Episode 5 – Sumerians 5 Gilgamesh has Adventures

In this episode we cover two shorter tales of Gilgamesh. He defends Uruk from a besieging force in Gilgamesh and Aga and then he helps Ishtar and learns about the afterlife in Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld. Two very different stories, but both interesting.

As an addendum to the tale of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld, there are some readings of the story that say Enkidu simply dies and it is his ghost that communicates briefly with Gilgamesh before just staying dead. Obviously this conflicts with other stories, since he has a much more dramatic death in the main epic, and is a pretty major plot point. I think it is ambiguous on whether or not he is actually brought back, and even if it wasn’t we are keeping him alive for now, since we need him for the next episode.

As mentioned in the story today, King Enme-baragesi is mentioned by name in the oldest fragment of writing known to exist, the Kish tablet, named because it was found in the ancient city of Kish, about 50 miles south of modern Baghdad. It is dated to between 3500BCE and 3200BCE, and while some say the meaning is uncertain, I have seen it linked by random people on the internet to King Enme-baragesi himself. Obviously, not being fluent in ancient proto-cunieform, I just look at it and see pretty pictures. In any case, it is a cool artifact. Image from Wikipeda:

Additionally, I have been putting Gilgamesh’s height at around nine feet tall, and Enkidu at eight feet. These were my guesses based on how large they are said to be relative to other things, but I have found it stated directly in a fragment from the Middle Babylonian period putting his height at 11 cubits. Now, standardized measures vary wildly throughout time, but the Mesopotamian cubit appears to have fluctuated around half a meter, meaning that Gilgamesh is said to have stood somewhere between fifteen and eighteen feet tall, with Enkidu being slightly shorter and broader. What are we to make of this? We either accept that he was literally as tall as my house, with all the logistical problems that entails, or we take the boring approach and say he was normal sized and that the stories are not one hundred percent true documents of fact. And so I am going to split the difference and say that he was nine feet tall and capable of carrying three tons without encumbrance. This seems most likely to be the factual truth, and means he did not face the sheer logistical challenges that a sixteen foot Gilgamesh would have.

As a final show note, I have gone through and changed the titles for all the old episodes to remove the numbering, since maybe that is what is keeping me off the Apple Podcasts? I am honestly not sure why I am not yet in the Itunes system, but I am working on it.

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