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The Epic of Gilgamish, tr. by R. Campbell Thompson [1928], at



(About a column and a half of the beginning of the Old Babylonian version on the Yale tablet are so broken that almost all the text is lost. Gilgamish and Enkidu have now become devoted friends, thus strangely stultifying the purpose for which Enkidu was created, and now is set afoot the great expedition against the famous Cedar Forest guarded by the Ogre Humbaba. The courtesan has now for a brief space left the scene, having deserted Enkidu, much to his sorrow. The mutilated Assyrian Version gives a hint that the mother of Gilgamish is now describing the fight to one of her ladies(?) Rishat-Nin . . . and where her recital becomes connected the story runs thus).

Column II.

(The Tale of the Fight).

"He lifted up [his foot, to the door . . . . . . . .
21.(?) They raged furiously . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Enkidu hath not [his equal] . . . unkempt is the hair . . .
(Aye) he was born in the desert, and [no] one [his presence can equal]."

p. 20

(Enkidu's sorrow at the loss of his Love).

Enkidu (there) as he stood gave ear [to his utterance (?)], grieving
26.Sitting [in sorrow]: his eyes fill’d [with tears], and his arms lost their power,
[Slack’d was his bodily vigour]. Each clasp]d [the hand of] the other.
37.[Holding] like [brothers] their grip . . . [(and) to Gilgamish] Enkidu answer’d: 1
40."Friend, ’tis my darling hath circled (her arms) round my neck (to farewell me) 2,
(Wherefore) my arms lose their power, my bodily vigour is slacken 'd."

(The Ambition of Gilgamish).

45.Gilgamish open’d his mouth, and to Enkidu spake he (in this wise):

Column III.

(Gap of about two lines)

"[I, O my friend, am determined to go to the Forest of Cedars],
5.[(Aye) and] Humbaba the Fierce [will] o’ercome and destroy [what is evil]
10.[(Then) will I cut down] the Cedar . . . . ." 3
Enkidu open’d his mouth, and to Gilgamish spake he (in this wise),
15."Know, then, my friend, what time I was roaming with kine in the mountains
I for a distance of two hours' march from the skirts of the Forest
Into its depths would go down. Humbaba—his roar was a whirlwind,
20.Flame (in) his jaws, and his very breath Death! O, why hast desired
This to accomplish? To meet(?) with Humbaba were conflict unequall’d."
25.Gilgamish open’d his mouth and to Enkidu spake he (in this wise):
"[Tis that I need] the rich yield of its mountains [I go to the Forest]" . . . .

(Seven mutilated lines continuing the speech of Gilgamish, and mentioning "the dwelling [of the gods?]" (of the beginning of the Fifth Tablet), and "the axe," for cutting down the Cedars).

p. 21

36.Enkidu open’d his mouth [and] to Gilgamish spake he (in this wise):
40."(But) when we go to the Forest [of Cedars] . . . its guard is a [Fighter],
Strong, never [sleeping], O Gilgamish . . . . . .

(Three mutilated lines, apparently explaining the powers which Shamash (?), the Sun-god, and Adad, the Storm-god, have bestow’d on Humbaba).

Column IV.

1. 1So that he safeguard the Forest of Cedars a terror to mortals
Him hath Enlil appointed—Humbaba, his roar is a whirlwind,
Flame (in) his jaws, and his very breath Death! (Aye), if he in the Forest.
Hear (but) a tread(?) 2 on the road—'Who is this come down to his Forest?'
So that he safeguard the Forest of Cedars, a terror to mortals,
Him hath Enlil appointed, and fell hap will seize him who cometh
Down to his Forest."

3. 3Gilgamish open’d his mouth and to Enkidu spake he (in this wise):
5."Who, O my friend, is unconquer’d by [death]? A divinity, certes,
Liveth for aye in the daylight, but mortals—their days are (all) number’d,
All that they do is (but) wind—But to thee, now death thou art dreading,
10.Proffereth nothing of substance thy courage—I, I'll be thy va ward!
’Tis thine own mouth shall tell thou didst fear the onslaught (of battle),
(I, forsooth), if I should fall, my name will have stablish’d (for ever).
15.Gilgamish ’twas, who fought with Humbaba, the Fierce!
                                                       (In the future),
After my children are born to my house, and climb up thee, (saying):
'Tell to us all that thou knowest' . . . . . .

(Four lines mutilated).

[(Yea), when thou] speakest [in this wise], thou grievest my heart (for) the Cedar
25.[I am] determined [to fell], that I may gain [fame] everlasting.

(The Weapons are cast for the Expedition).

(Now), O my friend, [my charge] to the craftsmen I fain would deliver,
So that they cast in our presence [our weapons]."
                                         [The charge] they deliver’d

p. 22

30.Unto the craftsmen: the mould (?) did the workmen prepare, and the axes
Monstrous they cast: (yea), the celts did they cast, each (weighing) three talents;
Glaives, (too,) monstrous they cast, with hilts each (weighing) two talents,
35.Blades, thirty manas to each, corresponding to fit them: [the inlay(?)],
Gold thirty manas (each) sword: (so) were Gilgamish 1, Enkidu laden
Each with ten talents.

(Gilgamish takes counsel with the Elders).

       (And now) [in] the Seven Bolt [Portal of Erech]
Hearing [the bruit(?)] did the artisans gather, [assembled the people(?)] 2,
40.(There) in the streets of broad-marketed Erech, [in] Gilgamish’ honour(?)] 2,
[So did the Elders of Erech] broad-marketed take seat before him.
[Gilgamish] spake [thus: "O Elders of Erech] broad-marketed, [hear me!]
45.[I go against Humbaba, the Fierce, who shall say, when he heareth] 2,

Column V.

'(Ah), let me look on (this) Gilgamish, he of whom (people) are speaking,
He with whose fame the countries are fill’d'—’Tis I will o’erwhelm him,
5.(There) in the Forest of Cedars—I'll make the land hear (it)
(How) like a giant the Scion of Erech is—(yea, for) the Cedars
I am determined to fell, that I may gain fame everlasting."
Gilgamish (thus) did the Elders of Erech broad-marketed answer:
10."Gilgamish, ’tis thou art young, that thy valour (o’ermuch) doth uplift thee,
Nor dost thou know to the full what thou dost seek to accomplish.
Unto our ears hath it come of Humbaba, his likeness is twofold. 3
15.Who (of free will) then would [seek to] oppose [in encounter] his weapons?
Who for a distance of two hours’ march from the skirts of the Forest
Unto its depths would [go] down? Humbaba, his roar is a whirlwind,
Flame (in) his jaws, and his very breath Death! (O), why hast desired.
This to accomplish? To meet(?) with Humbaba were conflict unequall’d."
20.Gilgamish unto the rede of his counsellors hearken’d and ponder’d,
Cried to [his] friend: "Now, indeed, O [my] fried, [will I] thus [voice opinion].
I (forsooth) dread him, and (yet) to [(the depths of the) Forest] I'll take [me] . ."

(About seven lines mutilated or missing in which the Elders bless Gilgamish in farewell).

p. 23

" . . . . . . . . may thy god (so) [protect] thee,
Bringing thee back [(safe and)] sound to the walls of [broad-marketed] Erech."
35.Gilgamish knelt [before Shamash] a word [in his presence] to utter:
"Here I present myself, Shamash, [to lift up] my hands (in entreaty),
O that hereafter my life may be spared, to the ramparts of [Erech]
40.Bring me again: spread thine aegis [upon me] ."
                                         And Shamash made answer,
[Speaking] his oracle . . . . . . .

(About six lines mutilated or missing).

Column VI.

Tears adown Gilgamish’ [cheeks were (now)] streaming: "A road I have never
Traversed [I go, on a passage(?)] I know not, (but if) I be spared
5.(So) in content [will I] come [and will pay thee(?)] due meed (?) of thy homage."

(Two mutilated lines with the words "on seats" and "his equipment.")

10.Monstrous [the axes they brought(?)], they deliver’d [the bow] and the quiver
[Into] (his) hand; (so) taking a celt, [he slung on (?)] his quiver,
15.[Grasping] another [celt(?) he fasten’d his glaive] to his baldrick.
[But, or ever the twain] had set forth on their journey, they offer’d
[Gifts] to the Sun-god, that home he might bring them to Erech (in safety).

(The Departure of the two Heroes).

20.(Now) do the [Elders] farewell him with blessings, to Gilgamish giving
Counsel [concerning] the road: "O Gilgamish, to thine own power
Trust not (alone); (but at least) let thy [road] be traversed [before] thee,
Guard thou thy person; let Enkidu go before thee (as vaward).
(Aye, for) ’twas he hath discover’d the [way], the road he hath travell’d.
25.(Sooth), of the Forest the passes are all under sway (?) [of] Humbaba,
[(Yea), he who goeth] as vaward is (able) to safeguard a comrade,
O that the Sun-god [may grant] thee [success to attain] thine [ambition],
30.0 that he grant that thine eyes see (consummate) the words of thy utt’rance
O that he level the path that is block’d, cleave a road for thy treading,
35.Cleave, too, the berg for thy foot! May the god Lugal-banda 1
Bring in thy night-time a message to thee, with which shalt be gladden’d,
So that it help thine ambition 2, (for), like a boy thine ambition
On the o’erthrow of Humbaba thou fixest, as thou hast settled.

p. 24

40.Wash, (then), thy feet 1: when thou haltest 2, shalt hollow a pool, so that ever
Pure be the water within thy skin-bottle, (aye), cool be the water
Unto the Sun-god thou pourest, (and thus) shalt remind Lugal-banda."
45.Enkidu open’d his mouth, and spake unto Gilgamish, (saying):
"[Gilgamish], art (?) thou (in truth) full equal to making (this) foray?
Let [not] thy heart be afraid; trust me."
                                     On (his) shoulder his mantle
50.[Drew] he, (and now) [on the road] to Humbaba they set forth (together).

(Five lines mutilated; the two heroes meet a man who sets them on their way).

56." . . . they went with me . . . [tell] you . . in joy of heart."
60.[So when he heard this his word, the man on his way did [direct him]:
"Gilgamish, go, . . . let thy brother (?) precede [thee] . . . [(and) in thine ambition].
[O that the Sun-god (?)] may shew [thee] success!"

(The Old Babylonian Version breaks off after three more fragmentary lines. The following is the Assyrian Version of Column VI, l. 21, and onwards of the preceding text. It marks the beginning of the Third Tablet in the Assyrian Version, opening with the episode of the conclave of the Elders).

"Gilgamish, put not thy faith in the strength of thine own person (solely),
Quench’d be thy wishes to trusting(? (o’ermuch) in thy (shrewdness in) smiting.
(Sooth), he who goeth as vaward is able to safeguard a comrade,
5.He who doth know how to guide hath guarded his friend; (so) before thee,
Do thou let Enkidu go, (for ’tis) he to the Forest of Cedars
Knoweth the road: ’tis he lusteth for battle, and threateneth combat.
Enkidu—he would watch over a friend, would safeguard a comrade,
10.(Aye, such an one) would deliver his person from out of the pitfalls.
We, O King, in our conclave have paid deep heed to thy welfare,
Thou, O King, in return with an (equal) heed shalt requite us."
Gilgamish open’d his mouth, and spake unto Enkidu, saying:
15."Unto the Palace of Splendour, O friend, come, let us betake us,
Unto the presence of Nin-sun, the glorious Queen, (aye) to Nin-sun,
Wisest of (all) clever women, all-knowing; a well-devised pathway
She will prescribe for our feet."

p. 25

20.Clasp’d they their hands, each to each, and went to the Palace of Splendour,
Gilgamish 1, Enkidu. Unto the glorious Queen, (aye) to Nin-sun
Gilgamish came, and he enter’d in unto [the presence of Nin-sun]:
"Nin-sun, O fain would I tell thee [how] I a far journey [am going],
25.(Unto) the home [of Humbaba to counter a] warfare I know not,
[Follow a road] which I [know] not, [(aye) from the time of my starting],
[Till my return, until I arrive at the Forest of Cedars,]
[Till I o’erthrow Humbaba, the Fierce, and destroy from the country.]
[All that the Sun-god abhorreth of evil]" . . . .

(The rest of the speech of Gilgamish is lost until the end of the Column, where we find him still addressing his mother, and apparently asking that she shall garb herself in festal attire to beg a favour of the Sun-god).

" . . . garb thyself; . . . in thy presence.
(So) to her offspring, to Gilgamish [Nin-sun] gave ear . . . -ly,

Column II.

Enter’d [her chamber] . . . [and deck’d herself] with the flowers of Tulal(?),
[Put on] the festal garb of her body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.[Put on] the festal garb of her bosom . . ., her head [with a circlet]
Crown’d, and . . . the ground ipirani 2.
Climb’d [she the stairway], ascended the roof, and [the parapet(?)] mounted,
Offer’d her incense to Shamash, (her) sacrifice offer’d [to Shamash],
(Then) towards Shamash her hands she uplifted (in orison saying):
10."Why didst thou give (this) restlessness of spirit
With which didst dower Gilgamish, [my] son?
That now thou touchest him, and (straight) he starteth
A journey far to where Humbaba (dwelleth),
To counter warfare which he knoweth not,
Follow a pathway which he knoweth not,
15.(Aye), from the very day on which he starteth,
Till he return, till to the Cedar Forest
He reach; till he o’erthrow the fierce Humbaba,
And from the land destroy all evil things
Which thou abhor’st; the day which [thou hast set]
20.As term, of (that) strong man (who) feareth thee,
May Aa 3, (thy) bride, be [thy] remembrancer.
He the night-watches . . . . ."

p. 26

(Columns III, IV, and V are much mutilated. There is the remnant of a passage in Assyrian, corresponding to the Third Tablet of the Old Babylonian Version, Column III, 15, which gives Enkidu's speech about "the mountains," "the cattle of the field," and how "he waited": then follows another fragment with a mention of the "corpse" [of Humbaba] and of the Anunnaki (the Spirits of Heaven), and a repetition of the line "that strong man (who) feareth [thee] ." Then a reference to "the journey" until [Gilgamish shall have overthrown the fierce Humbaba], be it after an interval of days, months, or years; and another fragment probably part of the previous text, where someone "heaps up incense" [to a god], and Enkidu again speaks with someone, but the mutilated text does not allow us much light on its connection, and although there is another fragment, the connection again is not obvious. The last column is a repetition of what the Elders said to Gilgamish):

"(Aye, such an one) [would deliver his person] from out of the pitfalls.
10.[We, O King], in our conclave [have paid deep heed to thy welfare],
(Now), O King, in thy turn with an (equal) heed] shalt requite us."
Enkidu [open'd] his mouth [and spake unto Gilgamish, saying]:
"Turn, O my friend . . . . a road not . . . ."


20:1 Down to this point the: Assyrian Version has been used, restored in part from the Old Babylonian. The Old Babylonian Version runs (Column II. 26 "The eyes [of Enkidu fill'd] with tears, his heart was [heavy] and . . . he mourned, his heart [was heavy], and . . . he mourn 'd. [Gilgamish] lifted up his face, [spake] to Enkidu: ' [Why] are thine eyes [full of tears] (and) thy [heart heavy]? [Why dost thou] mourn?' [Enkidu answer'd] and spake to Gilgamish:" and then it continues as above in the text.

20:2 A difficult phrase. It may be that this represents the words for saying farewell, without any further explanation, just as our "God be with you" has become, "Good-bye." The same convention is apparent in Ruth 1, 14, at the parting of the two daughters of Naomi: "And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her."

20:3 Ends of three short lines here. . . . "the wood," " . . ," "I will open it."

21:1 From here to "down to his Forest" from the Assyrian Version, Second Tablet, Column v.

21:2 A word or two mutilated at this point.

21:3 Old Babylonian Version.

22:1 Text has "and,"

22:2 Conjecture.

22:3 A difficult phrase.

23:1 Lugal-banda appears to be the tutelary god of Gilgamish, and possibly his father: he and Tammuz are the two kings of Erech preceding Gilgamish in the Kings lists.

23:2 Lit. "stand to thee in thine ambition."

24:1 Doubtful: the meaning of this brief but difficult line is not obvious. Mizi might be from another verb "find," rather than "wash."

24:2 Lit. "at thy halting."

25:1 Lit. "and."

25:2 Uncertain.

25:3 The wife of the Sun-god.

Next: The Fourth Tablet: The Arrival at the Gate of the Forest