The epic tells of the adventures of the warlike and imperious Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu. When Enkidu suddenly sickened and died, Gilgamesh became obsessed by a fear of death. His ancestor Ut-napishtim (who with his wife had been the only survivor of a great flood) told him of a plant that gave eternal life. After obtaining the plant, however, Gilgamesh left it unguarded and a serpent carried it off. The hero then turned to the ghost of Enkidu for consoling knowledge of the afterlife, only to be told by his friend that a gloomy future awaited the dead.
See translations and versions by N. K. Sandars (1960), H. Mason (1970), D. Ferry (1993), A. George (2003), S. Mitchell (2007), J. Lewis (2018), P. Terry (2018), and B. R. Foster (2d. ed., 2019); A. Heidel, Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (2d ed. 1949); D. Damrosch, The Buried Book (2007); T. Ziolkowski, Gilgamesh among Us: Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic (2011); M. Schmidt, Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem (2019).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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