Gilgamesh and the Sun


Mesopotamia, in "the cradle of civilization", offers us the ancient Epic of Galgamesh, probably first composed around 2000 BC. In this ancient Sumerian story, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, sets out on a quest for immortality to the Garden of the Sun, the land of everlasting life. To reach it, Gilgamesh must pass through the Sun's gate in the mountain of the horizon. The setting Sun disappears there and emerges from it at sunrise. A pair of terrifying scorpion-peole stationed at the gate of heaven guard the Sun's path. But eventually Gilgamesh gains entrance to the next level.

E. C. Krupp postulates: "Around the 17th century BC., Mesopotamian boundary stones began to carry astronomical symbols, including that of the terrifying scorpion-man... Some scholars identify this creature as the Mesopotamian antecedent of Sagittarius, the Archer. Although no one is sure that the boundary stone scorpion-man is also meant to be the Sun's bodyguard at the gate of heaven, the constellation could have evolved from the earlier imagery through its asssociation with the Milky Way. In the second millennium B.C., when the stars of Capricornus hosted the winter-solstice Sun, Sagittarius could have been posted as the advance guard at the crossroads of the Sun's path and the Milky Way."


Legend described by E. C. Krupp in Sky and Telescope, September 1997. pp. 80-81.

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