In the epic of Gilgamesh, there are a lot of issues that humans undergo that portrays their quest for different things in life. This ambitions and limits are evident in various ways such as in the way love is depicted, civilization and mortality. These themes exhibit human limits and their ambitions in ensuring that they interact with others within their surroundings. The epic of Gilgamesh has an array of characters with different traits which makes them stand out in their daily struggle to meet their ambitions (Kovacs p.21).
Love is clearly apparent in different states such as one between friends and one between lovers. Love holds a great role in the epic like for the case of Enkidu who falls in love with a woman and this signals that he is joining human civilization. After being joined into animals’ kingdom, Enkidu falls in love with Shamhat with whom he engages into sexual activity. The act of sex was a really condemned activity within the wild animals as they considered one who has engaged in it has been incorporated into human society (Sandars p.39). The animals therefore feel that Enkidu has betrayed their norms and by breaching their accord, they therefore reject him and become considered an outcast. Sex is regarded as a corruptible force within the Epic thus Enkidu loses his innocence and life in the wild.
Goddess Ishtar makes some advances towards Gilgamesh who then rejects her because he reasons that she has been so cruel to her past lovers. Ishtar becomes furious for her romantic love being turned down by Gilgamesh. She considers him for having sinned in rejecting her romantic advances. This shows that the Epic portrays love as being harsh and punishing to people. Thus goddess Ishtar demands that Anu releases the Bull of Heaven which then kills Enkidu in revenge.
Friendship becomes vividly evident between Gilgamesh and Enkidu which positively transform both of them. Gilgamesh was hated by the villagers and was oblivious of his mortality as well as limitations. He was initially an arrogant leader who used to sleep with his brides a night to marriage but then when he meets Enkidu he changes his lifestyle to become a better person. Gilgamesh’s friendship with Enkidu was emphasized in the way he intervened to ensure that Enkidu was accepted into wild animals’ kingdom. This elaborates human nature as far as friendship is concerned among them. Their friendship was so strong that when Enkidu died, Gilgamesh believed that he was indeed mortal. He then resorted to search for everlasting life afterwards.
Civilization in the epic is portrayed as what provides protection and knowledge to people. Conversely, it is regarded as a corrupting force within the epic. It is the product that comes about after fall of man from innocence (Ceil p.43). For instance, Enkidu is created as an innocent person who just lives in the wilderness among wild animals. He then becomes tempted by knowledge as well as sexuality and then engages into a sexual activity with Shamhat. This symbolizes that he has transitioned from innocent nature to civilization. Enkidu then become rejected by nature and all the wild animals reject him. His less ambitious life then becomes transformed as he accompanies Gilgamesh on his zeal to earn glory. Enkidu becomes altered by civilization and he does not live in harmony with nature anymore.
Enkidu and Gilgamesh then start living luxurious lives in Uruk which is impossible in nature. This epic portrays that civilization is good and bad as it creates safety in addition to community for people inhabiting Uruk. However, it as well tantalizes them into self-satisfaction which is depicted by Gilgamesh through living luxurious life in the city in the beginning of the epic. Gilgamesh at the end of the epic brings tablets with writings on them to signal that knowledge has been availed to mankind. Knowledge is the cause of man’s fall from innocence as per the epic yet they have to use it to fend for themselves.
When Enkidu was dying, he curses Shamhat for seducing him and engaging her sexually which brought about his death. He cursed her for bringing him from nature into civilization which Shamash then reminds him of the achievements civilization has accorded him. For instance he reminds him of the friendship he has had with Gilgamesh. Enkidu then retracts his sentiments about Shamhat and becomes thankful of the achievements attained by transforming into human civilization.
Civilization encompasses a range of positive and negatives values are portrayed in the way it ensured the citizens of Uruk provided with food, shelter and water. However, the city also corrupts Gilgamesh as he is considered arrogant and has become tyrannical. He lives a luxurious lifestyle thus he becomes blamed for the kind life he leads by the citizens of Uruk. For instance they criticize him for wearing many animal hides and the way he puts too much care for his hairs. Gilgamesh is more concerned with enjoying lavish lifestyle and making himself a name rather than becoming a just as well as a kind leader.
Ceil, Chenoy. “Epic of Gilgamesh.” (2012).
Kovacs, Maureen Gallery. The epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford University Press, 1989.
Sandars, Nanck K. “trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh.” An English version with (1972).