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Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography

by Wayne Horowitz Eisenbrauns
Pub Date:
Pbk 418 pages
AU$99.00 NZ$103.48
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In this comprehensive study, Horowitz examines all of the extant Mesopotamian texts (both Sumerian and Akkadian) relating to the ideas of the physical universe and its constituent parts (Heaven, Earth, subterranean waters, underworld). The author shows that the Mesopotamian view of the universe was at once cohesive as well as discordant and deficient, while remaining fairly constant over more than 2,500 years.

Horowitz first surveys the various sources for Mesopotamian cosmic geography, including various mythological and literary texts, as well as the famous “Babylonian Map of the World” and various astrological and astronomical texts. The universe was built by the gods in earliest times and was thought to be held together by cosmic bonds. Given this general notion, there is nevertheless significant variety in the inclusion or omission of various elements of the picture in texts of different genres and from different periods. In addition, the available evidence leaves a number of problems unsolved. What are the bounds of the universe? What is beyond the limits of the universe? In the second section of the book, Horowitz then discusses each of the various regions and their names in various locales and time periods, drawing on the disparate sources to show where there is coherence and where there is difference of perspective. In addition, he discusses all of the names for the different parts of the universe and examines the geographies of each region.

Of importance for both Assyriologists and those interested in the history of ideas, particularly the cosmologies of the ancient Near East.



Abbreviations and Conventions


Part I: Sources for Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography

1. The Levels of the Universe: KAR 307 30-38 and AO 8196 iv 20-22

2. ‘The Babylonian Map of the World’

3. The Flights of Etana and the Eagle into the Heavens

4. The Sargon Geography

5. Gilgamesh and the Distant Reaches of the Earth’s Surface

6. Cosmic Geography in Accounts of Creation

7. The Geography of the Sky: The ‘Astrolables,’ Mul-Apin, and Related Texts

8. BagM. Beih no and the Compass Points

9. ‘Seven Heavens and Seven Earths’

Part II: The Regions of the Universe

10. Names for Heaven

11. The Geography of the Heavens

12. Names for Earth

13. The Geography of Earth



Subject Index

Ancient Texts and Modern Editions

Sumerian and Akkadian Terms