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 Enűma Elišh
The Enűma 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 (Enűma 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.
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 theymight 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
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,
FOURTH AND FIFTH TABLETS
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.
THE FIFTH TABLET
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 ELEVENTH TABLET
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.
Overview of The Epic of Gilgamesh part 1
The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is widely believed to be the earliest existing literary
endeavour. It is an epic adventure based on the reign of a supposed
king of Uruk in Sumeria, approximately 2700 BCE.
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.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is widely believed to be the earliest
existing literary endeavour. It is an epic adventure based
on the reign of a supposed king of Uruk in Sumeria, approximately 2700 BCE.