Ishtar and Gilgamesh, and the Death of Enkidu

1. Some of us may see Ishtar's offer as a temptation, synonymous to the temptations of Christ in the Bible. If so, what is Ishtar offering Gilgamesh?

2. Gilgamesh refuses Ishtar's offer. What does his refusal suggest? What is the message encased here in this ancient poem?

3. Gilgamesh asks Ishtar: "What shepherd has pleased you for all time?" Notice that animals play a role here in characterizing the lovers of Ishtar. The many colored roller is a bird, it seems. Then there is the lion and the stallion. Ishtar turns the shepherd into a wolf and the gardener into a blind mole. How are animals used in this story? How do these animals give us insight into human behavior or the "human condition?" What is significant about the shepherd becoming a wolf and the gardener a mole?

4. Ishtar's rage: What might the Bull of Heaven represent? Enkidu and Gilgamesh slay the bull of Heaven and this act--and the disrespect Enkidu shows Ishtar--leads to the death of Enkidu at the hands of the gods. Why? On his deathbed, Enkidu laments that he did not die in battle. This warrior shame if you will is central to the heroic code--we will see this in Homer too. The best way for a man to die is on the battlefield. Why? Do you agree? If not, then what has changed about homo sapiens that makes such a death less appealing?

5. Gilgamesh's poetic epitaph to Enkidu is driven by sorrow, an agony of experience that he has never know before. The song underscores the mystery of death. And indirectly the story asks larger questions about life on earth. How do we deal with the loss of people we love? How do we ourselves deal with the fact that we will also die?That is, what is it about being alive that makes death so fearful?

How is death and the people living in the house of the Queen of Darkness represented? What is significant about this representation?

6. The poem that Gilgamesh sings also gives shape to agrarian society by listing the "members" of Uruk as parts to the whole. Gilgamesh's words give us a version of a developing system defined by interrelationships between different people. This has not previously occurred to Gilgamesh, it seems, when he was an absolute tyrant in Chapter One. Has Gilgamesh changed so far in the poem?

7. So Gilgamesh decides to wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion. Why?

8. What is the role of the wilderness in this story?