The epic of Gilgamesh, dating further back than any other written literature, is a clear presentation of early Mesopotamian literature and philosophy. It is a combination of Sumerian legends and poems. The tale revolves around the life of Gilgamesh, who was a mythological hero-king. Researches’ speculation and subsequent study supports the theory that Gilgamesh could have been an actual Sumerian king who ruled in the Early Dynastic II period, but the stories surrounding him are mainly fictitious. Both the Sumerian and Akkadian versions of this epic poem have been combined for translating because parts of the poem are missing. In the 1880’s, George Smith became the first to translate the epic of Gilgamesh into English.

This poem pens the questions felt by the Sumerians. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, who is Gilgamesh’s closest friend, dies from an illness. Gilgamesh was devastated. Enkidu’s death made Gilgamesh ponder his own existence. Was this all there was to life? He wanted more than this mortal time on earth, so he set out to have immortality granted to him by the gods. Inconclusively his search ended as his immortality was not granted. Portraying their religion, the epic of Gilgamesh depicts the void felt by the Sumerians. Their belief was that life only consisted of the time spent on earth, so the Sumerians tried to enjoy life as much as possible. Because they were not satisfied with this philosophy of life, questions concerning unknown life after death were raised. From this background, the epic of Gilgamesh was ingeniously compiled.