In this paper, I seek to explore the identities and relationships between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the epic poem of Gilgamesh, up through Enkidu’s death. I will explore the gender identity of each independently and then in relation to each other, and how their gender identity influences that relationship. I will also explore other aspects of their identity and how they came to their identities as well, through theories such as social conditioning. I will investigate the possibility that Gilgamesh and Enkidu enjoy a homosexual relationship, since modern times allow such investigations which only 20 years ago were considered extemporaneous to ancient texts by traditions western conventions. Conversely, I will also consider the possibility of a heterosexual male-male relationship in the terms of Platonic love. In addition to this, I will touch briefly at times on the unique relationship each has to a world that is caught up in a change from nature and natural things to what we call a civilized life, or an urban life.
In the beginning of the epic poem Gilgamesh, the main character Gilgamesh is conveyed as a generally immoral human, his genesis mythically coming from the gods. “Two thirds they made him god and one third man.” (19, Norton; “Gilgamesh”). He also is said to have a perfect body, which is a trait of godliness in many ancient cultures. “When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body.” (18, Norton; “Gilgamesh). Here again it is obvious that the myth says Gilgamesh is from the same stuff as the gods. He is known for taking whatever he desires “His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warriors daughter or the wife’s noble.” (19, Norton; “Gilgamesh”). He has the arrogance and audacity to simply take anything that he considers in his kingdom. Clearly, at least early on in the story, the actions of Gilgamesh mirror that of his mythical genealogy from the gods, who live by a different moral code than that of civilized humans. At the same time however, Gilgamesh is certainly portrayed in the story as magnificent and capable of incredible things, such as the building of the walls and Rampart in Uruk. “Climb upon the wall of Uruk; walk along it, I say; regard the foundation terrace and examine the masonry: is it not burnt brick and good?” (19, Norton; Gilgamesh). So at the ...
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...ith the fact that it seems death simply can not be escaped. This helps to change Gilgamesh a great deal, and in fact it is after this that Gilgamesh begins to change his way and is truly a “shepherd of the people.” In the end, Gilgamesh veils Enkidu like a woman (35, Norton: “Gilgamesh”). In fact, the text describes this as being veiled like a bride in this translation. So once again, even in death, it seems that Enkidu and Gilgamesh have moved to a very close and personal relationship with each other, which is certainly Platonic in nature, and even possibly sexually oriented in some way or another. In the end, it is unavoidable that in some way each is affected by the other, either to serve or remember the other and to be the fulfillment of each other.
Uknown Author. “Gilgamesh.” In The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, the
Western Tradition, Seventh Edition, Volume 1. Ed. Sarah Lawall and Maynard Mack. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1999. 18-35.
Doty, William G. Myths of Masculinity. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company,
Sayers, Janet. Sexual Contradictions. New York: Tavistock Publications Ltd., 1986. 23-34.
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