Tablet V

They stood quite still and looked at the forest,
Saw how high were the great cedars,
And gazed upon the entrance to the forest.
There, where Humbaba was wont to tread,
Was a fine path; straight it was and easy to travel.
They saw also the Cedar Mountain, where lived the gods
And Irnini, Goddess of Love, holy Inanna had her throne seat
The cedar raised aloft its great luxuriant growth:
What cool shade, what delight!
Covering the brushwood, covering the….
(Here the text breaks off. It resumes, after an indeterminate lapse, with Gilgamesh speaking to Enkidu:)
‘Rise up, cast your gaze tot he mountain….!
My divine sleep has been torn from me.
My friend, I saw a dream – Oh, how ill-omed!
How….! How disturbing!
I seized a wild bull of the steppe;
He bellowed, he kicked up the earth,
And the duks darkened the sky.
I gave way before him.
He was seizing…. strength, my flank
He tore out the ……………………….
He provided food…………………..he drank
He gave me water to drink from his water-skin.’
[The text continues unbroken without identifying the speakers, but Enkidu is obviously replying to Gilgamesh:]
‘My friend, the god to whom we go is not a wild bull,
Although his form is surpassing strange.
What you saw as a wild bull is really
The radiant Shamash the Sun
He will take us by the hand in our dire need,
He who gave you the water to drink from his water-skin –
He is your special god who brings you honour, Shamash the Sun.
We should therefore join him together
With Lugulbanda, your father, your own god, your familiar,
So that we might do a deed, such deed,
Which, though we die, yet will not be inglorious.’
[There may be a break here, as the order of the fragments is uncertain. But the text continues coherently:]
They took hold one of the other
And went to their nightly rest
Sleep descended upon them –
As it were the great surge of night.
But upon midnight hour a-sudden,
Sleep flew from Gilgamesh.
To Enkidu, his friend, he tells his dream:
‘If you have not waked me, then how do I wake?
Enkidu, my friend, I must have seen a dream!
Have you not waked me? Why ……?
Aside from that first dream,
I now have seen a second dream;
In my dream a great mountain fell,
Pinned me to the ground, trapped my feet beneath it.
A great glare of light overwhelmed me.
A man like any other –
Such a man as we have never seen –
Stepped forth from the light.
His grace and beauty were more,
More than any on this earth.
He freed me from the mountain,
Gave me water to drink,
Quieted my heart.
He put my feet back on the earth.’
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh,
Said to him:
‘My friend, let us go down into the plain,
Let us go take counsel together.’
[Several lines are lost here, and we don’t have Enkidu’s interpretation of the dream. Perhaps the wondrous man is again Shamash, who was seen as a bull, probably because the Epic was written in the Age of Taurus, between 4,000 and 2,000 BCE, when the sun rose at the spring equinox in the sign of the Bull. Shamash is also the root deity of Gilgamesh. After a break, the text resumes as follows, with Gilgamesh again speaking:]
‘A second dream I saw:
We were standing in mountain gorges
And a mountain fell upon us.
It was so large that by comparison
We were like small reed flies –
Like the little fly of the cane-brakes we were.’
He who was born on the steppe…
Enkidu said to his friend:
‘My friend, the dream is auspicious,
It is a precious dream….
My friend, that mountain which you saw
That mountain is Humbaba.
We shall seize Humbaba, we shall kill him,
And cast his dead body on the plain.
On the morrow…’
After 20 intrvals, they broke off a morsel
After 30 more, rested for the night.
Before Shamash the Sun they dug a well….
Gilgamesh went up a mountain
Made offering of his fine-meal and intoned:
‘O Mountain, bring a dream for Enkidu,
Bring for him a dream of mine to interpret!’
And the mountain did bring a dream for Enkidu.
It brought for him….
Cold rain passed overhead….
He had to take shelter….
…. and like unto the wild barley of the mountains…..
Gilgamesh puts his chin to his knees,
Sleep which falls upon mankind
Fell upon Gilgamesh.
He started, full awake, said to his friend:
‘My friend, have you called me?
Why am I awake?
Did you touch me?
Why have I started so?
Did not some god pass by?
Why have I gone numb?
Why are my limbs paralysed?
My friend, I saw a 3rd dream,
And this dream was terrible in every way.
The heavens were roaring and screaming
The earth was blasted with booming sounds,
And darkness descended like a shroud –
A sudden streak of fire as lightning flashed,
The clouds grew bloated and full
And they rained down death!
Then the fire-glow of the skies died out
And all the fallen of the fire
Of that downpour of death
Crusted over to ashes.
Oh, let us go down into the plain!
There we can take counsel!’
When Enkidu heard this,
Heard the dream his friend offered him,
He said to Gilgamesh interpreting his dream,
Made him come to acceptance of his dream:
[Most unfortunately we do not have any account of Enkidu’s interpretation of the dream as the text breaks here. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are no longer conversing about the dream but have arrived at the forest of Humbaba:]
Gilgamesh gripped the axe
And with it felled the cedar.
Humbaba, hearing the sound of this,
Fell into a fury and raged:
‘Who is it who has come –
Come and intefered with my trees?
My trees which have grown on my own mountains?
And has also felled the cedar?’
But just then from heaven came the voice
Of the Great God Shamash the Sun:
‘Have no fear. Approach him and……..
March, as long as………..
He enters not into his house……..’
[Here the text breaks off. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are apparently given instructions by the voice of Shamash on how to approach Humbaba in order to kill him. This would seem to include specific directions and useful information about Humbaba’s movements. But the heroes do not seem to fare very well even with such helpful hints:]
His tears streamed down from him
And Gilgamesh said to Shamash in heaven:
[Here two lines are mutilated in the tablet and cannot be read:]
‘But I have taken the way of heavenly Shamash,
I have trod the way he said.’
Humbaba said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
‘The fool, the stupid man –
They should take advice, Gilgamesh!
Why do you now approach me?
With that Enkidu, that son of a fish (2)
Who knew not his father,
Companion of the small turtles, of the large turtles,
And who never sucked the milk of his mother?
In your youth I beheld you
Now should I kill you to satisfy my belly?
Shamash brought you, Gilgamesh, and allowed you to reach me.
It is through his assistance that you are stepping along thus.
But, Gilgamesh, I will bite through the palate-pin
Of your throat and your neck.
I will allow the shrieking serpent-bird
The eagle and the raven to eat your flesh!’
Gilgamesh said to his friend, said to Enkidu:
‘My friend, Humbaba’s facial features have altered,
And their configuration raises itself to an equal height (3)
But my entrails are gripped by fear that we are too hasty.’
Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend, why do you wail so miserably
And let your mouth go flabby
And conceal yourself?
For now, my friend,
The axe has been cast for you –
The copper-smith poured its molten metal from the gutter channel,
Annealed it by heating for a double-hour,
Allowed it then to cook for a double-hour,
Producing this weapon of the flood-storm.
Seize the whip –
Travel not on your feet,
Do no turn back!
Strike with the axe and make your blow strong!’
Shamash in heaven heard the prayer of Gilgamesh
And against Humbaba rose up mighty winds:
The Great Wind, the North Wind, the South Wind, the Whirlwind,
The Storm Wind, the Chill Wind the Tempestuous Wind
The Hot Wind – eight were the winds.
They rose up against Humbaba.
Lo! He cannot move forwards!
Lo! He cannot move backwards!
And so Humbaba relented.
Then Humbaba answered Gilgamesh:
‘Oh, do let me go, Gilgamesh! You will be my master, I will be your servant.
And as for my trees, My trees which I have grown,
I will……………………….
I will cut them down and build you houses.’
But Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
‘Do not listen to him.
Hark not to the word of Humbaba.
Humbaba must not live!’
[An earlier fragment from Uruk published in 1980 by von Weiher gives a variant version of this section, listing 13 winds rather than 8:]
……… they might be turned away,
……… distant are they.
He struck his head and drew himself up against him.
With the heels of their feet they removed the earth;
Mount Hermon and Lebanon and their surrounding districts
Are being destroyed.
Then the white clouds became black,
And it rained the presage of death on them
Like a light rain in a mist (4).
But Shamash raised up great winds against Humbaba:
The South Wind, the North Wind,
The East Wind, the West Wind,
The Blowing Wind,
The Squally Wind,
The Shaparziqqu Wind,
The Evil Storm,
The Sihurra Wind,
The Wind of Frost,
The Storm,
The Thunder Storm –
13 winds he raised against him
And Humbaba’s face was darkened.
He cannot push forwards,
He cannot run backwards;
But the weapons of Gilgamesh could now reach Humbaba.
Humbaba now besought his life,
And said to Gilgamesh:
‘Small you were, Gilgamesh –
Your mother bore you,
And you are of the offspring of ……..
Agreable to the command of Shamash
Of the Lord of the Mountains, you rose up
“But he is the offspirng
In the midst of Uruk:
The king – Gilgamesh!”
[Here three lines are missing, except that the mention of the name of Gilgamesh can be made out twice:]
I will sit down with you and………….
Trees, as many as you already have said……
I will defend you! The wood of the myrtle…………….
It is enough………..
Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend, do not listen
To what Humbaba says.’
[Here some lines are missing. A mutilated fragment published by Gernot Wilhelm in 1988 can be inserted about this point. Humbaba appears to castigate Enkidu for bringing Gilgamesh to him:]
‘…… You have led him before me!
…… splendour.’
[Humbaba then appears to complain either to Gilgamesh or Enkidu that he did not stay at home enjoying simple comforts:]
‘Could you not marry a wife
And satisfy yourself with her voluptuousness?’
[Humbaba then appears to be batterd by the various winds:]
But the great winds roared against Humbaba
…. the …. dust-storms flowed
Perpetually on his head.
[Enkidu then seems to plead with Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba:]
‘I beg you to listen to me, my friend!’
….. he struck down once more speedily and
….. to the little child.
[We now return to won Weiher’s 1980 fragment. Humbaba is speaking to Enkidu:]
‘But you know the sign of my forest, the sign……
And you know precisely everything that is said.
I should have lifted you up on high,
I should have killed you upon your entrance
Into the branches of my forest!
I should have let the shrieking serpent-brid,
The eagle and the raven eat your flesh!
But now, o Enkidu,
It lies with you. Make limp your wrath.
Speak to Gilgamesh!
He might spare my life!’
Enkidu said to his friend, said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend, Humbaba the guardian of the Cedar Forest……
Strike him to maim him.
Kill him! Crush him! And quickly,
Humbaba, the guardian of the forest –
Strike him to maim him.
Kill him! Crush him! And quickly.
Before God Enlil, the Foremost hears his cries.
The gods will be filled with wrath against us for our deed.
Enlil in the city of Nippur, Shamash in…..
Put down and…..’
As Gilgamesh came nearer to Humbaba
But Humbaba heard his approach.
And ….. Humbaba……
[Here many lines are lost:]
He heard………………………….
[Here three lines are lost. Humbaba is speaking to Enkidu:}
……….. my forest……………..
But denunciations are caused…..
You sit there like a shepherd………
But as………………….
But now, o Enkidu,
It lies with you. Make limp your wrath.
Speak to Gilgamesh!
He might spare my life!’
Enkidu said to his friend, said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend, Humbaba, the guardian of the forest……
Kill him and quickly
Before God Enlil, the Foremost, hears his cries…..
The gods will be filled with wrath agains us for our deed.
Enlil in the city of Nippur, Shamash in…..
But Humbaba heard his approach
[Here many lines are lost. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh and Enkidu seem to be quarreling;]
‘Should not……
Should not erect a higher altar than his friend?
Gilgamesh and Enkidu should never more
Have one another as friends!’
Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend, I speak to you
But do you not put a stop to my words.’
[The above may not have been a quarrel, but might instead have referred to them never again having each othr as friends because one of them might die. Now many lines are lost, including the description of the slaying of Humbaba, which however, survives in other versions. The last portion of the 1980 fragment comes at the end of this tablet.
We now turn to the Sumerian tale Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living, written in Sumerian language long before the Babylonian culture exited, and hence representing the earliest stage in the Gilgamesh literature. In this version the situation is slightly different. Gilgamesh and Enkidu did not go alone on their expedition but were accompanied by 50 strong warriors of Uruk, each of whom carried in his hands a felled tree – which there is some reasons to believe served as oars. These 50 warriors were probably the prototypes of the 50 Greek Argonauts, particularly as the tale of the Argo was current in the time of Homer, since Homer himself referred to it as the ‘fabled’ Argo. It is these 50 anonymous heroes who are referred to below collectively as the sons of the city:]
Gilgamesh prayed:
‘O Shamash, by the life of my mother Ninsun, who gave birth to me,
And of pure Lugulbanda, my father, truly I have entered this land of the cedar
And here have I known your dwelling place.
My small weak strength truly have I brought into this land for you as……
…. in your……………..would I enter.’
Then Humbaba himself uprooted for Gilgamesh
The first of his trees.
The sons of the city who had come
Come with Gilgamesh from Uruk
Cut down the tree’s crown, bundled it,
Lay it at the foot of the mountain.
After Humbaba himself had finished off
The seventh tree for him,
Gilgamesh approached his chamber.
He … d the ‘ snake of the wine quay’ (5) in his wall’
Like one pressing a kiss, he slapped his cheek
Like a captured ox, A nose ring was thrown over HUmbaba.
Like a captured hero,
A rope was fastened about him.
Humbaba, his teeth shook,
He warded off Gilgamesh:
‘Oh, I would say a word unto
But Enkidu answered Gilgamesh:
‘She the tallest who discriminates not,
She Namtar, awful Fate,
She will devour.
Namtar knows no distinctions.
If the caught bird is let go free,
Flies back to his place;
If the captive man returns,
Returns to the bosom of his mother;
Then will you never return to your city
To that city of your mother who gave birth to you.’
Humbaba says to Enkidu:
‘To him, o Enkidu
You have spoken evil against me!
O mere hireling, who carries the food,
Who stands next to the….. of the rival,
You have spoken evil words to him!’
Humbaba then uttered against them his first terrifying roar.
The 50 companions then moved forward with Gilgamesh;
They cut down the branches, they tied them,
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
The companions moved forward with Gilgamesh;
They cut down the branches, they tied them,
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
He uttered against them his third terrifying roar.
The companions moved forward with Gilgamesh;
They cut down the trunk, they cut the side of Humbaba,
He uttered his fourth terrifying roar.
The companions moved forward towards him;
They cut down the trunk, they cut his side
They laid them at the foot of the mountain.
He uttered against them his fifth terrifying roar,
The companions moved forward towards him
They cut his trunk, they cut his side,
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
He uttered his sixth terrifying roar.
The companions advanced towards him
They cut his trunk, they cut his side.
They laid these at the foot of the mountain.
At the moment when his 7th roar was coming to an end,
He approached the room where he rested.
His figure was formed like a serpent of…… wine
Like someone who gets ready to give a kiss,
He laid the palm of his hand against his cheek (6)
As for Humbaba, his face now became noble.
Like a captured mountain bull on a leash, he approached;
Like a captured sailor, he had tied elbows.
Humbaba, the tears came to his eyes, he grew pale:
‘Gilgamesh, you, you know?
My king? Let me say a word:
A mother, who would have brought me into the world
I did not know one.
A father, who would have raised me –
I did not know one.
The mountain begat me –
You, you will raise me!’
Gilgamesh swore by the sky,
Swore by the earth,
Swore by the Underworld;
He took the …. in his hand,
When he would not want to lose it?
And of Gilgamesh, sono of Ninsun,
Now is his heart moved to pity.
To his servant Enkidu, he spoke these words:
‘Enkidu, a caught bird –
Ought he not to return to the arms of his mother?’
Enkidu interrupted him:
‘But you, should you be taken prisoner,
You will not return to the arms of your mother.
Who has ever seen the hands of a prisoner of war unbound?
An imprisoned priest returned to the temple residence?
A lukur-priestess returned to her pleasures?
If you set him free,
He will obstruct the way up the mountain,
He will make the footpath impassable up the mountain.’
Humbaba, who had heard this speech,
Addressed these words to Enkidu:
‘You, Enkidu, you have spoken these words,
Hostile and pernicious.
You, the mercenary, recruited for a pittance,
Who drags himself along after his fellow.
Such are you – that is why
The hostile words come!’
Because he had spoken in this manner,
Enkidu, in an excess of fury,
Cut off his head,
Wrapping it in a shroud.
[Another fragment gives the following version:]
When he had spoken thus,
They cut off his neck
They placed upon him….
They brought him before God Enlil and Goddess Ninlil
Enlil brought forth from the sea his palace servant
And Ninlil brought forth from…. her….
When Enlil and Ninlil…..
‘Why thus……?
Let him come forth, let him seize…..’
[We now return to where we broke off a moment ago]
In front of Enlil they entered,
In front of Enlil, having kissed the earth,
They threw down the shroud,
They took out the head
And they rested it in front of Enlil.
Enlil, at the sight of Humbaba,
Grew angry at the words of Gilgamesh and said:
‘Why do you act in this way?
May your faces be seared by fire!
May the food you eat be eaten by fire!
May the water you drink be drunk by fire!’
[There is a gap here, during which Enlil presents Gilgamesh with the seven melammus or roars of Humbaba:] (7)
At the end of their conversation,
After his servant had prepared a sweet….
Enlil said:
‘Place him down before you,
Make him eat the bread that you eat,
Make him drink the drink that you drink.
After Enlil had taken away Humbaba,
He retained his exalted terrifying roar;
He attached the first roar to a large river;
He attached the second roar to…………….
He attached the third roar to ….. which carried….
He attached the fourth roar to a lion
He attached the fifth roar to barbarity,
He attached the sixth roar to a mountain
He attached the seventh roar to the goddess Nungal (8).
To the king, who subdued and conquered the terrifying roar,
To Gilgamesh the wild bull.
Who plunders the mountain.
Who goes from there to the sea –
Glory to him!
And from valiant Enkidu -glory to Enki!
God Enki, that your glory be sweet!
[The Sumerian text breaks off here. The text which follows is from a recently discovered fragment of a later period and also uses the imagery of the caught bird. As the reader will already have noted, the reference in the Sumerian material to the cutting down of the trees as a gesture of appeasement by Humbaba to Gilgamesh continues a theme in the fragment of a later period which cam just before the Sumerian inset.
We now return to the Epic of the later period, which offers another version of the death of Humbaba:]
Gilgamesh said to Enkidu:
‘We will arrive in…………………,
In the confusion the melammus will vanish –
The melammus, the furies, the radiant beams,
The ordained haloes of the power, these –
They will vanish.
The melammus will vanish and then
The brilliance will become all clouded.’
Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend, first catch the bird.
Then, where will the young birds fly?
Therefore let us see later those Melammus.
For, like young birds, they will only run about the grass!
First kill Humbaba, then kill his servants!’
Gilgamesh heeded the words of his friend.
With his hand he took the axe,
Drew the sword from his belt.
Gilgamesh struck the neck of Humbaba,
Enkidu, his friend, struck Humbaba twice also.
At the third blow Humbaba fell.
Confusion….. dumbfounded,
He struck the watchman, Humbaba, to the ground.
For two leagues the cedars resounded.
Enkidu killed with him
Forest…. cedars
At whose word Mount Hermon -Saria (9)
And all the Lebanon trembled.
All the mountains became…….
All the hills became…….
He slew the ……cedars,
Those destroyed…. after he killed the seven,
The net…. the sword which weighed eight talents,
The netam (10) of eight talents,
Bearing these he pressed on into the forest.
He opened up the secret dwelling of
The 50 Great Gods, the Anunnaki,
They who are seated on their thrones.
While Gilgamesh cut down the trees,
Enkidu dug up the urmazili (11)
Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
‘………Gilgamesh, felled are the cedars.’
[The 1980 fragment of von Weiher provides a bit more of the text here:]
……. the blow of their rottenness,
Gilgamesh felled the trees,
Enkidu searched everywhere towards…..
Enkidu said to him
Said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend up to now the high-grown cedar’s tip would have penetrated to heaven
I make from it a door whose height will be six dozen yards (12)
Whose width will be two dozen yards.
One yard will b its thickness. Its door-pole
Its lower door-hinge and its upper door=hinge
Each one will be one….
To the city of Nippur one might bring it,
To Nippur which is midway between the River Euphrates and the River Tigris
Then they joined together a raft….
Enkidu [steered?] ……
And Gilgamesh…….the head of Humbaba….
They washed……


1. The Greek Hipparchos is sometimes credited with ‘discovering’ the precession of the equinoxes in the second century BCE, but it was known that the Babylonians were well aware of the phenomenon centuries earlier. Otto Neugebauer, a leading historian of sciene, stresses that Hiparchos was greatly influenced by Babylonian astronomy and drew his history of lunar motions from it. The precession of the equinoxes is the process by which, like a spinning top, the earth processes in space over a period of approximately 26,000 years. During this period the sun rises roughly every 2,000 years at the spring equinox in a particular star constellation; it traverses all twelve zodiacal signs in this way over the course of the 26,000 years. The sun rose in what we now call Taurus between about 4,000 and 2,000 BCE, that was the Age of Taurus. Peter Tompkins believes that ancient Egyptian inscriptions stating that the Bull marks the beginning of the spring indicate that knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes goes back to 4,000 BCE in Egypt. Certainly it would have to be before 2,000 BCE, because by then the bull no longer marked the beginning of the spring.
2. This appears to associate Enkidu with the fish-men culture heroes of ancient Sumer (See Tablet VII, note 2).
3. Humbaba’s facial features comprised the coils of lamb intestines consulted in divination. If their configuration altered, the omen altered. The reference is a double one, referring also to the configuration of orbital loops of Mercury’s orbit as seen from the earth; these would have to ‘rise to an equal height’ in order for Humbaba’s head to be cut off (See Tablet VII, note 3).
4. See Tablet XI, note 23.
5. No one knows what ‘snake of the wine quay’ means. It is a literal translation which, unfortunately, makes little sense.6.
6. This strange passage refers to Humbaba-as-intestines. The description of his figure being formed like a serpent refers to the configuration of the spiral colon of a lamb used in divination. The normal number of loops of the spiral colon was seven; the seven roars refer to these. At the end of the seventh loop-roar, the monster ‘approached the room where he rested'; this refers to how at the centre of the spiral the colon turns back on itself, thus ‘resting’. (The resting of the spiral colon can also be equated with the turning and retrograde motion of Mercury in the sky.)
Cutting the trunk and cutting the side probably refers to fissures in divinatory liver, which look exactly like cuts and had major significance to the Sumerians and Babylonians; the divinatory name for one of these fissures was actually ‘blow at the front of the enemy’s army’, so the fissures could be interpreted as blows or cuts.
Tying up branches and laying them at the foot of the mountain might be a reference to the processus pyramidalis, which stands like a pyramidal mountain over the liver, at the foot of the gall bladder (a very important divinatory indicator), which when removed from the liver might have been tied at the top to prevent the escape of its bile.
7. The meaning of the seven melammus is somewhat obscure and subject to discussion. Certainly, as mentioned in note 6, they refer to the seven loops of a lamb’s intestines consulted in divination, and this in turn hints at the orbit of the planet Mercury. But the melammus are also in some sense magical cloaks or as some scholars say, aura coasts which surround Humbaba.
8. Nungal is presumably a variant of the name of Ningal, the Moon goddess.
9. Saria is the Akkadian name for Mount Hermon, in Lebanon.
10. A netam is apparently some kind of weapon, but only this much is known about the word.
11. The meaning of urmazili is unknown. It could possibly be the root of a tree or a plant.
12. I have translated ammatu as a yard ad akalu, which is 12 ammatus, as dozen yards. In the literal sense, this is more or less what they are.

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