Library of the Aššurbanipal

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The library of the Aššurbanipal (also Ashurbanipal, Assurbanipal ) in Nineveh , comprising over 25,000 clay tablets , is the largest known collection of literary works of the ancient Orient and is one of the most important finds of Assyriology , from which an immense knowledge of the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia can be drawn and which made a great contribution to the deciphering of cuneiform writing . It is part of the Assyrian State Archives . The collection was created as a palace library by Aššurbanipal , Neo-Assyrian king from 669 BC. BC to 631/627 BC Chr.

Structure of the library


King Aššurbanipal brought together a library at his court, which represented the entire knowledge of the time. This knowledge was strongly determined by magic , dark beliefs and spells, which means that most of the library was filled with works of incantation, omen and ritual science. The rich inventory of medical works had a strong medicinal and magical character. This ancient library also contained a large number of works on mathematics, philosophy and philology. Particularly noteworthy, however, are the epic-mythical stories (such as copies of the famous Gilgamesh epic and the Babylonian creation myth Enûma elîsch ). But there were also prayers , songs , legal documents such as a copy of the Codex Hammurapi , economic and administrative texts, letters, contracts, astronomical and historical texts, political palace notes, lists of kings as well as poetic literature.

The texts are written in the Assyrian and Babylonian dialect of the Akkadian language and also in Sumerian . Numerous texts are available in both Sumerian and Akkadian languages, including encyclopedic works and dictionaries. Six copies were made of a single text, which was of great help in deciphering it. Overall, the Aššurbanipal library is the largest known collection of Akkadian literature to date .


Its origins go back directly to the Neo-Assyrian king Aššurbanipal , his interest in written texts led him to set up the clay tablet collection in his palace. His predecessors Tiglat-pileser I and Sargon II already set up small palace libraries , but none of them developed such a zeal for collecting as Aššurbanipal. There were Schreiber sent to various parts of the empire to where copies of all texts to make or Ashurbanipal ordered from the larger archives of the temple (z. B. in Babylon ) transcripts, which are then customized the priest and sent to Nineveh. Sometimes, however, he had entire collections of clay tablets confiscated on his campaigns and taken to his capital. He was always anxious to expand his library.


Numerous lexical lists and commentaries attest to the extent to which the court tried hard to archive and edit the texts and also to study script and language. In addition, Aššurbanipal was also very keen to keep his library tidy. Each panel was given his name, and the colophons also contain the original panels from which the copy was made. Furthermore, the colophons contained the first line of the following table, the number of the table in a complete work, the title of the work (mostly identical to the opening words), information on the completeness of the table and the scribe. Presumably, labels were used for orientation in the inventory, which were leaned against blackboard containers and on which the title of the work contained in the container was written. New acquisitions were recorded in detail, the library once contained hundreds of "codices" (fold-out panels covered with wax that could be written on several times), according to records, but none of these panels has survived.


Aššurbanipal's unusual interest resulted in several important works of cuneiform literature for posterity. In some cases the much older texts have only survived as copies from his library.

Aššurbanipal boasted of being the only Assyrian king able to read and write cuneiform . He wrote of himself: “I have learned what the wise Adapa has brought, have acquired the hidden treasure, the entire art of blackboard writing, I have been initiated into the science of the omens in heaven and on earth , I discuss in the meeting of scholars , interpret the liveromina with the most experienced liver chills . I can solve complicated, opaque division and multiplication problems, have always read artfully written tablets in difficult to understand Sumerian and hard-to-decipher Akkadian, and I have an insight into the writing stones from the time before the flood , which are utterly incomprehensible. "

Aššurbanipal's royal inscriptions are also distinguished by their special literary quality.

The core of the clay tablet collection was excavated in the Northwest Palace of Nineveh in the 19th century and is now in the British Museum . Scientists are still working today on the matching of some of the 20,000 fragments to the tables ( English joins ), sorting and deciphering.



Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Matthew Battles: The World of Books: A History of the Library . Artemis and Winkler, Düsseldorf 2003, ISBN 3-538-07165-9 , pp. 32-33 .
  2. a b Uwe Jochum: Small Library History (=  Reclams Universal Library . No. 17667 ). 4th edition. Reclam, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-15-017667-2 , pp. 15 .