The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Sumerian epic poem that originated in the Sumerian city-state Uruk in Mesopotamia around 2,000 B.C.E. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the first known written fictional narrative story. The poem is a partly fictional epic about Gilgamesh, a king of Uruk. In the epic, it is said that he was created by the gods to be two-thirds god and one-third human. His only match in power was another man made by the gods, Enkidu, the man raised by the forest.
Gilgamesh is an epic hero, he embarks on a long and challenging journey, and he receives help from a supernatural force. Gilgamesh takes on a journey of 3 days and nights for him, but would normally take 6 weeks for regular men. They would travel a thousand miles every day for 3 days. They would eat after 400 miles and pitch their tents at the thousandth mile. Gilgamesh receives help from lord shamash.
An archetype is a term of Greek origin that is commonly defined as a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art or mythology. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and “Noah and the Flood” are both stories that are stories from different millennia long ago. Through the characters, theology, culture, and setting, when reading “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and “Noah and the Flood” it is immediately apparent that there are numerous similarities as well as differences that separate the two. Nonetheless they are reminiscent of a common archetype. Beginning by cross examining the characters in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and “Noah and the Flood” we can begin to understand how they alter the path their stores take including both similarities and differences.
The epic poem “Epic of Gilgamesh” is about a hero’s journey. First, one should know that Gilgamesh was once a selfish king that ruled over Uruk. When his best friend Enkidu dies, he realizes that he is mortal, so he goes on a journey to look for immortality (Sandars). In my opinion, heroes should always show loyalty and show respect to all classes of people. If the hero doesn’t show respect in the beginning, he will grow and will later on show much more respect.
Because he is of the gods and valiant, Gilgamesh is greatly glorified as a true hero. In the beginning of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the narrator states, “ Gilgamesh, who is two-thirds god, and one-thirds man, is handsome, courageous and powerful (Sandars 139). Gilgamesh is immediately characterized as a great and powerful figure. He was known in Uruk for his heroism and pride, and had abilities and powers beyond imaginable. When the people became tired of Gilgamesh, the gods sent him a match.
According to The Epic of Gilgamesh, a king is a divine agent whose duty it is to enforce the will of the gods and “be a shepherd to his people” (p.4). By definition, a shepherd is expected to protect his people from all harm seeing that it is a ruler’s responsibility to care for his own as evidenced by Gilgamesh’s quest to defeat the evil Humbaba. Furthermore, we can reason that another of the king’s roles is to expand his land and conquer new territory as per his duty as a military leader. We see this when Gilgamesh invades the forest and cuts down the cedar tree, thereby challenging Humbaba (p.10).
The Epic of Gilgamesh shows and describe the journey of a successful hero. Throughout his quest, Gilgamesh goes through a departure, initiation, and a return stage. When Gilgamesh and Enkidu sets out to go on the heroic journey to defeat Humbaba he experiences the first departure stage. The initiation stage occurred when Enkidu died and Gilgamesh started the second heroic journey searching for immortality. Gilgamesh search for immortality was beyond the initiation stage he searched for it through every quest and journey he encountered.
The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible have a few similar events and historians think that they may refer to the same event. The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible share a similar event, the flood, and a similar character, the serpent. Though there are still several distinctions between the two stories. The Bible and the Epic of Gilgamesh both contain a serpent as one of the less significant characters.
Cole and Ortega’s The Thinking Past is a book that covers the history of humans and civilization. Within the book the authors cover the transition of humans from a hunter-gatherer life into a more sedentary life: forming the civilizations we know today. This transition can be witnessed through the character of Enkidu’s in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Enkidu—a glorified forager—is forced into civilization, we watch him transform from a wild beast into a civilized person.
Throughout the Epic of Gilgamesh, it centers the journey of Gilgamesh, the hero of the story, but I found many other supporting characters to be more interesting. With that in mind, I have chosen Shamhat, the harlot sent to seduce Enkidu, as the character I will be writing through a new perspective. As I will be writing through Shamhat’s perspective, it will go deeper into one of the many themes in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is a misuse of power, and explores a new theme, which is the sexual exploitation of the female body, and how this aspect is overlooked. While reading the Epic of Gilgamesh, the readers often sees the privileged misusing their power over the inferior, and Shamhat is just another example of that. In the story, Shamhat is described as a harlot, which is a prostitute/promiscuous woman.
Achilles and Gilgamesh were both recognized as heroes in their society as we see in Mesopotamian’s “Epic of Gilgamesh” and Homer’s “Iliad.” Achilles was gifted as a child with invulnerability and became an extreme warrior who conquered cities and became an iconic hero among his fellow Achaians. Gilgamesh was born “Two thirds god, one third human” he becomes an epic hero through the triumph of his battles. Both Gilgamesh and Achilles were born semi-divine and experience conflict with their immortality. In “The Epic of Gilgamesh” Gilgamesh says, “I began to fear death, and so roam the wilderness” (Sandars, 10.61-72).
The meaning of what a hero truly is or entities differ from person to person. Some people believe that a hero is someone that is supposed to help everyone at all times. Some believe that a hero is someone that helps at the perfect time of need. Gilgamesh from The Epic of Gilgamesh by Danny P. Jackson went through a great journey to finally be seen as a hero and had to face many challenges along the way. Hancock from the movie Hancock faced a personal challenge.