Essay about Epic of Gilgamesh

Submitted By wrenchmama
Words: 868
Pages: 4

The epic of Gilgamesh is long regarded as one of the first great works in literature, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 BC). The epic’s prelude offers a general introduction to Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, who was two-thirds god and one-third man. He built magnificent temples and towers, surrounded his city with high walls, and laid out orchards and fields. He was handsome, immensely strong, and very wise. Gilgamesh is portrayed as a strong leader and man but one who does not always make the best choices for his people or himself. Although Gilgamesh was godlike in body and mind, he began his kingship as a cruel despot. He lorded over his subjects. He accomplished his building projects with forced labor, and his exhausted subjects groaned under his oppression. The gods heard his subjects’ pleas and decided to keep Gilgamesh in check by creating a wild man named Enkidu, who was as magnificent as Gilgamesh. Enkidu eventually became Gilgamesh’s great friend, and Gilgamesh’s heart was shattered when Enkidu died of an illness inflicted by the gods. Enkidu lives with the animals, grazing in the meadows, and drinking at their watering places and freeing them from traps laid by hunters. A hunter discovers him and sends a temple prostitute, Shamhat, into the wilderness to tame him. In that time, people considered women and sex calming forces that could domesticate wild men like Enkidu and bring them into the civilized world. When Enkidu sleeps with Shamhat, the animals reject him since he is no longer one of them. Now, he is part of the human world.

The story of Enkidu seems to speak of how people must change or be changed, or tamed, to live among others in a civilized society. Shamhat teaches Enkidu everything he needs to know to be a man and encourages him to go back to the city and meet Gilgamesh. Shamhat tells Enkidu about the great king Gilgamesh and he is intrigued and outraged by what he hears about Gilgamesh’s excesses, so he travels to Uruk to challenge him.

Gilgamesh has dreams foretelling the arrival of Enkidu. When Enkidu arrives, Gilgamesh is about to force his way into a bride’s wedding chamber. Enkidu steps into the doorway and blocks his passage. The two men wrestle fiercely for a long time, and Gilgamesh finally prevails. After that, they become friends and set about looking for an adventure to share.

Gilgamesh is looked upon as a great ruler but one who does not treat his people as a good and kind king should. When Enkidu enters his life he is tamed, as was Enkidu in his own ways, and begins to see things differently. Enkidu becomes and important companion and part of Gilgamesh, a part of him that he had been missing…perhaps a conscience.

The Epic seems to remark on many different aspects of life. From the way your life begins, no matter how entitled you are or aren’t, that you can change your life and become a better person, as did Gilgamesh after befriending Enkidu and taking the journeys with him. Gilgamesh has many journeys through his life that all signify his internal journey within himself. The epic continues on to talk about kinship between men and describes the existential struggles of a superlatively strong man who must…