Online Encyclopedia

GILGAL (Heb. for " circle " of sacred...

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 19 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
GILGAL (Heb. for " circle " of sacred stones), the name of several places in Palestine, mentioned in the Old Testament. The name is not found east of the Jordan. r. The first and most important was situated " in the east border of Jericho " (Josh. iv. 19), on the border between Judah and Benjamin (Josh. xv. 7). Josephus (Ant. v. 1. 4) places it 50 stadia from Jordan and ro from Jericho (the New Testament site). Jerome (Onomasticon, s.v. " Galgal ") places Gilgal 2 Roman miles from Jericho, and speaks of it as a deserted place held in wonderful veneration (" miro cultu " ) by the natives. This site, which in the middle ages appears to have been lost—Gilgal being shown farther north—was in 1865 recovered by a German traveller (Hermann Zschokke), and fixed by the English survey party, though not beyond dispute. It is about 2 m. east of the site of Byzantine Jericho, and r m. from modern er-Riha. A fine tamarisk, traces of a church (which is mentioned in the 8th century), and a large reservoir, now filled up with mud, remain. The place is called Jiljulieh, and its position north of the valley of Achor (Wadi Kelt) and east of Jericho agrees well with the biblical indications above mentioned. A tradition connected with the fall of Jericho is attached to the site (see C. R. Conder, Tent Work, 203 ff.). This sanctuary and camp of Israel held a high" ,place in the national regard, and is often mentioned in Judges and Samuel. But whether this is the Gilgal spoken of by Amos and Hosea in connexion with Bethel is by no means certain [see (3) below]. 2. Gilgal, mentioned in Josh. xii. 23 in connexion with Dor, appears to have been situated in the maritime plain. Jerome (Onomasticon, s.v. " Gelgel ") speaks of a town of the name his fellow-citizens of Shurippak. Gilgamesh is artificially brought into contact with Ut-Napishtim, to whom he pays a visit for the purpose of learning the secret of immortal life and perpetual youth which he enjoys. During the visit Ut-Napishtim tells Gilgamesh the story of the flood and of his miraculous escape. Nature myths have been entwined with other episodes in the epic and finally the theologians took up the combined stories and made them the medium for illustrating the truth and force of certain doctrines of the Babylonian religion. In its final form, the outcome of an extended and complicated literary process, the Gilgamesh Epic covered twelve tablets, each tablet devoted to one adventure in which the hero plays a direct or indirect part, and the whole covering according to the most plausible estimate about 3000 lines. Of all twelve tablets portions have been found among the remains of Assur-bani-pal's library, but some of the tablets are so incomplete as to leave even their general contents in some doubt. The fragments do not all belong to one copy. Of some tablets portions of two, and of some tablets portions of as many as four, copies have turned up, pointing therefore to the great popularity of the production. The best preserved are Tablets VI. and XI., and of the total about 1500 lines are now known, wholly or in part, while of those partially preserved quite a number can be restored. A brief summary of the contents of the twelve may be indicated as follows: In the 1st tablet, after a general survey of the adventures of Gilgamesh, his rule at Erech is described, where he enlists the services of all the young able-bodied men in the building of the great wall of the city. The people sigh under the burden imposed, and call upon the goddess Aruru to create a being who might act as a rival to Gilgamesh, curb his strength, and dispute his tyrannous control. The goddess consents, and creates Eabani, who is described as a wild man, living with the gazelles and the beasts of the field. Eabani, whose name, signifying " Ea creates," points to the tradition which made Ea (q.v.) the creator of humanity, symbolizes primeval man. Through a hunter, Eabani and Gilgamesh are brought together, but instead of becoming rivals, they are joined in friendship. Eabani is induced by the snares of a maiden to abandon his life with the animals and to proceed to Erech, where Gilgamesh, who has been told in several dreams of the coming of Eabani, awaits him. Together they proceed upon several adventures, which are related in the following four tablets. At first, indeed, Eabani curses the fate which led him away from his former life, and Gilgamesh is represented as bewailing Eabani's dissatisfaction. The sun-god Shamash calls upon Eabani to remain with Gilgamesh, who pays him all honours in his palace at Erech. With the decision of the two friends to proceed to the forest of cedars in which the goddess Irnina—a form of Ishtar—dwells, and which is guarded by Khumbaba, the 2nd tablet ends. In the 3rd tablet, very imperfectly preserved; Gilgamesh appeals through a Shamash priestess Rimat-Belit to the sun-god Shamash for his aid in the proposed undertaking. The 4th tablet contains a description of the formidable Khumbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest. In the 5th tablet Gilgamesh and Eabani reach the forest. Encouraged by dreams, they proceed against Khumbaba, and despatch him near a specially high cedar over which he held guard. This adventure against Khumbaba belongs to the Eabani stratum of the epic, into which Gilgamesh is artificially introduced. The basis of the 6th tablet is the familiar nature-myth of the change of seasons, in which Gilgamesh plays the part of the youthful solar god of the springtime, who is wooed by the goddess of fertility, Ishtar. Gilga mesh, recalling to the goddess the sad fate of those who fall a victim to her charms, rejects the offer. In the course of his recital snatches of other myths are referred to, including he famous Tammuz-' Adonis tale, in which Tammuz, the youthful bridegroom, is slain by his consort Ishtar. The goddess, enraged at the insult, asks her father Anu to avenge her. A divine bull is sent to wage a contest against Gilgamesh, who is assisted by his friend Eabani. This scene of the fight with the bull is often depicted on seal cylinders. The two friends by their united force succeed inkilling the bull, and then after performing certain votive and purification rites return to Erech, where they are hailed with joy In this adventure it is clearly Eabani who is artificially introduced in order to maintain the association with Gilgamesh. The 7th tablet continues the Eabani stratum. The hero is smitten with sore disease, but the fragmentary condition of this and the succeeding tablet is such as to envelop in doubt the accompanying circumstances, including the cause and nature of his disease. The 8th tablet records the death of Eabani. The 9th and loth tablets, exclusively devoted to Gilgamesh, describe his wanderings in quest of Ut-Napishtim, from whom he hopes to learn how he may escape the fate that has overtaken his friend Eabani. He goes through mountain passes and encounters lions. At the entrance to the mountain Mashu, scorpion-men stand guard, from one of whom he receives advice as to how to pass through the Mashu district. He succeeds in doing so, and finds himself in a wonderful park, which lies along the sea coast. In the loth tablet the goddess Sabitu, who, as guardian of the sea, first bolts her gate against Gilgamesh, after learning of his quest, helps him to pass in a ship across the sea to the " waters of death." The ferry-man of Ut-Napishtim brings him safely through these waters, despite the difficulties and dangers of the voyage, and at last the hero finds himself face to face with Ut-Napishtim. In the 1 nth tablet, Ut-Napishtim tells the famous story of the Babylonian flood, which is so patently attached to Gilgamesh in a most artificial manner. Ut-Napishtim and his wife are anxious to help Gilgamesh to new life. He is sent to a place where he washes himself clean from impurity. He is told of a weed which restores youth to the one grown old. Scarcely has he obtained the weed when it is snatched away from him, and the tablet closes somewhat obscurely with the prediction of the destruction of Erech. In the 12th tablet Gilgamesh succeeds in obtaining a view of Eabani's shade, and learns through him of the sad fate endured by the dead. With this description, in which care of the dead is inculcated as the only means of making their existence in Aralu, where the dead are gathered, bearable, the epic, so far as we have it, closes. The reason why the flood episode and the interview with the dead Eabani are introduced is quite clear. Both are intended as illustrations of doctrines taught in the schools of Babylonia; the former to explain that only the favourites of the gods can hope under exceptional circumstances to enjoy life everlasting; the latter to emphasize the impossibility for ordinary mortals to escape from the inactive shadowy existence led by the dead, and to inculcate the duty of proper care for the dead. That the astro-theological system is also introduced into the epic is clear from the division into twelve tablets, which correspond to the yearly course of the sun, while throughout there are indications that all the adventures of Gilgamesh and Eabani, including those which have an historical background, have been submitted to the influence of this system and projected on to the heavens. This interpretation of the popular tales, according to which the career of the hero can be followed in its entirety and in detail in the movements in the heavens, in time, with the growing predominance of the astral-mythological system, overshadowed the other factors involved, and it is in this form, as an astral myth, that it passes through the ancient world and leaves its traces -in the folk-tales and myths of Hebrews, Phoenicians, Syrians, Greeks and Romans throughout Asia Minor and even in India.
End of Article: GILGAL (Heb. for " circle " of sacred stones)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.