So I may have been a few hundred miles off, but we did get to the heart of Babylonia. I mean sure, we were trying to get to Assyria but everyone knows that if you want to know the will of the Gods then you have to travel to Nippur! Ah Nippur, ancient home of the Temple of Enlil (that’s what the Babylonians call Amon, they have funny notions over here but I’ve learned to deal with all the names that they call our Gods). Somehow I was expecting more. When Goliath and I arrived the only thing that stood out was the Temple. The rest of the city was barely a city at all, more like a little village like you would find in the highlands of Canaan. Nonetheless I convinced Goliath that this was an important place and we would find answers in the stepped pyramid that towered over the rest of the buildings.
You know despite the fact that I was a little disappointed in the ‘city’ of Nippur, the Temple was still quite impressive. It shone a bright blue with golden images of the Gods along the various walls. They marched around the Temple and we followed in their wake. After a short while a man came out of a nearby house to greet us. We struck up a conversation after we found a common language and he revealed that a prophecy was about to be fulfilled. Now he only really got excited about this prophecy when he saw Goliath’s spear, which made me a little suspicious, but you never know how the Gods work so we listened to the man’s tale.
It turns out that Nippur was being raided by a demon, a daeva from the far off mountains. The local man described the demon in hideous terms, I was trying to eat my lunch at the time so I remember it vividly. The daeva spent his time outside of the village ruining peoples crops and stealing their animals. Sometimes the demon would do despicable things to the animals and their remains had no tongues and warped anuses. Weird. Anyway, the local priest (for that was who this man telling us this story was) had consulted with the Gods and the prophecy had been revealed – the demon was Humbaba returned. Yes, that Humbaba, the one that Gilgamesh killed in the Cedar Forest thousands of years ago, we’ve all heard the story.
Anyway, the Gods told the priest that the only one who could kill the demon would be one like Gilgamesh the great warrior. And lo and behold who should show up but Goliath, and in all fairness he does look like he could be an ancient hero returned to slay a demon. Well Goliath didn’t need to hear much more, he was ready to spear this demon no matter how many horns it had. He jumped to his feet and asked where the demon was.
Well things weren’t going to be that simple. Apparently the demon had taken human form – just as well considering what it naturally looked like – and so it would require some skill to find. Nonetheless the priest gave him a description and the name he replied to – ‘Lagakal’ – and off Goliath raced. He said he’d be back with the head of the demon and if he should fail then he would at least have failed fighting something that only Gilgamesh could have bested.
I’m glad he didn’t take me along. Not because I’m no use in a fight, though that’s reason enough, but it allowed me to do a little bit more investigation around Nippur. Oh shock and horror would you believe that the priest had not told us the entire truth? It didn’t take long for me to discover that Lagakal wasn’t just demon possessed, but was also the son of the local warlord, or Ensi as they call them around here. And Lagakal wasn’t just recently possessed, apparently he had been a demon child too. No one dared harm him though since it was well known that the Ensi would avenge his death and kill anyone related to the murderer.
Well how lovely, it looked like the priest had set Goliath up for a fall – getting rid of Lagakal and any reprisal against the locals at the same time. Gilgamesh indeed. Nothing for it but for Senbi to save the day! It so happened that I had a few items worthy of trade, nothing much, but enough to get started on a plan. Before long I had a lovely piece of wood and many paints. A few days later I had carved an amazing looking God – Ra the Sun God (who they call Shamash here). If I do say so myself he was one of my better works, and from such good quality wood as well. The long hair was particularly intricate.
OK, so now I had a God on my side. It had been several days and I knew Goliath could return at any time. Assuming he returned at all. It was time to go to the one person who could get us out of here when things went wrong. The Ensi.
It wasn’t difficult to arrange a meeting and during my journey to his abode I took note of the various horses and chariots that were nearby. Only the military could afford to keep such things, but perhaps they could be persuaded to part with one for the right price. I entered the presence of the Ensi and his attendants and prostrated myself on the ground.
“Oh great Ensi, Lord of Nippur and the surrounding lands. I am Senbi and I greet you from far off Egypt. The fame of Nippur is known throughout the four corners of the world and I come to do homage and offer my help to your house and your Gods.”
I heard a sigh, and then, “Get up you fool. I am no King, I merely keep this land safe from neighbouring villages. I doubt my fame has spread as far as Babylon never mind Egypt.” I looked up and saw an ageing man, his face hard and scarred. It looked as though a weariness had settled about him many years ago and he wore it like a warm cloak.
“Indeed Ensi, you are wise if not famous. I had not heard of you but I come to help this land anyway. Nippur was once the heart of Babylonia but now it lies a shadow of its former self. There is a way to bring back its glory however and all it will require from you is a little faith, some courage and a chariot with some fine horses.”
I pulled out Shamash then and his attendants gasped. He himself seemed less impressed which meant my sell would have to be that much harder. Or at least it would have been had Goliath not shown up just at that point. The door flew open and as I saw my enormous friend and his bloodied spear my heart sank. Now we were in trouble, the chariot which would have allowed us to escape north was not yet in my hands!
The Ensi spoke, “What is this, who are you?”
Goliath replied, “I am Goliath, and I have done for you a great deed as Gilgamesh did in days of old!”
Ooooh, this was going to be bad. I moved myself back towards the wall, Shamash in front of me, silent prayers to Seth on my lips.
“What is the meaning of this?” said the confused Ensi. I believe he was also somewhat upset that none of his men outside had stopped Goliath from coming in.
“I was told of a wild man who stole sheep and destroyed the grain of your people. Nippur may be small but it does not deserve to be at the whim of such a beast. And so I ventured forth and encountered the wild man, the one they call Lagakal.”
At this the Ensi’s face had turned pale. He was looking at the blood on Goliath’s spear as it dripped on the floor.
“And so I hunted Lagakal, though it took me many days to find him. And when I finally did find him we fought. Hand to hand we wrestled for what seemed like hours. Eventually though, I understood the prophecy and through understanding I won! This was no demon, no Humbaba returned from the past. This was an Enkidu, the great friend of Gilgamesh who was once wild and was tamed. We stopped fighting and we started to talk. It took some time, he is a strange and crazy man still but eventually we reached an understanding.”
“What has happened to Lagakal?” cried the Ensi, “What has become of my son?”
“Fear not, he is safe. We returned to the village and to the Gods. I made a sacrifice of a sheep to Shamash, favourite of Gilgamesh, and took Enkidu to the nearby priestess of Inanna. There they are performing the sacred act that will bring fertility back to the land.”
Oh Goliath, what a piece of work you are. You go out to find a demon and bring back a lunatic who you give to the local priestitute. Well, if a romp in the sack worked for Enkidu maybe it would work for this poor fellow too. And what do you know, it did! Goliath spent another week with Lagakal explaining the ways of civilisation and the two of them would occasionally be seen wrestling near the Temple. The locals were still wary of them both but the Ensi seemed most pleased in the change that had come over his mad son. I didn’t need to bargain for a chariot in the end, we were given one by a grateful father.
You see that’s when I started to think there may be something to Goliath after all. Who knew, if he followed in the footsteps of Gilgamesh he may discover the secret of immortality and I’d be there to make sure it wasn’t lost this time! In the end it was clear that the detour to Nippur wasn’t due to my lack of navigation skills, instead we merely followed the whims of the Gods!