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The Epic of Gilgamesh

Reading literature, and especially epic literature, is like looking through a window at the culture from which it emerged. Based on your reading of this ancient text, write an essay in which you discuss what The Epic of Gilgamesh reveals about the values – the moral ideas and standards of behavior – of ancient Sumerians. What ideas were important to the Sumerians? What did they expect of their rulers? What values did they want their heroes to embody? Use specific examples from the epic to support your argument.

This assignment requires you to be particularly observant of the values of the world of Gilgamesh. This entails characteristics of human behavior as manifested in the characters’ deci sions, actions and interactions. The introduction to the Epic in your book would be of great help to you, as much as the notes you have been keeping in class. Part of this assignment is also answering questions we have been considering: what does it mean to be ancient? To be epic? To be distant from our time? Also, what it means to be a man or a woman in the civilization of ancient Sumeria? To be mortal or immortal? Moreover, how are gender and friendship perceived in that culture? How do people live, love and fight? What do their cities and homes look like? Be curious and investigative. All observations are to be drawn from the poem and poem-related-essays, such as the introduction.

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