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Category: Gilgamish

A Serpent Steals the Plant of Immortality in the Eleventh Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh

THE ELEVENTH TABLET.

” … When Uta-Napishtim had finished the story of the Deluge, he said to Gilgamish, “Now, as touching thyself; who will gather the gods together for thee, so that thou mayest find the life which thou seekest? Come now, do not lay thyself down to sleep for six days and seven nights.”

But in spite of this admonition, as soon as Gilgamish had sat down, drowsiness overpowered him and he fell fast asleep. Uta-Napishtim, seeing that even the mighty hero Gilgamish could not resist falling asleep, with some amusement drew the attention of his wife to the fact, but she felt sorry for the tired man, and suggested that he should take steps to help him to return to his home.

In reply Uta-Napishtim told her to bake bread for him, and she did so, but she noted by a mark on the house-wall each day that he slept. On the seventh day, when she took the loaf Uta-Napishtim touched Gilgamish, and the hero woke up with a start, and admitted that he had been overcome with sleep, and made incapable of movement thereby.

Still vexed with the thought of death and filled with anxiety to escape from it, Gilgamish asked his host what he should do and where he should go to effect his object. By Uta-Napishtim’s advice, he made an agreement with Ur-Shanabi the boatman, and prepared to re-cross the sea on his way home.

But before he set out on his way Uta-Napishtim told him of the existence of a plant which grew at the bottom of the sea, and apparently led Gilgamish to believe that the possession of it would confer upon him immortality.

Thereupon Gilgamish tied heavy stones [to his feet], and let himself down into the sea through an opening in the floor of the boat. When he reached the bottom of the sea, he saw the plant and plucked it, and ascended into the boat with it.

Showing it to Ur-Shanabi, he told him that it was a most marvellous plant, and that it would enable a man to obtain his heart’s desire. Its name was “Shîbu issahir amelu,” i.e., “The old man becometh young [again],” and Gilgamish declared that he would “eat of it in order to recover his lost youth,” and that he would take it home to his fortified city of Erech. Misfortune, however, dogged his steps, and the plant never reached Erech, for whilst Gilgamish and Ur-Shanabi were on their way back to Erech they passed a pool the water of which was very cold, and Gilgamish dived into it and took a bath.

Whilst there a serpent discovered the whereabouts of the plant through its smell and swallowed it. When Gilgamish saw what had happened he cursed aloud, and sat down and wept, and the tears coursed down his cheeks as he lamented over the waste of his toil, and the vain expenditure of his heart’s blood, and his failure to do any good for himself.

Disheartened and weary he struggled on his way with his friend, and at length they arrived at the fortified city of Erech.

Then Gilgamish told Ur-Shanabi to jump up on the wall and examine the bricks from the foundations to the battlements, and see if the plans which he had made concerning them had been carried out during his absence.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 54-6.

Death is the Fate of Mankind in the 10th Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh

THE TENTH TABLET.

“In the region to which Gilgamish had come stood the palace or fortress of the goddess Siduri, who was called the “hostess,” or “ale-wife,” and to this he directed his steps with the view of obtaining help to continue his journey.

The goddess wore a veil and sat upon a throne by the side of the sea, and when she saw him coming towards her palace, travel-stained and clad in the ragged skin of some animal, she thought that he might prove an undesirable visitor, and so ordered the door of her palace to be closed against him.

But Gilgamish managed to obtain speech with her, and having asked her what ailed her, and why she had closed her door, he threatened to smash the bolt and break down the door. In answer Siduri said to him:–

“Why is thy vigour wasted? Thy face is bowed down,

Thine heart is sad, thy form is dejected,

And there is lamentation in thy heart.”

And she went on to tell him that he had the appearance of one who had travelled far, that he was a painful sight to look upon, that his face was burnt, and finally seems to have suggested that he was a runaway trying to escape from the country. To this Gilgamish replied:–

“Nay, my vigour is not wasted, my face not bowed down,

My heart not sad, my form not dejected.”

And then he told the goddess that his ill-looks and miserable appearance were due to the fact that death had carried off his dear friend Enkidu, the “panther of the desert,” who had traversed the mountains with him and had helped him to overcome Khumbaba in the cedar forest, and to slay the bull of heaven, Enkidu his dear friend who had fought with lions and killed them, and who had been with him in all his difficulties; and, he added, “I wept over him for six days and nights . . . . before I would let him be buried.”

Continuing his narrative, Gilgamish said to Siduri:

“I was horribly afraid . . .

I was afraid of death, and therefore I wander over the country.

The fate of my friend lieth heavily upon me,

Therefore am I travelling on a long journey through the country.

The fate of my friend lieth heavily upon me,

Therefore am I travelling on a long journey through the country.

How is it possible for me to keep silence? How is it possible for me to cry out?

My friend whom I loved hath become like the dust.

Enkidu, my friend whom I loved hath become like the dust.

Shall not I myself also be obliged to lay me down

And never again rise up to all eternity?”

To this complaint the ale-wife replied that the quest of eternal life was vain, since death was decreed to mankind by the gods at the time of creation. She advised him, therefore, to enjoy all mortal pleasures while life lasted and to abandon his hopeless journey.

But Gilgamish still persisted, and asked how he might reach Uta-Napishtim, for thither he was determined to go, whether across the ocean or by land.

Then the ale-wife answered and said to Gilgamish:

“There never was a passage, O Gilgamish,

And no one, who from the earliest times came hither, hath crossed the sea.

The hero Shamash (the Sun-god) hath indeed crossed the sea, but who besides him could do so?

The passage is hard, and the way is difficult,

And the Waters of Death which bar its front are deep.

If, then, Gilgamish, thou art able to cross the sea,

When thou arrivest at the Waters of Death what wilt thou do?”

Siduri then told Gilgamish that Ur-Shanabi, the boatman of Uta-Napishtim, was in the place, and that he should see him, and added:

“If it be possible cross with him, and if it be impossible turn back.”

Gilgamish left the goddess and succeeded in finding Ur-Shanabi, the boatman, who addressed to him words similar to those of Siduri quoted above. Gilgamish answered him as he had answered Siduri, and then asked him for news about the road to Uta-Napishtim.

In reply Ur-Shanabi told him to take his axe and to go down into the forest and cut a number of poles 60 cubits long; Gilgamish did so, and when he returned with them he went up into the boat with Ur-Shanabi, and they made a voyage of one month and fifteen days; on the third day they reached the [limit of the] Waters of Death, which Ur-Shanabi told Gilgamish not to touch with his hand.

Meanwhile, Uta-Napishtim had seen the boat coming and, as something in its appearance seemed strange to him, he went down to the shore to see who the newcomers were. When he saw Gilgamish he asked him the same questions that Siduri and Ur-Shanabi had asked him, and Gilgamish answered as he had answered them, and then went on to tell him the reason for his coming.

He said that he had determined to go to visit Uta-Napishtim, the remote, and had therefore journeyed far, and that in the course of his travels he had passed over difficult mountains and crossed the sea. He had not succeeded in entering the house of Siduri, for she had caused him to be driven from her door on account of his dirty, ragged, and travel-stained apparel. He had eaten birds and beasts of many kinds, the lion, the panther, the jackal, the antelope, mountain goat, etc., and, apparently, had dressed himself in their skins.

A break in the text makes it impossible to give the opening lines of Uta-Napishtim’s reply, but he mentions the father and mother of Gilgamish, and in the last twenty lines of the Tenth Tablet he warns Gilgamish that on earth there is nothing permanent, that Mammitum, the arranger of destinies, has settled the question of the death and life of man with the Anunnaki, and that none may find out the day of his death or escape from death.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 51-3.

Gilgamesh Sees the Tree of the Gods in the 9th Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh

THE NINTH TABLET.

“In bitter grief Gilgamish wandered about the country uttering lamentations for his beloved companion, Enkidu. As he went about he thought to himself,

“I myself shall die, and shall not I then be as Enkidu?

Sorrow hath entered into my soul,

Because I fear death do I wander over the country.”

His fervent desire was to escape from death, and remembering that his ancestor Uta-Napishtim, the son of Ubara-Tutu, had become deified and immortal, Gilgamish determined to set out for the place where he lived in order to obtain from him the secret of immortality.

Where Uta-Napishtim lived was unknown to Gilgamish, but he seems to have made up his mind that he would have to face danger in reaching the place, for he says, “I will set out and travel quickly. I shall reach the defiles in the mountains by night, and if I see lions, and am terrified at them, I shall lift up my head and appeal to the Moon-god, and to (Ishtar, the Lady of the Gods), who is wont to hearken to my prayers.”

After Gilgamish set out to go to the west he was attacked either by men or animals, but he overcame them and went on until he arrived at Mount Mashu, where it would seem the sun was thought both to rise and to set.

The approach to this mountain was guarded by Scorpion-men, whose aspect was so terrible that the mere sight of it was sufficient to kill the mortal who beheld them; even the mountains collapsed under the glance of their eyes.

When Gilgamish saw the Scorpion-men he was smitten with fear, and under the influence of his terror the colour of his face changed, and he fell prostrate before them.

Then a Scorpion-man cried out to his wife, saying, “The body of him that cometh to us is the flesh of the gods,” and she replied, “Two-thirds of him is god, and the other third is man.”

The Scorpion-man then received Gilgamish kindly, and warned him that the way which he was about to travel was full of danger and difficulty. Gilgamish told him that he was in search of his ancestor, Uta-Napishtim, who had been deified and made immortal by the gods, and that it was his intention to go to him to learn the secret of immortality.

The Scorpion-man in answer told him that it was impossible for him to continue his journey through that country, for no man had ever succeeded in passing through the dark region of that mountain, which required twelve double-hours to traverse.

Nothing dismayed, Gilgamish set out on the road through the mountains, and the darkness increased in density every hour, but he struggled on, and at the end of the twelfth hour he arrived at a region where there was bright daylight, and he entered a lovely garden, filled with trees loaded with luscious fruits, and he saw the “tree of the gods.” Here the Sun-god called to him that his quest must be in vain, but Gilgamish replied that he would do anything to escape death.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 49-51.

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

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.

The Friendship of Enkidu and Gilgamesh, the 2d Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh

” … When Enkidu saw the beasts forsake him his knees gave way, and he could not run as of old; but when he came to himself he returned to the harlot. She spoke to him flattering words, and asked him why he wandered with the wild beasts in the desert, and then told him she wished to take him back with her to Erech, where Anu and Ishtar lived, and where the mighty Gilgamish reigned.

Enkidu hearkened and the harlot then told him of the glories of Erech and of Gilgamish, who, she said, had been forewarned of Enkidu’s coming by two dreams, which he had related to his divine mother, Nin-sun. These she had interpreted as foreshowing the approach of a strong and faithful friend.

THE SECOND TABLET.

Having related these dreams of Gilgamish, the harlot again urged Enkidu to go with her to Erech, and they set out together. On the way she brought him to a shepherds’ village, where she instructed him how to eat the bread and beer which was set before him; for until then he had only sucked the milk of cattle.

By virtue of eating and drinking this human fare Enkidu became a man instead of a beast, and, taking weapons, he hunted the lions and wolves which preyed upon the shepherds’ flocks.

A messenger from Gilgamish now appeared with a summons to the city. He announced that the king offered entertainment, but that he would expect the customary present from a stranger, and would exercise his privilege over the woman who accompanied him.

The entrance of Enkidu into the city caused a general excitement, all being amazed at his surpassing strength and his conversion from savagery. The first meeting of Gilgamish and Enkidu took place when the king came in the night to claim his right to the strange woman.

Enkidu violently resisted him, and the two heroes in the doorway “grappled and snorted (?) like bulls; they shattered the threshold, the wall quivered” in their strife. Gilgamish was finally worsted, but the result of this combat was that the two became fast friends and allies.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, p. 43.

Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Nameless Harlot

THE EPIC OF GILGAMISH.

“The narrative of the life, exploits and travels of Gilgamish, king of Erech, filled Twelve Tablets which formed the Series called from the first three words of the First Tablet, SHA NAGBU IMURUi.e., “He who hath seen all things.”

The exact period of the reign of this king is unknown, but in the list of the Sumerian kingdoms he is fifth ruler in the Dynasty of Erech, which was considered the second dynasty to reign after the Deluge. He was said to have ruled for 126 years.

The principal authorities for the Epic are the numerous fragments of the tablets that were found in the ruins of the Library of Nebo and the Royal Library of Ashur-bani-pal at Nineveh, and are now in the British Museum, but very valuable portions of other and older versions (including some fragments of a Hittite translation) have now been recovered from various sources, and these contribute greatly to the reconstruction of the story.

The contents of the Twelve Tablets may be briefly described thus–

THE FIRST TABLET.

The opening lines describe the great knowledge and wisdom of Gilgamish, who saw everything, learned everything, under stood everything, who probed to the bottom the hidden mysteries of wisdom, and who knew the history of everything that happened before the Deluge.

He travelled far over sea and land, and performed mighty deeds, and then he cut upon a tablet of stone an account of all that he had done and suffered. He built the wall of Erech, founded the holy temple of E-Anna, and carried out other great architectural works.

He was a semi-divine being, for his body was formed of the “flesh of the gods,” and “two-thirds of him were god, and one-third was man,” The description of his person is lost. As Shepherd (i.e., King) of Erech he forced the people to toil overmuch, and his demands reduced them to such a state of misery that they cried out to the gods and begged them to create some king who should control Gilgamish and give them deliverance from him.

The gods hearkened to the prayer of the men of Erech, and they commanded the goddess Aruru to create a rival to Gilgamish. The goddess agreed to do their bidding, and having planned in her mind what manner of being she intended to make, she washed her hands, took a piece of clay, cast it on the ground, and made a male creature like the god En-urta. His body was covered all over with hair. The hair of his head was long like that of a woman, and he wore clothing like that of Sumuqan, the god of cattle.

He was different in every way from the people of the country, and his name was Enkidu. He lived in the forests on the hills, ate herbs like the gazelle, drank with the wild cattle, and herded with the beasts of the field. He was mighty in stature, invincible in strength, and obtained complete mastery over all the creatures of the forests in which he lived.

One day a certain hunter went out to snare game, and he dug pit-traps and laid nets, and made his usual preparations for roping in his prey. But after doing this for three days he found that his pits were filled up and his nets smashed, and he saw Enkidu releasing the beasts that had been snared.

The hunter was terrified at the sight of Enkidu, and went home hastily and told his father what he had seen and how badly he had fared. By his father’s advice he went to Erech, and reported to Gilgamish what had happened.

When Gilgamish heard his story he advised him to act upon a suggestion which the hunter’s father had already made, namely that he should hire a harlot and take her out to the forest, so that Enkidu might be ensnared by the sight of her beauty, and take up his abode with her.

The hunter accepted this advice, and having found a harlot to help him in removing Enkidu from the forests, he set out from Erech with her and in due course arrived at the forest where Enkidu lived, and sat down by the place where the beasts came to drink.

On the second day when the beasts came to drink and Enkidu was with them, the woman carried out the instructions which the hunter had given her, and when Enkidu saw her cast aside her veil, he left his beasts and came to her, and remained with her for six days and seven nights. At the end of this period he returned to the beasts with which he had lived on friendly terms, but as soon as the gazelle winded him they took to flight, and the wild cattle disappeared into the woods.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 41-3.

The 11th Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Quest for Human Immortality

THE BABYLONIAN LEGEND OF THE DELUGE AS TOLD TO THE HERO GILGAMISH BY HIS ANCESTOR UTA-NAPISHTIM, WHO HAD BEEN MADE IMMORTAL BY THE GODS.

“The form of the Legend of the Deluge given below is that which is found on the Eleventh of the Series of Twelve Tablets in the Royal Library at Nineveh, which described the life and exploits of Gilgamish, an early king of the city of Erech.

As we have seen above, the Legend of the Deluge has probably no original connection with the Epic of Gilgamish, but was introduced into it by the editors of the Epic at a comparatively late period, perhaps even during the reign of Ashur-bani-pal (B.C. 669-626).

… It is … only necessary to state here that Gilgamish, who was horrified and almost beside himself when his bosom friend and companion Enkidu died, meditated deeply how he could escape death himself. He knew that his ancestor Uta-Napishtim had become immortal, therefore he determined to set out for the place where Uta-Napishtim lived so that he might obtain from him the secret of immortality.

Guided by a dream, Gilgamish set out for the Mountain of the Sunset, and, after great toil and many difficulties, came to the shore of a vast sea. Here he met Ur-Shanabi, the boatman of Uta-Napishtim, who was persuaded to carry him in his boat over the “waters of death,” and at length he landed on the shore of the country of Uta-Napishtim.

The immortal came down to the shore and asked the newcomer the object of his visit, and Gilgamish told him of the death of his great friend Enkidu, and of his desire to escape from death and to find immortality. Uta-Napishtim having made to Gilgamish some remarks which seem to indicate that in his opinion death was inevitable,

1. Gilgamish said unto him, to Uta-Napishtim the remote:

2. “I am looking at thee, Uta-Napishtim.

3. Thy person is not altered; even as am I so art thou.

4. Verily, nothing about thee is changed; even as am I so art thou.

5. A heart to do battle doth make thee complete,

6. Yet at rest (?) thou dost lie upon thy back.

7. How then hast thou stood the company of the gods and sought life?”

Thereupon Uta-Napishtim related to Gilgamish the Story of the Deluge, and the Eleventh Tablet continues thus

8. Uta-Napishtim said unto him, to Gilgamish:

9. “I will reveal unto thee, O Gilgamish, a hidden mystery,

10. And a secret matter of the gods I will declare unto thee.

11. Shurippak, a city which thou thyself knowest,

12. On [the bank] of the river Puratti (Euphrates) is situated,

13. That city is old; and the gods [dwelling] within it

14. Their hearts induced the great gods to make a windstorm (a-bu-bi),

15. There was their father Anu,

16. Their counsellor, the warrior Enlil,

17. Their messenger En-urta [and]

18. Their prince Ennugi.

19. Nin-igi-ku, Ea, was with them [in council] and

20. reported their word to a house of reeds.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 30-2.

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