Summary of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Lecture by Andrew George

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00:00:00 - 01:00:00

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient poem that tells the story of Gilgamesh, a king who goes on a journey to find immortality. Along the way, he learns about the human condition and the inevitability of death. The poem has been passed down through the ages and has been discovered in various forms, including a tablet from the 18th century BC.

  • 00:00:00 This lecture discusses the Epic of Gilgamesh, a masterpiece of world literature from ancient Iraq. The professor discusses the various ways in which Gilgamesh has entered the artistic consciousness of different cultures, and how this epic is an important part of the students' coursework at Harvard College. Following the lecture, a panel of professors offers their insights on various topics related to the epic.
  • 00:05:00 The Epic of Gilgamesh is a 4000-year-old Babylonian poem that tells the story of King Gilgamesh and his friend, Enkidu. Gilgamesh is a tyrant, but Enkidu is turned human by the gods and teaches him a lesson. They fight and struggle, but eventually become bosom friends.
  • 00:10:00 This lecture discusses the epic story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, who go on an adventure to the Cedar Forest and defeat the ogre Humbaba. After their return, Gilgamesh rejects Ishtar's proposal to marry her and she curses him. Enkidu dies in the process of defeating Humbaba, and Gilgamesh has to bury him.
  • 00:15:00 In the story of Gilgamesh, the death of his best friend, Enkidu, drives him crazy with fear of death. He realizes that death is real and that he too will die, and he sets out on a mad quest to find the secret of immortality. He fails, but is given a plant that can rejuvenate him and goes on to a successful life.
  • 00:20:00 This lecture by Andrew George discusses the archeology of the ancient city of Nineveh, and how Austen Henry Layard discovered and deciphered the ancient poem Gilgamesh. George discusses how the cuneiform writing on the tablets found at Nineveh helped to establish the discipline of Assyriology.
  • 00:25:00 According to the video, Assyriologists have a perennial problem with broken sources, as tablets frequently fall off shelves and break on the floor. Smith, the first salaried Assyriologist, discovered that there was a narrative of the flood in the Izdubar legends in the Epic of Gilgamesh. However, the story was not complete and the British Museum commissioned George Smith to go to Iraq and find the missing piece. Smith, with the help of local people, found the missing piece and brought it back to the British Museum.
  • 00:30:00 The Epic of Gilgamesh is a poem that is 1,000 years older than the Homeric poems and the Syrian tablets. It has been discovered that tablets from much older time are turning up, and Assyriologists are using these new manuscripts to reconstruct the poem. Fragmentary tablets are difficult to work with, and they often deteriorate quickly. Line drawings of tablets are made to help conservators and scholars understand the poem.
  • 00:35:00 The Babylonian literature is being recovered and translated by a few people around the world, which is a painstaking process that is rewarding. Babylonian poetry is carefully structured, with each line typically being a statement or two statements, and a sentence typically stopping at the end of the line or going on to two lines.
  • 00:40:00 This Babylonian tablet from the 18th century BC tells a story of a man who is attempting to reach immortality. The first two lines of the verse are lost, but the second line of the couplet is "May you bathe in water. Gaze on the little one who holds your hand." This might suggest that the man is looking for a way to become immortal by bathing in water and gazing at a child.
  • 00:45:00 The Epic of Gilgamesh is a poem about a hero who went on a long journey and learned a lot. It has a message for its readers about the human condition.
  • 00:50:00 The prologues to the Epic of Gilgamesh introduce the reader to the story's main characters, Gilgamesh and Utnapishti, and discuss the theme of human life and its various stages. The poem continues with Gilgamesh's journey to meet Utnapishti, the flood hero, and their conversation on the inevitability of death.
  • 00:55:00 Gilgamesh is a long poem about a man's journey to find immortality. At the end, the poem ends with a passage discussing the city, date-grove, clay-pit, and temple that make up Uruk. Gilgamesh reminds his friend Ur-shanabi to walk around the city and survey its foundations.

01:00:00 - 01:25:00

This lecture by Andrew George discusses the Epic of Gilgamesh, a long and complex poem that tells the story of a king who conquers and then loses an epic battle. George suggests that the poem is intended to criticize divine kingship, and that Gilgamesh's quest for immortality is a continuation of his tradition as an "imperial figure."

  • 01:00:00 The Epic of Gilgamesh is a long and complex poem that tells the story of a king who conquers and then loses an epic battle. The poet of the poem suggests that the individual is insignificant compared to the community, and that what is important is the journey of life.
  • 01:05:00 Gilgamesh's epic of searching for immortality is ultimately fruitless, as it is constantly repeated. The wall and city of Uruk that first appeared in the prologue of the story reappear at the end of the epic, with their significance revealed as the answer to the question of immortality. However, the story is undercut by the disaster that follows with the goddess Ishtar. Later, Gilgamesh tries to gain immortality through finding the flood hero Utnapishti, but is unsuccessful. The final defeat comes with Gilgamesh's inability to hold onto the consolation prize of a plant that would rejuvenate him.
  • 01:10:00 In this lecture, Professor Andrew George discusses the themes and motifs found in the Gilgamesh epic, which he believes are intended to criticize divine kingship. Gilgamesh's long history of seeking lumber for his palace makes him an "imperial figure," and his quest for immortality is a continuation of this tradition. Gilgamesh's companions and advisors, Enkidu in particular, fail him in his role as king, and he is repeatedly warned in dreams not to attack Humbaba. The audience for this lecture would be members of the royal court, as they would be interested in understanding the context of the Gilgamesh epic.
  • 01:15:00 Andrew George discusses the Epic of Gilgamesh, explaining that it is a cautionary tale about the dangers of advisers who tell the king what he wants to hear. He points to images on different media to illustrate his points.
  • 01:20:00 The video discusses the use of clay plaques in the Louvre's current installation of the "Clay Plaques from the Epic of Gilgamesh." It discusses how the images on the plaques can be used to illustrate scenes from the epic, and how some of the figures on the plaques may not have had a specific narrative connection to the text.
  • 01:25:00 The lecture discusses the relationship between the Epic of Gilgamesh and imagery, focusing on the Stele of Naram-Sin of Agade. The Stele is a Babylonian monument from the Akkadian period that displays attributes associated with the good ruler, such as well-formedness and allure. The lecture argues that the later form of the epic can teach us about the ruler's role in state formation in the first millennium BCE.

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