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The Treasures of Darkness

The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion

Copyright Date: 1976
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    The Treasures of Darkness
    Book Description:

    "The Treasures of Darknessis the culmination of a lifetime's work, an attempt to summarize and recreate the spiritual life of Ancient Mesopotamia. Jacobsen has succeeded brilliantly. . . . His vast experience shows through every page of this unique book, through the vivid, new translations resulting from years of careful research. Everyone interested in early Mesopotamia, whether specialist, student, or complete layman, should read this book. . . . It is, quite simply, authoritative, based on a vast experience of the ancient Mesopotamian mind, and very well written in the bargain."-Brian M. Fagan,History"Professor Jacobsen is an authority on Sumerian life and society, but he is above all a philologist of rare sensibility.The Treasures of Darknessis almost entirely devoted to textual evidence, the more gritty sources of archaeological knowledge being seldom mentioned. He introduces many new translations which are much finer than previous versions. . . . Simply to read this poetry and the author's sympathetic commentary is a pleasure and a revelation. Professor Jacobsen accepts the premise that all religion springs from man's experience of a power not of this world, a mysterious 'Wholly Other.' This numinous power cannot be described in terms of worldly experience but only in allusive 'metaphors' that serve as a means of communication in religious teaching and thought. . . . As a literary work combining sensibility, imagination and scholarship, this book is near perfection."-Jacquetta Hawkes,The London Sunday Times"A brilliant presentation of Mesopotamian religion from the inside, backed at every point by meticulous scholarship and persistent adherence to original texts. It will undoubtedly remain for a long time a classic in its field."-Religious Studies Review"A fascinating book. The general reader cannot fail to admire the translated passages of Sumerian poetry with which it abounds, especially those illustrating the Dumuzi-Inanna cycle of courtship, wedding and lament for the god's untimely death. Many of these (though not all) are new even to the specialist and will repay close study."-B.O.R. Gurney,Times Literary Supplement

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16182-3
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Ancient Mesopotamian Religion: The Terms
    (pp. 1-22)

    “Men do mightily wrong themselves when they refuse to be present in all ages and neglect to see the beauty of all kingdoms” says Traherne, and some such adventurous spirit is clearly called for if one is to venture into ages and kingdoms as far away as those of ancient Mesopotamia.

    A measure of caution, however, may not be amiss either; and so we may well begin by attempting to clarify what the terms of our subject actually imply and which particular aspect or aspects of them we may most profitably address.

    Basic to all religion — and so also...

  5. 2 Fourth Millennium Metaphors. The Gods as Providers: Dying Gods of Fertility
    (pp. 23-74)

    It would have been most satisfactory if we could have based our account of the oldest form of Mesopotamian religion solely on evidence from the fourth millennium b.c.

    However, that is not possible. It is not only that contemporary evidence is scanty — some temple plans, a few representations of deities and rites on seals and on reliefs — or that it is spotty, coming from a few sites only and telling little about the country as a whole, it is rather that it fails in what one had most hoped for, it fails to be self-evident.

    The contemporary evidence...

  6. 3 Third Millennium Metaphors. The Gods as Rulers: The Cosmos a Polity
    (pp. 75-92)

    We have mentioned earlier how human wavering between attraction to and fear of the Numinous introduced an element of choice, of seeking it or avoiding it, and in our discussion of the early fertility cults we saw how this choice tended to become situationally conditioned: the powers whose allegiance was sought were those encountered in situations and phenomena on which life depended, powers holding out the promise of freedom from want.

    With the beginning of the third millennium b.c., the ever present fear of famine was no longer the main reminder of the precariousness of the human condition. Sudden death...

  7. 4 Third Millennium Metaphors. The Gods as Rulers: Individual Divine Figures
    (pp. 93-144)

    The gods who formed the assembly of the gods were legion. It is not possible to characterize more than a few prominent ones. We shall base our discussion mainly on materials from Sumerian literary compositions that, while preserved in Old Babylonian copies, reflect views and beliefs of the outgoing third millennium, to which many of them date back. We have not hesitated, however, to cite earlier and later materials to round out our sketches of the individual gods.

    The Power in the Sky

    An ranked highest among the gods. His name, borrowed by the Akkadians as Anum, is the Sumerian...

  8. 5 Second Millennium Metaphors. The Gods as Parents: Rise of Personal Religion
    (pp. 145-164)

    Terms that are rich in emotional content, terms for things that go deep in us, are rarely clear-cut — nor can they well be, for what they seek to express is subjective and will differ subtly from person to person.

    Personal religionin the title of this chapter is just such a term: it will almost necessarily mean different things to different people and one can only try to explain what it is intended to mean here. We use it to designate a particular, easily recognized, religious attitude in which the religious individual sees himself as standing in close personal...

  9. 6 Second Millennium Metaphors. World Origins and World Order: The Creation Epic
    (pp. 165-192)

    The New England transcendentalist Margaret Fuller was, we are told, given to exclaiming: “I accept the universe!” Carlyle, when he heard about it, wryly commented: “Gad! She’d better.”

    In a sense, of course, the dour Scot was right; man has little choice in the matter. He finds himself in the universe, has nowhere else to go, and so must somehow come to terms with it. In another sense, though, that was not really the question. The question — unspoken, admittedly — was and is whether man can thus come to terms — terms acceptable not only to his mind but...

  10. 7 Second Millennium Metaphors. “And Death the Journey’s End”: The Gilgamesh Epic
    (pp. 193-220)

    We viewed Enuma elish as a remarkable attempt to understand and accept the universe, to come to terms with the human condition. The author of Enûrna elish was able to do so wholeheartedly, but his was by no means the only possible attitude, as may be illustrated from the only slightly older epic of Gilgamesh,339which also comes to terms with the human condition, but not easily and perhaps not altogether convincingly. Unlike Enurna elish its concern is not with the gods and the rule of the universe but with man; its problem is man’s mortality, the fact that we...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 221-240)

    In terms of insight and depth, the second millennium b.c. can rightly be said to mark the high point of ancient Mesopotamian religious achievement. The millennium that followed contributed no major new insights, rather, it brought in many ways decline and brutalization. With the second millennium, therefore, we may appropriately end our presentation and leave it to an epilogue to summarize what those religious achievements were and to outline how they fared in the course of the first millennium with which ancient Mesopotamian civilization itself came to an end.

    To sum up what the second millennium achieved, one must point,...

  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 241-244)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 245-260)
  14. Index
    (pp. 261-273)