Thinking”

  1. I’m not sure about the context of your quote but I’ve come to unconsciously visualize metaphors whenever I read ancient texts, as if by an abnormally interesting form of word-metaphor synaesthesia.
    In classical times, the mouse was the animal of the sun (cf. Apollo Smintheus); the snake, an animal of waters below. From an Egyptian point of view, this quote reminds me of the daily battle between Ra and Apophis and in this sense then, the “snake’s hole” is a metaphor for the underworld.
    Then again, I may have completely overanalysed what little you said. Ah, but what a fun overanalysis for me to comtemplate though.

  2. Glen,
    In the case of this collection of saying, it’s hard to say much about context. The obverse of the tablet is all but unreadable so we don’t even know if they are attributed to some person or god. Like many such collections, each saying seems to be quite independent of the others. Some places one might see a kind of word association at work but not much more. In any case, sometimes a snake is just a snake.

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