An unstable compound of two parts god and one part man, Gilgamesh suffers most from immoderation. He is the greatest of all men, and both his virtues and his flaws are outsized. He is the fiercest of warriors and the most ambitious of builders. Yet until Enkidu, his near equal, arrives to serve as a counterweight to Gilgamesh’s restless energies, he exhausts his subjects with ceaseless battle, forced labor, and arbitrary exercises of power. Beautiful to behold, Gilgamesh selfishly indulges his appetites, raping whatever woman he desires, whether she is the wife of a warrior or the daughter of a noble—or a bride on her wedding night. Enkidu’s friendship calms and focuses him. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh grieves deeply and is horrified by the prospect of his own death. Abruptly abandoning glory, wealth, and power, all of which are worldly aspirations that he as king had once epitomized, he begins a quest to learn the secret of eternal life. What he finds instead is the wisdom to strike harmony with his divine and mortal attributes. Reconciled at last to his mortality, Gilgamesh resumes his proper place in the world and becomes a better king.
Very nice article, although it should be noted that the Jacobsen 1949 translation of Siduri's Advice is far more popular:
"Gilgamesh, whither are you wandering? Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands. Gilgamesh, fill your belly. Day and night make merry. Let days be full of joy, dance and make music day and night. And wear fresh clothes. And wash your head and bathe. Look at the child that is holding your hand, and let your wife del... Read more→
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"In that time, people considered women and sex calming forces that could domesticate wild men like Enkidu and bring them into the civilized world."
--Does this really need to be explained? And what do you mean, "in that time"? This is a universal human constant.
Shamhat isn't a prostitute as much as a priestess. Historically, priestesses jobs in temples were to act as sort of surrogates for the gods and performed rituals through sex. Stephen Mitchell states they were almost reverse-nuns, in his version of the book.
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