Derrek Hines, translator
Anchors Books, 66 pages, $9.95
Stephen Mitchell, translator
Gilgamesh: A New English Version.
The Free Press, 290 pages, $24.00
About a century and a half ago, the name “Gilgamesh” meant nothing to the ordinary person—or even to the ordinary educated person. It was simply unknown. In the 1840s, however, an Englishman whose head was filled with exotic visions from A Thousand and One Nights began excavating at an archaeological site in what is now Iraq. Austen Henry Layard unearthed a trove of clay tablets full of strange wedge-shaped markings. He understood this to be a form of ancient writing and shipped thousands of the tablets to the British Museum, where Henry Rawlinson struggled to decipher them. Rawlinson’s breakthrough arrived in the 1860s, when he became the first man in several millennia to comprehend cuneiform....