The Epic of Gilgamesh Questions and Answers

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1.In what ways do Gilgamesh's deeds help advance or preserve that society? 2. What do Gilgamesh's qualities and talents suggest were important values in the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian cultures? 3. What do his flaws or limitations how about ancient Sumerian or Babylonian cultural attitudes? 4. What positive qualities or talents do you think would be displayed by the hero of an epic produced in America today? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think the note of conclusion that is struck in the epic is one where Gilgamesh understands his purpose as being geared towards social betterment. Gilgamesh had carried himself for much of the narrative as one driven by his own personal notion of the good.  The self- indulgence that defined so much of his identity is shed towards the end of the narrative. The way in which Gilgamesh evolves is one where he acknowledges the importance of his deeds in a larger sense:

And so they traveled until they reached Uruk.
There Gilgamesh the king said to the boatman:

“Study the brickwork, study the fortification;
climb the ancient staircase to the terrace;

study how it is made; from the terrace see
the planted and fallow fields, the ponds and orchards.

One league is the inner city, another league 
is orchards; still another the fields beyond;

over there is the precinct of the temple. . . . ,
Three leagues and the temple precinct of Ishtar.”

Measure Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh 

For Gilgamesh, the very idea that he can identify with the city of Uruk, "his" city, represents his ability to embrace deed and actions that advance and preserve society.  When he speaks to the boatman, the pride he feels is not for himself, but for something larger that he has helped to create.  The intricacies and nuances have become part of why he does what he does and why he believes what he believes.

At the end of the narrative, Gilgamesh understands that the path to find some notion of transcendence in a temporal condition of being is to do for others, to act in a manner that advances the social order and collective notion of the good.  The fact that the epic ends in this light is reflective of how the ancient cultures defined what the purpose of being. They did not see individuals as needing to capitulate to self-...

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