Gilgamesh as an Anti-hero

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 782 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 782|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Concept of the Anti-Hero
  2. Gilgamesh: A Flawed and Complex Protagonist
  3. Gilgamesh's Moral Ambiguity
  4. Complexity and Growth
  5. Conclusion

The ancient epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest known literary works in human history, with its origins dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. The protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh, has been a subject of much debate among scholars and readers alike. While some argue that Gilgamesh is a heroic figure, others contend that he is better understood as an anti-hero. This essay aims to provide a comprehensive argument for the latter perspective, drawing on evidence from the text and scholarly sources to support this interpretation.

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The Concept of the Anti-Hero

Before delving into the specific characteristics of Gilgamesh as an anti-hero, it is important to first establish a clear understanding of what constitutes an anti-hero. The term "anti-hero" is often used to describe a protagonist who lacks traditional heroic qualities, such as courage, moral uprightness, and altruism. Anti-heroes are typically flawed, complex, and morally ambiguous characters who may engage in questionable or even morally reprehensible behavior.

Anti-heroes often challenge societal norms and expectations, and their actions may not always align with conventional notions of heroism. Despite their flaws, anti-heroes often possess qualities that make them compelling and relatable to audiences, as they grapple with internal conflicts and moral dilemmas.

Gilgamesh: A Flawed and Complex Protagonist

When examining the character of Gilgamesh, it becomes evident that he exhibits a range of qualities that align with the archetype of the anti-hero. In the epic, Gilgamesh is depicted as a powerful and ambitious king who is revered for his strength and prowess. However, he is also portrayed as arrogant, impulsive, and at times, cruel in his treatment of others.

One of the key characteristics that align Gilgamesh with the anti-hero archetype is his hubris, or excessive pride. Gilgamesh's arrogance is evident in his oppressive treatment of his subjects and his disregard for the wellbeing of those around him. His quest for immortality, which drives much of the narrative, is fueled by his fear of death and a desire for eternal glory, rather than a selfless concern for the greater good.

Additionally, Gilgamesh's actions throughout the epic often lead to unintended consequences and bring about suffering for himself and those around him. His reckless behavior and disregard for the consequences of his actions contribute to the argument that he is better understood as an anti-hero rather than a conventional hero.

Gilgamesh's Moral Ambiguity

Another aspect of Gilgamesh's character that aligns him with the anti-hero archetype is his moral ambiguity. Unlike traditional heroes who adhere to a strict code of ethics and morality, Gilgamesh's actions are often morally questionable and raise complex ethical dilemmas.

For instance, Gilgamesh's treatment of women in the epic is a source of controversy and has been the subject of scholarly debate. His abuse of power and his treatment of women as objects of his desire rather than as equals reflects his flawed and morally ambiguous nature. This aspect of Gilgamesh's character further supports the argument that he is better understood as an anti-hero.

Complexity and Growth

While Gilgamesh's flaws and morally ambiguous actions align him with the anti-hero archetype, it is important to note that he also undergoes significant growth and transformation throughout the epic. His friendship with Enkidu, a wild man created by the gods to humble Gilgamesh, serves as a catalyst for his personal development.

Through his relationship with Enkidu, Gilgamesh learns empathy, compassion, and the value of human connection. His grief over Enkidu's death and his subsequent quest for immortality can be interpreted as a reflection of his internal struggle and his quest for meaning and purpose in a world marked by mortality and impermanence.

While Gilgamesh's journey does not necessarily absolve him of his flaws or morally questionable actions, it adds depth and complexity to his character, further reinforcing his status as an anti-hero. His internal conflicts and his capacity for growth and self-reflection make him a compelling and relatable figure, despite his flaws and shortcomings.


In conclusion, the character of Gilgamesh in the ancient epic of the same name can be best understood as an anti-hero rather than a traditional hero. His hubris, moral ambiguity, and flawed nature align him with the archetype of the anti-hero, challenging traditional notions of heroism and morality. While Gilgamesh's growth and complexity add depth to his character, they do not negate the morally questionable nature of his actions throughout the narrative.

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By examining Gilgamesh through the lens of the anti-hero archetype, we gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of his character and the enduring relevance of the epic as a reflection of human nature and the complexities of the human experience.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Gilgamesh as An Anti-Hero. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Gilgamesh as An Anti-Hero.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Gilgamesh as An Anti-Hero. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Gilgamesh as An Anti-Hero [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:
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