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Adapa, Enkidu
Enmerkar, Geshtinanna
Gilgamesh, Lugalbanda
Shamhat, Siduri
Tammuz, Utnapishtim

Gilgamesh, also known as Bilgames in the earliest text, [1] was the son of Lugalbanda and the fifth king of Uruk (Early Dynastic II, first dynasty of Uruk), ruling circa 2700 BC, according to the Sumerian king list. He became the central character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the best known works of early literature, which says that his mother was Ninsun (whom some call Rimat Ninsun), a goddess. Gilgamesh is described as two-thirds god and one-third human.

According to the Tummal Inscription,[2] Gilgamesh, and eventually his son Urlugal, rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil, located in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city Nippur. In Mesopotamian mythology, Gilgamesh is credited with having been a demigod of superhuman strength who built a great city wall to defend his people from external threats.


[edit] Cuneiform references

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is credited with the building of the legendary walls of Uruk. An alternative version has Gilgamesh, towards the end of the story, boasting to Urshanabi, the ferryman, that the city's walls were built by the Seven Sages. In historical times, Sargon of Akkad claimed to have destroyed these walls to prove his military power.

Fragments of an epic text found in Me-Turan (modern Tell Haddad) relate that Gilgamesh was buried under the waters of a river at the end of his life. The people of Uruk diverted the flow of the Euphrates River crossing Uruk for the purpose of burying the dead king within the riverbed. In April 2003, a German expedition discovered what is thought to be the entire city of Uruk—including the former bed of the Euphrates, the last resting place of its King Gilgamesh.

Despite the lack of direct evidence, most scholars do not object to consideration of Gilgamesh as a historical figure, particularly after inscriptions were found confirming the historical existence of other figures associated with him: kings Enmebaragesi and Aga of Kish. If Gilgamesh was a historical king, he probably reigned in about the 26th century BC. Some of the earliest Sumerian texts spell his name as Bilgames. Initial difficulties in reading cuneiform resulted in Gilgamesh making his re-entrance into world culture in 1891 as "Izdubar".[3]

In most texts, Gilgamesh is written with the determinative for divine beings (DINGIR) - but there is no evidence for a contemporary cult, and the Sumerian Gilgamesh myths suggest the deification was a later development (unlike the case of the Akkadian god kings). With this deification, however, would have come an accretion of stories about him, some potentially derived from the real lives of other historical figures, in particular Gudea, the Second Dynasty ruler of Lagash (2144–2124 BC).[4]

Whether based on a historical prototype or not, Gilgamesh became a legendary protagonist in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The name Gilgamesh appears once in Greek, as "Gilgamos" (Γίλγαμος). The story is a variant of the Perseus myth: The King of Babylon determines by oracle that his grandson Gilgamos will kill him, and throws him out of a high tower. An eagle breaks his fall, and the infant is found and raised by a gardener.[5]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Andrew Goerge 1999, Penguin books Ltd, Harmondsworth, p. 141 ISBN 13579108642
  2. ^ The Tummal Inscription, an expanded king-list, was one of the standard Old Babylonian copy-texts; it exists in numerous examples, from Ur and Nippur.
  3. ^ In Alfred Jeremias, Izdubar-Nimrod, eine altbabylonische Heldensage (1891).
  4. ^ N.K. Sandars, introduction to The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin, 1972:16).
  5. ^ Walter Burkert: The Orientalizing Revolution, citing Aelian, On animals 12.21; Burkert's citation as Varia historia is an editing error.

[edit] References

  • Damrosch, David (2007). The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh. Henry Holt and Co.. ISBN 0-805-08029-5. 
  • George, Andrew [1999], The Epic of Gilgamesh: the Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian, Harmondsworth: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1999 (published in Penguin Classics 2000, reprinted with minor revisions, 2003. ISBN 0-14-044919-1
  • George, Andrew, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic - Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2 volumes, 2003.
  • Foster, Benjamin R., trans. & edit. (2001). The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-97516-9. 
  • Hammond, D. & Jablow, A. [1987], "Gilgamesh and the Sundance Kid: the Myth of Male Friendship", in Brod, H. (ed.), The Making of Masculinities: The New Men's Studies, Boston, 1987, pp.241-258.
  • Kovacs, Maureen Gallery, transl. with intro. (1985,1989). The Epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford University Press: Stanford, California. ISBN 0-8047-1711-7.  Glossary, Appendices, Appendix (Chapter XII=Tablet XII). A line-by-line translation (Chapters I-XI).
  • Jackson, Danny (1997). The Epic of Gilgamesh. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. ISBN 0-86516-352-9. 
  • Mitchell, Stephen (2004). Gilgamesh: A New English Version. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-6164-X. 
  • Oberhuber, K., ed. (1977). Das Gilgamesch-Epos. Darmstadt: Wege der Forschung. 
  • Parpola, Simo, with Mikko Luuko, and Kalle Fabritius (1997). The Standard Babylonian, Epic of Gilgamesh. The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. ISBN 951-45-7760-4 (Volume 1). 
  • Michael Scott (novelist) Gilgamesh is a character in the novel The Sorceress.

[edit] External links

[edit] Original cuneiform text

[edit] Text translations

Translations for several legends of Gilgamesh in the Sumerian language have been written by:

Preceded by
Aga of Kish
King of Sumer
ca. 2600 BC or legendary
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Dumuzid, the Fisherman
Ensi of Uruk
ca. 2600 BC or legendary
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