Graphic Descriptions of Womanhood in The Epic of Gilgamesh

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Graphic Descriptions of Womanhood in The Epic of Gilgamesh Essay example
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Environmental Studies
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Graphic Descriptions of Womanhood in The Epic of Gilgamesh
The ancient Mesopotamian poem of Gilgamesh has been revered, since its rediscovery in the nineteenth century, as a literary masterpiece. …

Introduction

This essay will look at the more graphic descriptions of women in the epic, namely the images of appearance, sex and birth, to suggest some ideas about the lot of women in ancient Mesopotamia. In Tablet I, Enkidu is said to have “a full head of hair like a woman” – a description which, as is clarified later, means that “Enkidu has no father or mother, [therefore] his shaggy hair no one cuts” (Tablet II). Women were expected to have long hair, and to act as hairdresser, and presumably general caretaker, for their family. Shamhat, the prostitute, plays a dual role as a fount of sexual pleasure and as a maternal figure to Enkidu: “Enkidu is untaught … and Shamhat teaches him the basics that every child must learn: eating, drinking, dressing himself” (Harris, 83). Slightly more graphically, Enkidu's dying curse of Shamhat includes such lines as “may a drunk soil your festal robe with vomit” (Tablet VII). The inclusion of this amongst such threats as “may you … not be able to love a child of your own” implies that, for women, the dirtying of a dress was comparable to infertility. ...
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