Epic of Gilgamesh vs. The Old Testament
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient piece of literature written around 1900 B.C.E in ancient Mesopotamian. It is considered to be one of the oldest written pieces of literature on earth. The Old Testament was written around 1000 B.C.E and is the foundation for two of the world’s largest religions; Christianity and Islam. Although written many years apart The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Old Testament share similarities. One of the main similarities between The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Old Testament is they both feature a large flood. In The Epic of Gilgamesh the Gods become annoyed with the people. The Gods found them to be too loud. Because of this they decided to create a large flood that would destroy civilization and return the peacefulness they wanted. In The Old Testament God was upset with mankind as he found them to be too wicked. Because of this he too decided to destroy them by a flood. In both stories there is one person who is chosen to survive the destructive flood. In The Epic of Gilgamesh it is King Gilgamesh who is chosen to survive and in The Old Testament it is Noah who is chosen to be the survivor. After the flood, in both tales, the divine show regret about their hasty decisions and vow to never do anything like it again. Another similarity between these two tales is the character’s search to find something more meaningful than just themselves. In The Epic of Gilgamesh King Gilgamesh sets out on a journey to gain immorality after his beloved friend Enkidu is killed. By the end of this journey he realizes that death is not something he should avoid and comes to terms with the cycle of life, finding peace and solidarity. Similarly, in The Old Testament many of the “chosen” men dedicate their lives to God; giving them a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Both Gilgamesh and the men in The Old Testament dedicate a part of, or their whole lives to something larger than themselves. Although the parallels of these two tales are clear there are some differences. One difference between The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Old Testament is the role of women. Throughout The Old Testament there are many references to man owning women. In the first part of The Old Testament, Genesis, Eve is punished by God after eating some of the fruit God had forbidden her to try. God states “And for your man shall be your longing, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 4 pg. 161) This is solidified throughout The Old Testament. The relationship between father and son plays an important role however the bond between mother and child is almost never mentioned, other than daughters being able to be given to men as wives. However in The Epic of Gilgamesh goddess’ are mentioned frequently. When Gilgamesh needs someone to decipher his dreams he seeks out his mother’s help. Also in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, the half wild beast creature becomes tamed after his encounter with the woman Shamhat.
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The similarities between these two epic tales bring their historical accuracy into question to some people. But both of these stories deal with basic human curiosities. Such as how we were created, what our purpose is, the divine and our relations to them, and what else could exist outside of what we already know. It is amazing that these ancient pieces of work still hold such relevance to human’s today.