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A Letter from “Crawly” to Azirapil

Work Text:

This remarkable letter of unknown provenance surfaced recently in the cuneiform collection of the University of West Wessex. Addressed to Azirapil from a Mr. “Crawly,” it appears to be begging for the other’s return to Ur from a western journey with another individual, Abiraham. The relationship between the two (brothers? business partners? friends?) is unknown, and all three names are quite unusual. The letter also mentions a Mr. Ea-naṣir in Ur; if this is the same Ea-naṣir as the merchant mentioned in UET V 22, 29, 71, and 81, then the original letter would be dated to the Larsa period, around 1800 BCE. However, this particular copy appears to be a scribal exercise; the writing is relatively unskilled, and the cuneiform is Neo-Assyrian in form. It is unclear whether the text is based on a historical letter, or if its unusual names and content were invented for scribal practice.

Text:

Tell Azirapil [1]:

Thus says “Crawly” [2]:

When will your time in the West be finished? Abiraham [3] seems very dirty, and I am weary [4] in Ur. [There is] a talented mirsu-maker [5] on Wide Street!

Watch out, for I have acquired a new friend. His name is Ea-Naṣir [6], and I may play wickedly with him if you do not return.

Come quickly!

 

Notes:

[1] The name Azirapil (āzir-āpili) is an unusual one. The first element, āziru (sometimes spelled ḫāziru) is a known theophoric element meaning “helper, the one who helps”; it may connect with Hebrew עזר. The second element appears to be āpilu, literally “the one who answers,” but also used to mean “the one who dissents, the one who talks back.” Thus, together, the name would mean “the one who helps the dissenter.”

[2] “Crawly” is literally Našallulu (NIM.NIM), a verb that means “to crawl or slither like a snake or demon.” The word is otherwise unattested as a personal name, so it may be an epithet of some kind.

[3] Surely not the Abraham of Hebrew scriptures, despite the similarity of name and the biblical legend that Abraham originated in the city Ur.

[4] “Weary” - from the Štn stem of anāḫu. The term refers to dejection or depression; in one medical text (Labat TDP 178:9), it is a sign of “love-sickness.”

[5] Mirsu (or mersu) was a popular sweet confection in Mesopotamia. Its composition included dates, butter, and a variety of other ingredients; modern reconstructions of the recipe vary.

[6] There was an infamous copper merchant named Ea-naṣir in Ur during the Larsa period; several letters to him are collected in UET V. It is unclear whether this is the same individual.

Transliteration:

a-na az-ir-ap-il
qí-bí-ma
um-ma NIM.NIM-ma
ma-ti u-mu-ka ina
IM.MAR.TU
i-qa-at-tu
Ab-i-ra-ha-am
ur-ru-šu
in-na-mar
ú uš-ta-ni-ih
ina URIM.ki
ša me-er-si
e-mu-uq-tu
ina su-qi
ra-ap-ši
pa-ga-ar-ka
uṣ-ur ana ša
ib-ra eš-ša
ar-ši šum-šu
É-a-na-aṣ-ir
ú rag-giš am-me-el-le-el
it-ti-šu šum-ma
la ta-ta-ar
ar-hi-iš a-la-ak