What does the prologue suggest about the values of ancient Mesopotamians in The Epic of Gilgamesh?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first value we see in the Prologue to Gilgamesh is the valorization of distant antiquity. Similar to the Biblical story of Genesis and the archaic Greek account of the history of humanity in Hesiod's Theogony, Gilgamesh promulgates a mythos of decline, positing a golden age when there were heroes greater than people as they now exist. The decline is attributed to humanity having offended the gods in all these stories. This attitude is quite different from the contemporary western myth of progress. 

Next, the Prologue sets before us an image of the ideal man. The first characteristic of this ideal is close connection to the gods; humans who were greater than average are presumed to have divine progenitors. Next, physical strength and stature are admired, as are concrete contributions to the city, including erecting monumental buildings. Gilgamesh is valued as much as a city-builder as a warrior. 

Gilgamesh is not only a doer of great deeds but also a writer:

Long was his journey, weary, worn down by his labours

He inscribed upon a stone when he returned

This story.

Thus we can see that the Mesopotamians valued literacy and skill with words as well as warlike deeds. 

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The Epic of Gilgamesh

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