“Ancient or Modern?” It’s a question that resonated strongly in Regency Britain. “Are we as a civilization, better than, equal to, or worse than the civilizations of the ancient world? Is our literature, art, music, etc., competitive with those of the Greco-Roman world?”
Britain saw itself as the spiritual heirs of that classical world. Not Greece—which was enslaved to the Turks. Not Rome—which had become the seat of Catholicism. But Britain. This attitude justified the wholescale appropriation of classical works under men like Lord Elgin, who moved shipment after shipment of Greek antiquities to London. You can see them in the British Museum—and the question of who they belong to (Greece or Britain) still rages.
So, it seems at least within the realm of possibility for this blog to bring you this haunting melody—the oldest extant song from the ancient world, from a mysterious people known today as the Hurrians. The Hurrians were an ancient people who built a rich culture in Mesopotamia around the 3rd millennium (Lawler).
Recorded on a cuneiform tablet over 3400 years ago, this hymn addresses Nikkal, goddess of orchards:
For more information on the Hurrians, here’s a short blog from the Archaeological Institute of America: