The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Tablet.Line)
When Gilgamesh heard this
the zikru of the river(?) he created …
Just as day began to dawn Gilgamesh opened(?) …
and brought out a big table of sissoo wood.
A carnelian bowl he filled with honey,
a lapis lazuli bowl he filled with butter.
He provided … and displayed it before Shamash. (8.222-228)
The text of the tablet is broken in a few places here, and scholars don't know how to translate one of the words ("zikru"). (Sissoo trees, however, are actually a thing.) Still, the general idea seems to be that Gilgamesh is making an offering to Shamash before setting out on his journey to find Utanapishtim. If your personal god is a dude like Shamash, that's a relationship you want to keep up.
"Then I sent out everything in all directions and sacrificed (a sheep).
I offered incense in front of the mountain-ziggurat.
Seven and seven cult vessels I put in place,
and (into the fire) underneath (or: into their bowls) I poured reeds, cedar, and myrtle.
The gods smelled the savor,
the gods smelled the sweet savor,
and collected like flies over a (sheep) sacrifice." (11.155-171)
Here, Utanapishtim explains what he did after the Flood. At first glance, this looks like a straightforward picture of the "you-scratch-my-back, I'll-scratch-yours" relationship that is typical between mortals and gods in ancient mythology. Utanapishtim gets the sacrifices in order, and the gods gratefully cluster round. But, um, didn't the gods just try to kill everyone?
"How alike are the sleeping(?) and the dead.
The image of Death cannot be depicted.
(Yes, you are a) human being, a man(?)!
After Enlil had pronounced the blessing,
the Anunnaki, the Great Gods, assembled.
Mammetum, she who fashions destiny, determined destiny with them.
They established Death and Life,
but they did not make known 'the days of death.'" (10.302-309)
Here, Utanapishtim tries to show Gilgamesh that death is a sacred limitation ordained by gods.When Gilgamesh finally backs down from his quest, are his reasons religious? If not, what are they?