Posted by: gdevi | January 27, 2016

English 220: Gilgamesh

chez Jake.

Both Nic and Michael had to work today and Jake’s regular babysitter could not be there today. Since Nic and I teach at opposite times, after I finished my classes and office hours, I went over to Nic’s house and spent the afternoon and early evening with little Jake. Jake is not yet three, but he is as tall as a 4 or 5 year old. It was very sweet; Jake and Aunt G. played all kinds of games. Jake took all of his toys out: we made many many blocks and building sets; shot a few hoops in the toy basketball hoop; I taught him how to hold a baseball bat; helped him ride his bike inside the house. It was like Stephen King’s Shining; Jake dashing through the corridors on his little tricycle and me following behind.  Then we played Jake’s favorite game where he goes inside the tent and I have to look for him and find him. He is very smart. He calls all vehicles “truck.” So he took out an ambulance and said “truck.” So I said, yes, truck, but an ambulance. Can you say ambulance, I asked Jake. Ambulance takes people who have boo boos to the hospital, I told him. So Jake immediately said, “Nana.” He calls his regular babysitter “Nana.” When I told Nic this when she came back from teaching she told me that they had told him that Nana was sick and that she had to go to the hospital. Isn’t that great? He has started to put phrases together. Then Jake drank milk and snacked on cheerios. Afterwards Jake rode around on his bike and I had to follow him behind saying “I am gonna catch you, Jake!” He laughed and laughed. That was our final game. Nic told me that she could hear Jake’s laugh all the way out to the garage. Very sweet boy!

Now I am going to eat my favorite pizza — feta, spinach, roasted red pepper and lots of anchovies–I love anchovies–and grade.


English 220

Dr. Devi

Gilgamesh – Tablets 1, II, III Notes

But first, listen to the Hurrian hymn #6, the earliest piece of music melody in the world found notated in cuneiform tablets from ancient Sumeria, circa 1400 BCE, discovered in the palace of Ugarit in modern Syria in the 1950s. Hurrian Hymn #6 is a hymn to the goddess Nikkal, wife of the moon god, and goddess of orchards.

Dates: Poems based on the life and events attributed to the historical Sumerian king Gilgamesh (2700 BCE) were in circulation from 2100 BCE in the ancient near east for a very long time. Canonical text of Gilgamesh, the epic, evolved between 1900-250 BCE; popular throughout ancient near east in the second millennium; rediscovered in the nineteenth century by the English explorer Austen Henry Layard in Nineveh; British museum curator George Smith discovered the tablets to contain the earliest description of a world destroying Great Flood dated long before the Biblical account of a flood (8 BCE-7BCE);  Gilgamesh written in cuneiform tablets (first written literature; not orally transmitted like the Greek epics that are the basis of alphabet literature); the cuneiform tablets contain missing text and gaps

Older than either the Bible or the Greek epics, Gilgamesh contains the first written account of a Great Flood that destroyed the whole world in the story of Utnapishtim and his wife who became the sole survivors of the flood and who offer to confer immortality to Gilgamesh

Older than either the Bible or the Greek epics, Gilgamesh contains the first written account of a serpent who steals the magical plant of immortality for itself after tricking Gilgamesh

Three versions of Gilgamesh: Old Babylonian, Eleven-tablet version, Twelve-tablet version; earlier Sumerian text and later Akkadian text;  Ishtar and Utnapishtim stories were later additions; definitive version by Babylonian priest Sin Lequi Unninni (1200 BCE– Eleven Tablet version). We are reading the Eleven-Tablet version

Epic: From Greek epos – word, speech, song from Proto Indo-European root wakwe– or word; epic is an elevated speech or song; written in metrical poetic form; contains panoramic action; human and divine characters; natural and supernatural events and settings; usually narrates the lives and adventures of the past heroes of a nation; consolidates national characteristics and virtues

Style: repetition with variation; formulaic expressions; parallels and contrasts; mnemonic devices for recitation; contains several different speech registers of ancient Sumerian, Babylonian and Akkadian


Gilgamesh: Priest-king of ancient Uruk (circa 2700 BCE); half human and half divine–Lugalbanda (father-mortal) and Ninsun (mother-goddess/immortal)

Ninsun: wild cow; mother of Gilgamesh

Lugalbanda: human father of Gilgamesh

Enkidu: King of the wilderness and animals; friend to Gilgamesh

Shambhat: the prostitute

Shamash: Sun God (you can hear the cognate in Arabic and Persian “Shams,” or Sun)

Humbaba: giant who lives in the Cedar Forest and guards it for Enlil, god of the earth

Ishtar: Sumerian goddess who wants revenge on Gilgamesh and Enkidu for killing the Bull of Heaven; patron of Eanna

Anu: Sky god

Aruru: Goddess of Birth

Utanapishtim: sole survivor of the Great Flood

Questions for study:

Tablet 1, 2, 3

What are the qualities associated with Gilgamesh? with Enkidu?

How does the poem present the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu?

How does the epic allegorize the contest between civilization versus wilderness?

What functions do the characters of the prostitute, the hunter and the shepherd play in the story?

What is the dramatic conflict with which Gilgamesh opens?

What is the narrative function of dreams in this tablet? Why do characters know things before they have happened?

Who is Humbaba? What is his role in the evolving story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu?

What is Gilgamesh’s objective in fighting Humbaba?

How does the poem present gods and goddesses and their interactions with humans in the story?



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