The Epic of Gilgamesh
How we cite our quotes:
"Let Enkidu go ahead of you;
he knows the road to the Cedar Forest,
he has seen fighting, has experienced battle.
Enkidu will protect the friend, will keep the comrade safe." (3.1-9)
With these words, the elders of Uruk show that friendship isn't all fun and games: there's a practical side to it as well. Two people together can accomplish much more than one person alone. But, as the last line of this passage hints, maybe if those two people are friends, it's the best of both worlds, and ensures that they will be looking out for each other. Think about that next time you send a Facebook friend request.
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh saying:
"My friend, turn back! ...
The road …" (3.242-248)
Here, Enkidu is really taking the friendship-as-protecting thing seriously, by telling Gilgamesh that he shouldn't go on the quest at all. The tablet unfortunately breaks off at this point, but we can probably catch the general drift of what Enkidu is about to say: the quest is going to be extremely dangerous, and pointless. But here's the question: is Enkidu acting like a true friend here in telling Gilgamesh to turn back? Or should Enkidu just keep his mouth shut and go along on Gilgamesh's quest?
"'One alone cannot …'
'A slippery path is not feared by two people who help each other.'
'Twice three times …'
'A three-ply rope cannot be cut.'
'The mighty lion—two cubs can roll him over.'" (Old Babylonian Supplement at 4.239)
In other words, two heads are better than one. It sounds like the Babylonians had clichés of their own, because these words, all spoken by Gilgamesh to Enkidu, echo the proverbs spoken by the elders of Uruk in Tablet 3, before they set out on their quest. These proverbs emphasize the practical side of friendship: when people work together, they can accomplish things that individuals cannot.