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The Epic of Gilgamesh by Anonymous

The Epic of Gilgamesh

by Anonymous, Sîn-lēqi-unninni (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
As a history buff, I proudly rated the Epic of Gilgamesh a 5/5. Since the author(s) is long dead and unknown, I don’t expect much blowback. This story is really timeless and while it has a niche audience, I do recommend everyone reads at least part. It is, after all, the first poem in recorded history. It provided great insight into the human mind and society as it has been for thousands of years. ( )
  AlexandraSeaha | Apr 11, 2019 |
It is rather confusing that this page displays reviews of multiple renderings and translations of the eipic. This review is of the version by David Ferry. It is hard to judge when I have not read any actual translations that do not attempt to reahape the text, only another interpretation by Stephen Mitchell. ( )
  ritaer | Mar 16, 2019 |
A bit of background: The Epic of Gilgamesh is old. It's very, very old. So old, it's more than a little amazing that any of it has survived, let alone enough to put together a cohesive narrative.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is also bizarre. A bizarre, old story. It's got elements common to familiar creation myths---a flood, a descent from a state of nature precipitated by a wily female---and a really close friendship that seems to be based on the fact that both guys are the biggest and strongest guys around and on their shared interest in gratuitous deforestation.

Perhaps my favorite part is Gilgamesh's journey after Enkidu's death. After all of the wanton violence, I appreciate the self-doubt Gilgamesh shows and the wisdom of Uta-Napishti, which the sage delivers with just a little smugness.

I've not read any other translations of The Epic of Gilgamesh, but this one by Andrew George worked for me. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jan 5, 2019 |
I was intrigued to read a "closer to the source" edition of Gilgamesh after my recent discovery of Stephen Mitchell's "Gilgamesh: A New English Version" which is considered controversial as Mitchell was not translating it but simply adapting it based on the translations of others and fills in any missing sections with his own poetic extrapolations on the text. Mitchell does use this present 1999/2003 edition by A.R. George as his primary source.

Andrew George has done a spectacular job assembling here as complete an edition with all variant sources as existed 20 years ago. It is evident from the missing sections and the continued discoveries that even further reconstruction is possible in the future. The notes and the pictures (some photos, some drawings) are a bonus enhancement of the experience.

It is fascinating to know how this has all been assembled from thousands of clay tablet fragments found throughout mostly present-day Iraq. The work and its variants was so popular that it was a standard text used in scribe schools for reproduction, thus increasing the likelihood of 4,000+ year old fragments being discovered in recent centuries. ( )
  alanteder | Jul 25, 2018 |
It's extraordinary that the core of a story over four thousand years old, large parts of which have miraculously survived in the form of sunbaked tablets, can be deciphered and read by scholars and translated into modern languages for the edification and enlightenment of all.

The fact that it tells the kind of story we're familiar with from our own fairytales, novels and film is both surprising and yet reassuring, surprising given its age and reassuring because human frailties and virtues clearly haven't changed much over three or four millennia.

The narrative features Gilgamesh, a legendary king of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia who is part divine, part human, and which describes his life in a series of key episodes. The opening is not auspicious: we see him exercising his regal droit du Seigneur, leaving a lot of unhappy women and families in his wake. But then he encounters a new best friend called Enkidu, a tamed wild man who is almost his equal in strength and who incidentally puts a stop to the King's unreasonable behaviour.

Their companionship requires cementing and involves confronting and overcoming the demon Huwawa or Humbaba in the distant cedar forest. Unfortunately the goddess Ishtar then takes obsessive interest in Gilgamesh; when she's rejected the goddess rouses the gods against the king, the outcome being that Enkidu has to die.

Grieving and railing against the inevitability of death Gilgamesh resolves to search for immortality at the far end of the known world. Along the way he meets Utnapishtim who, after surviving the Flood, has attained long life. Unfortunately Gilgamesh fails crucial tests, including safeguarding the plant that gives eternal life, and as a result returns empty-handed to Uruk which is where death eventually catches up with him.

However he does achieve an immortality of sorts: his name is engraved on the stones of the walls of the city and his story inscribed on tablets that scholars can now read. The message expressed is the same as the lyrics to the song from the film Fame: "I'm gonna make it to heaven | Light up the sky like a flame | I'm gonna live forever | Baby, remember my name..."

Biblical scholars get very excited with parallels -- or rather predecessors -- to Old Testament tales, most obviously Noah and the Flood. Gilgamesh and Enkidu foreshadow Jacob and Esau, Shamhat the temple prostitute who tames Enkidu is a forerunner of Eve, the snake that eats the flower of immortality and condemns Gilgamesh to banishment from paradise is like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. But I'm also impressed by other similarities to themes in other cultures. For example, Gilgamesh and Enkidu's killing of the Bull of Heaven sent by Ishtar reminds me of Mithras' slaying of the bull, suggesting some survival of a traditional tale in the lands adjoining Mesopotamia. Urshanabi, who ferries Gilgamesh across the waters of death is of course the equivalent of the ferryman Charon in Greek mythology, while the boat itself is reminiscent of the barge that carries Arthur to Avalon.

This version of the epic was cobbled together by the distinguished archaeologist Nancy Sandars, who lived to the ripe old age of 101, dying as recently as 2015. However, she freely acknowledged she was no expert in cuneiform and the languages they represented, and that she relied on previous scholarship to assemble and collate texts from various sources stretching over a thousand years. In 2000 her version was superseded in Penguin Classics by Andrew George's scholarly translation, but that doesn't stop her version being not only a readable prose narrative but also revealing the original's psychological insights. She retains some aspects -- such as the repetition of phrases and sometimes passages -- which distinguish oral traditions in poetry, but otherwise there is little to suggest the ordering of end-stopped couplets and stanzas of many of the originals.

Her introduction is necessarily not entirely consistent with up to date studies but there is much of value. She notes that the knowledge of the story of Gilgamesh wasn't entirely lost after the libraries of the region were buried under the sands of time -- Aelian at the start of the third century of our era mentions a Gilgamos, king of Babylon, for instance -- but she has little truck with "will-o'-the-wisps of criticism" comparing the hero with Odysseus (I'm guessing the blinding of the cyclops Polyphemus may equate with the defeat of the demon Humbaba) or with Hercules (the Greek hero slays a lion and wears the pelt, as does Gilgamesh).

I've hung on to my copy of this version for nigh on fifty years, but it's now time to pass it on and pick up Andrew George's version, or even Stephanie Dalley's translation in Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford World's Classics), to see what a half-century of further work on the epic can reveal. It can only reinforce the impression that Gilgamesh, for all his part divine lineage, is as human as the rest of us, as prone to pride, arrogance, fear, friendship, despair, grief and desire for some sort of immortality as any modern individual. ( )
  ed.pendragon | Jul 18, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (87 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anonymousprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sîn-lēqi-unninniEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Burckhardt, GeorgTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferry, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feyter, Theo deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardner, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hämeen-Anttila, JaakkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henshaw, Richard A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jastrow, MorrisEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kantola, TainaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapheim, ThomIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kovacs, Maureen GalleryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maier, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marks, John H.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mason, HerbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maul, Stefan M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muss-Arnolt, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pasco, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salonen, ArmasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandars, N. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandars, N.K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schott, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thompson, R.CampbellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thompson, Reginald CampbellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vanstiphout, HermanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warring, LennartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westerman, FrankAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, Thomassecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Für Lilian.
First words
I will proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh. ...

trans. N.K. Sandars (1960)
It is an old story
But one that can still be told
About a man who loved
And lost a friend to death
And learned he lacked the power
To bring him back to life.

trans. Mason (1972)
The Story
of him who knew the most of all men know;
who made the journey; heartbroken; reconciled;

who knew the way things were before the Flood,
the secret things, the mystery; who went

to the end of the earth, and over; who returned,
and wrote the story on a tablet of stone.

trans. Ferry (1992)
He who saw the Deep, the country's foundation,
    (who) knew . . . , was wise in all matters!
(Gilgamesh, who) saw the Deep, the country's foundation
   (who) knew . . . , was wise in all matters!

(He) . . . everywhere . . .
   and (learnt) of everything the sum of wisdom. 
He saw what was secret, discovered what was hidden. 
   he brought back a tale of before the Deluge.

trans. George (1999) 
He had seen everything, had experienced all emotions,
from exaltation to despair, had been granted a vision
into the great mystery, the secret places,
the primeval days before the Flood. ...

trans. Mitchell (2004)
Last words
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Disambiguation notice
This work is any complete, unabridged translation of the Standard Version of The Epic of Gilgamesh. To quote the FAQ on combining - "A work brings together all different copies of a book, regardless of edition, title variation, or language." Translations of the Old Babylonian Versions should remain separate, as should translations of the early Sumerian Gilgamesh stories and poems from which the epic came to be.
Based on currently accepted LibraryThing convention, the Norton Critical Edition is treated as a separate work, ostensibly due to the extensive additional, original material included.
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Book description
N. K. Sandars's landmark translation of one of the first and greatest works of Western literature

Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, and his companion Enkidu are the only heroes to have survived from the ancient literature of Babylon, immortalized in this epic poem that dates back to the third millennium BC. Together they journey to the Spring of Youth, defeat the Bull of Heaven and slay the monster Humbaba. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh’s grief and fear of death are such that they lead him to undertake a quest for eternal life. A timeless tale of morality, tragedy and pure adventure, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a landmark literary exploration of man’s search for immortality.
N. K. Sandars’s lucid, accessible translation is prefaced by a detailed introduction that examines the narrative and historical context of the work. In addition, there is a glossary of names and a map of the Ancient Orient.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014044100X, Paperback)

This edition provides a prose rendering of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the cycle of poems preserved on clay tablets surviving from ancient Mesopotamia of the third mi llennium B.C. One of the best and most important pieces of epic poetry from human history, predating even Homer's Iliad by roughly 1,500 years, the Gilgamesh epic tells of the various adventures of that hero-king, including his quest for immortality, and an account of a great flood similar in many details to the Old Testament's story of Noah. The translator also provides an interesting and useful introduction explaining much about the historical context of the poem and the archeological discovery of th e tablets.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:36 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

A retelling, based on seventh-century B.C. Assyrian clay tablets, of the wanderings and adventures of the god king, Gilgamesh, who ruled in ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in about 2700 B.C., and of his faithful companion, Enkidu.

» see all 6 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014044100X, 0140449191

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