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The role of women in "The Epic of Gilgamesh"

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The role of women in "The Epic of Gilgamesh"

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  • March 8, 2005
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The role of women is a very important topic in "The Epic of Gilgamesh," and various women are chosen to represent various aspects of the mesopotamian conception of women.

In the ancient times males were inessential to the preservation of life. "The Epic of Gilgamesh" shows how the inability of males to give birth causes a sense of despair and alienation. While the representation of women might seem confusing at first with its wide range of traits, the epic tries to demonstrate all aspects of women, some are dominant in some ways. They are valuable advisors, and have variable attitudes regarding sexuality, they control men's decision in some ways and bring both death and immortality in men's lives. In this paper the female characters of The Epic of Gilgamesh will be analyzed and by this way the role of women in Gilgamesh, in the ancient Mesopotamia will be shown.

In early society, females dominated over males because they were able to continue human life by giving birth. Reproduction was considered to be the "essential" experience in early society. Motherhood had a great importance and needed more responsibility, as Gerda Lerner points out that;

But under primitive conditions, before the institutions of civilized society were created, the actual power of the mother over the infant must have been awesome. Only the mother over the infant from cold; only her breast milk could provide the nourishment needed for survival. Her indifference or neglect meant certain death. The life giving mother had power over life and death. No wonder that men and women, observing this dramatic and mysterious power of the female, turned to the veneration of Mother-Goddess. (Lerner, 40)

People thought of their creator as the divine mother. One symbol of birth that people considered significant in society was the snake. To them, this symbolized the power of having children. The snake sheds its skin only to grow new skin. In comparison to the female, the older female gives birth...