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Anonymous - Gilgamesh

BBC Radio 3: Drama on 3

Broadcast: Sunday 11th June 2006 @ 7:30 p.m.

A radio adaptation of the epic poem of ancient Mesopotamia, 'Gilgamesh'. The poem was written in more than one language over 4,000 years ago on various clay tablets. It tells the story of King Gilgamesh, his newly created male friend, Enkidu, their life in the cities of Mesopotamia between the great rivers Tigris and Euphrates and their adventures crossing wildernesses and battling monsters in their quest for fame and immortality.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a literary work from Babylonia, dating from long after the time that king Gilgamesh was supposed to have ruled. It was based on earlier Sumerian legends of Gilgamesh. The most complete version of the epic was preserved on eleven clay tablets in the collection of the 7th century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. It is considered to be the oldest piece of literature ever recorded.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is widely known today. The first modern translation of the epic was in the 1870s by George Smith. More recent translations include one undertaken with the assistance of the American novelist John Gardner, and published in 1984. Another edition is the two volume critical work by Andrew George whose translation also appeared in the Penguin Classics series in 2003. In 2004, Stephen Mitchell released a controversial edition, which is his interpretation of previous scholarly translations into what he calls the "New English version".

For 30 minutes, literary scholars, archeologists, and poets will discuss the history and context of the poem before the play is performed.

'Gilgamesh' has been adapted for radio by Jeremy Howe from the English translation by Stephen Mitchell.

Music by Paul Dodgson

With Joe Dixon [Gilgamesh], Adam Levy [Enkidu], Kananu Kirimi [Shamhat / Ishtar], Eve Matheson [Lady Ninsun / Siduri / Scorpion Woman], Bill Wallis [Utnapishtim / Soldier], Kenneth Cranham [The Narrator], David Collins [Humbaba / Ninurta], Chris Donnelly [Scorpion Man / Ea], Robert Gwilym [Prologue / Anu], and Paul Nicholson [Urshanabi / Enlil].

Directed by Tim Dee in Bristol

Re-broadcast on Sunday 1st July 2007

120 min.


An earlier version of 'Gilgamesh', by Alec Reid, was broadcast in 1983, a recording of which is archived. The 1928 translation by R. C. Thompson is worthy of study.... - ND

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