The Epic of Gilgamesh

Later influence

The Epic of Gilgamesh has influenced both ancient and modern literature and culture, and themes from the Epic can be found in later biblical and classical literature.

Relationship to the Bible

Various themes, plot elements, and characters in the Epic of Gilgamesh have counterparts in the Hebrew Bible, notably the accounts of the Garden of Eden, the advice from Ecclesiastes, and the Genesis flood narrative.

Garden of Eden

The parallels between the stories of Enkidu/Shamhat and Adam/Eve have been long recognized by scholars.[22] In both, a man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting amongst the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. In both stories the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. The presence of a snake that steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic is another point of similarity.

Advice from Ecclesiastes

Several scholars suggest direct borrowing of Siduri's advice by the author of Ecclesiastes.[23]

A rare proverb about the strength of a triple-stranded rope (a triple-stranded rope is not easily broken) is common to both books.

Noah's Flood

Andrew George submits that the Genesis flood narrative matches that in Gilgamesh so closely that "few doubt" that it derives from a Mesopotamian account.[24] What is particularly noticeable is the way the Genesis flood story follows the Gilgamesh flood tale "point by point and in the same order", even when the story permits other alternatives.[25] In a 2001 Torah commentary released on behalf of the Conservative Movement of Judaism, rabbinic scholar Robert Wexler stated: "The most likely assumption we can make is that both Genesis and Gilgamesh drew their material from a common tradition about the flood that existed in Mesopotamia. These stories then diverged in the retelling."[26] Ziusudra ("he who found long life"), Utnapishtim ("he who found life") and Noah ("he who found rest") are the respective heroes of the Sumerian, Akkadian and biblical flood legends of the ancient Near East.

Other biblical parallels

Matthias Henze suggests that Nebuchadnezzar's madness in the biblical Book of Daniel draws on the Epic of Gilgamesh. He claims that the author uses elements from the description of Enkidu to paint a sarcastic and mocking portrait of the king of Babylon.[27]

While not directly discussed in the Epic itself, many of the characters in the Epic also have myths associated with them with close biblical parallels, notably Ninti, the Sumerian goddess of life, was created from Enki's rib to heal him after he had eaten forbidden flowers. Some scholars suggest that this served as the basis for the story of Eve created from Adam's rib in the Book of Genesis.[28]

Influence on Homer

Numerous scholars have drawn attention to various themes, episodes, and verses, that indicate a substantial influence of the Epic of Gilgamesh on both of the epic poems ascribed to Homer. These influences are detailed by Martin Litchfield West in The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth.[29] According to Tzvi Abusch of Brandeis University, the poem "combines the power and tragedy of the Iliad with the wanderings and marvels of the Odyssey. It is a work of adventure, but is no less a meditation on some fundamental issues of human existence."[30]

In popular culture

The Epic of Gilgamesh has inspired many works of literature, art, music, as Theodore Ziolkowski points out in his book Gilgamesh Among Us: Modern Encounters With the Ancient Epic (2011).[31][32] It was only after the First World War that the Gilgamesh epic reached a wide audience, and only after the Second World War that it began to feature in a variety of genres.[32]

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