The Assyrian Priest





Herr H. V. Hilprecht is Professor of Assyriology in the University of

Pennsylvania. That university had despatched an expedition to explore

the ruins of Babylon, and sketches of the objects discovered had been

sent home. Among these were drawings of two small fragments of agate,

inscribed with characters. One Saturday night in March, 1893,

Professor Hilprecht had wearied himself with puzzling over these two

fragments, which were supposed to be broken pieces of finger-rings.

He was inclined, from the nature of the characters, to date them about

1700-1140 B.C.; and as the first character of the third line of the

first fragment seemed to read KU, he guessed that it might stand for

Kurigalzu, a king of that name.



About midnight the professor went, weary and perplexed, to bed.



"Then I dreamed the following remarkable dream. A tall thin priest of

the old pre-Christian Nippur, about forty years of age, and clad in a

simple abba, led me to the treasure-chamber of the temple, on its

south-east side. He went with me into a small low-ceiled room without

windows, in which there was a large wooden chest, while scraps of

agate and lapis lazuli lay scattered on the floor. Here he addressed

me as follows:--



"'The two fragments, which you have published separately upon pages 22

and 26, _belong together_'" (this amazing Assyrian priest spoke

American!). {20} "'They are not finger-rings, and their history is as

follows:--



"'King Kurigalzu (about 1300 B.C.) once sent to the temple of Bel,

among other articles of agate and lapis lazuli, an inscribed votive

cylinder of agate. Then the priests suddenly received the command to

make for the statue of the god Nibib a pair of ear-rings of agate. We

were in great dismay, since there was no agate as raw material at

hand. In order to execute the command there was nothing for us to do

but cut the votive cylinder in three parts, thus making three rings,

each of which contained a portion of the original inscription. The

first two rings served as ear-rings for the statue of the god; the two

fragments which have given you so much trouble are parts of them. If

you will put the two together, you will have confirmation of my words.

But the third ring you have not found yet, and you never will find

it.'"



The professor awoke, bounded out of bed, as Mrs. Hilprecht testifies,

and was heard crying from his study, "It is so, it is so!" Mrs.

Hilprecht followed her lord, "and satisfied myself in the midnight

hour as to the outcome of his most interesting dream".



The professor, however, says that he awoke, told his wife the dream,

and verified it next day. Both statements are correct. There were

two sets of drawings, one in the study (used that night) one used next

day in the University Library.



The inscription ran thus, the missing fragment being restored, "by

analogy from many similar inscriptions":--





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