King Gilgamesh – The History
Nearly 5,000 years ago, Gilgamesh was the King of Uruk in Sumeria, a city state on the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq. King Gilgamesh was the central hero in numerous adventures and legendary tales for hundreds of years after his life. Many of these stories were recorded on ancient clay tablets dating back more than 4,000 years, and these collections of cuneiform texts are now known collectively as the Epic of Gilgamesh.
King Gilgamesh – The Epic
The Epic of Gilgamesh is organized in two main parts. The first is a powerful story of adventure, where the heroic king defeats incredible monsters, evades terrible gods, and woos numerous fair maidens. However, the second part of the Epic reveals the philosophical side of the great conquering king.
Near the end of his heroic life, Gilgamesh meets a barmaid named Siduri. Initially, Siduri fears Gilgamesh because of his rugged and blood-stained presence, but soon discovers the depth of this warrior’s painful past. As Gilgamesh boasts of his feats and foes, Siduri breaks through his larger-than-life façade. Gilgamesh soon crushes under the weight of life’s vanity, and Siduri shoots straight for the heart of the matter in Tablet 10 (translated by Yanita Chen, 1994):
"O Mighty King, remember now that only gods stay in eternal watch.
Humans come then go, that is the way fate decreed on the Tablets of Destiny.
So someday you will depart, but till that distant day
Sing, and dance.
Eat your fill of warm cooked food and cool jugs of beer. Cherish the children your love gave life. Bathe away life's dirt in warm drawn waters. Pass the time in joy with your chosen wife.
On the Tablets of Destiny it is decreed For you to enjoy short pleasures for your short days."
King Gilgamesh – Quest for Meaning
Similar to the “Teacher” in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, mighty King Gilgamesh is forced to face his fragile state of humanity. Near the end of his life, he realizes the simple truths of existence and embarks on a new quest for eternal meaning.