While Gilgamesh is the titural hero of The Epic of Gilgamesh, do you believe he is heroic?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a very apt question to ask, as there are certain points in this text where Gilgamesh seems to be more arrogant and cocksure than heroic. A perfect example is when he and Enkidu go off to face the monstrous Humbaba, and Gilgamesh fails to heed the wise warnings of Enkidu in how to face Humbaba. As such, Gilgamesh is presented as a heroic figure who, like other epic heroes such as Odysseus, is not perfect in his character. However, as the epic continues it is clear that Gilgamesh grows and develops in terms of his character, maturing through the experiences he faces until, by the end of the poem, he is much wiser than the youthful Gilgamesh presented to the reader at the beginning of the poem. Note, for example, how the poem ends, pointing towards the wisdom Gilgamesh has gained during the course of his travels. As Gilgamesh and the boatman arrive at Uruk, Gilgamesh describes it to the boatman using the following words:


One league is the inner city, another league
is orchards; still another the fields beyond;

over there is the precinct of the temple...,
Three leagues and the temple precinct of Ishtar.

Measure Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh ends the poem with almost the same words that opened it. He has ventured around the world to discover the secret of the meaning of life and eventually has found it where he started, in his own home. Such a realisation shows the wisdom and insight he has gained, and how his character has matured. The reader is left feeling that if Gilgamesh was not truly heroic during the course of the poem, at its end he has greatly matured and is more heroic and wise.

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