Biblical Archaeology Society

NOTE: This article has opened in a new browser window.
To return to your previous page, just close this window.


Gilgamesh: Hero, King, God and Striving Man

Tzvi Abusch

  No figure is more familiar—or more fascinating—in ancient Near Eastern mythology than the hero called Gilgamesh.(1) Some say that a real person lies at the core of these resounding stories—a Sumerian king of Uruk during the Early Dynastic II period (c. 2700 B.C.E.). In a famous king list, Gilgamesh is the fifth ruler of Uruk after the great flood. But Gilgamesh is also referred to as a god in early Sumerian administrative texts. Scholars have suggested that Gilgamesh the king was deified soon after his death.

However, it is not Gilgamesh the historic figure—but rather Gilgamesh the mythic hero, both human and divine—who intrigues us most.

We first learn of Gilgamesh from finds made at the imposing mound of Nineveh, the last great capital of the Assyrian Empire. The archaeological giants who dug there include the then-consul of France, Paul-Emile Botta, who sunk a few trenches at Nineveh (with little success) as early as 1842, and Austen Henry Layard, who dug there on behalf of the British Museum from 1846 until 1851. It was Layard who discovered the first substantial hoard of cuneiform tablets. He was followed in 1852 by his resourceful assistant, Hormuzd Rassam, who was even more successful. Together they recovered nearly 24,000 clay tablets.

The tablets from Nineveh form the basis of perhaps the greatest collection of cuneiform tablets in the world, that of the British Museum. Fully 35 of the 75 known manuscripts of the so-called Standard Babylonian (SB) version of the Gilgamesh epic were found at Nineveh. This is not surprising: In Nineveh, the Assyrian emperor Assurbanipal (668-627 B.C.E.) added to tablet collections started by his predecessors, the kings Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.E.) and Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.E.), to create the first world-class library. True, Assurbanipal was a plunderer of Egypt and Susa, but he was also a “bibliophile”; his agents combed other ancient seats of learning to collect, copy and translate famous texts, including, of course, the Epic of Gilgamesh. A cuneiform inscription tells us that a recension of the epic was “written down according to the original and collated in the palace of Assurbanipal, King of the World, King of Assyria.”

About the time Layard and Rassam were excavating cuneiform tablets, a major-general working for the British East India Company, Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, was deciphering cuneiform script. Two decades later, in December 1872, George Smith, an Assyriologist with the British Museum, announced at a meeting of the London Society of Biblical Archaeology that one of the Gilgamesh tablets from Nineveh contained an account of a flood similar to the deluge described in Genesis. This text was from a version of the epic prepared by the scribes of Assurbanipal during the seventh century B.C.E. The earliest references to Gilgamesh, however, as subsequent scholarship would reveal, were nearly 2,000 years older.

The earliest known Gilgamesh texts come from Sumer. The Sumerians were the first literate inhabitants of Mesopotamia; their literature is preserved on clay tablets incised with cuneiform logograms (word signs). Among the Sumerian tales are a story of a great flood, in which Gilgamesh is not mentioned, and stories specifically about Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. These Gilgamesh stories, however, are an unconnected collection of tales that do not even form a cycle—much less a continuous narrative epic.

The first lengthy, connected tale of Gilgamesh was composed in the 18th century B.C.E. and is referred to as the Old Babylonian (OB) version. It was written mostly in cuneiform syllabograms (signs that stand for syllables)—a form of writing used for both the Assyrian and Babylonian versions of Akkadian, a Semitic language that was the common tongue of ancient Mesopotamia (as well as the diplomatic lingua franca throughout the Near East during the Late Bronze Age). The preserved copies of the Old Babylonian version include student exercises—probably used to teach cuneiform writing or scribal techniques—as well as good exemplars from competent scribes. They have been found at such Mesopotamian sites as Nippur, Sippar, Tell Harmal and Ishchali.

As one prominent scholar recently stated, the Old Babylonian version “bear[s] witness to a wholesale revision of Gilgamesh material to form a connected story composed around the principal themes of kingship, fame, and the fear of death.”(2) The creator of this new Gilgamesh epic drew on some of the Sumerian Gilgamesh tales and on other folkloristic and mythological themes that were independent of the Gilgamesh tradition. He also added much that was new.

*The opening lines of the epic, for example, were discovered in the British Museum’s collection only in late 1998 (see “Beneath the Watery Deep,” Field Notes, Archaeology Odyssey, July/August 1999). (Order this issue)  

In addition to the Old Babylonian version in Akkadian, versions also developed in other cultures—for example, the Hurrian version (from North Syria) and the Hittite version (from Anatolia). (Fragments from both the Hurrian and Hittite versions were found at the Hittite capital of Hattusas, modern Bogcontinued to undergo many changes and developments, leading to new Akkadian versions. Copies from the late second millennium B.C.E. have been found at such sites as Nippur and Ur in Mesopotamia, Emar and Ugarit in Syria, Megiddo in Israel and Bog> By the end of the second millennium B.C.E., the epic had developed into a text of 11 tablets. In about 750 B.C.E. Assyrian scribes added a final episode on a separate tablet, bringing the total to 12. The 11-tablet and 12-tablet versions are often referred to as the Standard Babylonian (SB) text. Though Nineveh provides the lion’s share of the Standard Babylonian texts, copies have been found at Assur, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) and Sultantepe in the north, as well as at Babylon, Sippar and Uruk in the south. But with every one of these texts interpretation is difficult, because some tablets are still fragmentary and many pieces of the epic remain unidentified and unpublished.*

These latest versions, however, are a kind of palimpsest. Although earlier elements are often retained, they are given new meanings and thus become part of a new structure. To understand how the Gilgamesh epic changed over a period of about 1,000 years, let’s consider the story preserved in the 11-tablet Standard Babylonian version. Then we will be able to see how the earlier Old Babylonian version was put together, as well as how the addition of a concluding tablet gave new meaning to the later, 12-tablet Standard Babylonian version.

The 11-tablet version begins with a prologue and a paean to Gilgamesh, the warrior king of Uruk. Gilgamesh, however, exhausts his subjects by his unceasing demands upon them to participate in his constant round of activities. The people complain to the gods, who realize that Gilgamesh’s enormous energy must find a different channel. To give the people relief, the gods create Enkidu, a wild man who matches Gilgamesh in strength, to serve as Gilgamesh’s companion.

Enkidu is humanized by a prostitute, who acculturates him and leads him to Uruk. There, Enkidu prevents Gilgamesh from participating in a wedding ritual. Gilgamesh and Enkidu then engage in a wrestling match. As a result, the two become fast friends.

In search of adventure and fame, Gilgamesh proposes a dangerous expedition against Huwawa, the powerful monster appointed by Enlil, leader of the divine pantheon, to guard the Cedar Forest. The two friends travel to the Cedar Forest, kill Huwawa, and return victoriously to Uruk.

Ishtar, the goddess of Uruk, then proposes marriage to Gilgamesh. He spurns her proposal, however, in insulting terms. Enraged, the goddess unleashes the great Bull of Heaven against Gilgamesh, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay the bull and celebrate their victory.

The gods now decide that Enkidu must die as punishment for the friends’ acts of hubris. At first, Enkidu curses his lot, but he comes to accept the inevitable. He falls sick, languishes and dies. Gilgamesh buries Enkidu but is devastated by his death, both because of the grievous loss of his dear friend and because he now fears that he himself will someday die:

How can I keep [silent?] How can I stay quiet?

My friend, whom I loved, has [turned] to clay,

my friend, Enkidu, whom I loved, has

[turned to clay.]

Shall I not be like him, and also lie down,

[never] to rise again, through all eternity?

(SB Tablet X, 67-71//144-148)

Gilgamesh leaves Uruk and wanders throughout the world in search of immortality. He enters into an almost psychotic state. First, he roams the steppe where he strips off culture and acts as if he himself were a wild man, like Enkidu before his acculturation by the prostitute. Then Gilgamesh leaves the natural world, thereby attempting to strip himself of his own humanity.

**In the Sumerian flood story, the role of Utnapishtim/Noah is played by Ziusudra; in the Old Babylonian version, by Atrahasis. In the Mesopotamian accounts, as in the Bible, a boat is built in anticipation of the flood, various species of animals enter the boat with the hero, birds are loosed to determine if the flood has subsided, and a sacrifice is offered when the birds do not return.


Gilgamesh’s search for immortality ultimately leads him to Utnapishtim, who was known to have survived the great flood and was granted immortality by the gods. It is Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh thinks, who holds the secret of immortality. Gilgamesh is disabused of his illusions, however; for here, in the concluding Tablet XI, Utnapishtim, who is sometimes referred to as the Mesopotamian Noah,** tells of a worldwide deluge that destroyed all of humanity—except for himself and his family. On that unique occasion, human beings (Utnapishtim and his wife) are granted immortality by the gods. This is an exception; otherwise, everyone dies. Thus immortality is not attainable, even by Gilgamesh. Although the lesson (his own mortality) is forced upon him, Gilgamesh cannot yet accept it fully. As he prepares to return to Uruk, Utnapishtim presents Gilgamesh with a parting gift: a magical plant that will keep him young. On the road to Uruk, Gilgamesh stops to bathe and sets down the plant. Unfortunately, while he is bathing, a snake steals the plant (this episode explains the snake’s ability to slough off its old skin and become youthful again). So Gilgamesh, denied immortality, is not even spared the corrosive effects of old age.

Gilgamesh realizes that all his suffering and toil have resulted in nothing more than a benefaction for the snake. He laughs and sees himself for what he is—a human being. Tablet XI ends with Gilgamesh’s return to Uruk. As he approaches Uruk, he points out to the boatman the architectural wonders of the city that he had built, signaling his acceptance of the real world and his return to civilization, as Uruk’s king.

Thus ends the 11-tablet Standard Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. With this story in mind, we will be able to grasp how a great epic came together, and then evolved over time.

The early Sumerian stories of Gilgamesh center on themes of martial prowess or death, or both. In these stories, Enkidu is Gilgamesh’s servant. By the time of the Old Babylonian version, however, Enkidu has become Gilgamesh’s friend. In such ways, the composer of the Old Babylonian version created a brilliant new epic of connected episodes that was given unity by a new focus on themes of companionship, separation, death and the meaning of life—things only hinted at in the Sumerian tales. Two powerful emotions, loss and fear, loss of a friend and the fear of one’s own death, take over and animate the work. It is deeply moving even today to hear Gilgamesh’s words from the 18th-century B.C.E. Old Babylonian version:

[My friend, whom I loved so deeply,]

who went with me through every danger,

Enkidu, whom I loved so deeply,

who went with me through every danger:

He went to the doom of mortal men.

Weeping over him day and night,

I did not surrender his body for burial—

Maybe my friend will rise at my cry!—

For seven days and seven nights,

until a maggot dropped from his nostril.

After he was gone I did not find life,

wandering like a trapper in the midst of the wild.

(OB Sippar Tablet II, 1-11)

Or from the Standard Babylonian version:

“O my friend, wild ass on the run, donkey of the

uplands, panther of the wild,

my friend Enkidu, wild ass on the run, donkey of the uplands, panther of the wild!

Having joined forces we climbed the [mountains,]

seized and [slew] the Bull of Heaven,

destroyed Humbaba, who [dwelt in the]

Forest [of Cedar.]

Now what is this sleep that has seized [you?]

You’ve become unconscious, you do not

[hear me!]”

But he, he lifted not [his head.]

He felt his heart, but it beat no longer.

He covered, like a bride, the face of his friend,

like an eagle he circled around him.

Like a lioness deprived of her cubs,

he paced to and fro, this way and that.

His curly [hair] he tore out in clumps,

he ripped off his finery, [like] something
taboo he cast it away.

(SB Tablet VIII, 50-64)

Or again:

For his friend Enkidu Gilgamesh

did bitterly weep as he wandered the wild:

“I shall die, and shall I not then be as Enkidu?

Sorrow has entered my heart!”

(SB Tablet IX, 1-4)

The Old Babylonian version begins with a paean to Gilgamesh the warrior king, and presumably ends with a description of the walls of Uruk. The 11-tablet Standard Babylonian version (but not the 12-tablet version), however, both begins and ends with a description of the walls of Uruk—thus providing a distinctive narrative frame. (The framing of the tale also indicates a change from a work of oral literature to a work of written literature. Indeed, the Standard Babylonian version’s expanded prologue contains two stanzas that explicitly direct our attention to a text written by Gilgamesh that served as the original basis of the epic [SB Tablet I, 5-8 and 23-27].)

This framing device clarifies a central theme of the epic: Civilization is the only form of immortality available to mortal man.

Although both the 11-tablet version and the earlier Old Babylonian version conclude with descriptions of the great city of Uruk, it means different things in each of them. In the 11-tablet version, as we have seen, Gilgamesh returns to Uruk and views the city walls after his encounter with Utnapishtim. From Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh hears of the flood (part of a longer account in which humanity is created and later decimated by plague, drought and, finally, the flood). Gilgamesh learns from all this that he will find immortality not by living eternally but by becoming part of, and ensuring the health of, civilized humanity. Thus he returns to Uruk and proudly surveys its walls—Gilgamesh the king.

The precursor of the earlier, Old Babylonian version, on the other hand, does not contain the encounter with Utnapishtim. Instead, in the course of his wanderings after Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh encounters the goddess Siduri, who runs a tavern at the edge of the world. She tells him that he cannot attain immortality and advises him to resume normal life. He can find meaning only in normal human activities:

Said the tavern-keeper to him, to Gilgamesh:

“O Gilgamesh, where are you wandering?

The life that you seek you never will find:

When the gods created mankind,

death they dispensed to mankind,

life they kept for themselves.

But you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,

Enjoy yourself always by day and by night!

Make merry each day,

dance and play day and night!

Let your clothes be clean,

Let your head be washed, may you bathe in water!

Gaze on the child who holds your hand,

*This same advice appears in the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes and, in the view of at least one scholar, can be traced back to this passage of the Gilgamesh epic (see “Did Ecclesiastes Copy Gilgamesh?” Karel van der Toorn, Bible Review, February 2000). (Order this issue)  

Let your wife enjoy your repeated embrace!”*

(OB Sippar Tablet III, 1-13)

Just as a prostitute, a woman, humanizes and acculturates Enkidu at the beginning of the epic, so a tavern keeper, another woman, humanizes and acculturates Gilgamesh at the end of the Old Babylonian version. In all versions of the epic, women tend to represent the love and beauty of this world, as opposed to the absolute commitment to the heroic ideal, which leads to death.

As we move from earlier to later versions, however, the meaning of one’s commitment to “this world” changes: In the Old Babylonian version, Gilgamesh returns to this world to “seize the day” and live a full life; in the 11-tablet version, Gilgamesh returns to this world to act as a responsible leader, to ensure the vitality of his city and civilization and the existence of mankind.

The latest version of the Epic of Gilgamesh was created in the first millennium B.C.E. by simply adding another tablet to the 11-tablet form of the tale. Tablet XII is a translation of part of the Sumerian tale known as “Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld.” It tells how Enkidu is seized by the netherworld and loses his life; he then returns to Gilgamesh in the form of a shade and describes the fate of the various inhabitants of the netherworld. The clear implication of this tablet is that Gilgamesh himself will die and be deified; he will become a god of the underworld.

In the 12-tablet version, with the death of Enkidu, a life of heroism loses its meaning; only immortality is an acceptable option. Gilgamesh must become either an immortal man or a god. But immortality is unattainable to men, for only gods are immortal. Therefore, he must become a god; indeed, in ancient Mesopotamian ritual practice, Gilgamesh is a god of the netherworld:

Gilgamesh, supreme king, judge of the Anunnaki,

Deliberative prince ... of the peoples,

Who surveys the regions of the world, bailiff

of the underworld,

lord of the (peoples) beneath,

You are a judge and have vision like a god,

You stand in the underworld and give the

final verdict.

Your judgment is not altered, nor is your utterance neglected.

You question, you inquire, you give judgment, you watch and you put things right.

Shamash has entrusted to you verdicts and

In your presence kings, regents and princes
bow down,

You watch the omens about them and give the decision.(3)

Gilgamesh’s place in the netherworld in Mesopotamian religion required that he be a deity—which he was not in either the Old Babylonian version or the 11-tablet version. A solution to this dilemma was provided by adding Tablet XII to the 11-tablet version.

**For instance, in Tablet VI Gilgamesh rejects Ishtar’s marriage proposal, which would result in his deification. Gilgamesh recognizes that were he to marry the goddess, he would not be entering into a normal or even a sacred marriage; rather, he would be accepting the role of a deity in the netherworld. He would be taking on the identity of Ishtar’s prototypical consort Tammuz (Dumuzi). Gilgamesh is not yet prepared to give up his heroic quest, so he rejects Ishtar’s offer.


Even though it seems to contradict other parts of the story,** the addition of Tablet XII, much like the insertion of the Utnapishtim story in the 11-tablet version, is a deliberate attempt to change the ultimate meaning of the work. Here the themes that we find in all versions of the epic—loss, death, the longing for immortality—are resolved by Gilgamesh’s implicit decision to accept his divine destiny.(4)

It’s not that each version of the epic is a completely separate narrative. All three relate many of the main episodes and address most of the main themes. Even in the two earlier versions, for example, Gilgamesh has divine aspects. In the Old Babylonian version, as king of Uruk, he participates in some form of the sacred marriage and has intercourse with a goddess (Isara) in the guise of a human female (either a priestess or a new bride). And Gilgamesh is already part god and part man:

Who is there can rival his kingly standing,

and say like Gilgamesh, “It is I am the king”?

Gilgamesh was his name from the day

he was born,

two thirds of him god and one third human.

(SB Tablet I, 45-48)

As the Gilgamesh epic evolved (or simply changed) over time, however, different themes took the forefront and provided the principal crises faced by the hero: In the Old Babylonian version, the conflict involves a hero who must become a man; in the 11-tablet version, the hero must become a king; and in the 12-tablet version, the hero must become a god. The principal themes, respectively, are fame and the good life, the value of civilized life and kingship, and the meaning of death and divinity.

*A longer version here adds: “Young lord, mightiest of the mighty, hero in battle, let me sing his song! [Expert] in wrestling and trials of strength, [hero in battle, let me sing his song!]”


In its essence, the literary genre we call epic deals with a hero, a powerful warrior who shows his mettle in battle. He is aggressive and courageous, even impetuous. He shows little concern for his own safety and focuses all his energy on combat, duty, honor and victory: “Hero in battle, hero in battle, let me sing his song! ... Fair of limb, hero in battle, let me sing his song!”* declares one of the Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh.

But great epics like Gilgamesh and the Iliad, whether oral or written, also introduce a note of tragedy; they view heroism not from the perspective of the battle itself, as if the battle were now taking place, but from outside or after the battle. Not only do they recall the inevitable death of the courageous warrior in combat but, even more, they reflect upon the tensions between the values of power and war, on the one hand, and those of an orderly civilized life, on the other. They explore the inevitable conflicts that new circumstances create. These circumstances may be that the hero returns to a peaceful occupation and pursues a normal life; or that the hero submits to the discipline of the state and becomes a king, serving his people; or that the hero pursues truth or immortality unto death. The epic is often a meditation on and an exploration of conflicts generated by its own form of heroism.

The Gilgamesh epic tells of courageous deeds, but it does so to highlight the pain that follows and the new problems that must be faced. Gilgamesh struggles against the world and is as deeply committed to his own personal absolutes as are the heroes of later Greek epics, but he also experiences moral growth: He learns, he changes and finally he asserts the value of normal life and seeks to grasp it. As with Odysseus, Gilgamesh’s growth is symbolized by wanderings that both reflect and elicit changes in him. His wanderings are the mechanism and backdrop for change;

the death of Enkidu is the catalyst for change. When the Old Babylonian version made Enkidu into Gilgamesh’s friend, the composer transformed disconnected hero tales into the potential for an epic tale of growth, a potential more fully realized in the 11-tablet version. In this epic tale, the hero discovers human suffering, human limitation, death and meaning. Without Enkidu’s death, there could be no development. Similarly, without the wandering, there could be no potential for development.

In the course of the epic, we witness the transformation of Gilgamesh’s heroic indifference to death into an all-consuming knowledge of his mortality and dread of death. Gilgamesh must learn to live and to die. He must find ways to express his tremendous energy and yet exist within the limits imposed on him by society and the universe. The epic, however, stresses that despite our greatest achievements, we are powerless against death. So Gilgamesh must come to terms with his nature and learn to die.

In all versions of the epic, Gilgamesh is presented to us as an individual who lives on a heroic plane and exists in spiritual isolation. But such a life is unbearable. Gilgamesh seeks immortality as a human being, and in all three versions of the text he learns that this is impossible. In the Old Babylonian version, he becomes a normal man who finds a meaningful context within the bosom of the family and creates children who represent him in the future. In the 11-tablet version, he becomes a normal king who rules his community with wisdom and creates human cultural achievements that outlast his own reign and are passed down to future generations. In the 12-tablet version, he readies himself to become a normal god who judges dead human beings for eternity. When examining the three versions in turn, we are almost reminded of the stages of growth of all men and women: In youth, we are socialized and learn to become functioning members of society; as adults, we take on positions of leadership; and finally, in old age, we confront issues of death.

In its own way, the epic of Gilgamesh is a meditation on fundamental issues of human existence. It grapples with problems of an existential nature: the powerful human drive to achieve, the value of friendship, the experience of loss, the inevitability of death. The story draws together the many strands that make up the identity of Gilgamesh: hero, man, king and, finally, god.

This article is adapted for general readers from a longer manuscript.

1 An excellent and up-to-date translation of the epic in its various Akkadian versions, as well as of the Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh, is presented by Andrew George, The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1999). I have drawn all translations from this work.

A number of previously published essays have recently been collected in Gilgamesh: A Reader, ed. John Maier (Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1997). Of the general literature on Gilgamesh, I would especially recommend Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1976), pp. 193-219, and “The Gilgamesh Epic: Romantic and Tragic Vision,” in Tzvi Abusch, John Huehnergard and Piotr Steinkeller, eds., Lingering Over Words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran, Harvard Semitic Studies 37 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), pp. 231-249; Geoffrey S. Kirk, Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Other Cultures (London: Univ. of California Press, 1973), pp. 132-152; William L. Moran, “The Gilgamesh Epic: A Masterpiece from Ancient Mesopotamia,” in &ivilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 4, ed. Jack M. Sasson, John Baines, Gary Beckman and Karen Rubinson (New York: Scribner, 1995), pp. 2327-2336; and Jeffrey H. Tigay, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1982). I have written on aspects of the epic in Abusch, “Ishtar’s Proposal and Gilgamesh’s Refusal: An Interpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic, Tablet 6, Lines 1-79,” History of Religions 26 (1986), pp. 143-187; “Gilgamesh’s Request and Siduri’s Denial, Part 1: The Meaning of the Dialogue and Its Implications for the History of the Epic,” in The Tablet and the Scroll: Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William W. Hallo, ed. Mark E. Cohen, Daniel C. Snell and David B. Weisberg (Bethesda: CDL Press, 1993), pp. 1-14; and “Gilgamesh’s Request and Siduri’s Denial, Part 2: An Analysis and Interpretation of an Old Babylonian Fragment About Mourning and Celebration,” The Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 22 (1993), pp. 3-17. (Back)

2 George, Gilgamesh, p. xxi. (Back)

3 Translation by Wilfred G. Lambert, “Gilgamesh in Religious, Historical and Omen Texts and the Historicity of Gilgamesh,” in Gilgamesh et sa legende: Etudes Recueillies par Paul Garelli (Paris, 1960), p. 40. For a reconstruction of this incantation, see Abusch, “Ishtar’s Proposal and Gilgamesh’s Refusal,” pp. 150-151, notes 13-14. (Back)

4 This historical sketch is unobjectionable in its most general outline. I should note, however, that not all scholars will agree with my contentions (1) that the earliest form of the epic did not contain the Utnapishtim episode but that the meeting with Siduri was the climax of Gilgamesh’s wanderings, (2) that the encounter with Ishtar in Tablet VI was a post-Old Babylonian insertion and (3) that the addition of Tablet XII was meaningful. (Back)

4710 41st Street NW, Washington, DC 20016-1700, USA Tel: 202-364-3300, Fax: 202-364-2636
Copyright © 2001 Biblical Archaeology Society