Gilgamesh(ca. 1900-250 B.C.E.) Trans. N. K. Sandars
Things to Consider:
Maps of Mesopotamia
Conventions of Epic Poetry (see pp. 36)
Oral tradition: repetition of key words and phrases,
Focus on National Hero
Intervention of Gods in Human Affairs
Mourning for a friend
Return after challenging adventures
God's council and preferences
Relationship between Gods and Humans, Gods and Gods
Glory and Immortality
Role of Enkidu, in life and death
Position of Women in Society
See discussion of some secondary sources
** Homework Questions ** (See 2nd and 3rd Sets of Q's)
Background Questions: (Norton Introduction):
Where is/was Uruk?
On what material(s) do the oldest existing versions of the
story of Gilgamesh exist?
When did the historical Gilgamesh likely rule?
What is the etymology of the word "epic"? To what does the
What are some of the characteristics of Greek epics? Which
of these characteristics does Gilgamesh exhibit?
In what way, according to the editors, does Gilgamesh
differ from the Homeric epic tradition?
When and how did the Gilgamesh epic disappear?
When, where, and by whom was the Gilgamesh epic
"The Birth of Epic Poetry"
What, according to the text, are some of the major concerns
and themes of the Gilgamesh epic?
Describe the relationship between gods and kings in the
Sumerian world and what Gilgamesh does in the epic to perform
his part in the relationship.
Other Discussion Questions: (Norton Introduction): 33:
In what language were the earliest versions of the epic
What is cuneiform?
Where is Mesopotamia?
What is a millennium?
When, where, and by whom was the definitive revision of the
What, according to the introduction, characterized the
What, according to the introduction, was the relationship
between Mesopotamian kings and the gods?
Describe the Mesopotamian cosmos.
"The Lady of Heaven"
Describe the relationship of the earthly king and Inana.
(pge #s refer to pdf):
What kind of king is Gilgamesh? Explain.
Explain Gilgamesh's dreams.
Why does Enkidu fight Gilgamesh? Explain.
Why do Enkidu and Gilgamesh decide to fight Humbaba?
Why does Gilgamesh refuse Ishtar's offer of marriage?
Why do Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill the Bull of
Why must Enkidu die?
What is the significance of Enkidu's dream?
Why does Enkidu believe he will die in shame?
Other Discussion Questions: Chapter One:
Why do the animals run from Enkidu after he sleeps with
Chapter Two: 7:
Who is Shamash? Why does Ninsun offer him sacrifices?
Explain Gilgamesh's dreams.
Why does Enkidu tell Gilgamesh to ignore Humbaba's pleas
Chapter Three: 13:
Who is Ishullanu? How does he respond to Ishtar's
offer of love?
Explain the curses Enkidu pronounces.
Why does take back his curse of Shamhat?
Why does Enkidu believe that Aruru has cursed him?
What is the significance of Gilgamesh's plan to put on a
** Homework Questions, pt. 2
** Chapter Four: 18:
Who is Utnapishtim? Why has Gilgamesh sought him?
Explain Gilgamesh's interactions with the Man-Scorpion.
Explain Gilgamesh's interaction with Siduri.
Why does Gilgamesh attack Urshanabi's boat?
How does Utnapishtim's story compare to Noah's? (See News Story ):
What is Gilgamesh's first test? How does he do?
Why does Utnapishtim banish Urshanabi?
Where does he get the plant that restores youth? What
happens to it?
What is the final "moral" to this story?
in-depth) Questions (Respond to 5 for credit):
Does Gilgamesh ultimately find Consolation for his Grief?
How would you characterize the relationship of humans to
divine beings in The Epic of Gilgamesh? What
characteristics are described as "god-like"? What qualities
(if any) divide humans from gods and goddesses? Is an
intermediate status possible, and what are its limits?
Describe the relationships among the different gods. Do
all the gods have equal power or is there some sort of
One of the most intriguing characters in the Epic is the
woman who causes Enkidu's transformation from natural man to
civilized man. Describe this woman and suggest what her role
might indicate about the process of becoming civilized, or the
role of women in early Mesopotamian cultures?
What clues does the Epic of Gilgamesh present
about the political values of early Mesopotamian society? Is
Gilgamesh a good king or a bad king? What qualities define
good kings? Are those qualities learned as skills or
life-lessons, or are they inherited or "natural" qualities?
Describe the significance of the "raging bull" images and
its different uses. To what characters or figures is it
usually applied? What does it represent?
Does Enkidu fulfill his original purpose? Explain.