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The Epic of Gilgamesh
Transcript of The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh
What is an Epic?
Webster defines an epic as a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation OR something that extends beyond the usual or ordinary, especially in size or scope
The Death of Gilgamesh
Urshanabi and Gilgamesh begin their journey back to Uruk.
The EPIC of Gilgamesh
From the title alone, what can we infer about the character of Gilgamesh?
From our definition of what an EPIC is, what can we infer about the story itself?
So what does that mean for us? An EPIC is a long, narrative poem that tells the story of an ancient hero's journeys and adventures
What is a Hero?
Someone who is admired or idolized for their acts of nobility, courage, and/or outstanding achievements.
Gilgamesh is recorded on tablets around 2000 B.C.E.
Tablets are destroyed in the fall of Babylonia around 540 B.C.E.
Excavated from ruins of Assyrian Library in 1872. (First English translation also in 1872.)
Sumerian King around 2700 - 2500 B.C.E.
2/3 god & 1/3 man
Not well liked by his people
No ONE known author.
Set in Sumerian city of Uruk.
Huge parts of the text are missing.
During the origin of written literature.
Created by the gods to deal with Gilgamesh.
Lives in the wilderness with wild animals.
Very rugged until he's alienated from the wilderness by a woman that Gilgamesh sends.
Battles Gilgamesh and loses.
The two become quick friends.
The Battle with Humbaba
The guardian of the cedar forest
Beast of massive size and strength
Often referred to as a monster
George Burckhardt's translation describes him as, "[having] the paws of a lion and a body covered in horny scales; his feet had the claws of a vulture, and on his head were the horns of a wild bull; his tail and phallus each ended in a snake's head."
Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out to defeat Humbaba to make a name for themselves.
Enkidu starts having second thoughts.
Gilgamesh gives the pep talk of the year and they proceed together.
Humbaba enters and Enkidu and Gilgamesh both appear unsure.
Gilgamesh prays for
's aid in slaying the beast.
Shamash sends the great winds to help defeat Humbaba.
Once Gilgamesh and Enkidu have Humbaba cornered, the beast begins pleading for his life.
Enkidu becomes the voice of reason and encourages Gilgamesh to kill the creature anyway.
TOGETHER, the two defeat the monster.
is enraged with both the death of Humbaba AND that Shamash aided Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the
"O my lord, you do not know this monster and that is the reason you are not afraid. I who know him, I am terrified. . . you may go on if you choose into this land, but I will go back to the city. I will tell the lady your mother all your glorious deeds till she shouts for joy: and then I will tell the death that followed till she weeps for bitterness."
"Immolation and sacrifice are not yet for me, the boat of the dead shall not go down, nor the three-ply cloth be cut for my shrouding. "
"Today, give me your aid and you shall have mine: What then can go amiss with us two?"
"If your heart is fearful throw away fear; if there is terror in it throw away terror. Take your ax in your hand and attack. He who leaves the fight unfinished is not at peace."
Enkidu: "O Gilgamesh, remember now your boasts in Uruk. Forward, attack, son of Uruk, there is nothing to fear."
Gilgamesh: "Make haste, close in, if the watchman is there do not let him escape to the woods where he will vanish. He has to put on the first of his seven splendors but not yet the other six, let us trap him before he is armed."
"Let me go free, Gilgamesh, and I will be your servant, you shall be my lord; all the trees of the forest that I tend on the mountain shall be yours. I will cut them down and build you a palace."
"The strongest of men will fall to fate if he has no judgement."
"Do not listen, Gilgamesh: this Humbaba must die. Kill Humbaba first and his servants after."
"Why did you do this thing? From henceforth may the fire be on your faces, may it eat the bread that you eat, may it drink where you drink."
After killing Humbaba,
tries to seduce Gilgamesh but when he rejects her, Ishtar sends the Bull of Heaven down to destroy Uruk.
Enkidu has a second dream. He wakes up and immediately tells Gilgamesh what he's just seen.
He then begins describing the underworld in great detail.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the bull and are praised as heroes for saving Uruk from destruction.
That night, Enkidu dreams that the gods are plotting his death because he has been a part of killing Humbaba and the bull.
"The heavens roared, and the earth rumbled back an answer; between them, stood I before an awful being, the somber-faced man-bird; he had directed on me his purpose.
"He fell on me and his claws were in my hair, he held me fast and I smothered; then he transformed me so that my arms became wings covered with feathers."
"He turned his stare towards me, and he led me away to the palace of
, the Queen of Darkness, to the house from which none who enters ever return, down the road from which there is no coming back."
"There is the house whose people sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay their meat. They are clothed liked birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness."
squatted in front of [
the Queen of the Underworld], she who is recorder of the gods and keeps the book of death. She held a tablet from which she read. She raised her head, she saw me and spoke: 'Who has brought this one here?'"
"Then I awoke like a man drained of blood who wanders alone in a waste of rushes; like one whom the bailiff has seized and is heart pounds with terror."
Gilgamesh mourns the loss of his dear friend in great anguish for 7 days. His laments are the turning point in the epic.
Realizing that he is now on his own, Gilgamesh's quest changes from from being about making a name for himself to a quest to gain immortality.
On a new quest to find immortality, Gilgamesh travels across the ocean to find
Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the story of the the flood that the gods created to end all of mankind.
Utnapishtim and his family survive the flood and are in turn, given the gift of immortality.
Utnapishtim, whose name literally means "He Who Saw Life," and his family are the only humans to have ever been granted the gift of immortality by the gods.
"In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamor. Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the gods in council, 'The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel.' So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind."
because of his oath warned me in a dream. He whispered their words to my house of reeds. 'Tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. Tear down your house, I say, and build a boat; then take up into the boat the seed of all living creatures.
Utnapishtim builds the boats that Ea instructs him to build. He builds it with seven different decks and on the seventh day the boat way finished and ready to be launched.
"I loaded into her all that I had of gold and of living things, my family, my kin, the beasts of the field both wild and tame..."
, lord of the storm, brings the storm upon the peoples. And the storm raged on for one full day without stopping.
"Even the gods were terrified at the flood, they fled to the highest heaven the firmament of Anu; They crouched against the walls, cowering like curs."
Finally, Ishtar cries out, "Alas the days of old are turned to dust because I commanded evil; why did I command this evil in the council of all the gods? I commanded wars to destroy the people, but are they not my people, for I brought them fourth? Now like the spawn of fish they float in the ocean." The great gods of heaven and of hell wept, the covered their mouths.
When the raven never returns, Utnapishtim realizes that it is finally over, so he prepares a feast to offer to the gods for saving him.
"When Enlil had come, when he saw the boat, he was wroth and swelled with anger at the gods, the host of heaven, 'Has any of these mortals escaped? Not one was to have survived the destruction.'"
"Wisest of gods, hero Enlil, how could you so senselessly bring down the flood? It was not I that revealed the secret of the gods; the wise man learned it in a dream, Now take your counsel what shall be done with him."
Enlil approaches the boat, blesses Utnapishtim and his wife and says,"In time past, Utnapishtim was a mortal man; henceforth he and his wife shall live in the distance at the mouth of the rivers."
"For six days and six nights the winds blew, torment and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the flood was stilled; I looked at the face of the world and there was silence, all mankind was turned to clay."
"I looked for land in vain, but fourteen leagues distant there appeared a mountain, and there the boat grounded; on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast, she held fast and did not budge.
"I loosened a raven, she saw that the waters had retreated, she ate, she flew around, she cawed, and she did not back back."
After telling Gilgamesh the story of the flood, the two begin talking about his quest for immortality.
"As for you, Gilgamesh, who will assemble the gods for your sake, so that you may find that life for which you are searching? But if you wish, come and put it to the test: only prevail against sleep for six days and seven nights."
Gilgamesh sits down to rest and sleep starts to overcome him almost immediately.
"Look at him now, the strong man who would have everlasting life, even now the mists of sleep are drifting over him."
In response, Utnapishtim's wife says, "Touch the man to wake him, so that he may return to his own land in peace, going back through the gate by which he came."
"All men are deceivers, even you he will attempt to deceive; therefore bake loaves of bread, each day one loaf, and put it beside his head; and make a mark on the wall to number the days he has slept."
Utnapishtim's wife bakes a loaf of bread each day, for seven days, and sets them beside Gilgamesh as he sleeps.
"I hardly slept when you touched and roused me."
"Count these loaves and learn how many days you slept, for your first is heard, your second like leather, your third is soggy, the crust of your fourth has mold, your fifth is mildewed, your sixth is fresh and your seventh was still over the glowing embers when I touched and woke you."
"What shall I do, O Utnapishtim, where shall I go? Already the thief in in the night has hold of my limbs, death inhabits my room; wherever my foot rests, there I find death."
Utnapishtim then gives
exact instructions on what to do and where to take Gilgamesh.
"Go now, banished from the shore. But this man before whom you walked, bringing him here, whose body is covered with foulness and the grace of whose limbs has been spoiled by the wild skins, take him to the washing-place."
"There he shall wash his long hair clean as snow in the water, he shall throw off his skins and let the sea carry them away, and the beauty of his body shall be shown."
"He shall be given clothes to cover his nakedness. Till he reaches his own city and his journey is accomplished, these clothes will show now sign of age, they will wear like anew garment."
Urshanabi and Gilgamesh prepare to board the boat and launch it into the waters to head back to Uruk.
"Gilgamesh came here wearied out, he is warn out; what will you give him to carry him back to his own country?"
"Gilgamesh, you came here a man wearied out, you have worn yourself out; what shall I give you to carry you back to your own country? Gilgamesh, I shall reveal a secret thing, it is a mystery of the gods that I am telling you."
"There is a plant that grows under the water, it has a prickle like a thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores his lost youth to a man."
Immediately, Gilgamesh launches the boat out to sea and begins looking for the plant that Utnapishtim told him about.
"He tied heavy stones to his feet and they dragged him down to the water-bed. There he saw the plant growing ; although it pricked him he took it in his hands; then he cute the heavy stones from his feet, and the sea carried him up and threw him onto the shore."
"Come here, and see this marvelous plant. By its virtue a man may win back all his former strength."
"I will take it to Uruk of the strong walls; there I will give it to the old men to eat. Its name shall be 'The Old Men Are Young Again'; and at last I shall eat it myself and have back all my lost youth."
"Gilgamesh saw a well of cool water and he went down and bathed; but deep in the pool there was lying a serpent, and the serpent sensed the sweetness of the flower. It rose out of the water and snatched it away, and immediately it sloughed its skin and returned to the well."
When Gilgamesh realizes that his quest for immortality has failed, he weeps.
Gilgamesh grabs Urshanabi's hand and cries, "O Urshanabi, was it for this that I toiled with my hands, is it for this I have wrung out my heart's blood?"
"For myself I have gained nothing; nor I, but the beast of the earth has joy of it now."
"Already the stream has carried it twenty leagues back to the channels where I found it. I found a sign and now I have lost it. Let us leave the boat on the bank and go."
After twenty leagues they broke their fast, after thirty leagues they stopped for the night; in three days they had walked as much as a journey of a month and fifteen days."
When they finally arrive back at the gates of Uruk, Gilgamesh says, "Urshanabi, climb up onto the wall of Uruk, inspect its foundation terrace, and examine well the brickwork; see if it is not of burnt bricks; and did not the seven wise men lay these foundations?"
"One third of the whole is city, one third is garden, and one third is field, with the precinct of the goddess Ishtar. These parts and the precinct are all Uruk.
"This too was the work of Gilgamesh, the king, who knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood. He went a long journey, was weary, worn out with labor, and returning engraved on a stone the whole story."
Gilgamesh rules the people of Uruk for many years, taking with him all the lessons he learned on his journey.
"The destiny was fulfilled which the father of the gods, Enlil of the mountain, had decreed for Gilgamesh."
"In nether-earth the darkness will show him a light: of mankind, all that are known, none will leave a monument for generations to come to compare with his.
"Men will say, 'Who has ever ruled with might and with power like him?' As in the dark month, the month of shadows, so without him there is no light. O Gilgames, this was the meaning of your dream. You were given kingship, such was your destiny, everlasting life was not your destiny."
And when Gilgamesh dies, the people of Uruk lift up their laments to a great extent.
"The people of the city, great and small, are not silent; they lift up the lament, all men of flesh and blood lift up the lament."
"For Gilgamesh they weighed out their offerings; his dear wife, his son, his concubine, his musicians, his jester, and all his household; his servants, his stewards, all who lived in the palace weighed out their offering for Gilgamesh, the heart of Uruk."
"Gilgamesh lies in the tomb. In those days the lord Gilgamesh departed, the king, peerless, without an equal among men, who did not neglect Enlil his master. O Gilgamesh, great is they praise."