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Where did alphabet letters come from?

By | 2017-10-02T10:25:04+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

The first alphabet letters Each of the letters of the early Canaanite alphabet was the first sound of the most ordinary words in their language. The letter was a picture of that word's meaning. Often you can still recognize that picture in our letters today. And the order of their letters is mostly unchanged today, [...]

Vis and Ramin – Iran – West Asian stories

By | 2017-09-15T10:34:22+00:00 September 15th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

A Parthian noblewoman This is a story from the Parthian Empire, but the earliest written version that we still have is by the Islamic poet Gorgani, about 1050 AD: King Mobad of Marv saw the beautiful Queen Shahru, and asked her to marry him, but she was already married. Instead, Queen Shahru promised to send King Mobad her daughter to marry, [...]

Sohrab and Rustem – Iran – West Asian stories

By | 2017-09-15T10:29:49+00:00 September 15th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

The death of Sohrab (Iranian painting) This story is probably an old Indo-European story that Persian people told even before they moved south into Iran about 2000 BC. It's probably related to the German story of Hildebrand and the Greek story of Achilles and Penthesileia, though sometimes Rustem is also a trickster like Odysseus, or like the Indian Krishna (you may want to compare [...]

The alphabet replaces cuneiform – West Asian writing

By | 2017-09-15T10:04:34+00:00 September 15th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

This inscription from Kandahar, in Afghanistan, has Greek writing at the top, translated into Aramaic at the bottom. The Mauryan Indian king Ashoka put it up about 258 BC. When the Assyrian Empire collapsed in the 600s BC, the short-lived Babylonian Empire also used cuneiform writing. But when the Persians took over West Asia in 539 BC [...]

What is cuneiform? Mesopotamia – West Asian writing

By | 2017-09-15T09:41:09+00:00 September 15th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

Cuneiform writing (now in LACMA, Los Angeles) West Asia is probably the first place in the world where people figured out how to write. (Though Egyptian people began writing very soon afterwards.) People seem to have begun to write in Mesopotamia about 3000 BC, during the time of the Sumerians. The Sumerians, and everybody else in Mesopotamia until about [...]

Epic of Gilgamesh – Mesopotamian writing

By | 2017-09-15T09:14:45+00:00 September 15th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu fight the monster Humbaba, on an Assyrian cylinder seal from the 600s BC The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story about a Sumerian king (Gilgamesh) who seems to have lived around 2500 BC, in Mesopotamia. Story-tellers probably began telling this story not long after he died, and someone probably wrote down the [...]

Who was Enheduanna? Akkadian literature

By | 2017-09-15T08:59:56+00:00 September 15th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

One of Enheduanna's poems, in cuneiform on a clay tablet Nobody knows Enheduanna's real name, if she had one. "Enheduanna" means "High Priestess, Ornament of the god An", but that's what people called her. Enheduanna's father was King Sargon of Akkad, and her mother was Queen Tashlultum. Enheduanna herself must have been born about 2285 BC. When she grew up, Enheduanna [...]

What is Aramaic? An old West Asian language

By | 2017-09-14T22:53:42+00:00 September 14th, 2017|Bronze age, Literature, West Asia|

Comparing different ancient alphabets As people began to settle down in towns in West Asia, about 4000 BC, they began to speak differently from their neighbors. Some people spoke Hebrew, some spoke Arabic, some spoke Akkadian. The people who lived in Syria spoke Aramaic. After the Dark Age around 1000 BC, these Syrians spread out into Babylon and Assyria, and they brought [...]

History of the Alphabet – West Asia

By | 2017-09-14T22:47:24+00:00 September 14th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

Egyptian temple to Hathor at Serabit in the Sinai Before about 1800 BC, all people in the world wrote using pictures that each stood for a word or a syllable. In Egypt, these were called hieroglyphs, and in West Asia, they were called cuneiform. About 1800 BC, some people from Canaan (modern Israel and Lebanon) traveled [...]

Writers of the Ottoman Empire – West Asia

By | 2017-09-11T11:49:07+00:00 September 11th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

A copy of one of Mustafa Ali's books, from about 1600 AD Despite the lack of printing presses, some writers and historians continued to work in the Ottoman Empire. In the 1500s, Mustafa Ali, a court bureaucrat, wrote poetry and religious essays. İn the 1600s, Ibrahim Pecevi wrote a detailed history of the [...]