Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 4 | Words: 905
Reading Time: 4 Minutes

The most outstanding work of Babylonian literature is remarkable “Epic of Gilgamesh”, which with the great artistic power raised the perennial question of the meaning of life and the inevitability of death of a person, even celebrated hero. “Epic of Gilgamesh” is divided into four main parts: 1) the story of the brutal ruling of Gilgamesh in Uruk, the emergence of the second hero – Enkidu, and the friendship of these two characters; 2) description of the exploits of Gilgamesh and Enkidu; 3) the story of Gilgamesh’s wanderings in search personal immortality; 4) the final part, containing a conversation with Gilgamesh shadow of his dead friend – Enkidu.

The Place of “Epic of Gilgamesh” in the Old Babylonian Art

“Epic of Gilgamesh” is a part of the oldest manuscripts. Besides, it is appreciated not only thanks to its value, but regarding this manuscript, we are able to compare it with other written sources and to study the way of main hero genesis.

Gilgamesh, as a protagonist, occupies an important place in the old Babylonian art. He is an ideal, as it ought to be according to the principles of that world: “When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad, the god of the storm, endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man”.

Even in the Oldest Elam we meet a humanlike loin fighting with a bull, and humanlike bull. A lot of scholars believe that Gilgamesh and his friend, wild human being Enkidu, were just prototypes of the characters. Then this topic became the widest plot in the entire oriental world with further broadening to the West.

At the beginning of the epic, Gilgamesh divides all the values of his epoch: his trying to become immortal gets the form of immortal uncouthness. He meets success by winning every time. He even fights with Enkidu and earns a soul mate. Together they have special force. Losing the best friend, Gilgamesh, for the first time, realizes the phenomenon of death with all its crucial reality. Along with this, the thoughts about his end are appearing. Now all the former values are in the past. He says to Siduri: “Because of my brother I am afraid of death, because of my brother I stray through the wilderness and cannot rest. But now, young woman, maker of wine, since I have seen your face do not let me see the face of death which I dread so much”.

During the entire epic the evolution in Gilgamesh’s character can be observed: from heroic idealism to realizing of reality, which obtains an important role, if to analyze it not only from the positive point of view, but also from the negative one – avoiding of death. Escaping from death – but how to characterize this escaping?

Gilgamesh is shown to the reader as a young man, even a boy, following this status and having no desire to break with youth in favor of becoming elder and wiser, connecting with wife and children, etc. He is very strong. Sometimes he seems to waist his strength for nothing.

Moreover, in this character some real peculiarities are highlighted, as if he is an ordinary human being with all the advantages and disadvantages: he is a tribe leader, organizing the most prominent battles: “Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute”. So, it should be pointed out that Gilgamesh is actually preset in all the families living on his territory. This fact can characterize him as a king close to his people, if not to make a deep investigation of his behavior during the ruling in Uruk. He also has some magic opportunities, which can be regarded as the necessary characteristic of leader at that time.

Some specialists in the area of ancient cultures can see in this character the remaining of the old possibility “to give birth”, having love connections with everything existing, giving life for every living being, which corresponds to god, named Roda. It makes the heaven to take measures, and the result is rather clear.   

At the end of the poem gods get angry with Gilgamesh, especially Utnapishtim, who tries to make the protagonist not to sleep for several days and nights. It is kind of testing for survival of semi-god and semi-human Gilgamesh. He managed to go through this test and to win. When he returns to his native Uruk, he is already not a young boy, but a wise king, who knows practically everything: “…the king, who knew the countries of the world. He was wise. He saw mysteries and knew secret things; he brought us a tale of the days before the flood. He went a long journey, was weary, worn out with labor, and returning engraved on a stone the whole story”.

To conclude, this character represents his time. Gilgamesh is a real hero, known by everybody and semi-god with an extensive power. The main peculiarity is that he changes completely.

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