What aspects of civilization does the "Epic of Gilgamesh" help us to understand?

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valtaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is much to be learned from the "Epic of Gilgamesh" both historically and from a socially scientific point of view.

Because it is one of the earliest know works of its kind, the epic gives us a general idea about when humans began to record stories rather than lists and inventories. A much more complicated system of writing is required for the epic.

Though the legend is based on a Sumerian king who lived possibly in the 27th century B.C., the events were not recorded on clay tablets for at least another 1000 years. This illustrates the human ability to preserve events in the oral tradition for a very long period of time.

Also helpful to the study of ancient civilization are the descriptions of the gods who were recognized and worshipped by the Sumerians, as well as their role in relation to their human subjects. There are also a number of human relationships illustrated in "Gilgamesh."

The details found in the epic parallel biblical events in Genesis, and some of Homer's works as well. It is also important to note that many more recent epics have been influenced by "Gilgamesh," which demonstrates the human acceptance of the general struggle between the hero and life's many challenges.