Gilgamesh (gîl´ge-mèsh´) noun
The semidivine king of Erech, a city of southern Babylonia, and hero of an epic collection of mythic tales, one of which tells of a flood that covered the earth.
Gilgamesh Epic, an important Middle Eastern literary work, written in cuneiform on 12 clay tablets about 2000 BCE. This heroic poem is named for its hero, Gilgamesh, a tyrannical Babylonian king who ruled the city of Uruk, the biblical Erech (now Al Warkâ', Iraq). In answer to the prayers of Uruk's oppressed citizenry, the gods send Enkidu, a wild, brutish man to challenge Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh becomes friends with Enkidu, and they journey together, sharing many adventures.
After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh seeks to learn the secret of immortality from a sage who tells him that a plant in the sea bestows eternal youth. Gilgamesh finds the plant but loses it. The Gilgamesh epic was widely studied and translated in ancient times, and Greeks incorporated elements of it into their epics.
Literature, 3000 B.C.E.
Gilgamesh in Sumerian cuneiform is the first known written legend and tells of a great flood in which man was saved by building an ark.
Food and Drink, 3000 B.C.E.
Sumerian foods mentioned in Gilgamesh include caper buds, wild cucumbers, ripe figs, grapes, several edible leaves and stems, honey, meat seasoned with herbs, and bread- a kind of pancake made of barley flour mixed with sesame seed flour and onions.
Communications and Media, 2500 B.C.E.
The Sumerians develop a cuneiform script alphabet of some 600 simplified signs. They have earlier developed a written language using thousands of picture-signs, or ideograms, as in the Gilgamesh legend of 3000 B.C.E., and the new alphabet is based on those ideograms.
A cuneiform tablet deciphered by British Museum
assistant George Smith, 32, bears the Gilgamesh legend of 3,000 B.C.E.
with an Assyrian account of a great flood that conforms closely with the
biblical account. Smith announces his discovery in December at a meeting
of British archaeologists.