Source: Foster, Benjamin R. (1995) Before the Muses: myths, tales and poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia, CDL Press, Bethesda, Maryland.


The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer is a poetic monologue, opening and concluding with hymns, that tells how a noble gentleman, once important and prosperous, for no apparent reason, was driven to disgrace and disease by the god Marduk. His story is set as exemplary of the two sides to divine character, anger and forgiveness, as exemplary of the unfathomable will of the gods, but also as an account of unbroken faith in the divine designs for deliverance even in face of all possible catastrophes and impending death. .

Tablet 1
Tablet 2
Tablet 3
Tablet 4 - Frag A
Tablet 4 - Frag B
Tablet 4 - Frag C


  1. I will praise the lord of Wisdom, solicitous god,
  2. Furious in the night, calming in the daylight;
  3. Marduk! lord of wisdom, solicitous god,
  4. Furious in the night, claiming in the daylight;
  5. Whose anger engulfs like a tempest,
  6. Whose breeze is sweet as the breath of morn
  7. In his fury not to be withstood, his rage the deluge,
  8. Merciful in his feelings, his emotions relenting.
  9. The skies cannot sustain the weight of his hand,
  10. His gentle palm rescues the moribund.
  11. Marduk! The skies cannot sustain the weight of his hand,
  12. His gentle palm rescues the moribund.
  13. When he is angry, graves are dug,
  14. His mercy raised the fallen from disaster.
  15. When he glowers, protective spirits take flight,
  16. He has regard for and turns to the one whose god has forsaken him.
  17. Harsh is his punishments, he.... in battles (?)
  18. When moved to mercy, he quickly feels pain like a mother in labor.
  19. He is bull-headed in love of mercy
  20. Like a cow with a calf, he keeps turning around watchfully.
  21. His scourge is barbed and punctures the body,
  22. His bandages are soothing, they heal the doomed.
  23. He speaks and makes one incur many sins,
  24. On the day of his justice sin and guilt are dispelled.
  25. He is the one who makes shivering and trembling,
  26. Through his sacral spell chills and shivering are relieved.
  27. Who raises the flood of Adad, the blow of Erra,
  28. Wh reconciles the warthful god and goddess
  29. The Lord divines the godsī inmost thoughts
  30. But no god understand his behavior,
  31. Marduk divines the godsīs inmost thoughts
  32. But no god understand his behavior!
  33. As heavy his hand, so compassionate his heart
  34. As brutal his weapons, no life-sustaining his feelings,
  35. Without his consent, who could cure his blow?
  36. Against his will, who could sin and escape?
  37. I will proclaim his anger, which runs deep, like a fish,
  38. He punished me abruptly, then granted life
  39. I will teach the people, I will instruct the land to fear
  40. To be mindful of him is propitious for ......
  41. After the Lord changed day into night
  42. And the warrior Marduk became furious with me,
  43. My own god threw me over and disappeared,
  44. My goddess broke rank and vanished
  45. He cut off the benevolent angel who walked beside me
  46. My protecting spirit was frightened off, to seek out someone else
  47. My vigor was taken away, my manly appearance became gloomy,
  48. My dignity flew off, my cover leaped away.
  49. Terrifying signs beset me
  50. I was forced out of my house, I wandered outside,
  51. My omens were confused, they were abnormal every day,
  52. The prognostication of diviner and dream interpreter could not explain what I was undergoing.
  53. What was said in the street portended ill for me,
  54. When I lay down at nights, my dream was terrifyng
  55. The king, incarnation of the gods, sun of his people
  56. His heart was enraged with me and appeasing him was impossible
  57. Courtiers were plotting hostile against me,
  58. They gathered themselves to instigate base deeds:
  59. If the first !I will make him end his life"
  60. Says the second "I ousted him from his command"
  61. So likewise the third "I will get my hands on his post!"
  62. "I will force his house!" vows the fourth
  63. As the fifth pants to speak
  64. Sixth and seventh follow in his train!" (literally in his protective spirit)
  65. The clique of seven have massed their forces,
  66. Merciless as fiends, equal to demons.
  67. So one is hteir body, united in purpose,
  68. Their hearts fulminate against me, ablaze like fire.
  69. Slander and lies they try to lend credence against me
  70. My mouth once proud was muzzled like a ....
  71. My lips, which used to discourse, became those of a dead man.
  72. My resounding call struck dumb,
  73. My proud head bent earthward,
  74. My stout heart turned feeble for terror,
  75. My broad breast brushed aside by a novice,
  76. My far-reaching arms pinned down by flimsy matting,
  77. I, who walked proudly, learned slinking,
  78. I, so grand, became servile,
  79. To my vast family, I became a loner,
  80. As I went through the streets, ears were pricked up at me,
  81. I would enter the palace, eyes would squint at me,
  82. My city was glowering at me like an enemy,
  83. Belligerent and hostile would seem my land!
  84. My brother became my foe,
  85. My friend became a malignant demon,
  86. My comrade would denounce me savagely,
  87. My colleague was constantly keeping the taint to this weapons,
  88. My best friend would pinch off my life.
  89. My slave cursed me openly in the assembly of gentlefolk
  90. My slavegirl defamed me before the rabble.
  91. An acquaintance would see me and make himself scarce,
  92. My family disowned me,
  93. A pit awaited anyone speaking well of me,
  94. While he who was uttering defamation of me forged ahead.
  95. One who relayed base things about me had a god for his help
  96. For the one who said "What a pity about him!" death came early,
  97. The one of no help, his life became charmed,
  98. I had no one to go at my side, nor saw I a champion.
  99. They parceled my possessions among the rifffaff,
  100. The sources of my watercourses they blocked with muck,
  101. They chased the harvest song from my fields,
  102. They left my community deathly still, like that of a ravaged foe.
  103. They let another assume my duties,
  104. They appointed an outsider to my prerogatives.
  105. By day sighing, by night lamentation,
  106. Monthly, trepidation, despair the year,
  107. I moaned like a dove all my days,
  108. I let out groans as my song,
  109. My eyes are forced to look through constant crying,
  110. My eyelids are smarting through of tears.
  111. My face is darkened from the apprehensions of my heart,
  112. Terror and pain have jaundiced my face.
  113. The.... of my heart is quaking in ceaseless apprehension.
  114. ..... like a burning fire,
  115. Like the bursting of a flame falshehood beset me,
  116. .... lamentation, my imploring!
  117. The speech of lips was senseless, like a moronīs,
  118. When I tried to talk, my conversation was gibberish.
  119. I watch, that in daylight good will come upon me!
  120. The moon will change, the sun will shine!




  1. One whole year to the next! The normal time passed.
  2. As I turned around, it was more and more terrible,
  3. My ill luck was on the increase, I could find no good fortune.
  4. I called to my god, he did not show his face,
  5. I prayed to my goddess, she did not raise her head.
  6. The diviner with his inspection did not get the bottom of it,
  7. Nor did the dream interpreter with his incense clear up my case
  8. I beseeched a dream spirit, but it did not englighten me,
  9. The exorcist with his ritual did not appease divine wrath.
  10. What bizarre actions everywhere!
  11. I looked behind: persecution, harassment!
  12. Like one who had not made libations to his god,
  13. Nor invoked his goddess with a food offering,
  14. Who was not wont to prostrate, nor seen to bow down,
  15. From whose mouth supplication and prayer were wanting,
  16. Who skipped holy days, despised festivals,
  17. Who was neglectful, ommitted the godsī rites,
  18. Who had not taught his people reverence and worship,
  19. Who did not invoke his god, but ate his food offering,
  20. Who snubbed his goddess, brought her no flour offering,
  21. Like one possessed, who forgot his lord,
  22. Who casually swore a solemn oath by his god; I indeed seemed such a one!
  23. I, for my part, was mindful of supplication and prayer,
  24. Prayer to me ws the natural recourse, sacrifice my rule.
  25. The day for reverencing the gods was a source of satisfaction to me,
  26. The goddessīs processionday was my profit and return.
  27. Praying for the king, that was my joy,
  28. His sennet was if for my own good omen.
  29. I instructed my land to observe the godīs rites,
  30. The goddessīs name did I drill my people to esteem
  31. I made my praises of the king like a godīs,
  32. And taught the populace reverence for the palace.
  33. I wish I knew that these things were pleasing to a god!
  34. What seems good to oneīs self could be an offence to a god,
  35. What in oneīs own heart seems abominable, could be good to oneīs god!
  36. Who could learn the reasoning of the gods in heaven?
  37. Who could grasp the intentions of the gods of the depths?
  38. Where might human beings have learned the ways of a god?
  39. He who lived by his brawn died in confinement.
  40. Suddenly one is downcast, in a trice full of cheer,
  41. One moment he sings in exaltation,
  42. In a trice he groans like a professional mourner.
  43. Peopleīs motivations change in a twinkling!
  44. Starving, they become like corpses,
  45. Full, they would rival their gods.
  46. In good times, they speak of scaling heaven,
  47. When it goes badly, they complain of going down to hell.
  48. I have pondered these things; I have made no sense of them.
  49. But as for me, in despair a whirlwind is driving me!
  50. Debilitating disease is let loose upon me:]
  51. An evil vapor has blown against me from the ends of the earth,
  52. Head pain has surged upon me from the breast of hell,
  53. A malignant spectre has come froth from its hidden depth,
  54. A relentless ghost came out of its dwelling place.
  55. A she-demon came down from the moutain,
  56. Ague set forth with the flood and sea,
  57. Debility broke through the ground with the plants.
  58. They assembled their host, together they came upon me:
  59. They struck my head, they closed around my pate,
  60. My features were gloomy, my eyes ran a flood,
  61. They wrenched my muscles, made my neck limp,
  62. They thwacked my chest, pounded my breast,
  63. They affected my flesh, threw me into convulsion,
  64. They kindled a fire in my epigastrium,
  65. They churned up my bowels, they twisted my entrails
  66. Coughing and hacking infected my lungs,
  67. They infected my limbs, made my flesh pasty,
  68. My lofty stature they toppled like a wall,
  69. My robust figure they flattened like a bulrush,
  70. I was dropped like a dried fig, I was tossed on my face.
  71. A demon has clothed himself in my body for a garment,
  72. Drowsiness smothers me like a net,
  73. My eyes stare, they cannot see,
  74. My ears prick up, they cannot hear.
  75. Numbness has spread over my whole body,
  76. Paralysis has fallen upon my flesh.
  77. Stiffness has seized my arms,
  78. Debility has fallen lupon my loins,
  79. My feet forgot how to move.
  80. A stroke has overcome me, I choke like one fallen
  81. Signs of death have shrouded my face!
  82. If someone thinks of me, I canīt respond to the enquirer,
  83. "Alas" they weep, I have lost consciousness,
  84. A snare is laid on my mouth,
  85. And a bolt bars my lips,
  86. My way in is barred, my point of slaking blocked,
  87. My hunger is chronic, my gullet constricted.
  88. If it be of grain, I choke it down like stinkweed,
  89. Beer, the sustenance of mankind , is sickening to me.
  90. Indeed, the malady drags on!
  91. For lack of food my features are unrecognizable,
  92. My flesh is waste, my blood has run dry,
  93. My bones are loose, covered only with skin,
  94. My tissues are inflamed, afflicted with grangrene.
  95. I took to bed, confined, going out was exhaustion,
  96. My house turned into my prison.
  97. My flesh was a shackle, my arms being useless,
  98. My person was a fetter, my feet having given way.
  99. My afflictions were grievous, the blow was severe!
  100. A scourge full of barbs thrashed me,
  101. A crop lacerated me, cruel with thorns,
  102. All day long tormentor would torment me,
  103. Nor a night would he let me breathe freely a moment
  104. From writhing, my joints were separated,
  105. My limbs were splayed and thrust apart.
  106. I spent the night in my dung like an ox,
  107. I wallowed in my excrement like a sheep.
  108. The exorcist recoiled from my symptoms,
  109. While my omens have perplexed the diviner.
  110. The exorcist did not clarify the nature of my complaint,
  111. While the diviner put no time limit on my illness.
  112. No god came to the rescue, nor lent me a hand,
  113. No goddess took pity on me, nor went at my side.
  114. My grave was open, my funerary gods ready,
  115. Before I had died, lamentation for me was done.
  116. All my country said, "How wretched he was!"
  117. When my ill-wisher heard, his face lit up,
  118. When the tidings reached her, my ill-wisher, her mood became radiant,
  119. The day grew dim for my whole family
  120. For those who knew me, their sun grew dark.




  1. Heavy ws his hand upon me, I could not hear ti!
  2. Dread of him was oppressive, it .... me.
  3. His fierce punishment.... the deluge,
  4. His stride was...., it....
  5. Harsh, severe illness does not.... my person,
  6. I lost sight of alertness, ..... make my mind stray,
  7. I groan day and night alike,
  8. Dreaming and waking I am equally wretched.
  9. A remarkable young man of extraordinary physique,
  10. Magnificent in body, clothed in new garments,
  11. Because I was only half awake, his features lacked form.
  12. He was clad in splendor, robed in dread -
  13. He came in upon me, he stood over me,
  14. When I saw him my flesh grew numb.
  15. [ ] "The Lady has sent me,
  16. " [ ]".
  17. [ ] I tried to tell my people (Lishtarīs Note: he probably tried to tell his family)
  18. "[ ] sent [ ] for me".
  19. They were silent and did not speak,
  20. They heard me in silence and did not answer.
  21. A second time I saw a dream
  22. In the dream I saw at night
  23. A remarkable purifier [ ]
  24. Holding in his hand a tamarisk rod of purification.
  25. "Laluralimma (Lishtarīs Note: an accademic Sumerian name, meaning probably a sage), resident of Nippur,
  26. Has sent me to cleanse you".
  27. He was carrying water, he poured it over me,
  28. He pronounced the resuscitating incantation, he massaged my body.
  29. A third time I saw a dream,
  30. In my dream I saw at night:
  31. A remarkable young woman in shining countenance,
  32. Clothed like a person, being like a god,
  33. A queen among peoples []
  34. She entered upon me and sat down....
  35. She ordered my deliverance [ ]
  36. "Fear not" She said, "I will..........,
  37. "Whatever one sees of a dream..........".
  38. She ordered my deliverance, "Most wretched indeed is he,
  39. "Whoever he might be,..... the one who saw the vision at night"
  40. In the dream was Ur-Nintinugga, a Babylonian...
  41. A bearded young man wearing a tiara,
  42. He was an exorcist, carrying a tablet,
  43. "Marduk has sent me!
  44. "To Shubshi-meshre-Sakkan [the sufferer] I have brought swathe,
  45. "From his pure hands I have brought a swathe".
  46. He has entrusted me into the hands of my ministrant.
  47. In waking hours he sent a message,
  48. He revealed his favorable sign to my people.
  49. I was awake in my sickness, a healing serpent slithered by [the symbol of the healing goddess]
  50. My illness was quickly over, my fetters were broken
  51. After my lordīs heart had quieted,
  52. And the feelings of merciful Marduk were appeased,
  53. And he had accepted my prayers,
  54. His sweet relenting ......
  55. He ordered my deliverance:" He is greatly tried"
  56. .... to extol...
  57. .... to worship and .....
  58. .... my guilt.....
  59. .... my iniquity....
  60. .... my transgression....
  61. He made the wind hear away my offenses

(The exact placement of the following lines is unknown)

  1. He applied to me his spell which binds debilitating disease
  2. He drove back the evil vapor to the ends of the earth,
  3. He bore off the head pain to the breast of hell,
  4. He sent down the malignant spectre to its hidden depth,
  5. The relentless ghost he returned to its dwelling
  6. He overthrew the she-demon, sending her off to a mountain,
  7. He replaced the ague in flood and sea.
  8. He eradicated debility like a plant,
  9. Uneasy sleep, excessive drowsiness,
  10. He dissipated like smoke filling the sky.
  11. The turning towards people with "Woe!" and "Alas!" he drove away like a cloud, earth....
  12. The tenacious disease in the head, which was heavy as a millstone,
  13. He raised like dew of night, he removed it from me.
  14. My beclouded eyes, which were wrapped in the shroud of death,
  15. He drove the cloud a thousand leagues away, he brightened my vision.
  16. My ears, which were stopped and clogged like a deaf manīs,
  17. He removed their blockage, he opened my hearing.
  18. My nose, whose breathing was choked by symptoms of fever,
  19. He soothed its affliction so I could breathe freely.
  20. My babbling lips, which had taken on a hard crust,
  21. He wiped away their distress and undid their deformation.
  22. My mouth, which was muffled, so that proper speech was difficult,
  23. He scoured like copper and removed its filth.
  24. My teeth, which were clenched and locked together frimly,
  25. He opened their fastening, freed the jaws.
  26. My tongue, which was tied and could not converse,
  27. He wiped off its coating and its speech became fluent.
  28. My windpipe, which was tight and choking, as though on a gobbet,
  29. He made well and let it sing its songs like a flute.
  30. My gullet, which was swollen so it could not take food,
  31. Its swelling went down and he opened its blockage
  32. My... which...
  33. .... above....
  34. .... which was darkened like

(three damaged lines, then gap)





  1. The Lord.... me
  2. The Lord took hold of me,
  3. The Lord set me on my feet,
  4. The Lord revived me,
  5. He rescued me from the pit
  6. He summoned me from destruction
  7. .... he pulled me from the river of death,
  8. .... he took my hand.
  9. He who smote me,
  10. Marduk, he restored me!
  11. It was Marduk who made him drop his weapon.
  12. He .... the attack of my foe,
  13. It was Marduk who......

(Two fragmentary lines, then gap. Insert here, perhaps, two lines known only from an ancient commentary)

At the place of the river ordeal, where peopleīs fates are decided, I was struck on the forehead, my slavemarks removed




  1. [ ] which in my prayers....
  2. With prostration and supplication [ ] to Esagila [ ]
  3. I who went down to the grave have returned to the Gate of Sunrise
  4. In the Gate of Prosperity prosperity was given me
  5. In the Gateway of the Guardian Spirit, a guardian spirit drew nigh to me,
  6. In the Gate of Well-being I beheld well-being
  7. In the Gate of Life I was granted life
  8. In the Gate of Sunrise I was reckoned among the living
  9. In the Gate of Splendid Wonderment my signs were plain to see.
  10. In the Gate of Release from Guilt, I was released from my bond.
  11. In the Gate of Petition my mouth made inquiry.
  12. In the Gate of Release from Sighing my sighs were released.
  13. In the Gate of Pure Water, I was sprinkled with purifying water.
  14. In the Gate of Conciliation, I appeared with Marduk,
  15. In the Gate of Joy I kissed the foot of Sarpanitum,
  16. I was assiduous in supplication and prayer before them,
  17. I placed fragrant incense before them,
  18. An offering, a gift, sundry donations I presented,
  19. Many fatted oxen I slaughtered, butchered many...
  20. Honey-sweet beer and pure wine I repeatedly libated,
  21. The protecting genius, the guardian spirit, divine attendants of the fabric of Esagila,
  22. I made their feelings glow with libation,
  23. I made them exultant with lavish meals.
  24. To the threshold, the bolt socket, the bolt, the doors
  25. I offered oil, butterfat, and choicest grain,
  26. [ ] the rites of the temple

(large gap)

Insert here four lines quoted in an ancient commentary

  1. I proceeded along Kunush-kadru Street in a state of redemption,
  2. He who has done wrong by Esagila, let him learn from me.
  3. It was Marduk who put a muzzle on the mouth of the lion that was devouring me.
  4. Marduk took away the sling of my pursuer and deflected the slingstone.




  1. [ ] golden grain
  2. He anointed himself with sweet cedar perfume upon him,
  3. A feast for the Babylonians .................
  4. His tomb he had made was set up for a feast!
  5. The Babylonians saw how Marduk can restore to life,
  6. And all mouths proclaimed his greatness,
  7. "Who would have said he would see his sun?
  8. "Who would have imagined that we would pass through his treet?
  9. "Who but Marduk revived him as he was dying?
  10. "Besides Sarpanitum, which goddess bestowed his breath of life?
  11. "Marduk can restore to life from the grave,
  12. "Sarpanitum knows how to rescue from annihilation,
  13. "Wherever earth is founded, heavens are stretched wide,
  14. "Wherever sun shines, fire ablazes,
  15. "Wherever water runs, wind blows,
  16. "Those whose bits of clay Aruru pinched off to from them,
  17. "Those endowed with life, who walk upright,
  18. "Teeming mankind as many they be, give praise to Marduk!
  19. "[...] those who can speak
  20. "[...] may he rule all the peoples
  21. "[...] shepherd of all habitations
  22. "[...] floods from the deep..
  23. "[...] the gods [ ]
  24. "[...] the extent of heaven and netherworld
  25. "[....................................................]
  26. "[...] was getting darker and darker for him".


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