Towards a Definition of the Sumerian Sergida
The topic of my talk is a group of 11 Sumerian hymns dating to the Old Babylonian Period (ca. 2000–1600 BCE) and preserved on tablets either of unknown provenance or found at the site of Nippur.
The hymns are labeled as širgidas (literally something like „long song“) by means of subscripts, which read „It is a širgida of (the god/goddess) ....“ Širgida is just one of numerous such subscripts, which, in general, designate different classes of hymns that were sung or performed in various contexts.
The 11 currently known širgidas include: four hymns addressed to the warrior god Ninurta, son of the great god Enlil, two to the god Nuska, Enlil’s vizier, one each to the gods Martu, Nergal, and the more obscure god Lulal, and one each to the goddess Sud, who is identified with Ninlil, wife of Enlil, and the healing goddess Ninisina.
The primary aim of the talk will be to explore the nature of the Sergidas as a corpus, which, on the surface, comprises a quite disparate group of compositions, with the ultimate goal of moving towards understanding the function of the Sergida hymn in Old Babylonian society. In the first part of the talk, I will argue for the merits of approaching the Sergida hymns as a corpus and will discuss the potential value in more closely examining them and other hymnic groups defined by subscripts. In the second part, I will present an overview of the Sergida corpus and will briefly describe the content of the eleven known compositions belonging to it. Thirdly, I will address the disparity of the texts and discuss the difficulties one faces in attempting to identify common threads among them. Finally, I will discuss points of similarity among the Sergida hymns and will suggest possible ways in which they might have been understood in antiquity in to represent a single hymnic type.
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