Questions about the text (click here to return to Gilgamesh page)
These questions are of an introductory nature, and can be used as the basis for classroom discussions, papers, or both.
1. What characters and events does the Epic of Gilgamesh tell about? What are the key events of the story?
2. Who is Gilgamesh? How is he described? How does he behave?
3. Who are the other main characters in the epic? What roles do they play in the story?
4. What kinds of people are unnamed and generally insignificant in the Epic? What might this tell us about the culture that generated the Gilgamesh story?
5. What kinds of female characters appear in the story as crucial characters? What might their role in the Epic tell us about the lives and status of women in ancient Mesopotamia?
6. Who is Enkidu? How does the story present him? Under what circumstances do Gilgamesh and Enkidu become friends?
7. What do Enkidu and Gilgamesh accomplish together? What events lead to Enkidu's death?
8. How do humans and deities behave toward one another? Who are Anu, Enlil, Ninurta, Ennugi, and Ea?
9. How does Gilgamesh respond to Enkidu's death?
10. Who is Siduri, and what information does she have for Gilgamesh?
11.Who is Utnapishtim and what does Gilgamesh learn from him?
12. What does Gilgamesh learn from the series of events he has experienced? How does the story end?
Questions about the text as evidence of past civilizations:
1. What can The Epic of Gilgamesh teach us in a general way about ancient Mesopotamia? What other kinds of sources might we investigate in order to learn more about the character and sequence of civilizations in this region?
2. What are some of the limitations of this story as evidence about ancient Mesopotamia? What does the story not tell us that we might want to know? What is the relative validity of the story as evidence about life in that place and time? (And which time period are we referring to if we use the Gilgamesh story as cultural evidence?)
3. When was The Epic of Gilgamesh first translated into English? By what methods and by whom? How many English translations of the Gilgamesh story can you find?
4. Do you find similarities between this story and the stories in the book of Genesis? How do various historians and archaeologists explain these similarities?
5. When and where did the Gilgamesh story begin to appear as a primary source text in courses in Ancient History? What might this fact teach us about the history of learning about the past in modern times?
6. What other question(s) about this story would you like to ask or answer?
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