The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Tablet.Line)
"Hurry, stand by him so that he (Humbaba) does not enter the forest,
and does not go down into the thickets and hide (?)!
He has not put on his seven coats of armor(?),
he is wearing only one, but has taken off six." (4.225-234)
And all those prayers to Shamash pay off. When Enkidu and Gilgamesh finally reach the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh has a moment of doubt. But then Shamash himself speaks out of the heavens, telling him to cheer up—and to strike now, while Humbaba is vulnerable. This is the first of several times that Shamash will personally intervene to help out Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gee, must be nice to have a personal sun-god.
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh, saying:
"My friend, Humbaba, Guardian of the Forest,
grind up, kill, pulverize(?), and … him!
Before the Preeminent God Enlil hears,
and the … gods are full of rage at us.
Enlil is in Nippur, Shamash is in Sippar.
Erect an eternal monument proclaiming …
how Gilgamesh killed(?) Humbaba." (5.241-248)
Hey, Enkidu! Aren't you grateful? Did you forget that Shamash has been helping you out the whole time? Enkidu clearly isn't thinking straight here. And he'll pay for it later on, when Enlil insists he must die for killing Humbaba, and chopping down the mightiest tree in the Cedar Forest. If you're going to act against the will of the gods, you'd better be ready to take the punishment.
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!" (6.147-157)
This is probably the poem's clearest example of how, in the polytheistic culture of ancient Mesopotamia, people weren't just abstractly "religious." Instead, they had personal relationships with a variety of gods. Some gods would be their friends, but some could even be their enemies. Here, Enkidu and Gilgamesh continue to act as devoted worshippers of Shamash, the god who helped them out throughout their quest against Humbaba. On the other hand, Enkidu really goes nuts on Ishtar—surpassing even Gilgamesh's behavior, earlier on, when he insulted and rejected her.