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Work Stele of the priest Si Gabbor

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Levant

Stele of the priest Si Gabbor

© 2008 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities
Levant

Author(s):
Arnaud Prévotat, Annie Caubet

This funerary stele has a carved scene and an inscription in Aramaic. Although the decoration shows the priest Si Gabbor at a banquet, holding a cup in his hand and with food on a luxurious small table before him, the inscription states that the priest's tomb, on the contrary, contains no goods. This stele testifies to the Babylonian influence in Syria in the 7th century BC.

A banquet

This stele, together with another also in the Louvre (ao3026), was found at Neirab, near Aleppo, in the 19th century. Both have a curved top, a form common in the Levant. A long inscription in Aramaic is engraved under the arch. Beneath the inscription there is a carved scene: on this stele, a priest is sitting at a banquet, while the other stele shows a priest praying.
The relief is set in a hollowed-out frame: on the left, the deceased is sitting in front of a table laden with food; on the right, a small servant is waving a fly swat. Si Gabbor is lifting a cup to his lips; he is wearing a fringed robe over a short-sleeved tunic and a round hat turned down at the side. The stool he is sitting on is decorated with bulls' heads. His stool, little footrest, and the table have molded conical legs.

An epitaph

The inscription reads: "Si Gabbor, a priest of Shahar at Neirab. This is my image. Because I have served him with integrity, he [Shahar] has given me a good reputation and a long life. On the day of my death, my mouth could still speak and I saw with my eyes four generations of my descendants. They were weeping and grieving over me. They put no silver or bronze objects beside me; they put nothing but my clothes on me, so that my tomb would not be violated. Whoever thou may be, O thou who harmest me by moving me, may Shahar and Nikkal and Nusku make thy death shameful and may thy descendants perish."

Between the Babylonian and Aramaean cultures

This work is interesting for many reasons: the text tells us that the worship of the moon god - Sharhar in Aramaic, Sin in Akkadian - a chief Mesopotamian god since the Sumerian period, was well rooted at Harran, near Aleppo in Syria. Harran was a strategically placed city between northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia. In the Neo-Babylonian period, Harran was incorporated in the empire and Nabonidus had stone stelae to his glory erected there. The worship of Sin then came back into favor and became more widespread. This explains why this stele has a number of Babylonian traits: the name of the priest, which means "Sin is a heros" is a homage to the Mesopotamian god, as is the choice of the deities evoked in the curse: Sin, Nikkal, and Nusku. The costume and headdress of the priest are taken from Babylonian culture.
Nevertheless, the Aramaic name of the god, the local stone - a hard basalt - and details of the furniture evoke a Syrian context. The bulls' heads decorating the stool and the conical molded legs suggest precious furniture. The rather touching text of the dedication emphasizes the deceased's concerns: he wanted to die a "handsome death" in possession of all his faculties and surrounded by many descendants. To be able to rest in the hereafter without having his remains profaned, he warns any would-be thieves that the dead man has taken nothing but his clothes with him, and that the luxury of the banquet, the fine metal cup, the ornate furniture, and the servant with the fly swat are for the image only.

Technical description

  • Stele of the priest Si Gabbor

    7th century BC

    Neirab, near Aleppo, Levant

  • Low relief, basalt

    W. 45 cm; H. 95 cm; D. 22 cm

  • Purchased January 7, 1897

    AO 3027

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Levant
    Room C

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