The Epic of Gilgamesh

The epic of Gilgamesh is a poem from ancient Mesopotamia, regarded as the earliest surviving notable literature. The oldest stories are the five poems of Sumerian origin that begin with a literal history of the king of Uruk, known as Gilgamesh dating back to the third dynasty of Ur, 2100 B.C.


Versions of the Story

From the various fragments and diverse sources of the story discovered, there have been two main versions that have been partially reconstructed, and an older Sumerian version, they are known as the:

  • Standard Babylonian Version

    • - 'He who saw the deep' - Broken down into 12 parts by the different tablets found at Hormuzd Rassam in the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh in 1853. It is believed this version was primarily constructed at about 1300-1000 B.C from earlier texts.

  • The Old Babylonian Version

    • - 'Surpassing all other kings' - This version is composed of tablets and fragments from diverse origins and is still incomplete. With most tablets missing very large portions of the script. The old Babylonian texts are dated to 1800 B.C.E.

  • Sumerian Poems

    • - oldest ununified copies - These oldest copies of the poem form the Sumerian version and oldest known version of the story. these portions probably circulated independently and never formed a unified epic. Many of the name are different then Babylonian version i.e. Gilgamesh is Bilgamesh and many of the underlying story facts are altered. These are the documents dated to 2100 B.C.E.