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Gilgamesh: Young king of ancient Uruq (in present-day Iraq) in 2700 BC. Over the centuries, legends grew about this king (probably a real historical figure) that attributed to him superhuman powers. He was said to be two-thirds divine and one-third human. However, he was regarded as a man and thus was told he had to suffer the ultimate fate of all men, death. The young Gilgamesh of the epic is a headstrong ruler who takes advantage of his subjects and itches for challenges and adventures to prove his prowess and enhance his reputation. In this respect, he may be compared with military leaders of later centuries who sought glory on the battlefield, such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, and General George Patton. He may also be compared with present-day presidents, prime ministers, and dictators who recklessly wage war to demonstrate their resolve and win popular approval. Eventually, Gilgamesh tames his wilder instincts and achieves a measure of wisdom after undergoing deep depression and suffering prompted by the death of his friend, Enkindu, another hero with superhuman powers.
Enkidu: Powerful hero created by the gods to offset the unbridled power of Gligamesh. He first lives in the wilds grazing among the animals, for he has no knowledge of man and his ways. After a prostitute named Shamhat from the temple of the goddess of love seduces him, he begins to learn the ways of man with the help of Shamhat, and the animals reject him. Believing himself superior to Gilgamesh, he travels to Uruk to confront him. The two clash in a raging struggle but end up becoming inseparable friends. After Gilgamesh and Enkindu kill the monstrous guardian of the cedar forests, Humbaba, and slay the Bull of Heaven, the angry gods decree that one of the men must die--Enkidu.