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The Epic of Gilgamesh

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The discovery of the cuneiform tablets that contained the story of Gilgamesh came from the first excavation of the Mesopotamian city of Nineveh. The tablets were discovered among a collection of cuneiform tablets by the Englishman Austen Henry Layard in 1839. The vast amount of the thousands of tablets found in Nineveh were then sent to the British Museum to begin the task of deciphering them. In 1855, Henry Rawlinson began the job of translating the tablets, since he was the man who discovered the “The Record of Darius” which is a necessary piece in order to decipher the cuneiform tablets.

In translating the tablets, Rawlinson found the beginning of Gilgamesh’s tale. And as the excavation of Nineveh continued, the rest of the Epic of Gilgamesh came to light. But it was not until 1872 that the revelation of the discovery of the Epic of Gilgamesh. And as the news spread, the interest of discovering more of the story of Gilgamesh grew. The British Museum began the search for more of the tablets that held the epic. And as the tablets came to light, the Epic of Gilgamesh was completed, to their best abilities, and preserved. More and more archaeologists began to excavate the ancient Mesopotamian cities to find more of the cuneiform tablets, and in turn, more of the Gilgamesh Epic. But as the tablets were discovered and distributed, the decipherment became more of a problem for archaeologists.

The decipherment of the tablets and the eventual complete translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh came late into its discovery and the multiple translations brought the Epic to where it is now. It it still undergoing translation since cuneiform tablets and the modern languages cannot always match up.


In the beginning of the tale, we learn Enkidu, a wild, barbaric man that was created in the wild. A man who could not be tamed, a beast. But as Enkidu is tamed by a harlot sent by Gilgamesh, their paths ultimately cross. Enkidu and Gilgamesh become close after an initial clash. The bond between Enkidu and Gilgamesh grows as the story moves. Then there is Shiduri, a goddess of wine-making. She consoles Gilgamesh and guides him along is path, knowing herself the ultimate ending to Gilgamesh’s quest. Utnapishtim is the king and priest of Shuruppak. He was a survivor of the great flood, to which the gods rewarded he and his wife eternal life. He is there to test Gilgamesh, to see if he does not fall into the faults of men. And since Gilgamesh is ⅓ man, he fails to prove his worth for eternal life.

The lessons found in the epic are a reflection of the major characteristics of the tale. One of those is the powerful force that derives from love. Be it platonic or erotic, love drives man to do the unimpossible. Love is what tames Enkidu and what binds Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Love is what moves Gilgamesh to try to find a way to an immoral life.

Another lesson that can be found within the text is the unavoidable course of death. Not only does Enkidu die, but Gilgamesh eventually die. Death is part of the live of man. There is no way to stop it. And trying to avoid death is impossible unless immortality is gifted to you or if you are a god. Fearing death is fearing life. Life and death go hand in hand.

The third lesson I felt fit, was the dangers of the gods. The gods do not live or adhere to the same rules as mortals. They adhere to their own wills and ways. Both Enkidu and Gilgamesh learn this lesson. The gods behave as children do. You cannot expect to gods to save you from everything.


In comparison to Egypt, Mesopotamia lived more in fear it attack. The ancient people of Mesopotamia needed heros to motivate them to not be in fear, but to give them hope that they will not fall. Unlike the Egyptians, who were surrounded by desert, did not need to fear an outside attack. I believe that Ancient Egyptians did not have a epic like Gilgamesh because they did not believe in a need to have a hero. Simply put, the gods of ancient Egypt were sufficient for the people as heros because they did not have a fear of war. The lax life of the people of Egypt did not have the foundation to support a heroic epic, at least not until the later years of Ancient Egypt.

Another reason why

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