Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Epic of Gilgamesh

an image of Gilgamesh

Ø      Gilgamesh was a Sumerian king, of the city Uruk, from around 2800-2500 BC. According to the tablets, he ruled his city for 126 years.

An artist's rendering of Uruk as it may have looked

Ø      While king, Gilgamesh built walls around his city, Uruk, and also rebuilt the temple of Ninlil in the city of Nippur.

Ø      There is an epic legend about him, in which he is half God, and has super strength. His mother is Ninsun, goddess of cows (her name means wild cow).

Ø      The story begins with King Gilgamesh oppressing his people (utlačoval im), making them work so hard that they pray to the gods for help.

Ø      The god Aruru hears them and creates a wild man named Enkidu to fight with Gilgamesh. The two fight, and Gilgamesh wins, but afterwards they become best friends.

Ø      Gilgamesh and Enkidu then decide to go to a forest and kill its protector, the giant Humbaba, so they can cut down the trees. They use the wood to build a temple for the god Enlil.

Ø      Next, a goddess named Ishtar flirts with Gilgamesh, but he rejects her. So, in anger, she sends down the Bull of Heaven, named Gugalanna, to destroy his city. But, Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill it.

Ø      The gods are angry at this and make Enkidu sick so that he dies. Gilgamesh is very upset, and decides to learn the secret of eternal life.

Ø      Gilgamesh then goes to look for Utnapishtim ("the Faraway"), the oldest man on earth. Utnapishtim and his wife were granted eternal life by the gods, and survived the great flood.

Ø      Gilgamesh goes to Mount Mashu, at the end of the earth. In this mountain there is a tunnel, guarded by scorpion-men. The tunnel is the entrance of the Road of the Sun, leading to the Garden of the gods.

Ø      There he meets Urshanabi, the ferryman who takes people across the Sea of Death, to where Utnapishtim lives. Gilgamesh asks about the secret of eternal life, and Utnapishtim tells his story - that it was the god Enlil who created a big flood to kill everyone, and the goddess Ishtar saved him, telling him to build a boat. Afterwards, the gods were all angry at Enlil, so he granted Utnapishtim eternal life as a way to apologize.

Ø      The wife of Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh how he can become young again with a magical plant, but it's stolen by a serpent, and Gilgamesh's quest is a failure. The story ends with Gilgamesh showing Urshanabi the great walls of his city, that will endure forever.

Archaeologists believe this site may be what's left of ancient Uruk

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