The Epic of Gilgamesh Sumerian Literature from 2500 B.C.
The Epic of Gilgamesh: Location Story takes place in ancient Sumer, one of the first settled parts of the Fertile Crescent The Tigris and Euphrates rivers allowed for the development of water canals and agriculture This is part of modern- day Iraq
Epic of Gilgamesh: Art Gilgamesh was the actual king of ancient Uruk about 2700 B.C. This statue depicts Gilgamesh as a powerful ruler and lion-killer
Epic of Gilgamesh: Language Gilgamesh was written down on clay cuneiform tablets Scholars were able to translate Sumerian cuneiform by comparing it to later Akkadian tablets with similar stories This cuneiform writing consists of wedge shapes read right to left
Epic of Gilgamesh: Religion In Gilgamesh’s city of Uruk, the popular gods were Anu (father of the gods), Ishtar (goddess of love), and Lugulbanda (Gilgamesh’s personal god)
Tablet 1: Gilgameshs reign, prowess and tyrannyCreation of his rival Enkidu The story begins when Gilgamesh is a young king. He had all knowledge and wisdom,built the walls of the great city of Uruk and the temple Eanna. He is the son of King Lugalbanda and Ninsun. He is a man of great beauty and physical prowess. He dug wells and restored the cult worship centers destroyed by the Flood. However, he is young and oppresses his people harshly with tyranny. The people call out to the sky-god Anu to help them. In response, Anu tells the people to summon Aruru (the Mother Goddess) to create a wild man, Enkidu, out in the harsh and wild forests surrounding Gilgameshs lands. This brute Enkidu is equal in strength to Gilgamesh and is to serve as his rival to give Uruk some rest.
Tablet 2: The taming of Enkidu; his fight and friendship with Gilgamesh; the proposed journey to the Forest of Cedar Enkidu enters the city of Uruk and the people recognize his similarity to Gilgamesh. Enkidu stands in front of the door and blocks Gilgameshs way. They fight furiously until Gilgamesh wins out; then the two embrace and become devoted friends. Gilgamesh proposes to journey to the great Forest of Cedar and cut down all the cedar trees. To do this, they will need to kill its guardian, the great demon Humbaba, created by Enlil (ruler of earth and men) to terrify men away. Enkidu knows about Humbaba from his days running wild in the forest, and fears him. He tries in vain to convince Gilgamesh not to undertake this folly. But he refuses. Enkidu agrees, and they go to fight. Gilgamesh announces to the crowd and the elders of Uruk his plans to cut down the cedar and win an eternal name for himself. They will all celebrate on his return. Enkidu asks the elders to stop Gilgamesh, who also fail to sway him.
Tablet 3: Preparations for the journey to the Forest of Cedar The elders of the city protest Gilgameshs decision, but then agree. They place his life in Enkidus hands. Gilgamesh goes to ask his mothers blessing. She laments her sons fate, prayes Shamash asking him for his protection and to send winds against Humbaba. She hopes that Gilgamesh will someday be made a god. Ninsun also adopts Enkidu as her son, and asks him to guard Gilgameshs life. Enkidu and Gilgamesh perform rituals to aid a safe journey. Gilgamesh instructs the officers in how to run the city in his absence. They again advise him to keep Enkidu out in front. In panic, Enkidu again tries to convince Gilgamesh not to undertake this journey, but Gilgamesh is confident of success.
Tablet 4: Journey to the Forest of Cedar The journey to the cedar forest takes months. On every 3rd day, they stop, Gilgamesh climbs to a mountain top and prays to Shamash to bring him a dream, and Enkidu guards the doorway to the house as Gilgamesh dreams. Shamash sends Gilgamesh prophetic dreams in the middle of the night Near the entrance to the Forest of Cedar, Gilgamesh begins to cry with fear. Shamash calls to him, ordering him to hurry and enter the forest while Humbaba is not wearing all 7 cloaks of his armor, but only one. Enkidu loses his courage and wants to withdraw, but Gilgamesh encourages him onward. Humbaba yells.they began to fight.
Tablet 5: Combat with Humbaba Gilgamesh is fearful, but Enkidu encourages him to confront Humbaba head on. The fight begins. Shamash sends violent winds against Humbaba. Humbaba pleads for his life, offers Gilgamesh all his trees, but Enkidu insists that Gilgamesh kill him to establish his fame, even though the gods will be angry. Humbaba curses Enkidu. Gilgamesh cuts off his head. He also slays all 7 of Humbabas auras. Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut down some of the trees of the cedar forest, to make a great cedar gate for the city of Uruk. They build a raft out of the cedar and float down the Euphrates River to their city, bringing Humbabas head
Tablet 6: Ishtar and the Bull of Heaven Back in Uruk, Gilgamesh cleans up and is dressed in his royal cloaks and crown. He attracts the attention of the goddess of love Ishtar, who asks him to be her husband, but Gilgamesh refuses her with insults. Insulted, Ishtar ascends to her parents in heaven: the sky-god Anu and Antu . She begs her father to let her have the Bull of Heaven to revenge Gilgamesh and his city.Anu gives her the bull, and she leads it down into Uruk. The bull destroys cities,kills hundreds of people. Even Enkidu is almost killed. He seizes the bull by thetail and instructs Gilgamesh to kill it with his knife directed to a certain spotbehind the horns, which Gilgamesh does. Ishtar laments, and Enkidu says that heand Gilgamesh might have killed her next. He rips off one of the haunches of thebull and hurls it toward her. Ishtar holds rites of mourning over the haunch whilemen admire Gilgameshs bull trophy
Tablet 7: Enkidus vision of the Netherworld and his own death Enkidu has a dream about a council of the gods. In it Enlil declares that one of the two men who have killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba must die. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh he knows that he is to die. Gilgamesh says he will be left in sorrow by Enkidu asks Gilgamesh not to forget him and Enkidus all they went through together. Enkidu lays sick for twelve days, expressing regret he does death.Gilgamesh will not die in combat and shall not make his honor Enkidu in death. name, finally dies.
Tablet 8: The funeral of Enkidu Gilgamesh mourns deeply, and utters a long lament, ordering all to mourn his dead friend. He covers the face of Enkidu, pulls out his own hair, and rips off his clothes. At dawn, he calls for the artisans to construct a statue of Enkidu. Enkidu will be honored in the underworld. Gilgamesh will provide jewels, precious stones, gold, ivory, weapons, oxen and sheep, and other treasures to gain him favor with the gods and inhabitants of the underworld.
Tablet 9: The wanderings of Gilgamesh Gilgamesh continues to mourn, and wanders in the wild, thinking that he will also die. He fears death, and seeks eternal life. He arrives at the twin mountains of Mashu. Scorpion men guard its gates. Gilgamesh covers his face. They realize that Gilgamesh is part god and ask him why he has come, observing that no man has reached these mountains before. Gilgamesh says he is seeking eternal life. Unable to deter him, they describe an underground route or dark tunnel under the mountains, the path of the Sun- God. They wish him a safe passage. In darkness he hurries through the passage and emerges in advance of the Sun. He enters a garden of jewels.
Tablet 10: Gilgamesh travels to Uta-napishti at theedge of the world Shiduri is a wise old tavern keeper who lives by the sea-shore. She sees him coming and locks the gate. He threatens to smash down the door, and she allows him in. She asks why he sorrows so. He tells of his fear of death. He asks for the way to Upa- napishti the Distant across the ocean. Shiduri says there is no longer a way for humans to make this journey only Shamash can cross the ocean and she helps him. They make the journey in 3 days. At last, they approach the distant shore. Uta-napishti wonders who Gilgamesh is. Uta-napishti tells him not to chase sorrow. He speaks words of wisdom. Man is destined to die. Death is inevitable for all men.
Tablet 11: Uta-napishti denies him immortality; Gilgamesh returns to Uruk Gilgamesh asks Uta-napishti how he came to be immortal, and Uta-napishti tells the story of how he and his wife were the sole human survivors of the Flood. He was the king of Shuruppak, on the banks of the Euphrates. The gods decided to send down the Deluge. Ea slyly warned Uta- napishti to build a boat, abandon his wealth, and take aboard the seed of all living things and he obeyed Ea. Then the Deluge came. The storm, wind, and deluge all lasted 6 days and 7 nights, then came to an end. The boat ran aground of Mount Nimush. Uta- napishti released a dove, the next day a swallow, the next day a raven when the latter does not return; he knew that he was near land. He made sacrifices which pleased the gods. So gods decided to make Uta-napishti and his wife immortal. Uta-napishti now challenges Gilgamesh to stay awake for 7 nights, but the exhausted Gilgamesh quickly falls asleep. So they said that he is not strong enough for being immortal. At last he returns to Uruk..