Babylonian film in original language
A violent and comic story of revenge from 700 B.C. has been dramatized for the first time in an ancient language that has not been spoken for 2,000 years.
“The Poor Man of Nippur” is a 160-line Babylonian story about a pauper called Gimil-Ninurta who is cheated by city’s mayor out of his only possession – a goat – so he vows to avenge his mistreatment “three times over.”
The compelling folk tale was found etched on a clay tablet at the archaeological site of Sultantepe in the southeastern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa’s Harran district. It dates to 701 B.C., though the story is probably much older.
There is also a fragment of the story from the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.
“As a story of three-fold revenge, ‘The Poor Man of Nippur’ is one people today can easily relate to. Though it has the plot of a folk tale, it is written in high poetic style. The only character with a name is the hero called Gimil-Ninurta. His name means ‘revenge of the God Ninurta’, Ninurta being a god of Nippur. This fits the plot perfectly,” Worthington said.
Nippur was a city in the north of Babylonia, a region in central-southern Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq. The area is often described as the “cradle of civilization” and the culture is considered to be very close to the culture of the Old Testament, the story of Noah and the Ark has been found in Babylonian language. The first writings in Babylonian date back to about 2,000 B.C.
Martin Worthington is an Assyriologist who specializes in Babylonian, Assyrian and Sumerian grammar, literature and medicine. He directed the film, co-produced with Kathryn Stevens of Durham University, which had its international premiere at St John’s College on Nov.27.