The Role Of Mythology In The Epic Of Gilgamesh Essay

Mythology is the study of myths in sacred stories that connect humans, Gods, life, death, and afterlife. Gilgamesh has many different connections between Gods and humans. It is the oldest surviving piece of literature, but is incomplete, written only on clay tablets in cuneiform (“Notes on Gilgamesh. “). The mythology from the stories is talked highly about amongst historians. Many have translated the text and tried to analyze it. There is one idea that the Gods played a big role in what the Uruk people did in their everyday lives.

Since the Gods were connected to them so closely, it must have an effect on their society. The question is, did mythology have a big influence on the Uruk civilization? The story begins with Gilgamesh, a demigod; two thirds god, one third man. He was the son of Lugalbanda, who was human, and Ninsun, who was a God. Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk for 126 years until he resigned. (“The Sumerian King List. “). His greatest accomplishment as king was thought to be the walls of Uruk that surround the city, keeping it safe (“Notes on Gilgamesh. “). He was a powerful king, but the Gods thought he was too full of himself.

They decided to call upon Aruru , who created Gilgamesh, to create someone just like Gilgamesh, and as fierce as Ninurta , to balance him out (Mitchell, Stephen, 74). That’s when Enkidu was created, he lived in nature and wasn’t civilized. One night Gilgamesh had a dream about his mirror image, which confused him. He asked him mother, Ninsun what it meant, she told him it meant he was going to get a friend. One man saw Enkidu in the forest and told Gilgamesh about him. That’s when Gilgamesh sent Shamhat to teach Enkidu how to be civilized.

They ended up making love for many ays in a row and after the animals wanted nothing to do with him (“The Domestication of Enkidu. “). That’s when Enkidu went to Uruk and met Gilgamesh. They fought at first, but soon became inseparable (“Myths Encyclopedia. “). After that day Gilgamesh started taking Enkidu on all of his adventures with him. The first adventure they took was to destroy Humbaba, the evil guardian of the Cedar Forest, put there by the Gods. This was going against something that the Gods did to protect the forest, but Gilgamesh still wanted to do it, so he convinced Enkidu to help him.

Before they left to fight Humbaba, Gilgamesh told the people of Uruk about what their plans were (Mitchell, Stephen, 94-95). This was more for the Gods to hear about it before it happened, so they could get the okay from them. Ninsun prayed to Shamash to help Enkidu and Gilgamesh defeat Humbaba in the Cedar Forest (Mitchell, Stephen, 100). The whole journey to the Cedar Forest Gilgamesh kept having dreams that they couldn’t defeat Humbaba, but every night Enkidu convinced Gilgamesh that he was interpreting the dreams wrong (Mitchell, Stephen, 105-116). After defeating Humbaba, they came back to Uruk.

Gilgamesh knew that he could not be King forever so he tried to do these “godly” like things, so that he would always be remembered (“Myths Encyclopedia. “). After Gilgamesh completed this “godly” thing with Enkidu, Ishtar proposed to Gilgamesh. He denied her, because of all her past husbands. This made Ishtar upset so she convinced Anu to send the sacred bull of heaven after him. Enkidu and Gilgamesh defeated the bull together. That night Enkidu had a dream that one of them must be killed because this upset the Gods. They wanted Enkidu dead, not Gilgamesh. (“Myths Encyclopedia. “).

When he told Gilgamesh about it, he did not believe him. Then Enkidu had another bad dream, and when he told Gilgamesh about this one, he believed him. Gilgamesh prayed to the Gods to save them both. Enkidu knows his fate now and calls out to curse Shamata, since she tricked him into becoming civilized. Gilgamesh convinces him that she changed him for the better and not worse, so Enkidu takes back the horrible things he said (Mitchell, Stephen, 146-148). They destroyed Humbaba first and now the sacred bull of heaven, the Gods made Enkidu to balance Gilgamesh out not help him defeat these important creatures they created to protect them.

Enkidu falls ill for 12 days after his dream, on his last night he has a dream and he calls out to Gilgamesh to tell him about it. This dream is about death and him becoming a bird/angel and going to heaven. Once he is done telling Gilgamesh about the dream, he dies. Gilgamesh cries out for this not to be real. He doesn’t believe that it is real, so he stays there for six days and seven nights until maggots fall out of Enkidu’s eyes (“The Epic of Gilgamesh: Enkidu’s Dream. “) Finally, Gilgamesh accepts that Enkidu is really dead and orders a statue be made for him (Mitchell, Stephen, 154-155).

That was the first time Gilgamesh was presented with death right in front of him, it was a reality check that he too would die someday. So Gilgamesh sets out to find Utnapishtim who is immortal so he too can become immortal. The journey is very long and dangerous, one that no human could ever survive, but Gilgamesh does. Since he must be God like to survive the journey, Utnapishtim gives him the chance to tell why him why he is there. Utnapishtim tells the story of the flood to Gilgamesh and how he became immortal. He tells Gilgamesh how five Gods decided the secret plan for him (Mitchell, Stephen, 181-182).

During the story, he tells Gilgamesh he must stay awake for seven days to become immortal. He tries, but he is still human and falls asleep. Utnapishtim is about to send him away when his wife calls out her pity for Gilgamesh. They send him out to get the plant of immortality at the bottom of the sea. He gets the plant, but when he sits to rest for a moment, a snake takes the plant. Gilgamesh now has to return home to Uruk, after an unsuccessful mission (“Mircea Eliade”). During the entire story of Gilgamesh, the Gods have had the last say in everything that happens. Gilgamesh himself is said to be 2/3 God (“Mircea Eliade”).

He was created by Aruru, who is a God. Ninsun, his mother, prays to the Gods every time he took one of his adventures. This whole story shows the idea that the Gods made Enkidu and killed him to prove a point to Gilgamesh about life. Gilgamesh ruled Uruk and was powerful, until he realized that he too was going to die one day. Gilgamesh was part human as well as God, he didn’t know what that meant for him. The Gods went to heaven, and humans went elsewhere. He wasn’t full God so he didn’t have a destination and that scared him. Gilgamesh didn’t like pain and so he thought if he became immortal he wouldn’t have to deal with any of that.

Enkidu taught Gilgamesh many things that he didn’t know before about himself and life. Whenever something happened to Gilgamesh it always had a reason that his mother or someone else would explain to him. Things happened to him that always had reasons, like Enkidu, Humbaba, and the Bull of Heaven. He learned from these lessons and knew what was going to happen before he went after them. This wasn’t the story when it came to his death, Gilgamesh wasn’t sure of what would happen to him when he died, there wasn’t something that was told for people who were two thirds God and one third human.

Gilgamesh killed people all of the time in battles, but that never touched him like Enkidu’s death did. This idea took control of him and he wasn’t sure what would happen so he had to try to become immortal. Mythology is related back to ancient history, they tell myths about things they believe might have happened. Gilgamesh has many clay tablets from that time, but none of them are complete so there is the idea of some of it not being completely true.

When looking back at the things that could have happened in the story, most of them seemed to be influenced by the Gods. The Gods had most of the control of what was okay and what wasn’t, even though Uruk had a King, Gilgamesh. The City of Uruk was influenced by what the Gods told them would happen, even if it didn’t happen, they still could make it happen. The Gods were in control of everything that went down, they let it play out, but in the end they had the final say. Mythology had a huge impact on what the people of Uruk and Gilgamesh did.