Ancient Near East Reaction Paper – History Essay
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a legendary tale of the once ruler of Uruk that takes place about 2700 B.C. Gilgamesh’s story begins when he hears of Enkidu, an animal-like human who essentially challenges
Gilgamesh’s manhood. Gilgamesh and Enkidu engage in a battle that results in a draw, and ultimately the two become friends. Gilgamesh goes on to reject the goddess Ishtar’s request for love, and in response to Gilgamesh, Ishtar summons the Bull of Heaven. Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat the bull, Enkidu insults Ishtar and she casts him to the underworld for eternity. The death of Enkidu reminds Gilgamesh that he is mortal and he commits the rest of his life to obtaining immortality. Gilgamesh searches for Utnapishtim who is said to know the secret of obtaining immortality. Utnapishtim can be paralleled to Noah of the Bible, he is warned of a great flood and builds a ship to live through it. Because Gilgamesh would unfortunately never find the secret of immortality and would eventually die. His death marked the last epic emperor to rule Sumer.
During the Old Babylonian period from about 2000-1600 B.C. messages of social justice and morality became more prominent. The sun god, Shamsh, emerged as the preeminent god of justice in Babylonian culture. During the Old Babylonian period Hammurabi came to power. When Hammurabi came to power the Old Babylonian Empire it was a very turbulent period. Hammurabi worked to improve on these ideas of social justice and morality.
During the same age of Old Babylon existed another empire, Egypt left behind a great deal of texts inscribed on the walls of the tombs of kings and nobles. They left behind no epics, but their beliefs of what would lead them to worldly success. Egypt lacked moral principle at this point in time, but it didn’t last. Ptah-hotep’s lack of concern with the afterlife was soon overshadowed by a deep concern with the afterlife around 2300 B.C. Egyptian religion was now very concerned with preparation for the afterlife.
Religious reform had long been at the forefront of Egyptian policy and it had resulted in a loss of territory. It was the goal of Ramses II to restore the areas of the empire that were lost, but it doing so he ran into the Hittites. After a short struggle the two civilizations came to a compromise.
From the times of Gilgamesh to Hammurabi, from Hammurabi to Ramses II there was a great deal of change occurring throughout the Near East, but what remains constant is religion at the centerpiece of all this change. In the case of Hammurabi the new laws promoting morality and social justice worked to help the Old Babylonian Empire. Unfortunetly for Egypt this was not the case. Egpyt let their guard down to focus their attention on religion as well, but it resulted in problems. They began to lose territory and ultimately faced annihilation at the hands of the Hittites.