Epic Of Gilgamesh Analysis

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a five-thousand-year-old story that is considered the first great piece of epic literature from Mesopotamia. The epic also holds a special place in history as it contains one of the earliest flood myths, which would later inspire The Bible’s Old Testament flood account and The Qur’an’s account of Noah. The Epic of Gilgamesh was discovered in 1849 when The Royal Library of Nineveh was uncovered in the ruins of ? Amra on the Gabal ? Assur ridge.

The tablet containing The Epic of Gilgamesh was found in what is believed to have been a private library, with other tablets holding The Sumerian King List and The Descent of Inanna among others. The epic itself is inscribed in cuneiform script, one of several scripts used by Mesopotamian cultures for their writing systems, onto clay tablets that were then baked to preserve them. Despite its age, The Epic of Gilgamesh has had a profound impact on literature through its influence on both The Bible’s Old Testament and The Qur’an’s stories of The Flood.

The Epic of Gilgamesh also has many similarities with The Odyssey in that both epics concern heroes who must overcome insurmountable obstacles in order to return home safely. Furthermore, The Epic of Gilgamesh is widely considered one of the most important early works on ethics and religion written in The Ancient Near East due to its impact on every major mythological story from The Bible onwards. Tablet I opens with a prologue in which Gilgamesh, king of Uruk (or Erech), is described as an immense man who at twelve feet stands taller than any other citizen or neighboring ruler.

He laments his fate for having no equal with whom to share his burdens. The people of Uruk complain to the gods in heaven, and Aruru, goddess of creation, creates a wild-man Enkidu from water and clay tablets. Enkidu lives among animals at first, but a trapper discovers him and reports his presence to Gilgamesh. The two fight each other until stopped by Shamhat (the harlot), who convinces Enkidu to come with her into Uruk that he might give Gilgamesh a challenge.

The two men wrestle naked together in public view; afterwards they go drinking from the city’s taverns all night long where for many days they talk about their dreams. The king is openly beloved by the citizenry through this time until a massive wild bull charges through the streets and disrupts a ceremony in honor of The Goddess Ishtar. The two warriors defeat the bull together and offer it up as a sacrifice to The Gods, but The Goddess Ishtar demands that Enkidu must die as punishment for The Bull incident.

Enkidu is stricken with illness and lingers on his deathbed as the citizens of Uruk mourn his impending death, often sobbing loudly at night. Enkidu’s best friend Gilgamesh refuses to leave Enkidu’s side because he knows that he too will soon die without his friend by his side. Before dying, Enkidu predicts a series of unfortunate events that will befall Gilgamesh after he dies from an unknown cause. The events foretold come true, and Gilgamesh gives all of his worldly possessions to The Goddess Inanna in exchange for a way to avoid death.

The Goddess Inanna directs him to Urshanabi the ferryman who will take Gilgamesh to The Faraway Nearby where The God Utnapishtim lives with The Plant of Immortality that is guarded by a type of snake called a nahash. The two men travel across a great expanse on the boat but when they reach their destination they discover that The Plant of Immortality has been stolen by a snake which is quickly descending into the water ahead of them.

The snake escapes into The Euphrates River so Utnapishtim can not retrieve The Plant of Immortality. The two men turn back and arrive at Uruk where The Goddess Inanna decrees that The Bull of Heaven will be sacrificed instead, although The God Enlil objects because The Bull is property of Uruk’s citizens. The Goddess Ishtar, who created The Bull in the first place, demands it to ascend into heaven or else she would unleash all manner of evil upon the people of Sumer.

Tablet II begins with an introduction about how Gilgamesh and Enkidu grew up together and became great friends despite their different backgrounds: Gilgamesh was a demigod son of The Goddess Ninsun while Enkidu was a wild-man created from clay by The Gods to end Gilgamesh’s reign over The People. The people of Uruk were afraid and outraged until The Goddess Ishtar offered one of her many temples as a compromise; the two kings eventually decided upon The Sacred Precinct which is now protected and maintained by The People and The Gods (11-19).

Gilgamesh dreams about his mortality and has a nightmare where he sees Enkidu in front of him, but an axe comes down between them to hold them apart; then the axe is broken by Shamash (20-29). He wakes up screaming in terror, then summons all The People into assembly. They resolve that they will seek out The Faraway Nearby where Utnapishtim lives with The Plant of Immortality in The Faraway Nearby. The Goddess Ishtar is angered by this decision because The Bull of Heaven will not be sacrificed to her but they order The Gatekeeper to open The Great Gates of Uruk for them anyway (30-33).

The People have trouble loading the boats with supplies at first, so The God Shamash sends a heavy rainstorm to help them. The storm floods The Euphrates River and damages both The Sacred Precinct and Enkidu’s tomb that he built for his childhood friend before he died. Gilgamesh prays to The Gods again asking them for immortality since his friend cannot have it, but he is refused by all save The God Shamash who offers him eternal fame instead (34-39). The Goddess Aruru creates The Wild Ox (40-42). The Gatekeeper releases The Bull of Heaven to Ishtar, but it is killed by Enkidu before The Bull’s hooves touches the ground (43-47).

The People make sacrifices to The Gods for seven days and seven nights until they are exhausted. They decide to return home but Gilgamesh spends another day making a sacrifice of his own to The God Shamash. He dresses in animal skins and heads toward The Cedar Mountains where he hopes to find The Plant of Immortality that will give him eternal life just like it did for Utnapishtim (48-58). The people mourn his departure because they think he is dead by now after leaving The City of The Gods without permission.

The Goddess Inanna encourages The People to give offerings of clothing, food, and drink so they can placate The Angry Ones that might try to attack them then (59-68). Gilgamesh finds The Cedar Forest where The God Humbaba lives but Enkidu confronts him there instead. They have a physical fight where Gilgamesh wins after a long battle because The God Shamash helped him out by blinding The Angry One with a great light from his headdress. He chops The God’s seven layers of branches down and breaks the trees into firewood while The God curses him for it (69-88).

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