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Epic Of Gilgamesh Essay, Research Paper
The Epic of Gilgamesh, is a folk epic compilation of oral narratives and written texts that were created over a millennium ago. The story of Gilgamesh dates around 2700 BC, where there was said to have lived a king, from the Sumerian Empire, by that name. A Babylonian priest, Assurbanipal, is greatly responsible for the survival of the Gilgamesh stories. He ensured that the stories were
collected, and kept together for ease of reading. It was not until 1872, that archeologists unearthed several stone tablets containing the tales of Gilgamesh. Through the untiring efforts of many translators and authors, we have in our possession a key to the civilization of the ancient Sumerians.
The book begins with a description of Gilgamesh in the prologue. It reads:
[T]his was the king who knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood When the Gods created Gilgamesh, they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him God and one third man(Gilgamesh 13).
From the start, the picture of a perfect specimen is laid upon the reader.
The story begins to pick up with the coming of Enkidu. Enkidu is an equal to Gilgamesh that was created by the Gods in order to level the playing field, so to speak. Until the arrival of Enkidu, Gilgamesh spent his days killing young men, and raping the local virgins. Enkidu is solely responsible for turning Gilgamesh into an upstanding citizen and king through several different events, but most importantly, the realization of the meaning of mortality. The relationship between Enkidu and Gilgamesh grows ever stronger through out the adventure. With the goal of immortality in mind, one of the major tasks that the two partake in is the demise of the monster, Humbaba.
Because of the evil that is in the land, we will go to the forest and destroy the evil; for in the forest lives Humbaba whose name is Hugeness, a ferocious giant
With this win under his belt, Gilgamesh rapidly ascends to the level of hero status, with Enkidu by his side.
Enkidu, half-man/half-animal, has issues of his own concern. While freeing animals in the woods, Enkidu is seduced by a prostitute. He ends up spending several days and nights with the harlot, thus losing his connection with nature and ultimately resulting in his banishment, and thereafter, his death. Enkidu is angered at the entire predicament, until the god Shamash explains the outcome and its benefits in detail. With this information, his anger turns to praise, and he is content with the aftermath of his encounter with the prostitute.
Gilgamesh mourns the loss of his fiend, Enkidu. He comes to the understanding that immortality, a conflict that he deals with throughout this epic, can not be achieved through great deeds alone. With this in mind, he sets out to find the answer to divinity. He knows of one individual that has the secret to deathlessness, but does not know how to locate him. Aided by Shamash, Gilgamesh travels to Mashu, eventually finding Utnapishtim, the survivor of a great flood. After putting Gilgamesh through numerous tests of worthiness, and through the prodding of his wife, Utnapishtim finally grants Gilgamesh the elixir of everlasting life, which comes in the form of a plant. Though Gilgamesh eventually loses the plant to a serpent, his journey is still considered a tremendous success by his people. Returning to the city of Uruk, with its mighty walls, Gilgamesh carved out the entire adventure on stone for the world to share.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a wonderful story of one man s adventure through mortal life. At various times I found this book somewhat difficult to read, as I attempted to differentiate between the diverse themes of Gilgamesh, and the similar biblical themes. Nevertheless, it was an enlightening look into possible life a long time ago.
Sanders, N. K., trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin, 1972
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