The Epic of Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh: Significance of the Literature of That Period of Time Research Paper
Gilgamesh is considered to be one of the oldest pieces of art in the literary world. The story of Gilgamesh is a wonderful opportunity to go back for more than five thousands years ago and learn past cultures, interests, demands, and beliefs.
This story may serve as one of the most powerful examples of how recorded human thoughts influenced the current state of affairs and how the secret of immortality became the cherished dreams for human beings. The vast majority of people are still eager to participate in the hunt for immortality, this is why this source becomes more valuable where the results of such hunts are perfectly described.
The significance of Gilgamesh is evident indeed due to the variety of factors: this work is still regarded as one of the earliest literary works that are known to the reader, this is a captivating source about the events of the Great Flood and human beliefs, and finally, this story shows the reader the way of how life, death, and people’s realization have to be united.
General facts about Gilgamesh story. Gilgamesh was a famous king of Uruk in the middle of 2700 B.C. He made a wonderful attempt to build a wall in order to protect his people against the enemies, envy, and other sources of evil. The actions of this kind attracted the attention of many readers. The oldest civilization tried to take leading positions and prove their rights to existence.
The Great Flood, the ideas of immortality, the grounds of friendship, and eternal memory – all these are the crucial points in the story. Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu united their powers and skills in order to participate in numerous adventures and achieve success; however, everything that Gilgamesh was able to achieve was memories and recognition but never immortality.
Gilgamesh as an epic poem and the oldest literary work. To comprehend why the poem about Gilgamesh is still of such great importance, it is necessary to clear up what makes it epic, what characteristics of an epic poem are inherent to the story first of all, and what the impact of this story is for the rest literary works. An epic poem is a kind of a work that is written in elevated language and devoted to the actions of one traditional hero.
The characteristics of any epic poem that have to be mentioned are the following: a clearly defined story; a hero that is supported by people; hero’s searching for love, a friend, a relative, immortality, or treasure; gods, who are able to influence the development of the events and human lives; and, finally, a historical message that helps the reader to grasp his/her own place in this world and his/her possible heritage.
Gilgamesh is one of the examples that have all the above-mentioned characteristics. Some people may argue that the text of Gilgamesh is usually presented in prose; however, we should admit that this story is too old, and the original text that was written in the form of epic poem is hard to find.
“The history of the epic itself begins sometime before 1600 B.C., eight centuries before Homer, when a Babylonian author… assembled free translations of the oral versions of some of these tales into a connected narrative” (Lawall 10-11). So, Gilgamesh has to be defined as a brilliant example of true epic story with all the necessary points. The literature of that period of time and before Gilgamesh was hardly recognizable because it was difficult to save other author’s attempts to present a worthwhile piece of work and depict the epic characteristics.
Gilgamesh and its connection to the Bible and the Greatest Flood. One of the most noticeable features of Gilgamesh is its close connection to the Bible and the events during the Great Flood. The Biblical times teach the reader to trust the power of God and respect God’s decisions even if other people cannot comprehend this choice. “With the first light of dawn a black cloud came from the horizon; it thundered within where Adad, lord of the storm, was riding” (Cunningham and Reich 30). When gods comprehended that people became too numerous, too selfish, and too noisy, they made an attempt to show people their own weaknesses.
By means of the Great Flood, all humankind would be destroyed including plants, animals, and land. Those, who wanted to prove their rights to live and conquer the world, had to survive and accept god’s rules in order to become immortal. This part of the story about Gilgamesh plays a very important role for the literature of that period of time and even for literature of current times. The historical message of this story is significant indeed: every human being has unbelievable opportunities and skills, but the point is to use these skills properly and not to break down the grounds, created by superpower.
Relations between gods and mortals or between civilization and nature have to be respected. If a person forgets this simple truth, the possibility to lose everything raises considerably. This is why in order not to lose life, faith, and dignity, it is better to remember about and respect these boundaries.
Gilgamesh with its concepts of life and death. Very often, people can hardly appreciate the possibility to live, breathe, and communicate. In order to achieve success and power, many people are able to forget about the concepts of friendship and self-respect. The story of Gilgamesh shows the reader how friendship and attitude to life may change people and their attitude to each other.
Friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu may serve as a powerful example of how cruel reality and indifference to nature may weaken a person and how human mutual support may save. The story under discussion takes a significant place in the world literature because it proves that people are still able to save each other and keep in mind the idea of self-respect.
However, if it happens that you lose everything, it does not mean that nothing is left behind. Human actions, words, thoughts, and help to other people will be able to make your immortal. And everything is not about life and death only but about the ways of human personal realization and achievements of purposes.
The story of Gilgamesh discloses the essence of immortality in one of the most captivating and clearer way. The fear of death, the desire to find immortality, and the attempts to save lives – all this makes a person closer to death itself. Maybe, it is useless to think about what may happen when the time to die comes, but it is urgent to think about the ways of how people live and use their skills.
Gilgamesh is a significant literary work that demonstrated a brilliant start of how epic poem should look like and what information such works have to present. Further works by Homer were considerably influenced by the story of Gilgamesh, and even the representatives of modern literature admit the importance of Gilgamesh context and absurdity of immortality for mortal people.
Cunningham, Lawrence, S. and Reich, John, J. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2005.
Lawall, Susan. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Vol. A: Beginnings to A.D. 100. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2002.
“The Epic of Gilgamesh” a Story by Maureen Kovacs Term Paper
Heroism is a characteristic that entails a demonstration of unique traits by an individual, beyond ordinary expectations. The story of Gilgamesh and his achievements in the Epic of Gilgamesh portrays him as a true hero of the people.
From the story, Gilgamesh, the protagonist, demonstrates many character traits that pass him for a hero. Gilgamesh demonstrates high skillfulness in his work. Besides, he is intelligent and possesses great courage.
The fact that Gilgamesh is ready to die for the sake of his people, also shows that he is selfless, a character of a true hero. From the story therefore, it is in order to argue that Gilgamesh’s search for immortality is suitably heroic as developed in this paper.
To begin with, it is quite evident that throughout the story, Gilgamesh demonstrates his character as a leader with high skilfulness. According to Kovacs Gilgamesh “is strong to perfection…an awesome beast with unmatched strength and a chant that fosters armies…leads his tribe into battle fearlessly and defeats everyone…” (8).
Gilgamesh, as a skilful warrior, leads fellow warriors of his tribe to fight their enemies and in no occasion do they lose a battle. His strength is unrivalled; he has been able to slay even the most feared men like the highly feared Humbaba. In fact, his successful demonstration that he could fight Humbaba makes people of Urok village to fear him for such act is a great achievement.
The task he accomplishes by slaying Humbaba has made the Great Gilgamosh to cower since his strength is incomparable to someone who was once their king. The revelation that the people of his tribe are angered by even small things just but demonstrates their confidence in Gilgamesh; they are confident that even if they go to fight with any tribe, their king will not let them down.
Gilgamesh is a man of great intelligence; throughout his reign as a king, he demonstrates great intelligence through the way he governs his people.
He naturally possesses hindsight of what is likely to happen to his people and prepares in advance to overcome it. Besides, Gilgamesh has the ability to make wise decisions on urgent matters concerning his people (Heather Para. 9). This ability has earned his tribe a good name; a powerful tribe.
By accepting to challenge Humbaba, Gilgamesh knows he could convince his people that he is strong and powerful and could actually slay the beast. It takes intelligence for an individual to look up and heed the counsel of the wise and for Gilgamesh he heeded his mother’s words of wisdom; Gilgamesh’s mother convinces him that Enkidu is a true friend not an enemy in disguise.
The epic portrays Gilgamesh as a selfless man. Being selfless is one of the characters that people do admire in a hero. Selflessness as a character trait that “requires an individual to put his/her personal needs aside to care for other people’s needs even if it requires a sacrifice that would not benefit him/her” (Prine 23).
By agreeing to fight Humbaba, Gilgamesh verily knows that it is possible that he may die during the fight; nevertheless, his selfless character compels him to take the risk and the fact that he is ready to die for his people’s safety passes him for a true hero. Only few people can give their lives for the sake of others and this move by Gilgamesh qualifies him as a true hero.
His selfless nature also comes out when he fights the sky sent-bull (earthquake). When an earthquake hits his tribe, nine dozen people die but Gilgamesh does not flee to save his life; he simply stays put because he knows his people need him at a time like this. The earthquake incident further reveals his selfless nature as a true hero.
Finally, Gilgamesh demonstrates high degree of courage that portrays him as a hero. His acceptance to fight Humbaba, a great fighter, shows great courage because he does not fear death, which is a possible outcome from this fight. His courageous nature comes out when he manages to climb up the steep cliff on Mt. Mashu.
He does not cower midway but goes up until he reaches the top of the cliff. At the top, Gilgamesh meets the scorpion guard who reveals to him that in the past, no one had ever climbed to the top of that cliff. This revelation by the scorpion guard further brings out the courageous nature of Gilgamesh; he manages to do what no other man has done before and that’s what true heroes do; they go where no ordinary man has ever gone.
From the epic, it is evident that Gilgamesh’s search for immortality is suitably heroic because his character throughout the story demonstrates that he is indeed a hero. Many at times he has done things that underscore his courageous nature. As a leader, Gilgamesh shows great intelligence. In the battle field, Gilgamesh is a skilful warrior. Finally he is a selfless man ready to die for his people’s safety.
Heather, Leah. True Love Conquers All – Love and Heroes in the Epic of Gilgamesh, 2006. Web.
Kovacs, Maureen. Trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. California: Stanford University Press, 1989. Print.
Prine, Jackson. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1997.
“What is the Meaning of Life?” in the Works of Gilgamesh and Agamemnon Analytical Essay
Men and women alike have tried to define the purpose of life in vain. Trying to answer the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ has been one of the hardest tasks for humanity. In this article, I will make an attempt to briefly shade some light on this question.
I will heavily borrow from the works of Gilgamesh and Agamemnon in trying to answer this question. I view these two works to be quite relevant in answering the question as the events taking place in the two works have an accurate reflection of the present day life.
What is the meaning of life?
Answering the above question needs a deep reflection. From the religious point of view, a person has a divine purpose which he/she ought to accomplish in his/her lifetime. Does that therefore mean that one’s life is predetermined? And if it is predetermined, then why should we struggle to accomplish missions which will somehow be accomplished – since they are predetermined!
Gilgamesh and Agamemnon
Examining the works and lives of the Gilgamesh and Agamemnon one is left wondering why a person in a prestigious position should undergo so many miseries. Is it justified to suffer for the sake of gaining fame? This is what we mostly see in the lives of Gilgamesh and Agamemnon. Gilgamesh goes to all lengths to gain fame.
In the course of doing this, there are a number of people who suffer because of his quests: Enkidu died miserably as a result of the conquests of Gilgamesh. It is a pity to see Gilgamesh trying to make the afterlife of Enkidu smooth by trying to appease the gods to accept him (Mack, 1997).
Is it not ironical that at the end of his great conquests, Gilgamesh and Enkidu have bitter endings? One readily gets attempted to ask the question, ‘is life meant to have a bitter ending after a sweet lifetime?’ If the answer is yes, then what is the meaning of life?
Life reciprocates proportionally
Arguing philosophically we can claim that one determines the fate of his life. With respect to this view, then the meaning of life will be what you want it to be.
In other words you determine what meaning your life will have. I find this argument quite practical in the present life as well I find it quite applicable in the two works being discussion in this article. Gilgamesh is seen seeking fame by trying to dethrone some gods and exalting himself above them, what does he expect back? This is also very evident in the life Agamemnon.
Agamemnon gets involved in heinous activities, what does he expect back? Agamemnon’s miseries clearly have roots in the evils committed by him and those close to him. This argument leads us to the point of knowing that life reciprocates proportionally to what we do.
So, what is the meaning of life?
Now that we know that life reciprocates proportionally to what we do then what does that mean. From the above arguments I have made above, I believe that life is a chance one gets to make the world a better place or at least to participate in making the world a better place.
Logically, then life is chance for one to experience his/her own actions. This calls for the need for every person to be accountable for what he/she does. If we embrace hearts of good faith towards our neighbors including the environment then we are more likely to find life a bit enjoyable. We are less likely to face misfortunes which often make us wonder what life means.
Mack, M. (1997). The Norton anthology of world masterpieces. New York, NY: Norton.
Gilgamesh vs. Modern Day Hero. Similar Characters Comparison
The concept of heroism is considered to be one of the most disputable questions for a long period of time. Different people offer their own interpretations of this word and use various examples to prove the positions chosen. In fact, there are many interesting ways to understand and use the term ‘hero’, and one of them is to address literature and compare the opinions of professional writers.
It is interesting to take literary examples from different periods: the stories about the heroes with supernatural abilities that are offered in the comic books during the Golden Age such as Batman or Superman and the stories with more than 2,000-year-old history like The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Of course, young people are more familiar with the events and traits discussed in the comic books. They know a lot or at least hear something about such fictional characters like Batman and Superman (Haslem, Ndalianis, & Mackie, 2007). Many comics’ fans understand that the idea of a true hero is not new and has a long history; still, not all of them know much about the roots of heroic characters, for example, about Gilgamesh and Enkidu from The Epic of Gilgamesh.
It is possible to draw some parallels between the narratives introduced in Golden Age comic books and The Epic of Gilgamesh in order to learn more about our own understanding of heroism, our cultures, and a variety that may spawn these characters.
The characters from The Epic of Gilgamesh help to realize a true essence of heroism as a concept and accept heroes as ordinary people, who are able to develop good relations, set goals, and be obedient to the norms set by society; in comparison to such image of a hero, the ideas discussed in modern culture and the characters like Batman seem to be more aggressive and even provocative as these heroes do not find it necessary to follow a certain order but make use of their skills and possibilities to improve the world they have to live in.
When the reader first meets Gilgamesh, he is introduced as a highly flawed character. As a part god, he rules over his kingdom as a tyrant, taking women as he pleases and living in a perpetual state of war. Enkidu, his equal, is sent to calm him, but he and Enkidu continue follow Gilgamesh’s campaign of various conquests.
When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh decides to search for the secret of eternal life, only to be told that “the life that thou seekest, thou wilt not find/ When the gods created mankind/ Death they imposed on mankind/ Life they kept in their power” (Jastrow & Clay, 2003, p.12).
As a part god, Gilgamesh had always been striving for a challenge, something that he could be able to test his own strength. When he faced with the fragility of life, he wanted to find a way to escape his own death.
Gilgamesh is a character who was lost when attempting to surpass the limitations of his partial humanity. It was the only time he abandoned the quests that he was able to return to his throne and his responsibility and function as a proper king. Gilgamesh was a hero because of his character growth through his story arc.
This was to demonstrate to the audience the proper way to live one’s life because “such teachings…indicate the didactic character given to ancient tales that were of popular origin, but which were modified and elaborated under the influence of the schools which arose in connection with the Babylonian temples” (Jastrow & Clay, 2003, p.12).
This story proves that people have the ability to grow and they are not stuck forever in repeating the same mistakes. It demonstrates that people can be better people, and that even kings have lessons to learn. While Gilgamesh is a part god, the reader can see him as a person with a number of human qualities that ordinary people may also possess in everyday life.
The collection of the various Gilgamesh stories into a single defining text needs to be considered. The stories existed before they were collected, and their popularity was used to the advantage of the people recording the stories to give them additional meaning (Tigay, 2002).
Though the stories about Gilgamesh’s adventures existed on their own, they were also altered by the author to teach the audience values. There were many different versions of Gilgamesh, and he was then given one single definitive version as he was recorded.
What the reader may rely upon nowadays is several versions that are considered to be the product of multiple authors’ works, which are refined into meaningful versions with an intrinsic message to be delivered to the audience. So, the character of Gilgamesh becomes a kind of a tool to attract the reader and prove its urgency in modern society.
The reader has to understand how it was to be a hero, what qualities should be possessed, and how it was necessary to behave under certain conditions. It was not an easy task to present a hero and prove that he was worth of attention, still, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a wonderful example that may be both educative and inspirational for the reader.
Modern characters may have some similar traits inherent to Gilgamesh; still, there are also a number of differences to be observed. One of literary examples is Batman.
This character was created by Bob Kane. Being a child of an extremely wealthy family, Bruce Wayne, a future Batman, introduces his own basic story arc that is set in motion by a tragedy that affects his life; it is the murder of his parents. Exposed to the horrors of crime and violence, Batman understands what it is like to have some other will imposed upon him (Zehr, 2008). Though he did not want to lose his parents, he faced the situation when his parents were taken away from him anyway.
Batman is inspired to be a hero in order to stop other people from experiencing what he experienced, whereas Gilgamesh was imposing his violent will on his subjects at the beginning of the story. As a result of such differences, the fans of the Batman character has the required portion of control over live in such a way that the original audience of Gilgamesh never did.
Whereas the shaping of Gilgamesh allowed the authors to give it an additional meaning, the ability to control over his own life turns Batman into a commodity, something meant for consumption. In Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, there was a limit to which Miller felt he could re-imagine Batman and a limit to which the reader would accept from him as a character.
Any new version is automatically filtered through what we know about Batman, and the “re-imagining” must continue to exist within the same basic space that the character has been in for the cultural memory of its reader. Batman fans know already what to expect from the story. They do not look to Batman to tell them how to act; Batman acts the way he does because that is how the reader wants him to act.
Similar to the way how Greek gods display human emotions, The Epic of Gilgamesh gods can be seen in a similar was. For instance, when Ishtar’s advances on Gilgamesh are turned down, she responds by sending the Bull of Heaven to punish him. This is an extremely temperamental thing to do.
Ancient peoples needed reasons for why droughts and other catastrophes existed, but they also were demonstrating how they could not be blamed for acting out in petty manners if the gods themselves acted in such a way. Gilgamesh actions are also another way in which the ancient people attempted to explain their behavior.
Here was Gilgamesh, a part god, and he acted terribly towards his subjects. Of course, the story arc shows how he can be redeemed in the eyes of his people and ultimately is meant to be a way to instruct the audience. There is still that aspect to it, though, that shows that people can’t be expected to act morally at all times when not even the gods themselves keep these rules.
In Batman, however, the character wishes to seek justice, to correct everything that is wrong or inflicted by evil people. One of the main character’s traits of Batman is refusal of killing people, even if he has to put himself in danger, he does want to ensure that some hoodlum that he tries to stop does not end up getting killed, whether it would have been his fault or not.
This aspect of Batman’s character is taken to the extreme in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns (Booker, 2010). After Batman’s main nemesis, the Joker, attacks an amusement park and kills dozens of innocent people, Batman still is incapable of killing him, even though leaving the Joker alive means that he would inevitably kill more innocent people.
The Joker ends up killing himself as a means to frame Batman, and in this we can find more sympathy for Batman as a character; he sticks by his principles no matter what, and for that he suffers from accusations of murder, which, because we know that he refused to actually do, he ended up getting himself into a difficult situation because of it. To strive to live out your morality at all times, that is what people may admire when they look at Batman, and it’s something that they can hope to achieve ourselves.
Regarding the destinies of these two different characters, it is hard to believe that some similarities may be observed. Still, there are several things that unite Batman and Gilgamesh and prove that they both have the right to be called heroes.
Batman is the hero, who strives to be more important for the society than he is at the moment. He has to surpass his human limitations in order to become an appropriate part of the society on the one hand, and to be a superhero outside the society on the other hand.
In this way, a parallel can be drawn to Gilgamesh, who, being part god, contains a number of human qualities. Gilgamesh understands that he cannot bring his friend, Enkidu, back to life; still, he strives to find a way to be immortal. He finds immortality in a plant that will restore his youth, but he loses it to a snake.
Then he looks upon his own kingdom and realizes that this is his ticket to immortality, the great works that he’s leaving behind and the stories that will be told about him. Both heroes want to be something more than simply what they are. Their struggles to fight the reality and the desire to change their own lives make them similar, make them heroes and humans at the same time.
In addition to a number of enemies in their lives, they define themselves as their enemies as well. They have to realize that they are not perfect and they have many things to strive for. This is why shows that true heroes should not have some supernatural powers or knowledge. What they should have is a desire to become better, to be developed, and to be accepted by society in the required way.
In general, the stories about Gilgamesh and Batman help to understand that true heroes are not easy to discover at once. Society is in need of heroes, still, it is not strong enough to admit this fact, this is why heroes have to search for different ways to offer their services and prove their importance.
Gilgamesh and Batman came from different epochs and introduce different images, still, they have one thing in common, and it is the desire to make this world better and provide society with hope that everything can be changed in case a certain portion of desire and possibilities is present.
Booker, M.K. (2010). Encyclopedia of comic books and graphic novels, Volume 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Haslem, W., Ndalianis, A., & Mackie, C.J. (2007). Super/heroes: From Hercules to Superman. Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing.
Jastrow, M., & Clay, A.T. (2003). The Epic of Gilgamesh: An old Babylonian version. San Diego, CA: The Book Tree.
Tigay, J.H. (2002). The evolution of the Gilgamesh epic. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.
Zehr, E.P. (2008). Becoming Batman: The possibility of a superhero. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press.
Further Study: FAQ
? What books are similar to the Epic of Gilgamesh?
There are several books that are similar to the Epic of Gilgamesh. These books are Beowulf, Enuma Elish, The Iliad and the Odyssey, and The Pyramid Texts. Nevertheless, there are many more books that can be considered similar to the Epic of Gilgamesh.
? What are the characters of The Epic of Gilgamesh?
The main characters of the book are as follows:
- Gilgamesh, the hero of the tale;
- Enkidu, half-man and half-beast friend of Gilgamesh;
- Shamhat, the temple prostitute who represents bodily pleasures.
Other characters are Utnapishtim and his wife, Urshanabi, and the hunter.
? What are some examples of epic heroes in movies?
Darth Vader from Star Wars is an epic hero because of his elevated status as a human being. Another epic hero example is Frodo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter is an epic hero as well.
? What are some similarities and differences of Enkidu and Gilgamesh?
Both of them are heroic figures standing between human and divine. They do not have immortality of gods but they are more powerful than people. However, they have different strengths and weaknesses.
What Is the Nature of the Gods in the “Epic of Gilgamesh”?
The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered to be one of the most captivating and really worthwhile pieces of ancient works in Mesopotamian literature. The years of its original creations and creators are still unknown, and this is what makes this epic poem so unique and interesting to read.
Lots of themes are raised in this poem as it should be in any epic work: the fear of death, desire to have unbelievable powers and control all people in the world, path that may lead to complete disaster or necessary wisdom, and the steps, which lead to success or failures (George, 2003, p. xiii). The attention to god’s role in the lives of ordinary people is certainly paid in this work.
Very often, in epic poems, gods are presented as selfish and powerful creatures, which have unbelievable control over people; however, The Epic of Gilgamesh, the epic poem under consideration, discovers a true nature of gods and their care for humans and proves that even the creation of Enkidu, in contrast to Gilgamesh’s cruelty, has a kind of catch that helps gods to get more power over people.
In order to help people and save them from terrible and powerful Gilgamesh, gods decided to create “valiant Enkidu/born in Silence, endowed with strength of Ninurta” (Kovacs & Carnahan, 1998).
However, such decision may be analyzed from different perspectives and demonstrate how selfish the gods are. They create a wild creature in order to prevent another person from being more powerful than gods are: for people, they create a kind of savior, who may challenge the proud Gilgamesh; for themselves, they create another slaver, who will serve them sooner or later.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, gods have unbelievable connection to people: people get a chance to learn something from gods, and gods can easily analyze the nature of people and use their values in for own benefits. From the very beginning, gods directed own powers to protect, support, and help people to live and achieve the desirable success.
However, time is the only unchangeable factor that can change everything. With time, gods realized that their powers are really huge and they can not only care for humans but also control them. “When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping” (Brown, 1996). This is why gods’ care for people may be viewed from different perspectives, and some of these perspectives are not that positive and caring.
Did gods really care for people in The Epic of Gilgamesh or it was one more mask to present and get more time for control and power? Sometimes, blind faith in gods prevented people to comprehend true intentions of gods. People asked for help and saving, and gods could provide them with the necessary savior, but this time, turned that very savior into one more means to order and control. The Epic of Gilgamesh demonstrates that nature of the gods and their support has always one direction – to control.
In general, true nature of gods’ intentions and care for people, described in The Epic of Gilgamesh may be interpreted in many different ways. Considering the fact that each person has his/her own points of view and moral principles, it is impossible to make one general conclusion as for nature of gods’ care for people, but still, it is necessary to remember that selfishness and desire to have more power will be inherent to any person and those people and creature, who surround them.
Brown, Arthur, A. Storytelling, the Meaning of Life, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. 1996. Web.
George, Andrew. The Epic of Gilgamesh: the Babylonian Epic Poem and Other tests in Akkadian and Sumerian. Penguin Classics, 2003.
Kovacs, Maureen, Gallery & Carnaham, Wolf. The Epic of Gilgamesh. 1998. 28 Aug. 2009, from <http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/tab1.htm>
The Epic of Gilgamesh: Gilgamesh & Enkidu Friendship Theme Essay
All through history, stories, poems, and songs have common themes. This fact played a significant role in explaining some aspects of societal life. One of these is friendship. No one in the world does not need a friend; therefore, it is a necessary aspect of life.
The role of friendship in the Epic of Gilgamesh is vital. The epic was appearing in a period of nearly a thousand years from about 2500 to 1500 B.C. Gilgamesh, who is two-thirds god and one-third man, is the oppressive fifth king of Uruk while Enkidu is the ruler of the animals. This essay unfolds the theme of friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu that develops in the course of the story.
Friendship in the Epic of Gilgamesh
As the story begins, King Gilgamesh of Uruk is depicted to be in mature manhood and superior to all other men in both beauty and strength. No one could match up with him in the ancient Mesopotamian society. The unsatisfied cravings of his demigod nature could not find a suitable mate for him in love or war. Besides, his unsatisfied daemonic energy made the people of Uruk be dissatisfied with his reign.
Because he lacked love and friendship, Gilgamesh turned to excess and indulgence, and he celebrated his victories with too much debauched partying, which annoyed the individuals in the city as well as the gods in the temples. Because of his oppressive rule, the people asked for help from the gods since they feared that someday Gilgamesh would ask for a more significant part of his divine heritage, challenge the gods and even rock the pillars of heaven if he was not controlled.
Therefore, to counter the threat, the gods devised a plan of creating Enkidu, who was the Gilgamesh’s friend and his mirror image. They believed that the king would divert his dangerous energies toward that rival, thereby stop challenging heaven. The gods then made Enkidu from clay and left him in the wilderness to live and eat as the animals do.
In the wilderness, though he somehow established a friendship with the wild animals, his cravings for a mate were not adequately satisfied. Therefore, when a harlot from the city seduced him, he quickly agreed to leave and live in the great-civilized city of Uruk. When Enkidu goes there, he seems not to like Gilgamesh at first since the two engaged in a fight soon after they met.
However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu quickly started to like one another. How did they become friends? In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the theme of friendship appears when the two giants become very close and begin to rely on one another in conquering their enemies with ease. After that, the solidarity between the two of them helps in developing the plot of the story. All in all, it is a mixture of morality, pure adventure, and tragedy, as subsequent experiences are based on this newfound eternal comradeship.
The newly found comrades soon grow weak and become indolent with city life. Therefore, Gilgamesh suggests an exciting activity, which involves going to the forest to cut down trees to construct a memorable monument to the gods. However, since the terrifying demon called Humbaba is endowed with the responsibility of protecting the forest that is also prohibited to mortals, they have to kill him first.
At first, Enkidu disagrees with this proposal but gives in after persuasion from his friend. The importance of their friendship gave them the astounding courage and unwavering confidence to succeed in killing Humbaba. As the King of Uruk cleans himself, Ishtar offers to become his wife because his beauty was appealing to her; however, he turns her down with insults, recounting to her the dire fates that all her mortal lovers have met.
Ishtar, the goddess of love and beauty, is infuriated at the rejection and goes to heaven to request his father, Anu, to send the Bull of Heaven to terrorize the people of Uruk. However, Gilgamesh and his compatriot work together to defeat the bull sent by the gods from heaven.
For example, after the success of their missions, Enkidu dreamt that they had gone contrary to the wishes of the gods so much that one of them must be sacrificed for murdering Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. Thereafter, he quickly succumbed to a fatal disease after twelve days of suffering.
The loss of Enkidu brings remorse to Gilgamesh, and he realizes that death is inevitable. Because of the loss of the great friendship, he sets out on a journey to find Utnapishtim, the one man holding the secret of everlasting life. On the way, he encountered various obstacles, and on finally meeting Utnapishtam, he successively failed different tests that could have given him the secret of immortality. In the end, Gilgamesh, though being the King of Uruk, succumbed to the same fate that befell his friend.
What Does the Relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu Tell Us about Friendship?
Although the type of friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu corresponds to contemporary friendship, it differs in some way from it. All through the ages, humans have treasured friendship since it determines our survival in this world.
In the current society, human relationship is essential for helping one another in times of difficulty, just as Gilgamesh and Enkidu assisted one another in conquering their enemies. Most people look for various traits in friends, mainly attributes that they may have in common. However, the current society takes friendship for granted. Many people see it as something that exists naturally.
How many yearn for their better halves, as did Gilgamesh and Enkidu for each other? Who can go in the world to search for a suitable mate in love? What does the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu tell us about friendship? The Mesopotamian society, as depicted by taming of Enkidu so that Gilgamesh could accept him, valued friendship such that they could go in search of it.
I do not think that two ordinary peasants in Mesopotamia were capable of forming the kind of bond that existed between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. For me, this is the most important thesis of the essay. Epic of Gilgamesh depicts its main hero as being a two-thirds god. Therefore, to make him have his equal, the gods created Enkidu to satisfy his cravings for a mate. That’s why Gilgamesh and Enkidu needed each other. This fact implies that the gods predestined their friendship, a thing that could not just happen among ordinary peasants in Mesopotamia.
Before the coming of Enkidu, Gilgamesh had a cold heart, and he never befriended anyone. However, the arrival of Enkidu changed all these as he placed a check on Gilgamesh’s powerful energies. On the other hand, Gilgamesh pulled him out of his egocentricity. This even matching of characteristics is only possible when someone is specially created for the other, but not otherwise as may be in ordinary men.
The Story of Gilgamesh in Sumerian Versions Essay
In world literature 1, the story of Gilgamesh is among the oldest narratives around the world. The story was initially an oral tradition story and was later recorded on clay in Mesopotamia. The legendary story comes in different Sumerian versions from around 2700 B.C. The story talks about the powers of Gilgamesh who was the King of Uruk and the influence of other gods in the land.
Later on it was recorded in a Akkadian version and then reserved in King Assurbanipal‘s library. According to the story, Gilgamesh was a super human creature and a powerful king who could destroy and conquer others (Lishtar para.1). This paper seeks to critique the nature and powers of historical gods and their relationship to humanity in the past centuries as depicted by the narrative.
Heroism of the kings is limited. The story describes how Gilgamesh oppressed people and slept with every woman. This made the people plead with other gods to provide security for them. As a result, Enkidu is created to counter Gilgamesh powers. Enkidu is however not as powerful as the superhuman king because he is part man and part animal.
The limitation of the king’s powers is further seen when Gilgamesh fails to prevent death of Enkidu. This incident occurred after Enkidu and Gilgamesh collaborated to kill the Bull of Heaven (drought) who wanted to crush Gilgamesh to death (George 2). Drought had been sent by Anu the father of Ishatar who wanted Gilgamesh to marry her. On refusal, Ishtar compelled her father to kill the King of Uruk. But because two thirds of Gilgamesh was a god and the other third human, Enkidu died.
The other issue that emerges from the myth is that the gods in Ukur are uncooperative. This can be seen when the council of gods decide to kill Enkidu as a punishment for Gilgamesh’s actions. This exposed the other humans to the exploitive powers of the King of Ukur. This further shows that the people in Babylonia were subjects to the gods and had no voice. Human beings are also depicted as creatures that have no freedom.
According to the story, Gilgamesh gods have the power over life and death but Gilgamesh still becomes worried after realizing that she would also die. When the people pleaded with gods to create a god who would match Gilgamesh’s powers, the gods created Enkidu and also brought an end to his life. In the story, Gilgamesh is determined to learn the secrets behind life and death. The story says that Utnapishtim was the only creature who had the power to eternally live.
In his search for the secret, he meets Utnapishtim who tells him about the flood story that is also described in Genesis, in the Bible. The floods symbolically represent the end and punishment for human kind. Utnapishshtim says that they were saved from the floods by other gods and that it would not occur again. However, human beings have to die since they are not immortal.
According to the story, the Bull of heaven is referred to as drought. This is an irony. Naturally, drought is known to be catastrophic because it causes human suffering. However, the ‘Bull’ springs from heaven where people believe that there are good things and that it is a beautiful land.
The other ironic incident is between King Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh is portrayed as a god and a man whereas Enkidu is illustrated as an animal and a man. This is a clear indicator of the differences in the two divinities who were created to control humanity.
The floods are symbolically used to show that man is immortal and death is inevitable. The narrative describes the birth and death of Babylonian gods’.
Gilgamesh is depicted as a remorseless leader who has no responsibility for his people. He is depicted as a womanizer and an oppressor. He forces the city’s inhabitants to build walls for the temple so as gain fame. These are indicators of abuse of power and therefore the need to limit the powers of gods.
George, Andrew. The epic of Gigalmesh: the Babylonian epic poem and other texts in Akkadian and Summerian. London, Great Britain: The Penguin Press, 1999. Print.
Lishtar. Gilgamesh and Enkidu: the soul siblings. 1999. Web. https://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/gods/partnerships/gilgaenk1.html
The Epic of Gilgamesh Analysis Essay
The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest poems written from Mesopotamia, a country that is present day Iraq. It is a story of two legends, Gilgamesh and Enkidu who were the greatest of friends. In the story, Enkidu who was created to be wild is meant to counteract the oppression of King Gilgamesh on the inhabitants of the Uruk territory.
They become legends while working together and the number of dangerous encounters they conquer causes the gods to be unhappy with them. Together they make a sojourn to the wild mountains of Cedar and concertedly kill Humbaba who was the monster guarding the mountains. The wrath of the gods becomes evident when the two comrades put the Bull of Heaven to death; goddess Ishtar had sent this bull to check the excesses of Gilgamesh. It was an abomination to kill the messenger of the gods.
Displeased by their actions the gods in turn kill Enkidu and this incident marks a turning point in the life of Gilgamesh. The death of his close confidant sends him to embark on a quest to discover immortality. The remaining part of his life, he spends trying to seek the solution to cheat death.
The concept of immortality comes out more clearly when he sets out to meet Utnapishti who is considered an immortal hero but he breaks his heart when he announces that the gods during creation give only death but retain with them eternal life. This ideally ends his perilous search for eternity and indeed justifies the preposition that it would have been difficult for Gilgamesh to change if Enkidu would have remained alive. Enkidu’s death therefore changed the life of Gilgamesh.
The entire epic can be rightly divided in two halves, the beginning essentially exploring the exploits of the two legends working together. Heroism is explicated from their conquests of the giant Humbaba and the messenger of the gods (the Bull of Heaven).
Their friendship and togetherness (unity of purpose) is fundamental as they support each other to destroy a common enemy (Humbaba and the Bull). In this except “Hurry up, step up to him, do not let him go. Climb to the woods, do not be afraid.” (Tablet IV, Column V, 43-44). We see how the two collaborate and “They cut off the head of Humbaba” (Sandars, 47).
This death infuriates the gods who now vow to destroy Enkidu. Enkidu finally dies and this marks the turning point in the life of Gilgamesh, he is worried and is forced to change his antics, his lifestyle and convictions, he now realizes that he was mistaken to imagine that he would live forever.
The gods intentionally decide to take away his closest companion in order to warn him that one day soon, he too shall die. Confused and worried by the truth, Gilgamesh is in a state of denial. With the corpse of his colleague before him as per (Tablet VIII, Column II, 15-16) it says, “I touched his heart, it does not beat”
He embarks on a quest to find immortality and reverse death, “me! Will I too not die like Enkidu? Sorrow was come into my belly. I fear death; I roam over the hills. I will seize the road; quickly I will go to the house of Utnapishiti offspring of Ubaratutu. I approach the entrance of the mountain at night. Lions I see, and am terrified. I lift my head to pray to the mood god sin: For a dream I go to the gods in prayer… preserve me!” (Tablet IX, Column I, 3-12).
Death is permanently inevitable and man can never attain eternity. Gilgamesh finally realizes this though late in the epic. A legend previously portrayed as a hero and conqueror of many now cannot conquer immortality, his entire lifestyle changes from a brave and confident warrior to a fearful personality in complete denial of the facts of life.
His initial life of bravery was useless as he finally discovers in the final sections of the text. The response he receives from Utnapishitim deflates his ambition and brings him back to earth. “Never has a mortal man done that Gilgamesh” (Tablet IX Column III, 8).
The death of his colleague humbles him as he had initially placed himself on the same status with the gods not knowing that he was a mortal man. “The fate of mankind overtook him… in fear of death I roam the wilderness…. Me shall not lie down like him, never to move?” (Tablet X Column II, 3, 8, 13-14) it finally dawns on him that “From the beginning, there is no permanence” (Tablet X, Column VII, 32).
In the beginning, the great warrior king Gilgamesh had acquired great amount of wisdom and experience s in combat. In the end however, he is unable to translate his prowess in war and battle to conquer immortality, this indicates a significant shift in his life from a hero to a defeated warrior, it illustrates that however strong, one cannot conquer himself
In the beginning also Gilgamesh was seen as a king who put his subjects under an oppressive regime, that is the reason the gods sent Enkidu to help counter his oppressive regime but instead they collaborate with Enkidu to destroy and kill the messenger of the gods, the gods are unhappy and want to communicate to him that he cannot conquer immortality; they however do this indirectly by killing Enkidu and this manages to instill fear in his life. Thus his oppressive regime on the outset finally comes to haunt him in his latter years.
He was oppressive to his subjects but now the thought that he too shall finally die oppresses him too and puts him at the same level with the people he ruled. No one is special in life; death is for everyone and makes all people equal, king or servant, warrior or subject.
From the beginning, the warrior king is seen as being adventurous, self righteous and one who is motivated by fame. Had the partnership between him and his comrade Enkidu persisted, he would never have changed his lifestyle and convictions; however the death of his accomplice makes to seriously contemplate his purpose for living.
He begins to ask questions about his own morality, he fails to accept the truth and tries to disapprove it but realizes that his efforts to justify himself are futile, this is what caused the king’s wander dangerously in search for morality and personal growth (Sparknotes, 45).
In essence the epic of Gilgamesh emphasizes the significance of a simple life. It is important for one to live within their means without struggling to achieve what is impossible or unachievable. Life itself is limited to mortality and an understanding of this fact shall lead to living it honestly and morally.
It teaches us the importance of humility and demonstrates how difficult it is for one to achieve greatness and fame with humility. Human beings are encouraged to strike a balance between greatness and humility in as much the two are in opposition to each other. King Gilgamesh by being a great legend in battle lost his human perspective of morality and humility. He was too full of himself and wanted to place himself next to the gods because he had forgotten that he was a mortal being.
Death and the Afterlife in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay
The main purpose of the Gilgamesh myth is to illustrate the weakness of man in the face of destiny. This is particularly presented by the vision of the underworld as presented by Enkidu from one of his dreams. Enkidu describes the underworld as a very dark place where the people are clad in feathers and feed on clay (Cunningham and Reich 7).
By the time this dream appears in the story, the reader is already aware Enkidu is bound to die, but one reads on hoping that Enkidu would somehow find a loophole that would take him away from going to the underworld as predicted by the dream.
The epic of Gilgamesh does not make death less frightening in comparison to the overwhelming nature of life. The afterlife as described by Enkidu is just an unsettling existence that no human being would like to live. In actual sense, it makes death even scarier especially drawing from the words of Enkidu while on his demise bed. Enkidu tries to find a scapegoat by blaming the lady Shamhat for his own shortcomings in his pre-death premonition.
He is basically trying to make amends with his creator so that he does not have to go to the underworld he had seen in an earlier vision. His disappointment at dying a weak man’s death is evident from the story and one would be tempted to blame him for not responding to earlier challenges adequately. As a reader, it is easy to picture one’s self in Enkidu’s shoes and suffer the same anguish he does of having to die young without accomplishing much.
Having hitherto lived a very active life, it is easy to understand why Enkidu does not anticipate having to die such a slow death and then have to go to a harrowing afterlife. It makes it harder for the readers to appreciate the fact that they have to die someday and it is even frightening to think of how one would lose his life.
The death dream definitely makes the journey tougher for Gilgamesh. As a young man, Gilgamesh is one individual who has become acquainted with using his own might to get out of challenging situations. He cannot help feel some deep anguish over the fate that is going to befall his friend over a mistake that they both took part in. Gilgamesh’s sorrow continues even after Enkidu’s death and seeing how terrifying it is to lose one’s life, he goes on a journey to find a way of acquiring immortality for him and the rest of the human race.
The test by Utnapishtim is supposed to illustrate the desire by mankind to have all the good things in life even though they lack the personal willpower to obtain some favors.
Gilgamesh wants to live forever so much that he agrees to partake in the test without as much as a second thought and only realizes the impact of human weakness when he fails it almost immediately. Even when he gets a second chance at immortality, Gilgamesh once again exhibits the lack of focus by man when he decides to go for a bath leaving the flower of life for the serpent to take.
It would have been appropriate for Gilgamesh to complete search for eternal life and then go for the simple pleasure offered by a bath but the inherent manly greed in him makes him want to have it all. He consequently loses the opportunity to live forever both for him and the rest of people in the world.
Cunningham, Lawrence & John Reich. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. Connecticut: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print
Epic of Gilgamesh Essay
The aim of the mythic expedition of the male protagonist is to discover special understanding which will re-establish steadiness to him and the entire society. The conclusion of this knowledge is in most cases is personified in the female personality that the male protagonist comes across in his expedition. It also helps the reader to understand the Mesopotamian notion of women.
Nevertheless, the female personality could be hazardous since she has ability to build or put into destruction with respect to how she is tackled and how she utilizes her authority. Epic of Gilgamesh portrays women as possessing ample knowledge, authority and lure to put into success or into destruction. The hero when tangled with a woman is at liberty from illusion of contestants and achieves knowledge to dictate his destiny. However, the same woman could be risky and beholding her might be detrimental if not properly armed.
According to the Greek mythology, the ideal character is awarded with the role of facing limitations and, obstacles but overcomes them though courage, noble deeds and a spirit self sacrifice for the wellbeing of the society.
Gilgamesh is portrayed as a hero in the epic whose heroism is significantly developed by women in various instances. Epic of Gilgamesh presents female characters that express their knowledge and understanding in line with his mission. Gilgamesh, the Sumerian King whose quest for immortality was real is a character with great power, bravery and might.
The leader is a true hero whose intelligence is revealed in the eyes of women. He is brave while at war to remove evil beasts and pursues mission to find out the solution to the community’s problem. Gilgamesh relies to God for might in times of war, he heeds to his mother’s counsel to attain wisdom as well as the people he encounters.
Priestess Shamhat is the foremost female character awarded with the responsibility of calming Enkidu, the untamed man. She achieves it by moving into the wilderness and undressing to expose her womanhood to seduce Enkidu for a whole week. Enkidu could not resist the temptation and he engages into sex with her.
This makes him a real man and stops being primitive which marks the initiation of civilization (Spielvogel 13). He is become involved in a loyal relationship to his community and more particularly with Gilgamesh. In turn, through the epic, Gilgamesh portrays despicable ability being a warrior with the supplement of Enkidu.
His might in encouraging the armies is obvious since he leads them with bravery and attains victory over his opponents. His leadership skills are seen when the tribe is enthusiastic to go into war since they have faith in their king as they are assured of victory. For instance, his mightiness is portrayed in the war against Humbaba in which he comes victorious.
This war is not any easy since even the elders would advise him to led Enkidu being on the lead. He is anxious while going into the battle but he proved his expertise by assassinating the beast and going back home securely. It is evident that Gilgamesh is a real hero, with ample skills and is a wise leader willing to sacrifice his life for his kingdom.
He sought wisdom on death and now he could not fear it since it was inevitable and that why he faces it head-on through dangerous encounters. He also recognizes other people’s efforts and awards them accordingly. Therefore, a woman is the initiator of his heroism which is enhanced by Enkidu, a man who was initially valueless.
Enkidu becomes domesticated and he turns to be wiser. This portrays a woman as a benevolent power capable of transmitting wisdom and civilization into the male character, Enkidu which arms him for future escapades. He helps Gilgamesh to pursue risky missions to save his people and thus, emerges a hero.
However, his close ally, Enkidu, dies and this reawakens Gilgamesh to become aware of his human nature. He now comprehend that death is inevitable and at one time, he would lose his kingdom due to his death. He now quest to become immortal as he questions the prejudices that life has to offer. Gilgamesh and Enkidu represent true friendship that coexists harmoniously to salvage their society. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh is so annoyed about death and engages in a mission to fight it.
Nevertheless, he encounters Shamash, a woman who enlightens him on the meaning of death as one meant to endow memories of the one who has passed on. Gilgamesh’s, grief reveals a spirit of self denial stating that he cannot die like his friend and pursues to achieve everlasting life. This exposes his fears of having to work hard only to die and become forgotten.
He forgets that immortality belongs only to the gods and therefore, he should live his life to the fullest. Shamash helps him to become aware that immortality cannot be attained by the common man and therefore, there is no need to pursue it. What is important is to leave behind a legacy that you truly were a great man who lived harmoniously with others.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, another most important woman is Shiduri, the pub custodian who meet Gilgamesh as he is morning the demise of Enkidu and trying to find ways become immortal. When he gives details his motives, Shiduri explains her personal opinion stating that human are meant to ultimately die as the gods dictates it.
Therefore, man should enjoy as long as he lives, not in grieve but in happiness. Gilgamesh disregards her wisdom and as a result, he submerges in great agony and never attains immortality. In a different case, a woman is also seen as a destroyer who puts the hero into temptation.
Ishtar, a goddess exposes this when she seductively summons Gilgamesh to marry her when he is successful over Humbaba. She tells him that he would be rich if he married her and his kingdom would be unending. Gilgamesh wisely avoids being ensnared by her seductions since he is conscious of his limitations. He also cares about Ishtar’s character of causing demise to men who do not heed to her desires, pointing forward various instances.
He wonders if he would be peculiar to her if he married her since he would most likely, also have a catastrophic end. This emphasizes his focus in salvaging his people irrespective of seductions from women. His expertise is also seen when he resists Ishta’s seductions and when he faces her wrath.
In conclusion, Gilgamesh is so eager to free his people from all evils that have plagued the city. In the epic, Gilgamesh is foresighted and is able to sense danger to ensure his society is secure.
He is apple to win the trust of his people for them to entrust their safety in his hands. Women appear to be the most important tool in arming the hero with essential knowledge that he needs to alter him and the entire society as well. A woman is portrayed as a symbol of magnificence and power in the Mesopotamian society where sex with a woman is viewed as sacred and able to transform a person.
Spielvogel, Jackson. Western Civilizations: A Brief History. 7Ed. Boston. Cengage Learning. 2010. Print.