Gilgamesh Recites the Iniquities of the Goddess Ishtar, the Sixth Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh

by Esteban

THE SIXTH TABLET.

“The scene now returns to Erech, whither the heroes returned after their glorious exploit. As Gilgamish was washing himself and dressing himself in splendid attire the goddess Ishtar saw his comeliness and desired him to be her lover, saying,

Go to, Gilgamish, do thou be (my) bridegroom,

Give me freely the fruit (of thy body).

Be thou my husband, I will be thy wife,

(So) will I make them yoke for thee a chariot of lapis-lazuli and gold,

Its wheels of gold, and its horns of electrum.

Every day shalt thou harness great mules thereto.

Enter (then) our house with the perfume of cedar.

When thou enterest our house

Threshold and dais shall kiss thy feet,

Beneath thee shall kings, lords and princes do homage,

Bringing thee as tribute the yield of the mountains and plains,

Thy she-goats shall bring forth abundantly, thy ewes bear twins,

Thine asses shall be (each) as great as a mule,

Thy horses in the chariot shall be famous for their swiftness,

Thy mules in the yoke shall not have a peer.

In answer to this invitation, Gilgamish made a long speech, in which he reviewed the calamities of those who had been unfortunate enough to attract the love of the goddess. To be her husband would be a burdensome privilege, and her love was deceptive, a ruin that gave no shelter, a door that let in the storm, a crazy building, a pitfall, defiling pitch, a leaky vessel, a crumbling stone, a worthless charm, an ill-fitting shoe.

“Who was ever thy lord that had advantage thereby? Come, I will unfold the tale of thy lovers.”

He refers to Tammuz, the lover of her youth, for whom year by year she causes wailing. Every creature that fell under her sway suffered mutilation or death; the bird’s wings were broken, the lion destroyed, the horse driven to death with whip and spur.

Her human lovers fared no better, for a shepherd, once her favourite, was turned by her into a jackal and torn by his own dogs, and Ishullanu, her father’s gardener, was turned into a spider (?) because he refused her advances.

“So, too,” said Gilgamish, “would’st thou love me, and (then) make me like unto them.”

When Ishtar heard these words she was filled with rage, and went up to heaven, and complained to Anu her father and Antu her mother that Gilgamish had blasphemed her, and revealed all her iniquitous deeds.

Anu replied, in effect, that it was her own fault, but she insisted in the request that he should create a heavenly bull to destroy Gilgamish. This he finally agreed to do, and the bull appeared before the citizens of Erech, and destroyed one, two and three hundred men who were sent out against him.

At length Enkidu and Gilgamish attacked the bull themselves, and after a hard fight: the details of which are lost, they slew him, and offered his heart together with a libation to the Sun-god. As soon as Ishtar heard of the bull’s death she rushed out on the battlements of the wall of Erech and cursed Gilgamish for destroying her bull.

When Enkidu heard what Ishtar said, he tore out the member of the bull and threw it before the goddess, saying, “Could I but get it at thee, I would serve thee like him; I would hang his it entrails about thee.”

Then Ishtar gathered together all her temple-women and harlots, and with them made lamentation over the member of the bull.

And Gilgamish called together the artisans of Erech, who came and marvelled at the size of the bull’s horns, for each of them was in bulk equal to 30 minas of lapis-lazuli, their thickness two finger-breadths, and together they contained six kur measures of oil.

These Gilgamish dedicated in the temple of his god Lugalbanda, to hold the god’s unguent, and, having made his offering, he and Enkidu washed their hands in the Euphrates, took their way back to the city, and rode through the streets of Erech, the people thronging round to admire them.

Gilgamish put forth a question to the people, saying

Who is splendid among men?

Who is glorious among heroes?

And the answer was:

[Gilgamish] is splendid among men,

[Enkidu] is glorious among heroes.

Gilgamish made a great feast in his palace, and after it all lay down to sleep. Enkidu also slept and had a vision, so he rose up and related it to Gilgamish.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, p. 45-8.