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

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“The epic of Gilgamesh” is an epic poem from old Mesopotamia and among the earliest recognized literary works in the world. The originated as a collection of Sumerian legends and also poems in cuneiform script dating ago to the early third or late 2nd millenium BCE, i m sorry were later gathered right into a longer Akkadian poem (the most complete version present today, preserved on 12 clay tablets, days from the 12th to 10th Century BCE).

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It complies with the story that Gilgamesh, the mythological hero-king of Uruk, and also his half-wild friend, Enkidu, together they stay a collection of danger quests and also adventures, and then Gilgamesh’s search for the secret of immortality after ~ the death of his friend. It also includes the story the a an excellent flood very similar to the story of young name in “The Bible” and elsewhere.

Synopsis – Gilgamesh Summary

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The story begins through the introduction of Gilgamesh, king that Uruk, two-thirds god and one-third human, blessed by the gods through strength, courage and beauty, and the strongest and also greatest king who ever existed. The an excellent city of Uruk is likewise praised because that its glory and its strong brick walls.

However, the people the Uruk room not happy, and also complain the Gilgamesh is also harsh and abuses his strength by sleeping with your women. The goddess of creation, Aruru, creates a mighty wild-man named Enkidu, a competitor in stamin to Gilgamesh. He lives a organic life with the wild animals, yet he quickly starts bothering the shepherds and also trappers of the area and also jostles the pets 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 through the harlot, that is no longer just a wild beast who stays with animals. He soon learns the methods of men and also is shunned by the animals he provided to live with, and the harlot at some point persuades that to involved live in the city. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh has actually some strange dreams, i m sorry his mother, Ninsun, describes as one indication the a mighty friend will concerned him.

The newly-civilized Enkidu leaves the wilderness through his consort because that the city that Uruk, whereby he learns to assist the local shepherds and also trappers in their work. One day, when Gilgamesh himself comes to a wedding party come sleep through the bride, as is his custom, he find his means blocked by the mighty Enkidu, who opposes Gilgamesh‘s ego, his therapy of women and the defamation of the spiritual bonds the marriage. Enkidu and also Gilgamesh fight each other and, after a mighty battle, Gilgamesh defeats Enkidu, yet breaks off from the fight and spares his life. He also begins come heed what Enkidu has actually said, and to find out the virtues the mercy and humility, together with courage and also nobility. Both Gilgamesh and also Enkidu are transformed for the far better through your new-found friendship and also have numerous lessons to discover from each other. In time, they start to check out each other as brothers and become inseparable.

Years later, bored with the serene life in Uruk and wanting to make an everlasting surname for himself, Gilgamesh proposes to travel to the sacred Cedar forest to cut some good trees and also kill the guardian, the demon Humbaba. Enkidu objects come the arrangement as the Cedar woodland is the spiritual realm of the gods and not intended for mortals, but neither Enkidu no the the supervisory board of elders of Uruk can convince Gilgamesh not to go. Gilgamesh’s mother likewise complains around the quest, however eventually gives in and asks the sun-god Shamash for his support. She additionally gives Enkidu part advice and also adopts him as her 2nd son.

On the means to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh has actually some negative dreams, yet each time Enkidu manages to explain away the dreams as an excellent omens, and also he encourages and urges Gilgamesh on when he becomes fear again on getting to the forest. Finally, the two heroes face Humbaba, the demon-ogre guardian that the spiritual trees, and a great battle commences. Gilgamesh supplies the monster his own sisters as wives and also concubines in bespeak to odor it into offering away his seven layers of armour, and also finally, v the aid of the winds sent by the sun-god Shamash, Humbaba is defeated. The monster begs Gilgamesh because that his life, and also Gilgamesh at an initial pities the creature, regardless of Enkidu’s handy advice to death the beast. Humbaba then curses lock both, and Gilgamesh lastly puts an end to it. The 2 heroes reduced down a large cedar tree, and also Enkidu offers it to make a huge door because that the gods, which the floats under the river.

Some time later, the goddess Ishtar (goddess the love and also war, and daughter of the sky-god Anu) provides sexual advancements to Gilgamesh, but he rejects her, due to the fact that of her mistreatment of she previous lovers. The offended Ishtar insists the her father send the “Bull that Heaven” to avenge Gilgamesh’s rejection, threaten to advanced the dead if he will certainly not comply. The beast brings with it a good drought and also plague the the land, but Gilgamesh and also Enkidu, this time without divine 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 that Uruk celebrates the good victory, but Enkidu has a poor dream in i m sorry the god decide to punishment Enkidu himself for the death of the Bull that Heaven and Humbaba. He curses the door he made for the gods, and also he curses the trapper the met, the harlot that loved and also the very day that he ended up being human. However, that regrets his curses once Shamash speaks from heaven and points out how unfair Enkidu is being. He likewise points the end that Gilgamesh will become but a shadow of his previous self if Enkidu to be to die. Nevertheless, the curse bring away hold and day after day Enkidu becomes much more and an ext ill. Together he dies, he describes his descent into the horrific dark Underworld (the “House the Dust”), whereby the dead undertake feathers favor birds and eat clay.

Gilgamesh is devasted through Enkidu’s death and offers gifts to the gods, in the hope that he can be enabled to walk beside Enkidu in the Underworld. That orders the people of Uruk, from the shortest farmer to the greatest temple priests, to likewise mourn Enkidu, and also orders statues that Enkidu to be built. Gilgamesh is so full of grief and also sorrow end his friend the he refuses to leave Enkidu‘s side, or permit his corpse to be buried, until six days and also seven nights after ~ his fatality when maggots begin to loss from his body.

Gilgamesh is identified to prevent Enkidu‘s fate and also decides to make the perilous trip to visit Utnapishtim and his wife, the only people to have actually survived the good Flood and who were granted immortality by the gods, in the expect of finding out the mystery of everlasting life. The ageless Utnapishtim and also his wife currently reside in a beautiful country in one more world, Dilmun, and also Gilgamesh travels much to the east in find of them, crossing good rivers and oceans and mountain passes, and also grappling and also slaying monstrous mountain lions, bears and also other beasts.

Eventually, he pertains to the twin peaks of mountain Mashu at the end of the earth, from where the sunlight rises native the other world, the door of i beg your pardon is guarded through two disastrous scorpion-beings. They allow Gilgamesh come proceed when he convinces lock of his divinity and also his desperation, and also he travels for twelve leagues with the dark tunnel where the sun travels every night. The world at the finish of the tunnel is a shining wonderland, full of trees through leaves that jewels.

The very first person Gilgamesh meets over there is the wine-maker Siduri, who at first believes that is a murderer indigenous his dishevelled appearance and attempts come dissuade that from his quest. However eventually she sends him come Urshanabi, the ferryman who must help him cross the sea come the island whereby Utnapishtim lives, navigating the Waters of Death, of which the little touch means instant death.

When the meets Urshanabi, though, he appears to be surrounded by a agency of stone-giants, which Gilgamesh promptly kills, thinking them to be hostile. He tells the ferryman his story and asks because that his help, but Urshanabi defines that he has actually just damaged the spiritual stones which enable the ferry boat to safely overcome the Waters the Death. The only method they can now overcome is if Gilgamesh cuts 120 trees and also fashions them right into punting poles, so the they can cross the waters by making use of a brand-new pole each time and by making use of his garment as a sail.

Finally, they with the island of Dilmun and, when Utnapishtim sees that there is someone else in the boat, that asks Gilgamesh who he is. Gilgamesh tells him his story and also asks for help, however Utnapishtim reprimands him because he knows the fighting the fate of human beings is futile and also ruins the pleasure in life. Gilgamesh demands of Utnapishtim in what way their two cases differ and also Utnapishtim tells him the story of exactly how he survived the great flood.

Utnapishtim recounts exactly how a great storm and flood was brought to the human being by the god Enlil, that wanted come destroy all of mankind for the noise and confusion they lugged to the world. However the god Ea forewarned Utnapishtim, advising the to construct a delivery in readiness and also to load onto it his treasures, his family and also the seed of every living things. The rains come as promised and the whole human being was spanned with water, killing whatever except Utnapishtim and his boat. The watercraft came to remainder on the guideline of the mountain of Nisir, whereby they waited for the waters to subside, releasing an initial a dove, climate a swallow and then a crow to inspect for dried land. Utnapishtim climate made sacrifices and libations come the god and, although Enlil was angry the someone had actually survived his flood, Ea advised him to make his peace. So, Enlil blessed Utnapishtim and also his wife and granted them everlasting life, and also took them come live in the floor of the gods on the island the Dilmun.

However, despite his reservations about why the gods should give him the exact same honour together himself, the hero of the flood, Utnapishtim does reluctantly decision to market Gilgamesh a opportunity for immortality. First, though, he obstacles Gilgamesh to stay awake for six days and also seven nights, however Gilgamesh falls asleep practically before Utnapishtim finishes speaking. As soon as he awakes after 7 days of sleep, Utnapishtim ridicules his failure and also sends him ago to Uruk, along with the ferryman Urshanabi in exile.

As lock leave, though, Utnapishtim’s wife asks she husband to have actually mercy top top Gilgamesh because that his long journey, and so he tells Gilgamesh that a plant that grows in ~ the an extremely bottom the the s that will make the young again. Gilgamesh obtains the tree by binding stones come his feet to permit him come walk ~ above the bottom the the sea. The plans to usage the flower to young jim the old men of the city the Uruk and then to use it himself. Unfortunately, he locations the plant on the shore of a lake while that bathes, and it is stolen by a serpent, which loses its old skin and is hence reborn. Gilgamesh weeps at having actually failed at both opportunities to acquire immortality, and he disconsolately returns to the massive walls that his own city that Uruk.

In time, Gilgamesh also dies, and the human being of Uruk mourn his passing, learning that they will never ever see his like again.

The twelfth tablet is reportedly unconnected through previous ones, and also tells an alternative legend from earlier in the story, as soon as Enkidu is quiet alive. Gilgamesh complains come Enkidu that he has lost some objects offered to that by the goddess Ishtar when they fell in the Underworld. Enkidu provides to bring them ago for him, and also the happy Gilgamesh tells Enkidu what the must, and must not, execute in the Underworld in order to be certain of comes back.

When Enkidu set off, however, he timeless forgets all this advice, and does every little thing he was told not to do, causing his being trapped in the Underworld. Gilgamesh prays come the gods to return his friend and, although Enlil and also Suen execute not even bother to reply, Ea and Shamash decision to help. Shamash crack a feet in the earth and Enkidu jumps out of it (whether as a ghost or in reality is no clear). Gilgamesh inquiries Enkidu about what he has seen in the Underworld.


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The earliest Sumerian versions of “The epic of Gilgamesh” date from as at an early stage as the third Dynasty that Ur (2150 – 2000 BCE), and are composed in Sumerian cuneiform script, one of the earliest known forms of composed expression. It relates old folklore, tales and myths and it is thought that there were countless different smaller sized stories and myths the over time grew together right into one complete work. The earliest Akkadian versions (Akkadian is a later, unrelated, Mesopotamian language, which also used the picture writing writing system) are dated come the early second millennium.

The so-called “standard” Akkadian version, consist of of twelve (damaged) tablets written by the Babylonian scribe Sin-liqe-unninni some time between 1300 and 1000 BCE, was found in 1849 in the library the the 7th Century BCE Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, in Nineveh, the resources of the old Assyrian realm (in modern Iraq). It is created in standard Babylonian, a language of Akkadian that was only used for literary purposes. The initial title, based on the opening words, was “He that Saw the Deep” (“Sha naqba imuru”) or, in the previously Sumerian versions, “Surpassing All various other Kings” (“Shutur eli sharri”).

Fragments of various other compositions the the Gilgamesh story have actually been discovered in other places in Mesopotamia and also as far away as Syria and also Turkey. Five shorter poems in the Sumerian language (“Gilgamesh and also Huwawa”, “Gilgamesh and also the Bull the Heaven”, “Gilgamesh and Agga that Kish”, “Gilgamesh, Enkidu and also the Netherworld” and “Death the Gilgamesh”), more than 1,000 year older than the Nineveh tablets, have additionally been discovered. The Akkadian standard edition is the basis of most contemporary translations, with the larger Sumerian execution being provided to supplement it and also fill in the gaps or lacunae.

The twelfth tablet, i m sorry is often appended as a kind of sequel come the original eleven, was most probably included at a later date and seems to bear tiny relation to the well-crafted and also finished eleven tablet epic. That is actually a close to copy the an earlier tale, in i m sorry Gilgamesh sends out Enkidu to retrieve some objects that his native the Underworld, yet Enkidu dies and also returns in the kind of a spirit to said the nature the the Underworld come Gilgamesh. Enkidu’s downhearted description the the Underworld in this tablet is the oldest such summary known.

Gilgamesh could actually have actually been a real ruler in the late early Dynastic II duration (c. 27th Century BCE), a modern-day of Agga, king the Kish. The exploration of artifacts, dating earlier to approximately 2600 BCE, associated with Enmebaragesi that Kish (who is stated in the legends together the father of one of Gilgamesh‘s adversaries), has actually lent credibility come the historic existence that Gilgamesh. In Sumerian king lists, Gilgamesh is listed as the 5th king judgment after the flood.

According to some scholars, there space many parallel verses, and themes or episodes, which show a substantial influence the the “Epic that Gilgamesh” on the later Greek epos poem “The Odyssey”, ascribed to Homer. Some elements of the “Gilgamesh” flood myth seem to be carefully related to the story that Noah’s ark in “The Bible” and the Qur’an, as well as comparable stories in Greek, Hindu and other myths, down to the structure of a boat to accommodate every life, its ultimate coming to remainder on the optimal of a mountain and also the sending out out that a dove to uncover dry land. The is also thought the the Alexander the an excellent myth in Islamic and Syrian societies is affected by the Gilgamesh story.

The “Epic the Gilgamesh” is essentially a secular narrative, and also there no pointer that it was ever before recited as part of a spiritual ritual. The is split into loosely linked episodes covering the most important events in the life the the hero, although over there is no account of Gilgamesh’s miraculous birth or childhood legends.

The standard Akkadian version that the poem is composed in loose rhythmic verse, with 4 beats come a line, while the older, Sumerian version has actually a shorter line, v two beats. It provides “stock epithets” (repeated typical descriptive words applied to the key characters) in the same way as Homer does, return they room perhaps an ext sparingly provided than in Homer. Also, as in countless oral city traditions, there space word because that word repetitions of (often reasonably long) narrative and conversation sections, and also of long and elaborate greeting formulae. A number of the usual tools of poetic embellishment space employed, consisting of puns, deliberate ambiguity and irony, and also 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 from the common lot that man. Much that the tragedy in the poem arises indigenous the conflict in between the desire of the divine part of Gilgamesh (from his goddess mother) and the destiny the the mortal man (his mortality conferred on that by his human being father).

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The wild guy Enkidu was developed by the gods both as a friend and companion for Gilgamesh, but likewise as a foil because that him and also as a focus for his extreme vigour and also energy. Interestingly, Enkidu’s progression indigenous wild animal to polite city man represents a kind of biblical “Fall” in reverse, and an allegory that the stages whereby man reaches human being (from savagery to pastoralism come city life), arguing that the early on Babylonians may have actually been social evolutionists.