The Epic of Gilgamesh

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


Translation of Tablet 11

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 800 words.

To see if the waters have fully receded, Uta-Napishtim sends out birds to see if they can find a dry place to land or not (this is one of the closest parallels to the story of Noah). All mankind has been turned to mud, but Uta-Napishtim (also called Atrahasis here), so he gives thanks to the gods... but what does Enlil think about all this? One more time you will see the wrath of the god Enlil in action - and this time the god Ea will rebuke Enlil for having engaged in such wanton destruction.

The Flood Dies Down

The gods, the Anunnaki, wailed with her.
The gods bowed themselves, and sat down weeping.
Their lips were shut tight in distress . . .
For six days and nights
The wind, the storm raged, and the cyclone overwhelmed the land.
When the seventh day came the cyclone ceased,
the storm and battle which had fought like an army.
The sea became quiet, the grievous wind went down, the cyclone ceased.
I looked on the day and voices were stilled,
And all mankind were turned into mud,
The land had been laid flat like a terrace.

I opened the air-hole and the light fell upon my cheek,
I bowed myself, I sat down, I cried,
My tears poured down over my cheeks.
I looked over the quarters of the world, to the limits of ocean.
At twelve points islands appeared.
The ship grounded on the mountain of Nisir.
The mountain of Nisir held the ship, it let it not move.

The first day, the second day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.
The third day, the fourth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.
The fifth day, the sixth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.
When the seventh day had come
I brought out a dove and let her go free.
The dove flew away and then came back;
Because she had no place to alight on she came back.
I brought out a swallow and let her go free.
The swallow flew away and then came back;
Because she had no place to alight on she came back.
I brought out a raven and let her go free.
The raven flew away, she saw the sinking waters.
She ate, she waded, she rose, she came not back.

Uta-Napishtim's Sacrifice to the Gods

Then I brought out everything to the four winds and made a sacrifice;
I set out an offering on the peak of the mountain.
Seven by seven I set out the vessels,
Under them I piled reeds, cedarwood and myrtle.
The gods smelt the savour,
The gods smelt the sweet savour.
The gods gathered together like flies over him that sacrificed.

Now when the Lady of the Gods came nigh,
She lifted up the priceless jewels which Anu had made according to her desire, saying
"O ye gods here present, as I shall never forget the sapphire jewels of my neck
So shall I ever think about these days, and shall forget them nevermore!
Let the gods come to the offering,
But let not Enlil come to the offering,
Because he took not thought and made the cyclone,
And delivered my people over to destruction."

The Anger of Enlil

Now when Enlil came nigh
He saw the ship; then was Enlil wroth
And he was filled with anger against the gods, the Igigi, saying:
"Hath any being escaped with his life?
He shall not remain alive, a man among the destruction."

Then En-urta opened his mouth and spake
And said unto the warrior Enlil:
"Who besides the god Ea can make a plan?
The god Ea knoweth everything that is done."

Ea's Speech to Enlil

The god Ea opened his mouth and spake
And said unto the warrior Enlil,
"O Prince among the gods, thou warrior,
How, how couldst thou, not taking thought, make a cyclone?
He who is sinful, on him lay his sin,
He who transgresseth, on him lay his transgression.
But be merciful that everything be not destroyed;
be long-suffering that man be not blotted out.

Instead of thy making a cyclone,
Would that the lion had come and diminished mankind.
Instead of thy making a cyclone
Would that the wolf had come and diminished mankind.
Instead of thy making a cyclone
Would that a famine had arisen and laid waste the land.
Instead of thy making a cyclone
Would that Irra (the Plague god) had risen up and laid waste the land.
As for me I have not revealed the secret of the great gods.
I made Atra-hasis to see a vision, and thus he heard the secret of the gods.
Now therefore take counsel concerning him."

The Blessing of Uta-Napishtim

Then the god Enlil went up into the ship,
He seized me by the hand and brought me forth.
He brought forth my wife and made her to kneel by my side.
He touched our brows, he stood between us, he blessed us, saying,

"Formerly Uta-Napishtim was a man merely,
But now let Uta-Napishtim and his wife be like unto us gods.
Uta-Napishtim shall dwell afar off, at the mouth of the rivers.
And they took me away to a place afar off, and made me to dwell at the mouth of the rivers."


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

  • What happened to Uta-Napishtim's dove? swallow? raven?
  • Why was the god Enlil angry?
  • How did Uta-Napishtim become immortal?


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