‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ is not the first literary source that mentions the name ‘Gilgamesh’, who was the fifth ruler of the dynasty of Uruk and a demigod with superhuman strength that helped him to build the defensive walls of Uruk.
According to the Sumerian King List, he ruled the city of Uruk for 126 years.
One of the oldest legends that mentions his name – long before the famous epic – is “Gilgamesh and Agga of Kish’, a short Sumerian story devoted to an armed confrontation between the two contemporary kings Gilgamesh of Uruk and Agga of Kish (also referred to as Akka of Kish).
This short Sumerian story – most probably based on one of the many historical wars between the city states of Sumer – tells how Gilgamesh defeated the neighboring city of Kish, which according to the Sumerian King List was the first city to have kings following the deluge.
War began when Agga, king of Kish sent envoys to Uruk demanding submission.
Gilgamesh met with Uruk’s elders to discuss the response. Gilgamesh was ready to resist, having an assembly of the Uruk’s fighting men on his side. The city elders, however, preferred surrender as the city of Kish was powerful and so was its ruler, Agga, the son of Enmebaragesi, a historical king, according to the earliest cuneiform inscription bearing the name of ‘Enmebaragesi of Kish’.
Enmebaragesi is known from several inscriptions found on fragments of vases of his own time, as well as from later traditions; one inscription asserts that he “despoiled the weapons of the land of Elam…”
He was the next-to-last ruler of the first dynasty of Kish. His son, Agga, was the last king of the dynasty, owing to his defeat by Gilgamesh, according to the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh and Agga of Kish.
Agga arrived with his large army and besieged Uruk, but surprisingly Gilgamesh was not particularly frightened. Instead, he told to his right hand, trusted man, Enkidu, to gather weapons for a demonstration of strength that would startle and confuse the mighty Agga.
Also Birhurture, Gilgamesh’s bodyguard and trusted servant was sent to the enemy’s camp to sow doubt and fear.
At some point, Gilgamesh’s majestic figure appeared on the city’s walls; the gates were thrown open and Uruk’s all warriors commanded by Enkidu emerged in full battle formation to fight against King Agga of Kish.
Agga was taken captive but Gilgamesh spared Agga’s life. Apparently, the great king of Uruk had a debt of honor to the aggressor; he once found refuge in Kish and Agga saved his life.
For many years, the kings of Babylon took the title ‘King of Kish’, after the legendary days of Kish’s independence.
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R. Silverberg, Gilgamesh the King
D. Damrosch, The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh