The 11-tablet Standard Babylonian version (late second millennium B.C.E.) of the epic emphasizes Gilgamesh’s transition from a powerful but wild hero to a responsible king. At the beginning of the epic, Gilgamesh’s unrestrained energy threatens the people of Uruk:

The young men of Uruk he harries without warrant,

Gilgamesh lets no son go free to his father.

By day and by night his tyranny grows harsher,

Gilgamesh, [the guide of the teeming people!]

What are virtues in a heroic warrior, however, may well be faults in a ruler. The first lesson Gilgamesh must learn is that heroism will not make him immortal. This he is taught by Utnapishtim, who tells him the story of a great flood that destroyed humanity. Gilgamesh begins to reflect on the meaning of his life, as well as on forms of immortality:

Said Gilgamesh to him, to Uta-napishti the


“I look at you, Uta-napishti:

your form is no different, you are just like me,

you are not any different, you are just like me …

How did you find the life eternal?”

Gilgamesh realizes that his city, Uruk, will live on after he dies. His own immortality is thus bound up with the health and strength of the city he was born to rule. He gives up his wanderings and returns to Uruk, where he marvels at the greatness of the city:

He came a far road, was weary, found peace,

and set all his labours on a tablet of stone.

He built the rampart of Uruk-the-Sheepfold,

of holy Eanna, the sacred storehouse.

See its wall like a strand of wool,

view its parapet that none could copy!

Take the stairway of a bygone era,

draw near to Eanna, the seat of Ishtar the goddess,

that no later king could ever copy!

Climb Uruk’s wall and walk back and forth!

Survey its foundations, examine the brickwork!

Were its bricks not fired in an oven?

Did the Seven Sages not lay its foundations?