The Gilgamesh was an ancient Mesopotamian epic, which gave the reader an idea of the political
structures of the first Western Civilizations. The Mesopotamian political system was a primitive form of democracy,
where politics and religion intermingled.
The epic described Gilgamesh as "king of Uruk", but also called him a "god and man" (Gilgamesh 15). This
indicated that Mesopotamians viewed their kings as very outstanding human beings closely related to the
omnipresent gods. The fact that a king was the ruler in Mesopotamian society suggested that it was a
monarchy; however, the king was not all powerful. Before leaving to kill Humbaba, Gilgamesh consulted the
council of elders, seeking their advice: "Thus Gilgamesh and Enkidu went Together to the marketplace To
notify the Elders of Uruk Who were meeting in their senate" (30). Gilgamesh addressed the elders, trying to
convince them of the necessity of killing Humbaba: "I want to prove Him not the awesome thing we think he is
[. . .] I will defeat him In his cedar forest" (30). The elders approved of Gilgamesh's planned expedition: "The
old men leaned a little forward Remembering old wars. A flush burned on Their cheeks" (30). Obviously
Gilgamesh was not supposed to take action without the approval of the elders. This indicated that the
Mesopotamian society was a "primitive democracy" (Perry et al. 15). However, political decisions not only
depended on the consent of the elders, but it was also necessary to ask the gods for advice. In Gilgamesh's
case, he asked his mother, Ninsun, a minor goddess of wisdom, to give him advise on the forthcoming
expedition to kill Humbaba (Gilgamesh 31).
The Gilgamesh was a good description of Mesopotamian society and its political structures. Although the
book's main content concentrated on entirely different matters, it showed that religion and politics were
closely related and that Mesopotamian society was a primitive democracy.
Gilgamesh . Trans. Herbert Mason. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.
Perry, Marvin, et al. Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics & Society. Volume 1: To 1789. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.