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The Core Curriculum


1300 BCE – 650 BCE
Dates are approximate


Gilgamesh and the Two Lions, 16th c. BCE (Artstor/UCSD Slide Gallery)Gilgamesh and the Two Lions, 16th c. BCE (Artstor/UCSD Slide Gallery)
“The most famous of Mesopotamian heroes is Gilgamesh. The mythologizing of this early dynastic Sumerian king of Unug (Uruk) had already begun by about 2400 B.C.E., when Gilgamesh, or Bilgamesh, was worshipped at several Sumerian sites. It is even possible that he was deified during his lifetime (c. 2650 B.C.E.) because of his building of the walls of Uruk and his defense of Uruk against the rival city of Kish....  Gilgamesh was always closely associated with the sun god Utu ( Shamash) and was often identified with Dumuz (Tammuz), also a deified king of Uruk. It was said that his mother was the goddess Ninsun and his father the deified hero Lugalbanda. Ur III and Isin kings (c. 2100–1900) especially considered Gilgamesh their ancestor and used that connection to justify their rule...."


“We know Gilgamesh best through what is probably the earliest example of an epic poem. The “Epic of Gilgamesh” certainly had oral roots but was first expressed in written— Akkadian—form in the Old Babylonian period of the early second millennium B.C.E. A more complete version was written later, in the Middle Babylonian period, supposedly by one Sin-leqe-unnini, and there are neo-Babylonian, neo- Assyrian, Hittite, and other versions. The epic had gained popularity in much of the Middle East by the middle of the second millennium B.C.E. It was apparently the Middle Babylonian version that was the basis for most of the Ninevite recension, the c. 1500 line epic in twelve tablets discovered in the Assyrian Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh dating from the seventh century B.C.E."


Excerpted From:

David Leeming. "Gilgamesh," The Oxford Companion to World mythology. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press