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GILGAMESH
Introduction
Gilgamesh is the protagonist of the Akkadian poem, Epic of Gilgamesh. The poem is considered one of the finest works of ancient literature. Most scholars view Gilgamesh as a significant historical figure. This is attributed to the findings that confirm the existence of the other characters and features associated with him in the literature. Historians presume that had he existed, he would probably be the supreme ruler who would reign sometime between 2800-2500 BC. It is also claimed (by the king list of Sumeria) that he ruled the city of Uruk for close to 126 years. As per the epic, Gilgamesh is depicted as a demigod with extraordinary and superhuman strength.” 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”. After the sudden demise of Enkidu, his closest and sole friend, he sets out on a journey to meet Utnapishtim. Utnaphitism was a sage who had survived the great flood.  Discovered in the nineteenth century, the story enables us to see the culture and the inhabitants of the region. The story of Gilgamesh was written over an extended period, by no specific author but was an accumulation of many people adding their parts to the epic over an extended period of time. He first appears as Bilgamesh in earlier Sumerian recording in oral tradition. The most recent and most comprehensive narration of the Gilgamesh legend was the tablet of standard Babylonian version, put together into twelve pieces by a priest named Sin-Leqi-Unninni. There are other references to Gilgamesh that appear at a later time. First, in the Qumran scroll, called the book of giants, Gilgamesh appears as one of the two giants. He also seems as Gilgamos in de natura animalium, by Greek writer Aeolian. Theodore ban konai even mentions him as king Gligmos as the last of twelve kings who were occurring at the same time as the patriarchs, i.e., from Peteg to Abraham.
Tablet 1
Character
 In regards to his character, Gilgamesh is a demigod, a compound consisting of one part man and two parts god. He greatly suffers from immoderation. No human is greater than him, but his flaws and virtues are huge. For instance, he is a fierce warrior and a greatly ambitious builder, was known for his heroism and perseverance but also tired out his subjects through forced labor and forced exercise of power. He also selfishly satisfies his appetite, he rapes whichever woman he pleases, he was also seen a self-righteous and prideful. His levels of loyalty are seen in his friendship with Enkidu; he looked out for his friend during dangerous encounters. Gilgamesh differed enormously from other leaders in the history of humanity; he put himself above the people and the entire nation. According to the poem “no son is left with his son, 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” He did not see any need to conquer probably because he felt that he possessed enough, to begin with. He just dedicated most of the time to enjoying his life. He did not consider any other ideologies and only had a basis for ‘himself.’ And those who came in the way of his enjoyment were exterminated. He believed that all those blessed with his presence should be able to recognize him and look up to him. Gilgamesh’s pride also spread in battle, he often underestimated the opponents and viewed combat as just a game of amusement. His colossal ego hindered him from acknowledging those fighting him as a real threat.  Being a real balance of man and god, and good and evil his character later changes and turns out to be a just ruler and a better person will capture the journey that leads to this transition. 

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Tablet 2
Enkidu
As the story progresses, the people of Uruk, including the nobles of Uruk become greatly irked by the oppressive leadership of Gilgamesh. As per the poem, “the men of Uruk muttered in their houses, Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night”. He had grown to be more powerful than any other leader around him hence no one could ever overthrow him. His arrogance and restlessness had caused great havoc. With a great deal of unhappiness and desperation among the civilians, the nobles turn to praying to the gods to come to their aid. The gods create Enkidu, a man who was equal to Gilgamesh in every way. Enkidu was initially a wild man who stayed in wild animal habitat in the steppes of their land. He is eventually tamed by a temple harlot who aims to make him human. A project that becomes successful and he is later taken to Uruk. 
Tablet 3
Friendship
In Uruk, he takes part in wrestling matches with Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh and Enkidu first meet outside a temple at Uruk. Enkidu immediately states that he would reprimand the king and correct his arrogance. They get into a rivalry that went on for several days. Gilgamesh for the first time meets his match and is compelled to apply all his strength to match his new opponent. He may either have been a surprised or infuriated by having found his equal. He was forced to bring out his carefully hidden treasures; this marked the first-ever use of the gate of Babylon as a weapon. Regardless of at first seeing this as humiliation, he eventually started to enjoy this and brought them out with no regrets. Over time, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become close friends. They take part in a lot of of work, battles and adventure side by side.  Enkidu’s place can be described as that of a faithful sidekick to Gilgamesh. His role, however, changes with time. He becomes more than a helper to Gilgamesh; he turns to his brother, soul mate or even his equal. Rather than forcing him to become a good leader or overthrow him, Enkidu overcomes him with genuine friendship, molding him into a perfect leader. He becomes the first person that Gilgamesh cares about and is expresses loyalty to. Their friendship becomes the firm foundation of the epic; their friendship is seemed to be based on a mutual respect for one another’s courage and strength. It took this relationship to help Gilgamesh realize the relevance of association with other individuals.
Tablet 4
Adventure
One particularly dangerous mission of the two friends would change the course of Gilgamesh’s life forever. This was one Gilgamesh decided to set out to the forest in pursuit of humbaba. Humbaba was referred to as the beast of the gods and the powerful protector of the forests. His main reason for this pursuit was that it was part of his mission in purging away all evil of the world to protect Uruk. Enkidu initially protested that this journey was perilous as the beast they were up against was really fierce, but Gilgamesh’s determination was overwhelming, and they finally embarked on the adventure. They emerged victoriously, but Enkidu became confused by the action. (Gale, 2015) This was because slaying the beast was not an order of the gods and also did not seem to be an act of saving the people he had for long been oppressing. Over time, Uruk became exceedingly prosperous and the envy of many nations around. Gilgamesh’s power grew until the gods couldn’t fail to acknowledge him.
Tablet 6
The bull from heaven and Enkidu’s death
 This prompted Ishtar, the goddess of fertility to fall in love with him and even propose. Unfortunately, the king rejected the proposal, terming her as the corruptor of all men, cruel and unfaithful. She was infuriated and felt insulted. In a bid to get revenge, she went to his father to unleash the bull of heaven.’ Father, let me have the Bull of heaven, to kill Gilgamesh, for if you do not grant me the bull of heaven, I will pull down the gates of heaven itself, Crush the doorpost and flatten the door And I will let the dead leave’. The unstoppable creature was responsible for seven years of destruction on earth and severe starvation. The two friends came together to fight the beast and were eventually victorious after cuffing it with the chains of heaven. This only made Ishtar more furious as Gilgamesh for the second time crushed her reputation. She had them punished for killing a beast of the gods. The sins punishment was death and Enkidu being a creation of the gods had to heed to the sentence. Enkidu slowly returned to clay which he had come from, Gilgamesh held on to his crumbling friend desperately in his arms as he cried. This was the turning point of Gilgamesh’s life.
Tablet 8 
Effects of Enkidu’s death
Up until this moment, Gilgamesh had been moving through life by his own selfish standards. He had just been purging, accumulating wealth, having many women. When he saw his friend returning to dust, he had a complete change in his views.  Suddenly, death had inspired a great feeling of gripping fear and grief in him. This was attributed to the fact that someone he considered an equal could die. He registered the actual reality of death for the first time and fell into a deep depression.  This is considered the climax of the epic.  Gilgamesh sets out to find himself, to truly know the path of humanity before it comes to its eventual end. With his energy and vigor fading due to the depression, he sought out the ancient spirit herb of immortality and perpetual youth. The fear of death pushed him. 
Tablet 9
Beginning of journey
 Gilgamesh departed Uruk and went to seek out Ziusundra, a sage who had been alive since leading many animals into an ark before a deluge that murdered everyone on earth came. He was said to be the only human being who had survived the massive storm. He, for decades, wandered all through the deserts. The epic describes his movement during the journey as “groveling along pathetically” .though a demigod; he was tasked with the same mission of all mere human beings, overcoming death (Kline, 2016). He progressed with his journey with, “idiocy that exceeded that of human,” putting aside his power, authority, pride, and ego. He passes through mashtu, the hills that were believed to guard the rising and setting sun. This was seen as him having reached the ends of the earth in his quest. After that, he had to pass through lands no mortal man had ever gone through, but despite the warning by the guardian of the gate, Gilgamesh goes through. The region is covered in a pitch-black darkness that only got worse as he went further. He just sees the light after eleven leagues and finally arrives at the gods’ garden.
Tablet 10
At the shore

 Here he meets Siduri who discourages her that the mat will never attain eternal life. Fear of death was not his only motivator, but also his hate for it, for taking away his only friend. So he does not pay any attention to what Siduri says and demands help to find Utnaphisitim. She directs him to Urshanabi, the ferryman connecting to Utnaphisitim as no mortal man could just cross the sea without help. He helps set up a boat, which he had destroyed in anger.
Tablet 11
Unapishtim
 They later travel for three more days and arrive at the waters of death. Upon reaching his destination, the realm of the dead, Gilgamesh was disappointed. He found that Utnaphisitim and his immortality for were in no way special. Utnaphisitim had attained longevity after being ranked together with the gods, becoming half man half plant. Gilgamesh did not want this as he wanted to maintain human attributes and rejected living forever with no appetite. Similar to what Siduri had told him, Utnaphisitim tells him that his quest for immortality was futile as ‘there is no permanence’ and the gods and divine judges determine our fate. Upon request, he tells the story of how he attained immortality. He said that, according to Enlil. Human beings had overstepped their limits. They had built loud cities that interfered with the gods’ sleep. This Enlil was infuriated by this and plans to drown the entire humanity in a huge flood. A different god, ea, who did not share Enlil’s idea of punishment, warns Utnaphisitim in a dream. Utnaphisitim is instructed to build a boat with specific measurements and dimensions. The boat was launched into the waters with only Utnapishtim’s gold his children and wives, other family members and some animals. Later on, the storm starts and rages on continuously for six days and nights. After all calms down Utnaphisitim works to find a place to land on, he eventually does and in so doing avoids his prescribed fate. ‘I (Unapishtim) released a dove from the boat, it flew off, but circled around and returned, for it could find no perch…..i released a raven from the perch, it flew off and the raven had receded.’ Utnaphisitim is then placed far away by Enlil, at the river mouths and blesses him with immortality, in the following words,’ At one time Utnaphisitim was mortal. At this time let him be god and immortal, let him live far away at the source of all the rivers’ .  Gilgamesh is given a test, one that has no need for physical strength. He is challenged to go for six days and nights without sleep, a task that is difficult to any human. It is thus his humanity that makes him fail that test. Gilgamesh is then given the secret to becoming immortal without using the god’s mercy. It is through consuming the herb that was found deep in the waters. He did not plan to consume it himself but rather keep it as a rare treasure to decorate his safe. He returned above ground with a new and inexplicable state of mind.  He felt that there was no longer need for immortality designed by the gods. He was happy at his own realization and even came out believing that he could beat death and avenge his brother. The rugged state suddenly fazes him and wished to cleanse himself before he would return to Uruk. He rests on a spring, to recover from the fatigue he had accumulated during the decades of searching. The water healed him, and he experiences what can be described to him as his genuine feeling of joy, he attains tranquility in the body and in mind. (Brown, 2017)  It was at this moment that the herb he had carried was snatched away by a snake, but he did not seem to care.  The snake took in the herb and immediately started shedding; this indicated its restoration of youthfulness.
Self realization
His journey had completely transformed Gilgamesh. Though he had assumed he was complete before and had reached physical maturity a long time ago, he at this moment realized mental maturity. This was the end of his youth. For a long time, he had set out to attain immortality and conquer his fear of death; he had become obsessed with his impermanence. However, he loses the method to immortality and finds himself. He gladly accepts his mortality and opts to be a good king and a source of inspiration to the commoners. He seems to have accepted his purpose and place in the universe and seeks to be virtuous and glorious, and that immortality was unnecessary in this duty. He achieved a reward of joy and fulfillment in life.  He returned home a new and mature man, this marked the end of his adventures, and he became a good ruler. (Badalamenti, 2017) Leading Uruk into prosperity, happiness and brought it to completion. He extended a quiet rule over Uruk and peacefully entrusted it to the next king just before meeting what he once feared eternal rest.  It is said that, before his death, he went for the herb once more but only to complete his personal collection.  The whereabouts of the herbs remained concealed even after his death. His death was greatly mourned for by the people of Uruk and was remembered as a faithful servant of the gods and as a hero.