Gods, Kings, and Merchants in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. By DOMINIQUE CHARPIN. Publications de l'Institute de Proche-Orient Ancient du College de France. Leuven: PEETERS, 2015. Pp. 223, illus, [euro]41 (paper).
The volume under review is an updated version of eight articles that Charpin has written over the past twenty years. He sees this contribution as a continuation of his Writing, Law, and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (2010). One of the specific goals in this new collection is to show that the modern concepts of religion, politics, and the economy were not clearly defined in the ancient Near East during the Old Babylonian period. A larger purpose of this work is to rectify the lack of use of archival texts for understanding the history, society, and culture of Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. Three main genres of texts are represented in this study--legal texts, letters, and accounting documents, which often contain anecdotal information about cultural phenomena.
However, it is well known that these documents have been scattered in over 1200 publications throughout the world. Hence, Charpin has been instrumental in the ARCHIBAB project, which has brought these texts together to begin the enormous task of synthesizing the material. In addition, the publication of archival texts for this period has doubled in the past three decades, a fact that will transform and deepen our understanding of this period. There are now over 30,000 published archival texts from the Old Babylonian period (over five times the amount of similar texts from the Neo-Assyrian period).
Charpin in the first chapter ("Prophetism in the Near East according to the Mari Archives") makes the obvious but often ignored observation that the Mari archives do not present a group of prophetic texts, but rather are letters with prophetic content. This, of course, means that the information gleaned therefrom is haphazard and needs to be interpreted as such. He also mentions that the biblical prophetic narratives can only be studied in light of a larger ancient Near Eastern continuum.
Charpin argues in the second chapter ("Extradition and the Right of Asylum: The Case of the Storm-God of Aleppo") that asylum given by the Storm God of Aleppo was valid in the entire kingdom of Aleppo, not just at a particular sanctuary. The third chapter ("The Evocation of the Past in the Mari Letters") not surprisingly shows that monarchs evoked the past for their own purposes. Chapter four...