How do "Gilgamesh" and Mesopotamian art reflect the same worldview?

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There are many ways in which The Epic of Gilgamesh and Mesopotamian art reflect the same worldview. First, there are artistic representations of scenes from the epic itself. Second, many of the gods who play parts in the epic appear in Mesopotamian art, interacting with heroes and rulers as they do in the epic. Third, some of the cultural values that appear in the epic can be found reflected in pieces of Mesopotamian art.

An example of the first kind is this cylinder seal, which depicts Gilgamesh and Enkidu fighting the Bull of Heaven in Tablet VI of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Cylinder seals were small carved cylinders that ancient Mesopotamians rolled over their correspondence and other documents to make a kind of signature. They often were carved with pictures of deities, heroes, and other important images. That this scene was found on a cylinder seal shows that the Epic of Gilgamesh was well-known among the people of ancient Mesopotamia.

Examples of the second type are found in art containing the many gods and goddesses that appear in the epic, such as the two images of Ishtar on this page. Ishtar (called Inana by the Sumerians) proposes marriage to Gilgamesh in Tablet VI of the epic, but he denies her. As a result, she flies into a rage and unleashes the terrifying Bull of Heaven on the city of Uruk. Ishtar a very prominent goddess in Mesopotamia, worshipped by many. She was associated with love and lovemaking, but was also volatile and violent. Thus, her role in the Epic of Gilgamesh matches images of her in contexts that are either erotic or violent.

The third kind is found in many types of art. For example, Gilgamesh's heroism, bravery, and dominance are praised throughout the epic, especially just after the introduction in Tablet I and in the journey to the Cedar Forest in Tablets III-V. It was very common for Mesopotamian kings to praise their own valor and might, and to decorate their palaces with pictures of their conquests. These wall reliefs from the palace of Ashurbanipal show him hunting lions and besieging the ancient Israelite city of Lachish.

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