And what does that word translate as? ‘Spotted’.
Because, after all, even if you’re the god of the underworld, Spot is still a good name for your dog...
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It’s a pretty good read, once you get used to the style and the occasional gaps. It’s not a particularly cheerful read, though – the focus of the story is Gilgamesh coming to terms with his mortality. It’s kinda cute that Gilgamesh eventually realises that his quest for immortality is futile, and that he should be focusing on ensuring his deeds are remembered after his death – a rather appropriate theme for the oldest surviving work of human literature, no?
It’s interesting for me coming from a classicist background to compare Gilgamesh to the Greek heroes. See, the thing about the Greek heroes is that, well, they’re jerks. Agamemnon? Jerk. Achilles? Petulant jerk. Jason? An asshole on such a massive scale that Medea’s murder of their children seems an almost justifiable response. Odysseus? Better than the rest, but in a ‘magnificent bastard’ sort of way, rather than in a ‘worthy of emulation’ sort of way. So I found it rather refreshing that, yes, Gilgamesh is a jerk – but the whole story is about how he stops being a jerk! He's an absolute bastard to his subjects, so the gods send Enkidu to knock some sense into him. He goes off into the wilderness like any good archetypal hero, to complete a great quest – only to fail it completely and realise what a selfish jerk he’s being, going off questing for immortality while leaving Uruk without a leader. It's a nice change to have a hero who's hubris leads to him - well, realising he's being a dick, rather than just leading to his death.
Another fun note – about a third of the way in, Gilgamesh rebuffs the advances of the goddess of love, Ishtar. Why? Well, because like in all mythologies, getting sexually involved with deities isn’t good for your long-term health or prosperity. I find it pretty neat that Gilgamesh is already familiar enough with Ishtar’s reputation to automatically reject her; he’s probably one of the few mythical heroes who’s actually paid attention to previous myths. I imagine that if it ever came up, he’d also prove be genre savvy enough to check for alternate interpretations of prophesies, and to be very careful about the phrasing of any wishes he gets… *grin*
Can anyone recommend any good sources on other Sumerian or Babylonian myths? I’m thinking this is a mythology I want to become more familiar with.