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THE
STORY OF GILGAMESH

   Gilgamesh
was a powerful king of the Sumerian Epics, who is more well known for his
journey for eternity, and the wonderful things he witnesses and encounters
on his journey to and from the land of ‘Dilmun’
 (The
Land Of Missiles).

 Mesopotamia
was in the geographical area that is today called Iraq. “Mesopotamia,”
is a Greek word for
land between two rivers.” The two rivers
in this case were the Tigris and the
Euphrates. the land was the site of one of
the three earliest urban civilizations (along
with the Indus Valley in the Indian
continent
and the Nile Valley civilization
in Egypt). During this period around 4000 B.C;
“writing was given to
mankind
, large constructions, temples
and ziggurats (step pyramids)
were constructed, the most prominent and important
one consecrated to En-Lil, The God who threw Adam and Eve out of Eden (
Now called the Island of Bahrain).

 (This
brochure, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish, was
originally written by the late Keeper of the Department, SIR ERNEST WALLIS
BUDGE, LITT.D., F.S.A. It is now re-issued in a revised form, rendered
necessary by the march of discovery in Babylonian matters during the last
few years. The work of revision has been carried out by Mr. C. J. GADD,
M.A., F.S.A., Assistant-Keeper in the Department. (H.
R. HALL)
;
DEPARTMENT OF
EGYPTIAN AND ASSYRIAN ANTIQUITIES, BRITISH MUSEUM,
15th October, 1929.

THE EPIC OF GILGAMISH

 The
narrative of the life, exploits and travels of Gilgamish, king of Erech,
filled Twelve Tablets which formed the Series called from the first
three words of the First Tablet, SHA NAGBU IMURU, i.e., “He who
hath seen all things.” The exact period of the reign of this king is
unknown, but in the list of the Sumerian kingdoms he is fifth ruler in
the Dynasty of Erech, which was considered the second dynasty to reign
after the Deluge. He was said to have ruled for 126 years. The principal
authorities for the Epic are the numerous fragments of the tablets that
were found in the ruins of the Library of Nebo and the Royal Library of
Ashur-bani-pal at Nineveh, and are now in the British Museum,[2] but
very valuable portions of other and older versions (including some
fragments of a Hittite translation) have now been recovered from various
sources, and these contribute greatly to the reconstruction of the
story. The contents of the Twelve Tablets may be briefly described
thus–

THE
FIRST TABLET.

The
opening lines describe the great knowledge and wisdom of Gilgamish, who
saw everything, learned everything, under stood everything, who probed
to the bottom the hidden mysteries of wisdom, and who knew the history
of everything that happened before the Deluge. He travelled far over sea
and land, and performed mighty deeds, and then he cut upon a tablet of
stone an account of all that he had done and suffered. He built the wall
of Erech, founded the holy temple of E-Anna, and carried out other great
architectural works. He was a semi-divine being, for his body was formed
of the “flesh of the gods,” and “two-thirds of him were god, and
one-third was man,” The description of his person is lost. As Shepherd (i.e.,
King) of Erech he forced the
people to toil overmuch, and his demands reduced them to such a state of
misery that they cried out to the gods and begged them to create some
king who should control Gilgamish and give them deliverance from him.
The gods hearkened to the prayer of the men of Erech, and they commanded
the goddess Aruru to create a rival to Gilgamish. The goddess agreed to
do their bidding, and having planned in her mind what manner of being
she intended to make, she washed her hands, took a piece of clay, cast
it on the ground, and made a male creature like the god En-urta. His
body was covered all over with hair. The hair of his head was long like
that of a woman, and he wore clothing like that of Sumuqan, the god of
cattle. He was different in every way from the people of the country,
and his name was Enkidu. He lived in the forests on the hills, ate herbs
like the gazelle, drank with the wild cattle, and herded with the beasts
of the field. He was mighty in stature, invincible in strength, and
obtained complete mastery over all the creatures of the forests in which
he lived.

One day a
certain hunter went out to snare game, and he dug pit-traps and laid
nets, and made his usual preparations for roping in his prey. But after
doing this for three days he found that his pits were filled up and his
nets smashed, and he saw Enkidu releasing the beasts that had been
snared. The hunter was terrified at the sight of Enkidu, and went home
hastily and told his father what he had seen and how badly he had fared.
By his father’s advice he went to Erech, and reported to Gilgamish what
had happened. When Gilgamish heard his story he advised him to act upon
a suggestion which the hunter’s father had already made, namely that he
should hire a harlot and take her out to the forest, so that Enkidu
might be ensnared by the sight of her beauty, and take up his abode with
her. The hunter accepted this advice, and having found a harlot to help
him in removing Enkidu from the forests, he set out from Erech with her
and in due course arrived at the forest where Enkidu lived, and sat down
by the place where the beasts came to drink.

On the
second day when the beasts came to drink and Enkidu was with them, the
woman carried out the instructions which the hunter had given her, and
when Enkidu saw her cast aside her veil, he left his beasts and came to
her, and remained
with her for six days and seven nights. At the end of this period he
returned to the beasts with which he had lived on friendly terms, but as
soon as the gazelle winded him they took to flight, and the wild cattle
disappeared into the woods. When Enkidu saw the beasts forsake him his
knees gave way, and he could not run as of old; but when he came to
himself he returned to the harlot. She spoke to him flattering words,
and asked him why he wandered with the wild beasts in the desert, and
then told him she wished to take him back with her to Erech, where Anu
and Ishtar lived, and where the mighty Gilgamish reigned. Enkidu
hearkened and the harlot then told him of the glories of Erech and of
Gilgamish, who, she said, had been forewarned of Enkidu’s coming by two
dreams, which he had related to his divine mother, Nin-sun. These she
had interpreted as foreshowing the approach of a strong and faithful
friend.

THE
SECOND TABLET.

Having
related these dreams of Gilgamish, the harlot again urged Enkidu to go
with her to Erech, and they set out together. On the way she brought him
to a shepherds’ village, where she instructed him how to eat the bread
and beer which was set before him; for until then he had only sucked the
milk of cattle. By virtue of eating and drinking this human fare Enkidu
became a man instead of a beast, and, taking weapons, he hunted the
lions and wolves which preyed upon the shepherds’ flocks. A messenger
from Gilgamish now appeared with a summons to the city. He announced
that the king offered entertainment, but that he would expect the
customary present from a stranger, and would exercise his privilege over
the woman who accompanied him. The entrance of Enkidu into the city
caused a general excitement, all being amazed at his surpassing strength
and his conversion from savagery. The first meeting of Gilgamish and
Enkidu took place when the king came in the night to claim his right to
the strange woman. Enkidu violently resisted him, and the two heroes in
the doorway “grappled and snorted (?) like bulls; they shattered the
threshold, the wall quivered” in their strife. Gilgamish was finally
worsted, but the result of this combat was that the two became fast
friends and allies.

THE
THIRD TABLET.

Owing to
mutilation of the text this section begins obscurely, but it seems that
the harlot had deserted Enkidu, for he laments his association with her.
Gilgamish then opened to him his design to go on an expedition to the
Cedar Forest and fight with a fearful ogre named Khumbaba, who had been
appointed by the gods as warden of the forest. Enkidu sought to dissuade
his friend from this rash project, saying that he himself, when he lived
with the beasts, used to penetrate into the skirts of the forest, where
he had learned to dread the roaring breath and flames emitted by
Khumbaba. To this Gilgamish seems to have replied that he must go to the
Cedar Forest to fetch the wood he needed, and when Enkidu still
objected, he concluded with the reflection that death was inevitable to
mortals, and that he would therefore meet it in a glorious enterprise
which should win fame for him among his children for ever. The craftsmen
were then ordered to cast weapons for the pair, and this they did,
making gigantic axes and gold-ornamented swords, so that each of the
warriors was equipped with an armament weighing in all ten talents.
Attracted by these preparations, the people of Erech gathered at the
gate, and Gilgamish announced his project to the elders of the city, who
in turn sought to dissuade him, but in vain. Gilgamish commended his
life to the Sun-god, and the two put on their armour. The last words of
the elders were a warning to the king against rash presumption in his
own strength. Setting out on their journey, the two warriors first
visited the temple of Nin-sun, the divine mother of Gilgamish, who, at
the earnest prayer of her son, besought the Sun-god to prosper him on
his journey and in the fight against the ogre, and to bring him safely
back to Erech. The latter part of this Tablet is missing.

THE
FOURTH TABLET.

So much
of this Tablet is missing that only a very general notion can be
obtained of its contents. The two heroes had by now reached the Gate of
the Forest wherein Khumbaba dwelt. Enkidu was amazed at the gigantic
size and beauty of this gate, fashioned out of the timbers of the
forest. When the text begins again, the two are found encouraging each
other to their
enterprise, and Gilgamish burst through the gate. Soon afterwards Enkidu
was overcome either by sickness or by dread of the combat, and lay inert
for twelve days, apparently as the result of evil dreams which had
visited him. In his weakness he strove again to turn back from their
desperate adventure, but again Gilgamish overcame his fear with
encouragements.

THE
FIFTH TABLET.

The two
warriors were now in the forest, and this Tablet begins with a
description of its wonders. They saw a straight road running between its
tall cedars, along which Khumbaba trod; they saw also the mountain of
the cedars, the dwelling of the gods, and the pleasant shade and perfume
which the trees spread around. After this they seem to have fallen
asleep, for Gilgamish is next found relating to Enkidu a dream which he
had had: the two were standing together on the top of a mountain, when
the peak fell away, leaving them unharmed. Enkidu interprets this as a
forecast that they were to over-throw the gigantic Khumbaba. At the
sixtieth league they stayed to rest, and Gilgamish besought the mountain
to send him another dream. Falling asleep at once, he woke in terror at
midnight and began to tell how he dreamed that the earth was darkened,
amid loud roarings and flames of fire, which gradually died away. (This
seems to be a description of a volcanic eruption, and some have thought
that Khumbaba was the personification of a volcano known to the ancient
Sumerians.) This dream too was interpreted by Enkidu, no doubt
favourably, but nothing more remains of this Tablet before the end, when
Khumbaba has been fought and defeated, and his head cut off. A fragment
of another version shews that he was defeated by the help of the
Sun-god, who sent eight evil winds against him on every side so that he
could not move. Thus entrapped, he surrendered to Gilgamish and offered
submission in return for his life. This Gilgamish was disposed to grant,
but Enkidu warned him of the danger of letting the giant live.

THE
SIXTH TABLET.

The scene
now returns to Erech, whither the heroes returned after their glorious
exploit. As Gilgamish was washing himself and
dressing himself in splendid attire the goddess Ishtar saw his
comeliness and desired him to be her lover, saying,




Go to, Gilgamish, do thou be (my) bridegroom,
Give me freely the fruit (of thy body).
Be thou my husband, I will be thy wife,
(So) will I make them yoke for thee a chariot of lapis-lazuli
and gold,
Its wheels of gold, and its horns of electrum.
Every day shalt thou harness great mules thereto.
Enter (then) our house with the perfume of cedar.
When thou enterest our house
Threshold and dais shall kiss thy feet,
Beneath thee shall kings, lords and princes do homage,
Bringing thee as tribute the yield of the mountains and plains,
Thy she-goats shall bring forth abundantly, thy ewes bear twins,
Thine asses shall be (each) as great as a mule,
Thy horses in the chariot shall be famous for their swiftness,
Thy mules in the yoke shall not have a peer.



In answer
to this invitation, Gilgamish made a long speech, in which he reviewed
the calamities of those who had been unfortunate enough to attract the
love of the goddess. To be her husband would be a burdensome privilege,
and her love was deceptive, a ruin that gave no shelter, a door that let
in the storm, a crazy building, a pitfall, defiling pitch, a leaky
vessel, a crumbling stone, a worthless charm, an ill-fitting shoe. “Who
was ever thy lord that had advantage thereby? Come, I will unfold the
tale of thy lovers.” He refers to Tammuz, the lover of her youth, for
whom year by year she causes wailing. Every creature that fell under her
sway suffered mutilation or death; the bird’s wings were broken, the
lion destroyed, the horse driven to death with whip and spur. Her human
lovers fared no better, for a shepherd, once her favourite, was turned
by her into a jackal and torn by his own dogs, and Ishullanu, her
father’s gardener, was turned into a spider (?) because he refused her
advances. “So, too,” said Gilgamish, “would’st thou love me, and (then)
make me like unto them.”


 
When
Ishtar heard these words she was filled with rage, and went up to
heaven, and complained to Anu her father and Antu her mother that
Gilgamish had blasphemed her, and revealed all her iniquitous deeds. Anu
replied, in effect, that it was her own fault, but she insisted in the
request that he should create a heavenly bull to destroy Gilgamish. This
he finally agreed to do, and the bull appeared before the citizens of
Erech, and destroyed one, two and three hundred men who were sent out
against him. At length Enkidu and Gilgamish attacked the bull
themselves, and after a hard fight: the details of which are lost, they
slew him, and offered his heart together with a libation to
the
Sun-god. As soon as Ishtar heard of the bull’s death she rushed out on
the battlements of the wall of Erech and cursed Gilgamish for destroying
her bull. When Enkidu heard what Ishtar said, he tore out the member of
the bull and threw it before the goddess, saying, “Could I but get it at
thee, I would serve thee like him; I would hang his it entrails about
thee.” Then Ishtar gathered together all her temple-women and harlots,
and with them made lamentation over the member of the bull.

And
Gilgamish called together the artisans of Erech, who came and marvelled
at the size of the bull’s horns, for each of them was in bulk equal to
30 minas of lapis-lazuli, their thickness two finger-breadths,
and together they contained six kur measures of oil. These
Gilgamish dedicated in the temple of his god Lugalbanda, to hold the
god’s unguent, and, having made his offering, he and Enkidu washed their
hands in the Euphrates, took their way back to the city, and rode
through the streets of Erech, the people thronging round to admire them.
Gilgamish put forth a question to the people, saying




Who is splendid among men?
Who is glorious among heroes?



And the
answer was:




[Gilgamish] is splendid among men,
[Enkidu] is glorious among heroes.



Gilgamish
made a great feast in his palace, and after it all lay down to sleep.
Enkidu also slept and had a vision, so he rose up and related it to
Gilgamish.

THE
SEVENTH TABLET.

From
fragments of a version of the Gilgamish Epic translated into the Hittite
language, which have more recently been discovered, it is possible to
gain some notion of the contents of this Tablet, the earlier part of
which is almost entirely missing from the Assyrian version. It appears
that Enkidu beheld in his dream the gods Enlil, Ea, and the Sun-god
taking counsel together. Enlil was greatly incensed at the exploits of
Gilgamish and Enkidu, and had resolved that Enkidu must die, though
Gilgamish might be spared. This was finally decreed,
in spite
of the attempted opposition of the Sun-god. In consequence Enkidu soon
afterwards fell sick, though nothing is preserved concerning the
circumstances of this. But he seems to have attributed his misfortune
for some reason to the harlot who had first brought him to Erech, for he
is found heaping curses upon her. While he thus spoke the Sun-god heard
him, and, calling from heaven, rebuked him for ingratitude to the woman,
who had taught him all the ways of civilized life and had been the means
of introducing him to Gilgamish, by whom he had been raised to great
place and would be given signal honours at his death. Admonished thus,
Enkidu repented of his anger and now bestowed as many blessings on the
harlot as he had before uttered curses. He then lay down again, with
sickness heavy upon him, and dreamed a dream which he told to Gilgamish.
He saw a monster with lion’s claws which attacked and overcame him, and
led him away to the Underworld, where he saw the miserable plight of the
dead inhabitants, and ancient kings now acting as servants, and priests
and sages who served before Ereshkigal, the queen of Hades. How the
dream ended, and how Enkidu died, is unknown, for the text breaks off
here.

THE
EIGHTH TABLET.

This
Tablet was entirely occupied by a description of the mourning of
Gilgamish over his dead companion. He lamented to himself, and lamented
to the elders of the city, recalling how they had together overthrown
Khumbaba, and slain the heavenly bull, and shared in many another
exploit. Repeating the words of the Sun-god in the preceding Tablet, he
promised that he would cause all his subjects to join with himself in
the lament for Enkidu. The funeral honours seem to have been described
in the latter part of the Tablet, which is missing.

THE
NINTH TABLET.

In bitter
grief Gilgamish wandered about the country uttering lamentations for his
beloved companion, Enkidu. As he went about he thought to himself,




“I myself shall die, and shall not I then be as Enkidu?
Sorrow hath entered into my soul,
Because I fear death do I wander over the country.”




 His
fervent desire was to escape from death, and remembering that his
ancestor Uta-Napishtim, the son of Ubara-Tutu, had become deified and
immortal, Gilgamish determined to set out for the place where he lived
in order to obtain from him the secret of immortality. Where
Uta-Napishtim lived was unknown to Gilgamish, but he seems to have made
up his mind that he would have to face danger in reaching the place, for
he says, “I will set out and travel quickly. I shall reach the defiles
in the mountains by night, and if I see lions, and am terrified at them,
I shall lift up my head and appeal to the Moon-god, and to (Ishtar, the
Lady of the Gods), who is wont to hearken to my prayers.” After
Gilgamish set out to go to the west he was attacked either by men or
animals, but he overcame them and went on until he arrived at Mount
Mashu, where it would seem the sun was thought both to rise and to set.
The approach to this mountain was guarded by Scorpion-men, whose aspect
was so terrible that the mere sight of it was sufficient to kill the
mortal who beheld them; even the mountains collapsed under the glance of
their eyes.


 
When
Gilgamish saw the Scorpion-men he was smitten with
fear, and under the influence of his terror the colour of his face
changed, and he fell prostrate before them. Then a Scorpion-man cried
out to his wife, saying, “The body of him that cometh to us is the flesh
of the gods,” and she replied, “Two-thirds of him is god, and the other
third is man.” The Scorpion-man then received Gilgamish kindly, and
warned him that the way which he was about to travel was full of danger
and difficulty. Gilgamish told him that he was in search of his
ancestor, Uta-Napishtim, who had been deified and made immortal by the
gods, and that it was his intention to go to him to learn the secret of
immortality. The Scorpion-man in answer told him that it was impossible
for him to continue his journey through that country, for no man had
ever succeeded in passing through the dark region of that mountain,
which required twelve double-hours to traverse. Nothing dismayed,
Gilgamish set out on the road through the mountains, and the darkness
increased in density every hour, but he struggled on, and at the end of
the twelfth hour he arrived at a region where there was bright daylight,
and he entered a lovely garden, filled with trees loaded with luscious
fruits, and he saw
the “tree of the gods.” Here the Sun-god called to him that his quest
must be in vain, but Gilgamish replied that he would do anything to
escape death.

THE
TENTH TABLET.

In the
region to which Gilgamish had come stood the palace or fortress of the
goddess Siduri, who was called the “hostess,” or “ale-wife,” and to this
he directed his steps with the view of obtaining help to continue his
journey. The goddess wore a veil and sat upon a throne by the side of
the sea, and when she saw him coming towards her palace, travel-stained
and clad in the ragged skin of some animal, she thought that he might
prove an undesirable visitor, and so ordered the door of her palace to
be closed against him. But Gilgamish managed to obtain speech with her,
and having asked her what ailed her, and why she had closed her door, he
threatened to smash the bolt and break down the door. In answer Siduri
said to him:–




“Why is thy vigour wasted? Thy face is bowed down,
Thine heart is sad, thy form is dejected,
And there is lamentation in thy heart.”



And she
went on to tell him that he had the appearance of one who had travelled
far, that he was a painful sight to look upon, that his face was burnt,
and finally seems to have suggested that he was a runaway trying to
escape from the country. To this Gilgamish replied:–




Nay, my vigour is not wasted, my face not bowed down,
My heart not sad, my form not dejected.”



And then
he told the goddess that his ill-looks and miserable appearance were due
to the fact that death had carried off his dear friend Enkidu, the
“panther of the desert,” who had traversed the mountains with him and
had helped him to overcome Khumbaba in the cedar forest, and to slay the
bull of heaven, Enkidu his dear friend who had fought with lions and
killed them, and who had been with him in all his difficulties; and, he
added, “I wept over him for six days and
nights . . . . before I would let him be buried.” Continuing his
narrative, Gilgamish said to Siduri:




“I was horribly afraid . . .
I was afraid of death, and therefore I wander over the country.
The fate of my friend lieth heavily upon me,
Therefore am I travelling on a long journey through the country.
The fate of my friend lieth heavily upon me,
Therefore am I travelling on a long journey through the country.
How is it possible for me to keep silence? How is it possible
for me to cry out?
My friend whom I loved hath become like the dust.
Enkidu, my friend whom I loved hath become like the dust.
Shall not I myself also be obliged to lay me down
And never again rise up to all eternity?”



To this
complaint the ale-wife replied that the quest of eternal life was vain,
since death was decreed to mankind by the gods at the time of creation.
She advised him, therefore, to enjoy all mortal pleasures while life
lasted and to abandon his hopeless journey. But Gilgamish still
persisted, and asked how he might reach Uta-Napishtim, for thither he
was determined to go, whether across the ocean or by land.

Then the
ale-wife answered and said to Gilgamish:




“There never was a passage, O Gilgamish,
And no one, who from the earliest times came hither, hath
crossed the sea.
The hero Shamash (the Sun-god) hath indeed crossed the sea, but
who besides him could do so?
The passage is hard, and the way is difficult,
And the Waters of Death which bar its front are deep.
If, then, Gilgamish, thou art able to cross the sea,
When thou arrivest at the Waters of Death what wilt thou do?”




 Siduri
then told Gilgamish that Ur-Shanabi, the boatman of Uta-Napishtim, was
in the place, and that he should see him, and added:




“If it be possible cross with him, and if it be impossible turn
back.”



Gilgamish
left the goddess and succeeded in finding Ur-Shanabi, the boatman, who
addressed to him words similar to those of Siduri quoted above.
Gilgamish answered him as he had answered Siduri, and then asked him for
news about the road to Uta-Napishtim. In reply Ur-Shanabi told him to
take his axe and to go down into the forest and cut a number of poles 60
cubits long; Gilgamish did so, and when he returned with them he went up
into the boat with Ur-Shanabi, and they made a voyage of one month and
fifteen days; on the third day they reached the [limit of the] Waters of
Death, which Ur-Shanabi told Gilgamish not to touch with his hand.
Meanwhile, Uta-Napishtim had seen the boat coming and, as something in
its appearance seemed strange to him, he went down to the shore to see
who the newcomers were. When he saw Gilgamish he asked him the same
questions that Siduri and Ur-Shanabi had asked him, and Gilgamish
answered as he had answered them, and then went on to tell him the
reason for his coming. He said that he had determined to go to visit
Uta-Napishtim, the remote, and had -therefore journeyed far, and that in
the course of his travels he had passed over difficult mountains and
crossed the sea. He had not succeeded in entering the house of Siduri,
for she had caused him to be driven from her door on account of his
dirty, ragged, and travel-stained apparel. He had eaten birds and beasts
of many kinds, the lion, the panther, the jackal, the antelope, mountain
goat, etc., and, apparently, had dressed himself in their skins.

A break
in the text makes it impossible to give the opening lines of
Uta-Napishtim’s reply, but he mentions the father and mother of
Gilgamish, and in the last twenty lines of the Tenth Tablet he warns
Gilgamish that on earth there is nothing permanent, that Mammitum, the
arranger of destinies, has settled the question of the death and life of
man with the Anunnaki, and that none may find out the day of his death
or escape from death.

THE
ELEVENTH TABLET.

The story
of the Deluge as told by Uta-Napishtim to Gilgamish has already been
given on pp. 31-40, and we therefore pass on to the remaining contents
of this Tablet. When Uta-Napishtim had finished the story of the Deluge,
he said to Gilgamish, “Now, as touching thyself; who will gather the
gods together for thee, so that thou mayest find the life which thou
seekest? Come now, do not lay thyself down to sleep for six days and
seven nights.” But in spite of this admonition, as soon as Gilgamish had
sat down, drowsiness overpowered him and he fell fast asleep.
Uta-Napishtim, seeing that even the mighty hero Gilgamish could not
resist falling asleep, with some amusement drew the attention of his
wife to the fact, but she felt sorry for the tired man, and suggested
that he should take steps to help him to return to his home. In reply
Uta-Napishtim told her to bake bread for him, and she did so, but she
noted by a mark on the house-wall each day that he slept. On the seventh
day, when she took the loaf Uta-Napishtim touched Gilgamish, and the
hero woke up with a start, and admitted that he had been overcome with
sleep, and made incapable of movement thereby.

Still
vexed with the thought of death and filled with anxiety to escape from
it, Gilgamish asked his host what he should do and where he should go to
effect his object. By Uta-Napishtim’s advice, he made an agreement with
Ur-Shanabi the boatman, and prepared to re-cross the sea on his way
home. But before he set out on his way Uta-Napishtim told him of the
existence of a plant which grew at the bottom of the sea, and apparently
led Gilgamish to believe that the possession of it would confer upon him
immortality. Thereupon Gilgamish tied heavy stones [to his feet], and
let himself down into the sea through an opening in the floor of the
boat. When he reached the bottom of the sea, he saw the plant and
plucked it, and ascended into the boat with it. Showing it to Ur-Shanabi,
he told him that it was a most marvellous plant, and that it would
enable a man to obtain his heart’s desire. Its name was “Shîbu issahir
amelu,” i.e., “The old man becometh young [again],” and Gilgamish
declared that he would “eat of it in order to recover his lost youth,”
and that he would take it home to his fortified city
of Erech.


 
Misfortune, however, dogged his steps, and the plant never reached Erech,
for whilst Gilgamish and Ur-Shanabi were on their way back to Erech they
passed a pool the water of which was very cold, and Gilgamish dived into
it and took a bath. Whilst there a serpent discovered the whereabouts of
the plant through its smell and swallowed it. When Gilgamish saw what
had happened he cursed aloud, and sat down and wept, and the tears
coursed down his cheeks as he lamented over the waste of his toil, and
the vain expenditure of his heart’s blood, and his failure to do any
good for himself. Disheartened and weary he struggled on his way with
his friend, and at length they arrived at the fortified city of Erech.

Then
Gilgamish told Ur-Shanabi to jump up on the wall and examine the bricks
from the foundations to the battlements, and see if the plans which he
had made concerning them had been carried out during his absence.

THE
TWELFTH TABLET.

The text
of the Twelfth Tablet is very defective, but it seems certain that
Gilgamish, having failed in his quest for eternal life, could now think
of nothing better than to know the worst by calling up the ghost of
Enkidu and enquiring of him as to the condition of the dead in the
Under-world. He therefore asked the priests what precautions should be
taken in order to prevent a ghost from haunting one, and, being informed
of these, he purposely did everything against which he had been warned,
so that the ghosts might come about him. This, however, failed to bring
Enkidu, so Gilgamish prayed to the god Enlil that he should raise him
up, but Enlil made no reply. Next Gilgamish prayed to the Moon-god, but
again his prayer was ignored. He then appealed to the god Ea, who,
taking pity on him, ordered the warrior-god Nergal to open a hole in the
earth. Out of this the ghost of Enkidu rose “like a wind,” and the two
friends embraced again. Gilgamish at once began eagerly to question the
ghost about the condition of the dead, but Enkidu was loath to answer,
for he knew that what he must reveal would only cause his friend
dejection. But the last lines of the Tablet tell the lot of those who
have died in various circumstances; though some who have been duly
buried are in better case, the fate of others who have none to pay them
honour is miserable, for they are reduced to feeding upon dregs and
scraps of food thrown into the street.


(Based upon references from:


www.sacred-texts.com
)

 

 



 

 

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