What is significant about Enkidu's encounter with the harlot?

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To contextualize this question, the first thing to understand is that Shamhat is not really a “harlot,” with all the negative connotations that word carries today. She is a sacred prostitute, which might be a difficult role for people to wrap their heads around, but she performed sacred sexual rites as a way of worship. Even the term “prostitute” is a bit of a misnomer, since there was probably no payment of any kind; apparently it was seen as a very respected position.

The significance of their encounter is that Shamhat essentially brings the untamed Enkidu into the civilized world. The act of sex with a human being certainly has something to do with it, but she also tells him about Uruk, and explains what a king is, and the bare facts about civilization. She also leads him to the shepherds, which is his first real contact with civilized men. This seems to be a notable transition because she did not just plop him down in the middle of the city. The shepherds outfit him with...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1056 words.)

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