The Epic Of Gilgamesh Is Truly An Epic

1887 words - 8 pages

An epic is an extensive narrative poem celebrating the feats of a legendary or traditional hero. There are several main characteristics that make up an epic as a literary genre. First is that, it contains an epic hero, its hero searches for immortality (but doesn't find it physically, only through fame), it delivers an historical message, it is a long poem that tells a story, and the gods or other supernatural beings are interested and involved. The Epic of Gilgamesh is classified as an epic because it fits all the characteristics of an epic as a literary genre.
The first important characteristic of The Epic of Gilgamesh that helps to classify it as an epic is that it includes a hero. Gilgamesh is the story’s epic hero. Characteristics that determine an epic hero in the ancient world include strength, beauty, and high social status (Tigay 42). Gilgamesh fits all these descriptions. His great strength was described as that which could be matched by no other. His beauty was so evident that he could have any woman that he wanted. In fact, he slept with all the women in his city. Gilgamesh was also made 2/3 God and 1/3 human. This fact alone raised him up to a god-like social status. He was the king of Uruk because no one could challenge his strength or beauty. Most epic heroes are also widely known and famous which Gilgamesh, being king, obviously was. Aside from his attributes and status, the traditional epic hero must perform heroic feats (Abusch 620). Again, Gilgamesh fits into this category. First, Gilgamesh leads Enkidu on an adventure that will gain further fame for himself and his friend. This was the plan to take a journey to the sacred Cedar Tree and kill the Guardian of the Cedar Forest, Humbaba. This is considered a heroic deed because it was considered so dangerous to confront Humbaba. Like most heroes, he is successful in his conquests and shows great courage even in the face of harm. Gilgamesh saves the day once again when Ishtar sends down the Bull of Heaven to wreak havoc on the city. With the help of Enkidu, he kills the bull by using his great strength. This fighting scene is typical for an epic hero. Like most epic heroes, Gilgamesh has superhuman achievements in battle. Because of his great strength, beauty, and courage, Gilgamesh is clearly the hero of the story, which is necessary for the work to be considered an epic.
Another characteristic of an epic fulfilled by The Epic of Gilgamesh, is that the hero of the story goes on a journey in search of immortality. This is seen in many epics of the ancient world (Kramer 8). After the death of Enkidu, Gilgamesh realizes that one day, he too will die. From the beginning of the story, it can be seen that Gilgamesh has an obsession with fame, reputation, and the revolt of mortal man against the law of separation and death (Wolff 694). Tablets IX, X, and XI are all dedicated to this journey for everlasting life. Hoping to learn the secret of immortality,...

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