The Epic of Gilgamesh

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

Translation of Tablet 11

Reading time: 6 minutes. Word count: 1000 words.

Wallis Budge now moves from providing a summary of the epic to providing an actual translation (he is now the third translator you have read, after Temple's translation of the fight with Humbaba, and Kovacs's translation of the death of Enkidu). Wallis Budge focused his attention on this part of the Gilgamesh story because it offers such a close parallel with the Biblical story of Noah and the flood.

Gilgamish Speaks with Uta-Napishtim

Gilgamish makes some remarks which seem to indicate that in his opinion death was inevitable:

Gilgamish said unto him, to Uta-Napishtim the remote:
"I am looking at thee, Uta-Napishtim.
Thy person is not altered; even as am I, so art thou.
Verily, nothing about thee is changed; even as am I, so art thou.
A heart to do battle doth make thee complete,
Yet at rest, thou dost lie upon thy back.
How then hast thou stood the company of the gods and sought life?"

Uta-Napishtim Tells the Story of the Flood

Thereupon Uta-Napishtim related to Gilgamish the Story of the Deluge, and the Eleventh Tablet continues thus

Uta-Napishtim said unto him, to Gilgamish:
I will reveal unto thee, O Gilgamish, a hidden mystery,
And a secret matter of the gods I will declare unto thee.
Shurippak, a city which thou thyself knowest,
On the bank of the river Puratti (Euphrates) is situated,
That city is old; and the gods dwelling within it
Their hearts induced the great gods to make a windstorm (a-bu-bi),
There was their father Anu,
Their counsellor, the warrior Enlil,
Their messenger En-urta and
Their prince Ennugi.
Nin-igi-ku, Ea, was with them in council and
reported their word to a house of reeds.

Ea Speaks to Uta-Napishtim

"O House of reeds, O House of reeds! O Wall! O Wall!
O House of reeds, hear! O Wall, understand!
O man of Shurippak, son of Ubar-Tutu [= Uta-Napishtim],
Throw down the house, build a ship,
Forsake wealth, seek after life,
Hate possessions, save thy life,
Bring all seed of life into the ship.
The ship which thou shalt build,
The dimensions thereof shall be measured,
The breadth and the length thereof shall be the same.
Then launch it upon the ocean."

[Uta-Napishtim's Answer]

I understood and I said unto Ea, my lord:
"See, my lord, that which thou hast ordered,
I regard with reverence, and will perform it,
But what shall I say to the town, to the multitude, and to the elders?"

[Ea Speaks Again]

Ea opened his mouth and spake
And said unto his servant, myself,
"Thus, man, shalt thou say unto them:
Ill-will hath the god Enlil formed against me,
Therefore I can no longer dwell in your city,
And never more will I turn my countenance upon the soil of Enlil.
I will descend into the ocean to dwell with my lord Ea.
But upon you he will rain riches
A catch of birds, a catch of fish
. . . an [abundant] harvest,
. . . the sender of . . .
. . . shall make hail [to fall upon you]."
The Building of the Ship
As soon as dawn broke . . .

[Lines 49-54 broken away.]

The child . . . brought bitumen,
The strong man . . . brought what was needed.
On the fifth day I laid down its shape.
According to the plan its walls were 10 gar, (i.e. 120 cubits) high,
And the width of its deck was equally 10 gar.
I laid down the shape of its forepart and marked it out.
I covered it six times.
. . . I divided into seven,
Its interior I divided into nine,
Caulking I drove into the middle of it.
I provided a steering pole, and cast in all that was needful.
Six sar of bitumen I poured over the hull,
Three sar of pitch I poured into the inside.
The men who bear loads brought three sar of oil,
Besides a sar of oil which the tackling consumed,
And two sar of oil which the boatman hid.
I slaughtered oxen for the workpeople,
I slew sheep every day.
Beer, sesame wine, oil and wine
I made the people drink as if they were water from the river.
I celebrated a feast as if it had been New Year's Day.
I opened a box of ointment, I laid my hands in unguent.
Before the sunset the ship was finished.
. . . was difficult.
The shipbuilders brought the . . . of the ship, above and below,
. . . two-thirds of it.

Uta-Napishtim Loads the Ship

With everything that I possessed I loaded it.
With everything that I possessed of silver I loaded it.
With everything that I possessed of gold I loaded it.
With all that I possessed of all the seed of life I loaded it.
I made to go up into the ship all my family and kinsfolk,
The cattle of the field, the beasts of the field,
All handicraftsmen I made them go up into it.

The god Shamash had appointed me a time, saying
"The sender of . . . . . will at eventide make a hail to fall;
Then enter into the ship and shut thy door."
The appointed time drew nigh;
The sender of . . . . . made a hail to fall at eventide.
I watched the aspect of the storm,
Terror possessed me to look upon it,
I went into the ship and shut my door.
To the pilot of the ship, Puzur-Enlil the sailor
I committed the great house, together with the contents thereof.

The Flood

As soon as dawn shone in the sky
A black cloud from the foundation of heaven came up.
Inside it the god Adad thundered,
The gods Nab and Sharru went before,
Marching as messengers over high land and plain,
Irragal tore out the post of the ship,
En-urta went on, he made the storm to descend.
The Anunnaki brandished their torches,
With their glare they lighted up the land.
The whirlwind of Adad swept up to heaven.
Every gleam of light was turned into darkness.
. . . . . the land . . . . . as if had laid it waste.
A whole day long the flood descended . . .
Swiftly it mounted up . . . . . the water reached to the mountains
The water attacked the people like a battle.
Brother saw not brother.
Men could not be recognized in heaven.
The gods were terrified at the cyclone.
They shrank back and went up into the heaven of Anu.
The gods crouched like a dog and cowered by the wall.

The Lament of Ishtar

The goddess Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail.
The Lady of the Gods lamented with a sweet voice, saying:
"May that former day be turned into mud,
Because I commanded evil among the company of the gods.
How could I command evil among the company of the gods,
Command battle for the destruction of my people?
Did I of myself bring forth my people
That they might fill the sea like little fishes?"

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

  • What did Uta-Napishtim take with him in the ship?
  • What was the flood like?
  • How did the gods react to the flood?

Source: The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish by E.A. Wallis Budge (1929). 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