The Search For Eternal Life In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

2359 words - 9 pages

Grieving for days, lost in thoughts, and stricken with immense sadness and loss of direction, Gilgamesh laments for days over the loss of his friend Enkidu. Gilgamesh shouts aloud the following statement in regards to his current state of bereavement: “Me! Will I too not die like Enkidu? Sorrow has come into my belly. I fear death; I roam over the hills. I will seize the road; quickly I will go to the house of Utnapishtim, offspring of Ubaratutu” (Gardner Tablet IX 2-7). Gilgamesh so much feared death that he threw away his honor as a warrior in order to obtain immortality. Why is it that the concept of immortality has gained so much popularity throughout the ages? Why is death one of humanity’s greatest fears?

The fear of death and the search for eternal life is a cultural universal. The ideology surrounding immortality transcends time and a plethora of cultures. The theme, immortality appears in stories from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was composed by ancient Sumerians roughly around 600 B.C., to present day works of fiction in the twenty first century. The word immortality plays a crucial role in the development of characters in the Epic of Gilgamesh; it reveals the importance of life everlasting, and the triumph of humanity’s inordinate fear of eternal rest, death. The focal point of this paper is to shed light on the nature of Gilgamesh and his pilgrimage for immortality after the death of his dearest companion Enkidu in tablet VII. Gilgamesh, a figure of celestial stature, a divine being, allows his mortal side to whittle away his power. Undeniably, defenseless before the validity of his own end, Gilgamesh leaves Uruk and begins a quest for Utnapishtim; the mortal man who withstood the great deluge and was granted immortality by the gods (Freeman 36). Death and eternal life is a theme that can be found in Greek and Roman mythology.

Throughout the epic, readers are able to readily postulate that Enkidu is an indispensable piece of Gilgamesh’s being. Enkidu assumes the role of being the complete opposite of Gilgamesh, in a way he becomes an antagonist. Once Enkidu’s life came to an end, Gilgamesh is struck with unbearable grief. The life that he once lived is shattered into pieces and he finds it difficult to return to his former glorious self; this is the first time in Gilgamesh’s life that he has ever felt the emotions of fear. He is afraid to die. The inevitable fate that has plagued humanity for ages, death, has now become the greatest barrier that he must overcome. The immense scope that separates death from eternal life is breached; this crossover leads to a paramount connection between the supernatural and mortal universe. Gilgamesh, two thirds god, and one third human is left at the intermediary. His metamorphosis will establish a sense of restoration in his life. Along these lines, even though Gilgamesh existed “… thousands of years ago, he remains immortal in the sense that we still refer to him and his story” (Sadigh 85).
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