Return to Born Eunuchs Library


Article titled "HOMOSEXUALITY"

by J. Bottéro and H. Petschow

in Reallexikon der Assyriologie, edited by Erich Ebeling et al., Berlin: Gruyter, 1928-2000.


§ 1 Introduction. - §§ 2-3. Iconography. § 4-16. Documents: §§ 4-9. Private homosexuality. - §§ 10-16. Professionals in passive homosexuality. - §§ 17-19. The judgment of contemporaries. - § 20. Feelings. - § 21. Female homosexuality.

§ 1. It has been emphasized more than once that, among the profound differences separating us from the ancient Mesopotamians, is their way of viewing and understanding sexual life and everything associated with it, which is so far from our own [1]: not only do they lack any care for asceticism, fear of the "flesh", or obsession with "sin" as a contamination of the "soul", which we have for better or worse from Christianity, but one of their major divinities, Inanna/Ishtar, was the goddess of love in all senses of the word, and this love animated her cult. This must be kept in mind when studying homosexuality - that is, carnal intercourse with an individual of the same sex, whether or not based on sentimental bonds - among them. Concerning that of women among themselves (female homosexuality), it will be seen (§ 21) that there is scarcely any evidence; given the condition of our evidence, mainly that of men among themselves (male homosexuality, and when one of the partners is still a child: pederasty) will be at issue here. We must also resign ourselves, given the scarcity of the evidence, to do without even a sketchy diachrony or history proper.

§§ 2-3. Iconography.
§ 2. The practice of love between men is attested without doubt at least from the start of the 3rd millennium, initially by some figurative representations, which would probably be more numerous if many excavators had not preferred to put them away in their library dungeons instead of publishing them regularly, showing a lack of an historical sense and seeing in this type of tableau, based on our morality, nothing but the obscene testimony of "libertine and dissolute morals".[2]

The best known, on a silver plate, appears from the Old Babylonian period and in rather diffuse locations: in Uruk [3], in Kissura, Assur and Babylon [4]; perhaps also in Susa [5] [see picture at left]. It is an act of sodomy performed standing up on a passive partner who is bending forward and drinking from a pipe, which evokes more the scene of an orgy in the bit astammi, the tavern [6], than a religious ceremony proper, as some interpreters think [7]. The same tableau, it should be noted, is also found with a female partner, naturally in the passive role [8].

§ 3. Other postures are also known for these amorous games; for example, at the end of the 2nd millennium, among the lead figurines found at Assur [9], about which the editor (p. 104) emphasized the ambiguity of one of the two partners, although nothing seriously requires that it be taken for a woman. The same comment applies to a certain number of glyptic representations, generally much older (start of the third millennium), such as L. Legrain, UE III (1936) Fig. 370 and perhaps 371, see 365-367 and 369 (but not 368), and E.A. Speiser, Excav. at Tepe Gawra I (1935) pl. LVIII: 41. Also see Cooper, supra p. 265a: end of § 11.

§§ 4-16. Documents.
§ 4-9. Private homosexuality. § 4. If, after due consideration, one discards some dubious pieces like IM 28051 [10] and E.I. Gordon, Sum Prov. 248f. [11], one finds only a very small number of texts to document homosexual practices, some of them perfectly clear [12], others less eloquent. Among the latter, we find in particular the section of the Treatise on Oneiromancy which appears to be dedicated to erotic dreams: there are only a few fragments [13] published by A.L. Oppenheim, Dreams pl. 13 and p. 333f. and 290f. [14] in which the context [15], the paleography [16], and the content demonstrate that these are dreams of sexual acts performed by the dreamer with various personages. Among those of male sex, one finds mentioned: a god, the king, a notable, the son of another person, a young man (GURUS.TUR), a child (?) (LU.TUR), the father-in-law of the person in question, and a deceased person (or: a cadaver, salamtu) etc. The rules which governed the codification of dreams [17], like other subjects of deductive divination [18], do not allow us to derive much from this text. Let us at least bear in mind that in two cases, given the insistence on the young age of the passive partner, we may be dealing in general with pederasty. Is it necessary to cite as well in this sense (with J.M. Durand) the Curse of Agadé 193: mes mes-e an-ta i-im-nu "young men ride (other) young men"? [19]

§ 5. Much more clear and indisputable are two other texts which document what one might call "private homosexuality." First of all, there are four oracles drawn from "tablet 104" of the celebrated treatise of divination for the unforeseen events of daily life called Summa Alu, in a context in which the future is prognosticated on the basis of various occurrences in the sexual life of the person in question.[20] Of thirty-eight hypotheses (1-38), only four (§ 15 must be treated separately; see § 13), which were perhaps originally grouped together (13 and 32-34), deal with a masculine partner as the one who "makes love" (literally "approaches": TE/tehu): in one case to "his peer", "his equal" (me-eh-ri-su) - in social status, of course (see tappa'u, § 6) - of whom it is specifically stated that he sodomizes him; in another case "an assinnu" (32), that is to say, a professional, as we will see (§§ 10ff.); and the last two, servants in his house, whether a free individual in his service,[21] a kind of factotum or man of trust (gerseqqu); or a slave born and raised in his house (dusmu, 34), in other words, two persons who live in his intimate sphere.

In all cases, judging by the context, the practice of homosexuality appears to be just as "normal" (at least the part of the active partner, the subject of the presages), without hang-ups or censures, as that of love with a woman (it does not even bear the note "of ritual impurity" - NU.SIKIL - which is the noted consequence of certain heterosexual behaviors: 27 f. and 36). However, the presuppositions of the treatises on divination [22] and the relatively small number of "presages drawn from homosexuality" are likely to indicate to us a much lower admitted frequency of these practices than of heterosexual love, and a universal preference apparently set on the latter: love was "woman's affair",[23] and R.D. Biggs has noted [24] that nothing among the incantations for potency (nis libbi) gives reason to think that they could be used in the course of sexual acts between men. The fact that three of these presages (32-34, but not 13) were ominous evidently has nothing to do with any condemnation which might be directed against the homosexual act itself [25]. [The authors have this backwards: 32-34 are good omens. F.M.]

§ 6. The second document, which is older, at least according to the date of its writing (around -1250), should be able to help us correctly understand how this act was judged. It is found in "articles" 19-20 of Tablet "A" of the Middle-Assyrian "Laws".[26] "Article" 20, to begin with that one, deals with the active partner and condemns him severely if he "has had sex with a companion of his" (tappa-su inik II 93): once the crime has been duly proven, he must be "made to undergo coitus and reduced to the state of a eunuch" (inikkus an sa resen utarrus II 96f.).

Thus: 1) the matter occurs between "companions" tappa'u, a term which recalls the mehru of CT 39, 44, 13 (§ 5 above) and in fact cannot mean anything other than: "of the same social status", or if one prefers, "frequenting the same social circle"[27]   2) The verb niaku/naku, different from other synonyms meaning, like it, the physical act of love, with various nuances which we cannot always specify (garasu; ru'ama/ulsa epesu; hababu; habu; lamadu; menu; rakabu; ramu; rehu; sahu; salalu; tehu, etc.), besides the fact that it has to mean sodomy here,[28] must necessarily as in other contexts [29] imply a certain force exerted on the part of the protagonist; its literal translation would be "sexual assault" or almost "rape." It is precisely because the victim suffers violence that the author of that violence is obliged to suffer it in turn and, moreover, that the means of doing so are removed from him in order to prevent a recurrence. [I believe this is a misinterpretation, and that in the Middle Assyrian Laws it is the passive partner who is the criminal and who is turned into a eunuch; the criminal nature of homosexual passivity by an "equal" is apparent in Article 19, which is dealt with in the following paragraph. F.M.]

§ 7. Such a nuance is perhaps a bit less perceptible in the preceding "article" (19) of the Middle Assyrian Laws, which have to do with an unproven (and thus legally false and slanderous) accusation, directed against someone, of passive and habitual homosexuality.[30] The condemnation of the slanderer is less severe (civil and pecuniary penalties, various temporary forced labors); but it is identical to that of "article" 18, in which the guilty party has directed an accusation, likewise unproven, against a man whose wife, he claims, is "the object of frequent coitus" by persons other than her husband [31]; in other words, in spite of her status as a wife, she has become a kind of prostitute. Although very different from one another, the two cases - as both their common vocabulary and identical prescribed penalties show - can be equated at least on the point that each one implies a slander, liable to ruin the reputation of the victims. Which amounts to saying that it was as dishonorable for a husband to have a wife who habitually lay under other men, i.e. who had practically become a prostitute, as for a man himself to lie under other men in the same way, i.e. to have practically become a passive homosexual.[32]

§ 8. The distinction is crucial: active homosexuality, if exercised on an individual of the same social rank, constitutes a crime only to the extent that it is accompanied by force or violence; otherwise, it would be perfectly permissible and without any legal penalty, and, as we saw above (§ 5). à propos CT 39, 44, it is no more blameworthy or dishonorable than heterosexual love. In contrast, passive homosexuality, no matter who the "active" protagonists are, is dishonorable by the mere fact that it is habitual, that it in some way constitutes a lifestyle. One notes by the way that the young age of the "passives" is never mentioned in these texts, nor even in CT 39, 44, a possible signal that pederasty did not constitute a special crime and was not, overall, distinguished from homosexuality proper.

§ 9. In order to understand from where exactly this "dishonor" originates (and there is nothing in the text or in anything we know about our people that would indicate that it is based on any moral or religious code), it is crucial to observe that the two "articles" discussed above (§§ 6ff.), whose main object is evidently passive homosexuality, are included in a work known for having grouped together "the rights of woman".[33] Their presence among the latter cannot be explained except by assuming the assimilation, in practice, of the passive homosexual to a woman. [I believe this is incorrect. Although I agree that passive homosexuals, particularly those who were impotent for heterosexuality, were assimilated to women in general, nonetheless, if a section on the rights of women includes provisions about passive male homosexuality, it is because passive homosexuality by an "equal" (who could not be a heterosexually impotent man) directly violates the interests of any female with whom he may have intercourse. Again, the passive homosexual "equal" is the criminal, and his punishment is loss of his "equal" status. F.M.]
The matter allows no doubt at all about the fact that, in the games of love, lovers sometimes found pleasure in assuming the role of the opposite sex partner [34]. But that is a passionate and transitory situation, which ultimately in no way affects either the behavior or the nature of the two partners. In contrast, one who in spite of his masculine sex voluntarily and habitually behaves passively in love with partners of his own sex, derives from it feminine habits and quasi a female nature. By the same token, he is downgraded, ceasing to be the "equal" (mehru, tappa'u) of the others and joining, for better or worse, at least in the eyes of the others, a group of men whom we may call:

§§ 10-16. Professionals of passive homosexuality.

§ 10. We know in fact of a certain number of personages - often linked, that is, more or less teamed up - who cannot be defined otherwise, in spite of the denials of the CAD.[35] The best known are the assinnu,[36] the kulu'u and the kurgarru.[37] But there are others, whom one encounters less often: if not the gala/kalu,[38] at least the galatur/kalaturru, galaturru,[39] known only, as such, from the Descent of Inanna to the Underworld,[40] as well as the apillu,[41] the araru [42]; the pilpilu and pilpilanu, the parru and para'uru, the sinnisanu [43]; possibly generic term (see § 15), and perhaps others as well.[44]

§ 11. The majority of these individuals, whose way of life constituted a veritable "state of being" (assinnutu, kulu'utu, see§§ 15), or a profession or art (kurgarrutu), the object of an apprenticeship agreement,[45] may have had a role to play in the liturgy [46]: they disguised and masked themselves [47], carried weapons [48] and various emblems, in particular the pilaqqu "spindle"[49], played music, sang, and danced [50], or perhaps performed some kinds of drama or pantomime [51]. Most often these were ceremonies in honor of Ishtar, to whom by all evidence these "officiants" were very closely linked [52], or of her various hypostases [53]. In this regard, and given the character of this goddess and her cult, their role was already inevitably ambiguous: not only this transvestitism and dancing give us cause to wonder, but certain texts as well, by revealing their "erotic" character, to use today's terms [54].

§ 12. Therefore it is not at all surprising that they are found more than once linked with an army of courtesans of every type: harimtu, istaritu, kezertu, qadistu, sekertu, samhatu..., whose attachment to Ishtar and her cult is known and whose vocation as prostitutes has never been disputed by anyone. They are seen together, from the Old Akkadian period, on a tablet that enumerates five sekertu on the front and three kulu'u on the back [55]; in Era IV 52-55; in KAR 43//63, 3; as well as in the famous list of the me [56], in which kur-gar-ra (kurgarru) and sag-ur-sag (assinnu) are adjacent to nam-kar-ke (harimtu). This kind of conjunction should suffice to convince us that we are well and truly dealing with prostitutes here.

§ 13. But a few documents are even more explicit in this sense. In the tablet cited above (§ 5) of the Summa Alu, CT 39, 44f., the role of the assinnu (line 32) becomes only more clear when we read [57] that the individual who is the subject of the presage acquires "a strong desire to copulate with men (literally: to be the object of coitus by other men), like an assinnu"[58].

§ 14. It is possible that the Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld [59], by giving to the "prototype" [60] of its creations the transparent name of Asusu-namir "his appearance is brilliant", that is to say, in plain terms, "he is pleasant to look at" [61], intended to emphasize in this way a certain physical beauty, a venusity, an attractiveness indispensable to such personages: in fact, in the same myth, it is enough that Asusu-namir presents himself to Ereskigal, the Queen of the Underworld, for her to fall under his charm (literally: "to be in joy", rev. 15). The matter proceeded like clockwork, even though on this point we are not so well informed concerning the tastes of the country and the times, and we do not know whether such charm had to be, or not to be, more "feminiform" than virile. It is striking at least that in ancient Mesopotamia, the Androgyne or Hermaphrodite was neither known nor celebrated either by texts [62] or by figurative representations [63].

§ 15. On the other hand, if certain texts presuppose for them a normal virility, like those in which a "son of an assinnu" [64] or "of a kurgarru" [65] is mentioned with no indication requiring that these be adopted children; or that apodosis which announces to the asker that "Ishtar (?) expects of him (that he embrace) the state of a kulu'u" [66] or even that "he exercise the profession of assinnu" [67], without such a "conversion" appearing to imply any kind of preliminary mutilation, nonetheless other, more numerous documents lead us to believe that these prostitutes, at least some of them, were eunuchs or castrati. Thus: "He is a kulu'u, he is not (therefore) a male" [68]. The sinnisanu presents himself as a "half (man)" [69]; we would say: "a man who lacks something", "an incomplete man". In the treatise Alalah I [70], the final curse (line 19) is unintelligible unless assinnu and para'uru are being put forth as paragons of those in whom Ishtar suppresses their virility [71]. And in AfO 18 (1957/58) 76 B 31, the "fundamental namburbu" [72], which recommends "looking at a kurgarru" in order to avoid the bad fate associated with encountering a "broken pot", clearly presupposes, in application of the "homeopathic" principle in frequent use in rituals of this type (ibid. p. 105), that the kurgarru was, evidently in the sexual sphere, something just as incomplete and defective as the "broken pot" within its category.

§ 16. In any case, a state of physical non-integrity appears to have been, materially speaking, by all means secondary or incidental. Much more than real emasculation, what appears to have mattered in characterizing these personages was their behavior. On this point, the term which undoubtedly defined them the best was sinnisanu "effeminate" [73]. This sumerogram, too, in its way, insists on the same trait, since, in order to designate the assinnu, it adds to the name of "dog" (UR, also used elsewhere, and specifically in the Biblical world, to designate this ill-famed type: Deuteronomy 23:19 and Revelations 22:15) that of "woman" (SAL/MI). We have seen above (§ 11) that the emblems carried most frequently by the kurgarru and their like were the pilaqqu "threading spindle", the symbol par excellence of the work and life of women [74].

In the Old Akkadian text cited above (§ 12), where three kulu'u are mentioned in an edifying context, two of them at least bear female proper names: Estar-tukulti and Re'itum [75]. Another significant piece of data: various known corporations of male and female prostitutes curiously include, in both cases, individuals of the sex opposite to that of almost all of the other members: thus we have LU.SUHUR.LA next to SAL.SUHUR.LA/kezreti [76] and SAL.KUR.GAR.RA next to LU.KUR.GAR.RA [77], as well as assinatu next to assinnu [78]. The translation "actor", "actress" [79] is perhaps a bit facile and in any case too modern...

It should be said at this point: the role of the male prostitutes for the amusement of women is suggested by the role that Asusu-namir must play with Ereskigal (§ 14 above), and likewise in an incantation (also cited at the end of § 11) in which "in order to delight Ishtar and send her into exhiliration" her kulu'u accompanies her "pleasant concubine" and her "lover" [80].

Therefore, there is some indication that all the persons of this type, as in other places and other times, including ours, formed a dubious crowd in which all ambiguities, all combinations, all transformations were possible. An astrological apodosis [81], previously rather obscure or unbelievable, is clarified by this perspective and shows at the same time the extreme to which the male prostitutes could go in playing the role, or the comedy, of replacing the female sex: "Men will place kurgarru in their homes (in the guise of women), and they will make babies for them," that is to say, most likely, "they will pretend to have babies." It suffices here to recall [the actions of the Roman emperors] Elagabalus and above all Nero [82].

§ 17. The judgment of their contemporaries concerning these personages, their way of life, and the "professional" as well as, no doubt, "private" activities that they represented, seems to have been ambivalent. As an institution, male and female prostitution was an important part of life, so much so that it was considered a prerogative of high urban civilization: which is the reason for their presence in the list of me (§ 12 above) and, for example, for the essential role reserved for the harimtu, in Gilgamesh tablet I-II, to lead the savage Enkidu to civilized life, to the city, "to the state of an awilu man" [83]. It is nonetheless true that, as individuals, they were kept apart and were objects of derision. Their name was an "insult" [84]. The Descent of Inanna to the Underworld emphasizes the abjectness of their status by having Enki create the kurgarru and kalaturru "from the dirt of his fingernails" [85]. The Akkadian version [86] goes further: here Ereskigal "curses" Asusu-namir (and through him, all of his imitators and followers) "with a great curse" which predestines him for a precarious and pitiful existence, exposed to everyone's snubs, and relegated to the edges of the social space occupied by the inhabitants of the city [87]. It is the same fate, word for word, but with more details, which, in Gilgamesh VII/VIII 6ff., Enkidu at the point of death assigns to the harimtu, by "cursing" her himself; it is true that, upbraided by Shamash (33ff.), he adds for good luck a compensatory "blessing" - apparently transferable to her male peers -: namely, the power by which her seduction binds all men, even the most powerful [88]; but such a moral advantage, if one can put it that way, in no way suppresses the contempt which must envelope his/her life. Hence comes the fact that prostitutes of all types are frequently associated in enumerations with a number of other marginal and asocial types, beginning with the "ecstatics," the eccentrics, and the mad: Erimhus III 182ff., cited by CAD A/2, 341a, lex.; W. von Soden, LTBA II pl. 3; 1 VI 41ff. (45ff.); CT 38, 3f. 65ff. (76); Maqlu IV 81ff. (83) and VII 92ff. (96); AfO 18 [1957/8] 84: 261ff. (265f.) - for the women, compare Maqlu III 40ff. (44f.) etc.

§ 18. The sole apparent reason for this trashing and contempt is that, in the common judgment of their contemporaries, all of these persons were considered to have deviated from their basic destiny and their norm: the female prostitute, who was initially made, as a woman, to be the wife of a single man and mother of his children, had become "the woman of thirty-six hundred (men)" [89]; the kurgarru and assinnu, and their emulators, instead of holding onto the male place in love, to which fate (that is to say the will of the gods) had assigned them by the innate constitution of their bodies, behaved like females. [Objection ! This is a blatantly false, anachronistic interpretation of the situation of these folks. The source documents say that the gods were the ones who made them kurgarru and assinnu, not their own behavior! F.M.] They were assimilated therefore to those whom divine punishment [?!], particularly that of Ishtar, at once the goddess of love and war, had deprived of their virile attributes, or of the use of them, by a cruel and fearsome misfortune, and by the same stroke, "effeminated" them: reduced them to the status of women [90]. [There is no mention of this as a punishment, only a warning to all people about the power of the gods. Far from punishing them, Ishtar made them her most trusted servants! F.M.]

In fact, in Era IV 55, it is the same Ishtar, their protecting goddess, who put the kurgarru and assinnu into their present state in order to serve her, by "changing men into fem[ales]" or "into effem[inates]" (zikrussunu uterru ana M[I.MES], or perhaps, according to AHw. 1047a: M[I-a-ni(?)] = sin[nisani?]). And in the other examples cited in this case, in which not they directly but war victims are involved [false!], she did it in order to "engender in people a [healthy] fear" of her power [91]: the prostitutes treated thusly, like other victims of this curse of Ishtar, are reproved and condemned to an unenviable fate - even if it has its advantages: and this occurs in that they are "transformed from men into women", whether this transformation is physical or only "moral." Their destiny, due to this fact, is so aberrant and exceptional that, "in order to delight the heart" of the goddess whom they serve, "they surrender themselves to sac[rileges]" [92] in other words to practices normally forbidden to others because they are not like these others. This is the motivation of the contempt which surrounds them.

[This entire § 18 is a pointless attempt by the authors to explain the ambiguous position of the assinnu within their society using modern psychological concepts like normality and abnormality. As though ancient queers worried about being "aberrant"! The authors are backdating modern homophobic prejudice to this story. Just because "queer" is an insult to straight men, that doesn't mean that, when the deity makes you queer, this is a "punishment" or misfortune. The story itself never refers to this transformation as a punishment. F.M.]

§ 19. Thus let us return to what we learned, concerning "private homosexuality", [in] the other documents, especially the Middle Assyrian "Laws" (§§ 4ff.). Homosexuality per se was thus never condemned as licentiousness, immorality, social disorder, or an infringement of any human or divine precept whatsoever (see also end of § 20): anyone was allowed to practice it freely, just as he was allowed to frequent prostitutes, provided that, in the former and latter cases, it was done without violence or force, and thus preferably with "specialists" as passive partners. But the latter, like prostitutes, found themselves socially marginalized and scorned (by a contempt that would inevitably splash back upon the "non-professionals", as seen above in § 8f.), precisely because of the fact that they were in some sense mutilated beings, fallen from their original destiny and ab-normal, in the etymological sense of this word.

It does not appear that, on this subject at least, the ancient Mesopotamians were tormented by scruples, moral worries, or hang-ups: They certainly were not haunted, in any case, by the problem which Homosexuality poses to other civilizations - such as ours, yesterday, and perhaps differently today - any more than they were by the practice of sodomy [93]. They had their taboos and their repulsions, in the sexual domain and elsewhere [94]: but for all we know, this was not one of them. It does not appear, as we have seen (end of § 5), that they were intensely dedicated to it or that they assigned it very much real importance: the small number of texts that we have, and certain negative traits, like the absence of the image of the Androgyne, or the paucity of attention paid to pederasty, are eloquent on this point, and perhaps even more eloquent is the comparison with other worlds, for example, that of the Greeks.

§ 20. As in other domains, the very profound feelings which may underlie certain homosexual relationships have found no echo in our texts, which are all reticent in this regard. Nonetheless, one may without recklessness assume their common existence, inasmuch as they are normal - all the while abstaining from a fashion, a bit too common in these days, of seeing sexuality wherever one encounters terms that, in themselves, express nothing but the movements of the heart. But about that nothing more can be known for certain. In any case, the mention in the "Almanac of Incantations" [95] of three series of "prayers" [96] to favor, first, "the love (KI. AG: ramu) of a man to a woman" (line 5), second, "the love of a woman to a man" (6), and third, "the love of a man to man" (7), shows at least that the three were thus placed on the same plane, with the same verb ramu which marks the cordial and sentimental side of the attachment to others, and that one could frequently feel between individuals of the same sex the same feelings as between individuals of opposite sex. It recalls as well, let it be said parenthetically [97], that no religious prohibition opposed homosexual loves, any more than heterosexual loves, since one appealed specifically to the gods, through these "prayers", to favor both kinds.

§ 21. Female homosexuality. Does it mean anything that, in the text just cited, a series of incantations to favor "the love of a woman to a woman" is absent? We do not know. In fact, more often than in the domain of male homosexuality, the ancient Mesopotamians appear to have been reticent on the subject of love between women: unless I am mistaken, there is no known word that characterizes it or that designates its "professionals", if there were such. [Objection! In the inheritance and adoption law of the Code of Hammurabi, there is a non-marrying type of woman called a SAL.ZIK.RUM = male woman, who is parallel to the palace eunuch or girsequ. F.M.] Perhaps they deliberately do not speak of it, as elsewhere, including in our day: because it was "an affair of women", that is to say of a particular world, which it was not proper for men to occupy themselves with, let alone write about; or because, as elsewhere as well, including in our day up until a short time ago, it went on without being spoken of, whatever the censure was that prevented speaking of it. Not counting the fact that, by the very nature of the matter, such loves inevitably posed fewer problems than those in which men took the initiative...

Whatever the case, we have proof that homosexual practices between women were certainly not unknown. A divination apodosis, which is unique as far as I know, predicts in effect that: "women will have sex with one another" [98]. And, as the protasis alludes to a phenomenon, which was no doubt abnormal but apparently rather common, that is, dogs seeking to mount dogs, we must believe that these practices could not be exceptional, even if they were not readily spoken of.


1 W.G. Lambert, JEOL 15 [1957/58] 194f.; R.D. Biggs, TCS 2[1967] 1 and 10; J. Bottéro, JESHO 14 [1971] 72f.

2 R.D. Biggs, TCS 2, 10a and Note 58.

3 Ch. Ziegler, ADFU 6 (1962), plate 10, Fig. 168 and p. 55.

4 ibid., p. 161 and 203 No. 334.

5 R. Girshman, Arts asiatiques 15 [1967] 27, Fig. 31.

6 Compare W.G. Lambert, BWL 218f., IV 3; and likewise G. Reisner, SBH p. 106 No. 56, 50 f.

7 J. van Dijk, in Ziegler, op. cit. 161 note 72.

8 M.A. Mustafa, Sumer 5 [1949] 182b and pl. VI Fig. 8: Tell al-Diba'i and Tell Harmal; other examples are reported by R. Opificius, UAVA 2 [1961] 166f.; add as well D.E. McCown et al. OIP 78 [1967] pl. 137, 4: Nippur; and also see M. Th. Barrelet, Figurines et reliefs en terre cuite [1968] 292 and pl. L No. 527; and above all J.S. Cooper, supra p. 262f.: § 7; in The Greatness that was Babylon [1962], H.W.F. Saggs provides no indication of the source for the exemplar that he reproduces Fig. 51c.

9 W. Andrae, WVDOG 58 [1935] Tab. 45, especially e, f, g.

10 J. van Dijk, ZA 55 [1963] 70ff.; but compare S. Greengus and J.J. Finkelstein, JAOS 86 [1966] 363 note 27.

11 But compare Th. Jacobson, ibid. 482f.

12 See also Dialogue I 11, cited by J.S. Cooper, supra, p. 265 § 11.

13 K. 6705, 6768, and 6824.

14 See also K. 9169 and 13642 in Iraq 31 [1969] 156f.

15 rakabu: K. 6768, column from right x+1 f. K. 9169 9'.

16 UM is to be read DUB/DIH = tehu, with J.M. Durand.

17 Compare J. Bottéro, Annuaire 1969/70 de l'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes, Section IV, p. 103f.

18 it. in: J.P. Vernant et al. Divination et rationalité [1974] 100f. and note 4, and compare La Voix de l'Opposition en Mésopotamie [ed. A. Finet, 1973-1975] 120 and notes.

19 ZA 57 [1965] 60, interpreted differently by A. Falkenstein, ibid. 71 and 110f.

20 CT 39, 44 f.; copies from the era of Assurbanipal.

21 And, evidently, not in the service of the Temple or Palace, at least in the present context: against CAD G 95b f. and AHw. 285 b f.

22 See above § 4, references to "Divination et rationalité" and "Voix de l'Opposition"

23 sipir sinnisti Gilg. I/IV 13 and 19.

24 TCS 2, 2 note 9

25 For the meaning of the presages, see especially "Divination et rationalité" [§4], p. 162ff.

26 [KAV I II 82-96; and see G.R. Driver/J.C. Miles, AssLaws [1935] 390f.; and G. Cardascia, Les lois ass. [1969] 113f.

27 Compare the tappati-ki of IM 13348, 10f. etc. unedited and cited by CAD H 101a lex.

28 Compare Iconography: § 2

29 Compare for example KAV I II 16, 19, 21, 33, 37 etc.; YOS 10, 14, 5f.

30 Verbs in iterative form: it-ti-ni-ku-u-us, ibid. II 84, and it-ti-ni-ku-ka, II 86.

31 Same iterative verb: it-ti-ni-ku II 74.

32 It is the same threat which is found in an apodosis of Physiognomy: it-ta-na-a-a-ku-su "he will be made the object of repeated coitus" CT 41, 20, 14

33 Annuaire... Hautes Etudes 1966/67, 87ff.

34 See especially the "inverted" position supposed by CT 39, 44, 17; and very probably, given the context, ibid. 4 (of which 3c appears to be only a misplaced part), in which the expression NAM.SAL.LA/sinnisutam epesu cannot denote purely and simply a vague "sexual intercourse" without the least nuance or specificity, as the CAD E 225b and AHw. 1046a would have it; likewise, see the "proverb" (or perhaps the beginning of a "dialogue", according to B. Landsberger, in R. Borger, HKL 1) in BWL 226 I 1-7, with the note on page 230.

35 A/2, 341b; and K 588f.; also J. Renger, ZA 59 [1969] 192f.

36 UR.SAL, sag-ur-sag, pi-il-pi-li, etc.; AHw., CAD A/2 see word; W. Römer, SKIZ [1965] 157; H. Limet, Or. 40 [1971] 27f.

37 kur-gar-ra, Römer, ibid. 166.

38 According to the dubious opinion of E.I. Gordon, SumProv 248f., cited in § 4; and compare CAD K 94a.

39 Or perhaps kalu sehru, according to CAD K 93 b'.

40 JCS 5 [1951] 10, 219ff.; it is the only one of these personnages whose name contains a reference to his "young age", tur, but it would be rash to see a small boy in this and invoke it in favor of pederasty properly speaking.

41 AHw. 57b, CAD A/2 169a lex.

42 AHw. 66a III; CAD A/2 234 C.

43 AHw. see words.

44 Compare MSL 12, 42, 278ff.; 103, 214ff.; 134, 180ff., etc.

45 Berens No. 103, 3; and compare ZA 52 [1957] 338.

46 For example ABRT I No. 55 I 10; CT 4, 5, 10.

47 RitAcc. 115: rev. 7.

48 MSL 9, 206f.

49 W. Römer, SKIZ p. 130, 53 and p. 160f.; J. van Dijk, Or. 41[1972] 347; and see also § 16.

50 KAR 42, 29; S.A. Pallis, Akitu [1926] pl. 8, 11; B. Landsberger, WZKM 56 [1960] 120 note 31, and 57 [1961] 22 "on note 30".

51 CT 15, 44, 28; compare Landsberger, l.c.

52 Compare the Descent of Inanna/Istar to the Underworld, Sumerian version: JCS 5, 10, 214ff.; Niniveh version: CT 15, 16 rev. 11ff., and Annuaire... Hautes Etudes 1971/72, 88f.; likewise compare Pallis, Akitu, l.c.; Era IV 54f.; and the Npr. Ku-lu-u-Istar ADD 81, 3; 82, 1.

53 Annunitu: ARM X 6, 5f. and compare 7, 25; Nanaja: BA 5, 564f. 10, and compare rev. IV 13; Narudu: RitAcc. 115 rev. 7; Sarrat-nipha (?): E. Ebeling, Stiftungen [1954] 13, 23; etc.

54 For example: ZA 32 [1918] 174, 46f.

55 OAIC No. 30; also see § 16.

56 G. Farber-Flügge, StPohl 10 [1973] 54ff. II/V 21, 23 and 39.

57 Line 15; the first part of the protasis is obscured by the enigmatic ina KI-li; at least one anticipates here that the person in question "submits himself - sexually - to men" = ana zikaruti ustaktit

58 As-se-e-ni-is na-ak zi-ka-ru-ta hu-us-su-uh-sul; the translation in the CAD Z 117a:2b is a pure misinterpretation.

59 CT 15, 46 rev. 12f.

60 This is in general the sense of zikru - ibid. 11 - which, as for example in Gilgamesh I/II 31, cannot signify "male", as translated by the CAD A/2, 341b

61 For this meaning of nam/waru, compare AHw. 769 G 7.

62 In TCS 4, 61f. III 70; and compare 68-74 these are monsters; and similarly in line 80 of Enki and Ninmah - unedited translation by S.N. Kramer: "the man who has neither penis nor vulva"

63 Not counting the ambiguity of the lead figurines of Assur - § 3 above - I for my part can cite only one possible example in Nuzi: R. Starr, Nuzi II [1937] pl. 101: I/1-4.

64 JEN 3, 260, 13

65 ADD 160 rev. 12

66 Istar(?) amela kulu'uta erres, R. Labat, MDAI 57 No. VIII 10 [p. 181, and note p. 192]

67 assinutam ippes YOS 10, 47, 20; the parallel for women is more frequent: ana harimutim ussi :she will leave her home to (embrace) the state of a harimtu" ibid. 47, 65 and 69//48, 2 and 6; CT 20, 43 I 2.

68 zikaru; IV R 34 No. 2, 21.

69 BWL 218f. IV 3-5; CAD A/2 p. 152ab interprets differently.

70 AIT p. 25.

71 birku, CAD B 257a 3; see also here below, § 18, for this prerogative of Istar.

72 Annuaire... Hautes Etudes 1973/74, 99

73 Synonym of UR.SAL, assinnu, in the list of HAR-gud B. 133, MSL 12, 226; see also the "dictum" cited above § 15: BWL 218f. IV 3-5.

74 Compare E.I. Gordon, SumProv. p. 211; 2. 54, 5 and the note ibid. 213: 15; in the first tablet of the canonical series LU, nas pilaqqi "spindle carrier" immediately follows assinnu and kurgarru: MSL 12, 103: 217; ibid. 196: 33, it is possible that sa pilaqqati "(man) with spindles" is an epithet, evidently pejorative, for an individual of masculine sex; see also J. van Dijk, Or. 41 [1972] 347.

75 See D.O. Edzard, ZA 64 [1974] 125.

76 Iraq 13 [1951] pl. XVIf. ND 496, 31

77 ADD 827+, 14' and 1', cited in CAD K 559a

78 Malku I 134f., in A. Draffkorn-Kilmer, JAOS 83 [1963] 427.

79 CAD K 559a

80 salilu tabu and habubu: ZA 32, 174: 43-47.

81 ACh. Adad No. 12, 12f.

82 Suetonius, Life of Nero, 21.

83 Gilg. P 105.

84 pistu: IM 13348, 10' etc., cited CAD H 101a: lex.; and likewise compare ABL 289, 8; the same disparagement presupposed by a curse of the treaty of Assur-nirari VI: AfO 8 [1932] 22 V 9ff.

85 JCS 5, 10: 219f.

86 CT 15, 47 rev. 23ff.

87 Annuaire... Hautes Etudes 1971/72, 88f.

88 VII/IV 1ff.

89 BWL 102f.: 72.

90 R. Borger, Asarhaddon = AfO Suppl. 9; p. 99: rev. 56; E. Weidner, AfO 8 [1932] 22: V 8ff.; and Tn. I p. 7: 12; likewise see AIT 1, 19, cited in § 15 above, as well as Sumer 11 [1955] pl. 6 rev. 6, and ASKT p. 130, 47f. - of which the Sumerian, at least, is translated differently by A. Falkenstein, SAHG p. 231

91 ana supluh nisemes Era IV 56; which has nothing to do with "teaching piety", as CAD A/2, 341 b renders it.

92 itakkalu a-[sak-ka] Era IV 58

93 TCS 2, 41b note on 29

94 Thus ibid., p. 34b note on 7, 41b note on 29

95 BRM 4, 20 et //; see Annuaire... Hautes Etudes 1974/75 p. 130ff.

96 ibid. p. 134: 3rd

97 See op. cit., p. 139f.

98 MI. MES igarrusa: TCS 4, 194: XXIV, 33'.