The Epic of Gilgamesh describes a short story of the hero king of the earliest Mesopotamia. It narrates how Gilgamesh meets with gods, creatures, kings and also encounters human relationships like love, loss, loneliness, feelings, friendships, revenge, and fear of death. According to the tale of Gilgamesh, he is the strongest, wisest, and the most handsome mortal who is both a god and a man. As the only king of the city-state of Uruk, Gilgamesh decides to build a wall surrounding the city. Due to this, the citizens get overworked prompting them to pray to the gods for relief. The gods respond by creating Enkidu leading to a fight that forces Gilgamesh to changes his ways.
According to the poem the Sumerians valued the gods hence they were polytheistic. The people of Mesopotamia instinctively looked up to the gods rather than their kings to right the wrongs in society. Throughout his life Gilgamesh the king portrayed strength, courage, perfect body, greatness, loyalty, and ambition, however, the people knew that it’s only through the gods they would get justice in the long term. The epic of Gilgamesh also reveals values of respect, responsibility, friendship, and love which are the greatest of them all. For example, the greatest love within the friendship between king Gilgamesh and Enkidu motivates them to become better men in various ways. Their connection allows the king to get in touch with the needs and interests of his people.
The story also reveals romantic interests (erotic love) among the people as Enkidu’s education starts with the temple harlot initiating him into sex. This marks the beginning of their troubles as they disagree with the goddess of love. However, at the end of it, Gilgamesh understands that sex belongs to humankind and hence his place was on earth. This shows the Sumerians values of the nature of humanity, that people can never become original gods. The Sumerians believed that death was unavoidable to humans, the tale reveals the desires for immortality, the inevitability of death, and choices. For example, the ruler spent his entire life trying to defy death, he was angry that it’s only the gods who could live forever. However, he later finds peace in fatality with the hope of connecting with his friends Enkidu. The Sumerians viewed the gods as the most powerful, therefore they believed the deities were to live in heaven while the mortal spirits would go to Kur a dark and dusty house regardless of the behaviors.
The epic of Gilgamesh portrays the idea of the gods as the supreme power as the most critical theme (Sharif, Mohammad, & Mohammed, 2019). Even as they adored Gilgamesh they knew it’s only the gods who could relieve them of their troubles. The poem states that the Sumerians had to pray to the gods to help them with the harshness of the king. The idea of death was also significant to the Sumerians, Gilgamesh for example, after the demise of his friend Enkidu, spent his entire life trying to find ways to remain immortal and meaning of life, however, he had to believe in death.
The Sumerians valued the idea of having a good king who would not overwork, oppress them and undermine their women. For example, in the poem, they were so angry with the king for being too harsh on them and sleeping with their women. Women were not the smartest individuals nor were they the strongest. On the other hand men were seen as the most powerful and the strongest compared to women. The Sumerians also valued the idea of having a good king, and that why they prayed for relief from the gods who gave them Enkidu the wild man.
According to the poem, the Sumerians wanted their heroes to be brave, strong, powerful, wise, kind, loving, and great. Gilgamesh who was the Sumerian king represented the heroes in their society. The gods blessed him with beauty, strength, courage, and greatness which made him the greatest king in the eyes of the Sumerians. He was able to travel for thousands of miles and defeat the evil of Humbaba. He protected humankind by building a wall around the city. Additionally, he acquired wisdom and knowledge which connected him to the needs of the people and helped him to know of his place as a king.
Sharif, A. H., Mohammad, B. A., & Mohammed, I. (2019). Nature’s Retaliation in the Sumerian Epic Gilgamesh: An Ecocritical Study. Journal of the University of Garmian, 6, 2.