Artifact: Clay tablet
Period: Hellenistic (323-63 BC)
Text genre, language:
Description: The Graeco-Babyloniaca are a unique set of texts which feature Akkadian and Sumerian cuneiform on one side and a transliteration of this text inscribed in Greek characters on the other. It seems most likely that these texts were used to teach the correct pronunciation of Akkadian and Sumerian religious and ritual texts to Babylonians who had by now lost touch with their traditional tongue. They would have spoken Aramaic as their first language and had a good knowledge of Greek, the language in which the Hellenistic east conducted business and paid taxes. The Greek characters were probably used in place of Aramaic ones because of their ability to convey vowel sounds, although some Greek consonants might not have corresponded well to Semitic ones. Based on Greek paleography, these texts likely date to sometime between the second and first century BC.
The Graeco-Babyloniaca are a witness to a cuneiform culture in decline. Cuneiform was still taught, but clearly to students who were now more familiar with Greek than with the words and script of Babylon's past.
Edition(s): Geller, M.J. 1997. ‘The Last Wedge’. Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie. Vol. 87, Issue 1: 43–95.