The Structure Of The Equine Omens Of Šumma Ālu

I’m cleaning up my work on the equine omens of Šumma Ālu. I’ll be posting them sometime soon. The work is based on CT 40 33-37 and a few duplicates. Following Freedman, I take these omens to be from Šumma Ālu tablet 43. Nötscher reckoned it as tablet 41. Some 103 omens are extant or partially extant from this tablet. It is likely that the tablet once had a few more but only a few more. The colophon is either completely missing or represented by a single sign (a DI) at the end of line 84 of CT 40 35-37. In the following outline of the shows the composite nature of this tablet. All sections, major and minor, are represented in the text by a scribe line. The scribe (or the tradition) divided the donkey omens into two contiguous sections and the horse omens into two contiguous sections and then added a third section of horse omens at the end in the manner of an appendix. Notice also that the text represents šumma, “if,” in two different ways in the text. This is particularly notable in the of chariot omen subsections. The omens that have a king or a prince or a king alone use BE-ma in their protases. But šumma is represented by DIŠ in the chariot omens that only mention only a prince. DIŠ is also used to represent šumma iin all the donkey and horse omens.

  1. Donkey omens,
    1. 20 omens (DIŠ ANŠE . . . , šumma imēru, . . . , If a donkey . . . )
    2. 5 omens (DIŠ ANŠE . . . , šumma imēru, . . . , If a donkey . . . )
  2. Horse omens
    1. 11 omens (DIŠ ANŠE.KUR.RA . . . , šumma sisû . . . , If a horse . . . )
    2. 10 (or more, but not many more) additional omens (DIŠ ANŠE.KUR.RA . . . , šumma sisû . . . , If a horse . . . ) Tablet broken at end of this section
  3. Chariot omens
    1. King or prince, 15 omens (BE-ma LUGAL ú-lu NUN GIŠ.GIGIR U5ma. . . , šumma šarru ulū rubū narkabta irkab-ma . . . , If a king or prince rides a chariot and . . . ) Many, but not all, using the DITTO sign for LUGAL ú-lu NUN GIŠ.GIGIR U5ma
    2. King only, 1 omen (BE-ma LUGAL GIŠ.GIGIR U5ma . . ., šumma šarru narkabta irkab-ma . . . , if a king rides a chariot and . . .)
    3. Prince only, 19 omens (DIŠ NUN GIŠ.GIGIR U5ma . . . , šumma rubû narkabta irkab-ma . . . , If a prince rides a chariot and . . . )
  4. Horse omens, ~22 (DIŠ ANŠE.KUR.RA . . . , šumma sisû . . . , If a horse . . . )
  5. Unreadable (colophon?)

While the omens are abnormally interesting in their own right, the composition, if that’s the right word, of the whole text is even more so. I am particularly struck by the scribe lines demarking divisions in the text where it is hard to see in difference between those omens that come before the scribe line and those that come after it. Such seemingly arbitrate divisions occur in other Šumma Ālu tablets. I am looking for something within the text that would explain these divisions but so far I haven’t found anything. When I put the whole thing up in a day or two perhaps you will see something. My guess is that these demarcations indicate differing sources at some point in the process of the collection of these omens. If so, this surely says something about the composition of list of laws, proverbs and other material in other collections. Think, for example, of the arrangement of many of the legal collections in Torah.
Note: my use of “prince” and “rides” in the translations is somewhat problematic but you’ll need to wait for the post of the whole collection to see how and why I use them.

Freedman, Sally M., If a City Is Set on a Height: The Akkadian Omen Series Šumma Ālu ina Mēlê Šakin Vol. 1: Tablets 1-21 (Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund 17; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum / Babylonian Section, 2098).
Nötscher, Friedrich, “Die Omen-Serie šumma ālu ina mēlê šakin,” Orientalia, NS, 51-54 (1930).