“I, Ashurbanipal, king of the universe, on whom the gods have bestowed intelligence, who has acquired penetrating acumen for the most recondite details of scholarly erudition (none of my predecessors having any comprehension of such matters), I have placed these tablets for the future in the library at Nineveh for my life and for the well-being of my soul, to sustain the foundations of my royal name.”
The Library of Ashurbanipal is the world’s oldest known library. Ashurbanipal ruled Assyria from 668 BC to 627 BC. He collected as many texts as he could, from every genre and known language, in order to preserve their knowledge at a time when writing was undergoing a kind of pre-historical ‘globalisation’ — and many local languages were at risk of being lost as the new Aramaic language was becoming more universally used.
Because of him, we have the Epic of Gilgamesh.