The Epic Of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh is not just one poem but a series of several separate poems. It is thought to be the oldest form of literature that is known today. The first known edition of the combined poems is believed to date from the 18th Century BC and is often referred to as The Old Babylonian. The five poems are thought to have been written around 2100 BC during the Third Dynasty of Ur. The poems tell the story of Gilgamesh who was two thirds god and one part man and claimed the title of King of Uruk.
THE MAIN PLOT
The beginning of Gilgamesh describes him as a King who enjoyed immense beauty and strength. Gilgamesh began his reign as a cruel King who murdered and raped his subjects creating a reign of terror. He also used forced labour from exhausted people to build many projects across his land.
The Gods created Enkidu to befriend Gilgamesh and prevent him from carrying out his cruelty on the people of his Kingdom. However Enkidu died from an illness leaving Gilgamesh heartbroken. Gilgamesh responded to this grief by leaving his Kingdom and travelling the world learning about the secrets of the Gods. He then wrote these tales on twelve stone tablets.
Gilgamesh intended to find the immortal, Utnapishtim to discover how to avoid his own death. Once he finds him, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh about the great flood and the boat the Gods told him to build. This story is very similar to the Christian tale of Noah and the ark although its origin is far older.
Utnapishtim then explains to Gilgamesh about a plant that can give immortality. Gilgamesh then travels to find the plant and return it to Uruk. However a serpent steals the plant and Gilgamesh returns to Uruk empty handed.
On his return to Uruk, Gilgamesh comes to terms with his own immortality but sees the city he created in his earlier days of terror has been completed. The magnificence of the city shows Gilgamesh he has built something he will always be remembered by and is granted immortality through memory and monument.
The Epic of Gilgamesh has become an important work of literature giving some example of an earlier version of a Christian story. Since the discovery of the Akkadian version in 1853, this epic poem has been translated into several languages all over the world. Some scholars have also observed similarities between The Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s epic poems of The Iliad and The Odyssey suggesting Homer was influenced by The Epic of Gilgamesh.