PROVINCIAL ADMINISTRATION AT KASSITE NIPPUR:

A HISTORICAL AND PROSOPOGRAPHICAL STUDY

Dissertation Prospectus*










I.  Introduction

In the mid-second millennium B.C., southern Mesopotamia was transformed into a national state under a new dynasty which made Babylonia an international power.  The kings of the Kassite period (ca. 1595-1155 B.C.) established diplomatic and economic contact with Assyria, Egypt, Elam, and Hatti; and the Babylonian royal house intermarried with the royal families of these lands.  The merchants of Kassite Babylonia were active in Assyria, Egypt, Hatti, Syria, and Palestine; and Kassite seals and weights—the tools of commerce—have been found as far afield as Thebes in Greece, Metsamor in southern Armenia, and in a shipwreck off the southern coast of Turkey.  Foreign merchants were present in several Babylonian cities, and large shipments of Egyptian gold flowed into the royal coffers and placed Babylonia nominally on a gold standard.

This success in international affairs was bolstered by the relative political stability which the Kassite monarchs achieved in their land.   The particularism and inter-dynastic rivalries which characterized the regional kingdoms of southern Mesopotamia during the preceding Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000-1595 B.C.) died out under the Kassites.  These kings, who gained control of northern Babylonia sometime after the fall of Babylon to the Hittites in 1595 and conquered the southern part of the land by about 1475,  ruled Babylonia practically without interruption for over four hundred years—the longest rule by any dynasty in Babylonian history.  Even after a minor revolt in 1333 and a seven-year Assyrian hiatus in the thirteenth century, the ruling Kassite family managed to regain the throne.  Once the land had been brought under a single rule, Kassite kings maintained control of the land through a network of provinces administered by governors (known as ßakin ma¢tior simply ßaknu). After the demise of the Kassite dynasty in 1155, the system of provincial administration continued virtually intact; and the country remained united under the succeeding dynasty.

After the royal cities of Babylon and Dur-Kurigalzu, Nippur was the most important provincial center of Kassite Babylonia; and its governor, bearing the distinctive title ßandabakku,was the premier official of the Babylonian heartland.  Over the last century, more than twelve thousand tablets and fragments have been excavated at Nippur and constitute a remarkable source for illuminating provincial administration there.  However, since less than five percent of these documents have been published and most of the archival texts do not bear dates, the lack of up-to-date reference material and chronological articulation has tended to  deter scholars from working on these archives.  This situation has recently been altered by the appearance of new studies on the onomastica of Kassite Nippur1  and Kassite glyptic,2   and an edition of more than four hundred and sixty dated economic texts from Nippur.3   These secondary studies and this text publication offer an expanded basis for further research, and I intend to put them to good use in undertaking a full-scale study of the office of the governor at Nippur and his pivotal role in the provincial administration of Babylonia.

II.  Prior Research

Several earlier studies have dealt at least in passing with the governors of Kassite Nippur.  The first detailed study of this governor was made by Kemal Balkan, who during the Second World War wrote a doctoral thesis on Kassite Babylonia under the supervision of Benno Landsberger at Ankara.  Although his dissertation has never been published, Balkan summarized his findings in a Turkish journal article,4  which was made more accessible ten years ago in an updated English translation.5   Balkan’s summary of the Kassite period has remained the dominant study of Kassite economy and society, although many of his theories and suggestions, particularly his central thesis of feudalism during the Kassite period, have not won general acceptance, and some aspects of his reconstruction are obviously incorrect.6   In his summary, Balkan asserted that all the Kassite texts from Nippur constituted a single archive belonging to the ßandabakkuof Nippur;7  and he suggested that the ßandabakkuof Nippur and the Kassite king ruled jointly in a “two-king administrative system.”8    Balkan claimed that he had “managed to put together from the texts a nearly unbroken sequence”9  of Nippur governors, but he did not document this reconstruction.  He identified many of the governors and attempted to date their tenure, at least approximately.  He believed that Kadashman-Enlil II, a Kassite king, assumed the ßandabakkutitle because the office had become a serious rival to the monarchy; but this assertion has proved to be based on a misreading.  Although Balkan’s summary of the role and function of the Nippur governor was founded on several misinterpretations, his study of Kassite administration and society has served as a point of reference for subsequent comment on the subject.

In 1965, Benno Landsberger, Balkan’s former teacher, appended a short excursus on the office of the ßandabakkuto his study of the ßatammu.10  In this excursus, Landsberger established ßandabakkuas the correct reading for the logogram GU¿.EN.NA (replacing the older reading *guennakku)and noted that an alternate logographic writing for the governor’s title (GA¿.DUB.BA.A  EN.L´L.KI) may be read in the same way.  Referring to the ßandabakkusas a “Dynastie,”11  Landsberger also suggested without qualification that the Kassite kings, from Kadashman-Enlil II to Kashtiliashu IV, bore the titles “priest of Enlil” and “governor of Nippur”.12

Three years later, Edmond Sollberger published two private inscriptions which added new evidence to the topic.13   In an inscription written on behalf of Nazi-Maruttash, Ninurta-resushu, a temple administrator at Dur-Kurigalzu, cited his genealogy, which included a previously unattested governor of Nippur, Amilatum.  Sollberger made rough estimates for the chronology of the attested ßandabakkusand nißakkus from before the time of Kurigalzu I (ca. 1390) until the reign of Nazi-Maruttash (1307-1282).  He fixed the date of Amilatum prior to the reign of Kurigalzu I and dated Ninurta-nadin-ahhe, who served simultaneously asßandabakkuand nißakku, to the reigns of Kurigalzu I, Kadashman-Enlil I, and Burna-Buriash II.  Sollberger assigned the term of Enlil-kidinni, the son of Ninurta-nadin-ahhe, to the reigns of Burna-Buriash II, Kara-Hardash, Nazi-Bugash, and Kurigalzu II.  He dated the governor Nazi-Enlil to the reign of Nazi-Maruttash and the governor Ninurta-apla-iddina to the reign of “Nazi-Maruttaß or after.”14   In this way, Sollberger set up a tentative sequence for many of the earlier governors of Kassite Nippur.

In 1995, Leonhard Sassmannshausen completed a dissertation which edits for publication more than 460 additional economic texts from Kassite Nippur and offers comments on various officials and social groups in the Kassite period.15   Sassmannshausen’s work contains over thirty administrative texts in which governors of Nippur are mentioned by name; and he has suggested—following Balkan’s old theory, but again without further elaboration—that these documents, including the Nippur correspondence, were part of a central archive of the Nippur governors.16   The majority of these new texts belong to the administration of Amil-Marduk, governor of Nippur during the time of Kudur-Enlil, Shagarakti-Shuriash, and Kashtiliashu IV.  In addition, Sassmannshausen edited an administrative document which contains a secure date for the governor Enlil-alsa.17

III.  Sources

Texts to be used in this study include administrative and legal texts, letters, seal inscriptions, kudurrus, private votive inscriptions, and a literary text (usually identified as a fragment of a historical epic).  Most of the administrative and legal texts and letters were excavated at Nippur during the 1890’s; and their provenience at the site has yet to be convincingly established from the surviving records.  Most of the datable texts from this group come from a period of five to six generations, from the reign of Burna-Buriash II (1359-1333) to that of Kadashman-Harbe II (1223).  With such unbalanced chronological distribution, most of the detailed reconstruction of the office of the governor at Nippur will focus on the space of about 135 years in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries, with only occasional references to the sparsely attested activities of earlier and later governors.

The approximately 1,175 published Kassite administrative and legal texts from the Nippur archives are the principal source of information on the activity of the governors.  The contents of this corpus include, inter alia, such types of texts as personnel lists, slave rosters and sales, rosters and accounts dealing with agricultural production, horse and cattle accounts, rosters and accounts dealing with textile production, receipts for metal, legal memoranda, legal records, court judgments, and official decrees.  The governor of Nippur is attested directly in about 150 of these documents, and the number of pertinent texts is expected to increase significantly as prosopographical studies identify members of the governor’s household.  Many of these texts are sealed, and study of seal usage should further expand the corpus of texts connected with the governor and his staff.

 Kassite letters from Nippur offer further data on the governor’s administration.  Approximately 185 such letters have been published, but few of them have received much scholarly attention since they are difficult to date and to attribute to specific governors.  Balkan, in his study of the Nippur archives,18  divided the letters into four distinct groups:  (1) royal correspondence from the king to the Nippur governor; (2) the ahu(“brother”) correspondence from provincial governors of equal rank to the Nippur governor; (3) the ana be¢liya (“to my lord”) letters to high officials within the Nippur administration; and (4) the ardu (“servant”) letters from subordinates to their administrative superiors (although the last two categories overlap).  A fifth category can be added to Balkan’s division:  several private letters which bear no relation to governmental matters.  The first two categories are generally easy to identify as sources for the proposed dissertation, but the third and fourth are more problematic since it is not always possible to identify the addressee by name or title.  Hugo Radau concluded in his publication of Kassite letters19  that many of the ana be¢liya letters were addressed to the king when his main residence was in Nippur.  This theory, however, has failed to win acceptance; and Balkan’s undocumented suggestion that the letters belong to the Nippur officialdom, including the office of the Nippur governor, has never been seriously evaluated.  I will attempt to subject these texts to further, detailed analysis.

An important source for comparison will be twenty-two published “kudurrus” dated to the late Kassite period; most of these were found at Susa, but others came from Babylon, Sippar, Larsa, Dur-Kurigalzu, and Nippur.  These monuments document the donation of land and granting of tax exemptions by Kassite kings to officials, private citizens, and occasionally members of the royal family and provide information on the provincial hierarchy at work.  Ownership of land entailed many responsibilities and obligations such as paying taxes on agriculture and cattle, providing workers and animals for state projects, repairing local roads and irrigation canals, and billeting troops and animals.  One of these kudurrus shows that the governors at Nippur played an important role in the determining and confirming land ownership.20    Functioning partly under instructions for the king, provincial governors facilitated royal transfers of land by surveying property, settling legal disputes, preparing documents for the new owner, and redeeming real estate under private ownership.  These kudurrus are important sources of information for gauging the place of the governor of Nippur in the provincial hierarchy and should offer a better understanding of the office of provincial governor.

Other sources relevant to the topic are two private inscriptions and a literary-historical text.  In a private inscription dated to the reign of Nazi-Maruttash (1307-1282),21  a governor of Nippur appears in a four-tier genealogy of a temple administrator (ßatammu) at Dur-Kurigalzu.  The inscription’s nominal author, Ninurta-resushu, son of a priest of Enlil, cites as his earliest ancestor Amilatum, a governor of Nippur.  In another private inscription dated to the reign of Burna-Buriash II (1359-1333),22  Ninurta-nadin-ahhe, governor of Nippur, donated a white marble vessel to Ishtar and had it placed in the goddess’s temple at Kish for water rituals; the text mentions a field with access to three canals (an indication of its high value) located near the city-wall of Nippur.  Although this field was the property of Ishtar temple at Kish, it was probably supervised and maintained by the Nippur governor.  A so-called historical epic fragment deals with events that may have taken place during the Kassite period.23   The editor of this unusual text suggested that the “Enlil-kidinnu” mentioned in this account may be identical to the Nippur governor Enlil-kidinni, who served under Burna-Buriash II and Kurigalzu II.24

IV.  Methodology

The aim of the dissertation is to identify and date the men who bore the title ßandabakkuand to investigate the activities and functions of the office of the governor of Nippur during the Kassite period.  The procedure for this investigation will be as follows.  First, I will gather all the references in published sources to the governor of Nippur.  This will isolate the core body of texts and provide preliminary material for identifying known governors25  by name and establishing their basic chronology in office.  After the secure references have been dealt with, I will look through all published references to the known names of governors and attempt to establish whether each of these deals with the governors themselves or with homonyms.  The criteria for distinguishing governors from their homonyms will be:  (1) filiation, (2) dating of careers, (3) comparison of text types in which the names occur, and (4) relative frequency of the name in the period.  I will then examine references to hypocoristic names which might be associated with known governors.  In past studies scholars have often assumed that shortened names were used to address the Nippur governors, especially in correspondence.  On the basis of such assumptions, it has been inferred by circular logic that senders of letters who refer to the addressee as “brother” were governors themselves.  These suppositions have never been tested, and yet many conclusions drawn about the importance of the Nippur’s governor come from such letters.

After I have identified textual material pertaining to the Nippur governors, I will set up a chronological framework for investigating these officials.  The most important sources for chronological placement of the Nippur governors will be the dated inscriptions in which governors are mentioned by name and title.  I will arrange the known governors in sequence and establish, insofar as possible, the dates of their terms in office.  Then I will attempt to estimate the approximate dates for governors who appear only in undated contexts.

Next, I will analyze the activities of the governor of Kassite Nippur as described in the texts.  This will inevitably lead to identification of key members of his staff by name (and perhaps title).  I will also look into seal usage on tablets associated with the Nippur governor or his staff.  Several sealings bear inscriptions showing that the original owners of the seal were Nippur governors, but such seals were sometimes later used by other individuals whose relation to the governors was uncertain.  Numerous sealings of Enlil-kidinni, governor during the reign of Burna-Buriash, have been found on tablets dated in the reign of Nazi-Maruttash; and the seal of the governor Enlil-alsa was impressed on many administrative texts to attest the supervision of an official named Ninurta-nadin-ahhe under Kadashman-Enlil II and Kudur-Enlil.  I will analyze the patterns of such use, identify the persons using them, and attempt to determine their relationship with the office of the governor.

After an analysis of these officials and their subordinates, I will compare the evidence for the Nippur governor with that for other provincial governors mentioned in the kudurrus.  I will describe what is known about the activities of these provincial governors, especially their role in supervising land tenure and tax collection.  I will then try to determine the place of the Nippur governor in the provincial hierarchy of Kassite Babylonia.

The dissertation will thus offer a revised picture of the role of the Nippur governor’s office during the Kassite dynasty based partly on new material such as recently published texts and supported by new reference works on the Nippur onomastica and glyptic and a reexamination of previously available material.  Since a large percentage of the Nippur archives remains unpublished, this study will not reach results which can be considered conclusive or final.  But it will seek to establish a basic sequence of Nippur governors and a chronology of their terms in office; and it will delineate the functions of the governor in a major urban center.  This will provide a secure foundation on which later studies can build.
 

V.  Description of Chapters

The dissertation will consist of six chapters.  The first chapter will describe the sources and methodology to be used.  The second chapter will investigate the title (ßandabakku) of the governor of Nippur in the Kassite period (including its logographic writings, the types of texts in which it occurs, and their chronological and geographical distribution) and briefly discuss usage of the title in other periods in Babylonia.  The third chapter will identify individuals who served as governor at Nippur and date their terms in office.  The fourth chapter will analyze the activities of Nippur governors and attempt to distinguish between official and private functions; it will also discuss what is known about the social and economic status of governors and their families.  The fifth chapter will compare Nippur’s governor with contemporary governors of other Babylonian provinces and make a preliminary assessment of the place of Nippur in the provincial hierarchy; it will also attempt to discern features in the administrative organization which enabled it to survive into later centuries.  The final chapter will offer a chronological narrative of the role played by the governor of Nippur in the history of the Kassite period.

VI.  Notes

*As stipulated in the rules and regulations of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago, this dissertation proposal was approved by the dissertation committee and successfully defended at a public hearing in December 1996. The members of the dissertation committee are John A. Brinkman  (chairman), Matthew W. Stolper, and Walter Farber.

This article was written in CuneiformOriental, a font developed by Thomas Urban of the Oriental Institute Publications office, and licensed by Ecological Linguistics.  The web version of the prospectus has been modified slightly to accommodate the HTML encoding and format.     [Return to text]

1Monika Hölscher, “Die Personennamen der kassitenzeitlichen Texte aus Nippur” (Ph.D. dissertation, Philipps-Universität, Marburg, 1993).[Return to text]

2 Donald M. Matthews, Principles of Composition in Near Eastern Glyptic of the Later Second Millennium B.C., Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, Series Archaeologica, vol. 8 (Freiburg, Switzerland and Göttingen: Universitätsverlag and Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1990) and The Kassite Glyptic of Nippur, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, vol. 116 (Freiburg, Switzerland and Göttingen: Universitätsverlag and Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1992); and Gisela Stiehler-Alegria Delgado, Die kassitische Glyptik, Münchener vorderasiatische Studien, vol. 18 (Vienna: Profil, 1996). [Return to text]

3Leonhard Sassmannshausen, “Beiträge zur Verwaltung und Gesellschaft Babyloniens in der Kassitenzeit” (Ph.D. dissertation, Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Tübingen, 1995).  [Return to text]

4 “Babilde feodalizm araˆtirmalari:  Kas’lar devrinde Babil,” Ankara Üniversitesi, Dil ve Tarih-Co©rafya Fakültesi Dergisi 2/1 (1943): 45-55; for a while the Turkish summary was available only in a brief German summary by Hans G. Güterbock, “Turkische Beiträge zum Studium des Alten Orients,” Archiv für Orientforschung 15 (1945-51): 130-31, no. 7. [Return to text]

5 Studies in Babylonian Feudalism of the Kassite Period, trans. Benjamin R. Foster and Dimitri Gutas, Monographs on the Ancient Near East, vol. 2, fasc. 3 (Malibu: Undena Publications, 1986).  [Return to text]

6 Balkan’s principal thesis (ibid., 7) that the Kassite ruler was “the real owner of the country” and that “there was no land tenure outside of crown grant” cannot hold up against the evidence in V. Scheil, Textes élamites-sémitiques, Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse, vol. 10 (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1908), 87-94 + pls. 11-13, a kudurru in which king Meli-Shipak (1186-1172) purchased land for his daughter Hunnubat-Nana, and 3 NT 140 // 3 NT 147, a private real estate transaction from Nippur dated VIII-28(+)-accession year of Kudur-Enlil (=1255 B.C.).  [Return to text]

7 Balkan, Studies, 8.  [Return to text]

8Objections to this have been raised by John A. Brinkman, “The Monarchy in the Time of the Kassite Dynasty,” in Le palais et la royauté,ed. Paul Garelli, Compte rendu de la XIXe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (Paris:  Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1974), 406 n. 83. [Return to text]

9Balkan, Studies, 11.

10“Das Amt des ßandabakku (GU¿.EN.NA) von Nippur,” in Brief des Bischofs von Esagila an König Asarhaddon (Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1965), 75-77.   [Return to text]

11 Ibid., 76.  [Return to text]

12 Ibid., 77 (“Von Kadaßman-Enlil II bis zum letzten Kaßtiliaß führen die Könige selbst die Titel nêßak Enlil ßandabak Nippur”). [Return to text]

13“Two Kassite Votive Inscriptions,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 191-97.   [Return to text]

14Ibid., 192.   [Return to text]

15See n. 3 above.  [Return to text]

16  Sassmannshausen, “Beiträge,”  9.  [Return to text]

17Sassmannshausen, “Beiträge,” no. 434:4 (a fragmentary economic text dated IX-6-year 8 of Nazi-Maruttash [=1300 B.C.]).   [Return to text]

18 Balkan, Studies, 8-9.   [Return to text]

19 Letters to Cassite Kings from the Temple Archives of Nippur, The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A: Cuneiform Texts, vol. 17, part 1 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1908), 29-58. [Return to text]

20 L. W. King, Babylonian Boundary-Stones and Memorial-Tablets in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1912), no. 3. [Return to text]

21 Sollberger, “Two Kassite Votive Inscriptions,” 194.  [Return to text]

22 Hermann V. Hilprecht, Old Babylonian Inscriptions Chiefly from Nippur, The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A: Cuneiform Texts, vol. 1, part 1 (= Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, vol. 18, no. 1) (Philadelphia: D. Anson Partridge, 1893), no. 33.  [Return to text]

23 A. Kirk Grayson, Babylonian Historical-Literary Texts (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975), 47-55. [Return to text]

24Ibid., 47-48.  [Return to text]

25 Currently I estimate eleven governors.  [Return to text]
 

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