Everythingoriginated withwater. From the mixture ofsweetwater, Apsu, withsaltwater, Tiamat, thegods arose.
Apsu andTiamatgave birth toMummu, the tumultof the waves, and toLakhmu andLakhamu, a pair ofgigantic serpents.
In turn theseserpentsproducedAnshar, theheavens, andKishar, theearthly world.
And from thesetwo came thegreatgods, Anu, Enlil,and Ea, as wellas the othergods of thesky, earth, andthe underworld.
Many of these new gods werenoisy, which upset Apsu andTiamat, since they could not rest. These primordial goddesses thendiscussed whether they shouldannihilate their progeny.
When Ea, the all-knowinggod of the water, learned ofApsus plan to destroy thegods he used his magic tocapture her and Mummu. Tiamat was furious andcreated a monstrous armyof gods and freak creaturesto punish Ea and hiscohorts.
Ea went to his fatherAnshar, and Ansharadvised him to send Anu tofightTiamat. But both Anu and Ea wereafraid of the goddess andher army.
Then Ea called Mardukforth. Marduk promised toconquerTiamat if he weregiven supreme authorityover the gods.The godsagreed that he was to havelordship and feasted in hishonor. Marduk wasinvested with thescepter, the throne, and aninvincible weapon.
Armed with bow and arrows, lightning, the winds, ahurricane, and a special net, Marduk rode forth tomeetTiamat in his chariot, which was atempest, drawn by four fearsome steeds. They clashed and Marduk caughtTiamat in his net.When she opened her mouth to swallowhim, Marduk let loose the hurricane, which filled herjaws and belly, thereby stunning her. Then Marduk shot an arrow into her belly and killedher. Tiamats army fled in confusion at her downfall, butMarduk caught them in his net, chained them, andcast them into the underworld.
As he was cutting upTiamats body, Marduk conceived aplan. From one half of her body he made the dome of theheavens, and with the other half he made the earth. Heestablished the dwelling of the gods, fixed the positions ofthe stars, ordered the movements of the heavenlybodies, and set the length of the year. Then to gladden the hearts of the gods Marduk createdmen from the blood of Kingu, the general ofTiamatsarmy. Finally, he made rivers, vegetation, and animals, whichcompleted the creation. In recognition of his triumphs the gods bestowed all oftheir titles and powers on Marduk, making him the God ofGods.
Apparently the gods were displeasedwith the human race, for they held acouncil in which it was agreed thatmankind should be drowned. But Ea, the god of wisdom, wished tospare human beings. So Ea told oneman, Uta-Napishtim, to build a ship forhis family and all living creatures.
Uta-Napishtim workeddiligently, and by the timethe rains came his ship wasprepared. For six days and nights afoul rain flooded everythingon earth, and even thegods became fearful. By the seventh day thewinds and rains ceased.
All but Uta-Napishtim and his family hadbecome mud. The ship came to rest upon Mount Nisir, andUta-Napishtim sent forth birds to find outwhether the waters had subsided enough todisembark. When a raven failed to return Uta-Napishtimleft the ship and offered a sacrifice to thegods on the mountain peak.
Only Enlil, god of thetempest, was angered tosee that humanity hadbeen spared. But Ea managed toappease Enlil with softwords, and in token of hisreconciliation Enlil gaveUta-Napishtim and his wifethe gift of immortality.
Over the ancient Sumeriancity of Uruk there onceruled a wise and powerfulbut tyrannical king namedGilgamesh. He was two-thirds a godand one-third amortal, famed for hisexploits in war and for hisprowess as an unbeatablewrestler.
Gilgamesh was also lustful andhe would abduct any womanwho took his fancy whethershe was single or married. The people of Uruk weregreatly distressed at this, forno one could overcomeGilgamesh. So they prayed to the goddessAruru to fashion a man whocould overpower Gilgamesh inorder that he would leave theirwomen in peace.
Aruru then created themighty Enkidu, a hairyman with legs like a bull. Enkidu roamed with thewild beasts and enabledthem to escape the trapsof hunters.
On hearing of Enkidusstrength, Gilgamesh sent acourtesan out to Enkiduswatering place to entice him. When she saw Enkidu thecourtesan disrobed, exposing herbreasts, and Enkidu went to liewith her. After this his animal companionsshunned him because Enkidu hadlost his natural innocence. Enkidu then had nothing to dobut follow the courtesans adviceand return with her to Uruk.
Back in his palace, Gilgamesh dreamed of strugglingwith a powerful man who could master him. When he told the dream to his mother, Ninsun, shesaid it meant that he and Enkidu would becomeclose companions. And after an awesome wrestling match, Gilgameshand Enkidu sat down together as friends. Enkidu was invited to live in the palace and sharethe honors with Gilgamesh.
One night Enkidu had a nightmare in which he was snatchedup by a strange, terrible creature with eagle claws who casthim into the underworld of death. When Gilgamesh heard of the dream he offered a sacrificeto Shamash, the sun god, who advised him to go and fightHumbaba the Strong, the king of the Cedar Mountain. When they learned of his plan to go to the CedarMountain, Enkidu, Ninsun, and the people of Uruk tried todissuade Gilgamesh, to no avail. Gilgamesh was determined to make the long, arduousjourney and battle Humbaba, so Enkidu joined his friend andthe two set forth.
In the morning Humbabacharged them, and after aterrific fight Gilgameshwas able to knockHumbaba to theground, where Enkidu cuthis head off. With the monsterdead, Gilgamesh was ableto cut down the sacredcedars for the temples ofUruk.
Then Ishtar, fertilitygoddess, appeared toGilgamesh and tried toseduce him, but hespurned her, saying thather lovers usually had direfates. When Gilgamesh andEnkidu returned to Urukwith the cedars Ishtar hadher vengeance planned.
With the help of Anushe loosen the Bull ofHeaven against Uruk. In the course ofwrecking the city thebull was caught andslaughtered byGilgamesh andEnkidu.
Then in an act of utterrashness Enkidu threw thebulls hide in Ishtars face,telling her hed do the sameto her if he could. The goddess Ishtar thenlaid a mortal curse uponEnkidu and after twelvedays of sickness he died.
Gilgamesh was inconsolable over the death of hisfriend, for he realized that he must die one day as well. Determined to find the secret of immortality, Gilgameshwent forth in search of Uta-Napishtim, the man onwhom Enlil had conferred life everlasting. He traveled west to the far-off Mount Mashu, which wasguarded by Scorpion-Men. With a trembling heart Gilgamesh approached the chiefScorpion-Man, who permitted him passage into themountain.
After a long time in a tunnel he stepped out into the gardenof a goddess. The goddess advised Gilgamesh to return home, enjoy life,and accept death gracefully; but Gilgamesh was insistent onfinding Uta-Napishtim, so the goddess directed him to Uta-Napishtims boatman. The boatman warned of the turbulent waters of death thatsurrounded Uta-Napishtims dwelling. However, Gilgamesh would not be put off, and with theboatmans help he managed to cross the perilous waters. At last Gilgamesh arrived at the home of the immortal man.
When Gilgamesh told Uta-Napishtim of his quest foreternal life, Uta-Napishtimlaughed at his foolishness andtold his own story of how hehad won immortality. Then Uta-Napishtimchallenged Gilgamesh to stayawake, as he himself haddone, for six days and sevennights. But the exhausted Gilgameshhad already fallen asleep.
The wife of Uta-Napishtim took pity on the sleeping hero andpersuaded her husband to reveal the secret of immortality. They awoke Gilgamesh and told him of a prickly plant that layat the bottom of the sea. Gilgamesh set off at once to find the plant, and when he cameto the ocean edge he tied boulders to his feet and plunged in. He sank to the bottom, found and plucked the pricklyplant, untied the boulders and swam to the surface with theprecious plant. Gilgamesh went homeward with a high heart, for now he couldconfer everlasting life on himself and the people of Uruk. He crossed the waters of death, the garden of the goddess; hewent through Mount Mashu and traveled eastward.
Within a few days journey of home Gilgamesh laid the planton a rock and dove into a small lake to bathe. And while he was swimming a snake approached the plantand ate it. Gilgamesh wept long and bitterly to think he had wasted hisenormous effort to gain eternal life. The snakes would live forever, but human beings must die. Gilgamesh returned to Uruk with a broken heart. He knewwhat a miserable existence the dead lived in thenetherworld, for Enkidu had revealed it to him. His only consolation was that the walls of Uruk would outlasthim as monuments to Gilgameshs reign.