The Sumerians

The Sumerians were one of the earliest urban societies to emerge in the world, in Southern Mesopotamia more than 5000 years ago. They developed a writing system whose wedge-shaped strokes would influence the style of scripts in the same geographical area for the next 3000 years. Eventually, all of these diverse writing systems, which encompass both logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic, and syllabic systems, became known as cuneiform. Continue reading The Sumerians

Archaeology Achaemenid Dynasty

The Achaemenids were the ruling dynasty of Cyrus the Great and his family over the Persian empire, from 550-330 BC, when it was conquered by Alexander the Great. Cyrus’s empire included Libya, Ethiopia, Thrace, Macedonia, Afghanistan, and the Punjab and everything in between. Continue reading Archaeology Achaemenid Dynasty

Akkadian Language

Akkadian was a Semitic language (part of the greater Afro-Asiatic language family) spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. It used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated, non-Semitic language. The name of the language is derived from the city of Akkad, a major center of Mesopotamian civilization.

Dialects

Akkadian is divided into dialects based on geography and historical period:

  • Old Akkadian – 2500 ­ 1950 BCE
  • Old Babylonian/Old Assyrian – 1950 ­ 1530 BCE
  • Middle Babylonian/Middle Assyrian – 1530 ­ 1000 BCE
  • Neo-Babylonian/Neo-Assyrian – 1000 ­ 600 BCE
  • Late Babylonian – 600 BCE ­ 100 CE

Clay Tablets – Cuneform

Akkadian scribes wrote the language using cuneiform script, an earlier writing system devised by the Sumerians using wedge-shaped signs pressed in wet clay that in Akkadian could represent either (a) Sumerian logograms (i.e. picture-based characters as in Chinese), (b) Sumerian syllables, (c) Akkadian syllables, and (d) phonetic complements. Cuneiform was in many ways unsuited to Akkadian: among its flaws was its inability to represent important phonemes in Semitic, including a glottal stop, pharyngeals, and emphatic consonants. In addition, cuneiform was a syllabary writing system – i.e. a consonant plus vowel comprised one writing unit – frequently inappropriate for a Semitic language made up of triconsonantal roots (i.e. three consonants minus any vowels). Older Sumerian cuneiform also distinguished between the vowels i and e; this distinction, though not originally present in Akkadian, was adopted by scribes to compensate for the disappearance (or non-writing) of the original Semitic pharyngeals.

Akkadian grammar

Akkadian is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic. It possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), distinguished even in second person pronouns (you-masc., you-fem.) and verb conjugations; three cases for nouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, and genitive); three numbers (singular, dual, and plural); and unique verb conjugations for each first, second, and third person pronoun.

Akkadian nouns are declined according to gender, number and case. There are three genders; masculine, feminine and common. Only a very few nouns belong to the common gender. There are also three cases (nominative, accusative and genitive) and three numbers (singular, dual and plural). Adjectives are declined exactly like nouns.

Akkadian nouns are declined according to gender, number and case. There are three genders; masculine, feminine and common. Only a very few nouns belong to the common gender. There are also three cases (nominative, accusative and genitive) and three numbers (singular, dual and plural). Adjectives are declined exactly like nouns.

The remaining root stems are all derived from the first eight and are very similar in meaning. Akkadian verbs usually display the tri-consonantal root, though some roots with two- or four-consonant roots also exist. These are called radicals. There are three tenses, present, preterite and permansive. Present tense indicates incomplete action and preterite tense indicates complete action, while permansive tense expresses a state or condition and usually takes a particle.

Akkadian, unlike Arabic, has mainly regular plurals (i.e. no broken plurals), although some masculine words take feminine plurals. In that respect, it is similar to Hebrew.

Word Order

Akkadian sentence order was subject + object + verb (SOV), which sets it apart from most other Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, which typically have a verb + subject + object (VSO) word order. (South Semitic languages in Ethiopia are another matter altogether.) It has been hypothesized that this word order was a result of influence from the Sumerian language, which was also SOV. There is evidence that native speakers of both languages were in intimate language contact, forming a single society for at least 500 years, so it is entirely likely that a sprachbund could have formed. Further evidence of an original VSO or SVO ordering can be found in the fact that direct and indirect object pronouns are suffixed to the verb. Word order seems to have shifted to SVO/VSO late in the 1st millennium BC to the 1st millennium AD, possibly under the influence of Aramaic.

Akkadian literature

Among the works written in Akkadian cuneiform are the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atrahasis Epic. The Atrahasis Epic was a story writted in the early 2nd millennium B.C. in Akkadian. It is a cosmological epic that depicts the creation and early human history, including a flood. Its hero is Atrahasis. The flood account in tablet III of the Atrahasis Epic has much resemblance to that contained in the Gilgamesh Epic.

Reference: Mercer, Samuel A B (1961) Introductory Assyrian Grammar

A letter on a clay tablet, written in Akkadian cuneiform, found in Amarna  - Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

A letter on a clay tablet, written in Akkadian cuneiform, found in Amarna

Akkadian period, reign of Naram-Sin  -  Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

Akkadian period, reign of Naram-Sin

Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

Babylonians

The 'Queen of the Night' Relief

The city of Babylon on the River Euphrates in southern Iraq first came to prominence as the royal city of king Hammurabi (about 1790-1750 BC). He established his control over many other kingdoms stretching from the Persian Gulf to Syria. The British Museum holds one of the iconic artworks of this period, the so-called “Queen of the Night”. Continue reading Babylonians

Sumeria, Ancient Sumeria (Sumer), A history of Ancient Sumer Including its Contributions

Ancient Sumeria

Primary Author: Robert A. Guisepi

Portions of this work Contributed By:
F. Roy Willis of the University of California

1980 and 2003


* The History of Ancient Sumeria including its cities, kings and religions

Now, I swear by the sun god Utu on this very day — and my younger brothers shall be witness of it in foreign lands where the sons of Sumer are not known, where people do not have the use of paved roads, where they have no access to the written word — that I, the firstborn son, am a fashioner of words, a composer of songs, a composer of words, and that they will recite my songs as heavenly writings, and that they will bow down before my words……

King Shulgi (c. 2100 BC) on the future of Sumerian literature.

Mesopotamia: The First Civilization

Authorities do not all agree about the definition of civilization. Most accept the view that “a civilization is a culture which has attained a degree of complexity usually characterized by urban life.” In other words, a civilization is a culture capable of sustaining a substantial number of specialists to cope with the economic, social, political, and religious needs of a populous society. Other characteristics usually present in a civilization include a system of writing to keep records, monumental architecture in place of simple buildings, and an art that is no longer merely decorative, like that on Neolithic pottery, but representative of people and their activities. All these characteristics of civilization first appeared in Mesopotamia.

The Geography Of Mesopotamia Continue reading Sumeria, Ancient Sumeria (Sumer), A history of Ancient Sumer Including its Contributions

Ancient Torkey Language


In earlier stages of research, the terms Mitanni language and Subarian were used as designations for Hurrian. In Hittite cuneiform texts, hurlili “language of the Hurrian” is used. In the last centuries of the 3rd millennium BC, Hurrians were already present in the Mardin region, which, from a geographical point of view, belongs to the North Mesopotamian plain. In Mesopotamian texts (from the time of the Akkad dynasty) some Hurrian personal names and glosses have been found. The customary assumption is that this non-Semitic and also non-Indo-European ethnic group had come from the Armenian mountains. During the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, the Hurrians apparently spread over larger parts of southeast Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia.

Still later, during the intermediary “Dark Age,” they are supposed to have infiltrated into Cilicia and the adjacent Taurus and Antitaurus regions (Kizzuwatna in 2nd millennium texts). Before the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, an Indo-Aryan ruling caste wielded some type of authority over parts of Hurrian territory. Some names and words in ancient Near Eastern texts bear witness to their presence. Among these words are a group of technical terms related to the training of horses that found its way into Hittite treatises on that subject; they are most important from a historical point of view. After Sumerian, Akkadian, Hattic, Palaic, and Luwian, Hurrian and these Indo-Aryan glosses constitute the sixth and seventh additional languages of the Hittite archives.

Below, the ruins of mount Nemrud. In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built on the mountain top a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues

Hurrian texts have been found in Urkish (Mardin region, c. 2300 BC), Mari (on the middle Euphrates, 18th century BC), Amarna (Egypt, c. 1400 BC), Bogazköy-Hattusa (Empire period), and Ugarit (on the coastline of northern Syria, 14th century). Amarna yielded the most important Hurrian document, a political letter sent to Pharaoh Amenhotep III. From Mari came a small number of religious texts; from Bogazköy-Hattusa, literary and religious texts; and from Ugarit, vocabularies belonging to the more “scholarly literature” described above and Hurrian religious texts in Ugaritic alphabetic script. Hurrian personal names, found in texts from many sites (Bogazköy-Hattusa, Alalakh, Ugarit, and especially Nuzu), constitute a second linguistic source of major importance.