What does it mean to be a man or a woman in the civilization of ancient Sumeria?

Reading literature, and especially epic literature, is like looking through a window at the culture from which it emerged. Based on your reading of this ancient text, write an essay in which you discuss what The Epic of Gilgamesh reveals about the values – the moral ideas and standards of behavior – of ancient Sumerians. What ideas were important to the Sumerians? What did they expect of their rulers? What values did they want their heroes to embody? What kind of gods did they have faith in? Use specific examples from the epic to support your argument.

Please write about 2-3 double-spaced pages (no less, no more, unless you would like to write more).


This assignment requires you to be particularly observant of the values of the world of Gilgamesh. This entails characteristics of human behavior as manifested in the characters’ decisions, actions and interactions. The introduction to the Epic in your book would be of great help to you, as much as the notes and video(s) you have received.

Part of this assignment is also to answer questions relevant to our course and the first epic you are reading, such as, 

-What does it mean to be ancient? To be epic? To be distant from our time?

-What does it mean to be a man or a woman in the civilization of ancient Sumeria?

-To be mortal or immortal?

-How is gender perceived in that culture?

-How do people live, love and fight?

-What do their cities and homes look like?

-Which are the Sumerians’ eating habits?

-How do they dress?

-How do they worship?

-Are there temples of worship?

-What is the religion of the Sumerians and how is it manifested in the epic?

-Do they believe in dreams and their interpretations (oneiromancy)?

-Do they believe in friendship?

All the above are crucial questions whose answers reveal the complex identity of the Sumerian culture, as much as any culture. Be curious and investigative. You don’t have to answer all of the above questions. These are examples that will help you direct your interest and curiosity. Choose a few and follow the traces that will lead to the discussion of your topic


All observations are to be drawn from the poem, the introduction by Sandars, the various notes/essays and the video you have received. Please do not use random online references (spark notes, Wikipedia etc.) that will render your analysis off topic. This is not a social science course. All your conclusions about the Sumerian civilization should be drawn from your knowledge of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the related readings about it.

You may, of course, look up your own sources, but make sure your analysis remains within the context of the epic poem and you don’t generalize or fall into the trap of synopsizing the story of the poem. This paper is NOT about the story of King Gilgamesh, but rather about the people he is ruling -who are they and what kind of an impression do we get of them through this poem?

Proofread many times to catch errors and problematic sentences, be coherent, and provide with examples (quotes) to illustrate your findings and points of view.