The Epic of Gilgamesh
How we cite our quotes:
"May the brothers go into mourning over you like sisters;
… the lamentation priests, may their hair be shorn off on your behalf." (8.27-28)
In the patriarchal society of The Epic of Gilgamesh, do you think that "brothers" would normally take kindly to being described as "sisters"? And, given the pride people in the poem take in their appearance, do you think the lamentation priests would really like their "hair to be shorn off"? And yet, Gilgamesh thinks people should undergo these humiliating procedures "on … behalf" of Enkidu. What is the point of these blows to one's pride? Could it be designed to show solidarity with the dead, who have suffered the ultimate blow to their pride, the destruction of their bodies?
Gilgamesh said to the tavern-keeper:
"I am Gilgamesh, I killed the Guardian!
I destroyed Humbaba who lived in the Cedar Forest,
I slew lions in the mountain passes!
I grappled with the Bull that came down from heaven, and killed him." (9.29-33)
Here, we can see how, even after all his travels and sufferings, Gilgamesh still clings to his pride as a doer of great deeds. But there's a difference. Gilgamesh originally claimed to want to do those deeds so that his fame would live on after his death. But now that doesn't seem good enough for him; now, death seems all too real. How does Gilgamesh's sense of pride change as he comes to accept death in the closing books of the epic?
"It was a field in area,
its walls were each 10 times 12 cubits in height,
the sides of its top were of equal length, 10 times 12 cubits each.
I laid out its (interior) structure and drew a picture of it (?).
I provided it with six decks,
thus dividing it into seven (levels).
The inside of it I divided into nine (compartments).
I drove plugs (to keep out) water in its middle part.
I saw to the punting poles and laid in what was necessary.
Three times 3,600 (units) of raw bitumen I poured into the bitumen kiln,
three times 3,600 (units of) pitch … into it,
there were three times 3,600 porters of casks who carried (vegetable) oil,
apart from the 3,600 (units of) oil which they consumed (?)
and two times 3,600 (units of) oil which the boatman stored away.
I butchered oxen for the meat(?),
and day upon day I slaughtered sheep.
I gave the workmen(?) ale, beer, oil, and wine, as if it were river water,
so they could make a party like the New Year's Festival." (11.55-72)
4x4 drive, voice-activated GPS, full leather interior … oh, wait, sorry: we thought Utanapishtim was bragging about his sweet new ride. But really, isn't this detailed description of the specs of his boat pretty much the same deal? What's the point of all this boasting?