Globalization in Literature:
Re-Examining the Gilgameš Affair
In his recent edition of the Babylonian
Some characters, such as Alexander the Great, Gilgamesh
5.2 Homer and Gilgamesh
For George, the Homeric
5.3 Continuity in Other Tales
George admits continuity of religion, traditional sciences and folk tales after the death of cuneiform
Similar episodes and motifs (for example, the Tale of Buluqiya in the Arabian Nights);
Pseudo-historic stories written by the Nestorian
After reading this criticism, we may wonder what kind of occurrence but a translation would be worth the label of “survival” according to George’s analysis. One characteristic of ancient literature, both during classical and oriental Antiquity and to a certain extent, even in Western Middle Ages, is the rewriting of old ideas, oral motifs and well-known themes. As C. Grottanelli put it in a previous Melammu Symposium about the story of Combabos
From a theoretical point of view, what may be considered as the influence, the survival and the globalization
1These motifs, themes and psychological dynamics must come in the same order;
2Characters must display the same functions, as V. Propp defined the concept8;
3Characters or places should be connected by the onomastic;
4Last but not least, both texts must share several details and/or places.
In this perspective, George is quite right when he says that the Epic of Gilgamesh
However, as George and T. Abusch pointed out, Gilgamesh
In another literary genre, gnostic
In this syncretic myth of Horus, a tricky sentence has a Mesopotamian touch:
[Ὁ] πάτηρ ἐτήρ[ει τὸ?] ὅρος τῶν κέδ[ρ]ων κ[αὶ ἀπεκτίνεν] τὸν μέγαν γί[γ]αντα τὸν φον[έ]α τοῦ π[ατρὸς αὑτοῦ]
The father watched the Mountain of the Cedars and killed the big Giant, the slayer of his own father. (P. Jena 1, Myth of Horus, col. II, lines 24–26)
The father should be Horus and the Big Giant, Seth, the slain father being of course Osiris
Abusch, T. (2001). The Epic of Gilgameš and the Homeric Epics. In: Mythology and mythologies: Methodological Approaches to Intercultural Influences Ed. by R. Whiting. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project
Busby, K. (1989). Cristal et Clarie: A Novel Romance?. In: Convention and Innovation in Literature Ed. by T. D ' Haen, R. Grübel, R. G.. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub. Co.
Davis, Dick (2002). Panthea's Children: Hellenistic Novels and Medieval Persian Romances. New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press.
George, A.R. (2003). The Epic of Gilgamesh outside the Cuneiform Tradition. In: The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic. Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts Ed. by A. R. George. Oxford: Oxford University Press 54-70
Grottanelli, C. (2001). The Story of Combabos and the Gilgamesh Tradition (with a contribution by Simo Parpola, Helsinki). In: Mythology and mythologies: Methodological Approaches to Intercultural Influences: Proceedings of the Second Annual Symposium of the Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project held in Paris, France, Oct. 4–7, 1999 (Melammu Symposia 2) Ed. by R.M. Whiting. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project
Hardie, P.R. (1993). The Epic Successors of Virgil. A Study in the Dynamics of a Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Propp, V. (1977). Morphology of the Folktale. Austin: University of Texas Press.
West, M.L. (1997). The East Face of Helicon. West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. Gloucestershire: Clarendon Press.
The main similarities are the wanderings of Gilgamesh and Odysseus, the separation by death of two friends (Gilgamesh and Enkidu vs. Achilles and Patroclus) and a talk with deceased loved ones (Enkidu’s speech about the Netherworld and Odysseus interviewing his mother and other dead persons, known as the Nekyia).
A.R. George gives the example of the Poor Man of Nippur, whose success is, according to him, linked with his oral transmission. The theme of the Poor Man is found in the Arabian Nights; (George 2003, 60).
The Demotic version is Papyrus I, 384 (Leiden) and the Greek translation, dating from the third century CE, is P. Lit. Lond. 192 (London, British Museum).
Some parts were deleted or paraphrased, such as Egyptian proverbs probably unknown to a Greek audience. The references to Egyptian myths were adapted in a Greek style, for example a Hellenized description of a griffon. For further information, see my forthcoming article on Greek novels inspired by Egyptian tales.
The successors of Virgil are Lucan (Bellum Civile), Statius (Thebaid), Valerius Flaccus (Argonautica) and Silius Italicus (Punica).
Function is understood as an act of a character, defined from the point of view of its significance for the course of the action (Propp 1977, 21). It doesn’t matter which character performs it and how.
See, e.g., SAA 10, 274, r. 5: the exorcist Nabû-nadin-šumi mentions the use of a small statue of Gilgamesh in a Maqlû ritual.
About a Near Eastern epic still sung today, see in this volume N. Lamassu’s paper “Gilgamesh’s Plant of Rejuvenation and Qāṭīne’s Sīsīsāmbur.”
The papyrus comes from Edfou (P. Jena 1, preserved in Jena at the Friederich Schiller Universität). This long fragmentary codex of papyrus has two texts: on the verso the fifth book of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies (copy dating from the late third / early fourth century CE) and on the recto, a syncretic story based on the myth of Horus (copy dating from the third century CE). The copyist of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies used the whole papyrus on the recto-side, then turned the volumen and found three columns of a “pagan” text on the verso. However, he kept on copying Irenaeus after the older text. This is quite unusual because the first text inked on a papyrus is normally written on the recto, i.e., along the fibres of the papyrus. There is no obvious link between the two texts.
This association between Typhon and Seth is known in Greek literature since classical times; see, e.g., Aeschylus, The Suppliants, v. 559–560.