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A verse version of the Epic of Gilgamesh by Robert Temple, Rider, an imprint of Random Century Group Ltd., London, Sydney, Auckland, Johannesburg, 1991. All rights reserved. Here included for research and study purposes.


The dirt of his travels, Gilgamesh washed from his hair,
A beauteous sheen he put to his weapons,
Polishing them.
Down along his back it fell,
The shining clean hair of his head.
All the soiled garments, he cast them off.
Clean, new clothes he put on.
About him now, wrapped,
Clinging to him, a cloak with its fringe,
His sparkling sash was fastened onto him,
His tiara on his head.
But when Inanna had seen this,
When She, the Goddess of Love and War, had seen this /
She raised an eye indeed to the beauty of Gilgamesh:
'O Gilgamesh, will you not be my lover?
Give me that fruit the tree of man yields to woman.
I will give you myself as wife: you shall be my husband!
For you I will give a chariot made of lapis-lazuli
Yes, too, and of gold!
Its horns - they shall be of brilliant brass.
Storm demons I will hitch to it for your mules!
There shalll be a great fragrance of cedar
On the occasions when you enter our house
Its very threshold, the very dais itself -
As your feet touch them
Your feet shall be kissed by them!
And all the kings and the lords
And the princes - all of them -
These shall be humbled before you.
I will make all the yield of the hills,
All the yield of the plains
Be brought to you as tribute.
All your goats shall bear twins
All your sheep shall bear twins.
The ass shall better the mule for burdens,
While your chariot horses will be famed
For their speed in racing.
(Here three lines are mutilated and cannot be read)
'But what advantage would it be to me to take you in marriage?
In the cold season you would surely fail me!
Like a pan full of burning coals which go out
You ae but a back door which does not stay shut
But flies open in the raging wind.
You are the great palace which collapses on its honoured guests
The head-dress that unravels,
The pitch that blackesn the hands of the bearer,
The water-skin that rubs the back raw as it is carried,
The limestone which undermines the rampart
A siege engine thrown up agains the walls of the enemy,
The shoe that pinches the foot of its owner
What lover did you love for ever?
Which of your shepherds is there
Who has satisfied you for long?
Come, I will tell you the tales of your lovers:
For Tammuz, your young husband,
For him we wail year after year!
He who dies each autumn and comes back each spring!
The spotted shepherd-bird you loved,
That bird which rolls and tumbles in its flight,
And you struck him, broke his wing.
And now he stands in the groves and calls:
"Kappi!" - that bird's hoarse cry,
Which is to say,"My wing!"
Then you loved the lion, perfect in its strength,
But you dug for him seven pits and again seven.
Then you loved the stallion, great in battle,
but you made for him the whip and thong and the spur.
And you decreed that he run seven-double hours,
And that it is for him to make muddy and then to drink.
For his mother, Silili, you decreed lamentation!
You also loved the shepherd with his herd,
He piled ash cakes high for you without cease,
And on this burning charcoal daily offered you his young and succulent kids
But you struck him
And turned him into a wolf
So that now his own herd boys drive him off
And his own dogs bite at his thighs.
Then you loved Ishullanu, the palm-gardener of your father
Who brought you baskets of dates everyday
You raised your eyes and looked at him
And you went and said to him:
"O my Ishullanu, let me tast of your vigour!
Put forth that which you have,
Into my own, O Ishullanu!"
But Ishullanu said to you:
"What are you asking of me?
Has not my mother baked, have I not eaten,
That I should partake of food with such strong odour, with such foul stench?
He brightened your table every day.
You raised your eyes and looked at him, and as he was not willing to be yours,
You struck him and turned him into a mole.
If you loved me, would you treat me the same as them?
Can mere reeds protec one from the frost, as the saying is?"
When you had heard these his words,
You struck him and turned him into a mole.
You placed him in the middle of...
He cannot ascend the.... he cannot go down....
And if you loved me,
You would treat me the same as them.'
When Inanna heard this -
She, the Goddess of Love and Battle heard this -
She was infuriated.
She went to heaven immediately
And saw her father An, the Sky God
Before him she wept,
And before her mother, Antum, she wept.
And she said:
'Father, Gilgamesh has insuted me!
He enumerated all my evil deeds!
He has said I am foul odour and I am evil!'
An spoke, said to the glorious Inanna:
'Are you the father?
You have quarreled with Gilgamesh the King.
And so he told you your evil deeds,
The odour of them.'
Inanna spoke to her father An:
'Father, please give me the Bull of Heaven
So that he can smite King Gilgamesh even in his own home.
And if you don't give me the Bull of Heaven
I will go down to the Underworld and smash its doors!
I will place those above below!
The doors will be left wide open and the dead will get out,
Eat all the food,
And the dead will then outnumber the living!
An spoke
Said to glorious Inanna:
'If you desire from the Bull of Heaven,
There there will be seven years
Of barren husks in the land of Uruk.
Have you gathered enough grain for the people?
Have you grown enough fodder for the beasts?'
Inanna spoke, said to her father An:
'I have stored enough grain for the people
I have provided enough fodder for the animals
If there should be seven years of no crops
I have gathered grain for the people
I have grown fodder for the beasts.'
(Here three lines are lost)
When An heard this speech of Inanna
He gave her the tether of the Bull of Heaven,
So that Inanna might lead it to Uruk.
When she came to the gates of Uruk
(Here one line is missing)
He went down to the river... seven.... the river
With the snort of the Bull of Heaven, pits were opened
And a hundred men of Uruk fell into them.
With his second snort, pits were opened
And two hundred young men of Uruk fell into them
With his third snort, pits were opened
And Enkidu fell in one of them
Enkidu leapt out of it and seized the bull by the horns
The Bull of Heaven retreated before him
And brushed him with the hairy tip of its tail,
As it spewed foam from its mouth.
Enkidu spoke, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, we boasted....'
(Here eight lines are lost)
And between the nape of his neck and the horns of his head...
(Here one line is lost)
Enkidu chased him and .... the Bull of Heaven
He seized him by the thick hairy tip of his tail.
(Here three lines are mutilated)
He thrust his sword between the nape of his neck
And the horns of his head
When they had killed the Bull, they tore out his heart
And placed it before Shamash the Sun
They stepped back and fell down before Shamash in homage.
Then the two brothers sat down.
Then Inanna mounted up upon the wall of the city
There at ramparted Uruk and
Springing on to the battlements she uttered a curse:
'Woe be unto you, Gilgamesh, who has insulted me
By slaying the Bull of Heaven!'
When Enkidu heard the curse of Inanna,
He tore loose the right thigh of the Bull of Heaven,
Flung it skywards up into her face:
'If I could reach you,
I would do the same to you as to him!
I would hang his entrails at your side!'
Then Inanna called the votaries of the temple
The sacred harlots and courtesans of the temple
And with them she set up a wailing lamentation
Over the right thigh of the Bull of Heaven.
(There is no break here, but it is as well to explain that the ancient Egyptian constellation of the Thigh, which was in fact a bull's thigh was the ancient equivalent to our Plough or Great Bear or Big Dipper - all these three being the same). (2)
But Gilgamesh called the armourers and craftsmen
The artisans admired the thickness of the bull's horns
Each horn is thirty minas of lapis-lazuli;
Two fingers thick is the coating of each
Six gur measures of oil would measure their capacity,
Would be what they would contain, this being 1,500 quarts.
And just this much ointment did he then present
To his own special god, Lugulbanda the Pure.
As for the horns, he brought them
Into his princely bedchamber and hung them there.
They washed their hands in the Euphrates,
They embraced one another as they went on,
Riding through the main streets of Uruk.
There heroes are all gathered round to see them,
Gilgamesh to the sacred lyre-maids of Uruk,
Says these words:
' Who is the most splendid among the heroes?
Who is the most glorious among men?'
Who has strength and courage no one can match?
'Gilgamesh is the most splendid among heroes!
Gilgamesh is the most glorious among men!' (3)
In his palace, Gilgamesh holds a great feast.
Down the heroes lie on their night couches,
Enkidu also lies down, and sees a dream,
Enkidu rises up to reveal his dream,
Saying to his friend:
'My friend, why are the Great Gods in council?'
1. Tammuz, known earlier to the Sumerians as Dumuzi, was the shepherd-king who was the patron deity of Kullab, a Sumerian riverside city that was later absorbed by Gilgamesh's city of Uruk, though the texts are careful to specify that Gilgamesh himself was from Kullab within Uruk. Tammuz married Ishtar, the Goddess of Love and War, whom he often offended. He was carried down to the Underworld but pleaded with his brother-in-law Utu/Shamash the Sun to save him. He seems to have been granted a reprieve for half of each year and thus to have been a prototype for Persephone and other figures of later mythology who came to represent the retrn of spring after the death of winter. The earlier references in the Epic to sacred sheepfolds and shepherds are connected with the cult of Tammuz.
2. Enkidu's flinging of the Thigh has some significance in terms of ancient astronomical-religious mythology. In the course of every 24 hours, the Thigh makes a complete spin around the Pole Star, ina a motion resembling 'being flung'. The Thigh is clearly depicted in numerous places, particularly the various zodiacs carved in stone at Denderah in Egypt. It was such a major constellation that it was common to the ancient civilised Mediterranean world. A further elaboration of ideas must be avoided here, but the interested reder is referred tto Sir Norman Lockyer's The Dawn of Astronomy and to de Santillana and von Dechend's Hamlet's Mill for further information.
3. This is a clear trace of a choral response by a group of lyre-maids in the sacred dramatic form of the Epic, of which a whole section has recently been excavated and now inserted into Tablet X. This slip of the stylus gives us the crucial information that the performances were accompanied by lyre music and that in a processional scene such as this the girl musicians would also chant echoing choral response, very like those preserved in the new fragment of Tablet X.
'..... then twilight came.'
And Enkidu answered Gilgamesh:
'My friend, hear a dream I had last night
An, the Sky God,
Enlil, his son,
Enki, son of Enlil,
And Shamash the Sun,
All held council together,
And An said to Enlil:
'Because they have slain the Bull of Heaven
And have slain Humbaba,
He who watched over the mountains,
Watched them from Cedar Tree - one among of them
Must die!' - So said An.
But Great Enlil said:
'Enkidu must die!
Gilgamesh, however, shall not die!'
Then heavenly Shamash the Sun answred great Enlil:
'Was it not at your very own command
That these necessities took place -
The slaying of the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba?
And now you say,
Innocent Enkidu should die?'
But at this Enlil became enraged.
He turned in anger to heavenly Shamash:
'Just because you used to go down to them
Everyday as if you yourself were his comrade!'
Enkidu lay down before Gilgamesh, very ill.
Gilgamesh, his tears running down, said to him:
' My brother, my dear brother!
They wish to let me go but to take you as the price for this!'
Also he said:
'Must I sit down by the spirit of the dead,
By the door of the spirit of the dead?
And never again to see my dear brother with my eyes?
[Here there is a considerable break. As can be seen from what follows, Enkidu curses the fates and the stages that have led him to leave the wild steppe and coming to a civilised life. We can assume that in the lost portion he gave further vent to his frustration and dejection and that Gilgamesh too made complaint against Enkidu's unfortunate fate and the decision of the gods that Enkidu must die and be taken from him]
Enkidu.... lifted up his eyes, spoke as if to the door,
As though the door were human:
'O door! Door to the forest! Insensible thing!
Possessed of no understanding!
From a distance of 20 intervals
I thought your timber fine!
Then I beheld the lofty cedar!
Nowehere in the land is there
Any semblance, any compare with your wood!
Six dozen are the cubits to your height,
Two dozen are the cubits to your width...
Your ple, your pole ferrule and your pole=knob....
Truly a craftsman of Nippur made you....(2)
But, o door, had I known that this beauty of yours
Would bring to pass such disaster,
I would have taken the axe and would have....
I would have made a reed frame to [encompass?] you (3)
[Here several lines are lost. When Enkidu's speech resumes, he makes clear that he constructed the door himself, evidently from the felled cedar tree he so admired. A recurring theme of Sumerian and Babylonian literature is the felling of a sacred tree and making some special or sacred object from it.]
'O door, I made you, set you in place
When I am gone, may a
Or perhaps a god....... you.
He may place his name on you, eradicating mine.'
He ripped out.... he tore down.
As Gilgamesh listened, hurriedly his....
As Gilgamesh heard his friend Enkidu speak thus, his tears were flowing.
Gilgamesh opend his mouth, said to Enkidu:
Strange things may be spoken by the wise.
Why does your heart say such strange things, my friend?
Precious was your dream, but the terror is great.
Your limbs are paralysed like .......
But despite the terror, precious is the dream:
Misery was released for the healthy;
Woe befell the healthy from this dream.
.... and I will pray to the Great Gods.'
[Here eleven lines are missing.]
With daybreak Enkidu looked up,
Tears streaming from him to radiant Shamash the Sun:
'I pray, o Shamash, that the hunter, that rogue,
He who hunted not
Who stopped my getting as much game as my friend -
Let him not get as much game as his friend.
Take what he owns, lessen his power.
May his way offend you.
May all the game escape from him.
May his heart be never full.'
And he bitterly cursed the priestess:
'O you, priestesss, I pronounce your fate -
A fate which shall be yours for all eternity!
Hearken, for I curse you now with a great curse
And may my curses attack you on the instant:
You shall not build a house in which to offer your charms.
You shall never enter the tavern where the young girls are.
Your lovely breasts....
May the drunkard defile your trysting place with vomit,
May you be violated by all the troops.
....... shall cast into your house.
Your home shall be the road....
The dust of the crossroads is where you shall dwell.
The desert shall be your bed.
The shadow of the wall is where you shall linger,
Your feet torn by thorns and brambles.
And men crazed by lust panting for drink shall strike your cheeks!
Because you have...... me
And because you have brought death upon me'
When these words were heard by Shamash the Sun,
Straight away he called down from heaven to Enkidu:
' Enkidu, why do you curse the priestess
Who introduced you to food fit for the gods,
To drink fit for kings?
She who clothed you nobly!
She who gave you Gilgamesh as friend,
And now Gilgamesh is a brother to you.
Has he not placed you on a beauteous couch?
You are on the throne of ease,
The throne at his left hand
So that the rulers of the earth kiss your feet!
Lamentations and weepings from the people of Uruk shall he cause for you;
Those with hearts full of joy he shall make mourn
When you have turned back (4).
He will let his body become long-haried,
He will clothe himself with the skin of the dog (5),
And he will roam the steppe.'
These words of Shamash quieted Enkidu, calmed his angry heart.
[Here two lines are missing. Enkidu retracts his cursing of the priestess and blesses her instead]
'O you priestess, I pronounce your fate -
The mouth has cursed you
It turns and blesses you.
Lords and governors shall love you
He who is one league away shall smite his thigh in admiration of you
He who is two leagues away shall shake his hair in desire of you
May all the young men will loosen their clothes for you
May you be laden with carnelian, lapis lazuli and gold.
And he who defiled you - may he be paid back!
May his home be stripped,
His full storehouse emptied.
May the priest lead you into the presence of the gods.
And for you the wife be abandoned,
Though she be the mother of seven.'
Enkidu, cast down in sorrow,
Drifts into a sad and lonely sleep.
Then in the night to his friend
He pours out the heaviness of his heart:
'My friend, this night I dreamed.
The whole cosmos was roaring
And an echo resounded from the earth:
This is an omen of death,
As I was standing there between the heavens and earth,
I saw a young man whose face was dark.
His face was like Zu, bird god from the Underworld.
.... with claws like an eagle's talons.
He overcame me....
..... he climbs....
..... submerged me.
[Here seven lines are missing]
He transformed me into a double of his body
So that my arms were now clad in feathers like those of a bird.
Fixing his gaze on me, he led me to the House of Darkness
There where Irkalla lives, He, the God of the Dead.
No one who enters that house comes forth again.
It is the one-way road from which there is no return;
Those residing there are bereft of the light for ever,
Where dust is their food and mud their sustenance.
They are dressed as birds, with garments of wing feathers.
They see no light but crouch in darkness,
There in the House of Dust, into which I came,
I saw kings, their crowns set aside -
Those who had once ruled on earth through the ages, humbled,
No longer were they born to the crown.
And the twins of An and Enlil were there (6),
Serving the roast meat,
The fried and baked food,
Pouring cold water out from the skins.
In the house of Dust where I came
Sit the high priest and the acolyte,
Sit the cantor and the shaman,
Sit the attendants of the sacred ablutions,
There sat Etana, once king of Kish,
There sat Sumugan, he, the god of the Cattle,
And also Ereshkigal, who is the Queen of the Underworld.
Belit-Seri, her scribe, kneels before here.
And she reads out from a tablet to her.
She, the scribe, lifts her head, sees me and says:
'Who brought this one?'
[Here 50 lines are missing. But the following fragment where Gilgamesh is speaking is believed to come from the lost remainder of this tablet]
'Remember all my travels with him!
My friend saw a dream of unfavourable omen
The day the dream was ended.
Enkidu lay stricken one day, two days,
Enkidu's suffering on his bed worsened:
A third day, a fourth day...
A 5th day, a 6th day, a 7th,
An 8th, a 9th and a tenth day.
Enkidu's suffering on his bed increases;
An 11th day, a 12th day...
Enkidu lay stricken on his bed of agony.
Finally he called Gilgamesh and spoke to him:
'My friend........ has cursed me!
Not like one who falls in battle shall I die,
For I feared the battle....
My friend, one who dies in battle is blessed.
But as for me...'
1. A few words of explanation would be helpful with reference to these squabbling gods. Since the Gilgamesh tales are, at origin, accounts of cosmic happenings in the heavens, what is going on behind the scenes in these tales is generally of a cosmic nature. The gods An, Enlil and Enki are not merely grandfather, father and son in the sense familiar from Greek religion of Uranus, Cronos (Saturn), Jupiter. They actually represent three separate bands of the sky. Hence it is that a dispute or quarrel between them may represent conflicts between those regions of the sky.
Different star constellations lie in different regions or bands of sky, so that the gods of the bands have affinities with different mythological figures identified with those constellations. For instance, Enki's band of sky is the Southern Sky. The star Canopus was therefore especially sacred to him, lying as it does within the constellation of Argo deep in the Southern sky. Enki's special city of Eridu was the southernmost city of Sumer, near the Persian Gulf, and its southern position in Sumer corresponded to the southern position of Enki's sky band. In Tablet IX we encounter Enki's direct intervention in advising the construction of an ark to survive the Great Flood (the prototype of the sotry of Noah). This ark corresponds to Enki's constellation of Argo.
It follows therefore that the gods representing different bands of sky will champion those mythological beings who have been assigned constellations in their own bands and oppose mythological beings whose celestial homes are in other bands. As for Shamash/Utu, as the sun he moves through all the bands and is not identified with any of them. Therefore, it is not surprising that he does not take part in these favouritisms, and defends both Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Furthermore, he is able to be like a comrade to them because he is not remote and associated with a sky band, but is actually a moving cosmic body, as indeed was Humbaba, with whom he had direct associations, since Humbaba was identified with the planet Mercury (the planet nearest to the Sun). (See also Tablet IX, note 13).
2. Enkidu's statement that the pole, pole-knob and pole-ferrule were made by a master craftsman of the city of Nippur does not refer to himself (since Enkidu was not from Nippur), and it is possible that he merely wishes to praise the handiwork by saying by saying they are as good as if a master craftsman of Nippur had made them. The master-craftsman of a major city was generally one of the Seven Sages, the mysterious 'fish-men' who before the time of the Flood were supposed to have founded the Sumerian culture, and who were known as apkallus, or in much later time were called by the name of Oannes (see Introduction). These aquatic culture heroes tended to be referred to as 'master craftsmen' in a manner that is somewhat reminiscent of Masonic lore. Nippur, which has been mentioned twice before the Epic in connection with the door to the Cedar Forest, was one of the seven original cities of Sumer founded by the Seven Sages. Nippur's master-craftsman was therefore its fish-man culture hero, or apkallu.
3. The whole business of Humbaba, the cedar and the door may concern the motions of the planet Mercury. As we have seen, Humbaba was identified with the planet and the monster face of Humbaba, which is represented on some ancient terra cota pieces as a mass of convoluted intestines, symbolised the convoluted motions of Mercury as plotted in the skies by the ancient astronomers. (These plottings do yield a mass of convoluted loops, half of which are invisible because they are below the horizon.) Cutting off the head of Humbaba could thus mean cutting off the visible portion of these loops, or terminating the planet's year. In which case the plaent would have to start a new year. This may indeed be what the Epic is telling us in code.
The word babu for door in modern Arabic as bab or gate also had the meaning of origin or commencement of a motion. Thus the expression cedar door is symbolic for th commencement of the motion of the planet Mercury. Contemporary with the Gilgamesh Epic in Egypt, the word seb had the dual meaning of cedar and planet Mercury, which can hardly be a coincidence. The Akkadian word babu also means vagina, which was not only a door, but also led to a birth or commencement. Similar multiple symbolisms applied to the words used for pillars, gateposts, bolts and so forth, always with cosmic myths implied.
4. Since several scholarly translators have given no indication of this meaning to this line, explanations seems warranted. Campbell Thompson simply left untranslated the word arkika; Speiser, Gordon and Heidei all translated it simply as 'after' and then inserted various speculative words referring to going or dying which do not appear in the text, implying that the line meant 'After you have died' or something similar. This does accord with the apparent context, but nevertheless too many glosses appear in translations of the Epic which conceal the deeper meanings which occasionally glint above the surface. It is my opinion that in this line we have a possible reference to a retrograde orbital motion in accordance with the cosmic mythology underlying the Gilgamesh literature.
5. All other translators have lamely suggested, without real justification, that kalbi means lion, and that this passage says Gilgamesh would don a lion skin. Perhaps they were thinking of Heracles, for as one translator, Cyrus Gordon, rightly points out in commenting on this passage, Heracles did indeed derive from Gilgamesh and did wear a lion skin. But the fact is that the word 'kalbi' means dog here just as certainly all translators agree it does in line 115 of the original text on Tablet XI, where the gods are described as cowering like dogs. However awkward it may be, therefore, there is no doubt that the skin which Gilgamesh is described as about to put on is the skin of a dog, not the skin of a lion. This has possible cosmic references, in particular to the Dog Star, Sirius.
6. It is interesting that the Great Gods An and Enlil are thought to have had doubles living in the Underworlld, and engaged in the sort of mental activity that one would expect of a zombie. Behind this must lie the astronomical awareness that the sky bands of An and Enlil continued under the Earth, and that the Great Gods were present in teh Underworld as well as in the sky overhead. In his 1986 article, 'The Sun at Night and the Doors of Heaven in Babylonian Texts', Wolfgang Heimpel discusses the enigmatic references to the Sun God passing through the Underworld every night. These are best understood by reference to the elaborate study of Maja Pellikaan-Engel on Hesiod and Parmenides. Having accepted the tradition of the Great Gods having counterparts below the earth, the poet has here represented An and Enlil in the character almost of automatons, as meaningless shades of the actual gods.

On the horizon there appeared
The first intimations of dawn (1)
And Gilgamesh said to his friend:
'Enkidu, your mother, the gazelle,
Your father, the wild ass -
These together produced you.
They whose mark is their tails reared you (2)
As did the cattle of the steppes and of all pastures,
May the tracks of Enkidu in the Cedar Forest
Weep for you!
May they not be hushed
By night or by day
Uruk of the wide ramparts - may its elders
Weep for you!
May the finger which blesses what is behind us
Weep for you!
May the country echo with sorrow like a mother!
May... weep for you!
In whose midst we....
May the bear, the hyaena, the panther,
May the tiger, the stag, the leopard, the lion,
May the ox, the deer, the ibex -
May all the wild of the steppe
Weep for you!
May the River Ulla - may it weep for you!
The river by whose banks
We strolled together - friends
May the pure Euphrates, where we drew water for the skins
May it weep for you!
May the warriors of Uruk of the wide ramparts
Weep for you!
...we slew the Bull of Heaven -
May.... weep for you!
Those in Eridu who sang your paeans -
May they weep now!
May all those who have praised you -
May they weep!
All those who provided you with grain -
May they weep for you!
(Here there is a considerable break, during which Enkidu finally dies. The text resumes with Gilgamesh lamenting his friend's death:)
'Hear me O elders!
It is for Enkidu, for Enkidu, my friend, that I weep.
I wail like a woman
So bitterly lamenting
The goodly axe in which my hand trusted
Hanging by my side
The dagger resting in my belt.
The shield which went before me.
My richest-trimmed robe for the festivities -
An evil force arose
Seized them all from me!
Oh, my friend, younger than myself,
You hunted the wild ass in the hills,
You chased the panther on the steppe!
Oh, Enkidu, my younger friend,
How you hunted the wild ass in the hills
Chased the panther on the steppe!
We two have conquered all, climbed all
We were the ones who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven
We were the ones who laid hold of (3) Humbaba
He who lived in the Cedar Forest (4)
What is this sleep that has now come over you?
You have gone dark and cannot hear me!'
But Enkidu did not raise his head
Gilgamesh felt for Enkidu's heartbeat, but there was none.
Then he drew a veil across Enkidu's face,
As if he were a bride.
He roared like a lioness who had her cubs taken away from her.
Backwards and forwards he went before his friend,
And tore his hair
Strewing it around
He tore off his beautiful clothes
Flung them down
As though they were filth.
And then on the horizon there appeared
The first intimations of dawn
Then Gilgamesh proclaimed unto the land
'Come smith, come workman,
Come fashioner of copper,
Come worker in gold,
Come inscriber in metal!
Shape you the image of my friend!
My friend whose stature is beyond compare;
May his breast be lapis lazuli
May his body be of gold.
(From a strange document called the Letter of Gilgamesh which in many respects is fantastic and unreliable, a few more possible details of the statue may possibly be gleaned as they were known in the tradition:)
'Let there be many large.... of red ochre
And lapis lazuli set in solid gold,
And let them be bound on the breast of my friend Enkidu
One block of solid gold - let its weight be 30 minas
I will fix on the breast of Enkidu, my friend.
Let there be many gaz-stones, much jasper, lapis-lazuli,
All the stones that there are in the high mountains.
Let them be sent on horses to the home-country.
May beautiful amulets be made out of them.
Fresh fruit out of season,
Anything precious and exotic
Which my eyes have never seen
For an offeringlet them be loaded with the silver and gold,
Let them drift down the River Euphrates
Carry them to the quay of Babylon
and my eyes shall see them andmy heart shall be confident.'
(The above is what can be reconstructed of the text as it may have been before it became the object of a silly schoolboy exercise in which it was severely distorted, in the so-called 'Letter'. Mow many lines of the Epic are lost. After the break, Gilgamesh is again speaking)
'I placed you on a beauteous couch.
You were in the throne of ease,
The throne at my left hand,
So that the rulers of the earth kissed your feet!
Lamentations and weepings from the people of Uruk
Shall I now cause for you;
Those with hearts full of joy shall I make mourn.
And after you have been laid to rest
I shall let my body become shaggy,
I will clothe myself in the skin of a dog
And I shall roam the steppe!'
On the horizon there appeared
The first intimations of dawn
Gilgamesh loosened his band.....
(Here many lines are lost, with only a few fragmentary matches mentioning 'to my friend', 'your sword', 'likeness', and 'to the place of Mercury' (5). The following brief passage has been preserved:)
...Jude of the Fifty Great Gods, the Anunnaki...
When Gilgamesh heard this
He conceived in his heart the concept, or image of the river
On the horizon there appeared
The first intimations of dawn
Gilgamesh fashioned....
Brought out a large talbe of elammaqu wood,
Took a carnelian bowl,
Filled it with honey
Took a lapis-lazuli bow
Filled it with milk curd
... he adorned and exposed to Shamash the Sun
(The rest of the Tablet, a very large portion, is lost. In the missing sections, the funeral and burial of Enkidu evidently took place.)
1. These two lines are repeated at intervals throughout the tablet. Their inclusion is neither accidental nor for poetic purposes but rather reflects the obsession of the Babylonian astronomers/priests with what are known as heliacal risings of key stars and planets. A heliacal rising takes place when a star or planet rises over the horizon at the same moment as the first intimations of dawn. The Egyptians (much of whose astro-religious concepts passed ove into Sumerian and hence Babylonian culture) based their main calendar on the heliacal rising of the the star Sirius, which was given gar greater prominence than the mundane solar and lunar calendars.
2. See note 4 below.
3. The word that I have translated as 'laid hod of' is lapatu in the original text and I believe that it refers to the motion to the planet associated with Humbaba, Mercury. It has been a problematic word to translate.
But although the linguistic identity of cedar and Mercury could not pass through the language barrier, the transmission
4. This is another reference to the planet Mercury (with which this tablet abounds), which also brings us again face to face with the enigma of the monster Huwawa. All scholars have expressed perplexity regarding the origins and meaning of this strange name. Huwawa is the original Sumerian form of the name, later called Humbaba or Hubaba. To anyone familiar with ancient Egyptian, it should seem obvious
But although the linguistic identify of cedar and Mercury could not pass through the language barrier, the transmission of amother Egyptian term may
5. The Babylonian name for Mercury here - Bibbu- might perhaps be a borrowoing from the Egyptian beb, 'to go round', 'to revolve', 'to circulate'. Since Bibbu has been known to be applied to Mars and Saturn on occasion, and there are also several textual references for its use as a general planetary term of some sort, its real meaning may well have been something like circler, in the same manner in which the Greek word for planet really meant wanderer. Its use for Mercury could simply reflect that Mercury of all the planets is the great circler, with a rapid looping orbit (as seen from earth).

Gilgamesh roams the steppe
And weeps bitter tears
For Enkidu, his friend
'Shall I not die like Enkidu?
Woe gnaws at my entrails,
I fear death.
So I roam the steppe.
I must go to see Ziusudra
The Survivor of the Flood
He, the son of Ubara-Tutu.
Immediately shall I travel the wheel-rim (1) to him.
At night I come tot he Gates of the Mountains.
Gripped by fear, I saw lions.
I lifted my head to the Moon God,
Offered prayers.
My prayers went out to the .... of the gods:
'O God of the Moon, do you preserve me!'
He laid himself down and then awoke from a dream.
There in the dream he had seen [lodestones] (2)
Rejoicing in life they were
In his hand he raised an axe,
He drew his dagger from his belt,
He descended upon them like an arrow (3).
He struck at them,
Smashed them into pieces.
(Here many lines are lost, with only a few scattered words surviving. Six lines along, a line commences with the female pronoun she; the identity of the female personage in this missing section cannot even be guessed at, but she probably appeared in another dream and could have been Siduri [see next tablet], thereby repeating the pattern of premonitory dreaming.)
The mountain is called Mashu (4)
And so he arrived at Mashu Mountain
Which keeps watch every day
Over the rising and setting of the Sun God,\
Whose tips reach the zenith of heaven
And whose rim (5) raches the depths of the Un
Scorpion-Men (6) guard the commencement of its motion (7).
Awful their terror, their glance is death (8)
The splendour of their scintillation (9) disturbs the mountains
Which keep watch over the rising and the setting of the Sun God
When Gilgamesh observed (10) them,
His visage was darkened with terror, with fear.
Regaining his composure
He approaches them.
The Scorpion-Man called to his wife:
'Look who comes
His body is made of flesh of the gods.'
The Scorpion-Man's wife replied:
'He is 2/2 god, 1/3 man'.
The Scorpion-Man calls out,
Cries to the offspring of the gods:
'Why have you come this far a journey?
What brings you here before me?
You have made a traverse of the celestial Sea -
Its crossings are difficult
I wish to learn
The meaning of your coming.'
(The next line appears to be an enquiry about 'your way' or 'your road', or the road taken by Gilgamesh. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh is replying to the Scorpion-Man and mentioning Ziusudra, the Babylonian/Sumerian Noah:)
'I have come in search of life,
To see Ziusudra, my forefather -
He who survived the Flood
And joined the Assembly of the Gods
I wish to ask him about life and death.'
The Scorpion-Man opened his mouth to speak, said to Gilgamesh:
'There never was a mortal, Gilgamesh,
Never one who could do that.
No one has travelled the mountain's path (12).
For twelve double-hours its bowels....
Dense is the darkness and there is no light.
To the rising of the Sun.......
To the setting of the Sun.....
To the setting of the Sun.....'
(Many lines are missing here. The Scorpion-Man is believed in the missing portion to have described the journey double-hour by double-hour [see note 13]. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh is speaking:)
'Whether it be in sorrow,
Whether it be in pain,
In cold, in heat,
In sighing, in weeping,
I will go!
Let the gate of the mountain now be opened!'
The Scorpion-Man opened his mouth to speak,
Said to Gilgamesh:
'Go, then, Gilgamesh, go you forth.
May you cross the mountains of Mashu,
May you traverse the mountains and ranges.
May you go in safety.
The gate of the mountain is now open to you!'
When Gilgamesh heard this,
When he heard the words of the Scorpion-Man,
He travelled from the east to west
Along the road of the Sun.
When he had gone one double-hour
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear
When he had gone two double hours
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear.
When he had gone three double-hours
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear
When he had gone four double hours
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear.
When he had gone five double-hours
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear
When he had gone six double hours
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear.
When he had gone seven double-hours
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear
When he had gone eight double hours, he cried out.
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear.
When he had gone nine double-hours, he felt the morning breeze.
It was fanning his face
Dense was the darkness and there was no light.
This permitted him no sight of its front or his rear
When he had gone ten double hours
He knows the moment of rising is near.
He is impatient for the end of the double hours.
When he had gone eleven double hours
He rose just before the Sun
When he had gone twelve double
Day had grown bright (13)
Upon seeing the bejewelled shrubs, he approaches them
The carnelian bears its fruit
And hung it is with goodly vines,
The lapis lazuli bears leaves
Lush fruit also hangs from it
It is fine to the eye.
(The remaining fifty lines of this tablet are mutilated or lost. From the fragmentary words surviving we can see that the description of the garden of jewels continued, for at least six different stones and minerals are mentioned, but they are merely stray words in an otherwise obliterated text.)
1. The word used in the original text -allak- means rim of a wheel, and is yet another reference to cosmic orbital motion. Similarly, allaku means 'wanderer', which in many cultures such as the Greek and Egyptian was what the planets were called, and it also means 'messenger', a concept often associated to the planet Mercury, because of its rapid shuttlings back and forth in the sky. Such a busy planet rushing rapidly to and fro was quite naturally seen as a wanderer.
The astronomical references in the Epic have always been glossed over by translators in the interests of supposed clarity. For instance, allak is explained by Speiser, Gordon, Heidel and Campbell Thompson as meaning either that Gilgamesh will travel or will take the road. But if road were really intended, we ould see harannu in the original, or if way were really intended, we would see alaktu rather than allak, as in Tablet VIII, of the Akkadian text, where the literal translation is 'the road from which there is no way back', which I have rendered 'road from which there is no return.' Here road is harranu and way is allaktu, both occurring in the very same line.
2. See Tablet X, note 5.
3. If the axe in Gilgamesh's hand and dagger, or sword, in his belt did not continually recur in formulaic fashion, they might might be taken at face value. But these hieratic motifs may be meant to signify an identification or comparison of Gilgamesh to the constellation Orion, whose sword or dagger in his belt is plain for all to see who look at the night sky. If so, then descending like an arrow would be connected with the Arrow Star, as Sirius was known to the Babylonians, and which was just beneath the foot of Orion.
The preposition kima has two meanings -like and as. It has been usual to translate this sentence as Gilgamesh descending like an arrow, considering the statement to be merely a lit of decorative imagery. However, if the astronomical events referred to are intended to be preponderant here, the preposition could have its other meaning, and Gilgamesh would descend as an arrow, meaning that he would become the star Sirius and would set below the horizon. This passage would therefore refer to the setting of Sirius and Orion, and on occastion where it recurs, this interpretation would each time be intended. Since the rising and setting of the sun are mentioned a few lines later, thse cosmic movements may well be implied.
4. All scholars have expressed puzzlement over the name Mashu [Heidel doubted the word was Babylonian]. I believe it is a borrowing of the Egyptian ma Shu, which means 'Behold the Sun God'. This fits the context perfectly as well as being linguistically sound.
5. The existing English translations render iratsunu (a form of irtum) as breast. But von Soden rightly says that in this passage it should be taken to mean rim. A cosmic wheel is again referred to, the one along whose rim Gilgamesh earlier said he would travel. The depths of the Underworld here means the nadir of the invisible sky below the horizon, or the south celestial pole, into which the rim turns after passing through the zenith or the north celestial pole in the visible sky. This wheel is therefore a great rotating circle at right angles to the equator, with the earth at its centre, and passing through both celestial poles. Presumably the equinoctial colure, which passes through the equinoctial points, is being referred to, or otherwise the solstitial colure, which passes through the solstice points and also passes through both the celestical and ecliptic poles. What we can be certain of is that the great circle referred to must be at right angles to the equator if part of it is to remain invisible permanently below the horizon. If it were not at right angles to the equator or at least to the eclipitic, it could not touch the tip of heaven and depths of the Underworld.
There is also a pun involved, for irat can also be used to refer to the notch of an arrow; so that we may have a punning reference to the Arrow star again.
6. The word girtablilu, Scorpion-Man, is a reference to all or part of what we now call Scorpio.
7. Once again, as in Tablet VII, I translate babu not as gate, but by its other meaning of commencement of a motion, in connection with the spinning of cosmic wheel.
8. The concealed meaning here is a reference to astronomical observations [imru] rather than a glance (In the text we find imratsunu.) The root or stem-word, MRT, yields a basic meaning to see (amaru). The verb emeru from this root is the one used to describe the heliacal rising of a star, which may be regarded as the star's babu or commencement of its motion, and its rebirth after being dead in the Underworld (that is, the sky below the horizon). The star Sirius, for example, was dead for seventy days, or seven ten-day Egyptian weeks, and passed through seven gates in the Underworld during that time (each week had a gate) before its emeru, or heliacal rising, took place, which was subject to an imru (observation) at the moment of return, when it once more experienced its commencement of motion, on the visible part of its great sky wheel.
9. This is clearly another reference to the observations of heliacal risings and settings. Speiser used 'shimmering' for emeru, but I give 'scintillation' here to clarify further the reference to a stellar observation.
10. A verb form of imru (see note 8 above) occurs here.
11. These two lines, which recur throughout the Epic have numerological significance. Clearly genetic descent cannot be referred to, since it is impossible for anyone to be descended in thirds. The Babylonians had a sexagesimal mathematics, and from their astronomers we have inherited the division of the circle in 360 degrees, the hour into 60 minutes, the minute into 60 seconds and so on. An, the chief Babylonian god, was equated with the number 60. Enki was equated with 2/3 of An, i.e. 40. So, by saying that Gilgamesh is two-thirds god, he is also being identified with the number 40. The god Enki was called both Shanabi (two-thirds) and Nimin (forty in Sumerian). Enki's son-in-law, the ferryman Urshanabi, has a name that means virtually Priest of the Two-Thrids. Urshanabi is also asked to survey Gilgamesh's city of Uruk (see end of Tablet XI). So when Gilgamesh is described as being two-thirds god, the statement is a coded way of equating him with the god Enki as well as with the groundplan of the city of Uruk and its temples (Enki was traditionally the god who drew up the ground plans of temples.
Other aspects of the theme of two-thirds relate to the planet Mercury, with whom Gilgamesh is associated. The image of Gilgamesh wandering over the steppe may refer to the planet Mercury wandering across the band of the zodiac. Of the 12 degrees of the zodiac band, Mercury moves across 8 degrees, or two thirds. It could be said therefore that from Mercury's point of view, the band of the zodiac is 'two thirds god, one third not.' Pliny the Elder records in his Natural History, Book 2 (xiii, 66):'The planet Mercury wanders over more than 8 of the 12 degrees of latitude of the zodiac, and these 8 not uniformly, but two in the middle of the zodiac, four above it, two below it.' (This shows with what eagle eyes the ancients watched such things. Today no one would notice. Otto Neugebauer discovered from Babylonian records that the Babylonians watched the heliacal rising of Mercury as morning star with such fanatical attention that there were 2673 such risings in a period of 848 years).
Another occurrence of two-thirds in the planetary motions which would have been noticed by the ancients has been described by Pliny (Book 2, xiii, 59): 'The three planets [Jupiter, Saturn and Mars] make their morning or first stations in a triangle 120 degrees away, and subsequently their evening risings opposite 180 degrees away, and again approaching from the other side, make their evening or second stations 120 degrees away....'
Martianus Capella also discusses this (Book 8, 887): 'These planets make their morning stations 120 degrees away from the sun, and then, at opposition, 180 degrees away, they make their evening risings; likewise, on the other side, they make their evening stations 120 degrees away. The latter are called second stations and the former, first stations.'
Without going into astronomy at any greater length, the important fact to be noticed here is that 120 degrees is two-thirds, 180 degrees, and the constant alteration of these planets between two-thirds and a whole of an angular measure may be yet another factor in the strange Babylonian concern with 2/3, especially as they were such fanatical observers of planetary motions.
Another possibility not unrelated to this kind of thinking is that the Pythagorean mathematical and geometrical traditions, which preserve one important two-thirds motif may have been derived from Babylonian traditions. This is no unreasonable, for the so-called Pythagorean theorem concerning right triangles is known to be of Babylonian orgin and was most certainly not invented by Pythagoras (Pythagoras is credited with a visit to Babylon, where he presumably learned these things, which he then introduced to Greek culture.) This two-thirds motif also concerns triangles, as it happens. It is found in the neo-Pythagorean treatise On the Nature of the World and the Soul, ascribed to Timaios of Locri, and actually thought to have been written by a later author. this treatise maintains that earth is composed of isosceles triangles (two sides equal), and water, air and fire are composed of scalene triangles (having no sides equal) of the following type: 'The smallest angle of this triangle is 1/3 of a right angle. The middle one is twice that size, that is two-thrids of a right angle. The largest is a right angle.... The triangle then is half of an equilateral triangle which has been bisected perpendicularly from its vertex to its base into equal parts.
Since, according to the Pythagorean tradition, 3 of the four elements making up the physical world are said to be composed of triangles containing angles which are in the proportion one-thrid to two-thirds to three-thirds, one wonders whether the same Babylonian tradition which gave the Pythagoerean the Pythagorean theorem gave them also this concept. And if so, could the lore of the triangle have something also to do with the two-thirds motif in the Epic?
What we can be sure of is that Gilgamesh being 2/3 god and 1/3 man must be an esoteric reference to some tradition of a mathematical, geometrical or astronomical nature, and possible even of all three.
12. The depiction of the planet Mercury as a mass of convoluted intestines in the Humbaba mask here finds an echo as libbu means intestines, and is here applied to a cosmic path.
13. Gilgamesh's passage through the darkness of the half of the sky below the horizon, and rising just before the sun in the east again isa perfect description of the heliacal rising of a star, planet or constellation, as seen by an ancient astronomer.
It is important to note that prior to the Hellenistic period, i.e. after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, there were no hours of equal length. The hours varied in absolute duration. Egyptian and Babylonian astronomy allotted twelve-hours to night-time, however long or short this night-time was. [The hours expanded and shrank, in other words, as there must always be twelve of them. The hours were not conceived as absolute time intervals of equal duration at all, but more like stations along a railway line, which must be passed through at whatever speed.]
The word beru, translated by Heidel as double-hour and by Speiser as league is a very curious one. It seems to be formed from a subsidiary stem of the verb root beru, whose basic meaning is to starve or to be hungry. From this basic meaning the subsidiary stem in question developed its meaning to persevere, to hold out, in other words, to hold out against starvation. In actual usage, the meaning was extended and the word came to mean to endure without interruption, and to continue to last. The word was used specifically in astronomy to describe stars and plnets which continued to be visible and had not gone below the horizon. From this verb, a noun was constructed with the meaning duration, although it was generally in the form biritu. A related preposition meant between, since what was endured between constituted an interval.
This noun also had a highly specific astronomical usage, meaning the angle of elongation of a star or planet. That means the angular distance from the sun. (In the case of Mercury, this never exceeds 28 degrees, which is just under 1/3 of a right angle, and may possibly relate to the thirds which were discussed above in note 11.) The central celestial sky band of An had an angular width of between 30 and 34 degrees, since An was identified with the number 60, it would seem that the degrees of his sky band were double-degrees, to yield this number. Perhaps the idea of a double-hour is similarly a normal hour counted double. Heidel does not explain why he has chosen to translate beru as double-hour. I have retained this translation but warn that the word really means 'variable interval', when Gilgamesh's journey below the horizon is described, referring to the 12 unequal hours, two of which are the period of dawn.
F. Rochberg-Hlaton, in an article on stellar distances in Babylonian astronomy stressed that the beru was: 'a unit of measure having three possible dimensions: length, time, or the measurement of an arc. As a unit of length, beru is customarily translated as mile (it is actually something over 10km), and as a unit of time it is equal to 30 ush (ush being the fundamental Babylonian unit for the measurement of both time and of arcs, equivalent to four minutes), hence 120 minutes or a double- hour. In the measurement of an arc, the beru refers to the 12th part of a circle, against 30 ush or 30 degrees, and serves as an astronomical unit, but only in thelate mathematical astronomy.' Beru occurs so frequently in the Epic of Gilgamesh that it has been necessary to give a fair amount of information about it. The cosmic journey throughout the Epic, and the number of berus traversed on each occasion, are of great significance for working out what is actually being described. I have opted largely to use the translation double-hour, and occasionally leagues. But precisely what is going on in all instances is by no means clear.
(The first line is broken off the tablet. Gilgamesh is being addressed by an unidentified character)
Eating the flesh of wild things, dressed in their skins
O Gilgamesh, this is a thing which has not happened
No, not so long as my wind shall drive the waters.'
Distressed at heart, Shamash the Sun
Went to Gilgamesh and said to him:
'Whence youare directing yourself, Gilgamesh?
You shall not find the life you seek.'
But to valiant Shamash
Gilgamesh speaks:
'After travelling, after roaming the steppe,
Shall I merely lay my head
Down into the earth's guts?
And then sleep -
Sleep forever?
No! Let me see the Sun!
See the Sun and be sated with light!
If there is light enough,
Then the darkness shrinks away
May the light of Shamash the Sun
Be seen even by he who is dead!'
(Many lines are lost here. Four different versions of the remainder of this tablet are known (Old Babylonian, Assyrian, Hitite and Hurrian). They are not identical, although all describe the meeting of Gilgamesh and Siduri. Siduri has a bar or tavern at the confluence of the celestial rivers which lead to the Underworld. The location in the sky is believed to be beneath the foot, or the Star Rigel, of the constellation of Orion; there is a road which souls were said to take. Siduri seems to offer drinks as a comfortto souls denied the drink of immortality. Priests and shamans ritually drank these on earth. Hence, here is a tvern for souls, to refresh them on their way. She is Siduri the Refresher. The next section of the Epic comes from the Assyrian version:)
- the last
Siduri the Refresher, who dwells by the celestial Sea's edge,
Who sits there enthroned at the confluence of the rivers,
For her they have made a jug,
For her they have made a golden vat
In which to make the mash for the beverage
She is covered with a veil and
Gilgamesh comes up to her and...
He is clad in skins of dogs,
The flesh of the gods is in his body
But in his entrails there is woe
His face is that of one who has come from afar
The Refresher gazes into the distance
And says to herself,
Within her heart takes counsel:
'Surely this one will do murder!
Where can he be directing himself...?'
And as she saw him,
She, the Refresher, locked the door
Barred the gate
Secured the bolt.
But Gilgamesh heard her.
Held up his pointed staff and placed it agains the door
Gilgamesh says to her
Says to the Refresher:
'Refresher, what have you see
That leads you to....
Lock your door,
Bar your gate
Secure the bolt?
I will smash the door
Shatter the gate!' (2)
(Here several lines are lost. When the text resumes in the Old Babylonian Version, Siduri has taken off her veil come out and shown herself to Gilgamesh, now speaking to her)
'He who endured many hardships with me
Whom I so dearly loved - Enkidu;
Yes, he who endured my hardships with me!
He now has gone to the fate that awaits mankind!
Day and night I have wept for him
I would not give him over for burial
For what if he had risen at my beseeching?
Six days and seven nights I waited
Until a worm fell out of his nose
Since he has gone
There is no life left for me.
I have roamed the steppe like a hunter
But oh, Refresher, now that I have seen your face,
Let me not see Death,
Which I so dread!'
The Refresher said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'Gilgamesh, whence do you direct yourself?
You shall not find the life you seek,
For at the creation of mankind
The gods allotted Death to men.
They retained life in their own hands.
Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Make you merry by day and by night.
Make everyday a day of feasting and of rejoicing
Dance and play, by day, by night,
Let your clothes be sparkling and fresh
Wash your hair
Bathe your body
Attend to the babe who holds you by the hand
Take your wife and let her rejoice in you.
For this is the lot of mankind to enjoy
But immortal life is not for men.'
(Here several lines are lost)
Gilgamesh said to her, said to Siduri:
'O Refresher, what did you say thus to me?
My heart is stricken for Enkidu, my friend.
O Refresher, you dwell here on the shore of the Sea.
You can see into its furthest reaches, all that is therein.
Show me the way to cross it.
If it may be allowed
I would cross the Sea.'
The Refresher said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'Gilgamesh, there has never been anyone
Who had done this thing
The way across the sea
Who has taken it?'
[Here many lines are lost in the Old Babylonian version and shortly we shall return to the much later Assyrian version for the continuation. But here we insert the material excavated by archeologists in Armenia in the Elamite language which was written in the form of a theatrical script. Inevitable libertries have had to be taken in trying to put this into readable or coherent English. It is not only possible but highly likely that parts of what follows are misleading or incorrect. The Elamite language is so poorly understood that no absolutely reliable translation of this material is yet possible, and the Elamite scholars admit to much guesswork. In order to present the material in any remotely coherent way, some explanatory matter has been interpolated directly into the text, such as the words indicating teh signficance of ten figs - something familiar to the audiences at the time, but wholly strange to us.]
Gilgamesh speaks
O Siduri, you who are cupbearer of the gods,
You who pour out for them to drink of immortality,
You who provide life eternal for the sake of the gods -
They who sit on their thrones before you
To you I make my plea.
Behold, I am a stranger
And I come to beseech your help.
O let the desire be revealed!
The ten figs of marriage,
The figs to be held by the bride -
The juice of the figs is squeezed
By the bride in the marriage cerimony.
Oh, he bestows the ten figs of marriage
The desire is made known.
Siduri the Cupbearer speaks:
It is for woman to bear
But for you to engender.
Gilgamesh speaks:
Taken from me, taken from me by the gods
Were the seven melammus,
The seven cloaks of power.
Taken were they at my rising at the sunrise -
They that were the life of Gilgamesh
The Plant of Birth
The Plant by which Woman bears -
You have that Plant
For a son let it be received
O sacrifices!
Food of the sacrifice!
Great are the sacrifices before us!
Let the man receive it!
O Woman, here is the man.
We beseech for him your help
Gilgamesh speaks:
O sacrifices!
Great are the sacrifices before us!
See the sacrifices before us!
The ten figs of marriage!
For the sake of the Goddesses
They are requested
O let the desire be revealed
Let it be told to you!
Gilgamesh speaks:
For the sake of the gods
Do I speak the request.
O let the desire be revealed
Let it be told to you!
The Plant of Birth,
The Plant by which Woman bears -
Which you have, O Woman! -
See, we are here!
Gilgamesh speaks:
I gave a gift
I brought a blessing
Chorus: O sacrifices!
Great are the sacrifices before us!
The ten figs of marriage!
Let the desire be revealed
To you are the sacrifices ordered
The gifts are now in your keeping,
Five are the cows we have given;
They have been offered
That the desire may be revealed
Gilgamesh speaks: I have received your speech
That you give your help
Chorus:O sacrifices!
Great are the sacrifices before us!
See the sacrifices before us!
The ten figs of marriage!
For the sake of the goddesses
May the Plant be given!
Gilgamesh speaks:
I utter the tradition!
Chorus: O sacrifices!
Great are the sacrifices before us!
May the desire appear!
The ten figs of marriage!
Before the gods the desire appears!
From you may it come,
May he take it from you!
May he receive Life,
May Life become his
At the moment he receives it.
To you are the sacrifices ordered.
O sacrifices! Great are the sacrifices before us!
See the sacrifices before us!
The ten figs of marriage!
Those melammus which the gods took away
Were given to you.
Gilgamesh speaks: For the sake of the Goddesses......
[Here the 1st fragment breaks off. The second fragment resumes after an indeterminate interval with two female names unknown from any other ancient sources:]
Piraddarak und Shutijas are dead....
Chorus: With you the Plant I made to....
The ten figs of marrige!
.....was seen and also
.....was engendered and also
Zigi, brother of Benunu
.....was told a lie and also
....the brother......
He can receive the desire!
[After this strange interluge taken from an extremely archaic version of the Epic, we return to the far more modern Assyrian version, where Gilgamesh is protesting his heroic valour to Siduri.]
Gilgamesh says to her, says to the Refresher:
'I slew the watchman of the forest,
He, Humbaba - he of the Cedar Forest.
In the mountain passes I slew lions.'
Siduri said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'If you are Gilgamesh, who slwe the watchman,
Who slew Humbaba - he of the Cedar Forest -
And slew lions in the mountain passes,
Seized and killed the bull that comes down from heaven -
Then why are your cheeks wasted?
Why is your face sunken,
Why is your heart so sad,
Why are your features worn,
Why in your entrails is ther woe,
Why is your face that of one who has come from afar?
Why is your countenance seared by heat and by cold?
And why do you roam over the steppe
Like one pursuing a mere puff of wind?'
Gilgamesh says to her, says to Siduri:
'O Refresher, why should my cheeks not be wasted?
My face sunken, my heart sad, my features worn?
Why not in my entrails be woe?
And my face - why should it not be that of one who has come from afar?
As for my countenance -
Why should it not be seared by heat and cold?
And as for my roaming over the steppe
As if for a mere puff of wind, why not?
My friend, younger than myself,
He hunted the wild ass in the hills,
He chased the panther on the steppe,
Enkidu, my friend, younger than myself,
Who hunted the wild ass in the hills,
Who chased the panther on the steppe,
We two who conquered all, climbed all,
We who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven,
We who laid hoild of Humbaba,
My friend whom I loved so dearly,
Who endured all hardships with me,
He now has gone to the fate that awaits mankind!
Six days and seven nights I wept over for him
Until a worm fell out his nose.
Fearing death I roam over the steppe
The fate fo my friend lies heavy upon me.
On distant ways I roam the steppe.
The fate of Enkidu, my friend, lies heavey upon me,
How can I be silent? How be still?
My friend whom I loved has turned to clay!
And I, shall too, like him, lie down
Never to rise -
Never again -
Fore ever and ever?'
Gilgamesh says to her, says to the Refresher:
'O Gilgamesh, ther ehas never
Never been a crossing.\None who came since the beginning of days
None could cross
Only valiant Shamash the Sun makes the crossing of the Sea.
Who other than Shamash the Sun can cross it?
Difficult is the place of crossing,
Difficult the way to it.
In between are the Waters of Death
Which bar the approaches!
Where would you cross the Sea, Gilgamesh?
And when you arrived at the Waters of Death, what would you do?
Ziusudra's boatman is there, Gilgamesh.
His name is Urshanabi (4).
With him are the lodestones (5).
In the forest he picks urnu-snakes (6).
Let your face behold him.
If if be possible, make the crossing with him.
If it not be possible, retrace your steps.'
When Gilgamesh heard this,
In his hand he raised his axe
He drew his dagger from his belt,
He slipped into the forest,
And went down to them.
He descended upon them like an arrow.
In the forest....
When Urshanabi saw the flash of the dagger,
And heard the axe....
He struck his head....... Gilgamesh
Seized the wings..... the breast,
The lodestones...... and the boat.
[After these fragmentary lines, many are missing entirely. By the time the text resumes, Urshanabi and Gilgamesh have met and are in discussion.]
Urshanabi said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'Why are your cheeks wasted?
Why is your face sunken,
Why is your heart so sad,
Why are your features worn,
Why in your entrails is ther woe,
Why is your face that of one who has come from afar?
Why is your countenance seared by heat and by cold?
And why do you roam over the steppe
Like one pursuing a mere puff of wind?'
Gilgamesh said to him, said to Urshanabi:
'O Urshanabi, why should my cheeks not be wasted?
My face sunken, my heart sad, my features worn?
Why not in my entrails be woe?
And my face - why should it not be that of one who has come from afar?
As for my countenance -
Why should it not be seared by heat and cold?
And as for my roaming over the steppe
As if for a mere puff of wind, why not?
My friend, younger than myself,
He hunted the wild ass in the hills,
He chased the panther on the steppe,
Enkidu, my friend, younger than myself,
Who hunted the wild ass in the hills,
Who chased the panther on the steppe,
We two who conquered all, climbed all,
We who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven,
We ho laid hoild of Humbaba,
My friend whom I loved so dearly,
Who endured all hardships with me,
He now has gone to the fate that awaits mankind!
Six days and seven nights I wept over for him
Until a worm fell out his nose.
Fearing death, I roam over the steppe,
The fate of my friend lies heavey upon me.
On distant ways I roam the steppe.
The fate of Enkidu, my friend, lies heavey uopon me.
How can I be silent?
How be still?
My friend whom I loved has turned to clay!
And I, shall too, like him, lie down,
Never to rise -
Never again -
Gilgamesh also says to him, says to Urshanabi:
'Now, Urshanabi, which is the way to Ziusudra,
He who survived the Flood?
What is the special sign?
Give me, o, give me its special sign!
If it be possible,
I will make a crossing of the Sea.
If it not be possible,
I will roam the steppe!'
Urshanabi said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'Gilgamesh, you have hindered the crossing -
With your hands you have done this!
You have smashed the lodestones.
O Gilgamesh the lodestones bear me along,
Help me avoid touching the Waters of Death.
In your anger you did smash them,
The lodestones which I kept to help me get across!
You have also picked the urnu-snakes.
The lodestones are smashed
And there are no urnus....
Gilgamesh take the axe in your hand,
Cut three huncred punting-poles (7) which are smooth.
....... the lashes like a spear. the ship.....'
[The above incorporated an Old Babylonian fragment relatively recently discovered, which ends here. The main Assyrian version now continues, but the number of the poles is different. Instead of 300, Gilgamesh is only asked to cut 120.] (8)
'You have smashed the lodestones,
You have picked the urnu-snakes.
The lodestones are smashed.
The urnu is not in the forest.
Gilgamesh, in your hand raise your axe,
Go down into the forest, cut twice-sixty punting-poles,
Each of sixty-cubits.
Put the knobs of bitumen on one end of each
Attach ferrules to their other ends,
Then bring them to me!'
When Gilgamesh heard this,
In his hand he raised his axe,
He drew his dagger from his belt,
He went down into the forest,
He cut twice-sixty punting poles, each of sixty cubits.
He put the knobs of bitumen on them,
He attached the ferrules,
And he brought them to Urshanabi.
Gilgamesh and Urshanabi then boarded the boat.
They launched the boat on the waves
And they sailed away.
By the 3rd day they had gone as far
As a normal voyage of a month and 15 days.
And thus Urshanabi arrived
At the Waters of Death.
Urshanabi said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'Press on, Gilgamesh, take a punting-pole.
But let not your hand touch the Waters of Death!
Take a 2nd, 3rd, a 4th pole, Gilgamesh,
Take a 5th, a 6th, a 7th pole, Gilgamesh,
Take an 8th, a 9th, a 10th pole, Gilgamesh,
Take an 11th, a 12 pole, Gilgamesh!'
At twice sixty, Gilgamesh had used up the poles.
Then he ungirdled his loins...
Gilgamesh pulled off his cloth....
With his hand he hand it aloft as a sail.
Ziusudra peers into the distance.
Speaking to his heart,
He says these words, takes counsel with himself:
'Why have the lodestones of the boat been broken?
Whe does one who is not her master ride in her?
The man who comes here is not of of my men
I peer, but I cannot see...
I peer, but I cannot see...
I peer, but
{Many lines are missing at this point. Gilgamesh disembarks and meets Ziusudra. Fragmentary words here and there, however, make it clear that most of what is lost is mere repetition of the set questions and replies between them which Gilgamesh ahs already exchanged with both Siduri and Urshanabi. The text conveniently resumes as this exchange ends:]
Gilgamesh further said to him, said to Ziusudra:
'I behold you now, o Ziusudra,
You whom they call the Faraway.
And that I might do this
I have been a wanderer
Over all the lands,
Have crossed many difficult mountains,
Crossed all the seas!
With waking I have been wearied.
My joints ache, are filled with woe.
My garments were worn out
Before I even came to Siduri the Refresher's house
I have killed bear, hyaena, lion, panther,
Tiger, stag, ibex
All the wild of the steppe
And all the creeping things of the steppe
I ate their flesh
I wrapped myself in their skins,
... let them bar her gate,
With pitch and bitumen....
(Here two lines are lost)
Ziusudra said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'O Gilgamesh, why so full of woe?
Who was created in the flesh of god
In the flesh of man....?
When your father and your mother
Made you, who......?
When was there for Gilgamesh
In his feebleness....
Established any seat in the Assembly of the Gods
That you....
Or ..... be given to him....
Like butter?...
And kakkushu-flour,
Which like....
....swift like....
And he like nibihu-garment
Since there is no....
There is no word of advice
.... before him Gilgamesh
.... their lord.....'
(Here thirty-three lines are lost. The text resumes with Ziusudra's wise remarks to Gilgamesh on the impossibility of permanence in this world:)
'Mankind, which like a reed stands fragile
A fine young man, a fine young woman....
These too must die.
Should no one see death?
Should no one meet then this end?'
(Here two lines are missing)
'Do we build a house to stand forever?
Are contracts sealed forever?
Do brothers divide their inheritance to last forever?
Does hatred remain in the heart forever?
Does the stream which has risen in spate
Bring torrents forever?
The dragonfly emerges and flies
But its face in the Sun for but a day
Is this forever?
From the days of yore there has been no permanence.
The sleeping and the dead - how alike they ae!
Do the sleeping not compose a very picture of death?
The common man, the noble man,
Once they have reached the end of life,
Are all gathered in as one,
By the Anunnaki, the Great Gods,
And she, Mammetum,
She of Fate -
She decrees the destinies.
Together they determine death
Determine life
As for life, its days are revealed,
But as for death
Its day is never revealed.'
1. The Greek tradition of souls drining the waters of Lethe or Forgetfulness, may have been derived from the tavern of the Babylonians. Campbell Thompson calls Siduri the provider of strong waters and the Wine Maker. Heidel calls her the barmaid, and Speiser refers to her as the ale-wife. Apparently Babylonian taverns were run by women rather than men, so that Siduri's sex is usual in this role and may have no special significance. I chose to call her Refresher instead of Barmaid or Ale-Wife.
2. We must recollect that babu, gate means also commencement of a motion (see tablet VII,note 3), and is used in a symbolic sense here. The word daltu here used for door also has symbolic significance: it is the word used for the doors of heaven and the Underworld, as well as for special cedar door mentioned in some Uruk tablets, meaning flood-gate. Siduri's door, gate and bolt are thus of celestial significance, not simply those of a mundane alehouse.
3. See Tablet VIII, notes 3 and 4.
4. The older version of this name is Sursunabu. But I have retained the Assyrian name here because it means Priest of the Two-Thirds/Forty (see Tablet IX, note 11).
5. Scholars have long puzzled over these mysterious stone things which I have translated as lodestones. A relatively recent discovery of a fragment of the Epic revealed that Urshanabi the Boatman had used the stone things to bear him along safely in his boat. They helped him to get across, and to avoid certain dangers. The only stone things I can think of that would be conceivably useful in sailing and navigating (apart from ballast, which is clearly not meant here) are lodestones. Evidence survives that the ancient Egyptians knew them and their properties, much later, Plutarch referred to their importance in Egyptian tradition. The lodestone compass was described as 'ancient' in the 3rd century BCE in China and a lodestone compass dated to 1,000 BCE has been excavated at an Olmec site in Mexico. What is surprising, however, is the suggestion in the Epic that they may have been used in maritime navigation at such an early date. This is not inherently improbable, but is surprising because there is no other evidence of it. In which case the matter may be of importance to the history of science, as constituting what may the ealiest known evidence in the world for the use of a lodestone compass. However, the interpretation still remains tentative.
Of course, it is not necessary to assume that lodestone compasses were actually used on real ships at the time, except in a crude way. The full technological mastery of the maritime compass need not have been achieved. After all, it is Urshanabi, a magical celestial boatman who seems to be using the lodestones for navigation, not an earthly merchant. If the stone things are lodestones, then their description in Gilgamesh's dream in Tablet IX as rejoicing in life can be explained by the liveliness of their movements, for they would have seemed alive and dancing due to their habit of jumping about when in contact with one another. This so impressed the Chinese that they developed a form of magnetic chess where the chess pieces were made of lodestones which when they came in contact with one another, did battle by repelling each other by magnetic force. It has been established that much Babylonian astronomy was transmitted to China and lodestone lore may have accompanied it. It should also be mentioned that since lodestones point to the poles, they are highly relevant to the great celestial circle through the poles referred to earlier in the Epic.
6. The urnu-snakes have always been exceedingly mystifying. I think the word urnu might be connected to the Egyptian word Urnes, which is the name of a portion of the river in the Egyptian Underworld. Since urnu appears in the Epic in connection with navigating the river that leads to the Underworld, I suspect that this is not a coincidence. And if that be so, then the snakes may be the survival of a multiple Egyptian pun based on the Egyptian word nem, which means wriggler and as such was an epithet applied to worms and snakes, but in its more serious meaning meant wanderer, and was applied to wandering stars, that is, the planets. Its other meanings are even more directly relevant to the epic: to travel by boat, and in the form of nemer, steering pole or paddle. I suspect therefore that urnu-snakes were magical paddles for propelling Urshanabi's boat and were cut or selected rather than picked in the forest. However, I have not changed my translation but hav left the accpeted meanings in quotation marks to indicate that they are not meant to be taken literally. For picked readers may if they like substitute selected, and for urnu-smakes they may choose to substitute Underworld river-paddles.
7. Without compass or paddles (see notes 5 and 6 above) Urshanabi would need some other method of steering his boat - hence the request for punting-poles.
8. I have no explanation for the figure tree hundred. The older fragment, one would have assumed, would have been more likely to preserve a number with archaic numerological meaning. However, 120 is 1/3 of 360 degrees, just as the Boatman Urshanabi's name provides the other two-thirds to complete the circle, since his name means, as previously mentioned, Priest of the Two-Thirds (See Tablet IX, note 11).
9. Punting poles exactly like this are still used in Iraq.



Gilgamesh said to him / Said to Ziusudra the Faraway:
'I look upon you now, Ziusudra, but your appearance is not strange. You are like myself. I had imagined you as a great warrior. But you lie on your side, reclining at ease.
Tell me, how did you enter the Assembly of the Gods - how find everlasting life?'
Ziusudra said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'O Gilgamesh, I will disclose unto you a hidden thing. Yes, a secret of the gods will I tell unto you:
You know the city Shuruppak, which lies upon the River Euphrates. That city was of great antiquity
And ancient were the gods who still lived within it
In their hearts they resolved
To bring on the Great Flood
(There is no break here, but it is necessary to make some remarks about Abubu, or Great Flood, so see note 1 at the end).
'Present there were An the Great God
Valiant Enlil, his son, Counsellor of the Gods,
Their assistant Ninurta, the God of War and Hunting,
Ennugi, their inspector of canals,
And also Ninigiku, which is to say Enki -
For he too was present with them.
And Enki repeats what they say to Ziusudra,
Speaking through the wall of Ziusudra's reed hut:
'Reed hut, reed hut! Wall of the hut, wall of the hut!
Listen o reed hut! Consider, o wall of the hut!
O man of Shuruppak, o you son of Ubara-Tutu,
Tear down your hut of reeds,
Build of them a reed boat
Abandon things
Seek life
Give up possessions
Keep your soul alive!
And into the boat take the seed of all living creatures.
The boat you will build
Will have dimensions carefully measured
Its length and its width shall be equal
And roof it as I have my subterranean watery abyss."
I understood and said to my lord Enki:
"My lord, behold. What have you commanded of me
Shall I honour and carry out
But tell me, what shall I answer
To the city, to the people, to the elders?"
Enki opened his mouth to speak
Said to me, his servant:
"Thus, O Mortal, shall you speak to them, saying
I have learned that the god Enlil is ill-disposed toward me
No longer can I reside here in the city.
Never again,
No, never.
Can I turn my face to this soil which is Enlil's.
I must go down therefore,
Down to dwell with my lord Enki,
Towards the marshes of the south,
And enter his sweet-watered Deep
Into his very Abyss (2).
But he will shower down upon you
Abundance and plenty.
The choicest of birds,
The rarest of fishes
Oh, what great harvest riches shall this land enjoy!
Yes, He who orders the grainheads in the evening
What a shower of wheat shall He rain down upon you!'" (3)
On the horizon there appeared
The first intimations of dawn.
The land was gathered about me.
(Here two lines are missing. When the text resumes, Ziusudra is still speaking to Gilgamesh)
The child brought bitumen,
The strong brough the rest of what was needed
On the fifth day I laid out the plan
The floor space was one iku (4)
Its sides were ten gar high,
Each edge of its square roof measured ten gar (5)
(The ark was therefore an exact cube measuring 120 cubits on each side. This is hardly the description of a physical sailing ship!)
I delineated its exterior shape
And fashioned it together
Cross-pinned it six times (6)
Thus dividing it into seven (7)
And the ground plan I divided into nine parts (8)
I drove water plugs into it
Saw to the punting holes and laid up what was needful
Into the furnace I poured six [or three] shar measures (9) of bitumen
Followed by three shar measures of asphalt.
The basket-bearers carried three shar measures of oil
Besides one shar measures of oil stowed away the the boatman (10)
I slaughtered bullocks for the people
Every day I slew sheep (11)
As though it were river water
I gave to the workmen
Red wine, white wine, must, oil
To feast as if it were New Year's day
I opened the container and laid my hands in unguent
On the seventh day the boat was completed
.......was very difficult
The edges of the floor above and below
Showed 2/3 of the floor [were above, 1/3 below?] (12)
Whatever I had I loaded aboard,
Whatever I had of silver I loaded aboard,
Whatever I had of gold I loaded aboard
Whatever I had of seed of all living creatures
I loaded aboard.
I caused all my family and kinsfolk to go aboard.
The beasts of the field,
The wild creatures of the plain,
All the craftsmen -
All these I made to go aboard.
Shamash the Sun had set for me a specific time, saying:
'When He who rains down His misfortune in the twilight
Does rain down His misfortune like a blight,
Then board your boat without further ado
And make sure your door is safely pulled to.'
That precise time had indeed arrived:
'When He who rains down His misfortune in the twilight
Does rain down His misfortune like a blight'.
(This rhymed utterance provides the true message of Enki's disguised message to the people of Shuruppak given earlier)
I scrutinised all the weather signs;
How awesome was the weather to behold!
I borded the boat without further ado
And made sure that the door was safely pulled to.
I committed the navigation of the great house and its contents
To the boatman Puzur-Amurri (14).
When on the horizon
The first intimations of dawn
A black cloud rose from the horizon (15)
Inside it Adad the storm thundered,
While Shullat and Hanish, the storm-heralds, rose ahead,
Movind as advance messengers over hill and plain.
Nergal, the God of the Underworld, tore out the posts.
Ninurta, the God of War and Irrigation, came forth and burst the dikes.
The Anunnaki - the Great Gods - raised their torches,
Lighting up the land with their brightness.
Astonishment at Adad the Storm reached to the very heavens.
He turned to blackness all that had been visible.
He broke the land like a pot.
For a whole day the South Storm blew,
Gathering speed as it blew, drowning the mountains,
Overcoming the people as in battle.
Brother saw not brother.
From heaven no mortal could any longer be seen.
Even the gods were struck by terror at the deluge,
And, fleeing, they ascended to the celestial band of An (16).
The gods cowered like dogs (17),
Crouching by the outer wall of that celestial band.
Inanna, Goddess of Love and Battle, cried out like a suffering mortal -
She, the sweet-voiced,
She, the Lady of the Gods,
How did she lament aloud, crying:
'Verily, the Old Age has crumbled into dust!
Because I spoke evil in the Assembly of Gods!
Oh, how could I command havoc for the destruction of my people
When I myself gave birth to my people?
Now the spawn of fishes, the sea is glutted with their bodies!'
The Anunnaki - the Great Gods -wept with her,
Their lips were shut tight in distress in the Assembly, one and all.
For six days and seven nights
The flood wind blew as the South Storm swept the land.
At sunrise in the seventh day
The South Storm, bringer of the flood, and
Which had fought like an army, abated its attack.
The sea grew quieter,
The storm subsided,
The flood ceased.
I looked at the weather;
It had gone quiet.
All men had returned to clay.
The land had been levelled like a terrace.
O opened a dove flap
And light fell upon my face.
I bowed, sat down and wept,
Tears flowing down my cheeks.
I peered in every direction but the sea was everywhere,
In each of the 14 regions
There emerged a mountain peak for that point (18).
The boat came to rest on Mount Nisir (19).
Mount Nisir held the boat fast,
Allowing no shifting position.
One day, a second day, Mount Nisir held the boat fast,
Allowing no shifting position.
A 3rd day, a 4th day and a 6th day, Mount Nisir held the boat fast,
Allowing no shifting position.
When the seventh day dawned,
I brought a dove out and set it free.
The dove went forth but then returned.
The dove found no resting-place and turned back (20).
I brought out a swallow and set it free.
The swallow went forth but then returned
The swallow found no resting-place and turned back (21).
I brought out a raven and set it free.
The raven flew forth but saw the waters were sinking,
She ate, circled, croaked, but did not return back.
Then I sent forth all the four winds
And offered a sacrifice
On the peak of the mountain
I poured out a libation.
Twice seven were the cult-vessels I set up,
Heaping upon their pot-stands sweet cane,
Cedar, myrthle,
The gods smelled the savour.
The gods gathered like fliers around the sacrificer.
Now when Inanna, the Lady of the Gods, arrived,
She lifted up the magnificent jewels which An the Great god
Had made according to her desire, and said:
'O ye gods here present!
Just as surely as I shall not forget
The lapis lazuli around my neck,
So shall I remember these days,
Never forgetting them.
Let the gods come to the offering.
But let not Enlil come to the offering;
For he, unreasoning, brought on the deluge
And delivered my people over to destruction!'
Now when Enlil arrived and saw the boat,
He waxed wroth,
He was filled with fury against the heavenly Igigi gods and said:
'What! - Has any mortal escaped?
No mortal was to survive the destruction!'
Ninurta, God of War, opened his mouth to speak, said to valiant Enlil:
'Who besides the god Enki could devise such a plan?
The god Enki alone understands every matter.'
Enki opened his mouth to speak, saying to valiant Enlil:
'O wisest of gods, O great warrior hero,
How could you, taking no counsel,
Bring on the deluge?
He who has sinned, on him lay his sin.
He who has transgressed, on him lay his transgression
But oh be merciful, lest all be destroyed.
Be long suffering, that man may not perish.
Rather than your bringing on the deluge,
Oh, that a lion had come to diminish mankind!
Rather than you bringing on the deluge,
Oh, that a famine had arisen
To lay mankind low.
Rather than you bringing in the deluge
Oh, that Erra, god of Pestilence, had come
To strike mankind down.
What is more, it was not I
Not I who revealed the Secret of the Great Gods,
I allowed Ziusudra, he ho abounds in wisdom
To see a dream
It was thus that he perceived
The secret of the Great Gods
Now then take counsel concerning him.'
Then Enlil went up into the ship.
He grasped my hand,
He caused me to go aboard,
He caused my wife to go aboard,
He made her to kneel beside me
He stood there between us,
He touched our foreheads and blessed us;
"Until now, Ziusudra has been a more mortal
But from now shall Ziusudra and his wife
Be like unto us gods.
Ziusudra shall reside far away -
At the confluence of the celestial rivers -
There shall he dwell!"
And so they took me and made me reside far away,
At the confluence of the celestial rivers.
But now, o Gilgamesh, as for you,
Who will assemble the gods for you
That you may find the Life that you seek?
Come, do not lie down, sleep not
For six days and seven nights'. (22)
As he sits on his haunches,
Sleep breathes upon him like a light rain in a mist (23).
Ziusudra says to her, says to his wife:
'Behold, the strong one who seeks Life-Everlasting!
Sleep breathes upon him like rain in a mist.'
His wife says to him, to Ziusudra the Faraway:
'Oh, touch him
Let the man awake,
That he may return in peace
Along the route by which he came.
That he may return to his land
By the portal through which he came.;
Ziusudra says to her, says to his wife:
'Mankind being wicked, he will seek to deceive you.
Bake some little cakes of bread
And put them by his head.
She put these by his head
And she marked on the wall the days he slept.
His first cake of bread dried out,
His second was gone bad,
His third was moist and soggy,
His fourth turned white,
His fifth had a mouldy look,
His 6th was still fresh
His 7th - just as he was touched, he awoke.
Gilgamesh says to Ziusudra, the Faraway:
'Hardly did sleep steal over me, when suddenly you touched me and woke me!'
Ziusudra says to him
Says to Gilgamesh:
'Not so, Gilgamesh! Count your cakes of bread,
They will show you how many days you have slept.
The first cake is dried out,
The second is gone bad,
The third is mois and soggy,
The crust of the fourth has turned white,
The fifth has a mouldy look,
The sixth is still fresh.
The seventh, the moment it was baked - at this instant you did awaken.'
Gilgamesh says to him
Says to Ziusudra the Faraway:
'Ah, but what shall I do, Ziusudra?
Where shall I go?
Now that the Snatcher has laid hold of my entrails?
Death lurks in my bedchamber, death follows my footsteps already!'
Ziusudra says to him,
Says to Urshanabi the Boatman
'Urshanabi, may the landing-place not welcome you.
May the place of crossing reject you!
He who approaches its surrounding rim
Deny him its rim!' (25)
The man beforewhose face you have walked
Whose body is covered in long hair
The grace of whose form skins have distorted
Let him wash his long hair clean as snow in water -
Let him throw off his skins,
Let the sea carry them away,
So that the fairness of his body may be seen
Let him place a new band around his head
Let him cover his nakedness with a fresh garment
Until he will accomplish his journey
Let not his garment have a mouldy look -
Let it be quite new.'
Urshanabi took him and brought him to the place of cleansing
He washed his long hair
He threw off his skins
That the see might carry them away,
That the fairness of his body might be seen
He placed a new band around his head
He covered his nakedness with a fresh garment,
Until he should arrive in his city,
Until he should accomplish his journey.
The garment did not have a mouldy look
But was quite new.
Gilgamesh and Urshanabi boarded the ship.
They launched the ship on the waves and they glided forth,
His wife says to him
Says to Ziusudra the Faraway:
'Gilgamesh has come hither,
He has wearied himself,
He has exerted himself.
What gift will you make to him (26)
That he may return to his land?'
That he, Gilgamesh, raised up his pole,
And brought the ship hear to the shore (27).
Ziusudra says to him
Says to Gilgamesh:
'Gilgamesh, you have come hither,
You have wearied yourself,
You have wearied yourself.
What gift shall I make to you
That you may return to your land?
Gilgamesh, I will disclose unto you
A hidden thing.
Yes, a secret of the gods will I tell unto you:
There is a plant,
Its thorn is like the buckthorn,
Its thorns will prick your hands
As does the rose
If that plant shall come to your hands
You will find new life'.
No sooner had Gilgamesh heard this
Than he opened the water-pipe (28)
He tied heavy stones on his feet in the manner of the pearl divers
They pulled him down into the deep
There he saw the plant.
He took the plant, though it pricked his hands.
He cut the heavy stones from his feet
The sea cast him up upon its shore
Gilgamesh says to him
Says to Urshanabi the Boatman:
'Urshanabi, this is the plant that is different from all others.
By its means a man can lay hold of the breath of life.
I shall take it to Uruk of the ramparts.
I shall cause....
To eat the plant....
It shall be called Man Becomes Young in Old Age.
I myself shall eat it,
that I may return to the state of my youth.'
There I myself shall eat the plant that I may return to the state of my youth.'
After 20 intervals they broke off a morsel.
After 30 more rested for the night.
Gilgamesh saw a well whose water was cool
He descended into it to bathe in the water
A serpent smelled the fragrance of the plant
It darted up from the well and seized the plant:
Sloughing its skin in rejuvenation as it returned.
Then Gilgamesh sat down and wept.
His tears flowed down his cheeks.
He took the hand of Urshanabi, the Boatman:
'For whom have my hands laboured, Urshanabi?
For whom has my heart's blood been spent?
I have not obtained any advantage for myself.
I have only obtained an advantage for the earth-lion (29)'.
And now the tide will bear it twenty-double hours away!
When I opened the water-pipe
And... the gear
I noted the sign which was set for me
As a warning: I shall withdraw,
And leave the ship on the shore.'
After twenty intervals
They broke a morsel
And thirty more
Rested for the night (30)
When they arrived in Uruk of the ramparts
Gilgamesh says to him
Says to Urshanabi the Boatman:
'Go up, Urshanabi, walk on the ramparts of Uruk (31)
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 margin land.
There there is the precinct of the temple of Inanna/Ishtar
These three parts
And the precinct
Comprise Uruk
(Written down according to its original and collated Palace of of Ashurbanipal, King of the World, King of Assyria).


1. The biblical Great Flood is a tradition which is known to be derived directly from the Sumerian-Babylonian one. What, then, are the origins of the latter? The Babylonian word for the Great Flood, Abubu, is yet another key word to be borrowed from the Egyptians. The word evidently comes from the Egyptian Agb-hu-bua, which literally means the celestial Deluge - Inundation - Great, or in other words, the celestial Great Flood. With both linguistic validity and identity of meaning, the origin of this term from the Egyptian and identity of meaning, the origin of this term from the Egyptian astro-religion can hardly be doubted. As to the actual symbolic significance of the Great Flood, that is far too complex a matter to be discussed briefly here. But it was never intended to be taken literally as an actual physical deluge on the earth. That is a later misunderstanding whcih arose amongst the uninitiated.
Not only is the word for the Great Flood derived from the Egyptian, but so is the Hebrew word used for the ark in the Bible. The ark in the Book of Genesis is called teba, an unusual word which only occurs elsehere at Exodus 2:3-5, as a description of the Egyptian reed container in which the baby Moses was placed. This word comes from the Egyptian word teba meaning box, chest or coffer. We shall see in a moment that the Babylonian ark was not a ship at all but a perfect cube, and that box or chest was indeed a better descriptive term. It is misleading for English translations of the Bible to imply that the ark was a ship, since the Hebrew word used for it does not mean ship. In connection with teba, it should be noted that in Egyptian the related verb teben means to cycle, to revolve in a circle and teb means a cycle of time. Thus we see something of the celestial connections of the ark.
2. For an explanation of Enki's hideaway, see the introduction, page xxii.
3. This is a conscious deception on Enki's part. He wishes the inhabitants of Shuruppak to believe this mundane meaning of the words, neglecting the real meaning, which by a play on words states the truth: 'What a rain of misfortune shall He rain down upon you!' Possibly because gods are not supposed to lie, Enki wishes to have the truth spoken but in a disguised manner which is intended to be misunderstood. Since none of the inhabitants of Shuruppak are meant to survive, the deception hardly seems worth the trouble. (Doubltess Enki had an eye to what posterity would have to say.) Thoughout the ancient world puns and plays on words were used to explain why the utterances of gods made through oracles appeared to be inacurate prophecies. This was a common practice, for instance, in Greece, where many responses of the Oracle of Delphi took this deceptive form - or at least were said afterwards to have done so.
4. An iku or one field, was a square measure of one hundred musar, or about 3,600 square metres, which is approximately one modern acre. However, iku was also the name of the constellation now called Pegasus, or more particularly of what is now called the Square of Pegasus. Among the Babylonians, the Square of Pegasus was represented by a field in the sky defined by four stars which do indeed make nearly a square shape in the heavens. Iku was meant to be the home of the God Enki (his other home was Eridu, identified with the star Canopus in Argo, the stellar constellation associated in Greek and Egyptian tradition with the ark, as well as the Greek ship Argo, whose name has the same derivation of the word ark (see Tablet VII, note 1).
Some extremely interesting information about Iku is given by Werner Papke in his book 'Die Sterne von Babylon'. He shows that the heliacal rising of Sirius, which was New Year's Day of the most fundamentally important calendar to the Egyptians and the Babylonians, if taken as day one, means that the heliacal rising of the constellaton Iku took place 240 days or 2/3 of a year. This, I deduce, may be another reason why Ziusudra's boatman, Urshanabi, is called the Priest of Two-Thrids, and why Enki and Gilgamesh are both two-thirds (see also Tablet IX, note 11).
5. Ten gar is equal to 120 cubits and a cubit is thought to have been roughly half a meter in modern measurements. That means that the measurements of this original ark were a mere sixty metres on each side, which is approximately the size of a large house. Clearly there was no room inside such a small structure for the biblical two of every kind. It is mysterious what these measurements are intended to convey to us. Was there any actual cubical structure of these dimensions built somewhere? We do not know. It would be interesting to compare these measurements with the dimensions of temples excavated by archeologists. Sacred buildings may have attempted to emulate or reproduce these dimensions,a nd arheologists may well not have thought to look for such correspondences.
6. Geometrically, this indicates the construction of a cube from a central joint with a strut affixated to the centre of each of the six faces.
7. The six faces plus the centre? Other translators have suggested six decks inside, with the top being the seventh surface.
8. Retaining the motif of 'thirds': by dividing the square into thirds both vertically and horizontally, one gets nine equal nine squares within the original square. The resulting ennead may have had some arcane significance in sacred geometry akin to the tetractys (a triangular pattern of ten dots believed to represent the perfect number) of the later Greek Pythagoreans. Doubtless the three horizontal strips would also be meant to represent the three sky bands (see Tablet VII, note 1), or at least to echo them.
9. Shar means 3,600 and the unit of volume is left unspecified, but assuming it was the sutu (just over two modern gallons), one shar was thus equal to approximately 8,000 modern gallons.
10. This line and the six preceding ones reflect the pretence of the poet/compiler of the Epic that he is describing an actual boat. To return to an astro-religious level, note how boatman Urshanabi stows away two-thirds of the three shar measures of oil - a correspondence which was doubtless thought appropriate.
11. Divination by the entrails of sheep on a daily basis would be customary for such an enterprise as this among the Babylonians: the meat would afterwards be consumed. Knowledge of this would betaken for granted amongst all the poet/compilers's contemporaries, obviating any need for comment or explanation.
12. This passage is fragmentary. Two-thirds is preserved and is known not to refer to the entire ship because of a masculine pronominal suffix, whereas the noun for the boat is feminine. It must therefore refer tot he floor. The meaning may be that the lower of the three horizontal strips of the floor corresponded to the southern sky band of Enki - below the equator.
13. Cyrus Gordon (see Bibliography) wryle observes that Ziusudra disregards Enki's advice to leave all his possessions behind.
14. Amurru, of which Amurri is a genitive in the construct state, was a figure in Babylonian mythology whose name was identified with teh West, the West Wind, the Gate of the West Wind, as well as West Star, referring to the star Mirfak in the constellation Perseus (known as Amurru by the Babylonians). The star is in the Milky Way and is pointed to directlyby a diagonal drawn across Iku from the star Markab tot he star Alpheratz. In addition, an amazing survival of specific mateiral from the Epic is found in Greek mythology attached to the figure of Perseus: Perseus and his mother were thrown into the sea in a wooden chest in the shape of a cube. Thus both the Babylonian and the Greek figures, Amurru and Perseus wee identified with the same constellation, sailed in cubical arks. Like Amurru, Perseus had associations with the West, for he visited the place of the gorgons, beyond the Western ocean. Furthermore, Perseus like Amurru had a direct connection with Pegaus/Iku. Pegasus in Greek myth though a son of the Ocean, also sprang from the blood of Medusa after Perseus slew her. Pegasus thus came into being because of an action by Perseus.Finally, like the Babylonian ark whose floor was associated with Pegasus/Iku (see note 4 above), Pegasus in Greek myth also came to rest on a mountain peak, Mount Helicon.
15. A black cloud is here described as having a heliacal rising int he manner of a star.
16. An's sky band was the equatorial band which was above that of Enki. This line gives support to the earlier suggestion that one-third of the ark's floor was below, correlated with Enki's sky band (see note 12 above), for here we have clear evidence that two sky bands were above the deluge and only one sky band, that of Enki in the south, was below it. It is also important that the storm which created this deluge is described as the South Storm, namely one in the band of Enki, the southern sky below the equator.
17. See Tablet VII, note 5.
18. These are the 14 mountain peaks associated with the adjoining 14 major oracle centres above the geodetic baseline known to the Egyptians, Minoans and Babylonians. The peaks were geodetic survey-markers and the purpose of these geodetic points was for survey purposes to allow no shifting of position. The Greek historian Herodotus records that the the oracle centre of Dodona was founded by doves flying form Egyptian Thebes. Mount Tomaos was the geodetic marker for Dodona and the Greek ark of Deucalion (the Greek Noah) was said to have landed on this peak. A rival tradition maintained that Deucalion's ark landed on Mount Parnasos, the geodetic marker for the oracle of Delphi. The biblical tradition states that Noah's ark landed on Mount Ararat, which was the geodetic marker for the ancient oracle centre of Metsamor.
(Further investigation reveals that Mount Tomaros and Mount Ararat are on precisely the same line of latitude, indicating that the Greek and Hebrew arks in ostensibly separate traditions landed on exactly the same latitude as each other, which can hardly be a coincidence.) Precisely one degree of latitude south of the oracle of Dodona and Metsamor is the oracle of Delphi, and of Delos, once of major oracular importance but defunct as an oracle by about the 7th BCE. The mountain-marker for Delos was Mount Cynthus.
Mountain peaks were used for signalling and surveying purposes for thousands of years. Indeed, the use of mountain peaks for the lighting of bonfires as a signalling system is referred to by the Greek playright Aeschylus as occurring at the time of Homer. J.H. Quincey has reconstructed this system, complete with a map in an article entitled 'The Beacon sites in the Agamemnon'.
19. A variant name for Mount Nisur was Mount Nimush. Speiser identifies it with the modern mountain Pir Omar Gudrun. The precise identity of Mount Nisir requires further research, as does the entire geography of the Epic. However, Mount Nisir seems to have been a mountain in the Zagros range east of Babylon itself and like Babylon, precisely seven degrees of latitude south of Mount Ararat.
20. There is a contradiction here, since the 14 mountain peaks had already emerged.
21. Swallows were used in the ancient world as messenger birds, in the same way as were doves - or carrier-pigeons, as we call these specialised birds today. There is much evidence to suggest that messenger birds were used by the priests as well as by the long-distance navigators of antiquity. Pliny refers to the use of shore-sighting birds by navigators from Ceylon in Roman times. But far earlier earlier nautical uses of shore sighting doves are reconted in his book Prehistoric Crete by R. W. Hutchinson, who maintains that Sumerian sea captains must have been using them by the third millenium BCE. Jason used them in his Argo voyage as well.
In ancient times there was a secret carrier-piegeon and carrier-swallow network connecting the oracle centres which enabled the priests to be in instant touch by bird telegraphy so that they could fake oracular prophecies by getting information in advance. The returning of the dove and of the swallow are esoteric references to this network, intended to be unintelligible to the uninitiated.
Similarly, an esoteric Egyptian pun is preserved in the use of the expression turned back as applied to Ziusudra's dove and swallow. Un in Egyptian means dovecote, but it also means to turn back. This pun thus referred to the doves from the un performing an un. Once again we see the trace of a sacred Egyptian pun lingering on in a language where it had ceased any longer to be a pun or have a double meaning.
22. See Introduction.
23. Other translators give kima imbari the violent connotatio of 'like a whirlwind' or 'rain storm', whereas imbaru in fact conveys the image of mist or fog.
24. Once again we have a tradition deriving from the Egyptians. The reference is to the non-phonetic Egyptian hieroglyph for 'time', which was a little round baked cake of bread. The bread cakes are thus visual/word puns expressing the passage of time.
25. The word ahu, which appears in the original text, should not be translated as 'shore'. Speiser and Heidel force that meaning on the word, whereas it really means rim, edge, surrounding region. Not many lines later, and again after that, the correct word for shore, kibru, occurs and recurs (see note 27 below), demonstrating by its proximity and constant use that ahu cannot have been intended in the sense of shore. Once more, the rim of the cosmic wheel by which Gilgamesh travelled to Ziusudra in the first place is referred to here (see also Tablet IX, note 1).
26. It was customary to make a gift to a departing guest.
27. Because an actual shore is referred to here, the appropriate word, kibru, is used, as it is again a few lines further on. Previous translators have wrongly assumed that the wheel rim mentioned ealier must be this shore.
28. This strange word, ratu, is mentioned also in the Babylonian creation poem as a cosmic connection - a 'pipe' in the figurative sense - between the city of Eridu and the temple of Esagila, which corresponded respectively with the god Enki's two abodes, the star Canopus in Argo and the Iku or Pegasus Square. Endowing the word with the sense of channel rather than pipe, it may well be the comsic river Eridanus, as the constellation is known today, may be the transit channel across the sky which is intended here.
29. The 'earth-lion' is believed to refer to the serpent. Some esoteric meaning is intended, but it is not clear.
30. These two recent stages of 50 intervals - literally 'double hours' - each, over two days altogether, represent two/thirds of the journey made in Tablet IV to the Cedar Forest. Once again the motif of two-thirds recur (See Tablet IV, note 3, and Tablet IX, note 13).
31. See Tablet IX, note 33.