Epic of Gilgamesh – Sha naqba īmuru

Tablet 6

The dirt of his travels, Gilgamesh washed from his hair,
A beauteous sheen he put to his weapons,
Polishing them.
Down along his back it fell,
The shining clean hair of his head.
All the soiled garments, he cast them off.
Clean, new clothes he put on.
About him now, wrapped,
Clinging to him, a cloak with its fringe,
His sparkling sash was fastened onto him,
His tiara on his head.
But when Inanna had seen this,
When She, the Goddess of Love and War, had seen this /
She raised an eye indeed to the beauty of Gilgamesh:
‘O Gilgamesh, will you not be my lover?
Give me that fruit the tree of man yields to woman.
I will give you myself as wife: you shall be my husband!
For you I will give a chariot made of lapis-lazuli
Yes, too, and of gold!
Its horns – they shall be of brilliant brass.
Storm demons I will hitch to it for your mules!
There shalll be a great fragrance of cedar
On the occasions when you enter our house
Its very threshold, the very dais itself –
As your feet touch them
Your feet shall be kissed by them!
And all the kings and the lords
And the princes – all of them –
These shall be humbled before you.
I will make all the yield of the hills,
All the yield of the plains
Be brought to you as tribute.
All your goats shall bear twins
All your sheep shall bear twins.
The ass shall better the mule for burdens,
While your chariot horses will be famed
For their speed in racing.

(Here three lines are mutilated and cannot be read)

‘But what advantage would it be to me to take you in marriage?
In the cold season you would surely fail me!
Like a pan full of burning coals which go out
You ae but a back door which does not stay shut
But flies open in the raging wind.
You are the great palace which collapses on its honoured guests
The head-dress that unravels,
The pitch that blackesn the hands of the bearer,
The water-skin that rubs the back raw as it is carried,
The limestone which undermines the rampart
A siege engine thrown up agains the walls of the enemy,
The shoe that pinches the foot of its owner
What lover did you love for ever?
Which of your shepherds is there
Who has satisfied you for long?
Come, I will tell you the tales of your lovers:
For Tammuz (1), your young husband,
For him we wail year after year!
He who dies each autumn and comes back each spring!
The spotted shepherd-bird you loved,
That bird which rolls and tumbles in its flight,
And you struck him, broke his wing.
And now he stands in the groves and calls:
“Kappi!” – that bird’s hoarse cry,
Which is to say,”My wing!”
Then you loved the lion, perfect in its strength,
But you dug for him seven pits and again seven.
Then you loved the stallion, great in battle,
but you made for him the whip and thong and the spur.
And you decreed that he run seven-double hours,
And that it is for him to make muddy and then to drink.
For his mother, Silili, you decreed lamentation!
You also loved the shepherd with his herd,
He piled ash cakes high for you without cease,
And on this burning charcoal daily offered you his young and succulent kids
But you struck him
And turned him into a wolf
So that now his own herd boys drive him off
And his own dogs bite at his thighs.
Then you loved Ishullanu, the palm-gardener of your father
Who brought you baskets of dates everyday
You raised your eyes and looked at him
And you went and said to him:
“O my Ishullanu, let me tast of your vigour!
Put forth that which you have,
Into my own, O Ishullanu!”
But Ishullanu said to you:
“What are you asking of me?
Has not my mother baked, have I not eaten,
That I should partake of food with such strong odour, with such foul stench?
He brightened your table every day.
You raised your eyes and looked at him, and as he was not willing to be yours,
You struck him and turned him into a mole.
If you loved me, would you treat me the same as them?
Can mere reeds protec one from the frost, as the saying is?”
When you had heard these his words,
You struck him and turned him into a mole.
You placed him in the middle of […]
He cannot ascend the […] he cannot go down […]
And if you loved me,
You would treat me the same as them.’
When Inanna heard this –
She, the Goddess of Love and Battle heard this –
She was infuriated.
She went to heaven immediately
And saw her father An, the Sky God
Before him she wept,
And before her mother, Antum, she wept.
And she said:
‘Father, Gilgamesh has insuted me!
He enumerated all my evil deeds!
He has said I am foul odour and I am evil!’
An spoke, said to the glorious Inanna:
‘Are you the father?
You have quarreled with Gilgamesh the King.
And so he told you your evil deeds,
The odour of them.’
Inanna spoke to her father An:
‘Father, please give me the Bull of Heaven
So that he can smite King Gilgamesh even in his own home.
And if you don’t give me the Bull of Heaven
I will go down to the Underworld and smash its doors!
I will place those above below!
The doors will be left wide open and the dead will get out,
Eat all the food,
And the dead will then outnumber the living!
An spoke
Said to glorious Inanna:
‘If you desire from the Bull of Heaven,
There there will be seven years
Of barren husks in the land of Uruk.
Have you gathered enough grain for the people?
Have you grown enough fodder for the beasts?’
Inanna spoke, said to her father An:
‘I have stored enough grain for the people
I have provided enough fodder for the animals
If there should be seven years of no crops
I have gathered grain for the people
I have grown fodder for the beasts.’

(Here three lines are lost)

When An heard this speech of Inanna
He gave her the tether of the Bull of Heaven,
So that Inanna might lead it to Uruk.
When she came to the gates of Uruk

(Here one line is missing)

He went down to the river […] seven […] the river
With the snort of the Bull of Heaven, pits were opened
And a hundred men of Uruk fell into them.
With his second snort, pits were opened
And two hundred young men of Uruk fell into them
With his third snort, pits were opened
And Enkidu fell in one of them
Enkidu leapt out of it and seized the bull by the horns
The Bull of Heaven retreated before him
And brushed him with the hairy tip of its tail,
As it spewed foam from its mouth.
Enkidu spoke, said to Gilgamesh:
‘My friend, we boasted […]’

(Here eight lines are lost)

And between the nape of his neck and the horns of his head […]

(Here one line is lost)

Enkidu chased him and […] the Bull of Heaven
He seized him by the thick hairy tip of his tail.
(Here three lines are mutilated)
He thrust his sword between the nape of his neck
And the horns of his head
When they had killed the Bull, they tore out his heart
And placed it before Shamash the Sun
They stepped back and fell down before Shamash in homage.
Then the two brothers sat down.
Then Inanna mounted up upon the wall of the city
There at ramparted Uruk and
Springing on to the battlements she uttered a curse:
‘Woe be unto you, Gilgamesh, who has insulted me
By slaying the Bull of Heaven!’
When Enkidu heard the curse of Inanna,
He tore loose the right thigh of the Bull of Heaven,
Flung it skywards up into her face:
‘If I could reach you,
I would do the same to you as to him!
I would hang his entrails at your side!’
Then Inanna called the votaries of the temple
The sacred harlots and courtesans of the temple
And with them she set up a wailing lamentation
Over the right thigh of the Bull of Heaven.

(There is no break here, but it is as well to explain that the ancient Egyptian constellation of the Thigh, which was in fact a bull’s thigh was the ancient equivalent to our Plough or Great Bear or Big Dipper – all these three being the same). (2)

But Gilgamesh called the armourers and craftsmen
The artisans admired the thickness of the bull’s horns
Each horn is thirty minas of lapis-lazuli;
Two fingers thick is the coating of each
Six gur measures of oil would measure their capacity,
Would be what they would contain, this being 1,500 quarts.
And just this much ointment did he then present
To his own special god, Lugulbanda the Pure.
As for the horns, he brought them
Into his princely bedchamber and hung them there.
They washed their hands in the Euphrates,
They embraced one another as they went on,
Riding through the main streets of Uruk.
There heroes are all gathered round to see them,
Gilgamesh to the sacred lyre-maids of Uruk,
Says these words:
‘Who is the most splendid among the heroes?
Who is the most glorious among men?’
Who has strength and courage no one can match?
‘Gilgamesh is the most splendid among heroes!
Gilgamesh is the most glorious among men!’ (3)
In his palace, Gilgamesh holds a great feast.
Down the heroes lie on their night couches,
Enkidu also lies down, and sees a dream,
Enkidu rises up to reveal his dream,
Saying to his friend:
‘My friend, why are the Great Gods in council?’


  1. Tammuz, known earlier to the Sumerians as Dumuzi, was the shepherd-king who was the patron deity of Kullab, a Sumerian riverside city that was later absorbed by Gilgamesh’s city of Uruk, though the texts are careful to specify that Gilgamesh himself was from Kullab within Uruk. Tammuz married Ishtar, the Goddess of Love and War, whom he often offended. He was carried down to the Underworld but pleaded with his brother-in-law Utu/Shamash the Sun to save him. He seems to have been granted a reprieve for half of each year and thus to have been a prototype for Persephone and other figures of later mythology who came to represent the retrn of spring after the death of winter. The earlier references in the Epic to sacred sheepfolds and shepherds are connected with the cult of Tammuz.
  2. Enkidu’s flinging of the Thigh has some significance in terms of ancient astronomical-religious mythology. In the course of every 24 hours, the Thigh makes a complete spin around the Pole Star, ina a motion resembling ‘being flung’. The Thigh is clearly depicted in numerous places, particularly the various zodiacs carved in stone at Denderah in Egypt. It was such a major constellation that it was common to the ancient civilised Mediterranean world. A further elaboration of ideas must be avoided here, but the interested reder is referred tto Sir Norman Lockyer’s The Dawn of Astronomy and to de Santillana and von Dechend’s.
  3. This is a clear trace of a choral response by a group of lyre-maids in the sacred dramatic form of the Epic, of which a whole section has recently been excavated and now inserted into Tablet 10. This slip of the stylus gives us the crucial information that the performances were accompanied by lyre music and that in a processional scene such as this the girl musicians would also chant echoing choral response, very like those preserved in the new fragment of Tablet 10.

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