How did Gilgamesh show his arrogance in The Epic of Gilgamesh?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of epic, Gilgamesh is depicted as a tyrannical ruler, who upsets the citizens of Uruk. The citizens begin to lament and petition the god's to intervene. When the citizens discuss Gilgamesh's harsh rule, they say,

"Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior's daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute" (Tablet 1).

The gods respond by creating Gilgamesh's apparent equal, Enkidu. Gilgamesh again demonstrates his arrogant personality by challenging Enkidu to a wrestling match, which he ends up winning. Shortly after, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become inseparable friends. Gilgamesh then encourages Enkidu to travel with him to fight Humbaba in order to cement his legacy. Gilgamesh's incentive for defeating Humbaba illustrates his excessive pride as he tells Enkidu,

"I have not established my name stamped on bricks as my destiny decreed; therefore I will go to the country where the cedar is felled" (Tablet 2).

After Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat Humbaba, Gilgamesh once again reveals his pride by rejecting the goddess Ishtar's advances. Considering the fact that Gilgamesh is a mortal and his actions could have drastic consequences, Gilgamesh does not hesitate to offend the goddess. Fortunately, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are able to defeat the Bull of Heaven.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the epic opens, Gilgamesh is an arrogant and strong man.  He focuses on his strength and lets no one speak against him.

In Tablet 1, Gilgamesh is strutting around very proud of himself.

He walks around in the enclosure of Uruk,
Like a wild bull he makes himself mighty, head raised (over others). 
There is no rival who can raise his weapon against him. (Tablet 1)

He is described as “bold, eminent, knowing, and wise!” (Tab 1), but this seems to be more his perception of himself than others’ perception of him, because the people of Uruk ask the gods to intervene.

Perhaps Gligamesh was just lonely, because the gods seem to have an answer.  They decide to make him a friend who can be his equal.

"it was you, Aruru, who created mankind(?),
      now create a zikru to it/him.
      Let him be equal to his (Gilgamesh's) stormy heart,
      let them be a match for each other so that Uruk may find peace!" (Tablet 1)

This is how Erikdu is created, and he learns that Glgamesh is “wise to perfection” but decides to challenge him.  They do fight, but Gilgamesh is thrilled to have an equal and they become great friends.

Gilgamesh’s arrogant and unchecked power seems to have created a moral void that Erikdu was able to fill.  Erikdu’s presence as a friend and someone who could check Gilgamesh made him very valuable.  Gilgamesh  is able to adventure with his new friend and learn to be a better ruler.