Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Rating : 4/5
Reason for reading : Guardian 100 greatest books of all time challenge, Classics Challenge

This Epic was preserved on tablets made of clay dating back as far as four thousand years. It forms a poem about Gilgamesh, who was the King of Urak in Babylonia. It is the oldest epic found to date and predates Homer's Iliad and Odessey by many centuries.

It follows Gilgamesh and his friend, wild man Enkidu, through their first meeting, their adventures against Humbaba who guards the Forest of Cedars, and Taurus the Bull of Heaven). Gilgamesh also sets out on a quest for immortality which takes him on a long journey to meet Uta-napishti who survived the Deluge (basically the Babylonian figure who Noah was based on).

I really enjoyed the poem in it's different variations. The differences between the Babylonia version at the start of the book and the Sumerian version in the last chapter were fascinating. The two styles were very different and I think I preferred the Sumerian style of writing. Considering how old it is, it reads very contempory. The introduction was really useful telling you the history of the areas and cultures involved as well as the different languages spoken and written. The appendix about the translation process of the tablets was fascinating as well. I find it hard enough to get by in French so I have absolutely loads of respect for those who work with languages like these and the cuniform writing.

This is definately one for lovers of Fantasy as well as Mythology and Folk-Tales.


Ana S. said...

I'm glad to hear you liked it! It's amazing how contemporary it feels, isn't it?

Rhinoa said...

Yes totally Nymeth. You didn't get the sense that it was thousands of years old and the language and writing style were very current too.