Babylonian literature contains both prose and poetry. The unique characteristic of the poetry is parallelism, which is a rendition of an idea in two different ways side-by-side. One interesting example is the passage from the Atra-hasis Epic in which the god Enlil complains:

"The clamor of mankind oppresses me, by their tumult I am deprived of sleep."

Poetic lines are usually grouped in couplets as in this example, although singlets and triplets do exist. The line ends in a trochee and usually divides into two stichoi, each having two beats. Rhyme was unknown at the time and it is uncertain whether or not metre was present.

Traditionally literary compositions were entitled by the first few words of the text and so it was common to find such titles as "When Above" (Enuma Elish), and "He Who Saw the Abyss" (Gilgamesh Epic). Dividing literature according to genres was not really recognized by the ancient Babylonians, although modern scholars can divide the literature into a number of categories. These are epics and myths, prayers and hymns, wisdom literature and historiography.

Certain stories that were popular among the ancient Babylonians were repeated in more than one composition. So, for example, the story of the Flood is known in the Gilgamesh Epic and from one in the Atra-hasis Epic. The most famous epics and myths were Gilgamesh, Atra-hasis, Adapa, Nergal and Ereshkigal, When Above, Descent of Ishtar into Hades, Anzu, Etana and Era. A sub-genre is the historical epic of the king of battle and Tukulti-Ninurta I.