The Epic of Gilgamesh is the early legend of Gilgamesh, a man who was two thirds god that was spared by friendship. The tale of Gilgamesh was one of the world’s first dynamic works, but above that the first epic. An epic is a long poem, usually one from old oral tradition, depicting the deeds and endauvers of unimaginable figures of the historical backdrop of a country. Through years of interpretation The Epic of Gilgamesh has become an ageless classic. Gilgamesh was the savage wild bull (1.81) and reckless king of Uruk, who invested his energy assaulting women, harassing citizens, and defeating enemies and taking land. Everything suddenly changed when he met, battled and was guided by his extraordinary companion and immaculate partner, Enkidu; created by the gods as Gilgamesh’s equal in response to the citizens of Uruk’s cry for help from their evil king. The love and friendship the two shared helped to mold and change the two characters, each giving up part of their individual lives and giving that part of it to the other. With the assistance of Enkidu and his impact, Gilgamesh turned into a heroic and reasonable king. As with many classics, the role of women, including the ones of goddesses seem to be in question. While The Epic of Gilgamesh follows the friendship and changes of the male main characters, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, women play an important role in helping them advance through their epic journey, although this may be viewed differently.
While some may say that the role women is a nonexistent as they are portrayed as weaker and lesser to man, the qualities that make a woman a woman and their femininity show great strength over the man. In the epic we meet women of various power: Aruru, Shamhat, and Ishtar. Aruru is the maker of humanity and keeping in mind that her appearance in the epic is exceptionally restricted, her job is greatly critical. She replies to the calls of the citizens of Uruk and makes Enkidu from clay and places him in the wild, The goddess Aruru heard these words, what Anu had thought of she fashioned within her. The goddess Aruru, she washed her hands, took a pinch of clay, threw it down in the wild. In the wild she created Enkidu, the hero, offspring of silence, knit strong by Ninurta. (1.99-104). Her doing so, shows her power over man, since she is the creator of man. If she is able to make a man of such power, she can easily create a female of such power. Shamhat is introduced to us by reputation, the country’s prostitute. We later learn that she is more than meets the eye and is more than just an objectified object. Ishtar, the goddess of love and war has a little job that ends up being more noteworthy than man, basically preventing them from accomplishing their objective. The women of the epic are what essentially change Gilgamesh’s perspective of women, aiding him into becoming a more respectable king.
It is sensible to perceive any reason why some observe why some may state that the role of women is nonexistent and are lesser to man in light of the fact that from the looks of it women aren’t entitled to consent and everything is simply chosen for them. In the beginning of the epic, specifically in tablet 1 line 72 we see the exploitation of women, but Gilgamesh lets no daughter go free to her mother. At times, sex happens because one, typically man, has more power over the other, typically female, forcing them to make themself explicitly accessible. Again we see the savage bull Gilgamesh is in line 76 of the same tablet, Gilgamesh lets no girl go free to her bridegroom. The women of Uruk have no say in the preservation of their purity. Men often use women to better themselves, paying little to no respect to the outcome of the women. Not only dealing with the idea of sex, the roles of women are not emphasized as they are for men and their accomplishments are never said. The man may have the power, but it is the woman who make the man so powerful.
While people are right to say that women have no consent and no say in what they do, their femininity is what make them so powerful over man. Shamhat, the country prostitute, was sent to to the wild to essentially take the uncivilized Enkidu and use her femininity to seduce him and bring him back to Uruk. That is he, Shamhat! Uncradle your bosom, bare your sex, let him take in your charms! Do not recoil, but take in his scent: he will see you, and he will approach you. (1.180-183). While this was done in no regard to her safety, it shows how powerful a woman’s touch is, that it can tame the most wild of men. Her sexuality in a sense represented the normalization and civilization of Uruk. Come, Shamhat, take me along to the sacred temple, holy home of Anu and Ishtar, where Gilgamesh is perfect in strength, like a wild bull lording it over the menfold. ‘I will challenge him, for [my strength] is might’. (1.215-220). If it wasn’t for Shamhat, Enkidu would have remained in the wild, therefore never meeting his equal, never going on the epic journey and the people of Uruk would have never been saved. The interaction between Shamhat and Enkidu gave him a different outlook on life that helped benefit the people of Uruk because he was able to give Gilgamesh a different perspective of female sexuality, helping them along their epic journey and making Gilgamesh more respectable. As the epic continues and Gilgamesh learns more from Enkidu he learns how to respect women. He even denied Ishtar’s hand in marriage. He realizes that she has nothing to offer him, she cannot save him as Shamhat has saved Enkidu. He notes her as a temporary user and realizes a relationship is more than sex. She doesn’t like his response and convinces her father, Anu to give her the fiery Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh with death. The Bull of Heaven causes havoc in Uruk, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu discover its weak spot and kill it. (6. Intro). While they did defeat the bull, it was Ishtar who gave them the power and opportunity to prove they are worthy. He gained respect not only for the women but for himself and his image.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, as many other stories stories delineates women as lesser than man, however reality of the situation is man would not accomplish significance if not for women. Unlike the women in The Epic of Gilgamesh, the women in the Ramayana are honored and it was surprising to see that words being used especially after reading this epic where it was harder to see the meaning and value of women. Beyond all of this, you violated his wife’s honour and made her your own. Guarding a woman’s honour is the first duty laid on any intelligent being. (102). While some may say that the honor of the woman is tied to the actions the man imposes on them, it is the woman who has the upper hand on the man. The women utilizes their sexuality to fortify the men. While this may appear as women being objectified, it really demonstrates the immense power women have over the man. Sexuality isn’t simply sex and appearance. Man might be physically more grounded, however women are mentally more grounded. The women of The Epic of Gilgamesh help to balance the men and help them achieve and strive for greatness. Without the women, Gilgamesh would not have possessed the capacity to make such progress, despite the fact that his epic journey of acquiring immortality have failed, he developed as a man and as a king.
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