This is the "The Epic of Gilgamesh" page of the "Heroes Unit" guide.
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Ninth Grade Literature -- Heroes in literature
Last Updated: Jul 25, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

The Epic of Gilgamesh Print Page


The Epic of Gligamesh is the first known written extensive piece of literature in the history of humans.  It is the story of a ruler of the city of Ur or Uruk in the ancient country of Sumer.  On twelve clay tablets the story of Gilgamesh, a man who is 2/3 god and 1/3 human, is told. He is a larger than life hero who saves his people from many dangers, including the monster Humbaba, before going off in a search for immortality after the death of his best friend Enkidu. 

While Gilgamesh is a real ruler, who ruled approximately 2500 B.C.E., his exploits were not written down until nearly 400 years later. The resultant epic is based on true stories, legends, and stories that evolved over time.  The story was lost to the "winds of time" until about  the late 1800s when it was translated. 

This epic is thought to have been familiar to Homer, the traditional composer of the epic The Odyssey.


Egyptian Tale Comparison

Shortly after the Sumerians developed writing, the Egyptians did as well.

While most of their early writing dealt with accounting for products and religion, they do have this story, The Shipwrecked Sailor.  It is also the story of a man on a journey. 

Read one of the two translations at the link below and answer the questions.

 or listen to it here.


    People to Know

     Gilgamesh Cuniform
    Cuniform of the name of Gilgamesh
    Gilgamesh   -- The larger-than-life king of the city of Uruk; he goes on a journey in seach of immortality.
    Enkidu  -- A man-beast created by the gods to keep Gilgamesh busy; the becomes the best-friend of Gilgamesh.
    Enlil -- Leader of the Sumerian pantheon of gods.
    Humbaba  -- Powerful monster/god defeated by Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
    Siduri -- Woman who gives Gilgamesh good advice on his journey
    Utnapishtim  -- A survivor of the Great Flood -- the only Sumerian who ever achieved immortality.

    The story of Noah

    Read the story of Noah and the Flood.  There are many similarities to the story of Gilgamesh.

    To understand what historians and archaeologists have discovered about a worldwide flood, check out the link below.

    After you read the two, fill out the worksheet below.


    Text and Notes

    Mesopotamia: The Development of Written Language

    Watch this video about the development of writing from Discovery Education.



    The attachments contain the questions for the three selections from this part of the unit.


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