The Epic of Gilgamesh is referred to as the oldest epic poem ever written. It originates in ancient Mesopotamia, which is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and it was presumably written around 2100 BC by an unknown author.
The Epic of Gilgamesh covers themes like the power of love and friendship, the pursuit of meaning and purpose, the quest for knowledge, the differences between women and men, the loss of innocence, the existence of divine and mythical forces and entities, success and failure, death and mortality, and humility, honor and courage; these ideas have become the standard thematic representations in epic literature.
The main protagonist—Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk—is essentially the first epic hero; after losing his best friend Enkidu, he goes on a journey to uncover the meaning of life and the secret to immortality. The heroic journey of Gilgamesh has inspired numerous writers to create characters that will go on their own epic journeys; thus, The Epic of Gilgamesh is where "the heroic ideal" in epic literature stems from.
Finally, The Epic of Gilgamesh teaches us a lot about ancient Mesopotamian society; it shows us what the ancient world thought of the universe and how the people lead their lives during those times. It also gives insight into Mesopotamian religion, which heavily influenced the creation of some of the biggest monotheistic religions known today, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as the development of Greek and Roman mythology. Thus, it can be concluded that The Epic of Gilgamesh has immense literary, historical, and social significance.