What did ancient accents sound like?





Some 2,000 years after falling silent, the Babylonian and Assyrian languages of ancient Mesopotamia are echoing again, online.

Want to hear sections of the Codex Hammurabi, the codification from 1790 BC that is one of the world’s oldest set of laws? Or sections of the Gilgamesh Epic, in which the gods instruct the eponymous hero-king to prepare a boat ahead of a great flood, a tale familiar to anyone reared on the Bible? Or how about the “Poem of the Righteous Sufferer,” which prefigures the story of Job?

All are now possible thanks to Martin J. Worthington, who offers Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature: An Archive of Recordings at www.speechisfire.com. There, the postdoctoral research fellow in Near and Middle East studies at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies has begun posting Babylonian texts and several colleagues’ recorded readings. The scholar has also just published Complete Babylonian: A Teach Yourself Guide, out this month from McGraw-Hill, while last year he won the American Oriental Society’s triennial Jonas Greenfield Prize for Younger Semitists for his study of how Babylonian and Assyrian influenced one another....

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