Gilgamesh, the King of Babylon; The current Iraq

Gilgamesh was a historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in what is commonly known as Iraq today. He lived about 2700 BCE. It is more of a celebration of the Sumerian king, Uru-inim-gina, as being a tragic hero. It recounts the pursuit for popularity and immortality by Uruk’s king.

We realize that the gods had created Enkidu who happens to us to be a wild creature but with the hope that Enkidu would challenge Gilgamesh perceived to be very arrogant and so ruthless with the aim of actually tempering his excesses the more. After undergoing some confrontation, Gilgamesh and Enkidu end up becoming friends. On a tour to the west, Gilgamesh and Enkidu come into an encounter with an evil monster in the Cedar Forest known as Humbaba. Enkidu does kill Humbaba and, in retaliation, Enkidu’s life is on the other hand taken by the gods. His death haunts Gilgamesh and truly does have a negative impact on him that he undertakes to seek eternal life.

I return, Gilgamesh is transformed into Gilgamesh the broken mortal from once the mighty hero. Gilgamesh’s pursuit for immortality leads him into further adventures with the most infamous one being his contact with Utnapishtim, an ancient hero who had survived a tragic flood. Utnapishtim’s tale contains loads similarities to the Biblical story of the Flood that Utnapishtim is in most instances referred to as the Babylonian Noah. Gilgamesh having followed Utnapishtim’s advice ends up finding a plant with the capability of rendering him immortal, only to have it stolen by a snake when he has fallen asleep, exhausted from his quest.

Gilgamesh, part human and part divine, happens to be the world’s strongest man and doubles as its greatest king. However, he is young, and treats his people with a lot of arrogance. In return, his people call for help from the sky-god Anu, who happens to be the chief god of their city. Anu creates a hairy wild man, names him Enkidu, places him out in the harsh and wild forests surrounding Gilgamesh’s lands. The wild hairy Enkidu has the strength of wild animals with which he tends to spend much of his time with, drinking water and eating grass only.

Some man who happens to be a hunter and is checking his traps in the forest encounters Enkidu running naked with the wild animals. The hunter hurries back home to tell his father about what he had seen. He is thus advised by the father to seek, from the great city of Uruk, one of the prostitutes serving the city’s temple, some woman named Shamhat, and go with her to the forest so she may have sex with Enkidu. This would helplose Enkidu’s strength and wildness completely. This so happened mainly because hunters and trappers complained much that Enkidu interfered with their hunting, and they went ahead to ask Gilgamesh to send Shamhat the prostitute to Enkidu.

Shamhat eventually meets Enkidu at a watering-hole where the wild animals had gathered; ends up offering herself to him and they have sex for six days and seven nights. Once he has experienced sex, the animals who happened to have been Enkudu’s friends flee. As he lost his strength and wildness, Enkidu also gained understanding and knowledge. He lamented his separation from the wilderness, so Shamhat offered to take him to the city where all the pleasures of civilization are found plus this was a plot to eventually introduce him to Gilgamesh, the only man who was worthy of Enkidu’s friendship.

Gilgamesh has two dreams, a rock falls from the sky to earth so huge that Gilgamesh would never have attempted to move it. So many people gather and celebrate around the rock, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would do to his wife, but his mother, the goddess Rimat-Ninsun, disapproves all this happenings. In the second dream, an axe appears at Gilgamesh’s door. It is equally so large that he would not even move it. Once again, people gather and celebrate around the axe, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would doo to his wife, but his mother once more proceeds to disapprove it. Gilgamesh asks his mother about the true meaning of the two dreams after he had woken up. He is told that a man of so much strength will soon land in Uruk and that he would embrace him as he would embrace his wife. The two together, as partners would end up performing so great things.

Enkidu is eventually introduced to civilization by living with a group of shepherds that teach him how to look after flocks, eat, speak properly and even to put on clothes. He then enters the city of Uruk during a wedding celebration whereby they come into a heated conflict of words with Gilgamesh. This comes about when Gilgamesh claims the right to have sex first with every new bride on the day of her wedding as the king of Uruk. Gilgamesh is just about to claim this right when Enkidu steps into the city. Anger by this great power abuse, Enkidu stands and blocks the door of the marital chamber thereby blocking Gilgamesh’s way from accessing the wedding celebrations. They two then fight ferociously until at some point Gilgamesh gains the upper hand.

Enkidu concedes Gilgamesh’s superiority and the two embrace and become very devoted friends.
The elders of the city of Uruk try hard to discourage Gilgamesh from his questto go to the forest. Eventually, they finally agree to go along with his quest. They place the life of the king in those of Enkidu, whom they insist will take the lead in the battle with the demon Humbaba and will make sure that Gilgamesh returns to Uruk safely. Gilgamesh’s mother, who doubles as the goddess Rimat-Ninsun, laments her son’s fate in a prayer to the sun-god, Shamash, asking why he gave her son a restless heart. Shamash in his reply promises her that he would keenly watch over Gilgamesh. Rimat-Ninsun then commands Enkidu to guard the king’s life and to take the lead in the forthcoming battle. Enkidu grows afraid and tries to convince Gilgamesh not to undertake this journey, but Gilgamesh expresses confidence that they would at the end of it all and at the end of the day succeed.

The two, Gilgamesh and Enkidu leave Uruk and embark on their quest to fight Humbaba the demon. On each day of the six day journey to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh prayed so much to the sun-god Shamash, who responded to his prayers by sending oracular dreams during the night in his sleep. These dreams seemed all to have been frightening. Gilgamesh dreams that he was wrestling an enormous bull that split the ground with its breath only. Enkidu interpreted the dream as meaning that the bull was Shamash and that the god would most likely protect Gilgamesh. In Gilgamesh’s third dream, the skies roared with thunder and the earth heaved, then came darkness and a stillness that resembled death. Lightning struck the ground and fires blazed back and forth; death rained down from the skies. When the heat disappeared and the fires went out, the plains had turned to ash.

Enkidu’s interpretation was not preserved, but he once again interpreted the dream in a more positive note. The fourth dream was also lost, but part of Enkidu’s response survived, wherein he once again told Gilgamesh that his dream pointed to some major success in the upcoming battle. When they finally arrived at the entrance to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh began to shake with fear; praying to Shamash and constantly reminding him of the promise to his mother that he would be at the end of the battle be safe and sound. Shamash from heaven orders Gilgamesh to enter the forest, telling him that the demon Humbaba, who usually wore seven coats of armor, was now only wearing one, and was therefore vulnerable. At this point Enkidu again lost his courage and attempted to run away, but Gilgamesh attacked him and they had a great fight. Hearing the noise of their fighting, Humbaba emerged from the Cedar Forest to challenge these intruders. Gilgamesh convinces Enkidu that they should stand together against Humbaba.

The two enter the beautiful Cedar Forest with its luxurious shade and begin to cut down trees. Hearing these sounds, Humbaba comes roaring up to them and tells them to leave. Enkidu shouts at Humbaba that the two of them are much stronger, but the demon, who knows that Gilgamesh is a king, taunts him for taking orders from a lesser man like Enkidu. Turning his face into a hideous mask, Humbaba begins to threaten the pair, and Gilgamesh runs and hides. This time it is Enkidu who keeps his nerve shouts at Gilgamesh, inspiring him with courage. The king emerges from his hiding place and the two engage in a fierce battle with Humbaba.

At length, the sun-god Shamash intervened, helping the heroes with blasts of wind, and Humbaba is defeated. After the battle Humbaba, on his knees and with Gilgamesh’s sword at his throat, begs for his life and offers to let Gilgamesh have all the trees in the forest and promises that he would always serve him. Gilgamesh at first seemed willing to consider Humbaba’s offer, but Enkidu tells him to kill the demon before any of the gods intervened and prevented Gilgamesh from achieving widespread fame for all the times to come. Gilgamesh then cuts off Humbaba’s head with his sword. Before he dies, however, Humbaba curses Enkidu: “Of you two, may Enkidu not live the longer, may Enkidu find no peace in this world!”

Gilgamesh and Enkidu proceed to cut down the trees to make a great cedar gate for the city of Uruk. They build a raft and float the timber down the Euphrates river to Uruk, bringing with them the head of Humbaba.