The Pursuit of Immortality: Epic of Gilgamesh

Better Essays
“Shall I not die too? Am I not like Enkidu?
Oh woe has entered my vitals! I have grown afraid of death, so I roam the steppe.” (Gilgamesh Tablet IX. 1-5)
One of humanity’s ancient compulsions has been to vanquish death. This compulsion is strongly depicted in the Epic of Gilgamesh, as it creates a large portion of the Epic. It reveals the importance of the perception of immortality and the universal fear of humanity: Death. Immortality means to live on forever, indicating everlasting life. In a more symbolical way of thinking, immortality could be living on through remembrance of one’s accomplishments. This paper concentrates on the character of Gilgamesh and his pursuit of immortality after the loss of his friend Enkidu in tablet VII. For such a powerful character, a demigod at that, Gilgamesh lets his human side to emasculate his true power. Desperate for obtaining immortality, Gilgamesh deserts Uruk to begin his search for Utnapishtim, whom had survived the great flood and given immorality by the gods.
As Enkidu obviously becomes an important part of Gilgamesh’s life, in the beginning, he is represented as Gilgamesh’s total opposite; his other half in fact. Once Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh cannot go about life the same. “Gilgamesh cannot comprehend that his friend, his soul-mate, is now dead. He is confronted by the absurd nature of this loss, while at the same time he realizes that the universe is indifferent to his suffering; there are no answers, no solace. He begins to question the meaning of life or its meaninglessness. Suddenly, death becomes an undeniable reality to him, there is no going back.” (Sadigh 83) Gilgamesh makes the fate of all mortals, death, his final eminent task to conquer. He begins with an immediate attemp...

... middle of paper ...

...measures to stay alive as long as possible. Though, they actually just lose life worrying about avoiding death. Desperation for everlasting life only corrupts humans into accommodating short-lived and catastrophic means to avoid the fate of dying Even though Gilgamesh was one of the most favorable rulers before Enkidu came along, he is still a frequent topic in today’s literature as well as history. Just maybe he gained immortality after all.

Works Cited

Dickson, Keith. "The Wall of Uruk: Iconicities In Gilgamesh." Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 9.1 (2009): 25-50.
Sadigh, Micah. "The Foundation of Existentialism In The Oldest Story Ever Told." Existential Anaylsis: Journal Of The Society For Existential Analysis 21.1 (2010): 76-88.
"The Epic of Gilgamesh Vol. A." The Norton Anthology World Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. 99-151.
Get Access