In The Epic of Gilgamesh, why is Gilgamesh 2/3 god 1/3 man, not 1/2 god 1/2 man, since you can only have 2 parents?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is clear that Gilgamesh is presented as not your average epic hero through his description of being two thirds divine and one third human. The text seems to reveal that this is not a result of a natural process of birth, but more of a result of conscious divine design, as the following quote seems to suggest:

Two-thirds of him is god, one-third of him is human.
The Great Goddess designed the model for his body,
she prepared his form... beautiful, handsomest of men,... perfect...

The use of the verb "designed" suggests that Gilgamesh's supernatural identity was something that resulted in his supernatural body and physical abilities, not only based on his description of "handsomest of men" and being "perfect" in physical form, but also clearly based on his supernatural strength and abilities. The mortal part seems to be centred on his consciousness and awareness, and this is something that becomes painfully apparent as the text progresses and the reader is forced to identify that although Gilgamesh may have divine strength, he is nothing more than a rather arrogant young man who has a lot to learn. Genetically therefore Gilgamesh's makeup is impossible, but it is a result of divine intervention and based more on characteristics rather than genetics.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gilgamesh's unequal proportions were meant to represent the distribution of his specific character traits, which favored his deity-like attributes over his human characteristics. The Ancient Sumerians did not view genetics and natural proportions the way we do in today's society. Gilgamesh's makeup indicates that his god-like qualities are more evident and pronounced than his human attributes. Throughout the epic, Gilgamesh continually demonstrates his god-like nature by accomplishing impossible feats of strength, endurance, and energy. Gilgamesh is depicted as the most powerful, graceful human on the planet and successfully defeats Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven before embarking a humanly impossible journey to meet Utnapishtim. While his god-like qualities allow him to accomplish seemingly impossible feats, it is his human quality that drives him to search for immortality. If Gilgamesh were not one-third human, he would not fear death and embark on his epic journey to the end of the earth.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gilgamesh was not born to two parents as people are. Instead, he was created by the gods, and his different parts were created differently. Therefore, he does not need to be divided into halves as a mortal with two parents would be. His body seems divine in nature, as he is described as "beautiful," but his mind seems human in nature.

He struggles with many of the trials of being human, including becoming an ethical human being. At the beginning of the epic, he is rather unethical, as he beds brides on their wedding night and challenges men to feats of strength. Throughout the epic, he becomes more ethical after watching his friend, Enkidu, die. Gilgamesh also goes on a fruitless quest for immortality and realizes that his commitment to being a good leader is the way to make his name live on in posterity. These quests are those of a human, not a god, showing that Gilgamesh's mind is human in nature. 

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The Epic of Gilgamesh

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