The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh Sex Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Tablet.Line)
Enkidu … his utterly depleted(?) body,
his knees that wanted to go off with the animals went rigid;
Enkidu was diminished, his running was not as before.
But then he drew himself up, for his understanding had broadened. (1.181-184)
After having sex with Shamhat, Enkidu feels like he has lost his strength and animal nature. Okay, so we're not that surprised about the strength part (Enkidu did just have sex with Shamhat for six days and seven nights), but we still want to ask about the "animal nature" part. What is it about sex with Shamhat that makes Enkidu become human? The last line of this passage is especially interesting for showing how Enkidu's mind has been expanded ("his understanding had been broadened") by the experience. How can sex with Shamhat have improved Enkidu's intellect?
"For Gilgamesh, the King of Broad-Marted Uruk,
open is the veil(?) of the people for choosing.
He will have intercourse with the 'destined wife,'
he first, the husband afterward.
This is ordered by the counsel of Anu" (2.71-78)
Enkidu learns this from the guy he and Shamhat run into while heading toward Uruk. The young man reveals that a wedding is about to take place in Uruk. But there's a catch: Gilgamesh will have sex with the woman first, and then her husband will. There's a lot of debate among scholars over what the young man is talking about here, but one theory is that Gilgamesh has made it the law that every new bride has to have sex with him before having sex with her husband, Braveheart-style. If so, this looks like another example of power interfering with sex, just like in the first quotation for this theme.
"You are an oven who … ice,
a half-door that keeps out neither breeze nor blast,
a palace that crushes down valiant warriors,
an elephant who devours its own covering,
pitch that blackens the hands of its bearer,
a waterskin that soaks its bearer through,
limestone that buckles out the stone wall,
a battering ram that attracts the enemy land,
a shoe that bites its owner's feet!" (6.31-40)
Wow, Gil, way to let her down gently. Here, Gilgamesh is reacting to Ishtar. Based on the general context of the speech, it's possible that Gilgamesh could be calling Ishtar bad news simply because she has a tendency to abandon her lovers and then inflict horrible suffering on them. That said, given that Gilgamesh is also saying that Ishtar sleeps around (she's "a half-door that keeps out neither breeze nor blast"), we were wondering if he might also be hinting that she has STDs, especially with that whole "pitch that blackens the hands of its bearer" thing. If so, this would show the sexual double-standard that exists in Gilgamesh's society. After all, you don't hear Ishtar calling Gilgamesh immoral, even though he's slept with countless young women of Uruk.