Thursday, January 6, 2011

Started Gilgamesh

After reading the long introduction, I finally began the epic, Gilgamesh.  I am in the middle of Tablet II, and there are twelve tablets in the whole story.  This version I'm reading has been translated from the Sin-Leqi-Unninni version by John Gardner and John Maier.  Unninni was an exorcist-priest poet who gathered together parts of the story to make it a cohesive unit about 1000 years after the first stories about Gilgamesh, the Sumerian king who lived during the early Third Millenium, were written.  I had this version on my shelf; my son was supposed to read it a few years back in high school, but I don't think he actually did. 

There have been many translations of Gilgamesh written since it was first found about a century ago in ancient Mesopotamia, which is modern day Iraq. The orginal was found on these stone tablets written in fragments of the languages, Akkadian - an old Babylonian language,Sumerian, and Hittite.

In Tablet I, the reader is introduced to Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk.  He built the walls of Uruk, with the strongest of materials. His father, Lugalbanda, was human and his mother was the goddess, Ninsun.  When the people of Uruk complain that Gilgamesh is misbehaving, Aruru, the Mother and creator of humanity, hears them and creates Enkidu, the fighter, like the war god Ninurta; Enkidu lives with the wild animals and behaves like them. Next, the Stalker, a hunter, is troubled when Enkidu intrudes in his space.  The stalker's father then tells him to go to Gilgamesh, who has the greatest strength, and he will tell you to bring a temple prostitute, or a love-priestess, to tempt him and civilize him, and draw him out from the wilderness.  She succeeds and she and Enkidu spend six days and seven nights "at it".  Then Enkidu says he will go to Uruk, and the love-goddess tells him all about Gilgamesh, the joy-woe man.  Gilgamesh has a dream about Enkidu's coming to Uruk, and that he will be like a friend-wife to him.  After the second dream, Gilgamesh is foretold that an axe will fall on Uruk, referring to Enkido, the shooting star of Anu (the sky god) with awesome strength.

I am really enjoying this epic. So far I have accomplished my goal for the year of 100 pages per day, thereby finishing Angelology,  and will have a review of it soon.  It was very good!


  1. It is quite an amazing book, isn't it? What do you think of the translation?

  2. I am enjoying it, and I think it is a very good translation. Their goal in this translation was to "preserve the integrity of the poetic line." Where pieces of the stone tablets are missing, they have completed the narrative in the notes with an older Babylonian parallel. Overall,the notes are very informative.