A Hurrian Cult Song from Ancient Ugarit


The most ancient example of written song. A hymn to Nikkal, wife of the moon god. The text is written upon a fragmented tablet and, therefore, is incomplete….

There are startling similarities between the Babylonian principles of music theory and those used by ancient Greeks. Moreover, the Babylonian principles antedate the Greek ones by more than a millenium.

The Babylonians seem to have used music exclusively in connection with religious observances and festivals. The names of lyra/kithara strings and musical pitches were related to their cult deities and to the planets in a cosmology similar to Greek philosophers’ “harmony of the spheres.”

Dating back to approximately 1400 BC, this is the oldest complete work of notated music. Dr. Anne Kilmer first translated the tablet in 1974, and a performance was given in Berkeley. Since then, other musicologists have tried to decipher the musical arrangement themselves, and each has produced a different version of the hymn.

She [the goddess] let the married couples have children,

She let them be born to the fathers

But the begotten will cry out, ‘She has not borne any child’

Why have not I as a true wife borne children for you?



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