Based on The Epic of Gilgamesh, how would one answer the following:
1.In what ways do Gilgamesh's deeds help advance or preserve that society?
2. What do Gilgamesh's qualities and talents suggest were important values in the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian cultures?
3. What do his flaws or limitations show about ancient Sumerian or Babylonian cultural attitudes?
4. What positive qualities or talents would be displayed by the hero of an epic produced in America today? What flaws might such a hero display?
As we are limited in space, below are a few ideas to help get you started.
It cannot fully be said that Gilgamesh's deeds advanced and preserved his society of Uruk because The Epic of Giglamesh is mostly a story of a hero's personal journey through tribulations to achieve new self-understanding. In fact, in the beginning of the story, we learn that Gilgamesh was actually very guilty of oppressing his people--he rapes new brides out of belief in the legal right as their king and he exhausts the men in tests of physical endurance. So, in that sense, Gilgamesh does absolutely nothing to advance his society. It is actually Enkidu who saves Gilgamesh's people from oppression. In Tablet II, Enkidu comes to challenge Gilgamesh in strength when Enkidu learns of Gilgamesh's treatment of the young brides in Uruk. Though Enkidu does not win the battle, they develop a strong, ever-lasting friendship that one can assume significantly impacted the way Gilgamesh treated his people, leading to his people's freedom from oppression. Hence, it could possibly be said that Gilgamesh helped preserve and advance his people once he stopped oppressing them due to Enkidu's influence.
Another way in which it could be said that Gilgamesh helped preserve and advance his people is through his conquests of monsters. As soon as Gilgamesh and Enkidu became close friends, Gilgamesh asked Enkidu to travel with him to Cedar Forest in order to jointly kill the monster Humbaba. Together, they even further battle the monster Bull of Heaven, officially named Gugalanna that the goddess Ishtar asks the god Anu for out of vengeance because Gilgamesh rejected the goddess's sexual advances. In the sixth tablet, we learn that Ishtar brings Gugalanna into Uruk, where it devastates the land and its people. Hence, one thing we know for sure is that it can be said Gilgamesh helped preserve and advance his people by rescuing his people from Gugalanna alongside Enkidu. While it isn't clear the first monster Humbaba had been terrorizing Gilgamesh's people in any way, we might also be able to assume Gilgamesh helps his people through even the destruction of Humbaba as well. One thing we do know for sure is that Enkidu reports that the god Enlil "in order to protect the Cedar Forest / ... assigned (Humbaba) as a terror to human beings"; since Humbaba is a "terror" to all "human beings," it's safe to assume that Humbaba even terrorized the people of Uruk, so Gilgamesh rescued his people from terror in killing Humbaba along with Enkdu (Tablet II).