The Epic of Gilgamesh is among the earliest surviving works of literature, with the earliest versions dating from around the Third Dynasty of Ur in early Sumeria (2150-2000 BC).
Preserved in Cuneiform, the Epic was retold over the centuries, and the most complete version was discovered in the ruins of the library palace of the seventh century BC Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal.
The Epic is most notable as being the obvious source of the biblical story of Noah and the flood. Taken up into Judaism, and then into Christianity, the book of Genesis copies almost every detail of the flood from the earlier Sumerian work.
The Epic tells the story of the king of Uruk, Gilgamesh, and his adventures with his erstwhile foe and then friend, Enkidu. Together they journey to the Cedar Mountain to defeat Humbaba, its monstrous guardian, then they kill the Bull of Heaven, which the goddess Ishtar sends to punish Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. As a punishment for these actions, the gods sentence Enkidu to death. Gilgamesh then sets out to avoid his friend’s fate and seek the secret to eternal life, a quest in which he is ultimately thwarted.
Contains original author’s preface and a new overview of the storyline.
Overview of the Storyline of the Epic of Gilgamesh
The First Tablet: Of the Tyranny of Gilgamesh, and the Creation of Enkidu
The Second Tablet: Of the Meeting of Gilgamesh and Enkidu
The Third Tablet: The Expedition to the Forest of Cedars against Humbaba
The Fourth Tablet: The Arrival at the Gate of the Forest
The Fifth Tablet: Of the Fight with Humbaba
The Sixth Tablet: Of the Goddess Ishtar, Who Fell In Love with the Hero after His Exploit against Humbaba
The Seventh Tablet: The Death of Enkidu
The Eighth Tablet: Of the Mourning of Gilgamesh, and What Came of It
The Ninth Tablet: Gilgamesh in Terror of Death Seeks Eternal Life
The Tenth Tablet: How Gilgamesh Reached Uta-Napishtim
The Eleventh Tablet: The Flood
The Twelfth Tablet: Gilgamesh, In Despair, Enquires of the Dead
About the author: Reginald Campbell Thompson (1876–1941) was a British archaeologist, assyriologist, and cuneiformist who carried out excavations at Nineveh, Ur, Nebo and Carchemish and many other sites in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). In 1918, Mesopotamia was still part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The collapse of that Empire following the end of the First World War saw much of its Middle Eastern territorial possessions pass into the hands of the British. As a result, the Trustees of the British Museum in London succeeded in having Thompson—then a captain in Military Intelligence serving in the Middle East—assigned to protect the antiquities in Mesopotamia from harm. This, combined with his earlier qualification in Oriental languages from Cambridge, gave him an ideal opportunity to become intimately familiar with the language and culture of ancient Mesopotamia, and he became famous as an expert in the region. He wrote a number of works on topic, and translated many of the ancient texts, the most famous of which is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Thompson died in 1941 aged 64 while serving in the Home Guard River Patrol on the River Thames.