Death in Gilgamesh (by Hady Ghaouch)
The epic of Gilgamesh, the outstanding literary work of ancient Mesopotamia, incorporates, with its closely knit, climatic and tragic plot structure, elements of myth and striking folklore. The profoundly poignant heroic poem revolves around Gilgamesh, the mighty tyrant of the city of Uruk. As well as friendship and loyalty, adventure and renown, hope and despair, the epic deals with death and the quest for life everlasting. However, when one questions the meaning of death he is inevitably and unintentionally questioning the meaning of life because those two concepts are inseparable. What is the meaning of death and how does it evolve through the different stages of the epic? How does Gilgamesh awake this significance?
The meaning of death witnesses some drastic alterations throughout the epic along with the numerous twists in the tale. The story opens on Gilgamesh, a two-third god and one-third man, a hero, more beautiful and courageous than any ever known, and whose undertakings embody our own. Still, he held no compassion for his people: ¡§¡Khis arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father¡K His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior¡¦s daughter nor the wife of the noble¡¨. He was their sovereign but never their shepherd. Gilgamesh held no esteem whatsoever for life itself because he had never tasted the bitterness of a friend or relative¡¦s death. He was unaware of the implications of his mortality. In the early pages of the epic, Gilgamesh¡¦s representation was dominated by godly attributes (undefeated, courageous, terrifying, beautiful¡K) which directs us to believe that he was probably immortal.
The surfacing of Enkidu, the counterpart of Gilgamesh, roused a major twist in the epic. When Gilgamesh out-bested Enkidu in a fight, they embraced each other and became brothers in arms: they fought numerous battles side by side, and embarked on a journey to slay the evil...
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