Gilgamesh Unwillingness to Accept Mortality

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During the seventh century BC, in the ancient Babylonian Empire, Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk. He was two third of a god and one-third of a man. He used military forces to build a high wall and temple towers to surround the city of Uruk. Enkidu, Gilgamesh's beloved companion was raised by wild animals in the forest. At this period, women were used to domesticate wild people. As a result, Shamhat who was a prostitute was sent to civilize Enkidu. After having some affairs with her, he was ejected from the animal kingdom. The animals no longer accepted him as their own and rejected him, because he now turned into a civilized human. Then, he tried to conquer Gilgamesh; however, Gilgamesh turned out to be his enduring friend. Together, they went to steal the trees that were forbidden for humans and killed Humbaba who was the guardian of the cedar forest. Due to this immoral act, Enkidu was punished by the gods. Enkidu's death left Gilgamesh heartbroken, so, he decided to travel to the underworld to meet Utnapishtim, who was given eternal life after the flood. Gilgamesh was aiming to avoid death and brought Enkidu back to life. Unfortunately, Gilgamesh was not given immortality instead he was given an opportunity to be young again. However, the only thing he was able to bring back into his city was the story of the flood.

The epic of Gilgamesh was first written in clay tablets about 2000 B.C. It was challenging to read them since it was written in Cuneiform text and only some part of the tablets were recovered and some damaged. It was not until the Mesopotamian cities were destroyed that the scientists had found libraries of clay tablets which contained the epic of Gilgamesh. The scientists tried their best to translate it and dispensed it to the rest of the world. Without these tablets, we would have never known Gilgamesh or even heard the story of the flood which Utnapishtim told him when he went through the waters of death for the search for immortality.

The epic of Gilgamesh was first known from a version called he who saw the deep by a writer called sin-liqe-unninni which means the moon God is the one who accepts my prayer."" he lived long ago between 1300-1000 BC. He wrote the story in the Akkadian language based on five Sumerian poems which dated even much longer than the epic of Gilgamesh. He was the one who gave the epic it's final form and inscribed his name at the end of each of the eleven clay tablets.

The poem had various audiences. At first I would say it was intended for the elite groups of the Sumerians, because at this period only a few members of the society were educated. The vast majority could not read or write mainly because they were poor, and Cuneiform was the only system of writing with up to six hundred characters to write words. It was difficult to learn such type of writing. Religious groups of people could have been the audience as well. Looking at the entire story, they talked about the relationship between the gods and the main characters: Gilgamesh and Enkidu. For example, Enkidu said to Gilgamesh [My god] has taken against me, my friend,..., [I do not die] like one who [falls] in combat [makes his name,] but I, [I do not fall] in [combat, and shall make not my name.] Enkidu was given death because they killed Humbaba and the bull of heaven. The gods decide whom they want to punish and whom to give power to. This emphasizes that in religions, we believe that if you disobey God, you will be penalized for it. So, Enkidu was suffering from the sin they both committed.

The author was trying to put across so many messages in the poem. I think immortality and love were the two messages provided by the author. No matter who you are, death will come your way one day. There's no way you can avoid it. Only fame can last forever like people will tell whatever achievements you have done during your life, they can be passed from generation to generation. Secondly, the author explained how love changed Gilgamesh from a dictator to a good king and Enkidu from wild man into an honorable person. These changes were both profitable for Gilgamesh and his people because it built their relationship. For example, Gilgamesh speaking to the elderly of the town, I shall face a battle I know not. [I shall ride] a road [I know not:] give me your blessing as I go on my journey, [so I may see again] your faces [in safety,] and returned [glad at heart] through Uruk's gate!. Gilgamesh at the beginning of the story was a tyrant king, but now he is asking for blessing from the elderly of the town. This transitions showed us that Gilgamesh was not same the king that he used to be. However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu's friendship made it possible for Gilgamesh to identify with his people's interest.

Gilgamesh position in the society was to protect his people against any invasion. That is the reason why he forced his people to rebuild the wall of Uruk. His powers were as strong as a rock falling from the sky. So, he occupied both the position of a king and a warrior. This can be justified when Gilgamesh spurn Ishtar, the goddess of love. She was angry and decided to release the Bull of heaven on them in other to kill Gilgamesh, but this does not only threatened him. The Bull of heaven caused famine and murdered many peoples in the city of Uruk. As a result, Gilgamesh and Enkidu killed the Bull. For example, Enkidu rushed round to the rear of the Bull, he seized it by the [tuft] of the tail. Then Gilgamesh like a butcher, brave and skillful, between the yoke of the horns and the slaughter-spot [he thrust in] his knife. they were defending their nation against the decision taken by the gods. As a king, he had every right to do whatever he wanted, since there was no branch in his kingdom that limited his power.

Therefore, the epic of Gilgamesh expands our understanding of the story of the flood. Even though Gilgamesh was unsuccessful to become immortal, he became widely known for his achievement and dedication.

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Gilgamesh Unwillingness to Accept Mortality. (2019, Jun 24). Retrieved November 30, 2023 , from

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