The Epic of Gilgamesh dates back to as early as Bronze Age Mesopotamia, to the people of Sumer that told poems and legends of a great hero-king called Gilgamesh, the demigod ruler of Uruk (around 2500 BCE). The legends and poems were later gathered into a longer epic and written on clay tablets C. 1900 BCE. They were found in the mid nineteenth century and were later deciphered, and eventually published. The story is important not only to the people of the time or historians, but to everyday modern people, to us.
The story revolves around Gilgamesh and his close companion, Enkidu, who is a wild man created by the goddess of creation, Aruru, to be Gilgamesh’s equal. They set out on dangerous quests that displease the gods, which eventually leads to the punishment of one of them having to die. Gilgamesh’s extreme reaction to Enkidu’s death, drives him to realize that he too will suffer the same fate as his dear friend and sets out on a quest for immortality. After undertaking a long and perilous journey, Gilgamesh finds the immortal flood hero, Utnapshtim, the only man the gods ever granted eternal life. Gilgamesh tells the story of Enkidu’s death and argues with Utnapshtim until he reveals how he received immortality. Eventually Utnapshtim recounts the great flood and the greatest secret hidden from humans. At the end of his story, he gives Gilgamesh a chance at immortality. If Gilgamesh can stay awake for six days and seven nights, he too, will have eternal life. Just as he accepts the challenge, Gilgamesh falls asleep. Ridiculing him, Utnapshtim orders his wife to bake a loaf of bread everyday Gilgamesh is asleep, so he cannot deny his failure. After waking, Gilgamesh realizes he has fallen asleep and sees the loaves of bread. Utnapshtim’s wife asks her husband to have mercy on Gilgamesh. He does so by telling him of a plant at the bottom of the ocean that will make him young again. Gilgamesh ties stones to the bottom of his feet and sinks to the bottom where...
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