Although several thousand years old and written on tablets of clay, the Epic of Gilgamesh continues to fascinate contemporary readers with its account of Gilgamesh, ruler of Uruk; his companion, the ''wild man'' Enkidu; and their exploits together. Generally recognized as the earliest epic cycle yet known— prior to even The Iliad or The Odyssey —Gilgamesh was discovered and translated relatively recently. The Epic of Gilgamesh initially caught the attention of biblical critics for its episode of the "Mesopotamian Noah," that is, the character Utnapishtim, who, like his later biblical counterpart, was warned to build a great boat and stock it with animals and his family to avoid a disastrous flood. However, the epic is equally fascinating for the window it opens to the ancient and far-removed Sumerian and Babylonian cultures. Gilgamesh's struggle against the gods, the forces of nature, and his own mortality mirrors the always-contemporary endeavor to find one's place both in wider society and in the cosmos.
At the same time the Epic of Gilgamesh addresses these important metaphysical themes, it is equally a story of two friends, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and their devotion to one another even after death. All in all, the Epic of Gilgamesh contains everything we have come to expect from great epic literature: fantastic geographies and exotic characters; exhausting quests and difficult journeys; heroic battles with monsters, supernatural beings, and natural forces. It is, above all, the gripping story of an epic hero who is driven to meet his destiny and who rises to every challenge with courage and determination.