strict sense, history did not begin inrnSumer—it began in Greece, the home ofrnscience, tragedy, and democracy—thernmanv discoveries that did begin in thernFourth and Third Millennium wodd ofrnMesopotamia still affect our lives in waysrnwe do not notice or understand.rnA continuous cultural tradition dominatedrnthe urban world of the ancientrnNear East from the third Millenniumrnuntil Cyrus the Persian and his descendantsrnconquered it in the second halfrnof the sixth century B.C. Its shapingrnheroes bore the strange names of Gilganieshrnand Enkidu. Gilgamcsh, unconquerablernwarrior, insatiable lover, wasrnking of Uruk in Mesopotamia (BiblicalrnEreeh, Warka in modern Iraq); the godsrncreated as his peer and rival Elnkidu,rnthe wild man. The two met, fought, andrnbecame best friends. When Ishtar, goddessrnof sex, failed to seduce Gilgamcsh,rnshe sent the Bull of Heaven to ravagerntheir lands. The two heroes slew thernbull, and in revenge Ishtar caused therndeath of Enkidu. Gilgamcsh mourns hisrnfriend in a lament that takes up most ofrna clay tablet and then decides to seek thernelixir of life from the only human to winrnimmortality from the gods: Utnapishtim,rnwho survived the Great Elood. ThernTenth and Eleventh tablets tell of Gilgamesh’srnsearch for Utnapishtim, of thernlatter’s tale of the Hood (having manyrnparallels to the Biblical story of Noah),rnand of Gilgamesh’s departure with thernherb which will give eternal life to Gilgamcshrnand his people. While he isrnswimming in a pool, a snake eats thernherb. Gilgamcsh will not live forever, butrnliis memory will be immortal.rnTales about the adventures of Gilgamcshrnand Enkidu have been found inrnmany languages all over the Near Eastrnfrom the two millennia that precededrnGvrus’s conquests. The most completernversion was written down for the libraryrnof the great Assyrian monarch, Ashurbanipal,rnin his capital city of Nineveh byrnthe Tigris in the seventh century B.C.rnWhen the resurgent Babylonians destroyedrnAssyrian power shortly afterrnAshurbanipal’s death, the 12 clay tabletsrnof the Epic of Gilgamcsh remained coveredrnby hot, dry sand for thousandsrnof years, until English archaeologistsrnunearthed them and brought themrnto the British Museum in London. Arnhardworking and quiet pedant namedrnGeorge Smith worked for months on thernclay fragments, piecing together what wernnow call the Eleventh Tablet, the storyrnof a flood that resembles the delugernin Genesis. Finally he got far enough tornsee what the story was about. His fellowrnworkers heard a commotion from hisrnstudy and went in to see what was happening.rnThey found Smith stark naked,rnsinging and dancing around the room,rnovercome with joy at his new discovery.rnGilgamcsh, like other epic heroes, rejoicesrnin conquest and grieves at defeatrnand death. Did any great hero in hisrnwarmaking and lovemaking ever knowrnthe emotion that filled George Smithrnthe day he first deciphered that brokenrntablet?rnWill this new translation by Danny P.rnJackson give the reader some of the samernjoy? That is an unfair question, but therernare at least two audiences who will derivernmuch pleasure from this latest attemptrnto breathe life into the dead bones—orrnsundried clay tablets—of this old epic.rnJackson’s version tells the story in a clearrnand effective fashion, with attention tornlevels of language and narrative form.rnThe first is students in university Mythrnclasses, who will be able to grasp thernstorv and its characters without beingrnconfused bv scholarly minutiae. Thern$4.95 price for the student edition is justrnright, although it means seeing ThornrnKapheim’s effective and sometimesrnpowerful illustrations in black and white,rninstead of the brooding dark colors ofrnthe regular editions. (There are also 18rnpages of photographs of ancient art andrndocuments.) The second is those whornare seeking in translations from thernWest’s rich past a way to resurrect the artrnof poetry in our day, or to initiate itsrnresurrection in the next generation.rnGontemporary poetry has lost its missionrnand, as in the 16th century, it is seekingrnin translation of ancient works a meansrnof finding its way out of the dark forestrnand back onto the high summit it oncernoccupied. Unfortmrately, the recerrtrnwave of translators has given us few masterpieces.rnI am impressed by Ted I lughcs’rnversion of Seneca’s Oedipus from thernlate 60’s and Dana Gioia’s translation ofrnSeneca’s Hercules Furens, hot off thernJohns Hopkins University Press. Therernare several works which dilute great successrnby dubious experiments: DavidrnSlavitt’s Eclogues of Vergil, Tony Harrison’srnOresteia of Aeschylus, ChristopherrnLogue’s version of Homer’s Iliad.rnDanny Jackson’s Gilgamesh holds arnmiddle position in this school, maintainingrna consistent level of poetic accomplishment.rnI am dubious about the idearnof having the gods speak in short, staccatornrhymes. This technique is amusing inrnTablet Six, where Ishtar, the goddess ofrnsex, tries to seduce Gilgamesh, but it isrnless effective in the mouth of the Sungod,rnShamash, as he addresses Enkidurnbefore his death. The decision to callrnNinhursag, mother of the gods, “Shewho-rnmust-be-obeyed” (for Belet-ili,rn”mistress of the gods”) introduces an intrusivernreminiscence of Public Television’srnRumpole, who always uses the titlern(borrowed from Rider Haggard) in referencernto his wife.rnAs a whole, Jackson’s work is lively,rnexciting, and dignified. It will interestrnstudents, and may provide future generationsrnwith lines and expressions that willrnform part of a new birth of great poetry.rnThose who are not poets may learn fromrnGilgamesh and his best friend the lure ofrnhigh accomplishment, the ennoblingrnexcitement of facing fearful odds, andrnthe bitter tragedy of death, which endsrneven the greatest adventures. This is thernmoral poetry that has urged our culturerninto so many high achievements, andrnmay do so again, if we will listen to itsrnmusic.rnE. Christian Kopffis a professor ofrnclassics at the University of Colorado atrnBoulder.rnThe AmericanrnChurchillrnby William R. HawkinsrnTheodore Roosevelt: AnrnAmerican Mindrnby Mario R. DiNunziornNew York: St. Martin’s Press;rn359 pp., $24.95rnWhile reading this wide-rangingrncollection, I was struck oncernagain by the similarities betweenrnTheodore Roosevelt and WinstonrnChurchill. Both were prolific writers ofrnTo order these books, (24hrs, 365 days)rnplease call (800) 962-6651 (Ext. 5200)rnSEPTEMBER 1995/33rnrnrn