Monday, June 8, 2020

Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature: An Archive of Recordings

 [First posted in AWOL 25 July 2015, updated 8 June 2020]

Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature:  An Archive of Recordings
This website collects recordings of modern Assyriologists reading ancient Babylonian and Assyrian poetry and literature aloud in the original language. It is the first undertaking of its kind, and accordingly some explanation of its aims is called for.
It is intended to serve several purposes, some for Assyriologists, and some for the wider public. First, it aims to foster interest among students of Babylonia and Assyria in how these civilisations’ works of verbal art were read aloud in the past, and how they should be read aloud today.
Second, it provides a forum in which scholars who have theories about Babylonian and Assyrian pronunciation, metre, etc. can present a concrete example of how their theories sound in practice. (In this function the archive does not of course aim to replace scholarly discussion in established channels, but rather to provide a useful complement to written publications).
Third, as a record of the ways in which contemporary scholars read Babylonian and Assyrian, it will some day serve a historical function. Many great Assyriologists, including some who had influential theories of Babylonian metre and phonology, passed into history without leaving a single recording of how they read Babylonian and Assyrian. This archive will provide at least some record of how scholars read Babylonian and Assyrian in the twenty-first century.
Finally, but not least, the questions which students of ancient languages most frequently hear from laymen are: "How did they sound? And how do you know?". This website is meant to serve as an introduction to these issues, providing the public with some idea of how modern Assyriologists think Babylonian and Assyrian were pronounced.

The Recordings

Special characters (tsade and tet) are in Steve Tinney's Ungkam font, derived from's Gentium font. To display them correctly, download the font from The download is free. There are both a Mac Suitcase version and a Win/Linux OpenType version.

The Old Babylonian Period (c. 1900-1500 BCE)

Ammi-Ditana’s Hymn to Ishtar
The Codex Hammurabi
The Epic of Gilgamesh, Old Babylonian Version, Tablet II
The Epic of Gilgamesh, Old Babylonian Version, BM+VAT
The Epic of Anzû, Old Babylonian Version, Tablet II
Atra-Hasīs, Old Babylonian Version, Tablet I
Diviner's Prayer to the Gods of the Night
Incantation for Dog Bite
Letter of Marduk-nāṣir to Ruttum (AbB III 15)
Letter of Kurkurtum to Erīb-Sîn (AbB XII 89)

The First Millennium BC

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Standard Version, Tablet XI
The Babylonian Poem of the Righteous Sufferer (Ludlul bēl nēmeqi), Tablet II
The Babylonian Epic of Creation (Enūma elîš), Tablet I
Incantation for Tooth Worm
Ištar's Descent to the Netherworld
The Šamaš Hymn
The Poor Man of Nippur
The Poor Man of Nippur - World's first film in Babylonian
And see also:

1 comment:

  1. It's great to see an attempt by scholars to put the reconstructed aspects of Akkadian and Assyrian pronunciation put to the practice of rendering connected texts. Too often, due to the imperfections inherit in such reconstructions, all attempts are dismissed as fanciful and frivolous, thus ignoring a powerful set of analytic and interpretive tools for understanding the texts.

    As a quibble, it's too bad to see the exclusion of Summerian from the project -- perpetuating the artificial distinction between Summerian and Babylonian culture and literature.

    Though, perhaps its omission was due to the even more formidable obstacles in the phonetic reconstruction of its corpus.