The Epic of Gilgamesh - An Ancient Tale of a King Searching for Immortality

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Kelly Macquire
published on 29 March 2022

Gilgamesh is a semi-mythical king of Uruk, an ancient city of Mesopotamia, and is best known as the star of the first epic poem ever written, the Epic of Gilgamesh, where he searches for immortality after the death of his friend Enkidu. Even though this figure has taken on legendary status, it is widely agreed that Gilgamesh was a historical person, and the 5th king of Uruk who reigned in the twenty-sixth century BCE. His influence was profound, and myths of the king developed and ultimately led to the Epic of Gilgamesh written between 700 and 1000 years after the life of the historical Gilgamesh.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a tale that grapples with the meaning of life and the fear, not so much of death, but of meaninglessness. Gilgamesh grappling with the death of his friend and the questions it evokes resonates with every human who has wrestled with the meaning of life when faced with death. Although inevitably the character of Gilgamesh does not achieve immortality, his quest gives his life meaning and the fact that we are still talking about him four thousand years later proves that he did, in fact, attain immortality.



0:00​ Introduction
0:56 Who is Gilgamesh? Was Gilgamesh a Real Person?
2:38 The Discovery of the Epic of Gilgamesh
4:08 Early Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh
5:11 The Epic of Gilgamesh
8:44 The Legacy of Gilgamesh and his Epic Poem
9:46 Outro

The Eternal Life of Gilgamesh
New Gilgamesh Fragment: Enkidu's Sexual Exploits Doubled
The Mesopotamian Pantheon
The Newly Discovered Tablet II of the Epic of Gilgamesh

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You can find all attribution and credits for images, animations, graphics and music here -

The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

— THUMBNAIL IMAGE —;_purchase._19th-17th_century_BCE._Vorderasiatisches_Museum,_Berlin.jpg
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) - own work
CC BY SA 4.0 -
Jastrow (2006)
Public Domain -

World History Encyclopedia

#gilgamesh #epicofgilgamesh #gilgameshandenkidu #mesopotamia

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2022, March 29). The Epic of Gilgamesh - An Ancient Tale of a King Searching for Immortality. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Epic of Gilgamesh - An Ancient Tale of a King Searching for Immortality." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified March 29, 2022.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Epic of Gilgamesh - An Ancient Tale of a King Searching for Immortality." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 29 Mar 2022. Web. 06 Feb 2023.