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A SCHOLARLY VERSION OF THE GILGAMESH TALE
on April 14, 2014
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an expertly written scholarly account of the Babylonian classic. Andrew George uses his skills as a translator to give us the story of the hero king Gilgamesh of Uruk as he battles in the ancient world against man, beast and god in his struggle to achieve immortality. George has actually done most of the translations himself.
Based on the earliest Summerian cuneiform tablets written 1700-1800 BCE, the epic has survived as clay fragments pieced together and preserved from the ruins of past civilizations. Not a single complete copy of the work exists, however, enough fragments from the various dig sites in Iraq and elsewhere have provided us with 11 tablets of varying length composing some 3000 lines of verse, though it is still not entirely represented. The ancients wrote in two languages, Akkadian and Sumerian. A copy was found in the ruins at Megiddo signifying that the hebrews had access to the ancient story.
In the story, the great "Flood Myth" is aluded to. The Flood is strangely similar to the "Flood Myth" presented in Genesis, though it was composed at a time many centuries before the OT was written. Various versions of Gilgamesh have survived from different localities and ages using different names for the gods and other characters, however, the story remains bacically unchanged from 1800 BCE till the last copies were made c. 100 BCE.
In the story the Anunnaki Gods created humanity to service them but they then sought to destroy the humans because they had become a bother. They tried different means to reduce the population, but then arrived at the "Flood" solution. The character Uta-napishti is likened to Noah. He builds an 'ark', loads it with animals, his family and all his worldly wealth. As a reward for his survival, the God Enlil who created the flood, rewards him with imortality. And thus Gilgamesh seeks out Uta-napishti to learn the secret of eternal life.
Overall, I thought the work was a great translation of the tale as well as a good source of knowledge of the ancient world as well as the archaeology of the tablets themselves. I enjoyed reading the book.