Presentation on theme: "Lecture Eight Gilgamesh Lecturer: Wu Shiyu. Outline I. The previous lecture explored the world of the Koran and saw the figure of Muhammad as a great."— Presentation transcript:
Lecture Eight Gilgamesh Lecturer: Wu Shiyu
Outline I. The previous lecture explored the world of the Koran and saw the figure of Muhammad as a great prophet, whose revelation of the Koran, given by God, truly transformed history.
A. The central theme of the Koran is God—who God is and what he demands of us. B. The Koran is written in noble language. Muslims believe that the Arabic of the Koran represents the perfection of language. Only one authorized translation of the Koran exists; it was created under the Ottoman Empire. C. The Koran is universal: it is studied and recited throughout the world of Islam. It is able to speak across many nations and cultures.
II. Westerners are concerned because the Koran provides an entire social and legal framework for Muslim society; however, Western society is the oddity because it separates the world of the divine and sacred from the world of the secular.
A. Most of the great books show a belief that the divine is truly of the world of humans. B. The great civilizations of the past—including those of India, China, Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia, and Egypt—believed that there was no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. In those cultures, there could be no separation between church and state.
III. Gilgamesh is an epic poem that also reflects no separation between the sacred and the secular.
A. Gilgamesh deals with the second of the themes for this course, the question of fate, a question that has consumed the minds of thoughtful individuals ever since the first days of civilization. B. The prophet Muhammad indicates that everything that befalls people has been destined by God. This message is also central to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
IV. Civilization was born in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. Around 3000 B.C., both areas experienced an astonishing burst of anonymous creativity.
A. These early civilizations were characterized by systems of writing, complex government structures, and monumental architecture. Both the Tower of Babel and the pyramids represented monuments to the belief that no separation existed between the sacred and the secular.
B. Mesopotamia, the land of two rivers, is today’s Iraq. Civilization there blossomed in the form of independent cities, including Uruk and Ur. C. A complex governmental structure evolved to regulate the irrigation of the land through the two rivers. Irrigation released the population of Mesopotamia (as well as that of the Nile Valley) from the vagaries of the weather. The large cities were able to feed themselves.
D. This growth and harnessing of technology in the 3rd century B.C. came about through absolute government control. 1. The people of the Nile Valley accepted the belief that the pharaoh was god on earth and built pyramids to celebrate his eternity, the idea that the pharaoh would live forever. 2. The Mesopotamian city-states along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were also based on the absolute power of the kingship. The king ruled because God had chosen him and placed him on the throne. Even the names of the rulers reflected this status.
V. The epic of Gilgamesh is the first known epic poem. Its theme is fate, and it asks the following questions. A. What is our fate? B. Why do we die? C. Why can’t we live forever?
VI. The epic of Gilgamesh has had several forms. A. Civilization in Mesopotamia came into being with the Sumerians. 1. The language of the Sumerian civilization was not related to the Semitic tongues. 2. Early in the Sumerian culture, the people related tales of the figure of Gilgamesh, the man of joy and the man of woe.
3. Gilgamesh was a real historical figure, who lived around 2600 B.C. and had been king of Uruk. This powerful king was credited with building the walls that surrounded the city of Uruk. These walls were a symbol of his ability to organize labor and a symbol of the constant warfare in the towns of Mesopotamia.
B. Around 2100 B.C., a longer poem about Gilgamesh was written. 1. Almost from the beginning, this epic of Gilgamesh was written down; it was not part of oral composition. 2. The poem was written in the language of Babylonia, Akkadian, which was a Semitic language.
C. Around the end of the 2nd millennium B.C., a final, elaborate version of the epic of Gilgamesh appears. 1. The name associated with this poem is Shin-eqi-unninni, who is the first known great poet. 2. This poem was extensively copied, and examples of it were found in clay tablets of Ashurbanipal, the king of Assyria.
3. The Assyrians had come to rule Mesopotamia and pushed their rule to the Mediterranean Sea. They dominated Egypt for a time. 4. These stories about Gilgamesh attracted the interest of an educated audience. Oral tales of Gilgamesh also continued.
VII. The epic of Gilgamesh—a real historical figure who became the subject of mighty legends—is the story of how Gilgamesh looked into the abyss; in other words, how he came to realize that each person must die and that no one can escape that fate. It is the story of the quest of Gilgamesh for eternal life.
A. The story begins in the city of Uruk, where Gilgamesh is ruler. He flaunts his power and is mighty and vigorous, celebrating his achievements.
B. The world of Gilgamesh is a polytheistic one; the gods were human and accessible, like the gods of Homer. These gods intervened directly in the world of humans through oracles and dreams. Dreams were a way that the gods told humans what they were to do. The gods chose who would rule, set up codes of law, and made certain that there was no separation between the world of the divine and the world of humans.
C. Gilgamesh was two-thirds divine; his mother was a goddess, and his father was part divine, as well. D. Gilgamesh abuses his power. The people believe that the behavior of Gilgamesh is out of control, and they appeal to the divinities for assistance. E. The gods create Enkidu, a wild and uncivilized man who knows nothing of civilization and lives in the world of nature. Enkidu is finally civilized by a temple prostitute.
F. After a trial of strength, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become friends and set off on a series of adventures to make names for themselves so that people will remember Gilgamesh forever. G. Together, Enkidu and Gilgamesh conquer and kill the fierce monster Khumbaba.
H. Gilgamesh rejects the love of the goddess Ishtar. Enkidu and Gilgamesh conquer a ferocious bull, a symbol of chaos, which had been sent to avenge this insult to the goddess. I. Enkidu then sickens and dies. Gilgamesh becomes distraught and overwhelmed by his understanding that he, too, must die at some point.
J. Gilgamesh sets out to discover how he can conquer death. He discovers that one man, Ut- Napishtim, is immortal and decides to ask him the secret of immortality.
1. To find Ut-Napishtim, Gilgamesh travels through the dark mountains, past the scorpion monster, and finally, crosses the sea of death.
2. Ut-Napishtim explains that the gods had decided to destroy the human race and had instructed him to build an ark with two of every creature. These creatures and the family of Ut- Napishtim were the only beings who survived a mighty flood. The gods had granted Ut- Napishtim eternal life as a reward for his suffering.
3. Ut-Napishtim tells Gilgamesh that he can become immortal if he is able to avoid sleeping. Gilgamesh immediately falls asleep. After he awakens, Ut-Napishtim tells him that he can live forever if he can bring the plant of immortality up from the bottom of the sea. Gilgamesh finds the plant, but a snake eats it. Gilgamesh then realizes that he will die.
K. Gilgamesh returns to Uruk and surveys the walls around the city. He says, “What I have done is good.” He then lives the rest of his life knowing that he will die and that all that matters is his reputation and the achievements that he leaves behind.