Historical Fiction of Mesopotamia

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Joshua J. Mark
published on 25 February 2024

Historical fiction is frequently dated to works including the Iliad of Homer (8th century BCE) or The Tale of Genji (11th century CE) or, in English, to the 19th century, usually to the works of Sir Walter Scott, but the genre has more ancient origins dating back to the 2nd millennium BCE through Mesopotamian naru literature.

Mesopotamian naru literature features a famous historical figure, usually a king, in a fictional set of circumstances. The purpose of the genre was to entertain while also instructing an audience, often on the proper relationship one should have with the gods and one’s place in the universe. The best-known piece from this genre is The Epic of Gilgamesh (written c. 2150-1400 BCE and based on earlier works), which presents the historical king of Uruk in a fictional tale on the theme of the meaning of life.

This collection presents the most famous works of Mesopotamian naru literature as well as two pieces explaining the genre. Examples of these kinds of works may be found in other cultures outside of Mesopotamia, and many of these have been interpreted as actual history when, in fact, they are early paradigms of historical fiction.



Questions & Answers

What is Mesopotamian naru literature?

Mesopotamian naru literature is, essentially, the earliest form of historical fiction in which an actual historical figure is depicted in fictional circumstances.

When was Mesopotamian naru literature first composed?

Mesopotamian naru literature dates from the 2nd millennium BCE.

What is the most famous work of Mesopotamian naru literature?

The most famous work of Mesopotamian naru literature is The Epic of Gilgamesh, which features a famous historical king in a fictional tale.

What was the purpose of Mesopotamian naru literature?

The purpose of Mesopotamian naru literature was to entertain while also instructing an audience in cultural values, especially one's proper relationship to the gods.
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About the Author

Joshua J. Mark
Joshua J. Mark is World History Encyclopedia's co-founder and Content Director. He was previously a professor at Marist College (NY) where he taught history, philosophy, literature, and writing. He has traveled extensively and lived in Greece and Germany.

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