Why is The Epic of Gilgamesh important to world literature?

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The primary importance for The Epic of Gilgamesh as a piece of world literature is its age. The earliest Sumerian poems dealing with Gilgamesh date back to around 2100 BCE. It represents a turning point when the written word may have first been used for something other than commerce, instead being put to task in what today what might be called “the humanities.” If one of the powers of literature is the ability to send thought, intent and emotion across temporal and cultural lines, then The Epic of Gilgamesh might be one of the most important stories ever written; the longest standing example of literature’s power to keep stories alive.

There are many Biblical and epic stories that seem at least partly rooted in Gilgamesh. The story of Noah’s Arc is perhaps the most apparent, the flood-surviving Utnapishtim acting as his Sumerian counterpart. Beyond the impact it has had on other epics, however, The Epic of Gilgamesh is an incredible story all on its own. From a historical standpoint, it gives modern day readers a look into how ancient peoples saw the world—or at the very least how their characters did; a world of gods, monsters and mystic lands.

There is also a fondness to the story, the realization that even in the oldest tale ever written, friendship and the acceptance of death remain central themes. It can be humbling to think about how much modern people still have in common with their ancient forebears.

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest work of literature known to history. Originating in Ancient Mesopotamia, it serves as a foundation upon which later heroic literature rests. From both a historical and a literary standpoint, its importance is profound.

We find within this epic themes which would become cornerstones of literature—topics such as friendship and mortality. We also find various heroic triumphs, such as Gilgamesh's wrestling against Enkidu (who would become his closest friend and companion) as well as his confrontation with Ishtar and the Bull of Heaven, to give a few examples. Later, after the death of Enkidu, Gilgamesh embarks on a quest to achieve immortality. This quest ends in failure.

To conclude, this is a story that has had far-reaching influence, shaping the foundations for much of the literature which would come after it.

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There are several reasons why it is important to study The Epic of Gilgamesh in order to understand world literature. First, it is one of the earliest preserved examples of literature in the world. Interestingly, it is the product of a written scribal tradition, rather than a purely oral one, and thus provides insight into early modes of literacy.

Next, it gives us insight into one of the great world civilizations, that of Mesopotamia. Its views of kingship and its duties, especially when taken in conjunction with the early Mesopotamian law codes, help us understand how ideas of justice, responsibility, leadership, and government evolved in early civilizations.

Finally, it shows us an early stage of Mesopotamian religion, which influenced the development of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) as well as classical Greek and Roman religious beliefs and practices.

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is extremely important to world literature for several reasons. First, it is one of the oldest written stories in existence. Second, it is loosely based on the historical record of an actual Sumerian King named Gilgamesh, who ruled Uruk in 2700 BC. Gilgamesh's rule was so epic that great myths and legends were inspired from his deeds.

Another reason The Epic of Gilgamesh is important to world literature is that it is the first example of the epic poem genre. It served as inspiration for other great epic poems found throughout history. The story of a hero imbued with hubris and his struggles as he faces the obstacles put forth in his path by the gods has been used in many other epic poems such as The Aeneid, The Iliad, and The Odyssey

Finally, the events that occur in The Epic of Gilgamesh are said to have inspired many of the stories in the Bible. For instance, in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh faces a great flood, just as Noah in the Bible faced a great flood. Further, Gilgamesh's use of a plant that grants immortality is stopped by a serpent, which parallels the story of Adam and Eve in the bible. 

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is valuable for many reasons; the first is that many literature scholars hail it as the earliest extant piece of world literature. The similarities to later stories in The Bible suggest that it informed the account of Adam and Eve and offered other accounts for how mankind must conduct itself. 

It is also believed that The Epic of Gilgamesh inspired The Iliad and The Odyssey.  All of these works address important themes about what it means to be human.

What seems consistent in the epic and the early (and some later) literature that followed is that humankind needs to be reminded not to let our pride in our abilities supplant what must be instead ascribed to our creator.  Warnings against man's arrogance is found in world literature for subsequent generations; it is, to cite a few examples, found in Greek myths involving Odysseus, Icarus and Prometheus, and in much later works such as Frankenstein, which demonstrates the peril of placing oneself alongside that which is more powerful than ourselves.

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