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Role Of Women In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

1015 words - 4 pages

About 2700 years ago there lived a king by the name of Gilgamesh who ruled the city of Uruk in Mesopotamia now known to us as modern day Iraq. Parts of his life are written on clay tablets believed to be the oldest existing written story of a man’s life. (XI). “The epic of Gilgamesh”, is the story of his quest for eternal life. In this paper I will be writing about the influence that the women in his life have played in his quest.

The women are, Shamhat, Ninsun, Ishtar, and, “The tavern keeper”. The first woman in Gilgamesh’s quest for eternal life is Shamhat. Shamhat was a prostitute who lived in the city of Uruk. (8). As the story goes, Gilgamesh was an arrogant and abusive king to his people, so they complained to the Gods for help. (5). The Gods had a meeting and decided to create a rival to Gilgamesh possibly to teach him some humility. (5). The rival’s name was Ekidu. The only problem was that Ekidu was wild and lived amongst the animals like an animal. (6). A hunter complained to Gilgamesh that Ekidu was disturbing his traps and wanted the king to do something about the hunter’s problem. (5) Gilgamesh decided to send Shamhat the local harlot to tame the Wildman with her feminine ways.(5) Shamhat, even though she was considered to be living a life of shame is depicted in this story as being a kind, loving, and wise woman.(Rivkah Harris, “Images of the Women in the Gilgamesh Epic”. Shamhat made love to Ekidu and clothed him with her own clothes and led him to a group of Sheppard’s who taught him to eat, groom, and dress himself like a human should. (11). After these events took place Ekidu and Gilgamesh meet up were they had some sort of a fight; Gilgamesh wins, and ended up becoming friends. (16).

Before the big fight and subsequent friendship Gilgamesh has a dream. Troubled, Gilgamesh turns to his mother, Ninsun, who was considered all knowing and wise. Ninsun interpreted the dream as a premonition of the arrival of a friend and partner whom Gilgamesh will come to love. It is also interesting to note that the tablets say that Shamhat was simultaneously giving Enkidu the same sort of prediction as Gilgamesh. (15). The tablets also seem to imply that Gilgamesh and Enkidu may have had a homosexual relationship. (11).

The third woman is Ishtar, the goddess of love and sex. (46). Gilgamesh and Enkidu decide; against everyone’s advice, to go and battle a monster guardian; Humbaba, somewhere in the rift valley of Lebanon. (18). There they overpower him and kill him even though Humbaba begs for mercy. (40). Gilgamesh and Ekidu cut down a cedar tree and build a giant door out of it as an offering to Enlil, one of the...

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