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The Hero Essay, Research Paper

The Hero

The Mesopotamian society is dead. It has long been buried in the mud of history. Its roots live on through societies that exist today. The ruler of Uruk, Gilgamesh, is also dead. The popular tale The Epic of Gilgamesh lives on as well, being passed from generation to generation. I believe the major theme of The Epic of Gilgamesh is the striving to live on forever. A society such as Mesopotamia would strive to live on and conquer. They would strive to be the most powerful society in the area.

The tale of Gilgamesh is about the historic ruler of Uruk. The tale tells that he is two-thirds god and one-third mortal man. Gilgamesh feels the power of the gods, but still has to deal with the hardships of mortal man, like pain and death. He sets out to find the plants of everlasting life. He thrives to stay alive forever. He does this with his loving friend Enkidu, until he is murdered on one of the episodes of his adventure. I believe Gilgamesh treasures his friendship the most. He has everything in life he needs; power strength, and woman. He lacks only one thing, friendship. His companion is brought to life by the other gods, and the love he feels for Enkidu is like nothing he as ever felt before.

Gilgamesh comes from a society much like that of Mesopotamia. We can learn many things about the Mesopotamian society by reading The Epic of Gilgamesh. First we learn something of the people who lived in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the second and third millenniums BCE. Then we can further learn that they celebrated a king named Gilgamesh; we know they believed in many gods; we know they were self-conscious of their own cultivation of the natural world; and we know they were literate. This story helps us view the gift of mortality and how it was percieved by this hero . I call mortality a gift because without death Gilgamesh s life would be meaningless, and the adventures that make up the epic would disappear.

We are supposed to feel as though the epic is real, by referring to Gilgamesh\’s own act of writing, the unnamed narrator attempts to convince us that Gilgamesh was an actual king and that the story that follows is a true story. On the other hand, by calling our attention to the act of telling, the narrator reminds us that the truth of a story might lie in the very fact of its being a story — the undeniable fact of its narration.

By reading this tale, we can see that the Mesopotamian society valued things such as gods and literacy, but also entertainment. This tale was passed down from each generation, and now it is popular in our society after being discovered. We have to remember that this is a myth, and many of the myths that were formed in the Mesopotamian society deal with the adventure of finding the meaning of life and confronting the reality of death.

Hammurabi s Code of Law is strict rules with severe punishments for their violation. In fact, these laws played a big role in organization of Mesopotamian society. We can associate these laws with Gilgamesh and we see how crimes were not taken lightly in the society. The Mesopotamian people must have been a respectful honorable people based on the harshness of these laws. After reading these laws, the reader may learn about ideals the people of Mesopotamia had about crimes, their attitude to the lower and higher social classes, and legal rights between men and women. Reading the laws you may notice that many crimes were punished by the death penalty. Many laws state that the guilty person has to pay the same price for the physical harm one did to another person or one s relative (laws 196, 197, 229, 230). For instance: law 196 states: If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. In addition, at that time, people were sentenced to death for many crimes or wrong doings that almost never would be penalized with capital punishment at a modern time. Among such felony and misdemeanors are stealing (6, 14, 21), robbery (22), accusation (2,3), adultery (129, 130), and desertion (32, 33). Hammurabi s Code also, reveals inequality between social classes. Slaves were not treated by the laws the same as freeborn people. For example: In law 202 it states if any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public. At the same time in law 203 we read: If a freeborn man strike the body of another freeborn man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mine. It will not take much effort for a freeborn man to pay one gold mine for his wrongdoing, but for the slave it is much more dreadful and humiliating to receive sixty blows with a whip in public. According to the Code of Hammurabi, women had some legal rights, but these rights were not equal to men s. Married women had a right to divorce as well as men. In fact, in order to acquire the right for divorce, a woman had to find a reasonable explanation for her desire, and only then the divorce could be possible (142). The evidence of inequality between men and women can be found in the laws 38 and 39, which declare that a man, who rents property cannot assign it to his wife or daughter or give it for debt. Though if a man owns this property than his wife and daughter have such a privilege. Overall, the Hammurabi s Code of Laws showed that crimes in Mesopotamia were not taken lightly and were followed by severe punishments. Very often these punishments were the death penalty. The laws were not equal between social classes, and slaves were subjected to the harsher punishments than freeborn. Finally, even though women had some privileges, the laws provide evidences that there was still inequality between them and men.

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