Skip to content

The Epic of Gilgamesh

    Translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs

    This is based on the printed edition by Maureen Gallery Kovacs:
    Kovacs, M. G. (1989). The epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
    The electronic edition was modified from that prepared by Wolf Carnahan, 1998. See the Gilgamesh menu page for more information.
    Please report errors to me (link at end of page). -Alan Humm
    Summary: In the sixth tablet the stage is set for a shift in Gilgamesh’s (and certainly Enkidu’s) shift in fortune. Ishtar propositions Gilgamesh, but he turns her down. In revenge she sends the Bull of Heaven against Uruk, but Gilgamesh & Enkidu kill it, and Enkidu insults her.

    He washed out his matted hair and cleaned up his equipment(?),
    shaking out his locks down over his back,
    throwing off his dirty clothes and putting on clean ones.
    He wrapped himself in regal garments and fastened the sash.
    When Gilgamesh placed his crown on his head,
    princess Ishtar raised her eyes to the beauty of Gilgamesh.

    “Come along, Gilgamesh, be my husband,
    grant me your lusciousness!
    Be my husband, and I will be your wife.
    I will have harnessed for you a chariot of lapis lazuli and gold,
    with wheels of gold and ‘horns’ of electrum(?).
    It will be harnessed with great storming mountain mules!
    Come into our house, with the fragrance of cedar.
    And when you come into our house
    the doorpost(?) and throne dais(?) will kiss your feet.
    Bowed down beneath you will be kings, lords, and princes.
    The Lullubu people will bring you
    the produce of the mountains and countryside as tribute.
    Your she-goats will bear triplets, your ewes twins,
    your donkey under burden will overtake the mule,
    your steed at the chariot will be bristling to gallop,
    your ax at the yoke will have no match.”

    Gilgamesh addressed Princess Ishtar saying:

    “What would I have to give you if I married you!
    Do you need oil or garments for your body!
    Do you lack anything for food or drink!
    I would gladly feed you food fit for a god,
    I would gladly give you wine fit for a king,
    … may the street(?) be your home(?), may you be clothed in a garment,
    and may any lusting man (?) marry you!
    …an oven who… ice,
    a half-door that keeps out neither breeze nor blast,
    a palace that crushes down valiant warriors,
    an elephant who devours its own covering,
    pitch that blackens the hands of its bearer,
    a waterskin that soaks its bearer through,
    limestone that buckles out the stone wall,
    a battering ram that attracts the enemy land,
    a shoe that bites its owner’s feet!

    Where are your bridegrooms that you keep forever?
    Where is your ‘Little Shepherd’ bird that went up over you?
    See here now, I will recite the list of your lovers.
    Of the shoulder (?) … his hand,

    Tammuz, the lover of your earliest youth,
    for him you have ordained lamentations year upon year!

    You loved the colorful ‘Little Shepherd’ bird
    and then hit him, breaking his wing, so
    now he stands in the forest crying ‘My Wing’!

    You loved the supremely mighty lion,
    yet you dug for him seven and again seven pits.

    You loved the stallion, famed in battle,
    yet you ordained for him the whip, the goad, and the lash,
    ordained for him to gallop for seven and seven hours,
    ordained for him drinking from muddled waters,
    you ordained for his mother Silili to wail continually.

    You loved the Shepherd, the Master Herder,
    who continually presented you with bread baked in embers,
    and who daily slaughtered for you a kid.
    Yet you struck him, and turned him into a wolf,
    so his own shepherds now chase him
    and his own dogs snap at his shins.

    You loved Ishullanu, your father’s date gardener,
    who continually brought you baskets of dates,
    and brightened your table daily.
    You raised your eyes to him, and you went to him:
    ‘Oh my Ishullanu, let us taste of your strength,
    stretch out your hand to me, and touch our vulva.’
    Ishullanu said to you:
    ‘Me! What is it you want from me?
    Has my mother not baked, and have I not eaten
    that I should now eat food under contempt and curses
    and that alfalfa grass should be my only cover against the cold?’
    As you listened to these his words
    you struck him, turning him into a dwarf(?),
    and made him live in the middle of his (garden of) labors,
    where the mihhu do not go up, nor the bucket of dates (?) down.

    And now me! It is me you love,
    and you will ordain for me as for them!”

    When Ishtar heard this, in a fury she went up to the heavens,
    going to Anu, her father, and crying,
    going to Anrum, her mother, and weeping:

    “Father, Gilgamesh has insulted me over and over,
    Gilgamesh has recounted despicable deeds about me,
    despicable deeds and curses!”

    Anu addressed Princess Ishtar, saying:

    “What is the matter?
    Was it not you who provoked King Gilgamesh?
    So Gilgamesh recounted despicable deeds about you,
    despicable deeds and curses!”

    Ishtar spoke to her father, Anu, saying:

    “Father, give me the Bull of Heaven,
    so he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.
    If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
    I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
    I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
    and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
    And the dead will outnumber the living!”

    Anu addressed princess Ishtar, saying:

    “If you demand the Bull of Heaven from me,
    there will be seven years of empty husks for the land of Uruk.
    Have you collected grain for the people!
    Have you made grasses grow for the animals?”

    Ishtar addressed Anu, her father, saying:

    “I have heaped grain in the granaries for the people,
    I made grasses grow for the animals,
    in order that they might eat in the seven years of empty husks.
    I have collected grain for the people,
    I have made grasses grow for the animals.”

    When Anu heard her words, he placed the noserope of the Bull of Heaven in her hand.
    Ishtar led the Bull of Heaven down to the earth.
    When it reached Uruk, it climbed down to the Euphrates…
    At the snort of the Bull of Heaven a huge pit opened up,
    and 100 Young Men of Uruk fell in.
    At his second snort a huge pit opened up,
    and 200 Young Men of Uruk fell in.
    At his third snort a huge pit opened up,
    and Enkidu fell in up to his waist.
    Then Enkidu jumped out and seized the Bull of Heaven by its horns.
    the Bull spewed his spittle in front of him,
    with his thick tail he flung his dung behind him (?).
    Enkidu addressed Gilgamesh, saying:

    “My friend, we can be bold(?) …
    How shall we respond…
    My friend, I saw…
    And my strength…
    I will rip out…
    I and you, we must share (?)
    I shall grasp the Bull
    I will fill my hands (?) ..
    In front…

    between the nape, the horns, and… thrust your sword.”

    Enkidu stalked and hunted down the Bull of Heaven.
    He grasped it by the thick of its tail
    and held onto it with both his hands (?),
    while Gilgamesh, like an expert butcher,
    boldly and surely approached the Bull of Heaven.
    Between the nape, the horns, and… he thrust his sword.
    After they had killed the Bull of Heaven,
    they ripped out its heart and presented it to Shamash.
    They withdrew bowing down humbly to Shamash.
    Then the brothers sat down together.
    Ishtar went up onto the top of the Wall of Uruk-Haven,
    cast herself into the pose of mourning, and hurled her woeful curse:

    “Woe unto Gilgamesh who slandered me and killed the Bull of Heaven!”

    When Enkidu heard this pronouncement of Ishtar,
    he wrenched off the Bull’s hindquarter and flung it in her face:

    “If I could only get at you I would do the same to you!
    I would drape his innards over your arms!”

    Ishtar assembled the (cultic women) of lovely-locks, joy-girls, and harlots,
    and set them to mourning over the hindquarter of the Bull.
    Gilgamesh summoned all the artisans and craftsmen.
    (All) the artisans admired the thickness of its horns,
    each fashioned from 30 minas of lapis lazuli!
    Two fingers thick is their casing(?).
    Six vats of oil the contents of the two
    he gave as ointment to his (personal) god Lugalbanda.
    He brought the horns in and hung them in the bedroom of the family head Lugalbanda?).
    They washed their hands in the Euphrates,
    and proceeded hand in hand,
    striding through the streets of Uruk.
    The men of Uruk gathered together, staring at them.
    Gilgamesh said to the palace retainers:

    “Who is the bravest of the men?
    Who is the boldest of the males?
    Gilgamesh is the bravest of the men,
    the boldest of the males!
    She at whom we flung the hindquarter of the Bull of Heaven in anger,
    Ishtar has no one that pleases her… in the street (?)”

    Gilgamesh held a celebration in his palace.
    The Young Men dozed off, sleeping on the couches of the night.
    Enkidu was sleeping, and had a dream.
    He woke up and revealed his dream to his friend.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *