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C O U R S E 
Masterpieces of World Literature
Martin Puchner, Harvard University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Gilgamesh, Enkidu, Humbaba and the Country
Notes taken on March 14, 2018 by Edward Tanguay
Gilgamesh and Enkidu have become friends
go out of the city to slay the monster Humbaba
Humbab is inhabiting and protecting a wild forest
they leave the city to raid the countryside, cut down the forest and slay the monster
particularly in the ancient Near East, the environment is an extremely pervasive factor
the city needs the countryside
the cities are large and dependent on a large number of serf population in the countryside
dependent on the scarce resources of water and timber
Gilgamesh is known for two things
1. building a wall around his city
2. digging wells and irrigation projects
the control of these things are important
cities are made out of baked clay, mud and bricks
but if you want a palace, you need roof beams and doors
for this they deforested Western Persia
so they went to Lebanon
journies to get lumber were described as some of the great expeditions of life
you don't need gold in the same way you need lumber
you can't just steal lumber and come back
you have to subdue a population and then spend time harvesting the lumber
lumber is not easily portable
you have float it down the Euphrates, it takes time
Ashurbanipal's library
from where the best version of the Gilgamesh ethic is dug up
they mainly wanted cedar wood, not fir
in the Ashurbanipal's library is an account of a builder saying that he wanted in writing that he had to use substandard fir instead of cedar
when Gilgamesh goes to get cedar, this means that he has imperial ambitions
this section celebrates the cutting down of a forest and the urban space
today we see this as not a heroic deed
the flood story
people are multiplying to much and getting to noisy, the gods are having trouble sleeping
in Genesis, people are sinful
but in Gilgamesh, it is a moral them as such
they start to negotiate with him
he's like a rival chieftan of a small polity that they are controlling
the question is do you lay waste to these people or do you find a way to live with them so that the tribute becomes a sustainable resource
they kill Humbaba whom they should rather have as a subsidiary vassal
leads to the curse that will lead to Enkidu's death
"if a sheep's intestine looks like Humbaba's face, it signifies revolution"
Enkidu should be giving better advice to Gilgamesh, by restraining him, by saying don't kill Humbaba
on the contrary, Enkidu eggs Gilgamesh on