Quantitative Analysis of Priestly Marriages in Borsippa

In: The Social World of the Babylonian Priest
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The Borsippa corpus yields some 102 attestations in which marital unions are more or less explicitly expressed, i.e. ‘Y wife of X’ or ‘Y mother of Z, son of X’. However, not all of them can be used. For two unions the family name of the husband is missing, while for nineteen others the family name of the wife has been lost or simply omitted. One can only speculate about the nature of these unions and they have therefore not been incorporated into the analysis. We can be virtually sure, however, that it does not concern individuals from the lower strata of society who lack ancestral family names altogether. These references only identify the husband or wife by personal name. They not only omit the family name, but also the father’s name, suggesting that full filiation was simply not necessary and the individual was well known to the parties concerned. This leaves us with a dataset of eighty-one fully documented unions.

In this analysis I look into the marriage alliance of the individual priesthoods, taking special notice of the marriages arranged within the prebendary groups, those arranged with other prebendary groups, and those arranged with non-prebendary outsiders. The figures are summarised at the end of each section. I begin with the group that spawned the most marital unions, the temple-enterer families, followed by the brewers, the bakers, the butchers, and the oxherds. I end with the reed workers family for which there is only little information.

1 Temple-Enterers

The corpus informs us on the marriage of seventeen male and twenty-two female members belonging to the temple-enterer clans. It should be noted that information on this group is quite abundant, considering the fact that we have only one archive from a temple-enterer family, namely the Ea-ilūtu-bani archive. For other temple-enterer families from Borsippa, see Introduction 7.1 The marriages from this group are summarised in figures 13a–c.

1.1 Intra-prebendary Unions

With eight alliances arranged within the group of temple-enterers, almost half of the male and almost forty percent of the female members engaged in intra-prebendary marriages. These percentages are, however, somewhat misleading because they are largely based on two marriage-chains from a single archive cluster. The first cycle consists of three consecutive marriages within the Ilī-bāni clan. According to tcl 12 85 man ‘Y’ of the Ilī-bāni clan was married to woman ‘X’ of the same kin group.1 This marriage was not blessed with longevity, given that only a few months later the husband married his late wife’s sister. The last episode is described some fourteen years later when the Ilī-bānis called upon the brother of the recently deceased husband ‘Y’ to uphold the alliance and marry his sister-in-law.2

The second chain is represented by two documents and concerns the alliance between the Ea-ilūtu-bani and the Ilī-bāni families. The case presents itself in tcl 13 174 when woman ‘X’ from the Ilī-bāni clan divided her entire property.3 She transferred the first half of the property to her son by man ‘Y’; the second half was assigned to man ‘Z’, her husband. It has been demonstrated by F. Joannès that ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ were related, the former being the older brother of the latter, and that the wife was thus previously married to her second husband’s older brother.4 The last testimony suggests that the wife divided her property in anticipation of her death since only two months later, man ‘Z’ is married to a new woman, the paternal niece of his late wife ‘X’.

1.2 Inter-prebendary Unions

Almost thirty percent, or five out of the seventeen unions, was arranged between male temple-enterers and women from other prebendary backgrounds. These marriages were usually arranged with prominent priestly groups that ranked just below the temple enterers: brewers (once),5 butchers (once),6 and bakers (twice).7 The notability of these families is underlined when we look at the individuals in question. Šikkûa was a family of brewers that enjoyed a brief period of distinction when it provided two consecutive chief temple administrators (šatammu) of Ezida between 539 and 537 bce.8 Prosopographical evidence suggests that the woman marrying into the Ea-ilūtu-bani family was indeed the grand- and great-granddaughter of these šatammus.9 The wife from the butcher family belonged to a branch of the Ibnāya clan that had supplied at least one city governor (šākin-ṭēmi) of Borsippa.10 The two alliances with prebendary bakers were both arranged with the prominent Kidin-Sîn family. Temple-enterers thus married the most illustrious members of lower-ranking clans. One apparent exception is the marriage between a temple-enterer and a daughter from the Rēʾi-alpi clan.11

Female members of temple-enterer families engaged far more often in this type of marriage. For them, forty-six percent, or ten out of twenty-two marriages, was arranged with lower prebendary families. Temple-enterer families tended to marry their daughters to families that occupied the rung just below themselves: brewers (six times),12 butchers (once),13 bakers (once).14 Other marriages were arranged, respectively, between a man of the Nappāhus and a woman from the Atkuppu family,15 and between a man of the Arad-Ea family and a wife from the Rēʾi-alpi clan.16

1.3 Extra-prebendary Unions

There are four marriages (24%) between temple-enterers and women from families that have no prebendary background or whose affiliation to the Ezida temple cannot presently be established: the Barihi, the Pahhāru, the Rab-banê, and the Siātu families. The Barihi family is a local Borsippean clan with only very few attestations in the corpus.17 The three other clans occur repeatedly. Given that they were well connected, the Siātus may have played an important role in Borsippa’s priestly community.18 The same can be said about the Pahhāru clan.19 The Rab-banê family provided a bride to the Naggārus.20

The alliances arranged for female members of the temple-enterer clans provide a similar picture. Less than twenty percent, or four out of twenty-two women, was married into clans who did not belong to the prebendary circle of Borsippa: Bēl-eṭēru (twice),21 Rēʾi-sisê (once),22 and an obscure family whose name ends on ‘[x]-zēri’ (once).23 So far no member of the Bēl-eṭēru family is attested as priest of Ezida, but the family did occupy high positions in sanctuaries of other Babylonian towns.24

Figure 13
Figure 13

(a) Marriages of temple-enterers (♂); (b) Marriages of temple-enterers (♀); (c) Total marriages of temple-enterers (♂ + ♀)

2 Brewers

With nine archives, the brewers of Borsippa are the best-attested group in the corpus (see Introduction 7.2). Moreover, the archives appear to be a representative sample, informing us on both prominent and peripheral brewer clans. This analysis includes the marriage of thirty-three brewers: nineteen male and fourteen female members. Note, however, that more than one-third of these unions is attested in the Ilia archives. The marriages from this group are summarised in figures 14a–c.

2.1 Intra-prebendary Unions

The most striking feature of the marriage pattern of the brewers is the high number of unions within the professional group. Our data indicates that more than sixty percent of all their marriages was arranged within the professional group. Especially noteworthy is the bond between the Ilia (A) and the Ilšu-abūšu families who seem to have pursued a conscious alliance policy.25 In short, the Ilia family was made up of three branches, headed by the three sons of the first attested member, Ṣillā. In the third generation all three branches arranged a marriage with a daughter from the Ilšu-abūšu clan,26 thus joining the entire Ilia (A) family to the Ilšu-abūšu clan. While the Ilia family widened its horizon to other brewer families during subsequent generations,27 the alliance with the Ilšu-abūšus was solidified with another marriage in the fifth generation.28

Another interesting notion is that the marriages among brewers were concluded between families of similar status. For example, Lā-kuppuru, a clan that was only marginally involved in the domain of Ezida’s brewers, was married to a family whose role in this profession was equally marginal, the Allānus.29 On the other hand, prominent families like the Ilia gave and received wives from important clans such as Kudurrānu30 and Ša-nāšīšu.31

2.2 Inter-prebendary Unions

Eight male and four female members of brewer clans were married to families of other prebendary groups (42% and 29%, respectively). With six out of seven arranged in this way, there was a clear tendency among the brewers to take their wives from the higher-ranking temple-enterers. Two further unions were arranged with bakers32 and oxherds.33 Turning to the opposite sex, our data seems to suggest that brewer families often gave their daughters in marriage to more junior prebendary families.34

2.3 Extra-prebendary Unions

There is only one marriage between a brewer and non-prebendary outsider family. A son of the minor brewer clan of Lā-kuppuru married the daughter of the Rišāya family.35 Note, however, that the latter seems to have originated from the nearby city of Dilbat where its members are attested as prebendary bakers and occur in various prebend-related texts.36

Figure 14:
Figure 14:

(a) Marriages of brewers (♂); (b) Marriages of brewers (♀); (c) Total marriages of brewers (♂ + ♀)

3 Bakers

The corpus bears evidence to the marriages of ten male and eight female members of prebendary bakers. For an overview of the local families of bakers and our main source on this group, see Introduction 7.3. It is interesting to find a confirmation of the Kidin-Sîn’s central position among the prebendary bakers in the fact that they figure most prominent in our sample of marriages even though their family archive has not been recovered. The marriages from this group are summarised in figures 15a–c.

3.1 Intra-prebendary Unions

Except for the Nabû-mukīn-apli clan, all baker families are known to have engaged in intra-prebendary marriages. The Kidin-Sîn clan figures most prominently in this respect. Two marriages were arranged within the clan37 and one with the Šēpê-ilias.38 Another alliance within the prebendary group was forged between the Bēliyaʾu and the Esagil-mansum clans.39 Due to the small quantity of this sample, these four marriages account for forty percent of this group’s male marraiges and fifty percent of this group’s female marriages, respectively.

3.2 Inter-prebendary Unions

There are, in total, six individuals, three men and three women, who married individuals from outside their own professional group. One baker married a woman from the prebendary barber or Gallābu clan.40 Others married individuals from brewer (twice)41 and temple-enterer families (three times).42

3.3 Extra-prebendary Unions

Three men and one woman married individuals whose family background remains unknown. The three men received their wives from the Kāṣir,43 Nabûnnāya,44 and Ṣillāya families, respectively.45 A baker’s daughter was married to the Pahhāru family.46

Figure 15
Figure 15

(a) Marriages of bakers (♂); (b) Marriages of bakers (♀); (c) Total marriages of bakers (♂ + ♀)

4 Butchers

Four families have so far been identified as butchers of Ezida: Eppēš-ilī, Eṭēru, Ibnāya, and Ilšu-abūšu.47 While we have several smaller archives from the Ibnāya clan,48 there is only little information on marriage alliances. We know of the marriage of three male and four female members. The marriages from this group are summarised in figures 16a–c.

4.1 Intra-prebendary Unions

The union between two members of the Ibnāya clan is so far the only known marriage arranged within this professional group.49

4.2 Inter-prebendary Unions

Two unions were arranged with other prebendary groups. In one instance, a woman was received from the Naggāru family in marriage.50 In the other instance, a woman from the Ibnāya family, the granddaughter of a city governor (šākin-ṭēmi) of Borsippa, was married to the temple-enterer family of the Kidin-Nanāyas.51

4.3 Extra-prebendary Unions

It seems surprising that most marriages of this group were arranged with families that can be classified as non-prebendary (three times). The governor’s son of the Ibnāya clan married a woman from the Siātu family.52 The latter also received a bride from the Ilšu-abūšus, another family of butchers.53 This must have been an important alliance since the bride was the daughter of the overseer (šāpiru) of the butchers of the Ezida temple.54 A final marriage involved a woman from the Ibnāya and a man from the Ṣāhit-ginê clans. This family is thus far only attested as judge in Borsippa (VS 4 32).55

Figure 16
Figure 16

(a) Marriages of butchers (♂); (b) Marriages of butchers (♀); (c) Total marriages of butchers (♂ + ♀)

5 Oxherds

It has already been mentioned in the introduction that the prebend of the oxherd (rēʾi-alpūtu) was entirely dominated by the Rēʾi-alpi clan (see Introduction 7.4). This means that the marriages we take into consideration here belong to one clan only. There are in total ten marriages involving members of the Rēʾi-alpis. The marriages from this group are summarised in figures 17a–c.

5.1 Intra-prebendary Unions

There is no evidence that the Rēʾi-alpi clan arranged marriages within the prebendary group or, in this case, among members of the same family.

5.2 Inter-prebendary Unions

There are five marriages (50%) with other prebendary families. The oxherds received brides from both the brewers56 and the temple-enterers.57 The first woman came from the Ardūtu clan, a minor brewer clan that is attested only a couple of times in relation to this trade.58 The second woman came from the Arad-Ea family. While this clan appears as early as the Kassite period59 and occupied high positions in Borsippa during the eighth century bce,60 it seemed to have lost its prominence in the local religious sphere by the time of this union.61 Families that obtained women from the Rēʾi-alpis are the Arkāti-ilāni-damqā,62 Kudurrānu,63 and Gallābu64 families. These were prominent families belonging to the ranks of temple-enterers, brewers, and barbers, respectively.

5.3 Extra-prebendary Unions

The Rēʾi-alpi family arranged many marriages with families outside of the prebendary circle. The family received one bride from the Mubannû clan.65 While it is not impossible that the latter was involved in the homonymous ‘arranger-of-the-sacrificial-table’ (mubannūtu) prebend, this is not substantiated in the corpus. Families that obtained daughters from the Oxherd family were the fMaqartus,66 Rišāyas,67 and Šarrahus.68

Figure 17
Figure 17

(a) Marriages of oxherds (♂); (b) Marriages of oxherds (♀); (c) Total marriages of oxherds (♂ + ♀)

6 Reed-Workers

The information on this prebendary group is provided by the Atkuppu family archive (see Introduction 7.5). Unfortunately, there is very little known about the marriage alliances for this clan. The archive informs us only of the marriage of two male members. On the one hand, the reed-workers received a bride from the Adad-nāṣirs, a family with no apparent ties to the temple.69 On the other hand, they received a daughter from the Nappāhus.70 While this family is known to have provided two local temple-enterers of Ninlil in the past,71 it is possible that it also was involved in the prebendary service of the smith (nappāhu). In that case the alliance between Atkuppu and Nappāhu represented a marriage within the ranks of temple craftsmen.


Joannès 1989: 52.


For more on this sororate and levirate chain of marriages, see Joannès 1987.


Joannès 1989: 41.




Ea-ilūtu-bani ∞ Šikkûa (BM 26264).


Kidin-Nanāya ∞ Ibnāya (BM 96151).


Kidin-Nanāya ∞ Kidin-Sîn (BM 25589); Ea-ilūtu-bani ∞ Kidin-Sîn (TuM 2/3 48).


See Waerzeggers 2010: 73 for references.


The woman in question is fŠaddinnātu/Nabû-šumu-iddin/Nabû-mukīn-zēri (šatammu)/Nabû-mukīn-apli (šatammu)/Šulā of the Šikkûa clan.


Her grandfather (and perhaps also her great-grandfather) functioned in this position. The daughter in question is fGigītu/Nabû-šumu-ukīn/Nabû-nādin-šumi/Mušēzib-Marduk of the Ibnāya clan. See Waerzeggers 2010: 68 for references. For the Ibnāya (A) archive, see Jursa 2005: 83–84 and Waerzeggers 2010: 525ff.


Arkāt-ilāni-damqā ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (BM 96166).


Huṣābu ∞ Ea-ilūtu-bani (BM 82640 = AHxv no. 45); Huṣābu ∞ Ilī-bāni (nbc 8404 and L 1627); Ilia ∞ Arkāt-ilāni(-damqā) (BM 26473); Ilia ∞ Iddin-Papsukkal (BM 26473); Ilšu-abūšu ∞ Nūr-Papsukkal (Smith Coll. No. 92); and Mannu-gērûšu ∞ Ša-diš-luh (BM 87308).


Ilšu-abūšu ∞ Naggāru (BM 28863 = AHxv no. 115).


Esagil-mansum ∞ Iddin-Papsukkal (BM 29379 published in Zadok 2005).


oect 12 A 158.


BM 82609 = Roth 1989 no. 22 and BM 26707.


The Barihis provided women to the Egibi family (Camb 315) and the temple-enterer family of the Nūr-Papsukkals (Camb 120, Camb 338).


The Siātu family gave brides to butcher and temple-enterer families, Ibnāya (BM 96151; VS 5 25) and Iddin-Papsukkal (BM 94691; VS 4 70), respectively. The family itself received a wife from a prominent butcher branch of the Ilšu-abūšu family (BM 28865 = AHxv no. 116; VS 5 28).


It received a wife from Esagil-mansum (BM 29067; BM 28861) and provided a bride to Arkāt-ilāni-damqā (Wunsch 2000 no. 116).


BM 94504.


Bēl-eṭēru ∞ Ilī-bāni (BM 94548); Bēl-eṭēru ∞ Nappāhu (BM 94696).


Rēʾi-sisê ∞ Nūr-Papsukkal (BM 27858).


[x]-zēri ∞ Iddin-Papsukkal (oect 12 A 129 = Roth 1989 no. 21).


Sippar: the temple-enterer’s prebend (cultic singer) of the sanctuary of Šarrat-Sippar seems to have been completely in their hands (Bongenaar 1997: 242ff., 289). Babylon: the family is attested selling an ērib-bītis/nârūtu prebend (Baker 2004 nos. 54, 55, 56 and 57). Dilbat: Bēl-eṭērus functioned as measurers (mādīdu) of Uraš in Eimbianu (VS 5 105 and VS 5 75). That they also took part in higher temple functions is clear from, for example, VS 5 108, an exchange of a piece of land against an ērib-bīti prebend in Dilbat involving the temple authorities.


Waerzeggers 2010: 95.


The founder of the Ilia (A) branch, Ṣillā, had three sons: Šulā, (Itti-Nabû-)Balāṭu, and Šāpik-zēri. Each had a son who married a woman from the Ilšu-abūšu family: Nabû-ēṭir-napšāti/Šulā/ilia ∞ fAmtia//Ilšu-abūšu (VS 5 126), Nabû-ušallim/Balāṭu/Ilia ∞ fTuqpītu//Ilšu-abūšu (BM 102308 = AH XV no. 18), and Marduk-nādin-ahi/Šāpik-zēri ∞ fQudāšu//Ilšu-abūšu (BM 87267).


Marduk-šumu-ibni, the main protagonist of the Ilia (A) archive, married his daughter to the Kudurrānu family (BM 87265).


BM 102261.


Lā-kuppuru ∞ Allānu (BM 29385). The same document mentions a union within the ­Lā-kuppuru clan.


BM 87265.


See, for example, LB 874. The remaining unions are Kudurrānu ∞ Ahiyaʾūtu (oect 12 A 120, ­Joannès 1989: 62, 281) and Ilia ∞ Ilia (BM 26544).


Ilia ∞ Esagil-mansum (BM 26731).


Kudurrānu ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (BM 96259).


One time into a higher prebendary group: [ērib-bīti] Ea-ilūtu-bani ∞ Šikkûa (BM 26264). Three times into a lower prebendary group: [baker] Bēliyaʾu ∞ Ilia (BM 26483), [barber] Gallābu ∞ Ilia (BM 85570 = Zadok ios 18 no. 1), and [oxherd] Rēʾi-alpi ∞ Ardūtu (BM 29375).


BM 103458.


BM 77508+, VS 5 21, VS 5 83, and VS 5 161.


The first marriage is attested in BM 94697 and BM 82654 and the second in BM 29021.


BM 82608.


Bēliyaʾu ∞ Esagil-mansum (VS 5 26 and BM 96102).


Kidin-Sîn ∞ Gallābu (BM 85447). For the prebendary involvement of the Gallābu clan, see Waerzeggers 2010: 79+352.


Male bakers: Bēliyaʾu ∞ Ilia (BM 26483). Female bakers: Ilia ∞ Esagil-mansum (BM 26731).


Male bakers: Esagil-mansum ∞ Iddin-Papsukkal (BM 29379, cf. Zadok 2005). Female bakers: Ea-ilūtu-bani ∞ Kidin-Sîn (TuM 2/3 48, Joannès 1989: 33.); Kidin-Nanāya ∞ Kidin-Sîn (BM 25589).


Nabû-mukīn-apli ∞ Kāṣir (BM 25588). Note that the Kāṣir family might have had some links to the service of the prebendary baker too. Bēl-iddin//Kāṣir, whose daughter was married to the Nabû-mukīn-aplis, is attested on one earlier occasion in a document dealing with the prebendary income of Šaddinnu//Bēliya’u (BM 29512).


Kidin-Sîn ∞ Nabûnnāya (BM 25589).


Bēliyaʾu ∞ Ṣillāya (BM 96313 and BM 21976).


Pahhāru ∞ Esagil-mansum (BM 29067; BM 28861). Note that the woman from the Esagil-mansum clan was previously married to Balassu//Bēliyaʾu. It thus represents her second marriage.


Waerzeggers 2010: 79. The Eppēš-ilī and Eṭēru families seem to have owned butcher ­prebends in Ezida passively, performing the temple service through agents only. See Waerzeggers 2010: 79+349. They probably had stronger ties to the temples in Babylon. Note that the Ilšu-abūšu is a family that had strong ties to the priesthood of the brewers too.


Jursa 2005: 83–84 and Waerzeggers 2010: 19 and 525ff.


Ibnāya ∞ Ibnāya (VS 4 176).


Ilšu-abūšu ∞ Naggāru (BM 28863 = AHxv no. 115.)


Kidin-Nanāya ∞ Ibnāya (BM 96151).


Ibnāya ∞ Siātu (VS 5 25 and BM 96151).


Siātu ∞ Ilšu-abūšu (BM 28865 = AHxv no. 116; VS 5 28).


fIlāt was the daughter of Ezida-šumu-ukīn//Ilšu-abūšu who occupied the function of overseer (šāpiru) of the butchers (ca. 583 bce), see Waerzeggers 2010: 254+900.


Ṣāhit-ginê ∞ Ibnāya. See Waerzeggers 2010: 127.


Rēʾi-alpi ∞ Ardūtu (BM 29375).


Rēʾi-alpi ∞ Arad-Ea. See BM 82609 = Roth 1989 no 22 and BM 26707.


Waerzeggers 2010: 84. Note that in the three attestations the Ardūtu family works in close tandem with the Mannu-gērûšu clan, another rather peripheral family.


Nielsen 2011: 73.


VS 1 36.


The Arad-Ea family might have been more successful in the royal administration. In Borsippa members worked in tandem with the local ‘canal inspector’ (VS 6 160, Dar 33). In Babylon they occupied the position of royal resident (qīpu) of the Esagil temple (VS 6 155, Dar 29). See Nielsen 2011: 73f.


Arkāt-ilāni-damqā ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (BM 94606 = AHxv no. 143).


Kudurrānu ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (BM 96259).


Gallābu ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (BM 94696).


Rēʾi-alpi ∞ Mubannû (BM 94698).


fMaqartu ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (BM 26487).


Rišāya ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (eah 203).


Šarrahu ∞ Rēʾi-alpi (eah 213 and BM 101980//BM 82607).


Atkuppu ∞ Adad-nāṣir (BM 82629 = Roth 1990 no. 13).


oect 12 A 158.


Waerzeggers 2010: 76.

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