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Lamaštu—Agent of a specific disease or a generic destroyer of health?

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Chapter Summary

There are many diseases or, more cautiously: many states of illness some of which ultimately may lead to death in ancient Mesopotamia for which the pertinent texts give us a simple rationale: they are said to have been caused by the grip, Akkadian ṣibtu, of a certain demon. While for a Babylonian this might be sufficient to explain a person's misfortune in losing her or his health or life, such a seemingly simple aetiology leads the modern scholar to a number of much less simple questions. This chapter turns to the Lamaŝtu incantations and rituals, to see how they stand up to some of the tests. There is no doubt that Lamaŝtu is a primary demon and not a secondary personification of a disease; as a matter of fact, as a daughter of Anu she has family connections right into the center of the pantheon.

Keywords: Akkadian ṣibtu; ancient Mesopotamia; Babylonian incantations; generic destroyer; Lamaŝtu; treatable disease



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