The Search For Eternal Life In the Epic of Gilgamesh

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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 immor...

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