(Epic poem, anonymous, Sumerian/Mesopotamian/Akkadian, c. 20th – 10th Century BCE, around 1,950 lines)
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Introduction – What is the epos of Gilgamesh

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“The epos of Gilgamesh” is an epic poem from old Mesopotamia and amongst the earliest known literary writings in the world. It originated together a series of Sumerian legends and poems in picture writing script dating earlier to the early 3rd or late 2nd millenium BCE, i beg your pardon were later on gathered into a longer Akkadian city (the most finish version existing today, kept on 12 clay tablets, days from the 12th come 10th Century BCE).

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It adheres to the story that Gilgamesh, the mythological hero-king that Uruk, and also his half-wild friend, Enkidu, together they wear a series of danger quests and also adventures, and then Gilgamesh’s find for the an enig of immortality ~ the death of his friend. It additionally includes the story of a great flood very comparable to the story of boy name in “The Bible” and also elsewhere.

Synopsis – Gilgamesh Summary

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The story begins v the advent of Gilgamesh, king that Uruk, two-thirds god and one-third human, blessed through the gods through strength, courage and also beauty, and also the strongest and also greatest king who ever before existed. The great city that Uruk is also praised for its glory and its solid brick walls.

However, the people of Uruk are not happy, and complain that Gilgamesh is too harsh and also abuses his power by resting with your women. The goddess of creation, Aruru, create a mighty wild-man named Enkidu, a competitor in toughness to Gilgamesh. He stays a organic life through the wild animals, however he shortly starts bothering the shepherds and trappers that the area and jostles the animals at the watering hole. At the request of a trapper, Gilgamesh sends out a holy place prostitute, Shamhat, come seduce and also tame Enkidu and, after six days and seven nights v the harlot, the is no longer just a wild beast who stays with animals. He quickly learns the means of men and also is shunned by the animals he supplied to live with, and the harlot ultimately persuades that to concerned live in the city. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh has actually some strange dreams, i beg your pardon his mother, Ninsun, describes as one indication that a mighty friend will pertained to him.

The newly-civilized Enkidu pipeline the wilderness through his consort because that the city of Uruk, where he learn to aid the local shepherds and also trappers in your work. One day, as soon as Gilgamesh himself concerns a wedding party to sleep with the bride, together is his custom, he finds his means blocked through the mighty Enkidu, that opposes Gilgamesh‘s ego, his therapy of women and also the defamation of the spiritual bonds that marriage. Enkidu and also Gilgamesh fight each other and, after a mighty battle, Gilgamesh loss Enkidu, however breaks off from the fight and also spares his life. He additionally begins come heed what Enkidu has said, and to find out the virtues the mercy and also humility, in addition to courage and also nobility. Both Gilgamesh and also Enkidu are changed for the far better through your new-found friendship and have many lessons to discover from each other. In time, they start to see each other as brothers and become inseparable.

Years later, bored v the tranquil life in Uruk and also wanting to make an everlasting surname for himself, Gilgamesh proposes to take trip to the sacred Cedar forest to reduced some an excellent trees and also kill the guardian, the demon Humbaba. Enkidu objects come the arrangement as the Cedar woodland is the sacred realm that the gods and also not meant for mortals, however neither Enkidu no the council of elders that Uruk have the right to convince Gilgamesh not to go. Gilgamesh’s mother additionally complains about the quest, however eventually provides in and asks the sun-god Shamash because that his support. She also gives Enkidu some advice and adopts him together her second son.

On the method to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh has some negative dreams, however each time Enkidu manages to describe away the desires as good omens, and he encourages and urges Gilgamesh on as soon as he becomes afraid again on reaching the forest. Finally, the two heroes challenge Humbaba, the demon-ogre guardian the the spiritual trees, and also a good battle commences. Gilgamesh offers the monster his very own sisters as wives and also concubines in stimulate to odor it into offering away his seven layers of armour, and finally, v the help of the winds sent out by the sun-god Shamash, Humbaba is defeated. The monster begs Gilgamesh because that his life, and also Gilgamesh at first pities the creature, despite Enkidu’s helpful advice to kill the beast. Humbaba climate curses castle both, and Gilgamesh ultimately puts an finish to it. The 2 heroes cut down a large cedar tree, and Enkidu provides it to do a huge door for the gods, which the floats down the river.

Some time later, the goddess Ishtar (goddess that love and also war, and also daughter of the sky-god Anu) provides sexual advancements to Gilgamesh, however he rejects her, since of her mistreatment of she previous lovers. The offended Ishtar insists the her dad send the “Bull of Heaven” to avenge Gilgamesh’s rejection, threatening to progressive the dead if he will not comply. The beast brings through it a great drought and plague that the land, however Gilgamesh and also Enkidu, this time without magnificent help, slay the beast and also offer its heart to Shamash, cram the bull’s hindquarters in the challenge of the overcome Ishtar.

The city the Uruk celebrate the great victory, however Enkidu has actually a poor dream in i beg your pardon the god decide to punish Enkidu himself for the killing of the Bull that Heaven and Humbaba. That curses the door he made for the gods, and also he curses the trapper that met, the harlot that loved and also the really day that he came to be human. However, he regrets his curses as soon as Shamash speaks from heaven and also points out exactly how unfair Enkidu is being. He likewise points out that Gilgamesh will come to be but a shadow of his former self if Enkidu to be to die. Nevertheless, the curse takes hold and also day after work Enkidu becomes an ext and more ill. As he dies, he explains his descent right into the horrific dark Underworld (the “House of Dust”), wherein the dead stay feathers favor birds and eat clay.

Gilgamesh is devasted through Enkidu’s death and offers presents to the gods, in the hope the he could be enabled to walk beside Enkidu in the Underworld. He orders the people of Uruk, indigenous the lowest farmer come the highest temple priests, to also mourn Enkidu, and also orders statues that Enkidu to be built. Gilgamesh is so complete of grief and sorrow over his friend that he refuses to leave Enkidu‘s side, or enable his corpse to be buried, until 6 days and also seven nights ~ his death when maggots start to autumn from his body.

Gilgamesh is determined to stop Enkidu‘s fate and decides to make the perilous trip to visit Utnapishtim and also his wife, the only human beings to have survived the great Flood and also who were granted immortality by the gods, in the expect of learning the secret of everlasting life. The ageless Utnapishtim and his wife now reside in a beautiful country in one more world, Dilmun, and Gilgamesh travels far to the eastern in find of them, crossing an excellent rivers and oceans and also mountain passes, and grappling and also slaying monstrous mountain lions, bears and other beasts.

Eventually, he comes to the pair peaks of mount Mashu at the finish of the earth, from where the sunlight rises native the other world, the door of i beg your pardon is guarded by two disastrous scorpion-beings. They enable Gilgamesh to proceed as soon as he convinces castle of his divinity and also his desperation, and also he travels because that twelve leagues through the dark tunnel wherein the sunlight travels every night. The people at the finish of the tunnel is a glowing wonderland, complete of trees v leaves that jewels.

The very first person Gilgamesh meets there is the wine-maker Siduri, who originally believes that is a murderer from his dishevelled appearance and also attempts come dissuade the from his quest. However eventually she sends out him come Urshanabi, the ferryman that must assist him overcome the sea come the island wherein Utnapishtim lives, navigating the Waters of Death, of i beg your pardon the slightest touch way instant death.

When that meets Urshanabi, though, he appears to be surrounded by a agency of stone-giants, i m sorry Gilgamesh timeless kills, reasoning them to it is in hostile. He speak the ferryman his story and asks because that his help, however Urshanabi explains that he has just damaged the sacred stones which permit the ferry boat to safely cross the Waters the Death. The only method they have the right to now cross is if Gilgamesh cuts 120 trees and also fashions them right into punting poles, so the they deserve to cross the waters by making use of a brand-new pole each time and by making use of his garment together a sail.

Finally, they reach the island that Dilmun and, as soon as Utnapishtim sees the there is someone rather in the boat, he asks Gilgamesh who he is. Gilgamesh speak him his story and asks because that help, but Utnapishtim reprimands him due to the fact that he knows the fighting the fate of human beings is futile and also ruins the happiness in life. Gilgamesh demands of Utnapishtim in what way their two cases differ and Utnapishtim speak him the story of how he made it through the good flood.

Utnapishtim recounts exactly how a great storm and flood was carried to the world by the god Enlil, who wanted come destroy every one of mankind for the noise and confusion they carried to the world. However the god Ea forewarned Utnapishtim, advising him to construct a delivery in readiness and also to load onto that his treasures, his family and the seed of all living things. The rains come as promised and also the whole people was spanned with water, killing every little thing except Utnapishtim and his boat. The watercraft came to remainder on the pointer of the mountain of Nisir, whereby they waited because that the waters to subside, releasing first a dove, then a swallow and also then a crow to examine for dry land. Utnapishtim then made sacrifices and libations come the god and, back Enlil to be angry the someone had survived his flood, Ea recommend him to do his peace. So, Enlil blessed Utnapishtim and also his wife and also granted them everlasting life, and took them come live in the land of the gods on the island of Dilmun.

However, despite his reservations about why the gods should offer him the same honour as himself, the hero of the flood, Utnapishtim does reluctantly decision to market Gilgamesh a opportunity for immortality. First, though, he challenges Gilgamesh to continue to be awake for six days and seven nights, but Gilgamesh falls asleep almost before Utnapishtim finishes speaking. Once he awakes after 7 days that sleep, Utnapishtim ridicules his failure and also sends him back to Uruk, along with the ferryman Urshanabi in exile.

As they leave, though, Utnapishtim’s wife asks her husband to have mercy on Gilgamesh because that his lengthy journey, and so he tells Gilgamesh the a plant the grows at the really bottom that the s that will certainly make him young again. Gilgamesh obtains the tree by binding stones come his feet to permit him come walk ~ above the bottom of the sea. He plans to usage the flower to rejuvenate the old men of the city the Uruk and then to usage it himself. Unfortunately, he places the plant on the coast of a lake while the bathes, and also it is stolen by a serpent, which loses its old skin and is thus reborn. Gilgamesh weeps at having actually failed at both avenues to achieve immortality, and he disconsolately return to the enormous walls that his own city of Uruk.

In time, Gilgamesh as well dies, and the people of Uruk mourn his passing, knowing that lock will never see his like again.

The twelfth tablet is supposedly unconnected v previous ones, and also tells an alternative legend from previously in the story, when Enkidu is tho alive. Gilgamesh complains to Enkidu that he has actually lost some objects offered to the by the goddess Ishtar when they dropped in the Underworld. Enkidu offers to lug them back for him, and the happy Gilgamesh speak Enkidu what he must, and must not, execute in the Underworld in order come be sure of comes back.

When Enkidu set off, however, he timeless forgets every this advice, and also does whatever he was told no to do, leading to his being trapped in the Underworld. Gilgamesh prays come the gods to return his friend and, return Enlil and also Suen execute not even bother to reply, Ea and also Shamash decide to help. Shamash crack a hole in the earth and Enkidu jumps out of it (whether together a ghost or in fact is no clear). Gilgamesh concerns Enkidu about what he has seen in the Underworld.


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The earliest Sumerian execution of “The epos of Gilgamesh” date native as early on as the 3rd Dynasty of Ur (2150 – 2000 BCE), and also are written in Sumerian cuneiform script, one of the faster known creates of written expression. The relates old folklore, tales and also myths and it is thought that over there were countless different smaller sized stories and also myths that over time thrived together right into one complete work. The earliest Akkadian versions (Akkadian is a later, unrelated, Mesopotamian language, which also used the cuneiform writing system) room dated to the early second millennium.

The so-called “standard” Akkadian version, consisting of twelve (damaged) tablets composed by the Babylonian scribe Sin-liqe-unninni part time between 1300 and also 1000 BCE, was discovered in 1849 in the library the the 7th Century BCE Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, in Nineveh, the funding of the ancient Assyrian empire (in modern Iraq). The is written in typical Babylonian, a language of Akkadian that was only provided for literature purposes. The original title, based upon the opened words, was “He that Saw the Deep” (“Sha naqba imuru”) or, in the earlier Sumerian versions, “Surpassing All other Kings” (“Shutur eli sharri”).

Fragments of various other compositions that the Gilgamesh story have actually been discovered in other locations in Mesopotamia and as much away together Syria and also Turkey. Five shorter poems in the Sumerian language (“Gilgamesh and Huwawa”, “Gilgamesh and the Bull the Heaven”, “Gilgamesh and also Agga the Kish”, “Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld” and “Death the Gilgamesh”), an ext than 1,000 year older 보다 the Nineveh tablets, have also been discovered. The Akkadian traditional edition is the communication of most modern-day translations, through the larger Sumerian version being supplied to complement it and fill in the gaps or lacunae.

The twelfth tablet, which is regularly appended as a sort of sequel to the original eleven, was most probably included at a later on date and seems come bear tiny relation come the well-crafted and finished eleven tablet computer epic. That is actually a close to copy that an earlier tale, in which Gilgamesh sends Enkidu to retrieve some objects of his indigenous the Underworld, yet Enkidu dies and returns in the kind of a soul to called the nature the the Underworld come Gilgamesh. Enkidu’s pessimistic description that the Underworld in this tablet computer is the earliest such description known.

Gilgamesh could actually have been a real ruler in the late at an early stage Dynastic II duration (c. 27th Century BCE), a contemporary of Agga, king of Kish. The exploration of artifacts, dating ago to roughly 2600 BCE, linked with Enmebaragesi of Kish (who is pointed out in the legends as the dad of one of Gilgamesh‘s adversaries), has lent credibility come the historic existence the Gilgamesh. In Sumerian king lists, Gilgamesh is detailed as the 5th king judgment after the flood.

According to part scholars, there space many parallel verses, and themes or episodes, which suggest a comprehensive influence the the “Epic of Gilgamesh” ~ above the later Greek epic poem “The Odyssey”, ascribed to Homer. Some facets of the “Gilgamesh” flood legend seem to be closely related to the story that Noah’s ark in “The Bible” and the Qur’an, as well as similar stories in Greek, Hindu and other myths, under to the building of a boat to accommodate all life, its ultimate coming to rest on the optimal of a mountain and also the sending out out of a dove to uncover dry land. It is also thought that the Alexander the good myth in Islamic and also Syrian cultures is affected by the Gilgamesh story.

The “Epic the Gilgamesh” is basically a secular narrative, and there no tip that that was ever recited as part of a religious ritual. That is separated into loosely associated episodes spanning the most important events in the life that the hero, although over there is no account the Gilgamesh’s miraculous bear or childhood legends.

The standard Akkadian version that the poem is composed in loose rhythmic verse, with four beats to a line, if the older, Sumerian version has a shorter line, v two beats. It supplies “stock epithets” (repeated common descriptive words applied to the key characters) in the same method as Homer does, return they space perhaps an ext sparingly provided than in Homer. Also, together in numerous oral city traditions, there room word because that word repetitions the (often reasonably long) narrative and also conversation sections, and of long and also elaborate greeting formulae. A number of the usual devices of poetic embellishment space employed, consisting of puns, intentional ambiguity and irony, and the occasional efficient use the similes.

Despite the antiquity of the work, we are shown, through the action, a an extremely human issue with mortality, the search for knowledge and also for one escape indigenous the usual lot that man. Much of the tragedy in the city arises native the conflict between the desires of the divine part of Gilgamesh (from his goddess mother) and also the destiny the the mortal guy (his mortality conferred on the by his human being father).

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The wild guy Enkidu was developed by the gods both together a friend and companion for Gilgamesh, but also as a foil for him and as a emphasis for his too much vigour and also energy. Interestingly, Enkidu’s progression native wild pet to polite city man represents a kind of biblical “Fall” in reverse, and an allegory of the stages by which man reaches civilization (from savagery come pastoralism come city life), saying that the at an early stage Babylonians may have been social evolutionists.