Question # 1
The variance in the depiction of man’s origins in The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Sumerian Kings List is due to how many different stories and myths, over time, combined and created the pieces mentioned above. As explained by Aboul-Hosn (2014), ancient folklores, tales, and myths are often the result of small stories slowly being built up and combined. This can lead to offshoots being created which have similar themes, subjects, and settings, but differ in how they are presented and their conclusion (Aboul-Hosn, 2014).
For example, in one story man originated as a creation of the Gods while in others, a man was a being that was formed from clay or was an inherent aspect of the Earth itself. As such, while the Epic of Gilgamesh and Sumerian Kings List have similar settings and events (ex: the Flood), the way they were created and combined were likely far different. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Parts of the Epic of Gilgamesh could have been derived from stories that originated from an earlier part of Mesopotamia’s history while aspects of the Sumerian King’s List could have been written at a much later date. Due to the cultural and societal changes that occurred during this gap period, this would have resulted in different interpretations regarding the origins of man to suit the socio-cultural temperament that existed during this time frame. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
In fact, the Cooper (2010) study presented the notion that information placed in the Sumerian Kings List was at times politically motivated. Thus, the depictions, stories and even how they were presented could have been done to reflect the wishes of the Sumerian king ruling during that period (Cooper, 2010). The fact that Kings in the past were depicted as having lived for thousands of years clearly shows a level of exaggeration, if not outright fiction, which could have been used as a political tool for future kings to assert their right to rule based on “inherited divinity.”
It is a common theme in that region of the world where “kingship” is often intertwined with an individual’s supposedly divine origins making it a requirement in some cases before a person can legitimately rule. Overall, it can be stated that stories can change over time due to how societies and culture similarly change as well. As such, it is not surprising there are variances in the depiction of man’s origins given the difference in time periods between the creation of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Sumerian Kings List.
Question 2: Cultural Values
The cultural values in Mesopotamian society are quite similar to what can be seen in the various regions today wherein there was a strong emphasis placed on family values, masculinity, and the worship of Gods and Goddesses. One difference though lies in how strength and leadership were perceived by Mesopotamian culture. As seen in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the power of a person determined how far they were honored in society. Despite the attitude of Gilgamesh towards the individuals in the city of Uruk (as seen in the first few paragraphs of the story), he was still well respected and even praised in some instances. This shows how ancient Mesopotamia valued the capability of an individual to defend themselves as well as showcase their dominance over other people.
Cultural values such as these are not that surprising given how close Mesopotamian civilization was to the time in which the first tribes of humans roamed the plains of Africa. Having massive strength and virility was viewed as a positive trait given its contribution towards safeguarding the tribe from danger as well as producing healthy offspring. However, such a trait is no longer as valued in modern day society given the current focus on intellectual capability rather than pure physical ability. The same can be said about the cultural values connected to the perception of leadership and how the right to rule was based on a connection to the divine.
What the Epic of Gilgamesh reveals is that its titular character does not seem to possess the right sort of traits to rule the city of Uruk, yet he is its leader due to his connection to the Gods. This shows a strong cultural predisposition towards worship of the divine and the supposed capability of Gods and Goddesses to influence the world of man and grant favors to their most ardent worshipers. This was seen when the Gods sent Enkidu after Gilgamesh due to the prayers and complaints of the people.
However, what is also interesting about this aspect of the story is that, aside from prayer, people did not actively rebel against what Gilgamesh was doing. If he had done a similar act in the present (i.e. laying with newly wed brides before their husbands), it would not be surprising if the man attacked Gilgamesh. While it is true that the story did state that Gilgamesh had slain numerous opponents in the past, this does not mean that the city could not form a consensus and banish him. What this is indicative of is a state of complete subservience to the concept of the divine despite whatever action Gilgamesh may do.
Question 3: Examining the Hymns
When looking at both the Hymn of Aten and the Hymn of the Nile, numerous overlaps can be identified wherein the concept of life giver, creator or source of all things is attributed either to the Nile River or to Aten (the Sun). One interpretation of this is that there seems to be change in attribution wherein instead of the Nile being praised as the source of life and nourishment in Egypt, it is instead the sun that is being praised instead.
These two hymns fit within the political narrative of ancient Egypt since they symbolize the religious transition that occurred during the Old and New Kingdoms era wherein Pharaoh Amenhotep IV changed Egypt’s stance of worshiping a pantheon of Gods to one that was almost monotheistic which centered on a worship of the Sun as giver of life and everything else. As such, the similarities between the Hymn of Aten and the Hymn of the Nile could be an attempt to replace the narrative of the Nile as the giver of life to one that focuses on the Sun instead. By doing so, this helps to transition the local populace from one form of belief to another but keeping aspects that they are familiar with.
This practice is fairly standard when it comes to expanding religions as seen in the case of Christianity wherein many ways and rituals have their basis in other faiths that were around during the birth of the early church and were “absorbed” to create something that new members from other religions would find familiar. In fact, if you were to look at the folklore surrounding Aten, you would find many similarities to the Judeo-Christian God based on Aten supposedly creating himself and having no one that created him (i..e the unmoved mover and the uncaused cause). [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
The similarity between the two was supposed to act as a way for people to relate to the new focus that Amenhotep wanted to implement and since the word of the pharaoh was law, people had to obey what he demanded. It should be noted though that this period of transition did not last long since after the death of Amenhotep, the focus on Aten was reversed by his son and the focus was once more on a pantheon of Gods instead of just a single God.
Aboul-Hosn, S. (2014). Gilgamesh Among Us: Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic. Comparative Literature Studies, 51(1), 184-187.
Cooper, J. (2010). “I have forgotten my burden of former days!” Forgetting the Sumerians in Ancient Iraq. Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 130(3), 327-335.