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Myths of Mesopotamia

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Gilgamesh, King of Uruk

Mesopomatia is widely considered the cradle of Western civilisation. It's where we changed from bear skin wearing cavemen into loafers sporting city dwellers. In just a few hundred years. But the most important breakthrough was the invention of the script which meant obscene jokes could be written down and stored away for future generations. The most well known bit of (non obscene) literature is the Epic of Gilgamesh, featuring King Gilgamesh, his friend Enkidu and several gods and goddesses.

Ancient Mesopotamia saw Ishtar as the goddess of war, love and spunk. Often worshipped by the good people in the city of Uruk in fertility rituals. Many myths surround Ishtar, the most notable is the one in which she threatens to undead the dead and make them eat the living. Pleasant Akkadian girl really.

In the epic of Gilgamesh she is portrayed as the spoiled, petulant and short fused daughter of the god Anu. After Gilgamesh, and his loyal friend Enkidu, defeated the demon Humbaba they were considered heroes in the city of Uruk of which Gilgamesh was king. They celebrated their victory and plotted many more adventures. At this point Ishtar appeared on the city walls and suggested Gilgamesh should marry her. He declined. A simple “no thanks” would have sufficed, but Gilgamesh decided (against his better judgement) to state (at length) what happened to Ishtar's previous lovers. It turned out she's been quite creative in the getting-rid-of-your-lover department.

Where are your bridegrooms that you keep forever? Where is your Little Shepherd bird that went up over you! See here now, I will recite the list of your lovers.

You loved the colorful Little Shepherd bird and then hit him, breaking his wing, so now he stands in the forest crying My Wing!

You loved the supremely mighty lion, yet you dug for him seven and again seven pits.

You loved the stallion, famed in battle, yet you ordained for him the whip, the goad, and the lash, ordained for him to gallop for seven and seven hours, ordained for him drinking from muddled waters, you ordained far his mother Silili to wail continually.

You loved the Shepherd, the Master Herder, who continually presented you with bread baked in embers, and who daily slaughtered for you a kid.[ff-ing love this one] Yet you struck him, and turned him into a wolf, so his own shepherds now chase him and his own dogs snap at his shins.

You loved Ishullanu, your father's date gardener, who continually brought you baskets of dates, and brightened your table daily.

And the list goes on.

After Ishtar heard Gilgamesh' tales of her ex-lovers she felt a red mist coming over her. The same feeling a friend of hers had when she dropped a random bloke over some petty issue like having testicles. Having a level playing field wasn't high up on the ancient agenda, mind.

The goddess Ishtar was thus angered and she went to her father, the god Anu, and pleaded with him to give her the Bull of Heaven to deal with the bullying. Anu was reluctant as he knew Gilgamesh was only stating the truth. Unleashing the Bull of Heaven (who wasn't a sapper, no sir, not at all!) would mean years of ill bearings on the people of Uruk. He asked her whether she had prepared for the consequences, and she said she had.

He gave her the Bull and it savaged the poor people of Uruk. Hundreds of men were swallowed by the earth opened by the Bull of Heaven. The fine men of Uruk were dying by the dozens, even by the hundreds.

Luckily Gilgamesh and Enkidu hadn't been drinking that day and they took upon them the task of smiting the Bull. And succeeded. They killed the Bull and Enkidu wrenched off a thigh and swung it at Ishtar. And lo, Enkidu was recorded thus saying:

If I could only get at you I would do the same to you! I would drape his innards over your arms!

At that point Ishtar assembled all the harlots of Uruk to mourn over the Bull's thigh.

Meanwhile, King Gilgamesh erected a monumental cock made out of lapis lazuli and worshipped it.

Gilgamesh, an epic story of love, friendship, bravery and revenge. Brought to you from the ancient city of Uruk.