- 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, 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.
Where and When
Before the 4th century B.C.E.