Marignal Notes on: “A POSSIBLE ATTESTATION OF THE NABATAEAN MINISTER SYLLAEUS IN A NEW ANCIENT NORTH ARABIAN (SAFAITIC) INSCRIPTION” by Nada Al-Rawabdeh and Sabri Abbadi, in Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 16 No 2, (2016), pp. 33-40

This belongs to a series of “marginal notes” I will post on recently published Safaitic inscriptions.

Rawabdeh and Abbadi publish the second Safaitic inscription that perhaps mentions the famous Nabataean minister Syllaeus. The inscription is basically identical to one already published by Abbadi in 2001 (see references). The article contains a balanced philological discussion of the new text, and concludes with some remarks on the historical event to which the two Safaitic inscriptions could refer. I will not venture into historical speculation here, as the references in these texts are too brief to say anything for certain, but will rather offer some improvements to the interpretation of the two inscriptions, and notes on the translations of previously published inscriptions in their edition.

The S¹ly inscription published in 2001 by Abbadi is republished in this edition, with the following reading and translation:

Photo from Abbadi 2001
Photo from Abbadi 2001

Original Reading and Translation

l tm bn ms¹k bn qtl bn brd bn ḥmt w wgm ʿl- ġyr w ʿl- qtl w ʿl- mṭl s¹nt ʾty s¹ly m- rm w ḫrṣ h-s¹nt f h bʿls¹mn ġwṯ w s¹lm w qbll l- ḏ ʾḥb

“By Tm son of Ms¹k son of Qtl son of Brd son of Ḥmt and he grieved for Ġyr and for Qtl and for Mṭl the year S¹ly came from Rm and he kept watch this year and so O Bʿls¹mn [grant] help and security and [show] benevolence for whoever ʾḥb.”

 

Revised Translation

‘By Tm son of Ms¹k son of Qtl and he grieved for Ġyr and for Qtl and for Mṭl, the year S¹ly came from Rome and he kept watch this year, so O Bʿls¹mn, remove affliction so that he may be secure; and may there be a reunion with him/those whom he loves’.

Notes: The edition follows the old translation of qbll as ‘benevolence’, whereas it should be understood as ‘reunion’, ‘reunification’ (Al-Jallad 2015: 333) given its textual context. This noun or infinitive occurs most frequently following expressions of longing or keeping watch for loved ones who are away, e.g. ts²wq ʾl- ‘he longed for’ and ḫrṣ ‘kept watch for’, and so the logical prayer in such cases would be for reunification with absent loved ones. Morphologically, it is an R -stem, cognate in form with Classical Arabic iqballa, perhaps vocalized as */eqbelāl/ or */qeblāl/.

The term ʾḥb is previously attested as an elative in the expression ts²wq ʾl- h-ʾḥb ‘he longed for the most beloved’…[f h lt] qbll ‘so O Lt, may there be a reunion’. The occurrence of ʾḥb with qbll then is a precedent for the present inscription, and motivates us to understand the occurrence of ʾḥb here as an elative or perhaps as a suffix-conjugated verb /ʾaḥabba/ ‘he loved’. This verb is attested as ʾḥbb ‘he loved’ elsewhere (Al-Jallad 2015:321). The relative pronoun may have a singular or plural referent.

 

The new S¹ly inscription (2016)

Photo and tracing from Rawabdeh and Abbadi 2016
Photo and tracing from Rawabdeh and Abbadi 2016

Original Reading and Translation

l tm bn ms¹k bn qtl bn brd bn ḥmt bn ġlmt bn mr bn ʾfty bn gml w wgm ʿl- ġyr w ʿ l- mlṭ w ʿ l- qtl s¹nt ngy s¹l[y] mn rm w ḫr{ṣ } h- s¹nt f h bʿ ls¹mn ġw{ṯ } {w}{s¹}{l}{m} {w} {q}{b}{l}{l} {l}- {ḏ } {ʾ }{ḥ }{b}

“By Tm son of Ms¹k son of Qtl son of Brd son of Ḥmt son of Ġlmt son of Mr son of ʾfty son of Gml and he grieved for Ġ yr and for Mṭl and for Qtl the year [S¹ly] fled from Rm and {he kept watch} this year and so O Bʿls¹mn [grant] {help} {and} {security}{and} [show] {benevolence} {for} {whoever} {ʾḥb}”.

 

Revised Translation

“By Tm son of Ms¹k son of Qtl and he grieved for Ġyr and for Qtl and for Mṭl, the year [S¹ly] fled from Rome and he kept watch this year, so O Bʿls¹mn, {remove affliction so that he may be secure; and may there be a reunion with him/those whom he loves}”.

Notes: See the discussion of the previous text, which is basically identical to this one, for notes on the revisions. As the ed. pro. points out, the equation of ngy in this text with ʾty ‘he came’ of the previous one, suggests it carries the meaning ‘he fled, escaped’ rather than ‘he was announced’. Both meanings are attested (Al-Jallad 2015: 331).

It is remarkable that the same elaborate inscription was produced nearly identically twice. This certainly gives us something to think about when it comes to the production of these texts.

 

The article also cites several previously published Safaitic inscriptions with erroneous translations (see the edition for references). I will rectify these here (corrections in bold):

C 742: l s¹r bn nẓr bn ṣhyn bn gʿl bn rs¹l w {n}fr m- rm s¹nt ws¹q ḏ- ʾl rhy nbṭ mġwt f h lt s¹lm w [n]qʾt l- ḏ {y}ʿr

Revised Translation: “By S¹r son of Nẓr son of Ṣhyn son of Gʿl son of Rs¹l and he escaped from the Romans in the year that those of the lineage of Rhy clashed with the Nabaṭaeans at mġwt, so, O Lt, may he be secure; and may whosoever would efface (this writing) be thrown out (of the grave)”.

mġwt = this word is unattested in Safaitic and may be a copyist error, as we do not have the photograph of this inscription. The best suggestion at the current moment is to take it as a toponym.

WH 2815: l ʿbd bn {y}ġṯ ḏ- {ʾ}l {b}{s¹}ʾ w ngy m nf{r}t w ʾḫ -h s¹nt mrdt nbṭ ʿl- ʾl {r}m f ʾt s¹lm

Revised Translation: (missing in Rawabdeh and Abbadi 2016): “By ʿbd son of Yġṯ of the lineage of ʾl Bs¹ʾ and he and his brother were announced (leaders) over a company of men, the year the Nabataeans rebelled against the Romans, so may peace come.”

ANSWS 79: l ẓʿn bn grmʾl bn ẓʿn bn bnt bn ẓʿn bn ḫṭst ḏ- ʾl kn w wgd s¹fr grmʾl f bʾs¹ mn ẓll w qnṭ ʾl rm s¹nt yhd f h lt….. wqyt m bʾs¹

Revised Translation: “By Ẓʿn son of Grmʾl son of Ẓʿn son of Bnt son of Ẓʿn son of Ḫṭs¹t of the lineage of Kn and he found the inscription of Grmʾl, for those who remain despair; and the people of Rome despaired greatly in the year of Judaea (or of the Jews), so O Lt, may there be protection from misfortune”.

 

References:

Abbadi, S. 2001. A New Safaitic Inscription Dated to 12 –9 BC. In: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan 7: 481-484.

Al-Jallad, A. 2015. An Outline of the Grammar of the Safaitic Inscriptions. (SSLL 80). Leiden: Brill.