Desperate Search for Immortality in the Epic of Gilgamesh
The search for immortality seems to be an obsession for many men and women all throughout history. In the Epic of Gilgamesh a man investigates the possibility of immortality following the saddening death of his friend, his brother Enkidu. That man, Gilgamesh, feeling the fear of the possibility of his own mortality which was before unrealized before the death of Enkidu, searches for a way to preserve himself.
Is it truly that Gilgamesh searches for a physical immortality or more of a spiritual immortality? Gilgamesh wishes to give the flower of immortality to the elders of the city to rejuvenate them and return the youth to the kingdom of Uruk. This show of selflessness and concern for his people is a sight that might not have been seen a short while before his meeting with Enkidu and his influence on Gilgamesh which changed his view of life. Gilgamesh clearly tries in the end to restore the youth to the elders for the purpose of keeping the memory of not only himself but also Enkidu alive. As long as your culture and relatives survive so do you. Every relative has a piece of you carried along with them.
Why didn’t Gilgamesh just eat the plant and live as an immortal? Perhaps it was because if he were to eat the plant he would become a lonely king who just would become more and more saddened by his people whom he loved die over and over again and only he would remain. His close friend, Enkidu, was gone. His father warnied him of the loneliness - perhaps this convinced Gilgamesh of his course of action.
Gilgamesh has been through many adventures and he gained wisdom to go along with his god like physical powers. Gilgamesh learns that the greatest type of immortality is the noncorporeal. The worth of a man's life is many times said to be measured by the things he has done and the legacy that he has left behind. After realizing that he was not a god-man, Gilgamesh understood that the real glory is in the deeds you have done and the people you have affected in good ways over your life.
Many ancient peoples had stories with morals to them. The Epic of Gilgamesh clearly promotes the moral feelings of the time. The epic clearly expresses the high value placed on family and children. Gilgamesh wanted to enjoy immortality with his friend and he eventually achieved his goal. Thousands of years after the death of Gilgamesh he and Enkidu continue to live through the story of their adventures which have been passed down through time - keeping the two friends in an immortal state for as long as the story is told.
Gilgamesh in trying to achieve immortality to secure a long life for himself at first. The death of Enkidu shakes Gilgamesh to his core. All of the sudden Gilgamesh has a serious situation on his hands. But does he really want to be immortal? Perhaps before the loss of his friend he might have had no problem with that at all, but now it seems that it is a different story.
Gilgamesh travels the land killing animals and wearing their skins, similar to his brother Enkidu before he came to Uruk. Then he travels to a great mountain were a passage to a garden of the gods is located. Here he meets the man-scorpion who is guarding the passage. Then he passes through a great darkness, to the great garden were he meets several people who all tell him he will not find immortality. A young women tells him were his father is and he tries to get to him via the boatman and the ocean. Gilgamesh reaches his father and after all was said and done the one thing that he came away with was that his father was very lonely even though he is immortal.
After leaving that place with the boatman Gilgamesh is told a secret by Utnapishtim the Faraway's wife that their is a place were the flower of Immortality is located and that it can restore his youth and the youth of others. Gilgamesh gets the flower and leaves for home with the boatman, but along the way a serpent in the pool steals the flower and it is lost. An interesting symbol of evil similar to the bible is the snake or the serpent. They return to Uruk and shortly after Gilgamesh dies, but his wife and son go on. The legacy continues and Gilgamesh truly attains immortality in the stories of ancient Mesopotamia.
So it seems that there is a moral in this ancient tale that the ideals of Uruk at the time was not to worry about your afterlife, but to focus on the time with your family and friends. The focus is on the present and the road to immortality is in the memories of your friends and loved ones.
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