GAR-TUK AL DI HER-RI GAR-GIG-GA-A-AN
Ref: ETCSL Sumerian proverbs, Coll 1 (c.6.1.01), line c6101.A.1.23.30
GAR-TUK: measure take
AL-DI: all divide (the divine hoe)
HER-RI: bind gather
GAR-GIG-GA: measure troublesome
A-AN: to be (flow from the sky)
As with the majority of the earliest Sumerian texts, composed of riddles and wordplay, this can be understood in more than one way. There is the obvious meaning of the bad rule of law. But, if we consider that this is indeed one of the teachings of Hermes, HER, the Great Binder, then we look a little closer. My feeling is that the underlying reference is to astronomy, to the establishing of time on Earth and the division of the sky.
It’s understood from ancient texts that the people of Harran (northern Mesopotamia and close to Gobekli Tepe) travelled regularly as pilgrims to Egypt to acquire the teachings of Hermes. HER (also pronounced as HIR, KIRID, KIRIS…) is given on ePSD as “to bind” 405 times at the earliest period. Comparatively, that is a lot. I believe this to be the origin of our pronunciation of the name. Hermes on Wiktionary: “possibly of non-Indo-European substrate or from Proto-Indo-European *ser- (“to bind, put together”).”
Regarding my translation of each symbol/word, I would expect AL to be contested; translated directly to “all” and the origin of our word, it’s given as “hoe” on ePSD. The inference is that this is the work of the cosmic hoe, so we don’t necessarily disagree on that. If AL as “all” were the only example of straightforward etymology between Sumerian and our modern languages (with the added advantage of making the translations understandable), I would be far more circumspect about proposing it. A-AN can be found as AM₃ on ePSD. The translator of this line didn’t consider it separately from GAR-GIG-GA because they appear close together (or in the same square) on the clay tablet. That is the major difference between academia and me. I take all the symbols to be monosyllabic and each symbol of equal importance. Where we agree is that the final symbols usually constitute the verb. There is no way of knowing if the verb was somehow conjugated. I use the present and future tenses.
I’m just back from the Basque region of France where I was amused to see in the centres of their pretty villages the Basque word “Herriku” with the meaning “townhall”. Basque has been formally recognized as an isolated language as is the case of Sumerian. I couldn’t resist bringing up the possibility of a link to Sumerian HER-RI to a highly educated local who, as expected, very politely gave me to understand that this was so far-fetched as to be undebatable. The origins of the Basque language have been studied by experts from different perspectives and all have come to the same conclusion. That’s just the way it is. Still, I find it intriguing. Of course, I didn’t add fuel to the fire by mentioning that HER might also be the origin of “here” (here to gather) or French “hier” (yesteryear - once gathered). Why would I put myself in the firing line?
The academic translation of this proverb on ETCSL is “To be wealthy and insist (?) on demanding more is abominable.” where GAR-TUK is translated through “thing-to acquire/acquired” and becomes “wealthy”. The result is lacklustre in my view. Why would they have bothered to write that down through the ages? Like The Instructions of Shuruppak, it seems to reflect the mindset of a translator rather than that of the original author. I have honestly tried to avoid that trap in The Story of Sukurru, and I’m posting this today for those who take a genuine unbiased interest in the subject. Hermes is the teacher. Not me.