There are many inferences readers can make from the Epic of Gilgamesh about Mesopotamian cities, politics, and religion. Gilgamesh’s personality, background, journey, and beliefs can relate to each of these aspects of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamian politics can be learned through Gilgamesh and the way he controls Uruk and the people of Uruk. The religion of the Mesopotamian people can directly relate to the people of Uruk and the Gods and Goddesses in this epic poem. Lastly, you can obtain a better understanding of Mesopotamian cities through the city of Uruk’s accomplishments as well as their flaws.
Overall, The Epic of Gilgamesh can be used as a primary source for a better understanding Mesopotamian cities, politics, and religion. In Uruk, Gilgamesh and the people of Uruk focus a great deal on the Gods and Goddesses for blessings, advice, and help when needed. The people of Uruk depend immensely on the Gods and Goddesses for everything they need and desire. Therefore their religious life revolves solely around them. Due to the constant dependency and need for the Gods and Goddesses in this epic poem, you can infer that Gods were very important in religion in Mesopotamia.
Anu, the God of creation was the God responsible for creating Enkidu, Gilgamesh, and the rest of the people of Uruk. He created Enkidu because he heard the people of Uruk’s lament about Gilgamesh and their desperate need for someone to match his strength and power. Anu also created the Bull of Heaven for his daughter, Ishtar, to defeat Gilgamesh for insulting her (87). Mesopotamians believed that God’s had the power the control their destiny, for example in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Enlil had decreed the destiny of Gilgamesh and therefore could control his dreams (70).
Thirdly, the people of Uruk made sacrifices for the God’s when they were in need of advice or a blessing. For example, Gilgamesh brought two kids to give to Shamash before he asked for his protection against Humbaba and during his journey (72). Another example where Gilgamesh brought a sacrifice to the God’s was when he defeated the Bull of Heaven and he brought the heart of the bull and gave it to Shamash (88). These sacrifices and gifts that Gilgamesh offered Shamash show that in Mesopotamian religion sacrifices were given as thanks to the Gods for their help and protection.
When Enkidu died, Gilgamesh did not want to burry his body in the dirt because he did not want to give him up to the earth (96) until he had tried everything possible to bring him back to life. Gilgasmesh’s reluctant attitude about burying Enkidu shows that the Mesopotamians believed in bringing back the dead. Gilgamesh’s journey to find Utnapishtim, his father, because he has heard that he has entered the assembly of the Gods, and found everlasting life (98), also shows that Mesopotamians believed in everlasting life and bringing back the deceased.
When the Gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body which was terrifying like a bull, Shamash endowed him with beauty, Adad endowed him with courage, two thirds god and one third man, and for these reasons he was the King of Uruk (61). From this we can tell that the king of Mesopotamia was most likely a strong, attractive, and brave individual. However the people of Uruk did not necessarily agree with Gilgamesh being king. The men of Uruk muttered in their houses because Gilgamesh was arrogant, and did not care about the people even though he is supposed to be the shepherd of the city (62).
Gilgamesh did whatever he pleased and did not care who was hurt by his actions. For example he took the virginity of every warrior’s daughter and slept with every nobles wife (62) This shows that the Kings in Mesopotamia had complete power over the people and could do whatever they wanted. The only figures that were more powerful than the king were the Gods and Goddesses. They had the power to decide whether or not the King had too much power and needed replacement. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, instead of replacing Gilgamesh, the Gods created his equal, Ekindu, because the people of Uruk were complaining (62).
The Epic of Gilgamesh does not go into much detail about the cities, however we can still draw some inferences about Mesopotamian cities from this epic poem. Gilgamesh built walls, a great rampart, and the temple of blessed Eanna for Anu, which still stands today. The temple shines with the brilliance of copper and the inner wall has no equal (61). From this temple and the other accomplishments Gilgamesh built, we can tell that the Mesopotamian cities had beautiful temples, and most likely had other buildings that are still standing today.
In this epic poem, they also talk about the harlots of the city and how they seduced men to do what they wanted, for example the harlot that seduced Enkidu and convinced him to come back to Uruk with her (65). This is an example of how Mesopotamian cities may have been somewhat corrupt and used sex to convince people to do what they wanted. Another example of the cities being corrupt is the way in which Gilgamesh sleeps with every woman in the city and does not receive any consequences. In conclusion readers can learn a lot about the politics, religion, and cities of Mesopotamia from the epic poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh.
From this epic poem and Gilgamesh we can conclude that the king had complete power and could do whatever he pleased. Religion was a huge part of Mesopotamian society and was very important to the people of Uruk. In this epic poem the people of Uruk depended on Gods and Goddess for almost everything. Finally, we can conclude that the cities were somewhat corrupt. However, the cities also had beautiful temples and other buildings. The Epic of Gilgamesh is extremely important because not only is it a primary source for literature, but we can understand more about the politics, religion, and cities of Mesopotamia.