Gender Roles In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

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A wise man once said, “whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.” (Machiavelli). Indeed, the history of the epic plays an important role in comparing and contrasting the past and present values. The epic of Gilgamesh attempts to describe the moral ideas and standards of behavior of ancient Sumerians which are similar examples that move ahead for years to come. Some of the examples are gender divisions and the idea of the male being physically beautiful, immensely strong and the leader of the society.
In the story, the status of the women in the civilization of ancient Sumerians is perceptible. Women are considered as less important and less forceful compared to men.
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Nature is discussed in the Epic when describing Enkidu and his primitive ways before he finds his friendship with Gilgamesh. Enkidu is created from clay and the ground and lives in the wilderness. “His whole body was rough, he had long hair like a woman’s, Enkidu ate grass in the hills with gazelle…he had joy of the water with the herds of wild game” (Sandars 61). Stating as most historians that Enkidu begins life as an image of a primitive human being, and his adventurous primitive life. He roams naked across the steppe and is always in the company of animals. He is known for tearing down traps and untying animals that have been caught and seems to be hostile and against the human…show more content…
We see a masculine identity with a gender divide pervade through the culture. Sex and religion play major roles, and are important to the future of cultures and Empires. We see that the masculine identity is important in their culture just by looking at the description of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. We see that a leader/king is someone who is masculine and strong, who towers over the rest. The role of women and gender is also seen in the Epic. Women are thought to have made decisions based on emotion and their rational instinct, but men are thought to have a mindset which is the total opposite. This is where a goddess like Ishtar is a huge example to the gender division; although she is a woman, she is seen to use her mind more like a man. The role of the mother is not necessarily pointed out throughout their culture, but in the Epic there are references to the mother, who is a divine goddess, who gives Gilgamesh his two-thirds god. Sex is a huge role in the culture and even in the religion of Mesopotamia during this time period. Sex, an emotional and instinctive act, is what makes a man mortal in this culture. It’s also seen as a form of pleasure, especially when it is non-productive, making it evens more of a mortal
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