Landsberger, Benno

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LANDSBERGER, BENNO (1890–1968), Assyriologist. Landsberger was born in Frydek, then Austrian Silesia (now Czech Republic). He studied Semitic languages at the University of Leipzig (1908–13) and specialized, under H. Zimmern, in Sumerian and Akkadian. In 1920 he was appointed lecturer at the University of Leipzig and, in 1926, professor of Assyriology, a position he held until 1935. Deprived of his chair in Leipzig by the Nazis, he left Germany in 1935 and was appointed professor of Assyriology at the University of Ankara, Turkey. From 1948 he was professor of Assyriology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Landsberger laid the foundation for the modern study of Assyriology. In his philological studies Landsberger freed Assyriology from its dependence upon Arabic and Hebrew and contributed to its establishment as a discipline in its own right. As for Mesopotamian culture, he sought to delineate its specific character (Eigenbegrifflichkeit), not by comparison and contrast with the Bible, but rather through investigation of the elements in its evolution: language, cult, law, literature, material culture, social and economic structure. His genius found its expression not only in his philological works, prominent among which is the edition of the Sumero-Akkadian lexical lists, but also in his penetrating and original treatment of some crucial problems of Mesopotamian history and chronology. Of special significance in the field of Semitic philology are his contributions on Hebrew-Akkadian and Aramaic-Akkadian comparative semantics and lexicography and on the Semitic verb. Landsberger's work was continued by his numerous disciples in major centers of Assyriological research.

Landsberger's publications cover almost every aspect of Assyriology. His major work – unfinished – was his Materialen zum sumerischen Lexicon (9 vols., 1937–68), which he edited. Other principal monographs are Der kultische Kalender der Babylonier und Assyrer (1915); Die Fauna des Alten Mesopotamien (1934); Sam'al (1948); Assyrische Koenigsliste und "Dunkles Zeitalter" (1954); Brief des Bischofs von Esagila an Koenig Asarhaddon (1965); and The Date Palm and Its By-Products According to the Cuneiform Sources (1967). He was editor of the Zeitschrift fuer Assyrologie (1931–36), and from 1956 until his death, he was one of the editors of The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (10 vols. published to 1968). A bibliography of Landsberger's lexicographical contributions up to 1950 appeared in Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 4 (1950), 1–62. Jubilee volumes in his honor were: on his 70th birthday: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 19 (April 1960), no. 2; on his 75th birthday: Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday, 1965 (Assyriological Studies of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, no. 16).


W. von Soden, in: Forschungen und Fortschritte, 39 (1960), 125–6; idem, in: zdmg, 119 (1969), 1–14; A.L. Oppenheim, in: Orientalia, 37 (1968), 367–70; H.G. Gueterbock, in: afo, 22 (1968/69), 203–6. add. bibliography: A. Kilmer and J. Renger, in: jcs, 26 (1974), 183–94 (bibl. of Landsberger's publications).

[Hayim Tadmor]