Sumerian Wisdom & Babylonian Cuneiform Tablets: Wisdom on Civil Disobedience, Submission & Defiance

2. “What is given in submission is a catalyst for defiance.” (1)

The ‘Near East’ of the ancient world, now called the ‘Middle East’ today, has never found an equilibrium of political or military peace. Imaginary borders and boundaries, not to mention total conquest of the Babylonian Empire, meant a king could be a true conqueror of the ‘known world’ and legitimately the most powerful of figures in its midst.

cuneisdgsdg nig-gu-gar-ra nig-gaba-gar-ra (2)
That which is given in submission becomes a medium of defiance.‘ (3)

When the annals of Mesopotamian history are examined, a seeker discovers a broad legacy of constantly shifting sands of power, dynastic reign and the geographical realm of an empire’s capital city all play a part in military management of these ancient forces that fought for control of the Tigris and Euphrates river valley (Mesopotamia), the resources it contained (abundant when tapped properly), the recognition of and authority over a sweeping population (the largest urban centers of the ancient world) and the state-religions governing the whole system (that have gone on to shape even the programming of the modern world).

sumlangthumb The actual cuneiform verse can be translated in two different ways. Both are meant to convey the same sentiment. Early transliteration scholars recognized that ‘gu-gar‘ and ‘gaba-gar‘ refer to ‘things’ of submission (gu-gar) and defiance (gaba-su-gar), which makes the statement we have above possible. However, if the ‘figure of speech’ is to be taken literally, then the ‘thing’ given is a “neck” (gu) beneath (“submission”) your opponents foot – or else, “sticking your neck out” – and this ‘thing’ becomes a ‘thing’ (placed) against the opponents chest, a sign of “defiance.” (7)

SUMERIAN VOCABULARY
[nig-] – a thing / ‘abstract’ (4)(7)
gu-gar – to submit / give submission (4)
gu – neck (5)
gaba-su-gar – of defiance / to defy (4)
gaba – chest / breast (4)

sajahafronthumb The cuneiform author suggests ‘taking one for the team’, giving motivational due to one who executes gainful sacrifice for a better future outcome – or, at least, the possibility of one. Considered in the spirit of ‘civil disobedience’ as suggested by classic writer, Henry David Thoreau, the advice may be for the ‘common folk’ rather than warlords and kings, and suggests that one keeps their head down in order to ‘fight another day’. (6)


(1) Translation of Sumerian Proverb tablet by Joshua Free for “Sumerian Wisdom II” materials, forthcoming sequel to Sumerian Wisdom & Anunnaki Prophecies: The Book of Sajaha the Seer edited by Joshua Free. These tablets attempt to preserve Sumerian language proverbs in cuneiform script during the Old Babylonian period.
(2) Derived from the original “Sumerian Proverbs” collection found in Nippur by the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania.
(3) Original translation provided in the “Sumerian Proverbs” museum monograph by Edmund Gordon.
(4) Vocabulary supplement derived from the ‘Sumerian Glossary and Concordance’ for the Gordon “Sumerian Proverbs” museum monograph.
(5) Vocabulary inclusion of student translation is derived from the Mardukite handbook: Secrets of Sumerian Language edited by Joshua Free.
(6) As explained by Edmund Gordon, regarding ‘passive resistance’ alluded to in this tablet: “…the enemy will eventually be overthrown by means of whatever has been surrendered to him.”
(7) The Sumerian cuneiform prefixing sign ‘nig‘ – found at the start of lines throughout this particular series of ‘proverb’ tablets – indicates an attached statement regarding a ‘thing’ as an “abstraction” (concept) rather than always to be treated as a literal “thing” (object).

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One response to “Sumerian Wisdom & Babylonian Cuneiform Tablets: Wisdom on Civil Disobedience, Submission & Defiance

  1. Pingback: NEW BABYLON RISING – Cuneiform Tablets of Mesopotamia, Sumerian Wisdom Proverbs & War in Iraq – Spring 2015 eZine | BABYLON 3.0 - A Brave New Babylonian Rising

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