The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh
Who is Gilgamesh?
Main character from Epic. Likely, though, based on an actual king of Uruk who may have ruled
sometime around 2700 B.C. (3200 - 2500) The name Gilgamesh may mean "The old one is
youthful," but the king's Sumerian name was probably Bilgamesh with a B. May have been king
when Abraham was born in Ur. Associated with major expansion of the Ziggurat.
Where is Uruk?
Today, Uruk would be located in Iraq. In ancient times, Uruk would have been located in the
area of Sumer, which was part of a larger region called Mesopotamia (area between Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers).
How did the epic originate?
Not for sure, but here's a possibility. After Gilgamesh died, people may have begun to regard
him with more and more prestige. A Gilgamesh cult may have actually existed. A later
Sumerian king named King Shulgi, who was King of Ur around 2000 B.C. claimed to be related
to Gilgamesh--perhaps in order to gain more prestige himself. He may have commissioned
writings about Gilgamesh, and the events in these writings may have been embellished or created
to associate Gilgamesh with more power and honor--and also King Shulgi. After King Shulgi
died and there was no longer the pressure to produce stories to honor him, a writer may have
collaborated various stories about Gilgamesh and added themes from other stories to produce
one major tale--or epic. This person may have been an individual named Sinleqqiunninni--who
may have lived during 1300-1200 B.C. and been a scholar-priest of Uruk.
Why is the epic siginificant?
It is literature that deals with universal themes. Kovacs says "the central concerns of the Epic are
really human relationships and feelings--loneliness, friednship, love, loss, revenge, regret, and
the fear of the oblivion of death." However, it's main significance is related to the date of the
story. First grand epic.
Original epic may have been composed during the Old Babylonian
period (1800-1600 B.C.) Would have been written in Akkadian, which was introduced to
Mesopotamia around 2500 B.C. Two major dialects--Babylonian in the south and Assyrian in
the north (named after Babylon and Assur). Written with a type of writing called cuneiform.
From the Latin word cuneus meaning wedge or angle. Developed around 3000 B.C. in Sumer,
but in Sumerian each sign represented a word while in Akkadian, each sign represented a sound.
Eventually, the Epic was recorded in Standard Babylonian (dialect for writing) during the first
millineum B.C.. Ceased to be a major method of writing after introduction of Aramaic.
Multiple versions and copies of the epic are known. The Epic itself is composed of 11 or 12
tablets. The 12th seems to have been added later--does not really jive with the story. 8-12
copies have have been found from Ninevah, Assur, Nimrud, Sultantepe, Uruk, and Babylon.
About 60% of text has been located. Addiontal text may be ascertained from repetition. Search
for more continues. Possibility of finding a complete text in Sippar, Iraq. For many centuries,
text was lost. Akkadian was not translated well into other languages. Buried in sand.
Uncovered in 19th century by British archeologists.