The epic of Gilgamesh was found in the mid
nineteenth century, written on over twenty five
thousand clay tablets. After much studying and
deciphering, this ancient Sumerian epic has
finally been translated, though many of the
tablets have not been found. It appears that all
the most important elements of the story probably
existed as separate poems when they were first
written. One of the oldest pieces of literature
found today, Gilgamesh is at least 1,500 years
older than Homer’s epics, and was probably
composed and recited many years, before being
written down. According to scientific data, the
tablets were probably written down in the first
centuries of the second millennium B.C., in
Mesopotamia. The tradition reaches back to the
time of the Archaic Sumerian civilization.
Sumerians were the first literate inhabitants of
Mesopotamia, so their language is found on the
tablets of Gilgamesh. In some other historical
material, records have been recorded about several
expeditions, many ones similar to the ones taken
by Gilgamesh. One example contains a man who made
a path into a cedar mountain on which no one had
ventured before. According to N.K. Sandars,
“Behind the solid fleshly Gudea we may see the
shadowy figure of Gilgamesh, a great builder of
temples and cities, who ventured into strange
forests and brought back precious cedarwood,”
(16). Even if there was no Gilgamesh, the
character is not fully fictitious.
The story of
the epic is mostly about the character Gilgamesh
who is superior king of Uruk or summer. An
extraordinary individual. He was one-third a man
and two-third god. For his special abilities he
was worthy to be worshiped, therefore he was able
to supervise everyone around. Citizens of Uruk
were unhappy with his behaviors so they asked the
gods for help. The gods respond by sending a man
named Enkidu, who was double Gilgamesh.
lived in the forest with animals and was so wild
person. One day Gilgamesh sent a hunter and a
beautiful woman to the forest, aiming to engross
Enkidu from the animals. The hunter left, and
Enkidu and the woman became good friends. Enkidu
was turned into a man, and he left with the woman
to Uruk. When Enkidu entered Uruk, the citizens
there began to glorify him as if he was their
king. As son as Gilgamesh heard about Enkidu
entrance, he became jealous.
After those two men
encountered each other they began to fight. As the
fight ended, each stood up, and saw themselves in
the other’s eyes. They embraced and immediately
became friends. The two men got to know each
other, and then decided to go on a quest seeking
fame. Gilgamesh and Enkidu decided to challenge
Humbaba, the guardian-demon of the cedar forest.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu prepared for their battle
against Humbaba. They went to a temple and the god
Ninsun performed a ceremony for their protection.
As the two heroes left for their journey, the
elders of the city turn over Gilgamesh to Enkidu’s
Enkidu and Gilgamesh walked for many days
towards the cedar forest. As they were walking
Gilgamesh started to have some doubts. However,
Enkidu reassured Gilgamesh and encouraged him. As
they approached the gates of the cedar forest
Enkidu started to feel afraid. This time Gilgamesh
insisted on continuing the journey. The men spend
a couple of nights wondering through the forest.
Finally the men meet Humbaba.
As the men strike,
Humbaba fights for his life. Enkidu advises
Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba. Gilgamesh strikes him,
but Enkidu delivers the final blow. The men
returned to Uruk pleased with their
accomplishments. When they returned the goddess
Ishtar spoke to Gilgamesh. She told him that she
wanted to become friends with him.
insults the goddess, and refuses his offer. Ishtar
is frustrated with Gilgamesh, so she asks her
father Anu to send the Bull of Heaven to punish
Gilgamesh. Descended from above Gilgamesh and
Enkidu immediately began to fight. Much like the
confrontation with Humbaba, Gilgamesh and Enkidu
defeated the Bull of Heaven. The men briefly
celebrated, again happy with their achievements.
As Enkidu was asleep that night he had a dream. He
dreamed that he was going to be punished severely
for the cruel acts that Gilgamesh and he had
committed against Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven.
The next day Enkidu became extremely sick.
was slowly dying, but Gilgamesh stood by his side.
Gilgamesh supported Enkidu, and was with him every
moment of his suffering. Finally, Enkidu dies due
to the strange sickness. Gilgamesh was very sad
about the death of his friend. He grieved many
days afterwards. At the funeral Gilgamesh recounts
the wonderful experiences he had with Enkidu, and
greatly praises his friend. Gilgamesh dedicates a
statue in Enkidu’s memory as well as performs a
ritual for Enkidu to have a good afterlife.
time proceeds, Gilgamesh becomes scared of his own
death. He decides that he is going to take a trip
to visit Utnapishtim, a man who is undying.
Gilgamesh begins his journey to visit this man, a
journey that no man has ever made. As he is
traveling, he passes through the Garden of the
Gods. He also meets a woman named Siduri. She
informs Gilgamesh that the journey is very
dangerous and again tells him that no man has ever
made the journey. Regardless, Gilgamesh continues
on the journey.
After a brief amount of time
Gilgamesh comes upon the waters of death. At first
he is skeptical in being able to cross the waters,
however he bargains with the boatman, Urshanabi,
who takes Gilgamesh across the waters. Gilgamesh
finally meets Utnapishtim. He speaks with him
questioning death. Utnapishtim responds by giving
Gilgamesh the answer he does not want; he informs
Gilgamesh that every man must die, and life is not
permanent. Utnapishtim then challenges Gilgamesh
to stay awake for six days and seven nights.
Gilgamesh fails this challenge, resulting in his
having to go home.
As he is leaving Utnapishtim
gives Gilgamesh a plant called
secures it well, but then loses it when a snake
takes it away. Gilgamesh returns home knowing that
every man is some day taken from the natural
world, and experience the spirits of afterlife.
Who are the Sumerians? Among the earliest
civilizations, there was a diverse group of people
in the fertile valleys between the Tigris and
Euphrates valley called the Mesopotamia. These
were known as the Sumerians. The Sumerian
civilization has left us with an enduring portrait
of their society, philosophy, government,
religion, and daily life. Summer was located in
Early settlements included Uruk,
Ur, and Eridu. They all started as independent
cities and then became city-states. The land was
rich, but was hard in the summer time. In spring,
the rivers would flood and irrigate the fields.
The riverbed was unstable and would flood at
unexpected times. The river would carry silt down
stream, which would help fertilize the land around
it. The land was one in which there were few
stones or rocks.
The Sumerians had an extremely
hot climate. There was little to no rain
throughout the winter months. The average summer
temperature was about 94 degrees. However, the
Sumerians used the climate to their advantage. For
instance, they would use irrigation systems to
produce a more abundant crop. The Sumerians
developed one of the first systems of monarchy.
individual that was considered to be a priest-king
ruled each city-state. He was in charge of leading
the military, administering trade, and helping
with religious ceremonies. Bureaucrats who
surveyed the land aided him. A council of elders
ruled each city. Each army was lead by a selected
individual called a lugal. Over time, the lugals
took over and established dynasties.
their courts of justice files, they used clay
tablets. One clay tablet even recorded the oldest
murder trial in history. The Sumerians believed in
justice and mercy, law and order and an organized
system of laws. The elders in each city-state
generally made the laws. The king was responsible
for all law and justice. However, the enis was in
charge of carrying out the laws.
The courts had a
specific order in which things were completed. The
written laws were actually some of summer’s main
legal documents. Sumerians believed that law and
justice should be followed. There was no clear
punishment for any given crime. The punishment was
actually left up to the judge. Some common
Sumerian laws include: Marriages- were arranged by
The marriage license was usually inscribed
onto a clay tablet. Divorce was common because
husbands were allowed to have more than one wife
if their first wife had no children. Children
could be adopted. The women ….
Research essay sample on A Glimpse Of Humanity Reaching Back To The Ancient Sumerians