If there’s one type of story all English majors, classical studies majors and Brooklyn College students must be subjected to it’s the epic poem. Of course, the ones all these schools force upon its students are The Iliad, The Odyssey and the Aeneid. We all know these stories because of something to do with the shaped Western history or something like that.
There is one that is equally important but is rarely taught in American schools is The Epic of Gilgamesh. Well, that’s why I’m here. Of course, what I’m about to say is just a layman’s interpretation of this epic.
First off, just like the Greek/Roman epics this was written down on tablets. The only difference is the Greek/Roman epics were performed by a ton of people, written down and passed on and rediscovered by a bunch of Renaissance Europeans in their entirety. Gilgamesh wasn’t so lucky. While archeologists found 11 tablets, most of them were in poor shape and most of the epic is missing. Although there were some tablets recently discovered, it’s still incomplete. That’s why it’s only about 70 pages long while the Greek/Roman ones are about 600.
Of course, the real reason people care about this epic poem is because it talks about a flood. Some people say that this is proof that there was a flood and that this was the inspiration for Noah’s Arc (or Noah’s Arc was the inspiration depending on who you ask.) That’s it really.
For those who don’t care about this flood business and want a reason to read it, that reason is because it’s entertaining. I don’t mean in a literary or high art sense, I mean in a superhero comic book sense. Yes, COMIC BOOK! You see, the plot is basically Gilgamesh gets into a fight with a wild man named Enkidu and then become friends. They then kill a bunch of mythical creatures, Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh becomes sad and then dies. That’s it. There’s more to this story (Gilgamesh just dies after the flood story.) That’s a comic book story if ever there was one. It would be better if it was complete.
Of course, it does have the same repetition that all epics have. Remember, this was meant to be performed, not read. Reading certain parts does seem weird, though.
With that, read The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s entertaining and important despite being incomplete. If more of the story comes to light, that would be a great victory for archeology and to literature.