- vol.16, pp.5-28, 2020-03-31
The ‘Standard Version’ of The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is conjectured to have been established in the 11 century BC in Ancient Mesopotamia, originally consisted of eleven tablets, not twelve. It was well known in Mesopotamia that when a story was written on a set of tablets, the end of each tablet would have had a ‘catch-line’ identical to the first line of the next tablet. We can find these ‘catch-lines’ on each tablet of this epic showing us which tablet should follow.It is easy to interpret the epic as the unsuccessful journey of Gilgamesh, as M. Eliade did in his book: Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses 1, 1976, 92. However, the ‘Standard Version’ of the epic was, in the present author’s view, a unique literary piece in which the editor seems to have concealed a number of devices, tricks, and riddles. The first step in solving the riddles seems to be to recognize the six lines at the end of the 11th tablet as ‘catch-lines’, which become a clue to decoding the message indicating that one should back to the same wording on the 1st tablet, in the preface written by the editor. This means that one must read the story repeatedly, always going back to the beginning, in order to identify and solve the riddles step by step in a continual reading of the whole work.The epic was probably a special piece that functioned primarily as a text book for the long-term training of the āšipu, the Mesopotamian shaman, and his professional circle of colleagues and candidates for āšipu, such as scribes, diviners, and physicians. Secondly, the epic which has been beloved by many as a popular work until our time, would have been helpful in the individuation process of human beings, as Rivkah Schärf Kluger has argued: “In the hero myth in particular, there is one character, the hero, who is the actor in a continuous sequence of events. The hero can, therefore, be consid28 ered as the anticipation of a development of ego-consciousness, and what he goes through in the myth as an indication of the process of moving toward the wholeness which is implicit and innate in the psyche; in the individual, the individuation process” (R. S. Kluger, The Archetypal Significance of Gilgamesh: A Modern Ancient Hero, 1991, 17).