[[caption-width-right:350:Gilgamesh mourning the loss of his friend Enkidu.]]

A [[Myth/MesopotamianMythology legend from Ancient Mesopotamia]], the ''Epic of Gilgamesh'' is the earliest surviving [[TheHerosJourney heroic epic]] and is very much OlderThanDirt. While not the first example of literature ever written (with Sumerian and Egyptian texts like the ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructions_of_Shuruppak Instructions of Shuruppak]]'', the ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kesh_temple_hymn Kesh temple hymn]]'', the Hymns of [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enheduanna Enheduanna]] and the ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_Texts Pyramid Texts]]'' dating back even further) it is often considered to be the earliest surviving work of great literature, predating even ''Literature/TheIliad'' and ''Literature/TheBible'' by well over a thousand years.

Gilgamesh is the [[SuperStrength super strong]], [[{{Hunk}} ruggedly handsome]], [[SemiDivine two-thirds god and one-third mortal]] king of Uruk, and he is bored. He spends his free time [[DroitDuSeigneur sleeping with every new bride on their wedding night]], which their husbands are not too happy about. (In some versions [[BiTheWay he sleeps with the grooms too]].) But he's the king, and he has no equal, so 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 goddess Aruru create a wild man named Enkidu, who lives among the animals, frightening local farmers and hunters. One of them convinces a temple harlot, Shamhat, to make a civilized man out of Enkidu by seducing him. After a week-long sex session, Shamhat convinces Enkidu to come back with her to Uruk and learn how to live like a proper human, promising she will find him a companion so that 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 a sacred cedar forest, defeat the guardian monster Humbaba, and cut down the giant cedars. Why? Why not? [[WeAreAsMayflies You only live once]]. Against the advice of ''everybody'', they go through with it, and win.

Almost as soon as they get home, the pair are faced with their next adventure when Gilgamesh turns down the goddess Ishtar's offer of marriage, noting the unsavoury fates that befell her previous lovers, and she retaliates by unleashing the terrible Bull of Heaven on Uruk. The two heroes manage to slay it, something the gods aren't too happy about, and they decide Enkidu must die in return.

His friend's death only serves to awaken Gilgamesh's own fear of dying -- 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 make whoever eats it young again. The good news is he finds it. The bad news is he takes a break on the way home to bathe, and the plant is eaten by a snake instead. Tough luck. Looks like Gilgamesh the NotSoInvincibleAfterAll has to come to terms with death and content himself instead with the beauty and majesty of his mighty kingdom -- which ''will'' be remembered forever.

!!''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 ([[BreadEggsBreadedEggs ten times twelve]]) come up a lot.
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: Gilgamesh's abuses of the people as King of Uruk include rape, forced conscription, and ringing the city bell because he thinks it's funny.
* 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.
* BeastAndBeauty: Enkidu is a wild man raised by animals who [[SexAsRiteOfPassage enters the world of man sleeping with the beautiful priestess,]] Shamhat.
* {{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 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.
* 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.
* 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 told Gilgamesh that he must trick Humbaba in removing his seven 'auras' which make him impossible for even them to defeat and gifted him with three weapons (a mighty axe, a great sword and a bow). Even then that wasn't enough, and Shamash had to resort to binding Humbaba in thirteen winds to so Enkidu and Gilgamesh 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.
* DidntThinkThisThrough: In Utnapishtim's tale, the gods created the humanity so that they will work and feed the gods, allowing them to live in leisure. Then, the gods couldn't stand the noise people made, so they tried to exterminate them a few times, culminating with TheGreatFlood. It was apparently successful, but then they realized there is no one left to feed them, nor anything to eat...
* 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.
* EastwardEndeavor: Gilgamesh travels to the earthly paradise of the gods at the easternmost edge of the Earth, and then goes even farther east, across the sea, to the island where the mariner Utnapishtim lives and where he can find a plant that grants back youth. He fails in getting this plant, but in the uttermost east he learns to accept his mortality and overcomes the fear of death that has hounded him since Enkidu died, returning home a wiser man (at least by the standards of the ancient Middle Eastern societies) and at peace with himself.
* 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.
* ExcessiveMourning: When Enkidu dies from a sickness sent by the gods, Gilgamesh refuses to let him be buried for seven days, hoping he can call him back to life by his mourning. Only when maggots appear in Enkidu's face, Gilgamesh allows the corpse to be buried, and then goes off into the steppe alone to cry for Enkidu, leaving his kingdom behind.
* FemmeFatale: The goddess Ishtar. All of her lovers were known to come to bad ends, as Gilgamesh not-so-delicately points out to her.
* 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."
* GainaxEnding: The Epic is composed of twelve tablets. The first eleven tell the coherent story people are familiar with and the eleventh even BookEnds the beginning of the first tablet. the twelfth tablet then features a completely different story where Enkidu is alive, works as Gilgamesh's servant and then gets literally trapped in the Netherworld instead of dying of disease like in the main story. The tablet even ends by saying that it's the twelfth tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh, as if it's trying to ensure the reader that it really is part of the same epic. The tablet is actually an adaptation of a much earlier story, similar to the stories that were used as inspiration for the first eleven tablets. It is believed that it was included with the other tablets due to its long descriptions of the nature of the Netherworld and the afterlife, thus showcasing the wisdom that Gilgamesh gained in the eleven main tablets.
* 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 (or vice-versa). The prologue reveals that Gilgamesh later in his life used the information he gained from Utnapishtim to preserve the knowledge of the world before the flood.
* 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. More of a HistoricalBadassUpgrade, as Gilgamesh isn't all that heroic.
* 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 euphemistic. 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.
* JerkassGods:
** Ishtar. Accept her advances and she will kill you. Reject them and she will kill you along with hundreds of others.
** Enlil, the god who brought the great flood in an attempt to destroy humanity. [[EvenEvilHasStandards Even Ishtar was horrified by this.]]
* 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.
* LostInTranslation: Gilgamesh's dreams about Enkidu are a DoubleEntendre. The Assyrian word for meteor "kisru" sounds like the word for male prostitute "kezru," while axe sounds like the word for eunuchs who take on the sexual role of women.
* 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}}.
* ManlyTears: Gilgamesh sheds these at the death of Enkidu. This in a time when crying ''was'' manly.
* MoodSwinger: Ishtar. At least Gilgamesh was smart enough to know not to sleep with someone who is a goddess of love by night, but goddess of war by day.
%%* MoreExpendableThanYou
* MortalityPhobia: [[UrExample This is possibly the oldest example of this trope.]] It chronicles the life of Gilgamesh as a seeks a way to avert death following an act that angered the Sumerian gods. The title character goes to great lengths to gain immortality, including trying to stay awake for seven days, and swimming to the bottom of the ocean to get a magical weed. His quest for immortality ultimately ends in him having to accept that death cannot be subverted.
* MortonsFork:
** Gilgamesh 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.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: This was Ishtar's reaction after the Great Flood.
-->''Alas the days of old are turned to dust because I commanded evil; why did I command thus evil in the council of all the gods? I commanded wars to destroy the people, but are they not my people, for I brought them forth? Now like the spawn of fish they float in the ocean.''
* 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 destroys a bunch of stone men hanging out by the ferry and asks Urnashabi for a ride, only to be informed that the stone men are how Urshanabi was able to cross the waters of death. They punt themselves across with poles instead, but Urshanabi can never cross again.
* NoahsStoryArc: Utnapishtim is the UrExample and TropeMaker, [[OlderThanTheyThink pre-dating Noah's story]] from ''Literature/TheBible''. Similarly to his biblical counterpart, he built a giant ship called ''The Preserver of Life'' to save his family, friends and all the animals from a flood. He was granted immortality afterwards.
* 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.
* OverlyLongGag: The part where the darkness was thick and there was no light, he could see nothing ahead and nothing behind him. It's repeated 6 times, all in a row.
* 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. As the story probably originated from oral sources, it's likely the repetitive elements were deliberate, to help people remember them.
* 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 Enkidu and Gilgamesh destroy Gugalana.
%%* RatedMForManly
* RedundantDepartmentOfRedundancy: Every major plot point is written out at least twice. For instance the people complain about Gilgamesh's bad behavior as king by saying: "Gilgamesh sounds the bell for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior's daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute." Which is redundant enough on its own but it is then immediately repeated ''word for word'' by the gods.
** Its speculated that this was done to make sure that listeners would know the important parts and be able to remember them.
* RuleOfCool: ''Two-thirds'' god...
* 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.
* SexAsRiteOfPassage: 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.
* TooDumbToLive: In the [[GainaxEnding seemingly unrelated twelfth tablet]] Gilgamesh gives Enkidu a long list of things not to do when he's visiting the Netherworld to make sure he doesn't get noticed and caught. It basically boils down to "don't wear clothes that make you stand out, don't make any noise, don't throw things at people, and don't kiss and beat up the people you loved and hated in life". Enkidu doesn't listen to what Gilgamesh says and manages to break every single piece of advice that Gilgamesh gave him. Needless to say, he doesn't make it out.
* 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.
* TookALevelInKindness: Gilgamesh becomes a good deal nicer as a ruler and a person after his fight with Enkidu.
* TragicBromance: Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
* UnbuiltTrope: A lot of the wish-fulfillment elements embodied in Gilgamesh are portrayed as immature character flaws that needs to be overcome (consider how later Myth/ClassicalMythology might have treated the same subjects), his heroic adventures only sets of a chain of events leading to the death of his best friend and when going on the most important quest of his life what does he do? He fails.
* UnevenHybrid: Gilgamesh is two-thirds god, one-third man.
* UnexplainedRecovery: The twelfth tablet has Enkidu alive with no explanation. However, the lack of context makes the situation unclear. There might have been an explanation that has yet to be found, or maybe the twelfth tablet was actually part of a different story. Still other scholars believe that it's an "inorganic appendage" to the epic.
* 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 it's too hard to achieve, even for a badass of his caliber.
* 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. It's the foundation of their friendship.
** A copy of the ''Epic'' discovered in Iraq in 2011 contained additional lines that hadn't been seen before, depicting Gilgamesh and Enkidu referring to Humbaba as a worthy opponent after his death, and expressing some remorse at having destroyed the beautiful Cedar Forest in their battle.
* {{Yandere}}: Ishtar throws a tantrum when Gilgamesh rejects her and tries to destroy the whole city of Uruk. This is possibly one of the most extreme variants on the notion that "If I can't have you, then no one can!" ever committed to paper (or clay, rather).
* YouCantFightFate: You can't escape your own 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.