Epic of Gilgamesh

This epic comes from 12 summerian tablets. all are below.

Tablet I

Gilgamesh, the King

Fame haunts the man who visits Hell, who lives to tell my entire tale identically.

So like a sage, a trickster or saint,GILGAMESH

The one who saw all [Sha nagba imuru ] I will declare to the world,
The one who knew all I will tell about
He saw the great Mystery, he knew the Hidden:
He recovered the knowledge of all the times before the Flood.
He journeyed beyond the distant, he journeyed beyond exhaustion,
And then carved his story on stone. He commanded walls for Uruk and for Eanna, our holy ground, walls that you can see still; walls where weep the weary widows of dead soldiers. Go to them and touch their immovable presence with gentle fingers to find yourself. No one else ever built such walls. Climb Uruk’s Tower and walk abut on a windy night. Look. Touch. Taste. Sense. What force created such mass? Open up the special box that’s hidden in the wall and read aloud the story of Gilgamesh’s life. Learn what sorrow taught him; learn of the those he overcome by wit or force or fear as he, a town’s best child, acted nobly in the way one should to lead and acted wisely too as one who sought no fame. Child of Lugalbanda’s wife and some great force, Gilgamesh is a fate alive, the finest babe of Ninsun, she who never let a man touch her, indeed so sure and heavenly, so without sin. He knew the secret paths that reached the eagle’s nest above the mountain and and knew too how just to drop a well into the chilly earth. He sailed the sea to where Shamash comes, explored the world, sought life, and came at last to uptnapishtim far away who did bring back to life the flooded earth.

Is there anywhere a greater king how can say, as Gilgamesh may

“I am supreme”?

Column II

The bigger part of him was made in heaven and the smaller part somewhere on earth. She-who-must-be-obeyed fashioned his body’s self.

She endowed him. Gilgamesh watches the flocks of Uruk himself as if he were a loose bull, nose up in open field. No one else could come close to fighting like that. His clan is roused by howling dreams. And with them all he goes howling through sanctuaries. But would he ever let his child come to see himravish others? “Is this shepherd of Uruk’s flocks, our strength, our light, our reason, who hoards the girls of other men for his own purpose?” When Anu in the sky heard this, he said to Aruru, great goddess of creation that she is: “You created humans; create again in the image of Gilgamesh and let this imitation be as quick in heart and as strong in arm so that these counterforces might first engage, then disengage, and finally let Uruk’s children live in peace.” Hearing that, Aruru thought of Anu. Then she wet her creative fingers, fashioned a rock, and tossed it as far as she could into the woods. Thus she fathered Enkidu, a forester, and gave birth in terror and in fright without a single cry of pain,bringing forth another likeness of Ninurta, god of war. Hair covered his body and his curls resembled those of any good girl, growing swiftly like the fair hair of Nisaba-giver-of-grain. This Enkidu had neither clan nor race. He went clothed as one who shepherds well, eating the food of grass, drinking from the watery holes of herds and racing swift as wind or silent water. Then Enkidu met a hunter at the watery hole on three consecutive days. And each time the face of the hunter signaled recognition of Enkidu. So the herds were uninvited at the hunter’s oasis and the hunter was disturbed by this intrusion. His quiet heart rushed up in trouble. His eyes darkened. Fear leaped forth onto a face that looks as if it expects to doubt for a long, long time.

Column III

Then with trembling lips the hunter told his father this complaint:

“Sir, one has come to my watery hole from afar and he is the biggest and best throughout the land. He feels power. His is a strength like that of Anu’s swift star, and tirelessly does he roam across the land. He eats the food of beasts and, like the beasts, he comes at will to drink from my watery hole. In fear do I see him come to undo what I have done by wrecking traps, by bursting mounds, by letting animals slip through my grasp, beasts that I would bind.” Then with hateful lips, the father told the hunter his reply: “Boy, your answer lies in Uruk where there stalks a man of endless strength named Gilgamesh. He is the biggest and best throughout the land. He feels power. His is a strength like that of Anu’s swift star. Start out toward Uruk’s ancient palace and tell your tale to Gilgamesh. In turn he’ll say to set a trap, take back with you a fine lover, some sacred temple girl, who might let him see what force and charm a girl can have. Then as Enkidu comes again to the watery hole, let her strip in nearby isolation to show him all her grace. If he is drawn toward her, and leaves the herd to mate, the beasts on high will leave him then behind.” The hunter heard his father well and went that very night to Uruk where he said this to Gilgamesh: “There is someone from afar whose force is great throughout our land. His is a strength throughout the land. He feels power. this is a strength like that of Anu’s swift star, and tirelessly does he roam across the land. He eats the food of beasts and, like the beasts, he comes at will to drink from my watery hole. In fear do I see him come to undo what I have done by wrecking traps, by bursting mounds, by letting animals slip through my grasp, beasts that I would bind.”So Gilgamesh replied: “Go set a trap; take back with you a fine lover, Shamhat, the sacred temple girl, who might let him see what charm and force a girl can have. Then as Enkidu comes again to the watery hole, let her strip in nearby isolation to show him all her grace. If he is drawn toward her, and leaves the herd to mate, his beasts on high will leave him then behind.” The hunter returned, bringing with him the sacred temple girl, and swift was their journey. Three days later, at the watery hole, they set their trap for Enkidu and spoke no word for two whole days waiting and waiting and waiting. Then the herd came slowly in to drink.

Column IV

Beasts arose and sleepy limbs began to flutter then.

Enkidu, the boy who walked on mountains, who eats the food of beasts and, like the beasts, comes down at will to drink from the watery hole, with the beasts arose and stretched his tired limbs to start the day. She beheld him then, as he was in his beginning, the one who gave and took life from the far woods. “Here is he, fine lover; be set to wet him with your tongue and chest and loins. Spread forth your happiness. Display your hidden charm. jump him fast and kneel upon his shoulders. Without his wind then, he’ll enter near your entrance. Take off your robe to let him in. Let him see what force a girl can have. The friends he has from on wild will exile him if he presses his person, as he will, into your scented bush. ” Shamhat let her garments loose and spread forth her happiness which Enkidu entered as gusts of wind enter tunnels bound for Hell. Hot and swollen first, she jumped him fast knocking out his rapid breath with thrust after loving thrust. She let him see what force a girl can have, and he stayed within her scented bush for seven nights, leaping, seeping, weeping, and sleeping there.

After that week of pleasure, Enkidu returned to the herds but the beasts fled from him in haste. They stampeded away from his new self. He could no longer race as he had once, legs soft now and ankles stiff. The beasts left him behind and he grew sad that he could no longer speed with them. But he enjoyed the memory that no virgin has and, returning to his fine lover, he once more knelt between her legs as she spoke these words to him: “Now you are as if a god, my boy, with no more need of dumb beasts, however fair. We can now ascend the road to Uruk’s palace, the immaculate domicile, where Anu and Ishtar dwell, and there we will see Gilgamesh, the powerful,

who rides over the herd like any great king.” These words he heard and he stared at her. For the first time he wished for just one friend. Then Enkidu asked the love who was so fine: “Please come with me and be my love

at the immaculate domicile, where Anu and Ishtar dwell,

and there we will see Gilgamesh, the powerful, who rides over the herd like any great king. I wish to call on him; to proclaim all things

aloud and find a friend in him.”

Column V

Enkidu continued:

“Uruk will hear me say, ‘I am the strongest.

I alone can do all I wish.’ Forester that I am, a mountainous power is mine. We should march together, face-by-face, so I can promote your fame.”

Then fine lover said these words in invitation: “Enter Uruk of the herds, Enkidu, where costumes bright are worn, where it is always time to party, where merry music never fades, where graceful girls do ever play with toys and boys and men; for in the night these revelers do their best to rule the town. There, with a smile, Enkidu will see his other self, great Gilgamesh. Watch him all, please. Note his face, his fists, his fairest sword, and all the strength that dwells in him. Could he be greater than you, this one who’s up and down all day and night? Fear your own anger, boy; for great Gilgamesh adores fair Shamash and is adored in turn. Anu of the blue sky, Enlil from the clouds and clever Ea have empowered him. And before he even sees you, this great Gilgamesh will have first envisioned you in Uruk as a rival in a dream.” Gilgamesh awakens to ask his mother, Ninsun, to leave off the dream. “Mother,” says he, “I saw a star within my head in sleep just now that fell at me like Anu’s dart and I could not escape. Uruk was on high of it, our people did applaud, and gathered Lip to praise his force. Men clenched fists; women danced. And I too embraced this rising star, as a man does the woman he loves best, then took the new one here to you so that you could see us both at once.”Gilgamesh’s mother, who is wise in all and worries not, replied: “This bright, new star is your true friend who fell at you like Anu’s dart, whom you could not escape.”

Column VI

Then she who is wise in all and worries not continued:

“So say this friend is one who is almighty, with strength renowned around the world, like Anu’s dart his force is real so that he draws you in, as does a wife, though he is sure to race away, like that most distant star, with the secrets of your origin. This dissolves your sleep.” Then again, Gilgamesh said to her in reply: “Mother, I slept when some with axes then attacked the herds of Uruk.” So Ninsun reassured the frightened king: “Enkidu will help. He will guard his loves or rescue them from danger; he is your most faithful friend. Expect him to shepherd you and to be sure that all goes well.”

Gilgamesh said to his fond source:

“I pray for fortune and for fate to send me such a one

that I may have a friend who’s as kind and patient as a brother.”

Then in sleep full of repose the temple girl enchanted Enkidu

where they lay smiling.

Tablet II

The Meeting of Gilgamesh and Enkidu

Column I

Then Gilgamesh explained his dream to Ninsun:

“Last night a vision filled my head with sights of stars and one sent down from heaven. At first I tried and failed to carry forth these signs with me. Then all citizens of Uruk here assisted in my efforts. So I was able then to bring these omens near to you.” And she said in reply: “Wisely done, fair son, and rightly so for one well reared as you were. All others too will soon acclaim this god-sent gift to you.”Then Gilgamesh concluded: “In another dream I saw an ax and bent toward it with manly interest; so fair was its appearance that it seemed wholesome, young and ready as a woman.”


Column II

Soon the day came when the fine lover of Enkidu said:

“Now come with me to enter into Uruk where we shall meet the mighty king,

enormous Gilgamesh. Now you are as if a god, my boy, with no more need of dumb beasts, however fair. We can ascend the road to Uruk’s palace, the immaculate domicile, where Anu and Ishtar dwell and there we will see Gilgamesh, the powerful, who rides over the herd like any great king. You will see in him a power rare and fairly learn to love him like yourself.” They journeyed from the forest far and wide to venture on toward Uruk. The girl led forth the naked boy as gently as a mother would, tearing her garment right in two to hide their native beauty and clothed his splendid body then with her own cloak as they approached.


Column III

Along the way he learned new human ways tracking down the gentle sheep

and using weapons for the first time to fight away the savage beasts

that do attack the herds and farms of men.


Column IV

Along the way he also learned to eat and drink as men and women do.

The girl did teach all these things too for Enkidu’s first lessons.

And with a man upon the road they spoke to learn of customs new to one from far off woods. So Enkidu came then to know of Gilgamesh who harshly ruled and was not loved by those men whose girls he often played with all night long.And before they entered through the gates of Uruk’s mighty, walls, Enkidu was hailed as one who might be sent to rival any king who might treat gentle folk unfairly.

Column V

In the alleys of Uruk during a display of force the approach of Enkidu stopped everything. Uruk rose before him. The mountain beyond stretched skyward. All creatures worshiped him. Youths rallied round. People adored him as they adore a newborn babe. For so it is when one comes from nowhere to do what no one thought could be done. For Ishara then a wedding bed is set this night because a guest has come who is as strong as any king. And Enkidu stood before the gate where new lovers go and stopped Gilgamesh from coming with nighttime girls. It is there where they first fight throughout the night and round abut Uruk’s walls which they chipped and wrecked in places.


Column VI

So the mighty brothers fought at first pushing and shoving each other

for hours and hours enraged. Then a calm force gently soothed then well-matched spirits to bring a peace and rest their strife. It was Enkidu who sued for rest saying: “Gilgamesh, enough! I am here to match some fate with you, not to destroy or rival any king.”

Tablet III

A Sacred Friendship Forged

The Plot to Conquer Humbaba

Column I

Then Enkidu and Gilgamesh joined in sacred friendship and sealed their solemn bond with noble kiss.


Column II

Enkidu and Gilgamesh often sat then together, visited Ninsun’s shrine, conversed of many plans and
fashioned a future together.

Once, informed by fears of future sorrow, Enkidu began

to weep and warn his friend of coming horror. He said:

“If we go there beyond here to where Humbaba-the-awful lives,

there will be a gruesome war in a place no one calls home,

where no one wants to stay for long or go to rest or rest to gain

the strength to reach the forests.”

The Great One rose within and robed herself appropriately covering herself, ringing her curls beneath her crown to ascend the altar, where she stood lighting the first signals of charcoal for the incense and preparing sacred cups that hold the precious liquids which will be spilled.

Then Ninsun asked Shamash: “Why? Why have you called my only son away

and shaped his mind in so disturbed a way? For now, he says, you invite him to begin a pilgrimage that ends where Humbaba directs a never ending battle,

along a foreign, lonely road far within the forests dark and damp where a man like him might just kill a god like Humbaba or be killed to dissolve the pain that you, Shamash, oppose.”

Column III

Humbaba stirs within the darkened wood and in the hearts of men there rises fear.

When Enkidu spoke at last to Gilgamesh he said these words of warning:

“I knew this monster’s reputation long ago.

Fire and death mix in his breath,

and I for one do not wish now

to challenge such a demon.”

But Gilgamesh retorted: “All glory will be ours if now we conquer this unprecedented foe and risk the woe that frightens others.” And Enkidu said then in swift reply: “How shall we go towards woods so fiercely guarded?”

Column IV

Enlil it was who sent Humbaba there to scare away intruders with fierce and frightening howls. Great Gilgamesh remembered that when he spoke words like these to Enkidu: “Only gods live forever with Shamash, my friend; for even our longest days are numbered. Why worry over being like dust in the wind? Leap up for this great threat. Fear not. Even if I were to fail and fall in combat, all future clans would say I did the job.” Special weapons then were ordered to be made for their assault upon Humbaba. Axes, swords, and combat saddles were prepared and all of Uruk’s population flocked round their great


Column V

The awful monster’s reputation made Uruk’s gentle people fear for their great king. And after all the plans were made to start out to fight Humbaba, a group came forward to see the king. The elders spoke to Gilgamesh: “Fear the force that you control, hot-headed boy; Be sure you watch where you direct your every, heavy swing in battle. Vanguards protect. Friends save friends. Let Enkidu lead on the way through forests that he knows. He knows how to fight in woodlands; he knows where to pick his fight. Enkidu will shield his bosom too as well as that of his companion so as to protect them both. He’ll traverse any ditch of any width. Enkidu will guard our king. Be sure to bring him safely back.” Gilgamesh said to Enkidu: “Arise, my other self, and speed your way to Egalmah to where my mother sits, kind Ninsun. She understands all I need to know. She’ll tell us where we should go and what to do.” Again the men embraced as teammates do. Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out to Egalmah.


Column VI

Upset by all his thoughts of coming battles and concerned by his consultations with the gods, Gilgameshthen sadly set his palace rooms in order.

His weapons were prepared, his helmet shined and garments freshly cleaned.

Citizens of Uruk came to say good-bye and wish their daring king farewell.

“Go careful through this risky, bold adventure, mighty lord. Be sure of your own safety first of all.” So spoke the elders of his town and then continued:

“Let Enkidu take risks for you and have him lead the way through woods he knows so well. Pray that Shamash show him, as your guide, the nearest path and choicest route to where you dare to go. May great Lugalbanda favor you in combat with Humbaba.” Then Enkidu himself spoke finally to his king: “The time is right for us to now depart. Follow me, sir, along the savage way to where a worthy opponent, the awful beast Humbaba, waits for your challenge in the dark woodlands that he guards. Do not fear this. Rely on me

in every matter for your most and let me act as careful guide for you most daring venture.”

Tablet IV

A Mother’s Prayer

Journy to the Cedar Forest

An Ominous Wound

Column I, II #

Ten miles into the march, they stopped to eat. After thirty miles, they rested, then finished another twenty miles that day. Within three days they covered what would take others a month and a half to travel.

They dug for water where there appeared to be none in the dry desert on their way to challenge

Column III, IV #

Onward ventured Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

And they both knew where danger lurked at their first destination.

As up they climbed upon the final hill, they saw a guard put out by Humbaba

as fierce as any watchdog.

Gilgamesh pursued first.

Column V

Gilgamesh heard shouts from Enkidu who said to his companion:

“Remember promises we made in the city where we live. Recall

the courage and the force we vowed to bring upon this mission.”

These words dispelled the fear felt in his heart and Gilgamesh in

return then shouted back:

“Quick. Grab the guard and don’t let go.

Race fearlessly and don’t let go.

Our enemy, Humbaba, has set out seven uniforms

but has only dressed in one so far. So six layers of strength

are yet unused by him.”

As one mad brute he is enraged, bellowing loudly while the foresters warn each other what he’s like.

Column VI #

Wounded in combat with the guard they killed, Enkidu uses words to say: “I lost my strength in this crushed hand when the gate slammed shut.

What shall I do?” Then Gilgamesh spoke: “Brother,

as a man in tears would, you transcend all the rest who’ve gathered,

for you can cry and kill with equal force.

Hold my hand in yours, and we will not fear what hands like ours can do

Scream in unison, we will ascend to death or love, to say in song what we shall do. Our cry will shoot afar so this new weakness, awful doubt,

will pass through you.

Stay, brother, let us ascend as one.”

Tablet V

A Dream of Battle

Humbaba Slain

Column I #

Gilgamesh and Enkidu froze and stared into the woodsgreat depth and height. When they spied
Humbaba’s path, they found the opening toward straight passage. Then they were able to find and see the
home of the gods, the paradise of Ishtar’s other self, called Imini-most-attra’ctive.

All beauty true is ever there where gods do dwell, where there is cool shade and harmony and
sweet-odored food to match their mood.

Column II is all #

Column III #

Then Gilgamesh envisioned yet again another dream high up in the hills where boulders crashed.

Again Enkidu said to his brother, as he unraveled this dreary story for his king:

“Brother, your song is a fine omen.

This dream will make you well.

Brother, that vision you saw is rich for on that mountain top we can capture Humbaba and hurl his earthly
form from towering cliffs through sky to earth, making his shape as flat and wide as it is round and high.”

“Mountain, mountain in the sky,

Break the god and make him die.”

Column IV #

Mountain-on-high then sent the myth into Enkidu’s sleep, and a chill from the high winds forced him to
rest, since he was blown around as grain is on open field.

Curled up in a ball, Gilgamesh rested in blessed sleep, the best of friends at the worst of times.

But by the moon’s half way course, he rose and then began to speak:

“Brother, if you made no noise, what sound woke me?

If you didn’t jostle me, what shook my body?

There was no god nearby, so why am I so stunned?

Brother, I’ve had a third vision in sleep and I am deeply frightened to recall it all.

Sky screamed. And Mother Earth moaned.

Sun went out of light and blackest night enveloped the heavens.

Then came flashes of lightning, source of fire.

Storm clouds raced nearby and swept all life away

from out of the sky above our heads.

Brightness dissolved, light evaporated, cinders turned to ash.

When we leave the mountain, this is what we will remember.”

When Enkidu learned this myth as told, he replied to Gilgamesh:

“Shamash, your god, creates a great attraction for both of us.

Shamash now approves of this attack upon Humbaba.

Take the sign as some divine dream to urge us on.”

Shamash himself said such words to Gilgamesh as if in prayer:

“Do not balk now, favored one.

Brace yourself for battle and proceed.”

Heavenly winds blasted down from out of the sky about and all around Humbaba. From east and west,
with sand and grain, they blew him

back and forth. His giant self became fatigued. His awesome strength dwindled.

Not even his great right foot could step away in flight. So in this way, by Shamash’s intervention,
Humbaba-the-awful beast was brought so low.

Column V is all #

Column VI #

The dying beast called out for mercy once and part of what he said could still be heard over the howlingwinds: “Please, Gilgamesh! Have mercy on me, wounded. I shall freely give you all the lumber of my mighty realm and work for you both day and night.” It was Enkidu then who shouted louder than the beast and with his words he urged a swift conclusion: “Kill the beast now, Gilgamesh. Show no weak or silly mercy toward so sly a foe.” Taking his companion’s mean advice, Gilgamesh swiftly cut the beast, splattering blood upon his cloak and sandals then. Soiled by this violent conflict, the friends began their journey back to Uruk’s towering walls expecting now to be received as heroes who had fought and won a legendary battle.

Tablet VI

Ishtar’s Proposal

A scathing Rejection

Ishtar’s Revenge: The Bull of Heaven

The Slaughter of the Bull

Enkidu’s Ominous Dream

Gilgamesh bathed himself and cleaned his hair, as beautiful as it was long.

He cast off bloodied robes and put on his favorite gown, secured the cincture and stood royal.

Then Gilgamesh put on his crown.

Ishtar looked up at Gilgamesh’s handsome pride.

“Come to me,” she whispered. “Come to me and be my groom.

Let me taste all parts of you, treat you as husband, be treated as your wife.

And as a gift I’d give to you one regal coach of gold and blue

with wheels of yellow and all so new that I would flatter all your might

with the sight of demons driven off by my own god, by my own man.

Come to my home, most sweetly scented of all places, where holy faces wash your feet with tears as do
the priests and priestesses of gods like Anu.

All mighty hands of kings and queens will open doors for you.

So too will all the countryside donate in duplicate to your fold.

And the slow will race ahead for you, so that by association, all that you touch will turn to gold.”

Gilgamesh replied to mighty Ishtar thus:

“But how could I repay you as a wife and still avoid the bitterness and strife that follow you?

Is it perfume for a dress you want, or me?

My self or something wrapped around a tree?

Do I offer you food, sweet nuts or grapes?

Are those for gods or for the savage apes?

And who will pour a treat to us in bed,

you dressed for life and me as if I’m dead?

Here’s a song I made for you

Ishtar’s the hearth gone cold,

a broken door, without the gold;

a fort that shuts its soldiers out,

a water well that’s filled with doubt;

tar that can’t be washed away,

a broken cup, stained and gray;

rock that shatters to dust and sand,

a useless weapon in the hand;

and worse than that or even this,

a god’s own sandal filled with piss.

You’ve had your share of boys, that’s true,

but which of them came twice for you?

Let me now list the ones that you just blew away.

First was Tammuz, the virgin boy you took

after a three-year-long seductive look.

Then you lusted for a fancy, colored bird

and cut its wing so it could not herd.

Thus in the lovely woods at night

bird sings, ‘I’m blind. I have no sight.’

You trapped a lion, too, back then.

Its cock went in your form-as-hen.

And then you dug him seven holes in which to fall on sharpened poles. You let a horse in your back door by laying on a stable floor; but then you built the world’s first chain to choke his throat and end his reign.

You let him run with all his might, as boys will sometimes do at night,

before you harnessed his brute force

with labor fierce, a mean divorce.

So did his mother weep and wail

to see her child’s foot set with a nail.

You fondled once a shepherd boy

who baked buns for your tongue’s joy

and daily killed his lambs so coy.

So in return for gifts like those you chose to lupinize his toy.

And when his brothers saw his penis

they knew you’d done something heinous.

Ishullanu trimmed your father’s trees

and brought you carrots, dates and peas.

So mighty you sat down to feasts,

then turned your thoughts to raping beasts.

You saw him naked once and said:

‘Come, Ishullanu, into my bed

and force your force into my head.

Place your fingers where men dread

to touch a girl who’s dead.’

And he in turn said this to you:

‘What is it that you’d have me do?

I know, kind mother, I won’t eat

if I can’t match your female heat.

But would you have me sing and sin

as my whistle goes both out and in?’

So since he balked to play that role,

you switched his jewel into a mole;

stuck in the muck of a marshy town

his pleasure can’t go up or down.

And that is how you’d deal with me

if we got friendly, warm, and free.”

When Ishtar heard his words so cruel,

she lost her cool and played the fool

by blasting off for daddy’s distant star,

where she said: “Daddy, daddy, daddy, please,

Gilgamesh called me a tease.”

“Gilgamesh said I sinned and lived

without faith in myself or others,” she pouted.

Her father, Anu, said these exact words to Ishtar:

“Now, daughter, did you first insult him, this Gilgamesh who then began to taunt you with jibes about your inclinations?”

Ishtar shouted back at him-who-is-her-father:

“You! Now! Make him stop! Loose the

bull who could trample him at once.

Let the bull spill his blood.

And you’d better do this now or I’ll

wreak havoc of my own right down to Hell.

I’ll loose the goddamn devil. I’ll rain corpses.

I’ll make zombies eat infants and there will be

more dead souls than living ones!”.

Her father, Anu, said these exact words to Ishtar:

“But if I do what you seem now to want,

there would be long years of drought

and sorrow. Have you stored enough

reserve to feed the people who

deserve your close protection?”

And she said:

“Yes, I have reserved a plan for those I love. Now do as I demand

and punish all who insult me.”

Then her father, Anu, heard Ishtar’s cry

and Ishtar forced her will.

Anu set loose a bull from out of the sky and,

at the bull’s proclamation, there cracks the

earth to swallow up nine dozen citizens of Uruk!

An earthquake fixed a grave for nine dozen citizens of Uruk.

Two or three or four hundred victims,

maybe more than that, fell into Hell.

And when the quake returned for a third time,

it was near to Enkidu,

he who fell upon the Abyss so wide and grim.

Enkidu collapsed near the earth-shaking bull.

Then he leaped to grab the bull by his long horns

even with spit upon his face from out the savage mouth, .

even with the stench of bowels near his nose.

Then Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:

“Brother, you and I are now hailed as one.

How could we defeat a god?

Brother, I see great challenge here, but can we dare defy such force?

Let’s kill it if we can right now.

Be unrelenting and hope that god

gives us the strength.

We must be cold and strong

to cut our enemy’s weak neck.”

Enkidu surrounds the bull, pursuing Heaven’s beast

and finally catches him.

So Gilgamesh, like a bull dancer,

svelte and mighty then,

plunged his sword into the throat held fast by Enkidu.

They butchered and bled the bull and then cut out its heart

to offer as sacrifice before Shamash.

Then Gilgamesh and Enkidu retreated

from the altar itself and stood afar

in deep respect as they did pray.

At last the two sat down, bound by war, bound by worship.

Ishtar appeared upon Uruk’s walls

looking like a wailing widow.

She shrieked this curse aloud:

“Damn Gilgamesh, who injured me,

by slaughtering a divine bull.”

Enkidu reacted to these words of Ishtar quick

by hurling at her head a hunk of meat from the bull’s thigh.

And from afar he shouted up to her:

“This bloody mess of a plain bull would

be about what I could make of you if you came near.

I’d tie your hands with these rope-like intestines.”

Ishtar signaled then for her attendants:

coiffured bishops, cantors, and girls

whose charms keep worshippers coming.

Then atop the great wall above the city high

standing by the severed part of its right thigh,

she had them shriek laments for the bull who’d died.

So to complete this ritual and adorn his throne

Gilgamesh summoned artisans of all kinds.

Some measured the diameter of the bull’s horns,

each containing thirty pounds of lapis lazuli.

Together those horns could hollow hold

half a dozen quarts of oil.

And that is what Gilgamesh brought as potion

to the altar of Lugalbanda, his special protector.

He carried the horns and enshrined them in a palace

of honor where his clan held rites.

Then Enkidu and Gilgamesh absolved their

bloody hands in the forgiving river,

the deep, eternal Euphrates that does not change.

At last relieved of such a stain, the friends renew

their vows with a brief embrace

before riding through Ur-uk’s crowded streets

amid acclaim. There Gilgamesh stops to

give this speech to gathered girls:

“What man is most impressive now?

Who is finest, firmest, and most fair?

Isn’t Gilgamesh that man above men

and isn’t Enkidu the strongest of all?”

Then they party loudly throughout the day

so that, come night, they drop down dead in sleep.

But Enkidu is resurrected quickly

to relieve his soul of fright

and sadly he asks Gilgamesh in tears:

“Oh brother, why would I dream that gods sat round to set my fate?”

Tablet VII

The Death of Enkidu

Column I #

Enkidu confessed this dream to Gilgamesh:

“The gods all gathered round last night

and Anu told Enlil that one of us should die

because of what we’ve done against their names.

Though Shamash intervened for us,

saying we had slain Humbaba and the bull

with his consent, the others sought revenge.”

Then Enkidu fell ill and soon lost his full strength.

Saying words like these as his friend lay dying,

Gilgamesh intoned:

“Why should you be so condemned and why should

I go right on living?

Will my own sad eyes soon never look on you again?

Shall I descend to depths beneath this earth to visit worlds reserved

for those who’ve died?”

Enkidu glanced up, addressing the entryway on which his hand was morbidly crushed:

“Door of all forests, that confuses wind and rain,

deaf, dumb, and blind portal;

I admired your firm texture before I first saw the mighty trees

aloft that gave force to you.

There is nothing on earth that could replace your splendor or your worth.

At two hundred feet in height, at forty feet around are

your mighty posts, your priceless hinge cut and crafted in Nippur’s holy ground.

If I had guessed that you’d become this,I would have shattered you to pieces

with my ax and have been more careful not to wound my hand so badly on your frame.”

Column II is wholly #

Column III #

Then cursing the hunter whom he first met

and the girl whom he first loved, Enkidu raged:

“Slash him. Cut half his face.

Raise up floods beneath his feet

so that no animal is safe.”

And at his sacred, former lover Enkidu did swear:

“Get up, witch, and hear your fortune

guaranteed now and forever.

I damn you off and damn you down.

I’d break your teeth with stones and let

your mouth hang open

until you’d say thanks to your killer

who would favor you by letting you

lie homeless on an open road

in some foul ditch.

May all and any who can hurt you now

often cross the paths you take.

I hope you live in fright, unsure of hope

and starved always for the touch of love.”

food and drink almost divine

so that you were taken for a god.

The fine lover, my thoughtless boy, invested you

with robes of gold, robes of blue

and, more important, gave your dear friend

the thought that he should do whatever need

be done and still more too.

Did your brother, Gilgamesh, give you as fine a bed

as any on earth or any there in heaven?

Did he promote the likes of you to fame

unrivaled, so that rulers kneel to kiss

the ground you walk upon?

He will also show the Uruk people how to mourn for you.

An entire people will cry upon your death

and he will go in tears

ignoring the dirt and dust and mud

that stain his hands and hair.

So in despair will his mind be

as off he roams in lonely woods wearing rags.”

Shamash responded from on high:

“The fine lover, my Enkidu, is cursed by you

who gave you bread and meat and stew,

the same who offered you some wine,

When Enkidu heard these sad words he was speechless and in his heart

he knew that Shamash spoke the truth.

His anger fled and Enkidu resolved to die in peace.

Column IV #

With these last words the dying Enkidu did pray and say to his beloved companion:

“In dreams last night

the heavens and the earth poured out great groans while I alone

stood facing devastation. Some fierce and threatening creature flew down at me and pushed me with its
talons toward the horror-filled house of death

wherein lrkalla, queen of shades, stands in command.

There is darkness which lets no person again see light of day.

There is a road leading away from bright and lively life.

There dwell those who eat dry dust and have no cooling water to quench their awful thirst.

As I stood there I saw all those who’ve died and even kings among those darkened souls have none of
their remote and former glory.

All earthly greatness was forfeit and I entered then into the house of death.

Others who have been there long did rise to welcome me.”

Hearing this, great Gilgamesh said to his handsome mother:

“My friend, dear Enkidu, has seen his passing now and he lies dying here upon a sad and lonely cot.

Each day he weakens more and wonders how much more life may yet belong to his hands and eyes and

Then Enkidu resumed his last remarks and said:

“Oh Gilgamesh, some destiny has robbed me of the honor fixed for those who die in battle.

I lie now in slow disgrace, withering day by day, deprived as I am of the peace that comes to one who
dies suddenly in a swift clash of arms.”

Tablet VIII

Gilgamesh’s Lament

The Specter of Mortality

Farewell to Enkidu

Column I

Then once again at break of day did Gilgamesh conclude the silent night

by being first to raise his hands and voice and he said:

“Oh Enkidu, whose own mother’s grace

was every bit as sweet as any deer’s

and whose father

raced just as swift and stood as strong

as any horse that ever ran, accept all natural customs

within the limitless confines of the wild

where you were raised by those with tails, by those with hooves, by

those with fur and whiskers.

All the roads in and out of your great forest

now lie silent, but for the sobbing done by your wild friends.

The aged men and women of Uruk mourn today

and raise their withered palms in prayer as we carry you by, toward Mount Kur.

Grottos weep for you and valleys too and so do those great trees

upon the shore where you loved to run.

And also crying now are large bears, little dogs, baby cubs

of lions and of tigers, and even the hyena now has ceased its laugh.

Wild bull and the rapidest of deer

All, all, all sigh,

All, all, all cry for you.

Ulay’s lovely riverbanks are swollen on this day

where you did walk as boys alone can do upon the banks of rivers that mother their young thoughts about
life and death.

Yes, that great brown god, the river Ulay,

today mourns for you as does the

true Euphrates eternal and silent.

Uruk’s rugged men mourn for you who killed that sacrificial bull.

They all weep tears today and those in Eridu, who loved your fame,

and say your name aloud, they too weep tears today

and all in days to come, even those who knewyou not, all may weep tears someday for your sad lot.

Your favorite aunt, your blessed servant,

your first girlfriend, your inspiration, your companion, your darling

dear and she you feared to be alone with, all women who ever sat and ate with you, all men you ever
helped with food or drink,

every one and all, lovers fast and strangers slow.

Those you touched or who touched you and those who never knew just how you felt.

All and every burst into tears today because they heard that

you were suddenly dead.”

Column II

“I’ll cry now, citizens of Uruk, and you will finally hear what no one else

has ever had the nerve to say in sorrow.

I was family and friend to Enkidu and I shall

fill the woodlands where we stalked with loud, sad sobs today.

I cry now, Enkidu, like some crazed woman. I howl.

I screech for you because you were the ax upon my belt

and the bow in my weak hand; the sword within my sheath,

the shield that covered me in battle; my happiest robe,

the finest clothes I ever wore, the ones that made me look best in the eyes of the world.

That is what you were; that is what you’ll always be

What devil came to take you off from me?

Brother, you chased down the strongest mule,

the swiftest horse on mountains high,

the quickest panthers in the flatlands.

And they in turn will weep for you.

Birds in the air cry aloud.

Fish in the lake gather together near the shore.

What else heeds this sorrow?

The leaves of the trees and the paths you loved in the forest grow dark.

Night itself murmurs and so too does the day.

All the eyes of the city that once saw your kind face begin to weep.

Why? Because you were my brother and you died.

When we met and fought and loved,

we went up on mountains high to where we dared to capture

god’s own strength in one great beast and then to cut its throat,

thus humbling Humbaba, green god of woodlands steep.

Now there is a sleep-like spell on you, and you

are dark as well as deaf.”

Enkidu can move no more.

Enkidu can lift his head no more.

“Now there is a sound throughout the land

that can mean only one thing.

I hear the voice of grief and I know that you have been taken

somewhere by death.

Weep. Let the roads we walked together flood themselves

with tears.

Let the beasts we hunted cry out for this:

the lion and the leopard, the tiger and the panther.

Let their strength be put into their tears.

Let the cloud-like mountain where you killed

the guardian of woodland treasures

place grief upon its sky-blue top.

Let the river which soothed our feet overflow its banks

as tears do that swell and rush across my dusty cheeks.

Let the clouds and stars race swiftly with you into death.

Let the rain that makes us dream

tell the story of your life tonight.

Who mourns for you now, Brother?

Everyone who knew you does.

The harvesters and the farmers who used to bring you grain

are standing alone in their fields.

The servants who worked in your house

today whispered your name in empty rooms.

The lover who kissed every part of you

touches her chilled lips with scented fingers.

The women of the palace sit

and stare at the queen of the city.

She sobs and sobs and sobs.

The men with whom you played so bold

speak fondly of your name.

Thus they deal with this misfortune.

But what do I do? I only know that a cruel fate robbed me

of my dearest friend too soon.

What state of being holds you now? Are you lost forever?

Do you hear my song?”

“I placed my hand upon your quiet heart.”

One brother covered the set face of another

with a bride-white veil.

“I flew above you then as if I were an eagle.”

Then, like some great cat whose darling young have sadly died,

Gilgamesh slides back and forth fixed mindlessly on grief.

He commands many men to erect statues of honor, saying:

“Make his chest a noble blue and on his honored body place a jewel

as will allow all viewers then to see how great he was,

how great he’ll always be.”

Next day, Gilgamesh rose from a restless sleep.

Column III #

Then Gilgamesh continued with his bird-like words:

“On a pedestal I will honor your corpse

by setting you above all earthly princes who will celebrate you

when people from all distant lands both rich and poor in spirit

acclaim your memory.

And when you are gone,

never again to wear good clothes or care for food,

I’ll still remember how you dressed and how you ate. “

When day did break again next morn, Gilgamesh stripped off the lion’s cloak and rose to say this prayer:

“Your funeral is a precious

gesture I made to hide my own guilt.”

Goodbye, dear brother

Hail and farewell, Brother

Goodbye, Brother

Farewell, sweet Brother

Go fairly, old Friend


Peace forever, Brother.

Column V #

Still grieving reverently after he arose next day, Gilgamesh imagined the Annunaki who decide the fate of
those who go to the underworld.

After learning how to pause his heart, Gilgamesh created just the same image

in the face of a river.

At break of day, on the sacred table made of special wood, the grieving king placed a consecrated bowl of
blue filled with butter and with honey too

and this he offered up in solemn prayer to Shamash, lord god.

Tablet IX

The Quest for Immortality

The Scorpion

Column I #

Then Gilgamesh wept some more for his dead friend.

He wandered over barren hills, mumbling to his own spirit:

“Will you too die as Enkidu did?

Will grief become your food?

Will we both fear the lonely hills, so vacant?

I now race from place to place, dissatisfied with wherever I am and

turn my step toward Utnapishtim, godchild of Ubaratutu,

who lives a pious life in fair Dilmun where the morning sun arises as it

does in paradises lost and won.

As if in sleep I come upon the mountain door at midnight where I face wild-eyed lions and I am afraid.

Then to Sin, the god of mighty light, I raise my solemn chant to beg:

‘Save me, please, my god.”‘

Despite respite he could not sleep or dream that night.

Instead he wandered through the woods so like a savage beast just then

did he bring death again and again upon the lions’ heads with an ax he drew

from off his belt.

Column II #

When he finally reached the base of Mt. Mashu, Gilgamesh began to

climb the double cliff that guides the rising and setting of Shamash.

Now these identical towers touch the distant, distant sky, and far below, their breasts descend toward

Those who guard the gate are poison scorpions

who terrorize all, whose spells bring death.

And then resplendent power thrives all across the town

where I was born and rises farther still to mountain tops.

At dawn and dark they shield Shamash.

And when he sensed them there, Gilgamesh could not dare to look

upon their threat; but held his glance away, suspended fear,

and then approached in dread.

One among the guardians there said this to his wife:

“The one who comes toward us is partly divine, my dear.”

And then the same one said to the god-like part of Gilgamesh:

“Eternal heart, why make

this long, long trip trying to come to us

through travail? Speak now.”

Column III #

Gilgamesh said:

“I come by here to visit my elder, my Utnapishtim,

the epitome of both life everlasting and death that is eternal.”

The poison scorpion guardian said:

“No mortal man has ever come to know what you seek here. Not one of all your kind has come so far,
the distance you would fall if you fell

all day and all night into the pit and through great darkness

where there is no light without Shamash who raises and lowers the sun;

to where I let no one go, to where I forbid anyone to enter.”

Column IV #

Heartache pain abounds with ice or fire all around.

The scorpion one,

I do not know whether a man or a woman, said then:

“Gilgamesh, I command you to proceed to highest peaks

over hills toward heaven. Godspeed!

With all permissions given here, I approve your venture.”

So Gilgamesh set out then over that sacred, sacred path within the mountains of Mashu, near that
incarnate ray of sunshine precious to Shamash.

Oh dark, dark, dark, dark.

Oh the night, unholy and blind, that wrapped him as soon as he stepped

forth upon that path.

Column V #


Beneath a moonless, starless sky, Gilgamesh was frozen and unseeing by time before midnight; by
midnight’s hollow eye he was unseen and frozen.

At 1 a.m. he tripped and fell blinded and frozen.

At 2 a.m. he staggered on blinded and frozen.

At 3 a.m. he faltered not blinded and frozen.

By 4 a.m. his second wind warmed him who still was

blinded and frozen.

And at your final dawn, son of man, you will see only a heap of broken images in an ascending light that
gives you sight you may not want,

for you will then behold all precious goods and gardens sweet as home to you, as exile, boughs of blue, oh
unforgotten gem, as true as any other memory from any other previous life.

Column VI #

Then along the path Gilgamesh traveled fast and came at length to shorelines fresh with dew.

And there he met a maiden, one who knows the secrets of the sea.

Tablet X

Siduri Whose Drinks Reffresh the Soul

The Boatman, Urshanabi

Gilgamesh Impolres Utnapishtim

Column I

This gentle girl is called Siduriand she sits by the sea

where she sways from side to side.

She made the water pale; she crafted the first gold bowl

while peeking at the sunthrough a slit across her face veil.

King Gilgamesh approached the girl’s small cottage by the sea

dressed as a mountain man,a meat-eater,with an aching heart

and the stare of one setting out upon somearduous, horrid trek.

The girl who gives her men lifesaving drinkssaid to herself, “Beware of the onecoming now. He walks as
if he’d kill.”

And so Siduri locked the door,put stones in place, lay on the floor.

When Gilgamesh heard sounds insidehe yelled at her.

“Why do you hide?

Shall I have to break through this door?”

The girl whose drinks refresh the soulthen said these words to Gilgamesh:

“Is there a simple reason, sir, why you’re so sador why your face is drawn and thin?

Has chance worn out your youth or did somewicked sorrow consume you like food?

You look like one setting out on some arduous, horrid trek,like one exposed to extremes of hot and
cold,like one who searches everywhere for grace.”

He responded then to her who gives her menlifesaving drinks:

“Girl, there is no simple reason why I’m so sador why my face is drawn and thin.

Chance alone did not wear out my youth. Somewicked sorrow consumes me like food.

But I do look like one setting out on somearduous, horrid trek, like one exposedto extreme hot or
cold,like one who searches everywherefor the breath of lifebecause my brother, my only true friend, met

he who raced wild horses there,who caught orange tigers here.

This was Enkidu, my soul’s good half,who raced wild horses there,

who caught orange tigers here;who did all things while he conquered mountainsand divine bulls that
raceacross the sky like clouds;

who gave Humbaba, the woodland god,reason to weep when he stole throughthe wooded path to
slaughter lions.”

Column II

Gilgamesh continued:

“I greatly loved my friend who was always there for me.

I loved Enkidu who was always there for me.

What awaits us all caught him firstand I did thirst for one whole week to

see him once again in splendor until his body decomposed.

Then I wept for my future deathand I fled home for mountaintops to breathewhen my friend’s death
choked off my wind.

On mountaintops I roamed content to breatheagain when my friend’s death choked off my wind.

Walking. Walking. Walking over hills.

Could I sit down to rest?

Could I stop crying thenwhen my best friend had diedas I will someday do?”

Then Gilgamesh said to the fair girlwhose saving drinks gave life to men:

“Tell me, girl, how to get to Utnapishtim.

Where do I look for signs? Show me directions. Help,

Please let me have safe passage over seas.

Give me advice to guide me on my way.”

She said to him in swift reply:

“No man has ever gone that wayand lived to say he crossed the sea.

Shamash only ventures there,only Shamash would dareto stare into the sun.

Pain joins the voyager soon,and soon the traveler grows weary

where death surrounds the pathon every side with danger.”

Column III

The girl whose drinks refresh the soulthen said these words to Gilgamesh:

“Remember always, mighty king,that gods decreed the fates of all

many years ago. They alone are letto be eternal, while we frail humans die

as you yourself must someday do.

What is best for us to dois now to sing and dance.

Relish warm food and cool drinks.

Cherish children to whom your love gives life.

Bathe easily in sweet, refreshing waters.

Play joyfully with your chosen wife.”

“It is the will of the gods for you to smile

on simple pleasure in the leisure time of your short days.”

“And what, after all, my fellow man,would you do when you got to thatfar side where Urshanabi
dwellsamong the hills of Utnapishtim?

He knows only the dead weight of what is dead and he is one who plays with deadly snakes.Would you
put your lips near his?if he befriends you then, go on.

But if he walks away, return to me.”

With that in mind Gilgamesh took up his chore,unsheathed his sword, slipped toward the shoreand there
joined one who rows the seas of death.

Gilgamesh sliced through the underbrush as an arrow goes through airwhile cracking the stones of the
sacred columns.

And Urshanabi barely saw the arrow’s glint and too late heard the ax’s thud.

And so surprised was he thatthere was never any chance to

hide or to deny the daring manat least a chance atsome safe passage.

Gilgamesh traveled on to where he next found the ferryman of Utnapishtim. This man,Urshanabi, said to

“Your face seems tense; your eyes do not glance well

and Hell itself is part of how you look.

Grief hangs from your shoulders.

You look like one who’s been without a home, without a bed

or roof for a long time, wandering the wilds on some random search.”

Gilgamesh replied to the ferryman:

“Yes sir, it’s true my face is tenseand that my eyes seem harsh.

My looks are now so hellish,for I wear my grief as ill as any other.

I’m not this way as some refugeewithout a bed or roof for a long time,

and I don’t wander the wilds randomly.

I grieve for Enkidu, my fair companion and true friend,who chased the strongest mule, the swiftest
horseon mountain high, the quickest panther of the flatland.

Together we did all things, climbing sky-high peaks,stealing divine cattle, humbling the gods, killing
Humbabaand the precious lions, guardians of the sky.

All this I did with my best friend who now is dead.

Mortality reached him first and I am left this weekto weep and wail for his shriveling corpse which scares

I roam aloft and alone now, by death enthralled,and think of nothing but my dear friend.

I roam the lonely path with death upon my mindand think of nothing but my dear friend.

Over many seas and across many mountains I roam.I can’t stop pacing. I can’t stop crying.

My friend has died and half my heart is torn from me.

Won’t I soon be like him, stone-cold and dead,for all the days to come?”

Urshanabi replied as he had done before:

“Your face seems tense; your eyes do not glance welland Hell itself is part of how you look.

Grief hangs from your shoulders.

You look like one who’s been without a home, without a bedor roof for a long time, wandering the wilds
on some random search.”

And Gilgamesh said to him then in swift reply:

“Of course my face seems tense and my eyes seem harsh.

Of course I’m worn out weeping. Why should I not cry?

I’ve come to ask directions to Utnapishtim, who lives so

free beyond death’s deep, deep lake. Where can he be?

Tell me how to venture there where I may learn his secrets.”

Finally, Urshanabi uttered these last words to Gilgamesh:

“You yourself have hurt this effort most, sir,by blasphemy and sacrilege,

by breaking idols and by holding the untouchably sacred stones.

You broke stone images!

So now, Gilgamesh, raise high your ax.”

Thus chastised, Gilgameshraised high his ax, unsheathed his sword,

did penance too as he chopped down many trees;prepared them then, and then brought themto Urshanabi.

After this, they cast off together,with push and pull they launched the skiff

upon the waving sea.

They leaped quick, in three short days covering a span that any other would

traverse only after months of passageand soon they sailed on to Death’s own sea.

Column IV #

Still directing the king’s new efforts, Urshanabi called:

“Give me another pull, Gilgamesh, upon the mighty oarand then another. Give ten times twentyand then
give twenty times ten pulls upon the

mighty oars; then ten more twice; then twicemore ten and then confuse the number of the pulls you put
upon the oarby losing count aloud and starting over.”

Halfway through all that pulling,Gilgamesh had worn the oars to bits

and torn his shirt from off his backto raise a helping sail upon the mast.

Then Utnapishtim glared down from stars and clouds

and mused aloud, as if to coach the world:

“How could any human dare to break the idolsor steer the craft that gods and goddesses use?

This stranger is not fit to tie the shoes of servants.

I do see, but I am blind. I do know, but cannot understandhow he behaves like the beasts of here and

Column V #

Gilgamesh spoke many words to Utnapishtim and told of strife-in-life and battles rare. He hailed his friend
Enkidu,acclaimed their pride and grieved the death that saddened his great heart.

Gilgamesh raised his prayer to the remote Utnapishtim:

“oh myth-filled god,

I have traveled many roads,

crossed many rivers and mountains.

I never rested. I never slept. Grief consumed me.

My clothing was ragged by the time I met

the girl who would help me.

I killed all manner of animal in order

to eat and clothe myself.

When I was rejected, I stooped to squalor.

Cursed I went,

being unholy.”

Utnapishtim replied:

“Why cry over your fate and nature?

Chance fathered you.

Your conception was an accidental combination of the divine and mortal.

I do not presume to know how to helpthe likes of you.”

Column VI #

Utnapishtim continued:

“No man has ever seen Death.

No one ever heard Death’s voice

but Death is real and Death is loud.

How many times must a home be restoredor a contract revised and approved?

How many times must two brothers agree not to dispute what is theirs?

How many wars and how many floods must there be with plague and exile in their wake?

Shamash is the one who can say.

But there is no one else who can see what Shamash only can see within the sun.

Behold the cold, cold corpse from a distance,and then regard the body of one who sleeps.

There seems no difference. How can we saywhich is good and which is bad?

And it is also like that with other things as well.

Somewhere above us, where the goddess Mammetum decides all things,

Mother Chance sits with the Anunnakiand there she settles all decrees of fable and of fortune.

There they issue lengths of lives;then they issue times of death.

But the last, last matter is always veiled from human beings.

The length of lives can only be guessed.”

Thus spoke Utnapishtim.

Tablet XI

The Flood

Trial of Sleepessness

Foiled by the Serpent

Triumphant Return

Column I

To the most distant and removed of semi-gods, to Utnapishtim,

Gilgamesh said:

“When I regard you now, my god-like man,it’s like seeing my own face on calm waterwhere I dare to
study myself.

Like me, you are first of all a fighter who prefers to war-no-more. How could one like you, sohuman,
all-too-human, ascend to be at one with other gods?”

Utnapishtim said to him in swift reply:

“Only one as bold as you would dare expect such knowledge. But I shall tell you what no person has ever
been told.

High up the constant Euphrates there rests a place you call Shuruppakwhere gods and goddesses recline.

Then came the flood, sent by gods’ intent.

Mama, Anu, and Enlil were at Shuruppak.

So too was their coachman, Ninurta, and Ennugi, the beastiarilis,

and one who watches over precious infants, the ever vigilant Ea.

And Ea refrained their chant to the higli-grown reeds

upon the shore, giving this advice to me:’Arise! Arise! Oh wall-like reeds.

Arise and hear my words:

Citizen of Shurtippak, child of Ubaratutu,

abandon your home and build a boat.

Reject the corpse-like stench of wealth.

Choose to live and choose to love;

choose to rise above and give back

what you yourself were given.

Be moderate as you flee for survival

in a boat that has no place for riches.

Take the seed of all you need aboard

with you and carefully weigh anchor

after securing a roof that will let in no water.’

“Then I said back in reverent prayer:

‘I understand, great Ea.

I shall do just as you say to honor god, but for myself

I’ll have to find a reason to give the people.’

“Then Ea voiced a fair reply:

‘Tell those who’ll need to know that Enlil hates you.

Say: “I must flee the city now and go by sea to where Enlil waits to take my life.

I will descend to the brink of Hell to be with Ea, god, who will send riches to you like the rain:

all manner of birds;and the rarest of rare fish.

The land will fill with crops full grown at break of day.

Ea will begin to shower gifts of life upon you all”.”‘

Column II #

Then Utnapishtim continued, saying words like these:

“By week’s end I engineered designs for an acre’s worth of floor upon the ark we built so that its walls
rose straight toward heaven; with decks all round did I design its space;cubits measured its deck.

With division of six and of seven I patterned its squares and stairs;

left space for portals too,secured its beams and stockpiled all that ever could be used.

Pitch for the hull I poured into the kiln and ordered three full volumes of oil

to start with and two times three more yet.

For what is security?

Each day I sacrificed the holy bulls and chosen sheep for the people

and pushed the laborers to great fatigue and thirst, allayed alone by wine

which they drank as if it were water running from barrels set up for holding cheer in preparation for a
New Year’s party they expected.

I set up an ointment box and cleaned my fingers with its cream.

“After one week, the ark was done, though launching was more work than fun since hull boards caught
and snapped until the water burst most of its great ton.

I supplied the craft with all I owned of silver, gold, and seed.

My clan brought on the food they’d eat and all the things we thought we’d need.

At last, it was my turn just then to shepherd beasts and birds and babies wet and loud.

It was Shamash who ordained the time, saying:

‘Prepare the way for your whole boat and set to sail when the storm

begins to threaten you.’

“The Anunnaki too then cried for them.

The gods themselves, finally suffering, sat up and let their first tears flow down cheeks and over lips
pressed closed.

Column III #

“For the whole next week the sky screamed and storms wrecked the earth

and finally broke the war which groaned as one in labor’s throes.

Even Ishtar then bemoaned the fates of her sad people.

Ocean silent.

Winds dead.

Flood ended.

Then I see a dawn so still;all humans beaten to dirtand earth itself like some vast roof.

I peeked through the portal into a morning sun then turned, knelt and cried.

Tears flooded down my face.

“Then I searched high and low for the shoreline,finally spotting an island near and dear.

Our boat stuck fast beside Mt. Nimush.

Mt. Nimush held the hull that could not sway for one whole week.

“I released the watch-bird, to soar in search of land.

The bird came back within a day exhausted, unrelieved from lack of rest.

I then released a swallow, to soar in search of land,

The bird came back within a dayexhausted, unrelieved from lack of rest.

I then released a raven, to soar in search of land.

The bird took flight above more shallow seas,found food and found release and found no need to fly on
back to me.

“These birds I then released to carth’s four corners and offered sacrifice,

a small libation to the heights of many mountains, from numbered chalices that I arranged.

Under these I spread the scents that gods favored and when the gods smelled the sweet perfume of
sacrifice, they gathered in flight all above, like apparitions.

Column IV

“From distant heights with heavenly sights,the female of all female gods descended then;

Aruru who aroused the wry thought that Anu made for intercourse.

‘Great gods from far and widekeep always in my mind this thought for intercourse, tokened by the sacred
blue medallion on my neck.

Let me recall with smiles these days in days to come.

Gods of my shoreline, gods of my sky, come round this food that I prepared for you; but do not let Enlil
enjoy this too, since he’s the one who drowned my relatives without telling the gods what he set out to

When Enlil saw the boat, he released his calm reason and let in the lgigi, monsters of blood.

‘What force dares defy my anger!?

How dare a man be still alive!?’

Then with these words Ninurta said to Enlil:

‘Can any of us besides Ea, maker of words,create such things as speech?’

Then with these words Ea himself said to Enlil:

‘Sly god,sky darkener,

and tough fighter,

how dare you drown so many little people without consulting me?

Why not just kill the one who offended you,drown only the sinner?

Keep hold of his lifecord; harness his destiny.

Rather than killing rains, set cats at people’s throats.

Rather than killing rains, set starvation on dry, parched throats.

Rather than killing rains, set sickness on the minds and hearts

of people.

I was not the one who revealed our god-awful secrets.

Blame Utnapishtim,who sees everything,who knows everything.”

“Reflect on these stories, my Gilgamesh.”

“Then Enlil swooped down around my boat;

he gently raised me from the slime,

placed my wife beside my kneeling form

and blessed us both at once with hands upon our bowed heads.

So was it ordained.

So we were ordained.”

Earlier than that time, Utnapishtim was not divine.

Then with his wife he was deified

and sent to rule the place where rivers start.

“Gods sent me everywhere to rule the place where rivers start.”

“As for you, Gilgamesh, which gods will be called on

to direct your path and future life?

Arise! Be alert! Stay up with stars for

seven long and sleepless nights!”

But even as he tried to stay awake,

fog-like sleep rolled over his eyes.

Then Utnapishtim said these words:

“Dear wife, behold the one who tries to pray

while fog-like sleep rolls over his eyes.”

She said to him who rarely talks:

“Arouse him now and let him

leave unharmed. Permit that one

to go back home at last.”

Column V

Then Utnapishtim said these words:

“An upset soul can upset many gods.

Be kind with food and generous to him.

But keep a count of how he sleeps and what he eats.”

She was kind with food and gentle with the man and she kept count of how he slept.

“One, two, three, abate,

he slept with death~the-fairy.

Four, five, six, abate,

he looked so cold and wary.”

Then he returned from death to breath!

So Gilgamesh said to the One-who-rarely-spoke:

“Just as I slipped toward sleep, you sent my dream.”

And to him in reply, Utnapishtim said these words:

“One, two, three, alarie,

you slept with death-the-fairy.

Four, five, six, alarie,

you looked so cold and wary.

Then you arose from death to breath.”

So Gilgamesh said to the One-who-rarely-speaks:

“Help me, Utnapishtim. Where is

home for one like me whose self was robbed of life? My own

bed is where death sleeps and I crack her spine on every line

where my foot falls.”

Utnapishtim calls out to the sailor-god:

“Urshanabi, you will never land again easily or easily sail the seas

to shores where you no more will find safe harbor.

Sandy and disheveled hair does not become the one you nearly drowned.

Shingles now spoil his hidden beauty.Better find a place to clean him up. Better race to pools of saltless water soon so that by noon he’ll shine again for all of us to see. Tie up his curly hair with ribbon fair.

Place on his shoulders broad the happy robe so that he may return to his native city easily in triumph. Allow him to wear the sacred elder’s cloak and see that it is always kept as clean as it can be.”

The sailor-god brought Gilgamesh to where they cleaned his wounds.

By noon he shone again for all to see.

He tied his curly hair with ribbon fair, and placed upon his shoulder broad the happy robe so he would
return to Uruk easily in triumph with a cloak unstained and unstainable.

Urshanabi and Gilgamesh launched the boat over the breakers on the beach and started to depart across
the seas.

Column VI

To her distant husband, Utnapishtim’s wife said:

“This Gilgamesh has labored much to come here.

Can you reward him for traveling back?”

At that very moment, Gilgamesh used paddles to return his craft along the shore.

Then Utnapishtim called out to him:

“Gilgamesh! You labored much to come here.

How can I reward you for traveling back?

May I share a special secret, one that the gods alone do know?

There is a plant that hides somewhere among the rocks that thirsts and thrusts itself deep in the earth,
with thistles that sting.

That plant contains eternal life for you.”

Immediately, Gilgamesh set out in search.

Weighed down carefully, he dove beneath the cold, cold waters and saw the plant.

Although it stung him when he grabbed its leaf, he held it fast as he then slipped off his weights and soared
back to the surface.

Then Gilgamesh said this to Urshanabi, the sailor-god:

“Here is the leaf that begins all life worth having.

I am bound now for Uruk, town-so-full-of-shepherds,

and there I’ll dare to give this plant to aged men as food

and they will call it life-giving.

I too intend to eat it

and to be made forever young.”

After 10 miles they ate.

After 15 miles they set up camp where Gilgamesh slipped into a pool;

but in the pool, a cruel snake slithered by and stole the plant from Gilgamesh

who saw the snake grow young again, as off it raced with the special, special plant.

Right there and then Gilgamesh began to weep

and, between sobs, said to the sailor-god who held his hand:

“Why do I bother working for nothing?

Who even notices what I do?

I don’t value what I did and now only the snake has won eternal life. in minutes, swift currents will lose
forever that special sign that god had left for me.”

Then they set out again, this time upon the land.

After 10 miles they stopped to eat.

After 30 miles they set up camp.

Next day they came to Uruk, full of shepherds.

Then Gilgamesh said this to the boatman:

“Rise up now, Urshanabi, and examineUruk’s wall. Study the base, the brick,

the old design. is it permanent as can be?

Does it look like wisdom designed it?

The house of Ishtar in Uruk is divided into three parts: the town itself, the palm grove, and the prairie.”

Introduction to Tablet XII

Scholars disagree about the relation of Tablet XII to the other eleven tablets. The general consensus is that it was an appendage
added to the other Gilgamesh stories at a later date.

This tablet presents a stark contrast to the earlier eleven in style and content. The appearance of a “resurrected” Enkidu is
especially startling. In light of these inconsistencies with Tablets I-XI, why include Tablet XII?

Tablet XII provides further insight into some of the major themes and questions explored in the first eleven tablets. Is there an
afterlife? What is the nature of it? What earthly behaviors are rewarded there? By the conclusion of Tablet XI, Gilgamesh was
forced to accept the limits of mortal existence

and be satisfied with its attainable rewards. Questions about the “state of being” in death had fiercely possessed him, however,
and the answers remained a mystery.

The defining and “coming to terms” with human mortality has been the province of every system of religious beliefs throughout
history. Here is our first recorded vision of an afterlife. it is for these reasons that Tablet XII is included here.

Tablet XII

Descent to the Underworld

The Afterlife

“If only I’d have protected our instruments in the safe home of the drum-maker;

If only I’d have given so precious a harp to the craftsman’s wife, she who shepherds such jewel-like

An, has your heart forgotten me?

Who shall descend to Irkalla and redeem the drum from where it rests unused?

Who shall risk his life to retrieve the precious gifts of Ishtar from death?”

And for this quest his friend alone did pledge.

So Gilgamesh said this to Enkidu:

“Descend, descend to Irkalla where life does end but listen now to words you need to know.

Go slow to where death rules, my brother dear, and then arise again above and over fear.”

And, once more, Gilgamesh said this to Enkidu:

“Let all who would be saved today, take heed, and listen to god’s words in time of need.

When walking with the strong or with the dead, do not wear clothes of purple or of red.

Shun make-up that presents a holy face for they attack the phony and the base.

Leave here with me your knife and rock and club; such weapons only add to their own strife.

Put down your bow, as you would leave a wife.

The souls of death will soil your hands and feet.

Go naked, filthy, tearful, when you meet.

Be quiet, mild, remote, and distant too as those who will surround and follow you.

Greet no girl with kiss so kind upon her lips; push none away from you with fingertips.

Hold no child’s hand as you descend to Irkalla and strike no boy who chooses there to dwell.

Around you, Enkidu, the lament of the dead will whirl and scream,

for she alone, in that good place, is at home who, having given birth to beauty, has watched that beauty

No graceful robe any longer graces her naked self and her kind breasts, once warm with milk, have turned
into bowls of cold stone.”

But Enkidu refused to heed his friend as he set out that day to then descend to where the dead
who-do-not-live do stay.

He wore bright clothes of celebrative red, the sight of which offended all the dead.

His colored face made him seem fair and good but spirits hate the flesh that would dare remind us of the
beauty they have lost.

He brought with him his club and rock and knife and did cause strife with those whom he did mock.

There, too, is where he showed off; where he went clothed among the naked, where he wasted food
beside the starving, where he danced beside the grief-stricken.

He kissed a happy girl.

He struck a good woman.

He enjoyed his fatherhood.

He fought with his son.

Around him, the lament for the dead arose; for she alone, in that sad place, is at home who, having given
birth to beauty, has watched that beauty die.

No graceful robe any longer graces her naked self and her kind breasts, once warm with milk, have turned
into bowls of cold stone.

She never even dreamed once of letting him return to life. Namtar, the decision-maker, would not help
Enkidu. Nor would illness help. Irkalla became his home.

Nergal, chief-enforcer, would not help.

Dirges and laments rose all around.

Not even the soldier’s death-in-battle, with all its false and phony honor,

helped Enkidu. Death just swallowed him, unrecognized.

So the great son of Ninsun, proud Gilgamesh, cried for his beloved friend and went to the temple of Enlil,

the savage god of soldiers, to say: “My god, when death called for me, my best friend went in my place
and he is now no longer living.”

But the savage god of soldiers, Enlil, was mute.

So Gilgamesh turned next to one who flies alone,

and to the moon he said: “My god, when death called for me, my best friend went in my place and he is
now no longer living.”

But the moon, who flies alone, was also mute; so he went next to Ea, whose waters fill the desert oasis
even when no rain falls.

“My god,” he cried, “when death called for me, my best friend went in my place and he is now no longer

And Ea, whose waters keep us alive as we journey over desert sands,

said this to Nergal, great soldier in arms.

“Go now, mighty follower; free Enkidu to speak once to kin

and show this Gilgamesh how to descend halfway to Irkalla through the bowels of earth.”

And Nergal, accustomed to absurd orders, obeyed as soldiers do.

He freed Enkidu to speak once to kin and showed Gilgamesh how to descend halfway to Irkalla through
the bowels of earth.

Enkidu’s shadow rose slowly toward the living and the brothers, tearful and weak, tried to hug, tried to
speak, tried and failed to do anything but sob.

“Speak to me please, dear brother,” whispered Gilgamesh.

“Tell me of death and where you are.”

“Not willingly do I speak of death,” said Enkidu in slow reply.

“But if you wish to sit for a brief time, I will describe where I do stay.”

“Yes,” his brother said in early grief.

“All my skin and all my bones are dead now. All my skin and all my bones are now dead.

“Oh no,” cried Gilgamesh without relief.

“Oh no,” sobbed one enclosed by grief.

“Did you see there a man who never fathered any child?”

“I saw there a no-man who died.”

“Did you see there a man whose one son died?”

“I saw him sobbing all alone in open fields.”

“Did you see there a man with two grown sons?”

“I did indeed and he smiles all day long.”

“Did you see there a man with three of his own boys?”

“I did, I did; and his heart’s full of joys.”

“Did you there see a king with four full kids?”

“I did see one whose pleasure is supreme.”

“Did you see there anyone with five children?”

“oh yes, they go about with laughs and shouts.”

“And could you find a man with six or seven boys?”

“You could and they are treated as the gods.”

“Have you seen one who died too soon?”

“Oh yes; that one sips water fair and rests each night upon a couch.”

“Have you seen one who died in War?”

“Oh yes; his aged father weeps and his young widow visits graves.”

“Have you seen one buried poor, with other homeless nomads?”

“Oh yes; that one knows rest that is not sure, far from the proper place.”

“Have you seen a brother crying among relatives who chose to ignore his prayers?”

“Oh yes; he brings bread to the hungry from the dumps of those who feed their dogs with food they keep
from people and he eats trash that no other man would want.”

FEATURE: Roman Religion

Explore the core beliefs of Roman Religion, beyond the mythology, in our section Roman Religion.