Dreamed about 2800 BCE (about 4800 years ago) by King Gilgamesh.
Source: The Epic of Gilgamesh as recorded by Sîn-Leki-unninni about 1200 BCE, from earlier versions 1700-2100? BCE. English version by Stephen Mitchell, 2004
Gilgamesh (or Bilgamesh) was king of Uruk (later Erech; modern Warka), the greatest city-state in Mesopotamia, founded before 3800 BCE; the earliest known writing (34-3500 BCE) is from Uruk. In Gilgamesh's day (c. 2750 BCE; some scholars place him nearly a century earlier) the city wall was six miles round, making Uruk larger than any city until Rome under Hadrian, nearly three millennia later. He became a legendary, heroic figure; but not a spotless one. In his reckless youth Gilgamesh did not rule well--until the gods made him a soulmate, the wild man Enkidu...
...the people of Uruk cried out to heaven,
and their lamentation was heard, the gods
are not unfeeling, their hearts were touched,
they went to Anu, father of them all,
protector of the realm of sacred Uruk,
and spoke to him on the people's behalf:
"Heavenly Father, Gilgamesh--
noble as he is, splendid as he is--
has exceeded all bounds. The people suffer
from his tyranny, the people cry out
that he takes the son from his father and crushes him,
takes the girl from her mother and uses her,
the warrior's daughter, the young man's bride,
he uses her, no one dares to oppose him.
Is this how you want your king to rule?
Should a shepherd savage his own flock? Father
do something, quickly, before the people
overwhelm heaven with their heart-rending cries."
Anu heard them, he nodded his head,
When Aruru heard this, she closed her eyes,
and what Anu had commended she formed in her mind.
She moistened her hands, she pinched off some clay,
she threw it into the wilderness,
kneaded it, shaped it to her idea,
and fashioned a man, a warrior, a hero:
Enkidu the brave, as powerful and fierce
as the war god Ninurta. Hair covered his body,
hair grew thick on his head and hung
down to his waist, like a woman's hair.
He roamed all over the wilderness,
naked, far from the cities of men,
ate grass with gazelles, and when he was thirsty,
he drank clear water from the waterholes,
kneeling beside the antelope and deer.
One day a human--a trapper--saw him
He went to his father. "Father, I have seen
the swiftest animals. He lives among them,
eats grass with gazelles, and when he is thirsty
he drinks clear water from the waterholes.
"I haven't approached him--I am too afraid.
He fills in the pits I have dug, he tears out
the traps I have set, he frees the animals,
and I can catch nothing. My livelihood is gone."
"Son, in Uruk there lives a man
He made the journey, he stood before
The trapper found Shamhat, Ishtar's priestess,
She stripped off her robe and lay there naked,
he stayed erect and made love with her,
until he had had enough. At last
he stood up and walked toward the waterhole
to rejoin his animals. But the gazelles
saw him and scattered, the antelope and deer
bounded away. He tried to catch up,
but his body was exhausted, his life-force was spent,
his knees trembled, he could no longer run
like an animal, as he had before.
He turned back to Shamhat, and as he walked
he knew that his mind had somehow grown larger,
he knew things now that an animal can't know.
Enkidu sat down at Shamhat's feet.
I will challenge him. I will shout to his face:
"I am the mightiest! I am the man
who can make the world tremble! I am supreme!'
"Come," said Shamhat, "let us go to Uruk,
you had come to Gilgamesh in a dream."
And she told Enkidu what she had heard.
"He went to his mother, the goddess Ninsun,
and asked her to interpret the dream.
'I saw a bright star, it shot across
the morning sky, it fell at my feet
and lay before me like a huge boulder.
I tried to lift it, but it was too heavy.
I tried to move it, but it would not budge,
A crowd of people gathered around me,
the people of Uruk pressed in to see it,
like a little baby they kissed its feet.
This boulder, this star that had fallen to earth--
I took it my arms, I embraced and caressed it
the way a man caresses his wife.
Then I took it and laid it before you. You told me
that it was my double, my second self.'
The mother of Gilgamesh, Lady Ninsun,
the wise, the all-knowing, said to her son,
'Dearest child, this bright star from heaven,
this huge boulder that you could not lift--
it stands for a dear friend, a mighty hero.
You will take him in your arms, embrace and caress him
the way a man caresses his wife.
He will be your double, your second self,
a man who is loyal, who will stand at your side
through the greatest dangers. Soon you will meet him,
the companion of your heart, Your dream has said so."
"Gilgamesh said, 'May the dream come true.
May the true friend appear, the true companion,
who through every danger will stand at my side.' "
When Shamhat had finished speaking, Enkidu
In many versions there are two almost identical dreams and interpretations. This is common in Gilgamesh; later, Enkidu and Gilgamesh seek the monster Humbaba in the cedar forests of Lebanon, and Enkidu has no less than five similar nightmares presaging death. They do defeat Humbaba, who begs for mercy, arguing the gods told him to guard the forest from loggers; but jittery Enkidu urges Gilgamesh to kill him. Soon after, Enkidu has two more dreams warning the gods will punish him for showing no mercy, and then contracts a fatal illness... and the stage is set for Gilgamesh's mythic quest to find the secret of immortality, 2000 years before Orpheus.
I chose this example of Babylonian dream-interpretation because its dream is the most detailed. But I love the context too--this early version of the Fall from Eden. Enkidu's fall into knowledge (and civilization) is so innocent, so happy! (In the next stanza, Shamhat introduces Enkidu to beer. That clinches it. He'll never drink pondwater again.) Sure beats snakes, apples, shame, jealous gods, and angels with flaming swords.
Speaking of flaming swords... Enkidu and Gilgamesh are not just best friends, but lovers. In some versions this is explicit.* In light of this, Gilgamesh's early excesses aren't just immaturity and arrogance, but partly loneliness; his sexual excesses were a hunt for an equal he could love.
Not that the gods' plan quite succeeds. Our heroic couple never settles down. They go on being almost comically reckless--enraging Ishtar, making trouble for themselves. But at least they pester gods, monsters and mythic figures, not the citizens of Uruk. And in the end Gilgamesh, sobered by the loss of Enkidu and his failure to defeat death, does become a good king; for he's learned love. And though he can't bring back Enkidu, he loves his city too.
*"According to A. D. Kilmer, the symbols by which Enkidu is represented in the dream episodes make allusion to the Ishtar cult: the meteorite, kisru, evokes kezru, who would be a male counterpart of a kezertu woman (a kind of cultic prostitute), and the axe, bassinnu, evokes assinnu, a cultic performer who, typically as a eunuch, took the female role in the sexual act. By this analysis, what Gilgamesh sees in his dreams is a twofold prediction of the arrival of a close male friend who will also be his lover" (A.R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, v.1, p.452).
"The repeated use of the verb hababu in this connection implies a sexual connection. If there is any doubt about the significance of this image... note also SB [Standard Version] VI 11 59, where, in death, Gilgamesh veils Enkidu 'like a bride.'
Graphic evidence for a sexual relationship now comes from SB XII 96-9, as understood in the light of a new manuscript of the text's Sumerian forerunner, "Bilgamesh and the Netherworld" 250-3 (ibid., p. 454, n. 48). These lines from Tablet XII describe the return of Enkidu's ghost from the underworld:"If I am going to tell you the rules of the Netherworld that I saw, sit you down (and) weep!"
"[(So)] let me sit down and weep!"
"[My friend, the] penis that you touched so your heart rejoiced, grubs devour [(it) ... like an] old garment
[My friend, the crotch that you] touched so your heart rejoiced, it is filled with dust [like a crack in the ground.]"
(Tablet XI 1, 11. 93 ff, tr. George)
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