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1001 Stories Collection

The Epic of Gilgamesh

1001 gilgamesh ruslanvaleev
Added on 05th October 2020

Oral tradition Ancient Mesapotamia

Middle East Action and adventure Myths and legends

An epic poem of heroism from ancient Mesopotamia regarded to be the oldest surviving work of literature.


Gilgamesh was a mighty king in ancient Uruk. The first part of the story tells of his friendship with Enkidu, a wild man created out of mud/clay to be equal in strength to Gilgamesh and to stop his oppression. When Gilgamesh meets Enkidu they fight. Neither can beat the other and they became inseparable friends who, for many years live together and share risky adventures. After Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh is grief-stricken and becomes terrified of dying. He goes on a quest to find the secret of everlasting life. He seeks Uta-napishti, the survivor of a great flood, but on listening to his story he realizes there is no secret to everlasting life. Nobody, no matter how great or mighty can live forever. On his return journey he hears of a plant that will restore lost youth. He finds it but it is eaten by a snake who sheds his skin and slithers away and Gilgamesh looses his chance at immortality. He comes to terms with his limitations and gains the power and wisdom to live a good life.

Why we chose it

The Epic of Gilgameš is a long narrative poem describing heroic events. It is the oldest surviving work of literature.

Where it came from

A story from Ancient Sumerian literature where the hero’s name is “Bilgames”.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, written on clay were unearthed in 1853 by Hormuzd Rassam. The clay tablets were located in Temple and Palace libraries excavated on archaeological excavations near Mosul in modern day Iraq. Further tablets were unearthed in other Assyrian and Babylonian libraries. Like a jigsaw puzzle the Epic needed to be pieced together and some of the pieces are still missing.

Where it went next

There have been a number of versions of Gilgamesh over the years including the Penguin Classic translation by Andrew George. Versions for children include a picture book by Ludmila Zeman Gilgamesh the King (1998), Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean (2003).

Associated Stories

The story of Uta-napishti is very similar to the story of Noah.

Added on 05th October 2020

Oral tradition Ancient Mesapotamia

Middle East Action and adventure Myths and legends