Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gilgamesh at the Sea

While vacationing by the sea, I read the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh’s quest for eternal life sends him across the waters of death to meet with his father, Utnapishtim, who offers him this bit of wisdom: “There is no permanence.” Utnapishtim’s story of the Deluge, which follows, underscores his point. So Gilgamesh returns home not with eternal life but with a story, which he engraves on stone. In this way, through writing and literature, Gilgamesh achieved immortality—after being buried, with the library of Ashurbanipal, for a number of centuries.

Image: The Deluge Tablet, 7th century BCE