The focal point of this paper is to investigate, analyze and evaluate the acts or misdeeds of gods in the epics Enuma Elish and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In these two epics `the gods` seem to be quite mean spirited and unruly. The main thesis of the paper would encircle around these texts and find a logical answer to why the portrayal of divinities was depicted in this manner. Further more, it would also be investigated on the reason behind the creation of a human of a social order under this perspective of divinity.
While dealing about the gods of The Epic of Gilgamesh it should be remembered that Gilgamesh himself only one-third human and the rest two-thirds is god. So, all his initial tyranny and sexual feudalism can easily be accounted as acts of god. However, if we keep him aside and concentrate on the actual pure gods things start getting more interesting. This is because these gods are more interested in human affairs, their life, their deaths, their sexuality and everything else rather than ruling the heaven.
The incident of Anu, the god of sky who is also the prime god of the area where Gilgamesh lived, can be ascertained as one such act. Here Anu if found to create Enkidu as a measure against Gilgamesh. This follows other interference from the gods into the human livelihood. Ramat-Ninsun, who is a goddess herself is also the mother of Gilgamesh, interacts with the god of sun, Shamash, as a protective measure for her son during the battle with Humbaba. Shamash agrees to the plea and positively engages himself in the battle.
In tablet 4 we find Shamash leaking secret messages to Gilgamesh reveling Humbaba weaker points. If that was not all, Shamash directly helped Gilgamesh during the battle and defeated Humbaba. Again in tablet 6 we find the goddess Ishtar is being sexually attracted towards Gilgamesh. With rejection from Gilgamesh the goddess becomes angry and the rage is released upon all the lovers of the world whom Ishtar punishes mercilessly. But the tyranny of the gods had just begun. Ishtar soon unleashed the heavenly bull of Anu on the city of Gilgamesh. To kill Gilgamesh and his city. / For if you do not grant me the Bull of Heaven, / I will pull down the Gates of Hell itself, / Crush the doorposts and flatten the door, / And I will let the dead leave / And let the dead roam the earth / And they shall eat the living. / The dead will overwhelm all the living! ” (Hooker, Tablet 6) Soon as the bull is killed in self defense the gods chiefs decided to punish Gilgamesh and Enkidu for the act. But ultimately only Enkidu is found guilty and ultimately punished. This is another wrong doings by the gods.
Tablet 11 presents the conspiracy of the gods and planning of the flood to eradicate human beings. But the secret is revealed by Ea. This is another mistrust of a god and this time against the gods’ council. However, the gods lamented the death and decay caused by the flood but it was too late. Only Ishtar cried and said these words: “We have decided evil things in our Assembly! / Why did we decide those evil things in our Assembly? / Why did we decide to destroy our people / We have only just now created our beloved humans; / We now destroy them in the sea! All the gods wept and wailed along with her, / All the gods sat trembling, and wept. ” (Hooker, tablet 11) Similarly, in the Enuma Elish we find gods engaged in many aspects that are not associated with divinities in general sense.
This story starts with primeval god of fresh water Apsu, god of salt water Timat who created the early formation of the universe. “When in the height heaven was not named, / And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name, / And the primeval Apsu, who begat them, / And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both / Their waters were mingled together,… Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven” (King, tablet 1, 1-9) Their son was god of mist Mummu and soon all three becomes engaged in a crisis that can be easily termed as power struggle of the elites. Here Apsu and Mummu plan to kill the lesser gods but the most powerful among other gods, Ea, kills Apsu and imprisons Mummu. Timat tries to take revenge and forms an alliance of gods by marrying Kingu who becomes the dominant god. Maduk, son of Ea, formed an axis force and after a long power struggle kills Tiamat and Kingu and constructed the human race out of Kingu’s blood.
Both the epics make wonderful and interesting reading because the gods in the story line are not gods in the actual sense but people of high power. At the time the stories were formulated the true nature of supreme power was hardly imagined. Thus the nature of the gods barely exceeds the intellectual ability of mortal human and appears to us as nothing more than divinities reduced to human height. The all ultimate concept of god was yet to be created in the form of Almighty God or Allah. Lack of this concept dwarfed the enlisted gods of these epics.
Furthermore, it can also be said regarding this issue that the personification of gods in form and shape along with intellectual capacity of human is to gain acceptance from the listeners of the epics. It is obvious that the listeners of around 2500 BC would be more interested about icons of the era rather than getting interest in adventures of a ‘boy next door’. For any art form popularity is the main aspiration of survival and what would have been easier than to incorporate gods and demy gods to attract the listener’s interest.
In the conclusion t would be relevant to state that the gods in the epics Enuma Elish and The Epic of Gilgamesh shows hardly any divine capacity in terms of wisdom and understanding other than super human physical strength. These epics were formulated in such a manner that people identify the emotional disintegrations and buildups but never would be able to identify in a complete sense because then it becomes a matter of superlative comparison and the creators certainly did not wanted that to happen.
In a way the gods of these epics were created in a mode of today’s movie stars. They are purely human, even lesser human sometimes, but are manifested in a magnified manner for that becomes the secret of the trade. It is an easy formula to follow and the formula has proved good for at least 4500 years or the time of gods in the epics Enuma Elish and The Epic of Gilgamesh.