Historical Context:

  • The hero of The Epic of Gilgamesh was centered around a king who reigned over the Epic-of-GilgameshSumerian city-state of Uruk (ancient Mesopotamia, Iraq) around 2700 B.C. Long after his death, people worshipped Gilgamesh, renowned as a warrior and builder and widely celebrated for his wisdom and judiciousness. The Epic of Gilgamesh is written in Akkadian, the Babylonians’ language, on eleven tablets by Sin-Leqi-Unninni.

Key-Characters:

  • Gilgamesh: protagonist, king of Uruk, the strongest of men, and the personification of all human virtues. He travels to the ends of the Earth in search of answers to the mysteries of life and death.
  • Enkidu: Companion and friend of Gilgamesh, raised by animals. Even after he joins the civilized world, he retains many of his undomesticated characteristics. Aspires to be Gilgamesh’s rival but instead becomes his soul mate.
  • Utnapishtim: Noah of Mesopotamia, granted eternal life by the gods.
  • Humbaba: The fearsome demon who guards the Cedar Forest forbidden to mortals.

Plot Overview:

  • Gilgamesh king of Uruk, although Gilgamesh was godlike in body and mind, he began his kingship as a cruel despot. He lorded over his subjects, raping any woman who struck his fancy. He accomplished his building projects with forced labor, and his exhausted subjects groaned under his oppression. The gods heard his subjects’ pleas and decided to keep Gilgamesh in check by creating a wild man named Enkidu, who was as magnificent as Gilgamesh. Enkidu became Gilgamesh’s great friend, and Gilgamesh’s heart was shattered when Enkidu died of an illness inflicted by the gods. Gilgamesh then traveled to the edge of the world and learned about the days before the deluge and other secrets of the gods, and he recorded them on stone tablets.

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