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Gilgamesh & Enkidu



The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Mesopotamia, is amongst the earliest surviving works of literature. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five, independent Sumerian poems about Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Apparently, four of these were used as source material for a combined epic in Akkadian. This first, "Old Babylonian" version of the epic dates to the 18th century BC and is titled Shūtur eli sharrī ("Surpassing All Other Kings").

The story centers on a friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Enkidu is a wild man created by the gods as Gilgamesh's equal to distract him from oppressing the people of Uruk. Together, they journey to the Cedar Mountain to defeat Humbaba, its monstrous guardian. Later they kill the Bull of Heaven, which the goddess Ishtarsends to punish Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. As a punishment for these actions, the gods sentence Enkidu to death.

The later half of the epic focuses on Gilgamesh's distress at Enkidu's death, and his quest for immortality. In order to learn the secret of eternal life, Gilgamesh undertakes a long and perilous journey to find the immortal flood hero, Utnapishtim. He learns that "The life that you are seeking you will never find. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping." His fame however lived on after his death, because of his great building projects, and his account of what Utnapishtim told him happened during the flood. His story has been translated into many different languages, and he has become an icon of popular culture.



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