Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Have Your Back

Ancient correspondence is both fascinating and frustrating: Fascinating because it tell interesting parts of stories, and frustrating because the stories are fragments and the correspondence is often one sided. AbB 9:6 is one such case. It comes from the Old Babylonian period (about 2000-1600 BC) from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq):
Speak to Sin-iddinam: Thus says Marduk-mushallim. May Shamash and Marduk keep you in good health! As you know, Silli-Shamash, the head of the Sutians, (is a man) who acts in my interest. Whenever I write to him, he acts very much according to my wish. Let him file his complaint before you, and give him a fair trial according to the regulations of my lord.
(M. Stol, Letters from Yale [Leiden: Brill, 1981], 5.)
A couple of things are interesting in this letter. One is that Marduk-mushallim is not necessarily asking Sin-iddinam to decide the case in Silli-Shamash's favor, only that it be conducted justly or normally (išariš). Apparently juridical proceeding were not always so conducted. The other thing is the way that Marduk-mushallim expresses his trust in Silli-Shamash. He finds him trustworthy because he can ask him to do something and it will be done.

Because of the trust, Marduk-mushallim is willing to act for Silli-Shamash by asking that he be treated fairly.