SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

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.

About the recordings

The recordings were made using a dictaphone by the creator of this website. Venues included hotel rooms, academic conference venues, and readers’ private houses, so they contain varying amounts of background noise. Apology is made for the fact that they are not always ‘studio quality’, but it is hoped that the reader is always audible.

Copyright of the recordings rests with the individual readers.


This website was created and is maintained by Martin Worthington. Address for correspondence: Dept of Near and Middle East, SOAS, Thornhaugh St, London, WC1H 0XG, UK.