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family. Furthermore, Postgate is of the opinion that its appearance in the

phrase b¯ l damˆ sadduni in PPA 95 is deceiving: He argues that it should
not be taken as a freestanding phrase, but rather as part of a phrase similar
to frequently occurring phrases, such as b¯ l eqli tadani, “the owner of the
¬eld being sold,” or to another phrase found in the palace governor™s archive
in Nimrud, b¯ l kaspi naˇ e, “the owner of the money being borrowed.”102

However, the very phrases that Postgate adduces as evidence refute his argu-
ment. In the clause b¯ l eqli tadani, the phrase b¯ l eqli is in fact a freestanding
e e
phrase referring to “the owner of the ¬eld” who is selling his ¬eld.103 In the

clause b¯ l kaspi naˇ e, the phrase b¯ l kaspi is a freestanding phrase referring
e e
to “the owner of the money” being borrowed.
However, Theodore Kwasman argues that Silim-ili was the killer and
that Siri, whose relationship to Silim-ili is not mentioned, assumed the re-
sponsibility for paying the compensation for the homicide.104 He reads lines
12“14 as “Siri is responsible for the blood money [of the person] whom
Silim-ili killed.” This translation is problematic because the relative pro-
noun sa cannot do double duty to denote both the possessive relationship,
“of the person,” and the direct object, “whom.” The relative pronoun sa is
in apposition to the personal name Siri. It would then be better to un-
derstand the personal name Siri as either the subject or the object of the
verb GAZ-u-ni; that is, Siri is either the killer or the victim. Kwasman does
agree with Postgate™s rendering of the rest of the tablet. The people, there-
fore, enumerated in lines 15“17 are members of the murderer™s family who
happen to reappear in the village. They are the ones in line 18 who are
to pay.106
Martha T. Roth, in contrast to Postgate and Kwasman, argues that the
people enumerated in lines 15“17 are, in fact, claimants from the victim™s
family, not members of the killer™s family.107 She bases her argument on the
standard pattern of a Neo-Assyrian debt-note, which she believed applied

102 Postgate, The Governor™s Palace Archive, 124
103 See the multitudinous occurrences cited in CAD B, 196.
104 Kwasman, Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 386.
105 In Old Babylonian, what Kwasman translates would be written Siri b¯ l damˆ (ˇ a) aw¯lim
e es ±
ˇ s s¯
sa Silim-ili iˇ guˇ u. The grammatical studies of Neo-Assyrian do not treat this issue. Cf. Karl-

heinz Deller, “Zur sprachliche Einordnung der Inschriften Aˇ surnasirpals II. (883“859),” Or
26 (1957), 144“156; Deller, “Assyrische Sprachgut bei Tukulti-Ninurta II (888“884),” Or 26
(1957), 268“272; Deller, “Zweisilbige Lautwerte des Typs KVKV im Neuassyrischen,” Or 31
(1962), 7“26; Deller, “Studien zur neuassyrischen Orthographie,” Or 31 (1962), 188“196;
Deller, “Neuassyrisches aus Sultantepe,” Or 34 (1965), 457“477; Deller, “Progressive Vokalas-
similation im Neuassyrischen,” Or 36 (1967), 337“338; Riemschneider, An Akkadian Gram-
mar, 228“238; von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik, 192“193.
106 Kohler and Ungnad interpret these lines in the same fashion, as an order to the killer to

compensate for the killing by handing over a member of his own family (Assyrische Rechts-
urkunden, 388“389).
107 Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 352, 354“355.

here. Roth™s argument that the people in lines 15“17 are claimants from the
victim™s family is sound because it is based on the recognition that this tablet
follows the pattern of an economic text. Although the physical appearance
of the tablet makes it look like a conveyance “ it is a single tablet without
an envelope and its writing is at right angles to its longer axis “ in fact it
contains the literary formulation of a debt-note or contract.108
This genre of document, a debt-note, almost invariably conforms to the
following pattern:

Standard Neo-Assyrian Debt-Note

a) seal of obligor
b) statement of obligation
1. commodity/object of transaction
2. belonging to obligee
3. at the disposal of the obligor
c) discharge of obligation
1. date/place of discharge
2. commodity
3. obligor(s)
4. obligee
5. he/they shall make good
d) closing lines (date, witness, scribe)

According to this pattern, therefore, the people mentioned in lines 15“17
must be the members of the victim™s family to whom the debt is owed. The
victim and his relatives become the obligee, the one to whom the debt must
be paid, and the entire village becomes the obligor, the one who must pay
the debt.
The last piece of the puzzle remains: Who is the killer and who is the
victim? Silim-ili™s name appears among those sealing this document in line 6.
None of the renderings by Postgate, Kwasman, and Roth confronts this fact.
Is this the same Silim-ili referred to in line 13? If he is, then he cannot be the
one who was killed. If Silim-ili was dead, it would be impossible for him to
impress his seal on the document. While it is possible that two men by the
name Silim-ili are mentioned in the same document, it seems odd that they
are not differentiated in some way by the mention of their fathers™ names or
occupations. Furthermore, if the argument of Ockham™s razor holds true “
that the simplest explanation is preferable “ then equating the Silim-ili in
line 6 with the one in line 13 makes the most sense. Silim-ili, then, was the

108 Postgate,Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 171. A debt-note or contract is written on
a tablet with an envelope that carried a seal impression and a repetition of the inner tablet and
with the writing at right angles to its shorter axis.

murderer of Siri. His presence among those who have set their seal re¬‚ects
his acquiescence in his guilt and acknowledgment of his debt.
Roth argues that the victim™s family had two options: 1) They could
demand payment, or if the victim™s family refused to accept compensa-
tion, then 2) they might demand the life of the killer.109 This rendering
depends upon the meaning of ina muhh¯sunu in line 15. According to the
˜ ˜ 110 this prepositional phrase has
usage of ina muhhi-(possessive pronoun),
the sense of the right to money or responsibility for money accruing to the
credit or debit of someone and, therefore, should be rendered, “Siri . . . is
at their expense or is accrued against them.” The villagers are responsible
for, or at least charged with overseeing, that Siri™s death is remedied. The
phrase should not be rendered “in their midst,” that is, arrested, as Roth
Since Siri is identi¬ed as b¯ l damˆ , a term referring in this case to the
e e
claimant from the victim™s family, we can extrapolate from this identi¬cation
that Silim-ili had killed before and that Siri was seeking to make a claim
against him on behalf of the victim™s family but was killed by Silim-ili. If,
in fact, the opposite were true, that Siri was the murderer, his killing at the
hands of Silim-ili would be justi¬ed and there would be no need for this
document. After the homicide, the villagers assumed the responsibility for
the compensation for Siri™s death. If, and when, claimants from Siri™s family
. .
would arrive, the villagers would discharge their obligation. Hence, this text
should be translated as follows:

¯ ¯ ¯
Seal of Shamash-taklak, seal of Ibtash-l¯ shir, seal of Tablaya, seal
of Eridaya, seal of Nergal-ahu-usur, seal of Silim-ili, seal of Muqallil-
kabti, seal of Adad-ahu-usur, seal of Edu-t¯ shir, seal of Sariuni, seal of
111 12“15
¯ S¯ri, the owner of the blood, whom
the entire city of Samanu. .±
Silim-ili killed, is their responsibility. 15“17 Whoever appears among
them [to claim compensation], whether it is his wife, his brother, or
his son, (18) they themselves shall pay the blood money. 19“29 Witness:
Tarditu-Assur, the third rider on the chariot. Witness: Nabu-r¯ sh-ishi
the doorkeeper. Witness: Nusku-ah-iddin, the of¬cial in charge of
the reeds. Witness: Mannu-ki-Adad, the doorkeeper. Witness: Assur-
sum-iddin, the captain of the victualer. Witness: Abu-ul-idi, the third
rider on the chariot. Witness: Nabua, the scribe. 8th month, third
day, eponym of Labashi [657 b.c.e.].

109 Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 354.
110 Cf. the examples of ina muhhi-(possessive pronoun) given in CAD M/2, 175a“b, and AHw/II,
111 Cf. the other reference to the city of Samanu in Simo Parpola, Neo-Assyrian Toponyms
(AOAT; Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1970), 300“301.

This text tells of an odd occurrence. Siri, the claimant from the victim™s
family, came to the village to claim compensation for a homicide, but the
killer, Silim-ili, committed homicide again, killing the claimant Siri. Silim-
. .
ili™s village assumed corporate responsibility for compensating the victim™s
kinsmen, and ten of the villagers formally promised to make restitution to
the claimant from the victim™s family whenever he or she might arrive.
The pattern can now be ¬lled out:

Standard Neo-Assyrian Debt-Note ADD 618

a) seal of obligor seals of villagers in lines 1“11
b) statement of obligation
1. commodity/object of Siri in line 12
Silim-ili in lines 13“14112
2. belonging to obligee
3. at the disposal of the obligor the villagers in line 15
c) discharge of obligation
1. date/place of discharge left unspeci¬ed
2. commodity the blood (money) in line 18
3. obligor(s) the villagers referred to in
line 18
4. obligee the kin of the victim in lines
5. he/they shall make good line 18
d) closing lines (date, witness, scribe) lines 19“30

The commodity, the compensation, in ADD 618 is deliberately not spec-
i¬ed because it has yet to be negotiated. It will be determined if, and when,
a member of the victim™s family arrives to make a claim. The word US.MES
in line 18 of ADD 618 is, therefore, deliberately left ambiguous. A num-
ber of options were available at the discretion of the victim™s kin. They
could accept compensation in various forms of payment. As can be seen
in the following documents, the payment could be in the form of copper,
¬elds, or a person. If the killer failed to pay, he and all his assets could be
Since this document was deposited in Nineveh, it can be surmised that
the villagers had this document sent to Nineveh as an of¬cial recognition
of their obligation. Furthermore, since it remained in the archive, it appears
that no one from Siri™s family came forward to make a claim. In short,
ADD 618 represents the ¬rst stage in a case of homicide, when the rights of

112 My identi¬cation of Silim-ili as the killer clears up a problem in Roth™s analysis of the
pattern. Because she identi¬es Silim-ili as the victim, the placement of his name in this part of
the pattern as the obligee is, to her, merely formalistic. If, in fact, Silim-ili were the killer,
identifying him as the one obliged to pay a debt ¬ts the pattern.

the victim™s family and the obligations of the killer and his community are
formally recognized by the killer™s community.
In ADD 321, a mediating body assists in the negotiation over the amount
of compensation by proposing a solution:
(beginning destroyed) (blank seal space) 1 [u]-ma-a it-ta-at-ru-us
´ .
2 3 I
[is!]-sa-hi-iˇ GEME2 -a-di-im-ri [DU]MU.MUNUS-su sa a-tar-
4˜ ´ Id 5 I
s´ ˇ´
qa-mu [L]U a-na! UTU.DU.PAP DUMU-ˇ u sa sa-ma-ku ku-
um da-me i-dan da-me i-ma-si sum-ma MUNUS 7 la i-din ina UGU
qa-bu-ri sa sa-ma-ku i-du-ku-ˇ u 9 man-nu sa ina UGU man-nu
8 I
ˇ ˇ´


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