Gilgamesh Study Guide
From Gerald R. Lucas
- Epic of Gilgamesh
- Ishtar | Ninsun | Shamhat (the harlot) | Siduri
- Humbaba | Cedar Forest | Bull of Heaven | Scorpion Men
- Anunnaki | Enlil | Gugalanna | Inanna | Shamash (Utu) | Silili
- Utnapishtim and the Flood Myth
- Uruk | Eanna
Questions for Consideration
The following questions should help you begin thinking about the major themes, characters, and ideas in the primary text.
- Dreams are so recurrent in Gilgamesh, and so important. They serve as a vehicle of communication between gods and mortals, anticipating events symbolically, but accurately. What narrative function do they serve? That is, why is it useful to know what is going to happen before it does?
- Discuss the relationship between civilization and nature as characterized by Enkidu. Are these two forces necessarily at odds?
- What do we mean by “civilized”? How is Enkidu “civilized”? What does he gain? What does he lose?
- What is the role of women in Gilgamesh? Consider especially at Ishtar and the Shamhat.
- Discuss Humbaba as a metaphor. Is Humbaba a threat to Uruk; does its death serve society in any way?
- Compare the tyrannical Gilgamesh from the epic’s beginning with the sagacious monarch of the epic’s end. How has Gilgamesh grown? How does his knowledge benefit his community? Has he satisfied his role as the epic hero?
- One critic has called Gilgamesh a “tragedy of mortality.” Discuss possible meanings. Is there any evidence in the poem that the citizens of Uruk believe in an afterlife?
- What is the nature of the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu? What does this say about friendship in general?
- What is the significance of the flood narrative in the epic?
- Discuss the ways that Gilgamesh’s quest was (un)successful.
- View the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Darmok.” How does "Darmok" help with your understanding of Gilgamesh and how myth works in our culture?
- Is Picard’s account of the Gilgamesh legend accurate? Discuss the implications.
- “Darmok” suggests a reason for the continuing importance of myth. Discuss your interpretation of “Darmok” and myth as important to our lives today.
- Damrosch, David (May 2017). "Epic Hero". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
How a self-taught British genius rediscovered the Mesopotamian saga of Gilgamesh after 2500 years.
- Freeman, Philip (August 2012). "Lessons from a Demigod". Humanities. 33 (4). Retrieved 2018-08-17.
- George, Andrew (1999). "Introduction". The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin. pp. xiii–lii.
- Marks, John H. (1972). "Gilgamesh: An Afterward". Gilgamesh. Translated by Mason, Herbert. New York: Mentor.
- Pryke, Louise (May 7, 2017). "Guide to the Classics: the Epic of Gilgamesh". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
- Rugnetta, Mike (Presenter) (September 8, 2017). The Epic of Gilgamesh (Video). YouTube: Crash Course World Mythology #26. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
- Kolbe, Winrich (September 28, 1991). "Darmok". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 5. Episode 2. Retrieved 2018-08-17.