The Theme of the Epic of Gilgamesh Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein Though we will deal here with only a small portion of the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” there are a few things to note about this later poem.  It is from a distinctly male perspective; the important figure in the story is Gilgamesh, a typical fighting hero.  Mesopotamia had moved or was moving from goddess worship and its balanced dependence on the ruling powers of both men and women to a patriarchal dependence on the dominant male. In this later poem, the sexy but fecund goddess Inanna, who brought the people all the blessings of the me that Enki had bestowed on her, has been replaced by the self-centered Ishtar, who is only interested in her own sexual pleasure and who gets really angry when anybody denies her what she wants. The shift away from the goddess as benefactress to angry sexpot shows a clear shift in attitudes toward women. Ishtar wants to mate with Gilgamesh and will do anything she can to get him.  When he refuses, she asks that the Bull of Heaven be sent to destroy him.  His friend Enkidu kills the bull, but he is wounded himself and must die.  Gilgamesh, wanting to circumvent death for himself, goes in search of eternal life.   Eventually he is sent to the one human being whom the gods have favored with life everlasting—Utnapishtim, the Mesopotamian equivalent of Noah. Finally, Gilgamesh is told he may receive immortality if he can cut a branch from a particular sacred tree.  He does so, but a wily serpent steals the branch, and Gilgamesh is left to suffer the same fate as all other humans. Unlike the later Egyptians, who believed they had a lock on the afterlife, the Mesopotamians believed that only the gods were immortal, so this poem is generated from a genuine sadness over the fate of mankind. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily