Originators in the Old Babylonian Sumerian literary tradition

Szilvia Sövegjártó*

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* – Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Universität Hamburg. Email: ssoveg@gmail.com

Cite as Sövegjártó, Sz. 2022: Originators in the Old Babylonian Sumerian literary tradition. Hungarian Assyriological Review 3: 25–47.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.52093/hara-202201-00027-000


In the Mesopotamian scribal culture, the compositions’ lack of titles and authors was justified by their oral origin. As pieces of literature gained their written form gradually, compilers and editors of the texts were responsible for the long process of selection, edition as well as the arrangement and rearrangement of the material. This resulted in an anonymous and somewhat chaotic textual culture. The birth of the author, or rather, the emergence of several models of authorship attempted to establish order in this chaos.

In this paper, I propose four models of attributed authorship based on examples from the Old Babylonian period and elaborate on the functions related to each. Attributed authorship, as I argue, aimed to anchor selected literary compositions in time and space. Authors contributed to the classification and interpretation of a body of ancient or invented literary tradition. Furthermore, attributed authors contributed to the preservation of a given text as a unit that might otherwise have been subject to disintegration or further revision and redaction.

authorship, Enheduana, Old Babylonian period, Sumerian literature

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