From the Epic of Gilgamesh, what are the views of life and death in Sumeria?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ideas of life and death presented in the text are similar to beliefs that many people hold today (in general). For example, there is a depiction of an afterlife in the text, but Gilgamesh spends a good portion of the story searching for immortality. A look at the description of the underworld may explain why: it's dark, and it appears that all souls (good and bad alike) are trapped underground, to shuffle about like birds.

Gilgamesh's journey to immortality tells us more about these ideas. He is driven by sorrow for the loss of Enkidu, his best friend and equal. He is not comforted by thoughts of Enkidu living on in the afterlife, and in fact seems to be terrified of his own death. So, he searches for the key to living forever. Some in the text have already found that secret, but it's almost presented as unnatural. There is a suggestion that death is a part of life, and the goal for living is simply to do well while alive. That is what Gilgamesh discovers at the end; his purpose all along was to rule Uruk as well as he possibly could.