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Clay Cylinder of Nabopolassar
Reign of Nabopolassar, 625 - 605 BC
Clay, 3 7/8 x 2 1/16 in. (9.8 x 5.2 cm). 1921.131
Cuneiform ("wedge-shaped") writing is Mesopotamia's most important contribution to the rest of the ancient Near East. Its invention revolutionized the way business and trade were conducted and offered the first opportunity for mankind to record written history. Cuneiform and its principal writing medium, the clay tablet, remained in use for over 3,000 years. Scribes adapted cuneiform script for writing many Near Eastern languages and used it to record business transactions, legal codes, and literary, commemorative, and dedicatory texts.
This barrel-shaped cylinder of clay is inscribed with a commemorative text that records the repair of the city wall of Babylon by Nabopolassar. In the text, Nabopolassar invokes his own name as king of Babylon, describes the weakening and settling of the Great Wall of Babylon on its original base, and his repair and rebuilding of the foundation wall which "like a mountain its summit I verily raised... Oh, Wall! Remind Marduk, my lord [patron god of Babylon] of the favor." Kings and officials commonly deposited inscribed tablets of this shape into recesses built below or within new or repaired constructions in Mesopotamia. Their deposit sanctified and protected the construction as well as allowing the king or official to record his name and deeds for the gods and posterity.
Medium: clay cylinder
Size: 9.8 cm long
5.2 cm wide
Length: 3 columns
102 lines of writing
Genre: foundation inscription
Date: late 7th cent. BCE
Nabopolassar's reign: 626-605 BCE
Place of Discovery: Baghdad, Iraq
Date of Discovery: 1921?
Current Location: Carlos Museum Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
Inventory number: 1921.131
Translation of the Text
Nabopolassar, the King of Justice, the Shepherd called by Marduk, the one created by Ninmenna (Queen of queens), the one to whom Nabu and Tashmetu stretch out their hand, the Prince beloved of Ninshiku.
When I was young, although the son of a nobody, I constantly sought out the temples of Nabu and Marduk, my patrons. My mind was preoccupied with the establishment of their orders and the complete performance of their rites. My attention was directed to justice and equity. Shazu, the lord who understands the hearts of the gods of heaven and the underworld, who constantly observes the deeds of humanity, perceived my inner thoughts and raised me, the client who was anonymous among the people, to a high status in the country of my birth. He called me to the sovereignty over the land and the people. He caused a benevolent protective spirit to walk at my side. He made everything I did succeed. He made Nergal, the strongest of the gods, to march at my side; he slaughtered my enemies, dropped my enemies. The Assyrian ruled Akkad due to divine anger and oppressed the inhabitants with his heavy yoke.
But I the weak one, the powerless one, the one who constantly seeks the Lord of lords removed them from Akkad and cause (the Babylonians) to throw off their yoke with the mighty power of Nabu and Marduk, my patrons.
At that time, Nabopolassar, King of Babylon, who pleases Nabu and Marduk, I, for Imgur-Enlil Babylon's great fortification wall; the original boundary-marker from antiquity; the soild border as ancient as time itself; the lofty mountain peak that rivals the heavens; the mighty shield that locks the entrance to the hostile lands; the Igigi's wide enclosure; the Anunnaki's spacious courtyard; heaven's staircase; the ladder to the underworld; the station of Lugalirra and Meslamtae; the outdoor shrine of Ishtar the Great Lady; the place of the throwing stick of Dagan the Hero; the camp enclosure of the Warrior Ninurta; the temple of Anu and Enlil's divine protection; the shrine artfully designed by Ea, the Lord of Eridu; the great gods' fortification ground; whose foundations the Igigi and Anunnaki had established in the jubilation of their hearts; which they had skillfully carried out and raised to it peak; which had weakened and collapsed because of age; whose walls had been taken away because of rain and deluge; whose foundations had heaped up and accumulated into a mound of ruins I mustered Enlil's, Shamash, and Marduk's troops. I had them use the hoe and imposed the corvée basket on them. From the bank of the Arhtu canal, on the lower side near the Urash gate, I removed its accumulated debris, surveyed andexamined its old foundations, and laid its brickwork in the original place. On the edge of the underworld, I established its base. I surrounded the east bank with a mighty mountainous belt.