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The Nabonidus Cylinder from Ur



The Nabonidus Cylinder from Ur is a foundation text in which king Nabonidus of Babylonia (556-539) describes how he repaired the ziggurat called E-lugal-galga-sisa, which belonged to the temple of Sin in Ur, called Egišnugal. It is probably the king's last building inscription and may be dated to c.540 BCE. It is interesting because it offers a full syncretism of Sin, Marduk, and Nabu.

The translation of the Nabonidus Cylinder was made by Paul-Alain B
eaulieu, who is also the author of The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon 556-539 B.C. (1989).

[i.1-4] Nabonidus, king of Babylon, caretaker of Esagila and Ezida, worshiper of the great gods, I:

[i.5-ii.2] E-lugal-galga-sisa, the ziggurat of Egišnugal, which is in Ur, which Ur-Nammu, one of the kings who preceded me, had built but not completed and whose work his son Šulgi had completed,[1] for in the instructions of Ur-Nammu and Šulgi his son I read that Ur-Nammu had built that ziggurat but not completed it and that Šulgi his son had completed its work, now that ziggurat had become old and on the ancient foundations which Ur-Nammu and Šulgi his son had built, that ziggurat, as in former times, with bitumen and baked bricks I repaired its damaged parts and for Sin, the lords of the gods of heaven and the netherworld, the king of the gods, the 'gods'[2] of the gods, who dwells in the great heavens, the lord of Egišnugal, which is in Ur, my lord, I built anew.

[iii.3-31] O Sin, my lord 'gods', king of the gods of heaven and the netherworld, 'gods' of the gods, who dwells in the great heavens, when you joyfully enter that temple, may good recommendations for Esagila, Ezida. Egišnugal, the temples of your great godhead,[3] be set on your lips, and instill reverence for you great godhead in the hearts of its people so that they do not sin against your great godhead. May their foundations be as firm as heaven.

As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a life long of days, and as for Belshazzar,[4] the eldest son -my offspring- instill reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit ant cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plenitude.



Note 1:
Ur-Nammu (2113-2095) and Šulgi (2095-2047).

Note 2:
Nabonidus uses a plural form to describe Sin, comparable to the Hebrew Elohim ('gods') to describe YHWH.

Note 3:
Nabonidus attributes the temples of Marduk and Nabu to Sin, something that the priests of the Esagila and Ezida will not have appreciated.

Note 4:
He is mentioned as son of Nebuchadnezzar and king of Babylonia in Daniel 5. Belshazzar is his name in the Bible; Bel-šar-usur is a better rendering of his real name.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2007
Revision: 28 January 2007
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