The ancient time period of Gilgamesh and the later era of Alexander the Great varied in the realms of technology, geography, societal structure, and religion. Their kingships, though, had enough in common (such as their duty to keep their people happy and uphold a civilized standard of living) to compare the two and form conclusions about the role and expectations of a kingship over their general time period. Their differences, such as personal attributes or religious and philosophical importance, highlight the differences in culture and society that existed between their eras. Kings can differ in their manner of ruling, personal characteristics, or even key elements pertaining to the respect of their throne; but in all cases, the people must be pleased or in the very least kept in check, civilized, and dominated for the kingship to remain intact.
Kings in all time periods are expected to be calm, collected, and responsible rulers who provide their people with a productive, civilized, and satisfactory life through their knowledge, expertise, and heroic qualities. In a time when uncivilized barbarians ran rampant and threatened cities, it became important to be a powerful conqueror and one known to civilize the “wild beast”. The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the powerful king Gilgamesh using the harlot Shamhat to “clean” Enkidu, a “primitive man”, through sexual exploits. Enkidu, int turn, “acquired judgment, and had become wiser”. He can now become a productive member of society, after leaving behind his animal roots. Plutarch has Alexander blending “the customs of the Greeks with the barbarians”, creating a culture he deems respectable and civilized. Along with this creation of culture comes “peace, harmony, and mutual fellowships to all men.” Alexander wishes to “subject all the races in the world to one rule and one form of government making all mankind a single people.” Even in becoming conquered, “the conqueror forced his subjects to live in prosperity”. Gilgamesh, with a more limited view of what was “the world”, wishes to unite his people in Uruk, prevent the situations where people are unhappy and when “the gods often heard their complaints”.
The use of religion in each kingship, though, varies greatly. Alexander is continuously compared to “Euripides and Sophocles” by Plutarch, highly esteemed playwrights of the time, and in a comparison to Plato, noted that “although a few of use read the laws of Plato, countless numbers have adapted and continue to use the laws of Alexander.” His throne and person is lofted high above the greatest thinkers of the time, whereas Gilgamesh exists to serve the gods and is at their mercy. It is stressed that “two-thirds of him was divine”, showing that Gilgamesh’s period required a godly presence to esteem the kingship and validate it. Alexander is simply held to the height of esteemed philosophers and that of “fate”, where “Fortune argues that Alexander belongs to her and her alone.” This is a different view of kingship than when a god-king has the throne. Alexander is simply “to be regarded as a very great philosopher.” Both attributes, though, require the subservience of their people and ordains them as the best and most responsible ruler.
Alexander the Great and Gilgamesh both possessed the heroic qualities of great strength and conquering abilities. Their ability to civilize the barbaric and their use of religion differed, yet both reached an end where their cities and people remained content. The two kings may have differed in their manner of ruling or in aspects of their esteemed throne, but either way their people were pleased, or in the very least, remained under their rule, within the civilized world, and dominated, leaving the kingship intact.
Works cited: "The Epic of Gilgamesh", translation by Stephanie Dalley. "Life of Alexander", Plutarch, translations by Truesdell S. Brown and Ian Scott-Kilvert.