Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh (gĬl´gəmĕsh), in Babylonian legend, king of Uruk. He is the hero of the Gilgamesh epic, a work of some 3,000 lines, written on 12 tablets c.2000 BC and discovered among the ruins at Nineveh. The epic was lost when the the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal was destroyed in 612 BC The library's remains were excavated by British archaeologists in the mid-19th cent., the tablets were discovered, and the epic's cuneiform text was translated by British scholars. It tells of the adventures of the warlike and imperious Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu. When Enkidu suddenly sickened and died, Gilgamesh became obsessed by a fear of death. His ancestor Ut-napishtim (who with his wife had been the only survivor of a great flood) told him of a plant that gave eternal life. After obtaining the plant, however, Gilgamesh left it unguarded and a serpent carried it off. The hero then turned to the ghost of Enkidu for consoling knowledge of the afterlife, only to be told by his friend that a gloomy future awaited the dead.

See verse translations by H. Mason (1970), D. Ferry (1993), and S. Mitchell (2007); prose translation by N. K. Sandars (1960); A. Heidel, Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (2d ed. 1949); D. Damrosch, The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh (2007); T. Ziolkowski, Gilgamesh among Us: Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Gilgamesh: Selected full-text books and articles

The Epic of Gilgamesh By Maureen Gallery Kovacs Stanford University Press, 1989
The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic By Jeffrey H. Tigay Bolchazy-Carducci, 2002
Gilgamesh: A Reader By John Maier Bolchazy-Carducci, 1997
Gilgamesh, the King Who Did Not Wish to Die By Bottero, Jean UNESCO Courier, September 1989
The Development and Meaning of the Epic of Gilgamesh: An Interpretive Essay By Abusch, Tzvi The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 121, No. 4, October-December 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil: With a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems By Charles Rowan Beye Bolchazy-Carducci, 2006
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Gilgamesh"
Gilgamesh and the Power of Narration By Altes, Liesbeth Korthals The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 127, No. 2, April-June 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Somewhere I Have Never Traveled: The Hero's Journey By Thomas Van Nortwick Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Wild Man: The Epic of Gilgamesh"
Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero By David Adams Leeming Oxford University Press, 1998 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Gilgamesh: Sumerian-Babylonian" begins on p. 124
The Sacred Art of Dying: How World Religions Understand Death By Kenneth Paul Kramer Paulist Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "Enkidu and Gilgamesh" begins on p. 95
The World of Myth By David Adams Leeming Oxford University Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "Mesopotamian: Gilgamesh" begins on p. 288
History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History By Samuel Noah Kramer University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981 (3rd Rev. edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 23 "Tales of Gilgamesh: The First Case of Literary Borrowing"
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