Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Gilgamesh, Beer, Food, Drink, Life, Bread, World, Tablet

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/12/25

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is the earliest literature of ancient Sumeria and probably the first work of literature in the whole world. The epic consists of larger than life characters and narrates events that mirror the nation’s custom, tradition and manner of life. Aside from the culture’s ideals such as the significance of mother-son relationship and brotherhood, the epic discusses one interesting aspect of the Sumerian life during the previous era. The poem chronicles the story and adventures of a semi-divine king and a wild man in the character of Enkidu. Through Enkidu’s descent from the forest to the civilized kingdom of Gilgamesh, the epic provides an in depth discussion of what the civilized people eat and drink. The epic reveals that bread and bear are among the customary food for the people of ancient Sumeria, especially during feasts and celebration. The epic suggests that bread serves as the staple food of ancient Sumerians while beer serves as a customary drink for special occasions and during rituals.
The character Enkidu is a representation of what it means to be wild and uncivilized during Gilgamesh’ time. In the epic, Shamhat convinced Enkidu to join the civilized world and leave his savage life in the forest. Since the wild man lives in wilderness for long years, he lives and eats the way animals do. The only edible food and drink that he knows are grass, water and milk of animals. “Enkidu knew nothing about eating bread for food,” (Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 2, line 19) Thus, Shamhat educates him about how a typical man behaves and shows him what he eats and drink. This part is shown in the lines that says:

“The harlot spoke to Enkidu, saying:

“Eat the food, Enkidu, it is the way one lives.”
(Epic Of Gilgamesh, Tablet II, lines 21-22)
When the uncivilized Enkidu was presented with bread, he was hesitant to taste it as he is not used to eating the food of civilized Sumerians. But the harlot (or prostitute in the modern language) advised him that bread is the food that sustains the life of man. Her words clearly illustrate that bread is a dominant portion of the diet of every Sumerian.

The epic also mentions another important drink of the early Sumerians which is beer. Shamhat tells Enkidu to:

“Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land.”
He drank the beer-seven jugs! and became expansive and sang with joy!”
(The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet II, lines 23 & 24)
These lines show that the history of beer can be traced down from the earliest civilization of Sumeria. For the Sumerians, beer is not a typical drink, but it symbolizes celebration, special event and merriment. The passage describes a transition in Tablet II where all the shepherds are gathered to celebrate a rite and everyone is given bread and served with several jugs of beer. It is important to note that the characters in the epic only drink beer if they are celebrating an important event and they drink water during ordinary days. Furthermore, the passage above also highlights the extra-ordinary taste of the beer that makes it suitable for memorable gatherings and celebrations. Enkidu who haven’t taste beer all his life drinks seven jugs and more because of the drink’s amazing taste and its exalting effect on his mood. The line says that after drinking jugs of beer, he sang with joy- a scenario similar to the contemporary situation where people who drink beer or other types of liquor experience good mood and some of them literally “sing with joy.”
The great importance of beer in the life of Sumerians is once again highlighted in Tablet VIII where Gilgamesh laments on the tragic death of Enkidu. Even in his deepest sorrow, he was able to mention all the great foods and drinks that they have shared together. He says: “May the herder , who prepared butter and light beer for your mouth, mourn you" (Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VIII, line 21).
The epic of Gilgamesh is not just the fearless adventure of a great hero, but it speaks of some interesting facts about the early Sumerian civilization. By reading the epic, we discover that bread and beer have long existed in distant and old civilizations. Such discovery is a proof that bread and beer are among the foods and drinks that are timeless and universal that thay have become part of the palate of different cultures. It also fair to conclude that the old civilization’s love for beer have, in some way, influenced the modern society’s inclination to wine and alcohol. Beer has been a part of the early Sumerians’ rituals of celebrating joyful events or lamenting on unkind circumstances- a tradition that people of the contemporary world have adopted.

Work Cited:

The Epic of Gilgamesh. Ancienttexts.org. Ancient Texts, 7 Jun. 2001. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/>

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WePapers. (2020, December, 25) Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/
"Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization." WePapers, 25 Dec. 2020, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/. Accessed 11 May 2021.
WePapers. 2020. Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization., viewed May 11 2021, <https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/>
WePapers. Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed May 11, 2021]. Available from: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/
"Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization." WePapers, Dec 25, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/
WePapers. 2020. "Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization." Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. Retrieved May 11, 2021. (https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/).
"Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 25-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/. [Accessed: 11-May-2021].
Sample Essay On The Epic Of Gilgamesh: A Closer Look At The Food And Drink Of The Early Mesopotamian Civilization. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-a-closer-look-at-the-food-and-drink-of-the-early-mesopotamian-civilization/. Published Dec 25, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2021.
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