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Babylonian Myth- the story of Gilgamesh

Updated on June 7, 2011


The story goes as follows:

Gilgamesh is a young king of a kingdom called Unuk. He is by birth, part God and part man. Accessing the throne in his early years he takes advantage of the wealth it gives him and embarks on a life of drunkenness and debauchery. The King's behaviour spirals out of control and some of his senior subjects complain to the God Anu.

Anu instructs the mother God to create a man equal to the King, and the mother makes a man called Enkidu who is an expert hunter but, like King Gilgamesh, is a "little bit wild". News of this wild man, whose body is covered with hair, makes its way to the court. The King sends a prostitute "the voluptuous one" to see the man and after they have slept together they return to the court.

A friendship is formed

Whilst Enkidu is cavorting with the "voluptuous one" the King is dreaming in his bed. He dreams that all sorts of objects are falling from the sky and asks his mother for an interpretation of his dream. She tells her son that the objects are symbolic of the arrival of a man to court , a man who will be his best friend. Indeed, when Enkidu arrives the two become firm friends and set off on adventures together.

The adventures of Gilgamesh

Enkidu and Gilgamesh battle through the mountains and enlisting the help of the sun God Shamash, they overcome the demon Humbaba. The pair return victorious to the court and the Goddess Ishtar offers herself as Gilgamesh's bride. Gilgamesh rejects her offer with a torrent of insults and abuse and in anger the Goddess send the Bull of Heaven down to earth. Gilgamesh and Enkidu manage to kill the bull but Enkidu dies of wounds sustained in the attack. Gilgamesh is beside himself, his best friend , who was so like him, is dead and he realises that as he is part human he can die too. Once his grief subsides Gilgamesh leaves his home to seek out the hero Utnapishtism who was granted eternal life for saving the human race.

Statue of Gilgamesh
Statue of Gilgamesh | Source

The quest to find Utnapishtim

Gilgamesh travels through his lands and eventually reaches a garden that is full of precious jewel stones kept by the ale keepers wife, Siduri. Siduri tells Gilgamesh that he need to cross the Waters Of Death, but that only the sun God may cross these waters. One of Gilgamesh's endearing qualities was his ability to charm strangers and he manages to persuade the ferry man to take him over the water. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that he was given eternal life as his existence reminds the Gods of their promise not to destroy mankind.

The Test

Gilgamesh is given a test, if he passes the test the Gods will assemble to consider his request for immortality. The test is not to sleep for a week, seven days and seven nights, but Gilgamesh fails. On failing the test he is given new clothes that will never wear out and Utnapishtim tells him of a magic plant which will make an old person grow young again. Before Gilgamesh can find the plant it is stolen by a serpent and he returns alone to survey his kingdom and the end of his life from the walls of his city.


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