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    The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Keyhole into Ancient Mesopotamian Society

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    While upon first glance the Epic of Gilgamesh is just one of countless hero’s journey stories. It follows the same patterns and explores many of the same themes. The point at which Gilgamesh differs from every other hero’s journey is in its setting. Gilgamesh is set in ancient Mesopotamia, a long lost civilization into which we have little if any other view.

    Gilgamesh can be used as a keyhole through which we may peer so as to see slivers of information about the time period and civilization in which it was written. From the text of Gilgamesh we can derive many things about Mesopotamian society, including but not limited too, the role of men women and children, their governmental systems, and their view of and belief in Gods.

    Quotes such as the following give us a brief insight into the understood role of women and children. “No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children”, “His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble”.

    Children were taken from a young age. Whether they were used for labor or as soldiers is uncertain; however we know from this section that they were used by the ruler. Women on the other hand were used as sexual objects. The king had complete say and was free to take a bride from her groom whenever he pleased.

    As mentioned in the prior paragraph, the king has total control over his subjects. While the image of a king draws to mind a monarchy as the form of government used within Mesopotamia at this time, within the city of Uruk, I believe the governmental system was more directly comparable to a totalitarian dictatorship. ’A goddess made him, strong as a savage bull, none can withstand his arms.

    No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all; and is this the king, the shepherd of his people?’ This quote discuses the state of Gilgamesh as a ruler. It not only shows his power in that “none can withstand his arms” but it also shows how that power has reached his head and corrupted. He is known to abuse his power which leads to his people hating him and praying to the goddesses for something to be done of him.

    “When Anu had heard their lamentation the gods cried to Aruru, the goddess of creation, ‘You made him, O Aruru; now create his equal; let it be as like him as his own reflection, his second self; stormy heart for stormy heart. Let them contend together and leave Uruk in quiet.’” The hatred of his people even went so far as to reach the goddess of creation in hopes of contending Gilgamesh’s rule. Mesopotamia, much like many other ancient civilizations such as the greeks and romans, were a polytheistic society.

    They worshiped a large number and variety of gods, each with their own domain or collection of domains. Examples of such gods are Adad the lord of the storm. Ninurta the war-lord, Aruru the goddess of creation, Ea the god of wisdom, and the seven judges of hell, the Annunaki. This is similar to ancient Greek civilization in which there were a large variety of gods each with their own specific powers. Despite the similarities, they differ at the relationship between the gods.

    In the example of the Greeks there was a concrete level of authority between various gods; however, in the Epic of Gilgamesh they do not ever explain any relationship between any gods nor do they refer to any having authority over any others. Egypt The ancient Egyptian culture is both extremely interesting and complex. There is very much that can be learned from their culture based purely off of where they lived.

    They were a thriving civilization located near a river which allowed them nutrient rich soil ripe for farming. There were regular floods which upset the people, but despite this the floods were predictable and followed a set schedule and as such could be worked around. Because of this thriving society with plentiful food and a flourishing ecosystem, Egyptians nobility had little to worry about. Further more based on “Hymn of Praise”, we can see how they associate both the river and the sun with life and rebirth. The nobility consisted primarily of the Pharaoh and his family.

    The Pharaoh, unlike Gilgamesh, ruled over a monarchy. Where upon Gilgamesh’s death there is no clear successor, for the pharaoh the successor is the next eligible man in the royal family. Another contrast between the Egyptian political system and the Mesopotamian political systems is that the Egyptians were unified, across the entirety of their civilization, under the Pharaoh.

    The Mesopotamians were a collection of city states each separated from one another under their own rule. Further more the pharaoh was able to determine anything upon a whim including the national religion. For centuries, Egypt was a polytheistic society. Much like Mesopotamia, they worshiped a large collection of gods.

    However, after the previous pharaoh passed away, a new pharaoh by the name of Akhenaten took his place. Akhenaten was referred to as the heretic pharaoh due to his religious beliefs. He, rather than following the established religion, declared that they should only follow the sun god Aten. This was not received well by his people as he was changing a system that had been in place for countless years before him. In Akhenaten’s “Hymn of Praise” you can see the appreciation and reverence that the pharaoh holds Aten in.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Keyhole into Ancient Mesopotamian Society. (2021, Sep 28). Retrieved from

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