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Gilgamesh - Context , historicalfigure,.C.Long...

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Context Unlike the heroes of Greek or Celtic mythology, the hero of  The Epic of Gilgamesh  was an actual  historical figure, a king who reigned over the Sumerian city-state of Uruk around 2700  B . C . Long  after his death, people worshipped Gilgamesh, renowned as a warrior and builder and widely  celebrated for his wisdom and judiciousness. One prayer invokes him as “Gilgamesh, supreme  king, judge of the Anunnaki” (the gods of the underworld). Called Erech in the Bible, Uruk was  one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia. The historical King Gilgamesh probably raised its  walls, which archaeologists have determined had a perimeter of six miles. Today its ruins rest  near the town of Warka, in southern Iraq, about a third of the way from Basra to Baghdad. A team  of German archaeologists recently announced that they’d detected a buried structure there that  might be Gilgamesh’s tomb. Though the military actions of 2003 stopped their work before  excavations could begin, their claim has aroused considerable interest.  Dozens of stories about Gilgamesh circulated throughout the ancient Middle East. Archaeologists  have discovered the earliest ones, inscribed on clay tablets in the Sumerian language before 2000  B . C . Other tablets tell stories about him in the Elamite, Hurrian, and Hittite tongues. Over time,  many of those stories were consolidated into a large, epic work. The most complete known  version of this long poem was found in Nineveh, in the ruins of the library of Assurbanipal, the  last great king of the Assyrian empire. Assurbanipal was undoubtedly a despot and a warmonger,  but he was also a tireless archivist and collector—we owe much of our knowledge about ancient  Mesopotamia to his efforts.  The Epic of Gilgamesh  is written in Akkadian, the Babylonians’ language, on eleven tablets, with a  fragmentary appendix on a twelfth. The tablets actually name their author, Sin-Leqi-Unninni,  whose name translates to “Moon god, accept my plea.” This poet/editor must have completed his  work sometime before 612  B . C ., when the Persians conquered the Assyrian Empire and destroyed  Nineveh.  Gilgamesh’s fame did not survive Assyria’s collapse. Although he had been a ubiquitous literary,  religious, and historical figure for two millennia, he would be completely forgotten until Victorian  times, more than 2,000 years later. In 1839, an English traveler named Austen Henry Layard  excavated some 25,000 broken clay tablets from the ruins of Nineveh. Henry Rawlinson, an expert 
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