The Hittite Gilgamesh


Gary Beckman


Hittite, Gilgamesh, cuneiform


From the late third millennium BCE on, the adventures of the hero Gilgamesh were well known throughout Babylonia and Assyria, and the discovery of Akkadian-language fragments of versions of his tale at Boğazköy, Ugarit, Emar, and Megiddo demonstrates that tales of the hero's exploits had reached the periphery of the cuneiform world already in the Late Bronze Age. A century of excavation at the Hittite capital of Hattusa (mod. Boğazköy) has yielded more textual sources for Gilgamesh than are known from all other Late Bronze Age sites combined. The Gilgamesh tradition was imported to Hattusa for use in scribal instruction, and has been of particular importance to modern scholars in reconstructing the epic and analyzing its development, since it documents a period in the history of the narrative for which very few textual witnesses have yet been recovered from Mesopotamia itself. And it is this very Middle Babylonian period to which scholarly consensus assigns the composition of the final, "canonical" version of the epic. The Hittite Gilgamesh offers a full edition of the manuscripts from Hattusa in the Hittite, Akkadian, and Hurrian languages recounting Gilgamesh's adventures. 

"A necessary place to start with the investigation of what reading Gilgameš in Hattuša meant is Gary Beckman’s much welcomed book The Hittite Gilgamesh.… It is heartening to see that a devoted study of many years by an individual scholar published in book form cannot be outdone by an online edition of the Hittite texts.… With Beckman’s study a new vista opens for exploring how the Epic travelled to the western ends of the Cuneiform world, more than one-thousand miles away from Babylonia, and what happened to it once it arrived there. His book on Gilgameš sits nicely on the shelf…"—Yoram Cohen, Tel Aviv University, Bibliotheca Orientalis 78 (2021): 166–72



October 25, 2019