And it includes an invasion of Lebanon.
OK, it's not all noir, and its setting was not called Iraq 4,600 years ago, when the title character lived, or 2,700 years ago, when the most complete version of the tale was set down.
The story is The Epic of Gilgamesh, called simply Gilgamesh in Stephen Mitchell's 2004 version, and, in addition to being one of the most stirring stories ever told, it offers what is likely world literature's first femme fatale.
In this scene, Ishtar, played by Joan Bennett or Mary Astor, says:
"Come here, Gilgamesh ...to which Gilgamesh, played by Sterling Hayden or Humphrey Bogart, replies, in part,
marry me, give me your luscious fruits
be my husband, be my sweet man ... "
"Which of your husbands did you love forever?rejecting her advances as surely as Sam Spade rejected Brigid O'Shaughnessy's at the end of The Maltese Falcon. And then:
Which could satisfy your endless desires?
Let me remind you of how they suffered,
how each one came to a bitter end,"
"Ishtar shrieked, she exploded with fury."Not all Gilgamesh's femmes are fatales. Shamhat seduces Gilgamesh's future sidekick, Enkidu, in one of the sexiest scenes in any ancient epic, but the sex civilizes the feral giant rather than threatening his downfall. Still, the scary Ishtar and the stoic Gilgamesh earn the epic a place on history's list of proto-noir and proto-crime classics.
Ishtar, or in Akkadian, kicks even more butt in "Descent of Ishtar to the Nether World," threatening the gatekeeper that:
Needless to say, she gets in. She also does a slow strip along the way, and whoever called the netherworld "the house which none leave who have entered it ... the road from which there is no way back" had not met Ishtar."If thou openest not the gate so that I cannot enterI will smash the door, I will shatter the bolt,I will smash the doorpost, I will move the doors,I will raise the up the dead, eating the living,So that the dead will outnumber the living."
© Peter Rozovsky 2008, 2011