An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic
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Yale Oriental Series


Volume IV

Part III

Published from the fund given to the university in memory of Mary Stevens Hammond

Yale Oriental Series. Researches, Volume IV, 3.

An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic

On the Basis of Recently Discovered Texts


Morris Jastrow Jr., Ph.D., LL.D. Professor of Semitic Languages, University of Pennsylvania


Albert T. Clay, Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D. Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature, Yale University

Copyright, 1920, by Yale University Press

In Memory of William Max Mller (1863-1919) Whose life was devoted to Egyptological research which he greatly enriched by many contributions


The Introduction, the Commentary to the two tablets, and the Appendix, are by Professor Jastrow, and for these he assumes the sole responsibility. The text of the Yale tablet is by Professor Clay. The transliteration and the translation of the two tablets represent the joint work of the two authors. In the transliteration of the two tablets, C. E. Keiser's "System of Accentuation for Sumero-Akkadian signs" (Yale Oriental Researches—VOL. IX, Appendix, New Haven, 1919) has been followed.



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. 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 [1] 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; [2] 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) [3] 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 [4] 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. [5] This was confirmed by the discovery [6] 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). [7] 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. [8] 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, for the name of the hero, (b) in the writing En-ki-du—abbreviated from dug—"Enki is good" for En-ki-d in the Assyrian version, [9] and (c) in the remarkable address of the maiden Sabitum, dwelling at the seaside, to whom Gilgamesh comes in the course of his wanderings. From the Assyrian version we know that the hero tells the maiden of his grief for his lost companion, and of his longing to escape the dire fate of Enkidu. In the old Babylonian fragment the answer of Sabitum is given in full, and the sad note that it strikes, showing how hopeless it is for man to try to escape death which is in store for all mankind, is as remarkable as is the philosophy of "eat, drink and be merry" which Sabitum imparts. The address indicates how early the tendency arose to attach to ancient tales the current religious teachings.

"Why, O Gish, does thou run about? The life that thou seekest, thou wilt not find. When the gods created mankind, Death they imposed on mankind; Life they kept in their power. Thou, O Gish, fill thy belly, Day and night do thou rejoice, Daily make a rejoicing! Day and night a renewal of jollification! Let thy clothes be clean, Wash thy head and pour water over thee! Care for the little one who takes hold of thy hand! Let the wife rejoice in thy bosom!"

Such teachings, reminding us of the leading thought in the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, [10] indicate the didactic character given to ancient tales that were of popular origin, but which were modified and elaborated under the influence of the schools which arose in connection with the Babylonian temples. The story itself belongs, therefore, to a still earlier period than the form it received in this old Babylonian version. The existence of this tendency at so early a date comes to us as a genuine surprise, and justifies the assumption that the attachment of a lesson to the deluge story in the Assyrian version, to wit, the limitation in attainment of immortality to those singled out by the gods as exceptions, dates likewise from the old Babylonian period. The same would apply to the twelfth tablet, which is almost entirely didactic, intended to illustrate the impossibility of learning anything of the fate of those who have passed out of this world. It also emphasizes the necessity of contenting oneself with the comfort that the care of the dead, by providing burial and food and drink offerings for them affords, as the only means of ensuring for them rest and freedom from the pangs of hunger and distress. However, it is of course possible that the twelfth tablet, which impresses one as a supplement to the adventures of Gilgamesh, ending with his return to Uruk (i.e., Erech) at the close of the eleventh tablet, may represent a later elaboration of the tendency to connect religious teachings with the exploits of a favorite hero.


We now have further evidence both of the extreme antiquity of the literary form of the Gilgamesh Epic and also of the disposition to make the Epic the medium of illustrating aspects of life and the destiny of mankind. The discovery by Dr. Arno Poebel of a Sumerian form of the tale of the descent of Ishtar to the lower world and her release [11]—apparently a nature myth to illustrate the change of season from summer to winter and back again to spring—enables us to pass beyond the Akkadian (or Semitic) form of tales current in the Euphrates Valley to the Sumerian form. Furthermore, we are indebted to Dr. Langdon for the identification of two Sumerian fragments in the Nippur Collection which deal with the adventures of Gilgamesh, one in Constantinople, [12] the other in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. [13] The former, of which only 25 lines are preserved (19 on the obverse and 6 on the reverse), appears to be a description of the weapons of Gilgamesh with which he arms himself for an encounter—presumably the encounter with Humbaba or Huwawa, the ruler of the cedar forest in the mountain. [14] The latter deals with the building operations of Gilgamesh in the city of Erech. A text in Zimmern's Sumerische Kultlieder aus altbabylonischer Zeit (Leipzig, 1913), No. 196, appears likewise to be a fragment of the Sumerian version of the Gilgamesh Epic, bearing on the episode of Gilgamesh's and Enkidu's relations to the goddess Ishtar, covered in the sixth and seventh tablets of the Assyrian version. [15]

Until, however, further fragments shall have turned up, it would be hazardous to institute a comparison between the Sumerian and the Akkadian versions. All that can be said for the present is that there is every reason to believe in the existence of a literary form of the Epic in Sumerian which presumably antedated the Akkadian recension, just as we have a Sumerian form of Ishtar's descent into the nether world, and Sumerian versions of creation myths, as also of the Deluge tale. [16] It does not follow, however, that the Akkadian versions of the Gilgamesh Epic are translations of the Sumerian, any more than that the Akkadian creation myths are translations of a Sumerian original. Indeed, in the case of the creation myths, the striking difference between the Sumerian and Akkadian views of creation [17] points to the independent production of creation stories on the part of the Semitic settlers of the Euphrates Valley, though no doubt these were worked out in part under Sumerian literary influences. The same is probably true of Deluge tales, which would be given a distinctly Akkadian coloring in being reproduced and steadily elaborated by the Babylonian literati attached to the temples. The presumption is, therefore, in favor of an independent literary origin for the Semitic versions of the Gilgamesh Epic, though naturally with a duplication of the episodes, or at least of some of them, in the Sumerian narrative. Nor does the existence of a Sumerian form of the Epic necessarily prove that it originated with the Sumerians in their earliest home before they came to the Euphrates Valley. They may have adopted it after their conquest of southern Babylonia from the Semites who, there are now substantial grounds for believing, were the earlier settlers in the Euphrates Valley. [18] We must distinguish, therefore, between the earliest literary form, which was undoubtedly Sumerian, and the origin of the episodes embodied in the Epic, including the chief actors, Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu. It will be shown that one of the chief episodes, the encounter of the two heroes with a powerful guardian or ruler of a cedar forest, points to a western region, more specifically to Amurru, as the scene. The names of the two chief actors, moreover, appear to have been "Sumerianized" by an artificial process, [19] and if this view turns out to be correct, we would have a further ground for assuming the tale to have originated among the Akkadian settlers and to have been taken over from them by the Sumerians.


New light on the earliest Babylonian version of the Epic, as well as on the Assyrian version, has been shed by the recovery of two substantial fragments of the form which the Epic had assumed in Babylonia in the Hammurabi period. The study of this important new material also enables us to advance the interpretation of the Epic and to perfect the analysis into its component parts. In the spring of 1914, the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania acquired by purchase a large tablet, the writing of which as well as the style and the manner of spelling verbal forms and substantives pointed distinctly to the time of the first Babylonian dynasty. The tablet was identified by Dr. Arno Poebel as part of the Gilgamesh Epic; and, as the colophon showed, it formed the second tablet of the series. He copied it with a view to publication, but the outbreak of the war which found him in Germany—his native country—prevented him from carrying out this intention. [20] He, however, utilized some of its contents in his discussion of the historical or semi-historical traditions about Gilgamesh, as revealed by the important list of partly mythical and partly historical dynasties, found among the tablets of the Nippur collection, in which Gilgamesh occurs [21] as a King of an Erech dynasty, whose father was , a priest of Kulab. [22]

The publication of the tablet was then undertaken by Dr. Stephen Langdon in monograph form under the title, "The Epic of Gilgamish." [23] In a preliminary article on the tablet in the Museum Journal, Vol. VIII, pages 29-38, Dr. Langdon took the tablet to be of the late Persian period (i.e., between the sixth and third century B. C.), but his attention having been called to this error of some 1500 years, he corrected it in his introduction to his edition of the text, though he neglected to change some of his notes in which he still refers to the text as "late." [24] In addition to a copy of the text, accompanied by a good photograph, Dr. Langdon furnished a transliteration and translation with some notes and a brief introduction. The text is unfortunately badly copied, being full of errors; and the translation is likewise very defective. A careful collation with the original tablet was made with the assistance of Dr. Edward Chiera, and as a consequence we are in a position to offer to scholars a correct text. We beg to acknowledge our obligations to Dr. Gordon, the Director of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, for kindly placing the tablet at our disposal. Instead of republishing the text, I content myself with giving a full list of corrections in the appendix to this volume which will enable scholars to control our readings, and which will, I believe, justify the translation in the numerous passages in which it deviates from Dr. Langdon's rendering. While credit should be given to Dr. Langdon for having made this important tablet accessible, the interests of science demand that attention be called to his failure to grasp the many important data furnished by the tablet, which escaped him because of his erroneous readings and faulty translations.

The tablet, consisting of six columns (three on the obverse and three on the reverse), comprised, according to the colophon, 240 lines [25] and formed the second tablet of the series. Of the total, 204 lines are preserved in full or in part, and of the missing thirty-six quite a number can be restored, so that we have a fairly complete tablet. The most serious break occurs at the top of the reverse, where about eight lines are missing. In consequence of this the connection between the end of the obverse (where about five lines are missing) and the beginning of the reverse is obscured, though not to the extent of our entirely losing the thread of the narrative.

About the same time that the University of Pennsylvania Museum purchased this second tablet of the Gilgamesh Series, Yale University obtained a tablet from the same dealer, which turned out to be a continuation of the University of Pennsylvania tablet. That the two belong to the same edition of the Epic is shown by their agreement in the dark brown color of the clay, in the writing as well as in the size of the tablet, though the characters on the Yale tablet are somewhat cramped and in consequence more difficult to read. Both tablets consist of six columns, three on the obverse and three on the reverse. The measurements of both are about the same, the Pennsylvania tablet being estimated at about 7 inches high, as against 7 2/16 inches for the Yale tablet, while the width of both is 6 1/2 inches. The Yale tablet is, however, more closely written and therefore has a larger number of lines than the Pennsylvania tablet. The colophon to the Yale tablet is unfortunately missing, but from internal evidence it is quite certain that the Yale tablet follows immediately upon the Pennsylvania tablet and, therefore, may be set down as the third of the series. The obverse is very badly preserved, so that only a general view of its contents can be secured. The reverse contains serious gaps in the first and second columns. The scribe evidently had a copy before him which he tried to follow exactly, but finding that he could not get all of the copy before him in the six columns, he continued the last column on the edge. In this way we obtain for the sixth column 64 lines as against 45 for column IV, and 47 for column V, and a total of 292 lines for the six columns. Subtracting the 16 lines written on the edge leaves us 276 lines for our tablet as against 240 for its companion. The width of each column being the same on both tablets, the difference of 36 lines is made up by the closer writing.

Both tablets have peculiar knobs at the sides, the purpose of which is evidently not to facilitate holding the tablet in one's hand while writing or reading it, as Langdon assumed [26] (it would be quite impracticable for this purpose), but simply to protect the tablet in its position on a shelf, where it would naturally be placed on the edge, just as we arrange books on a shelf. Finally be it noted that these two tablets of the old Babylonian version do not belong to the same edition as the Meissner tablet above described, for the latter consists of two columns each on obverse and reverse, as against three columns each in the case of our two tablets. We thus have the interesting proof that as early as 2000 B.C. there were already several editions of the Epic. As to the provenance of our two tablets, there are no definite data, but it is likely that they were found by natives in the mounds at Warka, from which about the year 1913, many tablets came into the hands of dealers. It is likely that where two tablets of a series were found, others of the series were also dug up, and we may expect to find some further portions of this old Babylonian version turning up in the hands of other dealers or in museums.


Coming to the contents of the two tablets, the Pennsylvania tablet deals with the meeting of the two heroes, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, their conflict, followed by their reconciliation, while the Yale tablet in continuation takes up the preparations for the encounter of the two heroes with the guardian of the cedar forest, Humbaba—but probably pronounced Hubaba [27]—or, as the name appears in the old Babylonian version, Huwawa. The two tablets correspond, therefore, to portions of Tablets I to V of the Assyrian version; [28] but, as will be shown in detail further on, the number of completely parallel passages is not large, and the Assyrian version shows an independence of the old Babylonian version that is larger than we had reason to expect. In general, it may be said that the Assyrian version is more elaborate, which points to its having received its present form at a considerably later period than the old Babylonian version. [29] On the other hand, we already find in the Babylonian version the tendency towards repetition, which is characteristic of Babylonian-Assyrian tales in general. Through the two Babylonian tablets we are enabled to fill out certain details of the two episodes with which they deal: (1) the meeting of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and (2) the encounter with Huwawa; while their greatest value consists in the light that they throw on the gradual growth of the Epic until it reached its definite form in the text represented by the fragments in Ashurbanapal's Library. Let us now take up the detailed analysis, first of the Pennsylvania tablet and then of the Yale tablet. The Pennsylvania tablet begins with two dreams recounted by Gilgamesh to his mother, which the latter interprets as presaging the coming of Enkidu to Erech. In the one, something like a heavy meteor falls from heaven upon Gilgamesh and almost crushes him. With the help of the heroes of Erech, Gilgamesh carries the heavy burden to his mother Ninsun. The burden, his mother explains, symbolizes some one who, like Gilgamesh, is born in the mountains, to whom all will pay homage and of whom Gilgamesh will become enamoured with a love as strong as that for a woman. In a second dream, Gilgamesh sees some one who is like him, who brandishes an axe, and with whom he falls in love. This personage, the mother explains, is again Enkidu.

Langdon is of the opinion that these dreams are recounted to Enkidu by a woman with whom Enkidu cohabits for six days and seven nights and who weans Enkidu from association with animals. This, however, cannot be correct. The scene between Enkidu and the woman must have been recounted in detail in the first tablet, as in the Assyrian version, [30] whereas here in the second tablet we have the continuation of the tale with Gilgamesh recounting his dreams directly to his mother. The story then continues with the description of the coming of Enkidu, conducted by the woman to the outskirts of Erech, where food is given him. The main feature of the incident is the conversion of Enkidu to civilized life. Enkidu, who hitherto had gone about naked, is clothed by the woman. Instead of sucking milk and drinking from a trough like an animal, food and strong drink are placed before him, and he is taught how to eat and drink in human fashion. In human fashion he also becomes drunk, and his "spree" is navely described: "His heart became glad and his face shone." [31] Like an animal, Enkidu's body had hitherto been covered with hair, which is now shaved off. He is anointed with oil, and clothed "like a man." Enkidu becomes a shepherd, protecting the fold against wild beasts, and his exploit in dispatching lions is briefly told. At this point—the end of column 3 (on the obverse), i.e., line 117, and the beginning of column 4 (on the reverse), i.e., line 131—a gap of 13 lines—the tablet is obscure, but apparently the story of Enkidu's gradual transformation from savagery to civilized life is continued, with stress upon his introduction to domestic ways with the wife chosen or decreed for him, and with work as part of his fate. All this has no connection with Gilgamesh, and it is evident that the tale of Enkidu was originally an independent tale to illustrate the evolution of man's career and destiny, how through intercourse with a woman he awakens to the sense of human dignity, how he becomes accustomed to the ways of civilization, how he passes through the pastoral stage to higher walks of life, how the family is instituted, and how men come to be engaged in the labors associated with human activities. In order to connect this tale with the Gilgamesh story, the two heroes are brought together; the woman taking on herself, in addition to the rle of civilizer, that of the medium through which Enkidu is brought to Gilgamesh. The woman leads Enkidu from the outskirts of Erech into the city itself, where the people on seeing him remark upon his likeness to Gilgamesh. He is the very counterpart of the latter, though somewhat smaller in stature. There follows the encounter between the two heroes in the streets of Erech, where they engage in a fierce combat. Gilgamesh is overcome by Enkidu and is enraged at being thrown to the ground. The tablet closes with the endeavor of Enkidu to pacify Gilgamesh. Enkidu declares that the mother of Gilgamesh has exalted her son above the ordinary mortal, and that Enlil himself has singled him out for royal prerogatives.

After this, we may assume, the two heroes become friends and together proceed to carry out certain exploits, the first of which is an attack upon the mighty guardian of the cedar forest. This is the main episode in the Yale tablet, which, therefore, forms the third tablet of the old Babylonian version.

In the first column of the obverse of the Yale tablet, which is badly preserved, it would appear that the elders of Erech (or perhaps the people) are endeavoring to dissuade Gilgamesh from making the attempt to penetrate to the abode of Huwawa. If this is correct, then the close of the first column may represent a conversation between these elders and the woman who accompanies Enkidu. It would be the elders who are represented as "reporting the speech to the woman," which is presumably the determination of Gilgamesh to fight Huwawa. The elders apparently desire Enkidu to accompany Gilgamesh in this perilous adventure, and with this in view appeal to the woman. In the second column after an obscure reference to the mother of Gilgamesh—perhaps appealing to the sun-god—we find Gilgamesh and Enkidu again face to face. From the reference to Enkidu's eyes "filled with tears," we may conclude that he is moved to pity at the thought of what will happen to Gilgamesh if he insists upon carrying out his purpose. Enkidu, also, tries to dissuade Gilgamesh. This appears to be the main purport of the dialogue between the two, which begins about the middle of the second column and extends to the end of the third column. Enkidu pleads that even his strength is insufficient,

"My arms are lame, My strength has become weak." (lines 88-89)

Gilgamesh apparently asks for a description of the terrible tyrant who thus arouses the fear of Enkidu, and in reply Enkidu tells him how at one time, when he was roaming about with the cattle, he penetrated into the forest and heard the roar of Huwawa which was like that of a deluge. The mouth of the tyrant emitted fire, and his breath was death. It is clear, as Professor Haupt has suggested, [32] that Enkidu furnishes the description of a volcano in eruption, with its mighty roar, spitting forth fire and belching out a suffocating smoke. Gilgamesh is, however, undaunted and urges Enkidu to accompany him in the adventure.

"I will go down to the forest," says Gilgamesh, if the conjectural restoration of the line in question (l. 126) is correct. Enkidu replies by again drawing a lurid picture of what will happen "When we go (together) to the forest......." This speech of Enkidu is continued on the reverse. In reply Gilgamesh emphasizes his reliance upon the good will of Shamash and reproaches Enkidu with cowardice. He declares himself superior to Enkidu's warning, and in bold terms says that he prefers to perish in the attempt to overcome Huwawa rather than abandon it.

"Wherever terror is to be faced, Thou, forsooth, art in fear of death. Thy prowess lacks strength. I will go before thee, Though thy mouth shouts to me: 'thou art afraid to approach,' If I fall, I will establish my name." (lines 143-148)

There follows an interesting description of the forging of the weapons for the two heroes in preparation for the encounter. [33] The elders of Erech when they see these preparations are stricken with fear. They learn of Huwawa's threat to annihilate Gilgamesh if he dares to enter the cedar forest, and once more try to dissuade Gilgamesh from the undertaking.

"Thou art young, O Gish, and thy heart carries thee away, Thou dost not know what thou proposest to do." (lines 190-191)

They try to frighten Gilgamesh by repeating the description of the terrible Huwawa. Gilgamesh is still undaunted and prays to his patron deity Shamash, who apparently accords him a favorable "oracle" (trtu). The two heroes arm themselves for the fray, and the elders of Erech, now reconciled to the perilous undertaking, counsel Gilgamesh to take provision along for the undertaking. They urge Gilgamesh to allow Enkidu to take the lead, for

"He is acquainted with the way, he has trodden the road [to] the entrance of the forest." (lines 252-253)

The elders dismiss Gilgamesh with fervent wishes that Enkidu may track out the "closed path" for Gilgamesh, and commit him to the care of Lugalbanda—here perhaps an epithet of Shamash. They advise Gilgamesh to perform certain rites, to wash his feet in the stream of Huwawa and to pour out a libation of water to Shamash. Enkidu follows in a speech likewise intended to encourage the hero; and with the actual beginning of the expedition against Huwawa the tablet ends. The encounter itself, with the triumph of the two heroes, must have been described in the fourth tablet.


Now before taking up the significance of the additions to our knowledge of the Epic gained through these two tablets, it will be well to discuss the forms in which the names of the two heroes and of the ruler of the cedar forest occur in our tablets.

As in the Meissner fragment, the chief hero is invariably designated as dGish in both the Pennsylvania and Yale tablets; and we may therefore conclude that this was the common form in the Hammurabi period, as against the writing dGish-g(n)-mash [34] in the Assyrian version. Similarly, as in the Meissner fragment, the second hero's name is always written En-ki-du [35] (abbreviated from dg) as against En-ki-d in the Assyrian version. Finally, we encounter in the Yale tablet for the first time the writing Hu-wa-wa as the name of the guardian of the cedar forest, as against Hum-ba-ba in the Assyrian version, though in the latter case, as we may now conclude from the Yale tablet, the name should rather be read Hu-ba-ba. [36] The variation in the writing of the latter name is interesting as pointing to the aspirate pronunciation of the labial in both instances. The name would thus present a complete parallel to the Hebrew name Howawa (or Hobab) who appears as the brother-in-law of Moses in the P document, Numbers 10, 29. [37] Since the name also occurs, written precisely as in the Yale tablet, among the "Amoritic" names in the important lists published by Dr. Chiera, [38] there can be no doubt that Huwawa or Hubaba is a West Semitic name. This important fact adds to the probability that the "cedar forest" in which Huwawa dwells is none other than the Lebanon district, famed since early antiquity for its cedars. This explanation of the name Huwawa disposes of suppositions hitherto brought forward for an Elamitic origin. Gressmann [39] still favors such an origin, though realizing that the description of the cedar forest points to the Amanus or Lebanon range. In further confirmation of the West Semitic origin of the name, we have in Lucian, De Dea Syria, 19, the name Kombabos [40] (the guardian of Stratonika), which forms a perfect parallel to Hu(m)baba. Of the important bearings of this western character of the name Huwawa on the interpretation and origin of the Gilgamesh Epic, suggesting that the episode of the encounter between the tyrant and the two heroes rests upon a tradition of an expedition against the West or Amurru land, we shall have more to say further on.

The variation in the writing of the name Enkidu is likewise interesting. It is evident that the form in the old Babylonian version with the sign du (i.e., dg) is the original, for it furnishes us with a suitable etymology "Enki is good." The writing with dg, pronounced du, also shows that the sign d as the third element in the form which the name has in the Assyrian version is to be read d, and that former readings like Ea-bani must be definitely abandoned. [41] The form with d is clearly a phonetic writing of the Sumerian name, the sign d being chosen to indicate the pronunciation (not the ideograph) of the third element dg. This is confirmed by the writing En-gi-d in the syllabary CT XVIII, 30, 10. The phonetic writing is, therefore, a warning against any endeavor to read the name by an Akkadian transliteration of the signs. This would not of itself prove that Enkidu is of Sumerian origin, for it might well be that the writing En-ki-d is an endeavor to give a Sumerian aspect to a name that may have been foreign. The element dg corresponds to the Semitic tbu, "good," and En-ki being originally a designation of a deity as the "lord of the land," which would be the Sumerian manner of indicating a Semitic Baal, it is not at all impossible that En-ki-dg may be the "Sumerianized" form of a Semitic BA'L TZOB "Baal is good." It will be recalled that in the third column of the Yale tablet, Enkidu speaks of himself in his earlier period while still living with cattle, as wandering into the cedar forest of Huwawa, while in another passage (ll. 252-253) he is described as "acquainted with the way ... to the entrance of the forest." This would clearly point to the West as the original home of Enkidu. We are thus led once more to Amurru—taken as a general designation of the West—as playing an important role in the Gilgamesh Epic. [42] If Gilgamesh's expedition against Huwawa of the Lebanon district recalls a Babylonian campaign against Amurru, Enkidu's coming from his home, where, as we read repeatedly in the Assyrian version,

"He ate herbs with the gazelles, Drank out of a trough with cattle," [43]

may rest on a tradition of an Amorite invasion of Babylonia. The fight between Gilgamesh and Enkidu would fit in with this tradition, while the subsequent reconciliation would be the form in which the tradition would represent the enforced union between the invaders and the older settlers.

Leaving this aside for the present, let us proceed to a consideration of the relationship of the form dGish, for the chief personage in the Epic in the old Babylonian version, to dGish-gi(n)-mash in the Assyrian version. Of the meaning of Gish there is fortunately no doubt. It is clearly the equivalent to the Akkadian zikaru, "man" (Brnnow No. 5707), or possibly rab, "great" (Brnnow No. 5704). Among various equivalents, the preference is to be given to itlu, "hero." The determinative for deity stamps the person so designated as deified, or as in part divine, and this is in accord with the express statement in the Assyrian version of the Gilgamesh Epic which describes the hero as

"Two-thirds god and one-third human." [44]

Gish is, therefore, the hero-god par excellence; and this shows that we are not dealing with a genuine proper name, but rather with a descriptive attribute. Proper names are not formed in this way, either in Sumerian or Akkadian. Now what relation does this form Gish bear to


as the name of the hero is invariably written in the Assyrian version, the form which was at first read dIz-tu-bar or dGish-du-bar by scholars, until Pinches found in a neo-Babylonian syllabary [45] the equation of it with Gi-il-ga-mesh? Pinches' discovery pointed conclusively to the popular pronunciation of the hero's name as Gilgamesh; and since Aelian (De natura Animalium XII, 2) mentions a Babylonian personage Gilgamos (though what he tells us of Gilgamos does not appear in our Epic, but seems to apply to Etana, another figure of Babylonian mythology), there seemed to be no further reason to question that the problem had been solved. Besides, in a later Syriac list of Babylonian kings found in the Scholia of Theodor bar Koni, the name GLMGVM with a variant GMYGMVS occurs, [46] and it is evident that we have here again the Gi-il-ga-mesh, discovered by Pinches. The existence of an old Babylonian hero Gilgamesh who was likewise a king is thus established, as well as his identification with


It is evident that we cannot read this name as Iz-tu-bar or Gish-du-bar, but that we must read the first sign as Gish and the third as Mash, while for the second we must assume a reading Gn or Gi. This would give us Gish-g(n)-mash which is clearly again (like En-ki-d) not an etymological writing but a phonetic one, intended to convey an approach to the popular pronunciation. Gi-il-ga-mesh might well be merely a variant for Gish-ga-mesh, or vice versa, and this would come close to Gish-gi-mash. Now, when we have a name the pronunciation of which is not definite but approximate, and which is written in various ways, the probabilities are that the name is foreign. A foreign name might naturally be spelled in various ways. The Epic in the Assyrian version clearly depicts dGish-g(n)-mash as a conqueror of Erech, who forces the people into subjection, and whose autocratic rule leads the people of Erech to implore the goddess Aruru to create a rival to him who may withstand him. In response to this appeal dEnkidu is formed out of dust by Aruru and eventually brought to Erech. [47] Gish-g(n)-mash or Gilgamesh is therefore in all probability a foreigner; and the simplest solution suggested by the existence of the two forms (1) Gish in the old Babylonian version and (2) Gish-g(n)-mash in the Assyrian version, is to regard the former as an abbreviation, which seemed appropriate, because the short name conveyed the idea of the "hero" par excellence. If Gish-g(n)-mash is a foreign name, one would think in the first instance of Sumerian; but here we encounter a difficulty in the circumstance that outside of the Epic this conqueror and ruler of Erech appears in quite a different form, namely, as dGish-bil-ga-mesh, with dGish-gibil(or bl)-ga-mesh and dGish-bil-ge-mesh as variants. [48] In the remarkable list of partly mythological and partly historical dynasties, published by Poebel, [49] the fifth member of the first dynasty of Erech appears as dGish-bil-ga-mesh; and similarly in an inscription of the days of Sin-gamil, dGish-bil-ga-mesh is mentioned as the builder of the wall of Erech. [50] Moreover, in the several fragments of the Sumerian version of the Epic we have invariably the form dGish-bil-ga-mesh. It is evident, therefore, that this is the genuine form of the name in Sumerian and presumably, therefore, the oldest form. By way of further confirmation we have in the syllabary above referred to, CT, XVIII, 30, 6-8, three designations of our hero, viz:

dGish-gibil(or bl)-ga-mesh muk-tab-lu ("warrior") a-lik pa-na ("leader")

All three designations are set down as the equivalent of the Sumerian Esigga imin i.e., "the seven-fold hero."

Of the same general character is the equation in another syllabary: [51]

Esigga-tuk and its equivalent Gish-tuk = "the one who is a hero."

Furthermore, the name occurs frequently in "Temple" documents of the Ur dynasty in the form dGish-bil-ga-mesh [52] with dGish-bil-gi(n)-mesh as a variant. [53] In a list of deities (CT XXV, 28, K 7659) we likewise encounter dGish-gibil(or bl)-ga-mesh, and lastly in a syllabary we have the equation [54]

dGish-gi-mas-[si?] = dGish-bil-[ga-mesh].

The variant Gish-gibil for Gish-bil may be disposed of readily, in view of the frequent confusion or interchange of the two signs Bil (Brnnow No. 4566) and Gibil or Bl (Brnnow No. 4642) which has also the value Gi (Brnnow 4641), so that we might also read Gish-gi-ga-mesh. Both signs convey the idea of "fire," "renew," etc.; both revert to the picture of flames of fire, in the one case with a bowl (or some such obiect) above it, in the other the flames issuing apparently from a torch. [55] The meaning of the name is not affected whether we read dGish-bil-ga-mesh or dGish-gibil(or bl)-ga-mesh, for the middle element in the latter case being identical with the fire-god, written dBil-gi and to be pronounced in the inverted form as Gibil with -ga (or ge) as the phonetic complement; it is equivalent, therefore, to the writing bil-ga in the former case. Now Gish-gibil or Gish-bl conveys the idea of abu, "father" (Brnnow No. 5713), just as Bil (Brnnow No. 4579) has this meaning, while Pa-gibil-(ga) or Pa-bl-ga is abu abi, "grandfather." [56] This meaning may be derived from Gibil, as also from Bl = isatu, "fire," then essu, "new," then abu, "father," as the renewer or creator. Gish with Bl or Gibil would, therefore, be "the father-man" or "the father-hero," i.e., again the hero par excellence, the original hero, just as in Hebrew and Arabic ab is used in this way. [57] The syllable ga being a phonetic complement, the element mesh is to be taken by itself and to be explained, as Poebel suggested, as "hero" (itlu. Brnnow No. 5967).

We would thus obtain an entirely artificial combination, "man (or hero), father, hero," which would simply convey in an emphatic manner the idea of the Ur-held, the original hero, the father of heroes as it were—practically the same idea, therefore, as the one conveyed by Gish alone, as the hero par excellence. Our investigation thus leads us to a substantial identity between Gish and the longer form Gish-bil(or bl)-ga-mesh, and the former might, therefore, well be used as an abbreviation of the latter. Both the shorter and the longer forms are descriptive epithets based on naive folk etymology, rather than personal names, just as in the designation of our hero as muktablu, the "fighter," or as lik pna, "the leader," or as Esigga imin, "the seven-fold hero," or Esigga tuk, "the one who is a hero," are descriptive epithets, and as Atra-hasis, "the very wise one," is such an epithet for the hero of the deluge story. The case is different with Gi-il-ga-mesh, or Gish-g(n)-mash, which represent the popular and actual pronunciation of the name, or at least the approach to such pronunciation. Such forms, stripped as they are of all artificiality, impress one as genuine names. The conclusion to which we are thus led is that Gish-bil(or bl)-ga-mesh is a play upon the genuine name, to convey to those to whom the real name, as that of a foreigner, would suggest no meaning an interpretation fitting in with his character. In other words, Gish-bil-ga-mesh is a "Sumerianized" form of the name, introduced into the Sumerian version of the tale which became a folk-possession in the Euphrates Valley. Such plays upon names to suggest the character of an individual or some incident are familiar to us from the narratives in Genesis. [58] They do not constitute genuine etymologies and are rarely of use in leading to a correct etymology. Reuben, e.g., certainly does not mean "Yahweh has seen my affliction," which the mother is supposed to have exclaimed at the birth (Genesis 29, 32), with a play upon ben and be'onyi, any more than Judah means "I praise Yahweh" (v. 35), though it does contain the divine name (Yeh) as an element. The play on the name may be close or remote, as long as it fulfills its function of suggesting an etymology that is complimentary or appropriate.

In this way, an artificial division and at the same time a distortion of a foreign name like Gilgamesh into several elements, Gish-bil-ga-mesh, is no more violent than, for example, the explanation of Issachar or rather Issaschar as "God has given my hire" (Genesis 30, 18) with a play upon the element sechar, and as though the name were to be divided into Yah ("God") and sechar ("hire"); or the popular name of Alexander among the Arabs as Zu'l Karnaini, "the possessor of the two horns." with a suggestion of his conquest of two hemispheres, or what not. [59] The element Gil in Gilgamesh would be regarded as a contraction of Gish-bil or gi-bil, in order to furnish the meaning "father-hero," or Gil might be looked upon as a variant for Gish, which would give us the "phonetic" form in the Assyrian version dGish-gi-mash, [60] as well as such a variant writing dGish-gi-mas-(si). Now a name like Gilgamesh, upon which we may definitely settle as coming closest to the genuine form, certainly impresses one as foreign, i.e., it is neither Sumerian nor Akkadian; and we have already suggested that the circumstance that the hero of the Epic is portrayed as a conqueror of Erech, and a rather ruthless one at that, points to a tradition of an invasion of the Euphrates Valley as the background for the episode in the first tablet of the series. Now it is significant that many of the names in the "mythical" dynasties, as they appear in Poebel's list, [61] are likewise foreign, such as Mes-ki-in-ga-se-ir, son of the god Shamash (and the founder of the "mythical" dynasty of Erech of which dGish-bil-ga-mesh is the fifth member), [62] and En-me-ir-kr his son. In a still earlier "mythical" dynasty, we encounter names like Ga-lu-mu-um, Zu-ga-gi-ib, Ar-pi, E-ta-na, [63] which are distinctly foreign, while such names as En-me(n)-nun-na and Bar-sal-nun-na strike one again as "Sumerianized" names rather than as genuine Sumerian formations. [64]

Some of these names, as Galumum, Arpi and Etana, are so Amoritic in appearance, that one may hazard the conjecture of their western origin. May Gilgamesh likewise belong to the Amurru [65] region, or does he represent a foreigner from the East in contrast to Enkidu, whose name, we have seen, may have been Baal-Tb in the West, with which region he is according to the Epic so familiar? It must be confessed that the second element ga-mesh would fit in well with a Semitic origin for the name, for the element impresses one as the participial form of a Semitic stem G-M-S, just as in the second element of Meskin-gaser we have such a form. Gil might then be the name of a West-Semitic deity. Such conjectures, however, can for the present not be substantiated, and we must content ourselves with the conclusion that Gilgamesh as the real name of the hero, or at least the form which comes closest to the real name, points to a foreign origin for the hero, and that such forms as dGish-bil-ga-mesh and dGish-bl-gi-mesh and other variants are "Sumerianized" forms for which an artificial etymology was brought forward to convey the idea of the "original hero" or the hero par excellence. By means of this "play" on the name, which reverts to the compilers of the Sumerian version of the Epic, Gilgamesh was converted into a Sumerian figure, just as the name Enkidu may have been introduced as a Sumerian translation of his Amoritic name. dGish at all events is an abbreviated form of the "Sumerianized" name, introduced by the compilers of the earliest Akkadian version, which was produced naturally under the influence of the Sumerian version. Later, as the Epic continued to grow, a phonetic writing was introduced, dGish-gi-mash, which is in a measure a compromise between the genuine name and the "Sumerianized" form, but at the same time an approach to the real pronunciation.


Next to the new light thrown upon the names and original character of the two main figures of the Epic, one of the chief points of interest in the Pennsylvania fragment is the proof that it furnishes for a striking resemblance of the two heroes, Gish and Enkidu, to one another. In interpreting the dream of Gish, his mother. Ninsun, lays stress upon the fact that the dream portends the coming of someone who is like Gish, "born in the field and reared in the mountain" (lines 18-19). Both, therefore, are shown by this description to have come to Babylonia from a mountainous region, i.e., they are foreigners; and in the case of Enkidu we have seen that the mountain in all probability refers to a region in the West, while the same may also be the case with Gish. The resemblance of the two heroes to one another extends to their personal appearance. When Enkidu appears on the streets of Erech, the people are struck by this resemblance. They remark that he is "like Gish," though "shorter in stature" (lines 179-180). Enkidu is described as a rival or counterpart. [66]

This relationship between the two is suggested also by the Assyrian version. In the creation of Enkidu by Aruru, the people urge the goddess to create the "counterpart" (zikru) of Gilgamesh, someone who will be like him (ma-si-il) (Tablet I, 2, 31). Enkidu not only comes from the mountain, [67] but the mountain is specifically designated as his birth-place (I, 4, 2), precisely as in the Pennsylvania tablet, while in another passage he is also described, as in our tablet, as "born in the field." [68] Still more significant is the designation of Gilgamesh as the talimu, "younger brother," of Enkidu. [69] In accord with this, we find Gilgamesh in his lament over Enkidu describing him as a "younger brother" (ku-ta-ni); [70] and again in the last tablet of the Epic, Gilgamesh is referred to as the "brother" of Enkidu. [71] This close relationship reverts to the Sumerian version, for the Constantinople fragment (Langdon, above, p. 13) begins with the designation of Gish-bil-ga-mesh as "his brother." By "his" no doubt Enkidu is meant. Likewise in the Sumerian text published by Zimmern (above, p. 13) Gilgamesh appears as the brother of Enkidu (rev. 1, 17).

Turning to the numerous representations of Gilgamesh and Enkidu on Seal Cylinders, [72] we find this resemblance of the two heroes to each other strikingly confirmed. Both are represented as bearded, with the strands arranged in the same fashion. The face in both cases is broad, with curls protruding at the side of the head, though at times these curls are lacking in the case of Enkidu. What is particularly striking is to find Gilgamesh generally a little taller than Enkidu, thus bearing out the statement in the Pennsylvania tablet that Enkidu is "shorter in stature." There are, to be sure, also some distinguishing marks between the two. Thus Enkidu is generally represented with animal hoofs, but not always. [73] Enkidu is commonly portrayed with the horns of a bison, but again this sign is wanting in quite a number of instances. [74] The hoofs and the horns mark the period when Enkidu lived with animals and much like an animal. Most remarkable, however, of all are cylinders on which we find the two heroes almost exactly alike as, for example, Ward No. 199 where two figures, the one a duplicate of the other (except that one is just a shade taller), are in conflict with each other. Dr. Ward was puzzled by this representation and sets it down as a "fantastic" scene in which "each Gilgamesh is stabbing the other." In the light of the Pennsylvania tablet, this scene is clearly the conflict between the two heroes described in column 6, preliminary to their forming a friendship. Even in the realm of myth the human experience holds good that there is nothing like a good fight as a basis for a subsequent alliance. The fragment describes this conflict as a furious one in which Gilgamesh is worsted, and his wounded pride assuaged by the generous victor, who comforts his vanquished enemy by the assurance that he was destined for something higher than to be a mere "Hercules." He was singled out for the exercise of royal authority. True to the description of the two heroes in the Pennsylvania tablet as alike, one the counterpart of the other, the seal cylinder portrays them almost exactly alike, as alike as two brothers could possibly be; with just enough distinction to make it clear on close inspection that two figures are intended and not one repeated for the sake of symmetry. There are slight variations in the manner in which the hair is worn, and slightly varying expressions of the face, just enough to make it evident that the one is intended for Gilgamesh and the other for Enkidu. When, therefore, in another specimen, No. 173, we find a Gilgamesh holding his counterpart by the legs, it is merely another aspect of the fight between the two heroes, one of whom is intended to represent Enkidu, and not, as Dr. Ward supposed, a grotesque repetition of Gilgamesh. [75]

The description of Enkidu in the Pennsylvania tablet as a parallel figure to Gilgamesh leads us to a consideration of the relationship of the two figures to one another. Many years ago it was pointed out that the Gilgamesh Epic was a composite tale in which various stories of an independent origin had been combined and brought into more or less artificial connection with the heros eponymos of southern Babylonia. [76] We may now go a step further and point out that not only is Enkidu originally an entirely independent figure, having no connection with Gish or Gilgamesh, but that the latter is really depicted in the Epic as the counterpart of Enkidu, a reflection who has been given the traits of extraordinary physical power that belong to Enkidu. This is shown in the first place by the fact that in the encounter it is Enkidu who triumphs over Gilgamesh. The entire analysis of the episode of the meeting between the two heroes as given by Gressmann [77] must be revised. It is not Enkidu who is terrified and who is warned against the encounter. It is Gilgamesh who, during the night on his way from the house in which the goddess Ishhara lies, encounters Enkidu on the highway. Enkidu "blocks the path" [78] of Gilgamesh. He prevents Gilgamesh from re-entering the house, [79] and the two attack each other "like oxen." [80] They grapple with each other, and Enkidu forces Gilgamesh to the ground. Enkidu is, therefore, the real hero whose traits of physical prowess are afterwards transferred to Gilgamesh.

Similarly in the next episode, the struggle against Huwawa, the Yale tablet makes it clear that in the original form of the tale Enkidu is the real hero. All warn Gish against the undertaking—the elders of Erech, Enkidu, and also the workmen. "Why dost thou desire to do this?" [81] they say to him. "Thou art young, and thy heart carries thee away. Thou knowest not what thou proposest to do." [82] This part of the incident is now better known to us through the latest fragment of the Assyrian version discovered and published by King. [83] The elders say to Gilgamesh:

"Do not trust, O Gilgamesh, in thy strength! Be warned(?) against trusting to thy attack! The one who goes before will save his companion, [84] He who has foresight will save his friend. [85] Let Enkidu go before thee. He knows the roads to the cedar forest; He is skilled in battle and has seen fight."

Gilgamesh is sufficiently impressed by this warning to invite Enkidu to accompany him on a visit to his mother, Ninsun, for the purpose of receiving her counsel. [86]

It is only after Enkidu, who himself hesitates and tries to dissuade Gish, decides to accompany the latter that the elders of Erech are reconciled and encourage Gish for the fray. The two in concert proceed against Huwawa. Gilgamesh alone cannot carry out the plan. Now when a tale thus associates two figures in one deed, one of the two has been added to the original tale. In the present case there can be little doubt that Enkidu, without whom Gish cannot proceed, who is specifically described as "acquainted with the way ... to the entrance of the forest" [87] in which Huwawa dwells is the original vanquisher. Naturally, the Epic aims to conceal this fact as much as possible ad majorem gloriam of Gilgamesh. It tries to put the one who became the favorite hero into the foreground. Therefore, in both the Babylonian and the Assyrian version Enkidu is represented as hesitating, and Gilgamesh as determined to go ahead. Gilgamesh, in fact, accuses Enkidu of cowardice and boldly declares that he will proceed even though failure stare him in the face. [88] Traces of the older view, however, in which Gilgamesh is the one for whom one fears the outcome, crop out; as, for example, in the complaint of Gilgamesh's mother to Shamash that the latter has stirred the heart of her son to take the distant way to Hu(m)baba,

"To a fight unknown to him, he advances, An expedition unknown to him he undertakes." [89]

Ninsun evidently fears the consequences when her son informs her of his intention and asks her counsel. The answer of Shamash is not preserved, but no doubt it was of a reassuring character, as was the answer of the Sun-god to Gish's appeal and prayer as set forth in the Yale tablet. [90]

Again, as a further indication that Enkidu is the real conqueror of Huwawa, we find the coming contest revealed to Enkidu no less than three times in dreams, which Gilgamesh interprets. [91] Since the person who dreams is always the one to whom the dream applies, we may see in these dreams a further trace of the primary rle originally assigned to Enkidu.

Another exploit which, according to the Assyrian version, the two heroes perform in concert is the killing of a bull, sent by Anu at the instance of Ishtar to avenge an insult offered to the goddess by Gilgamesh, who rejects her offer of marriage. In the fragmentary description of the contest with the bull, we find Enkidu "seizing" the monster by "its tail." [92]

That Enkidu originally played the part of the slayer is also shown by the statement that it is he who insults Ishtar by throwing a piece of the carcass into the goddess' face, [93] adding also an insulting speech; and this despite the fact that Ishtar in her rage accuses Gilgamesh of killing the bull. [94] It is thus evident that the Epic alters the original character of the episodes in order to find a place for Gilgamesh, with the further desire to assign to the latter the chief rle. Be it noted also that Enkidu, not Gilgamesh, is punished for the insult to Ishtar. Enkidu must therefore in the original form of the episode have been the guilty party, who is stricken with mortal disease as a punishment to which after twelve days he succumbs. [95] In view of this, we may supply the name of Enkidu in the little song introduced at the close of the encounter with the bull, and not Gilgamesh as has hitherto been done.

"Who is distinguished among the heroes? Who is glorious among men? [Enkidu] is distinguished among heroes, [Enkidu] is glorious among men." [96]

Finally, the killing of lions is directly ascribed to Enkidu in the Pennsylvania tablet:

"Lions he attacked ***** Lions he overcame" [97]

whereas Gilgamesh appears to be afraid of lions. On his long search for Utnapishtim he says:

"On reaching the entrance of the mountain at night I saw lions and was afraid." [98]

He prays to Sin and Ishtar to protect and save him. When, therefore, in another passage some one celebrates Gilgamesh as the one who overcame the "guardian," who dispatched Hu(m)baba in the cedar forest, who killed lions and overthrew the bull, [99] we have the completion of the process which transferred to Gilgamesh exploits and powers which originally belonged to Enkidu, though ordinarily the process stops short at making Gilgamesh a sharer in the exploits; with the natural tendency, to be sure, to enlarge the share of the favorite.

We can now understand why the two heroes are described in the Pennsylvania tablet as alike, as born in the same place, aye, as brothers. Gilgamesh in the Epic is merely a reflex of Enkidu. The latter is the real hero and presumably, therefore, the older figure. [100] Gilgamesh resembles Enkidu, because he is originally Enkidu. The "resemblance" motif is merely the manner in which in the course of the partly popular, partly literary transfer, the recollection is preserved that Enkidu is the original, and Gilgamesh the copy.

The artificiality of the process which brings the two heroes together is apparent in the dreams of Gilgamesh which are interpreted by his mother as portending the coming of Enkidu. Not the conflict is foreseen, but the subsequent close association, navely described as due to the personal charm which Enkidu exercises, which will lead Gilgamesh to fall in love with the one whom he is to meet. The two will become one, like man and wife.

On the basis of our investigations, we are now in a position to reconstruct in part the cycle of episodes that once formed part of an Enkidu Epic. The fight between Enkidu and Gilgamesh, in which the former is the victor, is typical of the kind of tales told of Enkidu. He is the real prototype of the Greek Hercules. He slays lions, he overcomes a powerful opponent dwelling in the forests of Lebanon, he kills the bull, and he finally succumbs to disease sent as a punishment by an angry goddess. The death of Enkidu naturally formed the close of the Enkidu Epic, which in its original form may, of course, have included other exploits besides those taken over into the Gilgamesh Epic.


There is another aspect of the figure of Enkidu which is brought forward in the Pennsylvania tablet more clearly than had hitherto been the case. Many years ago attention was called to certain striking resemblances between Enkidu and the figure of the first man as described in the early chapters of Genesis. [101] At that time we had merely the Assyrian version of the Gilgamesh Epic at our disposal, and the main point of contact was the description of Enkidu living with the animals, drinking and feeding like an animal, until a woman is brought to him with whom he engages in sexual intercourse. This suggested that Enkidu was a picture of primeval man, while the woman reminded one of Eve, who when she is brought to Adam becomes his helpmate and inseparable companion. The Biblical tale stands, of course, on a much higher level, and is introduced, as are other traditions and tales of primitive times, in the style of a parable to convey certain religious teachings. For all that, suggestions of earlier conceptions crop out in the picture of Adam surrounded by animals to which he assigns names. Such a phrase as "there was no helpmate corresponding to him" becomes intelligible on the supposition of an existing tradition or belief, that man once lived and, indeed, cohabited with animals. The tales in the early chapters of Genesis must rest on very early popular traditions, which have been cleared of mythological and other objectionable features in order to adapt them to the purpose of the Hebrew compilers, to serve as a medium for illustrating certain religious teachings regarding man's place in nature and his higher destiny. From the resemblance between Enkidu and Adam it does not, of course, follow that the latter is modelled upon the former, but only that both rest on similar traditions of the condition under which men lived in primeval days prior to the beginnings of human culture.

We may now pass beyond these general indications and recognize in the story of Enkidu as revealed by the Pennsylvania tablet an attempt to trace the evolution of primitive man from low beginnings to the regular and orderly family life associated with advanced culture. The new tablet furnishes a further illustration for the surprisingly early tendency among the Babylonian literati to connect with popular tales teachings of a religious or ethical character. Just as the episode between Gilgamesh and the maiden Sabitum is made the occasion for introducing reflections on the inevitable fate of man to encounter death, so the meeting of Enkidu with the woman becomes the medium of impressing the lesson of human progress through the substitution of bread and wine for milk and water, through the institution of the family, and through work and the laying up of resources. This is the significance of the address to Enkidu in column 4 of the Pennsylvania tablet, even though certain expressions in it are somewhat obscure. The connection of the entire episode of Enkidu and the woman with Gilgamesh is very artificial; and it becomes much more intelligible if we disassociate it from its present entanglement in the Epic. In Gilgamesh's dream, portending the meeting with Enkidu, nothing is said of the woman who is the companion of the latter. The passage in which Enkidu is created by Aruru to oppose Gilgamesh [102] betrays evidence of having been worked over in order to bring Enkidu into association with the longing of the people of Erech to get rid of a tyrannical character. The people in their distress appeal to Aruru to create a rival to Gilgamesh. In response,

"Aruru upon hearing this created a man of Anu in her heart."

Now this "man of Anu" cannot possibly be Enkidu, for the sufficient reason that a few lines further on Enkidu is described as an offspring of Ninib. Moreover, the being created is not a "counterpart" of Gilgamesh, but an animal-man, as the description that follows shows. We must separate lines 30-33 in which the creation of the "Anu man" is described from lines 34-41 in which the creation of Enkidu is narrated. Indeed, these lines strike one as the proper beginning of the original Enkidu story, which would naturally start out with his birth and end with his death. The description is clearly an account of the creation of the first man, in which capacity Enkidu is brought forward.

"Aruru washed her hands, broke off clay, threw it on the field [103] ... created Enkidu, the hero, a lofty offspring of the host of Ninib." [104]

The description of Enkidu follows, with his body covered with hair like an animal, and eating and drinking with the animals. There follows an episode [105] which has no connection whatsoever with the Gilgamesh Epic, but which is clearly intended to illustrate how Enkidu came to abandon the life with the animals. A hunter sees Enkidu and is amazed at the strange sight—an animal and yet a man. Enkidu, as though resenting his condition, becomes enraged at the sight of the hunter, and the latter goes to his father and tells him of the strange creature whom he is unable to catch. In reply, the father advises his son to take a woman with him when next he goes out on his pursuit, and to have the woman remove her dress in the presence of Enkidu, who will then approach her, and after intercourse with her will abandon the animals among whom he lives. By this device he will catch the strange creature. Lines 14-18 of column 3 in the first tablet in which the father of the hunter refers to Gilgamesh must be regarded as a later insertion, a part of the reconstruction of the tale to connect the episode with Gilgamesh. The advice of the father to his son, the hunter, begins, line 19,

"Go my hunter, take with thee a woman."

In the reconstructed tale, the father tells his son to go to Gilgamesh to relate to him the strange appearance of the animal-man; but there is clearly no purpose in this, as is shown by the fact that when the hunter does so, Gilgamesh makes precisely the same speech as does the father of the hunter. Lines 40-44 of column 3, in which Gilgamesh is represented as speaking to the hunter form a complete doublet to lines 19-24, beginning

"Go, my hunter, take with thee a woman, etc."

and similarly the description of Enkidu appears twice, lines 2-12 in an address of the hunter to his father, and lines 29-39 in the address of the hunter to Gilgamesh.

The artificiality of the process of introducing Gilgamesh into the episode is revealed by this awkward and entirely meaningless repetition. We may therefore reconstruct the first two scenes in the Enkidu Epic as follows: [106]

Tablet I, col. 2, 34-35: Creation of Enkidu by Aruru.

36-41: Description of Enkidu's hairy body and of his life with the animals.

42-50: The hunter sees Enkidu, who shows his anger, as also his woe, at his condition.

3, 1-12: The hunter tells his father of the strange being who pulls up the traps which the hunter digs, and who tears the nets so that the hunter is unable to catch him or the animals.

19-24: The father of the hunter advises his son on his next expedition to take a woman with him in order to lure the strange being from his life with the animals.

Line 25, beginning "On the advice of his father," must have set forth, in the original form of the episode, how the hunter procured the woman and took her with him to meet Enkidu.

Column 4 gives in detail the meeting between the two, and navely describes how the woman exposes her charms to Enkidu, who is captivated by her and stays with her six days and seven nights. The animals see the change in Enkidu and run away from him. He has been transformed through the woman. So far the episode. In the Assyrian version there follows an address of the woman to Enkidu beginning (col. 4, 34):

"Beautiful art thou, Enkidu, like a god art thou."

We find her urging him to go with her to Erech, there to meet Gilgamesh and to enjoy the pleasures of city life with plenty of beautiful maidens. Gilgamesh, she adds, will expect Enkidu, for the coming of the latter to Erech has been foretold in a dream. It is evident that here we have again the later transformation of the Enkidu Epic in order to bring the two heroes together. Will it be considered too bold if we assume that in the original form the address of the woman and the construction of the episode were such as we find preserved in part in columns 2 to 4 of the Pennsylvania tablet, which forms part of the new material that can now be added to the Epic? The address of the woman begins in line 51 of the Pennsylvania tablet:

"I gaze upon thee, Enkidu, like a god art thou."

This corresponds to the line in the Assyrian version (I, 4, 34) as given above, just as lines 52-53:

"Why with the cattle Dost thou roam across the field?"

correspond to I, 4, 35, of the Assyrian version. There follows in both the old Babylonian and the Assyrian version the appeal of the woman to Enkidu, to allow her to lead him to Erech where Gilgamesh dwells (Pennsylvania tablet lines 54-61 = Assyrian version I, 4, 36-39); but in the Pennsylvania tablet we now have a second speech (lines 62-63) beginning like the first one with al-ka, "come:"

"Come, arise from the accursed ground."

Enkidu consents, and now the woman takes off her garments and clothes the naked Enkidu, while putting another garment on herself. She takes hold of his hand and leads him to the sheepfolds (not to Erech!!), where bread and wine are placed before him. Accustomed hitherto to sucking milk with cattle, Enkidu does not know what to do with the strange food until encouraged and instructed by the woman. The entire third column is taken up with this introduction of Enkidu to civilized life in a pastoral community, and the scene ends with Enkidu becoming a guardian of flocks. Now all this has nothing to do with Gilgamesh, and clearly sets forth an entirely different idea from the one embodied in the meeting of the two heroes. In the original Enkidu tale, the animal-man is looked upon as the type of a primitive savage, and the point of the tale is to illustrate in the nave manner characteristic of folklore the evolution to the higher form of pastoral life. This aspect of the incident is, therefore, to be separated from the other phase which has as its chief motif the bringing of the two heroes together.

We now obtain, thanks to the new section revealed by the Pennsylvania tablet, a further analogy [107] with the story of Adam and Eve, but with this striking difference, that whereas in the Babylonian tale the woman is the medium leading man to the higher life, in the Biblical story the woman is the tempter who brings misfortune to man. This contrast is, however, not inherent in the Biblical story, but due to the point of view of the Biblical writer, who is somewhat pessimistically inclined and looks upon primitive life, when man went naked and lived in a garden, eating of fruits that grew of themselves, as the blessed life in contrast to advanced culture which leads to agriculture and necessitates hard work as the means of securing one's substance. Hence the woman through whom Adam eats of the tree of knowledge and becomes conscious of being naked is looked upon as an evil tempter, entailing the loss of the primeval life of bliss in a gorgeous Paradise. The Babylonian point of view is optimistic. The change to civilized life—involving the wearing of clothes and the eating of food that is cultivated (bread and wine) is looked upon as an advance. Hence the woman is viewed as the medium of raising man to a higher level. The feature common to the Biblical and Babylonian tales is the attachment of a lesson to early folk-tales. The story of Adam and Eve, [108] as the story of Enkidu and the woman, is told with a purpose. Starting with early traditions of men's primitive life on earth, that may have arisen independently, Hebrew and Babylonian writers diverged, each group going its own way, each reflecting the particular point of view from which the evolution of human society was viewed.

Leaving the analogy between the Biblical and Babylonian tales aside, the main point of value for us in the Babylonian story of Enkidu and the woman is the proof furnished by the analysis, made possible through the Pennsylvania tablet, that the tale can be separated from its subsequent connection with Gilgamesh. We can continue this process of separation in the fourth column, where the woman instructs Enkidu in the further duty of living his life with the woman decreed for him, to raise a family, to engage in work, to build cities and to gather resources. All this is looked upon in the same optimistic spirit as marking progress, whereas the Biblical writer, consistent with his point of view, looks upon work as a curse, and makes Cain, the murderer, also the founder of cities. The step to the higher forms of life is not an advance according to the J document. It is interesting to note that even the phrase the "cursed ground" occurs in both the Babylonian and Biblical tales; but whereas in the latter (Gen. 3, 17) it is because of the hard work entailed in raising the products of the earth that the ground is cursed, in the former (lines 62-63) it is the place in which Enkidu lives before he advances to the dignity of human life that is "cursed," and which he is asked to leave. Adam is expelled from Paradise as a punishment, whereas Enkidu is implored to leave it as a necessary step towards progress to a higher form of existence. The contrast between the Babylonian and the Biblical writer extends to the view taken of viniculture. The Biblical writer (again the J document) looks upon Noah's drunkenness as a disgrace. Noah loses his sense of shame and uncovers himself (Genesis 9, 21), whereas in the Babylonian description Enkidu's jolly spirit after he has drunk seven jars of wine meets with approval. The Biblical point of view is that he who drinks wine becomes drunk; [109] the Babylonian says, if you drink wine you become happy. [110]

If the thesis here set forth of the original character and import of the episode of Enkidu with the woman is correct, we may again regard lines 149-153 of the Pennsylvania tablet, in which Gilgamesh is introduced, as a later addition to bring the two heroes into association. The episode in its original form ended with the introduction of Enkidu first to pastoral life, and then to the still higher city life with regulated forms of social existence.

Now, to be sure, this Enkidu has little in common with the Enkidu who is described as a powerful warrior, a Hercules, who kills lions, overcomes the giant Huwawa, and dispatches a great bull, but it is the nature of folklore everywhere to attach to traditions about a favorite hero all kinds of tales with which originally he had nothing to do. Enkidu, as such a favorite, is viewed also as the type of primitive man, [111] and so there arose gradually an Epic which began with his birth, pictured him as half-animal half-man, told how he emerged from this state, how he became civilized, was clothed, learned to eat food and drink wine, how he shaved off the hair with which his body was covered, [112] anointed himself—in short,

"He became manlike." [113]

Thereupon he is taught his duties as a husband, is introduced to the work of building, and to laying aside supplies, and the like. The fully-developed and full-fledged hero then engages in various exploits, of which some are now embodied in the Gilgamesh Epic. Who this Enkidu was, we are not in a position to determine, but the suggestion has been thrown out above that he is a personage foreign to Babylonia, that his home appears to be in the undefined Amurru district, and that he conquers that district. The original tale of Enkidu, if this view be correct, must therefore have been carried to the Euphrates Valley, at a very remote period, with one of the migratory waves that brought a western people as invaders into Babylonia. Here the tale was combined with stories current of another hero, Gilgamesh—perhaps also of Western origin—whose conquest of Erech likewise represents an invasion of Babylonia. The center of the Gilgamesh tale was Erech, and in the process of combining the stories of Enkidu and Gilgamesh, Enkidu is brought to Erech and the two perform exploits in common. In such a combination, the aim would be to utilize all the incidents of both tales. The woman who accompanies Enkidu, therefore, becomes the medium of bringing the two heroes together. The story of the evolution of primitive man to civilized life is transformed into the tale of Enkidu's removal to Erech, and elaborated with all kinds of details, among which we have, as perhaps embodying a genuine historical tradition, the encounter of the two heroes.

Before passing on, we have merely to note the very large part taken in both the old Babylonian and the Assyrian version by the struggle against Huwawa. The entire Yale tablet—forming, as we have seen, the third of the series—is taken up with the preparation for the struggle, and with the repeated warnings given to Gilgamesh against the dangerous undertaking. The fourth tablet must have recounted the struggle itself, and it is not improbable that this episode extended into the fifth tablet, since in the Assyrian version this is the case. The elaboration of the story is in itself an argument in favor of assuming some historical background for it—the recollection of the conquest of Amurru by some powerful warrior; and we have seen that this conquest must be ascribed to Enkidu and not to Gilgamesh.


If, now, Enkidu is not only the older figure but the one who is the real hero of the most notable episode in the Gilgamesh Epic; if, furthermore, Enkidu is the Hercules who kills lions and dispatches the bull sent by an enraged goddess, what becomes of Gilgamesh? What is left for him?

In the first place, he is definitely the conqueror of Erech. He builds the wall of Erech, [114] and we may assume that the designation of the city as Uruk supri, "the walled Erech," [115] rests upon this tradition. He is also associated with the great temple Eanna, "the heavenly house," in Erech. To Gilgamesh belongs also the unenviable tradition of having exercised his rule in Erech so harshly that the people are impelled to implore Aruru to create a rival who may rid the district of the cruel tyrant, who is described as snatching sons and daughters from their families, and in other ways terrifying the population—an early example of "Schrecklichkeit." Tablets II to V inclusive of the Assyrian version being taken up with the Huwawa episode, modified with a view of bringing the two heroes together, we come at once to the sixth tablet, which tells the story of how the goddess Ishtar wooed Gilgamesh, and of the latter's rejection of her advances. This tale is distinctly a nature myth. The attempt of Gressmann [116] to find some historical background to the episode is a failure. The goddess Ishtar symbolizes the earth which woos the sun in the spring, but whose love is fatal, for after a few months the sun's power begins to wane. Gilgamesh, who in incantation hymns is invoked in terms which show that he was conceived as a sun-god, [117] recalls to the goddess how she changed her lovers into animals, like Circe of Greek mythology, and brought them to grief. Enraged at Gilgamesh's insult to her vanity, she flies to her father Anu and cries for revenge. At this point the episode of the creation of the bull is introduced, but if the analysis above given is correct it is Enkidu who is the hero in dispatching the bull, and we must assume that the sickness with which Gilgamesh is smitten is the punishment sent by Anu to avenge the insult to his daughter. This sickness symbolizes the waning strength of the sun after midsummer is past. The sun recedes from the earth, and this was pictured in the myth as the sun-god's rejection of Ishtar; Gilgamesh's fear of death marks the approach of the winter season, when the sun appears to have lost its vigor completely and is near to death. The entire episode is, therefore, a nature myth, symbolical of the passing of spring to midsummer and then to the bare season. The myth has been attached to Gilgamesh as a favorite figure, and then woven into a pattern with the episode of Enkidu and the bull. The bull episode can be detached from the nature myth without any loss to the symbolism of the tale of Ishtar and Gilgamesh.

As already suggested, with Enkidu's death after this conquest of the bull the original Enkidu Epic came to an end. In order to connect Gilgamesh with Enkidu, the former is represented as sharing in the struggle against the bull. Enkidu is punished with death, while Gilgamesh is smitten with disease. Since both shared equally in the guilt, the punishment should have been the same for both. The differentiation may be taken as an indication that Gilgamesh's disease has nothing to do with the bull episode, but is merely part of the nature myth.

Gilgamesh now begins a series of wanderings in search of the restoration of his vigor, and this motif is evidently a continuation of the nature myth to symbolize the sun's wanderings during the dark winter in the hope of renewed vigor with the coming of the spring. Professor Haupt's view is that the disease from which Gilgamesh is supposed to be suffering is of a venereal character, affecting the organs of reproduction. This would confirm the position here taken that the myth symbolizes the loss of the sun's vigor. The sun's rays are no longer strong enough to fertilize the earth. In accord with this, Gilgamesh's search for healing leads him to the dark regions [118] in which the scorpion-men dwell. The terrors of the region symbolize the gloom of the winter season. At last Gilgamesh reaches a region of light again, described as a landscape situated at the sea. The maiden in control of this region bolts the gate against Gilgamesh's approach, but the latter forces his entrance. It is the picture of the sun-god bursting through the darkness, to emerge as the youthful reinvigorated sun-god of the spring.

Now with the tendency to attach to popular tales and nature myths lessons illustrative of current beliefs and aspirations, Gilgamesh's search for renewal of life is viewed as man's longing for eternal life. The sun-god's waning power after midsummer is past suggests man's growing weakness after the meridian of life has been left behind. Winter is death, and man longs to escape it. Gilgamesh's wanderings are used as illustration of this longing, and accordingly the search for life becomes also the quest for immortality. Can the precious boon of eternal life be achieved? Popular fancy created the figure of a favorite of the gods who had escaped a destructive deluge in which all mankind had perished. [119] Gilgamesh hears of this favorite and determines to seek him out and learn from him the secret of eternal life. The deluge story, again a pure nature myth, symbolical of the rainy season which destroys all life in nature, is thus attached to the Epic. Gilgamesh after many adventures finds himself in the presence of the survivor of the Deluge who, although human, enjoys immortal life among the gods. He asks the survivor how he came to escape the common fate of mankind, and in reply Utnapishtim tells the story of the catastrophe that brought about universal destruction. The moral of the tale is obvious. Only those singled out by the special favor of the gods can hope to be removed to the distant "source of the streams" and live forever. The rest of mankind must face death as the end of life.

That the story of the Deluge is told in the eleventh tablet of the series, corresponding to the eleventh month, known as the month of "rain curse" [120] and marking the height of the rainy season, may be intentional, just as it may not be accidental that Gilgamesh's rejection of Ishtar is recounted in the sixth tablet, corresponding to the sixth month, [121] which marks the end of the summer season. The two tales may have formed part of a cycle of myths, distributed among the months of the year. The Gilgamesh Epic, however, does not form such a cycle. Both myths have been artificially attached to the adventures of the hero. For the deluge story we now have the definite proof for its independent existence, through Dr. Poebel's publication of a Sumerian text which embodies the tale, [122] and without any reference to Gilgamesh. Similarly, Scheil and Hilprecht have published fragments of deluge stories written in Akkadian and likewise without any connection with the Gilgamesh Epic. [123]

In the Epic the story leads to another episode attached to Gilgamesh, namely, the search for a magic plant growing in deep water, which has the power of restoring old age to youth. Utnapishtim, the survivor of the deluge, is moved through pity for Gilgamesh, worn out by his long wanderings. At the request of his wife, Utnapishtim decides to tell Gilgamesh of this plant, and he succeeds in finding it. He plucks it and decides to take it back to Erech so that all may enjoy the benefit, but on his way stops to bathe in a cool cistern. A serpent comes along and snatches the plant from him, and he is forced to return to Erech with his purpose unachieved. Man cannot hope, when old age comes on, to escape death as the end of everything.

Lastly, the twelfth tablet of the Assyrian version of the Gilgamesh Epic is of a purely didactic character, bearing evidence of having been added as a further illustration of the current belief that there is no escape from the nether world to which all must go after life has come to an end. Proper burial and suitable care of the dead represent all that can be done in order to secure a fairly comfortable rest for those who have passed out of this world. Enkidu is once more introduced into this episode. His shade is invoked by Gilgamesh and rises up out of the lower world to give a discouraging reply to Gilgamesh's request,

"Tell me, my friend, tell me, my friend, The law of the earth which thou hast experienced, tell me,"

The mournful message comes back:

"I cannot tell thee, my friend, I cannot tell."

Death is a mystery and must always remain such. The historical Gilgamesh has clearly no connection with the figure introduced into this twelfth tablet. Indeed, as already suggested, the Gilgamesh Epic must have ended with the return to Erech, as related at the close of the eleventh tablet. The twelfth tablet was added by some school-men of Babylonia (or perhaps of Assyria), purely for the purpose of conveying a summary of the teachings in regard to the fate of the dead. Whether these six episodes covering the sixth to the twelfth tablets, (1) the nature myth, (2) the killing of the divine bull, (3) the punishment of Gilgamesh and the death of Enkidu, (4) Gilgamesh's wanderings, (5) the Deluge, (6) the search for immortality, were all included at the time that the old Babylonian version was compiled cannot, of course, be determined until we have that version in a more complete form. Since the two tablets thus far recovered show that as early as 2000 B.C. the Enkidu tale had already been amalgamated with the current stories about Gilgamesh, and the endeavor made to transfer the traits of the former to the latter, it is eminently likely that the story of Ishtar's unhappy love adventure with Gilgamesh was included, as well as Gilgamesh's punishment and the death of Enkidu. With the evidence furnished by Meissner's fragment of a version of the old Babylonian revision and by our two tablets, of the early disposition to make popular tales the medium of illustrating current beliefs and the teachings of the temple schools, it may furthermore be concluded that the death of Enkidu and the punishment of Gilgamesh were utilized for didactic purposes in the old Babylonian version. On the other hand, the proof for the existence of the deluge story in the Hammurabi period and some centuries later, independent of any connection with the Gilgamesh Epic, raises the question whether in the old Babylonian version, of which our two tablets form a part, the deluge tale was already woven into the pattern of the Epic. At all events, till proof to the contrary is forthcoming, we may assume that the twelfth tablet of the Assyrian version, though also reverting to a Babylonian original, dates as the latest addition to the Epic from a period subsequent to 2000 B.C.; and that the same is probably the case with the eleventh tablet.

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