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Cuneiform Collection – SMM 9
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The temples of Mesopotamia owned extensive tracts of arable land, the produce of which provided for the maintenance of the temple personnel as well as of the gods whom they served. In the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods–the centuries when Mesopotamia was ruled by the so-called Chaldaean dynasty and subsequently by their Persian conquerors–it became common practice for temples to contract out the farming of their lands. Large parcels of arable land would be leased to individual contractors, who would pay an agreed amount of the land's annual yield to the temple, and who organized the cultivation of the land either by subleasing smaller parcels to cultivators or by having it worked by dependent laborers.* Nergal-nir, son of Nanaya-ibni, the effective creditor for the debt of barley documented by SMM 9, was one of the contractors who leased the arable lands of the Eanna temple in Uruk (see note* on SMM 9, lines 2-3). These lands and their produce were formally "owned" by the chief deities worshipped at the Eanna ("House of Heaven"), namely Ishtar, often called the Lady of Uruk, and Nanaya, a love goddess like Ishtar. The property of the deities was managed by the temple administrators and the contractors to whom they leased it. Thus, Nergal-nir is in charge of barley identified in SMM 9 as the property of the goddesses, barley which had been produced, or was to be produced, from fields within his leasehold.
The debtor Amssu-uur, son of Šadiki, who owed the goddesses 100 kur barley–about 18,000 liters, quite a large amount, may have been a cultivator who subleased land from Nergal-nir. If so, his obligation to pay this quantity of barley may have arisen from his responsibility to cultivate a parcel of the temple lands and turn over its yield. That is not the only possibility, however–promissory notes are rarely explicit about the reason a debt was incurred, being concerned primarily with stipulations for its payment. This particular promissory note was issued in January, three months after barley was sown, and payment was due in Simnu, a month after barley was harvested, so Amirssu-uur's obligation is not directly connected to the schedule of cultivation.
† Duplicate publication: Nies Babylonian Collection 4501 – Paul-Alain Beaulieu, Legal and Administrative Texts from the Regin of Nabonidus, Yale Oriental Series Babylonian Texts, vol. 19 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), no. 30.
*ll. 2-3: Nergal-nir, son of Nanaya-ibni, the effective creditor for this debt of barley, is known from various other documents pertaining to the Eanna temple administration. His career was sketched by Ira Spar, Studies in Neo-Babylonian Economic and Legal Texts (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1972), pp. 89-98, on the basis of tablets published at that time (including SMM 9, which Spar presented as text no. 9 in his dissertation); to these can now be added YOS 19, 63 and 169, as well as YOS 19, 30 the duplicate of SMM 9. Nergal-nir was among the contractors who leased large parcels of the Eanna's arable land and organized its cultivation (see, e.g., YOS 6, 41). It is presumably in this capacity that he was in charge of the barley belonging to the Lady of Uruk and to Nanaya which is owed by Amirssu-uur, son of Šadiki.
**l. 4: Ira Spar read the debtor's father's name as IZa-qí-qú (Studies, text no. 9, pp. 92-3); in the duplicate, YOS 19, 30, P.-A. Beaulieu read and copied the debtor's name and father's name as […]-TIN-su-ÙRU A-šú šá IŠá-di-di. The last two signs are clearly distinct on SMM 9, however, the first having two horizontals and the second four; and the antepenultimate sign is definitely ŠÁ, not ZA. Thus the name is written IŠÁ-DI-KI, however it is to be normalized.