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An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic   By:

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This eBook was produced by Jeroen Hellingman.

Yale Oriental Series


Volume IV

Part III

Published from the fund given to the university in memory of Mary Stevens Hammond

Yale Oriental Series. Researches, Volume IV, 3.

An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic

On the Basis of Recently Discovered Texts


Morris Jastrow Jr., Ph.D., LL.D. Professor of Semitic Languages, University of Pennsylvania


Albert T. Clay, Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D. Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature, Yale University

Copyright, 1920, by Yale University Press

In Memory of William Max Müller (1863 1919) Whose life was devoted to Egyptological research which he greatly enriched by many contributions


The Introduction, the Commentary to the two tablets, and the Appendix, are by Professor Jastrow, and for these he assumes the sole responsibility. The text of the Yale tablet is by Professor Clay. The transliteration and the translation of the two tablets represent the joint work of the two authors. In the transliteration of the two tablets, C. E. Keiser's "System of Accentuation for Sumero Akkadian signs" (Yale Oriental Researches VOL. IX, Appendix, New Haven, 1919) has been followed.



The Gilgamesh Epic is the most notable literary product of Babylonia as yet discovered in the mounds of Mesopotamia. It recounts the exploits and adventures of a favorite hero, and in its final form covers twelve tablets, each tablet consisting of six columns (three on the obverse and three on the reverse) of about 50 lines for each column, or a total of about 3600 lines. Of this total, however, barely more than one half has been found among the remains of the great collection of cuneiform tablets gathered by King Ashurbanapal (668 626 B.C.) in his palace at Nineveh, and discovered by Layard in 1854 [1] in the course of his excavations of the mound Kouyunjik (opposite Mosul). The fragments of the epic painfully gathered chiefly by George Smith from the circa 30,000 tablets and bits of tablets brought to the British Museum were published in model form by Professor Paul Haupt; [2] and that edition still remains the primary source for our study of the Epic.

For the sake of convenience we may call the form of the Epic in the fragments from the library of Ashurbanapal the Assyrian version, though like most of the literary productions in the library it not only reverts to a Babylonian original, but represents a late copy of a much older original. The absence of any reference to Assyria in the fragments recovered justifies us in assuming that the Assyrian version received its present form in Babylonia, perhaps in Erech; though it is of course possible that some of the late features, particularly the elaboration of the teachings of the theologians or schoolmen in the eleventh and twelfth tablets, may have been produced at least in part under Assyrian influence. A definite indication that the Gilgamesh Epic reverts to a period earlier than Hammurabi (or Hammurawi) [3] i.e., beyond 2000 B. C., was furnished by the publication of a text clearly belonging to the first Babylonian dynasty (of which Hammurabi was the sixth member) in CT . VI, 5; which text Zimmern [4] recognized as a part of the tale of Atra hasis, one of the names given to the survivor of the deluge, recounted on the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic. [5] This was confirmed by the discovery [6] of a fragment of the deluge story dated in the eleventh year of Ammisaduka, i.e., c. 1967 B.C. In this text, likewise, the name of the deluge hero appears as Atra hasis (col. VIII, 4). [7] But while these two tablets do not belong to the Gilgamesh Epic and merely introduce an episode which has also been incorporated into the Epic, Dr. Bruno Meissner in 1902 published a tablet, dating, as the writing and the internal evidence showed, from the Hammurabi period, which undoubtedly is a portion of what by way of distinction we may call an old Babylonian version... Continue reading book >>

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