Women in the Epic of Gilgamesh and Mesopotamian Society

Topics: Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar, Enkidu Pages: 5 (2006 words) Published: March 26, 2012
Bethany TowneWritten Assignment 1Western Civ 1Women In The Epic Of Gilgamesh and Mesopotamian Society In the Epic of Gilgamesh, gender plays a very significant role, because while women were not the most powerful gods nor the strongest or wisest of all humans, they still had tremendous influence over others around them, and even today, over those who study and learn about the women of the time of Mesopotamia. Though the main characters of the story, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, are male, women did not necessarily play a minor role. One particular issue that is demonstrated among several others in the Epic of Gilgamesh is the status of women. Since this is a story of women's status many years ago, it is indeed an interesting issue to discuss, particularly today, since women still struggle for equal rights in every place and everything they do. It is interesting to learn about the history of women’s status in societies, such as the Mesopotamian society. Throughout The Epic Of Gilgamesh, the roles of women are mixed. Women are represented as harlots, as wise, and as gods. There is a substantial amount of gods which are represented as women and it could represent a society with multiple views towards women. A society where no definitive set of rules were made for women and perhaps a society more open to a equal perspective. It can easily be seen that while men were considered to be the most powerful and wisest humans and gods, women had the power to significantly influence these men. Several women mentioned and described in the Epic Of Gilgamesh carried roles that had important effects on the men they encountered. Of course, this is not much different from the society we live in today, because while many may believe that women have still not reached the point of true equality, it is hard to say that they are inferior and the significance of their roles in society is undeniable. Though Gilgamesh is known for his misbehavior with women, he knows that he cannot always have his way and do whatever he wants with every women. When he is outside his own territory, this is something that would naturally apply to him. However, it is ironic that he would have to take advice from women, especially when he was so used to misusing them. This was a turn around in Gilgamesh’s nature, as he was left without any options to become immortal. Because of the mistreatment of women, it can be seen that the status of women in this regard demonstrates hidden power. They may be rejected and abused at one point in time, but at another point even a completely different woman will be able to avenge cruel actions. However, as observed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, he is spared of the severest human actions. Ironically, this is through the sympathy of a woman.Women play many more roles than men in this classic. Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh, for example, plays the role of the loving, caring mother and also that of the wise counselor that provides guidance. From the very beginning, Gilgamesh seeks guidance from his mother. When he has two dreams about an axe and a meteor, full of concern, he seeks the advice of his mother. At this point, she plays the role of the guiding, comforting mother by analyzing his dreams and relating the two objects to something good, Enkidu, that will soon come into Gilgamesh's life. "My son, the axe you saw is a friend...and I, Ninsun, I shall make him your equal. A mighty comrade will come to you, and be his friend's saviour...". After Enkidu and Gilgamesh become the best of friends, they decide to go to the cedar forest and take on Humbaba. Again, Ninsun takes on her motherly role by praying to Shamash, the sun God, to protect Gilgamesh and Enkidu, whom she has also taken in as a son. “O Shamash, rise against Humbaba the mighty gale winds...let rise thirteen winds and Humbaba's face darken, let the weapons of Gilgamesh then read Humbaba!”. Clearly, gender plays a significant role in terms of Ninsun being a wise woman in a...
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