The Epic of Gilgamesh
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N. K. Sandars's landmark translation of one of the first and greatest works of Western literature
Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, and his companion Enkidu are the only heroes to have survived from the ancient literature of Babylon, immortalized in this epic poem that dates back to the third millennium BC. Together they journey to the Spring of Youth, defeat the Bull of Heaven and slay the monster Humbaba. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh’s grief and fear of death are such that they lead him to undertake a quest for eternal life. A timeless tale of morality, tragedy and pure adventure, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a landmark literary exploration of man’s search for immortality.
N. K. Sandars’s lucid, accessible translation is prefaced by a detailed introduction that examines the narrative and historical context of the work. In addition, there is a glossary of names and a map of the Ancient Orient.
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framework of the text there is still room for considerable variety of approach and interpretation, as a comparison of the different translations in existence soon shows. My aim throughout has been intelligibility, and as far as the surviving texts allow, a smooth and consistent story. Any version that aims at a unified narrative must be a collation. The ‘Standard Text’ created by the scribes of Assurbanipal in the seventh century was a collation, and so are all the modern versions. I have
order, I am he who was born in the hills, I am he who is strongest of all.”’ She said, ‘Let us go, and let him see your face. I know very well where Gilgamesh is in great Uruk. O Enkidu, there all the people are dressed in their gorgeous robes, every day is holiday, the young men and the girls are wonderful to see. How sweet they smell! All the great ones are roused from their beds. O Enkidu, you who love life, I will show you Gilgamesh, a man of many moods; you shall look at him well in his
which you plan. We have heard that Humbaba is not like men who die, his weapons are such that none can stand against them; the forest stretches for ten thousand leagues in every direction; who would willingly go down to explore its depths? As for Humbaba, when he roars it is like the torrent of the storm, his breath is like fire and his jaws are death itself. Why do you crave to do this thing, Gilgamesh? It is no equal struggle when one fights with Humbaba, that battering-ram.’ When he heard
back. Tell me truly, how was it that you came to enter the company of the gods and to possess everlasting life?’ Utnapishtim said to Gilgamesh, ‘I will reveal to you a mystery, I will tell you a secret of the gods.’ 5 THE STORY OF THE FLOOD ‘You know the city Shurrupak, it stands on the banks of Euphrates? That city grew old and the gods that were in it were old. There was Anu, lord of the firmament, their father, and warrior Enlil their counsellor, Ninurta the helper, and Ennugi
the Living’, and fragments from the ‘Death of Gilgamesh’ which are now known to be part of a much longer text of at least 450 lines. This uses language much like that of a lament for Ur-Nammu, an historical ruler of Ur who lived around 2100 B.C., which incidentally names Gilgamesh. Another poem concerning ‘Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven’ lies behind the corresponding episodes in the Ninevite collation describing the flouting and revenge of the Goddess Ishtar. A large part of the Sumerian