The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the story of an ancient King of Uruk, Gilgamesh, who may
have actually existed, and whose name is on the Sumerian King List. He is portrayed as semidivine, which gives him the status of a hero and aristocrat. Thus, his deeds are above the level
that mere mortals can achieve.
He is the precursor of Heracles and other folk heroes.
In the Sumerian poems he is a wise king and priest of Shurrupak and his name is usually
translated as "He Who Saw Life. “
He is the protégé of the god Ea, by whose connivance he survives the flood, with his
family and with 'the seed of all living creatures'. Afterwards he is taken by the gods to live for
ever at 'the mouth of the rivers' and given the epithet 'Faraway'.
He shows many similarities with the much more recent biblical Noah.
Themes in Gilgamesh:
The quest for fame
The quest for immortality
(both of these are major themes in the Iliad and Odyssey)
Enkidu dies, but Gilgamesh finds some solace in the belief that his fame will live after him. His
struggle reflects the theme of coming to terms with the reality of death.
The Mesopotamian people held a polytheistic worldview, as did the Greeks. The gods of
Gilgamesh are within the forces of nature; they are representations of natural forces, and are not
even immortal.
Sexuality and Civilization/ Sexuality and awareness: Enkidu only becomes human when he
comes into sexual awareness.
Issues addressed in Gilgamesh: What separates humans from animals? What does it mean to be
human? What is friendship? Why do humans die? Can we avoid death? Where do we find
comfort for death?
The head of the family of Gods of heaven and Earth.
The god of wisdom and magic; friendly to humans.
The sun god, and Gilgamesh’s protector.
The mother goddess who created the human race with the help of Ea.
The goddess of love, procreation, and war. Desires to marry Gilgamesh.