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To Read Strange Matters From The Human Body: Physiognomics In Babylonian And Greco-Roman Culture And Literature

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses Babylonian and Greco-Roman physiognomic traditions and their cultural and social contexts. It presents the textual evidence for physiognomic literature. The function of these texts assessed, as well as the people cultivating this knowledge. In ancient Mesopotamia a scholarly literature of specialized omen series evolved in which physiognomic learning was handed down for almost two millennia. Physiognomic omens were one of the many classes of Babylonian divination texts. 4QPhysiognomy ar (4Q561) may very well have had a Babylonian origin, but this cannot be proved on the basis of the text’s form and content. It is possible to argue a Babylonian origin on the basis of other considerations. One may point out that other Aramaic texts, for example, 4QPrayer of Nabonidus ar (4Q242), or other technical texts, for example, calendrical texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Astronomical Book of 1 Enoch, also have a Babylonian background.

Keywords: 4QPhysiognomy ar (4Q561); 4QPrayer of Nabonidus ar (4Q242); ancient Mesopotamia; Babylonian physiognomic; Dead Sea Scrolls; Greco-Roman physiognomic traditions



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