How might The Epic of Gilgamesh have offered moral instruction for its audience?
The Epic of Gilgamesh serves as a foundation myth for the city of Uruk, and in doing so sets out concepts of the proper role of the ruler in relation to nature, his subjects, and the gods. In a sense, the epic recounts an educational journey of Gilgamesh, transforming him from a bad ruler to a good one, and therefore providing simultaneous good and bad exempla for his successors. With respect to the gods, Gilgamesh learns that the king is subordinate to them and cannot escape fate or obtain or confer immortality. With respect to the land, Gilgamesh learns through the allegory of Humbaba the lesson of what we now think of as sustainability – i.e. hunting displays prowess but if overdone can lead to trouble. Finally, he learns to treat his subjects fairly.