A [[MesopotamianMythology legend from ancient Babylon and Akkad]], the ''Epic of Gilgamesh'' is the oldest [[TheHerosJourney heroic epic]] that survives to this day and is very much OlderThanDirt. See UrExample below for more details.

Gilgamesh is the [[SuperStrength super strong]], ruggedly handsome, two-thirds god and one-third mortal king of Uruk, and he is bored. He spends his free time [[DroitDuSeigneur sleeping with each new bride the night of her wedding]], which their husbands are not too happy about, but he is the king, and he can do what he wants. The people of Uruk beg the gods to provide Gilgamesh with something better to do. The gods decide that what the restless, powerful, [[JumpedAtTheCall adventure-hungry]] hero needs is a best friend and WorthyOpponent. So they have the womb goddess Aruru make a wild man named Enkidu, who lives out in the wilderness among the animals, annoying farmers and hunters. One of them convinces a temple harlot, Shamhat, to [[AManIsNotAVirgin make a civilized man out of him]], by sleeping with him for a week. After his first taste of sex, Shamhat convinces Enkidu to come back with her to the temple and learn how to live like a civilized human, promising she will introduce him to a best friend so he'll never be lonely again. He accepts.

So Gilgamesh and Enkidu [[MagneticHero become]] [[HeterosexualLifePartners inseparable friends]] (after [[DefeatMeansFriendship beating each other to a pulp in the streets]]). To celebrate, Gilgamesh decides they should go on an adventure to the Forest of Cedars, defeat the guardian monster Humbaba, and cut down the giant cedar. Why? Why not, when you [[WeAreAsMayflies only live once]]. Against the advice of ''everybody'', they go through with it.

The partners have their next adventure when Gilgamesh turns down the goddess Ishtar's offer to sleep with her, [[GenreSavvy noting the unsavoury fates that befall her lovers]], and she retaliates by unleashing the Bull of Heaven on Uruk. The two heroes manage to slay it, which the gods aren't too happy about and decide Enkidu will have to die because of this.

His friend's death only intensifies Gilgamesh's fear of dying and hatred of his own mortality -- curse those one-third mortal genes! There's only one thing to do -- go to the ends of the Earth and find the secret of eternal life. His advisors tell him that's crazy and that he should get over it. The Scorpion Men who guard the underground tunnel that the sun uses to reach the other side of the Earth every night tell him to turn back and get over it. Siduri, keeper of the inn at the end of the tunnel, tells him to stop causing himself so much stress and [[LikeYouWereDying enjoy life while he has the chance]] and get over his obsession. Utanapishtim, the survivor of the great flood who was made immortal, tells Gilgamesh immortality isn't for humans and he should get over his crazy wish of living forever. Sensing the pattern yet?

Utanapishtim offers Gilgamesh a test: if Gilgamesh can stay awake for seven nights, he will give Gilgamesh the immortality he wants. Gilgamesh falls asleep almost immediately -- because of Utanapishtim's magic, it is implied -- then [[HiddenPurposeTest lies and claims to have stayed awake, thus failing the true purpose of Utanapishtim's test]]. But Utanapishtim's wife convinces him to be nice and give the seeker ''something'' for his trouble. So he tells Gilgamesh where to find a plant that will grant eternal life and youth. The good news is he finds it. The bad news is a snake eats it when he takes a break on the way home to bathe. Tough luck. Looks like Gilgamesh the NotSoInvincibleAfterAll has to come to terms with the fact that WeAreAsMayflies and content himself with the beauty and majesty of his mighty kingdom.

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!!''The Epic of Gilgamesh'' contains examples of:

* AbsurdlyCoolCity: Uruk itself. A similar phrasing provides BookEnds for the story.
--> Gilgamesh: "[[DescriptionPorn Urshanabi, climb up on to the wall of Uruk, inspect its foundation terrace, and examine well the brickwork; see if it is not of burnt bricks, and did not seven wise men lay these foundations]]?"
* TheAce: Gilgamesh.
* ActuallyIAmHim: When Gilgamesh lands at the mouth of the rivers, he asks the first man he sees where to find Utnapishtim. Naturally it ''is'' Utnapishtim, but he interrogates Gilgamesh on his purpose before revealing his identity.
* ArcNumber: Seven, ten, twelve, and 120 (ten times twelve) come up a lot.
* AintTooProudToBeg: Humbaba offers Gilgamesh all the riches of the forest should Gilgamesh show mercy. Gilgamesh hacks his head off anyway.
* ArtificialHuman: Gilgamesh, DependingOnTheWriter, although the stone tablets state that he wasn't as much born as he was "created". Enkidu as well.
* AuthorityEqualsAsskicking: King Gilgamesh.
* {{Badass}}: Gilgamesh and Enkidu. They are some of the first fictional badasses we know about.
* {{BFS}}:
-->''"They cast great daggers\\
Their blades were 120 pounds each\\
The cross guards of their handles thirty pounds each\\
They carried daggers worked with thirty pounds of gold\\
Gilgamesh and Enkidu bore ten times sixty pounds each."''
* BittersweetEnding: Gilgamesh is spared the gods' wrath and gains wisdom, but he has to cope with the death of Enkidu, and immortality is denied to him.
* BoldExplorer: Gilgamesh explored many new lands, defeating monsters and bringing home their treasures. Any actual TropeMaker is probably lost to history, so this is likely as close as we'll ever get.
* BookEnds: The epic starts with an evocative description of the splendor of Uruk. It ends with Gilgamesh and Urshanabi arriving at Uruk, and Gilgamesh using the exact same words to describe it.
* Catch22Dilemma: Ishtar has propositioned you! Do you 1. accept and then wait for her to murder you (or worse) like she does to everyone? or 2. refuse her and have her attack your city with the Bull of Heaven?
* CharacterDevelopment: The introduction implies that after his adventure, Gilgamesh became a decent king.
* ComingOfAgeStory: Although Gilgamesh is already an adult, the arc of the story is about him learning to ''act'' like one, particularly in the areas of impulse control and accepting death as an inevitable part of life.
* ContractualImmortality: The gods put it to a vote about whether Gilgamesh or Enkidu should die. One guess who they choose...
* DeadSidekick: Gilgamesh completely falls apart after Enkidu's death.
* DeathBySex:
** Subverted. Enkidu blames Shamhat for leading him to an early death by seducing him, but then he's reminded that Shamhat led him to civilization and his friendship with Gilgamesh, so he repents and wishes blessings on her instead.
** Played straight with Ishtar's lovers.
* DefeatMeansFriendship: How Enkidu and Gilgamesh meet and become best buddies: by beating the crap out of each other.
* {{Determinator}}: Gilgamesh.
* DeusExMachina: At Ninsun's request, Shamash binds Humbaba with the thirteen winds so Gilgamesh and Enkidu can kill him.
* DiabolusExMachina: Apparently, HappilyEverAfter is NewerThanTheyThink. That damn snake.
* DidYouJustFlipOffCthulhu: After killing the Bull of Heaven, Enkidu throws its 'hindquarters' in Ishtar's face.
* DownerEnding: It was the first (surviving) story of a hero going through every trial, a heroic journey to try to achieve something, and in the end, ''he failed''. What message does that send?
* DreamSequence: Several, deliberately invoked as divination. Every dream Gilgamesh has before coming to the Cedar Forest involves a mountain falling on top of him. Enkidu deduces that this is ReversePsychology and predicts success.
* DroitDuSeigneur: This got him into ''big'' trouble since it was not cool with anyone in his kingdom, and eventually led to Enkidu arriving after the Gods answered his people's prayers.
* DualWielding: Gilgamesh uses a [[HeroesPreferSwords sword]] and an [[AnAxeToGrind axe]], sometimes both at once.
* ExactWords: Ea warns Utnapistim of the coming flood even though the gods vow not to tell any human--but Ea didn't tell anyone. He just happened to be talking about it next to a fence that Utnapishtim happened to be standing behind.
* FemmeFatale: The goddess Ishtar.
* TheFerryMan: Urshanabi, as he transports Gilgamesh to where Utnapishtim is staying.
* FloweryInsults: When Enkidu curses Shamhat for indirectly leading to his death, he lets off a whole string of these, which (in at least one translation) ends with the... [[{{Squick}} memorable]] "May the drunkard soil with his vomit any place you enjoy."
* GenreSavvy: Gilgamesh, when it comes to [[DeathBySex sleeping with Ishtar]].
* GodEmperor: Gilgamesh again (well, they did name it after him). It also points out how the Sumerian kings are specifically ''not'' this.
* GoingToSeeTheElephant: Why did Gilgamesh drag Enkidu on a mission to defeat Humbaba and cut down the giant cedar? Because it was there[[note]]It's entirely possible that the reason is in one of the missing sections[[/note]]. According to Bilgames and Ḫuwawa, the Sumerian original, it's for glory and by Utu's suggestion.
* TheGreatFlood: Mentioned in retrospect. The biblical Noah was an {{Expy}} for Utnapishtim.
* GrumpyOldMan: Utnapistim doesn't have much time for Gilgamesh. Not surprising, given what ''he'' went through to get immortality.
* HairTriggerTemper: Gilgamesh. He has a habit of throwing ''really'' destructive hissy fits.
* HalfHumanHybrid: Well, "one third human" hybrid, anyway. Yeah, genetically not possible, but it works if you take into account that the ancient Babylonians didn't know about genetics: divine + divine + human = [=2/3=] divine and [=1/3=] human.
* HeroicBSOD:
** Enkidu's death knocks Gilgamesh flat. He has to watch him die over the course of twelve days, is utterly shellshocked when it happens, and by his own account refused to start the funeral rites until Enkidu's corpse was visibly rotting, because Gilgamesh has really hoped the violence of his grief could bring his friend back.
** He could have gone back for more of the Flower of Youth, but turns out having everyone say something is impossible and reckless, going out and doing it, then having it snatched away at the last second can change your outlook on things a bit.
* HistoricalHeroUpgrade: Possibly. There was a real King Gilgamesh that ruled Uruk, and this story may have started out as a propaganda piece for him.
* HomoeroticSubtext: Enkidu and Gilgamesh (outright text in some versions). Honestly, do things ''ever'' change?
* HookerWithAHeartOfGold: Shamhat, although this is a modern misunderstanding of her job. She was the priestess of the Goddess of Sex and having sex with any man who asks is a respected part of her ministry, rather than anything shameful.
* IfYouEverDoAnythingToHurtHer: Ishtar runs crying to her father after Gilgamesh spurns her, so he gives her the Bull of Heaven to [[DisproportionateRetribution terrorize Uruk in revenge]]. He only does it because Ishtar was being a BrattyTeenageDaughter about it, even after he warned her that making the Bull will cause a seven-year drought.
* ILoveYouBecauseICantControlYou
* IKEAErotica: Sexual descriptions in this poem are neither flowery nor circuitous. To introduce Enkidu to the joys of being human, Shamhat is asked to "Use your love arts; strip off your robes and lie there naked with your legs apart." She later "touches his penis and puts him inside her." He stays erect for seven days.
* ImmortalitySeeker: Gilgamesh spends a good chunk of the story trying to win immortality.
* JumpedAtTheCall: Gilgamesh has a craving for adventure.
* KillHimAlready: After Gilgamesh defeats the Humbaba and has him at knife-point, Humbaba begs for mercy. Gilgamesh seems ready to grant it, but his friend Enkidu persuades him to get on with it.
* KnowWhenToFoldEm: Gilgamesh doesn't.
* LostEpisode: Thanks to the ''very'' old age of the work, the story had to be reconstructed from various fragments on tablets. Not all of them have been found.
* MacGuffin[=/=]AppliedPhlebotinum: In the third act, the "Stone Things" that power the ferryman's boat. Gilgamesh destroys them in a temper tantrum.
* MakingASplash: Gilgamesh goes to find the survivors of the flood, who were granted {{immortality}}.
* AManIsNotAVirgin: Enkidu isn't really truly human until Shamhat has sex with him.
* MoodSwinger: Ishtar. At least Gilgamesh was GenreSavvy enough to know not to sleep with someone who's goddess of love by night, but goddess of war by day...
* MoreExpendableThanYou
* MortonsFork:
** Gilgamesh [[GenreSavvy declines]] Ishtar's [[DeathBySex advances]]. [[WomanScorned So she invokes the Bull of Heaven on Uruk.]]
** Enkidu can either a) get killed by the Bull of Heaven or b) be slain by a BoltOfDivineRetribution for killing the Bull of Heaven.
* NarrativePoem: The UrExample.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: It's well-known that Humbaba was put there by Enlil because he didn't want anyone cutting down the cedars. Enkidu insists on killing him anyway. Then Gilgamesh finds a bunch of stone men hanging out by the ferry and then asks Urnashabi for a ride, only to be informed that the stone men are how Urshanabi is able to cross the waters of death. They punt themselves across with poles instead, but Urshanabi can never cross again.
* TheNothingAfterDeath: There ''is'' something, but Irkalla (the underworld) isn't fun.
* OhCrap: Enkidu and then Gilgamesh have this reaction to Humbaba and have to encourage the other to keep going.
* OverprotectiveDad: Anu lets Ishtar borrow the Bull of Heaven because Gilgamesh was rude to her.
* OurGiantsAreBigger: Humbaba -- "His maw is fire, his breath is death... Who, even among gods, could attack him?"
* OutrunTheFireball: Possibly the last trope in the world you'd expect to be OlderThanDirt, but there it is -- on his journey to Dilmun, Gilgamesh had to pass through the tunnel through which the ''sun'' goes at night. The tunnel was long, and before he could get to the other end, the sun god entered from the other side... if that's not a fireball to outrun, we don't know what is.
* ParrotExposition: Several times a character will say something only to have it repeated back to them with only a little extra as a response.
* RadishCure: Inanna/Ishtar asks Gilgamesh to be her consort, but he refuses, citing what happened to pretty much all of her other boyfriends and husbands. Enraged, she runs to her daddy, Nanna the moon god, and asks for Gugalana, the Bull of Heaven. (Actually, the first husband of her older twin Ereshkigal. This becomes important later.) Nanna warns her that giving her the Bull of Heaven will cause a drought and says no, but Inanna/Ishtar pitches a fit, threatening to cause a Zombie Apocalypse if Gugalana is not given to her. Nanna gives in, and [[spoiler:Enkidu and Gilgamesh destroy Gugalana]].
* RatedMForManly: '''Hell yes.'''
* RuleOfCool: ''Two-thirds'' god...
* ScienceMarchesOn: The "two-thirds god" thing can be [[YouFailBiologyForever a head-scratcher]], until you learn that ancient Sumerians believed that if a woman became pregnant after sleeping with multiple partners, ''all'' of them helped father the child.
* SemiDivine: Gilgamesh is two-thirds god.
* SerpentOfImmortality: The magical plant which grants eternal life and youth is stolen by a snake, making it immortal. Gilgamesh didn't get a chance to eat the plant and had to go home mortal.
* {{Sex As Rite-Of-Passage}}: Shamhat's seven-day sex with Enkidu is the first step in making him a civilized man.
* SoapOperaDisease: The ailment that kills Enkidu.
* SpannerInTheWorks: That darn snake who stole the herb of immortality.
* SuperStrength: Gilgamesh has it.
* ThresholdGuardians: The Scorpion Men guard the tunnel that the sun rolls through at night.
* TooCleverByHalf: Gilgamesh decides not to act on impulse and plans to test the effects of the youth-restoring plant before he tries it himself, so he's going to bring it all the way back to Uruk. He loses it entirely through a moment's inattention.
* TragicBromance: Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
* UnevenHybrid: Gilgamesh is two-thirds god, one-third man.
* WalkingTheEarth: Gilgamesh after Enkidu's death.
* WeAreAsMayflies: At first Gilgamesh uses this as a flippant reply when Enkidu has reservations about the Humbaba hunt. It later becomes his obsession.
* WhatTheHellHero: When Gilgamesh shows up on his doorstep asking how to gain immortality, Utnapishtim recounts the Deluge and his role in rescuing terrestrial life from it in full, terrifying detail. Then he follows up with "so what did ''you'' do to earn immortality lately?"
* WhoWantsToLiveForever: Gilgamesh does. The story is largely about him learning that he really shouldn't.
* WildHair: Enkidu has it when he's first "born" and gets it cut when he's civilized. Gilgamesh later gains it after he goes wild-man in the aftermath of Enkidu's death.
* WomanScorned: Ishtar. Then again, Woman ''Accepted'' isn't much better with her.
* WorldsStrongestMan: Gilgamesh. If it had a name and could fight, Gilgamesh defeated it.
* WorthyOpponent: Enkidu and Gilgamesh.
* WritersCannotDoMath: Justified by the fact that Gilgamesh was not born as much as created.
* {{Yandere}}: Ishtar.
* YouCantFightFate: You can't escape your mortality (unless you're Utnapishtim and his wife).
* ZombieApocalypse: Ishtar threatens to knock down the doors of the underworld to bring the dead up, who will eat the living.

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