The Epic of Gilgamesh, Essay Example

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Essay

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia. It is one of the oldest works of literature to date that is still in survival. There are two main versions of the epic, but many different variations. The two main versions are the Standard Akkadian version of the epic and the Old Babylonian version of the book. Although the versions differ, Gilgamesh’s quest throughout the various versions remains stagnant- he is an arrogant and pompous king who goes on a journey to find out the truth to immortality after losing his best friend. The quest of Gilgamesh can be compared to the quest of Siddhartha in the self-titled book by Hermann Hesse.

Gilgamesh is the King of Uruk- part man, part god- and Gilgamesh goes to the ends of the earth in search for the meaning of life. When the God’s notice the ways Gilgamesh is living- his lavishness, his mindlessness- they decide to create an equal for him. Enkidu is an uncivilized man who is destined to become Gilgamesh’s best friend. When Ishtar arrives however, she brings with her nothing but trouble for Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Ishtar is the goddess of love and war and calls on her father to bring the Bull of Heaven down to earth to force Gilgamesh to love her, but Gilgamesh slays the bull. The gods became angry that Gilgamesh and Enkidu slayed the bull and in his sleep, Enkidu dies painfully. This is the part of the story when Gilgamesh loses all meaning in life. He begins on a journey to go see a man named Utanapishtim, the one human being on earth who has been granted immortality by the gods. Once he finds Utanapishtim, Gilgamesh discovers that immortality isn’t necessarily for everyone. Gilgamesh and Utanapishtim set off on a journey back to Uruk, bringing the story full circle.

Gilgamesh is a very similar hero to the character of Siddhartha in the book by Herman Hesse. In Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha’, readers are taken on the spiritual quest of a boy during the time of the Buddha. Although Siddhartha is not a king, he does grow up in a prosperous family like Gilgamesh. The difference between Siddhartha and Gilgamesh is that Siddhartha is spiritually unhappy and leaves his home to go on a quest to find the meaning of life, whereas Gilgamesh is punished by the gods for his foolishness which leads him to his quest to find the meaning of life. Regardless of what lead the men to their quest, their journeys were still similar.

Gilgamesh left Uruk on a quest for the meaning of life and immortality. Siddhartha left his Brahman family to find his true roots and the meaning of spirituality. Both men left on a quest to discover more about themselves and both stories end full circle. In the end of Gilgamesh, he accepts the fact that he is not immortal, and when he goes back to Uruk, he is a new man. At the end of Siddhartha, Siddhartha has achieved Nirvana, reaching enlightenment- bringing Siddhartha’s quest full circle as well. Both stories excellently capture the quest of a hero looking for himself.

 

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