Section Banner Images

Writing and Literature

Before Islam

Image Resource Bank

Image Gallery | Back Button Off 4 of 15 Next Button On

Nungal Hymn

Nungal Hymn

This cuneiform tablet, written in Sumerian, contains 15 lines from a hymn to the goddess Nungal. Many literary compositions have survived in both Akkadian and Sumerian that are addressed to deities, temples, and kings in a style that we classify as hymns. This hymn to the goddess Nungal was, perhaps, written on behalf of someone who found himself accused of a serious crime. Before his sentencing, and in the hope of obtaining leniency, he sings the praises of Nungal and of the prison over which she presides. This hymn became a literary classic in the scribal curriculum in the city of Nippur, and more than 50 copies of it have survived. Typical of mature cuneiform writing, this tablet was read from left to write, from top to bottom.

The inscription reads in part as follows:

The gate of the great house, which is a furious storm,
a flood which covers everybody:
when a man of whom his god disapproves reaches it,
he is delivered into the august hands of Nungal,
the warden of the prison;
this man is held by a painful grip
like a wild bull with spread forelegs.
He is led to a house of sorrow.

Next Button Off School Text

Writing and Literature » Before Islam » Image Resource Bank

© 2010 The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago  |  Page updated: 12/29/2010

Contact Information  |  Rights & Permissions