.    THE NEAR EAST    .




 Ancient Literature

Traditional Sumerian

2700s B.C.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Epic Poem. This earliest great work of literature in human history comes to us from the Sumerians, a collection of independent city states built along the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) in modern Iraq. Gilgamesh was the ruler of Uruk, loved by the people, and yet wanted to be immortal- to never die. He seeks therefore to do great deeds. He and his friend Enkidu set out on journeys to slay beasts of nature, confront the goddess Ishtar, and seek out a man who was given "god-ship" in the land of the gods, but failed. He goes back to Uruk at the end, and writes it all down.


Sumerian (Cuneiform)

Traditional Egyptian

1200s B.C.

The Book of the Dead

A collection of hymns, poems and dedications telling the story of Egyptian religious life, which permeated all life. The concepts of Ma'at and the legends of Osiris, Isis, Horus and the rest of the gods are described. The role of the pharaoh in preservation of life in Egypt is shown.




Sacred Text

1600-400 B.C.

The Torah / Old Testament of the Bible


The most printed and widely read literary work ever written, and the foundation work of Western monotheism. In the Torah / Old Testament, one finds the story of creation (Genesis), while Exodus tells the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments after the Hebrews escape from slavery in Egypt. The religious doctrines of the Hebrews is presented, as well as the history of that people (and their tumultuous existence in the ancient Near East). See Books






Next: Ancient Egypt




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