The Epic of Gilgamesh

Updated: 12/28/2020
The Epic of Gilgamesh
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Ancient Mesopotamia for Kids

Ancient Mesopotamia

Lesson Plans by Liane Hicks

Ancient Mesopotamia, “the land between the rivers” was the world’s first civilization. This region that lay along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern-day Iraq is also nicknamed the “Fertile Crescent” for its crescent moon shape and cultivable land. This fascinating civilization is where the world’s first city-states and empires began along with advances in irrigation, writing, art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics... even the invention of the wheel!

Ancient Mesopotamia

Storyboard Description

Biography and History posters are a great way to display important facts and information about major historical figures or events in an artistic, memorable and appealing way. This poster describes the story of Gilgamesh who is believed to be a real ruler of ancient Sumer whose feats were described in the epic poem written in 1800 BCE and believed to be the earliest great work of literature and the second oldest known religious text.

Storyboard Text

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh is the earliest known work of literature in the world. It is an account of the mythical adventures of a Sumerian King named Gilgamesh. It was written in cuneiform on 12 stone tablets. Gilgamesh was so powerful that he is often depicted with a lion he tamed.
  • Enkidu and Gilgamesh FightEnkidu challenged Gilgamesh and the two fought fiercely. They battled throughout an entire day and as the moon rose, Enkidu realized that he would not be able to defeat the mighty Gilgamesh. Enkidu conceded, but Gilgamesh was impressed with Enkidu's strength. The two ended the day as friends.
  • 2150 - 1400 BCE
  • Gilgamesh the Cruel4,000 years ago, Gilgamesh was the ruler the Sumerian city-state Uruk. He was said to be 1/3 human and 2/3 god and possessed super human strength. As king, he had enormous walls built around Uruk to keep out intruders. However, inside the walls, Gilgamesh was an oppressive and cruel ruler. The people of Uruk prayed to the sky god Anu to punish Gilgamesh for his crimes against them. To answer their cries, Anu sent the wild man, Enkidu to wreak havoc in Gilgamesh's city as punishment.
  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu on a questGilgamesh and Enkidu sought adventure so they traveled to the cedar forest to slay the demon, Humbaba, who lived there and to cut down the valuable cedar trees. When they arrived, Enkidu and Gilgamesh began to cut down the cedar trees, but, the demon Humbaba saw them and attacked! Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought bravely and managed to kill Humbaba. Triumphant, they cut down the tallest tree in the forest and carved a mighty gate for the walls of Uruk. Gilgamesh and Enkidu returned to Uruk victorious.
  • Death of EnkiduUpon their return, Enkidu fell ill, having been cursed by the demon Humbaba. In his weakened state, Enkidu had dreams of the underworld, the place after death, and told Gilgamesh that it was a dark and dusty place filled with sorrow. After 12 long days of suffering, Enkidu died. Gilgamesh was so upset that he instructed the entire kingdom to mourn for Enkidu. Faced with the prospect of his own mortality, Gilgamesh vowed to find the secret to eternal life.
  • Gilgamesh and the Secret to Eternal LifeGilgamesh sought Utnapishtim, who was granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh ventured for days to reach the waters of death. After forcing Gilgamesh to cut down 300 trees and make 1000 oars, the boatman, Urshanabi, agreed to take Gilgamesh across the waters of death to see Utnapishtim.Utnapishtim said he would grant eternal life if Gilgamesh could stay awake for 6 days and 7 nights. Gilgamesh agreed but after the long, arduous journey, he fell asleep. Utnapishtim gave Gilgamesh one more chance. He told him of a special flower growing at the bottom of the sea that would grant him immortality. Gilgamesh swam to the bottom of the sea and found the flower. When he was on land, he lay the flower down while he rested and bathed. A snake slithered down from the dunes and ate the flower! Gilgamesh was crushed and returned to Uruk defeated. As Gilgamesh approached the massive, finely crafted walls of Uruk, he realized that while he may not live forever, his accomplishments and creations will live on to tell of his greatness.