Hour 25 will host a book club discussion on Gilgamesh. An audio recording is available on YouTube. The discussion will be on January 26, 11:00 a.m. EST via Google+ hangout.
I’ve been reading the ancient Babylonian text in preparation for the discussion. I read slowly so as to not let my assumption run rough shod over the tale. Even then I can only interpret the story based on my training in Ancient Greek and Indo-European traditions about heroes. Here are a few random notes.
"I will proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh." Who is speaking? Does the Hero Gilgamesh have his Homer?
"a tale from the days before the flood" So I assume Bronze Age. Then we read, “…he engraved on a stone the whole story.” So Gilgamesh is the Muse of the tale and author. Hmm a Bronze Age hero who can write.
Interesting how love humanizes god-like Gilgamesh and lust humanizes animal-like Enkidu.
Enkidu's experience reminds me of Adam and Eve's in the garden. There is a theory that Adam&Eve weren't actually human in physical form until they put on clothes (animal skins). Enkidu, eat bread, it is the staff of life; drink the wine, it is the custom of the land.' So he ate till he was full and drank strong wine, seven goblets. He became merry, his heart exulted and his face shone. He rubbed down the matted hair of his body and anointed himself with oil. Enkidu had become a man;
Enkidua seems to meet all the requirements to be a therapon;
· "create his equal; let it be as like him as his own reflection, his second self; stormy heart for stormy heart. Let them contend together and leave Uruk in quiet.'
· "Enkidu was pleased; he longed for a comrade, for one who would understand his heart."
· " I made it for you, a goad and spur, and you were drawn as though to a woman.
· This is the strong comrade, the one who brings help to his friend in his need. ".
· "I loved it like a woman and wore it at my side.' Ninsun answered, ‘That axe, which you saw, which drew you so powerfully like love of a woman, that is the comrade whom I give you, and he will come in his strength like one of the host of heaven. He is the brave companion who rescues his friend in necessity.'
"In Uruk the bridal bed was made, fit for the goddess of love. The bride waited for the bridegroom, but in the night Gilgamesh got up and came to the house. Then Enkidu stepped out, he stood in the street and blocked the way. Mighty Gilgamesh came on and Enkidu met him at the gate. He put out his foot and prevented Gilgamesh from entering the house, so they grappled, holding each other like bulls. They broke the doorposts and the walls shook, they snorted like bulls locked together. They shattered the doorposts and the walls shook. Gilgamesh bent his knee with his foot planted on the ground and with a turn Enkidu was thrown. Then immediately his fury died. When Enkidu was thrown he said to Gilgamesh, ‘There is not another like you in the world. Ninsun, who is as strong as a wild ox in the byre, she was the mother who bore you, and now you are raised above all men, and Enlil has given you the kingship, for your strength surpasses the strength of men.’ So Enkidu and Gilgamesh embraced and their friendship was sealed. I find it interesting in this text that Enkidu (the bride) waited for (the bridegroom) Gilgamesh to come to the house.
Gilgamesh replied: 'Where is the man who can clamber to heaven? Only the gods live for ever with glorious Shamash, but as for us men, our days are numbered, our occupations are a breath of wind” For some reason this reminds me about Glaucus’ (Iliad 6.145-9) and Apollo’s (Iliad 21.462-66) comparison of men to leaves. As to Gilgamesh’s rhetorical question ; the answer is Bellephron. No rhetorical question is ever 100% rhetorical. Is there some myth that Gilgamesh was thinking about?
Looks like Enkidu has a mission in life;
· "I am the strongest here, I have come to change the old order, I am he who was born in the hills, I am he who is strongest of all."'
· "I will challenge him boldly, and I will cry aloud in Uruk, "I have come to change the old order,"
“This star of heaven which descended like a meteor from the sky” This line reminded me of Hephaestus and Chrysaor, but I see no connections.
“Then if I fall I leave behind me a name that endures; men - will say of me, "Gilgamesh has fallen in fight with ferocious Humbaba." Long after the child has been bony in my house, they will say it, and remember. “ Looks like Gilgamesh, like Achilles, wanted unwilting glory!
Gilgamesh performs a sacrifice to the sun god Shamash. He seems to pray in a way we are familiar with; invocation, mentions their relationship (kind of) prayer and promise of rewards afterwards. But his mother Ninsun dresses for prayer like Hera arming for battle on Mt Ida and is kind of bossy in her incense prayer. (Oh wait, she is a goddess.)
How shall I answer them; shall I say I am afraid of Humbaba, I will sit at home all the rest of my days?' Like the choice of Achilles
They took each other by the hand as they went to Egalmah. I cant think of anything comparable to this in Greek myth
Lugulbanda, your guardian god, Gilgamesh's father
"Hold close to me now and you will feel no fear of death; keep beside me and your weakness will pass, the trembling will leave your hand." Sort of like Achilles to Patroclus
Gilamesh to Ishtar “as for making you my wife - that I will not. How would it go with me? Your lovers have found you like a brazier which smoulders in the cold” Apparently Gilgamesh shares Anchises concerns in bedding a goddess. So Gilgamesh refusing Ishtar is like Hippolytus refusing love (Aphrodite).
Ishtar threatening Anu. "refuse to give me the Bull of Heaven I will break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts; there will be confusion of people, those above with those from the lower depths. I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of dead will outnumber the living.'" Sort of like Helios threatening Zeus.
The mistress who taught you to eat bread fit for gods and drink wine of kings? She who put upon you a ‘magnificent garment, did she not give you glorious Gilgamesh for your companion, and has not Gilgamesh, your own brother, made you rest on a 'royal bed and recline on a couch at his left hand? He has made the princes of the earth kiss your feet” Great response!
Bitterly moaning like a woman mourning
I weep for my brother.
O Enkidu, my brother,
You were the axe at my side,
O Enkidu, my brother,
You were the axe at my side,