Gilgamesh’s Epic (Gilgamesh’s Epic)

Abbreviation:

Symbols-Moral Themes-Contribution-Conclusion Literary history-Character analysis-Two versions of this epic-Similarities between this epic and the bible-Symbols-Moral Themes-Contribution-Conclusion

History of literature:

The Epic of Gilgamesh () is an ancient Mesopotamian epic poem that is considered the oldest extant noteworthy literature and the second oldest religious document after the Pyramid Texts. Gilgamesh’s literary history begins with five Sumerian poems about Uruk’s king, Bilgamesh (Sumerian for “Gilgamesh”). The “Old Babylonian” form, which originates from the 18th century BCE and is named after its incipit, is the first surviving version of this composite epic. The Standard Babylonian version was afterwards created.

Character Evaluation:

In this epic, the main characters are…

Gilgamesh Enkidu Humbaba shamath Ishtar Gilgamesh Enkidu Humbaba shamath Ishtar Gilgamesh Enkidu


GILGAMESH

Uruk’s King, the most powerful of mankind, two-thirds deity and one-third mortal, and the ideal embodiment of all human virtues. He is a valiant warrior, a just judge, and a visionary builder.

ENKIDU

Gilgamesh’s companion and friend. Enkidu was reared by animals and has a hairy and muscular body. Enkidu resembles Gilgamesh in appearance and is physically comparable to him. He wishes to be Gilgamesh’s adversary, but instead finds himself to be his soul partner. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are punished by the gods, who give Enkidu a lengthy, painful, and ignominious death for murdering the monster Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven.

HUMBABA

The terrifying demon who defends the Cedar Forest, which is off-limits to mortals. He is the epitome of awe-inspiring natural power and danger. Like an exploding volcano, his mouth is fire, he roars like a flood, and he breaths death.

ISHTAR

She is the goddess of love and fertility, as well as war. Ishtar is known as the “Queen of Heaven.” She is a caring mother figure at times and a bitter and vicious mother figure at other times, despite her unpredictability. She is the patroness of Uruk, which has a temple dedicated to her.

THE SHAMHAT

Shamhat works as a prostitute at a temple. She begins the process of bringing Enkidu into civilization by sleeping with him.

 

There are two variants available.

Two main versions of the epic have been largely reconstructed from the many sources discovered: the Standard Babylonian version, or He who saw the depths, and the Old Babylonian version, or Surpassing all other kings.

Version in Babylonian standard

The opening lines, or incipit, of the Standard Babylonian version differ from the older form. The earlier version begins with the lines “Surpassing all previous kings,” whereas the Standard Babylonian version begins with the lines “He who saw the deep” (“deep” alluding to the mysteries of Gilgamesh’s information brought back from his meeting with Utnapishtim) regarding Ea, the spring of learning.Gilgamesh was taught how to worship the gods, why human beings must die, what qualities make a good monarch, and how to live a decent life. The Babylonian epic contains the account of Utnapishtim, the hero of the flood myth.

 

Versions from Babylonian times

This version of the epic, known as surpassing all other monarchs in certain pieces, is made up of tablets and fragments from various sources and degrees of preservation. It is mostly incomplete, with several tablets missing and large gaps in those that have been discovered. They are given names based on their current location or the site where they were discovered.

 

There are some parallels between this epic and the Bible:

As a companion for Gilgamesh, the gods create Enkidu, who runs wild with the animals in the open plains. The Garden of Eden account in Genesis and the myth of Enkidu’s transition from nature to culture and civilization have some striking parallels. In both cases, a woman is blamed for causing a man who had previously eaten and drunk with the animals to become estranged from nature. When Enkidu is rejected by the animal world, Shamhat clothe him and teaches him to drink beer and eat bread, both of which are technological advancements that distinguish humans from animals.

 

Symbols include:

Religious symbolism abounds in Gilgamesh. Sacrifices, festivals, sex, dream interpretation, and shamanic magic were all part of Mesopotamian religious ceremonies, and they all feature in the storey. The hirsuteness of Enkidu represents the natural, uncivilised state.

Themes of morality:

The Epic of Gilgamesh has a number of moral themes, the most important of which is that love is a motivating force. The inevitability of death and the dangers of engaging with the gods are two more moral themes in this epic. Enkidu and Gilgamesh’s friendship motivates both of them to become better men in different ways.