Arts, Culture & Media

Ancient Love Poem Sees Light of Day in Istanbul

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Stone on which the world's oldest poem is inscribed. (Photo: Elaine Morrison)

Our Geo Quiz is inspired by a poem that was written in a city that flourished some 4,000 years ago.

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We are looking for a sacred city of the ancient Sumerian kingdom. Its temple and fortresses were located about 600 miles south of Baghdad during the Bronze Age.

Over the years, archaeologists have turned up thousands of stone tablets with ancient texts.

One of those tablets is referred to as "number 2461"³ that includes an exquisite love poem.

Poem recited by the annual brides of King Shu-Sin (c. 4000 BC)

Translated by Samuel Noah Kramer

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 savory than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory 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.

Nippur, located in modern-day Iraq, is the answer to the Geo Quiz.

Anchor Marco Werman talks to Dan Boylan about the unique tablet and the poem.