Gilgamesh is a king of the early Sumerian city in the state of Uruk, the son of a man and a goddess. He is considered as the most handsome, wise and strongest man in the creation. Gilgamesh's properties, however, gone to his head and started being cruel spending all his time tiring out the young men of the city with infinite athletic tournaments and misusing the young women sexually. He accomplished his building projects of temple towers, high walls surrounding the city, and its orchards and fields with forced labor and his exhausted subjects groaned under his oppression. Uruk citizens could not take it anymore and started praying for help from the gods to replace Gilgamesh with another human match. This analysis aims at identifying Gilgamesh's position in the society, his abuse of authority, evidence of Gilgamesh epic on the Sumerian society's nature, the relationship between man and gods, and the relationship between royal authority and the nomads in the Gilgamesh's epic.
Gilgamesh's position in the society is that he is the priest-king of Uruk which means he is a priest and also the ruler of the city. His duties and responsibilities are to supervise the religious aspects of Uruk, ensure the protection of the people, and oversee the ramparts of the walls and buildings (Norton, 2018). The society, however, is not perfectly represented as Gilgamesh is seen as a corrupt figure who bullies his subjects whether it's sleeping with him or fighting him. Those in power are free to trespass them even though the society has rules, which is inappropriate and Gilgamesh is supposed to make it stop.
Gilgamesh abuses his authority and rules harshly and has little concern for the people. He forces men to work for him, kills most of them, and takes the women to gratify his sexual desires. Gilgamesh takes whatever he wants from people and even overworks them to death without care when constructing the walls of Uruk. Gilgamesh sleeps with the brides on their wedding night even before their grooms, which is very cruel. For these reasons, Gilgamesh was not always loved by his people. No one could dare to question Gilgamesh's rule since he was considered to have two-thirds divine, stronger, and bigger than other men, and therefore, no one could defeat him. The only thing people could do was to beg for help from their gods. Shamash who is the god of heaven instructed Aruru the goddess of creation to at least create a man who could replace and stabilize the arrogance of king Gilgamesh. Aruru, as a result, shaped Enkidu who was a vast and hairy man who used to live among the herds of gazelles and antelopes. Enkidu was to keep Gilgamesh's intentions in check and bring peace to the Uruk people (Norton, 2018). Gilgamesh's fight with Enkidu taught him that he was not as powerful as he thought to some extent and convinced Enkidu another powerful being to partner with him. Gilgamesh, however, also uses his influencing power to have women seduce Enkidu turning him to human. They both joined later and became partners where they abusively move on to control Mesopotamia.
The nature of the Sumerian society as seen Gilgamesh epic is that their religion was anthropomorphic and polytheistic. There were many goddesses and gods where the character and appearance of supernaturally powerful and immortal humans. People would have relations with these gods where they would even pick their favorite and least favorite to destroy or guide them. Gilgamesh appears as the king of Uruk in the list of Sumerian's kings, he was an actual king and therefore Uruk was a real city (Norton, 2018). Gilgamesh has encounters with the kings, gods, creatures, and provide human relationship story, their friendship, love, feelings, loss, revenge, and the fear of death. When king Gilgamesh rules the Sumerians harshly, they pray to their gods and who answer their prayers by giving them Enkidu. This, therefore, shows the power of Sumerians prayers and their faith in their gods. We also observe the political life and conduct of the Sumerians, where the great walled city was ruled by a king. Gilgamesh as a king ruled with absolute power from when he was a cruel king, unsuccessful monarch up to when he became a wise king. Sumerian society was of patriarchal nature since we only see kings ruling and no queens, however, women had their rights and played important roles in the society. Mesopotamia suffered seasonal droughts and violent floods whose nature was chaotic and uncertain. A drought was sent by goddess Ishtar to punish king Gilgamesh and the flood symbolized a destructive force and also rebirth.
The relationships that exist between man and gods as demonstrated by Gilgamesh's epic depicts gods as having whole control over humans even though they do not mediate in human actions unless they are unpleasant. Decisions are mostly based on discussions and requests of the majority, for instance, when people prayed, Shamash pleaded for the creation of Enkidu and is mastered. The gods, however, are not always powerful and under numerous circumstances must answer one request to another. The gods seem to live nearby and are always present and so when people cry to them, they hear and answer them. Each god has a certain domain and therefore cannot control another gods' domain and when a man had the gods on his side, he was sure to complete their tasks. Gilgamesh was favored by gods for when he prayed for safety and strength to Shamash when he and Enkidu were traveling in the forest, his wish was granted. Gilgamesh was able to kill Humbaba regardless of fact that he was a giant and a type of god, but with the Shamash's divine intervention they were able to slay him. Gilgamesh seemed to get favor from the gods since he was two-thirds god and the king of Uruk.
The relationship between the royal authority and the nomads outside of authority in the epic of Gilgamesh was so cruel, as those in power could oppress the people and just walk away. Those in poser could overwork men into as slaves and even kill them, they could sleep with women to fulfill their sexual desires, rape other men's wives. From these its clear that their relationship was not good or equal. Gilgamesh seemed to undermine people and considered himself as the strongest, but he was challenged by Enkidu. When Gilgamesh and Enkidu, however, become partners and friends, the servant and master relationship is stressed to a greater degree.
From the above discussion, king Gilgamesh used to treat people in a very nasty way. Gilgamesh used to overwork men and treat them as slaves or even kill them. He could rape women even married ones to fulfill his sexual desires. The gods heard the people's complaints and created Enkidu who was an uncivilized wild man to act as Gilgamesh's equal. Enkidu and Gilgamesh later joined and became partner warriors. Together they went to cedar forest to kill Humbaba, the monster who used to guard it which was a success.
Norton, W.W. (2018). The epic of Gilgamesh.
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