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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters and the University of Chicago presents the intellectual adventure of ancient man programmes dealing with the good life in ancient Mesopotamia. These programs are read by Joshua Taylor and I based on the book the intellectual adventure of ancient man. They are adapted by thought Yacob son of the Oriental Institute University of Chicago metal atoms and wrote the original text. To the ancient Mesopotamians as we have said earlier. The world in which they lived was a great cosmic state in which mighty superhuman powers the gods held sway in this cosmic state as in the human States on earth. They were outlaws robbers and bandits who threatened man's life and security. These were the evil demon of sickness and death. And it was difficult to obtain protection against him and to bring them to justice. The best the victim
could hope for was to induce a God who took a special interest in him his personal God to seek help from one of the great and influential gods only a great god could get the case before a divine court obtain a judgment and see that it wasn't forced. As time passed however the human stayed on earth grew more centralized and tightly organized its policing grew more effective. Robbers and bandits who had been an ever present threat now became less of a menace a less powerful element in daily life. This decrease of power of human robbers and bandits seems to have influenced the evaluation of the cosmic robbers and bandits. The evil demons they loomed last large in the cosmic States. It has been pointed out by phone Sutton. Now there was a subtle change in the concept of the personal God. Around the beginning of the second millennium before that time he had been thought
to be powerless against demons who attacked his ward and it had to appeal to some great God for help. But with the advent of the second millennium the demon had lost their power so that the personal God was fully capable of protecting his human war against and if now they succeeded in an attack. It was because the personal God had turned away in anger and it left his ward to shift for himself. Offenses which would anger a personal God came to include Moreover almost all serious lapses from ethical and moral standards. With this change minute as it may seem the whole outlook on the world actually shifted. Man no longer permitted his world to be essentially arbitrary. He demanded that it have a firm moral basis. Evil and illness attacks by demons are no longer considered mere happenings. Accidents. The gods by allowing them to happen were ultimately responsible for only when an offense had been committed. Should the
personal God be angered and turned away. Doesn't human moral and ethical values. Man had found a yardstick with which the presumptions Lee proceeded to measure the gods and their deeds. A conflict was immediately apparent divine will and human ethics proved incommensurable the stinging problem of the right just suffer emerged. We have several Mesopotamian treatments of this problem here however we shall deal only with the best known one. The composition called Little Bell Nemec when I will praise the lord of wisdom. It is a counterpart of the much inferior to the Book of Job. The hero of the poem knows himself to have been righteous to live the good life. But doubts about the value of living assailed him. I only heated prayer and supplication my very thought was supplication sacrifice have victual to me
the days when Gods were worshipped where my heart's delight knows when I followed the procession of the Goddess for my gain and profit adoration of the king was joy to me. Music for him a source of pleasure and I instructed my inner state to observe the ritual of the gods. I taught my people to read Dear the name of the Goddess illustrious royal deeds I liken to the deeds of gods and I taught soldiers to revere the palace word that I knew these things are pleasing to God for in spite of his righteousness evils of the most serious kind of the fall and disease covers my body like a garment. Sleep in a net and measures me my eyes stare but see you not. My ears are open but here not weakness has seized my body. He
laments the lash laid upon me holds terror. I have been goaded piercing is the sting all day a persecutor chases me at night he gives me no respite at all is God has abandoned him. No guard came to my aid or grasped my hand. My goddess did not pity me or succor me. Everyone has already given him up for dead and acts accordingly. The grave was opened when they rifled of my treasures while I was not yet dead. Already they stopped morning and all of his enemies were jubilant. My evil wisher heard of it and his face brightened to her who wished me evil they brought happy tidings. And her liver felt good.
And there the problem is neatly posed. A man who has been right just throughout May yet to be dealt with by the powers who govern existence as though he were the blackest offender for his pious deeds he has received the wages of the ungodly. He has been treated like one who has not bowed his face is not seen to prostrate himself or whose mouthes prayers in supplication are barred. The reality of the problem cannot be disputed. The case of the righteous sufferer may be rare in such extreme form. Yet none could be blind to its general validity of righteousness. The good life is no guarantee of health and happiness. Often indeed the unrighteous life seems a better way to success. Is there an answer. Our text gives to one to the mind which struggles with an intellectual problem. And one to the
heart whose emotions have been stirred by contemplation of the wrongs done to this particular righteous sufferer. The answer to the mind is a denial that human standards of value can be applied to the gods. Man is too small too limited in Outlook to pass judgement on things that are divine. He has no right to set up his human values against the values which the gods hold. What seems praiseworthy to one self is but contemptible before the gods what to one's heart seems bad is good before one's god who may comprehend the mind of gods in Heaven's depth the thoughts of a God are like deep waters. Who could fathom them. How could mankind be clouded comprehend the ways of gods. Human judgment cannot be true judgment for a man is a creature of the moment. He can take no long range view his mood changes from moment to moment.
He cannot attain to the deeper understanding which motivates the timeless and eternal gods who came to life yesterday died today in but a moment man is cast into gloom. Suddenly crushed one moment he will sing for joy. And in an instant he will weigh a morning before morning and night Forman's mood may change when they are hungry they become like corpses. When they are full they will rival their gods. When things go well they will prate of rising up to heaven. And when in trouble rant about descending into Hades what they're for is man's judgment that he should presume to set it up against that of God. But though this turn unknown leakage may satisfy the mind may show that its question is not permissible it will hardly satisfy the heart deep emotions have been stirred
the sense of bitter wrong has been evoked and so to the heart our poem holds out an answer the duty to hope and to trust. The righteous sufferer did not remain in his suffering when all hope seemingly had fled. Then came his deliverance in his darkest hour. God had mercy on him and turned to him full of goodness and light. Marduk restored him to health and dignity purified him and always happiness again. That's our poem is an encouragement to trust and hope. The ways of the gods may seem inexplicable to man but that is because man lacks the deeper understanding which actuates the gods and all men may be plunged in the deepest despair. The gods do not abandon him. He shall and must trust to their mercy and goodness. It's a well-known fact that as a civilization grows old
its basic values are in danger of losing their hold upon individuals who participate in it. Skepticism doubt and indifference begin to undermine the spiritual structure which comprises the civilization such scepticism towards all value is utter negation of the possibility of a good life begins to make its appearance in Mesopotamia and civilization in the first millennium before Christ. This scepticism has found expression in a long dialogue between a master and his slave. It's known as the dialogue of pessimism. The pattern of the dialogue is extremely simple. The master announces to the slave that he intends to do a particular thing and the slave encourages him. But you know raiding all the pleasant aspects of what the master proposes but by then the master is already tired of his idea and states that he will not do the thing in question. This too is praised by the slave who numerate all the darker sides of the proposed activity.
And in this manner all the typical activities of the Mesopotamian noblemen are weighed and found wanting. Nothing is inherently good nothing is worthwhile whether it be seeking favorite court the pleasures of the table Rogers against nomads in the desert the excitement of rebels life the beginning of a lawsuit or whatnot. We should quote a few of the stanzas Slive agree with me. Yes my lord. Yes I know what is good to break my neck and neck to fall into the river. That is good for the world. All vanity. Only death seems attractive. The Slave Dancer stoically with an ancient saying which expresses resignation. Who is tall enough to reach up to heaven who is broad enough that he
might encompass the earth. If it is going to seek for an absolute good we might as well resign and give up. We cannot do the impossible. But once more the master changes his mind. No slave I will kill only the. And let dede preceded me and would my lord want to live even three days after me. If there is no profit in life if nothing is good if all is vanity. What benefit can the master possibly see in prolonging life. How can he suffered for even three more days. And with this denial of all values denial that a good life existed. We end our survey of Mesopotamian speculative thought Mesopotamian civilization with the
values it embodied was about to lose its hold on man. It had run its course and was ready to give way before new and different more vigorous patterns of thought. You have heard the Third Programme in the series the intellectual adventure of engine management. These programmes are based on the book of the same title published by the University of Chicago Press for working with the archives and the professor in the university's Oriental Institute is a consultant for the series which is taken from his text. This program was read by Joshua Taylor a professor in the college and the Department of Art University of Chicago and produced by Thomas de parish in the university radio office. This is the ne e b network.
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Intellectual adventure of ancient man
Mesopotamian civilization, part three
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The third and final program in this series describes how Mesopotamian gods were an integral part of the culture.
Series Description
This series, based onThorkild Jacobsen's book, "The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man," seeks to describe the "good life in ancient Mesopotamia."
Broadcast Date
Media type
Narrator: Taylor, Joshua C. (Joshua Charles), 1917-1981
Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Writer: Jacobsen, Thorkild, 1904-1993
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-13-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:39
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Chicago: “Intellectual adventure of ancient man; Mesopotamian civilization, part three,” 1955-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
MLA: “Intellectual adventure of ancient man; Mesopotamian civilization, part three.” 1955-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Intellectual adventure of ancient man; Mesopotamian civilization, part three. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from