Text #9170"Epic of Gilgamesh", in .
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia. Dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 BC), it is often regarded as the first great work of literature. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about ‘Bilgamesh’ (Sumerian for ‘Gilgamesh’), king of Uruk. These independent stories were later used as source material for a combined epic. The first surviving version of this combined epic, known as the “Old Babylonian” version, dates to the 18th century BC and is titled after its incipit, Shūtur eli sharrī (“Surpassing All Other Kings”). Only a few tablets of it have survived. The later “Standard” version dates from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC and bears the incipit Sha naqba īmuru (“He who Saw the Deep”, in modern terms: “He who Sees the Unknown”). Approximately two thirds of this longer, twelve-tablet version have been recovered. Some of the best copies were discovered in the library ruins of the 7th-century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. […]
The discovery of artifacts (ca. 2600 BC) associated with Enmebaragesi of Kish, mentioned in the legends as the father of one of Gilgamesh’s adversaries, has lent credibility to the historical existence of Gilgamesh. […]
The Epic of Gilgamesh has influenced both ancient and modern literature and culture, and themes from the Epic can be found in later biblical and classical literature. […]
The parallels between the stories of Enkidu/Shamhat and Adam/Eve have been long recognized by scholars. In both, a man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting amongst the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. In both stories the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. The presence of a snake that steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic is another point of similarity.
Several scholars suggest direct borrowing of Siduri’s advice by the author of Ecclesiastes.
A rare proverb about the strength of a triple-stranded rope (a triple-stranded rope is not easily broken) is common to both books.
Andrew George submits that the Genesis flood narrative matches that in Gilgamesh so closely that “few doubt” that it derives from a Mesopotamian account. What is particularly noticeable is the way the Genesis flood story follows the Gilgamesh flood tale “point by point and in the same order”, even when the story permits other alternatives.
Matthias Henze suggests that Nebuchadnezzar’s madness in the biblical Book of Daniel draws on the Epic of Gilgamesh. He claims that the author uses elements from the description of Enkidu to paint a sarcastic and mocking portrait of the king of Babylon.
Numerous scholars have drawn attention to various themes, episodes, and verses, that indicate a substantial influence of the Epic of Gilgamesh on both of the epic poems ascribed to Homer. These influences are detailed by Martin Litchfield West in The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. According to Tzvi Abusch of Brandeis University, the poem “combines the power and tragedy of the Iliad with the wanderings and marvels of the Odyssey. It is a work of adventure, but is no less a meditation on some fundamental issues of human existence.”
Translations of Epic
Jastrow, M.; Clay, A. (1920). An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic: On the Basis of Recently Discovered Texts.
Sandars, N. K (2006). The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Epics). London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-102628-6.: re-print of the Penguin Classic translation (in prose) by N. K. Sandars 1960 (ISBN 014044100X) without the introduction.
Mason, Herbert (2003). Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative. Boston: Mariner Books. ISBN 978-0-618-27564-9. First published in 1970 by Houghton Mifflin; Mentor Books paperback published 1972.
Kovacs, Maureen Gallery, transl. with intro. (1985). The Epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1711-7. Glossary, Appendices, Appendix (Chapter XII=Tablet XII). A line-by-line translation (Chapters I-XI).
Ferry, David (1993). Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-52383-5.
Jackson, Danny (1997). The Epic of Gilgamesh. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. ISBN 0-86516-352-9.
Parpola, Simo (1997). The Standard Babylonian, Epic of Gilgamesh. Mikko Luuko and Kalle Fabritius. The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. ISBN 951-45-7760-4.: (Volume 1) in the original Akkadian cuneiform and transliteration; commentary and glossary are in English
George, Andrew R., trans. & edit. (2000). The Epic of Gilgamesh; The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. England: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044721-0.
Foster, Benjamin R., trans. & edit. (2001). The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-97516-9.
George, Andrew R., trans. & edit. (2003). The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts. England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-814922-0.
Mitchell, Stephen (2004). Gilgamesh: A New English Version. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-6164-X.
Analysis of Epic
Jacobsen, Thorkild (1976). The Treasures of Darkness, A History of Mesopotamian Religion. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-01844-4.
Tigay, Jeffrey H. (1982). The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-7805-4.
Kluger, Rivkah (1991). The Gilgamesh Epic: A Psychological Study of a Modern Ancient Hero. Daimon. ISBN 3-85630-523-8.
West, Martin Litchfield (1991). The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-815042-3.
Best, Robert (1999). Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 0-9667840-1-4.
Damrosch, David (2007). The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh. Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0-8050-8029-5.