The Epic of Gilgamesh

Ancient Babylonian stories and myths are much older than Homer. Gilgamesh was king of Erech being two thirds god and one third man. Records found in the library of Assurbanipal who was king of Syria from 668 to 626 BC. Some tablets date from 2000 BC. The story of the Deluge is in the 11th tablet. Utnapishtim carries treasure and craftsmen into the Ark. This is the Babylonian counterpart of Noah. The Hebrew deluge story is derived from the Gilgamesh epic. Gilgamesh was the mythical hero of Sumer, Babylonia, and was originally Sumerian.

In Sumerian myth Gilgamesh aids the goddess Inanna when she is unable to cut down the Huluppu tree. In the tree there is a snake and a dangerous bird and Lilith. Gilgamesh chases both away and drops Inanna’s gifts into the underworld.

Enkidu, who is the companion of Gilgamesh, goes after them. But, unable to return because he failed to observe certain precautions. The ghost of Enkidu returns instead and converses with Gilgamesh but, because the tablets are fragmentary, the ending of the story is unknown. Enkidu is the friend of Gilgamesh who was moulded from clay and was at first a wild man living with the beasts. He defeated Gilgamesh at wrestling.

Condemned to death by the gods for slaying the Storm Bull of Heaven Gilgamesh goes off to search for eternal life, as well as grieving for the death of Enkidu. This myth is also Sumerian.

Enki  was the Sumerian God of Water and Wisdom. He lived near Eridu in a watery palace in the Abzu (Persian Gulf?). Eridu is Uruk (on the Persian Gulf?). Enki is an early counterpart of the Babylonian Ea. He was responsible for ordering the function of elements that affect life on earth. He provided the land with water. Father of Uttu the Goddess of Plants. He rescued Inanna from the Underworld. Saved mankind from the Deluge but failed to make man.

Man was moulded from clay by the goddess Nintu. Abzu is the river around the earth, and the same as the Greek Oceanus, personified as Apsu (fresh water) and whose wife is Tiamat (salt water). Enkimdu was a Sumerian farmer god. He won his  dispute with the shepherd god Dumuzi for the favour of Inanna. See Apsu and the War of the Gods.

An was the God of Heaven. Born of Nammu or primal sea. An is the same as Anu. An plus Ki (the sister wife and earth) were originally joined as one. Their offspring including Enlil (the god of air) separated them. An replaced by Enlil as head of pantheon.

Ereshkigal was the Queen of the Underworld. She was carried off by Kur into the underworld. Enki battled with Kur but the outcome is unknown. Ereshkigal reigns in the underworld and appears in myth of Inanna’s descent.

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