Cultural Discoveries from Ancient Assyrian Gilgamesh FanFiction

Dr. Andy Jones1, and Lauren Kraft2

1 Department of Archaeology and Nazi Punching, Cranberry-Lemon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

2 Literary Antics and Over Analysis, Cranberry-Lemon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 

Abstract

The epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest major recorded literature that history books decided to care about. The twelve tablet epic poem originating from the Sumerians has been a soul searching window into ancient Mesopotamian cultures such as the Sumerians and Babylonians. By the time the Assyrian copies of the story were found, the epic had become practically standardized by the Babylonian version. A new discovery of ancient Assyrian Cuneiform tablets finally shows the Assyrian take on the famous mythical tale. In a new library near the ancient city of Nineveh, several Assyrian Gilgamesh Fan Fictions paint a starkly new picture of the Mesopotanian civilization. In contrast to the morally loose Babylonians, the Assyrians are revealed through this art to be warring, in love with Justice, and crowd pleasing. 

Keywords: Archaeology, Gilgamesh, Mesopotamia, Cuneiform, Assyrian, Literature

1. The History of Gilgamesh

    In the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, some humans decided to invent agriculture and trading. Because of this the art of writing was invented to notate IOUs eventually leading up to you needing a good credit score so that you can rent an overpriced apartment. Eventually, humans started using this form of writing to etch Cuneiform into clay tablets to dry in the sun. Soon after, previously oral stories became recorded for history and the epic story of Gilgamesh became one of the first.

    The Epic of Gilgamesh is a long form poem that was the first of its kind. The stories making up the epic go back to 2100 BC Sumeria. The Babylonian version then began to appear in the 18th century BC. It wasn’t until the 13-10th century BC that the standard long form of the poem began appearing in Mesopotamia. 

     Gilgamesh became standard reading for those few that could read. It even showed up in the Library of Ashurbanipal on the last great Assyrian King’s night stand. Recently the Library of Apram’s ScreenPlays was discovered which contained several new Assyrian fan fiction adaptations based on the Sumerian-Babylonian story. As a refresher, here is a synopsis of the epic of Gilgamesh. 

Typical Cuneiform clay tablet about taxes or something
Figure 1: Typical Cuneiform clay tablet about taxes or something

2. Synopsis of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh

Beginning as the terrible King of Uruk and serial rapist, Gilgamesh was an unlikely hero. His mom was a Goddess and his Dad was half God half mortal. This of course made him 1/3rd mortal and 2/3rds a God. We find our protagonist at the beginning of the story oil wrestling with a wild untamed man Enkidu. The man was so wild and unruly, Gilgamesh couldn’t not wrestle him. They wrestled for a long time until they realized they were equal matches for each other and became best friends forever. The custom of finding your best friend by oil wrestling strangers had not changed until the 7th century AD with the rise of Islam. 

The two new best friends decided to fight a lion demon in the forest named Humbaba. After using some special weapons and some divine intervention, the two new best friends won. They then axed some sacred trees and sailed home on a raft with Humbaba’s head. Upon returning home, the temptress Ishtar started hitting on Gilgamesh like a bird of paradise. Gilgamesh rejected her advances. The temptress, in frustration, questioned Gilgamesh’s sexuality and then summoned a earth type level 63 bull from heaven against Gilgamesh. Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and defeated the bull. Enkidu, as an excessive touchdown celebration dance, ripped off the leg of the bull demon and pimp slapped Ishtar across the face with the leg. The irked Ishtar retaliated by killing Enkidu with a curse. 

Gilgamesh became saddened over his best friend’s death, as you only find one friend that is an equal match at oil wrestling in life. This is where this 1/3rd man began dealing with his own mortality. He pondered his own mortality Gilgamesh then left his home once again to find the secret of immortality from Utenapishten who survived a biblically large flood. After crossing mountains guarded by horrifying CGI the rock scorpion men, and lethal waters with the guidance of the Goddess of beer and wisdom Dudiri, Gilgamesh found his man. 

Utenapishten tells him he can have the secret of immortality if he stays awake for six days. Gilgamesh failed. Utenapishten then gave him another chance by telling him of a secret plant that will give him immortality. He then looked for the magical plant underwater by tying rocks to his feet in a mob sleep with the fishes type fashion. After resurfacing with the magical plants which will give him immortality, Gilgamesh made his journey home. 

On the journey back, Gilgamesh stopped to take a bath. While he’s not looking, a snake stole the magical plant. Gilgamesh cried and went home without his immortality. He then dealt with his mortality like all other men by growing a goatee and buying a sports car to awkwardly hit on women in their 20s. 

3. Library Discovery

While taking Real Estate Pictures using The Sentinel near ancient Nineveh on the outskirts of Mosul Iraq, a square type shape was observed in the dirt. The pictures were taken within 100m from where the Mashki gate used to be located before being destroyed by ISIS. As soon as we noticed the unnatural square object we had to investigate further.   

Mashki Gate before being destroyed by ISIS
Figure 2: Mashki Gate before being destroyed by ISIS 

After doing some cursory machine learning with advanced image processing techniques, our team confirmed that it was in fact a square, the shape of most Assyrian buildings. As soon as this was discovered, a team of unpaid Archaeological interns self funded themselves to the site under the leadership of Cranberry-Lemon’s tenured Archaeological professor and Nazi Hunter Dr. Andy Jones. 

Weeks of digging later, the unpaid interns began finding artifacts dating back to the 7th century BC. One skeleton was found which forensic evidence suggests was killed by an Archaeological pickaxe and 90% gravity. Next to the skeleton was a large compilation of cuneiform script dried clay tablets in ancient Akkadian in pristine condition. It was the biggest discovery of Assyrian texts since the Library of Ashurbanipal. From these tablets we learned that the skeleton’s name was Apram who happened to be a failed poet and playwright who attempted to adapt Sumerian and Babylonian myths and poems for Assyrian culture. 

4. Babylonian-Assyrian Notable Differences

According to the newly discovered and translated texts, Apram wasn’t exactly an early Shakespeare as much as he was an early Michael Bay. Besides Assyrian adaptations of Gilgamesh, we also found big budget plans, action scene descriptions and special effects outlined for big box office Ben Hur style play productions corresponding to his Gilgamesh adaptations. 

Apram wrote in the first of his five tablet memoire “These Babylonian stories are too tame and heady for Nineveh. If I could only get the budget, actors and equipment I need, I could really give Nineveh the story it’s looking for! I’m talking Dames! Action! Adventure! Romance! Stunts that will really wow the audience!” Apram goes on to describe in tablet three, “these people don’t give a rats ass about complex characters, there’s no point in developing anything like that. Now make Humbaba fifty cubits tall with a breath of fire that almost reaches the front row, glowing red eyes and makes a sort of BRRAAWOOOOW sort of sound and you’ve got a hit on your hands in the first thirty minutes!” 

This find confirms theories in history that Assyrians were more warring basic bro’s who weren’t as intellectually and artistically focused as Babylonians, Sumerians and other ancient Mesopotanian cultures of their time. Unfortunately there is little evidence Apram was able to have his Gilgamesh blockbuster trilogy produced. His interpretation still puts a very Assyrian twist on the story.   

4.1 Gilgamesh and Enkidu Buddy Cop Motif

Of the many different Gilgamesh fan fictions found, many were attempts at creating a cop drama which would typically team up Gilgamesh and Enkidu in some different personality dynamic. In these drafted epic poems, the two characters would stop oil wrestling each other when interrupted by a bystander calling for help. Whether it’s being actively assaulted or crying for Justice, Gilgamesh and Enkidu would call a truce to their wrestling to help the victim in need. More likely in an urban environment instead of the woods, Gilgamesh and Enkidu would be called to track down and enact justice against a crime or series of deadly crimes in the city. After shaking up the criminal underground, the investigation would inevitably lead to a battle with Humbaba who would be the head of the criminal syndicate. 

Whole Grain Buddy Cop Cuneiform Mini Wheats
Figure 3: Whole Grain Buddy Cop Cuneiform Mini Wheats

As seen in Figure 3, most of these buddy cop stories ended up undeveloped as Apram tried to figure out the correct dynamic for a buddy cop drama. Assyrians loved justice but had not yet established the pathos of law enforcement or even vigilantes. Apram never found the right balance of a wild Enkidu raging against the cultural machine for swift justice against the civilized and calculating Gilgamesh who typically played it cool. Without a police commissioner to fire the two from the case for working outside of their jurisdiction, Apram could not find the machine for Enkidu to rage against. There were no rules or cultural hierarchies for Enkidu to rebel against which left the dynamic too flat for a full epic poem more than two dried Cuneiform clay tablets. 

4.2 Chariot Chase Scenes

In many of Apram’s Gilgamesh adaptations, several stanzas would be dedicated to a chariot chase scene. In these scenes, amazingly detailed depictions of Gilgamesh chasing and being chased by Humbaba, the Heavenly Bull and even the snake that stole the magical plant.  

Humbaba Gilgamesh Chase Scene
Figure 4: Humbaba Gilgamesh Chase Scene

In these chase scenes, Apram painted pictures of “blistering fast speeds as the wind blows…” and “sharp turns like the agility of a gazelle…” through busy city streets, forest roads or even one exciting description where Gilgamesh was being chased by the Scorpion men across a narrow mountain pass where “…his two wheels barely fit across the path. Rocks flew down a cliff four hundred cubits tall,” until escaping the scorpion men after barely riding over a long rickety rope bridge across a large chasm. 

4.2 God on God Fight Scenes

In several of Apram’s fan fictions, Gods and Goddesses would be much larger, some towering “…As tall as three trees” and would typically fight each other in big show downs. In one of these adaptations, Dudiri faced off with the Sun God Ashur who attempted to stop Gilgamesh’s journey. Gilgamesh narrowly escaped the spectacle as “Mountains cracked and trees splintered as the 60 cubit tall deities traded blows!”  

Winged Ashur as depicted by Apram
Figure 5: Winged Ashur as depicted by Apram

In one of Apram’s stories, the heavenly bull is “…as tall as three homes with the force of a raging river and horns like mountain peaks.” In this version of the story, the two best friends control a suit of armor as large as the bull from the inside with a complex system of ropes and levers. Apram even goes on to detail a special effect trick where a normal bull and a man in armor could fight over a miniature sand castle model of Nineveh to make the sight realistic to audiences. There are unfortunately no records of any productions of this special effect. 

4.3 More Exciting Endings

Apram’s Gilgamesh fan fictions are most notably different from the standard Babylonian epic in that there is never a complicated ending. In many of the adaptations, the story ends with the defeat of Humbaba or the Heavenly bull and sometimes, Enkidu would sacrifice himself for the greater good in a redemptive show of courage. 

Even in the full adaptations where Enkidu is cursed and killed by Ishtar, there isn’t a complicated discussion of human mortality at the end and Gilgamesh either retrieves his magic plants after battling the giant snake that takes his magic plant or uses his immortality to defeat a large army invading the land of Uruk when finally gaining the magical Godly effects. 

5. Assyrian Cultural Implications

Because it became obvious in Apram’s memoire that his Gilgamesh adaptations were meant for the audience of Ancient Assyrians, we can assume that these newly discovered writings reveal a lot about Ancient Assyrian culture. There are some small differences noted such as Assyrian’s better grasp of biology when Apram noted that his full God mother and half God father would make him ¼ Man and ¾ God. However, the big differences spoke more to Assyrian culture.

Assyrians are much more obsessed with justice. While it’s tough to say what exactly the justice code was at Apram’s time, it’s obvious that they really cared about enacting justice and fighting injustice with an authoritarian iron fist. For Apram to create so many buddy cop dramas, he must have been attempting to fill some social niche with just the right story where the bad guy goes to prison and the good guy cleans up the streets. 

Second, Assyrians idolize violence and warfare much more than other Mesopotamian. In Apram’s writing much of the plot is based around single man on man, God on Goddess combat, general action and even in a few rare cases, big battle scenes where Gilgamesh either single handedly defeats an army or while leading an outnumbered force against all odds after an inspirational speech to his men. These people were more fighters than lovers.

The other big difference is the more simple themes within each of the stories. “Assyrians don’t want to think about what it is to be human, or what relationship we have with the Gods, Stars and the Universe, they just want to be entertained!” Apram wrote in his memoir. His writing backs up his statement with very little complex themes commonly seen in the Babylonian Gilgamesh. 

6. Conclusion

Were Assyrians really all action junkies who hate complex plots? Some theorize this may have been most Mesopotanians and not just Assyrians. One theory emerging from this dig site is that Apram was the first writer for the common man and the existing literature of the time we have on record was written for the educated ruling class who have time to ponder such lofty topics as mortality. 

We do wonder what could have happened if Apram had the capital to finance his blockbuster visions and rewrite the literature of the age. With influence like Apram’s, would the bible detail more of David’s military conquests? Would Odysseus have used a giant mechasuit of armor to defeate the cyclops? Or would Theseus have toppled the Minotaur’s criminal enterprise instead of a fist fight in the Labyrinth? We can only speculate. All we know is Apram knew how to write an action story.

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Published by B McGraw

B McGraw has lived a long and successful professional life as a software developer and researcher. After completing his BS in spaghetti coding at the department of the dark arts at Cranberry Lemon in 2005 he wasted no time in getting a masters in debugging by print statement in 2008 and obtaining his PhD with research in screwing up repos on Github in 2014. That's when he could finally get paid. In 2018 B McGraw finally made the big step of defaulting on his student loans and began advancing his career by adding his name on other people's research papers after finding one grammatical mistake in the Peer Review process.

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