Anatolian Studies, Journal of the British Institute of Archaeology, Ankara
The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus
The ancient city of Harran is located on the west bank of the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates, in Northern Mesopotamia. Its’ location is a major crossroad for primary trade routes from Mesopotamia to the west and the northwest. The city was an important trade center in ancient times. It appears to be named after it’s geographic function. Harran is derived from the Akkadian harranu which means road or caravan. The Bible refers to Harran as Paddan-aram which is Aramean for highway.
A city by the name of Harran has been continuously inhabited Since at least 3000 BCE. The city is written about in the Cappadocian tablets (19th century BCE) and Mari texts (19th and 18th centuries BCE). On these tablets it is referred to as a thriving city. The primary deity for Harran was the moon god Sin. The city is found in the biblical record of Abraham’s migration from Ur to Canaan (Genesis 12) and it was visited by Rebecca (Gen. 24:10-61) and Jacob (29:1-31:21).
Harran was conquered by Sennacherib king of Assyria (2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 37:12; Ezekiel 27:23). It survived under various dynasties, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, until 1260 when it was destroyed by the Mongols. Its ruins laid untouched until 1951. In 1951 Dr. D. S. Rice oversaw excavation of the ancient city of Harran. In the late 1950’s the only archeological evidence that could be associated with any time period was found: Pottery dated to the Middle Bronze I period (2000-1800 BCE). It is believed that the earlier levels of archeology lay beneath the ruins of a medieval castle and mosque. They remain unexcavated. Therefore beyond the information that can be deduced from the pottery there is little evidence of the inhabitants of Harran except in writings found at other sites.
However in August-September of 1956 Dr. D. S. Rice did make an important discovery in the pavement (steps) of the mosque. While examining the ruins of the medieval mosque he discovered some Babylonian Stele with inscriptions which were dated the sixth century BC. These stele were turned face down and used as steps at the North, East and West entrances to the Mosque. The inscriptions were by the Babylonian ruler, Nabonidus and his mother during the time of Daniel’s captivity.
There is no archeological evidence of Abraham or any of the patriarch’s habitation of this city. As has been noted, nowhere, in Harran or Ur or any other Babylonian city, have their names appeared in ancient texts.
The date of Harran’s transfer of control from Aramaean’s to the control of the Assyrians is uncertain. It is known that it was one of the first distant provinces to move. The community remained loyal to the king even when other provinces insurrected. It is the city where the last Assyrian King attempted to restore his kingdom. With the defeat of Ashur-uballit at Harran, Cyaxares destroyed the last presence of Assyrian rule and won all northern Mesopotamia.
It appears from inscriptions that sometime around the sixth century under Nabonidus, vis–à–vis Cyrus, the Babylonians gained control. Under the neo-Babylonians it recovered some of its’ former glory. It served as the center for worship of the moon god Sin for many centuries. According to Adad-Guppi’s biography, Harran lay desolate (in the possession of the Medes) for fifty-four years (610-556) until, at the beginning of Nabonidus’ reign (555-539) a vision informed him that Marduk was to raise up his young servant Cyrus to scatter the Medes. Out of obedience to the divine order Nabonidus rebuilt the temple and committed it to Sin. (CR. Isaiah 44:28-45:1). He further built centers of worship for Sin in Ur and in Teiba, Arabia. The work in Arabia moved Babylonian militia to Yatribe (Median). This was an ominous venture by the king. This act was later viewed as self-imposed exiling of the king and an act madness. In Daniel this journey is said to have been a seven year prolongation by the king Nebakadnezar (Nabonidus’ predecessor)
The Qumran scrolls redirect the work to Nabonidus. The veneration of Sin was seen as a forsaking of the national deity, Marduk, in the eyes of the people. Thus the Marduk priesthood led a rebellion against Belshazzar, Nabonidus’ son who left to rule in the capital while Nabonidus was campaigning in Arabia for some ten of his 17 year rule. The control was then given to Cyrus of the Persians (539). With his control of all of Babylonia He brang down the curtain on the last native Akkadian state.
C.J. Gadd’s article in Anatolian Studies:
In August-September of 1956 Dr. D.S. Rice made an important discovery at the Harran site. Rice was examining the ruins of a medieval mosque when he discovered some Babylonian Stele with inscriptions dating back to the sixth century BC. The stele were turned face down and used as steps at the North, East and West entrances to the Mosque. These are now believed to be part of a set of four inscriptions that probably once hung at the doors to the temple of the Babylonian moon-god Sin.
Dr. Rice’s find makes the probable location from which the fourth had been moved fairly certain. This was believed to have been removed by bandits. It was found near Harran in 1906 by H. Pognon. In the ensuing discussion the stele (below image) will be referred to as H1.A, H1.B, H2.A and H2.B.
The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus
- H1.A – stele found by H. Pognon and believed to be the missing stele for the South entrance.
- H1.B – stele found at the North entrance to the Mosque.
- H2.A – stele found at the East entrance to the Mosque.
- H2.B – stele found at the West entrance to the Mosque.
H1 A & B are inscriptions authored probably using an amanuensis by the Royal mother of a sixth century Babylonian king, Nabonidus. It is important to note that both inscription A and B appear to be copies of the same information. For the complete translation of the inscription see (below insert).
The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus
NABONIDUS H1, B
- I (am) the lady Adda-guppi’, mother
- of Nabium-na’id, king of Babylon,
- votaress of the gods Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku,
- and Sadarnunna, my deities
- who, from my childhood, have sought after
- their godheads. Whereas in the 16th year of Nabopolassar,
- king of Babylon, Sin, king of the gods, with his city
- and his temple was angry and went up to heaven-the city and
- the people that (were) in it went to ruin.
- (Now) forasmuch as the shrines of Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku,
- and Sadarnunna I sought after and was worshipper of their godhead,
- (and) that I laid hold on the hem of the robe of Sin, king of the gods, night and daytime
- I had ever in mind his great godhead-daily, without ceasing,
- of Sin, Shamash, Ishtar, and Adda, so long as I am alive,
- I (am) their votaress (both) in heaven and earth. My blessings,
- the goodly things which they gave me, I (too) by day, night, month, and year, gave (back) to them.
- I laid hold on the hem of the robe of Sin, king of the gods, night and daytime
- my two eyes were with him, in prayer and humility of face
- was I bowed before them (and) thus (I prayed), “May thy return
- to thy city be (vouchsafed) to me, that the people, the black-headed,
- may worship thy great godhead.” For calming
- the heart of my god and my goddess, a dress of fine wool, jewels,
- silver, gold, a new shift, perfumes, sweet oil,
- I applied not to my body, (but in) a torn shift
- I went clothed, my goings-out were noiseless, I proclaimed
- their praises : the glory of my city and of my goddess
- was (ever) set in my heart, I kept watch upon them,
- anything good of mine I did not omit, but carried it (ever) before them.
- From the 20th year of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, that I was born (in)
- until the 42nd year of Assurbanipal, the 3rd year of Asur-etillu-ili,
- his son, the 21st year of Nabopolassar, the 43rd year of Nebuchadrezzar,
- the 2nd year of Awel-Marduk, the 4th year of Neriglissar,
- in 95 years of the god Sin, king of the gods of heaven and earth,
- (in) which I sought after the shrines of his great godhead,
- (for) my good doings he looked upon me with a smile
- he heard my prayers, he granted my saying, the wrath
- of his heart calmed. Towards E-hul-hul the temple of Sin
- which (is) in Harran, the abode of his heart’s delight, he was reconciled, he had
- regard. Sin, king of the gods, looked upon me and
- Nabu-na’id (my) only son, the issue of my womb, to the kingship
- he called, and the kingship of Sumer and Akkad
- from the border of Egypt (on) the upper sea even to the lower sea
- all the lands he entrusted hither
- to his hands. My two hands I lifted up and to Sin, king of the gods,
- reverently with imploration [(I prayed) thus, ” Nabu-na’id
- (my) son, offspring of my womb, beloved of his mother,]
- thou hast called him to the kingship, thou hast pronounced his name,
- at the command of thy great godhead may the great gods
- go at his two sides, may they make his enemies to fall,
- forget not, (but) make good E-hul-hul and the finishing of its foundation (?)
- When in my dream, his two hands had been laid on, Sin, king of the gods,
- (incl. 7). spoke to me thus, “With thee I will put into the hands of Nabu-na’id, thy son, the return of the gods and the habitation of Harran ;
- He shall build E-hul-hul, shall perfect its structure, (and) Harran
- more than (it was) before he shall perfect and restore it to its place.
- The hand of Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku, and Sadarnunna
- I he shall clasp and cause them to enter E-hul-hul “. The word of Sin,
- king of the gods, which he spoke to me I honoured, and I myself saw (it fulfilled);
- Nabu-na’id, (my) only son, offspring of my womb, the rites
- forgotten of Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku, and
- Sadarnunna he perfected, E-hul-hul
- anew he built and perfected its structure, Harran more
- than before he perfected and restored it to its place ; the hand
- of Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku, and Sadarnunna from
- Suanna his royal city he clasped, and in the midst of Harran
- in E-hul-hul the abode of their hearts’ ease with gladness
- and rejoicing he let them dwell. What from former times Sin, king of the gods,
- had not done and had not granted to anybody (he did) for the love of me
- who had ever worshipped his godhead, laid hold on the hem of his robe-Sin, king of the gods,
- uplifted my head and set upon me a good name in the land,
- long days, years of heart’s ease he multiplied upon me.
- From the time of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, until the 9th year
- of Nabu-na’id king of Babylon, the son, offspring of my womb
- 104 years of happiness, with the reverence which Sin, king of the gods,
- placed in me, he made me flourish, my own self : the sight of my two eyes
- is clear, I am excellent in understanding, my hand and both feet are sound,
- well-chosen are my words, meat and drink
- agree with me, my flesh is goodly, glad is my heart.
- My descendants to four generations from me flourishing in themselves
- I have seen, I am fulfilled (with) offspring. O Sin, king of the gods, for favour
- thou hast looked upon me, thou hast lengthened my days : Nabu-na’id, king of Babylon,
- my son, to Sin my lord I have devoted him. So long as he is alive
- let him not offend against thee ; the genius of favour, genius of favour which (to be) with me
- thou hast appointed and they have caused me to attain offspring, with him (too)
- appoint (them), and wickedness and offense against thy great godhead
- endure not, (but) let him worship thy great godhead. In the 21 years
- of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, in the 43 years of Nebuchadrezzar,
- son of Nabopolassar, and 4 years of Neriglissar, king of Babylon,
- (when) they exercised the kingship, for 68 years
- with all my heart I reverenced them, I kept watch over them,
- Nabu-na’id (my) son, offspring of my womb, before Nebuchadrezzar
- son of Nabopolassar and (before) Neriglissar, king of Babylon, I caused him to stand,
- daytime and night he kept watch over them
- what was pleasing to them he performed continually,
- my name he made (to be) favourite in their sight, (and) like
- [a daughter of] their [own] they uplifted my head
Col. III. (Translation of lines 1-19 is supplemented from the duplicate inscription, as rendered by B. Landsberger, loc. cit.)
- I nourished (their spirits), and incense offering
- rich, of sweet savour,
- I appointed for them continually and
- laid ever before them.
- (Now) in the 9th year of Nabu-na’id,
- king of Babylon, the fate
- of herself carried her off, and
- Nabu-na’id, king of Babylon,
- (her) son, issue of her womb, . . . . . . . . . . .
- her corpse entombed, and [robes]
- splendid, a bright mantle. . . . . . . . . . .
- gold, bright. . . . . . . . . . .
- beautiful stones, [precious] stones,
- costly stones. . . . . . . . . . .
- sweet oil her corpse he [anointed]
- they laid it in a secret place. [Oxen and]
- sheep (especially) fattened he [slaughtered]
- before it. He assembled [the people]
- of Babylon and Borsippa, [with the people]
- dwelling in far regions, [kings, princes, and]
- governors, from [the border]
- of Egypt on the Upper Sea
- (even) to the Lower Sea he [made to come up],
- mourning and
- weeping he performed, [dust ?]
- they cast upon their heads, for 7 days
- and 7 nights with. . . . . . . . . . .
- they cut themselves(?), their clothes
- were cast down(?). On the seventh day. . . . . . . . . . .
- the people(?) of all the land their hair(?)
- shaved, and. . . . . . . . . . .
- their clothes. . . . . . . . . . .
- the . . . . . . . . . . . of their clothes. . . . . . . . . . .
- in(?) their places(?). . . . . . . . . . .
- they ? to. . . . . . . . . . .
- at meat (?). . . . . . . . . . .
- perfumes refined he amassed (?). . . . . . . . . . .
- sweet oil upon the heads [of the people]
- he poured out, their hearts. . . . . . . . . . .
- he made glad, he [cheered (?)]
- their minds, the road [to their homes]
- he did not(?) withhold(?). . . . . . . . . . .
- to their own places they went.
- Do thou, whether a king or a prince. . . . . . . . . . .
(Remainder too fragmentary for translation until: –)
- Fear (the gods), in heaven and earth
- pray to them, [neglect] not [the utterance]
- of the mouth of Sin and the goddess
- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
- – – -. . . . make safe the . . . . . . . . . . . of thy seed
- [ever(?)] and for [ever(?)].
H2 A & B are inscriptions authored probably using an amanuensis by King Nabonidus. It is important to note that both inscription A and B appear to be copies of the same information.
H1 B and H2 A & B are all mostly readable accept for the edge of the third column which is illegible. For a complete translation of the inscription see (below insert).
The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus
NABONIDUS H2, A AND B
(Lines numbered according to the arrangement of H2, A)
- The operation of Sin, greatest of the gods and goddesses,
- nobody knows it, Since from distant days
- it came not down to the land, (wherefore) the people of the land saw it (indeed), but
- wrote it not on a tablet and set it not (down)
- for days to come. Sin, lord of the gods and goddesses, dwellers
- of the heavens, (thou art he) who, in front of Nabonidus king of Babylon,
- earnest from the heavens. I (am) Nabonidus,
- who have not the honour (?) of (being a) somebody, and kingship
- is not within me, (but) the gods and goddesses prayed for
- me, and Sin to the kingship
- called me. In the night season he caused me to behold a dream
- (saying) thus ” E-hul-hul the temple of Sin which (is) in Harran quickly
- build, (seeing that) the lands, all of them, to thy hands
- are verily committed “. (But) the sons of Babylon, Borsippa,
- Nippur, Ur, Erech, Larsa, priests (and)
- people of the capitals of Akkad, against his great
- divinity offended, whenever(?) they sought after (anything) they did wickedly,
- they knew not the wrath, (the resentment), of the king of the gods, (even) Nannar,
- they forgot their duty, whenever(?) they talked (it was) treason
- and not loyalty, like a dog they devoured
- one another; fever and famine in the midst of them
- they caused to be, it diminished the people of the land. But I
- hid myself afar from my city of Babylon
- (on) the road to Tema’, Dadanu, Padakku[a],
- Hibra, Iadihu, and as far as Iatribu
- ten years I went about amongst them, (and) to
- my city Babylon I went not in. At the word of Sin,
- king of the gods, lord of lords of the gods and goddesses, dwellers
- of the heavens, they accomplished the word of Sin-Nannar,
- of Shamash, Ishtar, Adda, and Nergal ; a guard of (my) safety and life
- they appointed (to be) with me. In that year, in the month of Nisannu
- and the month of Tasritu, the people of Akkad and of the Hatti-land the produce of the plains
- and of the sea received. In the rigour of summer,
- the month(s) of Siwanu, Du’uzu, Abu, Ululu, Tasritu, in these months
- in all these years without ceasing.
- at the command of Sin the god Adda, lockkeeper of heavens and earth, waters
- of rain gave them to drink, their property and possessions
- in peace they brought before me. At the word
- of Sin also Ishtar, lady of battle, without whom hostility and peace
- exist not in the land, and a weapon
- is not forged, her hand(s) over them
- she crossed(?) and the king(s ?) of the land(?) of Egypt, the city of the Medes,
- the land of the Arabs, and all the kings (who were) hostile, for
- peace and good relations sent (messengers)
- before me. People of the land of the Arabs, who weapons
- . . . . . . . . . . . of the land of Akkad
- and . . . . . . . . . . . for
- plunder and capture of property they. . . . . . . . . . .
- at the word of Sin, Nergal their weapons
- shattered and all of them he bowed down at [my feet].
- Shamash, lord of the oracle, without whom a mouth
- is not opened and a mouth is not shut,
- (he), accomplishing the command of Nannar, the father who created him,
- made the people of the land of Akkad and the Hatti-land, whom he had committed
- to my hands, (to be) of true mouth and heart with me
- they kept guard for me
- they accomplished my command in the seclusion of tracts
- far distant and roads secluded which I traveled.
- (In) ten years arrived the appointed time
- the days were fulfilled which Nannar, king of the gods, had spoken
- on the 17th day of the month Tasritu, the day when Sin vouchsafes
- his revelation, Sin, lord of the gods, who on the 1st (of the month)
- (as) the scimitar of Anu his name invoked attacks the heavens
- and shatters the earth—uniting the functions
- of Anu’s office, completing the functions of Enlil’s office,
- occupying the functions of Ea’s office,
- in whose hands all of every function of heaven
- is held, Enlil of the gods, king of kings, lord of lords,
- upon whose command they go not back
- and his word is not spoken twice,
- with the fear of whose great godhead heavens
- and earth are filled, like his countenance heavens
- and earth are outspread; without thee who
- (incl. 27) does anything? A land whereof thy heart has devised its habitation
- thou puttest into it the fear of thy great godhead and for days to come
- its foundations are secure. (But) a land whereof thy heart
- has devised its ruin, the fear of thee from
- the heart of it thou sunderest, thou overthrowest it
- for days to come: of whom all the gods and goddesses,
- inhabitants of heaven, observe
- what proceeds from his mouth, they accomplish the command
- of Nannar, the father who created them; completing
- the functions of heaven and earth, without(?) whose exalted command
- which day by day in heaven
- they pronounce the land is not founded(?)
- and there is no light in the land.
- The gods like ? ? quake and tremble,
- the Anunnaki who before the command of his great
- godhead, which (is) not . . . . . . . . . . .the mountains
(Rest of column fragmentary and unintelligible)
- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . with diviners
- and interpreters I instructed myself (in) the way, I laid (my hands to it ?)
- In the night season a dream was disturbing, until the word. . . . . . . . . . .
- Fulfilled was the year, came the appointed time which. . . . . . . . . . .
- from the city of Tema I (returned ?) . . . . . . . . . . .
- Babylon, my seat of lordship, (I entered) . . . . . . . . . . .
- they beheld me, and. . . . . . . . . . .
- reconciliation, presents they took to. . . . . . . . . . .
- . . . . . . . . . . .the kings (that were) near
- came up and kissed my feet
- and those far away heard it, and feared his great godhead.
- The gods and goddesses who had appeared and were afar off
- returned back and spoke good for me,
- and in the oracle of the diviner the organs were disposed favourably for me. In plenty
- and wealth and abundance my people in the distant tracts
- I spread abroad and in prosperity I took the road
- to my own land. The word of his great godhead I observed,
- I stayed not, I shrank not, I rested not; I let summon
- the peoples of Akkad and of the Hatti-land from the border of Egypt
- on the Upper Sea as far as the Lower Sea, whom Sin, king of the gods,
- had committed to my hands. E-hul-hul the temple of Sin anew
- I built, I finished its work. The Hands of Sin,
- of Nin-gal, Nusku, and of Sadarnunna from
- Nuanna my royal city I clasped, and with joy
- and gladness I made them enter and dwell in their lasting sanctuary,
- generous libations before them I poured out and
- I multiplied gifts. The “head” of E-hul-hul
- I supported, I brought pleasure to the hearts of its people,
- I accomplished the command of Sin, king of the gods, lord of lords,
- dwelling in the heavens, who, in comparison of the gods in heaven, his name is surpassing:
- (also) of Shamash, who is his brightest (peer), of Nusku, Ishtar, Adda, Nergal,
- (those) who accomplish the command of Nannar
- their surpasser. Wheresoever I put on my arms
- (even) to wheresoever (I put them off?), I have set before me
- to accomplish the command of Nannar. Whoso thou (art)
- whom Sin shall call to the kingship and
- shall say to thee “O son, my son”, the shrine of Sin
- dwelling in the heavens (thou shalt seek ?)
- and his word thou shalt not (disregard. . . . . . . . . . .
- (he) who. . . . . . . . . . .
- with his weapon, with. . . . . . . . . . . (shall smite?)
The Stelae are about 2 meters high, 1 meter wide and 20 centimeters thick. H2 A & B have detached semi-circular head piece which is about 0.93 meters wide and 0.68 meters high. These sculptured tops depict the king carrying a scepter, a declaration of divinity, while worshipping three deities, represented by the Moon, Sun and Venus. The moon is symbolized by a whole circle with crescent at the bottom, the sun by a disc with an internal pattern of four points and Venus by a seven pointed star in a circle. The representative deities are Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar.
Nabonidus with Sin (Moon), Ishtar (Venus) and Shamash (Sun)
It speaks of the praises of Nabonidus’ mother, Adda-Gruppi for the gods, line 1-27
I (am) the lady Adda-Gruppi, mother of Nabium-na’id king of Babylon votaress of the gods Sin, Ningal, Nusku, and Sadarnunna, my deities; who, from my childhood have sought after their godheads.
Whereas in the 16th year of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, Sin, king of the gods, with his city and his temple was angry and went up to heaven-the city and the people that (were) in it went to ruin.
(Now) forasmuch as the shrines of Sin, Ningal, Nusku and Sadarnunna I sought after and was worshipper of their godhead (and) that I laid hold on the hem of the robe of Sin, king of the gods, night and daytime.
I had ever in mind his great godhead-daily, without ceasing, of Sin, Shamash, Ishtar, and Adda, so long as I am alive I (am) their votaress (both) in heaven and earth. My blessings, the goodly things which they gave me, I (too) by day, night, month, and year, gave (back) to them.
I laid hold on the hem of the robe of Sin, king of the gods, night and daytime my two eyes were with him, in prayer and humility of face was I bowed before them (and) thus (I prayed), ‘May thy return to thy city be (secured) to me that the people, the black-headed, may worship thy great godhead.’
For calming the heart of my god and my goddess, ad dress of fine wool, jewels, silver, gold, a new shift, perfumes, sweet oil, I applied not to my body, (but in) a torn shift I went clothed, my goings-out were noiseless, I proclaimed their praises: the glory of my city and of my goddess was (ever set in my heart, I kept watch upon them anything good of mine I did not omit, but carried it (ever) before them.
They were also used to empower kings for example in column 2,
“When in my dream his two hands had been laid on, Sin, king of the gods, spoke to me thus, “with thee I will put into the hands of Nabuna’id thy son, the return of the gods and the habitation of Harran. He shall…”
Similar claims are made by Nabonidus himself. In his own testimony he acknowledges his own nonhereditary rights to the throne and compensates for this by calling out that it was the god Sin who choose him. It all seems very perfect for his taking of the throne. A god who is separate from the priesthood of Marduk endorses him, in turn Nabonidus endorses that god, the moon god-Sin as the god of gods. The inscription of this reads:
“The operation of Sin, greatest of the gods and goddesses, nobody knows it, Since from distant days it came not down to the land, (wherefore) the people of the land saw it (indeed), but wrote it not on a tablet and set it not (down) for days to come.
Sin, lord of the gods and goddesses, dwellers of the heavens, (thou art he) who, in front of Nabonidus king of Babylon, camest from the heavens.
I (am) Nabonidus, who have not the honor of (being a) somebody, and kingship is not within me, (but) the gods and goddesses prayed for me, and Sin to the kingship called me.
In the night season he caused me to behold a dream (saying) thus…”
He further tells of his reverence toward his god, Sin. The reading is reminiscent of a Psalm.
“…in whose hands all of every function of heaven is held, Enlil of the gods, king of kings, lord of lords, upon whose command they go not back and his word is not spoken twice, with the fear of whose great godhead heavens and earth are filled like his countenance heavens and earth are outspread; without thee who does anything?”