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


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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

World Lit­er­a­ture in 13 Parts: From Gil­gamesh to Gar­cía Márquez

The Ancient His­to­ry Learn­ing Guide

What Ancient Greek Music Sound­ed Like: Hear a Recon­struc­tion That is ‘100% Accu­rate’

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Comments (68)
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  • linda says:

    How beau­ti­ful!

  • MichaelZWilliamson says:

    I liked it bet­ter in the orig­i­nal Klin­gon.

  • Doug M says:

    Sounds very close to a mix of Hebrew and Arabec n

  • Doug M says:

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

  • Ranee says:

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

  • Ofra says:

    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.

  • Ron F says:

    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.

  • Zak says:

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

  • Karen Pierce Gonzalez says:

    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…

    • M says:

      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.)

  • Banksiaman says:

    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.

  • guest says:

    How did they know how it should sound?

    • Yaqub says:

      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

  • Joshua Jeffery says:

    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.

  • Michael Lee Ru00f6hm says:

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

  • Hamiit Qliji Berai says:

    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.

    • Victor Mendoza says:

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

    • Cem says:

      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.

      • Hamiit Qliji Berai says:

        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/

  • riana says:

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

  • Doug says:

    Sounds like Old Valyr­i­an.

  • saeed says:

    its look like per­sian

  • jumba says:

    “… 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.

  • Charlotte Akbari says:

    Some of the words are rem­i­nis­cent of Far­si.

  • Rebecca says:

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

  • Victor Rad says:

    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.

  • Jee Francis says:

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

  • Vincent Czyz says:

    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.

  • John McLaughlin says:

    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.

  • John McLaughlin says:

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

  • John McLaughlin says:

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

  • John McLaughlin says:

    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.

  • Rene A. says:

    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.

  • Sargon warda says:

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

  • Chris Schwehr says:

    Gil­gamesh and Enki­doo when the wall fell…

  • DaddyPro says:

    Sokath, his eyes uncov­ered!

  • Matt says:

    Yeah, Ham­let, too :-/

  • Omar says:

    I don’t like it. It sounds like Ara­bic

  • shulmanu_ashared_7 . says:

    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. .

  • ion says:

    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

  • Andrea says:

    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?

  • lovelyraz says:

    This is hebrew and ara­bic man.

  • lovelyraz says:

    ‘I doubt this was their lan­guage

  • Shelly says:

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

  • Ian Elliott says:

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

  • Alan Dechert says:

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

  • Suzanne says:

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

  • Tom Dobbie says:

    Hermeneu­tics with­out any Hermeneu­tics.……

  • Linda says:

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

  • Camille says:

    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.

  • Richard Szabo says:

    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

  • Richard Szabo says:

    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

  • Richard Szabo says:

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

  • Urttakkadigakku says:

    Oh, anoth­er crank. Yes, YOU ALONE have dis­cov­ered the true secrets, and every­body else is wrong. Hah.

  • PSD says:

    Gil­gamesh (or how­ev­er he was pro­nounced) was king of Uruk, not Ur. But the sto­ry was first writ­ten in Sumer­ian. Lat­er it was tran­scribed in oth­er lan­guages, includ­ing Akka­di­an. They have clues how to approx­i­mate­ly pro­nounce Akka­di­an. Does any­one know how to pro­nounce Sumer­ian?

  • Qazi Zafar Iqbal says:

    seems a blend of Ara­bic and Per­sian lan­guages hav­ing a love­ly soft sound.

  • bob sauerbrey says:

    A rev­e­la­tion. Gor­geous.

  • Rayne Schroeder says:

    Is there any­one that can teach me this beau­ti­ful lan­guage? Or pos­si­bly point me some­where that could lead me in a promis­ing direc­tion?? I would be in your debt. I would ded­i­cate as much time and patients pos­si­ble. Thanks for any feed back. Much love to all and those who have lit­tle to nice left in them I pray you find brighter days soon:)

  • Yoshev Haaretz says:

    I speak Hebrew, some Ara­bic, and under­stand a bit of Ara­ma­ic.
    Yeeeeeeah, they do sound alike. Akka­di­an /should/ sound like Ara­bic because Ara­bic is the best pre­served semit­ic lan­guage, at least sound-wise. You can hear the dif­fer­ence between them, but they /do/ all sound alike. It’s the same sounds, the phono­log­i­cal rules are based on the same prin­ci­pals.
    Shemesh, Shemsha, Shams.
    Aretz, Ar3a, Ard’a.
    3olam, 3alma, 3aalam.
    Rua7, Ru7a, Ruu7.
    Katav, Kathav, Katab.
    Shalom, Shla­ma, Salaam.
    The semit­ic lan­guages are all based on the same rules. If you know one it’s easy to pick up anoth­er.

  • Sancho says:

    Unni means ana or ono ( today) means I Gil­gamesh

  • Kim Wibbing says:

    To my ears,I do hear some of the sounds of Ara­bic and Hebrew (and Ara­ma­ic). I under­stand that native Ara­bic and Hebrew speak­ers would dis­agree, but accord­ing to my col­lege class, mod­ern Semit­ic lan­guages all have a com­mon ances­tor, the Akkaydian/Sumeric lan­guage.

  • Richard Dumbrill says:

    How can be the recon­struc­tion of Ancient Greek Music 100% accu­rate! What a dog­mat­ic state­ment!

  • Cihan Adin says:

    Won­der­ful.. it sound like ara­bic or oth­er semit­ic lan­guages

  • SaEFan says:

    Obvi­ous­ly, with­out orig­i­nal record­ings it is impos­si­ble to repro­duce sounds, even with the best of nota­tions. How­ev­er, sole­ly by put­downs of hon­est efforts the work can only dis­ap­pear, instead of evolv­ing into bet­ter under­stand­ing. I sug­gest you con­tribute to the pos­i­tive effort by sug­gest­ing your own ver­sions, with expla­na­tion for your rea­son­ings. You will be lis­tened to very intent­ly, I assure you.
    Regard­ing Kur­dish his­to­ry and its root cul­ture, I have been try­ing to find mate­r­i­al but it is elu­sive at best. A con­tri­bu­tion to the lore would be very wel­come.

  • sargon says:

    Shul­manu Ashare­du
    Akad until today is unknown .
    fak­ing his­to­ry to fit the lies of old tes­ta­ment and its pol­i­tics is now world­wide and even in famous uni­ver­si­ties .

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