The “Epic of Gilgamesh”
How does the “Epic of Gilgamesh” (source 1.4) portray the relationship between humans and the gods? What role do the gods play in the narrative, and why might the author(s) have wanted to portray them in this manner?
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem that provides the story of Mesopotamia; especially abut Sumerian Gilgamesh, a one-time hero of the Uruk kingdom. However, contrary to how human beings are, Gilgamesh is one-third a human being and two-thirds god. In terms of his body and mind, he was godlike whereas his actions were cruel and inhumane and thus, proving that he was human being. Due to the despotic nature of Gilgamesh’s actions, the gods send Enkidu, a wild man, to tame him. The narrative portrays the relationship between humans and the gods as one of a supernatural being and mortals with the gods serving the role of punishing human beings for their transgressions.
The relationship between humans and the gods in the poem is one whereby one party (god) is a supernatural being with the ability to affect what is happening in the human world whereas the (human being) is a mortal person with the ability to lose life and become overcome by the gods. For instance, when the gods realized that Gilgamesh was lording over his subjects and using despotic techniques to rule, they send Enkidu; a wild man, to ensure that Gilgamesh’s actions were kept in check. Notably, Gilgamesh was raping any woman who he fancied whether she was a wife of his subjects or an unmarried girl. However, the gods were not pleased with such behavior and thus, decided to take actions that could ensure such practices came to an end. When both Gilgamesh and Enkidu became friends and decided to kill the Bull of Heaven, the gods set up a council and decided that they had to punish one of the two (Gilgamesh or Enkidu) because of their transgressions. They eventually took the life of Enkidu through immense suffering. This evidence demonstrates that the relationship between the gods and the human beings was one between a supernatural being and his subjects.
The gods in the narrative play the role of writing the wrongs in the community. For instance, it was their role to save the people of the Uruk kingdom from the excesses of their leader, Gilgamesh. In their role of divine intervention to their people, they send Enkidu to wrestle Gilgamesh and ensure that he did not continue with his untoward behavior. Additionally, the gods acted as punishers of those who engaged in behavior that was considered ungodly. For instance, when the two friends cut down the forbidden trees after having killed the monster, they were punished through famine that struck the earth and even leads to the death of Enkidu. More importantly, the gods had the role of immortalizing some of the human beings that they deemed suitable should attain such a state. For example, Utnapishtim was granted eternal life and thus, escaped death. However, there are various reasons as to why the author of the epic poem portrayed the gods in such a manner.
One of the primary reasons for the portrayal of gods in the Epic as protectors of the people is to make sure that the story aligns with the beliefs of some of the people that the gods will always protect the mortal beings. Portraying the gods as having the ultimate power over those committing heinous acts increased the believability of the narrative because people will relate with such gods. Additionally, portraying the gods as savers using various means to punish the transgressions of humans makes the narrative interesting and the importance of the gods as well as the power over mortal human beings is reinforced. Consequently, the depiction of the gods in the narrative is designed to be realistic and hence, increases the believability of the story.
In conclusion., the relationship between the gods and human beings in the narrative is portrayed as one between a mortal and supernatural being and that of mortal persons. However, the gods are depicted as having the role of protecting the communities from oppression and also punishing those found guilty of different transgressions. Such a portrays by the authors is meant to display the mortality of the gods and increase the believability of the story.
 Nancy, Sandars. The epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin, 1972: 10.
 Ibid, p.5.
 Ibid, p.20.
 Sandars, n.1.
Sandars, Nancy. The epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin, 1972.