Utnapishtim’s name means “He Who Saw Life,” though “He Who Saw Death” would be just as appropriate, since he witnessed the destruction of the entire world. The former king and priest of Shurrupak, Utnapishtim was the fortunate recipient of the god Ea’s favor. His disdain for Gilgamesh’s desperate quest for eternal life might seem ungenerous, since he himself is immortal, but Utnapishtim must carry a heavy load of survivor’s guilt. He doesn’t know why, of all the people in the world, Ea chose him to live, but he does know that he tricked hundreds of his doomed neighbors into laboring day and night to build the boat that would carry him and his family to safety while he abandoned them to their fates. What Utnapishtim gained by his trickery was a great boon for humankind, however. He received a promise from the gods that henceforth only individuals would be subject to death and that humankind as a whole would endure. When Utnapishtim tested Gilgamesh by asking him to stay awake for a week, he knew that he would fail, just as he knew that Gilgamesh wouldn’t profit from the magical plant that had the power to make him young again. Gilgamesh is one-third man, which is enough to seal his fate—all men are mortal and all mortals die. Yet since Utnapishtim “sees life,” he knows that life extends beyond the individual—that families, cities, and cultures endure.
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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