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The Epic of Gilgamesh

The text of the Epic of Gilgamesh, in its usual published form, is a compilation of several legendary exploits of a king of the Mesopotamian city of Uruk. Gilgamesh features in the Sumerian lists of kings as having ruled in about 2700 BC. The various legends, known separately from fragmentary texts of the second millennium BC, are brought together in the 7th-century version discovered in the library at Nineveh.

A late addition to the text is the famous account of a Flood, closely resembling the version in Genesis. But the narrative interest of the epic centres on the adventures of Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu in search of fame.

The pair have many heroic struggles against alarming adversaries before Enkidu dies of a mysterious illness. Gilgamesh extravagantly mourns his friend, and then undertakes further adventures in the hope of achieving immortality and so avoiding Enkidu's fate.

It is all for nought. The epic ends with the funeral of the great king in Uruk. But on the way the goddess of wine, Siduri, has given him some wise advice on Enjoying life while you have it.

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