View Full Version : The Ninth Tablet: Gilgamish In Terror of Death Seeks Eternal Life

May 21st, 2008, 01:46 AM


Column I.

(Gilgamish determines to seek Eternal Life).

6Gilgamish bitterly wept for his comrade, (for) Enkidu, ranging
Over the desert: "I, too—shall I not die like Enkidu also?
Sorrow hath enter’d my heart; I fear death as I range o’er the desert,
I will get hence on the road to the presence of Uta-Napishtim 7,

—Offspring of Ubara-Tutu is he—and with speed will I travel.
(If) ’tis in darkness that I shall arrive at the Gates of the Mountains,
Meeting with lions, then terror fall on me, I'll lift my head (skywards),
Offer my prayer to the Moon-god, (or else) to . . the gods let my orison
Come . . . 'O deliver me!'" . . . He slept . . . (and) a dream . . .
[Saw he] . . . which were rejoicing in life,
Poised he [his] axe . . . in his hand, (and) drew [his glaive from] his baldric,
Lance-like leapt he amongst them . . . smiting, . . . (and) crushing.

(The rest of the Column is mutilated).

Column II.

(The hero reaches the Mountains of Mashu).

Mashu the name of the hills; as he reach’d the Mountains of Mashu,
Where ev’ry day they keep watch o’er [the Sun-god's] rising [and setting],
Unto the Zenith of Heaven [uprear’d are] their summits, (and) downwards
(Deep) unto Hell reach their breasts: (and there) at their portals stand sentry
Scorpion-men, awful in 1 terror, their (very) glance Death: (and) tremendous,
Shaking the hills, their magnificence; they are the Wardens of Shamash,
Both at his 2 rising and setting. (No sooner) did Gilgamish see them"
(Than) from alarm and dismay was his countenance stricken with pallor,
Senseless, he grovell’d before them.
(Then) unto his wife spake the Scorpion:
"Lo, he that cometh to us—’tis the flesh of the gods is his body."
(Then) to the Scorpion-man answer]d his wife: "Two parts of him god-(like),
(Only) a third of him human."

(Eight broken lines remain, in which the Scorpion-man addresses presumably Gilgamish, asking him [why he has goner a far journey, and telling him how hard the traverse is. Column III begins with the third line in which Gilgamish is evidently telling the Scorpion-man that he proposes to cask(?)] Uta-Napishtim about death and life. But the Scorpion-man says that [the journey has never before been made, that none [has crossed] the mountains. The traverse is by the Road of the Sun by a journey of twenty-four hours, beginning with deep darkness. The last half of this Column and the first half of Column IV are lost, but it would appear that the Scorpion-man describes the journey hour by hour, and that Gilgamish accepts the trial of his strength "[even though it be] in pain . ., [though my face be weather]d] with cold [and heat]
(and) in grief [I go] . . ." Then the Scorpion-man, with a final word about the mountains of Mashu, farewells him, wishing him success. "[(Then) when] Gilgamish [heard this], [he set off] at the word of the Scorpion-man, taking] the Road of the Sun . . ." The first two hours are in deep darkness, without light, which did not allow [him to see . . . behind him] . . ." Each succeeding period of two hours is the same until the eighth is reached and passed, and by the ninth he apparently comes to the first glimmer of light. Finally, with the twelfth double hour, he reaches the full blaze of the sun, and there he beholds the Tree of the Gods, the description of which is given in the only four complete lines, 48-51, of Column V. It is conceivable that this is the Vine, the Tree of Life, whence Siduri, the Maker of Wine, plucks the fruit for her trade).

Bearing its fruit (all) ruby, and hung about with (its) tendrils.
Fair for beholding, and azure the boskage it bore; (aye), ’twas bearing
Fruits (all) desirable unto the eye.

(Column VI in the Assyrian is nearly all lost, and it is uncertain what part the Tree plays: but at this point a third Old Babylonian tablet helps us out. At this point, according to this early version the Sun-god takes pity on the hero).

"[He of the wild things hath dressÚd] their pelts and the flesh of them eateth.
Gilgamish, [never] a crossing [shall be (?)] where none hath been ever,
(No), [so long] as the gale driveth water."
Shamash was touch’d, that he summon’d him, (thus) unto Gilgamish speaking:
"Gilgamish, why dost thou run, (forasmuch as) the life which thou seekest
Thou shalt not find?" (Whereat) Gilgamish answer’d the warrior Shamash:
"Shall I, after I roam up and down o’er the waste as a wand’rer,
Lay my head in the bowels of earth, and throughout the years slumber
Ever and aye? Let mine eyes see the Sun and be sated with brightness,
(Yea, for) the darkness is (banish’d) afar, if wide be the brightness.
When will the man who is dead (ever) look on the light of the Sunshine?"

(With this ends all our connected text of Column VI, the Assyrian Version ending with about a dozen mutilated lines containing a mention of numerous minerals and stones, and evidently Gilgamish has now come to the girl Siduri the sabitu, which last word is generally taken to mean a provider of strong waters).

41:6 Assyrian Version.

41:7 The Babylonian Noah, with whom so much of the remainder of this story is concerned.

42:1 Lit. "their terror, and."

42:2 Lit. "of Shamash."