From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Who is there, my friend, can climb to the sky?
Only the gods dwell forever in sunlight.
As for man, his days are numbered,
whatever he may do, it is but wind.

Gilgamesh (Bilgames in the earliest texts) was a historical king of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, a major hero in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, and the protagonist of the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem written in Akkadian during the late second millennium BCE. He likely ruled between 2800 and 2500 BCE and was posthumously deified. He became a major figure in Sumerian legends during the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2112 – c. 2004 BCE).

For the manga, see Gilgamesh (manga).


Epic of Gilgamesh, Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100 BCE).
  • Read out
    the travails of Gilgamesh, all that he went through!
  • Father, let me have the Bull of Heaven
    To kill Gilgamesh and his city.
    For if you do not grant me the Bull of Heaven,
    I will pull down the Gates of Hell itself,
    Crush the doorposts and flatten the door,
    And I will let the dead leave
    And let the dead roam the earth
    And they shall eat the living.
    The dead will overwhelm all the living!
  • The life that you seek you never will find:
    when the gods created mankind,
    death they dispensed to mankind,
    life they kept for themselves.
  • O Mighty King, remember now that only gods stay in eternal watch.
    Humans come then go, that is the way fate decreed on the Tablets of Destiny.
    So someday you will depart, but till that distant day
    Sing, and dance.
    Eat your fill of warm cooked food and cool jugs of beer.
    Cherish the children your love gave life.
    Bathe away life's dirt in warm drawn waters.
    Pass the time in joy with your chosen wife.
    On the Tablets of Destiny it is decreed
    For you to enjoy short pleasures for your short days.

The Death of Gilgamesh

The Death of Gilgamesh, the electronic text corpus of sumerian literature.
  • The great wild bull has lain down and is never to rise again. Lord Gilgamesh has lain down and is never to rise again. [...] The hero fitted out with a shoulder-belt has lain down and is never to rise again. He who was unique in strength has lain down and is never to rise again. He who diminished wickedness has lain down and is never to rise again. He who spoke most wisely has lain down and is never to rise again. The plunderer of many countries has lain down and is never to rise again. He who knew how to climb the mountains has lain down and is never to rise again. The lord of Kulaba has lain down and is never to rise again. He has lain down on his death-bed and is never to rise again. He has lain down on a couch of sighs and is never to rise again.
    • Version from Me-Turan
  • Unable to stand up, unable to sit down, he laments.
    Unable to eat, unable to drink, he laments.
    Held fast by the door-bolt of Namtar, he is unable to rise. [...] Like a gazelle caught in a trap.
    • Version from Nibru
    • Version from Me-Turan: "Like a captured gazelle buck."
  • You will be accounted a god. [...] Lord of Kulaba, [...] hero of the pristine mountain.
  • Sisig (a god of dreams), the son of Utu, will provide light for him in the nether world, the place of darkness. When a funerary statue is made in honour of someone, whoever they may be, for future days, mighty youths [...] will form a semicircle at the door-jambs and perform wrestling and feats of strength before them. In the month Nenejar, at the festival of the ghosts, no light will be provided before them without him (i.e. Gilgamec).
  • Oh Gilgamec! Enlil, the Great Mountain, the father of gods, has made kingship your destiny, but not eternal life -- lord Gilgamec, this is how to interpret the dream. [The end] of life should not make you feel sad, should not make you despair, should not make you feel depressed. You must have been told that this is what the bane of being human involves. You must have been told that this is what the cutting of your umbilical cord involved. The darkest day of humans awaits you now. The solitary place of humans awaits you now. The unstoppable flood-wave awaits you now. The unavoidable battle awaits you now. The unequal struggle awaits you now. The skirmish from which there is no escape awaits you now. But you should not go to the underworld with heart knotted in anger.

Quotes about Gilgamesh

  • I have a bit of an obsession with Gilgamesh, the earliest surviving work of literature, which comes to us in fragments. Not that people should be surprised if I owned a copy or two by different translators, but I have a whole shelf of adaptations and translations. There’s something I find compelling about the story: what makes a human(e) being, what constitutes bravery, how do we deal with loss, the transformative possibilities of love. I first got hooked with Herbert Mason’s adaptation, then found David Ferry’s excellent translation, Yusef Komunyakaa’s verse play, Gardner/Maier’s translation, Stephen Mitchell’s poetic interpretation. There’s even a graphic novel version by Kent and Kevin Dixon. The fact that the story has survived this long in so many renditions means I’m not the only one captivated by this ancient story.
  • The first recognized epic hero is a Sumerian, known as Bilgames in the earliest texts, but since accepted as Gilgamesh. Around 2500 BC, he was the fifth king of the land of Uruk, where Iraq now sits. He was said to have reigned for 126 years and to have lived longer than that. He became the main figure in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the best-known examples of early Mesopotamian literature. In this work, he is described as a demigod, son of the mortal Lugalbanda and the goddess Romat (also known as Ninsun).
    • Stan Lee's How To Draw Superheroes, by Stan Lee, co written by Danny Fingeroth, Keith Dallas and Robert Sodaro, Waston-Guptill Publications New York, (2013), “History and Origins of Superheroes”, ch. 1, p. 12.
  • Encyclopedic article on Gilgamesh on Wikipedia
  • Media related to Gilgamesh on Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of Gilgamesh on Wiktionary