Myths: Gilgamesh

Envoys of Akka

1          Akka son of Enmebaragesi’s traveled as an emissary with his envoy from Kish to the city of Uruk to visit Gilgamesh. There had been some tension between the two cities in the past and now Kish wanted to dominate Gilgamesh’s city.

2          Gilgamesh presented the matter to the city elders in the hopes that so many wise people gathered together might find a solution to their difficulties. He hoped to convince them to go to war rather than to submit to the domination of Akka and the city of Kish.

3          “They will take all we have and make us draw water and maintain their irrigation canals.” Gilgamesh portrayed the ultimate domination of the city by the forces of Kish. There would be no end to the toil that Kish would have them do. “We will lose everything that we have worked so hard to create and simply hand it to Akka. We should go to war instead.”

4          “We would submit to the son of Enmebaragesi and draw water for the city of Kish rather than go to take up weapons against them. We would rather dig and maintain wells, and continue to be able to do so.” The Elders were not moved by the speech. They had doubts as to weather they could defeat the army of Kish.

5          Gilgamesh, lord of the small city of Kullab within Uruk, was unable to convince the elders to go to war, so he simply ignored them. He placed his faith in the strength of Inanna the goddess of war whose temple Eanna was in Uruk.

6          Finding that he could not convince the elders to go to war he decided instead to put the matter before the soldiers of the city. He went before the young men of the city and gave the same speech.

7          “Akka, the son of Enmebaragesi, comes with an envoy from Kish to take everything that we have and force us to attend to their wells and irrigation canals. We would be forced to draw water for them endlessly.” Gilgamesh portrayed for the young men of the city the endless toil that he had presented to the elders. “We should go to war instead.”

8          “Serving Akka would be like holding a donkey by the hind quarters,” replied the young men of Uruk. Holding a donkey by the hind quarters was a euphemism for an unpredictable fate. They did not know what sort of fate that they would be doomed to. “Who has endurance enough for the toils that he would put us through? We should go to war instead.”

9          The people of Uruk agreed with Gilgamesh that their only course of action was to go to war. The thoughts of the people turned to the glory of their cities. Their confidence in their abilities was strong.

10        “Our city is the smithy of the gods. Inanna’s temple Eanna descended from the heavens to us. We can clearly see the hands of the gods in the way that they have shaped our city. Our great walls are like the clouds above. You are the warrior king. You are the basher of heads. You are the beloved prince of An the god of heaven.” With that speech the assembled people of Uruk had taken Gilgamesh as their king.

11        The soldiers of Kish heard that the powerful warrior Gilgamesh had decided to take up arms against them. There were numerous desertions from the rear ranks of Akka’s army who were afraid to face Gilgamesh in battle.

12        Uruk’s people knew that this would happen and had depended upon it when they made their decision. Gilgamesh’s mood improved greatly when he heard the confidence that the people of Uruk had for him.

13        “Enkidu,” Gilgamesh called to his servant, “have the carpenter take the axes and other weapons of war out of storage and place leather thongs upon them. When the weapons are ready I want you to take them up into battle.” Gilgamesh hoped that terror of his powerful aura would be enough to muddle Akka’s judgment and torment his actions.

14        Akka’s troops arrived to lay siege to the city of Uruk by way of the irrigation canals. When ten days had gone by, the composure of the troops of the city began to falter. Gilgamesh, lord of Kullab, knew that he had to make a move.

15        “My warriors, you all seem distraught. I ask for one among you who is brave to come forward with the desire to go against Akka.”

16        Lusag, armorer of Uruk, stepped forward. “My servant and champion Girish Hurdur will go against Akka. The lord of Kish will lose his sense, and his actions will be confused.”

17        Girish Hurdur, whose name meant caterpillar, issued forth from the main gate immediately. He didn’t even make it beyond the gate’s main opening before he confronted the troops of Akka. He struggled against them, wailing away with his club.

18        Seeing his adversary he called something to Akka, but his words did not carry and Akka did not hear them. The din of battle had swallowed up his words.

19        Girish Hurdur was beaten throughly. In moments he was taken captive and brought before the son of  Enmebaragesi. The lord of the Kish forces immediately began interrogating the prisoner.

20        The armorer Lusag showed himself on the top of the wall. He was indeed strong, but Akka did not know if this was Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh of Kullab had been his guest some time earlier before his coming to Uruk.

21        “Slave, is the man on the wall your lord?” Akka called down to his prisoner from his high vantage point atop the prow of his royal ship.

22        “No,” responded Girish Hurdur easily, “He has the same dread brow, bison face, lapis lazuli blue beard, and skilled hand, but that is not my master. I can tell that it is not my master because if that were Gilgamesh your forces would be quickly crushed.”

23        Lusag battled against the forces of Kish, but failed to throw them down into the dust. He therefore also failed to push his forces back into where Akka observed the battle from the prow of his ship in the canals of Uruk.

24        Gilgamesh himself then mounted the walls. His fearsome aura was too much for the citizens of Kullab. The forces of Uruk on the other hand took strength from Gilgamesh and fought all the harder from their places at the main gate. Enkidu then charged forth from the city’s main gate with Gilgamesh leaning over the wall urging him and the forces of Uruk onward.

25        “Slave,” Akka asked of his prisoner once more, “Is that man your lord?”

26        “It is my lord.”

27        Girish Hurdur could tell that it was his lord because he was tossing them off of the walls and into the dirt. He was able to rip apart the highlanders of Kish. When he struck the forces of Kish they did not get up again.

28        Gilgamesh surged outwards and pushed the forces of Uruk back to where Akka stood in the illusion of safety atop the prow of his ship. Gilgamesh was able to cleave through the prow of this great ship with his powerful bronze Ax of the Road. Taking Akka captive, Gilgamesh did not slay the man as might be expected.

29        “Akka, were you once my leader and commander, my general and field marshal?” Gilgamesh asked reminding the lord of the Kish forces of a time now passed. “I was on the run like a bird, and you gave me grain and drink. You nursed me back to health and smuggled me when I was a fugitive. I welcome you as a guest in the city, while you stay you will be treated like its king.”

30        “Uruk, the smithy of the gods, is yours Gilgamesh,” Akka admitted to his captor, relinquishing kish’s claim upon Uruk and acknowledging the power of the lord of Kullab. This city that was set up as heaven on earth by An himself is yours. All that I ask is that you treat me as I treated you.”

31        “Beneath the sun god I repay the favor you once gave me.” Gilgamesh freed Akka to go back to his city of Kish, invoking Utu the god of the sun and the law. He showed that he could be as good a host as he was a guest, and demonstrated his wisdom as a king.

Gilgamesh and the death of Gugalanna

1          Gilgamesh, with his blue black beard and strong arms was well known as a powerful warrior. He was the wise king of Uruk and had long fought against criminals and evil men. He had also made a name for himself in wrestling and other contests of strength.

2          One day Gilgamesh’s mother, the goddess Ninsun, handed him his bronze Axe of the Road and told him to wash it in the river by the juniper trees. This was a task that he had carried out many times before, and one he had grown quite used to.

3          To do this he would need to row a boat down the river and through the marshes. When he was done he would take his ax and cut down several trees that grew there and bring them home. He brought with him his mother’s and his sister Pectur’s sheep that he intended to sheer.

4          The queen of heaven was residing in the Apsu and noticed the powerful lord of Uruk as he went. “I will have you Gilgamesh. You will be my man and I will never let you go. You will be mine to do with as I will. I won’t let you go to my temple, An’s cherished Eanna, and pass verdicts. I will not let you preside over the Gipar courts.”

5          As Gilgamesh went he heard Inanna’s longings. He was offered several favors by the powerful and influential queen of heaven. As he traveled he communed with his mother and told the goddess what he had heard.

6          “Do not let her gifts enter the house,” Ninsun advised. “Her tender touch would weaken your warrior’s arm.” Ninsun knew that the goddess of war would not help her son’s warrior nature if she was sleeping with him.

7          Gilgamesh listened to his mother and turned his attention to Inanna. “Great lady, you must not prevent me from carrying out my duties. I will go to the mountains and fill your holy pens with wild sheep and bulls, but I will not become your lover. I will even fill your treasury with silver and carnelian.”

8          Inanna snorted angrily. Her anger began to rise and the color drained away from her face until it looked like tamerisk. She was not used to being refused. She was particularly not used to being refused by the lord of her own favorite city.

9          Returning to An’s domain, the queen of heaven shed tears before the god of heaven. She hoped that An would come to the aid of his cherished goddess. She was like a favorite child to him.

10        “Why are you crying dear Inanna?” An asked of the weeping goddess.

11        “It is Gilgamesh, he’s a bull on the rampage in Uruk. All I wanted to do was give myself to him, ” Inanna pleaded invoking the city where An had a Ziggurat, and the city where An had given her the Eanna. “Look at me,” she pleaded, “I’m crying. All I ask is that you give me the bull of heaven to kill the lord of Uruk.”

12        “Gugalanna would have no food on earth. His food lies at the horizon where the sun rises.” An knew that the bull of heaven, An’s own divine canal inspector, would destroy the land. His hooves could be heard as thunder in the storms.

13        “Then I will scream until your realm falls down upon the earth.” At that, Inanna began to scream. Her scream was unlike the screams of any other creature. Her screams were terrifying. It covered the land like a blanket.

14        An was forced to comply to Inanna’s wishes if for no other reason than to calm her down. There was nothing that could be said to her to calm her down. She wanted what she wanted and no mere words could explain to her that she could not have it.

15        “I will give Gugalanna, the bull of heaven, to you as you wish,” he told her knowing that there would be problems.

16        Taking the reigns of the bull of heaven, Inanna headed away from heaven and towards Uruk. She pulled him along insistently like an ox driver. Ereshkiga’s husband, Gugalanna, the divine canal inspector of An, was being treated like an unruly pet.

17        He consumed all of the water in the Engilua canal and stripped the countryside bare of grass. He consumed Uruk’s date palms and everything else that he could get a hold of. Nothing could quench his godly appetites.

18        The sheep of the goddess Ninsun, and those of Pectur broke free of their pens and ran in fear out into the countryside. Their fence had already been destroyed by Gugalanna in his rampaging.

19        Gilgamesh’s musician, Lugal Gabangal, having seen what Inanna had done, ran from the scene of devastation. He needed to tell the lord Gilgamesh of the trouble as quickly as he could. The king needed to know that his lands were being ravaged.

20        When he reached his lord, Lugal Gabangal found that he was drinking with his adviser Enkidu. He attempted to tell his lord, but his master did not hear immediately.

21        “My musician. Come join us. Get your lyre ready. I would love to hear a drinking song.”

22        “Drink!” replied the musician. “Drinking is your problem. That’s why you can’t keep your mind on something more important!”

23        “Fill my bronze goblet with beer and join us in revelry,” Gilgamesh urged.

24        “My lord Gilgamesh, you may eat, and you may drink, but that has nothing to do with me.”

25        “What is so important then?” Gilgamesh inquired of his musician.

26        “Inanna has brought the bull of heaven down to earth. He is drinking the water from the canals for miles and eating everything that grows in all of the city of Uruk.”

27        “You did well,” Gilgamesh stated becoming instantly more alert.

28        He ran from his chambers out into the countryside where the devastation was taking place. Enkidu followed only a moment behind him. His beautiful city was being destroyed and he needed to put a stop to it.

29        “Gugalanna!” Gilgamesh taunted. “Yes, I’m talking to you. I am going to cut you into pieces for the butcher. I am going to feed the entire countryside with your carcase. You horns are going to be turned into oil flasks for Inanna’s temple.” The bull bellowed in rage at Gilgamesh’s words. Who was this mortal to threaten him?

30        Inanna watched from the tops of the city’s walls as Gilgamesh taunted her bull. She may have been treating him badly, but Inanna counted the bull as her friend. She cared for him the way a master cares for his servants.

31        Gilgamesh took the bull’s head in his powerful arms while Enkidu circled around behind the great beast. The people of Uruk were prepared with ropes to take the beast down when their heroes had stopped it. They were quickly covered with the dust that the bull kicked up.

32        “Strike him now Gilgamesh,” Enkidu called when he had taken hold of the bull’s tail. “Your mother the goddess Ninsun outdid herself when she took to having children, and your nurse maid made you strong when she suckled you and your little sister Pectur! Don’t be afraid of this warrior. He has no strength. Take your bronze Axe of the Road and strike him down.”

33        Gilgamesh struck the god down with his enchanted Axe. The bull of heaven reared up from the strike and over ballanced. The blow was so powerful that he spattered the head of the creature all over the countryside where blood came down like rain.

34        “I have killed the bull of heaven, and I will now destroy you.” As he beheld the carnage, Gilgamesh was angered at the cause. Events beyond his control had caused him to kill a majestic god to defend his city. He took his knife in hand and cut the hind leg off of the bull and flung it at the queen of heaven. As it impacted the wall, the ramparts were destroyed, but Inanna was only angered.

35        When he was done he did what he said he would with the body. The poor and starving of Kullab and the greater Uruk area were fed with the meat of the bull. Meanwhile Pectur, Gilgamesh’s little sister, took it upon herself to rebuild the countryside. She brought the cattle and sheep back to the countryside and repaired much of the damage that the bull of heaven had wrought.

Gilgamesh and Huwawa

1One day Gilgamesh’s thoughts came to be focused upon the living one’s mountain. He was thinking of death and the legacy that he would leave the world when his time finally came.

2          “Enkidu, we know that none can escape death. Since this is so, I will enter the mountain and set my name in the place of names.” Gilgamesh was also a pious man and so added, “Where there are no names I will set up a place for the names of the gods.”

3          “Gilgamesh,” Enkidu replied easily, “if you are going to go to the mountain you should inform the god Utu. Things to do with the mountain where cedar is cut are his concern.”

4          Gilgamesh took the counsel of his servant and friend. He had a white kid brought to him. He held the young sacrificial goat close to him and placed the holy staff before its nose.

5          “Lord Utu, I am going to the mountains. Will you help me in this task?” He offered the sacrifice to Utu and read the result.

6          “You are noble enough as it is.” Utu replied. “Why would you want to go to the mountain?”

7          “Utu, please hear what I have to say.” Gilgamesh pleaded with tears in his eyes. “In my city I see people dying. The people are distressed. I looked beyond the city’s walls and saw a number of corpses in the water ways. This is what I see happening to me. I am not great enough to reach the heavens or pass beyond the mountains. Since man cannot defeat death, I want to go up to the mountain and set up my fame where I can. Where I can’t I will set up the fame of the gods.”

8          Utu accepted Gilgamesh’s tears as a worthy sacrifice. He knew Gilgamesh was a compassionate man and decided to have compassion upon him as well. He decided to give the lord Gilgamesh a group of powerful heroes to help and guide him in his task.

9          “There are seven young warrior brothers. They all have the same mother. The eldest and chief among them has lion’s paws and eagle talons. The second is a cobra with fangs and venom. The third is a dragon who hurtles his wrath at his enemies. The fourth spits fire. The fifth is a snake with a powerful tongue to match. The sixth is a torrent who batters the mountains with the force of a flood. Finally, the seventh hurtles flashes of lightning that none can deflect. In addition, Nisaba has given you an escort who knows the way. They will guide you to the place in the mountains where the boats will need to be taken from the water.”

10        The lord Gilgamesh, the one who fells cedars, was pleased with those who were to accompany him. Gilgamesh accepted the escort graciously. He knew the importance of setting off with skilled companions.

11        Gilgamesh sounded his great horn like a man alone, but he did it with the force of two men. When he had gotten the attention of his people he called to them. “Let he who has a family go to his family. Let those with mothers go to them. To the rest, bachelors like myself, let fifty join me at my side!”

12        With fifty men at his side he went to the blacksmith’s place and had axes and other weapons made to increase the strength of his warriors. He then went to the dark grove just outside of the city to cut trees to make the shafts of his weapons.

13        He and his army then set out into the mountains with the seven brothers leading the way. Gilgamesh’s intuition was not enough to lead him to the cedar that he sought and so he was forced to cross six mountains until his prise was finally revealed to him after the seventh. Once over the seventh mountain his intuition led him to where the cedars were to be found.

14        He immediately began to hack into the cedar forest with the terrors of his mighty Ax of the Road. Enkidu began stripping the trees of branches. His fellow citizens did the same. The branches were bundles and the trees were prepared to be moved.

15        Huwawa, awoke from within his lair. The commotion from all of the chopping and hacking had wakened him. Huwawa took his auras and projected them menacingly towards Gilgamesh and his companions. He had been startled awake by the hero and so sought retribution.

16        Gilgamesh immediately began to grow sluggish as though he were falling asleep. His friend and adviser Enkidu grew confused as though he had just been struck hard upon the head. As for the young men that Gilgamesh had brought with him from his city, they cowered at the feet of their leaders like frightened puppies.

17        Enkidu was the first to wake. He shuddered from his dream and rubbed his eyes. At first he thought that what had happened had all been part of his dream, but there was silence all around him.

18        “You have fallen asleep. Gilgamesh, lord of Kulab how long will you sleep?” He attempted to wake his master, but he could not rouse the great warrior. He attempted to shake him and call to him in order to wake him. “It is getting late. The mountains are becoming harder to see as the shadows cover them.”

19        When this did not work, Enkidu yelled into his master’s ear. “Utu has already gone to rest at his mother’s breast. The young men of your city should not have to wait at the foothills for you! Their own mothers shouldn’t have to worry about them!”

20        Enkidu rubbed oil on his companion’s chest, and this along with the rest roused him. Gilgamesh got up and swore by his mother Ninsun and his father Lugalbanda. “Have I become like a baby on my mother’s lap?” After Gilgamesh had gathered his senses a little more he swore once again. “I will not return to Uruk until I find out if that person was a human or a god!”

21        “Master, you haven’t even set eyes on that person, but I have. You should have a care for your life. He had the teeth of a dragon and the eyes of a lion. He had a chest as broad as the raging flood. His brow was so great that it could devour a bed of reeds. He was like a man eating lion that never cleaned the human blood from his mouth.” Enkidu, ever the dutiful servant, did not want his master to put himself in such danger. “Continue up the mountain if you must, but I will return to the city. I will tell your mother that you live, but she will laugh at me knowing better. When I then tell her that you are dead she will weep bitter tears over you.”

22        “Perhaps, but together we can survive. If you help me, and I help you, then what can stand against us? Come now, as you said I have yet to see him. Let us see if we can catch sight of him.” Gilgamesh’s confidence was unshakable.

23        “If we go after him then he will unleash his terror upon us and there will be blood!” Enkidu was not going to be convinced so easily by his master’s confidence.

24        “Believe what you will.” The lord was tiered of arguing, but didn’t want to give up any point. “Come though, let us pursue him.” They went, but before they could approach sixty poll lengths Huwawa was already in his lair somewhere within the cedar forest.

25        There was no doubt that Huwawa was powerful. He could strike a man dead with his eyes. He could pronounce judgment upon someone simply by shaking his head at them. When adressing his opponents he did not speak overly long.

26        “You are capable people,” declared Huwawa, lord of the living one’s mountain, “but you will never return home.” The monster let his aura of power flow into him and Gilgamesh found himself paralyzed where he stood.

27        When he saw that the great warrior had been stopped easily the monster addressed him. “You are a hero and a king. Your mother bore you expertly, and your nurse nourished you well. Place your hand upon the ground and don’t be afraid.”

28        Gilgamesh, approaching cautiously, put his hand upon the ground to show his good intentions. This strategy had been given to him by Enki himself, and was designed to calm the wild beast.

29        “I swear by my mother Ninsun and by my father Lugalbanda that none know where your home in the mountains is, but they would like to,” The lord of Kullab began cautiously. “I have brought you my big sister Enmebaragesi. She can be your wife in the mountains.”

30        Huwawa wouldn’t be convinced by this, so Gilgamesh continued. “I have also brought Matur, my little sister to you. She is to be your concubine here in the mountains. All that I ask of you is that you hand over your auras to me. If you do this we can be kinsmen.”

31        This convinced him. Huwawa handed over his first aura. As he did this Gilgamesh’s kinsmen began to lop off of branches and bundle them together for transport. Gilgamesh and Enkidu were now able to move closer safely.

32        This happened seven times. After each time the pair were able to move closer. The lord Gilgamesh and his servant were able to move ever closer each time. As they did this their kinsmen were hard at work gathering limbs, logs, and branches. They bundled them at the foot of the mountain so that they could be transported back home.

33        As he approached he offered gifts such as flour, water skins, and the food of the gods. Each time he also offered his sisters as wives for Huwawa. They were being offered to live in the mountains with Huwawa. Gilgamesh himself spoke of how he wished to become closer to Huwawa’s family.

34        When Huwawa finally handed over his seventh and final aura, Gilgamesh was quite near the great monster. Huwawa led Gilgamesh to his lair following slowly behind like a snake. He made as to kiss him, as was the custom, but instead he struck him with his mighty fist.

35        “You call yourself a hero and you have lied to me so wickedly.” Huwawa bared his teeth at him, but it was already too late.

36        The pair dragged him out of his home bound and with a rope around his neck. They commanded him to sit and he did. All the while Huwawa was crying and begging for his life. He knew that he had lost and was hoping for some measure of mercy.

37        “Please Gilgamesh, let me have my freedom. Let me say a word to the sun god.” The lord of the living one’s mountain turned his attention upwards to the sun god. “Utu, please hear me. I never knew my parents. I was born here on this mountain, and it was you who raised me. Gilgamesh swore by the realms of An, Ki, and the Kur.”

38        The lord of the living one’s mountain reached out to take the hand of the lord of Kullab and king of Uruk. He prostrated himself upon the ground before his captor and pleaded tearfully for his life.

39        “Enkidu, we should take pity upon him. He is like a captured bird who only wishes to fly home to his mother’s embrace. We should let him go.”

40        “As this creature just said, you are a hero and a king. You have the strength of a bull ready to fight and with the glory of the gods. You are loved well in the city of Uruk. Your mother did know how to bear sons, and your nurse did know how to nourish them. How can one so great be so lacking in common sense?” Enkidu asked bluntly. He knew full well that Huwawa was a monster who had killed before. He was like a wild animal in some respects. He would simply do what was natural for him to do. “If you let him go then fate will devour you without you ever knowing why. If you let him go what do you think he would do? If this captured bird runs away home than you never will.”

41        “Enkidu, you are telling him terrible things about me. What right have you, a mere servant, to say these things?” Huwawa grew angry at Enkidu for daring pass judgement over him.

42        This in turn fueled Enkidu’s anger. Gilgamesh’s servant took his weapon and cut the throat of the monster. Once he was dead they removed the head and placed it in a leather bag.

43        The pair went to the temple where Enlil and his wife Ninlil could be presented with their trophy. They kissed the ground before Enlil showing respect to the lord of the gods. They then took the bag and presented it to the gods. Oppening it they removed the head and placed it on the floor in front of Enlil.

44        “Why have you done this? Were you ordered to kill him?” Enlil was not pleased. “He should have become your kinsman. You should have taken him into your household as you had promised.”

45        Enlil then took the powerful auras from Gilgamesh and began distributing their power. The lord of the gods gave Huwawa’s first aura to the fields as this would bring fruitfulness to the lands. He gave his second aura to the rivers to feed those fields. The third he gave reed beds and another to the lions to compliment the power they already had. He gave Huwawa’s next aura to the forests and hills. He gave another aura to the debt slaves as he was a great lord of wealth and prosperity. This proved him to be great among masters.

46        Finally, in memory of Huwawa, gave his seventh aura to Nungal, the goddess of prisoners.

Gilgamesh and the Netherworld

1          It began in the early days of the world, after the earth and the heavens had been separated. It was a turbulent time. Ereshkigal had been taken by the dragon Kur and Enki was sailing after to put things into the order that they belonged in.

2          The waters that Enki sailed were being pummeled by rocks. The smallest of these hit the side of Enki’s boat like they were like hammers. The largest of these hit with the impact of a boulder thrown from a catapult.

3          From those turbulent waters a seedling from a willow tree was deposited upon the bank of the Euphrates river. The south wind had uprooted it and stripped it of its branches, but a woman of Uruk took it in.

4          This woman was respectful of the teachings of An and Enlil. She took the tree to Inanna’s favored city of Uruk. In this city Inanna had made her luxuriant garden. The gods loved gardens and tended growing things. In this way the queen of heaven was no different from the other gods.

5          The woman planted and watered the tree with her feet rather than her hands. This imbued the tree with special properties. She tended the tree for years in the hopes of making use of the wood.

6          “When will this tree be ready to be made into a chair and a bed for me?” Inanna asked through her servant’s mouth as the tree matured.

7          Ten years went by and the tree grew to massive proportions. As it grew its bark did not split. This willow tree was singular within Inanna’s garden, but the tree was not without its own hardships.

8          At the roots of the tree was a snake who was unknown to exorcists. He therefore could not be extricated by that method of sorcery. This powerful snake made its nest at the base of the tree where none could get at it.

9          In the branches was the nest of a powerful mother Imdugud bird. Her head and claws were that of a lion. The rest of her body was that of an eagle. She was rearing pups in her nest and was particularly fierce.

10        In its trunk Lilith made her nest and laughed with a joyful heart. Lilith was a Lilitu demon, the demon of the screech owl. The demoness laughed the laugh of an owl, but it caused Inanna to cry.

11        The sun rose and the little birds began to make noise. It was at this time when Utu, the sun god and Inanna’s brother, left his bedroom and began the day. Inanna saw him instantly and began to petition the young warrior.

12        “My brother,” pleaded Inanna through the mouth of the lady who had planted the tree, “In the days when destiny first began to be determined there was a tree that had been stripped of its branches.” The watchful garden lady told of the willow tree and how it came to Inanna’s garden in Uruk.

13        Utu was not moved by his sister’s sad story about the plight of her willow tree. He saw little reason why he should help her out just to get a bed and a throne. He had better things to do and as the sun passed over head he set about doing them.

14        Inanna’s servant decided to turn instead to Gilgamesh who acted as Lugal for her city. It was still early in the day at this time. Gilgamesh was treated to the exact same story as Utu had been treated to, but he was more receptive to it.

15        Gilgamesh took his bronze Ax of the Road in his hand. This Ax weighed seven talents and seven minas, roughly two hundred and thirteen kilograms. This was more than most heavily armored soldiers weighed, and Gilgamesh could swing the bronze Ax around easily.

16        A strike from this Ax killed the snake at the roots of the tree easily. Seeing this, the Imdugud bird took her nest and brought her young up to the mountains. She was more concerned about the safety of her young than anything else. The Lilitu demoness Lilith, fearing for her life, flew off into the wilderness for safety.

17        When he was done, Gilgamesh uprooted the tree. The young men of the city, who had followed Gilgamesh, stripped the tree of its branches and bundled them up. He made Inanna a bed and a throne out of the trunk as she had wished. Out of the roots he made for himself a wooden Ellag ball and a special Ekidma mat for the Ellag to go into. Gilgamesh was a great fan of the Ellag game and there would be no better set than this.

18        The broad square provided a court for him to play the game, and the young men of the city broke up into teams such as the widows children and everyone else. Those with mothers and sisters were brought bread and water as they played.

19        Ellag was a rough ball game and Gilgamesh was a strong player. There were injuries to many involved. Even so, the young men of the city loved the game and they played it until evening when the lack of light forced them to stop. Gilgamesh marked the spot where the ball had last been placed. He picked the ball and mat up and went home for the night.

20        In the morning he was heading from his home to the spot where he had marked and was about to put the ball down when the widows and young women of the city confronted him.

21        Their complaints caused Gilgamesh to drop the toys that he had made from Inanna’s special tree. The ball and mat fell into a deep hole in the earth and fell to the underworld. Gilgamesh could not reach them with his hands so he tried putting his leg down the hole with the same result. His ball and mat were gone.

22        Gilgamesh was distraught at this turn of events. He went to Ganzer, fortress gate to the underworld, and mourned his loss. “My Ellag game has fallen into the underworld and I can not play with it any more. I was not done playing with it. The game had not lost its charm for me.”

23        He regretted the bad sentiment that he had gained with the women of the city. “I wish the ball were still in the carpenter’s house. I would treat his wife like my own mother and his child like my own sister. But it is lost, and who now could retrieve it?”

24        Enkidu, always attentive to his master’s wishes, answered him. “Do not be sad my king. Do not worry because today I will retrieve your Ellag game from the land of Kur. I will go into Ganzer and retrieve your game for you.”

25        “If you are going to go into the gates of Ganzer there are some things you should know about it. Let me discuss with you the proper etiquette of the underworld. You will need to follow my instructions exactly.

26        “Don’t wear your best clothes or sandals and don’t anoint yourself with scented oils. The dead will know that you are not supposed to be in their lands and will surround you.” Gilgamesh advised Enkidu not to dress as though he were to be respected. He was a visitor in the land of the dead and he would be forced to dress as a mourner.

27        “Do not throw things in the underworld,” Gilgamesh advised his friends in the hopes that he would not do harm to one of the dead. “If you hit one of the dead they will become angry at you. The spirits of the underworld will feel insulted if you hold a rod of Cornell wood. Do not shout in the underworld as this will disturb the rest of the dead.”

28        “I know that you have a wife and child in the underworld.” Gilgamesh said showing understanding to his servant. “If you see them it is important that you do not act as though they were still alive. No matter how angry they make you, you cannot hit them. No matter how much you miss them it is just as important that you don’t kiss them. Should you do any of these things the dead will call out and you will be detained by the spirits who maintain order there.”

29        “There is a beautiful woman who lies there. Her smooth skin and breasts will not be covered. This is the god Ninazu’s mother.” Gilgamesh spoke of Ereshkigal without invoking her name. Her husband, and the father of her son had been the bull of heaven. She would only be unclothed as a sign of her sadness. “Do not be fooled by her beauty, she can tear you apart with her pickax like claws, and she is still pulling out her hair in mourning.”

30        Enkidu may have listened to Gilgamesh’s wise words, but he did not pay any attention. He went into the underworld and did every last thing that he had been told not to. He dressed in a way that disrespected the dead. He caused injury to the dead. He went to his wife and son and struck them when they made him angry and kissed them when they made him happy. As a result of this he was detained by the underworld.

31        A week went by and Enkidu did not return. Realizing what had happened Gilgamesh, son of the goddess Ninsun, went to the temple of E-kur in the city of Nippur. There he pleaded his case before Enlil, lord of the gods. “Great father Enlil, my ellag game fell into the netherworld and my servant Enkidu went to retrieve them. He was seized by the netherworld itself rather than by Namtar, an Asag, the Udug demon of Nergal, or any other force that would normally take possession of the dead. He did not fall in battle as befits a man, but rather he was taken by the netherworld itself.”

32        Enlil would not help Gilgamesh in any way, so he decided to go elsewhere. Nanna, the god of the moon, had his temple in the city of Ur. This was where Gilgamesh went next to seek out a way to rescue his most trusted servant.

33        Like Enlil, Nanna did nothing for Gilgamesh, so he went to Eridu to the temple of Enki. The lord of fresh waters was well known for his magical arts and close ties with the queen of the underworld. Once there he told the same thing to this great god that he had told to Enlil. Enki listened.

34        “Utu,” Enki called to the young sun god, “open a hole to the netherworld an bring up this man’s servant.”

35        Utu, son of Ningal, and lord of law and justice did as he was asked. He opened up a hole to the underworld and brought up Enkidu’s spirit in the form of his last breath.

36        The pair embraced and greeted each other as close friends who thought that they might never see one another again. Gilgamesh had countless questions for his companion and servant. He wanted to know everything that he could about the underworld.

37        “Tell me of the underworld,” Gilgamesh begged of his friend, “I want to know what you saw when you were there.”

38        “The order of the netherworld will make you cry. For most the conditions are appalling,” Enkidu replied sitting with his friend in the dust. “The entire realm is like a cave. Worms infest the place as though it were an old garment.”

39        “Did you see a man there who only had a single son to remember him and give him offerings?”

40        “I did see one like that. He is poor as you might imagine.”

41        “What about those who had more sons than that?”

42        “The man with two sons had a few bricks to sit and rest upon and he had bread to eat. The man with three sons had been given regular offerings of fresh water. The man with four sons though lived quite well. The more people who had been left behind to give offerings, the better off the dead man was.”

43        “What then of the palace Eunuch, the woman who never gave birth, the young man who never made love to his wife, or the young woman who never made love to her husband? How do they fare?” Gilgamesh asked.

44        “They have nobody to remember them after death. They are useless in the afterlife and mourn lost opportunities and things that they could never have had.”

45        “Tell me about those that died in peculiar manners?”

46        “I saw a man who had been ripped apart by a lion. He is still in pain in the afterlife. I saw a man who fell from a roof and his bones are still broken in the land of Kur. There was a man who died from leprosy who twitched like an ox who had worms.” Enkidu told how each man and woman in the underworld arrived exactly as they were buried.

47        “I have still born children. Did you see them?”

48        “They live quite well eating and drinking the best foods.” Enkidu was able to soothe his friends worries.

49        “What happens to a man who was consumed in fire?”

50        “He was never buried and so I didn’t see him. His soul was sent up to heaven where it doesn’t belong and barred from the underworld.”

The death of Gilgamesh

1          Gilgamesh lay upon his death bed never to rise again. he had been struck down with fever though he had recently been at his prime. This was the lot of the mortal. Gilgamesh was powerful like none before him. He had done great things for his people and had been loved for this. Even he could be struck down easily.

2          He was the ideal of strength in life and was beyond compare in battle. The city of Kulab had taken him as their king. He had gone on from there to take his armies to many foreign lands. He had climbed mountains that had seemed imposable. Despite all of these great accomplishments he was never going to emerge from this bed.

3          In his delirious state he found himself unable to stand or sit. He couldn’t eat or drink in his present condition. All that he could do was groan. Namtar, the god of death and hand of fate, had placed a lock about him and had imprisoned him to this bed to await his final destiny.

4          Like a fish who had been swimming in a pond he was now caught up in a net. Like a gazelle he had been ensnared and forced to contemplate death in this place. Namtar, who had no hands or a proper form whatsoever, had taken hold of him and his death was assured.

5          For six days he lay like this. Sweat was rolling off of him like melting fat. The lord of Kulab and Uruk lay tormented by his fever. As he lay there in the grip of Namtar he was presented with a dream by Enki.

6          Gilgamesh found himself before the assembly of the gods. It was here that the gods themselves performed their rituals. At the moment they were reviewing Gilgamesh’s life and his great deeds in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion as to what fate should befall the great hero.

7          “You have traveled every road in all of the land. You have obtained the unique cedar from atop the mountain, and killed Huwawa in his own forest while doing this. You have set up monuments for the future and dedicated temples to the gods. You even reached the home of Ziusudra’s, the immortal from the great deluge.” The gods were not praising Gilgamesh. They were simply recounting the facts of his life.

8          “The rites of Sumer, forgotten since the ancient days, were brought down to the people by you. You were the one who showed the people the rites of hand washing and mouth washing,” the gods noted of Gilgamesh. They were obviously just as impressed by his belief in ritual cleanliness as they were of his heroics.

9          “After the disasters of the deluge, you made sure that the people didn’t forget the tasks of the land.” The order of the universe as laid down by Enki included many inventions such as the production of bread. This was of utmost importance to the gods.

10        They deliberated on his case. The seven decreed the fates of all, and in this Gilgamesh was no different from anyone else. He was not like other mortals in deed as well as in descent however. He had done many things that merited consideration.

11        All of the people of Sumer and Akkad were one third god. Gilgamesh’s mother was also a god. This made Gilgamesh a unique case. He was more god than man. It was the fate of man to die. It was the fate of the gods to live forever.

12        On the other hand Ziusudra had been born a mortal and had been granted immortality. There were also a small handful of gods who had died. Gilgamesh himself had killed one of these.

13        “Gilgamesh, I have brought you before the gods so that they may decide your fate.” Enki turned to An and Enlil and spoke in favor of death. “Long long ago the council had determined that a storm would cover the four quarters with water so that we could destroy mankind. Never the less a single man survived. This man was singular as Gilgamesh is singular, but that event was unique. You have been decreed the destiny of a king, but not that of a god.”

14        Enki had risked the wrath of the gods to save Ziusudra from the torrential downpour. The survivor of the flood had been rewarded with immortality, a gift that Enki did not give out lightly. Immortality was not a gift that Enki was willing to give today.

15        ” Sisig, the gentle breeze of the underworld, will light his way in that dim realm, and in the month of ghosts those young warriors who emulate Gilgamesh by wrestling in front of door ways will be given light as well. This light will help lead the ghosts to the houses of their loved ones.” Enki had given the matter some thought, and this compromise was what he came up with. Gilgamesh would not become like the gods, but he would not be like any other man. The month of ghosts was a time for the dead to be honored, and Gilgamesh was being given a special place among the dead.

16        Enlil was satisfied by the words of his most able adviser, and decided to address Gilgamesh. “Long ago it was decided that death would be the final fate of all men. This fate has come upon you. This fate has been the curse of all man kind, but don’t go to the great city of Urugal with an angry heart. You are going to be honored above all others.

17        “When the Anunna gods go to their banquet with all of the great priests of the land, you will join them and be greeted by your friends, family, and even Enkidu your lost companion. You will be a governor in the great city, and render verdicts in the way that the perpetually dying gods Dumuzi and Ningishzida do. You will be one of those Anunna gods.”

18        In the great city of Urugal there resided governors and kings. The priests who served the gods faithfully were here. Gods decreed verdicts and great demons carried them out. Ereshkigal herself sat here upon her throne with her minister her husband and her family of gods. This shining city in the darkness that was the underworld was where the favorites of the gods resided, and this was the place that Gilgamesh was being given a place of honor in.

19        The verdict of the gods had been rendered. The gods had considered his place carefully and had given him their verdict. The dream was coming to a close and Gilgamesh would have to return to the land of the living with this knowledge. The heavy spell was lifting, and Gilgamesh arose from a deep sleep. His dream haunted him even though he could once again lift himself from his bed.

20        “Should I act like a child upon the knees of my mother after this?” He reminded himself that he was Gilgamesh, king of Kullab, lord of Uruk the smithy of the gods, hero of the shining mountain. His mother was the goddess Ninsun, his father was lord Lugalbanda, and his god was Enki.

21        He called forth his advisers and told them of the dream. He told how he would be a governor in the underworld and how, in the month of ghosts, those who honored him would themselves be given the ghostly light of Sisig. He also told how he would soon die despite being two thirds god.

22        “Why are you sad?” his advisers asked him. “The mother goddess has not yet born a man who will not eventually die. Everyone dies. After you there will be another king, and his destiny will be no different. At least you will rule in the land of death. Your judgment will be as important as Ningishzida’s and Dumuzi’s.”

23        Gilgamesh, now resigned to his fate, set upon designing and building his tomb. In his dream, Enki showed Gilgamesh where to build his tomb. This would be where his dream would be solved.

24        “Let the people of Uruk and Kullab drain the Euphrates river!” came the announcement as Gilgamesh sent out his heralds to gather the workforce of the great cities.

25        In a matter of a few short days the people of Kullab and Uruk had taken down their levies and breached the Euphrates. The great river was diverted easily, and the bed of the Euphrates emptied of water. With the pebbles of the river now open to to the sun, and the riverbed was cracked and dry, Gilgamesh began to construct his tomb.

26        He built his tomb completely out of stone. The walls, and the entrance were out of stone, with the bar, threshold, and bolts out of the hardest diorite. He had the beams cast in pure gold.

27        He secured the entire structure with massive blocks of stone so that his tomb would be safe in future days. None would be able to find and enter his tomb in the center of his great city.

28        When it was time, his wives and his son were laid down along with his minstrel, his steward, cup bearer, his barber, and many other attendants and servants. They were arrayed as though they were simply attending a palace review in the midst of Uruk. Their funerary offerings were each laid out before them.

29        Gifts would be given to the queen of Kur Ereshkigal, Namtar, lord of death, the underworld governors Dumuzi and Ningishzida, as well as many other gods and priests. When all was prepared, he laid himself down and poured an offering of watter.

30        The inside of the tomb was sealed. The doorway was secured. The waters of the Euphrates were allowed to continue upon their course. Their waters swept over top of Gilgamesh’s tomb.

31        When the tomb was no longer in view, the people of Uruk and Kullab mourned. They gnashed their teeth and pulled out their hair as was the custom. They dressed in mourning clothes and dirt. The mood was somber and the hearts of the people were heavy.

32        Gilgamesh, son of Ninsun, lord of Kullab, was no more. Never had there been a king like him, and perhaps there would never be another. The statues of many people on into future days were set aside in the temples. Once their names had been uttered a single time they would never be forgotten. This is the reason that Aruru, Enlil’s older sister, provides people with offspring.

33        Ereshkigal, mother of Ninazu, it is good to sing your praise.