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C O U R S E 
Masterpieces of World Literature
Martin Puchner, Harvard University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The 19th Century Recovery of the Library of Ashurbanipal from 650 BC
Notes taken on May 16, 2017 by Edward Tanguay
the Epic of Gilgamesh is the first great work of literature that has survived
was the most popular work of literature in the ancient Near East in the second and first millennium before Christ
then it disappeared and was dug up again, and became a work of world literature in a wholly new way
the standard form of the epic was composed around 1200 BCE
circulated widely around the ancient Near East
to Western Persia
north to Turkey
as far East as Jerusalem
translated into multiple languages that we know about
the world of the cuneiform [kyoo-NAY-a-form] world disappeared around 300-200 BCE
people stopped knowing how to write cuneiform around this time
the epic disappeared
19th century
group of explorers, archaeologist adventurers dug up the old capital of Assyria, known from the Bible, lost for hundreds of years
dug up the city of Nineveh and the palace of Assur-Bani-Pal (668-627 BC), King of the world and King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (934–609 BC)
he was barely known at all
they found the ruins of his library
had been destroyed by his enemies in the 7th century BCE
but the texts of Gilgamesh and many other works were written on cuneiform clay tablets
baking clay makes is last longer, so burning it actually helped preserve it
Austen Henry Layard (1817-1894)
1840s working as a law clerk in the London
doesn't like the job
they gave him a job as a colonial administrator
planned to go with Edward Mitford to Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Mitford wanted to go the land route there because he got sea sick
Layard hears of mysterious mounds in Iraq
goes to Mosul
site of Nineveh
starts digging and has luck, finds palace, and makes him palace
he had to get funding
nobody in Europe cared enough to fund this archeological research
nobody in the Middle East cared about these pre-Islamic pagan relics
so he writes an adventure story
writes the account of how he found Nineveh
published in 1849
audience was Anglo-Irish gentry, clergy, and ladies with leisure
becomes member of parliament
does more excavations
writes another book