Legbourne East Wold Primary School – Mr Watson's Blog

A place where we can share what we are doing in class, find out more and reflect on our learning!

Who was “Gilgamesh”?

Posted by eastwoldblog on February 1, 2010

As you know we are looking in literacy at Stories from Other Cultures.

Today I began reading “The Epic of Gilgamesh” retold by Geraldine McCaughcrean.

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Here is some information about Gilgamesh from Novaonline – Gilgamesh Notes

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Uruk (modern day Warka) is in southern Iraq between Basra and Baghdad; photo from British Museum

The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the world’s oldest surviving pieces of literature.

Only incomplete versions of the epic survive, with the longest being twelve clay tablet pieces (with cuneiform writing) found in the nineteenth century.

The first translation of a portion of the epic was the flood story deciphered from one of the clay tablets in 1872.

The stories that comprise the epic had long been transmitted orally before being written down sometime in the seventh century BC by one Sin-Leqi-Unninni.

The epic relates the exploits of Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh was the son of Lugalbanda and the fifth king of Uruk, ruling around 2700 BC, according to the Sumerian king list.”  That means that it is generally accepted by historians that Gilgamesh was an actual historical figure, a king who reigned over the Sumerian city-state of Uruk in the third millennium BC and who was probably responsible for constructing the city walls, which archaeologists later determined had a perimeter of almost six miles.

The ruins of Uruk (also believed to be the city of Erech as mentioned in Genesis) lie near the town of Warka, in southern Iraq.

Uruk was one of the most important and powerful of the Mesopotamian city-states before 2000BC.

The modern name “Iraq” is thought by some to come from the name Uruk. Between 4,000 and 3,000 BC, the city emerged as one of the first major urban cities in the Near East.

So, do we know a lot of details about Gilgamesh?

No.  We don’t know what he really looked like, or how strong he was.

We don’t know what kind of ideas he had about being the ruler of a great city.

We don’t know what he sounded like when he spoke.

And we don’t know what he ate and drank or when he slept or how he interacted with priests, slaves or traders.

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Can you research Gilgamesh?

Share what you find here…

Mr W.

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2 Responses to “Who was “Gilgamesh”?”

  1. Dan Bracewell said

    Hi, Mr. W. I just recently ran into your blog here. I had a couple of things that might help you when you teach about Gilgamesh next time.

    It looks like you are doing lit, but if your school system is anything like it is here in Florida, any interdisciplinary methods that can be used in class is probably appreciated. Here is a math problem based upon the Epic of Gilgamesh that you might be able to use. Your students will be able to figure out how strong Gilgamesh was by studying a few lines. This is a citation from Samuel Noah Kramer’s “The Sumerians” version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. On page 201:

    “He donned his armor weighing fifty minas about his waist.
    Fifty minas were handled as by him like thirty shekels.”

    A mina is a measurement of weight. It is approximately 1 lb. Sixty shekels equals 1 mina or 1 lb. If fifty minas felt like thirty shekels to Gilgamesh, how much could he bench press if we were to suppose that he could bench press what feels like 200 lbs to him (200 lbs being the weight a modern man in good shape can press)?

    If 30 shekels is half a mina, then 50 minas (or 50 lbs) feels like .5 lbs to Gilgamesh. To simplify, we can say 100 lbs. feels like 1 lb. to Gilgamesh.

    We are supposing Gilgamesh can bench 200 lbs. So, 200 x 100 = 20,000 lbs. (or ten tons)

    Any comic book geek should be able to tell you this is about how strong Spider Man is. (Gilgamesh is the world’s first super hero btw). 🙂

    The next two lines read:

    “His ax of the road
    seven talents and seven minas he took in his hand.”

    How much did this superhero-like weapon weigh? A talent is 60 minas (lbs.) So, (7 x 60) + 7 = 427 lbs.

    -Dan

    • Mr W. said

      Thanks Dan,

      Forgive the edits – but I have rules to adhere to in terms of my blog.

      I love the problem, very intriguing. One I am sure I will use sometime!

      Mr W.

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