The Scourge of God: The Umman-manda and Its Significance in the First Millennium BC. By SELIM
FERRUH ADALI. State Archives of Assyria Studies, vol. 20. Helsinki: THE NEO-ASSYRIAN TEXT
CORPUS PROJECT, 2011. Pp. xviii + 218. $62 (paper).
The volume under review is the author's updated and revised 2009 dissertation. Despite what the title and series promise, the book is a literary study whose scope goes well beyond the Neo-Assyrian period. As it is not an obvious fit for the SAAS series, one hopes it finds the appropriate audience: anyone interested in Mesopotamian literature or in how ancient scribes used the word Umman-manda. Adah's main argument is that when Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian royal scribes referred to contemporary enemies, the Cimmerians and Medes, as Umman-manda they were alluding to The Cuthean Legend of Naram-Sin, an influential literary text first attested in the early second millennium. The volume's secondary purpose is to "lay the foundations for interpreting the term Umman-manda" (p. 2), a process that involves a painstaking review of the primary sources from all periods that mention Umman-manda as well as the secondary sources concerned with the term's etymology and uses.
Chapters one and two offer an exhaustive discussion of the orthography and etymology of Umman-manda (often written ERTN-manda or ERIN.NES-manda) and the many problems associated with its interpretation. After laboriously exploring the occurrences of every variant spelling and the associated secondary literature, the author concludes that the first component of the word is Akkadian ummanu (troops) and that there is currently no agreement about the etymology of the second component, manda. Chapter two then reviews the scholarly literature regarding the etymology of manda before repeating that it is impossible to come to any firm conclusion. Adair is laudably thorough and readers seeking a comprehensive technical review of this material will be rewarded, though they are likely to find the argument rather convoluted. An additional lexical analysis of manda appears at the end of the volume.
The next chapter investigates the appearance of the term Umman-manda in omen literature. Again, the author's pursuit of every shred of evidence and every possible interpretation frequently sends him off topic, though he does establish a tenuous connection between omens and The Cuthean Legend. Much of the discussion speculates about the nature of omen literature and its...