Friday, February 21, 2020

Review of Ulrike Steinert (ed.), Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ulrike Steinert (ed.), Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination. Die babylonisch- assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen, Band 9. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. 384. ISBN 9781501513633. $183.99. Reviewed by Elyze Zomer, Philipps-Universität Marburg (
The present volume is the result of the collaborative and individual efforts of the BabMed Project in Berlin.1 It comprises two parts: the first “Studies on Mesopotamian Text Catalogues” (pp. 8–200) contains seven contributions (discussed below) providing a valuable analysis of Mesopotamian text catalogues and tablet inventories of first millennium BCE focusing on medicine (asūtu), exorcism (āšipūtu), and divination; whereas the second “Text Sources” (pp. 203–333) presents critical philological editions of three distinctive corresponding text catalogues being the so-called Assur Medical Catalogue (AMC), the Exorcist’s Manual, and the joint catalogue of the diagnostic and physiognomic omen series Sakikkûand Alamdimmû.

This is a very technical volume. But its subject matter is of some interest for Second Temple Judaism. The area of āšipūtu, "exorcism," was the specialty of the (Assyro-)Babylonian medico-religious practitioner called the āshipu. These practitioners appear in the Book of Daniel as opponents of Daniel and his three friends. More on them here and here. Daniel's version of them is another feature of Aramaic Fantasy Babylon. The book under review tells us more about the work of the actual practitioners as well as about the work of their counterpart, the asū or "physician."

For earlier posts about religious and cultural aspects of late ancient Babylonia, see here and links.

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