Assyrian culture came from Babylonia, but even here there was a difference between the two countries.
There was little in Assyrian literature that was original, and education, which was general in Babylonia, was in the northern kingdom confined for the most part to a single class. In Babylonia it was of very old standing. There were libraries in most of the towns and temples; an old Sumerian proverb averred that "he who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn." Women as well as men learned to read and write, and in Semitic times this involved a knowledge of the extinct Sumerian as well as of a most complicated and extensive syllabary.
A considerable amount of Semitic Babylonian literature was translated from Sumerian originals, and the language of religion and law long continued to be the old agglutinative language of Chaldaea. Vocabularies, grammars and interlinear translations were compiled for the use of students as well as commentaries on the older texts and explanations of obscure words and phrases. The characters of the syllabary were all arranged and named, and elaborate lists of them were drawn up. The literature was for the most part inscribed with a metal stylus on tablets of clay, called laterculae coctiles by Pliny the Elder; the papyrus which seems to have been also employed has perished. Under the second Assyrian empire, when Nineveh had become a great centre of trade, Aramaic - the language of commerce and diplomacy - was added to the number of subjects which the educated class was required to learn. Under the Seleucids, Greek was introduced into Babylon, and fragments of tablets have been found with Sumerian and Assyrian (i.e. Semitic Babylonian) words transcribed in Greek letters.
See also: Babylonia and Assyria
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13