“Istanbul #2461” - the First Love Poem in the World - Complete Text
|The tablet that holds the world’s oldest love poem, “Istanbul #2461” at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum|
History of 'Istanbul #2461' - the oldest love poem in the world
A poem called Istanbul #2461 holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest surviving love poem. The poem is written in a clay tablet and is from the times of the Sumerians who invented writing.
Accoding to historians, At around 4,000 years old, 'Istanbul #2461', as it's unceremoniously called, is the oldest surviving love poem in the world.
The poem is etched into an ancient clay tablet discovered by archaeologists in Nippur, southern Iraq, during the late 19th century. Its name is just the reference number allocated by archivists at the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient where it ended up.
The full name is The Love Song for Shu-Sin, though it took seven decades for this to be discovered as it lay untranslated in a museum drawer.
It comes from Sumer in southern Mesopotamia, which we know today as Iraq. Ancient Sumerians were the first people to develop a written language which used symbols to represent spoken sounds. This system of written symbols pressed into wet clay by a stylus is called cuneiform.
The ancient 4,000-year-old Sumerian cuneiform tablet is on display at the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient. The tablet was unearthed in the late 1880's in Nippur, a region in what is now Iraq, and had been resting quietly in a modest corner of the Museum in Istanbul.
The tablet in fact contains a daring — and risqué — ballad in which a priestess professes her love for a king, though it is believed that the words are in fact a script for a ceremonial re-creation of a fable by the priestess and the king, Su-Sin.
|The poem named by archaeologists it’s very un-romantic name is ‘Istanbul #2461’. The Sumerian relief, the marriage of the goddess Inanna and the Sumerian King Dumuzi is depicted.|
|Love has been celebrated in song, dance and literature since humans set foot on Earth, but because nothing was put in writing for a while, the world’s oldest love poem only dates back to 2025 BC. |
The poem is the celebration of a ritual that took place each Mesopotamian new year, an event that took place around the Spring Equinox. It was written on the tablet found for King Shu-sin (2037-2029 BC), the fourth ruler of the Third Dynasty of Ur. The 29 lines are written in Sumerian and celebrate the sacred marriage between the Sumerian king and the Sumerian goddess of love and war, Inanna.
Author of 'Istanbul #2461' - the oldest love poem in the world
The author of the poem is unknown, but according to Guinness World Records, it "is believed to have been recited by a bride of Sumerian King Shu-Sin, who ruled between 2037 and 2029 BC."
It would have been sung at the Akitu – the ancient New Year festival in Mesopotamia, and at banquets and festivals accompanied by music and dance.
The poem is believed to have been used as part of a sacred ritual in which the king symbolically married a goddess named Inanna, a Sumerian goddess of love. The idea was this would ensure fertility and prosperity for the year.
The poem was likely recited by Shu Shin’s chosen bride. While it wasn’t love as we know it today, it was the ultimate representation of love between a monarch, his bride, and their god.
According to the historian Stephen Bertman, besides this poem, “Shu-Sin was also the male lead in a series of erotic poems in Akkadian written in dialogue form similar to the later biblical Song of Songs”
"When it was found, the cuneiform tablet of The Love Song for Shu-Sin was taken to the Istanbul Museum in Turkey where it was stored in a drawer, untranslated and unknown, until 1951 when the famous Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer came across it while translating ancient texts," says an article on the Ancient History Encyclopedia website.
"The poem was not just a love poem, however, but a part of the sacred rite, performed each year, known as the 'sacred marriage' in which the king would symbolically marry the goddess Inanna, mate with her, and ensure fertility and prosperity for the coming year."
|The tablet was found in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and is currently held in the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient.|
Full - Complete Text of 'Istanbul #2461' in English
Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is you beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.
Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savoury than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savoury than honey.
Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.
Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,
Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.
You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil's heart,
Give my pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay (your) hand on it,
Bring (your) hand over like a gishban-garment,
Cup (your) hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment
* 'Istanbul #2461' was translated by famous Sumerologist, Samuel Noah Kramer in his work, History Begins at Sumer. The tablet was found in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and is currently held in the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient.
*Shu-Sin reigned as king in the city of Ur from 1972-1964 BCE according to what is known in scholarly circles as the `short chronology' but, according to the `long chronology' used by some scholars, reigned 2037-2029 BCE. The poem, therefore, is dated according to either 1965 BCE or 2030 BCE but is most often assigned a general date of composition at around 2000 BCE.
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