The Epic of Gilgamesh
Length: 660 words (1.9 double-spaced pages)
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Questions for Analysis #1-6
1. What was the Mesopotamian view of the afterlife?
2. What is the message of Siduri’s advice to Gilgamesh?
3. Consider Utnapishtim’s initial response to Gilgamesh’s request for the secret of eternal life. How does his message complement what Siduri has said?
4. Consider the story of Utnapishtim. What do the various actions of the gods and goddesses allow us to infer about how the Mesopotamians viewed their deities?
5. According to the epic, what are the respective roles of the gods and humans? What do the Mesopotamian deities require of humanity? What do humans expect of their gods?
6. What wisdom has Gilgamesh gained from his epic struggles? How has he changed as result of his quest?
1. The Mesopotamians viewed the afterlife as a place of darkness where there was no return when entered. It was ruled by the Queen of the Underworld, Ereshkigal, who was accompanied by her recorder, Belit-Sheri. From reading the poem, it was thought of as a baron place where the dead wandered and little else existed. Those who were kings and high priests were now servants for the gods. It’s definitely portrayed as a place one wouldn’t look forward to, and that’s the dilemma that Gilgamesh contemplates.
2. Siduri’s message to Gilgamesh is to enjoy the life he was given and the life he retained. His days on Earth should be spent eating, being merry, and take care of his child. Essentially, the main idea is that at some point the life of man comes to end and it’s in god’s hands.
3. Utnapishtim complements Siduri’s message by giving analogies in regards to the fact that death is unexpected. Nothing is permanent or certain except death. You could build a house that’s believed to stand forever, but is it really true? Does an agreement hold for all time? These are the examples Utnapishtim gives. While death is certain, the time it occurs is not known by man.
4. About religion in general, whenever man defies god, his existence, or his actions, it’s considered to be an act of defiance and they are to face punishment. With this in my mind, we can infer that at a time where man was expanding in Mesopotamia, the belief in the gods and goddesses was declining. Thus, the punishment from the infuriated gods was to eliminate them all.
5. Mesopotamian deities required humanity to worship and praise them. Basically, they were to be their servants.
The humans expected, in return, the gods to stabilize nature and their surrounding and to provide good fortune.
6. Gilgamesh learned that even with death, the legacy he leaves behind will live forever. Everything he accomplished and what he did as a leader will be in the hearts of his people. As a result of his quest, he had a better understanding of his purpose and the workings of god. Also, even in his dying days, he remained proud and was willing to except his destiny.
The Judgments of Hammurabi
Questions for Analysis
5. Mesopotamian society has been characterized as a patriarchal(dominated by male heads of households) society. Does the evidence in these collections of decisions tend to support or refute that judgment?
6. What principles and assumptions underlay these judgments? In other words, what does this collection reveal about the worldview, basic values, and ideals of Hammurabi’s Babylon?
5. The collection of decisions tends to refute that judgment because it shows they have equal rights as far as comparing to the standards of our present society. In any case in which the woman is violated, cheated, or abandoned, they have rights to equal action by being allowed to do what’s best for them.
6. Hammurabi believed that for every action there was an equal opposite action. Popularly described as an “eye for an eye”. While some may believe that some, if not many, of these resulting actions are extreme but they represent the early adoption of inflicting punishment for committing crime.