"The Epic of Gilgamesh" was written around four-thousand years ago and is the earliest piece of western literature found to date. It originates from the first western civilization known as Mesopotamia. It was originally written on clay tablets and provides us a great window to the past to help us understand Mesopotamian religion, politics, and traditional roles of men and women.
Mesopotamian government was one that was controlled exclusively by a lugal. The lugal was said to be in direct relation with the gods. The gods communicated their wants through the lugal who would in turn relate them to his people. In this way, no one could question the lugals choices. The lugal also had other responsibilities such as leading a war and beautifying the city for the gods. In the epic, Gilgamesh is the lugal of the city of Uruk. He has built great walls around the city.
"In Uruk, he built walls, a great rampart..."1 He does not, however, take good care of his people. The people of Uruk declare "Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover..."2 In this passage, the citizens of Uruk describe why they are upset with Gilgamesh and why they pray to the gods to send another with the same attributes. Gilgamesh is portrayed as a killer and a rapists.
Mesopotamia was in the geographical area that is today called Iraq. The name we call it, "Mesopotamia," is actually Greek for "between two rivers." The
two rivers were the Tigris and the Euphrates.3 The...