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Epic of Gilgamesh and Eternal Life

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    When the gods created Gilgamesh, they made him two-thirds divine and one-third human and endowed him with extraordinary size, strength, and good looks. Gilgamesh became king of Uruk. He was considered the greatest of kings of all time. Gilgamesh was the protector of his people. He later would take advantage of his powers, oppressing the people and freely using any woman to satisfy his desires. Gilgamesh was so cruel to the people, that they asked the Gods for help. The gods created Enkidu, he would have the same power as Gilgamesh.

    Enkidu lived in the wild; his task was to find Gilgamesh. Enkidu hears how Gilgamesh is sleeping with all the women of Uruk, and he is shocked. He now wants to challenge Gilgamesh to conquer him and force him to behave properly. They struggle like equals, but finally Gilgamesh throws Enkidu, who loses his anger and recognizes Gilgamesh as a true king. Gilgamesh and Enkidu become inseparable friends. Gilgamesh wants to do good deeds, so his name will be remembered. He wants to go to the cedar forest and slay its guardian monster, Humbaba.

    Despite having bad dreams, Gilgamesh and Enkidu would enter into cedar forest. Humbaba put up a fight, even begging for his life, but is killed. After the deed is done, Gilgamesh washes himself and puts on clean clothes and his crown. He is so attractive that Ishtar, the goddess of love, wants to marry him. Gilgamesh refuses her advances, which pisses her off. Ishtar goes to her father Anu, and demands that he send the Lindsey 2 Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh. Anu complies and sends the Bull of Heaven. He too, is killed and parts kept as trophies.

    Enkidu has another dream. In this dream, the Gods are deciding who should pay for the violence on divinity. The sacrifice would fall upon Enkidu. He suffered terribly for twelve days, he finally dies. Gilgamesh is distraught with grief and denial of death. Enkidu’s death awakens a fear of death in Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh looks for Utnapishtim, the only human being who was granted eternal life by the gods. He wants to learn the secret of how to avoid death. Once Gilgamesh gets to where Utnapishtim lives, he’s told that is the will of the Gods.

    Utnapishtim does give another route he could try for eternal life. All he had to was stay awake for six days and seven nights, he, too, will become immortal. After several failed attempts, Gilgamesh returns to Uruk without having gained eternal life. He accepts the inevitability of death and takes comfort in the fact that the city he built and his other great achievements will immortalize his name. This is a very hard story for me to follow. I had to read passages a couple of times to understand what was being said.

    I was most surprised by the fact that Gilgamesh and Enkidu became good friends. They were supposed to have been enemies. Enkidu was created to challenge Gilgamesh to conquer him and force him to behave properly. With regards to Gilgamesh, I think the moral is that everything must come to an end. When Enkidu died, it took a toll on Gilgamesh. He wept for seven days and seven nights, until the maggots took over Enkidu’s body. (Book 1, p80) Later, after searching for eternal life and trying become immortal, Gilgamesh accepted that he would die also. (Book 1, p90)

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