Power, Leadership and Gender Roles in "Epic of Gilgamesh" and "Epic Poem"

Categories: Homer

Literature refers to the art of work normally expressed in written pieces in form of poems or short stories among others. In most cases, the literary works are considered to grander artistic advantage. Literature connects with life on numerous fronts. In most cases, the literary works reflect on the day-to-day human life activities, culture, religion, politics and economic patterns. These aspects form the thematic construction of most literary works. Hence, there is a one to one connection between what is reflected in the literary works and what is in the real life.

This implies that literature always breathes life through societal reflection.

The thematic construction in both the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s epic poem revolves around power, leadership and gender roles. In this essay, the theme of women role in both poems will be dominant because the women characters are used in the two poems to indicate the inequality that existed in the conventional era. In addition, the women characters are used to show how women power is strong irrespective of their traditional positions in the society.

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The works to be considered in this essay includes the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s epic poem the lliad. This essay seeks to illuminate on various aspects of literature relative to the themes outlined in the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s epic poem the lliad. The epic of Gilgamesh is the very first literary work in history. The piece reflects on the myths and narratives that were told during the ancient times of Sumeria.

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They revolve around an establishment of a new political system, which would later expand to become, and empire. On the other hand, the lliad reflects around matters and events before the great war of Trojan. These events occurred during the last week preceding the war. In both pieces, the women characters are used to depict the strength, passion, love, and wisdom endowed in them.

The epic of Gilgamesh

In the case of this poem, the thematic construction is founded on the leadership, power, love, and wisdom. The aspect of gender roles comes in handy in this piece of work because most of the themes are intertwined with the gender roles. The women have been used in the poem to depict the great things that women can do with the aid of men. For instance, in this poem, the role of women has been well choreographed in such a manner that they shape the life of the King. King Gilgamesh of Uruk, which is a city in Mesopotamia, is seen struggling with the emotions and imaginations of having a life that is eternal. The king is convinced that there must be some powers somewhere which if granted he would live for eternity. At this point, Siduri a woman who had assumed the position of a goddess reminds the King that it is only the gods that live to eternity. It is evident that the women role is important in giving the king this kind of wise counsel, which would make the king stop his weird imaginations of eternity. In addition, Siduri gave the king all he needed which included food, rest and sex, which made the king forget his hallucinations and maintain his position as the king and leader of the Gilgamesh (John 13). Notably, the king of Gilgamesh was a strong warrior and hero not because of the might army but because of the power of women. This is evidenced by the female dominance within the realms of power. They are actually the decisions makes behind the curtains. When king Gilgamesh sensed that control for power was weakening, he summoned and urged Shamhat who was a harlot to cleanse and civilize Enkidu by offering sex so that he can be transformed into a human being who can be trusted to stay within the realms of power. Enkidu was well dressed and given food and wine thus gaining a lifeline for human-hood. Notably, the civilization and transformation of Enkidu enabled king Gilgamesh to once again secure and sustain his position as the communal king and leader. This event depicts the power of women in the realms of power. Despite the fact that women in this poem are depicted as taking the second tier in the society they play great roles about power. In an actual sense, women can be said to be powerful and kingmakers in this literacy work thus owed respect. Further, women are used in the poem to define the boundaries of existence between humans and divine powers, which are represented, by gods and goddesses. In the case of the divine powers, the women characters such as Ishtar and Siduri help in sustaining the boundaries between the demesnes of humankind and godlike. This situation is evidenced when Gilgamesh is made to remain within the humankind realm by understanding that it is only gods and goddesses who can live forever and not the goddesses. Ishtar proves to Gilgamesh that the goddesses are supernatural and powerful by killing Enkidu (John 12). This is a manifestation that women occupied strong positions, their roles changed the manner in which power, and leadership vacuums were applied and occupied respectively.

From the discussion, it is notable that women occupied a special place in the societal level regarding the overall leadership and governance of the kings. This is a true depiction of how women in diverse arenas work to ensure that the kings one men on the realms of power to maintain their positions. In addition, the discussion demonstrates how women give wise advice to the kings, which makes them continue to govern their respective societies. The gender roles are dominant in this poem and it helps in illustrating what women can do while at the leadership and power circles. It is attestable that women can change how power is exercised through diplomatic actions and wise counsel.

Homer’s epic of lliad

In this literary work, the author to indicate the role of women in the society has used a number of women characters. Despite the low level of women recognition by the time of the era of this poem, the use of the women characters indicates how influential they were in matters relating to the overall welfare of the society. The most dominant aspect among the women characters who included Thetis, Andromache and Helen is the love and passion for their loved ones. The Trojan War is one of the most dangerous wars that have ever happened on the planet earth and the show of love and passion by the women characters is a clear indication of their perception on war and conflict. In most cases, women do not support the war because war ends up to making them widows or breadwinners in families. For example, the show of compassion by Thetis on his son tells it that she never supported all the activities that preceded the Trojan War. This excerpt indicates the general perception of women in war and conflicts. It is true that the men characters in this poem were happy and eager for the commencement of the war but the women characters were against it because they knew that they would suffer at the end of it (Albert 88). For example, Thetis’s love for her son indicates how she feels for her son relative to the impending war. Despite this extent of love, Thetis allows her son to make the ultimate decision concerning the participation in the war as a warrior.

The fact that Thetis respected her son’s desires to participate in the war indicates that she is emotionally far from the war. She is not supporting war and aggression. This instance shows how women respect and love their children in equal measure. From this instance, it is understandable why most women even in the modern world do not support war and aggression. It is natural that women do not support violence actions, which may end up causing them damage and even loss of life. The other instance involves that of Andromache who indicates openly her passion for a peaceful society. She makes numerous pleas with her husband Hector to suspend the plans of joining the battle teams for fear of losing him during the war. This expression of fear and passion for having a peaceful society indicates the emotional expression of the women characters in this poem. This instance indicates that as much as it might appear that women wanted the war to begin, their emotional expression indicated that they were far from supporting war and aggregation. This implies that the women’s love for their children supersedes the passion for war and aggression. Essentially, women play a great role in the epic poem the lliad as they assume the positions of gods and goddesses (Albert 85). In addition, women play significant roles of wise advisors to the leadership and those at the helm of power. The use of the women characters in this poem has helped in understanding the role of gods and goddesses. The women have assumed the position of goddesses, which is crucial in the overall management of affairs within the leadership circles. The king listened to the goddesses’ advice and using the women characters, it is evident that the divine powers normally interfered with the humans’ lives. The understanding that women had special roles that they played in the society makes this discussion interesting since there is a lot of perception that during the ancient era women never played any role. In addition, this understanding helps in reflecting the similarities between the conventional and modern world.


When comparing the role of women in the two literary works, it is evident that women play a significant role in the society. Notably, the use of the women characters in the two poems helps in showing the difference between the roles of the men and women in the ancient world. Women characters showed their passion for family, children, and husbands. For example in the case of the Trojan War, the men were busy planning for the event with awe; however, women such as Thetis and Andromache indicated a different perspective altogether. The women were not ready for the war at all because it would cost the lives of their husbands and sons. This is a sign of passion and love for the loved ones and can only be expressed by women. On the other hand, the women in the case of the epic of Gilgamesh who include Siduri show compassion for the king by supplying all that he needed and this included food, love and clothing. Siduri showed the king that he could have happy each moment when he is with a woman. In essence, the thematic connection between the role of women in the epic of Gilgamesh and the epic of lliad is that women are used to show empathy, voice of reason and a sign of love within the society. However, the women characters were also used in depicting the gender roles in the two poems. For example, women are used to show that the roles of goddesses belonged to them. The other connection between the two poems relative to the use of the women is the depiction of the gender roles. Women are active in both the epic of Gilgamesh and epic of the lliad in the sense that they blow the first blow in case something unusual happens.

In conclusion, the two epic poems have indicated that women play significant roles despite their position in the society. It is true that most women assume a low profile in the male-dominated society, however, in the case of the two poems women are seen to offer their mind concerning the unfolding events. The women in these poems have helped in depicting the gender roles in the societal context. Essentially, the women roles in both poems have helped in shaping the overall tone, flow and thematic construction of the literary works. This implies that literary works cannot exist in a vacuum but can always be determined by the roles of women in the society. It is true that the continued comparison of the two poems brings about the general sense of the women’s’ role in the society despite the normal prejudice.

Updated: Feb 14, 2024
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Power, Leadership and Gender Roles in "Epic of Gilgamesh" and "Epic Poem". (2024, Feb 14). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/power-leadership-and-gender-roles-in-epic-of-gilgamesh-and-epic-poem-essay

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