Cuneiform Tablet for Basil Gildersleeve

The front of cuneiform tablet for Basil Gildersleeve (JHUAM T11). The first four lines of text above the long horizontal begin with the words, "To my lord Basilius..." Under the horizontal line begin the words, "On the auspicious day..."

Between 1883 and 1926, Paul Haupt held the position of Professor of Semitic Languages at Johns Hopkins. Haupt was known for writing and producing cuneiform tablets in ancient Akkadian script as commemorative tokens for colleagues at the University. Basil Gildersleeve, renowned professor of Classics at Hopkins received one such tablet written in the style of Neo-Assyrian (9th-7th C. BCE) letters to royalty on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.  Written in 1901 but inscribed in Akkadian on a clay tablet, the text lauds Gildersleeve’s achievements, even claiming that many of the key figures of classical philosophy and literature–including Homer and Plato–applaud the scholar’s work. The event was also commemorated in an article by William G. Seiple in the Johns Hopkins University Circular from June 1903.  Click here to read the original text from The Sheridan Libraries’ JScholarship site.  (The cuneiform tablet is described on pages 75-76.)

The tablet was placed on view at the archaeological collection of the Oriental Seminary (as the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum was once called) alongside another tablet written by Haupt for President Daniel Coit Gilman.

The translation of the text as written by Haupt for Gildersleeve was given as follows in the 1903 Circular:

To my lord Basilius,
the son of Gildersleeve,
thy servant Paul, son of Haupt;
A hearty, hearty greeting to my lord!

The back of the Gildersleeve tablet. The horizontal line near the bottom of the text marks the end of the main text. Below the horizontal line begins the text describing where and when the tablet was written.

On the auspicious day,

when 70 years ago
thou wast born in the city of theas,
the chief city of the south
of the land of Carolina:
on this day,
may the god Apollo and the goddess Athene
be propitious to my lord;
the great gods of the land of Javan
may protect the life of my lord.
May they keep thee whole,
the brother of Aristophanes and Plato,
the Apollonius Eucolus of America,
the luminary of the great University,
established in the city of Baltimore,
the Nestor of all its teachers.

Homer, Aeschylus, Pindar,
Sophocles, Thucydides,
Aristophanes, Plato, Demosthenes
look upon thee on this day and rejoice.
Thy friends, for the life of the soul of my lord
pray all of them.
May the splendor of thy name among us
forever shine, beam, and be lustrous
for whensoever, for the end of days.
Written in the city of Baltimore,
which is in the land of America
on the twenty-third day of the tenth month
in the year of our Lord 1901.”