||[Jan. 11th, 2016|10:43 am]
Gilgamesh was a king of Sumer. There are indications that he may have been a real person. His epic is preserved in a Babylonian version that is approximately (very approximately) 500 years younger than Sumerian texts like The Descent of Inanna. |
They call it the first epic. I think it's the first novel.
It's a bildungsroman. Cocky young man has adventures, suffers loss, goes on an existential quest and comes to a muted, less exalted view of his place in the scheme of things. It's not unlike Great Expectations.
The most intriguing character is Enkidu- the wild man- first in a long, long line of noble savages and unspoiled innocents. He acts as Gilgamesh's conscience and side-kick. Gilgamesh sees nothing wrong in exercising his "droit de seigneur" over the young brides of Uruk, but Enkidu's sense of natural justice is outraged.
I wasn't bored.
The text is missing huge chunks- where clay tablets have been broken and abraded- but there's enough of it (about 80% of the presumed whole) for the story to be clear. The good news is that new bits of it are continually turning up.