Essay on Role of Women in The Epic of Gilgamesh

Essay on Role of Women in The Epic of Gilgamesh

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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).

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...o live well and enjoy life. Too bad Gilgamesh did not listen, because he ended up no better off than when he started on his quest. Gilgamesh did however build the great walls of Uruk which is his claim to fame, even to this day.

Is it not interesting that, Shamhat (the harlot) and the tavern keeper; two women, who normally would be considered the lowest of the low amongst all the other women, were given such high regard in these ancient tablets and in contrast, Ishtar the Goddess of love and sex is totally disrespected in spite of her wealth and beauty. I can only conclude that it is because women who have to work in their profession’s can relate to men in a way that most women will never be able to understand. And what about Ninsun, the mom who interprets her son’s dreams, well, what can I say, Mother knows everything, and you better not forget it.

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