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Analysis

Sometimes, there’s more to Lit than meets the eye.

Civilization and Nature

There is no denying that civilization is a pretty big deal in The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Mesopotamians who composed the story of Gilgamesh are equally impressed with their own civilized accomplishm...

Food

Anyone hungry? We are, because food is all over The Epic of Gilgamesh. What's the deal with that? One of the most striking symbolic meanings of food in the epic is as what divides humans from anima...

Earth

Let's get this out of the way fast: we don't mean "earth" as in "Planet Earth." After all, given that Gilgamesh goes beyond the edge of the world into a mysterious underworld, it's pretty clear tha...

Snakes

The Hebrew Bible and The Epic of Gilgamesh are written in related languages—which isn't shocking, since both the Israelites of the Bible and Gilgamesh's Sumerians lived in the same region.It shou...

Floods

Again, no surprise that these two cultures living in such proximity would both have a flood story to panic their descendants with. In literature, water often means rebirth and renewal. And, we at S...

Thresholds

For a story that takes place largely in the great outdoors, gateways, passages, doors and thresholds sure feature prominently in this poem. Barriers like these symbolize separation and transitionâ€...

Bull

You just can't get more masculine than a bull. (At least, according to the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and the peoples of the Indus Valley. So, it's no surprise that Gilgamesh is described as "the he...

Allegory of Sleep

Sleep is often an allegory for death. As far as we know, The Epic of Gilgamesh didn't originate this idea, but you can find it in literature and religion the world over.Having said that, we can alm...

Allegory of the Harlot

There is a whole, whole lot going on with the Harlot. In fact, we here at Shmoop wish someone would write a sequel to Gilgamesh, which just revolves around Shamhat's adventures and interactions wit...

Motif of Dreams

We would seriously be calling up our therapist if we were having so many spookily prescient dreams. But, you know, ancient Mesopotamia was a little short of therapist—so instead, he just asks his...

Motif of Balance

When the people of Uruk cry out to the gods for some relief from their outrageous King Gilgamesh, the god Anu has an unusual reaction: instead of doling out some impressive punishment that fits the...

Motif of Quests and Journeys

In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster tells us that in order to have a good quest you need a few ingredients: a quester, a place to go, a reason to go, an obstacle, and a rea...
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