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Gilgamesh and the Mesopotamian Concept of Kings

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This is a 5 page paper that provides an overview of kingship in ancient Mesopotamia. Art such as the Epic of Gilgamesh is examined for its insights into cultural truths. Bibliography lists 5 sources.

Page Count:

5 pages (~225 words per page)

File: KW60_KFlit112.doc

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Unformatted sample text from the term paper:

and virtues, to assume a position of leadership within that society. Consequently, much can be learned about ancient societies by studying their systems of government, and the qualities they sought in rulers. This is particularly true of ancient Mesopotamia, whose chief artistic contributions such as the "Epic of Gilgamesh" explore in depth the theme of what makes a good king, and how these attributes position the king as a paragon of human virtues. Through examining the images of kingship portrayed in "Gilgamesh", as well as in other Mesopotamia artworks such as the Standard of Ur and the depiction of Hammurabi receiving his laws from the god of justice, Shamash, one can learn a great deal about the values of Mesopotamian culture in general. The reason why the Epic of Gilgamesh is so instructive as an example of the values of the Mesopotamian civilization is that it is not simply the story of a king ruling in a static and unchanging fashion, but rather a story of personal growth and development; Gilgamesh is shown in the story as both a bad ruler and a good ruler, and through examining the contrast, it becomes evident what the values of the society were and what they sought in a ruler. That the king was to represent the highest values and virtues of society is evident from scholarly understandings that the king of Mesopotamian society was supposed to be "the gods representative on earth" (Nemet-Najat, 1998, p. 217). This is also made apparent by a common oath spoken in Mesopotamian society: "man is the shadow of a God, and a slave is the shadow of a man; but the king is the mirror of a God" (Nemet-Najat, 1998, p. 217). The journey of Gilgamesh from a bad ruler to a good ruler begins ...

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