Sunday, May 18, 2008

Library of Nineveh

The library of Nineveh may have been larger than the great library of Alexandria, but it was destroyed in 612 BCE by the Medes and lay covered under the ruins, until it was finally discovered in the 1849 by an English adventurer, Layard. BBC's In Our Time discussed this find in last week's program. In this blog we have touched upon it on the side.

Professor Patrick Hunt, from various podcast at Stanford (a.o. Hannibal), wrote a book Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History in which the story of Layard's find is recounted. Until then, we knew very little about ancient Mesopotamia, and its script, the cuneiform, had not been deciphered yet. The library supplied such a large amount of new material that that could finally be established and then we proceeded to uncovering the roots of civilization, among others many stories known from the Bible.

In Our Time's panel also addresses these subjects and clarifies them as elegant and deep as usual. A peculiar fact is noted both by Hunt as well as In Our Time is that we have to be thankful the Medes destroyed the Library. The other enemy, the Babylonians would surely have looted the place, but the illiterate Medes were content merely to set it on fire. The fire destroyed a large portion of the contents, but not the clay tablets. In stead they were baked and thus preserved for many centuries, so that Layard could find them.

More Patrick Hunt:
Hannibal in the end,
Ten discoveries that rewrote history,
Patrick Hunt on Hannibal (and more),
Hannibal Barca on the couch,
Where did Hannibal cross the Alps?.

More In Our Time:
General review of In Our Time,
The Brain: A History,
Yeats, Enclosures and Materialism,
King Lear,
Ada Lovelace.

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