The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal has sometimes been described as the ‘first library’ in the world, or the ‘oldest surviving royal library in the world’. The library was discovered by archaeologists who were excavating at the site of Nineveh, today known as Kuyunjik. As this was the imperial capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the reign of Ashurbanipal, the library has been attributed to this ruler. The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal contains over 30,000 clay tablets and fragments with texts written in the cuneiform script. The subjects of these texts range from governments records to works of literature and technical instructions.
Ashurbanipal (meaning ‘the god Ashur is creator of an heir’) is often regarded as the last great ruler of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and reigned from around 668 BC to 627 BC. During this period, the Neo-Assyrian Empire underwent its greatest territorial expansion, and the areas under Ashurbanipal’s rule included Babylon, Persia, Syria and Egypt. As Ashurbanipal ruled over his subjects with justice and fairness, he was a popular king. Nevertheless, he is also known for his ruthlessness and cruelty when dealing with his enemies. Ashurbanipal’s greatest accomplishment, however, was the creation of his royal library.
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