Gilgamesh Comparisons

This page allows you to compare four versions side by side, three verse and one prose.
For more information about the Gilgamesh, view our Gilgamesh Page. Enjoy!

ANDREW GEORGE (1999)    






N.K. SANDARS (1960)


Tablet 1- We Meet Gilgamesh
He who saw the Deep, the country's foundation
[who] knew ..., was wise in all matters!
[Gilgamesh, who] saw the Deep, the country's foundation,
[who] knew ..., was wise in all matters!

[He] ... everywhere ...
and [learnt] of everything, the sum of wisdom.
He saw what was secret, discovered what was hidden,
he brought back a tale before the Deluge.

He came a far road, was weary, found peace,
and set all his labours on a tablet of stone.
He built the rampart of Uruk-the-Sheepfold,
of holy Eanna, the sacred storehouse.

See its wall like a strand of wool,
view its parapet that none could copy!
Take the stairway of a bygone era,
draw near to Eanna, seat of Ishtar the goddess,
that no later king could ever copy!

Surpassing all other kings, heroic in stature,
brave scion of Uruk, wild bull on the rampage!
Going at the fore he was the vanguard,
going at the rear, one of his comrades could trust!

A mighty bank, protecting his warriors,
a violent flood-wave, smashing a stone wall!
Wild bull of Lugalbanda, Gilgamesh the perfect in strength,
suckling of the august Wild Cow, the goddess Ninsun!
of him who knew the most of all men know;
who made the journey; heartbroken; reconciled;

who knew the way things were before the Flood,
the secret things, the mystery; who went

to the end of the earth, and over; who returned,
and wrote the story on a tablet of stone.

He built Uruk. He built the keeping place
of Anu and Istar. The outer wall

shines in the sun like brightest copper; the inner
wall is beyond the imagining of kings.

Study the brickwork, study the fortification;
climb the great ancient staircase to the terrace;

study how it is made; from the terrace see
the planted and fallow fields, the ponds and orchards.

This is Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh
the Wild Ox, son of Lugalbanda, son

of the Lady Wildcow Ninsun, Gilgamesh
the vanguard and the rear guard of the army,

Shadow of Darkness over the enemy field,
the Web, the Flood that rises to wash away

the walls of alien cities, Gilgamesh
the strongest one of all, the perfect, the terror.

It is he who opened passes through the mountains;
and he who dug deep wells on the mountainsides;

who measured the world; and sought out Utnapishtim
beyond the world; it is he who restored the shrines...
Surpassing all kings, powerful and tall
beyond all others, violent, splendid,
a wild bull of a man, unvanquished leader,
hero in the front lines, beloved by his soldiers--
fortress they called him, protector of the people,
raging flood that destroyes all defenses--
two-thirds divine and one thrid human,
son of King Lugalbanda, who became
a god, and of the goddess Ninsun,
he opened the mountain passes, dug wells
on the slopes, crossed the vast ocean, sailed
to the rising sun, journeyed to the edge
of the world, in search of eternal life,
and once he found Utnapishtim--the man
who survived the Great Flood and was made immortal--
he brought back the ancient, forgotten rites,
restoring the temples that the Flood had destroyed,
renewing the statutes and sacraments
for the welfare of the people and the sacred land.
Who is like Gilgamesh? What other king
has inspired such awe? Who else can say,
"I alone rule, supreme among mankind"?
The goddess Arunru, mother of creation,
had designed his body had made him the strongest
of men--huge, handsome, radiant, perfect.
I will proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh. This was the man to whom all things were known; this was the king who knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood. He went on a long journey, was weary, worn-out with labour, returning he rested, engraved on a stone the whole story.
When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thrids they made him god and one third man.
In Uruk he built walls, a great rampart, and the temple of blessed Eanna for the god of the firmament Anu, and for Ishtar the goddess of love. Look at it still today: the outer wall where the cornice runs, it shines with the brilliance of copper; and the inner wall, it has no equal. Touch the threshold, it is ancient. Approach Eanna the dwelling of Ishtar, our lady of love and war, the like of which no latter-day king, no man alive can equal. Climb upon the wall of Uruk; walk along it, I say; regard the foundation terrace and examine the masonry: is it not burnt brick and good? The seven sages laid the foundations.
Tablet 2 - Gilgamesh Fights Enkidu
Enkidu with his foot blocked the door of the wedding house,
not allowing Gilgamesh to enter.
They seized each other at the door of the wedding house,
in the street they joined combat, in the Square of the Land.

The door-jambs shook, the wall did shudder.
[in the street Gilgamesh and Enkidu joined combat, in the Square
of the Land.]
[The door-jambs shook, the wall did shudder.]
Enkidu stood, guardian on the threshold
of the marital chamber, to block the way of the king,

the aura and power of the Wild Ox Gilgamesh,
who was coming to the chamber to take the bride.

Stormy heart struggled with stormy heart
as Gilgamesh met Enkidu in his rage.

As the marital threshold they wrestled, bulls contending;
the doorposts shook and shattered; the wrestling staggered,

wild bulls locked-horned and staggering staggered wrestling
through the city streets; the city walls and lintels

shuddered and swayed, the gates of the city trembled...
When Gilgamesh reached the marriage house,
Enkidu was there. He stood like a boulder,
blocking the door. Gilgamesh, raging,
stepped up and seized him, huge arms gripped
huge arms, foreheads crashed like wild bulls,
the two men staggered, they pitched against houses,
the doorposts trembled, the outer walls shook...
Then Enkidu stepped out, he stood in the street and blocked the way. Mighty Gilgamesh came on and Enkidu met him at the gate. He put out his foot and prevented Gilgamesh from entering the house, so they grappled, holding each other like bulls. They broke the doorposts and the walls shook, they snorted like bulls locked together. They shattered the doorposts and the walls shook.
Tablet 8 - Enkidu Dies
Enkidu [lay] on his bed, [his sickness worsened,]
a third day and a fourth day, [the sickness of Enkidu worsened.]

A fifth day, a sixth and a seventh, an eighth, a ninth [and a tenth,]
the sickness of Enkidu worsened
An eleventh day and a twelfth,……
Enkidu [lay] on the bed,……
He called for Gilgamesh [and spoke to his friend:]

‘[My god] has taken against me, my friend,...,
[I do not die] like one who [falls] in the midst of battle.
I was afraid of combat, and……
My friend, one who [falls] in combat [makes his name,]
but I, [I do not fall] in [combat, and shall make not my name.]”
Enkidu said: "We went together through

the dangers of the Forest and we killed
the bull of Heaven. Do not forget how we,

two people together, prevailed against the terror."
Enkidu lay suffering on the bed of terror

another day and another day and another,
and the long nights between, and day after day

the suffering of Enkidu grew worse.
On the twelfth day he raised up in his bed

and spoke these words to Gilgamesh and said:
"Gilgamesh, who encouraged me in the battle,

saying, ‘Two people, companions, they can prevail,'
Gilgamesh is afraid and does not help me!

After that Gilgamesh heard the death rattle.
The day that Enkidu had his dreams,
his strength began failing. For twelve long days
he was deathly sick, he lay in his bed
in agony, unable to rest,
and every day he grew worse. At last
he sat up and called out to Gilgamesh:
"Have you abandoned me now, dear friend?
You told me that you would come to help me
when I was afraid. But I cannot see you,
you have not come to fight off this danger.
Yet weren't we to remain forever
inseparable, you and I?"
When he heard the death rattle, Gilgamesh moaned
like a dove. His face grew dark. "Beloved,
wait, don't leave me. Dearest of men,
don't die, don't let them take you from me."
This day on which Enkidu dreamed came to an end and he lay stricken with sickness. One whole day he lay on his bed and his suffering increased. He said to Gilgamesh, the friend on whose account he had left the wilderness, 'Once I ran for you, for the water of life, and I now have nothing.' A second day he lay on his bed and Gilgamesh watched over him but the sickness increased. A third day he lay on his bed, he called out to Gilgamesh, rousing him up. Now he was weak and his eyes were blind with weeping. Ten days he lay and his suffering increased, eleven and twelve days le hay on his bed of pain. Then he called to Gilgamesh, 'My friend, the great goddess cursed me and I must die in shame. I shall not die like a man fallen in battle; I feared to fall, but happy is the man who falls in the battle, for I must die in shame.'
Tablet 9 - Gilgamesh Sets Out To Find Eternal Life
For his friend Enkidu Gilgamesh
did bitterly weep as he wandered the wild:
'I shall die, and shall I not then be as Enkidu?
Sorrow has entered my heart!

'I am afraid of death, so I wander the wild,
to find Uta-napishti, son of Ubar-Tutu.
On the road, travelling swiftly,
I came one night to a mountain pass. 'I saw some lions and grew afraid,
I lifted my head to the moon in prayer,
to [Sin, the] lamp of the gods, went my supplications:
"[O Sin and...,] keep me safe!"

[That night he] lay down, then woke from a dream: the presence of the moon he grewc glad of life,
he took up his axe in his hand,
he drew forth [the dirk from] his belt.

Like an arrow among them he fell,
he smote the [lions, he] killed them and scattered them.
Gilgamesh wandered in the wilderness
grieving over the death of Enkidu

and weeping saying: "Enkidu has died.
Must I die too? Must Gilgamesh be like that?"

Gilgamesh felt the fear of it in his belly.
He said to himself that he would seek the son

of Ubartutu, Utnapishtim, he,
the only one of men by means of whom

he might find out how death could be avoided.
He said to himself that he would hasten to him,

the dangers of the journey notwithstanding.

At night in the mountain passes there were lions,
and Gilgamesh was afraid, and entered afraid

into the moonlit mountain passes, praying
to Sin the moon god: "Hear my prayer and save me

as I enter into the passes where there are lions!"
At night when he lay down to sleep there were

confusions of dreams and in the dreams confusions
of noises, confusions of swords, daggers, axes.

An adversary gloried over him
in struggle, and in the dream who knows who won.
Gilgamesh wept over Enkidu his friend,
bitterly he wept through the wilderness.
"Must I die too? Must I be as lifeless
as Enkidu? How can I bear this sorrow
that gnaws at my belly, this fear of death
that restlessly drives me onward? If only
I could find the one man whom the gods made immortal,
I would ask him how to overcome death."

So Gilgamesh roamed, his heart full of anguish,
wandering, always eastward, in search
of Utnapishtim, whom the gods made immortal.

Finally he arrived at the two high mountains
called the Twin Peaks. There summits touch
the fault of heaven, their bases reach down
to the underworld, they keep watch over
the sun's departure and its return.
Two scorpion people were posted at the entrance,
guarding the tunnel into which the sun
plunges when it sets and moves through the earth
to emerge above the horizon at dawn.
Bitterly Gilgamesh wept for his friend Enkidu; he wandered over the wilderness as a hunter, he roamed over the plains; in his bitterness he cried, 'How can I rest, how can I be at peace? Despair is in my heart. What my brother is now, that shall I be when I am dead. Because I am afraid of death I will go as best I can to find Utnapishtim whom they call the Faraway, for he has entered the assembly of the gods.' So Gilgamesh travelled over the wilderness, he wandered over the grasslands, a long journey, in search of Utnapishtim, whom the gods took after the deluge; and they set him to live in the land of Dilmum, in the garden of the sun; and to him alone of men they gave everlasting life.
    At night when he came to the mountain passes Gilgamesh prayed: 'In these mountain passes long ago I saw lions, I was afraid and I lifted my eyes to the moon; I prayed and my prayers went up to the gods, so now, O moon god Sin, protect me." When he had prayed he lay down to sleep, until he was woken from out of a dream. He saw the lions round him glorying in life; then he took his axe in his hand, he drew his sword from his belt, and he fell upon them life an arrow from the string, and struck and destroyed and scattered them.
Book 11: Utnapishtim Recounts The Flood
'I looked at the weather, it was quiet and still,
but all the people had turned to clay.
The flood plain was flat like the roof of a house.
I opened a vent, on my cheeks fell the sunlight.

'Down I sat, I knelt and wept,
down my cheeks the tears were coursing.
I scanned the horizons, the edge of the ocean,
in fourteen places there rose an island.

'On the mountain of Nimush the boat ran aground,
Mount Nimush held the boat fast, allowed it no motion.
a third day and a fourth, Mount Nimush held the boat fast,
allowed it no motion.
A fifth day and a sixth, Mount Nimush held the boat fast, allowed
it no motion.

'The seventh day when it came,
I broke out a dove, I let it loose:
off went the dove but the in returned,
there was no place to land, so it came back to me.
...the South Wind flooding over the mountains and valleus
until the seventh day when the storm birth labor

subsided at last, the flood subsided at last.
I opened the hatch. The daylight touched my face.

I looked outside. Nothing was moving at all.
It looked as flat as a flat clay roof looks flat;

and all human beings had turned to clay.
I fell to my knees and wept. The tears ran down

the sides of my nose. I wept in total silence.
I looked outside and looked as far as I could,

trying to find, looking across the world,
something. And then, far off, something was there.

What looked like signs of an island could faintly be seen;
and then the boat was caught and held from under

by the peak rock of a mountain under the water.
It was Mount Nisir the boat was grounded on.

A first day it was held, and a second day;
a third day the boat was held from under,

and a fourth day, and a fifth; a sixth day,
amd then on the seventh day I freed a dove.

The dove flew free and flew away from the boat,
seeking a place for its little feet to alight,

and finding none, flew back to the boat to perch.
"For six days and seven nights, the storm
demolished the earth. On the seventh day,
the downpour stopped. The ocean grew calm.
No land could be seen, just water on all sides,
as flats as a roof. There was no life at all.
The human race had turned into clay.
I opened a hatch and the blessed sunlight
streamed upon me, I fell to my knees
and wept. When I got up and looked around,
a coastline appear, a half mile away.
On Mount Nimush the ship ran aground,
the mountain held it and would not release it.
For six days and seven nights, the mountain
would not release it. On the seventh day,
I brought out a dove and set it free.
The dove flew off, then flew back to the ship,
because there was no place to land...
'When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea frew calm, the flood was stilled; I looked at the face of the world and there was silence, all mankind was turned to clay. The surface of the sea stretched as flat as a roof-top; I opened a hatch and the light fell on my face. Then I bowed low, I sat down and I wept, the tears streamed down my face, for on every side was the waste of water. I looked for land in vain, but fourteen leagues distant there appeared a mountain, and there the boat grounded; on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast, she held fast and did not budge. One day she held, and a second day on the the mountain of Nisir she held fast and did not budge. A third day, and a fourth day she held fast on the mountain and did not budge; a fifth day and a sixth day she held fast on the mountain. When the seventh day dawned I loosed a dove and let her go. She flew away, but finding no resting- place she returned.