Asakkū marṣūtu

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Namtaru lemnu asakkū marṣūtu, inscribed NAM.TAR ḪUL.GÁL Á.SÀG GIG.GA, is an ancient Mesopotamian medical treatise from the first millennium BC which concerns the “grievous asakku-demons” and the diseases they cause.[1] Originally stretching to at least twelve tablets, it is only partially extant, with parts of around eight of the tablets from the Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh[2] and a copy of tablet 3 from the temple of Nabȗ in Nimrud, ancient Kalhu.[3] It is recorded, with a somewhat different gloss than one might have expected, in the Exorcists Manual: di-‘u GIG-tu4, di’u marṣūtu,[4] betraying its intended purpose in the combat of the demons and the cure of the ailment they were supposed to have caused, “fever sickness,” a grave disease characterized by a headache,[5] possibly malaria.

The text[edit]

The sickness that afflicts the patient is described asakku marṣu ina zumur amēli ittabši, “the dangerous asakku-demon has settled in the body of the man.” It invokes the metaphor of clothing: amēla muttallika kīma ṣubāti iktatam, “he [the asakku-demon] enveloped the miserable man like a garment”; and that of a force of nature: asakku kīma mīli nāru isḫup, “the asakku-demon overwhelmed [him] like the flood of a river.”[6]

The text includes several ritual procedures for combating epidemic fevers and these often involve the manipulation of goats or their offspring. One example involves the placement of a kid on the head of the patient.[7] Piglets (ŠAḪ.TUR.RA) are also sacrificed in pursuit of relief.[8]


  1. ^ asakku CAD A/2 p. 326.
  2. ^ Jean Bottéro (1975). Annuaire 1974/1975. École Pratique des Hautes Études, IVe Section, Sciences historiques et philolgiques. p. 99. 
  3. ^ D. J. Wiseman, J. A. Black (1996). Literary texts from the temple of Nabȗ (CTN 4). British School of Archaeology in Iraq. p. 19.  no. 102.
  4. ^ M J Geller (2000). "Incipits and Rubrics". Wisdom, Gods and literature. Eisenbrauns. pp. 244, 253. 
  5. ^ di’u CAD D, p. 165.
  6. ^ Nahum M. Waldman (1989). "The Imagery of Clothing, Covering and Overpowering". JANES 19: 161, 165. 
  7. ^ Irene Huber (2005). Rituale der Seuchen- und Schadensabwehr im Vorderen Orient und Griechenland. Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 41, 44, 103. 
  8. ^ R. Campbell Thompson (1904). The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, Vol. 2. Luzac & Co. pp. 2–43.