The Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur. By NILI SAMET. Mesopotamian Civilizations, vol. 18. Winona Lake, Ind.: EISENBRAUNS, 2014. Pp. xii + 286, 29 plts. $89.50.
The book under review provides a new and much needed critical edition of The Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur (henceforth LUr), a Sumerian literary composition of more than 400 lines attested exclusively from Old Babylonian period sources (p. 2 n. 5). It is known from ninety-two manuscripts, which allow for its almost complete reconstruction. A new critical edition, grounded on the most recent scholarship of the genre of City Laments, is therefore a welcome contribution. Nili Samet not only offers a new translation, commentary, and score of the manuscripts but also an introduction to the topic of the City Laments, concordance tables, and twenty-nine beautiful color plates.
In chapter 1 (pp. 1-31), Samet briefly examines the topic of laments in general, and then focuses on laments in Sumerian literature. After discussing the corpora of Cultic Laments and that of City Laments, as well as their relation to one another (pp. 1-3), she considers the five extant City Laments: The Lament over Ur, The Lament over Sumer and Ur (LSUr), The Lament over Uruk (LU), The Lament over Eridu (LE), and The Lament over Nippur (LN). It is unclear to this reviewer whether the Curse of Agade, arguably the model for all Old Babylonian City Laments, has been excluded from the discussion for chronological reasons, as it is at least an Ur III composition. Since the author implicitly recognizes the connection between some of these City Laments and the Curse of Agade (p. 7 n. 36), the omission is even more puzzling.
Samets discussion of the City Laments, their reciprocal chronological relationships, and their historical background is very well handled. Extremely important are the author's remarks that "[discussing the historical aspects of the City Laments should not mislead us into considering them historical documents... Questions regarding literary, cultic, and ideological aspects of the laments seem to be more relevant to this genre than historical questions" (p. 8).
Next, Samet attempts to identify the possible cultic settings of the City Laments (pp. 9-12). She postulates the development of these cultic settings based on the chronological order in which, according to her, the extant City Laments were written. She concludes that City Laments were usually performed during a ceremony associated...