How do we know that Gilgamesh was a demigod?

  • The Wikipedia page suggest that in the epic, Gilgamesh is a demigod of superhuman strength.

    How do we know he was a demigod? What makes someone a demigod?

    Did he possess some special powers that make him a superhuman?

  • senshin

    senshin Correct answer

    7 years ago

    In general, English "demigod" refers to a person who is partially divine and partially human. Most typically, this refers to someone who has one divine and one human parent (like Hercules, or the Pandavas), making them 50% divine. But the case of Gilgamesh is slightly different. Rather than being half-divine, Gilgamesh is in fact two-thirds divine.

    When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man.

    Epic of Gilgamesh, Prologue

    From a mathematical perspective, you can only be two-thirds something if 1.) you have a very finely-crafted family tree extending infinitely far back [i.e. successive binary approximations of 2/3]; or 2.) you have loops in your family tree [which requires time travel, probably]. (This is because 2/3 is not a binary fraction).

    So how is it that Gilgamesh was two-thirds divine if born from a divine mother (Ninsun) and a mortal father (Lugalbanda)? I don't know, but there you have it. I can't imagine mathematical accuracy would have been a priority of the Sumerians when they crafted the Epic.

    Lugalbanda was made divine. So by some slightly warped logic, his divinity passes in part to Gilgamesh. This is right in the beginning of Book 1.

    You could do it if you had a divine mother and two fathers, only one mortal. Then -- gods. A goddess could have a son with two fathers.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM