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.