the Akkadian language

Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform texts, an introduction collected by John Heise.

Akkadian is one of the great cultural languages of world history. Akkadian (or Babylonian-Assyrian) is the collective name for the spoken languages of the culture in the three millennia BCE in Mesopotamia, the area between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, approx. covering modern Irak. The name Akkadian --so called in ancient time-- is derived from the city-state of Akkad, founded in the middle of the third millennium BCE and capital of one of the first great empires after the dawn of human history. The downfall of Akkad is described (in literary terms) in the curse of Akkad, but the name has continued to be used for millennia since.
Akkadian is first attested to in proper names in Sumerian texts (ca. 2800 BCE). From ca. 2500 BCE one finds texts fully written in Akkadian. Hundreds of thousands of texts and text fragments have been excavated, covering many subjects, e.g.
-economy (business, administrative records, purchase and rentals),
-politics (treaties),
-law (witnessed and sealed contracts of marriage, divorce; codes of law),
-history (chronological text, census reports),
-letters (personal, business and state letters),
-religion (prayers, hymns, omens, divination reports),
-scholarly texts (language, word lists, history, technology, mathematics, astronomy) and
-literature (narrative poetry, recounting myths, epics).
The last texts date from the first century A.D. By then Akkadian was already an extinct language, replaced as a spoken language by Aramaic.
The language used a writing system called cuneiform. Wedge shaped symbols were inscribed on clay tablets with a reed stylus. This writing system was invented by the Sumerians around the end of the fourth millennium BCE. Many neighboring countries later adopted this writing method to record their own language (Eblaites, Hittites, Hurrites, Elamites).
Akkadian has been for centuries the international medium of communication, the lingua franca or language of diplomacy in the Ancient Near East. Because of this (and also by other means) the Mesopotamian civilization has had a powerful influence on other areas in the Ancient Near East and traces of it are found in the Bible and in Greek civilization. The Occident, in several aspects, indirectly became heir to the Orient, in science (astronomy, mathematics, medicine), in art (narrative techniques, epic) and in religion (mythology, theology). Indeed, in classical terminology one could say:
Ex oriente lux ''the light (comes) from the east''