the world of men, time drifted by until it could be counted in thousands
of years, and one day Gilgameš came to sit on the throne of Uruk.
Who does not know the story of Gilgameš ? The Great King of
many deeds, in which the savage Enkidu was his unfailing companion.
Enkidu, whose tragic death, maniganced by the goddess Itar,
brought the youthful Gilgame face to face with his own mortality,
and drove him on a quest across the steppes to seek out Utnapitim
and discover from him the secret of eternal life. Gilgame,
who passed through the tunnel between the mountains of the West
and the East, trod in the garden of ama and came, finally,
to the shores of the great Ocean where Uršanabi had moored his boat
and was fishing on the beach.
And like many before him, the Immortal took pity on the wanderer
whose face was burnt by sun and wind and engraven with sorrow.
He broke the law of the cosmos in carrying the King of Uruk across
the very Waters of Death, to Dilmun-the-Pure, where Gilgameš, to
his surprise, would find Utnapitim laying nonchalantly in
the lush grass.
The price for Uršanabi's transgression was eternal banishment
from the shores of Dilmun. A punishment that, at first, he
considered lightly - free at last ! Free to accompany Gilgameš
back to Uruk-of-the-Strong-Walls or to any other city he might choose.
Free to live out an infinite number of cycles of Sun and Moon, to
both of whose secrets he is privy...
has been living in Sumer for nine hundred years now. He has
buried Gilgame, gone at last to his fate, watched dynasties
of kings rise and crumble into dust, watched cities being built
and being burned. He has been a sailor, a merchant, a mercenary,
a weaver, a courtier, a farmer, a hermit in the mountains; he has
lived in Uruk, in Mari, in Assur, before settling down or, rather,
slowly falling into immobility, in Ur, watching with increasing
lassitude the dreary world go by...
His is a complex character. The gods had a reason to deny
immortality to Gilgame and to distance Utnapitim from
the world, for if nothing is truly inevitable, the desperation is
greater still to see history repeating itself almost inexorably.
Uršanabi himself lives in a rhythm measured not in days but in years.
Whereas some are ill-tempered in the morning or under the hot afternoon
sun, and cheerful and sociable the evening come, Urshanabi can spend
an entire year in a bad mood. He can be witheringly insulting
and wounding, after all, what is there to lose, in a hundred years
no-one will remember.
Although he has had many wives and given genesis to numerous families, he lives at present alone, in a modest abode close to the ziqqurat at Ur. To provide himself with an income he volunteers for corvee work and holds a post as namsita to the Moon God; during the last ten days of each month, it is he who prepares the food for Nanna's table.