“In the beginning was Uruk, the first city of men. Black as night, more ruffled than bird nests, its huge walls inspired respect or fear.
At the heart of the city was the House of Sky. The founder of this city, in very ancient times, had built with his hands the walls of colossal stones.
This is the prologue of the first novel ever written. Jewel of Sumerian mythology, it was found on the Assyrian tablets. This is the Epic of the first king of the men, in the time when they were living with gods. Here is his story as it was engraved with his hand.
“I am the one you name Gilgamesh, a pilgrim of all roads in the country and elsewhere. I am the one who has known the hidden truths and the mysteries of life and death, and of death especially. I knew Inanna in the sacred marriage bed; I killed demons and spoke to the gods; I am myself two thirds god, one third man only.
So I became the king of the first city of men. My pride was boundless, my strength superhuman, and my will irrevocable. Tired of my tyranny, the men went to the gods to complain. Enki said: “When I created Gilgamesh, I created a perfect man, accomplished, to whom all the gods wanted to make a gift. Shamash, the god of sun, gave him beauty, and Adad, the god of storm, gave him courage. Nammu, my mother, gave him victory: Gilgamesh can not be defeated.” The men were in despair when Enki added this: “I can see only one way to avert his violence. I will make a second Gilgamesh to challenge him to a duel.” What he did.
He mixed the genes, taking off here, adding there, to get a superb DNA. And he made Enkidu, the wild giant, living naked in the woods, covered with hair from head to foot, stronger than a hundred buffaloes, more ferocious than ten lions, more brutal than the storm.
And the men, trembling with fear, cursed their doom. They came to complain to me. I was the invincible Gilgamesh, I would make short work of him, even if he was bigger than the mountains. I burst on him, we fought “never running away, never tired, crossing sword to sword and leaping ditches.” (Source)Victor Hugo, Legend of the Centuries
After days and nights of fighting, even if I was born winner, I could not overcome him. I told him: “As long as it remains something in our hands, we will fight as lions and panthers. Wouldn’t it be better if we become brothers?” (Source)Victor Hugo, Legend of the Centuries
And we did. Together, we have accomplished countless works, limitless feats. But it was never enough for my taste. One day, I said to him: “Let us get rid the Earth of the giant Humbaba. He is fierce and evil, gods and men shall bless us.” Enkidu sighed. He knew how stubborn I was. “Humbaba guards the sacred cedar forest. Enki, his master, created him flawless, armed with the Seven Terrors the rays that burn the flesh and twist the bones. When he roars, it is like a torrent in the middle of the storm. His breath is fiery, his teeth are death itself. If a deer is moving in the distance, Humbaba hears it.
He will kill us when we land the foot in the forest.”
But I did not want to listen. The battle was terrible, yet the two of us, we overcame him, the fierce Humbaba bit the dust. I felled the cedars of Enki, and I made for Uruk the most beautiful gate a city could dream of, with a width and a height never seen before.”
“Enkidu was watching over me like a brother. When I took a wife, he was afraid that I suffer, and he was right. On a sad day he fell ill, and despite all the care of sorcerers, my only friend died. I could not bring myself to his absence, and I began to think about death, so much that this awful image never left me. I decided to go in search of immortality of the gods, because death terrified me. I did not care of all the trials that awaited me on my way.
The victory was my fate, but death would be too. The invincible Gilgamesh, sooner or later, would have to bow before it; this thought made me force the pace.
A man gets tied up to the ground / Gives the world its saddest sound. (Simon and Garfunkel)
Finally I reached Mashu, where a tunnel leads to the place of Gods.” This is the Abzu, hollow earth, area of Enki according to the Sumerians. “There, a wide river, a powerful indomitable torrent, stood in front of me. Someone was sleeping in the shade of a fig tree.” A fig tree, really? Some twenty centuries later, Buddha experienced enlightenment under this same tree.
Man or god, would he know how to pass through this living water? I sat down to await his waking. He slept two whole days, he awoke the third one.
Before I could say a word, he said: “I was waiting for you, Gilgamesh, son of a god. I owe you the truth. No man can cross this river. Beyond it starts the “land between” where the gods gorge themselves with the ambrosia that gives youth and with nectar of long life. You are a man, Gilgamesh, your fate is to die, thus wanted the gods when they made the men.”
I reviewed the sad end of Enkidu, and I said: “But you, the son of a man, tell me how you became a god.”
The sun set for the fourth time when he spoke.
“My name is Atrahasis, but the gods call me Utnapishtim. Formerly, the gods have decided on a flood to destroy the human race. But Enki came to warn me to build an ark and to take up plants, animals and people.
I did as Enki commanded me, the ark saved us all, and Enki granted me the right to taste the nectar of long life.
That way I became a god, and you can become one by the wedding of water from the earth with fire from heaven.”
Rich of the secret of the gods, I went back to Uruk.
There I built the House of Heaven, equipped with a lightning rod and many pipes of clay and metal, where I ran the water beneath the flashes of lightning. So I enjoyed a very long life, endless powers, and peace of mind.
But gods like men, sooner or later, must die. It is the law of Living.
When my time had come, with good grace, I stopped drinking lightning water, and I prepared myself for the last trip.