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Epic of Gilgamesh. What is it?*. Epic poem (long story) about Gilgamesh, king of Uruk Gilgamesh was an actual King of Uruk (2700 BC) but the story is a myth One of the earliest known examples of literature Date as early as 2000 BC (4,000 years ago) Found on several tablets

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What is it
What is it?*

  • Epic poem (long story) about Gilgamesh, king of Uruk

  • Gilgamesh was an actual King of Uruk (2700 BC) but the story is a myth

  • One of the earliest known examples of literature

  • Date as early as 2000 BC (4,000 years ago)

  • Found on several tablets

  • Still has parts missing where there are tablets that we haven’t found


  • Gilgamesh- king of Uruk, strong and God-like (2/3 God, 1/3 human), at first he is a cruel leader

  • Enkidu- a very strong wild man who used to live in the wild with the animals…he is tamed by the gods and sent to challenge Gilgamesh for his cruel rule

  • Utnapishtim- Mesopotamian Noah, he survived the flood of the world and was granted eternal life by the Gods

  • Ishtar and Anu- goddess of love and god of the sky

Part i set up
Part I: Set-Up

  • Gilgamesh is the king of Uruk, with God-like strength

  • He is a cruel ruler who oppresses his people

  • Enkidu is living amongst the animals in a state of nature

  • He is tamed by the Gods to challenge Gilgamesh because of his oppression

  • Gilgamesh defeats Enkidu in a fight but they become friends and decide to go on several adventures together

Part ii adventures
Part II: Adventures

  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu go to a forbidden forest, guarded by a terrifying demon

  • They defeat the demon, with the help of Shamash the sun god, and cut down the forbidden forest

  • However, upon their return Gilgamesh upsets Ishtar, goddess of love

  • Ishtar asks her father Anu to punish Gilgamesh

Part iii death
Part III: Death

  • Anu sends the Bull of Heaven down to Earth to punish Gilgamesh

  • But together with Enkidu they defeat the bull

  • Angry, Anu decides that one of them must die

  • He gives Enkidu a terrible illness and he painfully dies

  • Before he dies he gives Gilgamesh a vision of the after-life

  • Gilgamesh is destroyed by the death of his friend and frightened by the idea of his own death

Part iv gilgamesh s quest
Part IV: Gilgamesh’s Quest

  • He seeks to find Utnapishtim to find out how to live forever

  • He journeys through several dangerous places

  • He meets an mysterious inn-keeper who tells him to enjoy the pleasures of this life and to stop worrying about living forever- because no man can

  • He eventually reaches the ferryman-who takes him across the Waters of Death to meet Utnapishtim

Part v meeting with utnapishtim
Part V: Meeting with Utnapishtim

  • Utnapishtim tells him the story of “the flood”

  • The Gods decided to destroy all of mankind

  • One of the gods decides to warn Utnapishtim and tells him to build a large boat in which him and the seed of every animal can escape

  • The Gods regretted what they did and after the flood went down promised to never do it again

  • They gave Utnapishtim immortality and promised to never destroy humankind again

  • However, all humans must die at some point

Part vi gilgamesh returns
Part VI: Gilgamesh returns

  • Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that he cannot live forever

  • However, mankind will live on- as will families, cities, and culture

  • Gilgamesh comes to terms with his eventual death because he knows that humans with live on

  • He returns and sees his city and knows that the magnificent buildings he created would stand long after him- the closest thing to living forever a human can have

Themes in gilgamesh
Themes in Gilgamesh

Love as motivation

Death is Inevitable

At first Gilgamesh believes his fame will allow him to live on

When confronted with death he is at first saddened

He comes to terms with it only after realizing that humanity will live on

  • The friendship of Enkidu helps Gilgamesh end his cruel kingship

  • The sadness over his death forces him to confront his own mortality

Other parts
Other Parts

  • Uses several other themes and motifs including:

    • The gods are dangerous

    • Journeys

    • Baptism

    • Dual images

    • Seduction

    • Religious symbols

  • *The point? Gilgamesh is a complex, well written story that is a great reflection of the beliefs and values of the people of that time and place

Bible similarities
Bible Similarities

  • Just like with the Hammurabi Code and laws

  • We see very close stories between Noah and Utnapishtim and their flood stories

  • What does that mean?

  • It means that the Israelites did what everyone does

    *They borrowed ideas from the people who came before them in the area and from other civilizations