Who Wrote The First Poem Ever?

The author of the first poem is unknown. However, The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered to be the first poem ever. Besides the epic, the Rig Vedas of Hinduism and the Song of the Weaver from Egypt are among the first poems ever.

To answer the question who wrote the first poem, we need to define poetry. So, taking into account the various definitions of poetry, the one united reads roughly like this: A genre of literature whose characteristic style and rhythm give a special intensity to the written ideas and feelings.

It’s hard to tell who wrote the first poem ever. To illustrate, in the very beginning, poetry was closely related to music, sung and transferred orally.

stone tablet with text of Epic of Gilgamesh
Neo-Assyrian clay tablet. Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 11: Story of the Flood.
By BabelStone (Own work), CC0.

When Was The First Poem Written?

Considering all the other achievements, it is no surprise that examples of the earliest written literature were found in the area of ​​ancient Mesopotamia. Accordingly, Sumerians actually developed the art of writing in 3400 BC.

Apart from the documents, Sumerians wrote hymns, myths, and poetry. Therefore, Kesh Temple Hymn and the Instruction of Shuruppah are the oldest known literary works.

If we talk about the Epic of Gilgamesh as the earliest poetry, then we are talking about the period between 2150-100 BC. To put things into context, Homer wrote The Iliad even 1500 years before the Epic of Gilgamesh.

man with a beard - george smith - first person ever who translated epic of gilgamesh, the first poem ever
George Smith, the first person ever who translated the Epic of Gilgamesh.
By Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

As we have already mentioned, people wrote the earliest poetry to sing and so remembered the history, laws, and myths.

However, if we are talking about the first poems that were not for singing then we are closer to the 12th century.

What Is The First Poem Ever About?

The oldest known story in history is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh – Sumerian king described as two-parts god and one-part man experiencing the adventures described in this epic. In his adventures, Gilgamesh kills monsters and searches on how to achieve immortality.

Whoever the author was, he or she wrote the Epic of Gilgamesh on 12 clay tablets. Theodore Kwasman, an expert on Mesopotamian language, succeeded in 1998 to translate a fragment that is considered to be part of the very beginning of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

As a result, a fragment that has been in the British Museum since 1878, at last, became part of a clearer image of the epic text.

Epic of Gilgamesh – Lyrics And Translation

“He who saw Deep, the country’s foundation,

Who knew…, was wise in all matters

Gilgamesh, who saw Deep, the country’s foundation,

Who knew…, was wise in all matters!”

Translation by Theodore Kwasman, 1998 Source: ANDREW GEORGE School of Oriental and African Studies University of London

Is The Epic Of Gilgamesh Really The First Poem Ever?

According to some archaeologists „Istanbul #2461“ is the oldest poem ever. Therefore, they think that Istanbul #2461 is a love poem from Sumerian times.

Archaeologists also believe that a bride of Sumerian king Shi-Sin (ruled 1972-1964 BC) recited Istanbul #2461. However, the real author of „Istanbul #2461“ is unknown.

You can enjoy Istanbul #2461 lyrics and translation here:

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honey-sweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honey-sweet.
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 savoury than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey filled,
Let us enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savoury 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 me pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay (your) hand on it,
Bring (your) hand over it like a gishban-­garment,
Cup (your) hand over it like a gishban­-sikin­-garment,
It is a balbale­song of Inanna.


Translation by Samuel Noah Kramer, thescrapbook.co.uk, 2018 

If you have found this article interesting, find out about what was the first website ever.