Gilgamesh and the wine, the first written trace…

As far as dates back the literature study, the very first mention of the wine goes back to the 2nd millenary before Christ, in the Gilgamesh’s legendary epic…Gilgamesh and the wine, it’s here !

First of all, what is it ? The Gilgamesh’s epic is the oldest literary text, known in the old Mesopotamia (3000 B.C.), written in cuneiform (remind you your lessons of secondary school 😉 ) on twelve shelves of clay. They have been discovered in the XIXth c., during the exvacations of the Assurbanipal king’s library, in Ninive (currently Irak). It is written in the akkadian language and attributes to a certain Sînleqe’unnennî. Up to now, nothing really difficult :-(

Enkidu bis

Then, who is this guy ? The story recounts the epic of a king of the first Uruk’s dynasty, the tyrannical Gilgamesh, and his fellow traveller Enkidu, a kind of “double” with a bull form created in order to kill this tyrannical king, but ended to be the best friends of the world like Starsky and Hutch, almost homosexual like Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. It’s more clear now  !!!

Everything is really sweet, but where is the link with the wine ? Basically, in the book VII, Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh, devastated by the pain, realises of the ephemerality of the life and travels looking for the immortality, from the book IX. Then, he reaches the end of the world’s end, totally spent, when is located the Siduri’s tavern, goddess of the fermentation (including the wine).


When we had gone ten double hours

He knows the moment of rising is near.

He is impatient for the end of the double hours.

When we had gone eleven double hours

He rose just before the Sun

when we had gone twelve double

Day had grown bright

Upon seeing the bejewelled shrubs, he approaches them

The carnelian bears its fruit

And hung it is with goodly vines

The lapis lazuli bears leaves

Lush fruit also hangs from it

It is fine to the eye. […]

Sidouri who waters tho gods with the WINE 

Who leaves on the shore

Sees him, dressed with skin animal.

You just attended, with somme 5000 years of lateness, to the first written evidence of the wine ! Hip hip hooray !

Siduri, version sexy

Siduri, version sexy

Siduri, version classique

Siduri, version classique

Now we are here, does it drink it ? Is he going to have his f…… immortality ? Then, Siduri takes fright and locks herself. Gilgamesh explains her why he is here and asks her help to reach Uta-Napishtim, the only guy to have had the gift of the immortality by the Gods. And the friend Gilga wants to know how he did it. Sidouri, full of wisdom, answers:

For at the creation of mankind
The gods allotted Death to men.
They retained life in their own hands.
Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Make you merry by day and by night.
Make everyday a day of feasting and of rejoicing
Dance and play, by day, by night,
Let your clothes be sparkling and fresh
Wash your hair
Bathe your body
Attend to the babe who holds you by the hand
Take your wife and let her rejoice in you.
For this is the lot of mankind to enjoy
But immortal life is not for men.

It’s the Mesopotamian version of our Latin carpe diem ! But nay, our Gilgamesh wants to say. After many tests, whose I spare you, he gets to see Uta-Napishtim. So close of the immortality, the latter explains him he couldn’t obtain it, and for his part it was a stroke of luck, during the Flood, with his wife, … Then, Gilgamesh is miffed and goes back at home, with one’s tail between one’s legs.


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