Examples Of Societal Expectations In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

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Societal Expectations
Just as humanity has always seen itself as “an orphan bereft of family”, Mesopotamians believed that humanity differed from animals and the supernatural and could not be placed into either of those classifications (Harari 11). Humans were granted more knowledge than animals and the ability to understand the world around them, but for some aspects, were unable to do anything about it. As Benjamin Foster writes in his “The Person in Mesopotamian Thought”, “human beings unlike animals [had to] learn to live with the advance knowledge that they will die, though without knowing when or how” (Foster 118). Gods and demons, on the other hand, were incapable of dying, but animals were unaware of their inevitable deaths. However, the reconciliation of that inevitability was not always easy for humans. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh tries to find a fountain of youth following the death of his best friend, Enkidu, but was unsuccessful as it did not exist for mortals. Unlike animals and demons, humans were expected to live with justice (Foster 118). Nature does not exhibit justice, as biologically, organisms are not endowed with rights like life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness (Harari 97).
Since humans are not omniscient, their sense of justice was served in the best way they could think of. For the most part, justice was based on the concept of reciprocity which is an imagined order (Harari 118). Reciprocity, or the concept of trading equivalent goods, services, etc. between people, only works as long as both parties believe in the equivalence between the two things. In relation to justice, reciprocity best manifests itself through the writings of The Code of Hammurabi and the Sultantepe Tablets. In The Code of Hammurabi, the value of a human life is defined. The kidnap of the youngest child in a family results in the death of the perpetrator of the crime (Roth 84). This equates the value of the life of a criminal to the value of the potential of a child. The Code continues by stating that if a slave of any kind leaves through the city gates by the help of a free person, that free person would be put to death (Roth 84). Along with what historians have gathered from texts talking about

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