Monday, March 26, 2012

The Eternal Life of Gilgamesh - My article from Ancient History Encyclopedia

The story of Gilgamesh and his quest for immortality has fascinated readers for centuries. Below is my article on the great epic as published on Ancient History Encyclopedia. I hope you enjoy it.

The article begins:

The Epic of Gilgamesh was originally a Sumerian poem, later translated into Akkadian, and first written down some 700 – 1000 years after the reign of the historical king in the cuneiform script. The poem was known originally as Sha-naqba-imru (He Who Saw The Deep) or, alternately, Shutur-eli-sham (Surpassing All Other Kings). The fullest surviving version, in the Akkadian language, was found on twelve stone tablets in the ruins of the ancient library of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, at Nineveh in 1849 by the English explorer Austen Henry Layard. The first eleven tablets relate the standard version of the Epic while the 12th tablet narrates an older Sumerian poem, Bilgames and the Netherworld. As this tablet contradicts the story told in the first eleven, it is not included in most standard versions of the tale. The author/editor/translator of the Epic is named in the tablets, one Shin-Leqi-Unninni (whose name translates as `Moon god, accept my plea’) who wrote c. 1300-1000 BCE and who has been cited as the first writer of literature in the western world (though that honor is rightly accorded to Enheduanna, daughter of Sargon of Akkad, who lived 2285-2250 BCE). According to the scholar N.K. Sandars, the work is “the finest surviving epic poem from any period until the apperance of Homer’s Iliad; and it is immeasurably older”(Sandars, 7).

And here is the link to the complete piece:

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