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Understanding History: A Western Civilization Essay Sample

The Process by which Gilgamesh Forsakes the Quest for Eternal Life by Accepting the Wisdom of Mortality

After the death of his friend Enkidu, Gilgamesh is on a journey to search for eternal life because he is afraid of death. His first stop was the great mountains of Mashu, which protected the sun’s rising and setting. They are guarded by half-man and half-dragon scorpions (The Epic of Gilgamesh 5). Gilgamesh was not afraid of their stare, which strikes death into men, but they approached him when they saw that he was not afraid of them. Gilgamesh was searching for his father, Utnapishtim, who had found eternal life and wanted to question him about it. The man-scorpion allowed him to pursue his journey.

When he reached the garden of the gods, Shamash saw him and told him that he would not find what he was looking for. He begs Shamash to allow him not to see death. By the sea lived Siduri, the woman and maker of wine. She is concerned about Gilgamesh’s looks because he is depressed by the death of his friend (The Epic of Gilgamesh 5). When Gilgamesh tells her of his quest, she replies that he will never find it since the days of man are numbered, and the gods allotted man to death and retained life among them. She advises Gilgamesh to enjoy life while he is still alive.

Siduri tells him that no man has ever crossed the ocean where Utnapishtim resides but also tells him that Urshanabi, the ferryman of Utnapishtim, was close by in the woods fashioning the serpent brow of the boat. He may be able to cross the ocean with him. After hearing this, Gilgamesh became furious and destroyed the boat’s tackle. Urshanabi enquired about his name and mission, and Gilgamesh told him about his search for eternal life. Since he had destroyed the boat that prevents the water of death from touching them, Gilgamesh is ordered to cut poles and fasten them with bitumen so that they set them ferrules.

After crossing the water of death, they find Utnapishtim, also known as the Faraway, the only person the gods had given eternal life. After knowing his mission, he is told there is no permanence (The Epic of Gilgamesh 6). He tells him that he was spared death by the flood when Ea warned him of the imminent flood to destroy all mankind because of their sinful nature. Ea advises him to build a boat. When the flood came, he, together with his family and their possessions, survived. Enlil, the counselor, then gave them eternal life.

Utnapishtim tests Gilgamesh if he can resist sleeping for six days and seven nights, but Gilgamesh cannot. On his departure day, Utnapishtim reveals a secret to taking back as a gift. He tells him that a plant grows under the sea; if he could fetch it, it could restore men’s youthfulness. Gilgamesh goes under the sea and gets it. On their way back to Uruk, Gilgamesh goes to a well to bathe, but a serpent inside it gets attracted to the sweet smell of the plant and snatches it (The Epic of Gilgamesh 7). Gilgamesh is depressed but has to complete his journey back home, where he dies like any other man despite his exemplary power and strength.

Concept of History and Historical Ownership of Land in Genesis

The book of Genesis in the Bible establishes the concept of history because it tells about the beginning of mankind. It begins with the creation story, where God created all living and non-living things (Genesis 1: 1, King James Version). It then gives the history of the first man, Adam, his family, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden forms the basis for the curse God placed on them and their offspring.

The book of Genesis also gives the reason for the mortality of men. The existence of many languages in the world can also be traced to the Biblical tower of Babel, where God dispersed men by confusing them through language.

The story of the flood and Noah further enhances the concept of history. Through it, we get the biblical origin of different races. The journey of the Israelites in Egypt is brought out in this book. The selling of Joseph by his brother and the famine are the cause of their migration and the resulting slavery for four hundred years (Genesis 35:2 King James Version). The book also contains the story of the beginning of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Historical ownership of land is a concept that begins in the book of Genesis. Abraham and his nephew Lot dispersed in different directions to avoid conflict due to the large flock of animals they owned. When the wife of Abraham died, he bought a plot of land from the Hittites to bury her. Although the Hittites were willing to give him for free, he insisted on buying it so his descendants could own it – the covenant of Abraham with God concerned land ownership. God promised Abraham that He would give his descendants the whole land of Palestine as an inheritance.

📎 References:

1. Bible, King James. Genesis, from the Holy Bible, King James Version.
2. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Assyrian International News Agency.