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so they traveled until they reached Uruk.
There Gilgamesh the king said to the boatman:
“Study the brickwork, study the fortification;
climb the ancient staircase to the terrace;
study how it is made; from the terrace see
the planted and fallow fields, the ponds and orchards.
One league is the inner city, another league
is orchards; still another the fields beyond;
over there is the precinct of the temple. . . . ,
Three leagues and the temple precinct of Ishtar.”
Measure Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh
These words mark one of the most astonishing
transitions in literature. Only a few lines earlier, Gilgamesh was
in despair because he lost his magical plant, his last opportunity
for immortality, which he believes is a sign that he should abandon
his quest. But this loss was also the moment of truth. Accompanied
by Urshanabi the boatman, who has been forbidden to have any further
commerce with the immortals, he approaches the vast, beautiful urban
expanse of Uruk, with its cultivated fields and orchards and its
towering ziggurat devoted to Ishtar, all of it enclosed by intricately
wrought walls. Gilgamesh, seeing it anew, regards it with pride
and awe. Offering up his realm for the boatman’s admiration, Gilgamesh
repeats, word for word, the opening lines of the epic. This is my city,
he says. My place. He has quested to the ends of
the earth for the meaning of life and found it
at last in his own home. Thus ends The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Epic of Gilgamesh!