For the Life of the King: A Votive Offering to a Family God

CDLN 2016:3

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2017-01-01

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Zsombor J. Földi ORCID logo

LMU Munich

in memory of János György Szilágyi (1918–2016)


Private individuals offering a votive object are seldom known from other documents due to the nature of our sources. One of the best examples is a Late Old Babylonian votive inscription, which is known to us in a Middle Babylonian copy (LIH 69), and was edited by E. Sollberger (1969). Another inscription was discussed some years ago by this author (CUSAS 17, 54 with Földi 2012a), and another will be presented here.

Šēp-Sîn son of the chief physician Ipquša has long been known to Assyriologists thanks to his dedication of a jar [] to the god Amurrum, for the life of Rīm-Sîn (I). The first attested appearance of this extraordinary rock-crystal (see Schuster-Brandis 2008: 457-458, 118a) vessel dates back to 1935 when it was offered for sale to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago by E. S. David (Frayne 1990: 305). It is reasonable to assume that Dussaud's (1933: 1 n. 2) reference to a rock-crystal vase naming Rīm-Sîn deals, in fact, with the same object.

Half a century later, the same artefact was sold at a Sotheby's auction on 5th December 1987 (lot 66), as property of the Countess de Béhague. Thereafter it appeared again in the collection of George Ortiz (Geneva, Switzerland). In view of the latter's death on 8th October 2013, one may expect a new chapter in the object's history of acquisition. The authenticity of the artefact has often been subject to debate.

The 12-line inscription reads:

dMar-tu / lugal-a-ni-ir / nam-til3 / dRi-im-dEn.zu / lugal Larsaki-ma-še3 /Še-ep-dEn.zu /dumu Ip-qu2-ša a-zu-gal-ke4 / na4ša-u19-ša zu2.MI / tun3-bi ku3-sig17 /dur2-bi ku3-babbar ĝar-ra / ir3 ni2-tuk-ni / a mu-na-ru!

“To Amurrum, his master, Šēp-Sîn, son of the chief physician Ipquša, his reverent servant, dedicated (this) rock-crystal sappum-vessel - its rim plated with gold (and) its bottom with silver - for the well-being of Rīm-Sîn, king of Larsa.”

Beside the translation provided in the auction catalogue, the inscription was edited by Frayne (1990: 305-306, RIME and later by Braun-Holzinger (1991: 201, G. 426) as well (see also Klotchkoff 1994). Two autographs have so far been published, one by Braun-Holzinger (1991: 107, Abb. 2), another by Ortiz (1996: no. 17). As noted by Braun-Holzinger (1991: 112), this object furnishes one of the few examples of such a vessel with a preserved inlay of precious metals (described in detail by the dedicatory inscription). However, the authenticity of these gold and silver bands have also been questioned.

Thanks to Marcel Sigrist, several hundred Old Babylonian archival documents of the Siegfried H. Horn Museum have been published in the last few decades. One of these, AUCT 4, 89 (AUAM 73.3131, former HTS 95), received some attention because of the expression ḫabtāku šasûm (see Wilcke 1992: 75 n. 76, Charpin 1993: 187, Durand 1993, and Sallaberger 1999: 231 with n. 293). In addition, the tablet bears a seal impression of a certain Šēp-Sîn, which reads as follows (collated in Oct. 2015; inscription 1.0 × 2.4 cm; seal 2.5 cm high):

Ši-ip-dEn.zu / dumu Ip-qu2-ša a-zu gal / ir3 dMar-t[u]

“Šēp-Sîn, son of the chief physician Ipquša, servant of the god Amurrum.”

Such a conclusive identification is most welcome, especially since the name Šēp-Sîn is amply attested in records from Old Babylonian Larsa. Besides the well-known Overseer of Merchants of Larsa, the son of Šamaš-muballi?, there are at least fifteen of them appearing in archival documents (see Reiter 1982: 12 with additions by Földi 2012b: 45, n. 275). One might also consider his possible identity with the rakbûm-official Šēp-Sîn, son of Ipqu-[...] and servant of d[...], who used to witness contracts of the well-known Šamaš-ḫāzir (with seal: BIN 7, 177 [Ḫa 32]; OECT 15, 89 [Ḫa 43]; cf. Stol 2012: 349).

This seal inscription furnishes conclusive evidence on the authenticity of the rock-crystal vessel. Further importance lies in the fact that it designates the owner as a servant of Amurrum. It shows that an individual of high status did not necessarily refer to himself as a servant of the king. On the other hand, it strikingly coincides with the dedicatory inscription, which names the god Amurrum as recipient of the votive offering. It remains unclear, however, whether this is the result of a direct relation or a mere coincidence. Based on numerous parallels, Amurrum's designation as “his master” must refer to Šēp-Sîn, not the beneficiary (i.e., Rīm-Sîn I). However, it is still unknown whether the family god named in the seal inscription was, in fact, identical to the personal god (Charpin 1990: 72-73; cf. also Kalla 2002: 128-131, Edzard 2004: 594-596 and Richter 20042: 6).

Our sources on the cult of Amurrum at Larsa are quite scarce. His alleged elevation “to high status during the reigns of Warad-Sîn and Rīm-Sîn of Larsa” due to the latters' Amorite origin (Frayne 2000: 254) is not supported by any year-names or building inscriptions (Richter 20042: 381-384). Such a change in importance and status is much truer of Nergal, the god of Maškan-šāpir (Richter 20042: 392). Nevertheless, it is very well possible that our sappum-vessel to have originated in a hoard of the Amurrum temple - together with other votive gifts which appeared at the antiquities market during the early 1930's (Dussaud 1933; Braun-Holzinger 1991: 322 with 328f. T.20 and 279f. St 172; Amiet apud Ortiz 1996: no. 17 n. 3; Frayne 2000: 253-254).

This leads to the question: who was, in fact, our Šēp-Sîn? Obviously he was a man of wealth, presumably a high official. Frayne (2000: 253) wants to see him as the king's chief physician, although the title “chief physician” unmistakably refers to his father Ipquša. In such a case one would rather expect Šēp-Sîn to designate himself as chief physician, not his father. A certain Ubārrum, identified in AUCT 4, 89 as “son of the chief physician”, was obviously his brother. Another chief physician called Sîn-šēmi, is known to us from Tell Sifr 77 and 100 (Kutalla, both dated to the 6th year of Samsu-ilūna); in Tell Sifr 100a ll. 3, 4, 5 and 7 read [dEn.zu]-še-me-i! a-zu-gal for Charpin's (1980: 274) *[dEn.zu]-še-me dumu a-zu-gal. Note that two of his sons, i.e., Ninurta-mušallim (Tell Sifr 77) and Awīl-Šamaš (Tell Sifr 100) designate themselves as servants of Amurrum in their seal inscriptions. Unfortunately, we cannot know yet if this family was in actuality related to that of Ipquša.

Whether Šēp-Sîn, son of the chief physician offered this artefact to Amurrum as to his personal god or not, its effectiveness cannot be doubted: Rīm-Sîn I reigned 60 years – the longest rule in ancient Mesopotamian history – before he was captured with his sons and brought to Babylon (ARM 27, 158 with Van De Mieroop 1993: 60; for a recent overview see Pientka-Hinz 2007).

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* The author is grateful to Constance E. C. Gane, curator of the Siegfried H. Horn Archaeological Museum of the Andrews University, for her permission to collate AUAM 73.3131; as well as to Paola Paoletti for her useful hints. Needless to say, the responsibility for any remaining mistakes lies solely with the author.
Cite this Article
Földi, Zsombor J. 2016. “For the Life of the King: A Votive Offering to a Family God.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2016 (3).
Földi, Z. J. (2016). For the Life of the King: A Votive Offering to a Family God. Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2016(3).
Földi, Z. J. (2016) “For the Life of the King: A Votive Offering to a Family God,” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2016(3). Available at: (Accessed: April 16, 2024).
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	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
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	number = {3},
	year = {2016},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {For the {Life} of the {King}: A {Votive} {Offering} to a {Family} {God}},
	url = {},
	volume = {2016},

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