Gilgamesh epic found in the mid-19th C by the English archaeologist, Austen Henry Layard, in the Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh
Layard didn’t know what he had found, of course…
Rawlinson began decipherment of cuneiform…
George Smith translated the tablets in (1872) …
Layard had found the latest and best known version in the ancient world -- called the late or "Standard Babylonian" version
Earlier versions found as late as 1957 (including a fragmentary Sumerian version)
He who saw everything, of him learn, O my land;
He who knew all the lands, him will I praise
…wisdom, who everything…
He saw secret things, and obtained knowledge of hidden things.
He brought tidings of the days before the flood
He went on a long journey, became weary and worn;
He engraved on a tablet of stone all the travail
I think I could turn and live with animals,
They are so placid and self contained.
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition.
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.
They do not make me sick, discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied,
Not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another,
Nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago.
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
provide blueprints for milestones such as birth, initiation, marriage, death
supply divine sanction for existing social patterns
provide sanction for kingship and governance
explain why laws etc. are superior to those of other groups
Societal myths teach the values of society
What kind of messages can be gleaned from the Epic of Gilgamesh?
Echoes of the Gilgamesh Epic… Inlay from the front of the Lyre found by Leonard Wooley in the grave pit at Ur
The Gilgamesh motif
In the Star Trek universe
Odysseus: wanderings compared to those of Gilgamesh
Achilles and Patroclus: friendship compared to that of Gilgamesh and Enkidu
Achilles and Patroclus: Lament for the dying friend…
Alexander the Great journeyed in search of the Waters of Life
came to a mountain called Musas or Masis (Gilgamesh's mountain was called Mashu in some versions)
passed through the land of darkness
crossed the foetid sea
In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was found a possible reference to Gilgamesh and to Humbaba
but in forms without consonants
Glgmys and Hwb bys
c 600 mention of Gligmos
"as the last of ten kings from Peleg to Abraham and comtemporaneous with the latter" Theodore bar Qoni
Claudius Aelianus (ca. 200)
a reference in De Natura Animalium, where he is speaking of how animals love man:
“…an Eagle fostered a baby. And I want to tell the whole story so that I may have evidence of my proposition. When Seuechorus was king of Babylon the Chaldeans foretold that the son born to his daughter would wrest the kingdom from his grandfather.
“…now an eagle which saw with its piercing eye the child while still falling, before it was dashed to the earth, flew beneath it, flung its back under it, and conveyed it to some garden and set it down with the utmost care. But when the keeper of the place saw the pretty baby he fell in love with it and nursed it; and it was called Gilgamos and became king of Babylon.”
We’ve seen some of these motifs before…
the usurpation prophecy (e.g. Oedipus)
danger to the child's mother (and therefore to the child)
isolation of the mother
impregnation by an unseen father (or at least mystery)
casting from a tower
rescue by an animal
rearing by a gardener
ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy
The Legend of Sargon
Sargon the mighty king, king of Akkad am I.
My mother was an Entu priestess, my father I knew not (var: a father I had not)
The brothers of my father loved the hills
My city Azurpiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates
My mother the entu-priestess, conceived me, in secret she bore me.
She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She exposed me in the river, which rose not over me.
The river bore me up and carried me to Akkie, the
Akki, the gardener, lifted me out as he dipped his euer.
Akke, the gardener, took me as his son and reared me.
Akke, the gardener, assigned me to gardening for him.
While I was gardening, Ishtar granted me her love,
And for four and . . . years I exercised kingship.
The symbolism of Christ's victory over death helps people…
find meaning in life
to control private and social behaviour
to support the status quo
to legitimize social class and power
Themes in Gilgamesh…
The good life
Friendship and duality
Gilgamesh has been called many things…
The first epic adventure
A spiritual biography
An extended metaphor about the human quest for spiritual understanding
The great beauty and depth of the Gilgamesh Epic makes it a unique instrument for learning about the human soul.
H. Yehezkel Kluger 1989
Music: Remember Me 1991
Other Gilgamesh epics …
Gilgamesh and Agga of Kish
Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living
Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld
Gilgamesh and Agga
the poem begins with the arrival of the envoys of Agga at Uruk
Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living
Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the netherworld
Advice about the underworld…
If now thou wilt descend to the netherworld
A word I speak to thee, take my word
Advice I offer thee, take my advice
Do not put on clean clothes
Lest the dead heroes will come forth like enemies'
Do not anoint thyself with the good oil of the vessel,
Lest at its smell they will crowd about thee.
Do not put sandals on thy feet,
In the netherworld make no cry'
Kiss not thy beloved wife,
Kiss not thy beloved son,
Strike not thy hated wife,
Strike not thy hated son,
Lest the 'cry' of the netherworld will seize thee;
Music: Dr. Ammondt….