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Which roles did women play in the Epic of Gilgamesh?

Updated August 29, 2022

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Which roles did women play in the Epic of Gilgamesh? essay

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In the tale of The Epic of Gilgamesh women play a prominent role throughout the book. They give advice and help guide our main characters Gilgamesh and Enkidu on their adventure. In the tale women play multiple impactful roles such as a maternal advisor, a harlot, and a goddess. At this time in history in ancient sumeria women were not equal to their male counterparts men, in most cases women stayed at home, did household tasks, and took care of their children and families while the men went to work. In ancient sumeria they had more respect for women and women were given more rights than other ancient civilizations at the time.

That may be due to the ancient sumerians being polytheistic and having goddesses which they worshipped the same as the male gods. In this tale it shows the importance and the impactfulness that women have and gives a glimpse of equality between men and women. Shamhat is the harlot in the epic who was the one that had sex with Enkidu for six days and seven nights, after Enkidu was spotted by trappers in the forest. Afterwords Enkidu the six days and seven nights Enkidu could not return to other animals and had to learn how to act like a normal man. Shamhat was the one who taught Enkidu how to act like a normal man and opened his eyes to see what the real world was like.

Shamhat role in the epic may have not been that long but it was very impactful to story, without her In the epic Ninsun is the mother of Gilgamesh and is also the maternal advisor that helps guide Gilgamesh throughout his adventure. At the beginning of the tale Ninsun gives Gilgamesh guidance with the two dreams he had the days before. In those dreams he dreamt of an axe and a meteor and seeks guidance from Ninsun, she tells him that those dreams mean something good will soon come into his life, this foreshadowed Gilgamesh and Enkidu becoming friends. “The axe, which you saw, which drew you so powerfully like the love of a woman, that is the comrade whom I give you.” When Gilgamesh and Enkidu venture to the cedar forest to fight Humbaba, Ninsun prays to Shamash, the sun God, to protect Gilgamesh and Enkidu on their adventure.

This shows the motherly role in the epic. Without Ninsun role in the epic Gilgamesh would have never known about Enkidu and they would have never gone on their adventure. In the epic the goddess Ishtar is the goddess in the story

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Which roles did women play in the Epic of Gilgamesh?. (2019, Jun 26). Retrieved from