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Word Count: 287
Bronze Age mythology also gave us the first myths of the hero The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh is the earliest hero epic and along with the Descent of Innana was the most influential of Bronze Age myths Gilgamesh is the part god-part human king of Uruk In the course of his adventures Gilgamesh and the wild man Enkidu who was sent by the gods to challenge Gilgamesh kill Humbaba the demon Humbaba and cut down the great cedar forest that he guarded spurn the sexual advances of the Goddess Ishtar and then kill the Bull of Heaven she sends in revenge But the gods take their revenge by killing Enkidu and Gilgamesh is thrown into despair at the prospect that he too will die He tries but fails to gain immortality then retrieves a plant that will make him younger only to have it stolen by a snake In the end he returns to Uruk aware of his mortality but still marveling at the monuments to his accomplishments Gilgamesh is the first explicitly human myth--almost entirely separated from the identity with nature that characterized the Neolithic When Gilgamesh cuts down the great cedar Forest to build the walls and gate of Uruk it is an implicit statement of mans dominion over nature such as would become the staple of classical religions It is also the first myth to show tension between the individual and the collective in humanity Gilgamesh fights with the gods who have by now become more of a reflection of the higher human whole than of nature And having lost the concept of eternal rebirth in nature but not having the concept of a collective human heaven Gilgamesh experiences the existentialist fear of death
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