what is the name of the first story ever told that depicted

what is the name of the first story ever told that depicted

Thomas Swan has a PhD in experimental psychology. He specializes within the cognitive science of faith.

Gilgamesh (right) and Enkidu offending the gods by slaying the Bull of Heaven.

Gilgamesh (proper) and Enkidu offending the gods by slaying the Bull of Heaven.

You're reading: what is the name of the first story ever told that depicted

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Over a thousand years earlier than the Outdated Testomony and the Odyssey, an unknown writer composed the primary enduring story within the historical past of mankind. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written on clay tablets within the cuneiform writing type of historical Sumer (fashionable Iraq) over 4 thousand years in the past.

Two elements god and one half man, Gilgamesh is believed to have dominated over the city-state of Uruk round 2750 B.C. His story is a blended journey of perilous endeavors and bought knowledge, but it surely additionally contains plenty of acquainted myths such because the Nice Flood and the unique Noah.

Primarily, the epic is a window into the wishes and troubles that immersed the ideas of a semi-divine Sumerian king. Greater than only a story of heroism, it’s the story of Gilgamesh’s path to knowledge and maturity; the advantages of civilization over savagery, and a lesson for future kings to satisfy their sacred and mundane duties. Maybe essentially the most pervasive theme is Gilgamesh’s concern of dying, a perennial concern that’s as salient at this time because it was 1000’s of years in the past.

The historical past of the written phrase

The oldest works of writing weren’t tales of nice kings, nor have been they mythological tales concerning the gods. Throughout the Neolithic age of mankind (12,000 to five,000 years in the past), agriculture allowed our species to transition from hunter-gatherers to settled farmers. Temples devoted to the gods doubled as centres of commerce and prosperity, the place the encircling land was allotted to prestigious farmers. As these settlements grew into cities and cities it turned more and more troublesome for temple managers to recollect the division of land and wealth. Writing developed as a method to maintain information, decreasing the rising variety of disputes between rich people. The primary literate people have been accountants!

A fragment of a clay tablet depicting the story of Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven.

A fraction of a clay pill depicting the story of Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven.

The front cover of the most recent translation of Gilgamesh shows a Persian Winged Bull.

The entrance cowl of the newest translation of Gilgamesh exhibits a Persian Winged Bull.

The invention of Gilgamesh

The age of writing is a distant descendant of the human creativeness, and as soon as poets and bards started to immortalize their work, a literary revolution adopted. Verbally recounted tales grew into epic compositions, with every successive era constructing on the exploits of the final.

The Epic of Gilgamesh started as a group of poems 4,000 years in the past, and grew into the usual model 1,000 years later. It was initially referred to as “Surpassing all different kings” and later turned “He who noticed the Deep”, epitomizing Gilgamesh’s pursuit of knowledge. This commonplace model was compiled by Sin-liqe Unninni, an exorcist who’s title means “Oh Moon God, Settle for My Prayer!”. Archaeologists have managed to piece collectively this model from 73 completely different sources that have been found in Iraq and different Center Japanese areas over the previous 150 years. Lots of the cuneiform clay tablets that present us with the epic have been copied by college students studying the Sumerian or Akkadian languages. These kids most likely by no means would have imagined the half they’d play in preserving the epic for such distant posterity.

Regardless of the persevering with work of archaeologists and assyriologists, the newest compilation of the epic solely has 80% of its 3,000 traces intact. This Penguin Classics model comes with a prolonged introduction describing the historical past of the Sumerian civilization and the search to get well the clay tablets from Iraq. It’s best to keep away from this introduction till after the story as it’s fairly the spoiler! Moreover, prior to every chapter is a abstract of occasions. It’s best to disregard this fully, as it’s not required to grasp the textual content.

The Sumerian pantheon might have included as many as 3600 deities.

Oriental Institute, Chicago

Pantheon of Sumerian gods

The Sumerian faith was a polytheistic religion in the identical mannequin because the later Greek and Egyptian religions. It consisted of a supreme triad, with plenty of lesser deities. This triad (emboldened), and the opposite gods talked about in Gilgamesh seem with their Akkadian names in the usual model:

  • Anu – Supreme sky god.
  • Enlil – Presides over the affairs of gods and males from his terrestrial temple.
  • Ea – A intelligent god who dwells within the ocean beneath.
  • Mom Goddess – Created people with Ea.
  • Adad – Violent god of storms.
  • Sin – Moon god, son of Enlil.
  • Shamash – Solar god, son of Sin, patron of travellers, and Gilgamesh’s protector.
  • Ishtar – Goddess of intercourse and conflict, with a voracious urge for food for each.
  • Erishkigal – Queen of Netherworld.
  • Namtar – Minister of Netherworld.

Patrick Stewart imparts the magnificence of Gilgamesh

The travails of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh recounts a king’s battle together with his concern of dying, and his silly quest for immortality. Nonetheless, because the epic makes clear, Gilgamesh can be remembered for rebuilding the town’s partitions on their antediluvian foundations, and restoring the temples of the gods. This realization and the way it comes about is the nucleus of the story. It encapsulates Gilgamesh’s journey from impetuous youth to sensible king. He learns his place within the nice scheme of issues, discovering knowledge by means of adversity.

The youthful Gilgamesh is a stressed, pugnacious, and tyrannical chief. He terrorizes his folks by intimidating and difficult the younger males of Uruk, and letting no lady go free to her bridegroom. Gilgamesh is described as a “wild bull on the rampage”, the “tall, magnificent, and horrible”, unsleeping, charming, joyful, carefree, good-looking by earthly requirements, and having “no equal when his weapons are brandished”. Nonetheless, reasonably than successful trophies and status; he positive aspects knowledge and sagacity. He learns “the sum of knowledge. He noticed what was secret, found what was hidden”.

The folks of Uruk complained concerning the stressed Gilgamesh to the god Anu, who restored peace by making a wild man to be his companion and equal. The magnificent Enkidu delights within the beasts of the wild, roaming the planes and pulling up hunter’s traps. In one other rarity of historical literature, a harlot is distributed to tame him, leading to fairly a graphic sexual encounter. The tragedy of Enkidu’s lack of innocence is a singular and transferring journey from savage to “civilized” being.

When Enkidu travels to Uruk, he challenges and fights Gilgamesh, spawning a mutual respect and a deep friendship. What follows are the extra conventional deeds of historical heroes. Collectively they slay beasts and ogres, and offend the gods earlier than tragedy befalls them. Gilgamesh then begins his quest for the elixir of immortality, wandering the wild with anger and despair in his coronary heart: “When might the useless see the rays of the solar?”

Contrasting more moderen epics, our hero may be merciless, and he can lose his braveness. When Gilgamesh’s goals betray his optimism, Enkidu interprets them as beneficial omens to present his good friend braveness. When the stature of his foes imbues his coronary heart with concern, Enkidu is once more readily available to spice up morale.

Gilgamesh’s stressed impatience follows him to the ends of the Earth, hindering his progress, and hanging concern into those that might assist him. Upon reaching his vacation spot, he discloses his authentic intent to have interaction his trainer in fight to extract the key he wishes. The sensible Uta-Napishti quells his anger and ends his quest with the revelations he imparts.

The story of Noah is borrowed from a much older Sumerian creation myth.

The story of Noah is borrowed from a a lot older Sumerian creation fantasy.

By Dreux Jean through Wikimedia Commons

The cuneiform clay tablet holding the story of Uta-Napishti, who survived the Deluge. It was written over a thousand years before the Bible.

The cuneiform clay pill holding the story of Uta-Napishti, who survived the Deluge. It was written over a thousand years earlier than the Bible.

Fae through Wikimedia Commons

The Gilgamesh flood story

When Uta-Napishti relays his story to Gilgamesh, it turns into clear to the reader that Uta-Napishti is the Biblical character, Noah. Written over a thousand years earlier than the Outdated Testomony, the story of Uta-Napishti tells us of the Nice Flood, recognized to the Sumerians because the Deluge.

The gods inform Uta-Napishti to “demolish the home and construct a ship!” and to “tackle board the boat all residing issues’ seed!”. Uta-Napishti follows their directions: “I set on board all my kith and kin, the beasts of the sphere, the creatures of the wild”. The gods ship a horrible storm that blots out the sky, flooding the world and destroying mankind: “It’s I who give beginning, these persons are mine! And now like fish they fill the ocean!”

Uta-Napishti’s boat runs aground on Mount Nimush. After seven days he lets out a dove, but it surely finds no place to land and returns. A swallow does the identical, whereas a raven finds carrion bowing and bobbing within the water (the useless) and doesn’t return. Uta-Napishti (also called Atram-Hasis) makes an providing to the gods, who uncover him and settle him on a distant island, removed from the brand new era of males.

The similarities between the tales of Uta-Napishti and Noah are too hanging to place all the way down to likelihood, and the variations make the veracity of the Biblical story questionable. The unique story should maintain better worth than the copy.


Somewhat than a story of spiritual mythology, the Epic of Gilgamesh is a narrative of what it means to be human. As such, the aspirations and tribulations endured by the hero Gilgamesh resonate at this time as they did 1000’s of years in the past. It’s fairly becoming that the oldest story ever written can be essentially the most salient for our species. There isn’t a better preoccupation for the human thoughts than our concern of dying, and no extra fascinating narrative than our quest to beat it.


Lynne Harriton on January 07, 2020:

This is a superb description of the Gilgamesh. It’s fascinating to study that the principle theme is concern of dying. I used to be swept away by Gilgamesh’s love of Enkidu, and noticed him as mastering a standard concern of dying as a result of he missed Enkidu so strongly that nothing to him was extra necessary than bringing Enkidu again. These days we’d name their relationship “a bromance,” however a bromance remains to be a love story and Gilgamesh, the primary story ever written was a love story, a romance.

Have a Good Day on November 09, 2018:

*Or theism. That is far more comforting, I feel. anyhow, you do not should be a Christian to learn the Bible. You do not have to agree with what it says to take curiosity in it. You could possibly learn Ezekiel, for one factor. Once more, you’ll be able to average this remark, and that is high-quality, however I might prefer to say that I care about you, and that, if something, you are the wiser particular person within the room. That is your territory. However I might like to assist, that is all. One final thing: “For his invisible attributes, specifically his everlasting energy and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood from what has been made. In order that they’re with out excuse. For though they knew God, they didn’t honor him as God or give due to him, however they turned futile of their pondering and their silly hearts have been darkened. Claiming to be sensible, they turned fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for photos resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping issues.

In all probability Radically Underinformed Individual on November 09, 2018:

I do assume it’s comforting to imagine in one thing aside from blind likelihood. I do not imagine, although, that it is not self-entitled to assume that we might simply exist. Is not the purpose of postmodernism and the prefer to really feel depressing and unimportant in an enormous sea of meaninglessness? Whether or not we have been chanced into existence or not, I feel I am going to persist with deism. Postmodern tangents aren’t actually comforting ideas for a complicated consciousness to show over, alone, I’d assume.

Read more: what is the difference between horizontal e-marketplaces and vertical

Random particular person on October 15, 2018:

May Noah have been an actual, residing person who turned mythologized on this Epic? After all, the Epic of Gilgamesh was written earlier than the Pentateuch, however does the Biblical account appear kind of “actual” ? Anyhow, this was nonetheless an excellent, informative article.

Archangel on August 02, 2018:

disgusting and silly assault on the Bible. You didn’t “disprove” the Bible. For those who have been sensible this could do nothing however verify the truths inside the Bible. All cultures share these similar tales which means they’re all true simply with a special twist. A few of these twist are the clues or larger image to different variations which may be missing information. The Bible proves itself time and time once more but the foolish disbeliever nonetheless has discovered nothing. The areas, folks, and so on within the Bible may be visited at this time. Nothing has been disproved within the Bible. NOTHING. Its a group of world historical past and reality not solely on the floor stage however following the custom of the “mysteries” numerous it’s closely coded thus retaining the “pearls from swine” and retaining the promise for many who have EYES TO SEE AND EARS TO HEAR. I pray on your depraved souls to seek out God and switch away from sin. Archaeology, science, and so on just about all teams that strive their hardest, even dedicating there life to the reason for “disproving God”…all makes an attempt have nonetheless turned up UNSUCCESSFUL. A lot to their dismay ALL ROADS LEAD TO GOD and what you see as a crutch on your stance towards the Most Excessive, the UPRIGHT and JUST see it as proof and affirmation that the BIBLE in itself IS IN FACT TRUE AND GODS WORD IS LAW.

Mohamed Isa Hasan on November 16, 2017:

Fantastically written and really newurbanhabitat.com you.

Anita Lewis on Might 11, 2017:

Are you aware of the Annunaki

s.satish kumar on December 01, 2016:

Fantastically written and really newurbanhabitat.com you.

Marlon boweni on August 31, 2016:

By no means knew the story however now I do know

Matthew Caudill on December 12, 2015:

It appears as if tales repeats itself and that gossiping will go alongside method and while you hear about folks doing sure issues then the thoughts tries to get you to duplicate it precisely the way you have been tought by listening. I like tales very a lot and I’ll inform others or as i can say train others as if the “newbie” did for us!

Mel92114 on September 26, 2014:

I agree, Thomas, I do not assume there have been any unhealthy intentions on their half to repeat such a narrative or tales on the time. I usually and can not help however marvel although, at this time, what number of know it? I do know it modified quite a bit for me once I turned conscious of such issues.

I am off to learn your hub “The Sumerian Flood Story”. So glad there are writers such as you right here 🙂

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on September 25, 2014:

Thanks Mel92114! That is very good of you to say.

You are proper that it is an eye-opening story that has quite a bit to supply. The Epic of Atrahasis might be much more indicative of how the Bible plagiarized/tailored the unique flood story. Atrahasis is an earlier Akkadian title for Uta-Napishti.

I did a direct comparability of the Epic of Atrahasis and Noah’s Ark in my hub “The Sumerian Flood Story”. I discovered some outstanding similarities. I do not imagine there was any malice in plagiarizing it; I simply assume the story was so standard and universally accepted that it needed to be included into any new faith on the time.

Mel92114 on September 25, 2014:

Completely unbelievable hub, Thomas. Such an eye-opening story in the way it pertains to the Biblical tales…I’ve not learn Gilgamesh in fairly awhile, I feel it is time to revisit 🙂

I like your work. Such sincere, properly researched, fascinating info is what it is all about. Rock on!

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on March 20, 2014:

Thanks Char Diehm. I agree that the Bible was related for folks 2000 years in the past in Israel, and it is unhappy that undue reverence for it has carried the e book into a very alien period. Our want to clarify catastrophic occasions most likely is why books like this get written. If something, it gives a consolation to imagine that one thing aside from blind likelihood brought on it. It provides them a perception in having some stage of management over the occasions in the event that they behave themselves and make sacrifices to their deities. I like how Gilgamesh brings in additional of a human story although too, like how he matures and learns important classes concerning the limits of his energy and the obligations of a king.

Char Diehm on March 20, 2014:

Effectively finished Thomas Swan. It is unlucky that Donald is so very insecure about his religion that he felt compelled to assault the best way he did. I first learn this story in a lit class in faculty and located it illuminating with regard to the Bible, which in all honesty I do not assume was meant for the plenty as a lot because it was meant to be a e book for Israel. Gilgamesh is identical. It is the author’s try to protect a cultural historical past, which incorporates what needed to be the verbal remembrance of a large catastrophic occasion attributable to flooding and what needed to appear to be infinite rain. People have to know, and clarify, the inexplicable and for most individuals solely a supernatural entity (God or Gods) can clarify this kind of occasion.

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on March 18, 2014:

Thanks on your feedback Willsummerdreamer and Vanderleelie.

Donald, I discover it unhappy that Jesus has dominated your life to such an extent that you simply’re unable to assemble a coherent sentence. A wasted thoughts is a tragic factor certainly. I do not blame you; I blame your faith. I forgive you for the hurtful phrases in your remark.

Vanderleelie on June 12, 2013:

I totally loved studying this hub about Gilgamesh. As you’ve got said, the story resounds with perception into human nature, with emphasis on strengths and weaknesses. Voted up and fascinating.

Will English on Might 09, 2013:

One in every of my favourite tales. Nice hub. *voted up*.

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on March 11, 2013:

Read: what is the difference between mixture and compound

Thanks for the feedback chef-de-jour and KrisL!

chef, I am certain Gilgamesh would make a wonderful play, the costumes may very well be unimaginable! I am stunned Hollywood hasn’t made a giant blockbuster out of it but, until I missed it.

Kris, I learn it a second time for this hub. It was definitely price it as I gained a better understanding of the story. I’d totally suggest it!

KrisL from S. Florida on March 11, 2013:

An fascinating hub . . . I learn the epic a very long time in the past and this makes me wish to re-visit it. Thnaks!

Andrew Spacey from Close to Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on March 11, 2013:

Loved this learn, properly written and introduced. How time adjustments a rustic however not the human situation and the necessity to report expertise.

As a drama trainer I’ve tied to show a few of these older tales and myths into performs – the final one I tried was the Popol Vuh, the Mayan creation story. Fascinating stuff.

Gilgamesh is a superb story, thanks for sharing.

I am going to vote for this hub.

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on March 08, 2013:

Cheers Elias! Certainly, Mesopotamia deserves way more consideration as a result of it might probably train us concerning the civilizations that adopted.

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on March 08, 2013:

Mesopotamia is the place civilization flourished for the primary time. Thanks very a lot for this tremendous hub, discovered quite a bit!

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on March 08, 2013:

Thanks starstream! I imagine Egyptian and Greek historical past is targeted on an excessive amount of, so I am glad you discovered this fascinating.

Dreamer at coronary heart from Northern California on March 08, 2013:

Thanks for sharing your research and fascinating historical historical past. It is a nice hub!

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on March 08, 2013:

Thanks for commenting sanjay and jainismus. I agree we’ve an innate concern of dying. This existential anxiousness is critical for avoiding hazard. Within the historical previous, these of us who feared dying prevailed over those that wasted life, and their genetic materials was handed on. Now all of us concern dying, and faith might be essentially the most imaginative product of that concern.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on March 08, 2013:

Attention-grabbing info, thanks for sharing it.

Sanjay Sonawani from Pune, India. on March 07, 2013:

Thanks once more for introduction to the nice epic of the traditional previous. Quest for the immortality is so deeply rooted that I feel no mythology exists that does not consider attaining immortality. In my current novel; “The Awakening” I had dealt with comparable problem. Studying your article made me assume there are a lot of facets of life each society on the globe assume equally. Innate human traits?

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on December 23, 2012:

Thanks for the remark Petra! I’m much less aware of Egyptian non secular historical past however I am conscious they influenced Christianity fairly a bit; particularly the Jesus fantasy. I am going to need to look out for the serpent story.

I feel folks as of late fail to grasp that previous religions have been virtually fully involved with overcoming dying, and getting ready for the afterlife. They provide you with theories about how faith started by focussing on the numerous properties of contemporary religions as a substitute.

Sure, I used to be stunned by the accountants too, though they might have had no literary aptitude in any respect. Their works would have consisted of lists of individuals and what they traded or possessed: “John owns two donkeys and a area north of the temple” and issues like that.

Petra Vlah from Los Angeles on December 22, 2012:

The story of Gilgamesh’s journey to the underworld has been verbally shared by means of the years and has influenced different cultures of the traditional world. Egyptians turn into obsessive about everlasting life and from constructing pyramids to creating subtle strategies of embalming they tried to make sure that by preserving the physique, the soul could have a spot to return to. The story of the flood discovered its method into the Bible and so did the serpent (with a special which means and a special set of actions, however at all times as a deceiving character)

What I didn’t know is that the primary literate folks have been accountants; that made me smile, as a result of by means of the years they misplaced a few of their mental talents…

Nice writing Thomas, I very a lot loved it

Thomas Swan (writer) from New Zealand on December 18, 2012:

Thanks Marcy! It took a very long time to put in writing, however I feel it was price it. I’ve learn Gilgamesh twice now, and the extent of writing is high drawer for the time. Additionally it has some welcome variations from the Greek myths and legends, which are sometimes stereotypical tales of heroes slaying beasts.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on December 17, 2012:

It is a nice and informative hub! I like mythology and classical research; I loved studying this, very a lot!

Read: what is screened topsoil used for