The Epic of Gilgamesh Are there checks on Gilgamesh's power in the city? What are they, and how significant are they? Characterize the political organization of Uruk.
Gilgamesh wields enormous power over the people of Uruk. This is no democracy; generally speaking, what Gilgamesh says, goes. However, Gilgamesh is not considered a divine being, and he is therefore required to consult with others to interpret the gods' will.
In Uruk, the Council of Elders plays an important role in this regard. It's notable that Gilgamesh consults with the Council before he and Enkidu embark upon their dangerous quest to slay the fearsome Humbaba. For good measure, the elders instruct Gilgamesh and Enkidu to pay homage to the gods on their journey. This sage advice reinforces their crucial role in Sumerian society as custodians of ancient religious rites and customs.
Strictly speaking, Gilgamesh can choose to disregard the advice given to him by the elders. So, in that sense, there are no formal constraints on his power. But in substantive terms, Gilgamesh knows that he would be foolish to act against the elders' advice, not least because of the vitally important, quasi-religious role they play in Sumerian society.
In short, no checks exist on Gilgamesh's power in Uruk. The political structure of the city is not democratic: Gilgamesh is the builder and supreme ruler of the city. He is described as "2/3s divine", and is more powerful than any other human. In fact, the driving plot force in the beginning of the epic is Gilgamesh's tyranny. He is abusing his power as ruler, taking brides on their wedding nights and over-working the men of the city. Thus, the people appeal to Anu, the god of the city, who in turn asks Aruru, the goddess of creation, to create a being who can rival Gilgamesh. This is of course Enkidu, whose personality and strength balances the king's. Thus, after his creation, Enkidu could be considered a check on Gilgamesh's power. He himself is quite significant in that he serves as the catalyst for Gilgamesh's quest for immortality.
As for the political organization of Uruk, Gilgamesh rules as a divine-right monarchy, in the most literal sense of the phrase. There are elders of the city, to whom he turns for guidance at certain points, but he is not bound by their suggestions. One may argue that he ultimately answers to the gods...but even