Epic of Gilgamesh

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Even the gods took fright at the Deluge,
they left and went up to the heaven of Anu,
lying like dogs curled up in the open.
The goddess cried out like a woman in childbirth,
Belet-ili wailed, whose voice is so sweet:
The olden times have turned to clay,
because I spoke evil in the gods' assembly.
How could I speak evil in the gods' assembly,
and declare a war to destroy my people?
It is I who give birth, these people are mine!
And now, like fish, they fill the ocean!"
The Anunnaki gods were weeping with her,
wet-faced with sorrow, they were weeping...~ "The Flood", Tablet XI

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Babylonia and is among the earliest known literary works. A series of Sumerian legends and poems about the mythological hero-king Gilgamesh, thought to be a ruler of the 3rd millennium BC, were gathered into a longer Akkadian poem long afterward, with the most complete version extant today preserved on twelve clay tablets in the library collection of the 7th century BC Assyrian king Assurbanipal.

you lose


  • A story of learning to face reality, a story of "growing up."
    • Thorkild Jacobsen, "The Gilgamesh Epic: Romantic and Tragic Vision", in Lingering Over Words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), eds. T. Abusch, J. Huehnergard and P. Steinkeller, p. 249
  • A document of ancient humanism.
    • William L. Moran, "The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Document of Ancient Humanism", in Bulletin of the Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies 22 (1991)
  • Acceptance of human limitations, insistance on human values—this is the teaching of the life of Gilgamesh.
    • William L. Moran, in Encyclopedia of Religion, "Gilgamesh", p. 559; as quoted in Myth and Method, eds. L. Patton and W. Doniger (University of Virginia Press, 1996), "The Gilgamesh Epic: Myth and Meaning" by Benjamin C. Ray, p. 303
  • ...this discovery is evidently destined to excite a lively controversy. For the present the orthodox people are in great delight, and are very much prepossessed by the corroboration which it affords to Biblical history. It is possible, however, as has been pointed out, that the Chaldean inscription, if genuine, may be regarded as a confirmation of the statement that there are various traditions of the deluge apart from the Biblical one, which is perhaps legendary like the rest.
    • The New York Times, front page, 22 December 1872; as quoted in What Is World Literature?, David Damrosch, Princeton University Press, 2003, p.57

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