Week 6: Gilgamesh

Epic of Gilgamesh

Names here are in Akkadian as they appear in the most integrated text of the Gilgamesh story so far discovered, known as the ‘Standard Babylonian’ version (C13-10 BCE). Their earlier Sumerian forms, where known to be different, are in parentheses.

Gilgamesh (Bilgames) – Part-human, part-divine king of Uruk.

Enkidu – A wild man, created by the gods to pacify Gilgamesh.

Shamhat – Sacred temple prostitute from Uruk.

Ninsumun – ‘Lady of the Wild Cows’: tutelary goddess and mother of Gilgamesh.

Aruru – fertility goddess with many names who creates Enkidu.

Huwawa (Humbaba) – Monstrous and terrifying guardian appointed by Enlil to protect the Cedar Forest.

Anu (An) – God of the sky. Supreme among the three most powerful gods, but keeps a relatively distant profile.

Enlil – God of air, wind and storms. One of the three most powerful gods, he shows a particular dislike for humankind and was the main driving force behind the Deluge.

Ea (Enki) – God of water and knowledge. Clever and creative, he oversaw the creation of humankind, regularly sponsors its progress, and opposed the Deluge.

Ishtar (Inanna) – Goddess of lust, sex, war, and power. With a frighteningly powerful set of roles she is mercurial, temperamental, regularly involved in power struggles with other deities, and extremely dangerous to have as an enemy.

Shamash (Utu) – God of the sun, and of justice. Sees everything that happens in the world from his sun-chariot and provides Gilgamesh assistance on his quest.

Ereshkigal – Goddess who rules the underworld. Older sister, and fierce rival, of Ishtar.

Siduri – Wise goddess of brewing and wine-making who runs the tavern at the edge of the world.

Uta-napishti/Utanapishtim – An ancient human immortal, said to have survived the great flood.

Urshanabi – Uta-napishti’s ferryman.

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