In many historic pieces of literature, men have dominated the spotlight as heroic characters. Although women have held significant roles as well, they are still commonly portrayed as the subordinate gender. Of course there are exceptions, such as women being goddesses or other divine entities, but the traditional view of gender roles has definitely influenced how woman are portrayed. In the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible, the significance of females are both supported and disapproved, but overall has given women an inferior portrayal compared to men.
There are fewer women characters in the Epic of Gilgamesh than men. Of those women, Shamhat is a temple prostitute and Ishtar is a fickle goddess who sends a bull to kill Gilgamesh because he made her angry. Those are not positive characteristics to be remembered by. It is true that Shamhat's purpose was to domesticate Enkidu; however, afterwards Enkidu is shunned by the rest of the forest as if he was tainted. The rejection seems more focused on the point that Enkidu slept with a woman, rather than a prostitute. Ishtar, despite being the Goddess of war and love, is characterized as a goddess who has had many lovers. When her attempt to seduce Gilgamesh fails, she demands with a fit that her father grant her a killing beast because Gilgamesh insulted her. Gilgamesh is very much known as a king who indulged on his lust of women, and took them as he pleased. Almost half of the women in the Epic of Gilgamesh are seen as shameless and vulnerable, which wouldn't necessarily be a favored point of view of women. And while this alone cannot be used to look at women at a broad stand point, it does give an idea of the attitude the Mesopotamian culture had towards women at the time this story was documented. Even though some females were divine beings, and all females were powerful simply based on the fact that they gave life to men, they were all still looked upon as instruments that men could take advantage of.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document