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A discussion of Gilgamesh and ‘the self’
In regards to his character, Gilgamesh is a demigod, a compound consisting of one part man and two parts god. He greatly suffers from immoderation- no human is greater than him, whilst his flaws and virtues are huge. For instance, he is a fierce warrior and a greatly ambitious builder, known for his heroism and perseverance, however he also exhausted his subjects through forced labor and forced exercise of power. He selfishly satisfies his lavish appetite; he rapes whichever woman he pleases, and delights in self-righteousness and pride.  We do see the extent of his of loyalty in his friendship with Enkidu; in that he looked out for his friend during dangerous encounters and strange situations. Gilgamesh differed enormously from other leaders in the history of humanity; he put himself above the people and ultimately above the entire nation. According to the poem, “no son is left with his son, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble, yet this is the shepherd of the city”. He did not see any need to conquer probably because he felt that he possessed enough to begin with. He dedicated most of his time to enjoying his life, reveling in earthly delights. It seems that Gilgamesh did not consider any other ideologies and only had a basis for ‘himself’, and those who came in the way of his attempt to enjoy his life were exterminated. He believed that all those blessed with his presence should be able to recognize him and look up to him. Gilgamesh’s pride also manifested itself in battle, in that he often underestimated opponents and viewed combat as just a game of amusement. His colossal ego hindered him from acknowledging those fighting him as a real threat.  This essay will seek to explore the journey of Gilgamesh’s character as he transitions from at first a balance of man and god, and in a sense good and evil, to ultimately a just, more human ruler, and a better person. 

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As the story progresses, the people of Uruk, including the nobles, become greatly irked by the utterly oppressive nature of Gilgamesh’s leadership. The reader feels the sheer extent of this discontent as the poem tells us “the men of Uruk muttered in their houses, Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night”. He had grown to be more powerful than any other leader around him hence no one could ever overthrow him. His arrogance and restlessness had caused great havoc, and with a great deal of unhappiness and desperation among the civilians, the nobles turn to praying to the gods to come to their aid. The gods create Enkidu, a man who was equal to Gilgamesh in every way. Enkidu was initially a wild man who roamed the land without a sense of humanity, in the steppes of the nation.  A temple harlot who aims to make him human eventually tames the wild Enkidu, and thus it appears that both men change greatly.  
The relationship between the two men is fascinating; each man creates an impression upon the other to the point where they know themselves far better. In Uruk, Gilgamesh and Enkidu first meet outside a temple. Enkidu immediately states that he would reprimand the king and correct his arrogance. Enkidu takes part in wrestling matches with Gilgamesh, getting them into a rivalry that went on for several days. Gilgamesh for the first time meets his match and is compelled to apply all his strength to match his new opponent, presumably due to his surprise and sense of fury from having found his equal. He was forced to bring out his carefully hidden treasures; this marked the first-ever use of the gate of Babylon as a weapon. Regardless of at first seeing this as humiliation, he eventually started to enjoy this and brought them out with no regrets. Over time, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become close friends. They take part in a lot of work, battles and adventure side by side.  Enkidu’s place can be described as that of a faithful sidekick to Gilgamesh in many ways.  His role, however, changes with time. He becomes more than simply a helper to Gilgamesh; he turns into his brother, soul mate and perhaps even his equal. Rather than forcing him to become a good leader or overthrow him, Enkidu overcomes him with genuine friendship, molding him into a perfect leader. He becomes the first person that Gilgamesh cares about and expresses loyalty to. Their friendship becomes the firm foundation of the epic; and it seems to be based on a mutual respect for one another’s courage and strength. It took this relationship to help Gilgamesh realize the relevance of association with other individuals, and in turn he becomes more human, albeit with the irony that a wild man helped him to achieve this.  
One particularly dangerous mission of the two friends would change the course of Gilgamesh’s life forever. This was one Gilgamesh decided to set out to the forest in pursuit of humbaba. Humbaba was referred to as the beast of the gods and the powerful protector of the forests. His main reason for this pursuit was that it was part of his mission in purging away all evil of the world to protect Uruk. Enkidu initially protested that this journey was perilous as the beast they were up against was very fierce indeed, but Gilgamesh’s determination was overwhelming, and they finally embarked on the adventure. They emerged victoriously, but Enkidu became confused by the action (Gale, 2015). The reason for this was because slaying the beast was not an order of the gods and also did not seem to be an act of saving the people he had for long been oppressing- a demonstration of Gilgamesh’s pride, perhaps.  Over time, Uruk became exceedingly prosperous and the envy of many nations around. Gilgamesh’s power grew until the gods couldn’t fail to acknowledge him.

The bull from heaven and Enkidu’s death
 This prompted Ishtar, the goddess of fertility to fall in love with him and even propose. Unfortunately, the king rejected the proposal, terming her as the corruptor of all men, cruel and unfaithful; she was infuriated and felt insulted. In a bid to get revenge, she went to his father to unleash the bull of heaven.’ Father, let me have the Bull of heaven, to kill Gilgamesh, for if you do not grant me the bull of heaven, I will pull down the gates of heaven itself, Crush the doorpost and flatten the door And I will let the dead leave’. The unstoppable creature was responsible for seven years of destruction on earth and severe starvation. The two friends came together to fight the beast and were eventually victorious after cuffing it with the chains of heaven. This only made Ishtar more furious as Gilgamesh for the second time crushed her reputation. She had them punished for killing a beast of the gods. The sins punishment was death and Enkidu being a creation of the gods had to heed to the sentence. Enkidu slowly returned to clay which he had come from, Gilgamesh held on to his crumbling friend desperately in his arms as he cried. This was the turning point of Gilgamesh’s life- the impact cannot be understated. 

The death of Enkidu
Up until this moment, Gilgamesh had been moving through life by his own selfish standards. He had just been purging, accumulating wealth, having many women. When he saw his friend returning to dust, he had a complete change in his views.  Suddenly, death had inspired a great feeling of gripping fear and grief in him. This was attributed to the fact that someone he considered an equal could die. He registered the actual reality of death for the first time and fell into a deep depression- this is considered the climax of the epic.  Gilgamesh sets out to find himself, to truly know the path of humanity before it comes to its eventual end. With his energy and vigor fading due to the depression, he sought out the ancient spirit herb of immortality and perpetual youth. The fear of death pushed him. 

Beginning of journey
 Gilgamesh departed Uruk and went to seek out Ziusundra, a sage who had been alive since leading many animals into an ark before a deluge that murdered everyone on earth came. He was said to be the only human being who had survived the massive storm. He, for decades, wandered all through the deserts. The epic describes his movement during the journey as “groveling along pathetically”, and though a demigod; he was tasked with the same mission of all mere human beings, overcoming death (Kline, 2016). Kline’s statement highlights the fundamental desire of those humans who are omnipotent leaders, the desire for that power to live perpetually. He progressed in his journey with “idiocy that exceeded that of a human,” putting aside his power, authority, pride, and ego. He passes through mashtu, the hills that were believed to guard the rising and setting sun. This was seen as him having reached the ends of the earth in his quest. After that, he had to pass through lands no mortal man had ever gone through, but despite the warning by the guardian of the gate, Gilgamesh goes through. The region is covered in a pitch-black darkness that only got worse as he went further. He just sees the light after eleven leagues and finally arrives at the gods’ garden.

 Here he meets Siduri who discourages her that the mat will never attain eternal life. Fear of death was not his only motivator, but also his hate for it, for taking away his only friend. So he does not pay any attention to what Siduri says and demands help to find Utnapishtim. She directs him to Urshanabi, the ferryman connecting to Utnapishtim as no mortal man could just cross the sea without help. He helps set up a boat, which he had destroyed in anger.

 They later travel for three more days and arrive at the waters of death. Upon reaching his destination, the realm of the dead, Gilgamesh was disappointed. He found that Utnapishtim and his immortality for were in no way special. Utnapishtim had attained longevity after being ranked together with the gods, becoming half man half plant. Gilgamesh did not want this as he wanted to maintain human attributes and rejected living forever with no appetite. Similar to what Siduri had told him, Utnapishtim tells him that his quest for immortality was futile as ‘there is no permanence’ and the gods and divine judges determine our fate. Upon request, he tells the story of how he attained immortality. He said that, according to Enlil. Human beings had overstepped their limits. They had built loud cities that interfered with the gods’ sleep. This Enlil was infuriated by this and plans to drown the entire humanity in a huge flood. A different god, ea, who did not share Enlil’s idea of punishment, warns Utnapishtim in a dream. Utnapishtim is instructed to build a boat with specific measurements and dimensions. The boat was launched into the waters with only Utnapishtim’s gold his children and wives, other family members and some animals. Later on, the storm starts and rages on continuously for six days and nights. After all calms down Utnapishtim works to find a place to land on, he eventually does and in so doing avoids his prescribed fate. ‘I (Utnapishtim) released a dove from the boat, it flew off, but circled around and returned, for it could find no perch…..i released a raven from the perch, it flew off and the raven had receded.’ Utnaphisitim is then placed far away by Enlil, at the river mouths and blesses him with immortality, in the following words,’ At one time Utnaphisitim was mortal. At this time let him be god and immortal, let him live far away at the source of all the rivers’ .  Gilgamesh is given a test, one that has no need for physical strength. He is challenged to go for six days and nights without sleep, a task that is difficult to any human. It is thus his humanity that makes him fail that test. Gilgamesh is then given the secret to becoming immortal without using the god’s mercy. It is through consuming the herb that was found deep in the waters. He did not plan to consume it himself but rather keep it as a rare treasure to decorate his safe. He returned above ground with a new and inexplicable state of mind.  He felt that there was no longer need for immortality designed by the gods. He was happy at his own realization and even came out believing that he could beat death and avenge his brother. The rugged state suddenly fazes him and wished to cleanse himself before he would return to Uruk. He rests on a spring, to recover from the fatigue he had accumulated during the decades of searching. The water healed him, and he experiences what can be described to him as his genuine feeling of joy, he attains tranquility in the body and in mind. (Brown, 2017)  It was at this moment that the herb he had carried was snatched away by a snake, but he did not seem to care.  The snake took in the herb and immediately started shedding; this indicated its restoration of youthfulness.
His journey had completely transformed Gilgamesh. Though he had assumed he was complete before and had reached physical maturity a long time ago, he at this moment realized mental maturity. This was in effect the end of his youth. For a long time, he had set out to attain immortality and conquer his fear of death; he had become obsessed with his impermanence. However, he loses the method to immortality and in turn finds himself. He gladly accepts his mortality and opts to be a good king and a source of inspiration to the commoners. He seems to have accepted his purpose and place in the universe and seeks to be virtuous and glorious, and that immortality was unnecessary in this duty. He achieved a reward of joy and fulfillment in life.  He returned home a new and mature man, this marked the end of his adventures, and he became a good ruler. (Badalamenti, 2017) Leading Uruk into prosperity, happiness and brought it to completion. He extended a quiet rule over Uruk and peacefully entrusted it to the next king just before meeting what he once feared eternal rest.  It is said that, before his death, he went for the herb once more but only to complete his personal collection.  The whereabouts of the herbs remained concealed even after his death. His death was greatly mourned for by the people of Uruk and was remembered as a faithful servant of the gods and as a hero.