An epic poem of Mesopotamia, The Epic of Gilgamesh is based on the theme of friendship between the king of Uruk, Gilmesh and Enkidu who is created by Gods to prevent Gilgamesh from oppressing his subjects. Gilgamesh is a cruel oppressor who subjects the people he rules to untold misery by raping women on their wedding nights and putting men to forced labor for building projects. In response to the prayers of the people groaning under such oppression, God creates Enkidu, a wild man living among animals. Enkidu is first discovered by a hunter who in order to tame him sends a harlot named Shamhat to sleep with him. When animals reject Enkidu for sleeping with a human, Shamhat brings him to a shepherd's camp and teaches him human way of living life. When Enkidu hears the story of Gilgamesh's oppression from a passing stranger, he gets supremely outraged and travels to Uruk to combat him.
He finds Gilgamesh trying to force his way into a bride's wedding chamber. Enkidu stands on the way and the two breaks into a fierce battle. Gilgamesh finally wins but then onwards they become friends and Gilgamesh proposes Enkidu a journey to Cedar Forest to kill the demon Humbaba who is devoted to Enlil, the god of earth, wind and air. Before making the journey, Gilgamesh visits his mother to take her blessing and his mother, the goddess Ninsun, gives him the protection of the Sun-god Shamash. With the help and support of Shamash, the two fiercely battles the monster Humbaba and finally kills him. Upon Humbaba's death, they cut many trees in the forest and make an enormous gate using the tallest tree and rest are used in making a raft which they use to travel back to Uruk.
After returning to Uruk, Gilgamesh finds the goddess of love, Ishtar craving for him but he rebuffs her advances and enraged, Ishtar implores her father, Anu, the god of the sky to dispatch the Bull of Heaven to avenge him. The bull under the control of Ishtar causes massive destruction and finally Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the bull. The gods decide that one of the two friends must be punished for their sin of killing Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu is taken ill, suffers immensely for few days and finally breathes his last. On his death, Gilgamesh becomes completely heartbroken.
As Gilgamesh laments over the death of Enkidu, he gets reminded of the prospect of his own death and therefore, in order to find out the secret of immortality he sets out on a journey to meet Utnapishtim who like Noah was blessed with immortality after the flood. Gilgamesh's journey takes him to the mountain called Mount Mashu and he crosses the tunnel passing through the mountain in pitch darkness to arrive at the garden of the gods where he meets Siduri, the alewife who upon learning about his quest tries to dissuade him but later gives in to his persistency and directs him to the ferryman, Urshanabi who takes Gilgamesh through the waters of death to Utnapishtim.
Utnapishtim shares the story of great flood which the gods invoked in order to destroy the humankind and how Utnapishtim following the order of God built a giant boat to save each specimen of living creatures and was rewarded with immortality. Upon Gilgamesh's insistence, Utnapishtim puts him to test but Gilgamesh fails the test and so Utnapishtim orders him to return to Uruk. However, on his wife's request, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh about a miraculous plant that could restore youth. Gilamesh, on his way back to Uruk, loses the plant to a snake and returns empty handed. He becomes shattered at the futility of his effort but the sight of his own kingdom fills his heart with pride and he feels a sense of achievement and reconciles to the fact of his mortality.
The Epic of Gilgamesh. Retrieved on 9th September 2013 from
The Epic of Gilgamesh. Plot Overview. Retrieved on 9th September 2013 from