Analysis of the Epic of Gilgamesh
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In the Epic of Gilgamesh there are many themes, major characters, similarities to the old testament of the bible, and how they portray the life of Mesopotamian society. These are great importance to how early civilization had become and how we are affected by them today. The themes that has presented itself in the story is of love, inevitable death, and the wrath of the gods. Love as a motivating force was apparent in the story early on. In the beginning of the story the gods had created Enkidu as a response to the people’s prayers for an equal for Gilgamesh. When Enkidu faced Gilgamesh they quarreled. Even though Gilgamesh won the fight he respected Enkidu. They both became the best of friends and they loved each other like brothers. It was also how Gilgamesh was overcome with grief and depression when Enkidu died. Erotic love also appears in the story too with two accounts in the story with one being successful and the other not. The prostitute of the temple seducing Enkidu ridded him of his animal instincts and gave him human consciousness.
The other of Gilgamesh refusing the Ishtar’s advances, resulting in the death of Enkidu. Inevitable death has always been a major themes of human culture and always will be. So it wasn’t surprising that such motif would be present in the Epic of Gilgamesh. After the death of Enkidu Gilgamesh realized that he too would die someday because he was still one-third human. He even searched for Utnapishtim so he may learn the secret to immortality. He manage to meet him after a long and tiresome journey. After such persistence Utnapishtim gave a way on how he could achieve it. By capturing a flower at the bottom of the ocean. And though Gilgamesh did get that flower it ended up being taken by the snake. After all that hard work Gilgamesh didn’t really cared about immortality after all. He learned that all people would die and gladly accepts his fate. The actions of the gods and how they treat humans is a long and fascinating area. In many cultures they have been presented as either kind, indifferent, or vengeful gods. In the story they are presented as amoral gods.
Their actions entail based on what mood they are in. For example the god Ishtar proposed to be the wife of Gilgamesh, smitten by the fact that he’s Gilgamesh! Unfortunately for her (and him) he rejected her on the account of how she handled her past lovers. Being an angry god she released the Bull of heaven at Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh and Enkidu destroyed the Bull and went as far along as Gilgamesh throwing the left thigh at her. The gods, having no choice but to find someone to be dead, chose Enkidu to die. All of the gods were in this kind of state of mentality. They do whatever they felt like it. The god that flooded all of humanity where Stan was at was irritated of the humans because they made too much noise! Though it is safe to say that not all gods of Mesopotamia were evil. One god did helped Utnapishtim by telling him about the flood and to prepare him for it. The major characters of the story of Gilgamesh seems to include Gilgamesh, Enkidu, Utnapishtim, and Siduri. Beginning with Gilgamesh, he appears to be the alpha male of the whole Mesopotamia.
He build the walls and is celebrated for his construction of it and the protector but suffers from severe egotism and mostly participates in his lustful actions. He is beautiful and strong due to being two-thirds god but his actions had led to the creation of Enkidu, a counterweight. With the help of Enkidu he transformed from brutish man to somewhat more calm and wise one. Throughout the story he even learned to bond with Enkidu and after the loss of Enkidu he become over run with grief and despair. He even went on the journey in search of immortality. And although he didn’t found the solution he wanted he understood his path and self-acceptance. Enkidu, the counterweight of Gilgamesh, was created from clay with the heart of a wild beast. Although at first he ran with wild animals of the forest he turned fully human with the seduction of the temple prostitute. He met his counterpart, Gilgamesh, and soon wrestled with him. Although Enkidu lost the fight he gained the respect and trust of Gilgamesh.
They went on adventures and Enkidu discovered dreams and tried to dissect meaning from them. He learned love and friendship through the prostitute and Gilgamesh. And after being struck by the gods as to die to a slow and painful death he shouted at the prostitute for turning him human in the first place. After a god told him to reflect what happened to his life he felt sorry to her. He apologized and realized he had a full life and died. Utnapishtim, a person who became immortal as a result from surviving the flood told the story to Gilgamesh on how he did it. He is reluctant and would probably wouldn’t told him the story if it wasn’t for his nameless wife. He did told him to where he could find the flower but did told him he shouldn’t waste time on it. Siduri, the god of wine and love appeared in the story as Gilgamesh knocked on the door. Siduri is a fun god and sexual one at that too. She however was too as a surprise that it was Gilgamesh because when he knocked at her door he looked nothing like what people described back home. Feeling reluctant she did told him the location of Utnapishtim. She was a major character but it was significant because most of the major characters were male.
Other than being the oldest epic story in recorded history the Epic of Gilgamesh shares a lot of identical plots and devices to many religious lines especially of the Old Testament of the bible. One obvious similarity is of the flooding. In the Epic of Gilgamesh one god helped Utnapishtim in order to survive the flood. The god told him to bring every species of male and female together on an ark and board anyone of his hometown on it. The plot parallels with God telling Noah to be prepare for the flood with him picking two animals of the same species and putting them on the ship. That aspect of it is quite amazing. Another similar part of the story is the snake. When Eve was looking at the magic tree a snake came around and persuaded Eve to take a bite from an apple from the tree. She did and everything was taken away from them. When Gilgamesh finally took the magic plant from the bottom of the ocean the snake took it.
The snake had somewhat of a symbolism of cheat and darkness about it. Another subtle part of the story is the seduction of Enkidu by the prostitute of the temple. It rings with the story of Delilah and Samson. Samson was a noble hero but when he met Delilah who seduced him he lost his long hair. When Enkidu met and slept with the prostitute he felt weak in the knees and lost his power over the beasts. Lastly these plots, themes, and characters reflected how Mesopotamia life was. As being the earliest civilization in history Mesopotamia had Temples in which the priests would pray to the gods by having sacrifice of food.
The hind leg was left for the gods as hinted when Gilgamesh threw it at Ishtar as a sarcastic way. In the temple there are prostitutes there although the people there have a different view of them than we do. They view them as agents of love, of human sexuality as a pleasant part of the human experience. There was no stigma against them. And also their view of the floods were very pessimistic. In ancient Mesopotamia floods killed many of the Sumerians before. In the book it celebrates the kinship between its men and that probably played out in real life in that society. It also revealed that humans have also have to face the realization of death and how we should handle it. Something that still affects us today.