The Epic of Gilgamesh

Week 2: Ancient Near East - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Translation of Tablet 7 (by Maureen Kovacs)

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 850 words.

Even though Shamash had wanted to spare Enkidu, he does not like what Enkidu is saying, and he comes to the harlot's defense, and rebukes Enkidu. Enkidu then turns his curses to blessings - and finally we learn the harlot's name: she is Shamhat. Enkidu also has another dream, and this time a description of the dream survives, at least in part: Enkidu dreams that he has gone into the underworld, the "House of Dust".

When Shamash heard what his mouth had uttered,
he suddenly called out to him from the sky:
"Enkidu, why are you cursing the harlot, Shamhat,
she who fed you bread fit for a god,
she who gave you wine fit for a king,
she who dressed you in grand garments,
and she who allowed you to make beautiful Gilgamesh your comrade!
Now Gilgamesh is your beloved brother-friend!
He will have you lie on a grand couch,
will have you lie on a couch of honor.
He will seat you in the seat of ease, the seat at his left,
so that the princes of the world kiss your feet.
He will have the people of Uruk go into mourning and moaning over you,
will fill the happy people with woe over you.
And after you he will let his body bear a filthy mat of hair,
will don the skin of a lion and roam the wilderness."

As soon as Enkidu heard the words of valiant Shamash,
his agitated heart grew calm, his anger abated.

Enkidu spoke to the harlot, saying:
"Come, Shamhat, I will decree your fate for you.
Let my mouth which has cursed you, now turn to bless you!
May governors and nobles love you,
May he who is one league away bite his lip (in anticipation of you),
may he who is two leagues away shake our his locks (in preparation)!
May the soldier not refuse you, but undo his buckle for you,
may he give you rock crystal (?), lapis lazuli, and gold,
may his gift to you be earrings of filigree (?).
May... his supplies be heaped up.
May he bring you into the ... of the gods.
May the wife, the mother of seven (children),
be abandoned because of you!"

Enkidu's innards were churning,
lying there so alone.
He spoke everything he felt, saying to his friend:
"Listen, my friend, to the dream that I had last night.
The heavens cried out and the earth replied,
and I was standing between them.
There appeared a man of dark visage --
his face resembled the Anzu,
his hands were the paws of a lion,
his nails the talons of an eagle! --
he seized me by my hair and overpowered me.
I struck him a blow, but he skipped about like a jump rope,
and then he struck me and capsized me like a raft,
and trampled on me like a wild bull.
He encircled my whole body in a clamp.
"Help me, my friend" (I cried),
but you did not rescue me, you were afraid and did not ...
Then he ... and turned me into a dove,
so that my arms were feathered like a bird.
Seizing me, he led me down to the House of Darkness,
the dwelling of Irkalla,
to the house where those who enter do not come out,
along the road of no return,
to the house where those who dwell, do without light,
where dirt is their drink, their food is of clay,
where, like a bird, they wear garments of feathers,
and light cannot be seen, they dwell in the dark,
and upon the door and bolt, there lies dust.
On entering the House of Dust,
everywhere I looked there were royal crowns gathered in heaps,
everywhere I listened, it was the bearers of crowns,
who, in the past, had ruled the land,
but who now served Anu and Enlil cooked meats,
served confections, and poured cool water from waterskins.
In the house of Dust that I entered
there sat the high priest and acolyte,
there sat the purification priest and ecstatic,
there sat the anointed priests of the Great Gods.
There sat Etana, there sat Sumukan,
there sat Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Netherworld.
Beletseri, the Scribe of the Netherworld, knelt before her,
she was holding the tablet and was reading it out to her Ereshkigal.
She raised her head when she saw me--
"Who has taken this man?"

[50 lines are missing here]

...I (?) who went through every difficulty,
remember me and forget (?) not all that I went through with you."

"My friend has had a dream that bodes ill?"

The day he had the dream ... came to an end.
Enkidu lies down a first day, a second day,
that Enkidu ... in his bed;
a third day and fourth day, that Enkidu ... in his bed;
a fifth, a sixth, and seventh, that Enkidu ... in his bed;
an eighth, a ninth, a tenth, that Enkidu ... in his bed.
Enkidu's illness grew ever worse.

Enkidu drew up from his bed,
and called out to Gilgamesh ...:"My friend hates me ...
while he talked with me in Uruk
as I was afraid of the battle he encouraged me.
My friend who saved me in battle has now abandoned me!
I and you ... "

[About 20 lines are missing]

At his noises Gilgamesh was roused ...
Like a dove he moaned ...
"May he not be held, in death ...
O preeminent among men ... "
To his friend ...
"I will mourn him (?)
I at his side ... "

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • who rebukes Enkidu for his behavior?
  • what kind of blessings does Enkidu then bestow upon the harlot?
  • what did Enkidu see in his dream of the House of Dust?

Source: The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs (1989). Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM