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Category: Uta-Napishtim

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.

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.

In the End, Dwelling at the Mouth of the Rivers

[THE ABUBU (CYCLONE) AND ITS EFFECTS DESCRIBED.]

“97. As soon as something of dawn shone in the sky

98. A black cloud from the foundation of heaven came up.

99. Inside it the god Adad thundered,

100. The gods Nabû and Sharru (i.e., Marduk) went before,

101. Marching as messengers over high land and plain,

102. Irragal (Nergal) tore out the post of the ship,

103. En-urta went on, he made the storm to descend.

104. The Anunnaki brandished their torches,

105. With their glare they lighted up the land.

106. The whirlwind (or, cyclone) of Adad swept up to heaven.

107. Every gleam of light was turned into darkness.

108. . . . . . the land . . . . . as if had laid it waste.

109. A whole day long [the flood descended] . . .

110. Swiftly it mounted up . . . . . [the water] reached to the mountains

111. [The water] attacked the people like a battle.

112. Brother saw not brother.

113. Men could not be known (or, recognized) in heaven.

114. The gods were terrified at the cyclone.

115. They shrank back and went up into the heaven of Anu.

116. The gods crouched like a dog and cowered by the wall.

117. The goddess Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail.

118. The Lady of the Gods lamented with a sweet voice [saying]:

[ISHTAR’S LAMENT.]

119. May that former day be turned into mud,

120. Because I commanded evil among the company of the gods.

121. How could I command evil among the company of the gods,

122. Command battle for the destruction of my people?

123. Did I of myself bring forth my people

124. That they might fill the sea like little fishes?

[UTA-NAPISHTIM’S STORY CONTINUED.]

125. The gods, the Anunnaki wailed with her.

126. The gods bowed themselves, and sat down weeping.

127. Their lips were shut tight (in distress) . . .

128. For six days and nights

129. The wind, the storm raged, and the cyclone overwhelmed the land.

[THE ABATING OF THE STORM.]

130. When the seventh day came the cyclone ceased, the storm and battle

131. which had fought like an army.

132. The sea became quiet, the grievous wind went down, the cyclone ceased.

133. I looked on the day and voices were stilled,

134. And all mankind were turned into mud,

135. The land had been laid flat like a terrace.

136. I opened the air-hole and the light fell upon my cheek,

137. I bowed myself, I sat down, I cried,

138. My tears poured down over my cheeks.

139. I looked over the quarters of the world, (to] the limits of ocean.

140. At twelve points islands appeared.

141. The ship grounded on the mountain of Nisir.

142. The mountain of Nisir held the ship, it let it not move.

143. The first day, the second day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.

144. The third day, the fourth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.

145. The fifth day, the sixth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.

146. When the seventh day had come

147. I brought out a dove and let her go free.

148. The dove flew away and [then] came back;

149. Because she had no place to alight on she came back.

150. I brought out a swallow and let her go free.

151. The swallow flew away and [then] came back;

152. Because she had no place to alight on she came back.

153. 1 brought out a raven and let her go free.

154. The raven flew away, she saw the sinking waters.

155. She ate, she waded (?), she rose (?), she came not back.

[UTA-NAPISHTIM LEAVES THE SHIP.]

156. Then I brought out [everything] to the four winds and made a sacrifice;

157. I set out an offering on the peak of the mountain.

158. Seven by seven I set out the vessels,

159. Under them I piled reeds, cedarwood and myrtle (?).

160. The gods smelt the savour,

161. The gods smelt the sweet savour.

162. The gods gathered together like flies over him that sacrificed.

[SPEECH OF ISHTAR, LADY OF THE GODS.]

163 Now when the Lady of the Gods came nigh,

164. She lifted up the priceless jewels which Anu had made according to her desire, [saying]

165. O ye gods here present, as I shall never forget the sapphire jewels of my neck

166. So shall I ever think about these days, and shall forget them nevermore!

167. Let the gods come to the offering,

168. But let not Enlil come to the offering,

16q. Because he took not thought and made the cyclone,

170. And delivered my people over to destruction.”

[THE ANGER OF ENLIL.]

171. Now when Enlil came nigh

172. He saw the ship; then was Enlil wroth

173. And he was filled with anger against the gods, the Igigi [saying]:

174. Hath any being escaped with his life?

175. He shall not remain alive, a man among the destruction

[SPEECH OF EN-URTA.]

176. Then En-urta opened his mouth and spake

177. And said unto the warrior Enlil:

178. Who besides the god Ea can make a plan?

179. The god Ea knoweth everything that is done.

18o. The god Ea opened his mouth and spake

181. And said unto the warrior Enlil,

182. O Prince among the gods, thou warrior,

183. How, how couldst thou, not taking thought, make a cyclone?

184. He who is sinful, on him lay his sin,

185. He who transgresseth, on him lay his transgression.

186. But be merciful that [everything] be not destroyed be long-suffering that [man be not blotted out].

187. Instead of thy making a cyclone,

188. Would that the lion had come and diminished mankind.

189. Instead of thy making a cyclone

190. Would that the wolf had come and diminished mankind.

191. Instead of thy making a cyclone

192. Would that a famine had arisen and [laid waste] the land.

193. Instead of thy making a cyclone

194. Would that Irra (the Plague god) had risen up and [laid waste] the land.

195. As for me I have not revealed the secret of the great gods.

196. I made Atra-hasis to see a vision, and thus he heard the secret of the gods.

197. Now therefore take counsel concerning him.

[ENLIL DEIFIES UTA-NAPISHTIM AND HIS WIFE.]

198. Then the god Enlil went up into the ship,

199. He seized me by the hand and brought me forth.

200. He brought forth my wife and made her to kneel by my side.

201. He touched our brows, he stood between us, he blessed us [saving],

202. Formerly Uta-Napishtim was a man merely,

203. But now let Uta-Napishtim and his wife be like unto us gods.

204. Uta-Napishtim shall dwell afar off, at the mouth of the rivers.

[UTA-NAPISHTIM ENDS HIS STORY OF THE DELUGE.]

205. And they took me away to a place afar off, and made me to dwell at the mouth of the rivers.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 35-40.

The Tale of Uta-Napishtim

[FIRST SPEECH OF EA TO UTA-NAPISHTIM WHO IS SLEEPING IN A REED HUT.]

“21. O House of reeds, O House of reeds! O Wall. O Wall!

22. O House of reeds, hear! O Wall, understand!

23. O man of Shurippak, son of Ubar-Tutu,

24. Throw down the house, build a ship,

25. Forsake wealth, seek after life,

26. Hate possessions, save thy life,

27. Bring all seed of life into the ship.

28. The ship which thou shalt build,

29. The dimensions thereof shall be measured,

30. The breadth and the length thereof shall be the same.

31. Then launch it upon the ocean.

[UTA-NAPISHTIM’S ANSWER TO EA.]

32. I understood and I said unto Ea, my lord:

33. See, my lord, that which thou hast ordered,

34. I regard with reverence, and will perform it,

35. But what shall I say to the town, to the multitude, and to the elders?

[SECOND SPEECH OF EA.]

36. Ea opened his mouth and spake

37. And said unto his servant, myself,

38. Thus, man, shalt thou say unto them:

39. Ill-will hath the god Enlil formed against me,

40. Therefore I can no longer dwell. in your city,

41. And never more will I turn my countenance upon-the soil of Enlil.

42. I will descend into the ocean to dwell with my lord Ea.

43. But upon you he will rain riches

44. A catch of birds, a catch of fish

45. . . . an [abundant] harvest,

46. . . . the sender of . . .

47. . . . shall make hail [to fall upon you].

[THE BUILDING OF THE SHIP.]

48. As soon as [something of dawn] broke . . .

    [Lines 49-54 broken away.]

55. The child . . . brought bitumen,

56. The strong [man] . . . brought what was needed.

57. On the fifth day I laid down its shape.

58. According to the plan its walls were 10 gar, (i.e. 120 cubits) high,

59. And the width of its deck (?) was equally 10 gar.

60. I laid down the shape of its forepart and marked it out (?).

61. I covered (?) it six times.

62. . . . I divided into seven,

63. Its interior I divided into nine,

64. Caulking I drove into the middle of it.

65. I provided a steering pole, and cast in all that was needful.

66. Six sar of bitumen I poured over the hull (?),

67. Three sar of pitch I poured into the inside.

68. The men who bear loads brought three sar of oil,

69. Besides a sar of oil which the tackling (?) consumed,

70. And two sar of oil which the boatman hid.

71. I slaughtered oxen for the [work] people,

72. I slew sheep every day.

73. Beer, sesame wine, oil and wine

74. I made the people drink as if they were water from the river.

75. I celebrated a feast as if it had been New Year’s Day.

76. I opened [a box of ointment], I laid my hands in unguent.

77. Before the sunset (?) the ship was finished.

78. [Since] . . . was difficult.

79. The shipbuilders brought the . . . of the ship, above and below,

80. . . . two-thirds of it.

[THE LOADING OF THE SHIP.]

81. With everything that I possessed I loaded it (i.e., the ship).

82. With everything that I possessed of silver I loaded it.

83. With everything that I possessed of gold I loaded it.

84. With all that I possessed of all the seed of life I loaded it.

85. I made to go up into the ship all my family and kinsfolk,

86. The cattle of the field, the beasts of the field, all handicraftsmen I made them go up into it.

87. The god Shamash had appointed me a time (saying)

88. The sender of . . . . . will at eventide make a hail to fall;

89. Then enter into the ship and shut thy door.

90. The appointed time drew nigh;

91. The sender of . . . . . made a hail to fall at eventide.

92. I watched the aspect of the [approaching] storm,

93. Terror possessed me to look upon it,

94. I went into the ship and shut my door.

95. To the pilot of the ship, Puzur-Enlil the sailor

96. I committed the great house (i.e., ship), together with the contents thereof.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 33-5.

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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