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Ancient History Sourcebook:
Some Babylonian Proverbs from the Library of Ashurbanipal, c. 1600 BCE


1. A hostile act you shall not perform, that fear of vengeance (?) shall not consume you.

2. You shall not do evil, that life (?) eternal you may obtain.

3. Does a woman conceive when a virgin, or grow great without eating?

4. If I put anything down it is snatched away; if I do more than is expected, who will repay me?

5 He has dug a well where no water is, he has raised a husk without kernel.

6. Does a marsh receive the price of its reeds, or fields the price of their vegetation?

7. The strong live by their own wages; the weak by the wages of their children.

8. He is altogether good, but he is clothed with darkness.

9. The face of a toiling ox you shall not strike with a goad.

10. My knees go, my feet are unwearied; but a fool has cut into my course.

11. His ass I am; I am harnessed to a mule---a wagon I draw, to seek reeds and fodder I go forth.

12. The life of day before yesterday has departed today.

13. If the husk is not right, the kernel is not right, it will not produce seed.

14. The tall grain thrives, but what do we understand of it? The meager grain thrives, but what do we understand of it?

15. The city whose weapons are not strong the enemy before its gates shall not be thrust through.

16. If you go and take the field of an enemy, the enemy will come and take your field.

17. Upon a glad heart oil is poured out of which no one knows.

18. Friendship is for the day of trouble, posterity for the future.

19. An ass in another city becomes its head.

20. Writing is the mother of eloquence and the father of artists.

21. Be gentle to your enemy as to an old oven.

22. The gift of the king is the nobility of the exalted; the gift of the king is the favor of governors.

23. Friendship in days of prosperity is servitude forever.

24. There is strife where servants are, slander where anointers anoint.

25. When you see the gain of the fear of god, exalt god and bless the king.


Source:

From: George A. Barton, Archaeology and The Bible, 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 407-408.


This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, Janaury 1999
halsall@murray.fordham.edu