Historical Reprints History Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic

Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic

Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic
Catalog # SKU3784
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Morris Jastrow Jr., Albert T. Clay
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Old Babylonian Version
of the
Gilgamesh Epic

Morris Jastrow Jr
Albert T. Clay

The Gilgamesh Epic is the most notable literary product of Babylonia as yet discovered in the mounds of Mesopotamia. It recounts the exploits and adventures of a favorite hero, and in its final form covers twelve tablets, each tablet consisting of six columns (three on the obverse and three on the reverse) of about 50 lines for each column, or a total of about 3600 lines.

Print size, 13 point font, illustrated



Of this total, however, barely more than one-half has been found among the remains of the great collection of cuneiform tablets gathered by King Ashurbanapal (668-626 B.C.) in his palace at Nineveh, and discovered by Layard in 1854 in the course of his excavations of the mound Kouyunjik (opposite Mosul). The fragments of the epic painfully gathered-chiefly by George Smith-from the circa 30,000 tablets and bits of tablets brought to the British Museum were published in model form by Professor Paul Haupt; and that edition still remains the primary source for our study of the Epic.

For the sake of convenience we may call the form of the Epic in the fragments from the library of Ashurbanapal the Assyrian version, though like most of the literary productions in the library it not only reverts to a Babylonian original, but represents a late copy of a much older original. The absence of any reference to Assyria in the fragments recovered justifies us in assuming that the Assyrian version received its present form in Babylonia, perhaps in Erech; though it is of course possible that some of the late features, particularly the elaboration of the teachings of the theologians or schoolmen in the eleventh and twelfth tablets, may have been produced at least in part under Assyrian influence.

A definite indication that the Gilgamesh Epic reverts to a period earlier than Hammurabi (or Hammurawi) i.e., beyond 2000 B. C., was furnished by the publication of a text clearly belonging to the first Babylonian dynasty (of which Hammurabi was the sixth member) in CT. VI, 5; which text Zimmern recognized as a part of the tale of Atra-hasis, one of the names given to the survivor of the deluge, recounted on the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic. This was confirmed by the discovery of a fragment of the deluge story dated in the eleventh year of Ammisaduka, i.e., c. 1967 B.C. In this text, likewise, the name of the deluge hero appears as Atra-hasis (col. VIII, 4). But while these two tablets do not belong to the Gilgamesh Epic and merely introduce an episode which has also been incorporated into the Epic, Dr. Bruno Meissner in 1902 published a tablet, dating, as the writing and the internal evidence showed, from the Hammurabi period, which undoubtedly is a portion of what by way of distinction we may call an old Babylonian version.

It was picked up by Dr. Meissner at a dealer's shop in Bagdad and acquired for the Berlin Museum. The tablet consists of four columns (two on the obverse and two on the reverse) and deals with the hero's wanderings in search of a cure from disease with which he has been smitten after the death of his companion Enkidu. The hero fears that the disease will be fatal and longs to escape death. It corresponds to a portion of Tablet X of the Assyrian version. Unfortunately, only the lower portion of the obverse and the upper of the reverse have been preserved (57 lines in all); and in default of a colophon we do not know the numeration of the tablet in this old Babylonian edition. Its chief value, apart from its furnishing a proof for the existence of the Epic as early as 2000 B. C., lies (a) in the writing Gish instead of Gish-gi(n)-mash in the Assyrian version



181 Gish of whom they speak, let me see!
182 whose name fills the lands.
183 I will lure him to the cedar forest,
184 Like a strong offspring of Erech.
185 I will let the land hear (that)
186 I am determined to lure (him) in the cedar (forest)
187 A name I will establish."
188 The elders of Erech of the plazas
189 brought word to Gish:
190 "Thou art young, O Gish, and thy heart carries thee away.
191 Thou dost not know what thou proposest to do.
192 We hear that Huwawa is enraged.
193 Who has ever opposed his weapon?
194 To one in the heart of the forest,
195 Who has ever penetrated into it?
196 Huwawa, whose roar is a deluge,
197 whose mouth is fire, whose breath is death.
198 Why dost thou desire to do this?
199 To advance towards the dwelling (?) of Huwawa?"
200 Gish heard the report of his counsellors.
201 He saw and cried out to friend:
202 "Now, my friend, thus .
203 I fear him, but ;
204 I will go .

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