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The Epic Of Gilgamesh
THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH
N. K. Sanders
Assyrian International News Agency
Books Online
www.aina.org
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The Epic Of Gilgamesh
CONTENT
PROLOGUE ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………3
GILGAMESH KING IN URUK ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………3
1 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….4
THE COMING OF ENKIDU ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….4
2 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….7
THE FOREST JOURNEY ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………7
3 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 12
ISHTAR AND GILGAMESH, AND THE DEATH OF ENKIDU ………………………………………………………….. 12
4 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 16
THE SEARCH FOR EVERLASTING LIFE ………………………………………………………………………………………… 16
5 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20
THE STORY OF THE FLOOD ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20
6 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 22
THE RETURN …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 22
7 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 24
THE DEATH OF GILGAMESH ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 24
GLOSSARY OF NAMES …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25
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The Epic Of Gilgamesh
PROLOGUE
GILGAMESH KING IN URUK
I WILL proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh. This was the man to whom all things were known; this
was 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 on a long journey, was weary, worn-out with labour,
returning he rested, he engraved on a stone the whole story.
When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with
beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all
others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man.
In Uruk he built walls, a great rampart, and the temple of blessed Eanna for the god of the firmament Anu, and
for Ishtar the goddess of love. Look at it still today: the outer wall where the cornice runs, it shines with the
brilliance of copper; and the inner wall, it has no equal. Touch the threshold, it is ancient. Approach Eanna the
dwelling of Ishtar, our lady of love and war, the like of which no latter-day king, no man alive can equal. Climb
upon the wall of Uruk; walk along it, I say; regard the foundation terrace and examine the. masonry: is it not burnt
brick and good? The seven sages laid the foundations.
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The Epic Of Gilgamesh
1
THE COMING OF ENKIDU
GILGAMESH went abroad in the world, but he met with none who could withstand his arms till be came to
Uruk. But the men of Uruk muttered in their houses, ‘Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance
has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the
king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the
wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute.’
The gods heard their lament, the gods of
heaven cried to the Lord of Uruk, to Anu the god of
Uruk: ‘A goddess made him, strong as a savage bull,
none can withstand his arms. No son is left with his
father, for Gilgamesh takes them all; and is this the
king, the shepherd of his people? His lust leaves no
virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor
the wife of the noble. When Anu had heard their
lamentation the gods cried to Aruru, the goddess of
creation, ‘You made him, O Aruru; now create his
equal; let it be as like him as his own reflection, his
second self; stormy heart for stormy heart. Let them
contend together and leave Uruk in quiet.’
So the goddess conceived an image in her
mind, and it was of the stuff of Anu of the
firmament. She dipped her hands in water and
pinched off clay, she let it fall in the wilderness, and
noble Enkidu was created. There was virtue in him
of the god of war, of Ninurta himself. His body was
rough, he had long hair like a woman’s; it waved
like the hair of Nisaba, the goddess of corn. His
body was covered with matted hair like Samugan’s,
the god of cattle. He was innocent of mankind; he
knew nothing of the cultivated land.
Enkidu ate grass in the hills with the gazelle
and lurked with wild beasts at the water-holes; he
had joy of the water with the herds of wild game.
But there was a trapper who met him one day face to
face at the drinking-hole, for the wild game had
entered his territory. On three days he met him face
to face, and the trapper was frozen with fear. He
went back to his house with the game that he had
caught, and he was dumb, benumbed with terror.
His face was altered like that of one who has made a long journey. With awe in his heart he spoke to his father:
‘Father, there is a man, unlike any other, who comes down from the hills. He is the strongest in the world, he is like
an immortal from heaven. He ranges over the hills with wild beasts and eats grass; the ranges through your land and
comes down to the wells. I am afraid and dare not go near him. He fills in the pits which I dig and tears up-my traps
set for the game; he helps the beasts to escape and now they slip through my fingers.’
His father opened his mouth and said to the trapper, ‘My son, in Uruk lives Gilgamesh; no one has ever prevailed against him, he is strong as a star from heaven. Go to Uruk, find Gilgamesh, extol the strength of this wild
man. Ask him to give you a harlot, a wanton from the temple of love; return with her, and let her woman’s power
overpower this man. When next he comes down to drink at the wells she will be there, stripped naked; and when he sees
her beckoning he will embrace her, and then the wild beasts will reject him.’
So the trapper set out on his journey to Uruk and addressed himself to Gilgamesh saying, ‘A man unlike any other is
roaming now in the pastures; he is as strong as a star from heaven and I am afraid to approach him. He helps the wild
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The Epic Of Gilgamesh
game to escape; he fills in my pits and pulls up my traps.’ Gilgamesh said, ‘Trapper, go back, take with you a harlot, a
child of pleasure. At the drinking hole she will strip, and when, he sees her beckoning he will embrace her and the game
of the wilderness will. surely reject him.’
Now the trapper returned, taking the harlot with him. After a three days’ journey they came to the drinking hole, and
there they sat down; the harlot and the trapper sat . facing one another and waited for the game to come. For the first day
and for the second day the two sat waiting, but on the third day the herds came; they came down to drink and Enkidu was
with them. The small wild creatures of the plains were glad of the water, and Enkidu with them, who ate grass with the
gazelle and was born in the hills; and she saw him, the savage man, come from far-off in the hills. The trapper spoke to
her: ‘There he is. Now, woman, make your breasts bare, have no shame, do not delay but welcome his love. Let him see
you naked, let him possess your body. When he comes near uncover yourself and lie with him; teach him, the savage man,
your woman’s art, for when he murmurs love to you the wild’ beasts that shared his life in the hills will reject him.’
She was not ashamed to take him, she made herself naked and welcomed his eagerness; as he lay on her murmuring
love she taught him the woman’s art For six days and seven nights they lay together, for Enkidu had forgotten his home in
the hills; but when he was satisfied he went back to the wild beasts. Then, when the gazelle saw him, they bolted away;
when the wild creatures saw him they fled. Enkidu would have followed, but his body was bound a s though with a cord,
his knees gave way when he started to run, his swiftness was gone. And n o w the wild creatures had all fled away;
Enkidu was grown w e a k , for wisdom was in him, and the thoughts of a man were in his heart. So he returned and sat
down at the woman’s feet, and listened intently to what she said. ‘You are wise, Enkidu, and now you have become like a
god. Why do you want to run wild with the beasts in the hills? Come with me. I will take you to strong-walled Uruk, to the
blessed temple of Ishtar and of Anu, of love and of heaven there Gilgamesh lives, who is very strong, and like a wild bull
he lords it over men.’
When she had spoken Enkidu was pleased; he longed for a comrade, for one who would understand his heart.

Come, woman, and take me to that holy temple, to the house of Anu and of Ishtar, and to the place where Gilgamesh lords
it over the people. I will challenge him boldly, I will cry out aloud in Uruk, “I am the strongest here, I have come to
change the old order, I am he who was born in the hills, I am he who is strongest of all.”‘
She said, ‘Let us go, and let him see your face. I know very well where Gilgamesh is in great Uruk. O Enkidu, there
all the people are dressed in their gorgeous robes, every day is holiday, the young men and the girls are wonderful to see.
How sweet they smell! All the great ones are roused from their beds. O Enkidu, you who love life, I will show you
Gilgamesh, a man of many moods; you shall look at him well in his radiant manhood. His body is perfect in strength
and maturity; he never rests by night or day. He is stronger than you, so leave your boasting. Shamash the glorious
sun has given favours to Gilgamesh, and Anu of the heavens, and Enlil, and Ea the wise has given him deep
understanding. f tell you, even before you have left the wilderness, Gilgamesh will know in his dreams that you are
coming.’
Now Gilgamesh got up to tell his dream to his mother; Ninsun, one of the wise gods. ‘Mother, last night I had a
dream. I was full of joy, the young heroes were round me and I walked through the night under the stars of the
firmament, and one, a meteor of the stuff of Anu, fell down from heaven. I tried to lift it but it proved too heavy. All
the people of Uruk came round to see it, the common people jostled and the nobles thronged to kiss its feet; and to
me its attraction was like the love of woman. They helped me, I braced my forehead and I raised it with thongs and
brought it to you, and you yourself pronounced it my brother.’
Then Ninsun, who is well-beloved and wise, said to Gilgamesh, ‘This star of heaven which descended like a
meteor from the sky; which you tried to lift,- but found too heavy, when you tried to move it it would not budge, and
so you brought it to my feet; I made it for you, a goad and spur, and you were drawn as though to a woman. This is
the strong comrade, the one who brings help to his friend in his need. He is the strongest of wild creatures, the stuff
of Anu; born in the grass-lands and the wild hills reared him; when you see him you will be glad; you will love him
as a woman and he will never forsake you. This is the meaning of the dream.’
Gilgamesh said, ‘Mother, I dreamed a second dream. In the streets of strong-walled Uruk there lay an axe; the
shape of it was strange and the people thronged round. I saw it and was glad. I bent down, deeply drawn towards it; I
loved it like a woman and wore it at my side.’ Ninsun answered, ‘That axe, which you saw, which drew you so
powerfully like love of a woman, that is the comrade whom I give you, and he will come in his strength like one of
the host of heaven. He is the brave companion who rescues his friend in necessity.’ Gilgamesh said to his mother, ‘A
friend, a counsellor has come to me from Enlil, and now I shall befriend and counsel him.’ So Gilgamesh told his
dreams; and the harlot retold them to Enkidu.
And now she said to Enkidu, ‘When I look at you you have become like a god. Why do you yearn to run wild
again with the beasts in the hills? Get up from the ground, the bed of a shepherd.’ He listened to her words with care.
It was good advice that she gave. She divided her clothing in two and with the one half she clothed him and with the
other herself, and holding his hand she led him like a child to the sheepfolds, into the shepherds’ tents. There all the
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The Epic Of Gilgamesh
shepherds crowded round to see him, they put down bread in front of him, but Enkidu could only suck the milk of
wild animals. He fumbled and gaped, at a loss what to do or how he should eat the bread and drink the strong wine.
Then the woman said, ‘Enkidu, eat bread, it is the staff of life; drink the wine, it is the custom of the land.’ So he ate
till he was full and drank strong wine, seven goblets. He became merry, his heart exulted and his face shone. He
rubbed down the matted hair of his body and anointed himself with oil. Enkidu had become a man; but when he had
put on man’s clothing he appeared like a bridegroom. He took arms to hunt the lion so that the shepherds could rest at
night. He caught wolves and lions and the herdsmen lay down in peace; for Enkidu was their watchman, that strong man
who had no rival.
He was merry living with the shepherds, till one day lifting his eyes he saw a man approaching. He said to the harlot,
‘Woman, fetch that man here. Why has he come? I wish to know his name.’ She went and called the man saying, ‘Sir,
where are you going on this weary journey?’ The man answered, saying to Enkidu, ‘Gilgamesh has gone into the
marriage-house and shut out the people. He does strange things in Uruk, the city of great streets. At the roll of the drum
work begins for the men, and work for the women. Gilgamesh the king is about to celebrate marriage with the Queen of
Love, and he still demands to be first with the bride, the king to be first and the husband to follow, for that was ordained
by the gods from his birth, from the time the umbilical cord was cut. But now the drums roll for the choice of the bride and
the city groans.’ At these words Enkidu turned white in the face. ‘I will go to the place where Gilgamesh lords it over the
people, I will challenge him boldly, and I will cry aloud in Uruk, “I have come to change the old order, for I am the
strongest here.”
Now Enkidu strode in front and the woman followed behind. He entered Uruk, that great market, and all the folk
thronged round him where he stood in the street in strong-walled Uruk. The people jostled; speaking of him they said, ‘He
is the spit of Gilgamesh. ‘He is shorter.’ ‘He is bigger of bone.’ This is the one who was reared on the milk of wild beasts.
His is the greatest strength.’ The men rejoiced: ‘Now Gilgamesh has met his match. This great-one, this hero whose beauty
is like a god, he is a match even for Gilgamesh.’
In Uruk the bridal bed was made, fit for the goddess of love. The bride waited for the bridegroom, but in the night
Gilgamesh got up and came to the house. Then Enkidu stepped out, he stood in the street and blocked the way. Mighty
Gilgamesh came on and Enkidu met him at the gate. He put out his foot and prevented Gilgamesh from entering the
house, so they grappled, holding each other like bulls. They broke the doorposts and the walls shook, they snorted like
bulls locked together. They shattered the doorposts and the walls shook. Gilgamesh bent his knee with his foot planted on
the ground and with a turn Enkidu was thrown. Then immediately his fury died. When Enkidu was thrown he said to
Gilgamesh, ‘There is not another like you in the world. Ninsun, who is as strong as a wild ox in the byre, she was the
mother who bore you, and now you are raised above all men, and Enlil has given you the kingship, for your strength surpasses the strength of men.’ So Enkidu and Gilgamesh embraced and their friendship was sealed.
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The Epic Of Gilgamesh
2
THE FOREST JOURNEY
ENLIL of the mountain, the father of the gods, had decreed the destiny of Gilgamesh. So Gilgamesh dreamed and
Enkidu said, ‘The meaning of the dream is this. The father of the gods has given you kingship, such is your destiny,
everlasting life is not your destiny. Because of this do not be sad at heart, do not be grieved or oppressed. He has given
you power to bind and to loose, to be the darkness and the light of mankind. He has given you unexampled supremacy
over the people, victory in battle from which no fugitive returns, in forays and assaults from which there is no going back.
But do not abuse this power, deal justly with your servants in the palace, deal justly before Shamash.’
The eyes of Enkidu were full of tears and his
heart was sick. He sighed bitterly and Gilgamesh met
his eye and said,’ My friend, why do you sigh so
bitterly? But Enkidu opened his mouth and said, ‘I am
weak, my arms have lost their strength, the cry of
sorrow sticks in my throat, I am oppressed by idleness.’
It was then that the lord Gilgamesh turned his thoughts
to the Country of the Living; on the Land of Cedars the
lord Gilgamesh reflected. He said to his servant
Enkidu, ‘I have not established my name stamped on
bricks as my destiny decreed; therefore I will go to the
country where the cedar is felled. I will set up my
name in the place where the names of famous men are
written, and where- no man’s name is written yet I will
wise a monument to the gods. Because o£ the evil that
is in the land, we will go to the forest and destroy the
evil; for in the forest lives Humbaba whose name is
“Hugeness”, , a ferocious giant. But Enkidu sighed
bitterly and said, ‘When I went with the wild beasts
ranging through the wilderness I discovered the forest;
its length is ten thousand leagues in every direction.
Enlil has appointed Humbaba to guard it and armed
him iii sevenfold terrors, terrible to all flesh is
Humbaba. When he roars it is like the torrent of the
storm, his breath is like fire, and his jaws are death
itself. He guards the cedars so well that when the wild
heifer stirs in the forest, though she is sixty leagues
distant, he hears her. What man would willingly walk
into that country and explore its depths? I tell you,
weakness overpowers whoever goes near it: it is not an
equal struggle when one fights with Humbaba; he is a
great warrior, a battering-ram. Gilgamesh, the
watchman of the forest never sleeps.’
Gilgamesh replied: ‘Where is the man who can clamber t …
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