Salma Ashour
Professor Joseph Castora
WCIV 10100-ND 27734
Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative Paper #1
Gilgamesh and Mesopotamian Society vs. Romeo and Juliet


Gilgamesh and Mesopotamian Society vs. Romeo and Juliet
In ancient Mesopotamian society, there was a polytheism. The people in the society believed that there were many anthropomorphic gods, each responsible for a different aspect of life. There were goddesses and gods of things like love and war. The people believed that if the gods were disappointed, they would cause things like floods and other natural disasters. The Mesopotamian people sacrificed and prayed to the gods to please them.
The ancient Mesopotamian society was set up as several city states. Within each city state were many villages that came together for defense purposes. As a result of this formation of city states, farming jobs were not the only jobs available. People were also working as merchants, priests, scribes, artisans,and government officials. The kings were called lugal's, and they were in charge of the army and safety of the city state. In addition to these jobs, there were also people working as judges in the society. One famous judge who is still famous for his code of laws is Hammurabi. He believed that in order to be effective, punishment should be harsh, and equal to the offense. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." He worked to protect the rights of women and he was very fair. He believed that punishment only worked for people of equal social status.
Ancient Mesopotamian society also had a divison of class structure. There were people who had more wealth than others. The upper class, or the wealthy people consisted of chief-priests and lugals, the scribes, and the successful merchants and craftsmen. The middle class consisted of peasant farmers, poorer merchants and craftsmen, and lower priests. Less people were working these middle class jobs. The lower class consisted mainly of domestic slaves and debt slaves. The majority of the population was in the lower two classes, however, in the second millennium, there was a rise of second class wealth.
Naturally, as in most patriarchal societies, it was men who worked these jobs. As a result of the Neolithic Revolution, the increase in agriculture and decrease in nomadic behaviors meant women were a lot less visible in society. The marriages during the second millennium were becoming increasingly polygamous. More men were marrying more than one woman at the same time as a result of the increase in wealth. In addition, marriage alliances were being formed in order to protect and grow wealth between families.
In the book Gilgamesh, we see a lot of these aspects of Mesopotamian society. We see that the gods are anthropomorphic, meaning that they are very much similar to humans in emotions, actions, and even appearance. In the book Gilgamesh, the gods have fights and arguments and they feel the same emotions that regular mortals do. In the scene with the goddess Ishtar where she is mad at Gilgamesh and Enkidu, when she releases the bull of heaven on them to punish Gilgamesh for his arrogance. The only reason she releases the bull of heaven is because she was angry and decided to seek revenge. Typically a fit of rage such as this one is seen in humans and not in gods.
Another example of the gods being similar to humans is seen in the scene when Utnapishtim was telling the story of his immortality. The god Enlil caused the flood that killed most of mankind at the time just to punish a select few people. All the other gods were arguing and disagreeing about the flood and whether or not it was necessary. Each god is different than the other and they all have different personalities,just like humans.
Also in this book, we see aspects of Mesopotamian jobs and structure systems. We see that most of the people that Gilgamesh encounters are working as ferrymen or barkeeps like Siduri and Urshanabi. These would be the second class workers. The immortal human Utnapishtim, seems to be of high class wealth. And since he is a member of the first class, he is able to hire the ferryman as a