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

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“The epos of Gilgamesh” is one epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia and amongst the earliest well-known literary writings in the world. The originated as a series of Sumerian legends and also poems in picture writing script dating ago to the early 3rd or late second millenium BCE, i m sorry were later on gathered into a much longer Akkadian poem (the most complete version existing today, kept on 12 clay tablets, dates from the 12th to 10th Century BCE).

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It adheres to the story of Gilgamesh, the supernatural hero-king of Uruk, and also his half-wild friend, Enkidu, as they wear a collection of danger quests and adventures, and then Gilgamesh’s search for the an enig of immortality after the death of his friend. It also includes the story that a good flood very comparable to the story of boy name in “The Bible” and elsewhere.

Synopsis – Gilgamesh Summary

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

However, the people the Uruk are not happy, and also complain that Gilgamesh is also harsh and also abuses his strength by resting with your women. The goddess the creation, Aruru, creates a mighty wild-man called Enkidu, a rival in strength to Gilgamesh. He resides a natural life with the wild animals, but he shortly starts bothering the shepherds and trappers the the area and jostles the animals at the watering hole. In ~ the inquiry of a trapper, Gilgamesh sends out a holy place prostitute, Shamhat, to seduce and tame Enkidu and, after six days and seven nights through the harlot, that is no longer simply a wild beast who stays with animals. He shortly learns the methods of men and also is shunned through the pets he provided to live with, and the harlot ultimately persuades that to involved live in the city. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh has actually some weird dreams, i m sorry his mother, Ninsun, defines as one indication the a mighty friend will pertained to him.

The newly-civilized Enkidu pipeline the wilderness with his consort because that the city of Uruk, where he learns to assist the neighborhood shepherds and also trappers in your work. One day, once Gilgamesh himself pertains to a wedding party to sleep v the bride, as is his custom, he find his method blocked through the mighty Enkidu, who opposes Gilgamesh‘s ego, his treatment of women and also the defamation of the spiritual bonds that marriage. Enkidu and Gilgamesh fight each various other and, ~ a mighty battle, Gilgamesh defeat Enkidu, however breaks off from the fight and also spares his life. He likewise begins come heed what Enkidu has said, and to discover the virtues the mercy and humility, in addition to courage and nobility. Both Gilgamesh and also Enkidu are changed for the much better through your new-found friendship and also have many lessons to discover from each other. In time, they start to see each various other as brothers and also become inseparable.

Years later, bored with the relaxed life in Uruk and also wanting to do an everlasting surname for himself, Gilgamesh proposes to take trip to the spiritual Cedar woodland to reduced some an excellent trees and kill the guardian, the demon Humbaba. Enkidu objects come the arrangement as the Cedar woodland is the spiritual realm that the gods and also not supposed for mortals, however neither Enkidu no the board of directors of elders that Uruk deserve to convince Gilgamesh no to go. Gilgamesh’s mother additionally complains around the quest, but eventually provides in and asks the sun-god Shamash for his support. She additionally gives Enkidu some advice and adopts him together her second son.

On the way to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh has actually some negative dreams, however each time Enkidu manages to explain away the desires as great omens, and also he encourages and also urges Gilgamesh on once he becomes fear again on reaching the forest. Finally, the two heroes confront Humbaba, the demon-ogre guardian that the sacred trees, and a good battle commences. Gilgamesh uses the monster his own sisters together wives and concubines in bespeak to odor it into giving away his seven layers the armour, and finally, with the aid 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, in spite of Enkidu’s helpful advice to death the beast. Humbaba climate curses lock both, and Gilgamesh finally puts an finish to it. The 2 heroes cut down a vast cedar tree, and also Enkidu provides it to do a massive door for the gods, which he floats under the river.

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

The city the Uruk celebrate the good victory, but Enkidu has actually a negative dream in i m sorry the god decide to punishment Enkidu self for the killing of the Bull the Heaven and Humbaba. He curses the door he made for the gods, and he curses the trapper the met, the harlot that loved and also the really day the he ended up being human. However, the regrets his curses when Shamash speak from heaven and also points out 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 bring away hold and day after work Enkidu becomes much more and an ext ill. Together he dies, he explains his descent right into the horrific dark Underworld (the “House the Dust”), whereby the dead undertake feathers choose birds and eat clay.

Gilgamesh is devasted by Enkidu’s death and also offers presents to the gods, in the hope the he could be enabled to walk next to Enkidu in the Underworld. The orders the human being of Uruk, native the shortest farmer come the greatest temple priests, to also mourn Enkidu, and also orders statues that Enkidu to be built. Gilgamesh is so full of grief and sorrow over his friend the he refuses to leave Enkidu‘s side, or enable his corpse to it is in buried, until six days and also seven nights after his death when maggots begin to autumn from his body.

Gilgamesh is established to protect against Enkidu‘s fate and decides to do the perilous trip to visit Utnapishtim and his wife, the only people to have survived the an excellent Flood and also who were granted immortality through the gods, in the hope of discovering the secret of everlasting life. The ageless Utnapishtim and his wife currently reside in a beautiful nation in one more world, Dilmun, and Gilgamesh travels far to the east in find of them, crossing great rivers and oceans and 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 whereby the sunlight rises native the other world, the gate of which is guarded by two disastrous scorpion-beings. They permit Gilgamesh to proceed once he convinces them of his divinity and his desperation, and he travels for twelve leagues through the dark tunnel where the sunlight travels every night. The world at the end of the tunnel is a shining wonderland, complete of trees v leaves the jewels.

The an initial person Gilgamesh meets there is the wine-maker Siduri, who initially believes that is a murderer from his dishevelled appearance and also attempts to dissuade that from his quest. Yet eventually she sends him come Urshanabi, the ferryman who must help him cross the sea to the island whereby Utnapishtim lives, navigating the Waters that Death, of which the slightest touch method instant death.

When that meets Urshanabi, though, he appears to be surrounding by a company of stone-giants, i beg your pardon Gilgamesh timeless kills, thinking them to be hostile. He tells the ferryman his story and also asks for his help, however Urshanabi explains that he has actually just ruined the spiritual stones which allow the ferry boat to safely overcome the Waters of Death. The only means they can now overcome is if Gilgamesh cut 120 trees and also fashions them into punting poles, so that they have the right to cross the waters by making use of a brand-new pole each time and also by using his garment as a sail.

Finally, they reach the island of Dilmun and, when Utnapishtim sees the there is someone else in the boat, the asks Gilgamesh that he is. Gilgamesh speak him his story and asks for help, but Utnapishtim reprimands him because he knows the fighting the fate of people is futile and also ruins the joy in life. Gilgamesh needs of Utnapishtim in what way their two instances differ and also Utnapishtim speak him the story of how he made it through the great flood.

Utnapishtim recounts exactly how a an excellent storm and flood was lugged to the world by the god Enlil, who wanted come destroy all of mankind for the noise and confusion they carried to the world. But the god Ea forewarned Utnapishtim, advising the to build a ship in readiness and to pack onto it his treasures, his family and the seeds of every living things. The rains came as promised and also the whole human being was extended with water, killing whatever except Utnapishtim and also his boat. The boat came to remainder on the reminder of the hill of Nisir, wherein they waited because that the waters come subside, releasing very first a dove, then a swallow and also then a crow to inspect for dried 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 granted them everlasting life, and took them come live in the land of the god on the island of Dilmun.

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

As they leave, though, Utnapishtim’s wife asks she husband to have mercy top top Gilgamesh because that his long journey, and also so the tells Gilgamesh that a plant that grows at the very bottom of the s that will make the young again. Gilgamesh obtains the tree by binding stones to his feet to permit him come walk top top the bottom that the sea. That plans to usage the flower to rejuvenate the old guys of the city the Uruk and then to use 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 loser its old skin and is therefore reborn. Gilgamesh weeps at having actually failed in ~ both avenues to acquire immortality, and he disconsolately returns to the enormous walls the his very own city of Uruk.

In time, Gilgamesh also dies, and also the human being of Uruk mourn his passing, discovering that lock will never see his favor again.

The twelfth tablet is supposedly unconnected through previous ones, and tells an alternative legend from earlier in the story, as soon as Enkidu is still alive. Gilgamesh complains come Enkidu the he has lost some objects offered to the by the goddess Ishtar once they dropped in the Underworld. Enkidu supplies to carry them earlier for him, and the happy Gilgamesh speak Enkidu what he must, and must not, do in the Underworld in order come be sure of coming back.

When Enkidu set off, however, he promptly forgets all this advice, and also does every little thing he was told no to do, resulting in his gift trapped in the Underworld. Gilgamesh prays come the gods to return his girlfriend and, although Enlil and also Suen execute not even bother come reply, Ea and Shamash decide to help. Shamash crack a hole in the planet and Enkidu jumps the end of it (whether together a ghost or in reality is no clear). Gilgamesh concerns Enkidu about what he has actually seen in the Underworld.


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The earliest Sumerian version of “The epos of Gilgamesh” date from as early as the third Dynasty the Ur (2150 – 2000 BCE), and are written in Sumerian cuneiform script, one of the faster known develops of composed expression. That relates old folklore, tales and also myths and it is believed that over there were plenty of different smaller sized stories and also myths the over time prospered together right into one finish work. The earliest Akkadian versions (Akkadian is a later, unrelated, Mesopotamian language, which likewise used the cuneiform writing system) are dated come the early second millennium.

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

Fragments of other compositions the the Gilgamesh story have been found in other places in Mesopotamia and also as far away as 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 also “Death of Gilgamesh”), an ext than 1,000 year older 보다 the Nineveh tablets, have likewise been discovered. The Akkadian conventional edition is the communication of most modern translations, through the older Sumerian execution being provided to complement it and fill in the gaps or lacunae.

The twelfth tablet, i m sorry is frequently appended as a type of sequel to the initial eleven, was most probably included at a later on date and seems to bear tiny relation to the well-crafted and also finished eleven tablet computer epic. It is actually a close to copy that an earlier tale, in i beg your pardon Gilgamesh sends Enkidu come retrieve part objects that his native the Underworld, but Enkidu dies and returns in the type of a soul to relate the nature that the Underworld to Gilgamesh. Enkidu’s cynical description that the Underworld in this tablet computer is the oldest such summary known.

Gilgamesh can actually have actually been a actual ruler in the late beforehand Dynastic II period (c. 27th Century BCE), a contemporary of Agga, king of Kish. The discovery of artifacts, dating earlier to roughly 2600 BCE, linked with Enmebaragesi that Kish (who is discussed in the legends as the dad of among 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 part scholars, there are many parallel verses, and also themes or episodes, which indicate a an extensive influence of the “Epic of Gilgamesh” on the later on Greek epos poem “The Odyssey”, ascribed to Homer. Some elements of the “Gilgamesh” flood myth seem to be very closely related come the story the Noah’s ark in “The Bible” and also the Qur’an, as well as comparable stories in Greek, Hindu and other myths, down to the building of a watercraft to accommodate every life, its eventual coming to rest on the height of a mountain and the sending out of a dove to uncover dry land. It is also thought that the Alexander the good myth in Islamic and Syrian cultures is influenced by the Gilgamesh story.

The “Epic of Gilgamesh” is essentially a secular narrative, and there no suggestion that that was ever recited as component of a spiritual ritual. That is split into loosely linked episodes spanning the most essential events in the life of the hero, although over there is no account that Gilgamesh’s miraculous bear or childhood legends.

The standard Akkadian version of the poem is composed in loose rhythmic verse, with 4 beats come a line, when the older, Sumerian version has a shorter line, v two beats. It offers “stock epithets” (repeated usual descriptive words used to the key characters) in the same method as Homer does, although they space perhaps an ext sparingly offered than in Homer. Also, together in many oral poetry traditions, there room word for word repetitions that (often reasonably long) narrative and conversation sections, and also of long and also elaborate greeting formulae. A variety of the usual tools of poetic embellishment are employed, including puns, intentional ambiguity and also irony, and the occasional efficient use the similes.

Despite the classical times of the work, we room shown, through the action, a an extremely human problem with mortality, the find for knowledge and also for one escape from the usual lot the man. Much of the tragedy in the poem arises from the conflict in between the desire of the divine part of Gilgamesh (from his goddess mother) and the destiny of the mortal guy (his mortality conferred on that by his human being father).

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The wild male Enkidu was created by the god both as a friend and companion for Gilgamesh, but likewise as a foil for him and also as a focus for his excessive vigour and energy. Interestingly, Enkidu’s progression native wild pet to civilized city man represents a sort of biblical “Fall” in reverse, and an allegory that the stages through which man reaches world (from savagery come pastoralism to city life), saying that the beforehand Babylonians may have actually been social evolutionists.