> Read through that thread where I challenged Thanos
> 5150 as to the size of the forest which I
> calculated to be impossibly big.
My post to Audrey:
My understanding is that they did not have such a thing as a "league" but the translation was offered as a placeholder using the English word of what they thought was the nearest equivalent. (Added-the idea of it being less than a mile was my own math extrapolating from the cord which the source said the Babylonian equivalent of a "league" was 30 cord, but this could be wrong).
The word beru, translated by Heidel as double-hour and by Speiser as league is a very curious one. It seems to be formed from a subsidiary stem of the verb root beru, whose basic meaning is to starve or to be hungry. From this basic meaning the subsidiary stem in question developed its meaning to persevere, to hold out, in other words, to hold out against starvation. In actual usage, the meaning was extended and the word came to mean to endure without interruption, and to continue to last. The word was used specifically in astronomy to describe stars and plnets which continued to be visible and had not gone below the horizon. From this verb, a noun was constructed with the meaning duration, although it was generally in the form biritu. A related preposition meant between, since what was endured between constituted an interval.
This noun also had a highly specific astronomical usage, meaning the angle of elongation of a star or planet. That means the angular distance from the sun. (In the case of Mercury, this never exceeds 28 degrees, which is just under 1/3 of a right angle, and may possibly relate to the thirds which were discussed above in note 11.) The central celestial sky band of An had an angular width of between 30 and 34 degrees, since An was identified with the number 60, it would seem that the degrees of his sky band were double-degrees, to yield this number. Perhaps the idea of a double-hour is similarly a normal hour counted double. Heidel does not explain why he has chosen to translate beru as double-hour. I have retained this translation but warn that the word really means 'variable interval', when Gilgamesh's journey below the horizon is described, referring to the 12 unequal hours, two of which are the period of dawn.
F. Rochberg-Hlaton, in an article on stellar distances in Babylonian astronomy stressed that the beru was: 'a unit of measure having three possible dimensions: length, time, or the measurement of an arc. As a unit of length, beru is customarily translated as mile (it is actually something over 10km), and as a unit of time it is equal to 30 ush (ush being the fundamental Babylonian unit for the measurement of both time and of arcs, equivalent to four minutes), hence 120 minutes or a double- hour. In the measurement of an arc, the beru refers to the 12th part of a circle, against 30 ush or 30 degrees, and serves as an astronomical unit, but only in the late mathematical astronomy.' Beru occurs so frequently in the Epic of Gilgamesh that it has been necessary to give a fair amount of information about it. The cosmic journey throughout the Epic, and the number of berus traversed on each occasion, are of great significance for working out what is actually being described. I have opted largely to use the translation double-hour, and occasionally leagues. But precisely what is going on in all instances is by no means clear.
Given the word is "league" I think we can safely assume the actual measure given for the length of this forest was in beru.
According to Segre¹, “NINDA meant also a measure of time,” 1/60th of 1/360th of a Babylonian day, about 4 seconds. The beru, = 1800 nindānu, would be 2 Babylonian hours, or as a length the distance walked in 1/12 of a Babylonian day.
So if "league" is a beru then this is equivalent to the distance one could walk in 2hrs.
It would appear, regardless, that the translation of "10,000 leagues" in the version being quoted is an error in translation or a mythologized version. The Yale tablet, noted in Geography of Gilgamesh Travels PART 1: The Route to the Mountain of the Cedars p102, says:
"The forest extended 60 leagues in each direction."
Oops. Only 9,940 leagues less.
So, if a beru is equivalent to 2hrs of walking then it would take 5 days to traverse this forest in either direction and 10 days to get from one end to the other. A forest of truly mythical proportions.
> It being a figure of speech is a strong
> possibility. Or as Race said, the numbers are all
> messed up for several reasons.