THE SUNSET SHIP OF MANY WATERS

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Gilgamesh said unto Utnapishtim, to Utnapishtim the remote: “I am looking at thee, Utnapishtim. Thy person is not altered; even as am I so art thou. Verily, nothing about thee is changed; even as I am so art thou. (Moved is my) heart to do battle. But thou art at leisure and dost lie upon thy back. How then wast thou able to enter the company of the gods and see life?”

Utnapishtim said unto him, to Gilgamesh: “I will reveal unto thee, O Gilgamesh, a hidden mystery. And a secret matter of the gods I will declare unto thee. Shurippak, a city which thou thyself knowest. On (the bank) of the river Puratti (Euphrates) is situated. That city was old and the gods (dwelling) within it. Their hearts induced the great gods to make a wind-storm (a-bu-bi). Their father Anu. Their councillor, the warrior Enil. Their messenger En-urta (and) their prince Ennugi. Nin-igi-azag, Ea, was with them (in council) and reported their words to the House of reeds.”

First speech of Ea to Utnapishtim who is sleeping in a reed hut:

“O House of reeds O House of reeds! O Wall, O Wall! O House of reeds hear! O Wall, understand! O man of Shurippak, son of Ubara-Tutu. Throw down the house, build a ship. Forsake wealth, seek after life. Abandon possessions, save thy life. Carry grain of every kind into the ship. The ship which thou shalt build. The dimensions thereof shall be measured. The breadth and length thereof shall be the same…….the ocean, provide it with a roof.”

Utnapishtim`s reply to Ea:

“I understood and I said unto Ea, my lord. (I comprehend) my lord, that which thou hast ordered. I will regard it with great reverence, and will perform it. But what shall I say to the town, to the multitude, and to the elders?”

Second speech of Ea:

Ea opened his mouth and spake. And said unto his servant, myself……“Thus shalt thou say unto them: ill-will hath the god Enlil formed against me. Therefore I can no longer dwell in your city. And never more shall I turn my countenance upon the soil of Enlil. I will descend into the ocean with my lord Ea. But upon you he will rain riches. A catch of birds, a catch of fish……..an (abundant) harvest…….the prince (?) of the darkness….shall make a violent cyclone (to fall upon you).”

The Building of the ship:

“The weak (man) ….. brought bitumen. The strong (man) ….. brought what was needed. On the fifth day I decided upon it`s plan. According to the plan it`s walls were 10 Gar (i.e. 120 cubits) high. And the circuit of the roof thereof was equally 10 Gar. I measured out the hull thereof and marked it out. I covered it six times. It`s exterior I divided into seven. It`s interior I divided into nine. Water bolts I drove into the middle of it. I provided a steering pole, and fixed what was needful for it. Six sar of bitumen I poured over the inside wall. Three sar of pitch I poured into the inside. The men who bare loads brought three sar of oil. Besides a sar of oil which the offering consumed. And two sar of oil which the boatman hid. I slaughtered oxen for the (work) people. I slew sheep every day.  Beer, sesame wine, oil and wine. I made the people drink as if they were water from the river. I celebrated a feast day as if it had been New Year`s Day. I opened (a box of ointment), I laid my hands in unguent. Before the sunset the ship was finished. (Since)….. was difficult. The ship builders brought the….. of the ship, above and below….. two thirds of it.”

The Loading of the ship:

“With everything that I possessed I loaded it. With everything I possessed of silver I loaded it. With everything I possessed of gold I loaded it. With all that I possessed of living grain I loaded it. I made to go up into the ship all my family and kinsfolk. The cattle of the field, the beasts of the field, all handy craftsmen I made them go up into it.”

The Abubu (Cyclone) and it`s effects Described:

“As soon as the gleam of dawn shone in the sky. A black cloud from the foundations of heaven came up. Inside it the god Adad thundered. The gods Nabu and Sharru went before. Marching as messengers over high land and plain. Irragal tore out the post of the ship. Enurta went on, he made the storm to descend. The Anunnaki brandished their torches. With their glare they lighted up the land. The whirlwind of Adad swept up to heaven. Every gleam of light was turned into darkness. ….. the land ….. as if ….. laid it waste. A whole day long (the flood descended). Swiftly it mounted up ….. (the water) reached to the mountains. (The water) attacked the people like a battle. Brother saw not brother. Men could not be known (or, recognised) in heaven. The gods were terrified at the cyclone. They betook themselves to flight and went up into the heaven of Anu. The gods crouched like a dog and cowered by the wall. The goddess Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail. The lady of the gods lamented with a loud voice.”

Ishtar`s Lament:

“Verily, the former dispensation is turned into mud. Because I commanded evil among the company of the gods. When I commanded evil among the company of the gods. I commanded battle for the destruction of my people. Did I of myself bring forth my people that they might fill the sea like little fishes?”

The Abating of the Storm:

“When the seventh day approached the cyclone and the raging flood ceased. — Now it had fought like an army. The sea became quiet and went down, and the cyclone and the rainstorm ceased. I looked over the sea and a calm had come. And all mankind were turned into mud. The land had been laid flat like a terrace. I opened the air hole and a light fell upon my face. I bowed myself, I sat down, I cried. My tears poured down over my cheeks. I looked over the quarters of the world–open sea! After twelve days an island appeared. The ship took it`s course to the land of Nisir. The mountain of Nisir held the ship, it let it not move. The third day, the fourth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move. The fifth day, the sixth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move. When the seventh day had come. I brought out a dove and let her go free. The dove flew away and then came back; because she had no place to alight on she came back. I brought out a swallow and let her go free. The swallow flew away and then came back. Because she had no place to alight on she came back. I brought out a raven and let her go free. The raven flew away, she saw the sinking waters. She ate, she pecked in the ground, she croaked, she came not back.”

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The phrase, “Nothing new under the sun” readily springs to mind for anyone acquainted with The Epic of Gilgamesh. Written some 2,500 years before the birth of Christ, the tales a Sumerian scribe placed upon twelve fragile, precious clay tablets beyond any known valuation, are a stupendous treasure house of knowledge of the mindset of a people at the very dawn of civilisation, nestling between the legendary two great rivers of the Euphrates and the Tigris. The Flood as described above, is easily recognised as remarkably similar to the one found in the Old Testament; indeed, there are so many similarities between the stories found in The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament, as to make a pretty certain judgement that some of the much later Old Testament stories are quite probably an echo of traditional folk tales passed down through the generations, or heard by the Hebrews while they were held captive in Babylon, many, many years later. The adventures of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, should be much wider known than they are, and can stand with absolute ease beside the Old Testament myths and tales gathered together from this vastly more ancient literary inspiration. Legend has it, that Gilgamesh was placed inside a tomb nestling beneath the sands where the Euphrates used to flow. So, it`s a pleasing thought, that this most ancient of legendary super–heroes, may still be resting in peace somewhere in the cradle of civilisation. The fountain head of all that we have become, and yet to be.

1-Gilgamesh

 
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