Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Instructions of Shuruppak” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
The Instructions of Sh...
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Instructions of Shuruppak

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  77 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The Instructions of Shuruppak is possibly the oldest surviving written text. Shuruppak, a Sumerian king, is certainly the most ancient author known by name. He lived sometime in the 27th century BC.

An English translation of the original Sumerian text can be found here:
Unknown Binding, 5 pages
Published (first published -2600)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Instructions of Shuruppak, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Instructions of Shuruppak

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  77 ratings  ·  23 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Instructions of Shuruppak
David Lamb
Perhaps the greatest advice from ancient texts: "You should not pass judgment when you drink beer."
Well, I have now read the oldest known text in the world, which is simultaneously maxims of ancient thought and a Dad bending his son's ear off.
The text is the fragmentary sayings of King Shuruppak (or Curuppag) to his son Ziusudra, a hero of the great flood mentioned in Gilgamesh, and his fatherly advice is a bit mixed:

Some of it is timeless:
-You should not pass judgment when you drink beer.
-You should not serve things; things should serve you

Other's (mercifully) aren't very relevant for the
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Let me tell y'all why you should read an ancient self-help manual which begins with advice on buying donkeys.

This is the oldest written thing humanity has of itself. A letter of advice and wisdom from an old king to his son, written without any awareness of its future importance, the Instructions have been around for at least 4000 years but were only translated into English from the dead Sumerian a few centuries ago. They did not survive the years undamaged, as numerous gaps riddle the text. A
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well, it's not exactly gripping drama, but for a collection of advice written 4600 years ago, this was an interesting read. It's very much in the style of the book of Proverbs: admonitions to listen to the author, some moral advice, some practical advice, and some observations. Overall, I mostly just found it interesting as an insight into what was going on so many millennia ago.
The tablet itself is cracked, and many words have been lost.

Interesting Quotes :

"You should not loiter about where there is a quarrel; you should not let the quarrel make you a witness."

"A thief is a lion, but after he has been caught, he will be a slave. My son, you should not commit robbery; you should not cut yourself with an axe."

"You should not boast; then your words will be trusted."

"My son, you should not use violence ..."

"The artistic mouth recites words; the harsh mouth b
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: before-1000-bce
So according to several sources, this manual of advice is (for now) the oldest known written work, from just 4600 years ago - what a short time in the scheme of things to encompass all human literary works!

Some of these instructions are pretty interesting, or even poetic:

Fate is a wet bank; it can make one slip (170- 171)

The wet-nurses in the women’s quarters determine the fate of their lord (254)

At harvest time, at the most priceless time, collect like a slave girl, eat like a queen;
my son, to
Unpil Baek
Finally, I have read the oldest existing literature, even older than Gilgamesh! Enter the genre of Sumerian self-help literature.

Three nuggets of wisdom that I found relevant:
- The artistic mouth recites words; the harsh mouth brings litigation documents; the sweet mouth gathers sweet herbs. (103-105)
- You should not pass judgment when you drink beer. (126)
- You should not work using only your eyes; you will not multiply your possessions using only your mouth. (175-176)

One piece of advice that I
Brennan Winer
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Pretty profound for one of the earliest extant pieces of literature.
I think this quote sums up the Sumerian Empire in a single sentence: "You should not make devices on a man: the flood will give it back to you."

... As in, plotting against people is not inherently morally wrong, but should be discouraged, only because natural disasters do the same job more efficiently. Other highlights include not intervening in conflicts between two people, never vouching for someone else's character, and an e
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ancient, sumer
This is, together with "The Kesh Temple Hymn", considered to be the oldest remaining text in the whole world. It's rather short. Some parts are unreadable or untranslatable. Other parts were hard to understand, at least for me.

A sad and somewhat surprising discovery for me was that 4500 years ago, they were, in their understanding of ethics and morality not far behind ours. Sad, because we still haven't learned the lessons after so long a time.

Here are some excerpts from its ethical teachings:
Leah Markum
4600 years ago...the Sumerians wrote the oldest surviving slab of literature.

When I decided to start a "centuries and decades" challenge and see how far back I could go, I didn't expect to get as far as 2600 BCE. In fact, most BCE literature (can't exactly call them all books, now can I?) only went as far as 500 BCE with most of the Greeks and Chinese. Homer goes back to around 750 BCE. But I'm not afraid of reading what I never heard of. I found a BCE list on Listopia. I pulled up a Wikipedia p
Old tablets from the 3rd millennium BC turn out to be tablets a father wrote (had a woman write) to his son, a set of laws to life by. Not deep philosophy, mostly, just things his dad found out that worked and did not work. Sometimes you wonder how stupid the son is.

"You should not locate a field on a road. You should not plough a field at a path. You should not make a well in your field: people will cause damage on it for you. You should not place your house next to a public square: there is al
Monty Circus
Aug 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient
Much better than its sister publication "The Kesh Temple Hymn". These are the most ancient words of wisdom ever found.

First of all, the opening line:

"In those days, in those far remote days, in those nights, in those faraway nights, in those years, in those far remote years..." Reminds me of "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."

As for:

"The instructions of an old man are precious; you should comply with them!"

Well, some 27 centuries later, in Rome, comes the exact opposite being words o
Kamarul Mansur
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ancient-oldie
This is a collection of instructions from a father, Shuruppak, the son of Ubara-Tutu gave to his son, Ziudsura. Further reading, it is known that this an instruction of a king to his son (Wikipedia). This is a wonderful almost 300 lines of instructions a father gave to his son, not too much philosophical and most of them were common and straight forward. Due to nature course, the translation doesn’t reach its 100% completion and there are several missing lines. But somehow almost all of these wi ...more
K. R. B. Moum
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting to find out that the earliest example of scripture was formulated explicitly with the purpose of passing the knowledge gathered through a life-long experience of a predecessor. Some points seemed machiavellian to an extent but that's natural for a ruler while advising the successor. However, the philosophical aspects he's providing here are more intriguing, for example; "242-244: Nothing at all is to be valued, but life should be sweet. You should not serve things; things should ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Compiled from fragments of different editions, from about 2600 BCE, the attributed author "Shuruppak" (the son of last pre-flood Sumerian leader Ubara-Tutu) compiles a list of wisdom for his son Ziusudra. This is one of the oldest extant fragments of literature too. While some readers might be disappointed with limits of the work as a list of advice, other readers might appreciate (if not be impressed by) the generous use of similes and metaphors which are still in use today.
Samantha Axberg
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting that the most ancient literature we have as humans is a recording of fatherly advice that was ancient even to the writer(s). It begins by stating that this advice was given long ago, and contemporary lists show that the people referenced in the piece were ancient even to the writers. It goes to show how crazy recent writing really is!
André Mattana
O texto mais antigo que conhecemos. Conselho de um rei sumério (Shuruppak) para o seu filho. (Na verdade escrito por uma mulher, Nisaba)

"You should not pass judgment when you drink beer."

"You should not serve things; things should serve you."

"Without suburbs a city has no centre either."

"Fate is a wet bank; it can make one slip. "
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Not a complete waste of time if you have interest in the ancient advice for the ancient times of Mesopotamia.

I hope his son followed the instructions obediently.
Mohamed Hasn
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a goodread. Probably, the oldest written text that we know of.
The instructions are mostly Prohibitions, it rarely used the imperative form.
Down to earth instructions like: what you should not buy, whom you should not marry, what you should not do when you are drunk, whom you should not take as a slave!
Still there are generic exceptions like:
"Nothing at all is to be valued, but life should be sweet. You should not serve things;
things should serve you"
Also, I guess we h
Sandra Gail
The oldest known 'self-improvement' text consists of 3 'books' totalling 280 lines, some of which are currently missing from our known collections.
rated it liked it
Mar 29, 2020
Haifa Khamis
rated it liked it
Apr 03, 2016
Milica Trajković
rated it it was amazing
Jul 07, 2020
rated it liked it
Feb 14, 2016
rated it it was ok
Oct 06, 2014
Ignat Petrenko
rated it it was amazing
Dec 01, 2015
rated it liked it
Jul 09, 2018
rated it liked it
Jun 20, 2018
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Kesh Temple Hymn
  • Enmerkar and The Lord of Aratta
  • Lament for Ur
  • Debate Between Bird and Fish
  • Enuma Elish: The Seven Tablets of the History of Creation
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • The Code of Hammurabi
  • The Curse of Agade
  • The Teachings of Ptahhotep: The Oldest Book in the World
  • The Epic of Atrahasis
  • Debate between Sheep and Grain
  • The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur
  • The Marriage of Nergal and Ereshkigal
  • Oedipus at Colonus (The Theban Plays, #2)
  • Heipparallaa, Aku Ankka (Aku Ankan taskukirja, #39)
  • Westcar Papyrus
  • The Eridu Genesis
See similar books…
Sumerian king, most ancient author known by name. He lived sometime in the 27th century BC.

News & Interviews

Karen M. McManus, the bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret, and One of Us Is Next, doesn’t shy away from secrets and...
61 likes · 3 comments
“Nothing at all is to be valued, but life should be sweet. You should not serve things; things should serve you.” 1 likes
More quotes…