Gilgamesh the Character Gilgamesh From the Epic Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :


The character Gilgamesh from the Epic of Gilgamesh produced controversies regarding the real character that might have inspired the writer for this epic poem. The historical records that could provide the evidence to sustain the theory that Gilgamesh was a real Sumerian king are scarce. One of the sources to support the theory of a real king is provided by the Sumerian manuscript that is thought to have been created at around 1900 BC that list of Sumerian and Akkadian kings in ancient times. According to this list, Gilgamesh was a king from the Uruk dynasty that gave twelve kings.

Stories about the king Gilgamesh and the ancient city of Uruk have circulated before the actual epic that is translated today was written on the clay tablets that archeologists discovered in the nineteenth century. Historical evidence does not come only from historical records and archaeological sites. Literature can also provide a valuable source of information. In order to confirm its truthfulness to real facts, it is usually backed up by other historic records. The epic of Gilgamesh provides useful information about people and cities that existed in Summeria and Akkadia almost five millennia ago. Although the story is more like a legend that presents archetypal characters gathering features from more than one real character, it still may be loosely based on the life of a king that really existed and ruled in Uruk between 3000 and 2700 BC. There are controversies regarding the name of the real king. Some claim that the real king Gilgamesh from the aforementioned Sumerian list of kings is not the counterpart of the literary character and that is just a matter of names.

History books written by reputed historians refer to Gilgamesh as a king that really reigned over the city of Uruk, in Sumer: "Amongst the earliest cities, in addition to Eridu, were Ur, which provides much of the best known archaeological material from Sumer, Uruk, the city of which Gilgamesh was king, and Nippur, which was always the most sacred of Sumerian cities, consecrated to Enlil," (The Archeology of the Arabian Gulf, C. 5000 -- 323 BC, p. 93). A further reference to the city states: "Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh, was much bigger, however, ranging over almost 2 square miles" (idem). Michael Rice appears to be confident that Gilgamesh was a real king of the Sumerian city of Uruk. He points out that even during his lifetime, the king left a powerful impression on his subjects who considered their king a supernatural creature sent from the Gods. This endured and it entered legend, but that does not mean that Gilgamesh was a fictional character. Rice is supporting his opinion with arguments that the historical findings show that there was a temple built in Gilgamesh's name in Uruk. The historical records of the Uruk kings are in Rice's opinion some of the best documented in Sumer form that period.

There is also another literary creation that provides the name of king Gilgamesh and, adding support to the evidence. However, since it could be a character that was just passed from legend to legend, further enquiries are needed in order to establish if the source is indeed reliable in the pursuit to prove that Gilgamesh was as real as he was depicted on the clay tablets. Some of the detailed descriptions…

Sources Used in Document:

Kramer, Samuel Noah. History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History. 3rd Rev. ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981. Questia. Web. 8 Dec. 2009.

Rice, Michael. The Archaeology of the Arabian Gulf, C. 5000-323 BC. New York: Routledge, 1994. Questia. Web. 8 Dec. 2009.

George, Andrew. The epic of Gilgamesh: the Babylonian epic poem and other texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. Penguin Classics, 2003

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