THE GILGAMESH CYLINDER SEAL

MS 1989
MS Short Title THE GILGAMESH CYLINDER SEAL
Text GILGAMESH AND ENKIDU, SLAYING THE BULL OF HEAVEN
Description MS in Neo-Assyrian on brown agate, Assyria, ca. 7th c. BC, 1 cylinder seal, h. 3,9 cm, diam. 1,6 cm, with Enkidu, wearing a short kilt decorated with rosettes, hair and beard in curls, an axe in one hand, holding the tail of the Bull of Heaven in the other, the winged human-headed bull crouches down on its foreleg, in front Gilgamesh, wearing long fringed robe with rosettes, a double horned headdress, long curled hair and beard, holding one of the bull's horns while plunging his sword into its neck.
Binding Barking, Essex, 1995, quarter brown morocco gilt folding case, by Aquarius.
Context 3 tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven, are MSS 2652/2-4.
Provenance
Commentary

 In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bull of Heaven was a mythical beast demanded by the goddess Ishtar to destroy the city of Uruk when her amorous advances towards its king, Gilgamesh, were rejected. Gilgamesh was king of Uruk ca. 2700 BC. The earliest epic about him so far is from 19th c. BC, cf. MS 3025, but cf. MS 2652/3 from ca. 2600 BC.

The most complete version of the Gilgamesh legend survives in 12 fragmentary tablets which were discovered in the excavations of the library of King Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC) at Niniveh. The slaying of the Bull of Heaven episode is treated in tablet VI: "Gilgamesh, like an able slaughterer, strikes with his sword the Bull of Heaven forcefully and precisely between shoulders and neck".

Only about 5 cylinder seals with this motive survive.

Published As cover illustration of both volumes of A.R. George: The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic. Oxford, University Press, 2003.
Exhibited
Mentioned
See also
Place of origin Assyria
Dates ca 7c BC

Location