Research Showcases Literature

2.1. Gudea Cylinder A. Observations on the text’s micro-structure. by Lucrezia Menicatti, MA

2.2. Notes on the construction of meaning in an Old Babylonian bilingual proverb about exotic animals. by Dr. Frank Simons

2.3. Parallelism in Ugaritic Poetry. by Clemens Steinberger

2.1. Gudea Cylinder A

Observations on the text’s micro-structure

Written by Lucrezia Menicatti (MA)

How to cite: Menicatti, L., 2020, “Gudea Cylinder A: Observations on the text´s micro-structure,” Project REPAC (ERC Grant no. 803060), 2019-2024, at (accessed day/month/year).

© Musée du Louvre/ Philippe Fuzeau

Gudea Cylinder A is a complex and refined literary work. As Suter 2000, 132-133, remarks, the motif of the divine fate frames the entire text in a huge ring-composition structure. In the following, we will offer an example of REPAC’s approach to Ancient Mesopotamian literary compositions by focusing on some of the devices shaping the text, with its contiguous and near-contiguous textual units, on the micro-level. These devices include structural formulas, textual and inter-textual parallelisms, and narrative repetitions.

By focusing on such phenomena, REPAC’s research seeks a deeper understanding of how meaning was created in Ancient Mesopotamia. Our aim in the present context is more modest; we simply seek to highlight the role played by some forms of repetition as structuring devices in a sophisticated written product such as Gudea Cylinder A.

Cylinder de Gudea
© 2006 RMN / Franck Raux

The Ring Composition Frame

The theme of divine fate encloses the entire Gudea text in a ring composition frame. The motif is introduced in the opening formula u4 /an-ki- a nam tar-[re]-/da\, “When fate was being decided in heaven and earth” (lit. “in the day in which fate was being cut in heaven and earth”).

This formula is borrowed from the epic genre and occurs in Sumerian narrative from as early as the Early Dynastic period (Black 1992, 93-95). This opening therefore constitutes an intertextual reference that places the hymn within a long tradition. Furthermore, the formula is meant to set the narrative action in a mythological past, thereby giving a mythological character to Gudea’s deeds.

The theme of divine fate and will occurs again at the closure of Cylinder B (CB 24, 9-17), when the Eninnu receives divine blessing, having been ‘joined together’ with heaven and earth (Suter 2000, 132-133).

Formulaic Repetitions and Repetitive Narrative Patterns

Formulaic Repetitions

Successive series of narrative sequences constitute the internal structure of Gudea’s Cylinder A, and fixed sets of expressions which we define structural formulas mark the transition from one of these narrative sequences to the subsequent one. These expressions consistently occur in the same narrative context – that is, at the end or at the beginning of a given narrative section. The initial part of Gudea’s text provides evidence for three such formulas.

One of these, sipa-zi gu3-de2-a gal mu-zu gal i3-ga-tum3-mu (“the right shepherd, Gudea, learnt much and put much into action”) occurs at four different places in the text. It marks the transition to a new action sequence, or a pause between two events (Averbeck 1987, 264-265). It is used after Nanshe’s revelation (CA 7:10), after Gudea has celebrated the rituals for Ningirsu (CA 12:20) and after the building of the Eninnu is finally completed (CA 25:22-23). The presence of the prefix /nga/ in the verbal form i3-ga-tum3-mu is a significant marker, since it is rare and was definitely not productive anymore by the Gudea’s time, but it only occurs in fixed expressions (Jagersma 2010, 513).

Two more formulaic repetitions occur in the initial part of Cylinder A in a similar context. One is the clause ga-na ga-na-ab-dug4 (“I really must tell it to her”), which introduces Gudea’s speech to the goddess Nanshe. The second consists of a longer clause, ama-ĝu10 ma-mu- ĝu10 ga-na-de6 (“I shall bring my dream to my mother”) which opens the section in which Gudea tells Nanshe about his dream.

These two formulas also involve sound repetition. In the first case (ga-na ga-na-ab-dug4) the directive expression /gana/ reproduces the exact same sounds of the two prefixes at the beginning of the following verbal form, the modal prefix ga- and the indirect object prefix –(n)na-. The second formula includes an alliteration of /m/ and /ĝ/ as well as the assonance of /a/ and /u/ (ama-ĝu10 ma-mu- ĝu10).

Repetitive Narrative Patterns

The ‘naming of the stelas’ (CA 23: 8 – 24: 7) is a long narrative sequence that shows repetitive patterns, and in particular structural parallelisms. Gudea names each of the seven stelas which he has erected surrounding the Eninnu. The naming of each stela takes up five lines.

The first line consists of an opening expression, which identifies the stela by the place where it was erected – an example from CA 23: 13 consists of na kan4-sur-ra bi-du3-a-na ‘to his stone, which he set up at the Kan-sura gate’. This follows the fixed structure na ‘stone’ — locative noun phrase – verbal form bi2-du3-a-na (‘that he erected’). The locative noun phrase changes according to the context, but the noun na ‘stone’, that functions as the absolutive of the relative clause, and the nominalized verbal form bi2-du3-a-na ‘which he erected’ are repeated in all the seven episodes.

The second line consists of the noun phrase na-du3-a ‘stela’ (literally ‘erected stone’) in the absolutive. The name of the given stela follows, starting with a periphrasis referring to Ningirsu. In the first occurrence, the sequence reads: na-du3-a lugal kisal si “the stela, ‘the king who fills the courtyard…”

The name of the stela continues in the third line, which is always repeated identically and places Gudea’s name alongside Ningirsu’s (gu3-de2-a en dnin-gir2-su2-ke4, ‘Gudea, the lord Ningirsu…’). Ningirsu is always the agent of the sentence, whereas Gudea does not always maintain the same logical function. In the first occurrence, this name is the direct object, in the second it is in the terminative, and so on. But no case marker follows his name. The notation of the case marker after a vowel was not common in Gudea’s time, but its systematic omission here may indicate an intention to preserve the symmetry and repetitive pattern of the passages.

The main verb of the clause (mu-zu) appears in the fourth line, preceded by a noun phrase with an adverbial meaning – the first occurrence includes gir2-nun-ta mu-zu ‘he knows him from a princely way’.

The fifth line consists of the closing formula na-ba mu-še3 im-ma-sa4 ‘to this stone he gave it as a name’, which is identical in every instance.

Similar examples of structural parallelisms can be detected in many more places in Gudea’s text. Examples include the sequence of Gudea’s prayers which is repeated three times, first, to Ningirsu, secondly to Gatumdug, and thirdly to Nanshe. Many more of these patterns may be identified. Because of their repetitive narrative structure, these sequences resemble very closely the ‘typical scenes’ and the ‘themes’ that characterise oral and aural poetry (Lord 2005, 133-134). The wider ramifications of this phenomenon cannot be discussed here exhaustively, but they are currently being studied within REPAC.

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Selected Bibliography

Averbeck, R.E. 1987, A Preliminary Study of Ritual and Structure in the Cylinders of Gudea (2 volumes). Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Dropsie College.
Black, J. 1992, ‘Some Features of Sumerian Narrative Poetry’ in M. E. Vogelzang and H.L.J. Vanstiphout (eds.) Mesopotamian Epic Literature: Oral or Aural? Lewiston, NY, 70-101.
Edzard, D. 1997, Gudea and his Dynasty. The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia – Early Periods 3/1, Toronto.
Falkenstein, A. 1966, Die Inschriften Gudeas von Lagaš: Einleitung. Analecta Orientalia 30, Rome.
Jagersma, B2010 A Descriptive Sumerian Grammar. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Universiteit Leiden.
Lord, A.B. 2005, Il cantore di storie, G. Schilardi (trans.). Lecce.
Römer, W. H. Ph. 2010, Die Zylinderinschriften von Gudea. Münster.
Suter, C.E. 2000, Gudea’s Temple Building: The Representation of an Early Mesopotamian Ruler in Text and Image. Groningen.
Thureau-Dangin, F. 1905, Les Inscriptions de Sumer et d’Akkad. Transcription et Traduction. Paris.

2.2. Notes on the construction of meaning in an Old Babylonian bilingual proverb about exotic animals

Written by Dr Frank Simons BA (Hons), MPhil.

How to cite: Simons, F., 2021, “Notes on the construction of meaning in an Old Babylonian bilingual proverb about exotic animals,” Project REPAC (ERC Grant no. 803060), 2019-2024, at 10.25365/phaidra.261 (accessed day/month/year).

Among the less well-attested collections of proverbs from the Old Babylonian period, one bilingual example stands out as particularly interesting. The collection is preserved on just two tablets, one of which remains unpublished (courtesy J. Matuszak). The published tablet, N 3395, is a two column school tablet from Nippur, first edited by Lambert (1960: 272-3), and later re-edited more comprehensively by Alster (1997: 288-9). 1 The entire collection contains somewhere in the region of 20 proverbs, though the manuscripts are not exact duplicates so it is impossible to be sure of its original extent. The collection as a whole has several interesting features, but here we will consider just a single proverb:

In each of the first four lines a very rare word – Sumerian in 3 instances, Akkadian in the other – is paired with a relatively common one in the other language: d i – b i – d a is otherwise attested only in a lexical list (Civil 1971: 179),2 t i l – l u – u g only in the royal praise poem Šulgi B (Castellino 1972: 36-37, l. 59; ETCSL l. 58.), and g u l – l u m and margû are hapax legomena (contra CAD M/1: 278 s.v. margû A. See Simons forthcoming A: §2c). The better attested d ì m – š á ḫ is known from a handful of texts, mostly lexical, as a word for bear (Simons forthcoming A: §§2a-2b), and with the exception of margû the Akkadian equivalents are all perfectly commonplace – imēru, šurānu and pīru are the usual words for donkey, cat and elephant respectively.

At first glance, the superabundance of rare words in this proverb is unusual and difficult to understand. On closer inspection, however, it is clear that the choice of this succession of rare words seems to have been motivated by the assonance and consonance of their constituent parts. The words g u l – l u m and t i l – l u – u g are phonetically related, revolving around /g/ and /l/, while d i – b i – d a and d ì m-š á ḫ share the almost homophonous initial sounds /dib/ and /dim/, as well as a similar pattern of vowels. The final syllable of g u l – l u m nearly forms a palindrome with the succeeding first syllable of m e – l u ḫ – ḫ a.3 Similarly, the juxtaposition of d ì m – š á ḫ, m a r – ḫ a – š i, margû and paraḫše emphasises the repetition of the consonants /m/, /š/, /ḫ/ and /r/. The same consonants are also notable in the other Akkadian animal names, imēru, šurānu, and pīru. It seems likely that this influenced the use of the word margû as the equivalent to Sumerian d ì m – š á ḫ, which is otherwise only equated with dabû ‘bear.’ In addition, the sign DÌM is composed of the signs GAL and LUGAL which, were they to be pronounced aloud, would resound with g u l – l u m and t i l – l u – u g.

Given the fact that the rare words explicitly refer to foreign animals, it seems wholly plausible that they are not in fact Sumerian or Akkadian per se, but rather foreign names of foreign animals. This is almost certainly the case for the otherwise unknown margû. The CAD understands margû as a foreign word (CAD M/1: 278 s.v. margû A), presumably on the basis that an Akkadian etymology gives either a deverbal noun from ruggû ‘to wrong, to make illegitimate claims’ (CAD R: 404 s.v. ruggû) + ma-, or a quadriliteral root *mrgˀ. The language of Marḫaši (the Jiroft civilisation) is almost completely unknown, but as the animal in question is said to be ‘of Marḫaši’, and the word margû is evidently a loanword from an uncertain language, it is perhaps within the bounds of reason to suggest that margû is a remnant of this language. The same may also be suggested of g u l – l u m and the language of Meluḫḫa (the Indus Valley civilisation), and perhaps of d i – b i – d a and Elamite, though I can find no plausible candidate in the Elamisches Wörterbuch (Hinz & Koch 1987). It is also plausible that this is ultimately another loanword from the Indus Valley civilisation. No country is given for the t i l – l u – u g but it is equally likely to be a foreign word.4

Clearly this proverb is a work of some poetic skill. The euphony present throughout the first four lines demonstrates that the words were carefully chosen, and, as Steinkeller has pointed out, the whole proverb is also geographically organised, with the lands listed in order from west to east (Steinkeller 1980: 9). This led Civil to suggest that the animals may stand figuratively, or through alliteration or pun, for the lands from which they are said to come (Civil 1998: 11-12, n. 6). The animals dealt with in the proverb, however, are at least plausibly identifiable with actual animals, and the practice of presenting exotic animals as diplomatic gifts make it likely that they actually came, or were thought to have come, from the lands in question. This will be discussed at greater length in a forthcoming paper (Simons forthcoming B) which will deal with the identities of the animals involved.

Crisostomo has recently demonstrated that Sumerian and bilingual proverb collections were assembled using the same sorts of analogical techniques as were lexical lists, and that individual proverbs could be generated, among other methods, through interlingual phonological analogies (Crisostomo 2019: 154-155). That is to say, phonetic correspondences between Sumerian and Akkadian words and phrases could play a large role in the development of proverbs. This offers a rather better way of interpreting the proverb discussed here. As we have discussed, there are clear interlingual analogies in the proverb between Sumerian, Akkadian, and whichever foreign languages the animal names came from. Following Crisostomo’s argument, these should be understood as the basis from which the text developed – the euphonic juxtaposition of foreign names for comparably powerful animals and foreign place names is the root of the proverb. The succession of very rare words we have examined here is, therefore, not merely an aesthetic choice, but is in fact fundamental to the development of meaning in this text.

1 Alster notes that Lambert’s edition was made before the tablet was baked. It has also been collated by Castellino 1972: 117 and by Civil 1998: 11 n. 5. The edition given here follows that of Alster.

2 Izi? “C“ iv 35. d i – b i – d a = e-me-ru ‘d i b i d a = donkey’. This is a Middle Assyrian tablet (VAT 9714; CDLI P282498) provisionally assigned to the acrographic lexical series Izi = išātu by Civil, but with the proviso that it is likely a development from the exclusively Old Babylonian series N í g – g a = makkūru, and its exact identification is therefore uncertain.

3 It is possible that both d i – b i – d a a n – š a 4 -a nki – n a and g u l – l u m m e – l u ḫ – ḫ aki are sandhi spellings, which is to say that the animal name and the place name have rolled into one – d i b i d a n š a n and g u l l u m m e l u ḫ ḫ a respectively. It is not possible to be certain, however, as both d i b i d a and g u l l u m are so rare that we do not know their normal forms.

4 It has been noted that d ì m – š á ḫ seems to have been borrowed from a Semitic language (Civil 1998: 12). See further Simons forthcoming A: §2a, n. 21.

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Alster, B. 1997, Proverbs of Ancient Sumer: The World’s Earliest Proverb Collections (2 Volumes). Bethesda, MD.
Castellino, G.R. 1972, Two Šulgi Hymns (BC). Studi Semitici 42, Rome.
Civil, M. 1971, Izi = išātu, Ká-gal = abullu, and Níg-ga = makkūru. Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon 13, Rome.
Civil, M. 1998, ‘“Adamdun,” the Hippopotamus, and the Crocodile’ in Journal of Cuneiform Studies 50, 11-14.
Crisostomo, J. 2019, ‘Creating Proverbs: The Listing Scholarship of the Sumerian Proverbs Collections’ in KASKAL 16, 141-157.
Hinz, W./H. Koch, 1987, Elamisches Wörterbuch (2 Volumes). Berlin.
Lambert, W.G. 1960, Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Oxford.
Simons, F. forthcoming A, ‘Lions and Bison and Bears, oh my! Thoughts on some rare words in the cuneiform lexical tradition I – Animals and Instruments.’
Simons, F. forthcoming B, ‘The Donkey of Anšan – a Rhinoceros in Mesopotamia?’
Steinkeller, P. 1980, ‘The Old Akkadian Term for <<Easterner>>’ in Revue d’Assyriologie 74, 1-9.

2.3. Parallelism in Ugaritic Poetry

Written by Clemens Steinberger

How to cite: Steinberger, C., 2022, “Parallelism in Ugaritic Poetry 01,” Project REPAC (ERC Grant no. 803060), 2019-2024, at (accessed day/month/year).

Parallelism (often referred to as parallelismus membrorum) is a fundamental characteristic of Ugaritic poetry and its main principle of versification. Poetic parallelism relies on the juxtaposition of two linguistic sequences that share semantic, grammatic, phonetic, or graphic properties. As certain features of the first verse unit are repeated in the next, the two units are tied together. The subsequent verse unit emphasizes, complements, contextualizes, specifies, increases, advances, or contrasts the first unit’s issue. Poetic parallelism is employed in epics and mythological texts (KTU 1.1–1.24), incantations and historiolae (KTU 1.100, 1.114, 1.169), as well as in some prayers and evocations accompanying rituals (KTU 1.23, 1.108, 1.119, 1.161). This brief study aims to provide an overview of parallelism’s implications for the semantics, grammar, phonetics, and visuals of Ugaritic poetic texts (parallelism has been treated several times in Ugaritic studies; a brief bibliography is found on the Ugarit-Portal Göttingen; here, you will also find German translations of selected Ugaritic poetic texts).

Semantic Parallelism: Parallel verse units usually contain semantically related words and phrases (the semantic – more precisely: paradigmatic – relations of juxtaposed lexemes are manifold and cannot all be dealt with here). Parallel expressions may bear the same or a very similar meaning, employing more or less synonymous lexemes like ˁr “city” and pdr “town, city” in ex. a:

a) KTU 1.16 VI 6–7
6 ˁrm . tdu . mt[[x]]
7 pdrm . tdu .šrr

From the city she scares off Môtu (i.e., death),
from the town she scares off the enemy.

However, for many word pairs that are considered synonymous, it is reasonable to assume that the juxtaposed lexemes exhibit minor differences in meaning or bear different connotations (e.g., in the case of Ugaritic / Northwest Semitic words paired with words of foreign origin). Supposedly synonymous terms may harbor different value judgements, originate from different sociolinguistic contexts, and thus evoke different associations for the audience. Therefore, in most cases, we should refer to partial synonymy rather than synonymy. By juxtaposing two partially synonymous terms, the common denotative core of meaning is emphasized, while the peripheral connotations of the two lexemes voice different facets of the superordinate issue.

Apart from partially synonymous terms, hyponyms (sub-terms) and hypernyms (superordinate terms) can be joined in poetic parallelism (cf. Tsumura 1988). In this case, the second term classifies (as a hypernym) or specifies (as a hyponym) the first. A superordinate term following a more specific one allows for the correct classification of the first statement. In ex. b, the phrase ṣbrt aryh “the flock of her kin” indicates that bnh “her sons” in the preceding verse unit refers to the entire clan of the goddess ˀAṯiratu (she is considered the creatress of the gods in Ugarit). Moreover, ˀAṯiratu’s name is replaced in the second unit by the more general term ilt “goddess,” which can equally be taken as a hyponym-hypernym sequence (the juxtaposition of a figure’s name with an epithet is frequently found in Ugaritic poetry):

b) KTU 1.3 V 36b–37
yṣḥ . aṯrt 37 w bnh .
ilt .w ṣbrt . ary!h

He called ˀAṯiratu and her sons,
the goddess and the flock of her kin.

On the other hand, a hyponym following a hypernym specifies the issue, just as ymn “right hand” specifies which yd “hand” (left or right) is meant in ex. c (Tsumura 1988, 259–260):

c) KTU 1.19 IV 53b–54b
qḥn . w tšqyn . yn .
[q]54 ks . bdy .
qbˁt . b ymny

Take (it) and give (me) wine to drink,
t[ak]e the cup from my hand,
the goblet from my right hand!

Likewise, holonyms (whole) and meronyms (part) can be linked in poetic parallelism. In ex. d, yd “hand” is parallel to uṣbˁt “fingers,” which are parts of the yd “hand.” The meronym probably provides a synecdoche for the holonym “hand.” At the same time, the image drawn of the goddess meticulously washing every single finger becomes more detailed:

d) KTU 1.3 II 32b–33
trḥṣ . ydh . bt33lt . ˁnt .
uṣbˁth . ybmt . limm .

Virgin ˁAnatu washed her hands,
the sister-in-law of the peoples (/ of Liˀmu) her fingers.

In addition, multiple hyponyms (of the same hypernym) can occur side by side. The juxtaposed terms derive from the same field of meaning or have a quality in common that is decisive for the story. Set in parallel, co-hyponyms serve to exemplify an entire field of meaning and thus visualize the scene. In ex. e, ḫrṣ “gold” and ksp “silver” are parallel, in this passage co-hyponymous for valuable metals. rqm “sheets” and lbnt “bricks” in turn exemplify different building materials:

e) KTU 1.4 VI 34–35a
34 sb . ksp . l r⸢q⸣m .
ḫrṣ 35 nsb . l lbnt

The silver turned into sheets,
the gold turned into bricks.

Likewise, epithets and names of figures that are assigned the same or a similar role in the narrative occur in parallel. In ex. f, various enemies of Baˁlu are mentioned in parallel, which ˁAnatu is said to have defeated:

f) KTU 1.3 III 43–46a
43 mḫšt . mdd ilm . arš
44 ṣmt . ˁgl . il . ˁtk
45 mḫšt . k{.}lbt . ilm . išt
46 klt . bt . il . ḏbb

I struck down the beloved of ˀIlu, ˀARŠ,
I destroyed ˀIlu’s calf, ˁTK,
I struck down ˀIlu’s bitch, ˀIŠT,
I annihilated ˀIlu’s daughter, ḎBB.

Rarely, parallelism serves to elaborate comparisons. The couple is then made up of a reference word that is used in its literal meaning and a metaphorical expression or a comparative phrase figuratively describing the first one (see bˁl mrym ṣpn “Baˁlu from the heights of Zaphon” // k ˁṣr udnh “like a bird from its nest” in ex. g):

g) KTU 1.3 III 47b–IV 2a
rd . bˁl IV 1 mrym . ṣpn .
ṣ . k . ˁṣr 2 u{.}dnh .

(I fought for the silver, acquired the gold of him)
who expelled Baˁlu from the heights of Zaphon,
who made (him) fly away like a bird from its nest.

In Ugaritic poetry, co-referent parallel expressions (referring to the same issue) are occasionally attached with dissimilar numerals (this phenomenon is to be distinguished from enumerations): two subsequent verse units each contain a numeral (having the same syntactic function), with the number in the second verse unit being higher than the first. The numbers’ arithmetical meaning is secondary; rather, the numbers illustrate the (enormous) extent of a given matter, resulting in an increase (from the lower number to the higher; Segert 1983, 304). In ex. h, the two numbers 77 and 88 are parallel. By juxtaposing the two two-digit palindromic numerals, it is indicated that Baˁlu and his lover (a heifer) slept with each other many, many times. In ex. i, the two numbers 1.000 and 10.000 are connected with the units of measure šd and kmn. Given this passage (the pair of measurements is frequently found in Ugaritic poetry), it is probably not to be concluded that a šd is exactly ten times as large as a kmn; rather, it is intended to showcase the enormous size of Baˁlu’s palace:

h) KTU 1.5 V 19b–21
škb 20 ˁmnh . šbˁ . l šbˁm
21 [ˁ]ly . ṯmn . l ṯmnym

He slept with her 77 times,
she let him [mo]unt 88 times.

i) KTU 1.4 V 56–57
56 alp . šd . aḫd bt
57 rbt . kmn . hkl

The house shall occupy 1.000 šiddu,
the palace 10.000 kumānu!

In antithetic (or contrastive) parallelism, comparatively rare in Ugaritic poetry, terms or phrases with contrasting meanings are juxtaposed (cf. Watson 1986b; see the complementary contrast between d ydˁnn and d l ydˁnn in ex. k, or the directional opposition between low and high in KTU 1.23 32a: hlh [t]špl hlh trm “Look, one gets down low, // look, the other gets up high”). Antithetical parallelism usually involves two opposing agents: at times, they are associated with two contrasting yet coequal issues (see ex. k). However, antithetical parallelism can also serve to view a superordinate issue from two opposing perspectives, the second statement presupposing the first. In ex. j, the antonymous verbal forms ḫt “be smashed” and li “be victorious” are opposed. In this case, Šaˁtiqatu’s victory presupposes Môtu’s expulsion (cf. Watson 1986b, 415):

j) KTU 1.16 VI 1–2a
1 [m]t . dm . ḫt .
šˁtqt . dm! 2 li

[Mô]tu, be smashed!
Šaˁtiqatu, be victorious!

A rather unique case is found in ex. k. The verb ydˁnn, which occurs in the first line as part of the relative clause d ydˁnn “the one who knows him,” is repeated in the second verse unit (again as part of a short relative clause). Here, however, the verb is negated: d l ydˁnn “the one who does not know him.” The contrast between the god who knows Yarḫu and the god who does not is further illustrated in the main clauses: one hands the moon god food, the other beats him with a stick. The two phrases exemplify two contrasting attitudes, one benevolent, the other harsh (cf. Segert 1983, 300; Watson 1986b, 419):

k) KTU 1.114 6b–8a
il . d ydˁnn 7 yˁdb . lḥm . lh .
w d l ydˁnn 8 y[[x]]lmn ḫṭm

The god who knows him (i.e., Yarḫu) passes him food,
yet the one who does not know him beats him with a stick.

Lastly, it is to be noted that antithetical parallelism can be achieved by juxtaposing two protagonists’ names who are hostile. In ex. j, the names of the opponents Môtu and Šaˁtiqatu are juxtaposed and combined with antonymous verbs (the antithesis between the two is reinforced by the opposition of male and female gender; Watson 1986b, 415). In KTU 1.6 VI 17a, the names of Môtu and Baˁlu, the two gods facing each other in battle, are opposed. In this case, however, the names are combined with identical verbal forms: mt ˁz bˁl ˁz “Môtu was strong, Baˁlu was strong” (Steinberger 2022, 75–76).

Antithesis is formally identical to merism: here, however, the focus is not on the difference, but on the whole area that lies between the two contrasting terms (usually two spatial references). In ex. l, the terms šmm “skies” and nḫlm “wadi” illustrate the two opposite regions (above and below) from which usually water springs, but where now oil and honey flow. The parallelism expresses the extent of the paradisaical state that prevails from the very top to the very bottom:

l) KTU 1.6 III 12–13
12 šmm . šmn . tmṭrn
13 nḫlm . tlk . nbtm

The skies rained oil,
the wadis ran with honey.

Syntactic and Morphologic Parallelism: The verse elements that semantically match usually bear the same syntactic function. Thus, parallel verse units often contain equivalent constituents (see, e.g., ex. n: each colon comprises subject, accusative object, and verbal predicate). Syntactically parallel elements may correspond morphologically (regarding word class and specifications in conjugation or declension); however, parallel elements do not necessarily have to be morphosyntactically identical. In so-called asymmetrical constructions, juxtaposed verse parts exhibit minor morphosyntactic differences, allowing the poet to pepper parallel verse units with small variations and thus make speech flow more vivid (Gzella 2007). Hence, parallel terms are sometimes given different suffixes, though the meaning seems to remain unchanged. Not least, parallel words that are otherwise largely identical often show minor morphologic transformations (e.g., verbs with energic suffix are often parallel to verbs without energic suffix; cf. UG2 500; see also ex. n, where the verbal form nbln differs from the parallel verb nbl only by the suffix -n; see also below on repetitive parallelism and the polyptoton).

The repetition and transformation of the first verse unit’s word order in the second and third unit gives rise to different structural varieties of parallelism. Exemplarily, we shall look at the verse composed of two or three cola (cf. Steinberger 2022, 61–63, for an overview of verse units in Ugaritic poetry). In parallelism’s most basic form, the structure of the first colon is maintained in the following colon (the sentence elements are repeated in the same order; see ex. a, f, j). In chiastic constructions, the elements of the first colon are repeated in reverse order in the second (see ex. m, featuring anadiplosis; note that modifiers and particles here merge with a main constituent, forming one unit that is transposed as a whole; cf. Watson 1983, 259–260):

m) KTU 1.17 V 10b–11
{ hlk . kṯr } 11 { k yˁn . }
{ w yˁn . } { tdrq . ḫss }

He indeed saw the coming of Kôṯaru,
yes, he saw the approaching of Ḫasīsu.

In verses with every colon containing more than two (mostly three) constituents, usually two of them join to form a compound colon clause (consisting either of the verbal predicate and a nominal constituent or of two nominal constituents). The compound clause and the remaining single constituent are taken up independently in the subsequent colon. The elements of the compound clause can be rearranged (they are chiastic to the elements of the corresponding compound clause), while the compound clause, seen as a whole, is in the same position in each colon. Likewise, the constituent independent of the compound clause is in the same place in each colon (see ex. n, e, l; cf. Watson 1983, 261–263):

n) KTU 1.3 V 33b–34b
klnyy . { qšh 34 nbln . }
klnyy . { nbl . ksh }

We all want to bring his jug,
we all want to bring his cup!

Occasionally, the constituent that is independent of the compound clause is placed at the beginning of the one colon and at the end of the other colon (it is arranged in chiastic order). The elements of the compound clause, however, are rendered in the same order. In ex. o, the verb yqḥ follows the interrogative pronoun mh in both cola; the direct object (mt uḫryt // mt aṯryt) is once at the beginning of the colon and once at the end (cf. Watson 1983, 260):

o) KTU 1.17 VI 35b–36a
mt! . uḫryt . { mh . yqḥ }
36 { ⸢mh . yqḥ . } mt . aṯryt

Death at the end – what can take it away?
What can take away death in the final stage?

These are but the most basic connections between cola, each containing the same constituents. It is to be noted, however, that often elements of the first colon are omitted in the second or third colon, while in other cases elements are added in the second or third colon, yielding, e.g., terrace verses (cf. Watson 1986a, 208–210), staircase verses (cf. Watson 1986a, 150–156) or elliptical verses (cf. Miller 1999).

Visual Parallelism: In addition to grammar and semantics, parallelism occasionally affects the layout and the phonetics of poetic texts, reinforcing and extending the connection between juxtaposed elements. In visual (or graphic) parallelism, the same or similar signs are arranged one above the other in two or more successive lines, yielding a recurring pattern of text that is visually perceptible (cf. Yogev / Yona 2018). Unlike other forms of poetic parallelism, visual parallelism only appeals to the writer and reader of a text, but not to the listener.

On the Ugaritic tablets, the beginnings of successive lines are at times shaped visually parallel. In KTU 1.15 III 7–12, e.g., the sequence {tld . pġt} (“she shall bear the girl”) is repeated at the beginning of six successive lines (although the phrase is not fully preserved in each line; see the WSRP photos UC15303965 and UC15304134): the corresponding signs are arranged one above the other. Further examples of line-initial visual parallelism are found in KTU 1.4 (cf. Yogev / Yona 2018): {klnyn} in IV 45–46 (repeated twice); {mṯb} in IV 52–57 (repeated five times); {ḥš} in V 51–54 (repeated four times); {špq . il} in VI 47–54 (repeated eight times); {ˁm . ġr} in VIII 2–3 (repeated twice, with ˁm again repeated at the beginning of l. 4).

Phonetic Parallelism and Rhyme: At times, the phonetic shape of poetic texts is influenced by parallelism (Pardee 1988, 51–57 / 182–185). Phonemes from the first verse unit are taken up in the next, yielding different forms of rhyme (note that the study of Ugaritic rhyme is complicated by the fact that the Ugaritic writing system is primarily consonantal). Either whole syllables correspond, or only the vowel or the consonant sequence (assonance vs. consonance).

Initial rhymes build on the phonetic similarity between the first parts of two or more subsequent verse units (cf. Watson 1999, 184). In ex. p, the words tant and thmt (which are neither semantically nor grammatically parallel) are linked by an initial rhyme. Except for the vowel of the penultimate syllable and the case ending, tant and thmt share similar syllables: /ta/ is followed by a laryngeal (/ˀ/ and /h/), the vowel /a/ and a nasal (/n/ and /m/); in both words, /t/ is the last consonant (note, however, that the vocalization of tant is debatable; cf. Bordreuil / Pardee 2009, 168; UG2 270):

p) KTU 1.3 III 22b–25
rgm 23 ˁṣ . w . lḫšt . abn .
24 tant . šmm . ˁm . arṣ
25 thmt . ˁmn . kbkbm

rigmu ˁiṣṣi wa LḪŠ-(a)tu ˀabni
taˀanîtu šamîma ˁimma ˀarṣi
tahāmāti ˁimma
(n)na kabkabīma

The word of tree and whisper of stone,
the whispering of the skies with the earth,
of the floods with the stars!

Furthermore, end rhymes are attested in Ugaritic poetry, frequently involving homeoptota. (Often, it is not clear whether rhymes occur only by chance or whether they were deliberately used to connect subsequent verse units. The question arises not least in the case of rhymes between recurring grammatical elements, including homeoptota, e.g., when parallel words share the same prefixes or suffixes, or they are connected with identical particles. These forms of rhyme could also be seen as a by-product of grammatical parallelism.) In ex. p, the lexemes abn and arṣ both start with /ˀa/ and end with the genitive ending /-i/. In ex. q, the verbal forms at the end of the two cola show the same vowel sequence (they are both analysed as L-stems; UG2 577 / 650) and have the same pronominal suffix (-k). Furthermore, the second syllable of both words starts with a guttural (// and /ˁ/):

q) KTU 1.4 IV 38b–39
hm . yd . il mlk39 yḫssk .
ahbt . ṯr . tˁrrk

himma yadu ˀili malki 39 yuḫâsisuki
ˀahbatu ṯôri tuˁâriruki

Or does the love of ˀIlu excite you,
does the passion of the bull arouse you?

Repetitive Parallelism: In Ugaritic studies, repetition is commonly considered a form of parallelism (cf. Pardee 1988, 169–170). Here, the juxtaposed terms derive from the very same lexeme. The word forms may be identical, corresponding morphosyntactically; at times, however, the lexeme is modified morphosyntactically in the second unit (which is the case with polyptota). Needless to say, the repetitive elements overlap phonetically and, if the verse units are arranged one above the other on the tablet, yield visual parallelism. The verbatim repetition of entire cola within a verse is rare (at times, individual elements of parallel verse units correspond verbatim, while the others diverge; see ex. a; note, however, that whole narrative sections may be repeated verbatim, which is to be considered repetitive parallelism at its largest scale). In ex. r, the parallel cola are identical except for bn standing in parallel to bnm, the same lexeme with an additional particle –m:

r) KTU 1.15 III 20–21
20 w tqrb . wldbnlh
21 w tqrb . wld . bnm lh

So, her time came to bear him a son,
so, her time came to bear him a son.

Outlook: Poetic parallelism influences the vocabulary, grammar and structure of Ugaritic poetic texts and occasionally affects their phonetic form and their graphic layout. Parallelism links verse units of different lengths. The various scales at which parallelism comes into play have not been addressed in this study. The references discussed above are verses composed of two or three cola. However, parallel links are found on a smaller scale as well, i.e., between phrases within single cola (cf. Watson 1984). On the other hand, poetic parallelism is at work in strophes connecting several verses (cf. Steinberger 2022). Furthermore, parallelism affects the overall structure of poetic texts given that whole narrative sections can be built in parallel (often repetitive-parallel). Thus, a close study of parallelism reveals both the micro- and the macro-structure of Ugaritic poetic texts.

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Selected Bibliography

Bordreuil, P. / D. Pardee, 2009, A Manual of Ugaritic. Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic 3, Winona Lake, IN.
Gzella, H. 2007, ‘Parallelismus und Asymmetrie in ugaritischen Texten’ in A. Wagner (ed.) Parallelismus membrorum. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 224, Fribourg / Göttingen, 133–146.
Miller, C.L. 1999, ‘Patterns of Verbal Ellipsis in Ugaritic Poetry’ in Ugarit-Forschungen 31, 333–372.
Pardee, D. 1988, Ugaritic and Hebrew Poetic Parallelism – A Trial Cut (ˁnt I and Proverbs 2). Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 39, Leiden / New York / Copenhagen / Köln.
Segert, S. 1983, ‘Parallelism in Ugaritic Poetry’ in Journal of the American Oriental Society 103, 295–306.
Steinberger, C. 2022, ‘Das Versmuster A-B │ A()-B() in der akkadischen und ugaritischen Poesie’ in Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 48/1, 61–82.
Tsumura, D.T. 1988, ‘A “Hyponymous” Word Pair: ˀrṣ and thm(t) in Hebrew
Watson, W.G.E. 1983, ‘Strophic Chiasmus in Ugaritic Poetry’ in Ugarit-Forschungen 15, 259–270.
– 1984, ‘Internal Parallelism in Ugaritic Verse’ in Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici sul Vicino Oriente Antico 1, 53–67.
– 1986a, Classical Hebrew Poetry – A Guide to its Techniques (2nd ed.). Journal for the Study of the Old Testament – Supplement Series 26, Sheffield.
– 1986b, ‘Antithesis in Ugaritic Verse’ in Ugarit-Forschungen 18, 413–419.
– 1999, ‘Ugaritic Poetry’ in W.G.E. Watson / N. Wyatt (eds.) Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. Handbook of Oriental Studies I.39, Leiden / Boston, MA / Köln, 165–192.
Yogev, J. / Y. Shamir, 2018, ‘Visual Poetry in the Ugaritic Tablet KTU 1.4’ in Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 33, 203–210.