The Epic of Gilgamesh has been read in the modern world for a little longer than a century, and, in that time, this oldest of stories has become a classic college text. In my own courses on ancient literature and mythology, it is the book I always begin with. But why should a tale whose origins stretch back more than four thousand years draw such attention in an age of genetic engineering and text messaging? The answer I have given to hundreds of students is that almost every joy and sorrow they will face in life was revealed in Gilgamesh millennia before they were born. Reading Gilgamesh will not only teach them to face the challenges that lie ahead, but also give them an appreciation for the idea that no matter how much our modern world might seem different from earlier times, the essence of the human experience remains the same.
This then is the meaning of the Gilgamesh Epic: it is the first embodiment in dramatic form and in explicit statement of the idea of human-ism. It must have been a very revolutionary idea at the time.
« Older Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing... | "A number of liberals reacted ... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments