In ancient Sumerian society, women and men did not essentially have the same powers and social status. This can be gleaned from the reading of the text The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the first recorded human literary works. There are many examples within the story of the already inherent inequality between the sexes. Throughout all of man’s history there has been a prevalent idea that in society women have generally been seen as biologically inferior for a variety of different reasons. Ancient Sumer was no exception from these ideas and after reading The Epic of Gilgamesh it becomes very clear how the ancient civilization viewed the debate. For the purposes of this essay, we will discuss the relationship between the sexes only in terms of the Ancient Sumerians, using The Epic of Gilgamesh as our main reference. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, women play a rather small role with only a handful of small characters and most of the action revolving around the male characters. The female cast includes Ishtar, the goddess of love, fertility, and war; Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh; Siduri, the goddess of wine; Aruru, the goddess of creation; the wife of Utnapishtim; and Shamhat, the temple prostitute. We will discuss these characters in greater detail throughout the essay paying attention to their characteristics and to what could be inferred about their inclusion in the story and what it means in the greater scheme of things for women in ancient Sumer. Throughout the Epic, women are seen as either gods, mortals with a higher status, or objects. There are no “normal” female interpretations of just common townsfolk in the Epic. In ancient Sumer we see an exclusively patriarchal society consisting of ONLY male kings with hardly any female influences whatsoever in terms of politics or in the ruling class. In Sumer there were three main classes, the ruling class, the middle class and the lower class. The higher class consisted of nobles,...
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