Famous Works in Cuneiform


Copy from an impression on a cylinder seal . Ur-Gur King of  Ur, about 2500 B.C. performing act of worship before Sin, the moon god . The text reads : " Khaskhamer, thy servant, governer of the town of Ishkun-sin, O Ur Gur, mighty hero, king of Ur ."


The Enûma Elišh


The Enûma Eliš (Akkadian Cuneiform: ) is the Babylonian creation myth, it is thousand lines long and is recorded in Old Babylonian on seven clay tablets. From these inscriptions we gather that at about the middle of the seventh century before Christ the Babylonian story of the creation was pre- served at Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, in the form of a great poem, divided into a number of parts or sections, each of which was inscribed upon a separate tablet. The tablets were distinguished by numbers, and the whole series was named Enuma elish, In spite of the fragmentary condition of many parts of the poem, however, the thread of the narrative can generally be followed.



Enuma Elish: The Sumerian Epic Creation Story

 The Enuma Elish (Enûma Eliš) is the Babylonian creation myth that describes the great hero Marduk's battle with the great primordial dragon Tiamat and her armies of gods and monsters. Marduk defeats Tiamat, mutilates her body and uses it to form the covering of the sky and the Earth. He then creates man to keep the worship of the gods upon the earth.The Enuma Elish's earliest texts date back to the 700-600 BC, however the text was probably compiled long before, up to around 1800 BC.


Enuma Elish

 The Seven Tablets of the History of Creation

The Enuma Elish is one of the most important sources which provides an understanding of the Babylonian worldview. The Babylonian worldview is centered on the supremacy of Marduk, and contributes the belief that mankind exists to service god. This Babylonian creation epic was first discovered by modern scholars in the ruins of an early library in Mosul, Iraq and its seven translated clay tablets are provided to you here in the form of a paperback book.


This version of the Babylonian cosmogony is practically identical with that given by Berosus about three hundred and fifty years later. According to the version on the Assyrian tablets, chaos in the beginning, before the world was created, consisted of a watery mass. Two primeval beings personified chaos, namely Apsu, the " Deep," and Tiamat, the universal mother, who corresponds to the woman named Omorka, or Thamte, by Berosus. Beside Apsu and Tiamat no other being existed, and they mingled their waters in confusion. In the course of time the gods were created ; the first were Lakhmu and Lakhamu, Anshar and Kishar came next after many ages, and after a further period the other great gods were born.


But Tiamat, the monster of the Deep, who had taken the form of a huge serpent, and Apsu, her consort, revolted against the gods, and created a brood of monsters to destroy them. Anshar, the leader of the gods, having entrusted in vain the god Anu, and after him the god Ea, with the task of resist- ing Tiamat, prevailed on Marduk, the son of Ea, to be the champion of the gods and to do battle with the monster. The gods were summoned by Anshar to a council that they might confer supreme power upon Marduk and arm him for the fight. After completing his preparations Marduk went out to meet Tiamat and her host and succeeded in slaying her and in taking her helpers captive.


He then split Tiamat's body in half and from one half he formed the heaven, fixing

it as a firmament to divide the upper from the lower waters, and pLacing bars and sentinels that the waters should not break throuoh. Marduk then created the heavenly bodies that they might regulate the seasons, and he appointed the moon to rule the night. The poem at this point becomes mutilated, but there is evidence to show that Marduk then created the earth, and the green herb, and cattle, and the beasts of the field, and creeping things, and man, in the order here given. From the above summary of the Babylonian story of creation it will be seen that it presents some very remarkable points of resemblance to the narrative of the creation as preserved in the first chapter of Genesis ; and it is chiefly to this fact that the wide- spread interest in the legend is due.


The Epic of Gilgamish    Gilgamešh


Gilgamish and Ea-bani battle two bulls


The Epic of Gilgamish

Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, and his companion Enkidu are the only heroes to have survived from the ancient literature of Babylon, immortalized in this epic poem that dates back to the third millennium BC. Together they journey to the Spring of Youth, defeat the Bull of Heaven and slay the monster Humbaba. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh’s grief and fear of death are such that they lead him to undertake a quest for eternal life. A timeless tale of morality, tragedy and pure adventure, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a landmark literary exploration of man’s search for immortality.
N. K. Sandars’s lucid, accessible translation is prefaced by a detailed introduction that examines the narrative and historical context of the work. In addition, there is a glossary of names and a map of the Ancient Orient . A Penguin Classic .


The Epic of Gilgamesh (Complete Audiobook, Unabridged)


 Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, and his companion Enkidu are the greatest of the heroes to have survived from the ancient literature of Babylon, immortalised in this epic poem that dates back to the third millennium BC. Together they journey to the Cedar Forest, slay the monster Humbaba and defeat the Bull of Heaven. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh's grief and fear of death are such that they lead him to undertake a quest for eternal life. A timeless tale or morality, Tragedy and pure adventure,

In the year 1914 the University Museum secured by purchase a large six column tablet nearly complete, carrying originally, according to the scribal note, 240 lines of text. The contents supply the South Babylonian version of the second book of the epic ša nagba imuru, “He who has seen all things,” commonly referred to as the Epic of Gilgamish. The tablet is said to have been found at Senkere, ancient Larsa near Warka, modern Arabic name for and vulgar descendant of the ancient name Uruk, the Biblical Erech mentioned in Genesis . This fact makes the new text the more interesting since the legend of Gilgamish is said to have originated at Erech and the hero in fact figures as one of the prehistoric Sumerian rulers of that ancient city.


It is generally accepted that Gilgamesh was a historical figure, since inscriptions have been found which confirm the historical existence of other figures associated with him: such as the kings Enmebaragesi and Aga of Kish. If Gilgamesh was a historical king, he probably reigned in about the 26th century BC.


The Epic of Gilgamish existed both in Sumerian and Babylonian, as early as B.C. 2000. 12 tablets containg the epic of Gilgamesh were discovered on the site of Ashurbanipal's library in Nineveh . It was based on four or more Sumerian stories woven together . The stories concern Gilgamesh (sometimes spelled Gilgamish ) and his wild man companion Enkidu . In one of their adventures, Enkidu kills Humbaba, an evil monster of the cedar forest . enlil, the god of storms, decides Enkidu must die for this act . It is his death which provides a turning point for the epic . The loss of his friend drives Gilgamish to seek immortality, which he fails to do . In his quest he meets Utapishtim, the Babylonian Noah .


The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh saga containg the story of the deluge





The opening lines describe the great knowledge and wisdom  of Gilgamish, who saw everything, learned everything, under-  stood everything, who probed to the bottom the hidden  mysteries of wisdom, and who knew the history of everything  that happened before the Deluge. He travelled far over sea  and land, and performed mighty deeds, and then he cut upon  a tablet of stone an account of all that he had done and  suffered. He built the wall of Erech, founded the holy temple  of E-Anna, and carried out other great architectural works.  He was a semi-divine being, for his body was formed of the  " flesh of the gods " and " Two-thirds of  him were god, and one-third was man " .


The description of his   person is lost. As Shepherd (i.e., King) of Erech he forced  the people to toil overmuch, and his demands reduced them  to such a state of misery that they cried out to the gods and  begged them to create some king who should control Gilgamish  and give them deliverance from him. The gods hearkened to  the prayer of the men of Erech, and they commanded the  goddess Arum to create a rival to Gilgamish. The goddess  agreed to do their bidding, and having planned in her mind  what manner of being she intended to make, she washed her  hands, took a piece of clay and spat upon it, and made a  male creature like the god Anu. His body was covered alloover with hair. The hair of his head was long like that of  a woman, and he wore clothing like that of Gira (or, Sumug-  gan), a goddess of vegetation, i.e., he appeared to be clothed  with leaves.


He was different in every way from the people  of the country, and his name was Enkidu (Eabahi). He  lived in the forests on the hills, ate herbs like the gazelle,  drank with the wild cattle, and herded with the beasts of the  field. He was mighty in stature, invincible in strength, and  obtained complete mastery over all the creatures of the forests  in which he lived.   One day a certain hunter went out to snare game, and he  dug pit -traps and laid nets, and made his usual preparations  for roping in his prey. But after doing this for three days he  found that his pits were rilled up and his nets smashed, and  he saw Enkidu releasing the beasts that had been snared.  The hunter was terrified at the sight of Enkidu, and went home  hastily and told his father what he had seen and how badly  he had fared. By his father's advice he went to Erech, and  reported to Gilgamish what had happened. When Gilgamish  heard his story he advised him to act upon a suggestion which  the hunter's father had already made, namely that he should  hire a harlot and take her out to the forest, so that Enkidu  might be ensnared by the sight of her beauty, and take up  his abode with her.


The hunter accepted this advice, and  having found a harlot to help him in removing Enkidu from  the forests (thus enabling him to gain a living), he set out from  Erech with her and in due course arrived at the forest where  Enkidu lived, and sat down by the place where the beasts  came to drink.   On the second day when the beasts came to drink and  Enkidu was with them, the woman carried out the instructions  which the hunter had given her, and when Enkidu saw her  cast aside her veil, he left his beasts and came to her, and  remained with her for six days and seven nights.


At the end  of this period he returned to the beasts with which he had  lived on friendly terms, but as soon as the gazelle winded him  they took to flight, and the wild cattle disappeared into the  woods. When Enkidu saw the beasts forsake him his knees  gave way, and he swooned from sheer shame ; but when he  came to himself he returned to the harlot. She spoke to him  withlattering words, and asked him why he wandered with the  wild beasts in the desert, and then told him she wished to take  him back with her to Erech, where Anu and Ishtar lived, and  where the mighty Gilgamish reigned. Enkidu hearkened and  finally went back with her to her city, where she described the  wisdom, power and might of Gilgamish, and took steps to make  Enkidu known to him. But before Enkidu arrived, Gilgamish  had been warned of his existence and coming in two dreams  which he related to his mother Ninsunna


 and when he and Enkidu learned to know each other subsequently, these two mighty heroes became great friends.




  When Enkidu came to Erech the habits of the people of  the city were strange to him, but under the tuition of the  harlot he learned to eat bread and to drink beer, and to wear  clothes, and he anointed his body with unguents. He went  out into the forests with his hunting implements and snared  the gazelle and slew the panther, and obtained animals for  sacrifice, and gained reputation as a mighty hunter and as  a good shepherd. In due course he attracted the notice of  Gilgamish, who did not, however, like his uncouth appearance  and ways, but after a time, when the citizens of Erech praised  him and admired his strong and vigorous stature, he made  friends with him and rejoiced in him, and planned an expedition with him.


Before they set out, Gilgamish wished to pay  a visit to the goddess Ishkhara  but Enkidu,  fearing that the influence of the goddess would have a bad effect  upon his friend, urged him to abandon the visit. This Gilgamish  refused to do, and when Enkidu declared that by force he would  prevent him going to the goddess, a violent quarrel broke  out between the two heroes, and they appealed to arms. After  a fierce fight Enkidu conquered Gilgamish, who apparently  abandoned his visit to the goddess. The text of the Second  Tablet is very much mutilated, and the authorities on the  subject are not agreed as to the exact placing of the fragments.





The correct order of the fragments of this Tablet has not  yet been ascertained, but among the contents of the first part  of its text a lament by Enkidu that he was associated with  the harlot seems to have had a place. Whether he had left  the city of Erech and gone back to his native forest is not  clear, but the god Shamash, having heard his cursing of the  harlot, cried to him from heaven, saying, " Why, O Enkidu,  " dost thou curse the temple woman ? She gave thee food to  " eat which was meet only for a god, she gave thee wine to  " drink which was meet only for a king, she arrayed thee in  " splendid apparel, and made thee to possess as thy friend  " the noble Gilgamish. And at present Gilgamish is thy  " bosom friend. He maketh thee to lie down on a large couch,  " and to sleep in a good, well-decked bed, and to occupy the  " chair of peace, the chair on the left-hand side. The princes  " of the earth kiss thy feet. He maketh the people of Erech  " to sigh for thee, and many folk to cry out for thee, and to  " serve thee. And for thy sake he putteth on coarse attire  " and arrayeth himself in the skin of the lion, and pursueth  " thee over the plain."


When Enkidu heard these words his  anxious heart had peace.   To the Third Tablet probably belongs the fragment in  which Enkidu relates to Gilgamish a horrifying dream which  he had had. In his dream it seemed to him that there were  thunderings in heaven and quaking upon earth, and a being  with an awful visage, and nails like an eagle's talons, gripped  him and carried him off and forced him to go down into the  dark abyss of the dread goddess, Irkalla. From this abode  he who once " went in never came out, and he who travelled  " along that road never returned. He who dwelleth there is  " without light, the beings therein eat dust and feed upon  " mud ; they are clad in feathers and have wings like birds,  " they see no light, and they live in the darkness of night."  Here Enkidu saw in his dream creatures who had been kings  when they lived upon the earth, and shadowy beings offering  roasted meat to Ami and Enlil, and cool drinks poured out  from waterskins. In this House of Dust dwelt high priests,     



  ministrants, the magician and the prophet, and the deities  Etana, Sumukan, Eresh-kigal, Queen of the Earth, and Belit-  seri, who registered the deeds done upon the earth.   When Gilgamish heard this dream, he brought out a table,  and setting on it honey and butter placed it before Shamash



  Gilgamish then turned to Enkidu and invited him to go  with him to the temple of Nin-Makh to see the servant of his  mother, Ninsunna, in order to consult her as to the meaning of  the dream. They went there, and Enkidu told his dream,  and the wise woman offered up incense and asked Shamash  why he had given to her son a heart which could never keep  still. She next referred to the perilous expedition against the  mighty King Khumbaba, which he had decided to undertake  with Enkidu, and apparently hoped that the god would pre-  vent her son from leaving Erech. But Gilgamish was deter-  mined to march against Khumbaba, and he and Enkidu set  out without delay for the mountains where grew the cedars.   



 In due course the two heroes reached the forest of cedars,  and they contemplated with awe their great height and their  dense foliage. The cedars were under the special protection  of Bel, who had appointed to be their keeper Khumbaba, a  being whose voice was like the roar of a storm, whose mouth  was like that of the gods, and whose breath was like a gale  of wind. When Enkidu saw how dense was the forest and  how threatening, he tried to make Gilgamish .turn back, but  all his entreaties were in vain. As they were going through  the forest to attack Khumbaba, Enkidu dreamed two or three  dreams, and when he related them to Gilgamish, this hero  interpreted them as auguries of their success and the slaughter  of Khumbaba. The fragmentary character of the text here  makes it very difficult to find out exactly what steps the two  heroes took to overcome Khumbaba, but there is no doubt  that they did overcome him, and that they returned to Erech  in triumph. o




Extract from the text of the Sixth Tablet of the Gilgamish  Series (lines 50-70), containing a part of the speech which  Gilgamish addressed to Ishtar in answer to her overtures to  him. He reviles the goddess and reminds her of the death  of Tammuz, and the sufferings of all the creatures that have  been unfortunate enough to enter her service.


She followed up her complaint with the request that Anu  should create a mighty bull of heaven to destroy Gilgamish,  and she threatened her father that if he did not grant her  request she would do works of destruction, presumably in the  world. Anu created the fire-breathing (?) bull of heaven and  sent him to the city of Erech, where he destroyed large numbers  of the people.

At length Enkidu and Gilgamish determined to  go forth and slay the bull. When they came to the place  where, he was, Enkidu seized him by the tail, and Gilgamish  delivered deadly blows between his neck and his horns, and  together they killed him. As soon as Ishtar heard of the  death of the bull she rushed out on the battlements of the  walls of Erech and cursed Gilgamish for destroying her bull.  When Enkidu heard what Ishtar said, he went and tore off a  portion of the bull's flesh from his right side, and threw it at the  goddess, saying, " Could I but fight with thee I would serve thee  " as I have served him ! I would twine his entrails about thee."

 Then Ishtar gathered together all her temple women and harlots,  and with them made lamentation over the portion of the bull  which Enkidu had thrown at her.   And Gilgamish called together the artisans of Erech who  came and marvelled at the size of the bull's horns, for their  bulk was equal to 30 minas of lapis-lazuli, and their thickness  to the length of two fingers, and they could contain six Kur  measures of oil. Then Gilgamish took them to the temple  of the god Lugalbanda and hung them up there on the throne  of his majesty, and having made his offering he and Enkidu  went to the Euphrates and washed their hands, and walked  back to the market-place of Erech. As they went through the  streets of the city the people thronged about them to get a  sight of their faces.

When Gilgamesh asked :   " Who is splendid among men ?  " Who is glorious among heroes ? "   these questions were answered by the women of the palace  who cried :   " Gilgamish is splendid among men.   " Gilgamish is glorious among heroes."   When Gilgamish entered his" palace he ordered a great  festival to be kept, and his guests were provided by him with    

  beds to sleep on. On the night of the festival Enkidu had a  dream, and he rose up and related it to Gilgamish.     


About the contents of the Seventh Tablet there is considerable doubt, and the authorities differ in their opinions about  them. A large number of lines of text are wanting at the  beginning of the Tablet, but it is very probable that they  contained a description of Enkidu's dream. This may have  been followed by an interpretation of the dream, either by  Gilgamish or some one else, but whether this be so or not,  it seems tolerably certain that the dream portended disaster  for Enkidu.

A fragment, which seems to belong to this Tablet  beyond doubt, describes the sickness and death of Enkidu.  The cause of his sickness is unknown, and the fragment merely  states that he took to his bed and lay there for ten days, when  his illness took a turn for the worse, and on the twelfth day  lie died. He may have died of wounds received in some fight,  but it is more probable that, he succumbed to an attack of  Mesopotamian fever.

When Gilgamish was told that his  brave friend and companion in many fights was dead, he could  not believe it, and he thought that he must be asleep, but when  he found that death had really carried off Enkidu, he broke  out into the lament which formed the beginning of the text  of the next Tablet.




In this lament he calls Enkidu his brave friend and the  " panther of the desert," and refers to their hunts in the  mountains, and to their slaughter of the bull of heaven, and  to the overthrow of Khumbaba in the forest of cedar, and then  he asks him :   ' What kind of sleep is this which hath laid hold upon  " thee ?   ' Thou starest out blankly (?) and hearest me not ! "   But Enkidu moved not, and when Gilgamish touched his  breast his heart was still. Then laying a covering over him     .   as carefully as if he had been his bride, he turned away from  the dead body and in his grief roared like a raging lion and  like a lioness robbed of her whelps.     


In bitter grief Gilgamish wandered about the country  uttering lamentations for his beloved companion, Enkidu.  As he went about he thought to himself,   " I myself shall die, and shall not I then be as Enkidu ?  " Sorrow hath entered into my soul,   " Because of the fear of death which hath got hold of me  do I wander over the country."   His fervent desire was to escape from death, and remem-  bering that his ancestor Uta-Napishtim, the son of Ubara-  Tutu, had become deified and immortal, Gilgamish deter-  mined to set out for the place where he lived in order to obtain  from him the secret of immortality.

Where Uta-Napishtim  lived was unknown to Gilgamish, but he seems to have made  up his mind that he would have to face danger in reaching  the place, for he says, " I will set out and travel quickly. I  shall reach the denies in the mountains by night, and if I  see lions, and am terrified at them, I shall lift up my head  and appeal to the goddess Sin, and to Ishtar, the Lady of  the Gods, who is wont to hearken to my prayers." After  Gilgamish set out to go to the west he was attacked either by  men or animals, but he overcame them and went on until he  -arrived at Mount Mashu, where it would seem the sun was  thought both to rise and to set. The approach to this moun-  tain was guarded by Scorpion-men, whose aspect was so  terrible that the mere sight of it was sufficient to kill the  mortal who beheld them ; even the mountains collapsed  under the glance of their eyes.

When Gilgamish saw the  Scorpion-men he was smitten with fear, and under the influence  of his terror the colour of his face changed ; but he plucked up  courage and bowed to them humbly. Then a Scorpion-man  cried out to his wife, saying, " The body of him that cometh  to us is the flesh of the gods," and she replied, " Two-thirds  of him is god, and the other third is man." The Scorpion-  man then received Gilgamish kindly, and warned him that the  way which he was about to travel was full of danger and  difficulty. Gilgamish told him that he was in search of his  ancestor, Uta-Napishtim, who had been deified and made  immortal by the gods, and that it was his intention to go to  him to learn the secret of immortality. The Scorpion-man in  answer told him that it was impossible for him to continue  his journey through that country, for no man had ever succeeded in passing through the dark region of that mountain,  which required twelve double-hours to traverse.

Nothing  dismayed, Gilgamish set out on the road through the mountains, and the darkness increased in density every hour, but  he struggled on, and at the end of the twelfth hour he arrived  at a region where there was bright daylight, and he entered a  lovely garden, filled with trees loaded with luscious fruits, and  he saw the " tree of the gods."   


In the region to which Gilgamish had come stood the  palace or fortress of the goddess Siduri-Sabitu, and to this he  directed his steps with the view of obtaining help to continue  his journey. The goddess wore a girdle and sat upon a throne  by the side of the sea, and when she saw him coming towards  her palace, travel-stained and clad in the ragged skin of some  animal, she thought that he might prove an undesirable visitor  and so ordered the door of her palace to be 'closed against  him.

But Gilgamish managed to obtain speech with her, and having asked her what ailed her, and why she had closed  her door, he threatened to 'smash the bolt and break down  the door. In answer Siduri-Sabitu said to him :    " Why are thy cheeks wasted ? Thy face is bowed down,   

" My heart sad, my form dejected ? "   And then he told the goddess that his ill-looks and miserable  appearance were due to the fact that death had carried off  his dear friend Enkidu, the " panther of the desert," who  had traversed the mountains with him and had helped him  to overcome Khumbaba in the cedar forest, and to slay the  bull of heaven, Enkidu his dear friend who had fought with  lions and killed them, and who had been with him in all his  difficulties ; and, he added; " I wept over him for six days  and nights .... before I would let him be buried."  

Continuing his narrative, Gilgamish said to Sabitu-Siduri :   . " I was horribly afraid .    "I was afraid of death, and therefore I fled through   the country.  " The fate of my friend lieth heavily upon me,   

" Therefore am I travelling on a long journey through   the country.  " The fate of my friend lieth heavily upon me,    " Therefore am I travelling on a long journey through   the country.    " How is it possible for me to keep silence about it ?   How is it possible for me to cry out [the story of] it ?  . " My friend whom I loved hath become like the dust.   " Enkidu, my friend whom I loved hath become like  the dust.    " Shall not I myself also be obliged to lay me down    " And never again rise up to all eternity ? "   . Gilgamish [continued] to speak unto Sabitu [saying] :   " O Sabitu, which is the way to Uta-Napishtim ?    " What is the description thereof ? Give me, give me   the description thereof.    " If it be possible I will cross the sea,    " If it be impossible I will travel by land."    Then Sabitu answered and said unto Gilgamish :      " There is no passage most assuredly, O Gilgamish. ,    " And no one, from the earliest times, hath been able to   cross the sea.    " The hero Shamash (the Sun-god) hath indeed crossed   the sea, but who besides him could do so ?   74. " The passage is hard, and the way is difficult.    " And the Waters of Death which block the other end   of it are deep.    " How then, Gilgamish, wilt thou be able to cross the   sea ?   . " When thou arrivest at the Waters of Death what wilt thou do ? "   

Sabitu then told Gilgamish that Ur-Shanabi, the boatman  of Uta-Napishtim, was in the place, and that he should see  him, and added :    " If it be possible cross with him, and if it be impossible  come back."   Gilgamish left the goddess and succeeded in finding Ur-  Shanabi, the boatman, who addressed to him words similar  to those of Sabitu quoted above. Gilgamish answered him  as he had answered Sabitu, and then asked him for news  about the road to Uta-Napishtim. In reply Ur-Shanabi  told him to take his axe and to go down into the forest and  cut a number of poles 60 cubits long ; Gilgamish did so, and  when he returned with them he went up into the" boat with  Ur-Shanabi, and they made a voyage of one month and fifteen  days ; on the third day they reached the [limit of the] Waters  of Death, which Ur-Shanabi told Gilgamish not to touch  with his hand.

Meanwhile, Uta-Napishtim had seen the  boat coming and, as something in its appearance seemed strange  to him, he went down to the shore to see who the newcomers  were. When he saw Gilgamish he asked him the same  questions that Sabitu and Ur-Shanabi had asked him, and  Gilgamish answered as he had answered them, and then went  on to tell him the reason for his coming. He said that he  had determined to go to visit Uta-Napishtim, the remote,  and had therefore journeyed far and that in the course of  his travels he had passed over difficult mountains and crossed   the sea. He had not succeeded in entering the house of  Sabitu, for she had caused him to be driven from her door  on account of his dirty, ragged, and travel-stained apparel.  He had eaten birds and beasts of many kinds, the lion, the  panther, the jackal, the antelope, mountain goat, etc., and,  apparently, had dressed himself in their skins.   

A break in the text makes it impossible to give the opening  lines of Uta-Napishtim's reply, but he mentions the father  and mother of Gilgamish, and in the last twenty lines of the  Tenth Tablet he warns Gilgamish that on earth there is nothing  permanent, that Mammitum, the arranger of destinies, has  settled the question of the death and life of man with the  Anunnaki, and that none may find out the day of his death  or escape from death.



The story of the Deluge as told by Uta-Napishtim to  Gilgamish has already been given on pp. , and we therefore pass on to the remaining contents of this Tablet. When  Uta-Napishtim had finished the story of the Deluge, he said  to Gilgamish, " Now as touching thyself ; which of the gods  " will gather thee to himself so that thou mayest find the life  " which thou seekest ? Come now, do not lay thyself down  " to sleep for six days and seven nights." But in spite of  this admonition as soon as Gilgamish had sat down, drowsiness  overpowered him and he fell fast asleep. Uta-Napishtim,  seeing that even the mighty hero Gilgamish could not resist  falling asleep, with some amusement drew the attention of  his wife to the fact, but she felt sorry for the tired man, and  suggested that he should take steps to help him to return to  his home.

In reply Uta-Napishtim told her to bake bread  for him and she did so, and each day for six days she carried  a loaf to the ship and laid it on the deck where Gilgamish  lay sleeping. On the seventh day when she took the loaf  Uta-Napishtim touched Gilgamish, and the hero woke up  with a start, and admitted that he had been overcome with  sleep, and made incapable of movement thereby.   Still vexed with the thought of death and filled with  anxiety to escape from it, Gilgamish asked his host what he       should do and where he should go to effect his object. By  Uta-Napishtim's advice, he made an agreement with Ur-  Shanabi the boatman, and prepared to re-cross the sea on his  way home. But before he set out on his way Uta-Napishtim  told him of the existence of a plant which jrewjat the bottom  of the sea, and apparently led Gilgamish to believe that the  possession of it would confer upon him immortality.

Thereupon  Gilgamish tied heavy stones [to his feet], and let himself down  into the sea through an opening in the floor of the boat. When  he reached the bottom of the sea, he saw the plant and  plucked it, and ascended into the boat with it. Showing it to  Ur-Shanabi, he told him that it was a most marvellous plant,  and that it would enable a man to obtain his heart's desire. Its  name was " Shibu issahir amelu,"  "The old man becometh young [again]," and Gilgamish  declared that he would " eat of it in order to recover his lost  youth," and that he would take it home to his fortified city  of Erech. Misfortune, however, dogged his steps, and the plant  never reached Erech, for whilst Gilgamish and Ur-Shanabi  were on their way back to Erech they passed a pool the water  of which was very cold, and Gilgamish dived into it and took  a bath.

Whilst there a serpent discovered the whereabouts of  the plant through its smell and swallowed it. When Gilgamish  saw what had happened he cursed aloud, and sat down and wept,  and the tears coursed down his cheeks as he lamented over  the waste of his toil, and the vain expenditure of his heart's  blood, and his failure to do any good for himself. Dis-  hejprtened and weary he struggled on his way with his friend,  ana at length they arrived at the fortified city of Erech.

The city of Erech was the second of the four cities which, according  to Genesis x, 10, were founded by Nimrod, the son of Cush, the  " mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his king-  dom was Babel, and Erech and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of  Shinar." The Sumerians and Babylonians called the city "  the first sign means " dwelling " or " habitation," and  the second " land, country," etc., and we may regard it as the " inhabited  country," par excellence, of Lower Babylonia at a very early period.  The site of Erech is well-known, and is marked by the vast ruins which  the Arabs call " Warkah," or Al-Warkah. These lie in 31 19' N. Lat.  and 45 40' E. Long., and are about four miles from the Euphrates,  on the left or east bank of the river. Sir W. K. Loftus carried out  excavations on the site in 1849-52, and says that the external walls  

 Then Gilgamish told Ur-Shanabi to jump up on the wall  and examine the bricks from the foundations to the battle-  ments, and see if the plans which he had made concerning  them had been carried out during his absence.


The text of the Twelfth Tablet is very fragmentary, and  contains large gaps, but it seems certain that Gilgamish did  not abandon his hope of finding the secret of immortality. He  had failed to find it upon earth, and he made arrangements  with the view of trying to find it in the kingdom of the dead.  The priests whom he consulted described to him the conditions  under which he might hope to enter the Underworld, but he  was unable to fulfil the obligations which they laid upon him,  and he could not go there.

Gilgamish then thought that if he  could have a conversation with Enkidu, his dead friend, he  might learn from him what he wanted to know. He appealed  to Bel and asked him to raise up the spirit of Enkidu for him,  but Bel made no answer ; he then appealed to Sin, and this god also made no answer. He next appealed to Ea, who, taking  pity on him, ordered the warrior god Nergal to produce the  spirit of Enkidu, and this god opened a hole in the ground  through which the spirit of Enkidu passed up into this world  " like a breath of wind." Gilgamish began to ask the spirit of  Enkidu questions, but gained very little information or satisfaction. The last lines of the tablet seem to say that the  spirit of the unburied man reposeth not in the earth, and that  the spirit of the friendless man wandereth about the streets  eating the remains of food which are cast out from the cooking  pots.




The prehistoric Sumerian dynasties were all transformed into the realm of myth and legend. Nevertheless these rulers, although appearing in the pretentious nomenclature as gods, appear to have been real historic personages.The name Gilgamish was originally written dGi-bil-aga-miš, and means “The fire god (Gibil) is a commander,” abbreviated to dGi-bil-ga-miš, and dGi(š)-bil-ga-miš, a form which by full labialization of b to u was finally contracted to dGi-il-ga-miš.






Words and sayings

in Cuneiform and more