The Ancient Orient: An Introduction to the Study of the Ancient Near EastWolfram von Soden (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994) 262 pp., $14.99
Imagine writing the first comprehensive dictionary of a dead language, a three-volume work of over 1,500 pages. Then imagine writing countless articles and several other books on that language and culture. If you can picture all this, and if the language is Akkadian (the Semitic language of ancient Mesopotamia), then you are imagining Wolfram von Soden, the dean of Mesopotamian philology and professor emeritus at the University of Munster, Germany. In The Ancient Orient, a translation from the German, the Old Master has written a detailed and informative introduction to Mesopotamian culture.
It is amusing to note that von Soden defines the term “Ancient Orient” (and hence the scope of his book) as ancient Mesopotamia and its environs, to the exclusion of the Hittites, the Canaanites, the Israelites, the Egyptians and other inhabitants of the ancient Near East. There is a certain myopia here that reveals something of von Soden’s attitude towards his subject.