Getting to know the Babylonians: Tappašar and the death of her husband

By Lidewij van de Peut

Let me introduce you to Tappašar, a lady who lived in Babylon in the 6th century BCE. She is the daughter of Nabû-mušētiq-uddi, also known as Niqūdu, from the family of Nūr-Sîn. Her husband was Gimillu, the son of Marduk-šumu-ibni, from the family of Nappāhu (‘Smith’). I became acquainted with Tappašar while going through the private archive of Iddin-Nabû, the son of Nabû-bān-zēri, from the Nappāhu family. She is mentioned in four documents which give us a peak into one episode of her life, just before and just after the death of her husband. For Tappašar this must have been a trying period, especially since she apparently did not have any sons of her own. No son meant no heir and no one to take care of the parents when they had grown old. In ancient Babylonia this was a serious problem and the documents mentioning Tappašar all relate to resolving this situation.

Early in the 3rd year of Cambyses (527 BCE), or perhaps even a bit earlier, Gimillu was no longer able to handle his own (business) affairs. Therefore, he and his wife, Tappašar, adopted Iddin-Nabû as their son. Since Iddin-Nabû was already an adult at this time he could take care of them and of their outstanding credits and debts. About two years later, probably in 525 BCE, Gimillu passed away. Tappašar could not be her husband’s heir, but their adopted son Iddin-Nabû who inherited Gimillu’s belongings, promised to give half a mina of silver to Tappašar as her share of the inheritance. She needed this silver to provide for herself. However, Tappašar could only receive it after a certain Bēl-aplu-iddin had paid off his debt to Iddin-Nabû. Until that time she could live with Iddin-Nabû.

It is unclear if Tappašar ever received the silver from Iddin-Nabû, for that document has not come down to us. The documents also do not tell us anything about Tappašar’s emotional state. Did she like how Iddin-Nabû arranged her husband’s affairs? Did she agree with her share in the inheritance? It is also unclear if Tappašar had a say in the adoption of Iddin-Nabû or if it was all her husband’s idea. These and many other questions still linger.

Now the data entry for the Prosopography of Babylonia has started we are getting to know more and more Babylonians. Tappašar is one of them. While we go through the private archives from Babylonia we do not only become familiar with the archive-holders but also with many other people with whom they did business or had relations.

The Prosopography of Babylonia is an online database that is currently being created as part of the Persia and Babylonia project.

Persia and Babylonia Workshop

Disambiguation of individuals in Late-Babylonian letters
Yuval Levavi (Bar-Ilan University)

5 July 2018, 12-13 hrs
Lipsius 204
Leiden University

Neo-Babylonian scribes were mostly satisfied with using first name base in their letters. That, in addition to the practice not to date proper letters, make the task of prosopography especially complicated. It is like joining late to an ongoing conversation, asking: whom, and what are we talking about? But unlike the polite answer of, say, legal text, letters simply mumble, “you just had to be there”. We will explore ways to overcome these obstacles and discuss the validity of first name based identifications.


Onomastics Training Week in Venice: Names, Names, Names

Nicky van de Beek & Maarja Seire

From 29 May to 1 June, members of the Persia & Babylonia project and graduate students from other universities participated in an intensive onomastics training week in Venice. At Ca’ Foscari University, they studied and dissected a great variety of names found in Babylonian sources. Altogether there were 13 lectures followed by exercises based on the onomastic material. The topics covered spelling of the names in Babylonian, as well as foreign names from many other languages, such as Aramaic, Elamite, Greek and Egyptian, but also contained discussions of family names and socio-onomastics.

After engaging in the lectures, discussions and exercises, students and teachers joined in a well-deserved drink or a leisurely walk through town. Getting around in this labyrinth-like city was quite an adventure — many of us got lost on several occasions, being fooled by familiar-looking bridges, dead-end streets, and streets that were not mentioned on the map. Luckily, we always ended up at one of the famous sites such as the Rialto Bridge or San Marco Square.

Those who were more actively inclined also had occasion to board a dragon boat for a refreshing rowing trip on the Grand Canal, cheered on by organiser Paola Corò (a surprisingly good gondola singer!) and many Venetians and tourists along the route. Our attempts to compete with motor boats on the canal have been memorialized in several photo albums around the world.

The Onomastics Training Week was co-organised by the Persia & Babylonia project and the Humanities Faculty of Ca’ Foscari University. The contents of the lectures will be published in a textbook that will help students tackle the study of this interesting but complex material.

Thanks to organising the workshops in Venice, many participants and teachers could also attend the Neo-Babylonian Network Meeting held there at the beginning of the week. Several members of the Persia & Babylonia project presented a paper and received feedback from specialist researchers.