Hear The Epic of Gilgamesh Read in the Original Akkadian and Enjoy the Sounds of Mesopotamia

in History | October 1st, 2010

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Long ago, in the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia, Akkadian was the dominant language. And, for centuries, it remained the lingua franca in the Ancient Near East. But then it was gradually squeezed out by Aramaic, and it faded into oblivion once Alexander the Great Hellenized (Greekified) the region.

Now, 2,000+ years later, Akkadian is making a small comeback. At Cambridge University, Dr. Martin Worthington, an expert in Babylonian and Assyrian grammar, has started recording readings of poems, myths and other texts in Akkadian, including The Epic of Gilgamesh. This clip gives you a taste of what Gilgamesh, one of the earliest known works of literature, sounds like in its mother tongue. Or, you can jump into the full collection of readings right here.

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via Heritage Key

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Comments (56)

  1. James Westfall says . . .
    October 30, 2013 / 6:02 pm

    This is wonderful!

  2. linda says . . .
    October 30, 2013 / 7:21 pm

    How beautiful!

  3. MichaelZWilliamson says . . .
    October 30, 2013 / 9:26 pm

    I liked it better in the original Klingon.

  4. Doug M says . . .
    October 31, 2013 / 8:27 pm

    Sounds very close to a mix of Hebrew and Arabec n

  5. Doug M says . . .
    October 31, 2013 / 8:29 pm

    Sounds like a mix of Hebrew and Arabic. Very nice!

  6. Ranee says . . .
    November 1, 2013 / 6:48 am

    I’m surprised how much it sounds like Hebrew :O Surprisingly beautiful, too!

  7. Ofra says . . .
    November 1, 2013 / 8:34 am

    It does not sound like Hebrew at all. I speak Hebrew from birth;I should know! It sounds a little like Arabaic, but only because the reader prononces some word like Arabic. Those who speak Semitic languages understand that none of them sound alike.

  8. tyrannius says . . .
    November 10, 2013 / 3:40 pm

    And to people who don’t speak Semitic languages, they do sound alike.

  9. Ron F says . . .
    November 1, 2013 / 8:46 am

    u05e2u05d1u05e8u05d9u05ea u05d6u05d4 u05dcu05d0nnnvery interesting. doesn’t sound anything like Hebrew, except maybe the word aram. but half the time it sounds like an arab accent.

  10. Zak says . . .
    November 1, 2013 / 5:18 pm

    Lovely, but did the guy have to be so monotonous? :(

  11. Karen Pierce Gonzalez says . . .
    November 1, 2013 / 5:33 pm

    This is absolutely beautiful! Loved listening to it… I agree that it does sound like it could’ve been a Semitic language family member. Thank you very much for making this clip available…

  12. M says . . .
    November 3, 2013 / 6:51 pm

    Akkadian is a Semitic language. One way scholars reconstruct the pronunciation of Akkadian is through comparative Semitics (i.e. studying the pronunciation of Arabic and other Semitic languages currently spoken to reconstruct earlier forms based on rules of linguistic change.)

  13. Banksiaman says . . .
    November 2, 2013 / 3:13 am

    Thanks for posting – will definitely make time to listen to the full text. Dont know my Akkadian from my elbow, but presumably this was spoken and listened to by most people rather than read, and the cadence and rhythyms convey a lot of the story’s drama. No different to hearing bits of Homer – you hear it and can tell its a big story, not a soap powder advert.

  14. guest says . . .
    November 2, 2013 / 7:03 am

    How did they know how it should sound?

  15. Yaqub says . . .
    December 5, 2013 / 3:13 pm

    This explains it briefly. Basically a lot of what we know comes from surviving related languages. This was relatively “easy” with Akkadian, since we have multiple dialects of Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Amharic to go on, seeing how different roots and sounds can change with place and time, and thereby being able to make an educated prediction as to where Akkadian would have been plotted within the Semitic family. nnWith Ancient Egyptian it was significantly more difficult, as its descendants only survive in the liturgical language of the Coptic Church, and in Greek transliterations of Egyptian words.nnhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Semitic_languages

  16. Joshua Jeffery says . . .
    November 2, 2013 / 11:49 am

    Since we don’t really know what classical Greek sounds like, I suspect that this is a “best guess” to what it originally sounded like. Regardless, its cool.

  17. Michael Lee Ru00f6hm says . . .
    November 2, 2013 / 10:11 pm

    This is lovely. I know next to nothing about Akkadian, but it sounds like a lovely language.

  18. Hamiit Qliji Berai says . . .
    December 1, 2013 / 3:04 pm

    Only unscrupulousness can cause such “Foolishnlies”!nnFirstly, imagine this, my name u2013 Qliji – is simple to pronounce,nbut apparently it is too difficult for westerners to pronounce it correctly. NownI cannot understand, how can a westerner make sure the pronunciation of a scriptnfrom ca. 1800 BC from the same region and the same kind as the Qliji?nnSecondly, during the past two decades, I did my best to makenpeople aware of the fact that contemporary translations of the ancient NearnEast scripts are hoaxes. With hundreds of examples, in the Bible Discovered: Biblen= Babel (Babylon), I substantiated the fact that names like Gilgamesh, Sumerian,nBabylonian, Akkadian etc. are false, but some people do not like to understandnthat; they shamelessly continue the crime of falsifying of historical documentsn and lying to the world. nThey continue their contribution to genocide by falsifying ofnthe Kurdish historical documents and destroying of the cultural heritages ofnthe Kurdish nation.

  19. Victor Mendoza says . . .
    December 6, 2013 / 8:37 am

    I’m with you 100% but to make people believe that what “scientists” say is false, is very difficult

  20. Cem says . . .
    December 7, 2013 / 4:07 am

    Mr. Berai. I agree with your concerns. I think westerners can’t do this job well. Can you name a easterner scientist working on these issues please?nnLet me answer, there isn’t one.nSo I don’t find anything logical in just blaming them and telling them they are liars. This is just disrespecting their long time efforts trying to reveal a language. They don’t deserve it.

  21. Hamiit Qliji Berai says . . .
    December 7, 2013 / 12:12 pm

    Dear Cem, nWhat did you looking for? It does not matter of the westerners or easterners! nnAs I said in the book: Bible Discovered Bible = Babel (Babylon) I have proved that the decipherment of the ancient Near East scripts are hoaxes.nYou should read the book. nFor more take a look at the blog of Bible Discovered on: http://hqberai.blogspot.com/

  22. riana says . . .
    February 10, 2014 / 12:33 am

    Thanks. I just used it to make my children’s study of ancient cultures more alive.(aged 10 and 8)

  23. Doug says . . .
    May 6, 2015 / 1:31 am

    Sounds like Old Valyrian.

  24. saeed says . . .
    July 22, 2015 / 7:42 am

    its look like persian

  25. jumba says . . .
    July 29, 2015 / 7:20 pm

    “… and it faded into oblivion once Alexander the Great
    Hellenized (Greekified) the region.”

    This is quite a grand statement, but understandable coming from a Eurocentric point of view. The “Ancient Near East” was never Hellenized. The Persians conquered the region far longer, and the region wasn’t Persianized either.

  26. Charlotte Akbari says . . .
    September 26, 2015 / 4:32 pm

    Some of the words are reminiscent of Farsi.

  27. Rebecca says . . .
    October 7, 2015 / 7:39 pm

    Would love to hear a poem like this set to authentic music.

  28. Victor Rad says . . .
    October 9, 2015 / 2:03 am

    I speak Arabic, and to me it sounds like Hebrew. Beautiful!
    The accent of the reader sound very much like an Arab speaking Hebrew though.

  29. Jee Francis says . . .
    October 9, 2015 / 1:36 pm

    “unni Gilgamesh” What is the meaning of ‘unni’?

  30. Vincent Czyz says . . .
    October 11, 2015 / 5:01 am

    Akkadian, a Semitic language, is NOT the language in which the Epic of Gilgamesh was original composed–I can’t believe the magnitude of the mistake you are making here.It was originally composed in Sumerian, a non-Semitic language. Centuries later it was written in Akkadian and still later, in Babylonian.

    You really need to correct this misconception.

  31. John McLaughlin says . . .
    October 19, 2015 / 9:47 am

    Thank you, Vincent. This reading also reminds me of Seamus Heaney’s woeful beginning of Beowulf, with “Hwaet” being far too colloquial for a declamatory epic beginning. This is not at all bardic — it is more woebegone than triumphant.

  32. John McLaughlin says . . .
    October 19, 2015 / 9:48 am

    How could one tell? What instrumental models could one use?

  33. John McLaughlin says . . .
    October 19, 2015 / 9:54 am

    Eventually, of course, it was — but that is to collapse 2,000 years into a decade, isn’t it?

  34. John McLaughlin says . . .
    October 19, 2015 / 9:56 am

    I see my responses were un-moored from context. I apologize for this error on my part, in not making context clear within response. I’ll try to mend my ways.

  35. Rene A. says . . .
    December 4, 2015 / 7:51 pm

    Wow, this sounds like Hebrew! actually I wouldn’t know, but its awesome how this ancient language is making a comeback! This is important stuff that teaches us as humans a bit more of the ancient world.

  36. Sargon warda says . . .
    February 15, 2016 / 7:21 pm

    Jee Francis, Unni means, I., put it in sentence in Aramaic , Unnie even Yalda, means I am a boy.

  37. Chris Schwehr says . . .
    February 24, 2016 / 3:55 am

    Gilgamesh and Enkidoo when the wall fell…

  38. DaddyPro says . . .
    February 25, 2016 / 1:23 am

    Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

  39. Matt says . . .
    February 26, 2016 / 11:35 am

    Yeah, Hamlet, too :-/

  40. Omar says . . .
    February 26, 2016 / 9:55 pm

    I don’t like it. It sounds like Arabic

  41. shulmanu_ashared_7 . says . . .
    February 27, 2016 / 6:21 am

    The label language Akkadian error will not be the kingdom of Assyria was before the Kingdom of confirmed and the kings of Assyria corned record in the Museum of London confirms my words, and it is obvious that the Assyrians were talking Assyrian and not Akkadian but relics Jewish scholars who had put this label for falsification of the truth and of in order to say that the Hebrew language is itself a splinter of the Akkadian and Assyrian not. .

  42. ion says . . .
    February 28, 2016 / 1:29 am

    Isn’t Sumerian the language in which The Epic Of Gilgamesh was originally written in ?

    Maybe this is ancient Akkadian and maybe this Akkadian is even original … but it has the problem of non-spoken languages, even comparing it to Latin, people only imagine this is how the words sounded, there is no guarantee that actual Akkadians spoke it like this.

    Nevertheless, this is highly beautiful and to be appreciated

  43. Andrea says . . .
    August 14, 2016 / 2:49 pm

    I also thought that the original was in Sumerian. After all, Gilgamesh was the king of Ur, which was the Sumerian capital. My understanding was that the earliest pieces of the written epic were from about 2500 BCE, but the story itself dates back to around 3000 BCE. Either way, it was the height of Sumerian culture, and I’m not sure the Akkadians were even a literate culture that early, were they?

  44. lovelyraz says . . .
    August 15, 2016 / 1:02 am

    This is hebrew and arabic man.

  45. lovelyraz says . . .
    August 15, 2016 / 1:03 am

    `I doubt this was their language

  46. Shelly says . . .
    August 15, 2016 / 7:53 am

    I would love to know what the *pop* is at about 1:20.

  47. Ian Elliott says . . .
    August 15, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Yes, but its original language was Sumerian, not Akkadian.

  48. Alan Dechert says . . .
    August 15, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    I need to know what “shee ba nu shoo” means (1:38)

  49. Suzanne says . . .
    August 16, 2016 / 5:57 am

    Alan Dechert…it means “the fighting dog didn’t come.” or…Sheba Inu was a no show…in English. No, just kidding.

  50. Tom Dobbie says . . .
    August 18, 2016 / 6:56 pm

    Hermeneutics without any Hermeneutics…….

  51. Linda says . . .
    August 19, 2016 / 6:21 pm

    Love where he throws in a few French words when he gets stuck.

  52. Camille says . . .
    August 28, 2016 / 8:35 am

    Bible = biblos = book. The name is derived from Greek, which was the language of the learned in the Roman empire at the time when the New Testament was written. Researchers might not get everything right – that’s why research exists, to try and get closer to the truth – but they’re not idiots either.

  53. Richard Szabo says . . .
    September 1, 2016 / 4:09 am

    Are you ppl really this arrogant or ignorant? What predates and translates/transcribes “sumerian”??? Answer, Magyar or Mag hur runic script!!!! All babilonian or akkadian is founded on Sumerian sooo start there simpletons. This is not arabic or hebrew nor any other semite tongue. Gilgamesh, the non jewish one, is in fact “sumerian” and is also known as Nimrod to Magyar ppl. Keep filling those meager minds and then maybe, one day, your eyes will prove worthy of sight. Shalom

  54. Richard Szabo says . . .
    September 1, 2016 / 4:13 am

    And Camille, regarding your last comment, take a peak at this link that pertains to your Greek Latin misinformation, https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLYvogxdJVDt9z9u7-BBxGLwUGyqZoXn9Z&v=tC0Dedg42HY

  55. Richard Szabo says . . .
    September 1, 2016 / 4:15 am
  56. Richard Szabo says . . .
    September 1, 2016 / 4:18 am

    Camille, for you, research Mario Alinei regarding your Greco latin comment…

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