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ScottyMcGeester's avatar

What is the most definitive version of the Gilgamesh epic one can buy?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1128 points ) February 28th, 2014

For a long time I wanted to read the epic. I bought the version by Herbet Mason from Mariner Books.

But then I get confused when I research more about the epic online and read parts I never came across.

In this version, the epic ends after Gilgamesh fails to obtain immortality and returns to his kingdom.

The ending pages from the author and whatever else mentions that there are more things but they excluded it from this version. So I was like, “Well fuck, I wish I had known that before I got this.”

From my understanding, the epic itself is fragmented, but I wanted to know if there’s a book version that has everything that has been deciphered.

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2 Answers

Darth_Algar's avatar

As I understand the version by Andrew George, initially published by Oxford in 2003, is widely regarded as the most definitive translation in English.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t know what, if any, superlatives apply, but this is the version I read, which I believe to be as complete as possible:

Gilgamesh Translated from the Sin-Leqi-Unninni Version by John Gardner and John Maier

I like the fact that there are tablet-by-tablet translations and then notes on the translations, and in the back there are comments on the translation process as well as photos and renditions of the tablets. There are, of course, pieces missing; this translation uses ellipses to show where the gaps are, and the notes mention the breaks.

I read it in tandem with this work:

The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh

I found this to be a fascinating account of the history of the tablets, how they were discovered, and how the ancient cuneiform texts came to be decoded. I often read two books side by side that shed light on one another, and this pairing is an especially good example.

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