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Slaves and Strangers

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Chapter Summary

In 1982, I.J. Gelb provided an exhaustive survey of the "terms for slaves in ancient Mesopotamia". This chapter is regarded as an expansion of his remarks on just one of the terms. It is dedicated to Ake Sjoberg, to whom the author owes so many insights into Sumerian terminology and lexicography. In fact, a more certain translation has long been known from Gilgamesh and Akka. The modern analogy goes further. "Slav" became "slave" when Slavic slaves were either more prized or simply more available than any others. So too "Subarian slave" may have been shortened to "Subarian" because slaves of Subarian origin were most prized or most common. If translation of the prayer to Marduk is granted, it would provide the first Mesopotamian parallel to the familiar Biblical topos linking solicitude for orphan and widow with concern for the stranger (ger) or resident alien (ger wetoshav).

Keywords: ancient Mesopotamia; I.J. Gelb; Slaves; Strangers; Subarian origin; Sumerian terminology



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