Tablet I

Out I went, into the world, but there was none better, none whom he, Gilgamesh, could not best.
And so, with his arms, he returned to Uruk. But in their houses, the men of Uruk muttered:
‘Gilgamesh, noisy Gilgamesh! Arrogant Gilgamesh!’
All young men gone – Defeated by Gilgamesh, and no son was left to his father.
All young girls made women by Gilgamesh
His lusts are such, and no virgin left to her lover!
Not the daughter of a warrior,
Nor the wife of a nobleman!
Yet he is king and should be
The people’s careful shepherd.
He is king and should be
Shepherd of the city.
He is wise, he is handsome, he is firm as a rock.
In heaven the gods heard
Heard the lament of the people,
And the gods cried out to the Great God, higher king of Uruk:
‘Strong as a wild bull is this Gilgamesh
So he was made by Aruru, the godess
None there is who can – not one
None who can survivea him in fighting.
No son left to his father.
Gilgamesh, he takes them all, and is he
He the king? Shepherd of the people?
No virgin left to her lover, For he lusts strongly!
No, nor the wife of the nobleman!
The Great God heard this, then
To the Goddess of Creation, Aruru –
Cried all the gods:
‘You created this Gilgamesh! Well, create him his equal!
Let him look as into mirrors – Give a second self to him, yes;
Rushing winds meet rushing winds!
Let them flow heart to heart against –
Give them each other to fight,
Leaving Uruk in peace!’
So the Goddess of Creation took and formed in her mind
This image, and there it was conceived –
in her mind, and it was made of material
That composes the Great God,
He of the Firmament.
She then plunged her hands down into water and pinched off a little clay. She let it drop in the wilderness
Thus the noble Enkidu was made. For this was he the very strength of Ninurta, the God of War, was his form, rough bodied, long hair,
His hair waved like corn filaments –
Yes, like the hair of that goddess
Who is the corn, she , Nisaba. Matted hair was all over his body, like the skins of the cattle.
Yes, like the body of that god.
Who is the cattle, he, Samugan.
This Enkidu was innocent of mankind.
He knew not the cultivated land.
Enkidu was in the hills
With the gazelles –
They jostled each other
With all the herds
He too loved the water-hole.
But one day by a water hole
A trapper met him
Yes, face to face,
Because the herds of wild game
Had strayed into his territory.
On three days face to face –
Each day the trapper wa terrified,
Frozen stiff with fear.
With his game he went home,
Unable to speak, numb with fright.
The trapper’s face altered, new –
A long journey does that to one,
Gives a new visage upon returning –
The trapper, his heart all awe, told his father:
‘Father, what a man! No other like him! He comes from the hills, strongest alive!
A star in heaven his strength,
Of the star essense of An, the Sky Father
Over the hills with the beasts
Eating grass
Ranges across all your land,
Goes to the wells.
I fear him, stay far away.
He fills in my pits
Tears up my game traps
Helps the beasts escape;
Now all the game slips away –
Through my fingers.’
His father opened his mouth,
Told the son, the trapper:
‘My son, in Uruk lives Gilgamesh.
None can withstand him,
None has surpassed him,
As a star in heaven his strength
Of the star-essence of An, the Sky Father.
Go to Uruk, find Gilgamesh
Praise the wild man’s strength ask for a temple hierodule from the Temple of Love,
Such a child of pleasure;
Bring her and let her power fo woman
Subdue this wild man.
When he goes to the wells,
He will embrace the priestess
And the wild beasts will reject him.’
To Uruk the trapper went
And said to Gilgamesh:
‘Like no other, wild,
Roaming in the pastures,
A star in heaven his strength
Of the star-essence of An, the Sky Father.
I am afraid, stay far away; he helps the beasts escape
Fills in my pits
Tears up my game traps.’
Gilgamesh said:
‘Trapper, return,
Take a priestess, child of pleasure –
When he goes to the wells
He will embrace the priestess
And the wild beasts will reject him.’
Then returned with the hierodule
And three days to the drinking hole,
There sat down
Hierodule facing the trapper,
Waiting for the game.
First day, nothing.
Second day, nothing.
Third day, yes.
The herds came to drink, and Enkidu –
Glad for the water were the small wild beasts,
And Enkidu was glad for the water –
He of the gazelles and wild grass,
Born in the hills.
The priestess saw this man
Wild from the hills.
‘There, woman,’the trapper,
‘Bare your breasts now;
This is he,
Have no shame, delay not,
Welcome his love,
Let him see you naked,
Let him possess your body.
As he approaches, take off your clothes,
Lie with him, teach him,
The savage, your art of woman,
For as he loves you, then
The wild beasts, his companions,
They will reject him.’
She had no shame for this,
Made herself naked
Welcomed his eagerness
Incited him to love,
Taught the woman’s art.
Six days, seven nights,
That time lying together,
Enkidu had forgotten his home
Had forgotten the hills
After that time he was satisfied.
Then he went back to the wild beasts –
But the gazelles saw him and ran,
The wild beasts saw him and ran.
Enkidu would follow, but weak,
His strength gone through woman;
Wisdom was in him,
Thoughts in his hear – a man’s.
So he returned to the priestess.
At her feet he listened intently
‘You have wisdom, Enkidu.
Now you are as a god.
Why the beasts? Why the hills?
Come to Uruk of the strong walls
To Inanna’s Temple of Love,
And to the Eanna,
Where the Sky God An can be found.
Gilgamesh is there, strong,
Raging like a wild bull, over all
Is his strength.’
Favourably as he speaks, he hears her words.
He comes to know his own heart
And his desire to find a friend.
He tells her, the priestess:
‘Take me, girl, to the sacred pure
Dwelling of Love and Sky God’s house
Where lives Gilgamesh of perfect strength,
He who rages like a bull over all,
And I will summon him forth and challenge him
And I will shout in Uruk:
“I am the mightiest!
Yes, I can change the order of what is!
Anyone born on the steppe is mighty and has strength”‘
‘Then let us go that he may see your face
And I will show you Gilgamesh, for I know well where he is.
Come Enkidu, to Uruk of ramparts,
Where all are dressed for festival,
Where each day is a festival,
Where there are boys,
Where there are girls,
Deliciously ripe and perfumed,
Who drive the great ones from their fretted couches
To you, Enkidu, of joy in life
I will show Gilgamesh of joy in life
See him, see his face
Radiant is his manhood, of full-bodied vigour
His body ripe with beauty in every part.
So exceeding you in strength,
Needing no sleep by day or by night.
Restrain you folly, Enkidu.
Gilgamesh – Shamash the Sun is proud,
Also An, the God of Firmament,
Also valiant Enlil, his son,
And Enki, his son also –
All have given wisdom.
Before you come from the open plains
Gilgamesh will have dreamed of it.’
And so Gilgamesh rose from his bed
And to his mother, in revealing dreams, said:
‘Mother, I saw in a dream last night
That there were stars in heaven
And a star descended upon me like unto
The essence of An, the Sky God.
I tried to lift it up, but it was too heavy for me,
I tried to move it, but it would not be moved.
The land of Uruk was around it,
The land was placed roud about it.
All the people were pressing towards it.
All the nobles also came round it,
And all my friends kissed its feet.
I was drawn towards it as to a woman
And I laid it at your feet
And you said it was my equal.’
She, the Wise, the Custodian of Knowledge,
Says to her lord –
She, Ninsun, Custodian of Knowledge,
Says to Gilgamesh:
‘Your equal was a star of heaven
Which descended upon you like unto
The essence of An who his the God of the Firmament
You tried to lift it but it would not be moved
And I called it your equal, comparing it to you.
You were drawn to it as to a woman.
The meaning of this
Is of a strong friend who saves his companion
He is the strongest of the land; he has strength.
As a star in heaven his strength,
The strength of An of the Firmament and his host.
So that you are drawn to him overwhelmingly.
And this means he will never forsake you.
Such is your dream.’
Gilgamesh says again to his mother:
‘Mother, another dream
In Uruk of the ramparts lay an axe –
All were gathered around it,
Uruk-land was standing round about it.
The people pressed towards it;
I laid it at your feet.
I was drawn to it as to a woman.
For you called it my equal.’
She, the Wise Custodian of Knowledge, says to her son –
‘The axe is a man
You were drawn to it as to a woman
For I called it your equal
And it was to rival you.
This means a strong friend standing by his friend
He is the strongest of the land; he has strength.
The essence of An of the Firmament, is his,
So strong is he.’
Gilgamesh then spoke to his mother
‘Now according to the word of God Enli
Let a counsellor and friend come to me
That I may acquire a companion
And to him I shall be friend and counsellor also.’
And as Gilgamesh revealed his dream
The girl was speaking to Enkidu
As they sat together.

A verse version of the Epic of Gilgamesh by Robert Temple, Rider, an imprint of Random Century Group Ltda, 1991, London, Sydney, Auckland, Johannerburg. All rights reserved. Here included for help in research and studies purposes


Prologue | Tablet I | Tablet II | Tablet III | Tablet IV | Tablet V | Tablet VI | Tablet VII | Tablet VIII | Tablet IX | Tablet X | Tablet XI