The great libraries of the ancient world served as archives for empires, sanctuaries for sacred writings, and depositories of literature and chronicles.
The king asserted that he could read the wedge-shaped cuneiform script, and his desire to preserve in one place all of the world's important works of literature and science has been called visionary. Some of the works collected by Ashurbanipal were 1,000 years old at the time. Included in the king's library were fragments from a copy of the Epic of Creation (7th century BC) as well as from The Epic of Gilgamesh (7th century BC), considered the most important work of Mesopotamian literature. In the 19th and 20th century, more than 20,000 cuneiform tablets were discovered by the British Museum.