Many of the cuneiform clay tablets that provide us with the epic were copied by students learning the Sumerian or Akkadian languages. The history of the written word The oldest works of writing were not tales of great kings, nor were they mythological stories about the gods. The Epic of Gilgamesh Over a thousand years before the Old Testament and the Odyssey, an unknown author composed the first enduring story in the history of mankind. Temples dedicated to the gods doubled as centres of commerce and prosperity, where the surrounding land was allotted to prestigious farmers. This Penguin Classics version comes with a lengthy introduction describing the history of the Sumerian civilization and the quest to recover the clay tablets from Iraq. Enlil — Presides over the affairs of gods and men from his terrestrial temple.
The original story must hold greater value than the reproduction. Verbally recounted stories grew into epic compositions, with each successive generation building on the exploits of the last. The youthful Gilgamesh is a restless, pugnacious, and tyrannical leader. The wise Uta-Napishti quells his anger and ends his quest with the revelations he imparts. It is best to avoid this introduction until after the story as it is quite the spoiler! Uta-Napishti follows their instructions: Summary Rather than a tale of religious mythology, the Epic of Gilgamesh is a story of what it means to be human. Furthermore, prior to each chapter is a summary of events. Source Pantheon of Sumerian gods The Sumerian religion was a polytheistic faith in the same model as the later Greek and Egyptian religions. He terrorizes his people by intimidating and challenging the young men of Uruk, and letting no girl go free to her bridegroom. The story of Noah is borrowed from a much older Sumerian creation myth. After seven days he lets out a dove, but it finds no place to land and returns. Mother Goddess — Created humans with Ea. It is quite fitting that the oldest story ever written is also the most salient for our species. Together they slay beasts and ogres, and offend the gods before tragedy befalls them. The Sumerian pantheon may have included as many as deities. The history of the written word The oldest works of writing were not tales of great kings, nor were they mythological stories about the gods. He learns his place in the great scheme of things, finding wisdom through adversity. This triad emboldened , and the other gods mentioned in Gilgamesh appear with their Akkadian names in the standard version: As these settlements grew into towns and cities it became increasingly difficult for temple managers to remember the division of land and wealth. Upon reaching his destination, he discloses his original intent to engage his teacher in combat to extract the secret he desires. In another rarity of ancient literature, a harlot is sent to tame him, resulting in quite a graphic sexual encounter. And now like fish they fill the ocean! When the stature of his foes imbues his heart with fear, Enkidu is again on hand to boost morale. Archaeologists have managed to piece together this version from 73 different sources that were discovered in Iraq and other Middle Eastern locations over the past years. Sin — Moon god, son of Enlil. There is no greater preoccupation for the human mind than our fear of death, and no more captivating narrative than our quest to overcome it.
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