The Characteristics of a Bad Leader in The Epic of Gilgamesh

Many Arrogant and insensitive leaders have ruled throughout history, and most can be connected through a few core traits. One example, Gilgamesh, the main character of the Epic of Gilgamesh dates all the way back to 2000 BCE. In the epic, we learn about king Gilgamesh’s “callous ways”(16) as he rules by fear and scares his people into loyalty by making them do pointless, arduous labor, like working to “[rebuild] Uruk’s walls, / And then without an explanation let / The walls go unattended and decay” (16).

By forcing people to work hard while he doesn’t work at all, Gilgamesh demonstrates how he views others as lesser than him, and he believes that he is more important than everyone else.

Another example of his arrogance is when he has a strange dream and goes to his mother to interpret it. She tells him that it was a sign from heaven “which is too heavy / But which you will try to lift / And drive away, and fail” (19).

Gilgamesh is greatly frustrated by this interpretation–he has never failed before–and does not know how to react in the face of failure. Gilgamesh thinks too greatly of himself to try anything he might fail at. These traits did not just apply to leaders four thousand years ago; they seem to align with the ways of many modern leaders.

Similarly to the people of Uruk, those under the rule of Kim Jong Un are punished by being put to hard work in labor camps for showing even the slightest hint of disloyalty to their ‘Supreme Leader’.

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The Epic of Gilgamesh shows us that these leadership traits have existed ever since the first leader of the first civilization, that they have continued to be true among leaders since, and they will likely hold true for many years to come.

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The Characteristics of a Bad Leader in The Epic of Gilgamesh. (2023, Feb 13). Retrieved from

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