The Death of Gilgamesh

1 Gilgamesh lay upon his death bed never to rise again. He had been struck down with fever though he had recently been at his prime. This was the lot of the mortal. Gilgamesh was powerful like none before him. He had done great things for his people and had been loved for this. Even he could be struck down easily.

2 He was the ideal of strength in life and was beyond compare in battle. The city of Kulab had taken him as their king. He had gone on from there to take his armies to many foreign lands. He had climbed mountains that had seemed imposable. Despite all of these great accomplishments he was never going to emerge from this bed.

3 In his delirious state he found himself unable to stand or sit. He couldn't eat or drink in his present condition. All that he could do was groan. Namtar, the god of death and hand of fate, had placed a lock about him and had imprisoned him to this bed to await his final destiny.

4 Like a fish who had been swimming in a pond he was now caught up in a net. Like a gazelle he had been ensnared and forced to contemplate death in this place. Namtar, who had no hands or a proper form whatsoever, had taken hold of him and his death was assured.

5 For six days he lay like this. Sweat was rolling off of him like melting fat. The lord of Kulab and Uruk lay tormented by his fever. As he lay there in the grip of Namtar he was presented with a dream by Enki.

6 Gilgamesh found himself before the assembly of the gods. It was here that the gods themselves performed their rituals. At the moment they were reviewing Gilgamesh's life and his great deeds in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion as to what fate should befall the great hero.

7 "You have traveled every road in all of the land. You have obtained the unique cedar from atop the mountain, and killed Huwawa in his own forest while doing this. You have set up monuments for the future and dedicated temples to the gods. You even reached the home of Ziusudra's, the immortal from the great deluge." The gods were not praising Gilgamesh. They were simply recounting the facts of his life.

8 "The rites of Sumer, forgotten since the ancient days, were brought down to the people by you. You were the one who showed the people the rites of hand washing and mouth washing," the gods noted of Gilgamesh. They were obviously just as impressed by his belief in ritual cleanliness as they were of his heroics.

9 "After the disasters of the deluge, you made sure that the people didn't forget the tasks of the land." The order of the universe as laid down by Enki included many inventions such as the production of bread. This was of utmost importance to the gods.

10 They deliberated on his case. The seven decreed the fates of all, and in this Gilgamesh was no different from anyone else. He was not like other mortals in deed as well as in descent however. He had done many things that merited consideration.

11 All of the people of Sumer and Akkad were one third god. Gilgamesh's mother was also a god. This made Gilgamesh a unique case. He was more god than man. It was the fate of man to die. It was the fate of the gods to live forever.

12 On the other hand Ziusudra had been born a mortal and had been granted immortality. There were also a small handful of gods who had died. Gilgamesh himself had killed one of these.

13 "Gilgamesh, I have brought you before the gods so that they may decide your fate." Enki turned to An and Enlil and spoke in favor of death. "Long long ago the council had determined that a storm would cover the four quarters with water so that we could destroy mankind. Never the less a single man survived. This man was singular as Gilgamesh is singular, but that event was unique. You have been decreed the destiny of a king, but not that of a god."

14 Enki had risked the wrath of the gods to save Ziusudra from the torrential downpour. The survivor of the flood had been rewarded with immortality, a gift that Enki did not give out lightly. Immortality was not a gift that Enki was willing to give today.

15 " Sisig, the gentle breeze of the underworld, will light his way in that dim realm, and in the month of ghosts those young warriors who emulate Gilgamesh by wrestling in front of door ways will be given light as well. This light will help lead the ghosts to the houses of their loved ones." Enki had given the matter some thought, and this compromise was what he came up with. Gilgamesh would not become like the gods, but he would not be like any other man. The month of ghosts was a time for the dead to be honored, and Gilgamesh was being given a special place among the dead.

16 Enlil was satisfied by the words of his most able adviser, and decided to address Gilgamesh. "Long ago it was decided that death would be the final fate of all men. This fate has come upon you. This fate has been the curse of all man kind, but don't go to the great city of Urugal with an angry heart. You are going to be honored above all others.

17 "When the Anunna gods go to their banquet with all of the great priests of the land, you will join them and be greeted by your friends, family, and even Enkidu your lost companion. You will be a governor in the great city, and render verdicts in the way that the perpetually dying gods Dumuzi and Ningishzida do. You will be one of those Anunna gods."

18 In the great city of Urugal there resided governors and kings. The priests who served the gods faithfully were here. Gods decreed verdicts and great demons carried them out. Ereshkigal herself sat here upon her throne with her minister her husband and her family of gods. This shining city in the darkness that was the underworld was where the favorites of the gods resided, and this was the place that Gilgamesh was being given a place of honor in.

19 The verdict of the gods had been rendered. The gods had considered his place carefully and had given him their verdict. The dream was coming to a close and Gilgamesh would have to return to the land of the living with this knowledge. The heavy spell was lifting, and Gilgamesh arose from a deep sleep. His dream haunted him even though he could once again lift himself from his bed.

20 "Should I act like a child upon the knees of my mother after this?" He reminded himself that he was Gilgamesh, king of Kullab, lord of Uruk the smithy of the gods, hero of the shining mountain. His mother was the goddess Ninsun, his father was lord Lugalbanda, and his god was Enki.

21 He called forth his advisers and told them of the dream. He told how he would be a governor in the underworld and how, in the month of ghosts, those who honored him would themselves be given the ghostly light of Sisig. He also told how he would soon die despite being two thirds god.

22 "Why are you sad?" his advisers asked him. "The mother goddess has not yet born a man who will not eventually die. Everyone dies. After you there will be another king, and his destiny will be no different. At least you will rule in the land of death. Your judgment will be as important as Ningishzida's and Dumuzi's."

23 Gilgamesh, now resigned to his fate, set upon designing and building his tomb. In his dream, Enki showed Gilgamesh where to build his tomb. This would be where his dream would be solved.

24 "Let the people of Uruk and Kullab drain the Euphrates river!" came the announcement as Gilgamesh sent out his heralds to gather the workforce of the great cities.

25 In a matter of a few short days the people of Kullab and Uruk had taken down their levies and breached the Euphrates. The great river was diverted easily, and the bed of the Euphrates emptied of water. With the pebbles of the river now open to to the sun, and the riverbed was cracked and dry, Gilgamesh began to construct his tomb.

26 He built his tomb completely out of stone. The walls, and the entrance were out of stone, with the bar, threshold, and bolts out of the hardest diorite. He had the beams cast in pure gold.

27 He secured the entire structure with massive blocks of stone so that his tomb would be safe in future days. None would be able to find and enter his tomb in the center of his great city.

28 When it was time, his wives and his son were laid down along with his minstrel, his steward, cup bearer, his barber, and many other attendants and servants. They were arrayed as though they were simply attending a palace review in the midst of Uruk. Their funerary offerings were each laid out before them.

29 Gifts would be given to the queen of Kur Ereshkigal, Namtar, lord of death, the underworld governors Dumuzi and Ningishzida, as well as many other gods and priests. When all was prepared, he laid himself down and poured an offering of watter.

30 The inside of the tomb was sealed. The doorway was secured. The waters of the Euphrates were allowed to continue upon their course. Their waters swept over top of Gilgamesh's tomb.

31 When the tomb was no longer in view, the people of Uruk and Kullab mourned. They gnashed their teeth and pulled out their hair as was the custom. They dressed in mourning clothes and dirt. The mood was somber and the hearts of the people were heavy.

32 Gilgamesh, son of Ninsun, lord of Kullab, was no more. Never had there been a king like him, and perhaps there would never be another. The statues of many people on into future days were set aside in the temples. Once their names had been uttered a single time they would never be forgotten. This is the reason that Aruru, Enlil's older sister, provides people with offspring.

33 Ereshkigal, mother of Ninazu, it is good to sing your praise.

In P32 it seems to say outright that the purpose of man is to die and be buried to the greater glory of the gods. This would make sense as it would explain clearly why people continue to toil in the afterlife. Even so, I am not sure if this is the correct interpretation.



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