The Epic of Gilgamesh


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The First Book


a tablet on which the Epic of Gilgamesh is inscribed

cylinder seal depicting Gilgamesh with Enkidu

The Sumerians, the first "civilization" in Mesopotamia, the "Fertile Crescent." These people were not Semitic and were not indigenous (local) to the area, but came from the Indus Valley. They came to the Tigris-Euphrates Valley which was originally inhabited by tribes of Semites.

The Epic of Gilgamesh was the first written epic poem and oneof the oldest pieces of literature in the world. It was a eulogy to Gilgamesh, King of Uruk. It was originally written on 12 clay tablets in cuneiform script.

Gilgamesh, originally a Sumerian legend recopied by the Assyrians, was composed and recited many times before written down. It was part of an earlier oral traditional. Assurbanipal, the last great king of Assyria, sent messengers out to search the archives of the ancient seats of learning in Babylon, Uruk, and Nippur, and to copy and translate into the contemporary Akkadian Semitic those texts which were in the older Sumerian language of Mesopotamia. Amongst these texts, was the poem which we call the The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Take and read out from the lapis lazuli tablet
how Gilgamesh went through every hardship.
Supreme over other kings, lordly in appearance,
he is the hero, born of Uruk, the goring wild bull.
He walks our in front, the leader,
and walks at the rear, trusted by his companions.
Mighty net, protector of his people,
raging flood-wave who destroys even walls of stone!
From the Epic of Gilgamesh, Book I

The book describes how Gilgamesh, a king of Uruk, set out on a quest for knowledge and immortality.


The Royal Tombs of Ur

The Sumerians a HistoryWiz exhibit

Mesopotamia

The Sumerian Flood Myth

Ancient Near East

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