The Šumma Ālu Equine Omens

Finally, I have a more or less presentable draft of my on and off again work on the Šumma Ālu equine omens. You can download the Akkadian text, my normalization, translation with notes in a PDF file. If all you want is a translation, download this PDF file. Please remember that this work is not a formal publication of this abnormally interesting set of omens. It is at best something to work from and on. Within this constraint, I welcome comments and criticisms. Finding things to criticize will likely be easy. Every time I look at it I find a few myself. But enough is enough. Now is the time to let others take their shots.
For those readers who need a Biblical connection to read an Akkadian text, think about Balaam’s jenny. That jenny sees something that even the great seer could not see. While the Šumma Ālu equine omens offer no direct parallels to the story of Balaam’s jenny, they do tells us of potential ominous portents from equidae, donkeys and horses, bulking and braying and doing other things too fierce to mention. I’m working up a brief note on this. Hopefully someone will publish it someday.
Have fun and remember, “If a horse enters a man’s house and bites a donkey or a man, the owner of the house will die and his household will be dispersed” and “If a horse of a divine chariot balks and the man kneels down, there will be an epidemic in the land.” I’m not sure how often these kinds of things come up but one can never be too careful.

2 thoughts on “The Šumma Ālu Equine Omens”

  1. Just how reliable do you think the line-art you based this on is? Gadd’s work does appear like “cartoon cuneiform.” Can you be sure his rendition of the original work is sound?

  2. Robin,
    Your point is very well taken. Without spending time with the tablets any treatment such as mine is incomplete and subject a whole range of errors. Gadd’s drawn signs are often very stylized although it is my impression that they became less stylized when he saw room for controversy or where he saw ligatures. To mitigate this issue I tried to work back and forth between Gadd and Nötscher. Nötscher worked directly with the physical tablets and on occasion his readings differ from Gadd’s. I must say that I tended to go with Gadd in such cases but I also tried, were possible, to be informed by usages in stock phrases both in this subset but in the Akkadian omen tradition as a whole. Bottom line: mine is not a critical edition. But then, I didn’t mean it to be.

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