So You Think Our Political Rhetoric Is Over The Top

Because I had State Archives of Assyria volume 3 checked out of the library, I’d thought I browse through it for anything abnormally interesting. A political incantation against one Bel-eit was the first thing that I didn’t otherwise know about and that was also rather startling. 82-5-22, 88:2 refers to Bel-eit as a ŠÈ ar-ri-tim, which I normalize to āritim And I’m not sure this is the worst thing the incantation calls him. I wasn’t familiar with these words (in Akkadian). But following State Archives of Assyria III’s translation and confirming it with CAD, I believe they mean something like “shit of a farter.” The SAA, 66, translation “shit bucket of a farter,” isn’t too far from the proper tone in context.
I’m quite sure that some of our politicians think this about each other. It just doesn’t comes up in incantations very often these days. Happy Face
If you think this is an anomaly, the first part of this charming expression occurs in another text (K 1351:4) in this very volume of State Archives of Assyria with the identical connotation and also aimed at Bel-eit. It seems that we know more than we may want about what Bel-eit was but very little about who he was.

Livingstone, Alasdair, ed., Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea, State Archives of Assyria, III (Robert M. Whiting ed.; Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1989), texts 29, and 30

One thought on “So You Think Our Political Rhetoric Is Over The Top”

  1. Hello there:
    I’ve just found your blog. I am a student from the U of Toronto with an interest in Mesopotamian Magic. I have to say that while my knowledge of Sumerian magic is so far reasonable, my appreciation of Assyrian incantations is insignificant.. I was therefore quite pleased by this post!
    The instances of political magic or military magic are few in number (two to my knowledge, both Ur III in date) and therefore this type of magic was either not a substantial function of the Sumerian exorcist or not one accounted for by the extent corpus. The most interesting example is that treated by M. Geller in TMH 6 14. The author links this incantation with another Ur III incantation published by Kramer (Anadolu Arastirmalari 6 pp176-77 – Kramer and Eren 1978) … despite that the latter is broken and obscure, both incantations seem to have a common target: Elam and Anshan. Both seem concerned in some way with silencing the effect of the seven (Kramer: “their seven kur-TAR-minstrels”) and the music of Elam and Anshan. Perhaps such music has a magic offense of its own or was supplicating the gods as in an incantation-hymn (?). The text from TMH 6 14 reads:
    1. Incantation
    The gudi-lute is silenced, (as well as) the nagal(-instrument)
    (these) being the harmonious sound of Bahar-e(n)unzaku.
    The lutes being made quiet (by the demons) are seven, (the demon) has also silenced the dim(-instrument)
    5. The ‘herald’ is a bad sound which has silenced Elam, Anshan, and its land
    the ‘herald’ binds the mouth with a spell
    He made the seven doves of Elam, Anshan, and the enemy lands
    into gurgling singers.
    He changed the water-rat (lit. well-sniffing rodent) into a leather purse,
    he maliciously bound the limbs of the doormouse,
    10. he changed the tourniquet into a weapon, the plow into blood spiller,
    he has changed the human tongue into mouse-hair.
    He consigned the heart of the lion to old age.
    He maliciously drank mankind’s blood.
    As for the seven swallows of Elam, Anshan, and of its land, he tossed
    porridge-liquid into (their) beaks.
    15. In his spiting, seven times two times seven in the land of elam and Anshan and
    their enemy lands, he changed the womb into illness.
    …, he changed Elam, Anshan, and the hostile [land] into a place-of-no-return.
    Another instance in which military or political magic may be thought to occur in Sumerian literature is in the tale of Enmerkar and En-suḫgir-ana: The Lord of Aratta employs a sorcerer to infiltrate Sumer and strike at the agricultural system present in the city of goddess Nisaba (which I suppose may symbolize the agricultural system of the land as a whole ?). The sorcerer uses his magic to make the the livestock sterile. The types of magic seen in this tale, especially the conjuring sequence in which th sorcerer and the wise women pull successfully larger animals out of the river to compete, seem to have no direct parallels in the Sumerian incantation corpus itself. I call it “literay magic.”
    I don’t know the specifics of who this Bel-eṭit is or the specifics of why this incantation might be classified as political magic – but would be fascinating to chart any potential parallels in the Akkadian literature to the above Sumerian texts.
    Thanks and Best Regards,

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