The Sumerians, Samuel Noah Kramer

Their History, Culture, and Character

The author, Samuel Kramer, is perhaps the most excellent writer on the topic of the Sumerians. I have a number of his books and I have always found them to be well written, excellently researched and totally inciteful in their analysis. This is certainly no exception. Highly, highly recommended.

Some things I high-lighted:

“From around 4500 B.C., when the first settlements were established in Sumer, to about 1750 B.C., when the Sumerians ceased to exist as a people, is a stretch of close to three thousand years…”

“…the Sumerians themselves wrote no history in the generally accepted sense of the word…”

“As for the technique of creation attributed to these deities, our Sumerian philosophers developed a doctrine which became dogma throughout the Near East, the doctrine of the creative power of the divine word.”

“Although our myth deals with a divine, rather than a human, paradise, it has numerous parallels with the Biblical paradise story. In fact, there is some reason to believe that the very idea of a paradise, a garden of the Gods, originated with the Sumerians.”

“Mortal women play hardly any role in Sumerian epic literature, wheras they have a very prominent part in Indo-European epic literature.”

“…the vampire Lilith had built her house.”


Some comments I found on the Internet:

This is from the back cover:

“The Sumerians, the pragmatic and gifted people who preceded the Semites in the land first known as Sumer and later as Babylonia, created what was probably the first high civilization in the history of man, spanning the fifth to the second millenniums B.C. This book is an unparalleled compendium of what is known about them.

Professor Kramer communicates his enthusiasm for his subject as he outlines the history of the Sumerian civilization and describes their cities, religion, literature, education, scientific achievements, social structure, and psychology. Finally, he considers the legacy of Sumer to the ancient and modern world.”

“There are few scholars in the world qualified to write such a book, and certainly Kramer is one of them. . . . One of the most valuable features of this book is the quantity of texts and fragments which are published for the first time in a form available to the general reader. For the layman the book provides a readable and up-to-date introduction to a most fascinating culture. For the specialist it presents a synthesis with which he may not agree but from which he will nonetheless derive stimulation.”—American Journal of Archaeology

“An uncontested authority on the civilization of Sumer, Professor Kramer writes with grace and urbanity.”—Library Journal

The Table of Contents:

1. Archeology and Decipherment
2. History: Heroes, Kings, and Ensi’s
3. Society: The Sumerian City
4. Religion: Theology, Rite, and Myth
5. Literature: The Sumerian Belles-Lettres
6. Education: The Sumerian School
7. Character: Drives, Motives, and Values
8. The Legacy of Sumer
Appendixes
A. The Origin and Development of the Cuneiform System of Writing
B. The Sumerian Language
C. Votive Inscriptions
D. Sample Date-Formulas
E. Sumerian King List
F. Letters
G. Ditilla’s (court decisions)
H. Lipit-Ishtar Law Code
I. Farmers’ Almanac
Selected Bibliography
Index

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