The oldest known epic tale in the world was written some 1500 years before Homer the Greek Poet wrote the Illiad. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” tells us of the Sumerian Gilgamesh, hero king of Uruk, and his adventures. The epic story was written in cuneiform upon twelve clay tablets, and were discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853, within the ruins of Ashurbanipal library in Nineveh, and it is believed to date around 1300-1000BC.
Gilgamesh the great hero of the Sumerian people; King Uruk dates back to 2100 BC. His life is full of madness, emotion and anxiety. The story, the legend of his life has been pieced together from a collection of clay tablets.
At the start, the young king is bursting with energy, a soldier a warrior at heart, and explorer. His strength knows no limits, he be a great lover, and no virgin was safe. He desperately longed for a friend, someone who would be his equal, in strength.
The Gods hearing his desire created Enkidu, with the strength of Gilgamesh, wild with matted hair which covered his whole body. He lived amongst wild animals, ate as they did and drank from the streams. News reached Gilgamesh from a hunter, who had come face to face with this wild and strange creature of the forest.
Gilgamesh knew this was the friend he so desired, one with a strength to match his own. He hatched a plan; one of the temple prostitutes would enter the woods naked, seek out the said creature and tame him.
Gilgamesh and Endiku met in the marketplace at Uruk, and there was a wrestling match of champions, testing out each other’s strength. People crowded round to watch as Gilgamesh proved triumphant, flinging his opponent upon his back. From that time a friendship was formed, as these two warriors, hunted panthers and guardians of the cedar forest. They slew the Bull of Heaven, and Gilgamesh had the horns mounted upon the walls of his bed chamber.
Enkidu fell sick as Gilgamesh sat by his death bed for six days and seven nights. Finally, death came, as a worm fell out of Enkidu’s nose. Gilgamesh roared like a wild animal, in response, and roamed the forests, weeping, in fear of his own death. Gilgamesh ended up at the tavern at the end of the world, and sought out Ziusudra, a demi-god who had never really died.
Gilgamesh constructed a boat complete with punting poles topped with bitumen, and headed across the water to meet with the seer; Ziusudra. The Seer offered him eternal youth. All he had to do was obtain a plant of prickly design from the seas’ bottom. Gilgamesh tied stones to his feet and the weight would pull him down, collected the plant of eternal youth, cut himself free of the stones and his body rose to the surface in triumph.
Whilst he rested upon the shore from his exertions, a snake smelled the plant and stole it from him.
Gilgamesh was as good as dead.