– 400 C.E.
Ancient Cultures

- 400 C.E. Ancient Cultures

A video from the Utah System of Higher Education (with special thanks to Dr. Nancy Ross)

It is difficult to imagine what life was like five thousand years ago, when writing first emerged in Ancient Mesopotamia (in what is today Iraq). While it is tempting to imagine that the people who lived then were different from us in every way, our experiences were in some ways similar.

Flood Tablet, Epic of Gilgamesh, 7th Century BCE (British Museum)
"Flood Tablet," Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 11, clay, Neo-Assyrian, 7th Century B.C.E. (British Museum)

Here is a passage from the ancient poem the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh mourns over the death of his friend Enkidu, fears his own death, and longs for eternal life. But even as he dreads death, he resigns himself to modest human pleasures - good food, pleasure, and the affection of his wife, "For this is the lot of mankind to enjoy... immortal life is not for men."

Yes, he who endured my hardships with me!
He now has gone to the fate that awaits mankind!
Day and night I have wept for him
I would not give him over for burial
For what if he had risen at my beseeching?
Six days and seven nights I waited
Until a worm fell out of his nose
Since he has gone
There is no life left for me.
I have roamed the steppe like a hunter
But oh, Refresher, now that I have seen your face,
Let me not see Death,
Which I so dread!'
The Refresher said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'Gilgamesh, whence do you direct yourself?
You shall not find the life you seek,
For at the creation of mankind
The gods allotted Death to men.
They retained life in their own hands.
Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Make you merry by day and by night.
Make everyday a day of feasting and of rejoicing
Dance and play, by day, by night,
Let your clothes be sparkling and fresh
Wash your hair
Bathe your body
Take your wife and let her rejoice in you.
For this is the lot of mankind to enjoy
But immortal life is not for men.

A verse version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, by Robert Temple, 1991.

Your Comments (3)

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Marilyn Benkler wrote on Friday, February 18, 2011

I am an srt teacher in NJ looking for a simple process to explore the depths of the when, why, how and relationships between the artists and the life of their time, as well as the relationship to what we visualize their reasoning for their art. You have given me a solid place to begin. I am happy to have found and to have experiienced your site. Thank you for all your work. I was a biit confused at the start as to how to navigate. It appeared a bit complex but I eventually found my way.I am hoping my students (who are younger and more comuter literate will do just finewith it) Thank you so much!

Sharon wrote on Monday, August 29, 2011

This web site is exactly what I have been looking for. I teach third grade in Sacramento and am teaching art using a time line throughout the year as my guilde through art. This web site has many opportunities for students (yes, and their teacher!) to learn and see art. My task now is to have them experience the art as we explore the richness of humanity. (Public education is alive and well !!!) I continue to find ways to help them explore thier world around them through art.

Artemis Tziolis wrote on Friday, July 13, 2012

I chuckled at the line

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