AO 3:04, Jul/Aug 2000
Hero, king, god and striving man
See the tablet-box of cedar,
Release its clasps of bronze!
Lift the lid of its secret,
Pick up the tablet of lapis lazuli and read out the
Travails of Gilgamesh, all that he went through.
(SB Tablet I, 2428)
No figure is more familiaror more fascinatingin ancient Near Eastern mythology than the hero called Gilgamesh.1 Some say that a real person lies at the core of these resounding storiesa Sumerian king of Uruk during the Early Dynastic II period (c. 2700 B.C.E.). In a famous king list, Gilgamesh is the fifth ruler of Uruk after the great flood. But Gilgamesh is also referred to as a god in early Sumerian administrative texts. Scholars have suggested that Gilgamesh the king was deified soon after his death.