The Role of Women in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

The Role of Women in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

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What if women ruled the world? The question does not seem so strange today as it may have back in 2500 B.C.E., an age when people tell stories of the Great King of Uruk--Gilgamesh. Although the story of “Gilgamesh” revolves around themes of masculinity and brotherhood--with its male prerogative, its composers develop several strong female characters which suggest women have great influence in a male-dominated, Mesopotamian society.
The first female character that influences a man is the prostitute. She is left at the spring by the hunter so that she can sleep with Enkidu and make the other animals abandon him. According to the tale, Enkidu acts like an animal. Nonetheless he is drawn to the prostitute. She is wise and knows the nature of man. She tells Enkidu he is no longer an animal, he is like a god, like Gilgemesh. She uses her influence to get him to go to Uruk. One could say the prostitute plays a maternal role. She clothes him, with her robe and takes him to a house where he is taught how to live like a human being. After she teaches him all he needs to know, she sends him to Uruk to confront Gilgamesh. She does not lead him, she follows behind him signifying his readiness to be a man. The prostitute is an independent person. Besides being led to the spring where Enkidu rests, she does not have to be told what to do or how to influence him. She has her own agenda and successfully accomplishes her mission.
Ninsun is the next woman to use her influence over the men in the story. She is the mother of Gilgamesh, and a minor goddess. She is the only person with whom Gilgamesh shares his thoughts. Ninsun interprets her son’s dreams. He puts all if not most of his trust in her. She is the calming influence when he is e...


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...Press, 1986. 143-187. PDF file.
---. “The Development and Meaning of the Epic of Gilgamesh: An Interpretive Essay.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001): 614-622. JSTOR. Web. 28 Feb 2014.
Harris, Rivkah. “Images of Women in the Gilgamesh Epic.” Gilgamesh: A Reader. Ed. John R. Maier. Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 1997. 79-94. Google Play Reader.
Karahashi, Fumi and Carolina Lopez-Ruiz. “Love Rejected: Some Notes on the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh and the Greek Myth of Hippolytus.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 58 (2006): 97-107. JSTOR. Web. 28 Feb 2014.
Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. Print.
Young-Mason, Jeanine. “Understanding Suffering and Compassion.” Cross Currents: Journal of the Association of Religion and Intellectual Life 51.3 (2001): 347-358. EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb 2014.

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