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    (Stobaeus, 'Eclogae,'I, 1, 12)

    Cleanthes of Assos (331-233 B.C.) was the disciple and successor of Zeno as head of the Stoic school. He was the real founder of Stoic theology.

    Most glorious of immortals, Zeus
    The many named, almighty evermore,
    Nature's great Sovereign, ruling all by law
    Hail to thee! On thee 'tis meet and right

    That mortals everywhere should call.
    From thee was our begetting; ours alone
    Of all that live and move upon the earth
    The lot to bear God's likeness.
    Thee will I ever chant, thy power praise!

    For thee this whole vast cosmos, wheeling round
    The earth, obeys, and where thou leadest
    It follows, ruled willingly by thee.
    In thy unconquerable hands thou holdest fast,
    Ready prepared, that two-timed flaming blast,
    The ever-living thunderbolt:
    Nature's own stroke brings all things to their end.
    By it thou guidest aright the sense instinct
    Which spreads through all things, mingled even
    With stars in heaven, the great and small-
    Thou who art King supreme for evermore!

    Naught upon earth is wrought in thy despite, 0 God.
    Nor in the ethereal sphere aloft which ever winds
    About its pole, nor in the sea-save only what
    The wicked work, in their strange madness,
    Yet even so, thou knowest to make the crooked straight.
    Prune all excess, give order to the orderless,
    For unto thee the unloved still is lovely-
    And thus in one all things are harmonized,
    The evil with the good, that so one Word
    Should be in all things everlastingly.

    One Word-which evermore the wicked flee!
    Ill-fated, hungering to possess the good
    They have no vision of God's universal law,
    Nor will they hear, though if obedient in mind
    They might obtain a noble life, true wealth.
    Instead they rush unthinking after ill:
    Some with a shameless zeal for fame,
    Others pursuing gain, disorderly;
    Still others folly, or pleasures of the flesh.
    [But evils are their lot] and other times
    Bring other harvests, all unsought-
    For all their great desire, its opposite!

    But, Zeus, thou giver of every gift,
    Who dwellest within the dark clouds, wielding still
    The flashing stroke of lightning, save, we pray,
    Thy children from this boundless misery.
    Scatter, 0 Father, the darkness from their souls,
    Grant them to find true understanding
    On which relying thou justly rulest all-
    While we, thus honoured, in turn will honour thee,
    Hymning thy works forever, as is meet
    For mortals while no greater right
    Belongs even to the gods than evermore
    Justly to praise the universal law!

    Translation by Frederick C. Grant, in his Hellenistic Religions (New York, 1953), PP. 152-4

  • #2

    Among the longest and most beautiful of the hymns that have come down to us in cuneiform, this ranks as one of the best products of Mesopotamian religious writing.

    21. You climb to the mountains surveying the earth,

    22. You suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands.

    23. You care for all the peoples of the lands,

    24. And everything that Ea, king of the counsellors, had created is entrusted to you.

    25. Whatever has breath you shepherd without exception,

    26. You are their keeper in upper and lower regions.

    27. Regularly and without cease you traverse the heavens,

    28. Every day you pass over the broad earth. . . .

    33. Shepherd of that beneath, keeper of that above,

    34. You, Shamash, direct, you are the light of everything.

    35. You never fail to cross the wide expanse of sea,

    36. The depth of which the Igigi know not.

    37. Shamash, your glare reaches down to the abyss

    38. So that monsters of the deep behold your light. . . .

    45. Among all the Igigi there is none who toils but you,

    46. None who is supreme like you in the whole pantheon of gods.

    47. At your rising the gods of the land assemble,

    48. Your fierce glare covers the land.

    49. Of all the lands of varied speech,

    50.. You know their plans, you scan their way.

    51.. The whole of mankind bows to you,

    52. Shamash, the universe longs for your light. . . .

    88. A man who covets his neighbour's wife

    89. Will [ . . .] before his appointed day.

    90.. A -nasty snare is prepared for him. [ . . .]

    91. Your weapon will strike at him, and there will be none to save

    92. [His] father will not stand for his defense,

    93. And at the judge's command his brothers will not plead.

    94. He will be caught in a copper trap that he did not foresee.

    95. You destroy the horns of a scheming villain,

    96. A zealous [. . .] his foundations are undermined.

    97. You give the unscrupulous judge experience of fetters,

    98. Him who accepts a present and yet lets justice miscarry you make bear his punishment.

    99. As for him who declines a present but nevertheless takes the part of the weak,

    100.. It is pleasing to Shamash, and he will prolong his life. . . .

    124. The progeny of evil-doers will [fail.]

    125. Those whose mouth says 'No'-their case is before you.

    126. In a moment you discern what they say;

    127. You hear and examine them; you determine the lawsuit of the wronged.

    128. Every single person is entrusted to your hands;

    129. You manage their omens; that which is perplexing you make plain.

    130. You observe, Shamash, prayer, supplication, and benediction,

    131. Obeisance, kneeling, ritual murmurs, and prostration.

    132. The feeble man calls you from the hollow of his mouth,

    133. The humble, the weak, the afflicted, the poor,

    134. She whose son is captive constantly and unceasingly confronts you.

    135. He whose family is remote, whose city is distant,

    136. The shepherd [amid) the terror of the steppe confronts you,

    137. The herdsman in warfare, the keeper of sheep among enemies.

    138. Shamash, there confronts you the caravan, those journeying in fear,

    139. The travelling merchant, the agent who is carrying capital.

    140. Shamash, there confronts you the fisherman with his net,

    141. The hunter, the bowman who drives the game,

    142. With his bird net the fowler confronts You.

    143. The prowling thief, the enemy of Shamash,

    144. The marauder along the tracks of the steppe confronts you.

    145. The roving dead, the vagrant soul,

    146. They confront you, Shamash, and you hear all.

    147. You do not obstruct those that confront you. . . .

    148. For my sake, Shamash, do not curse them!

    149. You grant revelations, Shamash, to the families of men,

    150. Your harsh face and fierce light you give to them. . . .

    154. The heavens are not enough as the vessel into which you gaze,

    155. The sum of the lands is inadequate as a seer's bowl.......

    159. You deliver people surrounded by mighty waves,

    160. In return you receive their pure, clear libations. . . .

    165. They in their reverence laud the mention of you,

    166. And worship your majesty for ever. . . .

    174. Which are the mountains not clothed with your beams?

    175. Which are the regions not warmed by the brightness of your light?

    176. Brightener of gloom, illuminator of darkness,

    177. Dispeller of darkness, illuminator of the broad earth.

    Translation by W. G. Lambert, in his Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxford, 1960,)I, 127 ff.


    • #3

      This prayer is, in effect, a general prayer, asking any god for pardon for any transgression. The writer, in his suffering, admits that he may have broken some divine rule. But he does not know either what he has done or what god he has offended. Furthermore, he claims that the whole human race is ignorant of the divine will and thus is perpetually committing sin. The gods, therefore, should have mercy and remove his transgressions.

      May the fury of my lord's heart be quieted toward me.

      May the god who is not known be quieted toward me;

      May the goddess who is not known be quieted toward me.

      May the god whom I know or do not know be quieted toward me;

      May the goddess whom I know or do not know be quieted toward me,

      May the heart of my god be quieted toward me;

      May the heart of my goddess be quieted toward me.

      May my god and goddess be quieted toward me.

      May the god who has become angry with me be quieted toward me,

      May the goddess who has become angry with me be quieted toward me.

      (lines I 1- 1 8 cannot be restored with certainty)

      in ignorance I have eaten that forbidden by my god;

      in ignorance I have set foot on that prohibited by my goddess.

      0 Lord, my transgressions are many; great are my sins.

      0 my god, (my) transgressions are many; great are (my) sins.

      my goddess, (my) transgressions are many; great are (my) sins.

      O god whom I know or do not know, (my) transgressions are many; great are (my) sins,

      O goddess whom I know or do not know, (my) transgressions are many; great are (my) sins;

      The transgression which I have committed, indeed I do not know;

      The sin which I have done, indeed I do not know.

      The forbidden thing which I have eaten, indeed I do not know;

      The prohibited (place) on which I have set foot, indeed I do not know;

      The lord in the anger of his heart looked at me;

      The god in the rage of his heart confronted me;

      When the goddess was angry with me, she made me become ill.

      The god whom I know or do not know has oppressed me;

      The goddess whom I know or do not know has placed suffering upon me.

      Although I am constantly looking for help, no one takes me by the hand;

      When I weep they do not come to my side.

      I utter laments, but no one hears me;

      I am troubled; I am overwhelmed, I can not see.

      O my god, merciful one, I address to thee the prayer, 'Ever incline to me';

      I kiss the feet of my goddess, I crawl before thee.

      (lines 41-9 are mostly broken and cannot be restored with certainty)

      How long, 0 my goddess, whom I know or do not know, eye thy hostile heart will be quieted?

      Man is dumb; he knows nothing;

      Mankind, everyone that exists-what does he know?

      Whether he is committing sin or doing good, he does not even know.

      0 my lord, do not cast thy servant down;

      He is plunged into the waters of a swamp, take him by the hand.

      The sin which I have done, turn into goodness;

      The transgression which I have committed, let the wind carry away;

      My many misdeeds strip off like a garment.

      0 my god, (my) transgressions are seven times seven; remove my transgressions,

      O my goddess, (my)transgressions are seven times seven; remove my transgressions;

      O god whom I know or do not know, (my) transgressions are seven times seven; remove my transgressions;

      O goddess whom I know or do not know, (my) transgressions are seven times seven; remove my transgressions.

      Remove my transgressions (and) I will sing thy praise.

      May thy heart, like the heart of a real mother, be quieted toward me;

      Like a real mother (and) a real father may it be quieted toward me.

      Translation by Ferris J. Stephens, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950), PP. 391-2; reprinted in Isaac Mendelsohn (ed.), Religions of the Ancient Near East, Library of Religion paperbook series (New York, 1955 X PP. 175-.7)