The Epic of Gilgamesh

Gates and Doors Symbol Analysis

Gates and Doors Symbol Icon

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, gates and doors serve not just as physical entrances to new spaces, but also as spiritual ones. Enkidu’s entrance into Uruk through the city’s gates symbolizes his complete transition to civilized life, and after chopping down the great cedar tree, Enkidu suggests that they build a door with its wood. Similarly, Gilgamesh encounters the Scorpion-Men guarding a great gate at the beginning of his most difficult quest. The Scorpion-Men are intimidating, and they warn Gilgamesh of what lies beyond—his subsequent passage through the gate then represents his willingness and desperation to carry on with his quest, regardless of the risks. The image then comes up again as Ishtar threatens to “break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts” when her father Anu refuses to send the Bull of Heaven to attack Gilgamesh. Throughout the story, spiritual divisions between places that are fundamentally different—Uruk and nature, wild nature and the area guarded by Humbaba, the wilderness Gilgamesh knows and the mountains along the Road of the Sun where no man has ever travelled—are made literal by the presence of a gate or door.

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Gates and Doors Symbol Timeline in The Epic of Gilgamesh

The timeline below shows where the symbol Gates and Doors appears in The Epic of Gilgamesh. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: The Coming of Enkidu
Civilization and the Fall from Innocence Theme Icon
Heroism in Nature vs. Comfort in the City Theme Icon
Friendship, Love, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Pride and the Gods Theme Icon
...is on his way to meet his bride, but Enkidu meets him at the city gate and blocks his way in the street. The two wrestle, smashing doorposts and shaking the... (full context)
Part 2: The Forest Journey
Heroism in Nature vs. Comfort in the City Theme Icon
Friendship, Love, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Pride and the Gods Theme Icon
...crossing seven mountains before arriving at the forest. Enkidu says that when he opened the gate to the forest before, his hand became weak. Gilgamesh tells Enkidu to “not speak like... (full context)
Part 3: Ishtar and Gilgamesh, and the Death of Enkidu
Friendship, Love, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Pride and the Gods Theme Icon
...so arrogant that he brings about his own destruction. Ishtar threatens to “break in the doors of hell and . . . bring up the dead to eat food like the... (full context)
Civilization and the Fall from Innocence Theme Icon
Heroism in Nature vs. Comfort in the City Theme Icon
Friendship, Love, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Mortality and Meaning Theme Icon
Pride and the Gods Theme Icon
...and tells Gilgamesh that the gods will “take me from you.” Enkidu rages at the gate to Uruk, which is built from cedar, saying that if he had known what was... (full context)
Part 4: The Search for Everlasting Life
Heroism in Nature vs. Comfort in the City Theme Icon
Friendship, Love, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Mortality and Meaning Theme Icon
Pride and the Gods Theme Icon
...mountain range that guards the rising and setting sun. Guards known as “Scorpions” guard its gate. They are half-man, half-dragon. One of the Scorpions says that Gilgamesh must be a god.... (full context)
Heroism in Nature vs. Comfort in the City Theme Icon
Friendship, Love, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Mortality and Meaning Theme Icon
Pride and the Gods Theme Icon
...weary from travelling, she determines that he must be a criminal, and she bolts the door to her home shut. Gilgamesh shouts through the door, asking why she bolted it, and... (full context)