The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh Glossary


A Semitic language, it is the source language for most versions of Gilgamesh read today.


The great abyss of waters beneath the earth.


A thick tarlike substance used for waterproofing and as an adhesive.


A semi-precious reddish-brown mineral used for gemstones.

Cedar Forest

A sacred forest, home of Humbaba/Huwawa, who is its guardian.


Meaning "wedge-shaped," it is the script used to record languages such as Sumerian and Akkadian. Cuneiform was written by pressing a reed stylus into a clay tablet.

Euphrates River

One of the two great rivers of Mesopotamia, the other being the Tigris. Uruk is situated upon the Euphrates.


A priestess or servant in the Temple of Ishtar. Shamhat is one of these prostitutes.


A magic plant that Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh can restore one's youth. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that the plant can be found at the bottom of the sea.

King Ashurbanipal

An Assyrian king who was the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. His court library, excavated at Nineveh, contained a good deal of Mesopotamian literature, including the tablets on which the Epic of Gilgamesh was inscribed.

Lapis lazuli

A semi-precious stone prized for its deep blue color. It is mentioned several times in the story, most notably because Gilgamesh's story is said to be recorded on tablets made of it.


A unit of measurement equal to about a mile and a half.


A mountain with twin peaks at the edge of the underworld. The sun is said to rise at the eastern peak and make its way down through the western peak.


The name of the mountain where Utnapishtim's boat came to land.


Gilgamesh is the priest-king of Uruk, the spiritual and political leader of the city.

Seven Sages

Said to have laid the foundation of Uruk, they were instructed in the arts of civilization by the gods who gave them the plans for the city.


An ancient city destroyed by the Flood during the leadership of Utnapishtim.


Possibly a priest, he is believed to have lived in Uruk during the Middle Babylonian period. He appears to have produced the most recent version of the epic that is read today.

The Flood

An event that was already ancient by Gilgamesh's time, the Flood was brought by the gods for unclear reasons against the city of Shurrupak, thereby destroying all living things.


Erech in the Bible, Uruk was the great walled city ruled by Gilgamesh.


A stepped tower atop which sacrifices were made to appease the gods.