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A verse version of the Epic of Gilgamesh by Robert Temple, Rider, an imprint of Random Century Group Ltda, 1991, London, Sydney, Auckland, Johannerburg. All rights reserved. Here included for help in research and studies purposes


He who saw everything in the broad-boned earth, and knew what was to be known
Who had experienced what there was, and had become familiar with all things
He, to whom wisdom clung like cloak, and who dwelt together with Existence in Harmony
He knew the secret of things and laid them bare. And told of those times before the Flood
In his city, Uruk, he made the walls, which formed a rampart stretching on
And the temple called Eanna, which was the house of An, the Sky God
And also of Inanna, Goddes of Love and Battle
Look at it even now: where cornice runs on outer wall shining brilliant copper -see,
There is no inner wall; it has no equal. Touch the threshold - ancient. Approach the palace called Eanna.
There lives Inanna, Goddess of Love and Battle. No king since has accomplished such deeds.
Climb that wall, go in Uruk, walk there, I say, walk there.
See the foundation terrace, touch then the masonry - Is not this of burnt brick, And good? I say;
The seven sages laid its foundation. One third is city; One third is orchards; One third is clay pits- Unbuilt-on land of the Inanna Temple search these three parts, find the copper table-box
Open it. Open its secret fastening. Take out the lapis-lazuli tablet. Read aloud from it.
Read how Gilgamesh fared many hardships
Surpassing all kings, great in respect, a lord in his form
He is the hero, He is of Uruk, He, the butting bull
He leads the Way, He, the Foremost, He also marches at the rear, a helper to his brothers
He is the Great Net, protector of his men. He is the furious flood-wave,
Who destroys even stone walls. The offspring of Lugulbanda, Gilgamesh is perfect in strength
The son of the revered Cow, of the woman Rimat-Ninsun. Gilgamesh inspires perfect awe. He opened the mountain passes, he dug the well on the mountain's flank.
He crossed to the far shore, traversed the vast sea to the rising Sun. He explored the rim, sought life without death. By his strength he reached Ziusudra the Faraway
He who restored living things to their places
Those which the Flood had destroyed
Amidst the teeming peoples,
Who is there to compare with him in kingship?
Who like Gilgamesh can say:
'I am king indeed?'
His name was called Gilgamesh
From the very day of his birth,
He was two-thirds god, one third man,
The Great Goddess Aruru designed him, planned his body, prepared his form
A perfect body the gods gave
For the creation of Gilgamesh
Shamash the Sun gave beauty
Adad the Storm gave courage
And so he surpassed all others.
He was two-thirds god, one third man,
The form of his body no one can match
Eleven cubits high he is, nine spans his chest
As he turns to see the lands all around him.
But he comes to the city of Uruk.
Long was his journey, weary, worn down by his labours
He inscribed upon a stone when he returned
This story.


Out I went, into the world, but there was none better, none whom he, Gilgamesh, could not best.
And so, with his arms, he returned to Uruk. But in their houses, the men of Uruk muttered:
'Gilgamesh, noisy Gilgamesh! Arrogant Gilgamesh!'
All young men gone - Defeated by Gilgamesh, and no son was left to his father.
All young girls made women by Gilgamesh
His lusts are such, and no virgin left to her lover!
Not the daughter of a warrior,
Nor the wife of a nobleman!
Yet he is king and should be
The people's careful shepherd.
He is king and should be
Shepherd of the city.
He is wise, he is handsome, he is firm as a rock.
In heaven the gods heard
Heard the lament of the people,
And the gods cried out to the Great God, higher king of Uruk:
'Strong as a wild bull is this Gilgamesh
So he was made by Aruru, the godess
None there is who can - not one
None who can survivea him in fighting.
No son left to his father.
Gilgamesh, he takes them all, and is he
He the king? Shepherd of the people?
No virgin left to her lover, For he lusts strongly!
No, nor the wife of the nobleman!
The Great God heard this, then
To the Goddess of Creation, Aruru -
Cried all the gods:
'You created this Gilgamesh! Well, create him his equal!
Let him look as into mirrors - Give a second self to him, yes;
Rushing winds meet rushing winds!
Let them flow heart to heart against -
Give them each other to fight,
 Leaving Uruk in peace!'
So the Goddess of Creation took and formed in her mind
This image, and there it was conceived -
in her mind, and it was made of material
That composes the Great God,
He of the Firmament.
She then plunged her hands down into water and pinched off a little clay. She let it drop in the wilderness
Thus the noble Enkidu was made. For this was he the very strength of Ninurta, the God of War, was his form, rough bodied, long hair,
His hair waved like corn filaments -
Yes, like the hair of that goddess
Who is the corn, she , Nisaba. Matted hair was all over his body, like the skins of the cattle.
Yes, like the body of that god.
Who is the cattle, he, Samugan.
This Enkidu was innocent of mankind.
He knew not the cultivated land.
Enkidu was in the hills
With the gazelles -
They jostled each other
With all the herds
He too loved the water-hole.
But one day by a water hole
A trapper met him
Yes, face to face,
Because the herds of wild game
Had strayed into his territory.
On three days face to face -
Each day the trapper wa terrified,
Frozen stiff with fear.
With his game he went home,
Unable to speak, numb with fright.
The trapper's face altered, new -
A long journey does that to one,
Gives a new visage upon returning -
The trapper, his heart all awe, told his father:
'Father, what a man! No other like him! He comes from the hills, strongest alive!
A star in heaven his strength,
Of the star essense of An, the Sky Father
Over the hills with the beasts
Eating grass
Ranges across all your land,
Goes to the wells.
I fear him, stay far away.
He fills in my pits
Tears up my game traps
Helps the beasts escape;
Now all the game slips away -
Through my fingers.'
His father opened his mouth,
Told the son, the trapper:
'My son, in Uruk lives Gilgamesh.
None can withstand him,
None has surpassed him,
As a star in heaven his strength
Of the star-essence of An, the Sky Father.
Go to Uruk, find Gilgamesh
Praise the wild man's strength ask for a temple hierodule from the Temple of Love,
Such a child of pleasure;
Bring her and let her power fo woman
Subdue this wild man.
When he goes to the wells,
He will embrace the priestess
And the wild beasts will reject him.'
To Uruk the trapper went
And said to Gilgamesh:
'Like no other, wild,
Roaming in the pastures,
A star in heaven his strength
Of the star-essence of An, the Sky Father.
I am afraid, stay far away; he helps the beasts escape
Fills in my pits
Tears up my game traps.'
Gilgamesh said:
'Trapper, return,
Take a priestess, child of pleasure -
When he goes to the wells
He will embrace the priestess
And the wild beasts will reject him.'
Then returned with the hierodule
And three days to the drinking hole,
There sat down
Hierodule facing the trapper,
Waiting for the game.
First day, nothing.
Second day, nothing.
Third day, yes.
The herds came to drink, and Enkidu -
Glad for the water were the small wild beasts,
And Enkidu was glad for the water -
He of the gazelles and wild grass,
Born in the hills.
The priestess saw this man
Wild from the hills.
'There, woman,'the trapper,
'Bare your breasts now;
This is he,
Have no shame, delay not,
Welcome his love,
Let him see you naked,
Let him possess your body.
As he approaches, take off your clothes,
Lie with him, teach him,
The savage, your art of woman,
For as he loves you, then
The wild beasts, his companions,
They will reject him.'
She had no shame for this,
Made herself naked
Welcomed his eagerness
Incited him to love,
Taught the woman's art.
Six days, seven nights,
That time lying together,
Enkidu had forgotten his home
Had forgotten the hills
After that time he was satisfied.
Then he went back to the wild beasts -
But the gazelles saw him and ran,
The wild beasts saw him and ran.
Enkidu would follow, but weak,
His strength gone through woman;
Wisdom was in him,
Thoughts in his hear - a man's.
So he returned to the priestess.
At her feet he listened intently
'You have wisdom, Enkidu.
Now you are as a god.
Why the beasts? Why the hills?
Come to Uruk of the strong walls
To Inanna's Temple of Love,
And to the Eanna,
Where the Sky God An can be found.
Gilgamesh is there, strong,
Raging like a wild bull, over all
Is his strength.'
Favourably as he speaks, he hears her words.
He comes to know his own heart
And his desire to find a friend.
He tells her, the priestess:
'Take me, girl, to the sacred pure
Dwelling of Love and Sky God's house
Where lives Gilgamesh of perfect strength,
He who rages like a bull over all,
And I will summon him forth and challenge him
And I will shout in Uruk:
"I am the mightiest!
Yes, I can change the order of what is!
Anyone born on the steppe is mighty and has strength"'
'Then let us go that he may see your face
And I will show you Gilgamesh, for I know well where he is.
Come Enkidu, to Uruk of ramparts,
Where all are dressed for festival,
Where each day is a festival,
Where there are boys,
Where there are girls,
Deliciously ripe and perfumed,
Who drive the great ones from their fretted couches
To you, Enkidu, of joy in life
I will show Gilgamesh of joy in life
See him, see his face
Radiant is his manhood, of full-bodied vigour
His body ripe with beauty in every part.
So exceeding you in strength,
Needing no sleep by day or by night.
Restrain you folly, Enkidu.
Gilgamesh - Shamash the Sun is proud,
Also An, the God of Firmament,
Also valiant Enlil, his son,
And Enki, his son also -
All have given wisdom.
Before you come from the open plains
Gilgamesh will have dreamed of it.'
And so Gilgamesh rose from his bed
And to his mother, in revealing dreams, said:
'Mother, I saw in a dream last night
That there were stars in heaven
And a star descended upon me like unto
The essence of An, the Sky God.
I tried to lift it up, but it was too heavy for me,
I tried to move it, but it would not be moved.
The land of Uruk was around it,
The land was placed roud about it.
All the people were pressing towards it.
All the nobles also came round it,
And all my friends kissed its feet.
I was drawn towards it as to a woman
And I laid it at your feet
And you said it was my equal.'
She, the Wise, the Custodian of Knowledge,
Says to her lord -
She, Ninsun, Custodian of Knowledge,
Says to Gilgamesh:
'Your equal was a star of heaven
Which descended upon you like unto
The essence of An who his the God of the Firmament
You tried to lift it but it would not be moved
And I called it your equal, comparing it to you.
You were drawn to it as to a woman.
The meaning of this
Is of a strong friend who saves his companion
He is the strongest of the land; he has strength.
As a star in heaven his strength,
The strength of An of the Firmament and his host.
So that you are drawn to him overwhelmingly.
And this means he will never forsake you.
Such is your dream.'
Gilgamesh says again to his mother:
'Mother, another dream
In Uruk of the ramparts lay an axe -
All were gathered around it,
Uruk-land was standing round about it.
The people pressed towards it;
I laid it at your feet.
I was drawn to it as to a woman.
For you called it my equal.'
She, the Wise Custodian of Knowledge, says to her son -
'The axe is a man
You were drawn to it as to a woman
For I called it your equal
And it was to rival you.
This means a strong friend standing by his friend
He is the strongest of the land; he has strength.
The essence of An of the Firmament, is his,
So strong is he.'
Gilgamesh then spoke to his mother
'Now according to the word of God Enli
Let a counsellor and friend come to me
That I may acquire a companion
And to him I shall be friend and counsellor also.'
And as Gilgamesh revealed his dream
The girl was speaking to Enkidu
As they sat together.
For six days and seven nights
Enkidu made love to that girl
And the girl said to him
She said to Enkidu:
'When I look at you, Enkidu,
You seem to be like a god.
Why the wild beasts?
Whe the roaming over the steppe?
Come with me,
Come to ramparted Uruk.
There the holy temple of Eanna
Where the Great God An lives,
Come with me, Enkidu, to the holy dwelling
To the temple, Sky God's house,
For Gilgamesh of may deeds lives there.
You are so like him.
You will love him as yourself,
Rise up from the earth,
Come to a shepherd's bed!'
There came upon his heart
The truth of what she said.
He heard her words
And they were good.
She divided her clothing in two,
One garment for him,
One for her
Holding his hand she led him
Led him like a child.
And they came to the hut of the shepherds
Which is in the sheepfold.
All the shepherds gathered round him,
Pressed round him, were drawn to him
Thronged round the wild man.
Of her instruction the priestess is proud,
This is a man who is like Gilgamesh in form,
Taller he is in form,
He was born in the mountains,
And like the star-essence of the Sky Father An, his strength is more powerful.
And Enkidu sat at their table
That he might eat of their produce.
But he knew the milf of wild creatures,
Which he sucked in the wilds.
Theshppherds placed thier own food before him, and
He choked, he looked,
He stared at it, at them,
Enkidu knows nothing of this,
He knows not eating food,
What is this drink? This strong drink?
He has not been taught it.
Bread was set before him - he knows it not.
Beer was set before him - he knows it not.
Enkidu did not eat bread,
He squeezed his eyes together, stared,
The girl then spoke:
She said to Enkidu:
'Enkidu, eat that food.
It is our de in life.
Drink this strong drink.
It is what is done here.'
So Enkidu ate the food,
Ate until he was full.
He drank that strong drink
Seven cups of it (1).
(A fragment of about 1,400 BCE published by Gernot Wilhelm gives a slightly different account of the preceding:)
The priestess said to him, said to Enkidu:
'You are exquisite Enkidu!
Why do you run to and fro with the beasts of the steppe?
You are like a god in your nature
Who is there like you among men?'
Again the priestess said to him, said to Enkidu:
'Come, Enkidu! Let us go to the place of the sheepfold (2)'.
She drew out a single garment
And he clothed himself.
Leading him, she held his hand,
And like a god was his countenance.
She led him to the place of the sheepfold,
The shepherds/people were gathered together,
And the people spoke amongst themselves:
'Look how he resembles Gilgamesh in his appearance!
He is small in size but extremely strong in his bony frame.
As soon as he was born in the mountains,
He was in thehabit of sucking the milk of animals.'
They set bread before him
He examined it and was puzzled by the bread.
They set beer before him.
He creased his eyes together and gazed at it;
He was puzzled by the beer.
The priestess said to him,
Said to Enkidu:
'Eat the bread, Enkidu,
That you will be worthy of godliness!
Drink the fine beer,
That you will be worthy of kingship!'
Enkidu ate the bread,
He drank the fine beer (3),
And indeed seven jugs of it (4).
(We now return to the main version of the text)
He felt so free, he felt so happy
He rejoiced so in his heart!
His face became radiant.
He rubbed all the shaggy growth,
The hair of his body.
He annointed himself with oil
And thus he became a man.
He donned clothing -
Look! He is like a man!
He takes up his weapon,
He attacks the lions
So the shepherds might have peace at night.
He caught wolves,
He captured lions,
And the chief cattlemen could rest.
Enkidu was their watchman,
A man of strength,
An unparalled hero!
To the shepherds he said:
'I am a man now.
I can eat bread at the table,
I can drink strong drink.
But I have the strength of he who roams the steppe.
I am stronger than you.
No one is stronger.
You see I catch wolves,
You see I capture lions.
Because of me the shepherds can rest at night,
Because of me the chief catlemen can lie down.
I am become the king of the sheepfold.'
And Enkidu sat at the table,
He ate the food
He drank the strong drink
He felt good in his heart.
He made merry
Then he looked up
And saw a man
He told the girl:
'Girl, bring the man.
Why is he here?
I must know his name!'
The girl called the man,
Went to him, said to himL
'Sir, where are you going?
Why have you taken this, your difficult course?'
The man spoke, spoke to Enkidu:
'Into the people's special place,,
Their very own meeting-house,
Even into it has he intruded!
Set aside rules and laws for wedlock!
On the city he heaped shame!
Strange practices he has imposed
Upon a city helpless to resist.
For the king of ramparted Uruk
Has altered the unaltered way,
Abused, changed the practices.
Any new bride from the people is his;
Gilgamesh, king of ramparted Uruk,
He may mate with any new bride.
Before the lawful husband may have her.
The gods have ordained this
In their wisdom, by their will.
It was so decreed from the moment of birth
When his umbilical cord was cut out.'
At the mans's words
The face of Enkidu paled.
Fury grew within his heart,
His eyes became fightful to look upon
Enkidu spoke his anger,
Said to the man:
'This cannot contine to be!
I will go to ramparted Uruk.
I will meet Gilgamesh
I will bring his excesses to an end!'
Enkidu set out for Uruk
Enkidu walked in front
The girl walked behind
When he entered ramparted Uruk
The people thronged round him
When he stopped in the street,
In Uruk of the ramparts,
Saying of him:
'He is like Gilgamesh in form!
He is smaller in size
But stronger in bone.
He is a match for Gilgamesh!
He is the strongest of the steppe, strength is his,
Milk of wild creatures
He once sucked.
There will be endless clash of arms in Uruk!'
The nobles rejoiced:
'Here is a hero
For all who are honourable!
To match divine Gilgamesh
Here is his equal!'
Now for the Goddess of Love
Is the bed made ready
Of the evening, ready to receive
Gilgamesh for his pleasures.
Now he is coming along
But Enkidu appears in the street
And bars his way
To Gilgamesh is opposed
The might of Enkidu
The divine Gilgamesh is face to face
With his equal, Enkidu of the steppes.
The king of ramparted Uruk
Sees his equal, who has strength,
Smaller in size, but stronger of bone
Like unto Gilgamesh to the hair.
Gilgamesh sees his shaggy growth -
On the steppe the grass
Sprouts in as much abundance
Gilgamesh drew himself up
And stood before him
In the market-place of the land
Was there they met,
And Enkidu blocked the gate
With his foot and
Would not let Gilgamesh enter
They they grappled their belts and wrestled like champions
Rushing wind meets rushing wind,
Heart to heart against -
Holding fast like bulls.
They shattered absolutely the doorpost of the holy gate
And the wall shook with this fateful act.
The doorway of the house of the family
Where the bride awaited Gilgamesh,
There they struggled.
They fought in the street,
They battled in the market.
But in the end,
Brought Enkidu to the earth,
His own foot still on the ground,
And won the contest.
His anger vanished
He turned away
But when he turned away
Enkidu said to him
Spoke to Gilgamesh:
'As one single and unique
Your mother bore you
She the wild cow of the steerfolds,
She, Ninsun the Wise, she the Strong
You are raised above all men
You are king of the people by decree
Of Enlil, son of the Great God An!'
1. Seven cups or seven jugs (see 1988 fragment) are symbolic, representing the sacred number of the seven initiatory planets, i.e. the Moon (Nanna/Sin), Sun (Utu/Shamash), Venus (Inanna/Ishtar), Mars (Nergal), Earth, Saturn (Ninurta), Mercuri (Nabu) and Jupiter (Marduk).
2. The 'sheepfold' was probably a reference to the rites of the Shepherd, or the King of the Land (See Tablet IV, note 1).
3. Eating of the bread and drining of the superior form of beer constituted probably a ritual of some kind, intended to prepare a candidate to the role of king and priest, a combination that was routine these days.
4. See note 1.


'Your strength surpasses my own,
For why do you lord like a wild bull
Over the people of ramparted Uruk?
Are you not the king,
Shepherd of the people?
Gilgamesh answered, spoke to Enkidu:
'No one before opposed my strength
Now I have found a worthy companion.
Together we could go to the Cedar Forest.'
Enkidu puzzled said to Gilgamesh:
'Why do you wish to do such a thing?
It is a very long journey
To do what you say,
To go down to the Cedar Forest.
I will take a message for you.'
They kissed one another
And formed a friendship.
Gilgamesh spoke to Enkidu, said to him:
'Oh my friend, I have always wanted
To climb Cedar mountain (1).
There dwells fierce Humbaba
Who is evil and fearsome to look upon.
I wish to slay him
And banish what is evil from the land.
But he lives in the Cedar Forest
And I know not the way.'
[Here a large portion is lost]
The mother of Gilgamesh, who knows all,
Raises her hands to Shamash the Sun
[Here ten more lines are lost]
Enkidu's eyes brim tears, sick to the heart
Bitter sighs,
Yes, his eyes brim tears
Sick to heart and bitter sighs.
Gilgamesh, understanding, says to Enkidu:
'My friend, why eyes brimming tears? Sick to heart? Such bitter sighs?'
Enkidu said to Gilgamesh, told him:
'My friend, a cry chokes me, constricts my neck veins,
My arms are limp,
My strength gone into weakness'.
Gilgamesh spoke to Enkidu, said to him:
[Here four or five lines are lost.]
'In the forest terrible Humbaba lives
Let us, you and I, slay him,
And banish all that is evil from the land!'
[Here four lines are lost.]
Enkidu spoke, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, I found it out
When I was ranging forth over the steppe,
Running with the wild beasts,
For ten thousand double-hours the forest stretches,
Extending in every direction.
Who could there possibly be
To go down into this place?
And Humbaba - his roaring is the Great Flood,
His mouth is fire,
His breath is death!
Why do you wish to do sch a thing?
We are no match to fight fierce Humbaba!'
Gilgamesh spoke, saying to Enkidu:
'I will climb the Cedar Mountain!'
[Here seven lines are lost.]
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh, said to him:
'But how can we go to the Cedar Forest?
Dread Wer is its guardian, who sleeps not at all and is strong.
Humbaba-Wer is his.....
Adad the storm is his voice,
He has the breath of death.
He was appointed guardian of the Cedar Forest
By Enlil, son of An, the Great God,
To terrify all mortals.
Humbaba - his roaring is the Great Flood.
His mouth is fire,
His breath is death!
At sixty double-hours he hears
Every wild cow in the forest.
Who can go down into his forest?
Enlil appointed him to be guard,
To watch the cedars, terrify mortals,
Weakness grips one who goes down into the Cedar Forest.'
Gilgamesh spoke to Enkidu, said to him:
'Who can climb into heaven, my friend?
Immortal under the Sun are the gods alone,
As for mortals their days must end -
What they achieve is but the wind!
Even now you fear death.
Where is your hero's strength?
I will lead you, then.
You may call to me:'Advance, fear not!'
If I fall, I shall have made my name:
"Gilgamesh", they will say, "against fierce Humbaba
Has fallen!" and long after,
My descendants born in my house
Shall honour my name
As one who struggled agains fierce Humbaba
And fell in fighting on Cedar Mountain.
Speaking as you have, you have grieved me.
I will ready my hand,
I will fell the cedar trees,
I will make my name a name that endures!
I will commission the smith
To cast weapons for us.'
And they commissioned the smith;
The artisans sat down to discuss it.
They cast mighty adzes, they cast axes of three talents each -
And a talent contains sixty minas!
They cast mighty swords -
The blades were two talents each,
The knobs on their sheaths thirty minas each,
The handles of the swords
Thirty minas of gold each
Gilgamesh and Enkidu were both laden with ten talents apiece.
[A fragment from Uruk published in 1972 by von Weiher gives a slightly different account:]
They sit and take counsel together with the smiths:
'We will cast the axe.....
The axe - it shall weigh one talent
Your sword - it shall weigh one talent
Your belt - it shall weigh one talent
Your belt.............................
[The main account now resumes:]
At the great gate of Uruk
With its seven bolts
Gathered all of the people.
There in the street and market of ramparted Uruk
Stood mighty Gilgamesh
King of Uruk of the ramparts,
The people all sat down before him.
Gilgamesh spoke to them, saying:
'O thou people of ramparted Uruk,
I am going on a journey to the Forest of Cedars,
Him of whom they speak,
At whose name all lands tremble,
I, Gilgamesh, will see.
I will conquer him in the Cedar Forest!
I will spread abroad among all lands
How strong are the progeny of Uruk!
I will raise my hand and cut down the cedars!
I will make my name a name that endures!'
[The 1972 fragment of von Weiher, just cited, preserves a different version, which highlights the astronomical references more clearly:]
'The men of Uruk who know..................
There would I be strong, I travel the wheel-rim......
I commence the struggle which I know not, the motion
Blesses me!...... the path....... before
I will enter the city gate of Uruk....
I will turn towards, and the Akitu Festival in.................
I will celebrate the Akitu Festival in......
The Akitu Festival shall be arranged and joyful singing shall be heard.
One shall ever cry out and cry out again against magnificent garments in....
Enkidu - to the elders he said:
'What the men of Uruk ............................
He spoke to him; he should not enter the foret.....
The wheel-rim should not be journeyed uppon; a man ............................(3)
The guardian of the forest.............................
[This is the end of the fragment In the main text, no speech by Enkidu is recorded at all. A fragment of about 1400 BCE published by Gernot Wilhelm gives a few lines of yet another version of these events. Gilgamesh explains why he wishes to go on the expedition against Humbaba and the elders of Uruk ask him to reconsider:}
'I wish to set up a name, a name which will endure perpetually in their mouths.
Of my deeds I wish the land to listen!
I wish my name to be a name which endures!
Such a name I wish to establish for myself!
The elders of Uruk replied to Gilgamesh:
'But Gilgamesh, why do you wish to do this?
The struggle at the abode of Humbaba is not to .....?'
[Here the short fragment breaks off. We return once more to the main text:]
The elders of ramparted Uruk replied to Gilgamesh, said to him:
'You are very young, Gilgamesh,
Your heart has swept away your reason.
You have no knowledge of what is involved
We are told that Humbaba is strange to see and terrifying.
Who can possibly whitstand his weapons?
For ten thousand double-hours in every direction
Extends his great forest.
Who would go down into such a place?
Humbaba - his roaring is the Great Flood.
His mouth is fire,
His breath is death!
Why do you wish to do such a thing?'
No one is a match to struggle with Humbaba.'
When Gilgamesh heard these words of his advisers,
He looked round, smiling to his friend:
'Now, my friend, thus do they tremble
And fear eaven to speak of fierce Humbaba.
O Enkidu, together we can face him
In his great forest of cedars, and gain renown.
O elders of Uruk, I go with my friend Enkidu,
He of the steppe who has strength.
Together we will face fierce Humbaba.'
The elders answered Gilgamesh and said:
'May they own god protect thee
May he lead thee back safely along the road
May he bring thee back to the quay of Uruk.'
Gilgamesh then fell down before Shamash the Sun and spoke these words:
'I go, o Shamash, my hands raised in prayer;
Bless the future well-being of my soul.
Bring me back safely tot he quay of Uruk, and
Cause thy protection to be established over me.'
Gilgamesh called his friend
And inspected his omen.
[Here seven lines are lost. The omen, whih would have been read from the liver, gall bladder and intestines of a sacrificial lamb mus have been unfavourable.]
Tears ran down the face of Gilgamesh.
'I must travel a road I have never travelled,
I must follow a way I know not.
But I know I should fare well,
And I depart with a joyful heart.
May the blessings of the Great Gods be upon me!
They who are on their celestial thrones.'
And then were brought to him his weapons,
Those mighty swords,
Quiver and bow,
All placed in his hands,
He took the adzes,
And, with his quiver,
The bow of Anshan
Into his girdle he put his sword
That they might depart.
The people pressed around Gilgamesh:
'By the will of God may you return to the city!'
The elders paid homage
And counselled Gilgamesh concerning his journey:
'Trust not your strength alone!
Be wary and alert, on guard.
Let Enkidu walk before you.
He has seen the way, has travelled the road.
He who leads the way saves his companion,
He who knows the path protects his friend.
Enkidu has seen combat, knows it,
Knows the way to the Cedar Forest.
Over the obstacles and ditches will he carry you.
Let him penetrate and slip through
All the passes of the forest of Humbaba.
May Shamash grant your wish,
May he show you of what you speak.
May he open the unopened path for you,
Unbar the road for your coming,
Unclose for you the foot of the mountain!
May your nights bring you delights,
And may Lugulbanda stand by you,
May he stand by your wish!
May you attain your wish as does a child!
After slaying Humbaba, which you are attempting,
Wash then your feet.
When time to rest at night, dig a well -
May the water of your water-skin be ever pure! -
And offer cool water to Shamash.
And be ever mindful of Lugulbanda!
Enkidu, we the Assembly
Entrust our king to you.
Do you deliver him back to us!'
Gilgamesh spoke to Enkidu, said to him:
'Up, my friend, let us go to the Great Palace
To see Ninsun, the Great Queen
Ninsun the Wise, who has knowledge of everything,
Will make wise our feet in their course.'
Gilgamesh and Enkidu, to the Great Palace,
To see Ninsun, the Great Queen.
Gilgamesh stepped forward on entering the palace:
'O Ninsun, I make bold to depart
On a great journey to the place of Humbaba,
I must face battle strange to me,
Travel a road unknown to me.
Until I can return, until I come to the Cedar Forest,
And banish all that is evil from the land,
All that is hateful to Shamash,
Do pray to Shamash on my behalf.'
(Here several lines are lost)
Ninsun entered her chamber
(Here one line is lost)
She donned a garment suitable to her body
Also an ornament appropriate for her breast
Placed her tiara on her head,
Went out into the grounds,
Climbed the stairs, ascended the parapet
Attained the roof and there did offer up
To Shamash the Sun much incense
With this smoke-offering in progress
She raised her hands to Shamash:
'Having granted me as my son Gilgamesh,
Why have then have you given my him such a restless heart?
Why have you made him wish to go on a Great Journey to the place of Humbaba?
To face a battle strange to him?
To travel a road unknown to him?
Until the day he can return, until he reaches the Cedar Forest ,
Slays the fierce Humbaba
And banishes from the land all that is evil which you hate,
In the day hours when you shine forth,
May Aya your bride fear you not and keep you mindful
And may she also commend him
To those who watch over the hours of the night!
(Here many lines are lost)
She put out incense, chanting a spell.
Then she summoned Enkidu
To impart him this message:
'Mighty Enkidu, you who came not from my womb,
I have now adopted you,
As have the devotees of Gilgamesh,
The priestess, the votaries, the cult women!'
And around the neck of Enkidu she placed....
(The remainder of this line and several others are completely lost. In all probability Ninsun placed an amulet around Enkidu's neck. When the text resumes again, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are with the elders and about to depart.)
'Let Enkidu protect the friend, safeguard the companion,
Let him carry him through the pitfalls!
We, the Assembly, entrust to you our king:
Do you deliver him back to us!'
Enkidu then spoke to Gilgamesh, said to him:
'Since you are determined upon the struggle,
Then come away.
Let your heart not be troubled and follow me.
My friend, turn not away from the journey.
A way not known to you
Need hold no fears when I shall lead you.
In the Cedar Forest I know the dwelling place
And also the road which Humbaba travels.'
(Here seven lines are lost)
When the elders had heard this speech of his
They sent the hero on his way
'Go, Gilgamesh - may Shamash grant your wish,
And may your God be at your side.'


1. Cedar mountain and Cedar Forest are a mixture of the mythical and real. Their geographical location is a subject of hot dispute among scholars; one strong possibility is Lebanon, though not everyone agrees on this.
2. The Akitu Festival was a celebration of the New Year, at the Spring Equinox, and its repeated mention is in keeping with the more overt astronomical terminology of this fragment.
3. (For an explanation of the cosmic wheel and travelling its rim, see the notes to Tablet IX.) The word used here for 'wheel-rim', allak, is inevitably mistranslated as 'road' or 'way' by others because its true meaning has not been understood by previous scholars in its astronomical context of the cosmic wheel of the sky, which, seen from earth, appears to turn.
(Most of this tablet is mutilated and lost.)
After twenty intervals
They broke off a morsel
After thirty more
Rested for the night
Fifty were the intervals
Which they trod in a day
In three days, one month and fifteen days
Before Utu/Shamash the Sun they dug a well.
(The rest of the column is missing. After a missing portion of the next column, the text recommences.)
After twenty intervals
They broke off a morsel
After thirty more
Rested for the night
Fifty were the intervals
Which they trod in a day
In three days, one month and fifteen days
(Here then lines are missing)
Gilgamesh went up the mountain
Poured out the fine-meal and intoned
'O Mountain, bring me a dream that is favourable.'
(The rest of the column is missing, as well as the following two columns in their entirety and the beginning of the fifty column. By the time the text resumes in the incomplete fifth column, Gilgamesh and Enkidu have arrived at the doorway or gate of the Cedar Forest. Enkidu is encouraging a hesitant and wavering Gilgamesh.)
'Remember your words when in Uruk?
Come, rise, that you may slay him!
Are you not Gilgamesh, the progeny of Great Uruk?'
Gilgamesh heard these words from his mouth
And great became his confidence.
'Quickly, step up to him, let him not go -
Not go down into the woods and vanish there,
Where he cloaks himself with seven cloaks (2)
One is on him now, six are still off...'
Like unto a lordly bull he rages and is full of...
He the Guardian of the Forest calls out....
Humbaba, like
(The rest of the column is missing, as is the beginning of the next. The text commences again as follows:)
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh,
Said to him:
'Let us not go down into the heart of the forest!
'... my friend, as weaklings....
....we have travelled, all of them....
....before us.....
My friend - canny in combat, you are skilled in battle;
Only touch my garment and you will not fear death.
... and remain with me....'
(Here one line is undeciphrable)
'So that the limpness may leave your arm
That the weakness leave your hand...
Stay by me as my friend and let us go.
Together into the depths of the forest
Let not combat destroy your courage.
Forget death and do not...
A man determined to action but thoughtful...
He who leads the way preserves himself
And keeps his companion safe.
Though they may perish
Yet their name will endure.'
And so they both arrived at the green mountain.
They fell silent and stood quite still.
1. There is little doubt that the traversing of 50 intervals on each of these two days is meant to be significant. Speiser's version is '50 leagues' and Heidel's 'fifty double-hours (See Tablet IX, note 13 for a further discussion of 'double hours'.) Both these translations seem to be justifiable but each contradicts the other, since the first is an interval of space and the second an interval of time. The text also provides us with the information that in their 3 days' travel Gilgamesh and Enkidu traversed the distance of one month and fifteen days, or three half-months, which is an interval of time measured in space - the distance of a month and a half's time within three days' time.
The fact that later, at the end of Tablet XI, we find identically worded descriptions of a journey of twice-fifty intervals made by Gilgamesh back to Uruk from an entirely different location than the Cedr Forest serves to prove the non-specific geographical intent of descriptions in the Epic of journeys, which in reality are meant to have rather a metaphysical significante and probably a cosmographical setting.
2. See Tablet V, note 7.
They stood quite still and looked at the forest,
Saw how high were the great cedars,
And gazed upon the entrance to the forest.
There, where Humbaba was wont to tread,
Was a fine path; straight it was and easy to travel.
They saw also the Cedar Mountain, where lived the gods
And Irnini, Goddess of Love, holy Inanna had her throne seat
The cedar raised aloft its great luxuriant growth:
What cool shade, what delight!
Covering the brushwood, covering the....
(Here the text breaks off. It resumes, after an indeterminate lapse, with Gilgamesh speaking to Enkidu:)
'Rise up, cast your gaze tot he mountain....!
My divine sleep has been torn from me.
My friend, I saw a dream - Oh, how ill-omed!
How....! How disturbing!
I seized a wild bull of the steppe;
He bellowed, he kicked up the earth,
And the duks darkened the sky.
I gave way before him.
He was seizing.... strength, my flank
He tore out the ............................
He provided food.......................he drank
He gave me water to drink from his water-skin.'
[The text continues unbroken without identifying the speakers, but Enkidu is obviously replying to Gilgamesh:]
'My friend, the god to whom we go is not a wild bull,
Although his form is surpassing strange.
What you saw as a wild bull is really
The radiant Shamash the Sun
He will take us by the hand in our dire need,
He who gave you the water to drink from his water-skin -
He is your special god who brings you honour, Shamash the Sun.
We should therefore join him together
With Lugulbanda, your father, your own god, your familiar,
So that we might do a deed, such deed,
Which, though we die, yet will not be inglorious.'
[There may be a break here, as the order of the fragments is uncertain. But the text continues coherently:]
They took hold one of the other
And went to their nightly rest
Sleep descended upon them -
As it were the great surge of night.
But upon midnight hour a-sudden,
Sleep flew from Gilgamesh.
To Enkidu, his friend, he tells his dream:
'If you have not waked me, then how do I wake?
Enkidu, my friend, I must have seen a dream!
Have you not waked me? Why ......?
Aside from that first dream,
I now have seen a second dream;
In my dream a great mountain fell,
Pinned me to the ground, trapped my feet beneath it.
A great glare of light overwhelmed me.
A man like any other -
Such a man as we have never seen -
Stepped forth from the light.
His grace and beauty were more,
More than any on this earth.
He freed me from the mountain,
Gave me water to drink,
Quieted my heart.
He put my feet back on the earth.'
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh,
Said to him:
'My friend, let us go down into the plain,
Let us go take counsel together.'
[Several lines are lost here, and we don't have Enkidu's interpretation of the dream. Perhaps the wondrous man is again Shamash, who was seen as a bull, probably because the Epic was written in the Age of Taurus, between 4,000 and 2,000 BCE, when the sun rose at the spring equinox in the sign of the Bull. Shamash is also the root deity of Gilgamesh. After a break, the text resumes as follows, with Gilgamesh again speaking:]
'A second dream I saw:
We were standing in mountain gorges
And a mountain fell upon us.
It was so large that by comparison
We were like small reed flies -
Like the little fly of the cane-brakes we were.'
He who was born on the steppe...
Enkidu said to his friend:
'My friend, the dream is auspicious,
It is a precious dream....
My friend, that mountain which you saw
That mountain is Humbaba.
We shall seize Humbaba, we shall kill him,
And cast his dead body on the plain.
On the morrow...'
After 20 intrvals, they broke off a morsel
After 30 more, rested for the night.
Before Shamash the Sun they dug a well....
Gilgamesh went up a mountain
Made offering of his fine-meal and intoned:
'O Mountain, bring a dream for Enkidu,
Bring for him a dream of mine to interpret!'
And the mountain did bring a dream for Enkidu.
It brought for him....
Cold rain passed overhead....
He had to take shelter....
.... and like unto the wild barley of the mountains.....
Gilgamesh puts his chin to his knees,
Sleep which falls upon mankind
Fell upon Gilgamesh.
He started, full awake, said to his friend:
'My friend, have you called me?
Why am I awake?
Did you touch me?
Why have I started so?
Did not some god pass by?
Why have I gone numb?
Why are my limbs paralysed?
My friend, I saw a 3rd dream,
And this dream was terrible in every way.
The heavens were roaring and screaming
The earth was blasted with booming sounds,
And darkness descended like a shroud -
A sudden streak of fire as lightning flashed,
The clouds grew bloated and full
And they rained down death!
Then the fire-glow of the skies died out
And all the fallen of the fire
Of that downpour of death
Crusted over to ashes.
Oh, let us go down into the plain!
There we can take counsel!'
When Enkidu heard this,
Heard the dream his friend offered him,
He said to Gilgamesh interpreting his dream,
Made him come to acceptance of his dream:
[Most unfortunately we do not have any account of Enkidu's interpretation of the dream as the text breaks here. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are no longer conversing about the dream but have arrived at the forest of Humbaba:]
Gilgamesh gripped the axe
And with it felled the cedar.
Humbaba, hearing the sound of this,
Fell into a fury and raged:
'Who is it who has come -
Come and intefered with my trees?
My trees which have grown on my own mountains?
And has also felled the cedar?'
But just then from heaven came the voice
Of the Great God Shamash the Sun:
'Have no fear. Approach him and........
March, as long as...........
He enters not into his house........'
[Here the text breaks off. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are apparently given instructions by the voice of Shamash on how to approach Humbaba in order to kill him. This would seem to include specific directions and useful information about Humbaba's movements. But the heroes do not seem to fare very well even with such helpful hints:]
His tears streamed down from him
And Gilgamesh said to Shamash in heaven:
[Here two lines are mutilated in the tablet and cannot be read:]
'But I have taken the way of heavenly Shamash,
I have trod the way he said.'
Humbaba said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'The fool, the stupid man -
They should take advice, Gilgamesh!
Why do you now approach me?
With that Enkidu, that son of a fish (2)
Who knew not his father,
Companion of the small turtles, of the large turtles,
And who never sucked the milk of his mother?
In your youth I beheld you
Now should I kill you to satisfy my belly?
Shamash brought you, Gilgamesh, and allowed you to reach me.
It is through his assistance that you are stepping along thus.
But, Gilgamesh, I will bite through the palate-pin
Of your throat and your neck.
I will allow the shrieking serpent-bird
The eagle and the raven to eat your flesh!'
Gilgamesh said to his friend, said to Enkidu:
'My friend, Humbaba's facial features have altered,
And their configuration raises itself to an equal height (3)
But my entrails are gripped by fear that we are too hasty.'
Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, why do you wail so miserably
And let your mouth go flabby
And conceal yourself?
For now, my friend,
The axe has been cast for you -
The copper-smith poured its molten metal from the gutter channel,
Annealed it by heating for a double-hour,
Allowed it then to cook for a double-hour,
Producing this weapon of the flood-storm.
Seize the whip -
Travel not on your feet,
Do no turn back!
Strike with the axe and make your blow strong!'
Shamash in heaven heard the prayer of Gilgamesh
And against Humbaba rose up mighty winds:
The Great Wind, the North Wind, the South Wind, the Whirlwind,
The Storm Wind, the Chill Wind the Tempestuous Wind
The Hot Wind - eight were the winds.
They rose up against Humbaba.
Lo! He cannot move forwards!
Lo! He cannot move backwards!
And so Humbaba relented.
Then Humbaba answered Gilgamesh:
'Oh, do let me go, Gilgamesh! You will be my master, I will be your servant.
And as for my trees, My trees which I have grown,
I will............................
I will cut them down and build you houses.'
But Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
'Do not listen to him.
Hark not to the word of Humbaba.
Humbaba must not live!'
[An earlier fragment from Uruk published in 1980 by von Weiher gives a variant version of this section, listing 13 winds rather than 8:]
......... they might be turned away,
......... distant are they.
He struck his head and drew himself up against him.
With the heels of their feet they removed the earth;
Mount Hermon and Lebanon and their surrounding districts
Are being destroyed.
Then the white clouds became black,
And it rained the presage of death on them
Like a light rain in a mist (4).
But Shamash raised up great winds against Humbaba:
The South Wind, the North Wind,
The East Wind, the West Wind,
The Blowing Wind,
The Squally Wind,
The Shaparziqqu Wind,
The Evil Storm,
The Sihurra Wind,
The Wind of Frost,
The Storm,
The Thunder Storm -
13 winds he raised against him
And Humbaba's face was darkened.
He cannot push forwards,
He cannot run backwards;
But the weapons of Gilgamesh could now reach Humbaba.
Humbaba now besought his life,
And said to Gilgamesh:
'Small you were, Gilgamesh -
Your mother bore you,
And you are of the offspring of ........
Agreable to the command of Shamash
Of the Lord of the Mountains, you rose up
"But he is the offspirng
In the midst of Uruk:
The king - Gilgamesh!"
[Here three lines are missing, except that the mention of the name of Gilgamesh can be made out twice:]
I will sit down with you and.............
Trees, as many as you already have said......
I will defend you! The wood of the myrtle................
It is enough...........
Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, do not listen
To what Humbaba says.'
[Here some lines are missing. A mutilated fragment published by Gernot Wilhelm in 1988 can be inserted about this point. Humbaba appears to castigate Enkidu for bringing Gilgamesh to him:]
'...... You have led him before me!
...... splendour.'
[Humbaba then appears to complain either to Gilgamesh or Enkidu that he did not stay at home enjoying simple comforts:]
'Could you not marry a wife
And satisfy yourself with her voluptuousness?'
[Humbaba then appears to be batterd by the various winds:]
But the great winds roared against Humbaba
.... the .... dust-storms flowed
Perpetually on his head.
[Enkidu then seems to plead with Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba:]
'I beg you to listen to me, my friend!'
..... he struck down once more speedily and
..... to the little child.
[We now return to won Weiher's 1980 fragment. Humbaba is speaking to Enkidu:]
'But you know the sign of my forest, the sign......
And you know precisely everything that is said.
I should have lifted you up on high,
I should have killed you upon your entrance
Into the branches of my forest!
I should have let the shrieking serpent-brid,
The eagle and the raven eat your flesh!
But now, o Enkidu,
It lies with you. Make limp your wrath.
Speak to Gilgamesh!
He might spare my life!'
Enkidu said to his friend, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, Humbaba the guardian of the Cedar Forest......
Strike him to maim him.
Kill him! Crush him! And quickly,
Humbaba, the guardian of the forest -
Strike him to maim him.
Kill him! Crush him! And quickly.
Before God Enlil, the Foremost hears his cries.
The gods will be filled with wrath against us for our deed.
Enlil in the city of Nippur, Shamash in.....
Put down and.....'
As Gilgamesh came nearer to Humbaba
But Humbaba heard his approach.
And ..... Humbaba......
[Here many lines are lost:]
He heard...............................
[Here three lines are lost. Humbaba is speaking to Enkidu:}
........... my forest.................
But denunciations are caused.....
You sit there like a shepherd.........
But as......................
But now, o Enkidu,
It lies with you. Make limp your wrath.
Speak to Gilgamesh!
He might spare my life!'
Enkidu said to his friend, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, Humbaba, the guardian of the forest......
Kill him and quickly
Before God Enlil, the Foremost, hears his cries.....
The gods will be filled with wrath agains us for our deed.
Enlil in the city of Nippur, Shamash in.....
But Humbaba heard his approach
[Here many lines are lost. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh and Enkidu seem to be quarreling;]
'Should not......
Should not erect a higher altar than his friend?
Gilgamesh and Enkidu should never more
Have one another as friends!'
Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, I speak to you
But do you not put a stop to my words.'
[The above may not have been a quarrel, but might instead have referred to them never again having each othr as friends because one of them might die. Now many lines are lost, including the description of the slaying of Humbaba, which however, survives in other versions. The last portion of the 1980 fragment comes at the end of this tablet.
We now turn to the Sumerian tale Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living, written in Sumerian language long before the Babylonian culture exited, and hence representing the earliest stage in the Gilgamesh literature. In this version the situation is slightly different. Gilgamesh and Enkidu did not go alone on their expedition but were accompanied by 50 strong warriors of Uruk, each of whom carried in his hands a felled tree - which there is some reasons to believe served as oars. These 50 warriors were probably the prototypes of the 50 Greek Argonauts, particularly as the tale of the Argo was current in the time of Homer, since Homer himself referred to it as the 'fabled' Argo. It is these 50 anonymous heroes who are referred to below collectively as the sons of the city:]
Gilgamesh prayed:
'O Shamash, by the life of my mother Ninsun, who gave birth to me,
And of pure Lugulbanda, my father, truly I have entered this land of the cedar
And here have I known your dwelling place.
My small weak strength truly have I brought into this land for you as......
.... in your.................would I enter.'
Then Humbaba himself uprooted for Gilgamesh
The first of his trees.
The sons of the city who had come
Come with Gilgamesh from Uruk
Cut down the tree's crown, bundled it,
Lay it at the foot of the mountain.
After Humbaba himself had finished off
The seventh tree for him,
Gilgamesh approached his chamber.
He ... d the ' snake of the wine quay' (5) in his wall'
Like one pressing a kiss, he slapped his cheek
Like a captured ox, A nose ring was thrown over HUmbaba.
Like a captured hero,
A rope was fastened about him.
Humbaba, his teeth shook,
He warded off Gilgamesh:
'Oh, I would say a word unto
But Enkidu answered Gilgamesh:
'She the tallest who discriminates not,
She Namtar, awful Fate,
She will devour.
Namtar knows no distinctions.
If the caught bird is let go free,
Flies back to his place;
If the captive man returns,
Returns to the bosom of his mother;
Then will you never return to your city
To that city of your mother who gave birth to you.'
Humbaba says to Enkidu:
'To him, o Enkidu
You have spoken evil against me!
O mere hireling, who carries the food,
Who stands next to the..... of the rival,
You have spoken evil words to him!'
Humbaba then uttered against them his first terrifying roar.
The 50 companions then moved forward with Gilgamesh;
They cut down the branches, they tied them,
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
The companions moved forward with Gilgamesh;
They cut down the branches, they tied them,
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
He uttered against them his third terrifying roar.
The companions moved forward with Gilgamesh;
They cut down the trunk, they cut the side of Humbaba,
He uttered his fourth terrifying roar.
The companions moved forward towards him;
They cut down the trunk, they cut his side
They laid them at the foot of the mountain.
He uttered against them his fifth terrifying roar,
The companions moved forward towards him
They cut his trunk, they cut his side,
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
He uttered his sixth terrifying roar.
The companions advanced towards him
They cut his trunk, they cut his side.
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
At the moment when his 7th roar was coming to an end,
He approached the room where he rested.
His figure was formed like a serpent of...... wine
Like someone who gets ready to give a kiss,
He laid the palm of his hand against his cheek (6)
As for Humbaba, his face now became noble.
Like a captured mountain bull on a leash, he approached;
Like a captured sailor, he had tied elbows.
Humbaba, the tears came to his eyes, he grew pale:
'Gilgamesh, you, you know?
My king? Let me say a word:
A mother, who would have brought me into the world
I did not know one.
A father, who would have raised me -
I did not know one.
The mountain begat me -
You, you will raise me!'
Gilgamesh swore by the sky,
Swore by the earth,
Swore by the Underworld;
He took the .... in his hand,
When he would not want to lose it?
And of Gilgamesh, sono of Ninsun,
Now is his heart moved to pity.
To his servant Enkidu, he spoke these words:
'Enkidu, a caught bird -
Ought he not to return to the arms of his mother?'
Enkidu interrupted him:
'But you, should you be taken prisoner,
You will not return to the arms of your mother.
Who has ever seen the hands of a prisoner of war unbound?
An imprisoned priest returned to the temple residence?
A lukur-priestess returned to her pleasures?
If you set him free,
He will obstruct the way up the mountain,
He will make the footpath impassable up the mountain.'
Humbaba, who had heard this speech,
Addressed these words to Enkidu:
'You, Enkidu, you have spoken these words,
Hostile and pernicious.
You, the mercenary, recruited for a pittance,
Who drags himself along after his fellow.
Such are you - that is why
The hostile words come!'
Because he had spoken in this manner,
Enkidu, in an excess of fury,
Cut off his head,
Wrapping it in a shroud.
[Another fragment gives the following version:]
When he had spoken thus,
They cut off his neck
They placed upon him....
They brought him before God Enlil and Goddess Ninlil
Enlil brought forth from the sea his palace servant
And Ninlil brought forth from.... her....
When Enlil and Ninlil.....
'Why thus......?
Let him come forth, let him seize.....'
[We now return to where we broke off a moment ago]
In front of Enlil they entered,
In front of Enlil, having kissed the earth,
They threw down the shroud,
They took out the head
And they rested it in front of Enlil.
Enlil, at the sight of Humbaba,
Grew angry at the words of Gilgamesh and said:
'Why do you act in this way?
May your faces be seared by fire!
May the food you eat be eaten by fire!
May the water you drink be drunk by fire!'
[There is a gap here, during which Enlil presents Gilgamesh with the seven melammus or roars of Humbaba:] (7)
At the end of their conversation,
After his servant had prepared a sweet....
Enlil said:
'Place him down before you,
Make him eat the bread that you eat,
Make him drink the drink that you drink.
After Enlil had taken away Humbaba,
He retained his exalted terrifying roar;
He attached the first roar to a large river;
He attached the second roar to................
He attached the third roar to ..... which carried....
He attached the fourth roar to a lion
He attached the fifth roar to barbarity,
He attached the sixth roar to a mountain
He attached the seventh roar to the goddess Nungal (8).
To the king, who subdued and conquered the terrifying roar,
To Gilgamesh the wild bull.
Who plunders the mountain.
Who goes from there to the sea -
Glory to him!
And from valiant Enkidu -glory to Enki!
God Enki, that your glory be sweet!
[The Sumerian text breaks off here. The text which follows is from a recently discovered fragment of a later period and also uses the imagery of the caught bird. As the reader will already have noted, the reference in the Sumerian material to the cutting down of the trees as a gesture of appeasement by Humbaba to Gilgamesh continues a theme in the fragment of a later period which cam just before the Sumerian inset.
We now return to the Epic of the later period, which offers another version of the death of Humbaba:]
Gilgamesh said to Enkidu:
'We will arrive in.....................,
In the confusion the melammus will vanish -
The melammus, the furies, the radiant beams,
The ordained haloes of the power, these -
They will vanish.
The melammus will vanish and then
The brilliance will become all clouded.'
Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, first catch the bird.
Then, where will the young birds fly?
Therefore let us see later those Melammus.
For, like young birds, they will only run about the grass!
First kill Humbaba, then kill his servants!'
Gilgamesh heeded the words of his friend.
With his hand he took the axe,
Drew the sword from his belt.
Gilgamesh struck the neck of Humbaba,
Enkidu, his friend, struck Humbaba twice also.
At the third blow Humbaba fell.
Confusion..... dumbfounded,
He struck the watchman, Humbaba, to the ground.
For two leagues the cedars resounded.
Enkidu killed with him
Forest.... cedars
At whose word Mount Hermon -Saria (9)
And all the Lebanon trembled.
All the mountains became.......
All the hills became.......
He slew the ......cedars,
Those destroyed.... after he killed the seven,
The net.... the sword which weighed eight talents,
The netam (10) of eight talents,
Bearing these he pressed on into the forest.
He opened up the secret dwelling of
The 50 Great Gods, the Anunnaki,
They who are seated on their thrones.
While Gilgamesh cut down the trees,
Enkidu dug up the urmazili (11)
Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
'.........Gilgamesh, felled are the cedars.'
[The 1980 fragment of von Weiher provides a bit more of the text here:]
....... the blow of their rottenness,
Gilgamesh felled the trees,
Enkidu searched everywhere towards.....
Enkidu said to him
Said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend up to now the high-grown cedar's tip would have penetrated to heaven
I make from it a door whose height will be six dozen yards (12)
Whose width will be two dozen yards.
One yard will b its thickness. Its door-pole
Its lower door-hinge and its upper door=hinge
Each one will be one....
To the city of Nippur one might bring it,
To Nippur which is midway between the River Euphrates and the River Tigris
Then they joined together a raft....
Enkidu [steered?] ......
And Gilgamesh.......the head of Humbaba....
They washed......
1. The Greek Hipparchos is sometimes credited with 'discovering' the precession of the equinoxes in the second century BCE, but it was known that the Babylonians were well aware of the phenomenon centuries earlier. Otto Neugebauer, a leading historian of sciene, stresses that Hiparchos was greatly influenced by Babylonian astronomy and drew his history of lunar motions from it. The precession of the equinoxes is the process by which, like a spinning top, the earth processes in space over a period of approximately 26,000 years. During this period the sun rises roughly every 2,000 years at the spring equinox in a particular star constellation; it traverses all twelve zodiacal signs in this way over the course of the 26,000 years. The sun rose in what we now call Taurus between about 4,000 and 2,000 BCE, that was the Age of Taurus. Peter Tompkins believes that ancient Egyptian inscriptions stating that the Bull marks the beginning of the spring indicate that knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes goes back to 4,000 BCE in Egypt. Certainly it would have to be before 2,000 BCE, because by then the bull no longer marked the beginning of the spring.
2. This appears to associate Enkidu with the fish-men culture heroes of ancient Sumer (See Tablet VII, note 2).
3. Humbaba's facial features comprised the coils of lamb intestines consulted in divination. If their configuration altered, the omen altered. The reference is a double one, referring also to the configuration of orbital loops of Mercury's orbit as seen from the earth; these would have to 'rise to an equal height' in order for Humbaba's head to be cut off (See Tablet VII, note 3).
4. See Tablet XI, note 23.
5. No one knows what 'snake of the wine quay' means. It is a literal translation which, unfortunately, makes little sense.6.
6. This strange passage refers to Humbaba-as-intestines. The description of his figure being formed like a serpent refers to the configuration of the spiral colon of a lamb used in divination. The normal number of loops of the spiral colon was seven; the seven roars refer to these. At the end of the seventh loop-roar, the monster 'approached the room where he rested'; this refers to how at the centre of the spiral the colon turns back on itself, thus 'resting'. (The resting of the spiral colon can also be equated with the turning and retrograde motion of Mercury in the sky.)
Cutting the trunk and cutting the side probably refers to fissures in divinatory liver, which look exactly like cuts and had major significance to the Sumerians and Babylonians; the divinatory name for one of these fissures was actually 'blow at the front of the enemy's army', so the fissures could be interpreted as blows or cuts.
Tying up branches and laying them at the foot of the mountain might be a reference to the processus pyramidalis, which stands like a pyramidal mountain over the liver, at the foot of the gall bladder (a very important divinatory indicator), which when removed from the liver might have been tied at the top to prevent the escape of its bile.
7. The meaning of the seven melammus is somewhat obscure and subject to discussion. Certainly, as mentioned in note 6, they refer to the seven loops of a lamb's intestines consulted in divination, and this in turn hints at the orbit of the planet Mercury. But the melammus are also in some sense magical cloaks or as some scholars say, aura coasts which surround Humbaba.
8. Nungal is presumably a variant of the name of Ningal, the Moon goddess.
9. Saria is the Akkadian name for Mount Hermon, in Lebanon.
10. A netam is apparently some kind of weapon, but only this much is known about the word.
11. The meaning of urmazili is unknown. It could possibly be the root of a tree or a plant.
12. I have translated ammatu as a yard ad akalu, which is 12 ammatus, as dozen yards. In the literal sense, this is more or less what they are.