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Mesopotamian Myths

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ENKI BUILDS THE E-ENGURRA

Fonte: Kramer, Samuel Noah (1988) Sumerian Mythology, University of Pennsylvania Press, West Port, Connecticut.

Enki

Myth that tells how Enki built a house (temple) for himself in Eridu, the oldest city in Sumer according to tradition, the first of five cities founded before the Great Flood. The temple, decorated with silver, lapis lazuli, carnelian and gold, was established on the bank of a river, where its foundations reached deep into the underground sweet, fertilising waters, called the apsu. The temple had magical qualities: the brickwork gave Enki advice, while the surrounding reed fences roared like a bull. The roof-beam was shaped like the bull of heaven, and a lion gripping a man formed the gateway. The overall effect was described as a lusty bull.
The bustle of activity there was compared to the drama of a river rising during a flood, Enki filled the building with lyres, drums and every other kind of musical instruments. Surrounding the temple was a delightful garden full of fruit trees, with birds singing all around and frolicking carp playing among the reeds in the streams.
After finishing the construction of the E-engurra, the temple, Enki called up the beat of the ala and the uh drums and set out by barge to Nippur, in order to receive the other gods´ blessings. The fish danced before him on the way to Nippur, and Enki slaughtered several oxen and sheep for the feast to come.
Once in Nippur, Enki started preparing the feast. Paying attention to protocol, Anu was at the head of the group, with Enlil beside him and the goddess Nintu in a seat of honour nearby. In the happy cellebration that followed, all the great gods pronounced blessings on Enki´s new home, and Anu stated:" My son Enki has made his temple.... grow from the ground like a mountain".


After the water of creation had ben decreed,
After the name hegal (abundance) born in heaven,
Like plant and herb had clothed the land,
The lord of the abyss, the king Enki,
Enki the Lord who decrees the fates,
Built his house of silver and lapis lazuli;
Its silver and lapis lazuli, like sparkling light,
The father fashioned fittingly in the abyss.
The creatures of bright countenances and wise, coming forth from the abyss,
Stood all about the lord Nudimmud;
The pure house he built
He ornamented it greatly with gold,
In Eridu he built the house of water-bank,
Its brickwork, word-uttering, advice-giving,
Its... like an ox roaring,
The house of Enki, the oracles uttering.


(Follows a long passage in which Isimud, Enki´s counsellor/prime minister, sings the praises of the sea-house. Then Enki raises the city of Eridu from the abyss and makes it float over the water like a lofty mountain. Its green fruit-bearing gardens he fills with birds; fishes too he makes abundant. Enki is now ready to proceed by boat to Nippur, where he will obtain Enlil´s blessings for his newly built city and temple. He therefore rises from the abyss:)


When Enki rises, the fish.... rise,
The abyss stands in wonder,
In the sea joy enters,
Fear comes over the deep,
Terror holds the exalted river,
The Euphrates, the South Wind lifts it in waves.


Enki seats himself in his boat and first arrives in Eridu itself. In Eridu, he slaughters many oxen and sheep before proceeding to Nippur. Upon his arrival, a feast is prepared for all gods and Enlil in special:


Enki in the shrine Nippur,
Gives his brother Enlil bread to eat,
In the first place he seated Anu (the Skyfather),
Next to Anu he seated Enlil,
Nintu he seated at the big side,
The Anunnaki seated themselves one after the other.
Enlil says to the Anunnaki:
" Ye great gods who are standing about,
My brother has built a house, the king Enki;
Eridu, like a mountain, he has raised up from the earth,
In a good place he has built it.
Eridu, the clean place, where none may enter,
The house built of silver, adorned with lapis lazuli,
The house directed by the seven lyre-songs given over to incantation,
With pure songs....
The abyss, the shrine of the goodness of Enki, befitting the divine decrees,
Eridu, the pure house having been built,
O Enki, praise!

courtesy of : http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/

 

THE ERIDU GENESIS

From "The Harps That Once...: Sumerian Poetry in Translation" by Thorkild Jacobsen. Yale University Press, Publishers; Copyright 1987.


Enki
(Enki, Lord of the Water)

 


 

Nintur was paying attention:

Let me bethink myself of my humankind,
all forgotten as they are;
and mindful of mine,
Nintur's creatures let me bring them back
let me lead the people back from their trails.

May they come and build cities and cult places,
that I may cool myself in their shade;
may they lay the bricks for the cult cities in pure spots
and may they found places for divination in pure spots!


She gave directions for purification and cries for elemency,
the things that cool divine wrath,
perfected the divine service and the august offices,
said to the surrounding regions: "Let me institute peace there!"
When An, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursaga
fashioned the dark-headed people
they had made the small animals that come up from out of the earth,
come from the earth in abundance
and had let there be, as it befits it, gazelles
wild donkeys, and four-footed beasts in the desert.
...
...and let me have him advise;
let me have him oversee their labor,
and let him teach the nation to follow along
unerringly like cattle!

When the royal scepter was coming down from heaven,
the august crown and the royal throne being already
down from heaven,
he (the king) regularly performed to perfection
the august divine services and offices,
laid the bricks of those cities in pure spots.
They were named by name and allotted half-bushel baskets.

The firstling of those cities, Eridu,
she gave to the leader Nudimmud,
the second, Bad-Tibira, she gave to the prince and the sacred one,
the third, Larak, she gave to Pabilsag,
the fourth, Sippar, she gave to the gallant Utu.
The fifth, Shuruppak, she gave to Ansud.

These cities, which had been named by names,
and had been allotted half-bushel baskets,
dredged the canals, which were blocked with purplish
wind-borne clay, and they carried water.
Their cleaning of the smaller canals
established abundant growth.

[lost account of the antediluvian rulers, and how human noise vexed the chief god Enlil so much that he persuaded the divine assembly to vote the destruction of man by the deluge] ...
That day Nintur wept over her creatures
and holy Inanna was full of grief over their people;
but Enki took counsel with his own heart.
An, Enlil, Enki, and Ninhursaga
had the gods of heaven and earth swear
by the names of An and Enlil.

At that time, Ziusudra was king
and lustration priest.
He fashioned, being a seer, the god of giddiness
and stood in awe beside it, wording his wishes humbly.

As he stood there regularly day after day
something that was not a dream was appearing:
conversation
a swearing of oaths by heaven and earth,
a touching of throats
and the gods bringing their thwarts up to Kiur.

And as Ziusudra stood there beside it, he went on hearing:

Step up to the wall to my left and listen!
Let me speak a word to you at the wall
and may you grasp what I say,
may you heed my advice!
By our hand a flood will sweep over
the cities of the half-bushel baskets, and the country;
the decision, that mankind is to be destroyed
has been made.
A verdict, a command of the assembly cannot be revoked,
an order of An and Enlil is not known
ever to have been countermanded,
their kingship, their term, has been uprooted
they must bethink themselves of that.
Now...
What I have to say to you...

...

[lost account of Enki's advice to build a boat and load it with pairs of living things, and Ziusudra's compliance]
All the evil winds, all stormy winds gathered into one
and with them, then, the flood was sweeping over the cities of
the half-bushel baskets
for seven days and seven nights.
After the flood had swept over the country,
after the evil wind had tossed the big boat
about on the great waters,
the sun came out spreading light
over heaven and earth.

Ziusudra then drilled an opening in the big boat.
And the gallant Utu sent his light
into the interior of the big boat.
Ziusudra, being king,
stepped up before Utu kissing the ground
before him.
The king was butchering oxen,
was being lavish with the sheep
Barley cakes, crescents together with...
...he was crumbling for him
juniper, the pure plant of the
mountains, he filled on the fire
and with a ...clasped to
the breast he...

[lost account of Enlil's wrath at finding survivor's and his mollification by Enki]

You here have sworn
by the life's breath of heaven
the life's breath of earth
that he verily is allied with yourself;
you there, An and Enlil,
have sworn by the life's breath of heaven,
the life's breath of earth.
that he is allied with all of you.
He will disembark the small animals
that come up from the earth!


Ziusudra, being king,
stepped up before An and Enlil
kissing the ground.
And An and Enlil after honoring him
were granting him life like a god's,
were making lasting breath of life, like a god's,
descend into him.
That day they made Ziusudra,
preserver, as king, of the name of the small
animals and the seed of mankind,
live toward the east over the mountains
in mount Dilmun.

courtesy of : http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/

 

THE JOURNEY OF NANNA TO NIPPUR

Source: Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford 1998-.

Myth associated with the spring rite of the first fruits which were taken from Ur to Nippur, stopping over all sacred cities on the way to the temple of Enlil, the Ekur in Nippur. The meaning of this ritual act was a religious celebration and sanction of the exchange of products between the cities of the Southern marshes and the farmers in the North (Jacobsen, Thorkild, The Treasures of Darkness, 1976, Yale University). The text dates from the Old Babylonian period, but thought to have been composed during the Third Dynasty of Ur. The text begins with a praise to Nippur, the city of Enlil, Nanna´s father. Nanna decides to visit the city of his mother. To this end he builds a boat and loads it with goods (plants, animals, etc.). During the journey, he stops at various places, and in each one of them is received by the main local deities. Finally, Nanna arrives at Nippur, where he is received by the gatekeeper and taken to his father Enlil. Nanna asks Enlil for a series of things: an early flood on the Euphrates so that he, Nanna can go back to Ur, late barley in the fields, fish in the river, reeds in the canebrakes, honey and wine in the orchards, tamarisks on the steppe, wild boar in the forests and a long life in the palace, all of which Enlil gives to Nanna, upon which the Moon God returns to Ur

 


 

 

1-8 The heroic Nanna-Suen fixed his mind on the city of his mother. Suen Acimbabbar fixed his mind on the city of his mother. Nanna-Suen fixed his mind on the city of his mother and his father. Acimbabbar fixed his mind on the city of Enlil and Ninlil:

9-16 "I, the hero, will set off for my city. I will set off for my city, I will set off to my father. I, Suen, will set off for my city. I will set off for my city, I will set off to my father. I will set off to my father Enlil. I will set off for my city, I will set off to my mother. I will set off to my mother Ninlil. I will set off to my father.

17-27 "The shining city, the pure place .......
6 lines missing
...... very great, ...... very great, ...... very great, ...... very great.

28-36 "My Nibru, where black birch trees grow in a good place, my sanctuary Nibru, where white birch trees grow in a pure place -- my Nibru's shrine is built in a good place. The sanctuary Nibru's name is a good name. My Nibru's shrine is built in a good place. The sanctuary Nibru's name is a good name. Before Dilmun existed, palm trees grew in my city. Before Dilmun existed, palm trees grew in Nibru and the great mother Ninlil was clothed in fine linen."

37-38 Suen set about constructing (?) a barge. He set about constructing (?) a barge and sent for reed matting.

39-48 Nanna-Suen despatched people to Tummal for the barge's reeds. Acimbabbar despatched people to the abzu for the barge's pitch. Nanna-Suen despatched people to Du-acaga for its rushes. Acimbabbar despatched people to the cypress forest for its strakes (?). Nanna-Suen despatched people to the forests of Kug-nuna for its ribbing (?). (3 mss. add 2 lines in a parallel passage: Acimbabbar despatched people to the mountain of fragrant cedar for its beams.)

49-58 Acimbabbar despatched people to the forests of Ebla for its planking. Nanna-Suen despatched people to the fragrant cedar forest for its fir wood. Acimbabbar despatched people to the junipers of Langi for its ....... Acimbabbar despatched people to ...... for its ....... Nanna-Suen despatched people to the mound of ...... for its .......

59-82 When the barge's reeds were brought to Nanna-Suen from Tummal, when the barge's pitch was brought to Acimbabbar from the abzu, when its rushes were brought to Nanna-Suen from Du-acaga, when its strakes (?) were brought to Acimbabbar from the cypress forest; when its ribbing (?) was brought to Nanna-Suen from the forests of Kug-nuna, (3 mss. add 2 lines: when its beams were brought to Acimbabbar from the mountain of fragrant cedar,) when its planking was brought to Acimbabbar from the forests of Ebla, when its fir wood was brought to Nanna-Suen from the fragrant cedar forest; when its ...... was brought to Acimbabbar from the junipers of Langi, when its ...... was brought to Acimbabbar from ......, when its ...... was brought to Nanna-Suen from the mound of ......,
1 line fragmentary
Utu rejoiced at him and put ....... Gibil rejoiced at him.
lines 83-146 missing or fragmentary

147-150 (He declared:) "I am Nanna-Suen, I ......, I will ...... to the house of Enlil. I am Acimbabbar, and I will ...... to the house of Enlil."
5 lines missing

157-166 Nanna-Suen will gather bulls for the cow-pen for the house of Enlil. Acimbabbar will collect (?) fattened sheep for the house of Enlil. Nanna-Suen will purify the cow-pen for the house of Enlil. Acimbabbar will feed meal to the goats for the house of Enlil. Nanna-Suen will ...... porcupines for the house of Enlil.

167-175 Acimbabbar will ...... long-tailed bush-rats for the house of Enlil. Nanna-Suen will gather (?) little kuda birds for the house of Enlil. Acimbabbar will bring small ubi birds from the pond for the house of Enlil. Nanna-Suen will bring small azagun birds from the ...... for the house of Enlil.

176-185 Acimbabbar will ...... suhur carp for the house of Enlil. Nanna-Suen will ...... ectub carp for the house of Enlil. Acimbabbar will pour the oil of rushes onto the water for the house of Enlil. Nanna-Suen will fill baskets with eggs for the house of Enlil. Acimbabbar will cause old reed and fresh reed to thrive for the house of Enlil.

186-197 Nanna-Suen will cause six hundred ewes to give birth to lambs for the house of Enlil, for he will cause their rams to be let loose among them, and he will distribute them along the banks of the Id-surungal. Acimbabbar will cause six hundred she-goats to give birth to kids for the house of Enlil, for he will cause their bucks to be let loose among them, and he will distribute them along the banks of the Id-surungal. Nanna-Suen will cause six hundred cows to give birth to calves for the house of Enlil, for he will cause their bulls to be let loose among them, and he will distribute them along the banks of the Id-surungal.

198-202 Enegir lay ahead of the offerings, Urim lay behind them. She brought out of the house what should not come out of the house, what should not come out of the house -- Ningirida brought out of the house what should not come out of the house: "Welcome, welcome, welcome o boat! O boat of Suen, welcome, welcome o boat!"

203-208 She laid out flour before the barge and spread bran. At her feet stood a covered bronze gakkul vat. (1 ms. adds 1 line: With her fingers she pulled out the boxwood bung (?) for him (declaring):) "I shall rub precious oil on this peg. May ghee, syrup and wine be abundant in your midst, may the suhur carp and the ectub carp rejoice at the prow of your boat!" But the boat did not give her its cargo: "I am going to Nibru!"

209-213 Larsa lay ahead of the offerings, Enegir lay behind them. She brought out of the house what should not come out of the house, what should not come out of the house -- the lovely Cerida brought out of the house what should not come out of the house: "Welcome, welcome, welcome o boat! O boat of my father, welcome, welcome o boat!"

214-219 She laid out flour before the barge and spread bran. At her feet stood a covered bronze gakkul vat. (1 ms. adds 1 line: With her fingers she pulled out the boxwood bung (?) for him (declaring):) "I shall rub precious oil on this peg. May ghee, syrup and wine be abundant in your midst, may the suhur carp and the ectub carp rejoice at the prow of your boat!" But the boat did not give her its cargo: "I am going to Nibru!"

220-224 Unug lay ahead of the offerings, Larsa lay behind them. She brought out of the house what should not come out of the house, what should not come out of the house -- holy Inana brought out of the house what should not come out of the house: "Welcome, welcome, welcome o boat! O boat of my father welcome, welcome o boat! (1 ms. adds 1 line: O boat of Suen welcome, welcome o boat!)"

225-230 She laid out flour before the barge and spread bran. At her feet stood a covered bronze gakkul vat. (1 ms. adds 1 line: With her fingers she pulled out the boxwood bung (?) for him (declaring):) "I shall rub precious oil on your peg. May ghee, syrup and wine be abundant in your midst, may the suhur carp and the ectub carp rejoice at the prow of your boat!" But the boat did not give her its cargo: "I am going to Nibru!"

231-235 Curuppag lay ahead of the offerings, Unug lay behind them. She brought out of the house what should not come out of the house, what should not come out of the house -- Ninunuga brought out of the house what should not come out of the house: "Welcome, welcome, welcome o boat! O boat of Suen welcome, welcome o boat!"

236-241 She laid out flour before the barge and spread bran. At her feet stood a covered bronze gakkul vat. (1 ms. adds 1 line: With her fingers she pulled out the boxwood bung (?) for him (declaring):) "I shall rub precious oil on this peg. May ghee, syrup and wine be abundant in your midst, may the suhur carp and the ectub carp rejoice at the prow of your boat!" But the boat did not give her its cargo: "I am going to Nibru!"

242-246 Tummal lay ahead of the offerings, Curuppag lay behind them. She brought out of the house what should not come out of the house, what should not come out of the house -- the fair Ninlil brought out of the house what should not come out of the house: "Welcome, welcome, welcome o boat! O boat of the princely son welcome, welcome o boat!"

247-252 She laid out flour before the barge and spread bran. At her feet stood a covered bronze gakkul vat. ( 1 ms. adds 1 line: With her fingers she pulled out the boxwood bung (?) for him (declaring):) "I shall rub precious oil on this peg. May ghee, syrup and wine be abundant in your midst, may the suhur carp and the ectub carp rejoice at the prow of your boat!" But the boat did not give her its cargo: "I am going to Nibru!"

253-257 Nibru lay ahead of the offerings, Tummal lay behind them. At the Shining Quay, the quay of Enlil, Nanna-Suen finally docked the boat. At the White Quay, the quay of Enlil, Acimbabbar finally docked the boat.

258-264 He stepped up to the cultic building of his father who begot him and called out to the porter of his father who begot him: "Open the house, porter, open the house! Open the house, Kalkal, open the house! Kalkal, doorkeeper, open the house! Doorman, doorkeeper, open the house! Porter, open the house! Kalkal, open the house!

265-274 "I, Nanna-Suen, have gathered bulls for the cow-pen for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Acimbabbar, have collected (?) fattened sheep for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Nanna-Suen, shall purify the cow-pen for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Acimbabbar, shall feed meal to the goats for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Nanna-Suen, have ...... porcupines for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house.

275-283 "I, Acimbabbar -- I, Acimbabbar -- have ...... long-tailed bush-rats for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Nanna-Suen, have gathered (?) little kuda birds for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Acimbabbar, have brought small ubi birds from the pond for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Nanna-Suen, have brought small azagun birds from the pond for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house.

284-293 "I, Acimbabbar, ...... suhur carp for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Nanna-Suen, ...... ectub carp for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Acimbabbar, shall pour the oil of rushes onto the water for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Nanna-Suen, have filled baskets with eggs for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house. I, Acimbabbar, have caused old reed and fresh reed to thrive for the house of Enlil; porter, open the house.

294-305 "I, Nanna-Suen, have caused six hundred ewes to give birth to lambs for the house of Enlil, for I have caused their rams to be let loose among them, and I have distributed them along the banks of the Id-surungal; porter, open the house. I, Acimbabbar, have caused six hundred she-goats to give birth to kids for the house of Enlil, for I have caused their bucks to be let loose among them, and I have distributed them along the banks of the Id-surungal; porter, open the house. I, Nanna-Suen, have caused six hundred cows to give birth to calves for the house of Enlil, for I have caused their bulls to be let loose among themm, and I have distributed them along the banks of the Id-surungal; porter, open the house.

306-308 "Porter, open the house! Kalkal, open the house! I will give you that which is in the prow of the boat as a first offering, and I will give you that which is in the stern of the boat as a last offering."

309-318 Rejoicing, the porter rejoicing, the porter rejoicing opened the house. Kalkal, the doorkeeper, rejoicing, the porter rejoicing opened the house. Kalkal, in charge of the bolt-handle, rejoicing, the porter rejoicing, opened the house. At the house of Enlil, ......, Nanna-Suen made the offerings. Enlil, rejoicing over the offerings, offered bread to Suen, his son.

319-325 Enlil rejoiced over Suen and spoke kindly: "Give sweet cakes to my little fellow who eats sweet cakes. Give sweet cakes to my Nanna who loves eating sweet cakes. Bring out from the E-kur the bread allotment and first quality bread for him. Pour out for him the finest beer, my pure ....... May the ...... of the towering tilimda vessels, standing on the ground, ....... Order pure sweet cake, syrup, crescent (?) cake and clear water for him."

326-330 Suen replied to his father who begot him: "Father who begot me, I am indeed satisfied with what you have given me to eat. O Great Mountain, father who begot me, I am indeed satisfied with what you have given me to drink. Wherever you lift your eyes, there is kingship. O Enlil, your abundance is .......

331-339 "Give to me, Enlil, give to me -- I want to set off for Urim! In the river give me the carp-flood -- I want to set off for Urim! In the fields give me speckled barley -- I want to set off for Urim! In the marshes give me kuda carp and suhur carp -- I want to set off for Urim! In the reedbeds give me old reed and fresh reed -- I want to set off for Urim! In the forests give me the ibex and wild ram -- I want to set off for Urim! In the high plain give me the macgurum tree -- I want to set off for Urim! In the orchards give me syrup and wine -- I want to set off for Urim! In the palace give me long life -- I want to set off for Urim!"

340-348 He gave to him, Enlil gave to him -- and he set off for Urim. In the river he gave him the carp-flood -- and he set off for Urim. In the field he gave him speckled barley -- and he set off for Urim. In the pond he gave him kuda carp and suhur carp -- and he set off for Urim. In the reedbeds he gave him old reed and fresh reed -- and he set off for Urim. In the forests he gave him the ibex and wild ram -- and he set off for Urim. In the high plain he gave him the macgurum tree -- and he set off for Urim. In the orchards he gave him syrup and wine -- and he set off for Urim. In the palace he gave him long life -- and he set off for Urim.

349-352 My king, on your throne, for Enlil, may Nanna-Suen make you be born for seven days. On your holy throne, for the great mother Ninlil, may the lord Acimbabbar make you be born for seven days.

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Tablet 1

The one who saw all [Sha nagba imuru ]I will declare to the world,
The one who knew all I will tell about
[line missing]
He saw the great Mystery, he knew the Hidden:
He recovered the knowledge of all the times before the Flood.
He journeyed beyond the distant, he journeyed beyond exhaustion,
And then carved his story on stone. [naru : stone tablets ]
   This great hero who had all knowledge [nemequ ], Gilgamesh, built the great city of Uruk; the tablet invites us to look around and view the greatness of this city, its high walls, its masonwork, and here at the base of its gates, as the foundation of the city walls, a stone of lapis lazuli on which is carved Gilgamesh's account of his exploits, the story you are about to hear.

   The account begins: Gilgamesh, two-thirds god and one-third human, is the greatest king on earth and the strongest super-human that ever existed; however, he is young and oppresses his people harshly. The people call out to the sky-god Anu, the chief god of the city, to help them. In response, Anu creates a wild man, Enkidu, out in the harsh and wild forests surrounding Gilgamesh's lands. This brute, Enkidu, has the strength of dozens of wild animals; he is to serve as the subhuman rival to the superhuman Gilgamesh.

   A trapper's son, while checking on traps in the forest, discovers Enkidu running naked with the wild animals; he rushes to his father with the news. The father advises him to go into the city and take one of the temple harlots, Shamhat, with him to the forest; 1 when she sees Enkidu, she is to offer herself sexually to the wild man. If he submits to her, the trapper says, he will lose his strength and his wildness.

   Shamhat meets Enkidu at the watering-hole where all the wild animals gather; she offers herself to him and he submits, instantly losing his strength and wildness, but he gains understanding and knowledge. He laments for his lost state, but the harlot offers to take him into the city where all the joys of civilization shine in their resplendence; she offers to show him Gilgamesh, the only man worthy of Enkidu's friendship.

   Gilgamesh meanwhile has two dreams; in the first a meteorite falls to earth which is so great that Gilgamesh can neither lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the meteorite, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife, but his mother, the goddess Rimat-Ninsun, forces him to compete with the meteorite. In the second, Gilgamesh dreams that an axe appears at his door, so great that he can neither lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the axe, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife, but his mother, again, forces him to compete with the axe. Gilgamesh asks his mother what these dreams might mean; she tells him a man of great force and strength will come into Uruk. Gilgamesh will embrace this man as he would a wife, and this man will help Gilgamesh perform great deeds.

Tablet 2

   Enkidu is gradually introduced to civilization by living for a time with a group of shepherds, who teach him how to tend flocks, how to eat, how to speak properly, and how to wear clothes. Enkidu then enters the city of Uruk during a great celebration. Gilgamesh, as the king, claims the right to have sexual intercourse first with every new bride on the day of her wedding; as Enkidu enters the city, Gilgamesh is about to claim that right. Infuriated at this abuse, Enkidu stands in front of the door of the marital chamber and blocks Gilgamesh's way. They fight furiously until Gilgamesh wins the upper hand; Enkidu concedes Gilgamesh's superiority and the two embrace and become devoted friends.

   Both Enkidu and Gilgamesh gradually weaken and grow lazy living in the city, so Gilgamesh proposes a great adventure: they are to journey to the great Cedar Forest in southern Iran and cut down all the cedar trees. To do this, they will need to kill the Guardian of the Cedar Forest, the great demon, Humbaba the Terrible. Enkidu knows about Humbaba from his days running wild in the forest; he tries in vain to convince Gilgamesh not to undertake this folly.

Tablet 3

[Most of tablet three doesn't exist]

   The elders of the city protest Gilgamesh's endeavor, but agree reluctantly. They place the life of the king in the hands of Enkidu, whom they insist shall take the forward position in the battle with Humbaba. Gilgamesh's mother laments her son's fate in a prayer to the sun-god, Shamash, asking that god why he put a restless heart in the breast of her son. Shamash promises her that he will watch out for Gilgamesh's life. Ramat-Ninsun, too, commands Enkidu to guard the life of the king and to take the forward position in the battle with Humbaba. In panic, Enkidu again tries to convince Gilgamesh not to undertake this journey, but Gilgamesh is confident of success.

Tablet 4

   Tablet four tells the story of the journey to the cedar forest. On each day of the six day journey, Gilgamesh prays to Shamash; in response to these prayers, Shamash sends Gilgamesh oracular dreams during the night. These dreams are all ominous: The first is not preserved. In the second, Gilgamesh dreams that he wrestles a great bull that splits the ground with his breath. Enkidu interprets the dream for Gilgamesh; the dream means that Shamash, the bull, will protect Gilgamesh. In the third, Gilgamesh dreams:
The skies roared with thunder and the earth heaved,
Then came darkness and a stillness like death.
Lightening smashed the ground and fires blazed out;
Death flooded from the skies.
When the heat died and the fires went out,
The plains had turned to ash.
   Enkidu's interpretation is missing here, but like the other dreams, it is assumed he puts a positive spin on the dream. The fourth dream is missing, but Enkidu again tells Gilgamesh that the dream portends success in the upcoming battle. The fifth dream is also missing.

   At the entrance to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh begins to quake with fear; he prays to Shamash, reminding him that he had promised Ninsun that he would be safe. Shamash calls down from heaven, ordering him to enter the forest because Humbaba is not wearing all his armor. The demon Humbaba wears seven coats of armor, but now he is only wearing one so he is particularly vulnerable. Enkidu loses his courage and turns back; Gilgamesh falls on him and they have a great fight. Hearing the crash of their fighting, Humbaba comes stalking out of the Cedar Forest to challenge the intruders. A large part of the tablet is missing here. On the one part of the tablet still remaining, Gilgamesh convinces Enkidu that they should stand together against the demon.

Tablet 5

   Gilgamesh and Enkidu enter the gloriously beautiful Cedar Forest and begin to cut down the trees. Hearing the sound, Humbaba comes roaring up to them and warns them off. Enkidu shouts at Humbaba that the two of them are much stronger than the demon, but Humbaba, who knows Gilgamesh is a king, taunts the king for taking orders from a nobody like Enkidu. Turning his face into a hideous mask, Humbaba begins to threaten the pair, and Gilgamesh runs and hides. Enkidu shouts at Gilgamesh, inspiring him with courage, and Gilgamesh appears from hiding and the two begin their epic battle with Humbaba. Shamash intrudes on the battle, helping the pair, and Humbaba is defeated. On his knees, with Gilgamesh's sword at his throat, Humbaba begs for his life and offers Gilgamesh all the tress in the forest and his eternal servitude. While Gilgamesh is thinking this over, Enkidu intervenes, telling Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba before any of the gods arrive and stop him from doing so. Should he kill Humbaba, he will achieve widespread fame for all the times to come. Gilgamesh, with a great sweep of his sword, removes Humbaba's head. But before he dies, Humbaba screams out a curse on Enkidu: "Of you two, may Enkidu not live the longer, may Enkidu not find any peace in this world!"

   Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut down the cedar forest and in particular the tallest of the cedar trees to make a great cedar gate for the city of Uruk. They build a raft out of the cedar and float down the Euphrates river to their city.

Tablet 6

   After these events, Gilgamesh, his fame widespread and his frame resplendent in his wealthy clothes, attracts the sexual attention of the goddess Ishtar, who comes to Gilgamesh and offers to become his lover. Gilgamesh refuses with insults, listing all the mortal lovers that Ishtar has had and recounting the dire fates they all met with at her hands. Deeply insulted, Ishtar returns to heaven and begs her father, the sky-god Anu, to let her have the Bull of Heaven to wreak vengeance on Gilgamesh and his city:
Father, let me have the Bull of Heaven
To kill Gilgamesh and his city.
For if you do not grant me the Bull of Heaven,
I will pull down the Gates of Hell itself,
Crush the doorposts and flatten the door,
And I will let the dead leave
And let the dead roam the earth
And they shall eat the living.
The dead will overwhelm all the living!
   Anu reluctantly gives in, and the Bull of Heaven is sent down into Uruk. Each time the bull breathes, its breath is so powerful that enormous abysses are opened up in the earth and hundreds of people fall through to their deaths. Working together again, Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay the mighty bull. Ishtar is enraged, but Enkidu begins to insult her, saying that she is next, that he and Gilgamesh will kill her next, and he rips one of the thighs off the bull and hurls it into her face.

Tablet 7

   Enkidu falls ill after having a set of ominous dreams; he finds out from the priests that he has been singled out for vengeance by the gods. The Chief Gods have met and have decided that someone should be punished for the killing of Humbaba and the killing of the Bull of Heaven, so of the two heroes, they decide Enkidu should pay the penalty. Enraged at the injustice of the decision, Enkidu curses the great Cedar Gate built from the wood of the Cedar Forest, and he curses the temple harlot, Shamhat, and the trapper, for introducing him to civilization. Shamhash reminds him that, even though his life has been short, he has enjoyed the fruits of civilization and known great happiness. Enkidu then blesses the harlot and the trapper. In a dream, a great demon comes to take Enkidu and drags him to Hell, a House of Dust where all the dead end up; as he is dying, he describes Hell:
The house where the dead dwell in total darkness,
Where they drink dirt and eat stone,
Where they wear feathers like birds,
Where no light ever invades their everlasting darkness,
Where the door and the lock of Hell is coated with thick dust.
When I entered the House of Dust,
On every side the crowns of kings were heaped,
On every side the voices of the kings who wore those crowns,
Who now only served food to the gods Anu and Enlil,
Candy, meat, and water poured from skins.
I saw sitting in this House of Dust a priest and a servant,
I also saw a priest of purification and a priest of ecstasy,
I saw all the priests of the great gods.
There sat Etana and Sumukan,
There sat Ereshkigal, the queen of Hell,
Beletseri, the scribe of Hell, sitting before her.
Beletseri held a tablet and read it to Ereshkigal.
She slowly raised her head when she noticed me
She pointed at me:
"Who has sent this man?"
   Enkidu commends himself to Gilgamesh, and after suffering terribly for twelve days, he finally dies.

Tablet 8

   Gilgamesh is torn apart by the death of his friend, and utters a long lament, ordering all of creation to never fall silent in mourning his dead friend. Most of this tablet is missing, but the second half seems to be a description of the monument he builds for Enkidu.

Tablet 9

   Gilgamesh allows his life to fall apart; he does not bathe, does not shave, does not take care of himself, not so much out of grief for his friend, but because he now realizes that he too must die and the thought sends him into a panic. He decides that he can't live unless granted eternal life; he decides to undertake the most perilous journey of all: the journey to Utnapishtim and his wife, the only mortals on whom the gods had granted eternal life. Utnapishtim is the Far-Away, living at the mouth of all rivers, at the ends of the world. Utnapishtim was the great king of the world before the Flood and, with his wife, was the only mortal preserved by the gods during the Flood. After an ominous dream, Gilgamesh sets out. He arrives at Mount Mashu, which guards the rising and the setting of the sun, and encounters two large scorpions who guard the way past Mount Mashu. They try to convince him that his journey is futile and fraught with danger, but still they allow him to pass. Past Mount Mashu is the land of Night, where no light ever appears. Gilgamesh journeys eleven leagues before the light begins to glimmer, after twelve leagues he has emerged into day. He enters into a brilliant garden of gems, where every tree bears precious stones.

Tablet 10

   Gilgamesh comes to a tavern by the ocean shore; the tavern is kept by Siduri. Frightened by Gilgamesh's ragged appearance, Siduri locks the tavern door and refuses to let Gilgamesh in. Gilgamesh proves his identity and asks Siduri how to find Utnapishtim. Like the giant scorpions, she tells him that his journey is futile and fraught with dangers. However, she directs him to Urshanabi, the ferryman, who works for Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh approaches Urshanabi with great arrogance and violence and in the process destroys the "stone things" that are somehow critical for the journey to Utnapishtim. When Gilgamesh demands to be taken to Utnapishtim, the ferryman tells him that it is now impossible, since the "stone things" have been destroyed. Nevertheless, he advises Gilgamesh to cut several trees down to serve as punting poles; the waters they are to cross are the Waters of Death, should any mortal touch the waters, that man will instantly die. With the punting poles, Gilgamesh can push the boat and never touch the dangerous waters.

   After a long and dangerous journey, Gilgamesh arrives at a shore and encounters another man. He tells this man that he is looking for Utnapishtim and the secret of eternal life; the old man advises Gilgamesh that death is a necessary fact because of the will of the gods; all human effort is only temporary, not permanent.

Tablet 11

   At this point, Gilgamesh realizes that he is talking to Utnapishtim, the Far-Away; he hadn't expected an immortal human to be ordinary and aged. He asks Utnapishtim how he received immortality, and Utnapishtim tells him the great secret hidden from humans:    In the time before the Flood, there was a city, Shuruppak, on the banks of the Euphrates. There, the counsel of the gods held a secret meeting; they all resolved to destroy the world in a great flood. All the gods were under oath not to reveal this secret to any living thing, but Ea (one of the gods that created humanity) came to Utnapishtim's house and told the secret to the walls of Utnapishtim's house, thus not technically violating his oath to the rest of the gods. He advised the walls of Utnapishtim's house to build a great boat, its length as great as its breadth, to cover the boat, and to bring all living things into the boat. Utnapishtim gets straight to work and finishes the great boat by the new year. Utnapishtim then loads the boat with gold, silver, and all the living things of the earth, and launches the boat. Ea orders him into the boat and commands him to close the door behind him. The black clouds arrive, with the thunder god Adad rumbling within them; the earth splits like an earthenware pot, and all the light turns to darkness. The Flood is so great that even the gods are frightened:
The gods shook like beaten dogs, hiding in the far corners of heaven,
Ishtar screamed and wailed:
"The days of old have turned to stone:
We have decided evil things in our Assembly!
Why did we decide those evil things in our Assembly?
Why did we decide to destroy our people?
We have only just now created our beloved humans;
We now destroy them in the sea!"
All the gods wept and wailed along with her,
All the gods sat trembling, and wept.
   The Flood lasts for seven days and seven nights, and finally light returns to the earth. Utnapishtim opens a window and the entire earth has been turned into a flat ocean; all humans have been turned to stone. Utnapishtim then falls to his knees and weeps.

   Utnapishtim's boat comes to rest on the top of Mount Nimush; the boat lodges firmly on the mountain peak just below the surface of the ocean and remains there for seven days. On the seventh day:

I [Utnapishtim] released a dove from the boat,
It flew off, but circled around and returned,
For it could find no perch.
I then released a swallow from the boat,
It flew off, but circled around and returned,
For it could find no perch.
I then released a raven from the boat,
It flew off, and the waters had receded:
It eats, it scratches the ground, but it does not circle around and return.
I then sent out all the living things in every direction and sacrificed a sheep on that very spot.
   The gods smell the odor of the sacrifice and begin to gather around Utnapishtim. Enlil, who had originally proposed to destroy all humans, then arrives, furious that one of the humans had survived, since they had agreed to wipe out all humans. He accuses Ea of treachery, but Ea convinces Enlil to be merciful. Enlil then seizes Utnapishtim and his wife and blesses them:
At one time Utnapishtim was mortal.
At this time let him be a god and immortal;
Let him live in the far away at the source of all the rivers.
   At the end of his story, Utnapishtim offers Gilgamesh a chance at immortality. If Gilgamesh can stay awake for six days and seven nights, he, too, will become immortal. Gilgamesh accepts these conditions and sits down on the shore; the instant he sits down he falls asleep. Utnapishtim tells his wife that all men are liars, that Gilgamesh will deny having fallen asleep, so he asks his wife to bake a loaf of bread every day and lay the loaf at Gilgamesh's feet. Gilgamesh sleeps without ever waking up for six days and seven nights, at which point Utnapishtim wakes him up. Startled, Gilgamesh says, "I only just dozed off for half a second here." Utnapishtim points out the loaves of bread, showing their states of decay from the most recent, fresh bread, to the oldest, moldy, stale bread that had been laid at his feet on the very first day. Gilgamesh is distraught:
O woe! What do I do now, where do I go now?
Death has devoured my body,
Death dwells in my body,
Wherever I go, wherever I look, there stands Death!
   Utnapishtim's wife convinces the old man to have mercy on him; he offers Gilgamesh in place of immortality a secret plant that will make Gilgamesh young again. The plant is at the bottom of the ocean surrounding the Far-Away; Gilgamesh ties stones to his feet, sinks to the bottom, and plucks the magic plant. But he doesn't use it because he doesn't trust it; rather he decides to take it back to Uruk and test it out on an old man first, to make sure it works.

   Urshanabi takes him across the Waters of Death. Several leagues inland, Gilgamesh and Urshanabi stop to eat and sleep; while they're sleeping, a snake slithers up and eats the magic plant (which is why snakes shed their skin) and crawls away. Gilgamesh awakens to find the plant gone; he falls to his knees and weeps:

For whom have I labored? For whom have I journeyed?
For whom have I suffered?
I have gained absolutely nothing for myself,
I have only profited the snake, the ground lion!
   The tale ends with Gilgamesh, at the end of his journey standing before the gates of Uruk, inviting Urshanabi to look around and view the greatness of this city, its high walls, its masonwork, and here at the base of its gates, as the foundation of the city walls, a stone of lapis lazuli on which is carved Gilgamesh's account of his exploits.

Richard Hooker

Courtesy of : http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/MESO/GILG.HTM



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Amanda's Gods and Myths of the Ancient Civilizations