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tain streets are lined with scribes prepared to write for the illiterate. An occasional man among them is provided with little blank stamps in soft brass, and with an engraving tool is prepared to cut the signature or initials of the man upon one of them while he waits. The impression of the stamp is affixed to his letter in place of his signature.
THE “CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY" OF NINEVEH The cuneiform inscriptions in clay, stone, and metal that now repose in museums and in private collections number hundreds of thousands.
Several ancient libraries and immense archives have been found. Years ago the literary library of Ashurbanipal (668-626 B. C.) was discovered at Nineveh. It appeared to the excavators that the library had been deposited in the upper chambers of the palace, and that when the building was destroyed they fell through to the lower floors, where they were found in
The inscriptions showed that they had been arranged according to their subject in different positions in the library. Each series had a title, being composed generally of the first words of the first tablet. Usually at the end of each tablet its number in the series was given.
In the library were found epics, religious, astrological and magical texts, chronicles, paradigms, syllabaries, etc. This is the only library that has been found in Babylonia or Assyria which can be regarded as a literary library, where efforts have been made to assemble literary and other works produced at times not necessarily connected with the era to which the library belonged.
The scribes of Ashurbanipal searched the temples and schools of Babylonia and Assyria for these productions and re-wrote them in what was then modern Assyrian.
There are many indications of the transcription of older texts, or the handing down of them from one period to another. Not a few tablets in the Ashurbanipal library have subscriptions or colophons stating that they are copies written according to originals found in such and such a city.
Several instances of earlier versions have been found. For example, there is a version of the Gilgamesh represented in the Yale collection by a tablet, and in the Berlin Museum by a fragment which belong to a time fifteen hundred years earlier than the library of Ashurbanipal.
The same is true of the deluge story, which is represented by more ancient versions. Moreover, the one in the library of J. Pierpont Morgan, dated about 2000 B. C., clearly shows that it is a copy of a still older version. Not only is the name of the scribe who made the copy given, but where the original was defective he wrote “broken.'
In more recent years temple and school libraries have been found at Nippur, Sippar, Larsa, Babylon, and Erech. The libraries of the first three sites be
long chiefly to the third millennium B. C.; those of the last two belong to later periods.
They are primarily temple school libraries, and contain also the tablets used by the different priests in the temple service, as hymns, prayers or liturgies, omen or divination texts; also syllabaries or dictionaries, grammatical exercises, mathematical texts, etc. At Nippur school library material belonging to the second millennium was also found.
Besides these libraries immense archives of temple administrative documents belonging to all periods have been found in practically all sites where excavations have been conducted by the Occidental or by the illicit diggings of the Oriental.
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTS CAREFULLY KEPT But especially large archives of these documents numbering several hundred thousand and belonging to the third and fourth millenniums B. C., have been found at Tello, Nippur, Drehem, Jokha, and recently at Ur.
These tablets record the payment into the temple stores of tithes or offerings of drink, vegetables, or animals, of taxes, rents, loans, and also the disbursement of this property. The temple stood in relation to the people as the State does in modern times, and these are the records of administration.
Exhaustive accounts were kept of what was received and what was disbursed. Great storehouses held the income. There were immense cattle yards,
in which the property of the temple in live stock was cared for, as, for example, the one at Drehem, close by the city of Nippur.
The cattle not disposed of were intrusted to herdsmen, with whom contracts were made, setting forth their responsibilities and regulating their profits; documents referring to granaries, freight boats, messengers; to payments of temple officials; in fact, records similar to the business transactions such as are ordinarily found in the administrative offices of our present-day institutions.
Next to the temple documents, in point of numbers, come legal and business documents of the Assyrians and Babylonians. One hundred thousand tablets of this character would be a reasonable estimate of this class of literature in the different museums and private collections, belonging to all the periods. These documents are one of the most fruitful sources of light thrown upon the every-day life of the people, not to mention the valuable historical and chronological data gathered from them.
AN ANCIENT MARRIAGE CONTRACT There are dowry and marriage contracts, partnership agreements, records of debts, promissory notes, leases of land, houses, or slaves, deeds of transfer of all kinds of property, mortgages, documents granting the power of attorney, tablets dealing with the adoption of children, divorce, bankruptcy, inheritance; in fact, almost every imaginable kind of deed or contract is found among them. Following is an example of a marriage contract:
of Bel-akbe-iddin, grandson of Ardi-Nergal, spoke thus to Shumukina, son of Mushallimu: "Give me thy InaEsagila-banat, the virgin, to wife to UballitsuGulu, my son.' Shum-ukina hearkened unto him and gave Ina-Esagila-banat, his virgin daughter, Uballitsu Gulu, his son. One mina of silver, three female slaves, Latubashinnu, Ina-silli-esabat and Taslimu, besides house furniture, with InaEsagila-banat, his daughter, as a marriage portion he gave to Nabu-nadin-akhi. Nana-Gishirst, the slave of Shum-ukina, in lieu of two-thirds of a mina of silver, her full price Shum-ukina gave to Nabu-nadin-akhi out of the one mina of silver for her marriage portion. One-third of a mina, the balance of the one mina, Shum-ukina will give Nabu-nadin-akhi, and her marriage portion is paid. Each took a writing (or contract).”
This is followed by the names of six witnesses, that of the scribe, and the date.
It is from the contract literature that we become familiar with the life which pulsated in the streets and the homes of the ancients who lived in Babylonia and Assyria so long ago. Through it we learn to know the personalities of the people, their plans, their