As a kind of sequel to my last post, I thought I would include Julian Jaynes's own remarks about some ancient letters. One of the letters even deals with a subject essentially the same as the one I treated last time – the transfer of divinities from one country to another.
King Hammurabi (standing) receives instruction from his god Shamash. Source: Wiki Commons.
If you haven't read the post that immediately precedes this one, I suggest you scroll down and take a look at it before continuing, because this one is intended as an addendum to it.
In Chapter 4 of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Jaynes writes:
The letters of Hammurabi and his era are factual, concrete, behavioristic, formalistic, commanding, and without greeting. They are not addressed to the recipient, but actually to the tablet itself, and always begin: unto A say, thus says B. And then follows what B has to say to A. We should remember here what I have suggested elsewhere, that reading, having developed from hallucinating from idols and then from pictographs, had become during later bicameral times a matter of hearing the cuneiform. And hence the addressee of the tablets.
The subjects of Old Babylonian letters are always objective. Hammurabi's letters, for example (all possibly written by Hammurabi himself since they are cut by the same hand), are written for vassal kings and officers in his hegemony about sending such a person to him, or directing so much lumber to Babylon, specifying in one instance, "only vigorous trunks shall they cut down," or regulating the exchanges of corn for cattle, or where workmen should be sent. Rarely are reasons given. Purposes never.Unto Sid-idinnam say: thus says Hammurabi. I wrote you telling you to send Enubi-Marduk to me. Why, then, haven't you sent him? When you see this tablet, send Enubi-Marduk into my presence. See that he travels night and day, that he may arrive swiftly.
And the letters rarely go beyond this in complication of 'thought' or relationship.
A more interesting letter is a command to bring several conquered idols to Babylon:Unto Sid-idinnam say: thus says Hammurabi. I am sending now Zikir-ilisu the officer, and Hammurabi-bani the Dugab-officer to bring the goddesses of Emutbalum. Let the goddesses travel in a processional boat as in a shrine as they come to Babylon. And the temple-women shall follow after them. For the food of the goddesses, you shall provide sheep … Let them not delay, but swiftly reach Babylon.
This letter is interesting in showing the everyday nature of the relationship of god and man in Old Babylon, as well as the fact that the deities are somehow expected to eat on their trip.
Going from Hammurabi's letters to the state letters of Assyria of the seventh century B.C. is like leaving a thoughtless tedium of undisobeyable directives and entering a rich sensitive frightened grasping recalcitrant aware world not all that different from our own. The letters are addressed to people, not tablets, and probably were not heard, but had to be read aloud. The subjects discussed have changed in a thousand years to a far more extensive list of human activities. But they are also imbedded in a texture of deceit and divination, speaking of police investigations, complaints of lapsing ritual, paranoid fears, bribery, and pathetic appeals of imprisoned officers, all things unknown, unmentioned, and impossible in the world of Hammurabi. [end of excerpt from Jaynes's book]
Note that the Amarna letter (in the preceding post) makes no specification for the feeding of the goddess Ishtar. It is possible that in the four centuries between Hammurabi's day (c. 1750 BC) and the Amarna communiqué (c. 1350 BC), this particular part of the ritualistic upkeep of the idols became neglected. On the other hand, perhaps it was simply unnecessary to mention it in a letter to the pharaoh, who would not be responsible for such day-to-day details in any event.