The Epic of Gilgamesh

Leaving a Legacy College

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, characters are driven by a desire to immortalize their legacies through a noble monument or deed. The epic highlights the Mesopotamian belief that death is inevitable, but beyond this surface fear of death itself, there extends a far deeper fear of oblivion and being forgotten. Grappling with this inescapable truth, the two main characters, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, resolve to slay the mighty Humbaba in order to solidify their fame. However, their efforts prove to be vain, thus illustrating the poem’s broader outlook on death as a necessary driving force for humanity’s survival. This essay will first set out to examine Gilgamesh and Enkidu's heroic efforts to immortalize their names; it will then determine the efficacy of their efforts to elucidate the overarching meaning of mortality.

When Gilgamesh and Enkidu first set out to slay Humbaba, they are confident and eager-- their intentions are born from a thirst for adventure rather than a sense of urgency. Although rumors that Humbaba’s voice “is the Deluge, his speech is fire, and his breath is death” (II. Y110-111. p18) along with Gilgamesh’s ominous dreams of fiery “death rain[ing] down” (IV. 104. p33) momentarily strike the pair with fear, they take...

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