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Ahiqar story (1)

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04 Religious and philosophical literature and poetry

08 Administrative systems

01 Religious and ideological doctrines and imagery

Neo-Assyrian Empire
Sasanid Empire
Syriac texts

The story of Ahiqar is set into the court of seventh century Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. The hero has the Akkadian name Ahī-(w)aqar “My brother is dear”, but it is not clear if the story has any historical foundation. The latest entry in a Seleucid list of Seven Sages says: “In the days of Esarhaddon the sage was Aba-enlil-dari, whom the Aramaeans call Ahu-uqar” which at least indicates that the story of Ahiqar was well known in the Seleucid Babylonia. The oldest form of the story of Ahiqar itself is available in the Old Aramaic fragments from the end of the fifth century BCE and were discovered in the ruins of Elephantine in Egypt. The story of Ahiqar was incorporated into Greek legendary life of Aeseop - the adventures and maxims of the Assyrian sage were transferred to his Greek counterpart. The Syriac Ahiqar book is of non-Christian character and belongs to the oldest period of Syriac literature, to the first two centuries CE. Later versions in Armanian, Arabic, and Old Church Slavonic are all closely related to the Syriac version. From the Armenian the story of Ahiqar was translated into Kipchak-Turkish and into another Turkic language, while the Romanian translation is related to the Church Slavonic text. A selection of the precepts of Ahiqar, but not his story, was included in an Arabic Christian anthology which was later translated into Ethiopic. There is another Ethiopic version which is shorter and also clearly translated into Arabic. There are references to Ahiqar in Tobit and also other quotations from his maxims in various other books of the Bible, especially in the book of Sirach. Also a set of the Middle Persian (Pahlavi) didactic books which were associated with the name Ādurbād, a historical person of the fourth century CE Zoroastrianism, reveal strong affinities with the Akkadian-Aramaic story of Ahiqar. The Admonitions of Ādurbād contains many parallels to the Ahiqar maxims in several languages. Given the great popularity of the Ahiqar story in the first centuries of the Christian era and the long symbiosis of Iranian and Aramaic civilisation, there is certainly nothing wrong with the assumption that Persian authors of the Sasanian period may have been familiar with it.


de Blois 1984, 42-44, 51de Blois, F. “The Admonitions of Adurbad and their Relationship to the Ahiqar Legend.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1984) 41-53.

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Ahiqar in Aramaic

Amar Annus

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