Does anyone know if this was an actual book that was studied and followed by an ancient race of people? Do any groups still follow it today?

For those who are unfamiliar, this book (if there really is such a thing) teaches that there is no heaven or hell or even oblivion but instead enternal torture for both the good and bad who die. No matter how bad life it, death is by far worse.

The dead will be tortured by evil vampire-like creatures and also spend eternity sitting in a black, putrid darkness eating dust and clay.

Charming huh?

Again, my question is, is this an actual document that was followed by a race of people or is it a work of fiction that has become urban legend?


Coarse and violent nudity. Occasional language.

Although I’ve never plowed through it, I was always under the impression that it was intended as fiction. More than one anthology of ancient and classic science fiction starts with an excerpt from Gilgamesh.

That is kind of what I figured, but is there any part (no matter how small) that actually derives from someone’s true beliefs?

BTW - Make that legend, minus the “urban”.


Coarse and violent nudity. Occasional language.

Oh wow, a chance to rattle off obscure history! You really want to know this? OK.
(Most of this is coming from the intro/notes to my copy of “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, lest you think I walk around with all this trivia in my head.)
1)Gilgamesh is actually a bunch of poems, not a single work. Most of it comes to us from the Babylonians, but fragments from earlier Sumerian poems involving the hero also exist. It’s basically a “here’s a heroic figure, now everybody go write a bunch of stories about him and add to his legend.” Kind of like different writers contibuting stories about the character of Superman.
2) The poems themselves aren’t particularly religious, and don’t appear to have been part of any religious ceremony. They’re tales along the lines of Homer’s Odyssey; they entertain and provide moral lessons through a heroic figure’s encounters with the otherworld. But the figures in the stories do reflect that culture’s religous beliefs.
3) There probably was a historical Gilgamesh (2700 BC; the name’s recorded in numerous places). He more than likely performed some notable acts as king, and over the years, stories about him were embellished, or his name was lent to already existing myths.
4) The gods and goddesses (Enlil, Ishtar, et. al) and the depictions of the underworld were worshipped/believed in by the Babylonians (and Sumerians, under slightly different names). They put in an appearance in plenty of other surviving myths/legends. So yes, at one point, all those deities had followers, and their followers no doubt held that image of the underworld to be as true and real as any crop of believers accepts the finer details of their own religion. Don’t know of anyone currently worshipping Ishtar, although it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere, somebody was. Ya never know, and it might be fun to revive.

Gilgamesh was also mentioned in the bible. Read “Asimov’s Guide to the Bible” if you want to know more.

“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is significant as the first recorded fiction ever produced by humans (to our knowledge.) If you want to read it, I’d recommend John Gardner’s posthumously-published translation and notes, which really give a sense of the epic as a work of art, moreso than just as a tale. And if you really get into it, “The Sunlight Dialogues” by Gardner draws a lot of the symbolism and imagery of Gilgamesh into a modern-day novel.

Boy, Babylonian/Sumerian/Assyrian spiritual beliefs were pretty darned unpleasant, though. You’re sure right about that, Diane. What you described doesn’t sound uncommon, although I don’t remember much of it explicitly spelled out in the “Epic” itself.

Leviathan, who appears in the book of Job, is from the same religion. In the modern day, you really only see traces of that whole system of belief in horror books and movies (the Necronomicon, which appears in all kinds of things, and the stories of HP Lovecraft), and in Dungeons and Dragons scenarios. Some folks say the movie “Jaws” was based closely on the myth of Leviathan/Tiamat.

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way if they get mad, you’re already a mile away. And they don’t have any shoes.

Joools says, “…as the first recorded fiction ever produced by humans…”

That brings to mind something I’ve always wondered: How sure are we, for very old texts, what was supposed to be fiction and what was supposed to be fact? (I would count a religious text as “supposed to be fact”, on the grounds that people believed in it, and it wasn’t intentionally fictional).

I don’t know very much about this whole process, but I was thinking that today, we categorize books into fiction and non-fiction. Much of the fiction reads like non-fiction. (And much of the non-fiction should be labeled fiction, but that’s another matter).

But X-thousand years ago, nobody was keeping track of stuff like this, so I guess it can only be done based on other clues? As a thought experiment: let’s say we erased all the fiction/non-fiction markings from our current library books, and some aliens discovered the remains of one of our libraries thousands of years from now. Let’s say they find two books intact: (1) the bible, and (2) a murder mystery. How would our hypothetical aliens figure out that the bible was believed to be “truth” to some segment of the population, but that the murder mystery was not supposed to be a tale of an actual event? Given a wide enough body of work, they might cross correlate texts, but they only have two here to work with.


I was under the impression that the oldest known examples of a written alphabet were Sumerian Cuniform (sp?) and they (some of?)related to the tale of Gilgamesh. But how in the hell did they translate it? What were the languages on the Rosetta Stone, BTW? Greek, Egyptian, and ?

If you’re looking for a more contemporary adaptation of the Gilgamesh legend, you might try Robert Silverberg’s 1992 novel Gilgamesh the King.

Rosetta Stone: Greek, Egyptian and… More Egyptian. It had two different versions of Egyptian on it, an older and a newer version. But it was the Greek translation that allowed people to crack the two Egyptian versions.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

What is written on the Rosetta stone?

All I’ve heard is that it helped us decipher hieroglyphics. But what did it say?

And where is this stone now?

The Rosseta Stone details some rather mundane details from the reign of Cleopatra in the 1st century BC.

It’s on display in the British Museum. When I saw it a few years ago, I was amazed that you can actually reach out and touch it. As I was leaving I noticed a little girl dripping her icecream cone all over it!

      • Wasn’t Gilgamesh the guy with the cat who chased the Smurfs around? - MC

No, that was Gargamel (sp?). Not to be confused with his cat, Azreal (also sp?).


I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine - Kurt Vonnegut

PapaBear, Actually, to the people concerned at the time it was create, the details of what is on the Rossetta stone were rather important.

You see, the writing on the stone is a proclomation giving the temple it was originally held by, a tax exempt status[1]. Which is one reason it was in stone…some things never change eh?

[1] I read about this in the book For Good an Evil, a history of taxation and its impact on civilization by Charles Adams. An excellent book, very informative, with some interesting takes on some of the factors of why many empires fell, and grew so fast. As an example, one factor in Islams growth is quite probably due to the fact that convertes didn’t have to pay taxes…about the time this tradition ended, Islams growth started to falter.

>>Being Chaotic Evil means never having to say your sorry…unless the other guy is bigger than you.<<

—The dragon observes

<< [The Rosetta Stone is] on display in the British Museum. When I saw it a few years ago, I was amazed that you can actually reach out and touch it. As I was leaving I noticed a little girl dripping her icecream cone all over it! >>

Yes, I was astounded too… but apparently there has been some restoration in the last few years/months, and it is now no longer touchable. BTW, you weren’t actually touching the stone, it had been coated in a black substance (like shellac) with white lettering to make it more visible to the museum guests. I understand that has now been removed, and the real stone is visible (but not touchable by hand or ice cream.)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume the Rosetta Stone isn’t copyrighted :wink:

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Note that, while the Rosetta Stone was vital, it wasn’t all the evidence. A few personal names had already been worked out (the habit of putting them in a decorative border helped), and Coptic, the modern descendant of ancient Egyptian, was still being spoken, at least in churches.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams


just to clarify:
The rosetta stone contained the same inscription in Greek, & the two types of egyptian writing previously mentioned. the fact that they were able to make a direct comparison between Greek (a known language) and 2 unknown languages enabled them to begin deciphering.