Babylonian literature

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Assyro-Babylonian literature (also Akkadian literature) is the ancient literature written in the Akkadian language (Assyrian and Babylonian languages) written in Mesopotamia (Assyria and Babylonia) during the period spanning the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age (roughly the 23rd to 6th centuries BC).[1][2]

Drawing on the traditions of Sumerian literature, the Babylonians compiled a substantial textual tradition of mythological narrative, legal texts, scientific works, letters and other literary forms.


Literature in Akkadian society

Most of what we have from the Babylonians was inscribed in cuneiform with a metal stylus on tablets of clay, called laterculae coctiles by Pliny the Elder; papyrus seems to have been also employed, but it has perished.

There were libraries in most towns and temples; an old Sumerian proverb averred that "he who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn." Women as well as men learned to read and write, and in Semitic times, this involved a knowledge of the extinct Sumerian language, and a complicated and extensive syllabary. The Babylonians' very advanced systems of writing, science and mathematics contributed greatly to their literary output.

Relation to other ancient literatures

A considerable amount of Babylonian literature was translated from Sumerian originals, and the language of religion and law long continued to be the old agglutinative language of Sumer. Vocabularies, grammars, and interlinear translations were compiled for the use of students, as well as commentaries on the older texts and explanations of obscure words and phrases. The characters of the syllabary were all arranged and named, and elaborate lists of them were drawn up.

Assyrian culture and literature came from Babylonia, but even here there was a difference between the two countries. There was little in Assyrian literature that was original, and education, general in Babylonia, was mostly restricted to a single class in the northern kingdom. In Babylonia, it was of very old standing. Under the second Assyrian empire, when Nineveh had become a great centre of trade, Aramaic — the language of commerce and diplomacy — was added to the number of subjects that the educated class was required to learn.

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