Babylonian Oracle Questions.

Author:Novotny, Jamie
Position:Book review
 
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Babylonian Oracle Questions. By W. G. Lambert. Mesopotamian Civilizations, vol. 13. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2007. Pp. xiv + 216, plates. $49.50.

W. G. Lambert's Babylonian Oracle Questions is an interesting and important volume that fits well into the Mesopotamian Civilizations (MC) series. It contains a general introduction to the group of texts it publishes, transliterations and English translations of thirty-three texts and fragments, philological notes, hand-drawn copies of all of the edited texts, and an index of selected words. Mesopotamian Civilizations 13 brings together material that Lambert began working on in 1959, when E. Weidner suggested to him that Babylonian tamitu texts were a promising field of study. Forty-eight years later, in 2007, the fruits of Lambert's labors on texts that address questions to the gods Samas and Adad as a duo finally saw the light of day. Lambert's decades-long efforts in preparing this monograph should be commended since it mostly contains previously unpublished material; these texts contain many difficult-to-interpret words and passages, so providing an editio princeps of them was not an easy task.

Babylonian Oracle Questions contains a short preface (pp. vii-viii), acknowledgments to individuals and institutions who aided in the research (p. ix), a list of abbreviations (pp. xi-xii), a list of the cuneiform tablets published in the book (pp. xiii-xiv), a short introduction (pp. 1-20), editions of the texts (pp. 21-155), a one-page appendix (p. 156), hand copies of the cuneiform originals (pp. 157-214), and an index of selected words (pp. 215-16). The introduction, although very interesting, feels like a bit of an add-on that Lambert was forced to prepare (see below).

The book opens with a preface that gives a precis of the Babylonian tamitu texts, a brief history of the study of this text genre, some information about the text corpus, and the details of how Lambert became interested in the topic and how he became the best-suited scholar for tackling these difficult texts. In some respects, the preface reads very much like an Assyrian royal inscription, especially those of Sennacherib recording his construction work at Nineveh. Lambert openly boasts that he, and only he, was able to undertake the task of providing accurate and reliable editions and hand-drawn facsimiles of the extant Babylonian tamitu texts. In fact, Lambert is not wrong about this. There have been few Assyriologists...

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