Sumerian literature

Sumerian inscription on a ceramic stone plaque.

Sumerian literature is the literature written in the Sumerian language during the Middle Bronze Age. Most Sumerian literature is preserved indirectly, via Assyrian or Babylonian copies.

The Sumerians invented the first writing system, developing Sumerian cuneiform writing out of earlier proto-writing systems by about the 30th century BC. The earliest literary texts appear from about the 27th century BC.

The Sumerian language remained in official and literary use in the Akkadian and Babylonian empires, even after the spoken language disappeared from the population; literacy was widespread, and the Sumerian texts that students copied heavily influenced later Babylonian literature.


Most Sumerian literature is apparently poetry,[1][2] as it is written in left-justified lines,[3] and could contain line-based organization such as the couplet or the stanza,[4] but the Sumerian definition of poetry is unknown. It is not rhymed,[5][6] although “comparable effects were sometimes exploited.”[7] It did not use syllabo-tonic versification,[8] and the writing system precludes detection of rhythm, metre, rhyme,[9][10] or alliteration.[11] Quantitative analysis of other possible poetic features seems to be lacking.

Literary works

Important works include:

See also


  1. Michalowski p. 146
  2. Black p. 5
  3. Black et al., Introduction
  4. Michalowski p. 144
  5. Jacobsen p. xiv
  6. Black et al., Introduction
  7. Black p. 8
  8. Michalowski p. 146
  9. Jacobsen p. xiv
  10. Black et al., Introduction
  11. Black et al., Introduction
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