Term Paper: Epic of Gilgamesh From Babylonia Is Believed

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Epic of Gilgamesh from Babylonia is believed to be the oldest known work of literature, written approximately in the year 2500 BC or 400 years before the earliest known written stories (Wikipedia 2006). It consists of 11 clay tablets, which are Sumerian legends and poems, on the mythologized hero-king, demigod Gilgamesh, who ruled Uruk on the River Euphrates in the third millennium BC. It includes an account of the Deluge, similar to the Flood of the Holy Bible. It contains artifacts associated with Agga and Enmebaragesi of Kish, which somewhat support its historic authenticity (Wikipedia). The River Euphrates, now modern Iraq, was among the first civilizations, which tell the tale of Gilgamesh. The epic shows that not all gods, demigods and superhuman beings are either morally perfect or immortal.

Gilgamesh is two-thirds god and one-third human and the strongest superhuman who ever lived (Kovacs 1989, Hooker 1996, Wikipedia 2006). But his people complain to the sky-god Anu that he is too harsh and Anu creates a very strong but wild man, Enkidu, to rival and distract Gilgamesh. The temple harlot Shamhat is sent to tame him sexually and, when he does, he loses his strength and wildness instantly but gains knowledge and understanding instead. Shamhat takes him to Gilgamesh as the only being worthy of his friendship. At first, they fight but later become friends. With the support of other super beings, including Shamash, they adventure to Cedar Forest to kill its demon guardian of the trees, Humbaba. Gilgamesh overcomes and kills Humbaba, who manages to place a curse on Enkidu before he dies. This illustrates that demon-spirit guardians like Humbaba are mortal, like Gilgamesh himself (Kovac, Wikipedia, Hooker).

Anu's daughter, Ishtar, makes sexual advances on Gilgamesh but spurns her, instead (Kovacs 1989, Wikipedia 2006, Hooker 1996). In revenge, she gets her father to send the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh but Gilgamesh destroys it. The gods get enraged by the death of the Bull and make Enkidu pay for it by getting him sick and die. Gilgamesh is consumed with grief over the loss of his friend and the realization that he too can be destroyed like Enkidu. He goes into a panic, now knowing he needs to possess eternal life like the gods. He then searches out for Utnapishtim and his wife, the only immortal survivors of the Great Flood or Deluge. He is advised against the pursuit because of the great dangers involved but he continues. After a long and hazardous journey, he encounters an old man who also discourages him about his aim and tell him that death is a necessary fact, the will of the gods, and that human effort is not permanent. Gilgamesh realizes that this old man is Utnapishtim, and he wonders why he has become an old man. Utnaphistim tells him… [END OF PREVIEW]

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