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Gilgamesh Flood Tablet

British Museum Flood Tablet

 Gilgamesh Flood Tablet

The Gilgamesh Flood Tablet has the flood story from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia which is regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature. The flood story was added to the Gilgamesh Epic utilised surviving Babylonian deluge stories from older Sumerian poems which inspired the flood myth.

“When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, … dance and be merry, … cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.”
― The Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh’s reign is believed to have been about 2700 BCE, shortly before the earliest known written stories. The first Sumerian Gilgamesh poems date from 2100–2000 BCE. One of these poems mentions Gilgamesh’s journey to meet the flood hero, as well as retelling the flood story. The flood story was included in the Epic of Gilgamesh because in it the flood hero is granted immortality by the gods and that story supports the search for immortality in the epic. After having failed to discover the secret of eternal life in his quest, Gilgamesh returns home to Uruk, where the sight of its massive walls inspires him to praise the enduring work of mortal men. The moral is that mortals can achieve immortality through lasting works of civilisation and culture.

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“If a few curses stopped me, what kind of hero would I be?”
– Gilgamesh


Photo Credit: 1) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons