The Epic Lessons of Gilgamesh

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In a story about a mostly-god’s journey to gain immortality, many lessons can be learned. For Gilgamesh, many were. Traveling through Mesopotamia, fearing his own mortality, Gilgamesh and Enkidu go on a journey to find immortality. Though they do not succeed, Gilgamesh learns about himself, humankind, and mortality itself, making the journey worthwhile.

When one goes somewhere for a very long time, away from home, they have a lot of time to think. Think about themselves, their accomplishments, their strengths and weaknesses, their desires. All of these are examples of things to think about in regards to self-discovery. When Gilgamesh leaves for his own journey, he is tyrannical – doing whatever he wanted, taking other men’s women, and forcing labor onto his subjects. However, after his journey, he realizes there is more to life than immortality, and that is life itself. He also discovers that he can have an emotional connection with someone when Enkidu dies. His depression that follows Enkidu’s death proves that his love for Enkidu was strong and there is, in fact, humanity in the 2/3 god being that is Gilgamesh.

On this expedition, Gilgamesh also develops a greater knowledge of humankind and mortality. When he meets Siduri, she tells him, “…let your belly be full, make merry day and night. Of each day make a feast of rejoicing.” (Tablet X) In other words, she tells him to make the most of his mortal life, because immortality is impossible for everyone (except Utnapishtim) and you can make your mortal life as good as “heaven.” And although generations will die out, humanity will go on forever. This reassures Gilgamesh and allows him to accept death. This lesson stays with him until death. He also realizes how much he has accomplished in his mortality, such as being the king of Uruk.

Gilgamesh, being handsome, a king, and smart, feels as though if anyone could be immortal, why not himself? He has all the qualifications, and he fears death. On his voyage,...
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