The Main Theme Of “The Epic Of Gilgamesh”

The Epic of Gilgamesh ponders on the matters of friendship, identity, courage, and pride. Its main character, Gilgamesh, wants to build a legacy for himself at the start of the epic: he wants to perform extraordinary acts so that he can be renowned. This desire pushes him, eventually leading to Enkidu’s death as retribution for his arrogance. Although The Epic of Gilgamesh discusses multiple themes, the main one is the internalization of mortality, which is represented in Gilgamesh’s fear of death, an attempt to prevent it, and final acceptance of its imminence.

Significantly, Enkidu’s death forces Gilgamesh to confront his own mortality. After Enkidu’s funerals, he exclaims: “I shall die, and shall not then be as Enkidu? Sorrow has entered my heart!” (George 70). Hence, he realizes that despite his and Enkidu’s heroic adventures, death will eventually come and not spare as was with his closest friend.

Gilgamesh becomes preoccupied with conquering his mortality when Enkidu dies. This drives his quest for the path to eternal existence: “I am afraid of death, so I wander the wild” (George 70). Gilgamesh is not afraid of the dangers about which the gods and mortals warn him since the greatest of his desires is to escape death.

Yet, after he loses the herb that returns vitality, he accepts that he will die and that the greatest he can do is conduct decent actions and communicate what he learned with Uruk’s inhabitants. To demonstrate the achievements worthy of living, Gilgamesh describes to Ur-shanabi the beauty of a human-made city: “Climb Uruk’s wall and walk back and forth! Survey its foundations, examine the brickwork!” (George 99). Therefore, he finally understands the inevitability of death and yet recovers meaning in his world.

Thus, the quest of Gilgamesh is not physical but rather a philosophical, moral, and religious endeavor to grow into a greater person. The Epic of Gilgamesh explores the theme of the fear of mortality through an outstanding narrative. It demonstrates that even an ambitious leader might be afraid of it and come to an understanding of the meaning of life. Work Cited.


George, Andrew. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Books, 2000.