Hearken ye men of Sumer: For as much as mine eyes weep at the thought of poor Enkidu laying forever still, it shall be that I, your king, will reign eternally!
Maybe that's an actual quote, maybe it isn't. We'll never know.
And why will we never know? Because 4,600 years ago, people weren't known for their accurate quoting methods.
Also, the guy who said it might not have been real.
Believe it or don't, but a lot of the people we read about from history might not have actually ever existed. Or, if they did, the stories we hear about them are greatly exaggerated. The fact is, we'll never know.
Take for example, Jesus. The image of Jesus most people form in their heads never existed. First off, if you went back in time and walked up to the man and said "Hi Jesus.", he wouldn't know who you were talking to. His name wasn't Jesus. It was Jeshua. Jesus is the Greek version of his name. And his last name isn't Christ. That's his title. And it's also a shortened version of a Greek word, Christos, which means 'son of God'. His name back when he lived was Jeshua ben Joseph. (Jeshua, son of Joseph). Also, he wasn't white. He was olive skinned.
There is a good possibility that the man Jeshua actually lived. And that he taught his form of Judaism. And that he was executed by the Romans. But, other than some written accounts, we have no other proof. And, if we use written accounts as the only proof we need, then somewhere in Norway there's a cave where the remains of Grendel and his mother lie waiting to be discovered. Because I read one time Beowulf killed them. So it must be true.
And there in lies the problem with history.
What do we believe and what do we disregard as the truth when it comes to historical writing? In so many cases, the truth is embellished. Or myths are recorded and later thought to be true. What is true and what is made up?
We think we can tell in a lot of cases. Like in the case of todays post: Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was the king of the city-state of Uruk. This would be about 2,600 B.C.E. Uruk was in modern day Iraq, and as an actual city, we know it was real. We found it a long time ago.
And, Gilgamesh was recorded in the list of Babylonian kings by the Sumerians, so we're pretty sure he existed. (he was called Bilgamesh by the Sumerians. Even then there were language issues)
That picture at the beginning of the post is supposedly of Gilgamesh, but it might not be. No one can be certain. One thine we know is certain is, the main story of his life that we have isn't true. It's a good read, but it's as much real history as Beowulf is.
It's called 'The Epic of Gilgamesh'. And if you haven't read it, well.....good for you. I mean, shame on you! It's a good story. Really, it is. it's about Gilgamesh and his buddy Enkidu conquered the world without conquering anyone.
In the story, Enkidu was either born out of the mud, or was a hermit who had been seduced and tamed by a priestess. His job was to kill the king, Gilgamesh. But, they were equally strong. And Gilgamesh, being the hero, befriended Enkidu instead of killing him. And so, like all friends do, they went off to have an adventure.
On this adventure, the killed every enemy they cam across. Including a dragon! When they returned home, they were heros! (even though people only had their word for what they had done) (also ignoring the fact that the king of Uruk just up and left for a while leaving the city without it's leader)
Enkidu died. Gilgamesh was heartbroken. So, he decided he was 2/3 of a god. A demi-god, if you will. (2/3 god means he has 2 gods and one human as parents...) And it became his lifes goal to be immortal.
Guess what? It didn't work. According to the list of kings, his reign only lasted 126 years. Not too immortal, if you ask me. (what is the deal with ancient people living for so long, anyway?)
As you can see, we have historical documentation about Gilgamesh. But how much do we believe? It's generally accepted that he was a real person. It's also generally accepted that Enkidu was real. However, no one can say for sure what else about them is real. Some argue he wasn't even a king. Others say he was.
And this is the problem we have with history. We weren't there, so we have to rely on what history tells us about it's self. And we have to decide how much, or how little of it to believe.
I'm a strong proponent of reading up on historical facts and deciding for myself if they are real or not. I take into consideration the thoughts of the experts, but a lot of times, they're guessing too. And I figure my guess is just as good as theirs.
So, do yourself a favor. Go read 'The Epic of Gilgamesh'. It is considered to be the worlds first great piece of literature, if nothing else.