Siduri is the tavern keeper who at first bars her door to Gilgamesh and then shares her sensuous, worldly wisdom with him, advising him to cherish the pleasures of this world. Though she tries to dissuade him from his quest, she tells him how to find Urshanabi the boatman, without whose help he’d surely fail. The goddess of wine-making and brewing, Siduri is only one of several sexually ripe, nurturing women who appear in this most explicitly homoerotic tale. The male characters may take these females for granted, but they nevertheless play an essential role. The temple prostitute Shamhat domesticates Enkidu. Utnapishtim’s unnamed wife softens her husband toward Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh’s mother Ninsun adopts Enkidu as her son, not only endorsing his friendship to Gilgamesh but also making him Gilgamesh’s brother. Ishtar herself, fickle and dangerously mercurial as she is as the goddess of war and love, nevertheless weeps bitterly to see how the deluge that she had helped to bring about ravaged her human children. As loudly as it celebrates male bonding and the masculine virtues of physical prowess, The Epic of Gilgamesh doesn’t forget to pay its respects to feminine qualities.
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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