Lucia's Blog: THE ASSYRIANS & GILGAMESH
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

THE ASSYRIANS & GILGAMESH




ASSYRIA

When Hammurabi began to take control of Mesopotamia, he had two large kingdoms to overcome.  To the South was King Rim-Sin, who ruled the area around the cities of Ur and Uruk. To the North was Shamsi-Adad, who ruled the area from Mari and Assur down to Sippar.  Hammurabi formed an alliance with Shamshi-Adad and moved south against Rim-Sim when he realized that the northern king was stronger.   Shamsi-Adad reigned from about 1813-1780 BC and gained his power the hard way.  He established his kingdom in the town of Ekallatum and took total control of Assur or Ashur, a city of importance commercially.  Assur was also an important religious center in that region.  Shamshi-Adad controlled the trade routes into Anatolia, modern day Turkey.  He also took Mari, gaining control over the trade routes into Syria.  He built one of the most powerful nations of his time.  He controlled a triangular region around Nineveh,  Assur and Mari at the height of his power.  He called his nation "Assyria,"  Shamsi-Adad was a proud man claiming the title "King of All" and built temples for his gods, whom he believed had blessed him.  He terrorized nearby kingdoms by brutally killing the leaders of conquered cities and displaying their heads on stakes.  When he died, Hammurabi first took over Mari, then proceeded to take control of Assur.  Hammurabi became the "King of All."  When finally he and his sons died, Assyria disappeared from the map for over 100 years.


GILGAMESH

He was the fifth king of Uruk,  ruling around 2700 BC.  There are numerous tales about him that survive in the so-called Epic of Gilgamesh.  Gilgamesh is the best-known of all ancient heroes.  These tales most likely began as Sumerian oral legends and poems, which were inscribed later on 12 tablets by an Assyrian king named Ashurbanipal who reigned from 668-627 BC.  These tables were later rediscovered in a library in Nineveh.


THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

  • Tablet I:  Gilgamesh, builder of the city of Uruk with its magnificent ziggurats, orchards and fields, begins as a cruel king.  He is part god, part human and possessed super human strength.  According legend, the god Anu creates Enkidu, a wild man, to stop Gilgamesh.  Enkidu is trapped and learns the ways of humans.
  • Tablet II:  Enkindu finally meets Gilgamesh; they fight and Gilgamesh wins.  They become friends and agree to go on a quest to cut cedar trees in Southern Iran.
  • Tablets III-V:  Gilgamesh and Enkidu pursue their quest to cut the cedars, but run into trouble with a demon named Humbaba.  They defeat and kill him, but not before the demon puts a curse on them.
  • Tablet VI:  Ishtar, the goddess of love, wants to be Gilgamesh's lover, but Gilgamesh rejects and insults her.  This forces her to send the Bull of Heaven against him, but together Gilgamesh and Enkindu kill it.
  • Tablet VII:  Enkindu dreams he must die since he killed the Bull of Heaven.  He grows ill and suffers for 12 days and then dies reciting a poem about a House of Death(Hell).
  • Tablet VIII:  Gilgamesh grieves his friend's death.
  • Tablet IX-X:  In his grief for Enkidu, Gilgamesh stops bathing and shaving.  He realizes that he is also mortal and must one day die.  Unable to accept this he goes on a quest to find survivors of the Great Flood, hoping to find out how they acquired eternal life.  After a long and complex journey he reaches Utnapishtim, who supposedly is a Flood survivor.
  • Tablet XI:  Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the Babylonian version of the Flood telling him that if he remains awake for six days and seven nights, the length of the Flood according to him, then Gilgamesh will become immortal.  Gilgamesh tries but ends up sleeping for 6 solid days.  Next, he tells him about a plant found at the bottom of the ocean that will give him eternal life once he found it and ate it.  He succeeds in finding the plant but is afraid to eat it, but brings it back to Utnapishtim.  On his way back a snake eats it and becomes immortal.  Gilgamesh loses his chance at eternal life.
  • Tablet XII:  This tells of items given to Gilgamesh by Ishtar in Tablet VI.  Also, the spirit of Enkidu returns with a dire report of life in hell.


It is interesting that there was a knowledge of an ancient Biblical Flood and Noah  as late as 2,000 years later among the ancient Assyrians and that their hero Gilgamesh regarded these survivors of the flood as immortals.  

Luci