Books: The Epic of Gilgamesh

The assumption of literature is that it began within the Victorian age, with all characterizations and tropes developed within the opium grandeur. All books before were merely failed attempts; and all books to follow were to stand forever in the shadows of established structures. The classics would always remain the most important works of history – and their formation during the 19th century proved to be the pinnacle that could be reached within the written word. There was no predecessor worthy of consideration, it is too often believed.

This is a mistake.

Because literature has never been forced to such a narrow categorization, and the first true representation of it came long before Victoria and her golden years. It instead arrived in an estimated 2000 B.C. among the borders of the Mesopotamian empire. It was called the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’.

This massive verse–which has still not been found in its totality and has instead been glimpsed throughout several sources–spans across 12 stone tablets in its most complete form, capturing the heroics of the Sumer (which is the earliest civilization of mankind) people. ‘Gilgamesh’ represented a collection of legends of a king and his many struggles. The poem charted his search for immortality and his defiance of the gods, as well as offering an examination of the inevitability of death and its ultimate importance.

The ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ appeared long before the stories most consider to be proof of literature. It is instead thought to be the first recorded work, rivaled only by the ‘Book of the Dead’. And, though deciding a precise time for its conception is impossible, due to the nature of the stone writing and its prevalence for too many centuries, it is heralded still as one of the earliest examples of verse.

Literature is not confined to a singular era. It is instead found throughout history, offering proof of the fables born from differing cultures. And the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ must be celebrated for such fables. It is a masterpiece and an undeniable influence on the stories that followed.

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