Enlil speaks of his destiny for Gilgamesh, which has now been fulfilled: “in nether-earth the darkness will show him a light,” and he will be remembered longer than any other men. His destiny was not immortality, but to be king and an inspiration to the world. Gilgamesh should not despair, Enlil says, because has fulfilled the opportunity “to be the darkness and the light of mankind,” inspiring them with his victories. Finally, Enlil tells Gilgamesh to use his power wisely and to be just with his servants in the eye of the Sun.
Gilgamesh has been fully transformed by his journeys. At first, he thought nothing of mortality and death. Then, after Enkidu’s death, he became fixated on his own impermanence, which led him on an obsessive quest for immortality. Having lost the secret to immortality, though, he accepts his mortality and finds value in being a good king and an inspiration to the common people. He has essentially accepted his place in the universe, while still seeking to be as glorious and virtuous as possible within his role as mortal and king. Enlil’s prophecy is oddly prescient as well, as Gilgamesh’s name has been remembered longer than almost any other in all of human history.
The story briefly transitions into verse: Gilgamesh the king has died, and will not rise again. Though he was wise and handsome, he will not come back to life.
No matter his qualities in life, like all men Gilgamesh had to eventually die. The Epic offers no easy answers to the question of mortality and meaning, but ultimately just resigns itself to the inevitability of death.
The people of the city lament Gilgamesh’s death loudly. Gilgamesh’s wife, son, concubine, and all the entertainers and servants of his household all arrange offerings for Gilgamesh, as well as to Ereshkigal, the Queen of Death. They make offerings to a variety of other gods. In his tomb, Gilgamesh receives the bread and pours out the offered wine.
Gilgamesh has died, but his legacy is honored and he is cared for in the afterlife. Even though the name he made for himself will eventually be forgotten, there is value in having been appreciated and mourned, and his friendship with Enkidu, above all, had meaning in itself.
The epic ends with praise for Gilgamesh, proclaiming him the best of men and a faithful servant of the gods. It ends with “O Gilgamesh, lord of Kullab, great is thy praise.”
The Epic comes full circle from its first introduction of Gilgamesh as a strong but arrogant king. In his journeys, he not only gained strength and courage, but also respect for the gods and acceptance of his place in the universe. It is these qualities, the Epic seems to declare, that make a man good and worthy of praise.