This paper gives a critical review of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Its main purpose is to make a brief, but extensive summary of the text, its major characters and themes. Later, the research continues in order to trace the historical developments of the text, which have taken a very long time ever since it was published. This is mainly because this book has undergone a lot of changes during its entire lifespan. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest known epic poems from Mesopotamia. A lot of researchers have come up with several theories to explain its origin as it was written hundreds of years ago. However, this has not been an issue of concern since many researches made emphasis on analyzing its historical development, as well as exploring the themes and their applications in real life situation.
The discovery of this epic has been a matter of debate mainly because of the numerous successive claims which have been made by different scholars. To begin with, one of the major discoveries was made by Hormuzd Rassam who found currently widely known version of the epic in 1953. However, the first modern translation is believed to have been done by George Smith in the 1870s. Later, several other translations were made. Notably, the English version was done by John Gardner in conjunction with John Maier in the year 1984. After some years, a more refined translation was carried out by Benjamin Foster. His version appeared to be better because it was produced in the reputable Critical Edition series, which helped to fill the gaps in the epic in order to make sense to the readers. After this development, a detailed exegesis was generated by George Andrew. This was followed by the publication in Penguin Classics in 2000 before being translated into other languages, such as Arabic. Today, the epic has been synthesized into several versions by different publishers.
This interpretation of the epic poem revealed information about the historical Gilgamesh who was one of the greatest kings of Uruk. As far as this hero is a protagonist, the story revolves around the deeds of this king when he tried to rule his people using dictatorship. However, this did not go well with his subjects who later decided to seek a divine intervention on how to make him change his leadership styles. Thereafter, the story traces the cordial, but turbulent relationship between Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu. The emergence of this mysterious creature would later give the story a turning point because it would directly influence the life of this great king. As the story unfolds, the reader is informed that the life of this king would later continue even after the death of his friend. This prompted the king to launch a massive tour in the pursuit of longevity, an initiative which would later prove to be fruitless since nothing is gained from it.
During his reign, Gilgamesh abused his powers in many ways. He oppressed his people by subjecting them to lots of agonies. He would subject different kinds of his subjects to various injustices depending on their age, gender and social class. The women felt the major source of oppression when they were forced to sleep with the king. According to the king, women were people who had no place in the society. Instead of treating them like human beings, he often denied them their conjugal rights by compelling them to sleep with him during the nights of their wedding ceremony. This is unfair because the newly wedded couples should be given an ample opportunity to enjoy their marriage during such a time.
On the other hand, he openly expressed his oppression to the young men by compelling them with an offer of labor. However, this harsh and forced work was not paid. As a result, it became extremely difficult for these people to get freedom of choosing what to do at any given time. Even if he was doing a commendable job for initiating development projects in his kingdom, he was not justified to force people to participate in its realization. This explains why he became so unpopular in the eyes of these people. Thus, they sought to consult their goddess to intervene on their behalf. This demonstrates the theme of oppression which is quite popularly applied by many leaders up to the present times. This shows how the author of this epic made a good use of his literary prowess to create an appealing work in a very precise and clear manner.
Besides, the epic also explores the theme of friendship focusing on the cordial relationship between the protagonist and Enkidu. However, this closeness only began after he was sent by the goddess to liberate the people of Uruk who had been suffering in the hands of Gilgamesh. Although it was characterized by suspicion, the author categorically demonstrates how these people were able to strengthen the bond between them. I would like to agree that this epic depicts a real friendship, which can occur in life. No friendship can smoothly thrill without any form of challenge. However, just like the king and his friend, everyone should at least have one confidant whom he can rely on. Despite knowing his position as a king, Gilgamesh still decided to go on an expedition in the company of Enkidu. The paper shows how people can make a good use of their position to make changes in the society. For this reason, when the king takes his journey, he believes that he can use that opportunity to acquire eternal life. However, this is not eventually achieved when he realizes that even if he was a king who surpasses all others, he would still not live perpetually because he is just a mortal human being. In fact, he says that, even if man was given life, god took it away leaving him with death.
I would like to conclude agreeing that this is a well written article which gives a right account of the ancient life. The way in which the writer used figurative languages like imagery, symbolism and metaphor, embodies the text with a meaning. It made the interpretation process be smooth. Hence, the epic became interesting after its real representation of the events in the past. Besides, the major ideas came out more clearly because of the inclusion of the supernatural heroes, such as the goddesses and mysterious creatures like Enkidu. However, the text may be criticized on the grounds that it is more connected with the powers beyond the abilities of human being. While it is a common notion that it is a man who should be the major determiner of history, this epic gives a lot of powers to the deities. In this regard, no one in this fictional world is able to determine his destiny. It seems as if everything had been planned, people had to live only to coincidentally fulfill the tasks created by deities. Despite the pros and cons of the epic poem, I would like to recommend the Epic of Gilgamesh as a work of literature everyone must strive to possess in their library.