Gilgamesh Anonymous

Context
Unlike the heroes of Greek or Celtic mythology, the hero of The Epic of Gilgamesh was an actual historical figure, a king who reigned over the Sumerian city-state of Uruk around 2700 b.c. Long after his death, people worshipped Gilgamesh, renowned as a warrior and builder and widely celebrated for his wisdom and judiciousness. One prayer invokes him as “Gilgamesh, supreme king, judge of the Anunnaki” (the gods of the underworld). Called Erech in the Bible, Uruk was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia. The historical King Gilgamesh probably raised its walls, which archaeologists have determined had a perimeter of six miles. Today its ruins rest near the town of Warka, in southern Iraq, about a third of the way from Basra to Baghdad. A team of German archaeologists recently announced that they'd detected a buried structure there that might be Gilgamesh's tomb. Though the military actions of 2003 stopped their work before excavations could begin, their claim has aroused considerable interest. Dozens of stories about Gilgamesh circulated throughout the ancient Middle East. Archaeologists have discovered the earliest ones, inscribed on clay tablets in the Sumerian language before 2000 b.c. Other tablets tell stories about him in the Elamite, Hurrian, and Hittite tongues. Over time, many of those stories were consolidated into a large, epic work. The most complete known version of this long poem was found in Nineveh, in the ruins of the library of Assurbanipal, the last great king of the Assyrian empire. Assurbanipal was undoubtedly a despot and a warmonger, but he was also a tireless archivist and collector—we owe much of our knowledge about ancient Mesopotamia to his efforts. The Epic of Gilgamesh is written in Akkadian, the Babylonians' language, on eleven tablets, with a fragmentary appendix on a twelfth. The tablets actually name their author, Sin-Leqi-Unninni, whose name translates to “Moon god, accept my plea.” This poet/editor must have completed his work sometime before 612 b.c., when the Persians conquered the Assyrian Empire and destroyed Nineveh. Gilgamesh's fame did not survive Assyria's collapse. Although he had been a ubiquitous literary, religious, and historical figure for two millennia, he would be completely forgotten until Victorian times, more than 2,000 years later. In 1839, an English traveler named Austen Henry Layard excavated some 25,000 broken clay tablets from the ruins of Nineveh. Henry Rawlinson, an expert on Assyria able to decipher cuneiform, began the painstaking, difficult work of translating them, first in Baghdad and then later at the British Museum. Rawlinson had discovered the Stone of Darius, also known as the Persian

Rosetta Stone, a monument celebrating the Persian emperor's conquests in several languages. This structure provided the key to translating cuneiform's wedge-shaped alphabet. When Rawlinson's student George Smith rendered the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh epic into English in 1872, it set off an immediate sensation. This tablet contains the Sumerian story of the deluge, which has so many parallels with the story of Noah's ark that many people surmise the author of the biblical account was familiar with Gilgamesh. Possibly, both versions hearken back to an even older source. Some scientists have recently speculated that the basic story reflects a folk memory of events in 5000 b.c., when melting glaciers caused the Mediterranean to overflow, inundating a vast, densely settled area around the Black Sea and scattering its survivors around the world. Their interest roused, Victorian archaeologists dug up and translated more and more tablets. Within a few years, the broad outlines of the epic had been reestablished, and many more tablets have been discovered since. Even so, the poem is still as much as twenty percent incomplete, and a good part of what does exist is fragmentary to the point of unintelligibility. The different translations of Gilgamesh vary widely in terms of details included and their interpretation, but most of them follow Sin-Leqi-Unninni. The Epic of Gilgamesh is more than just an archaeological curiosity. Despite its innumerable omissions and obscurities, its strange cast of gods, and its unfamiliar theory about the creation of the universe, the story of Gilgamesh is powerful and gripping. An exciting adventure that celebrates kinship between men, it asks what price people pay to be civilized and questions the proper role of a king, and it both acknowledges and scrutinizes the attractions of earthly fame. Most of all, Gilgamesh describes the existential struggles of a superlatively strong man who must reconcile himself to his mortality and find meaning in his life despite the inevitability of death.

Plot Overview
The epic's prelude offers a general introduction to Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, who was two-thirds god and one-third man. He built magnificent ziggurats, or temple towers, surrounded his city with high walls, and laid out its orchards and fields. He was physically beautiful, immensely strong, and very wise. Although Gilgamesh was godlike in body and mind, he began his kingship as a cruel despot. He lorded over his subjects, raping any woman who struck his fancy, whether she was the wife of one of his warriors or the daughter of a nobleman. He accomplished his building projects with forced labor, and his exhausted subjects groaned under his oppression. The gods heard his subjects' pleas and decided to keep Gilgamesh in check by creating a wild man named Enkidu, who was as magnificent as Gilgamesh. Enkidu became Gilgamesh's great friend, and Gilgamesh's heart was shattered when Enkidu died of an illness inflicted by the gods. Gilgamesh then traveled to the edge of the world and learned about the days before the deluge and other secrets of the gods, and he recorded them on stone tablets.

The epic begins with Enkidu. He lives with the animals, suckling at their breasts, grazing in the meadows, and drinking at their watering places. A hunter discovers him and sends a temple prostitute into the wilderness to tame him. In that time, people considered women and sex calming forces that could domesticate wild men like Enkidu and bring them into the civilized world. When Enkidu sleeps with the woman, the animals reject him since he is no longer one of them. Now, he is part of the human world. Then the harlot teaches him everything he needs to know to be a man. Enkidu is outraged by what he hears about Gilgamesh's excesses, so he travels to Uruk to challenge him. When he arrives, Gilgamesh is about to force his way into a bride's wedding chamber. Enkidu steps into the doorway and blocks his passage. The two men wrestle fiercely for a long time, and Gilgamesh finally prevails. After that, they become friends and set about looking for an adventure to share. Gilgamesh and Enkidu decide to steal trees from a distant cedar forest forbidden to mortals. A terrifying demon named Humbaba, the devoted servant of Enlil, the god of earth, wind, and air, guards it. The two heroes make the perilous journey to the forest, and, standing side by side, fight with the monster. With assistance from Shamash the sun god, they kill him. Then they cut down the forbidden trees, fashion the tallest into an enormous gate, make the rest into a raft, and float on it back to Uruk. Upon their return, Ishtar, the goddess of love, is overcome with lust for Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh spurns her. Enraged, the goddess asks her father, Anu, the god of the sky, to send the Bull of Heaven to punish him. The bull comes down from the sky, bringing with him seven years of famine. Gilgamesh and Enkidu wrestle with the bull and kill it. The gods meet in council and agree that one of the two friends must be punished for their transgression, and they decide Enkidu is going to die. He takes ill, suffers immensely, and shares his visions of the underworld with Gilgamesh. When he finally dies, Gilgamesh is heartbroken. Gilgamesh can't stop grieving for Enkidu, and he can't stop brooding about the prospect of his own death. Exchanging his kingly garments for animal skins as a way of mourning Enkidu, he sets off into the wilderness, determined to find Utnapishtim, the Mesopotamian Noah. After the flood, the gods had granted Utnapishtim eternal life, and Gilgamesh hopes that Utnapishtim can tell him how he might avoid death too. Gilgamesh's journey takes him to the twin-peaked mountain called Mashu, where the sun sets into one side of the mountain at night and rises out of the other side in the morning. Utnapishtim lives beyond the mountain, but the two scorpion monsters that guard its entrance refuse to allow Gilgamesh into the tunnel that passes through it. Gilgamesh pleads with them, and they relent. After a harrowing passage through total darkness, Gilgamesh emerges into a beautiful garden by the sea. There he meets Siduri, a veiled tavern keeper, and tells her about his quest. She warns him that seeking immortality is futile and that he should be satisfied with the pleasures of this world. However, when she can't turn him away from his purpose, she directs him to Urshanabi, the ferryman. Urshanabi takes Gilgamesh on the boat journey across the sea and through the Waters of Death to Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the story of the flood—how the gods met in council and decided to destroy

humankind. Ea, the god of wisdom, warned Utnapishtim about the gods' plans and told him how to fashion a gigantic boat in which his family and the seed of every living creature might escape. When the waters finally receded, the gods regretted what they'd done and agreed that they would never try to destroy humankind again. Utnapishtim was rewarded with eternal life. Men would die, but humankind would continue. When Gilgamesh insists that he be allowed to live forever, Utnapishtim gives him a test. If you think you can stay alive for eternity, he says, surely you can stay awake for a week. Gilgamesh tries and immediately fails. So Utnapishtim orders him to clean himself up, put on his royal garments again, and return to Uruk where he belongs. Just as Gilgamesh is departing, however, Utnapishtim's wife convinces him to tell Gilgamesh about a miraculous plant that restores youth. Gilgamesh finds the plant and takes it with him, planning to share it with the elders of Uruk. But a snake steals the plant one night while they are camping. As the serpent slithers away, it sheds its skin and becomes young again. When Gilgamesh returns to Uruk, he is empty-handed but reconciled at last to his mortality. He knows that he can't live forever but that humankind will. Now he sees that the city he had repudiated in his grief and terror is a magnificent, enduring achievement—the closest thing to immortality to which a mortal can aspire.

Character List
People
Gilgamesh - King of Uruk, the strongest of men, and the personification of all human virtues. A brave warrior, fair judge, and ambitious builder, Gilgamesh surrounds the city of Uruk with magnificent walls and erects its glorious ziggurats, or temple towers. Two-thirds god and one-third mortal, Gilgamesh is undone by grief when his beloved companion Enkidu dies, and by despair at the prospect of his own extinction. He travels to the ends of the Earth in search of answers to the mysteries of life and death. Enkidu - Companion and friend of Gilgamesh. Hairy-bodied and brawny, Enkidu was raised by animals. Even after he joins the civilized world, he retains many of his undomesticated characteristics. Enkidu looks much like Gilgamesh and is almost his physical equal. He aspires to be Gilgamesh's rival but instead becomes his soul mate. The gods punish Gilgamesh and Enkidu by giving Enkidu a slow, painful, inglorious death for killing the demon Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. Shamhat - The temple prostitute who tames Enkidu by seducing him away from his natural state. Though Shamhat's power comes from her sexuality, it is associated with civilization rather than nature. She represents the sensuous refinements of culture—the sophisticated pleasures of lovemaking, food, alcohol, music, clothing, architecture, agriculture, herding, and ritual.

The god of vegetation and fertility. persuading him to disclose the secret of the magic plant called How-the-Old-Man-OnceAgain-Becomes-a-Young-Man. He is the personification of awesome natural power and menace. Tammuz . of the twin-peaked mountain called Mashu. and one of every living creature to safety. he roars like a flood. Tammuz is the husband of Ishtar.” By the god Ea's connivance. The gods granted eternal life to him and his wife. The upper parts of the monsters' bodies are human. Born a mortal. Partial List of Important Deities and Demons Anu . Ea lives in Apsu.The goddess of wine-making and brewing. his family.The father of the gods and the god of the firmament. Aruru . Urshanabi . whose name translates as “He Who Saw Life. and the lower parts end in a scorpion tail. Enlil .A goddess of creation who fashioned Enkidu from clay and her spittle. crafts. so he returns with him to Uruk.Utnapishtim . Utnapishtim's wife softens her husband toward Gilgamesh.Guardian. with his wife.The god of fresh water. wind. which Shamash the sun god travels through every night. Ea .A king and priest of Shurrupak. helps him on his way to Utnapishtim. A superior deity. Utnapishtim survived the great deluge that almost destroyed all life on Earth by building a great boat that carried him.” Urshanabi pilots a small ferryboat across the Waters of Death to the Far Away place where Utnapishtim lives. Siduri is the veiled tavern keeper who comforts Gilgamesh and who. though she knows his quest is futile. They are familiar figures in Mesopotamian myth. He loses this privilege when he accepts Gilgamesh as a passenger. Humbaba . and he breathes death. Siduri .The fearsome demon who guards the Cedar Forest forbidden to mortals. when he pleads cunningly for his life. In his very last moments he acquires personality and pathos.Terrifying queen of the underworld. also called the Shepherd. His mouth is fire. Humbaba's seven garments produce an aura that paralyzes with fear anyone who would withstand him. . a patron of humankind. Scorpion-Man . and wisdom. and air. the primal waters below the Earth. Utnapishtim's Wife .An unnamed woman who plays an important role in the story.God of earth. Ereshkigal . Enlil is not very fond of humankind.The guardian of the mysterious “stone things. much like an erupting volcano.

Ishtar is frequently called the Queen of Heaven.The mother of Gilgamesh. and equal. Gilgamesh grieves deeply and is horrified by the prospect of his own death. Analysis of Major Characters Gilgamesh An unstable compound of two parts god and one part man. Gilgamesh selfishly indulges his appetites.Third king of Uruk after the deluge (Gilgamesh is the fifth). He is a protector and is sometimes called the father of Gilgamesh. whether she is the wife of a warrior or the daughter of a noble—or a bride on her wedding night. She is a minor goddess. He takes up arms to protect the . even his conscience. Enkidu is also instinctively chivalrous. wealth. as well as the goddess of war. Reconciled at last to his mortality. He begins his life as a wild man. raping whatever woman he desires. his near equal. Much more than a sidekick or a servant. She is the patroness of Uruk. arrives to serve as a counterweight to Gilgamesh's restless energies. Enkidu Hairy-chested and brawny. patron of Gilgamesh. Lugulbanda is the hero of a cycle of Sumerian poems and a minor god.The goddess of love and fertility. Lugulbanda . Yet until Enkidu. the goddess of love. when Gilgamesh spurns Ishtar. noted for her wisdom. Abruptly abandoning glory. and both his virtues and his flaws are outsized. He is the greatest of all men. Enkidu's role changed profoundly. For example. with flowery. all of which are worldly aspirations that he as king had once epitomized. and arbitrary exercises of power. Enkidu merely hurls a piece of meat in her face. crude and unrefined. he remains to a certain extent a sojourner in the civilized world. However. sometimes she is a nurturing mother figure. As those legends evolved into chapters of a great epic poem. Enkidu begins his literary life as Gilgamesh's faithful sidekick. raised by animals. brother of Ishtar. Unlike Gilgamesh. What he finds instead is the wisdom to strike harmony with his divine and mortal attributes. he is Gilgamesh's soul mate. forced labor. Ninsun . In the later stories the gods bring Enkidu into the world to provide a counterpoint to Gilgamesh. he exhausts his subjects with ceaseless battle. Beautiful to behold. and power. brother. Shamash is a wise judge and lawgiver. he is a helper to Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh resumes his proper place in the world and becomes a better king. Enkidu is fashioned entirely from clay. he begins a quest to learn the secret of eternal life. and other times she is spiteful and cruel.The sun god. allusive insults. Her husband is Lugulbanda.Ishtar . Gilgamesh suffers most from immoderation. He is the fiercest of warriors and the most ambitious of builders. who is two-thirds god. Capricious and mercurial. and. Enkidu's friendship calms and focuses him. When Enkidu dies. where she has a temple. also called the Lady Wildcow Ninsun. In the most ancient of the stories that compose The Epic of Gilgamesh. Shamash .

that king is Gilgamesh. nurturing women who appear in this most explicitly homoerotic tale. The former king and priest of Shurrupak. Though Enkidu is bolder than most men. As loudly as it celebrates male bonding and the masculine virtues of physical prowess. but they nevertheless play an essential role. Gilgamesh's mother Ninsun adopts Enkidu as her son. since he himself is immortal. Gilgamesh is one-third man. Utnapishtim was the fortunate recipient of the god Ea's favor. which is enough to seal his fate—all men are mortal and all mortals die. What Utnapishtim gained by his trickery was a great boon for humankind. Enkidu bitterly regrets having to die. When Utnapishtim tested Gilgamesh by asking him to stay awake for a week. Enkidu overcomes him with friendship rather than force and transforms him into the perfect leader. without whose help he'd surely fail. Perhaps Enkidu feels Uruk's injustices so keenly because he is such a latecomer to civilization. just as he knew that Gilgamesh wouldn't profit from the magical plant that had the power to make him young again. when he urges Gilgamesh to slay Enlil's servant Humbaba. she tells him how to find Urshanabi the boatman. and air. Utnapishtim's unnamed wife softens her husband toward Gilgamesh. of all the people in the world. Though she tries to dissuade him from his quest. but Utnapishtim must carry a heavy load of survivor's guilt. He received a promise from the gods that henceforth only individuals would be subject to death and that humankind as a whole would endure. however. wind. the god of earth. not only endorsing his friendship to Gilgamesh but also making him Gilgamesh's brother. cities. The goddess of wine-making and brewing. since he witnessed the destruction of the entire world. and he travels to Uruk to champion its oppressed people and protect its virgin brides from their uncontrollable king. advising him to cherish the pleasures of this world. but he does know that he tricked hundreds of his doomed neighbors into laboring day and night to build the boat that would carry him and his family to safety while he abandoned them to their fates. fickle and dangerously mercurial as she is as the goddess of war and love. and he clings fiercely to life. worldly wisdom with him. Yet since Utnapishtim “sees life. Ironically. Siduri is only one of several sexually ripe. Like all men. and cultures endure. Siduri Siduri is the tavern keeper who at first bars her door to Gilgamesh and then shares her sensuous. . he is also less pious than he should be. He pays dearly for the disrespect he shows to Enlil.” he knows that life extends beyond the individual—that families. and he incurs the wrath of Ishtar.shepherds who first give him food. Utnapishtim Utnapishtim's name means “He Who Saw Life. His disdain for Gilgamesh's desperate quest for eternal life might seem ungenerous. He doesn't know why. he knew that he would fail. The male characters may take these females for granted. Ishtar herself. The temple prostitute Shamhat domesticates Enkidu. Ea chose him to live.” though “He Who Saw Death” would be just as appropriate. The Epic of Gilgamesh doesn't forget to pay its respects to feminine qualities. nevertheless weeps bitterly to see how the deluge that she had helped to bring about ravaged her human children.

humanity continues to live. and Symbols Themes Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. powerful energies. but though Enkidu finally resigns himself to his fate. which is the greatest lesson Gilgamesh learns. is for a way to escape it. their bravado rings hollow. Utnapishtim's account of the flood reveals how ludicrous such a goal is. and when Enkidu dies. consoles Enkidu by reminding him how rich his life has been. The epic may lack a female love interest. motivates change in Gilgamesh. and the two heroes' troubles begin with their repudiation of Ishtar. Love As a Motivating Force Love. Gilgamesh's grief and terror impel him onto a futile quest for immortality. Gilgamesh is terrified by the thought of his own. Enkidu's education as a man begins with his sexual initiation by the temple harlot. But when Enkidu is cursed with an inglorious. to Utnapishtim. and even though humans die. but erotic love still plays an important role. fertility. Gilgamesh's connection to Enkidu makes it possible for Gilgamesh to identify with his people's interests. Enkidu puts a check on Gilgamesh's restless. and the only thing that lasts is fame. not through an arbitrary gift of the gods. Ishtar returns to her place of honor. and their friendship changes Gilgamesh from a bully and a tyrant into an exemplary king and hero. and Gilgamesh pulls Enkidu out of his self-centeredness. Shamash. Because they are evenly matched. both erotic and platonic. The love the friends have for each other makes Gilgamesh a better man in the first half of the epic. When Gilgamesh finally sees that his place is here on Earth and returns to Uruk to resume his kingship. his second quest. Motifs. Enkidu changes from a wild man into a noble one because of Gilgamesh. But life is woven in as well. If Gilgamesh's quest to the Cedar Forest was in spite of death.Themes. Humanity renews itself through the female life force. domesticity. Mesopotamian theology offers a vision of an afterlife. which includes sex. Gilgamesh is bitter that only the gods can live forever and says as much when Enkidu warns him away from their fight with Humbaba. the two warriors tell each other on their way to the deadly confrontation in the Cedar Forest. and nurturance. The Inevitability of Death Death is an inevitable and inescapable fact of human life. the goddess of love. Life is short. The lesson that Gilgamesh brings back from his quest isn't ultimately about death—it's about life. the sun god. since death is inextricably woven into the fabric of creation. The Gods Are Dangerous . but it gives scant comfort—the dead spend their time being dead. painful death.

but angering them is sheer madness—and a character's reverence for the gods is no guarantee of safety. or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes. These differences are noteworthy because Gilgamesh also shares certain common elements with the Judeo-Christian Bible.Gilgamesh and Enkidu learn all too well that the gods are dangerous for mortals. agriculture. Motifs Motifs are recurring structures. Sex played a much different role in the Mesopotamian worldview. people often view human sexuality as base and lewd and may be more accustomed to a reversal of roles—with Enkidu seducing a woman. the goddess. instead of a woman seducing him. one successful and one a failure. too. disobedience to a god or gods brings dire consequences. In contemporary western society. The notion of sublimation was entirely foreign to the ancient Mesopotamians. Both Gilgamesh and parts of the Bible are written in similar languages: Hebrew is related to Akkadian. in which God is both a partner in a covenant and a stern but loving parent to his people. piety and respect suggest a practical acknowledgment of nature's power and serve to remind humans of their place in the larger scheme of things. we know why Ea rescues Utnapishtim and through him all the creatures and people of the world. The Bible comes from the same region as Gilgamesh and shares some of its motifs and stories. while a fickle friend. When the temple prostitute seduces Enkidu. In both the Bible and Gilgamesh. Ea is responsible for human attributes including cleverness. nurturance. the world of The Epic of Gilgamesh differs markedly from that of the Judeo-Christian tradition. fertility. Seductions There are two important seductions in Gilgamesh. For the Mesopotamians. and creativity. They can often be helpful. Furthermore. and they expect obedience and flattery whenever possible. such as the serpent as the enemy who deprives humans of eternal life and. Christianity encourages its followers to transcend their bodies and to store up treasures in heaven. who believed that this world is the only one and that the act of sex mystically and physically connects people to the life force. Rather. he loses his animal attributes but gains his self-consciousness and his humanity. presides over sexual desire. contrasts. which enable people to survive independently. As the god of wisdom and crafts. and domesticity. the flood. . Although we never learn exactly why the gods unleashed the great flood in Gilgamesh. Piety is important to the gods. inventiveness. which ensure humankind's future. the Babylonian language that the author used in composing the late versions of Gilgamesh. The covenant promises that people will receive an earthly or heavenly inheritance if they behave well. piety and respect for the gods are not true moral obligations. most important. Thus. Gods live by their own laws and frequently behave as emotionally and irrationally as children. Sacred prostitutes did not embody moral frailty—they were avatars and conduits of divinity. Ishtar. The Judeo-Christian God represents not just what is most powerful but what is morally best—humans should aspire to imitate him.

Gilgamesh's solitary quest to find Utnapishtim mirrors his journey with Enkidu to the Cedar Forest. calling attention to the differences between two similar events. Gilgamesh is in a pool of pure water when the snake steals the magic plant.When Gilgamesh spurns Ishtar as she attempts to seduce him. Gilgamesh undergoes a reverse baptism after Enkidu's death. Alternately. Gilgamesh grows his hair and dons animal skins. he misses the point of her seduction. when he dons skins and lets his hair grow. Enkidu washes and anoints himself after he tastes cooked food and beer at the shepherd camp. Baptism Baptism imagery appears throughout Gilgamesh. because the repetitions lend the story a symmetry or cyclicality that is beautiful or poetic in itself. Gilgamesh's many journeys mirror his internal journey to become a selfless and devoted king. Mashu. signaling a continual renewal and rebirth of the characters. Siduri urges Gilgamesh to wash himself. The gods Ea and Shamash champion the human heroes. but he refuses. He has . At other times they create contrasts. he brings disaster upon himself and Enkidu. Gilgamesh and Enkidu journey to the Cedar Forest. Ninsun washes herself before she communes with Shamash. such as Gilgamesh's and Enkidu's power and heroism. which Shamash travels through nightly. the story may be structured in terms of twins and doubles primarily for aesthetic reasons—in other words. Gilgamesh and Enkidu look almost identical. He journeys to Urshanabi to find Utnapishtim. Enkidu journeys from the wilderness to Uruk and Gilgamesh. Though Gilgamesh regrets losing the plant. When he asks Ishtar what he could offer her in return since she lacks nothing. Journeys Almost all of the action in Gilgamesh begins with a journey. Gilgamesh washes himself after his return from the Cedar Forest. only to return to Uruk. Gilgamesh and Enkidu wash themselves in the Euphrates after they subdue the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu journeys to the underworld. These repetitions sometimes serve to reinforce or emphasize important features of the story. the baptism imagery suggests he doesn't need it anymore. Doubling and Twinship Gilgamesh is full of characters and events that mirror or resemble one another. one against Humbaba the demon and one against the Bull of Heaven. Gilgamesh journeys to and then through the twin-peaked mountain Mashu. as if trying to become his lost friend. then travels with Urshanabi across the sea and through the sea of death. After Enkidu dies. The heroes undertake two successful quests. Two scorpion monsters guard the twin-peaked mountain. For example. When Gilgamesh—who has no afterlife to look forward to and no moral ideal to aspire to—spurns the goddess. he spurns life itself. Utnapishtim orders his boatman to baptize Gilgamesh before they journey home.

He erected beautiful temples for Anu. portals. Gilgamesh opened passes through the mountains and dug wells in the wilderness. Gilgamesh's mother was the Lady Wildcow Ninsun. Bulls represent explosive. all of which appear in the story. intricately constructed outer and inner walls. figures. Religious Symbols Gilgamesh is rich in religious symbolism. the sole survivor of the great flood that almost ended the world. Siduri the barmaid locks the door to her tavern. the goddess of war and love. and the ability to wrestle a bull suggests humanity's ability to harness nature's power.finally come to terms with his morality and is ready to resume his place in the world. Tablet I Summary A prelude introduces us to the hero. perhaps suggesting that humankind has the power to conquer famine. and Lugulbanda was his father. This symbolism accounts for Enkidu's interpretation of Gilgamesh's dream about the bull in the Cedar Forest. dream interpretation. Enkidu's hirsuteness symbolizes the natural. Religious rituals in Mesopotamia involved sacrifices. The hatchway of Utnapishtim's boat is caulked shut. In the context of the ancient king who built them. Symbols Symbols are objects. they fashion the tallest tree into a gate for Uruk. they represent the immortality he achieved through his acts. or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. doorways mark a transition from one level of consciousness to another. He traveled to the ends of the Earth and beyond. and shamanic magic. the god of the heavens. Later in the poem. characters. The walls of Uruk symbolize the great accomplishments of which mortals are capable. Enkidu says the bull is Humbaba. a minor goddess noted for her wisdom. where he met Utnapishtim. sex. They also represent choices. since characters can either shut themselves behind doorways to seek safety or boldly venture through them. Gilgamesh built the great city of Uruk and surrounded it with magnificent. Enkidu and Gilgamesh do subdue a bull together. and gateways constantly recur in Gilgamesh. and for Anu's daughter Ishtar. . destructive natural power. festivals. The Scorpions guard the gates of Mashu. uncivilized state. In most cases. A dauntless explorer. After their triumph there. He laid out orchards and ponds and irrigated fields. and that the act of wrestling the bull is Shamash's blessing. Enkidu blocks the doorway of the bride's chamber and wrestles with Gilgamesh. Enkidu and Gilgamesh stand awestruck and terrified before the gates to the Cedar Forest. Doorways Images of doorways.

One day a hunter sees him at a watering hole. She tells him about music. He longs to meet him and challenge him to a contest of strength. whose greater power will suffice to conquer Enkidu. The hunter says the man has unset his traps and filled in his pits. His mind has awakened. As soon as Enkidu hears about Gilgamesh. moistens it with her spit. Ninsun tells him that both the rock and the axe represent the man he will soon contend with—the man who will become his most trusted companion and counselor. The hunter follows his father's advice and soon travels back to the wilderness with the prostitute. not harass them like a wild ox. He sacrifices warriors whenever he feels like fighting. he goes back to the prostitute. Gilgamesh. named Enkidu. In the second dream. rapes his nobles' wives. he realizes how lonely he is. but they no longer regard him as their kin. saying that a king is supposed to protect his subjects like a shepherd. but also that Gilgamesh longs for a friend. Gilgamesh has already had two dreams about Enkidu. Ninsun. and that now he cannot be a hunter. that since she made Gilgamesh. the hunter tells the prostitute to lie down on a blanket and show Enkidu her breasts. but he has become weaker and can no longer gallop as he did before. They tell Aruru. the most powerful in the land. food. festivals. terrible king. Shunning the cultivated lands and the cities. The gods listen. They run away from him. as much as if it were his wife. the hunter rushes back to his house to tell his father he has seen a giant man. and forms another man. As the story begins. The prostitute tells Enkidu that Gilgamesh is stronger than he is and that he could not hope to prevail over him. Terrified. she must now make someone strong enough to stand up to him. and the strong. Enkidu comes to her and they copulate for six days and seven nights. Aruru takes some clay. a meteor lands in a field outside Uruk. In fact. Gilgamesh finds an axe lying in the street. Troubled and confused. Gilgamesh is drawn to the rock as if it were a woman. After lifting it with great effort. who consoles him by telling him about the pleasures and wonders he will find in the city of Uruk. His most prominent physical feature is his hairiness. The hunter's father tells him he should go to Uruk and ask Gilgamesh to lend him a temple prostitute. He carries it to his mother and lays it at her feet. When Enkidu finally appears. Gilgamesh is terrifying and all-powerful. When Enkidu's lust is finally sated. In the first dream. The old men of Uruk complain. They wait by the watering hole for three days. takes whatever he wants from his people. Throngs of people surround it. he returns to the animals. and tramples anyone who gets in his way. the friend who has the power to save him. he carries it to his mother. overcome with admiration. the goddess of creation. . Enkidu tries to pursue the animals. he lives in the wilderness with the animals.When he returned from his travels he wrote everything down on a tablet of lapis lazuli and locked it in a copper chest. Gilgamesh too loves the axe.

which tames him. must come into harmony with his humanity. He requires an equally developed spirit to control his powerful body. considering the lengths of the recorded reigns. Though Gilgamesh's mother Ninsun plays a fairly significant role in the early parts of the story. . Enkidu's wildness. plays a huge role in Gilgamesh and Enkidu's stories. the love that exists between evenly matched comrades is even more important. we learn very little about his father. Enkidu anticipates the hairy Esau of the Bible and possibly Ishmael. At the same time he suggests that the story is in Gilgamesh's own words. however. fertility. Gilgamesh's passage through heroism. the goddess of love. Equilibrium. is a singular force of nature. Enkidu's domestication is a prerequisite for Gilgamesh's moral education. until they achieve balance. and that the legendary king himself wrote it down. Gilgamesh was more god than mortal. and at the same time. he grazes with the animals.” Like Gilgamesh. Ishtar is Uruk's resident god. Female sexuality is the force that makes domesticity and civilized life possible. The story of Gilgamesh is both timeless and immediate. people worshipped him as a god after his death. while others call him a “fool. Gilgamesh's story commemorates historical people and deeds. universal process. which threatens the balance of the world. his redemption is through a woman. He enables the animals to escape human dominance. Gilgamesh is part god and part mortal. Like Gilgamesh. When Enkidu must depart from his life in nature and come into civilization. and he would have more likely been his grandfather. and Ishtar. sexual love does not necessarily figure in to the ultimate human relationship. The very qualities that make him so awesome—his strength and beauty—also make him monstrous. An equal was required to counter and control his awesome power. and the prostitutes in her service epitomize the values of that highly sophisticated urban culture. balance. but it's not clear if Lugulbanda is actually Gilgamesh's biological father. Though Gilgamesh is legendary. and the narrator suggests that his equal. The Sin-Leqi-Unninni version of Gilgamesh says his father is Ninsun's husband. In Gilgamesh. Some versions of the poem declare that Gilgamesh's father is a priest. He is hairy. Enkidu. likewise. the passage from mere animal existence to self-awareness and culture. He confronts the strong power of a woman's sexuality. grief. and wisdom is a perpetual. Lugulbanda was a genuine historical figure. Enkidu's story repeats the story of humankind. “the wild ass” of a man. He precedes Gilgamesh on Uruk's king list by two. Lugulbanda. and moderation are essential virtues. His fall from nature foreshadows another biblical motif: Adam and Eve's fall from innocence in Eden when they become aware of their sexuality. and war. As the epic continues. the poet hastens to inform us that he was not always exemplary. and these different aspects are in constant contention. and he lacks the power of speech.Analysis The narrator introduces Gilgamesh in the past tense—the high walls of the city he built are already ancient.

bread. But who would venture there? Summary The temple prostitute divides her garments and shares them with Enkidu. the people of the city are amazed to see a man who is as splendid as Gilgamesh himself. the two gigantic men grapple through the streets. he is determined to fight him and dismisses Enkidu's warning that the demon monster is invincible. Enkidu doesn't even recognize these items as food. The two men kiss and embrace. Gilgamesh declares his undying friendship to his former rival. These are the first clothes he has ever worn. Enkidu asks the harlot to find out who he is and where he is going. whom Enlil. When Enkidu arrives in Uruk. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh about the fearsome monster Humbaba. his breath is death. At first. Ninsun. Gilgamesh accepts death as long as he leaves an indelible mark in . sure that no one. But the harlot urges him to eat. Enkidu bursts into happy song. had appointed guardian of the distant Cedar Forest. The walls of the city tremble and the doorposts shake as they fight. Gilgamesh. One day a stranger comes into camp carrying an ornate platter. Until now he has eaten only grass and sucked the milk of wild animals. a place forbidden to mortals. Then she takes his hand and leads him toward the city of Uruk. and he does. the god of earth. When Gilgamesh hears about this demon. the man says. he will lie with the bride before her husband does. can defeat him. The former rivals look for a worthy adventure to undertake together. to frighten off the mortal who would venture there. After he gulps down seven skins of beer. He takes up a sword and stands guard over the shepherds' flocks. who is stronger. where the herdsmen are astonished by Enkidu's size. They serve him plates of cooked food. not even Gilgamesh. protecting them from the wolves and lions that had been preying upon them. They crowd around him. He washes and anoints himself with oil and dresses himself in new clothes. hailing him as their champion. and skins filled with beer. Enkidu is outraged and decides to go to Uruk to challenge him.Tablet II Humbaba's mouth is fire. Enlil made him guardian of the Cedar Forest. Though King Gilgamesh is not the groom. Gilgamesh's mother. gives their friendship her blessing. They immediately forget their anger. Enkidu defiantly plants himself on the threshold of the bride's bedchamber and blocks the king when he tries to force his way in. Locked together in combat. he takes—no one can withstand his power. declaring that Enkidu will be her son's faithful companion. One night they stop at a shepherds' camp. eventually wrestles Enkidu to the ground. his roar the floodwater. wind. The man tells them that he is bringing offerings to a wedding ceremony in Uruk. and beauty. and air. Enkidu concedes that Gilgamesh is the rightful king of Uruk and pledges his fidelity. strength. Whatever Gilgamesh desires.

and the two heroes go to the armor makers and order new weapons. as is the description of the wrestling match that brought them together. The language describing the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu is erotic. But in one old Babylonian version of the story. Enkidu eats cooked food and gets drunk. In Mesopotamian literature. because of the centrality of Ishtar's temple. the shepherds' camp represents a significant way station on the road to civilization. The harlot assumes a maternal role as she sets out to domesticate and acculturate Enkidu. Other erotic descriptions and actions appear throughout Gilgamesh. Humbaba. Conceivably. listening to and making music. whose temple and rites play such a central role in the affairs of the city. In many ways. Enkidu.the land of the living. and they often kiss and embrace. She covers up Enkidu's nakedness and leads him like a child to a shepherds' camp. other critics oppose this interpretation and claim that any language suggesting a sexual relationship is metaphorical. His ritual deflowering of the brides might be a form of tribute to Ishtar. However. is a vague and sometimes changeable adversary. where the king. especially how its king takes advantage of women in general and new brides in particular. wild man and loves him like a wife until the gods punish his lover by killing him with a wasting disease. Gilgamesh convinces Enkidu to join him. rather than basely enjoying a selfish pleasure. they prepare to seek their destiny. Enkidu is outraged when he hears about Uruk's oppression. and bows. acting as high priest. now fully human. and Gilgamesh's earliest chroniclers most . ensuring that the true nature of Gilgamesh's relationship with Enkidu remains a mystery.” for example. in some translations. The poet describes Humbaba as a personification of an erupting volcano. the same-sex friendships of Mesopotamian warriors do not fit comfortably into our contemporary categories of friendship. We are told that Gilgamesh loves Enkidu like a “bride. the lords of Uruk rejoice at Enkidu's arrival in the city. Analysis Almost all of Tablet II is missing in the Sin-Leqi-Unninni version. Killing an enemy like Humbaba. including enormous swords. so the translators fill in the blanks with older versions of the story.” which suggests otherwise. wearing clothing. calling him a hero for “men of decency. In any case. One writer summarizes the story of Gilgamesh as that of a rampantly heterosexual king who wrestles with a handsome. axes. becomes their adversary as he guards the camp from their attacks. would reenact the lovemaking of the goddess and her human lover Tammuz. and participating in and devising ceremonies. Together. Gilgamesh was dutifully enacting a sacred ritual. and many critics believe this is a reasonable interpretation of their relationship. The great city of Uruk itself was sometimes called Uruk of the Sheepfold. which are as much a part of the human experience as making love. Geological fault lines run through nearby Turkey and other areas adjacent to Mesopotamia. or even dying at his hands. marriage. the shepherd. or Huwawa. but lust might not be Gilgamesh's only motivation. No longer the champion of the wild animals. and sexual partnership. they appear to be lovers. would guarantee Enkidu's fame too.

before Enkidu comes along. They caution Gilgamesh not to rely solely on his own strength and remind him that Enkidu knows the wilderness best. Ninsun is distraught. for her blessing. These themes dominate the second half of the poem. vicious and violent. then he will need all the help and protection his friend can give him. both for his own fame and for that of his city. She retreats to her bedroom. Shamash the sun god. where she bathes and changes into priestly garments. They warn their king that he is going too far and that he underestimates Humbaba's power. He knows how to find water in parched land. She commends her son to Shamash's protection and then formally adopts Enkidu as her son. no longer content to live in and for the moment. Tablets III and IV Summary Gilgamesh stands before the gates of Uruk and tells its people that he is determined to invade Humbaba's forbidden forest to cut down the cedar trees that Humbaba protects. a veritable battering ram. who has the power to protect him too. possibly Syria or Iran. predicting that all of Uruk will shout his praise. The old men remind Gilgamesh to appease the sun god Shamash with offerings of water and to be mindful of his father. placing a sacred pendant around his . Now he wants to accomplish great things. She asks Shamash why Gilgamesh must embark on such a dangerous quest and why Shamash inspired him to do so. Then Gilgamesh and Enkidu make their way to the great temple Egalmah. Enkidu in turn tames Gilgamesh.likely remembered the active volcanoes in the region. He asks for their blessings and promises to return on time for the new year's feasts. The demon has the power to hear a deer stir in the forest from sixty leagues away. After befriending Enkidu. Lugulbanda. of the ultimate purpose and meaning of his life. Just as Enkidu once identified more with animals than with people. summoning a superior deity. If Gilgamesh must undertake this rash errand. much of the narrative is clearly allegorical.” Domesticated by the prostitute. and later in the poem Humbaba is referred to simply as “Evil. Gilgamesh turns his restless energies outward. He thinks ahead to his death. Gilgamesh tells her that he doesn't intend to just steal the greatest of the trees Humbaba protects. making him less wild and more human. undertaken by the historical King Gilgamesh. and he can find his way to the forest. Then she climbs to the roof of the temple and burns sacred herbs. The elders of the city are appalled. He is a great warrior. may have inspired the story of this quest. the goddess Ninsun. where they ask Gilgamesh's mother. An actual trade mission or military raid into hostile territory. The cedar trees that Humbaba guards would have been a precious commodity in the relatively treeless region of southern Mesopotamia where Uruk is located. However. but to kill the demon himself. Gilgamesh himself is at first a kind of animal. He calms Gilgamesh's destructive urges. so no mortal trespasser could ever hope to escape his notice.

it would take an ordinary man three weeks to walk so far. The city elders urge Gilgamesh to pray to his father Lugulbanda for protection. she is physically present in Uruk. after prayers. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are doing a god's work. assuring him that they can defeat Humbaba. Shamash is the sun god. they cover 150 leagues (450 miles). Analysis Tablet III is even more fragmentary than Tablet II in the Sin-Leqi-Unninni version and Tablet IV is almost nonexistent—only about thirty lines have survived. the god of wisdom and crafts. In seeking to kill Humbaba. Now Gilgamesh and Enkidu are truly brothers. As they walk. would have been a vast complex with an inner court and sanctuary and a ziggurat rising up behind it. Gilgamesh and Enkidu's adventure in some ways recapitulates Lugulbanda's. Although Ninsun herself is a god. They do not stop to eat until they have walked twenty leagues. when Ea. invocations. they pause for a moment and think about what they are going to do.neck. the two heavily armed heroes step outside the sevenbolt gate of Uruk and set off on their adventure. a neighboring city-state. he finds his way back to civilization and sustains himself along the way by eating uncultivated plants and the flesh of wild animals. . Shamash remains a strong presence in the poem until the last few tablets. associated with light and wisdom. that when the time for battle comes he will not lose heart. They dig a well and make an offering to the god Shamash. they bolster each other's spirits. even if it is directly opposed to another god's desires. begins. In three days. Lugulbanda's companions leave him for dead on a journey to Aratta. some important themes emerge. she does not live in heaven. speeches. The extent of Shamash's importance becomes clear in this tablet. Enkidu urges Gilgamesh on whenever his courage flags. With Shamash's help. Gilgamesh and Enkidu do not seek only to glorify their own names. and after listening to more warnings from the elders and declaring their intention to prevail. At last. seems to assume his role. Humbaba. whom Shamash detests. Ninsun. In an ancient Sumerian poem called “Lugulbanda and Mount Hurrum. When Enkidu falters. An erotic ritual involving prostitutes. Her invocation of Shamash and the lengths Gilgamesh and Enkidu will go to please him demonstrate the reach of Shamash's influence and power. the various English translations stitch together older variants of the tale. When they finally reach the forest. where Gilgamesh's mother. Being left for dead and surviving—death and rebirth—are major themes in Gilgamesh. then continue on their journey. Again. Nonetheless. sacrifices. The ziggurat was a holy mountain in miniature. resides and where she invokes Shamash from the roof. Gilgamesh reassures him that he is a good warrior. and that they will stand and fight together.” one of two about Gilgamesh's predecessor on Uruk's throne. is associated with darkness and evil. Rather. possibly of both genders. an antechamber between worlds where the gods and men conversed. The temple Egalmah. and practical preparations.

Enkidu interprets the dream as fortunate. lie down to sleep. marveling at the cedar trees' height. The companions walk and walk. Enkidu interprets the dream favorably. He says that the mountain is Humbaba. Then they dig another well and make another offering of flour to Shamash. In the middle of the night Gilgamesh has a dream. This time he dreams that the earth is shaking amidst the noise of thunder and lightning. the place where Ishtar and the other gods are enthroned. They begin to walk toward it. but Shamash. He could hear the bull bellowing and could feel its hot breath on his face. The man who brought water. . Humbaba has seven garments. asks if Enkidu touched him. Gilgamesh is scared. and together they cover hundreds of leagues. He says that the bull is not their enemy Humbaba. desperately pleading for his protection. unsure of what woke him. That night Gilgamesh pours flour on the ground. Time is of the essence in carrying out this attack. Humbaba's footsteps have left clear paths through the woods. Embracing each other for warmth. but after a time. who blesses Gilgamesh by fighting with him. Enkidu promptly interprets the dream and says it is nothing to fear. a wild bull attacked him. Gilgamesh makes another offering of flour to Shamash. and fire and ashes fall from the sky. An enormous mountain looms in the distance. Then he tells Enkidu about his newest dream. and that he and Gilgamesh will topple Humbaba and his dead body will lie on the plain like a mountain. and he was helpless on the ground. huddling together for warmth. Even so. He prays to Shamash. After a few days. Again. At midnight. It rains that night. Then he tells Enkidu what he dreamed: They were walking through a deep gorge when a huge mountain fell on top of them. Gilgamesh will be unable to defeat him. and. Shamash answers and explains that Gilgamesh and Enkidu are experiencing the effects of the aura that rises from Humbaba's garments. and that if he dons all seven. Gilgamesh and Enkidu construct a shelter against the wind and.” he foreshadows the terrible moment after Enkidu dies in Tablet VIII when Gilgamesh touches his companion's heart and feels nothing at all. each of which spreads terror. Tablet V Summary The two heroes stand in awe before the vast forest's gates. breathing in their incense. Once again.When Gilgamesh fortifies Enkidu's courage before the battle. an offering to Shamash the sun god. He prays that Shamash will visit him in a dream and grant him a favorable omen. Gilgamesh wakes up frightened and asks Enkidu if he called out to him. filled with foreboding. The two companions continue their journey through the forest. Then someone offered him water. they fall asleep. Lugulbanda. Gilgamesh wakes up again. telling him to “touch my heart. Enkidu says. In it. Shamash tells Gilgamesh that Humbaba is wearing only one of them now. A third dream comes to Gilgamesh. the two men lie down to sleep. is Gilgamesh's father.

Gilgamesh fashions a new gate for the city out of the tallest tree in the forest as a monument to their great adventure. The noise of clashing swords. Then they hear Humbaba. If Gilgamesh kills him.At last the companions reach the mountain of the gods. the cedar trees. and at last Gilgamesh overtakes him. and Gilgamesh passes through a figurative one. daggers. but Enkidu is pitiless. He tells Gilgamesh that if he is spared. completing his quest with a spiritual transformation and a final journey home. Gilgamesh offers up a desperate prayer to Shamash. But Humbaba pleads for mercy and says he knows Gilgamesh is Ninsun's son. III. on which they float back to Uruk. the guardian of the forest. Shamash. He suggests that Enkidu is jealous and fearful that Humbaba will supplant him in Gilgamesh's affections. they undertake their adventure in defiance of the superior deity Enlil. the god of earth. On the other hand. Shamash hears him and unleashes thirteen storms against Humbaba. But Enkidu tells Gilgamesh to hurry up and kill the demon before Enlil finds out what they're up to and tries to stop them. Enkidu urges Gilgamesh to make a quick end of the monster. Gilgamesh considers being compassionate. supported by a god. the place forbidden to mortals. On the one hand. Gilgamesh and Enkidu take their axes and chop down some trees. wind. he will be Gilgamesh's servant. and axes surrounds them. it is not wholly sanctioned by the gods. reminding each other that they can prevail. carrying upon it the gate and Humbaba's head. and air—a greater divinity by far than Shamash. roaring. Translators have filled in the blanks by drawing on an ancient Sumerian poem called “Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living” and a group of Akkadian and Hittite texts that parallel the story so thinly presented here. very little of Tablet V exists in the Sin-Leqi-Unninni version. Humbaba chides Enkidu for his cruelty. and turn them into monuments—idols—that honor . Much later in the story. and IV. The companions cut down more trees and fashion them into a raft. Gilgamesh and Enkidu have undertaken much more than a trade mission or an exhibition of physical prowess—their quest is a journey of initiation. Analysis Like Tablets II. and Gilgamesh and Enkidu cry out in terror. Enkidu passes through a real death. They trespass on territory forbidden to mortals so that they can steal something that belongs to the gods. A terrible confusion follows. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are on a sacred quest. Though this journey of initiation is immensely important to both Gilgamesh and Enkidu. he will surely bring a curse down upon himself. At first. Only by killing Humbaba and stealing his cedars can they guarantee their fame. Humbaba staggers and reels under this divine onslaught. In the heat of the battle. So Humbaba dies. Humbaba reminds them that he is the servant of Enlil. They call to each other. The heroes have left their mother behind (Ninsun is Enkidu's mother by adoption now) to make their names in the world.

The full force of this defeat emerges in Tablet VII when Enkidu falls ill. and bows weigh 600 pounds.themselves. Gilgamesh and Enkidu distract each other from fear and persuade each other that they have the power to make their names. anticipatory nightmares torment Gilgamesh. The distinction between the personal and the collective is at the very heart of Gilgamesh. an army accompanies Enkidu and Gilgamesh as well as their foe Humbaba. fear fades. but they also explore the boundaries that make up their spiritual world. they are guilty of excessive pride. In another. In one version. In some versions Enkidu urges Gilgamesh to do the deed. and we have to suspect that they are meant to be ironic. Though the descriptions of the heroes and the weapons are explicit. if not their bodies. and it expands boundaries beyond what the individual flesh encloses. As both Gilgamesh and Enkidu demonstrate. The poem suggests that fear and death are inescapable. but it clearly describes the terrors of war. immortal. the prospect of death is overwhelming. their swords. Enkidu's interpretations are so ludicrously optimistic that they seem to be wishful thinking. but it also shows us how we can function in spite of them by being part of a community. daggers. The gods may be capricious and silly. since death. As the companions draw closer to their confrontation with Humbaba. while in others Enkidu does it himself. even though the weapons receive quite a bit of attention. Culture. The dread and terror of death remain. but they are also implacable. axes. is the fate of all mortals. . before Enlil finds out what they're doing. When Enkidu suggests that they can foil the god Enlil by killing his servant Humbaba quickly. Enkidu's readings are correct. the descriptions of actual combat are muted. which of the two warriors actually kills Humbaba remains ambiguous. The cultures that produced the Gilgamesh poems were very warlike. Gilgamesh and Enkidu do in fact prevail over the demon and return to Uruk in triumph. he deceives himself. but we hardly hear about them using the weapons they had forged. they are laying the groundwork for their fall. Even as Enkidu and Gilgamesh triumph over the monster. Alone. The poem may not provide explicit scenes of combat. which rarely goes unpunished. working within a community offers the opportunity to be part of something greater and longer-lasting than is possible individually. community. certainly. The author exaggerates the heroes' manly attributes—many critics call Enkidu and Gilgamesh the world's first superheroes. however. Their journey leads them to explore their innermost selves. When characters begin to believe that they really are immortal or that they deserve to be. However. creativity. so for the moment at least. and permeate the entire tablet. after all. Death ultimately defeats the heroes. and camaraderie ultimately help Gilgamesh and Enkidu transcend the finality of death. even one as small as that of Gilgamesh and Enkidu clinging together for warmth on the eve of a battle. Within a community.

and they fight the bull together. Another shepherd she loved became a broken-winged bird. (See Important Quotations Explained) Summary When Gilgamesh returns to Uruk. unless her parents give her the bull. At last Enkidu seizes its filthy tail and . Enkidu attacks the bull. Her husband. When a goat herder loved her. But Gilgamesh refuses to be her plaything. Her father does not understand her anger. the goddess of love and war. The third time this happens. He says that her desire for his body is fleeting. and that she'll soon lose interest. Ishtar unleashes the bull. She wants to turn the bull loose so she can watch him gore Gilgamesh to death. He tells her he knows what happened to her other human lovers. and one hundred men fall into it and die. who lacks nothing at all? Balm for the body? The food and drink of the gods? I have nothing to give to her who lacks nothing at all. and demands that they let her use the Bull of Heaven. Ishtar assures him that she has made provisions for the people and the flocks of Uruk.” She loved the stallion but contrived harnesses and whips and spurs to control him. He warns her that the bull will cause seven years of famine. Still Anu hesitates. but Enkidu grabs it by its horns and wrestles with it. since. he washes the filth of battle from his hair and body. as a goddess. She loved the lion. Gilgamesh asks why he should expect to fare any better. wipes Humbaba's blood off his weapons and polishes them. she has everything she could ever want. When her father's gardener rejected her advances. Again the bull bellows and again the ground cracks open. The city of Uruk trembles as. Anu. the god of the firmament. it comes down from the sky. became a captive in the underworld and is mourned in festivals every year. She pleads with Gilgamesh to be her husband. She promises him a harvest of riches if he plants his seed in her body. bellowing and snorting. and they've all learned how traitorous and cruel her heart and whims are. he looks so splendid that Ishtar. the shepherd. is overcome with lust. and he gives in. He has nothing to offer her in return. then ensured that he was captured in “ambush pits. She says that kings and princes will offer him all their wealth. who joins him. Ishtar erupts into a full-blown tantrum. she turned him into a wolf. He dons a clean robe and cloak. She threatens to let all of the dead people out of the underworld so they can feast on the living. since all that Gilgamesh said was true. She goes to her father. she turned him into a frog. One hundred more men are swallowed up. She tells him they will live together in a house made of cedar. and to her mother.Tablet VI What could I offer the queen of love in return. He calls out to Gilgamesh. and that she will give him a lapis lazuli chariot with golden wheels. Ishtar is furious. The bull spits on him and fouls him with its excrement. Antum. When he ties his hair back and sets his crown on his head. A crack opens up in the earth. Tammuz.

which he offers in sacrifice to his father. though Gilgamesh describes the stories central to Mesopotamian mythology. it reflects upon them and changes them in significant ways. In other words. which Ovid retells in the Metamorphoses and Shakespeare retells in Venus and Adonis. he'll do the same to her. it is not itself a myth. appearing in mythologies and religions of many prehistoric cultures. and annual festivals celebrate this resurrection with the greenery's springtime return. While Ishtar and her followers. The Greek myth of Aphrodite and Adonis. how thickly its horns were coated with lapis lazuli. Tammuz. Some anthropologists would even identify Jesus as an embodiment of the same mythical archetype manifested by Tammuz and Adonis. a goat herder into a wolf. Gilgamesh and Enkidu scrub the bull's gore off their bodies in the Euphrates and ride in triumph through the streets of Uruk. The poem handles mythological materials in such a way as to define and portray Gilgamesh's character and his state of mind at this point in the story. because Jesus. is a young male god who dies and is resurrected. He shouts that if she comes closer. such as those of Ishtar and Tammuz.” That night. at Ishtar's hands. In response to Ishtar's advances. mourn the bull. Analysis This tablet reveals a great deal about the mythological background of Gilgamesh. but a work of literature. represents a late version of the same story. a gardener into a frog. One of these lovers is the god of vegetation and flocks. Then they cut out its heart and offer it as a sacrifice to Shamash the sun god. Ishtar climbs onto the walls of the city and shouts curses at the two friends. the goddess of fertility. particularly the importance of Ishtar.holds the monster still so that Gilgamesh can thrust his sword between its shoulders and kill it. Tammuz is resurrected. Enkidu picks up one of the bull's bloody haunches and hurls it at her. basking in the people's admiration. Gilgamesh has the chance to follow the pattern set by Tammuz and to be the goddess's lover. while Gilgamesh draws on and discusses these myths. Lugulbanda. as opposed to simply trying to preserve and pass on those myths. an extremely important deity in Mesopotamia. Then he hangs them on the wall of his palace as trophies. became animals—a shepherd changed into a broken-winged bird. Gilgamesh cuts them off its head and fills them with oil. The story about the goddess of fertility and her mortal lover who dies for her and is resurrected is universal. The goddess and her lover take on different names in different cultures. . Enkidu awakens suddenly from a dream and asks Gilgamesh why the great gods are meeting in council. Tammuz is born a mortal shepherd and does not become a god until Ishtar becomes his lover. Gilgamesh gathers his craftsmen together and shows them how beautifully the gods had made the creature. At one point he dies and goes to the underworld. and the stories about her mortal lovers. Reasons for his death vary. Gilgamesh boastingly asks the crowds who the best hero is and answers his own question: “Gilgamesh is. but Ishtar is at fault in most traditions. However. but the blueprint of the story remains the same. like Adonis. Gilgamesh catalogs the human lovers who. Enkidu is. the temple prostitutes.

Tablet VII Summary Enkidu awakens from a chilling nightmare. The portrayal of Ishtar in this tablet is so relentlessly negative that some scholars have speculated that it reflects a deeper agenda. not a god. Only one of the companions. suggesting that the writer enjoys his wicked subject matter. decreed that they must punish someone for killing Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven and for felling the tallest cedar tree. defended Enkidu. Gilgamesh's repudiation of Ishtar. whether chaste or unchaste. Great Anu. the gods were angry with him and Gilgamesh and met to decide their fate. the sun god.but he refuses. he curses the cedar gate that he and Gilgamesh brought back from the forbidden forest. When they killed Humbaba and harvested the cedar trees that were under his protection. Giddy from their victory over Humbaba. the most notable aspect of this tablet is Gilgamesh and Enkidu's astonishing presumption. Enlil. is crude and childish. In the dream. signifies a rejection of goddess worship in favor of patriarchy in the ancient world. They have gone too far. Enkidu's behavior. In a way. addressing a goddess in this manner is unimaginably disrespectful. in the role of high priest. they are drunk with pride. must die. From a literary standpoint. and air. and blasphemous. Uruk's king. vulgar. reminding readers that this epic is literary rather than sacred. such as throwing the bull's haunch at the goddess and threatening to slaughter her. Enlil became angry that Shamash took their side and accused Shamash of being their comrade. wind. Gilgamesh and Enkidu seem to have forgotten that they are mortals. witty. Ishtar's father and the god of the firmament. said that Enkidu should be the one to die. he rejects one of his royal duties. Humbaba's master and the god of earth. however. Overcome with self-pity. Shamash. Now they are treating the goddess Ishtar like a cast-off mistress. The literary style and tone of this tablet are playfully allusive. however. Gilgamesh's love for a companion of his own gender. . standing apart from it. Gilgamesh presents the bull to his craftsmen as though he wants them to fabricate something comparable. When Gilgamesh spurns the goddess. they say. and her rites secure its safety and prosperity. Ishtar is an important goddess in Uruk—her temple is at the center of the city. The tone of the poetry reflects their prideful feelings. he is refusing his own mythology. He said that Enkidu and Gilgamesh were only doing what he told them to do when they went to the Cedar Forest. might also have offended the goddess of fertility. exhilarated from their successful combat with the bull. Though Gilgamesh and Enkidu continue to pay elaborate respects to Lugulbanda and Shamash. but no matter how witty he is. their boasting to the citizens of Uruk as they parade through the city threatens to be the last straw for the already angry divinities. ritually reenacts Ishtar and Tammuz's lovemaking. Gilgamesh uses clever language in his dismissal of Ishtar. they defied the god Enlil. The dream proves true when Enkidu falls ill.

he was all alone on a dark plain. unredeemed by battlefield heroics. He tells Enkidu that he has gone before the gods himself to plead his case. lying in his sickbed. the scribe of the gods. In this pivotal tablet. He believes that if he had stayed with the animals and continued to live like an animal. He retracts his curse and supersedes it with a blessing for the prostitute: May her patrons be generous and rich. and never known Gilgamesh's friendship. He curses the hunter who first spotted him at the watering hole and says he hopes his hunting pits are filled in and his traps are unset. and Belit-Seri. The adolescent exuberance and celebration of Tablet VI comes to an abrupt halt as the two heroes face the stark horror of an agonizing. gods. but the man overpowered him and changed him into a birdlike creature. knelt before her. Gilgamesh is distraught. In the dream. but that Enlil was adamant. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh about another terrible dream. The gods have spoken. Enkidu curses the hunter and the prostitute. they must struggle against that same physicality. made entirely of gold. the ruler of the underworld. and Samuqan. He will erect an enormous statue of Enkidu. Enkidu cries out to Shamash. the exact halfway point of the epic. Shamash answers him from afar. Analysis The first half of Sin-Leqi-Unninni's version of The Epic of Gilgamesh revels in the friends' raw physicality as they sate themselves with pleasure and test themselves with heroic tasks. all of them dressed in feathers. and their verdict seems arbitrary: Enkidu must die. In a later tablet. undone by grief. bold. or beautiful they are. Dirt was their food and drink. He saw King Etana. Gilgamesh promises his friend that he will build him an even greater monument than the cedar gate. Queen Ereshkigal. never worn beautiful clothes. he wouldn't have brought doom upon himself.” He suffers for twelve more days then dies. whom Ishtar had once chosen to be King of Kish. Then he dragged him down to the underworld. He asks why Enkidu curses the harlot. Enkidu tells the appalled Gilgamesh that he would have been blessed if he'd died in battle. he curses the temple prostitute too. Enlil accused Shamash of acting more like . the god of cattle. No matter how strong.He says he would have chopped the gate to pieces if he'd known his fate. since if it hadn't been for her. They fought furiously. because those who die in battle are “glorious. Enkidu would have never tasted the rich foods of the palace. Gilgamesh learns that the gods once set out to eliminate all life on Earth for no discernable reason at all. Shamash tells Enkidu that when he dies. whose tablet tells everyone's fate. There he saw kings. Weeping. Enkidu finds comfort in Shamash's words. and priests. and a man with a lion's head and an eagle's talons seized him. Without self-knowledge. Gilgamesh will wander the earth. and that he'd rather be forgotten forever than doomed to die like this. a place awaits them in the underworld. Enkidu says the queen looked at them and asked who led them there. All of them were living in darkness. he wouldn't be able to feel the exquisite anguish that the prospect of dying is causing him. who connived together to lure him from the wilderness. sat on her throne. who seduced him away from the animals. wasting death. The next morning.

. Enkidu's curses are more than mere figures of speech. The pathways to the Cedar Forest. hair-covered animal skins. He wanders alone.a human being than a deity. . wondering if he must die too. (See Important Quotations Explained) Summary Enkidu's death shatters Gilgamesh. and the prostitute who domesticated Enkidu. he commands them to make a statue of Enkidu to honor his deeds and celebrate his fame. instead of simply withdrawing his curse. Enkidu's dream about the underworld anticipates the journey upon which the heartbroken Gilgamesh will soon embark. just as Shamash had told the dying Enkidu he would. but he falls back to earth. as if they were filthy. He circles Enkidu's body like an eagle. goldsmiths. the rivers Ulaja and Euphrates. . and the pleasures of a cultivated life are important. a wild ass. stone carvers. with all its breadth. the culture considered curses an especially potent sort of magic that could alter fate. [You were] raised by creatures with tails. your father who created you. glory. Everyone mourns. . and makes an offering to Shamash. and dons unscraped. He paces restlessly like a lioness whose cubs have been killed. At one point in the story. and engravers. and by the animals of the wilderness. including the creatures of the field and plain. desolate with sorrow. your mother is a gazelle. The god tells him that love. and . The curse and the blessing alike must stand. Tablets VIII and IX Enkidu. places some butter in a bowl of lapis lazuli. He pours honey into a carnelian bowl. Enkidu offers an alternative blessing for the prostitute. and the farmers and shepherds in their fields all mourn Enkidu's death. including the metalworkers. as are being loved while alive and mourned when dead. He rips his clothes and tears his hair. In ancient Mesopotamia. since he is essentially saying that the recompense for losing the life he cherished is the life he cherished. In the presence of the city elders. the elders of the city. . At last he decides to seek out Utnapishtim. Enkidu's observation of King Etana among the dead is significant. an eagle carries him up to heaven. Gilgamesh proclaims his grief. Gilgamesh stays by his friend's body until a worm crawls out of its nose. and the comfort the sun god offers Enkidu is indeed humanistic. Then Gilgamesh sets off into the wilderness. This of course anticipates Gilgamesh's later misadventure with another magical plant. As he had promised his dying friend. who survived the flood that had almost ended life on Earth and subsequently became the only . Then he casts aside his royal garments with disgust. Gilgamesh's lamentation overflows with images of animals and nature. This consolation offers a strange kind of comfort. For this reason. Gilgamesh summons the craftsmen of Uruk. as recovered fragments of the ancient Sumerian “Myth of Etana” describe that king's futile quest to find a magical plant to cure his wife's barrenness.

He steps into a beautiful garden filled with fruit and foliage the colors of carnelian. One night in the mountains before going to sleep. and its udders reach down into the underworld. five. Sin. and the other looks east toward its rising. As the eleventh double hour approaches. and the day was divided into twelve “double hours. It would take Gilgamesh twelve double hours to journey through the passage. to grant him a vision. (The Babylonian hour was sixty minutes. and the way is completely dark. the twin-headed mountain. toward the setting of the sun. he arrives at Mashu. and third double hour in total blackness and struggles for breath in the hot darkness. second. surrounded by lions. Gilgamesh prays to the moon god. The form and imagery of these passages are similar to those in much later poems in the modes of pastoral and pastoral elegy. After more journeying. guard its gates. which were important modes of literature from ancient Rome through Shakespeare's time and beyond. providing extended descriptions of the deceased's life. a Scorpion-man and his wife. He can't see in front of him or behind him in the total darkness.” in which a man drowns during a sea voyage. the injustice of death itself. . and six double hours with the north wind blowing in his face. The male monster tells his wife that the person who dares to come here must be a god. He walks four. Milton's “Lycidas.”) No mortal could survive such darkness. The wife says that two-thirds of him is god. Beyond the garden glitters the sea. When Gilgamesh tells the monsters about his quest. One peak looks west. is an example of a pastoral elegy. the Scorpion-man informs him that Utnapishtim lives on the other side of the mountain. but the rest of him is human. rubies. and the possibility of life after death. In the middle of the night he awakens. After they listen to Gilgamesh's pleas. The summits of Mashu brush against heaven itself. Pastoral literature usually invokes the simple. and other jewels. Gilgamesh can use a tunnel that runs through the mountain. The male monster asks Gilgamesh who he is and why he's journeyed through fearful wilderness and braved terrible dangers to come to the mountain that no mortal has ever before visited. he attacks them. natural life of shepherds in an idealized way. the mourners. and pastoral elegies follow this tradition. He hopes Utnapishtim can tell him how he too might escape death. Shamash uses it every night when he travels back to the place where he rises in the morning. Analysis Gilgamesh's lament for Enkidu beautifully evokes his dead companion's wild origins as he personifies the meadows and landscape and projects his grief upon them. Gilgamesh emerges from the tunnel into the sweet morning air and the sunlight. and the monsters cannot permit him to try. Two monsters. He walks the first. To get there. Gilgamesh walks through the mountain. Drawing his axe from his belt. they relent and tell him to be careful. At the end of the twelfth double hour. reveling in the slaughter. the darkness begins to fade.mortal granted everlasting life by the gods. Utnapishtim lives in the far-off place where the sun rises. a place where no mortal has ever ventured.

the shepherds had marveled at his resemblance to Gilgamesh. solitary seeker.” Ahead of its time. Let a spouse delight in your bosom. where he also refuses to answer. (See Important Quotations Explained) Summary Siduri. In others. she sees a man coming toward her. and his face is wind-bitten and battered. Gilgamesh appeals to him again in Tablet XII. His journey to the double-peaked mountain and his long passage through its caverns recapitulate the movement of the entire epic so far. Gilgamesh attacks them because he is so frustrated that the gods have not sent him a vision. Make merry day and night. Tablet X As for you. He is wearing animal skins. He looks like he has been traveling for a long time. heavily laden with weapons. bathe in water. They were conquerors then. he is experiencing a symbolic rebirth. Gilgamesh. darker quest is a familiar motif in romantic quest tales. the veiled barmaid. After Enkidu anointed himself with oil and covered his hairy body with clothes. and now he seeks his soul. Although the poet/editor Sin-Leqi-Unninni's name means “Moon god. and different translators have treated it in different ways. but the explosion of nocturnal violence is still deeply suggestive of Gilgamesh's black mood. The scene with the lions is fragmentary.The passages also suggest the biblical “Song of Songs.” Gilgamesh mentions the moon god only here in the main body of the epic. Pay heed to a little one that holds on to your hand. then he plunges into a terrible darkness. This second. when Gilgamesh and Enkidu strode through the seven-bolt gate to confront the demon Humbaba in the forbidden Cedar Forest. let your belly be full. When Gilgamesh reemerges into the light. the lions are a dream vision. Gilgamesh undertook his first quest to earn fame. accept my plea. the other was there to support him. First the hero successfully passes through great perils. Now the process is reversed. Gazing along the shore. In some versions. keeps a tavern by the edge of the sea. as though he wants to become his dead friend. This second departure from Uruk is much different from the first. Civilization and culture no longer mean anything to him. Your head be washed. Of each day make a feast of rejoicing. as Gilgamesh exchanges his royal garments for hairy skins. Gilgamesh's passage through Mashu unfolds in a deliberately archaic style. When one of them faltered. into a magical garden. Day and night dance and play! Let your garments be sparkling fresh. even though he had once epitomized them. Gilgamesh is undone by grief and overwhelmed by dread. Now Gilgamesh is a humble. a self-conscious imitation of ancient Sumerian poetry that is very repetitive. He looks like Enkidu did when he was still a wild man. Siduri closes and bars her . The scene is bizarre and lacks context. Concerned that he might be dangerous. avid for glory.

The traveler pounds on the door and threatens to smash it down. and eat and drink his fill. his fear. She invites him into her tavern to clean himself up. Urshanabi orders Gilgamesh to go back into the forest and cut sixty poles. Gilgamesh cuts the poles. She tells him that Urshanabi lives deep in the forest.door against him. He observes that Gilgamesh's face is worn and weathered and that sorrow rests in his belly. When Siduri sees that she cannot sway Gilgamesh from his purpose. Gilgamesh poles the boat through the Waters of Death. He says he is Gilgamesh. his grief. But Gilgamesh no longer cares for earthly pleasures and refuses to be distracted from his mission. and then they will attempt the voyage. she gives him directions to Urshanabi's house and tells him to ask Urshanabi to take him to Utnapishtim. knows how to navigate. no mortal has ever been able to follow him. where he guards the Urnusnakes and the Stone Things. Gilgamesh must cut as many as 300 poles. and Siduri asks him why he looks like a tramp and a criminal. change his clothes. (In some versions of the story. Urshanabi instructs him to fit the poles with rings and cover them with pitch. he takes off the skin he wears and holds it up as a sail. Urshanabi says he will take Gilgamesh to Utnapishtim. and they sail off together across the perilous sea. Siduri tells Gilgamesh that Shamash the sun god crosses the sea every day. but that Gilgamesh has made the journey immeasurably more difficult because he smashed the Stone Things and the Urnu-snakes. and then another sixty poles. which only Urshanabi. Utnapishtim's boatman. In three days they sail as far as an ordinary boat would have sailed in two months. Urshanabi studies Gilgamesh's face and asks him why he looks like a tramp. When he arrives near the place where the Urnu-snakes and the Stone Things reside. but from the beginning of time. He says that Enkidu has been overtaken by the fate that awaits all humankind—he's turned to clay. because the sea is too stormy and treacherous. Gilgamesh asks Siduri if that is what will happen to him. When the last pole is ruined. She instructs Gilgamesh to return to her if Urshanabi refuses. he attacks them with his axe and dagger. When they arrive at the Waters of Death. Gilgamesh says that he is grieving for his companion who helped to fight the lions and the wolves and slay the demon Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. Siduri says that even if he miraculously survived the crossing. Gilgamesh tells him about Enkidu. His great strength causes him to break all one hundred and twenty poles. Then he introduces himself to Urshanabi. the boatman tells Gilgamesh to use the punting poles but to be sure his hands don't touch the water. . he would then face the poisonous Waters of Death. He asks her how to find Utnapishtim. Siduri unlocks her door and tells Gilgamesh that only the gods live forever. Gilgamesh sets off to find Urshanabi. which propelled and protected his boat. and his implacable determination to go to Utnapishtim.) Each pole must be exactly sixty cubits in length (approximately ninety feet).

like everything else in the mortal world. Scholars have failed to explain what the Stone Things or the Urnu-snakes are or why Gilgamesh destroys them. He says that death is our certain destiny. and his desperation to avoid it if possible. and that when the gods give life. Her warmth and kindness to Gilgamesh throughout this episode are notable. Perhaps someone will discover a solution to the mystery of the Urnu-snakes and the Stone Things too. Even Utnapishtim. who is himself immortal. since he treated Ishtar with such contempt in Uruk. . None of the three characters Gilgamesh meets in this tablet recognize him when they see him. and thousands more remain beneath the ground.” The goddess of wine-making and beer brewing. The old man says the gods established that men would suffer death. even if we don't know when it will happen. The Italian Assyriologist Giovanni Pettinato recently discovered and translated a never-before-seen account of Gilgamesh's death. which suggests that Utnapishtim. Thousands of clay tablets recovered from Mesopotamian digs over the years are still awaiting translation. listens patiently as he describes his terror of death. and some scholars have speculated that they were lodestones. but he will not help Gilgamesh to do the same. which emphasizes that he should stop his quest for immortality. and no other versions to flesh them out have been found yet. A later fragment of verse suggests that those Stone Things were magical images of some sort. in all his knowledge. A fragmentary verse suggests that Gilgamesh also attacked a winged creature. Each of them takes note of Gilgamesh's unkempt appearance. Gilgamesh must continue to live as a mortal and accept death as part of life's natural and inevitable cycle. the old man asks Gilgamesh to identify himself. a type of mineral that possesses polarity. Gilgamesh tells him what he told Siduri and Urshanabi— about his grief for Enkidu. Utnapishtim says that Gilgamesh inherited his father's mortality and. advises Gilgamesh against pursuing his search for immortality. they also decide the day of death. who might have been Urshanabi himself. When they get out of the boat. she is usually considered a manifestation of Ishtar. Utnapishtim has foiled death. and reminds him that death is certain and life is all we have. The old man asks Gilgamesh why he grieves about mortality—nothing lives forever. and in the Hurrian language her name means “young woman. has an idea about the value of life that Gilgamesh has not yet discovered. he is subject to death. watching the boat approach. The old man wonders what happened to the Stone Things and who the stranger is standing next to Urshanabi. The tablets are frustratingly incomplete on this matter. Analysis Siduri the veiled barmaid is a traditional figure in Mesopotamian mythology and poetry. his fear that the same fate awaits him. and they all give him the same advice.An old man stands on the shore.

tells his story. Tell them that when you leave. he said. the survivor of the flood that almost wiped out humankind. ten dozen cubits in height (approximately 180 feet) with six decks and one acre of floor space. Ninurta. Ennugi. who would have to help him build it. Enlil. the god of earth. So he poses the question that he has traveled so far and suffered so much to ask: How did Utnapishtim. (See Important Quotations Explained) Summary Gilgamesh realizes that the old man is Utnapishtim. prosperous city on the banks of the Euphrates. Ea had been sworn to secrecy. When Utnapishtim asked what he would tell the people of Shuruppak. Enlil ordered a flood to destroy humankind. and air. Then the gods met in secret council—Anu.Tablets XI and XII Study the brickwork. and that they will have more fish to eat than they can imagine. Once upon a time. the god of wisdom and crafts. a mortal man. In seven days the boat was ready. the boat ran aground on a mountain peak. from the terrace see the planted and fallow fields. When the storm came. a beautiful. study how it is made. he described the plans. it returned to the boat. climb the ancient staircase to the terrace. the cleverest of the gods. Ea suggested an artful lie. while Utnapishtim heard everything on the other side of the walls. Tell them. It too returned. he was king of Shuruppak. the city will be showered with good fortune. the very person he has been seeking. and Ea. become a god? How had he eluded death? And can Gilgamesh ever hope to do the same? Utnapishtim. and it never came back. Ishtar wept to see her children being destroyed. Eventually. Utnapishtim gave him his house and everything in it. the god of the firmament. Ea warned him that the gods would be sending a terrible flood. that you are leaving the city because Enlil hates you. Utnapishtim released a dove. He told him to build a boat of immense dimensions. the god of war and wells. . the ponds and orchards. he says. So Utnapishtim butchered bulls and sheep for the workers and gave them rivers of beer and wine to drink. study the fortification. Then he released a raven. the god of irrigation. but he cleverly betrayed the gods' plans to Utnapishtim. After Puzuramurri the caulker had sealed them inside. wind. and load it up with the seed of each living thing and with his family and possessions. After seven days. It was like a festival. When it couldn't find a dry place to alight. With great difficulty. Speaking to the walls of his house. that all manner of bread and wheat will rain down upon it. the gods clambered up as high as they could go and cringed in terror. Utnapishtim released a swallow. they launched it in the Euphrates.

But they alone deserved that gift. leave it next to him. but when he sits down to begin his test he falls into a deep sleep. He said that plagues. After seven days.Upon reaching shore. After Ninurta named the culprit. He chastised Enlil for creating the flood and said that if he wanted to punish someone. He demanded to know how anyone escaped the flood. Utnapishtim touches Gilgamesh on the forehead and wakes him. and the sixth only a little stale. Then Utnapishtim's wife asks her husband if there is anything he can give Gilgamesh to take back to his land. When Utnapishtim finishes his story. he saw the boat and lost his temper. Utnapishtim tells Urshanabi. He tells Gilgamesh about the thorny plant that grows beneath the waves called Howthe-Old-Man-Once-Again-Becomes-a-Young-Man. He orders Urshanabi to take Gilgamesh to the washing place so Gilgamesh can clean himself and reveal the beauty he has been hiding. turning them into gods. Gilgamesh accepts the challenge. he should have made the punishment fit the crime. He tells Gilgamesh that. These things will prove to Gilgamesh that he slept. Gilgamesh washes himself and changes into royal garments. The first piece is dry as dust. Utnapishtim tells his wife to bake a piece of bread each day. wolves. he'll deny that he fell asleep. Utnapishtim tells her that if Gilgamesh wakes now. and put on a spotless robe so he can return to his city in honor. Gilgamesh ties stone . since the flood was his idea and he never discussed it with the other gods. Utnapishtim says he will tell Gilgamesh one of the gods' secrets. The seventh is fresh from the oven. and famine could be used to kill some people instead of all people at once. When Enlil arrived to partake of the sacrifice. Then he and the boatman board their boat and pole themselves away from shore. Ea himself spoke up. Utnapishtim shows his wife how Gilgamesh sleeps. The third is soggy and rotten. Ishtar came down wearing a necklace of lapis lazuli made of beads shaped like flies. He took Utnapishtim and his wife by the hands and made them kneel. Enlil listened and understood. throw the skin he wears into the sea. he looks at Gilgamesh with scorn and asks if he really thinks he is worthy of becoming a god and living forever too. he should try to go a week without sleeping. that Urshanabi can never return here. He tells Urshanabi to have Gilgamesh bind up his hair. since he intended it to destroy everyone. and make a mark on the wall. Then he touched their foreheads and blessed them. Gilgamesh says he'd been close to falling asleep but denies actually sleeping. he granted them eternal life. She said she would forget neither her necklace nor this calamity—nor would she forgive Enlil. the fifth spotty. his boatman. the fourth moldy. Gilgamesh poles the little boat back to shore. Gilgamesh is full of despair that he has not managed to escape the possibility of death. Not everyone deserved to die. as a test. The gods of heaven were famished and gathered around the altar. His wife tells him to wake Gilgamesh and let him return home. For saving humanity. Then Utnapishtim shows him the seven pieces of bread and the seven marks on the wall. Utnapishtim prepared a sacrifice. the second only a little moister.

” The gods regret the flood immediately. and Enkidu gives a bleak account. Utnapishtim's offerings are the first things they have eaten since the flood began. and the waters cast him onto shore. appended to the epic. doing exactly the opposite of what Gilgamesh advised. It begins when Gilgamesh drops a drum and drumstick through the floor of “the carpenter's house” into the nether world. He shows him its brickwork. Enkidu disobeys him. the word for “bread” is almost identical to that for “darkness. But one night. In Gilgamesh the gods never give a reason for the flood. it sheds its skin. Now the serpent is young again.” and the word for “wheat” is very similar to “misfortune. and is seized. a ghastly mother and lover. In one older version of the story. Gilgamesh asks Enkidu what life is like in the underworld. A snake smells the plant and steals it. Analysis Tablet XI recounts the gods' secrets and the story of the deluge. from a much older tradition. Urshanabi and Gilgamesh travel on until they reach Uruk. In Akkadian. for unknown reasons. Enkidu volunteers to retrieve it. not to any special virtue.weights to his feet and dives into the sea. As it slithers away. When Utnapishtim tells the people they will have a great harvest of bread and wheat. but Gilgamesh will never be. Gilgamesh takes a swim in a pool of cool water. the better it goes in the other world. clay pits. In fact. Gilgamesh goes before the gods and begs for their intercession. Arbitrary as the gods' actions . Gilgamesh warns his friend that he must do nothing to call attention to himself in the underworld or the “Cry of the Dead” will seize him. he is making a cruel pun. and though the story often parallels the biblical story of Noah. The man who has seven sons lives like a god. that Sin-Leqi-Unninni. Heartbroken. None of them will help him except Ea. Enkidu says that the more sons you have in this world. Gilgamesh shows the boatman the city walls. Tablet XII is a mystical poem. Gilgamesh sits beside the pool and weeps. exposes her breasts to him and pulls him on top of her. humankind's wickedness provokes God to send the flood. all of them but Enlil claim afterward that they opposed the idea. Enlil decides to exterminate humanity because their noise disturbs his sleep. Ereshkigal. When he finds the plant he cuts the stones from his feet. when they stop to camp. He says that vermin devour his body. since they rely on peoples' sacrifices for their sustenance. the fearsome Queen of the Underworld. the two are not identical. When they arrive. Utnapishtim owes his survival to Ea's cleverness. fields. the god of wisdom. Gilgamesh asks him how it is for the other dead. Ea arranges to have Enkidu's spirit rise up into the world again so he and Gilgamesh can visit. The dead who are the worst off are those who left no mourners behind. Unlike Noah. He shows him the temple of Ishtar. and God chooses Noah to survive because of his righteousness. The main body of the poem ends here. He tells the boatman that he will share this plant with the elders of Uruk and then take some himself and be young again too. His arbitrary nature appears earlier in the epic as well—he was the god who chose Enkidu to die. In the biblical tale. and orchards.

The baptism acknowledges and honors his mortal body. but that it should apply only to individuals. Now that he accepts the fact that earthly life is all there is. After the serpent steals the plant. he means that death is important. which possibly have shamanistic significance. the biblical version has a different moral dimension. The temple of Ishtar appears again in the poem's very last verse. Taken on its own terms. Though the serpent doomed Adam and Eve to a life marked by sin. since he thought to share the plant with his community. and his wanting to share the plant shows that he is starting to think about his responsibilities to other people again. which. Gilgamesh and Enkidu's troubles began in earnest after they spurned the goddess. Since Enkidu died. and the serpent. all of which make life worth living according to Christianity. which brings babies into the world and keeps the fire lit in the hearth. It contains many obscurities. Gilgamesh finally finds the answer to his question about how he can elude death: he can't. Gilgamesh's serpent actually frees him in a way. In this tablet. a worthy monument to the mortals who built it. Yet after experiencing Siduri's and Utnapishtim's wife's kindness. but it is also a bodily need as fundamental as food. Tablet XII parallels the main poem. From a Christian standpoint. His place is in Uruk. When Ea says that some people should die but not all of them. is meant to live. the ending is deeply affirmative. no promise of eternal life. but humankind will always endure. The parable of the magical plant and the serpent foreshadows the biblical tale of Adam. it is—there is no heaven. however. the ownership of which scholars cannot determine. This hero's final quest is his journey back home. Enkidu brings his undoing upon himself by deliberately provoking the denizens of the underworld. Gilgamesh's quest for eternal life poisons the life that he should be living in the here and now. if he rules it well. This is what Utnapishtim was implying when he ordered his boatman to take Gilgamesh to the washing place and return him to his city. Gilgamesh can now see Uruk for the marvel of human ingenuity and labor that it is. but his humanness means he has much to do in the world. much as he provoked Ishtar after wrestling with the Bull of . Now he is starting to think like a king. he has been mired in grief.seem. Just as with the flood story. the female force. so passing the test is impossible. Gilgamesh's attitude changes. The parable of Utnapishtim's sleeping test illustrates this point. a lesson he has perhaps already learned unconsciously. Eve. Sleep is a foretaste of death. the story presents a clear philosophy: even if the gods are capricious and men must die. nonetheless. and no divine redemption or grace. Gilgamesh. one of the world's great homoerotic love stories. People die. and the drum and drumstick.” where a woman rules. Gilgamesh knows that death cannot be avoided. Some critics read the ending of Gilgamesh as profoundly pessimistic. which suggests that feminine power resumes its importance as Gilgamesh's journey comes to an end. and after learning about Ishtar's grief for humanity after the flood. once again becomes central. Gilgamesh has a body. will live on after him and continue to grow in power and beauty. such as the carpenter's house. humankind. ends with the hero's return to the “house of Ishtar.

who had no written versions. which means that at one time they might have provided mnemonic assistance to help storytellers. One of the most remarkable literary techniques in this epic is the artful repetition within the verses.Heaven. driving quality suggests Enkidu and Gilgamesh's agitated psychological state: they must quell the obsessive. the easier death will be. he does say that the richer life is in this world. Enlil made him guardian of the Cedar Forest. whose roar the floodwater. as he and Gilgamesh prepare to invade the forbidden Cedar Forest and fight the demon Humbaba. Important Quotations Explained 1. reputation. You are the fire that goes out. though generalizing about literary style is difficult. who lacks nothing at all? Balm for the body? The food and drink of the gods? I have nothing to give to her who lacks nothing at all. Ea is the only god who agrees to intercede for Gilgamesh. in English translation as well as in Gilgamesh's original languages. his roar is the floodwater. He hears the slightest sound somewhere in the Forest. since every English translation renders the poem so differently. remember the tale. But the effect of these repetitions can also be powerfully incantatory. Whose mouth is fire. These lines convey not only Humbaba's awesome presence but also the paralyzing fear that he inspires in his challengers. and friends. —Tablet II Explanation for Quotation #1 Enkidu speaks these lines in Tablet II. and the ancient versions differ so vastly. and we know from Utnapishtim's story that Ea is a steadfast friend of humanity. You are the door through which the cold gets in. But who would venture there? Humbaba's mouth is fire. Their hypnotic. his roar the floodwater. Some of these repetitions relate to formal structure. . Though Enkidu doesn't have any good news to report from the underworld. 2. Humbaba's mouth is fire. Enlil made him terrifying guardian. and the more man leaves behind in the way of children. his breath is death. You are the pitch that sticks to the hands of the one who carries the bucket. to frighten off the mortal who would venture there. chattering voices of dread in their minds before they can stand up to Humbaba. What could I offer the queen of love in return. he breathes and there is death.

older woman who wants to make him her plaything. and the rich. handsome young man. . 3. . The poetry of Gilgamesh often requires scholarly explication to fill in the blanks of the story. . though present throughout the epic. his insults are clear. and reconcile the inconsistencies in a narrative that stitches together two millennia's worth of stories. with all its breadth. its broad outlines are timeless and universal. —Tablet VI Explanation for Quotation #2 On Tablet VI. The austere lyricism of Gilgamesh's ancient poetry. Gilgamesh pours out his grief in this impassioned lamentation. when Gilgamesh returns from the Cedar Forest with the head of Humbaba. natural life of shepherds. stands out in this passage. . As obscure as Gilgamesh might be in its details. Pastoral elegies present the natural world as mourning the deceased as well. This kind of projection will appear again centuries later in the pastoral elegies of the ancient Greeks and later European writers. His lamentation poignantly evokes Enkidu's wild origins and also reveals the extent of Gilgamesh's grief. even the animals and the paths in the forest. and an elegy is a poem that expresses sorrow for the dead. The ill-made wall that buckles when time has gone by. and . . your mother is a gazelle. a wild ass. the unfairness of death. and by the animals of the wilderness. and hilarious. but it also evinces a tremendous relish for the sensuous pleasures of life. You are the shoe that pinches the foot of the wearer. Enkidu. The simple diction and the animal imagery in these lines evoke the biblical “Song of Songs” as well. the goddess Ishtar is overcome with lust. Pastoral literature gives an idealized picture of the simple. The setup is familiar—the proud. The paths going up to and down from the forest of cedars All mourn you: the weeping does not end day or night —Tablet VIII Explanation for Quotation #3 After Enkidu dies. They include long descriptions of the deceased. explain the complex origins of Mesopotamian gods. . however. those who mourn them. He projects his grief onto a rural landscape so that it seems the entire natural world mourns for Enkidu. The epic contains a lot of angst and brooding about death. Gilgamesh rejects her proposition scornfully. When Gilgamesh spurns Ishtar. pointed. [You were] raised by creatures with tails.You are the house that falls down. and the possibility of a next life. The leaky water skin soaking the water skin carrier. your father who created you. jaded.

One league is the inner city. Gilgamesh. she permits the disreputable-looking Gilgamesh to enter her tavern. For unknown reasons. There Gilgamesh the king said to the boatman: “Study the brickwork. his last opportunity for immortality. Then she gives him some pointed advice: he should give up his futile quest for eternal life and make the most of the life he's living now. And so they traveled until they reached Uruk. Your head be washed. With some trepidation. they evoke a similar spirit of making the most of the present moment. . and the famous words “Make the most of what we yet may spend / Before we too into the Dust descend” of the medieval Persian astronomer poet Omar Khayyam. the goddess of wine-making and brewing. which represents a kind of second birth. The garden belongs to Siduri the veiled bar maid. Only a few lines earlier. Day and night dance and play! Let your garments be sparkling fresh. let your belly be full. study how it is made. from the terrace see the planted and fallow fields. Fortunately. he emerges into a magical garden by the sea. the ponds and orchards. Let a spouse delight in your bosom. —Tablet X Explanation for Quotation #4 After Gilgamesh braves the dark passage under the twin-peaked mountain through which the sun passes on its daily travels. . over there is the precinct of the temple. Of each day make a feast of rejoicing. Pay heed to a little one that holds on to your hand. As for you. . which he believes is a sign that he should . . it survived in an old Babylonian text. still another the fields beyond. Sin-Leqi-Unninni did not include Siduri's famous speech in his version of The Epic of Gilgamesh. climb the ancient staircase to the terrace. 5. Make merry day and night. the city of Gilgamesh —Tablet XI Explanation for Quotation #5 These words mark one of the most astonishing transitions in literature. Gilgamesh was in despair because he lost his magical plant. another league is orchards. bathe in water. While Siduri's words anticipate by thousands of years the “Carpe Diem” of the Roman Horace. study the fortification.4. Three leagues and the temple precinct of Ishtar.” Measure Uruk.

But this loss was also the moment of truth. Campbell Thompson's in 1930.. he approaches the vast. most of the story is told from Gilgamesh's point of view. all of it enclosed by intricately wrought walls. Key Facts full title · The Epic of Gilgamesh author · The ancient authors of the stories that compose the poem are anonymous. The first comprehensive scholarly translation to be published in English was R. Gilgamesh. but his portrayal of him often includes irony. knows more than Gilgamesh does. Hittite. Gilgamesh repeats. My place. The latest and most complete version yet found. In the first half of the story. Akkadian. . He has quested to the ends of the earth for the meaning of life and found it at last in his own home.c.c. Utnapishtim narrates the flood story in Tablet XI.abandon his quest. and around 600 b. publisher · The Clarendon Press. Hurrian. All these languages were written in cuneiform script. he is obsessed by it to the point of paralysis. word for word. point of view · Third person. This is my city. with its cultivated fields and orchards and its towering ziggurat devoted to Ishtar. for example. After Enkidu appears in Tablet I. seeing it anew. in that everyone involved. the opening lines of the epic. regards it with pride and awe. is quietly ironic. heroic epic language · Sumerian. composed no later than around 600 b. type of work · Epic poem genre · Heroic quest. in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) date of first publication · Tablet XI of Gilgamesh was first translated into English and published in 1872. tone · The narrator never explicitly criticizes Gilgamesh. Thus ends The Epic of Gilgamesh. Offering up his realm for the boatman's admiration. time and place written · Between 2700 b. unnamed narrator. he says. beautiful urban expanse of Uruk. while in the second.c. who has been forbidden to have any further commerce with the immortals. who is always described in the most heroic terms. Gilgamesh's anticlimactic meeting with Utnapishtim. including Utnapishtim and his wife. Gilgamesh is heedless of death to the point of rashness. Accompanied by Urshanabi the boatman. Oxford narrator · Most of the epic is related by an objective. was signed by a Babylonian author and editor who called himself Sin-Leqi-Unninni.

and already we have a hint of Enkidu's eventual fate. the Mesopotamian Noah who received eternal life from the gods. Few things.tense · Past setting (time) · 2700 b. the inevitability of death. which his mother tells him represents the companion he will soon have. are as ephemeral as a falling star. Enkidu says the bull is Humbaba. doorways foreshadowing · The most important instances of foreshadowing are explicit. Study Questions and Essay Topics Study Questions 1 Is the relationship between Enkidu and Gilgamesh homoerotic. and. a bull attacks them. Gilgamesh becomes obsessed with his own mortality. which Enkidu says represents the defeat of Humbaba. setting (place) · Mesopotamia protagonist · Gilgamesh. he incurs the wrath of the gods. Gilgamesh bonds with his friend Enkidu and sets out to make a great name for himself. journeys. if so. themes · Love as a motivating force. It also suggests Enkidu's journey to the underworld and Gilgamesh's passage through the twin-peaked mountain. rising action · In the first half of the poem. Gilgamesh dreams about a meteor. In one a mountain falls on them. falling action · Bereft by the loss of his friend. in the hope that he will tell him how he too can avoid death.c. king of Uruk major conflict · Gilgamesh struggles to avoid death. the gods are dangerous motifs · Seductions. Enkidu interprets dreams during their journey to the forbidden forest. however. doubling and twinship. In doing so. climax · Enkidu dies. is this an important element of the story? . baptism symbols · Religious symbols. because they come in the form of premonitory dreams. He sets out on a quest to find Utnapishtim. but it may also be the Bull of Heaven they fight later. In another dream.

women still play an important role in the epic's action and themes. giving him the benefit of the doubt. Compare and contrast the role of the serpent in the Bible and in Gilgamesh. and in several scenes they cuddle together against the elements when they are on their quest to the Cedar Forest. the serpent is ultimately a source of good. its action also convinces Gilgamesh to end his quest and restores Gilgamesh's sanity. In this way. In the Bible. What Gilgamesh does not do plays a role in defining the relationship as well. It tempts Adam and Eve into disobedience by convincing them to aspire to something that belongs only to God—knowledge. For example. and Ishtar promises Gilgamesh the world in exchange for his love. and he even finds a reason to reject Ishtar. while others. Nearly every encounter the friends have with women is charged with tension in some way—the feminine is undeniably important. the parable suggests. These bits of evidence. rendering the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu even murkier. we do not know with any certainty what sort of sexual relationships were acceptable among Mesopotamian nobility. Also. he will live in the here and now. the serpent is evil and brings about consequences that aren't so positive. if not make him immortal. For example. restore his youth. Much of the language the poet uses to describe Gilgamesh and Enkidu's relationship may actually be metaphorical. the snake is his benefactor. while the love represented by Ishtar and the temple prostitutes is inevitable. Gilgamesh secures an herb that will. When Gilgamesh refuses Ishtar's advances. He hasn't yet used it when the snake steals it. The gift that Gilgamesh carries back to Uruk now is himself. he unwittingly dooms Enkidu to death. but evidence does not exist to say with any certainty that their relationship is sexual. The love between him and Enkidu is tragic.Answer for Study Question #1 Throughout the epic. Some interpreters suggest that he wanted to “test” the herb on the elders of Uruk first. After a long and perilous quest. Answer for Study Question #2 Serpents play vital but vastly different roles in Gilgamesh and the Bible. No longer obsessed with self-preservation. 2. No matter what kind of relationship Gilgamesh and Enkidu have. They kiss and embrace frequently. In Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh and Enkidu love each other like man and wife. say that he was being a good king by wanting to share it with his subjects before enjoying it himself. focusing his energies on the betterment of his kingdom. Though the snake robs Gilgamesh and his people of their chance to enjoy eternal youth. Gilgamesh and Enkidu must submit to the female life force. which seems to imply a sexual relationship. do not add up to a definite conclusion. . descriptions and language of Gilgamesh and Enkidu's relationship suggest that the love between them is more than platonic. a female prostitute tames Enkidu. we never hear about Gilgamesh sleeping with a woman. When humans aspire to know things or the deeper meanings of things. so loving Enkidu “like a bride” might not mean what we suspect it does. After Enkidu blocks the door of the bride chamber. however.

The here and now that Adam and Eve must endure will be shadowed forever by their sin. Why does Utnapishtim tell Urshanabi that he is no longer welcome in his realm? 3. The serpent killed their innocence.c. What river flows past Uruk? (A) The Nile (B) The Rhone (C) The Euphrates (D) The Orinoco 2. God casts Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and brands them as sinners. When did the real Gilgamesh live? (A) Before the Ice Age (B) In about 2700 b. What is the significance of Gilgamesh's passage through the darkness beneath the twin-peaked mountain? Quiz 1. How was The Epic of Gilgamesh preserved? (A) In writing on scrolls (B) In carvings on tree trunks (C) In writing on clay tablets (D) Aristotle translated it into Greek 3. What does the story of Enkidu's education by the prostitute tell us about Mesopotamian views of culture and civilization? 4. so the serpent in a sense brought both death and knowledge into the world. Suggested Essay Topics 1. usurping a divine prerogative.they are overreaching. What do Enkidu's curse and then his blessing of the prostitute suggest about the lot of women in ancient Mesopotamia? 2. (C) In the Middle Ages (D) In Victorian times . As punishment.

god of the firmament (C) Ea. and air (B) Anu. Which god supports Gilgamesh's incursion into the Cedar Forest? (A) Enlil. god of the sun (D) The demon Humbaba 7. god of wisdom (D) Shamash. Why does Gilgamesh spurn Ishtar? (A) Because he's already married (B) Because Enkidu would be jealous (C) Because she's already married (D) Because he doesn't want to be her plaything 8. Why did the gods create Enkidu? (A) To overthrow Gilgamesh (B) To be Gilgamesh's loyal servant (C) To provide a counterforce to Gilgamesh's power (D) To marry Gilgamesh's sister 5. god of earth. Gilgamesh dreams that a mountain falls on top of him and Enkidu. What does Enkidu say this dream foretells? (A) The collapse of the Assyrian Empire . Who introduces Enkidu to civilization? (A) His mother and father (B) A temple prostitute (C) A talking gazelle (D) The goddess Ishtar 6. god of the sun 9.4. wind. Who guards the Cedar Forest? (A) Twelve Roman Legions (B) Two scorpion monsters (C) Shamash.

(B) Enkidu's death in battle (C) Gilgamesh and Enkidu's triumph over Humbaba (D) The eruption of Mt. Why does Enkidu curse the temple prostitute? (A) Because she gave him syphilis (B) Because she stole his wallet (C) Because if she hadn't tempted him from the wilderness he would have never met Gilgamesh (D) Because he knows she poisoned him 12. What does the Bull of Heaven bring to the city of Uruk? (A) Famine (B) Flood (C) War (D) Seven years of plenty 11. What garments are the dead people wearing in Enkidu's dream about the underworld? (A) Togas (B) Feathers (C) Animal skins (D) They are naked 14. Why does Enkidu bless the temple prostitute? (A) Because she told him the future (B) Because she loans him money (C) Because if she hadn't tempted him from the wilderness he would have never met Gilgamesh (D) Because he feels bad that he poisoned her 13. Thera 10. Who is the queen of the underworld? (A) Siduri (B) Ereshkigal .

How does Urshanabi's boat cross the Waters of Death? (A) A god blows it across with his breath (B) A fish tows it (C) Urshanabi rows it (D) Gilgamesh poles it 19. What advice does Siduri the tavern keeper give to Gilgamesh? (A) To never buy on credit (B) To never mix beer and wine (C) To take his pleasures in this world (D) To offer up libations to Ea. the god of wisdom . Why does Gilgamesh leave Uruk after Enkidu dies? (A) To avenge his death by killing a god (B) To find out how he can avoid having to die himself (C) To track down Enkidu's murderer (D) To escape the police. who think he murdered Enkidu 16.(C) Ea (D) Utnapishtim 15. What are the Stone Things? (A) Nobody knows (B) Statues of Ishtar (C) Lodestones (D) A popular Babylonian singing group 18. How does Gilgamesh get to the other side of the twin-peaked mountain called Mashu? (A) He climbs over it (B) He walks around it (C) He walks through it (D) A winged lion carries him over it 17.

20. What is the name of the magical plant that Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh about? (A) Loco weed (B) Rag weed (C) Widow's weeds (D) How-the-Old-Man-Once-Again-Becomes-a-Young-Man 23. Who is Sin-Leqi-Unninni? (A) The author of the most complete version of The Epic of Gilgamesh that we know of today (B) The god of fire. What test does Utnapishtim give to Gilgamesh. and pottery making (C) The king of Shurrupak (D) Gilgamesh's father . Who steals the magical plant? (A) A winged lion (B) A scorpion monster (C) The king of Tyre (D) A snake 24. to see if he is worthy of eternal life? (A) He makes him name all the Babylonian gods in alphabetical order (B) He wrestles with him (C) He asks him to stay awake for six nights and seven days (D) He asks him to travel to Colchis and steal the golden fleece 22. How did Utnapishtim find out that the gods were planning to destroy the world with a flood? (A) Ea. spoke to him through the walls of his house (B) A little bird told him (C) His joints were aching (D) Ishtar told him 21. the god of wisdom. wheat.

Gods. Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse. John. trans. 2001. David. New York: Penguin Classics. Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci. Gilgamesh.. 1992. and John Maier. ed.. New York: Farrar. 1972. and Anthony Green. Dalley. Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. Andrew. eds. New York: Oxford University Press. Wauconda. Gardner. 2000. New York: Free Press. stephen. Stephanie. Maier. 1992. Jeffrey H.25. Benjamin R. The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. ed. the Flood. Gilgamesh. Alexander. Gilgamesh: A New English Version. ed. 1982 . 1998. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Wauconda. N. 1972. 1985. W. and Others. . The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Norton Critical Edition. mitchell. George. New York: Penguin Classics. Suggested Annotated Translations Ferry. What fell through the hole in the floor of the Carpenter's House? (A) Gilgamesh's drum and drumstick (B) Gilgamesh's coins (C) Gilgamesh's Stone Thing (D) Gilgamesh's dagger Bibliography Suggestions for Further Reading Black. Straus and Giroux. Norton. Sandars. 2004. Foster. John. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Jeremy. The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. Heidel. K. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. New York: Vintage Books. Gilgamesh: A Reader. Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci. 2001. Reprint. New York: W. 2002. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation. Tigay. ed. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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