The Epic of Gilgamesh
Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
He who has seen everything, I will make known (?) to the lands.
I will teach (?) about him who experienced all things,
Anu granted him the totality of knowledge of all.
He saw the Secret, discovered the Hidden,
he brought information of (the time) before the Flood. (1.1-6)
This is the way we start off, so we know that wisdom and knowledge are going to be playing a key role. Basically, Gilgamesh is an awesome hero because of what he has learned. Note too that the author says that he is going to "teach" about what Gilgamesh has learned. This makes it seem like the whole epic is basically a hand-me-down report of what Gilgamesh saw in the underworld. This should make us modern readers feel especially lucky; we certainly appreciate the insight into the underworld, but we're glad only one person had to make the risky journey to the ends of the earth, encounter the Scorpion-beings, traverse the Waters of Death, and so on.
Enkidu was diminished, his running was not as before.
But then he drew himself up, for his understanding had broadened. (1.183-184)
Here, we get the transformation Enkidu experiences right after he has sex for the first time with Shamhat. On the one hand, he finds that his athletic prowess has been weakened. (Yeah, that makes sense.) On the other hand, his mind has been expanded. And think about how wisdom is acquired in the rest of the epic. Don't these two lines about Enkidu basically boil down the epic's whole point about wisdom? Whenever you gain knowledge, you lose something as well.
The Noble Counselors of Uruk arose and
delivered their advice to Gilgamesh:
"You are young, Gilgamesh, your heart carries you off—
you do not know what you are talking about!" (2.280-283)
We hear this when the elders of Uruk are trying to talk Gilgamesh out of going on his quest to the Cedar Forest to do battle with the monster Humbaba. The elders think that Gilgamesh doesn't know what he's getting himself into because he's just too young; if he were older and wiser, he would know better. How closely is wisdom related to experience in this epic?