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Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods Reprint Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226067278
ISBN-10: 0226067270
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jean Bottero, a scholar of rare abilities, is Director Emeritus of Assyriology in the Department of Philology and History at the Ecole pratique des hautes etudes. Bottero's other books include Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods (1992) and a volume on ancient Mesopotamian cuisine.

Zainab Bahrani is the Edith Porada Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University in New York. She is the author of several books on ancient Mesopotamian art and history, most recently of "Rituals of War: The Body and Violence in Mesopotamia".

Marc Van De Mieroop is professor of history at Columbia University. His books include "The Ancient Mesopotamian City", "King Hammurabi of Babylon", "A History of the Ancient Near East", "The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II", and "A History of Ancient Egypt".
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (June 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226067270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226067278
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #800,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
MESOPOTAMIA : Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods. By Jean Bottero. Translated by Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop. 311 pp. Chicago and London : The University of Chicago Press, 1992. ISBN 0-226-06727-0 (pbk.)
Jean Bottero is emeritus director of Assyriology at the Ecole pratique des hautes etudes, Paris. His book, which is a compilation of 15 of his earlier and reworked scholarly articles on various aspects of Assyriology, would require a specialist in the field to do it justice, though it contains much that the general reader and enthusiast can enjoy.
One of the things that greatly appealed to me about this book was the warm and human personality of its author. Anglo-Saxon scholars tend as a rule to be rather aloof, distant, and formal, but Continentals such as Jean Bottero and Jean Paulhan don't seem to have quite the same fear of appearing human, and the personal touch they bring to their work can be quite engaging. It's also nice, after having read US scholars such as Kramer, Oppenheim, and Jacobsen, to be allowed to see things from the rather different Continental perspective.
In his 10-page introductory essay on 'The Birth of the West, Professor Bottero writes: "... the plan that I am pursuing here [is] to discover step by step the ways of seeing, of sensing, and of living, and the unpredictable thoughts and hearts, of our oldest recognizable ancestors (page 3). Although the whole book can be read with pleasure, three articles in particular stood out for me. These were 'A Century of Assyriology,' 'Writing and Dialectics, or the Progress of Knowledge,' and '"Free Love" and its Disadvantages.
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Comment 24 of 25 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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"Mesopotamia" is not a history, but a foot in the door toward understanding the complex issues involved in the study of the West's remote, but culturally crucial ancestor. The author maintains a conversational, sometimes humorous, tone throughout the book, which helps in getting through some of the more tedious, but necessary, areas of Assyriology. Bottero divides this work into four sections: I.Assyriology, II.Writing, III.Reasoning-Institutions and Mentality, and IV.The Gods-Religion, containing a total of fifteen articles. These deal with the deveopment of cuneiform script, how it influenced and reflected thought, the beginnings of science, reason and law, divination, dreams, and the religious system and its literature.The writing is clear as the author moves smoothly through hundreds of years at a time. After a while I started thinking, "A millenium here, a millenium there, and pretty soon you're talking about some real time!" There are some typos in my edition (for shame, University of Chicago Press), but not enough to be more than a minor annoyance. In the Bibliographical Orientation at the end of the book, Bottero recommends a few other books "that are not pedantic, heavy or annoying, as is usually the case." This phrase can also speak for "Mesopotamia"
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By A Customer on June 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
What I like about Bottero's work, this included, is his emphasis on the actual words of the ancient writers. My dissertation involves the literary influence of these ancient texts on biblical texts, but since I, as a math and English major, have not yet had the opportunity to take courses in ancient Sumerian or Akkadian, it means a great deal to me to have some basis on which to tell how good are the translations offered for such texts, and hence how good my intended comparisons. His emphasis on reason and on "religion/gods" adds further to understanding and recovering the ancient near eastern milieu of thought which was lost to us during the Hellenization process begun by Alexander the Great. To regain these pre-Platonic thought patterns is very difficult for us, but possible when offered, as here, material that emphasizes the very words used by the ancients.
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This book was my inspiration for taking on Near Eastern studies as a second major. Bottero's style is light and at times humorous, always flowing smoothly and always captivating. Though it is about a culture that is thousands of years old in a part of the world very distant from me, I couldn't put it down. It was like reading a thrilling novel.

He has an impeccable sense of what information is interesting and necessary, and what will bore those who are not technical masters of Near Eastern studies. In my opinion, the book can be equally enjoyed by novices and more knowledgeable people alike. That is his purpose. Bottero wants to open the door of this seemingly esoteric discipline to all inquiring minds. At the same time, even though a novice can delight in this book, he never insults the intelligence of his readers.

The book not only offers the history of the development of writing, but puts it in the social and historical context of ancient Sumer. This gives the readers the facts (at least, those currently available to us), but also the ability to see what aspects of that culture at that time allowed for the concept of writing to surface in the first place.

I recently read the book for a second time, nearly two years after I decided to pursue Mesopotamian studies seriously. I found it just as fresh and provocative as I did in my beginner level class. I highly recommend this book. Bottero is a great scholar and a real asset to Assyriology.
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