“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is widely considered the oldest piece of literature in existence today, though the original author (or authors) are unknown. From ancient Mesopotamia, the story follows Gilgamesh, a demigod who is both a great warrior and all around good-looking guy. After some questionable escapades at the beginning, the gods create for him a match, as the people can’t really handle Gilgamesh at this point. The gods answer; enter: Enkidu. Enkidu is the epitome of all that is wild and wrought from nature.

Enkidu is an interesting character; he illustrates how close human beings are to simply being beasts. He magically becomes a man after he has sex with the temple priestess/prostitute Shamhat, eats some food, cleans himself up and rubs himself down with oil. These few things are all that it takes to transition from the world of beasts to the world of men. Every war reminds us just how thin this line really is.

Enkidu ends up fighting Gilgamesh as the gods intended — Gilgamesh wins, but the two gain a mutual respect for one another and become close friends. After his loss, Enkidu tells Gilgamesh that, “There is not another like you in the world … your strength surpasses the strength of men.”

The original copies of the epic were etched into tablets | Wikimedia Commons

Then the two of them begin their adventures together. They kill a great monster after a harrowing battle, explore a deep and dangerous forest in the process, sail down the River Euphrates, among other things. Gilgamesh is proposed to by a goddess with a bad track record with previous mates, and he turns her down. She takes his rejection to heart — long story short, they kill a bull from heaven and disrespect the goddess who proposed to him.