Go Back NOTES ON TABLET VI 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. TABLET VIIThe 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?'
NOTES ON TABLET VII 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.'..... 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 ................................................you When I am gone, may a king........you 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: '........illustrious 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...' Go Back
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.) Go Back
NOTES TO TABLET VIII 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).