The remains of Enlil's temple in Nippur.
The picture was taken from a site that declaired it was copyright free. If anyone disagrees, and feels he/she owns the picture, kindly let me know and I will remove it.
As I am waiting for the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy (aptly renamed Frankenstorm) to hit Manhattan, it occurred to me that it would be a good time to honor the Mesopotamian god, Enlil. His name translates to “Lord Wind” and he was the god of air, wind and storm. His power over the wind ranged from hurricanes to gentle zephyrs, and he was one of the three most important gods of the pantheon, on par with Enki and Ea. Sometimes he was called “Lord of the Air” and in one of the poems he is referred to as “The Roaring Storm.” I am hoping that honoring him on this posting might please him so I won’t have to evacuate. After all, Morticia and Timmy would not like to leave their domain.
For a short time I considered describing Noah and the Flood, and his counterpart in Mesopotamian religion, Utnapishtim, but I decided it would be better to wait and see first if the Great Flood is going to repeat itself. The weathermen, the mayors of all the cities that are about to be hit by Frankenstorm, and the media, are leaning toward forty days and forty nights of rain, but I tend to think they like to exaggerate. So I am staying with Enlil.
Enlil was an interesting character. He was not above raping (or seducing, some say) a nice young grain goddess, but one must give him credit – after being rebuked and punished by the other gods, he did marry her and they lived happily ever after and had five sons. Apparently she followed him to his place of punishment – the underworld – and gave birth there to their first son, so I imagine it really was seduction, not rape. The grain goddess’ name was Ninlil and she was as beautiful as the moon.
When in a good mood, Enlil could be very kind to humanity and give them many gifts. He was the inventor of several useful things, including agriculture, but sometimes he liked to smite people and bring on serious disasters. The aforementioned Great Flood was his doing in Mesopotamia, while Yahweh took the credit in the Hebrew Bible, so you can see he worked on a large scale. He was the owner of the “Tablets of Destiny,” and these Tablets gave him power over the entire universe, as well as humanity, the ghosts, and the demons. He wore an elegant crown with horns as a symbol of his power, and was the patron of the city Nippur, where he had a most impressive
temple, called é-kur, the "Mountain House."
When Enlil retired, he passed on his powers to Marduk, but that is another story. In the meantime, I must go look for a raven and a white dove so they can do their job after the storm is over. I'll need some birdseed too, of course, so I am off to the pet store before
A few days ago I had the honor of being nominated by the wonderful blogger, Andrea C. Flory, for a blog hop (See http://acflory.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/work-in-progress-blog-hop/). Not knowing what a blog hop is, I was terrified by the idea. I saw myself hopping as a digital avatar inside several computers and in cyber-space, wherever it is located. I am not in shape to do so, and besides, if I had to wear the kind of clothes worn by animated superheroes, well, it just won’t do for a woman of a certain age… so pretending to calm and dignity, I explained that to Andrea, who reassured me that I would not have to dress for the occasion, and had enlightened me by giving me the rules. Basically, I had to answer interview questions about my current Work in Progress, which in my case is this book/blog! And then, I would have nominate five other bloggers whose work I like. I can do that, I thought, secretly sighing with relief. So here are the official rules, the questions, and the nominations.
***Answer the ten
questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog.
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
What is the working title of your book?
The title is The Golden Rule. It is the biography of the great Jewish philosopher, jurist, scholar, and leader, Hillel the Elder.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had the idea on my mind for years, but I was intimidated by the attitude of most scholars and biographers who generally feel that there is not enough material about Hillel and that his life is too encrusted with legend. Eventually I realized that there is a good way to do it by using the historical material by the ancient historian, Josephus, as a starting point, and of course the primary material from the Talmud. They can create the tapestry of Hillel’s life and times.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I can only do so if I may choose actors from the past, who are no longer with us. I am not too familiar with the new generation of actors because I rarely watch movies. I have an idea of what Hillel looked like, basing the assumptions on his ancestor, King David, who is one of the very few personalities whose appearance was described in the Bible. As a matter of fact you can see it in the blog in one of the past postings, where I explained that I would have chosen Paul Newman to play Hillel. For his wife I would have liked a very beautiful, dark-haired, small and delicate type of woman. I think Hedy Lamarr would have been perfect, or Elizabeth Taylor.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The fascinating life of a peace-loving, brilliant man, told against the turbulent, violent and exciting times in which he lived.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don’t know. Usually I prefer having a publisher, but the world of publishing is changing around us as we speak. This book will take a long time to write, so who knows what shape the industry is going to be in?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am writing the first draft on line, as this blog. I am far from the ending, it is an evolving project.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I think the best match is Pontius Pilate by Ann Wroe, but possibly any of the biographies written by André Maurois. We use the same system.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
First, the fact that two thousand years after Hillel’s death, he is still constantly quoted by modern
writers and thinkers, even on PBS! Second, the challenge presented by Encyclopedia Britannica – it said that Hillel’s biography cannot be written. I disagreed and decided to set out and do it.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The cast of “celebrity”historical characters and the wild stage on which they appear. Hillel lived and worked at the time of Cleopatra, Mark Antony, and Herod the Great, among others. And the events are truly exciting. For example, the murder of the beautiful Hasmonean princess Marriamne by her husband, King Herod, who went mad after her execution and started wandering his palace at night, looking for her ghost, is worthy of Edgar Allan Poe. I think people will also find it interesting that many scholars think Hillel was Jesus Christ’s teacher for a few years.
My 5 nominations are:
Collette Scott: http://www.collettescott.com/blog.html
Deb Hockenberry http://debsbookreviews.blogspot.com/
Earl B. Russell http://earlbrussell.wordpress.com/
Rosie Cochran http://rosierambleson.wordpress.com/
Janet Beasley http://www.jlbcreatives.blogspot.com/
I must apologize to everyone for the long hiatus. I meant to return in September, but sometimes life, or in this case work, takes over… Hillel and I are back now and I want to thank you collectively because I was amazed and thrilled to see how many people came back to read previous postings! For those who left me such kindly messages, I am very grateful. I can’t answer individually because it will simply take too long but if anyone has any question, please let me know on this posting.
When I was away I discovered a treasure. I wanted to describe some of the dinner parties Hillel was attending while visiting Herod. However, the information I found seemed both wrong and confusing, and I was not sure where good information should be found. I started looking and came over the perfect answer.
There is a book I have never heard about (I am ashamed to admit) but as I was surfing I came upon it by surprise. It is an ancient cookbook, written in Latin by a man named Apicius who was clearly a chef; the book is considered to be the oldest known cookbook in existence. The book, Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, was written for professional cooks, working in Rome. The translation I have in front of me is by an incredible man, Joseph Vehling, who was born in the German-Dutch town of Duelken in the late 1800s. In his early youth he was considered a prodigy for his knowledge of Latin and Greek, but instead of going into the priesthood, as his teachers hoped he would, young Joseph’s family decided he should become a cook. At age fourteen he was (quite willingly) removed from school and started his highly successful career as a chef by thorough studies and internships, which included travel all over Europe. His free time, however, was still spent studying and researching in libraries and museums in every city he traveled to, and at that time he discovered Apicius. When he started working in Italy, he visited Pompeii, where many images were devoted to cooking and eating. Vehling decided to research and write about Roman cuisine, and eventually translate Apicius’ book. He knew that so much misconception existed regarding Roman cuisine, and this book was the perfect antidote.
At the age of twenty-four Vehling became assistant manager to the Hotel Bristol in Vienna, a most fashionable establishment, and his brilliant career was launched in earnest. There was no doubt that his translation of the book would be a success among scholars and chefs alike, and over the years, in the many elegant establishments he worked for in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the United States, England and Scandinavia, Vehling spent much of his free time working on the book. In his words: “The important addition to our knowledge of the ancients – for our popular notions about their table are entirely erroneous and are in need of revision. The curious novelty and the linguistic difficulty, the philological interest and the unique nature of the task, requiring unique prerequisites – all those factors prompted us to undertake this translation.”
I will be relying on this book for description of meals as I work on The Golden Rule. If anyone is interested in reading the book, it is available for free on Kindle, http://www.amazon.com/Cookery-Dining-Imperial-Rome-ebook/dp/B002RKRT7S/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1350248874&sr=1-1&keywords=Apicius but the free book lacks the illustrations. If you just type the name of the book on Amazon, it exists in several other versions, none of them expensive.
Here are a couple of recipes which were probably served on a regular basis at Herod’s palace to his distinguished guests. I have not yet found a typical menu where the foods are stated in order of serving – stay tuned! I can’t wait to find out how many courses were served, but I would imagine at least five or six.
OVA SPHONGIA EX LACTE
Pour eggs in half a pint of milk and an ounce of oil well beaten, to make a fluffy mixture; in a pan put a little oil, and carefully add the egg preparation, without letting it boil however. Place it in the oven to rise and when one side is done, turn it out into a service platter and fold it. Pour over honey, sprinkle with pepper and serve.
ASSATURAS IN COLLARI
(A piece of meat from the neck of a food animal, beef, veal, pork; a muscular hard piece, requiring much care to make it palatable, a “pot roast.”)
Put in a braisière (a roasting pan especially adapted for braising tough meats, with a close fitting cover to hold the vapors) and boil pepper, spices (the exact spices are not listed, they were probably a specific mix, the way we specify fin herbs) honey, broth; and heat this with the meat in the oven. The neck piece itself, if you like, is also roasted with spices and the hot gravy is simply poured over at the moment of serving.
It was a most comlicated and sophisticated cusine, and I did not even mention salads, soups, specialized sauces, gravies, desserts...